5 May, 2011 @ 11:44
3 mins read

The Michelin man in drag

My husband (who mooted the idea of retiring to Spain) is unsympathetic.

“It’s not cold,” he says. “You must have thin blood.”

I am wearing seven layers of clothing; I feel fat and uncomfortable; my hands are freezing.

And I need outfits that fit from size 12 to size 18.


For the first time in 80 years, the Semana Santa (Easter) procession in Malaga was cancelled. In Montejaque, the parade was short-lived; the pall-bearers came out of the church, scuttled around the square in the pouring rain, and shot back inside.

After three weeks of glorious weather, it seems that winter has returned to our mountain village. I’m wearing leggings, socks, jeans and wellies on the bottom half, and a vest/undershirt, T-shirt, cardigan and jacket on the top half … plus a raincoat and a woolly hat if we go outside – which we have to do at least twice a day, to walk the dogs.

I have to grit my teeth, clench my fists (and any other body parts that are still pliable) and ‘gird my loins’ to take off my clothes to get into the shower … where the water, despite being turned to its hottest setting, is lukewarm at best. I can definitely see my breath.

For those not ‘in the know’, the water in most Spanish houses is heated by attaching a gas bottle (which, by law, has to be located outside) to a boiler with a narrow copper pipe. When you turn on a hot tap inside the house, a small flame ignites in this tiny boiler, and this is what heats the water as it flows through the copper pipe. Unfortunately, because the pipe is outside (and, in our case, located on the roof terrace of the house), it is subject to the outside temperature (bloody freezin’ at the moment) … and, because our shower is on the ground floor (three floors below the roof terrace), it takes about five minutes of running the tap before we feel any water that is remotely warm.

Teeth chattering, arms flailing, I fumble with the family-size bottles of ‘champu’ and body wash. “Do I really have to put conditioner on my hair for two minutes?” Well, yes, I do, as the water is so hard that, without conditioning it, my hair when dried is the size of a Russian fur hat. (I could do with one of those at the moment … but it’s in the shipment).

Ah, yes, the shipment – which contains all of our winter clothing.

It should arrive about mid-May.

Before Easter, when it was 20-degrees-plus here, I packed up our winter coats, electric blankets and fan-heaters, plus our sheepskin under-blankets, and put them all into storage in our garage … about a kilometre away. Every day I’ve wondered if I should go and get them back, but have kept thinking: No, the weather will surely be better tomorrow. The laundry has piled up (I don’t have an electric dryer) as fast as I have been piling on the clothes.

I’ve realised that I need clothing in different sizes: from a 12 (which is my dress size if I just have underwear beneath it) to at least an 18 (which would be a good size for a rain jacket). As I pile on the layers, the clothes just get tighter and tighter, until I feel like sausage meat in a casing.

One day, the weather improved: no rain, occasional cloud, and some glorious sunshine. But it was still not very warm … and it felt warmer outside than inside. This is because Spanish houses are built to keep out the summer heat – and ours seems especially well-designed to do so!

I escaped the chill to go England for THE wedding, and enjoyed staying in my sister’s house, with its central heating and lashings of hot water. The temperatures in the UK were not as high as they had been over the Easter holidays, but were still pleasant enough to require only one extra layer. I pitied the swarm of British tourists who had descended on our village at Easter, with their 15kg suitcases full of T-shirts, flip-flops and swimsuits, and who ended up spending their holiday money on waterproof jackets, sweaters, wellington boots and umbrellas.

When I returned from England, with 15kg of dirty laundry, it was to discover that the weather here was still disappointing (euphemism for ‘bloody awful’). Convinced by a watery sun that I could possibly dry the clothes, I hung out four loads of washing; and then, at two o’clock in the afternoon, ran around like a blue-arsed fly taking it all down as black clouds filled the sky. I had two basket-loads : nearly dry (possibly wearable if not next to the skin); and ‘not even close’.

This morning, I awoke at 7:00 a.m. to grey skies. Ha! So much for http://www.eltiempo.es/, which was forecasting brilliant sunshine in Montejaque. But, by 10:00, the clouds had cleared and the sky was a brilliant blue, so I hauled my two basket-loads back up to the roof terrace and again hung out all the washing. It’s still not quite dry enough to bring in, and there are now clouds (white ones, fortunately) periodically blocking out the sun. Hope my knickers will soon dry … the rest are in the shipment.

There is, of course, a positive aspect to the unseasonable temperatures we’ve been experiencing: red wines need a little chilling. ‘Room temperature’ (i.e. the ideal serving temperature for red wines, which is 14ºC to 18ºC) is somewhat cooler than in most modern, centrally-heated homes  … but this is a common temperature inside our house at the moment.

So … cheers!

… Although I might still be tempted to do some ‘mulling’.

Carolyn Emmett

Am an inveterate traveller. Born in the UK and spent teen years in Stratford-upon-Avon. Emigrated to Canada in 1976. Married 33 years, with three children and two grandchildren. Have lived in Jakarta, Indonesia (1997-2001), Botswana (2001-2003) and Johannesburg, South Africa (2003-2010). I'm a perfectionist, very organised, typical Aries; as Purple Ronnie would say: I would be good at being Queen of the World because: I love bossing everyone around and telling them what to do; I am great at making clever plans; I am great fun to be with 'cos I love action and adventure, and I always think up crazy ideas.

1 Comment

  1. Just to let you know it is a chilly 17 degrees in the shade on our terrace at 8am this morning in Almerimar. The sun is shining yet again and luckily it is not too windy today.

    I guess the warmer weather and less rainfall is one of the benefits we gain from living in the province of Almería.

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