We’ve run out of superlatives for the amount of snow that has fallen. Snow has fallen, snow on snow, and the winds have blown merry havoc for a few days. Weather doesn’t usually defeat us up here, but the recent combination of heavy snowfall and high winds has been a challenge.
Part of the road out into the fjäll, the main road to Narvik, is closed in these conditions. Snow blowing heavily across the road makes it impossible to see, and it usually blows worst when a huge lorry is bearing down on you from the opposite direction. Beyond Abisko the barrier comes down to shut the road and if you’re the wrong side of it all you can do is spend the hours in Björkliden or Katterjåkk, where there’s a restaurant and a bed for the night.
In town, though, everything goes on as usual. The roads and pavements are cleared. There’s no staying home here for the day if it snows. The only real problem with the snow in town, and in our garden, is storage. The piles tower around us, and the tractors build them higher and higher. Sometimes lorries come to the snow pile opposite our house, fill up with snow, and drive it all away somewhere, making room for the next week’s snow.
We don’t have that service for the garden, and we’re reaching our limits in terms of storage space.
Snow shifts have recently been shortened to a mere 40 minutes but are worked more frequently. Boots and overalls are gathered by the front door, ‘his’ and ‘hers’ on hooks, boots stacked with two pairs of socks hanging out to warm. Rugs are spread all over the hallway floor to soak up the encroaching snow.
Picking up and distributing snow can result in a fair amount appearing in places you wouldn’t choose to have it, so the right protective clothing is essential. Over trousers with braces, heavy boots, hats and hoods, and two layers of gloves. All that’s missing is a yellow sou’wester and a packet of fish fingers. It looks like we’re off on a long dangerous expedition, not a trip out into our own back yard.
Rolf and I pass by the front door between shifts, one of us rising wearily from the sofa as the other appears in the hallway, red-faced and breathing heavily from the exertion.
‘Be careful out there,’ I say, passing the baton – or, rather, the shovel. He looks tired, and so do I. We need to focus on the future, coming back into the warmth, taking a break. ‘What do you want for your tea?’ I ask. My humour falls flat. Stony-faced and determined, Rolf pushes open the door and stands outside the door, the commander of his ship, viewing what lies ahead. The deck outside the front door is called a ‘bridge’ here, linking the house to the rest of the world. Now it’s more like the bridge of a ship, tossing on the high seas. Rolf strides off down the steps and disappears into the whiteness.
I pull the door shut behind him and go back to the sofa to check the forecast. The wind rattles insistently in the fireplace.
‘Rensjön, Tarfala, Ritsem…. north, north westerly 7 to 8, occasionally severe gale 9. Heavy snow. Poor.’ We’ll just have to sit this one out.