You wouldn’t have thought we’d have such trouble finding a Christmas tree…and yet, we’re still searching. We can live without one, but we run a bed and breakfast, people are coming for Christmas, they’ll want a tree, surely?

We think people in Kiruna all know someone who knows someone who owns a bit of forest area. Or they have no qualms about going out into a forest area and getting one for themselves. There was a rumour of trees for sale a week ago, but we never saw any. Yesterday I saw a sign advertising them – we hot footed it round to a house nearby to find the most dismal selection of needle-less excuses for trees you’ve ever seen. The man looked almost relieved when we declined to buy one.

Today’s hope was a Christmas market in the nearby village of Kurravaara. The reason we had hopes is that this is an area where many people have small summer houses and take an interest in growing things, so there is a small ‘garden centre’ there. Surely, I reasoned, Christmas trees will be part of their business?

We set out with high hopes in a chilly minus 17 degrees. You notice instantly when it dips below minus 15 degrees – when you open your mouth it’s like something sharp digs into your lungs (so obviously, you keep your mouth shut).

Driving down the small hill to the main road we looked up at the temperature reading on the shop, and it said minus 19 degrees. This is a common experience – it’s usually a few degrees warmer up the hill. I know it’s a bit counter intuitive, thinking of cold mountains, but warm air rises and the town was built on a hill for a reason.

As we drove down the road the temperature dropped another degree. I was rather regretting my choice of clothing. Knowing Christmas markets, it would be very warm once we got there – a roaring log fire in a crowded old wooden building (the ‘Hembygdsgård’, an old house preserved as a sort of museum for the village) – I had put on my less warm boots and coat. The car was working hard to warm itself and us up (we hadn’t used the engine heater before we set out) and there was still no warm air on my feet.

We turned down the road to Kurravaara. It’s only a five minute drive away, but as you leave Kiruna behind it feel as if you’re driving into a wilderness. It’s a frosty winter scene, a forested area (unlike most areas around Kiruna) with pine trees stretching into the cold pale blue sky. The pale pink outline of the moon was already visible. Rolf was reading off the temperature from the dial in front of him. As the road slowly wound down to the village he started to sound like the captain of a diving submarine.

‘…minus 22’

…minus 28′

‘…minus 32’

Enough already, I knew how cold my toes were. ‘I guess they won’t be holding the market outside then.’

But he continued, ‘….minus 34.’

I was looking forward to getting near that log fire. We drove up to the ‘Hembygdsgård’ but, suspiciously, there wasn’t a car in sight. We saw there was a sign on the door, but even then I couldn’t guess what it was going to say.

I never thought there would be a occasion in this part of the world when the cold stopped play, but there it was. ‘Cancelled due to the cold.’

What’s the matter with these people? It was only minus 38 degrees!