There are quite a few differences in our environment now that it is definitively winter. Firstly, and most obviously, it is cold. This morning we used the AC for a quick blast of heat before breakfast, backing it up with the oil filled radiators, this evening we lit the soba almost as soon as it got dark. It rained very hard in the middle of last week – we’re told it doesn’t usually rain that hard – we had a river down the street but, fortunately, nothing leaked. It’s dry now but more rain predicted for next week – at least the cloud holds the warm in.
So it’s cold. The sky remains bright blue (when it isn’t raining) and the air is beautiful (when it’s not obscured by woodsmoke). We hear more songbirds than we do in summer. This morning, in zero degrees, taking the soba bucket out to the communal bin, I saw a black and white wagtail crossing the road a few yards to my right. We see a lot of black redstarts and all kinds of small birds (usually too distant for us to identify).
The fruit and vegetables we get on the market are still super-fresh (one or two days out of the ground at the most) but they are different. We still get lemons (cheaper and cheaper) but the mandolins are giving way to oranges and apples now. We are experimenting with the apples to find the ones we like best. There are still aubergines, but they’re 4 lira a kilo and looking fairly sad. The courgettes look more like marrows. The leeks are fabulous, we have learned to love celeriac, and the spinach tastes like spinach should taste (the mud washes off easily enough though it leaves hands feeling cold). But produce is worth a post on its own…
The street, on the whole, is quieter. People go in when it gets dark so there’s no gossip to be heard in the street at night. The air is thick with smoke. The wood smoke smells nice but the coal smoke doesn’t.
There is not so much rubbish in the communal bins. We find this a bit of a puzzle. We don’t live in a ‘holiday’ area so it’s not that less people are around to make rubbish. The bins still fill up with builders’ rubble but, we guess, there’s not so much agricultural waste around. The only explanation we can come up with is that people are burning stuff they would otherwise have thrown away. You can, after all, put more or less anything that will burn into a soba. In addition, they also throw away stuff which is still burning – bin fires are a constant hazard when taking out the rubbish. Hilary has learned a rule ‘if the bin is closed, it’s probably alight’.