Hate California. it’s cold and it’s damp

People make assumptions about Canada and Canadians. It’s always cold there and its people are hardy.

No and no.

Okay so there’s the odd crackpot who does the Polar Bear swim on New Year’s day. Or dashes naked from a hot tub to roll in the snow, but these people are usually Canadian/ something, often German, Swedish or even English, like my ex-husband who raced on an ice floe in his late 70s. (To  race an ice flow, you lie partly on it in a wet suit and propel yourself down the river with your lower body.) See romtrenD.ca /phots

Most of us Canuks are used to central heating, a real furnace that runs as and when according to a preset thermomstat, fueled with gas or at the worst oil. Gone are the 50s when you had to stoke the fire at night and stir it up and add coal in the morning. In the country, if the oil truck doesn’t make your delivery, you fire up your wood stove and when he finally arrives, the doors are all open and the indoor temperature is over 90 F.

That’s the way my Grandma liked it. If you had a cold, you’d just go to her house, drink tea and sweat. She was cool and collected, not a hair out of place, in her flowery, well ironed house dress. “Are you warm enough?” she would say and put another piece of wood in the stove.

I have an abiding fear of cold as does my daughter. She says it’s because she was born in Toronto near the end of January and immediately taken away to a cold nursery. She blames me for that. (Well, she just points out that that is how her baby self saw things and please don’t tell me that she wouldn’t be able to remember. She clearly does.) But the more I cried to see her, the more they said I couldn’t see her. Something of a standoff. But after a good deal of shouting from the head nurse -at me-, my crying baby girl appeared.

I know. Times change just not fast enough.

I myself was born in an unheated farmhouse bedroom at the first of May during a snow storm – snow will do that in the mountains – a small baby and early.

In fact I think we could have both been born in the middle of a heat wave or in my grandma’s hot kitchen and still be cold.

My daughter’s father contributed his hardy genes to our son, leaving her his allergies and Roman nose.

So here on the mountain, the weather changed. And Clara’s house where I am living has a heater, but the pilot light is out. You probably know how to relight a propane pilot light. We don’t. We wait and wait for the gas company. They don’t work Saturdays.This morning it was 64 in the house and the next time I looked 63. Outside, it was just over 50, no joy in the sun.

I was sick. With a change of weather sickness. Not a cold. With me, it starts with a vicious headache and then settles into a fierce muscle spasm, in this case in my right hip, the muscle you use to lift you leg from the gas peddle to the brake. Inconvenient on mountain roads, also for getting in and out of bed, putting on shoes and going upstairs. The pain was so bad that I was nauseated. I stay in bed, reading, under a pile of covers. Gradually, I begin to rally, but….

So I says to Clara,” Clara…” She has her back turned as she washes dishes and she jumps violently. It’s hard to know how to get the attention of the hard of hearing. “Clara, can I put on a fire. It’s only 64 in here?’

“Are you cold,” she asks. .

I am wearing a woolen hat, a pair of woolen tights, a wool turtleneck and a think terry cloth robe with a hood.

“It’s just because you’re sick,” she adds

“I’ll look after it,” I insist, but she is out the door to get the firewood off the deck. There is a pile of smaller wood and branches on the ground. I gather up some. Then I retrieve some of the crumpled packing newspaper. Viola, I have a fire. I’ve had years of practice.

“It won’t last,” says Clara, her voice dire. Then she adds gloomily, “I can’t stand being hot.” She retreats to her bedroom, where she has been reading in her dressing gown all afternoon. But now she shrugs it off in preparation.

Gradually, as I dust mop the floors, the temperature rises to 68. At home I call my landlord at 68 and he turns the furnace on. At 68 at home, I am freezing. Here I feel myself unwind and enjoy the warmth. Of course I have to be five feet from the massive fireplace to do that.

Clara has just moved here from Vegas where, even in 110 degree heat, it never occurred to her to put on the A.C. When she had guests, she would make an exception, but turn it off at night, despite the fact that none of the windows opened. Recently, on a day when it hit 90 here on the mountain, the realtor, who sold her the place, asked me how we were enjoying the air conditioning. Not!

Amazingly three days ago, I drove Clara to Santa Clarita. Getting out of the car, she assured me it was a hundred, just like Vegas. Santa Clarita is an hour and several thousand feet of altitude down from where we live.

I am writing this in the house in the pines where I have a heater going near me.

I know room mates require diplomacy, especially when they own the house.

Oh, did I say, I also took us to the El Tejon Outlet centre, newly open off the I 5 on the way to Bakersfield. There I bought a winter jacket with a faux fur hood. I just wore it over here on the golf cart. Hardy I ain’t.

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