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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bois pour cheminée

France is experiencing "un pic de froid" (a cold snap) this week.  It was -9 degrees Celsius (about 15 degrees Fahrenheit) here in Versailles last Thursday and the temperatures will stay low until well into next week.  I can see the results in my garden - my plants usually overwinter quite well but, as you can see, they were not in great shape this morning.  Too late to bring them in, I think.

France is not the only country shivering right now. Les Chroniques Berliniquaises is reporting that Berliners are also complaining about the cold.  At least they have snow as compensation.  I hope we will be as lucky.

We have a perfectly nice apartment here in Versailles but there are two reasons it's a lot less comfortable in winter than in summer.  The first is that there is no insulation in the walls and the windows and doors are original to the building which was constructed in the 1970's (before conserving energy was a priority). We have placed bolsters around the windows in the kitchen and the living room and we are closing the shutters every night.  The second is the heating system which is central and controlled by the building management.  We have some control over it in the apartment - we can adjust the radiators, for example - but we have no control over the fact that the heat is cut off every night at about 11:00 PM and re-started in the morning around 5 AM.  The boiler has been unreliable the past few weeks so some mornings we have no heat at all until around 9 or 10 AM.

Happily we have a little fireplace.  This morning we went off to the lumberyard to pick up enough wood for the weekend and next week.  We've been buying wood from the owner for several years now so he knows us and always gives us a hearty handshake when we step out of the car and walk over to the woodlot.  Because our car is old we are limited in the amount of wood we can buy at any one time - the undercarriage drags on the entrance to the parking if we have too heavy a load.

A quarter stere is about all we can manage at one time.  The owner helps us load up the car before turning his attention to a really beautiful 60ish year-old Frenchwoman who is "buying some wood for friends in Paris."

Back at the apartment, we unload the wood and I make us all a cup of hot coffee while we warm our hands over the warm (hurrah!) radiators. I will make a fire after lunch and we'll probably watch movies and read books all afternoon.  If we are lucky the younger Frenchling will be inspired to make us a cake for the "goûter" (snack).

Now we are not so deluded as to think that we can stave off the chill and heat our apartment with our little fire in our little fireplace.  I'll be the first to admit that it's purely psychological:  the hot coffee, the fire crackling away, a good book, the family gathered in the living room and something nice to eat, just feels warm and cosy.

I hope it snows.


Berliniquais said...

Complaining? Moi?? Now, here, every Berliner worth his salt loves a winter night with a brisk -19°C to enjoy :-)

My plants usually die every winter, but I was foolishly hoping, a mere fortnight ago, that this year they might make it through.... how naïve of me :-)

Have a nice weekend!

Victoria FERAUGE said...

-19? OK, I'd be complaining too.

6:00 in the morning here and it is cold and....

It's snowing!!!!!

Merci pour la neige, JM :-)

Berliniquais said...

Wonderful! I like the snow too! And actually fire in the chimney does work, doesn't it? Albeit only in one room...

Here as well it's snowing a lot. And the cold is so punishing that I may not go ice-skating on the frozen lake nearby.

Enjoy the snow! I'm sure it's perfect for a stroll in the château gardens.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Hi JM,

Well, it's finally warming up a bit here. The sun is shining and hopefully the ice will be melting. Hope that weather improves in Berlin too so you can go ice skating.

All the best,