Winter caught us with our pants down. Not only were we ill prepared, we hadn’t realized just how freezing it can get here. One minute we’d been enjoying the warm October sunshine; the next there was snow and temperatures dropping to minus 7 at night. The old windows shock and rattled, rain poured through our bedroom ceiling and cruel draughts tore through every crack and under every doorway. I’d had some notion that the south of Spain was spared the misery of winter but I was wrong. Grizzling about the weather to friends, I was told that to enjoy milder winters you need to be live on the coast where temperatures are several degrees higher than can be expected here and where residents enjoy a year-round microclimate. But we’d chosen not to live on the coast, and instead had bought a house 73 miles from the sea, up in the hills northwest of Granada.

las-pilas

river-bed

window-and-vine

After the ice and snow of November, in comparison December was a walk in the park; there was little rain and most days were sunny. It was still quite cold but not freezing. But when two-headed Janus made his annual appearance, things changed once more. It rained and it rained and it rained. When we were not totally shrouded in fog, ghostly mists descended from the hills and draped the valley like cobwebs. The villagers hid behind their shuttered windows and doors and apart from the occasional howl of a farm dog and the drip, drip of moisture falling off the tiled roofs, a blanketed hush fell upon the village.

dingley-dell

dream-home-complete

It was on days like this that the olive harvest would grind to a halt. When this happened, there would sometimes be a knock on the door from Paco or Antonia asking us to go and have lunch with them. The first couple of times this happened we’d already eaten, our lunchtime being around 1pm. But the Spanish eat their meals much later than us Brits and 2.30pm is normal for lunch. Rather than offend Antonia, I’d pat my stomach and say ‘Fantastico, We’ll be round in a minuto’. Devouring two lunches made me feel a bit like ‘Six Dinner Sid’* and clearly was doing nothing for my waistline as in early January a dear friend told me that I needed to get on the scales –‘It’s time to start the diet, Lottie’. Mortified when I discovered the truth of what I weighed, I realized that something had to be done about it. I told Antonia that I was going on a diet and that I had to resist all her delicious but fattening food. ‘No problemo, no engorda’ she’d say placing wafer thin slices of jamon down in front of me, or a plate of tomatoes, onions, olive oil drizzled over the top of them. My generous and kind neighbour took my request to heart and knew that Fatty needed every bit of help.

river-bank-and-yellow-broom

top-of-dingley-dell-and-view

Andalucían houses are not built for warmth. They are designed to keep out the fierce heat of Spanish summers when temperatures often soar well over 100 degrees. Antonia and Paco took pity on us and gifted us an old brazier. Their basic estufa struggled to keep even our small sitting room warm. Ideally, if we’d had more space we’d have put it in to the middle of the room and had the pipe go up and out of the wall but we installed it in the open fireplace that services two rooms and most of the heat went up the chimney. The stall at the Tuesday market in Alcala La Real, selling thermals and fleeces did very well out of us this winter.

marigolds-and-Irises

colin-snout

Even though the gloom of January and February at times seemed interminable, the weeks soon passed and before long, hints of new life appeared on the hillside. Almond blossom started to burst out on the trees, thick green leaves hinted at the promise of Irises and marigolds popped up in gardens and along the side of farm tracks. It wasn’t quite Spring but we were getting there. With better weather, and the ground less slippery under foot I took Colin Snout out to explore with me. In the heart of the groves I found a house that I fell in love with, not practical for us but a fantasy home nonetheless. We walked through the olive groves and along the steep banks of the riverbed; a deep gorge that cuts its way down from the hill and across the valley, a place rumoured to be home to a large family of wild boar. Yellow gorse whose colour was like sunburst on those dank, grey days added a much needed dab of colour to the muted palette of late winter.

our-view

And then one day it happened. After two weeks of raining solidly, suddenly the sun came out. It shone down with such vigour and strength that we knew that this time, it was here to stay. It was March 6th., winter was finally over and the first swallows had arrived.

swallow-3

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/707710.Six_Dinner_Sid

46 Comments

  1. You are true heroes, both of you. I can’t imagine soldiering through that. I’d have wimped out and asked the way to the nearest Mandarin Oriental / Espanol. With or without Colin. I truly hope that next winter is milder and your home is better equipped to keep you comfortable. I have swallow envy.

