Kitty enjoys the stove, complete with my bag of pinecones, raided from the mountain
Outside, the new white topping on the Apennine ridge blends seamlessly with the white sky. It's October and winter has come suddenly to the Peligna valley, the temperature dropping from a t-shirt-worthy 28C to 8C in a matter of days. Our draughty 16th century house combats the bleakness with a newly-installed wood-burning stove. The Eels blast out "God damn right, it's a beautiful day," on iTunes, despite the evidence to the contrary.
The stove is a chestnut-brown relic from the seventies, a present from our friend Daniele. It's presided over many a merry night in its history, providing the heat for teenage get-togethers when our friends - now around thirty years old - were young. The style of the stove is questionable, but its effects are not. Although we've only had it lit for a few days, all three of us (Ross, Seamus the cat, and I) now fight over the nearest armchair. I'm currently sharing it with the determined cat.
To fuel the fire one needs wood, of course. The folk of Bugnara, our village, advised us to buy all the wood for the winter during the summer when it was dry. Unfortunately, we had to wait for my teaching work to recommence in the autumn. I still haven't had a full month's pay (teaching doesn't start properly until October), and so, I went to the sawmill this morning to see if it was possible to get just a small quantity. It was a fascinating experience.
The two brothers and the older man who I assume is their father never remember me at the sawmill. All three probably have enough fingers between them for two men. I explain again that, no I'm not Italian, but yes, I do live in Bugnara, and yes I work locally. (Here, the question isn't "What do you do?" but "Do you work?" - an indication of the unemployment here.)
It's the first time I've bought wood to burn, and, despite my friends' instruction, I'm not too sure what I need. Nonetheless, they sort me out with some dry oak, and cut it into small enough pieces for the stove, before packing it into my car boot. Oak burns slowly, although it's difficult to light. I collected pinecones on the mountain during the summer to use as kindling.
The most fun part was weighing the car. I drove onto a metal patio and the old man disappeared into a wooden shack. Following him, I saw a big cantilever scale with brass knobs. He nudges the knobs along until the long lever balances, exclaiming with surprise that our 1l Opel Corsa weighs 930kg. (Mental note, clear the crap out of the car.) After 12 euros of wood is added, it comes to 1030kg.
And so, enough wood is bought to get us to the end of a cold month.