Back in Australia I have a gas stove and a gas BBQ to which I give very little thought. I know how to change the bottle on the BBQ, although most of the time it is my son, Wayne, who does it. When the big bottle that feeds the house is running out I call Kleenheat, press the buttons on my phone pad and next thing you know is a man in a big truck comes along and makes the exchange.
Here in Spain it’s a whole other story and the source of my latest adventure.
In my apartment the hot water and the stove all run off the same bottle. No problem.
Wake up last week and there is no hot water but the stove still works.
Hmm, guess it means gas is low. I open the cupboard and lift the bottle. Yep, feels light.
I have the number for the butano as my landlady gave me it when I moved in but little did I expect to have to use it in the first week. Quick check of my Spanish vocab and I reckon I can manage to make the phone call – I have the phrase “puede hablas mas despacio” ready to use – it means please speak very slowly.
I make the call and as I suspected the guy does not speak a word of English. I get the message he only delivers to my area on a Wednesday – today is Friday – bugger!
No, he cannot come before, so I’ll just have to wait.
Okay, give me your address he says.
Ooops, more words to come up with but my brain burst into action and I find myself telling him I live at number one, on the 3rd floor in the apartment on the right. That’s how things are numbered in Spain, the floor you live on and whether you are the left or the right side.
I suffer through with cold water showers but fortunately it is 30 degrees at the moment so no real hardship. I just don’t stay in very long!
On Tuesday I realise I shall be at work when the butano comes, so someone will have to pay and let him in. Another halting Spanish phone conversation, this time with Carmen (my landlady), to ask if she can let him in (she lives in the next block). She’d love to but won’t be home tomorrow so suggests I ask my neighbour who apparently does not work.
This time a face to face conversation and yes, Carmen will be delighted to help me – yep, her name is Carmen too, lots of them here. Her husband, a little grey haired gentleman of about 65, comes across to introduce himself, we smile and shake hands.
He then proceeds to gabble to me in rapid Spanish of which I understand not a word. I think he was welcoming me to the neighbourhood. I nod, smile and wave a E20 note which they both nod at so it must be enough money. Phew!
I arrive home Wednesday night and lo and behold there is the much anticipated, bright orange gas bottle at my front door.
I bring it inside looking forward to a nice warm shower. As I open the cupboard to swap the bottles over I realise, to my great dismay, that I have no idea how to change it!
A strange mechanism I have never seen before sits atop the bottle and manages to totally confound me despite my best efforts.
It’s too late to bang on Carmen’s door so another cold shower.
Thursday morning I have a 9 am class but as soon as that’s over I scamper home, as fast as my little legs will carry me, and across to Carmen’s apartment.
I smile, say Hola! followed by “Como butano” and some gesturing (because I don’t know the word for change). She’s gets the message.
Carmen grins and comes across to demonstrate how simple it is. The mechanism is sort of spring loaded, you pull a certain bit and the whole thing pops up and off. To install the new bottle you just push it down and it clamps itself tight.
Of course I receive a running dialogue of instruction in Spanish, but fortunately I’m keeping a close eye so I managed to see how it’s done. So simple and much easier than having to get out the spanner like we do at home.
As the saying goes ‘”you learn something every day” and that’s certainly true for me at the moment.