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    1. You may have swallow envy, but I’ve got serious cuckoo envy. I heard one fleetingly the other day but nothing since. As for these dastardly Spanish winters, El Gordo will be much better prepared come November. For starters we will be installing a double-sided wood burner which hopefully will keep all of downstairs warm. Upstairs it will always remain a case of A) sleep fully clothed, B) tons of hot water bottles C) if feeling flush, Mandarin Oriental/Granada (not sure one exists but we live in hope) or D) A sojourn in either India, Morocco, or the Maldives…..hah! I think I’ve got it sorted…..

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aww thanks Noo. I checked the weather forecast earlier this morning, and it says that it will be 35c on Thursday…..SCORCHIO!! We are still early May so that makes me very happy 😀 Hope that you are enjoying your May Bank Holiday. I wish that you were here right now to share the sunshine. Ped is making some great paintings outside in the garden xxxxxxxx

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    1. I wish I was there too! I actually got a bit of a tan from the sunshine here but it’s not the same 😦 give Colin a snog from me xxxxx

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  3. I had no idea Spanish winters were so brutal! Obviously you didn’t either. I remember living in Texas where they neither heat nor insulate houses and just about freezing to death in January! I’ve made a note to self…visit Lottie in the spring or late fall but not summer and for sure NOT WINTER!

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    1. Lovely Sherry, you are welcome to visit us anytime but yes, winter is the pits here. It’s 30c today, a lovely temperature and perfect for working outside, underneath the shade of the fig tree.

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  4. Happy Warm Weather to you! I like a change of seasons. It makes me appreciate each of them when they roll around. Right now we’re living in a place with 4 seasons, each falling very close to the calendar dates (Spring begins March 21, Summer June 21, Autumn in September, Winter late in December).

    Of course, I still find plenty to grouse about–trying to change that habit, but not always successful.

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    1. People always say that it’s very British to talk about the weather but in my experience, travelling, moving around the globe EVERYONE talks about it!
      Spring is much earlier here than in the UK and now that we are having endless days of sunshine and the temperature is up in to the 30’s it hotter than the average summer in the UK. August it gets VERY hot here but I will bask in the heat and warm my bones before the winter. At least now we know what we are in for and can do something about it re heating, extra covers etc. It’s not surprising that we both found it hard, several winters in S.E Asia made wimps of us! Enjoy your springtime, Tracy and thanks as always for your comments xxx

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  5. Well, that’s a bit unkind. Reminding us that your spring is hotter than the UK Summer. Just for that I’ll tell you that we’re basking in 35 degrees today…….I’m lying of course, it’s much hotter.
    I’m sorry you both had such a rough Winter Lottie but at least you’ve time to prepare for the next one and a double faced burner seems a great start., maybe you can warm the bedroom with the old brazier.
    Hoping you have a wonderful rest of the year ahead of you filled with ll the hobbies you can both manage.
    The photographs are fantastic and you can label me officially jealous.
    xxx Humungus Hugs xxx

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    1. Haha!! I’m keeping tabs on your weather, make no mistake! but you see I’m so envious of your roasts down at The Ivy. You have absolutely no idea how you make me drool each Sunday when I read your posts – they should come with some sort of health warning for Fatties comme moi. But such is life. You on the one hand are roasting in roasts, and I am now roasting in the sun. Maybe somewhere in the middle (possibly Bay Of Biscay) we could set up a table and share the best of both worlds, what do you think? Beefy HUGS straight back at YOU! XOXOX

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    1. I have a fancy that my experience of Spanish winters will be a bit like childbirth. Painful at the time but soon forgotten until….the next.
      There’s a lot we can do to make next winter more comfortable, but I can’t imagine we will ever be draft-free as we’d need to replace every window and door in the place. A decent wood burner should sort us out. I’ll think of you next time there is a howling draft! 😀

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      1. You don’t want to be draft free, wood burners need to breath.
        For the heat in summer get a ceiling fan, and/or sleep downstairs.

