Monday, December 27, 2010

Gathering winter fuel

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Our main source of heating is wood-burning stoves, as well as in the house we have a small wood-burner in the workshop that we use when working on mosaics or other projects. We have a central heating system that uses diesel but our main preference is for a great log fire. We usually buy wood for merchants who source, fell, split and cut wood for sale to the general public but it isn't particularly cheap here in Asturias so whenever we get the opportunity to get free wood we jump at the chance as it makes sense financially and environmentally.

Luis is very good at identifying wood cleared from common ground or fallen trees that no-one is claiming or processing. He had his eye on this lot for a few months now - a supply of logs from a Cherry tree that was felled on common land near to the railway line. Permission is always sought. After an hour with the chainsaw and axe we can replenish our stock with graded wood for the house and workshop. We have a large wood store that is partially protected from the weather - currently full but more than half of our supply isn't dry enough and is still too green to burn. With this additional load of free Cherry wood we should manage.

Gathering winter fuel
It is good to keep a good level of dry stock for burning when we need it, this winter is particularly cold and we soon get through a fair amount of wood. In March we will buy further supplies so that it is dry and ready for next autumn/winter.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Distant echoes and light amongst stone pillars.

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To visit and appreciate temples and churches for their architectural and cultural value has always been one of my passions. The way the architecture of a particular building captures and reflects human thinking during a particular moment has always fascinated me, I like to pay attention to the way the artistic style of the temple captures some of the believes and ideologies of a specific era.

Oviedo´s cathedral is an incredible building with many gems both within its exterior such as its impressive Gothic tower and those housed within its interior such as the superb High Alter piece, some of the side chapels and the famous Holy Chamber, an earlier pre-Romanesque structure that houses numerous Pre-Romanesque jewels.

Gregorian chant is a musical style I have always appreciated and what better place than a Gothic cathedral to listen to its beautiful sounds. There is no need to agree with or believe the religious ideology it is associated with in order to appreciate its beauty and enjoy the chants purely on their artistic merits. To listen to the pure sound of the monks´ harmonious voices while walking amongst the pillars of the central nave in a cathedral is something to be experienced. Listening to Gregorian chants in a Gothic cathedral would equate to singing and dancing amongst a vibrant Gospel choir - exhilarating.

If you add the chanting voices of the monks and the way the sun floods into the central nave through the vibrant colours of the stained windows above, what else could you wish for whilst enjoying the quietness of the place... Occasionally, the silence would be broken by a solitary figure or a group of people coming in and going out. The way those people behaved while in the church mirrored the different reasons for them being there. It was obvious some people came in to admire the building and others came to pray while someone else would came in searching for solitude.

I wanted to listen to the sounds coming through my headphones while walking amongst the stone pillars and arches while distant echoes occasionally broke the spell.

The main altar piece in this cathedral is such a joy to appreciate when lit up. It is a magnificent work of art created in XVI century by some of the most famous artists of the "Spanish Golden Era" such as Berruguete who incidentally was born in Palencia, my province. This alter piece is the third most important in the country after the one in Toledo and Sevilla, only one to go to have seen the three.

One could always argue whether or not the expense of creating such pieces can be justified if you take into account the reality that many human beings lived through while such works of art took place. Personally, I will leave such argument for another time and on this occasion I just enjoyed two of my passions and appreciated the sunlight flooding in until Faithless broke the spell of the moment and I walked out onto the sunny streets of Oviedo. Luis x

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flowers for Christmas....

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Just in time for Christmas - a wonderful crop of crisp white cauliflowers. Cauliflower cheese, cauliflower soup, cauliflower pasta, baked, roasted, steamed...Yum yum. We must remember to check out the sprouts as well....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas is coming.....

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Having just spent the best part of November back in the UK, it was difficult to escape the hype and hyperactivity that has become synonymous with Christmas and the ever lengthening run-up to the big day. That was until a few days back here in the peaceful tranquillity that is Asturias.

The Spanish celebrate Christmas but not in the same way or even at the same time as friends and family do back in the UK. Firstly, presents are not given until the Epiphany on the 6th January, by far a greater celebration for the Spanish than Christmas day. Boxing day doesn't exist and Santa Clause is in the main redundant due to the good work carried out by the three Kings who distribute presents in fine fashion. The main gatherings here in Spain are Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Christmas cards or should I say the wholesale mailing of cards to all and sundry, is not common practice and neither are the obligatory list of presents and stocking fillers. Stockings and pillowcases are also scarce as Shoes have taken their place for the depository of gifts. The shops and bars are tastefully adorned with Christmas decorations and a few homes have placed subtle Christmas references on the outside of porches and balconies. Having no television, it is only the arrival of cards from family and friends that remind us that Christmas is on the way.

Whilst out for a walk yesterday we stopped at the village chapel after spotting something glistening in the entrance. Members of our Village's Festivities Committee had decorated the Ramu as a tree using pictures of the villagers as baubles. It was great to see the 30 or so faces of our friends and neighbours brought together in this way and it served as a timely reminder that we need to make plans, put up decorations and plan gatherings.

Unfortunately, globalisation has recently introduced Santa Clause as another way of selling us all lots of things we don't really need, resulting in two Christmases for a growing number of Spanish people.

Whilst making lunch I spotted this little fella making his way to safety, away from the hunters that are currently active and eager. I hope he makes it.