Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013 - No comments

Anticipating Winter - Part One (The Foreigners)

The other night when I showed up to babysit, the kids met me at the door with their Christmas lists:  an assortment of red and green letters adding up to a whole gamut of things ranging from “sunglasses” and “magenta nail polish” (when did this “little girl” become so pre-teenish?) to “a boy dog stuffie” and “Littlest Pet Shop Bobble Heads.”  My immediate reaction was, “It’s way too early!”  (It doesn’t help that my roommate’s birthday is December 1st, so Christmas music is expressly forbidden in our house until the 2nd.)  But I’m sure back home, they began to deck the malls the day after Halloween, so I suppose these guys aren’t jumping the gun by too much.

We’re into those in-betweeny weeks of the twilight of autumn. During the day, it’s still a gorgeous 25 degrees outside, our laundry still dries on the line within a few hours, and we can have brunch on the terrace in bare feet and t-shirts, as we did for a friend’s birthday on the weekend.  But I’ve definitely started wearing slippers in the house, and at night it’s been cool enough to turn on the heater in the living room and make me think about pulling out my electric blanket.

Winter prep around our house has involved a host of outdoor projects.  Last week we had a guy come and cut down three trees on the perimeter of our complex in an effort to prevent a repeat of the horrible flood episode we had last year when pine needles plugged up our next-door neighbours’ terrace drains (they live in France most of the year and aren’t around to clean them) causing over a foot of water to collect during one crazy winter storm.  It poured into their upstairs kitchen through a massive gap under the door and then made its way through the walls until we discovered that we had a lake in our entryway and “rain” falling from our kitchen ceiling.  I had to risk my life climbing over our adjoining wall to clean out the drains while hail fell and lightning flashed all around.  The carpets were a mess, the paint and plaster in our stairway turned all bubbly and the smell of the mold didn’t leave us until summer....

The whole tree-chopping day was quite a neighbourhood event, with the gardener and his son as well as a few other men pitching in to help the (approaching elderly and unfortunately rather vulgar) man who arrived “ready to cut” with a chainsaw and a curious lack of rope, ladders, or anyone to accompany him.  The womenfolk showed up to watch (free entertainment!) and I supplied the tea to workers and spectators alike.  There were some dicey moments, like when the gardener tied the rope around his waist as ballast against a five storey pine (I could just picture him sailing through the air...) and when it looked like said pine might just go crashing down onto the Frenchies’ house (“Sorry about your roof, Metin Bey...But on the bright side, no more clogged drains!”) but thankfully, in the end, all turned out well and everyone involved went home with enough firewood to keep their woodstoves going for at least a month.

In the years we’ve lived in this house, I’ve become something of a plastering usta (professional/expert/handywoman), and I’ve been putting my skills to good use regrouting the tiles and joints on our terrace (in hopes of preventing my roommates ceiling from turning a fuzzy, cough-inducing green as it has done for the past several winters) as well as cementing cracks and redoing the plaster around several of our windows. Keeping an eye on the weather report, I was glad to be able to get those spots repainted before the promised rains arrived this weekend.  

And now, with the cooler weather moving in, it’s finally starting to feel like fall.  Tomorrow, the Thanksgiving turkeys will be bought.  (It's hit and miss here, so we get our orders in early!)  I'm taking my cues from the kids and starting to gear my head towards Christmas gifts.  All around the neighbourhood, people are beginning to get their sobas (woodstoves used for heating) set up.  And I’ve got visions of cozy living rooms and hot soba-roasted chestnuts dancing in my head....