It’s been unusually slippery the last few weeks.
Most of the winter you don’t have to worry about ice on the roads or pavements. It’s only when temperatures hover around zero that you get slide-y pavements – the last few weeks have been just that. It’s the opposite feeling of spring – we feel we’re digging in our heels, resisting the pull to winter, reluctant to be dragged back into below freezing temperatures and snow shovelling duties. So the temperatures are bobbing up and down, and last week someone staying with us from Spain had a tumble.
The locals have developed a ‘walk’ to deal with these conditions. It’s not as graceful as the Moon Walk, but it does the job (and with any luck you’ll move forwards instead of backwards). You pick up each foot and put it down very carefully, completely flat. There’s no rolling from one foot to another.
It’s the only way not to fall over. Apart from walking on grit, that is, which also does the job. At some point a machine comes along the pavement, depositing a swathe of grit. Then you can walk normally – if you can see the grit. But if it’s been snowing again it’s hard to say if just under the snow there’s still a tricky layer of ice. Best do the Ice Walk again.
Tonight is Halloween Party Night and there are quite a few witches out with broomsticks doing the Ice Walk. Some of them are doing the Ice Slide in the middle of the road, and good luck to them because being dressed in black, no motorist will ever see them.
Kiruna is organised for winter so you won’t be surprised to learn about the communal Grit Trough. The rule is you’re allowed to take as much as you like if you come on foot, but you’re not allowed to drive up there. You meet your neighbours at the Grit Trough and talk about tough times ahead.
The neighbour who has it right outside his house is lucky. He can take as much as he likes – though ironically, having a flat piece of land around his house, his needs are not great. He’s not territorial about it – all are welcome. He keeps an eye on grit levels, and at the end of the season, when the snow finally melts, he sweeps up last year’s grit and puts it all back. Recycling grit; it’s a Kiruna thing.
So to collect our grit, legally, one of us does the Ice Walk over the main road to the trough, fills up a bucket, and comes back throwing grit ahead of us, like strewing a path with roses, or confetti. Only tougher.
A bit more snow, and the grit will disappear. A bit more snow still and there’s no need for the grit. Then a bit more snow still and the ski season will begin, and then we’ll want tracks to ski in that are slippery, though preferably not icy. There’s no pleasing some people.