In Part 1 I described our move to a drafty medieval house that just happened to coincide with the ‘harshest of southern-France winters in living memory’. We were unprepared, that’s for sure, and extreme measures had to be taken to ensure our survival.
Here’s what happened next.
Firstly, we managed to keep our bedrooms close to around +16°C and slept with extra blankets, no big deal.
Our main issue was downstairs. That huge salon I had fallen in love with had to remain closed, its massive windows let the wind in through invisible gaps – I knew that could be dealt with, I’d have to purchase those long slim pillows the French use as windbreakers sooner or later.
But we had to use our kitchen, didn’t we. And the kitchen was the coldest place in the house. It was too low a temperature to mature a good Roquefort cheese in, for Roquefort requires a steady ten degrees to work its magic. Our kitchen, on the other hand, had the steady temperature of +4°C.
To cook, I’d wear my dad’s old wool sweater on top of another sweater, or on a lazier morning I’d just throw on my winter coat.
My feet were getting the torture of a lifetime, though. A Finn like me knows sub-zero temperatures – you have to keep your feet warm at all costs.
I’d put on my thickest, greyest Norwegian fisherman’s wool socks and squeeze them into my felt slippers. By then, they were just too tightly packed and I couldn’t feel my feet. I had to choose between slippers or wool socks. I tried it both ways – my feet remained numb.
I’d end up wearing leather boots in the house. Leather boots were the thickest footwear I’d ever needed during my winters in southern France. In the end, I had to take those off and rub my feet because the cold was unbearable.
As you may guess, this did not end well.
As the weeks rolled by and my feet started itching and swelling I went to see the doctor, thinking that along with the cold I was punished with the worst case of toe fungus imaginable. He agreed with me and ordered some cream, what else was there to do? Except that the cream made my feet colder than ever, and when they swelled up some more and started turning a purplish shade of violet, I went to see the good man again.
This time he got the point. My feet were frozen, he explained.
Strangely enough, I believed him. Although I had never frozen my feet during my winters in the northern-most corner of Europe, I had actually come to southern France to experience freezing my toes.
By mid-February, the temperatures started turning tolerable again.
Miraculously, the chimney sweep was finally free to fix our fireplace! By now, we had bought a wood stove that did the trick fast enough so we could use our medieval salon again. I slowly abandoned my winter coat. My feet, although blackened and shrivelled, had regained feeling. Flowers and swallows returned to southern France.
Life was beautiful again.
Then, this week, a sudden drop to +6°C and a wicked north wind they call the Mistral. Welcome to southern France!
1, 3 Milja Kaunisto
2 Norwegian fisherman socks – www.dipity.com. credit: knittinglemonade
Featured image – newham.gov.uk