Chaos to Cosmos
The path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Tip o' the Day: The Solar Dryer - Free

"Some call it a solar dryer. Our moms call it the clothesline. Nature's way of drying clothes, and nobody seems to do it anymore. Some say it brings down property values. Others say that only those that "stay-at-home" can do it. We say, give it a shot."
Solar drier, indeed. Like we need a new name for it. We should do this. I'd love to, but oh, if only it were that simple: Renting means that I cannot make holes in walls to put up an old-fashioned washing line, wherever I like.

Bent TreeStrong winds - I mean gale-force - buckled a whirly washing line within minutes of digging a hole into the incredibly hard, volcanic soil, filling it with cement and getting the thing fixed up. Well, if the wind can do this to trees in this valley, it's hardly a surprise.

Frequent rain and constant low-lying cloud and mist mean that several months can pass when nothing will dry outside here. This rain and fog (it's really low cloud) used to be confined to the winter months, but in recent years, this has even occurred throughout the summer and now, in spring, it has become erratically changeable so that one day can be dry and sunny, the next misty or the morning can be warm, then cloud descends - by surprise - in the afternoon. Yes, I know this is constantly warm Tenerife - Island of the Eternal Spring - but this is a fertile valley in the north, where "horizontal rain", brought by the trade winds, condenses onto the mountains. That's how we get our year round greenery and Spring flowers. 

And the house is unheated and so damp that you cannot dry clothes indoors. If you try to bring even mildly damp clothes inside, even just overnight, they get that horrible moldy damp smell that you can never wash out again and that requires you to simply throw the items away. You should smell the perfectly dry stuff that I brought here when I moved in. The move was made on an incredibly hot day, direct from the desert south of the island. All I did was put things in the wardrobe: you know, where you expect to put clothes. Thousands of pounds worth of quality clothes; classics, designer suits, leather and suede items, boots and shoes, all went green, moldy and were ruined.

Anyway, it means that to dry a towel, for instance, I have to be able to absolutely guarantee at least two full, consecutive days of dry sunny weather, before I dare to do the laundry, if I wanted to hang it outside. Well, you can't guarantee the weather, so what options did I have? None. I had to buy a tumble drier.

But, having been forced into this, there are other considerations: One, having a dog and four cats, is that the drier sucks all their hair off of clothes, bed linen, etc. Pharmaceutical companies would get richer and use more energy to treat my allergies without the drier - not to mention that it is healthier for me.

The electrical supply in this house is so weak that I can't run any other appliances at the same time or it all "trips" off, so I'm not using extra and would hardly call this a "convenience". Running the drier is costing less and must be using less resources than constantly replacing clothes.

Another benefit is that I haven't used an iron in over decade. That must have saved energy (mine and electrical), so it's "swings and roundabouts."

Now, if only I could run the drier off solar energy ...

Friday, 13 April 2007

Friday the thirteenth, part deux

Friday the 13ths aren't supposed to be a problem in Spain. Here it's when the 13th falls on a Tuesday that you need to worry. (Likewise, look out for jokes on the Day of the Innocent Saints, December 28th, not April the 1st.) And all of my cats (and the dog) were born and bred on Spanish territory, sooo why do I get the impression that they were having a late April Fool / Friday the 13th joke on me yesterday?

The day had started with Balu and Kitty being reluctant to being photographed for their 6th birthday and, degenerated rapidly from there. Normally they just get on with the serious business of sleeping and let me work. Most of the time you wouldn't even notice that there are multiple cats in the house. 

Today, one after another, or in pairs, the cats wanted to spend time on my lap (Betty insisted on this and when Betty insists, you obey, because she bites and scratches and anyway, if you put her down, she just bounces back up again), on the desk, on the printer (that I've given up on being able to use and turned into a cat bed anyway), on my mouse arm, playing "musical chairs" with the basket on the dining table - first the two boys, Mico and Balu, then Kitty and Balu huddled in it, then ... Finally, the fluffy feline on his own curled up tightly in a ball, paw over nose and it looked like we'd get some peace. It didn't last long.

I'd also done a little spring cleaning and had stuff drying in the spare room that I wanted that fur persons kept away from. You're right, what I wanted and what I got were two entirely different things. Whatever you want kept away from cats is the very thing they become absolutely determined to get into. 

The Old Ruins of El PalmarIt's convenient here to understand how traditional Canarian cottages are built. They were mostly built of just two rooms, one of those previously being the kitchen / dining / living room and the other being the entire family's bedroom. (Plumbing and bathroom facilities, such as they were, were added later, outside.)

Lots of these typical thick walled cottages still exist, though the uses of the rooms have changed, they've had a coat of plaster and had iggldy-piggledy extensions added over the years, but one feature that remains - mostly out of the interests of economy - is that the doorway between the original two rooms does not have a door fitted in it. Despite the cosmetic changes, this type of dwelling is terminally damp, virtually unfit for human habitation, but "purrfect" for fools on a budget who want to rent an ideal location to keep a family of cats.

In the interests of warmth and privacy and, because there are other doors in and out of these rooms now, I have the gap closed with a wardrobe across it.

Ha, but, of course, the flying feline makes light work of jumping up onto the top of the wardrobe, squeezing his fat ass through the small gap at the top where the wardrobe is not quite as high as the doorway, shimmying right down the back of the wardrobe and into the spare room - right where you don't want him and that he now cant get out of because the other door is closed. So then I put some cardboard fruit boxes on top of the wardrobe to close the remaining gap. He sat on the bedside table for a few moments, looking up and thinking. Then he just jumped (flew) up onto the wardrobe, placed a paw behind the "offending" box, hooked it out of the way, shimmied through the gap and back down again. I added more obstacles. He surmounted them. He'd go round, I'd fetch him out.