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      2. I agree about wood burners needing some draft but when it whip round one’s ankles and blasts under every door it’s a little much. I want one of those tables with the fire underneath and the big, tablecloth. That would be the answer to our prayers. Definitely rig one up for next winter. Thanks for your comment, Enrique 🙂

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  6. Well done for making it through the winter. It must be quite tricky having a house ready for such extreme temperatures. I’m sure you’ll have nailed it by next Winter. I would definitely like a little more sunshine at the moment.

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    1. Winter’s are a fact in the northern hemisphere and we got off a lot lighter than many this year. It was only tough because we had no proper heating system and the house is old and drafty. Hopefully when it all comes round again we will be better prepared. Maybe I should have added that my wardrobe was still in ‘Indo’ mode – i.e all cotton and lose clothing, not a jumper in sight! Hope your sunshine comes soon 😀

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  7. Ach! I will never complain about my winter again. You had an awful time of it and I have no idea, and I am sure you don’t either, what you would have done without those two wonderful neighbors.
    I once ate two lunches in a row. It was good…but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. `I felt horribly guilty complaining about the winter here when I know what you have gone through. Our neighbours are THE BEST!
      Two lunches is great but not for the waistline, especially when Antonia expects us to eat 5 courses each time. Just for the record, we are now in full working Spanish time – Lunch at home is never served before 2pm at the earliest! 😀

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      1. No guilt intended, Lottie. Seriously, your winter sounds much worse. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed since you were adjusting from a Jakarta winter , but we had heat, a non-leaking roof and all one would expect necessary to deal with a winter. So you toughed it out while we sat with our feet up and a warm toasty fire keeping us comfortable. Murphy had it the hardest since his bathroom was very cold.
        The new dining hours sound good, but as I have my breakfast between 4:30-6 (as the sun rises earlier so do I) that would necessitate a second breakfast like in Middle Earth. With some snacks to tide me over. 😀

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      2. Snacks always available here! And Steve, you are right, I think the shock was moving from S.E Asia and not having any proper heating system. You definitely drew the short straw temperature wise this winter, make no mistake, nothing can compare to the …. What was it? Solar plexus? Polar something? Lol! Thanks as always for your comments, great to hear from you and please give Murphy one of your breakfast crusts from me 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It had two names, Lottie. The Polar Vortex and the Winter Polar Plexus. My pleasure…I missed your posts and stories during your hiatus. Murphy is well seen to, although we keep him slim and trim…our neighbor called him the skinny beagle. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Loved your post, and that last photo of the swallow! It’s open beak looks like it should be on a baby in a nest waiting to be fed! I can just imagine the song bursting forth from its little body 🙂

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    1. I love having the swallows here, Jody. The chitter chatter all day long and when they sing I can’t help but smile, it is exactly as you say ‘bursting forth from its little body’ 🙂

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  9. Oh my. What a winter for you and Pete. A rude awakening to the reality of living a rural life again. If only you had had some decent heat. I surely hope that y’all get the stove/s that are needed to give you some decent warmth for the winter that will be knocking on your door in about 6-7 months.

    I know what sleeping in an unheated room is like. I don’t have heat in my bedroom and I had many blankets plus hot water bottles to help keep me warm when the temp was in the teens. Some nights I slept in a recliner near the heater in the den.

    The photos are just marvelous. The ravine looks dangerous. And do be careful about the wild boars. They can be dangerous so don’t get too far off the beaten path. C. Snout might be foolish and decide to get aggressive with one of them. They will kill a dog and kill a human.

    The food from Antonia has got to be super good. Your neighbors are such lovely people. That would be a rarity here in the states to find people that ooze such goodness.

    Email will be coming your way in a day or so- I hope. 🙂

    ~yvonne xxxx

    Tuesday 12:09am

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    1. I’d not done my homework on what to expect for winter. Winters here are not long and protracted as in the UK, and we are fortunate in that the chillier months are interspersed with more days of sun but it was a shock nonetheless to discover that the night temperatures can fall so low. But now it’s spring and all that seems a very long time ago!

      We will be much better prepared for next winter and once we have so money can set about getting things fixed, draught excluders on the doors, and the wood-burning stove that I mentioned earlier. I want them to fix a plate inside the chimney so that the heat is forced out in to the rooms and less escapes up the flue. I think that should help. It will be an expensive outlay but worth it and certainly make the downstairs of the house cosier. Upstairs we can use portable gas heaters to take the chill of the room before going to bed. Hot water bottles in bed, that should do the trick!

