It is cold in Beirut. Cold for Beirut standards, that is. Nothing compared to the Siberian temperatures that pummeled Europe the past weeks. No Arctic winters here, but 11 degrees Celsius for Beirut, now that is cold. I, as a Northerner, should have no problem with that type of weather. And indeed, outside the house I am in my element. Makes me all nostalgic, feels like Holland (in summer).
It’s inside the house that I suffer. Beirut houses are not built for this kind of weather. Thin cinder block walls, no double glazing, marble floors and aluminum window frames sort of suck the cold in instead of keeping it out. Well, turn on the heat then, you say?
That is a bit of an issue. Since it doesn’t often get cold like this, we’re not really into advanced heating systems. My building did – at one point –have a central heating system. I know that from a radiator I once discovered in the back of a closet. The war, lack of water pressure, the price of oil, the state of electricity or the general Arab attitude towards the maintenance of equipment; you take your pick, but that radiator was all that was left of a once functioning system.
I don’t know many people that have central heating in their houses in Beirut these days. The stack of cast-iron radiators at the ‘antique’ dealers of Basta is an indication that many houses are now without. Only the new high-end apartments these days come with central heating; the rest of us mortal souls have to do with a variety of solutions.
There is the inverted AC, (If you can turn it on cold in summer, you can put it on ‘hot’ in winter), there’s your ‘subia’; an old-fashioned furnace that runs on oil (or wood, if you’re lucky), you have your little push-around heaters fed by bottled gas, and you have the mobile radiators, which run on electricity, and will suck your bank account dry and blow up your main switch board once the neighborhood generator takes over from the government electricity.
If you are not from Lebanon, you have probably no idea what I am talking about.
If you are from Lebanon, but living abroad, you are probably laughing your ass off because you do not have to deal with this misery anymore.
If – however – you live in country , you have by now identified your source of heat in these cold days, and sympathize with me in my misery.
I am an inverted AC gal. (although I do have the mobile radiator for the bathroom in the mornings). Inverted AC sucks. Your hair gets static, there’s the constant drone of the unit, it is only really warm if you’re right in the flow of it, and if it turns off, it’s back to cold within a matter of minutes. But if that’s all there is, you take it.
Now in comes the parrot. (Hence the title). Hubbie got a parrot last summer. It flew in, just like that, and it stayed. It’s an African grey. Not really an indigenous species, but quite popular, and so now and then there’s an escape artist landing on our balcony. Hubbie is quite smitten by this one.
And so, when this morning, I decided to turn on the heating unit because I was freezing to death, he said: “No, you cannot do that. It is not good for the parrot. He’ll die with these temperature changes and the draft. Turn it off.” (Did I hear a please somewhere?)
Now I sit here on the couch, in four layers, a scarf around my head and a blanket around me, typing with 4 fingers (the others don’t function well when it gets this cold), and reflecting upon my faith and that of the parrot.
On a totally different note, I did go and see Cat Stevens in concert (Yusuf, these days). I was more impressed with being recognized by Tracy (thank you Tracy!) then with Cat Stevens.