Driving out of town I’m heading for the sea. It’s far away but I’m sure – so sure – that it’s just over there, just round the corner. The sky is huge, the clouds fast and scudding, the sunlight shimmering into a distant glow. I feel the joy of a child setting out for the treat of a day trip to the seaside.
Out on the frozen river or lake there’s a wide sun soaked beach. The hard winter has formed tiny grains of snow that drift like sand, settling in dunes and patterns, shifting beneath your feet, blowing ahead of you. Other people are far away, dark silhouettes walking on the lake’s pale surface, flat and glistening like wet sand after the tide has drawn the sea away. A dog plays ahead of the walkers as they throw a stick, and then the dog hurtles after it. You hear their voices distantly, and laughter as they chase the dog. You get out the deckchairs and enjoy a picnic, face turned to the sun.
Along the beach edge are a long line of beach huts. All different shapes and colours, some with windows and some without, made of steel, or wood, or plastic. There are buckets and fishing equipment stacked outside them, though you can’t see a soul. Further out to sea, towards the middle of the lake, there are other huts dotted around, in splendid isolation.
These are Kiruna’s ‘arkar’ – shelters from the wind for ice fishers. They line up along the shore when not in use, and are pulled out to a prime position for fishing. There are some figures by the huts, far out on the ice, sitting or standing, lying down even, and sometimes you see an arm slowly, repetitively, moving up and down over the ice, trying to attract a very cold fish.
Accidents can happen, though there aren’t many life guards on duty on Kiruna’s beaches.
Back in Kiruna, waves crash against the roadside, white surf riding on the crest of the wave.
Beach volley anyone?
A low mist sits below the town, and, rising from the mist, small hills appear as islands.
A wide harbour curls around the foot of the town, and resting there is the largest, most majestic cruise ship you’ve ever seen. Queen of the Northern Seas, HMS ‘Kirunavaara Mine’.
The passengers have left the ship and are roaming round the bars and restaurants on shore. This ship never leaves the harbour – perhaps it can’t navigate its way out again from such an inland sea, or perhaps everyone’s just too happy to be landlocked in Kiruna. It’s part of the town now and when the ship sinks we’ll all know it’s time to leave.