      Have no fear, Yvonne. I shall not be going out of my way to meet the wild boar. Last autumn we went for a drive round the Sierra Nevada and I saw a landrover with 2 dead wild boar strapped to the roof, I think they must have just been shot. They are huge beast with big tusks. Mercifully Mr Snout is a terrible wimp, he’d run like the wind if he saw one!

      Hope all ok with you and I look forward to your email, when you’ve got time. I’ve got a link that I am going to send you. I was asked to write an article for a website, I hope you will enjoy it! 😀 Lottie xxxxxx

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  10. Lottie, I visited Granada in February once and even the city itself was quite cold although they were right and it was very mild in the coast. I’m sure spring will be fabulous there though. At least there’s real summer there. Take care and protect yourselves from the sun!

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    1. Olga, thank you. Today is scorchio! 36c so HOT HOT HOT. The winter seems far away now that I’m melting. I had no idea that it could go from one extreme to the other. Wonderful though to have real summer weather. Spring here is hotter than the average UK summer – and it’s a treat after Indonesia because humidity is low. Don’t worry, I’ve got my factor 20 on 😀

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  11. We;H ,son and I just came back from Byron Bay about 900km up north were the temperature is reasonably warm even in winter. Many tourists walk around in swimmers. Back home at the Southern Highlands it was 2 C this morning.
    I can well imagine what you went through in Spain. Australia is also seen as being bathed in sun and warmth. Not so. Except for the north, huge slices have frost in winter but, typical for the stoic heritage, many walk around in shorts and pretend that being blue with cold is somehow good for the mind.
    How did Irish take to winter? Say hello to him and CS

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    1. Looking forward to hearing about Byron Bay. I knew you must get cold winters because you mentioned double-glazing, but I didn’t realise that you get frosts. Irish complained bitterly about the cold. we were both brought up in old houses with no central heating so you’d think we’d be fine with the cold, we have clearly become spoilt and soft over the years! 😀

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  12. Your post title very nearly had me cackling out loud!

    I love winter and all the weather it can bring, but when you’re not prepared for it – UGH. Your photos do convey a flavour of it being a harsh climate. This Spanish life is certainly chucking all sorts of experiences at you!

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    1. and despite my moaning, I love winter too. But you are right, Hayley, we do need to be prepared for it and sadly Pete and I were not. We are thoroughly enjoying Spanish life though, and feel blessed to have found such a friendly village to put down our roots. More adventures on there way!

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  13. Lovely post, you write so well, i might learn from you how to write a full sentence, and winter does sounds a shocker! however, all that fattening food, Snout is an adorable companion…. love the colors you painted …. think i’m up to date, read all you posts, i’ve added to Surabaya, another 1000 words…. now need to rehash all posts …. and get rid of the fat too! what’s your next post going to be about?

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    1. Damn fat! Damn porkiness….it’s a constant battle because I’m such a hedonist and bon viveur. I can never do anything in half-measures.
      I love the way you write, I enjoy your posts and I’ve got 3 waiting in my in-box to be read so in the next few minutes I shall be hopping over to Surabaya and finding out what happened next. My next post? wait and see! 😀

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  14. I really should serialise surabaya, but love the idea of just continuing to the dialogue, endless coffees and ideas…. yes Porkies, problem about staying in a country with great food, i could never live in italy, i’d bloat up …

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  15. You write so beautifully Lottie. And I whinge about our Winters here! At least our bedroom stays dry. (If you don’t count my night sweats). Have missed talking to you.

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    1. and I’ve missed talking to you. I’ll be very pleased when we can get the roof fixed. It’s a bit depressing watching rain drip through the ceiling. The good news is that now we are in full spring mode and the temperatures are mostly around 34/35c everyday which more than makes up for swirling mists and cold rain. Hooray! 😀

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  16. Still making my way through your old posts, Lottie. Each one is a gem.
    But “winter” and “pants down” are two frightful things to have in one sentence! 😀 It’s snowy in DC today, and it made me shiver at the thought. LOL. Huge hugs! ❤

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