Come on baby light my fire

Winter is coming and we, Squeaky the Cat, Rasputim and I, have started lighting the wood-burning stove of an evening. It’s little cast-iron body radiating heat when it is up and burning. All paper and cardboard is used as starters, and my friend Carla brings up exotic packagings to burn from Marrakech.

I use the stove sparingly, mindful of burning wood, but without it when the snow starts – and it has – the house is truly icy. The wood, from olive trees so sustainable, is brought to me by my landlord Hajj Brahim.

Today I ran out and WhatsApped him in a mixture of Darija and Tashlaheet – khisni akshoddin = I need wood.

At around six pm, there is a knock at my door and handsome Abd El Aziz, the Hajj’s eldest son, is unloading sacks of wood off the back of a mule. The girls have all been playing badminton and frisbee in the yard so immediately stop to help.

We all grab the hessian bags and lug them into the house, emptying them out onto the terrace. Miriam and Hasna stack the logs up neatly by the washing machine and Hafsa gets the brush out and sweeps away the debris.

‘Everyone, come into the salon and let’s have tea!’ I say and there is a rush for the doors. On goes the music, out comes some chai tea with honey and my very best cups, including the one that looks like a flower and the elephant mug, and the party starts.

Amazigh Berber dancing

Headscarves come off and are tied round the hips so that we can all really get moving and poor Othman, the only boy, tries to amuse himself with my post it notes and leather camel. I raid my wardrobe for scarves and hats and anything with spangles and a fabulous time is had by all.

Amazigh Berber dancing

Hot and sweaty, we soon don’t need the stove but rather cool glasses of water. When the girls have danced their fill and we can hear the sound of mothers calling them to supper, everyone files out still laughing and in a shower of kisses.

Even the most mundane of tasks can turn into a mini adventure when you live in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

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