Friday, October 17, 2008


In the early 1980's I lived in downtown Madrid while I went to school. The building that I lived in was in the old part of the city. At the time the neighborhood was iffy, but filled with history. My laundry mat was next to the 17th century home of Lope de Vega. The owner of our building gleefully made a point to tell us that the building we lived in was older than the United States and rumor had it that it was once owned by the family of Christopher Columbus. He loved the irony.

My room had a big old window that almost covered an entire wall. The "french" doors on this opening ran from floor to ceiling and opened on to a small balcony that overlooked a semi-busy street three floors below. This balcony was great fun in warm weather. We would stand out on the balcony, smoke our Spanish black tobacco cigarettes and watch the people below or flirt with the military guys that lived on the same floor in the building across the street. I once saw Steve Martin walk down the street below me. But, I digress.

When the weather turned cold, this window was not so much fun. It loosely closed and "locked" with a lock that I also suspected was older than the U.S. Once the glass was shut, there were shutters on the inside that you could close. Then there was a heavy curtain that closed behind that. That was the entire extent of weatherproofing.

The weather in Madrid is similar to that of Minneapolis. It's probably a little warmer there in the summer, their fall is shorter and lacks the change of leaves, and their winter has less snow. But, temperature wise, it's generally the same. In short, about mid-Oct it started to get very cold.

When we started whining about being cold, the landlord, Don Fernando, told us that the city forbid him to turn on the heat until November 1. I really need to do a Google search on that, cuz I suspect it was a bunch of whoo-haa that he told us to pinch a penny. We were paying about $4 per night for full room and board, so we didn't have much leverage. At his mercy, we layered our clothes during the day and piled on the blankets at night....and reminded ourselves that which did not kill us, made us stronger.

On October 31st, the other students & I planned a big Halloween/Turn on the Heat party. We dressed up in costumes, drank sangria and celebrated being warm. It was great fun.

Something about those days stuck with me. For whatever reason, each year I try to last until November 1st before I turn on the heat. Last year I broke down early, this year I have been doing well. It hit 35 degrees f last night in Minneapolis, and my electric mattress pad kept me toasty. The house stayed at a balmy 54 degrees f.

The prediction for this weekend show a warm trend, so I think I'm going to make it :-)


shawn hebrank said...

I loved the story about Madrid.

November first isn't too far away.
I think we're holding off on the heat until then as well.
Good luck!

John said...

I loved the story. I'm going to leave the heat off for as long as possible too. Actually, just close off about a third of the house and heat it with space heaters. A salvaged wood burning stove is a posibility too. Last winter's electric bill was brutal.

Kathy from NJ said...

I am embarrassed to tell you that this was the first August in probably 7 years that I did not turn on the heat at least once. Worse were the days when I turned on the heat in the morning and the AC in the afternoon....

StuccoHouse said...

Odd when Spain nostalgia rears it's head. 12 days left to meet my 11/1 heat date.

Kathy- Don't feel too bad. If I had AC, I'd probably be in the same boat come Spring. See, Ihave no deadlines on that end.

PlantingOaks said...

We're motivated to be extra 'environmentally conscious' about turning on our heat this year by the fact that we have to wire up a new thermostat before the furnace will be of any use.

The house that is miraculously 10 degrees cooler than the outdoors all summer is not so miraculous when it keeps doing it in the winter.

The weather site says we hit 32 (.8) last night. We are making do with lots of blankets and cats on the bed.

I'm encouraged by this person, who makes it a family competition, and lasted until Nov. 5 last year - in Toronto.

But we did go out and buy the thermostat this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but I lived in Madrid during the 80s too, and it sounds like I was very close to where you were. I was on Calle Hernan Cortes. Supposedly Cortes lived on our street--hmmmm. The year we moved out, our building was condemned, but then the little feisty woman we lived with actually WON THE NATIONAL LOTTERY. She became a millionaire and bought the building.

Cat from

StuccoHouse said...

Plantingoaks - YarnHarlot linked to my site a few months back. She also has a gravity furance and was in the middle of trying to diagnose a problem. Small heating world, huh?

Anonymous - I live in the Huertas neighborhood. One Calle del Prado. I was a couple of blocks east of Plaza de Santa Ana and just up from the Las Cortes building. The first time I lived there, I was ther during the first elections following Franco's death. Did you ever go to Las Bravas bar?

Kate H. said...

I was trying to make it to November 1st, but Sunday it was down to 53 degrees indoors and I was having people over. Memories of standing around in my coat in my dad's freezing house in Kansas City came flooding back (he took out the furnace and made do with a couple of space heaters!). Nope, couldn't do it to anyone else.

Turned the heat off after my friends left, but with snow here today, I've got it back on. I am so lame!

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