house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The Urban Yurt

Early February. Winter stretches on, strong and stern, and I can see the point of hibernation. To sleep through the bitter cold, the grey days, the never-ending rain; to curl up in your den, in your hay, in your fur, ah the joy... to awake in mid-birdsong on a sunny-crisp-and-clear day in March.

Back in August, people told us it was going to be cold. We laughed of course. In September we passed by a wood yard – piles of logs for the winter, people buying, loading, sweating. Oh how we laughed. In October, a neighbour warned us about the cold spells, our draughty old house. We were at the river, in swimsuits, sipping ice tea. We sure laughed. November was a bit nippy, but a steady sun softened the days. We were still laughing...

By December we were spending a lot of time huddled together in the kitchen, the warmest room in the house. We suspected why, but didn't admit it. We went away for Christmas and forgot all about it. It was early January when I finally said it out loud, through clenched teeth and grey-blue lips... and it was not a light and cordial “I say, jolly cold out there today...”

Still, we refuse to join the queue at the wood yard. Instead, we get wood from our land and make fires in the living room. They swell and swirl and spit and crackle. A lively genie leaps out hissing, throws us a brief glance, then charges up the chimney and out... We jostle each other for a place at the mouth of the fireplace, mesmerised by the carnival in the embers. Besides, you only get warm if you stay eyebrow-singeingly close to the flame, we know that by now. Take two steps away, and you're back in the blizzard, barefoot and on your own.

The living room has two futon sofas. One mattress was rolled out one night, Moona and the kids slept there, an indoors camping-adventure thing. I took three hot water bottles to bed that night, since I had all that space and they had each other. They woke up in a heap, happy, went to school smelling of smoke and chestnuts. I too woke up happy, in yards of rumpled sheets, flanked by sloshing tepid water.

I lasted two nights exactly. Then I unrolled the other futon and carried my duvet, pillows, books and pijamas into the living room. Just in time for the big storm – the tail of a hurricane that whipped across the continent from the Bay of Biscay. We made a big fire, pulled down all the blinds and curtains. Tied the gate, locked the doors, lit candles, made hot chocolate. We listened – with delicious shivers and deep joy - to the rattling and whistling of the wind outside, unseen objects flying and crashing about... It is a powerful, primal happiness: to have shelter in a storm.

So we are still camping-in-the-room-with-the-fire. Upstairs, the bedrooms have the feel of an arctic holocaust - desolate and still, preserving artefacts of the primitive life forms that once inhabited them... In other words, permafrost and three-weeks' worth of odd socks, pencil shavings, old drawings and discarded clothing – which I cart up and dump on the beds when the mess downstairs starts to choke me (the others don't usually notice or mind anything so trivial). Every time I climb upstairs, an icy breeze floods my eyeballs, cold cramps clench the chest, toes go numb. I don't go there too often.

I've now stopped rolling up the futons in the morning. I've even stopped dreading visitors who might notice. It must be almost a month since Kira's been in her room...It's still raining, still cold. After dinner we shuffle into our den, carrying nuts, figs, oranges, steaming tea. We play cards, sitting cross-legged on blankets and pillows, every once in a while feeding the fire.

We only need some ram's fat sizzling on the hearth, perhaps a camel poking its droopy lip in the door, to mimic a Mongolian tribe weathering another harsh winter in the steppe. In fact, just now I can't imagine going back to our bedrooms at night. There are other things I can't imagine. T-shirts, sandals, warm fingers, a swim in the river, ice cream.

But then, what do I expect? It's February after all. Winter, still stern and strong, stretches on... but not forever, not for long.


At 5 February 2009 at 09:18 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

February is indeed the worst. It's not for the faint-hearted. I remember our winter in Australia. Da' ce-mi veni sa scriu in engl? Pare incredibil ca intr-o tara unde abia poti respira vara de cald, unde primavara si toamna sunt ca vara intr-o tara civilizata, sa behai de frig iarna. Nu e niciodata mai frig de 5 grade noaptea, ziua sunt chiar 17 cand e soare, dar... casele nu sunt incalzite. Si lor nu le pasa. Ala de la UPS care ii aducea lu' Popescu pachete de la firma venea si iarna in pantaloni scurti. Isi punea totusi un pulover. Noi aveam calorifere electrice in dormitoare si un fel de soba cu gaz foarte mica in sufragerie. Eu personal n-am mai facut asa un frig in viata mea! Aveam papuci captusiti cu blana, trening gros, sosete, paturi si dardaiam intr-una langa soba. In iulie! Cand am plecat intr-o zi de la podiatrist imi venea sa-i zic Merry Christmas. Te strici la cap in asemenea conditii.
Bafta maxima,

At 10 February 2009 at 09:49 , Blogger Quinta das Abelhas said...

hee hee! our bedroom is, in fact, a mongolian yurt and we have the exact opposite problem to you - it's too darn hot in there, we have to sleep with the door open!


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