Following my announcement a couple of days ago of warmer temperatures, I haven’t yet caught anyone eating an ice cream on a bench – though to be fair, the benches are all still covered in snow (it’s below freezing again). However I did see a discarded ice cream wrapper in the street yesterday. It isn’t really like the first spring cuckoo, but it’s an indication people are out and about thinking of enjoyment (specifically, ice cream) rather than just struggling to get from a to b. Ice cream is a local favourite, though it might seem surprising given the cold weather here. Cold air, don’t care.
There’s also a healthy queue of people outside ‘Empes’, the local hot dog stall. I learned this week that it’s been in Kiruna since the 1930s. ‘Empes Gatukök’ was started by a young man (nicknamed ‘Empes’ as a boy) who made his own ice cream. He sold it on the streets in boxes packed with the ice he’d collected himself from the lake. He later branched out into hot dogs and hamburgers, and in the 1950s had what was considered the snazziest modern hamburger stall in Sweden. It’s one of my favourite places in town – the giant Coke bottle and lit-up polar bear are iconic. Throughout the economic ups and downs of the town over several decades, Kiruna has always had its ‘Empes’.
As it is the start of a new year the local council has just delivered the first edition of its free quarterly magazine. With the mine hot on the heels of the town, steadily blasting its way down towards it, and many blocks of flats due to be emptied this year, you’d expect there to be plenty in the pipeline for the council to talk about.
Erm no, not really. There’s a new old people’s home planned. The council is talking with IKEA about building some new housing in one of the suburbs. (Just talking mind, and talk is cheap.) And there’s a fanfare of self congratulation that a decision has been made to build an indoor football pitch. So that’s what a town which is about to lose a significant portion of its housing stock needs – an indoor sports hall.
It all feels a bit of a distraction from the chronic housing shortage and problems associated with a town falling into a pit. The phrase ‘bread and circuses’ springs to mind (the phrase from AD 100 describing how the Roman government bought the population’s agreement and approval by providing free food and circus entertainment).
Another magazine delivered to our post box this week – ‘Business in Kiruna’ – focuses on this weekend’s big event: the arrival in Kiruna – by special charter plane (courtesy of Coca Cola) – of the World Football Championship’s trophy. FIFA has chosen Kiruna as the only place it will go to in Sweden. Isn’t that exciting? There will be lots of things happening around it and someone will make a film with it outside the Ice Hotel. Apparently it’s a huge honour for Kiruna which will boost the economy no end.
So much good news in one week – it’s hard to take it all in. Looking at how things are developing it seems we won’t be short of circus entertainment in Kiruna over the coming years. And maybe ‘Empes’ will get a grant to expand its business – I’m sure Kiruna really needs some Sushi Bars.