I have had 'love affairs' in the past (generally turning into a rerun of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' combined with 'Fatal Attraction') but now I have a new love in my life: my wood-burning stove. A large, cast iron contraption that sits in the corner of the kitchen, the Prity Woodburning Stove has put "heart into our home", so to speak. As well as burning huge logs - sometimes until the early hours of the morning with very little re-loading or stoking needed - it can also be used for cooking chestnuts, baking potatoes, et al. Without doubt, it has single-handedly made the biggest difference to how habitable our home remains during 'invierno'.
The Andalucians have an expression about living here: "nine months of winter, three months of hell". Properties are built to keep out the summer heat, with luttle concern as to how they can be warmed in winter. Brits coming to live here can assume it's hot all year round and, consequently, fail to prepare for plummeting winter temperatures combined with poorly insulated and un-heated properties. When I first came to La Alpujarra, I knew nothing about stoves and found it extremely difficult to light one and keep it going (cue several failed attempts with loo roll tubes, paper tissue and cereal boxes being fed into the gaping maw, to no avail).
Before the introduction of the new stove in October 2011 - i.e. just before a cold snap could set in - our Spanish home featured an inefficient wood-burner (possibly rated as 5KW) that could consume up to 10 Euros of 'madera' in one evening, while we sat around shivering and able to see our breath. People tended to disbelieve my cautionary tales re "my stove is really, really crap" until they came to visit and almost froze to the bone. Meanwhile, taking a bath in January (our 'banos' is in a slight dip and is, hence, the most frigid room in the house) was comparable to entering a garage in England during the 'Big Freeze', removing one's clothes, stepping into a vessel of tepid water and then putting one's feet on to a concrete floor directly afterwards. Inviting, it was not! On some occasions, to add to the bathtime 'fun', the gas would freeze in the bottle and a bath would be taken in cold water. I since learnt to buy Propane gas in winter: it has a much lower freezing point than Butane.
So, during winter months, instead of shivering under heaps of duvets and leaving the relatively warm comfort of the sofa or bed only to make urgent trips to the lavatory or for a much-needed biscuit to stave off starvation (and, heaven help us, not a bath!), this 'invierno', we can sit around a monster stove and view burning logs, eat soup, play games on the rug, or whatever.
I have been so horribly smug about our increased 'calefaccion' level that I half suspect the stove will do something unsavoury - such as break apart - just to teach me a lesson in "pride comes before a fall". I can't help recollecting an occasion when I was smugly thinking "this is a great drive and I love the CD on the stereo" just before I crashed and wrote off a hire care on the autovia near Durcal.
One bad incident concerning the stove... on an unfortunate evening in early December, my little boy accidentally brushed his bottom against the red-hot cast iron, giving himself a nasty burn that, fortunately, healed a week later. However, it gave him and Mummy a nasty shock at the time. The same night, a damp log was left smouldering in the stove for several hours while all attention was on the damaged bottom. The result... we woke up the next morning to find black, tarry puddles in our lounge. The house stunk of 1,000 damp ashtrays, reminiscent of tje aftermath of some sort of mass smokers' party. Not a pleasant ambience and one that meant the joints in the chimney pipe had to be repaired with aluminium tape.
However, no relationship is perfect: traditional wisdom says that you have to work at it. The stove might have gone astray in December but I am still in love with its warm, pleasant character and the fact that it is so reliably large and robust.