When I was a child the happiest day was when ‘Bunty’ popped through the letterbox. ‘Bunty’, a comic for girls, whose characters were my friends and who always triumphed in the end, beat the bully, and won the affection of all their classmates. Since then, as an adult I haven’t felt the same excitement when hearing a loud thump of something being delivered through the front door.
In Kiruna, of course, nothing is delivered through the front door – it’s delivered to a mailbox on the road. It’s a sad thing to lift the lid and find nothing in it. I wish it had a light on it which flashed when something was inside, to save me the pain and embarrassment of going there to see the inside of an empty box. But there is one day a week when what’s in the mailbox sets my pulse racing – the delivery of Kiruna’s ‘Annonsblad’.
A cross between ‘Exchange and Mart’, a community newsletter and a local parish magazine, ‘Annonsblad’ ought not to be of much interest. It’s mainly advertising – mostly special offers on sausages or woolly underwear – so it ought to be something that goes straight in the bin. But we really treasure it. Hidden in its pages are insights into local life which, when you see them, are like spotting a flash of gold at the bottom of a running stream.
It would spoil the pleasure if there was no effort involved, so the effort is wading through the commercial advertising, not letting your eye be fooled into thinking that that small box down there is just another advertisement for salami.
This week, skipping through the ads for holidays in Turkey, local potatoes, sports wear, reindeer steaks, leather furniture, and a page of announcements of church services, I came across some small boxes advertising the date and time of various annual meetings of local organisations. There was one for the meeting of an organisation that looks after a museum of local buildings. Another organisation having an AGM seems to have been set up to manage a piece of open land (this meeting would take place in the ‘conference tent’). Advertisements in ‘Annonsblad’ often begin as puzzles – there was an AGM announced for an organisation which had the name of two local hills, something to do with burials. We managed to work out that it’s an organisation set up by mine workers’ unions to help people save to cover funeral costs.
Moving swiftly on to births, marriages and deaths (‘congratulations, hugs and kisses to three year old Ludvig, from Mamma, Pappa and Spiderman’) and what children will get for lunch in local schools this week (meatballs on Monday, fried herring on Friday). The local government is looking for anyone speaking fluent Arabic or Somali, to ‘provide society orientation for our new Swedes’. There’s a box announcing the temporary closure of a snowscooter route (possibly due to exploration by the local mining company, though this is not stated), and an advertisement inviting people to donate their used electric equipment to a recycling workshop. The library advertises itself with the question, ‘Are you looking for poems to express grief or faith?’ (well, I suppose it is Easter) and the financial advice bureau reminds us that ‘Life is the biggest gift, and we are given it for free’. There’s a large advertisement for the next Council meeting and a reminder that if you don’t feel like attending, and would like to find another way to punish yourself (my words not theirs), you can listen to the whole meeting on local radio.
Almost half a page of small black print is headlined ‘Rocket launch from Esrange’. Esrange is a rocket range and research centre north of Kiruna. The advertisement announces their intention to launch a rocket in the next week, and it details the radio frequencies on which, at set times of the day, you can find out if the launch is imminent. If it is, and you have the misfortune to be in the area at the time, it reminds you that there are some shelters. It describes the extent of the area that might be affected by jetsam from the rocket launch – this area includes the village of Vittangi, but they tell people not to worry as they won’t really be affected (really?). Finally they ask the public to ring a special number if someone finds any rocket bits, and there’s a reward for the first person who rings.
Please sir, can I have my rocket back? Pure gold.