Rinse and repeat. Incessantly.

Balu is bright, he's incredibly determined and he's an absolute menace. (Of course, he's also handsome and I love him to bits and he knows this!)

Meanwhile, I'd put a chair in front of the wardrobe so I could get up there to put these obstacles in Balu's way. Kitty, trying to see if she could use this chair as the quick way to the top, stands up on her hind legs and pushes the bedroom door closed. Just as the door starts swinging, she hops down and dashes through the gap in the nick of time. Thinks it's a game, does she?

The bed in the spare room is on legs, so Balu ran to hide under there. So I go in with the broom to sweep him out. He runs out and in the time it takes me to cross the hall (scant seconds), he's gotten into the basket, laid down and is lounging in there looking the picture of perfect innocence (almost).

What can you do? I was absolutely beside myself with laughter.

Friday The Thirteenth

Balu and Kitty on their 6th Birthday

Balu and Kitty celebrate their 6th Official Birthday today. Maybe "celebrate" is too strong a word. To be honest, I don't think they're the slightest bit interested. I tried having an "official birthday photo-shoot", for posterity, but all I got were some very serious expressions and a bit of a sneer from Kitty.

Today does bring bitter-sweet memories, as it is their first birthday without their brother Khan, who we lost to kidney failure last November. Maybe Kitty didn't want to be shown with her shaved neck, after blood tests. This morning, Kitty, who is normally a very independent Miss and prefers to sleep alone, was in bed with me when I woke up, tucked in beside me. Balu was, as usual, sitting on my chest, shouting at me for his breakfast, so some things are normal at least! 

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Being sick is harder when you live alone

For several days recently, I've only been able to stay awake for a couple of hours at a time - I suppose this is at least a change from the more usual insomnia and disrupted sleep - which has brought home one of the major disadvantages of living alone: nobody to take care of you when you're ill.

The upside of this, of course, is nobody could chastise me either for wasting those precious hours lazing around and nor can they see that nothing here has been washed in days; not pots, not floors, not even me!

Anyway, I do feel a little better this afternoon, but it has highlighted, for me, that I could have done with seeing a doctor, or even going to the pharmacy, but since both are an almost half-day's trip, the fact was that I wasn't well enough to consider making it, but, neither was it the sort of medical emergency that warranted calling an ambulance, for instance. This is a conundrum, I think that many of us living alone are likely to find ourselves in from time to time.

My tendency to bulk shop paid off, since I was not at risk of running out of basics, although, most days, it has almost been too much effort to make a cup of tea, let alone cook food. In my extreme rural location, I don't have neighbours to call on (and certainly none who would notice me by my absence) and, there is clearly more that I need to do to be prepared for such emergencies again.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

English as a second language

OK, I'll admit that like most "parents" (whether the "kids" have hair, fur or otherwise), I'm biased about my doggie's beauty and brains. Even so, I am still surprised by her abilities now and again and, especially her understanding of English.

This may have been cheeky on my part, but having an "English speaking" dog (OK, she speaks dog), in Spain, I felt, was a means to retain sole control and, would be an additional guard dog deterrent feature: other people might feel more uneasy when they don't understand a bloody word I'm saying to her. It also helps prevent them discovering that about the worst they would get from her is severe licking and a few whacks from a wagging tail! No this wouldn't work in tourist areas, but up here it does.

We do use "sit" for "sit", which most folk will recognize, but the few other commands we have attempted to learn, mostly, use non-standard English words too for additional effect. In reality, this was her idea, because she simply refused to have anything to do with the usual words, but I eventually cottoned on to the plan. Truthfully, most of what she understands, she's learned herself through osmosis. The uncanny bitch even knows her left from her right and the respective words, which not a few humans have considerable trouble over.

Anyway, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, we have bread delivered daily. This is great, but a whole loaf (really only a large roll) is actually too much for me. As I consider the pointed ends to serve a similar purpose as the handles on a Cornish pasty - i.e. they're there to keep your fingers clean, not to eat, what I do is to cut slices from the middle of the bread and the knob ends become "treats" for the dog. No, it's not just a case of using her as a K9 waste disposal unit - though, mostly, she is - bread really is pretty much her favorite treat.

We have technically termed these left over pieces, "dog ends."

So, this morning, I'd placed one of these "dog ends" on the kitchen table, but not given it to Holly. It was in reach and, most dogs are very good at stealing food. Nope, she hadn't been given it, so she didn't touch it. She certainly knew it was hers, guarded it and did have a few sharp words with a couple of cats who got too close to it, but that's all. I was making coffee at the time and could see the child-like excitement growing in her, so without looking round nor indicating at anything, I just said to her, "Is there something you want? Show me!

With that, she stands up and places her two front paws on the edge of the table, no more than 3 or 4 inches from the bread and nodded her nose towards it, before looking up at me with those huge, brown pleading eyes.

Obedience is not something I've ever forced on her, since a) I'm too much of a pushover and b) she has such a wonderful spirit that I didn't want to break (she's so smart and independent, I don't think I'd be successful anyway). But, as with many non-native English speakers, I'm coming to the conclusion that her comprehension of the language is close to surpassing mine!