We’d been away, off and on, for quite a few months. It wasn’t winter when we were last here, and now it was, so we were expecting a few obstacles in our way when we first arrived at the house. Primarily, snow in the way.
Snow in the way of reaching the front door. When we arrive from the deep south we are dressed for in and out of warm trains and airports and home in a taxi, not for digging a path to the front door in minus 14 degrees for half and hour. The first view from the taxi as it pulls up the end of Tvärgatan is full of hope. Has she? She has. Our dear neighbour, elderly and with mobility problems, has kept a path open for us. We could not be more grateful.
But as we reach the front door, which in our house is actually the back door, our optimism drains away as we look down over the garden and garage and see that our two large leaning birch trees have fallen. The weight of the snow, frozen on the branches, finally bent them too far. The trees narrowly missed the house as they fell, and for that we are grateful, but apart from our sadness at losing them it’s clear they now form a major obstacle. They are across our parking space, and – more worryingly – blocking one of our main routes for removing snow.
We get through the front door, turn off all the open taps and switch the water on, and look around for firewood. Did we remember to leave some ready cut? We did. The house takes 24 hours to warm up after this length of time, and the ‘kakelugn’ – a sort of firewood radiator – is a crucial part of the process. We’ll keep our coats and hats on for the next few hours at least, and we’ll have to keep physically active.
Not difficult. Snow in the way of the garage. It’s is a long way from the road to our garage, downhill, and our car is sitting down there, snug and dry, insulated by a warm pile of snow on all sides. We need a car here, running a bed and breakfast, and we need it soon. The first lot of shovelling is the hardest, because you have to turn around on the spot, trying to force through a space to take the snow. As you pivot round you eventually begin to free up the passage for snow, and soon – well, within a couple of hours anyway – you are actually managing to clear snow from the driveway.
A rough assessment of how long it will take – at this rate, given that there is the additional obstacle of fallen trees, with two people working shifts, and providing it doesn’t snow more in the meantime – is currently three days. Coffee breaks are required to keep the spirits up, but they are coffee breaks without cake, indeed without lunch, because there’s no food in the house. A trek through the snow brings bread (and other things) to the table and suddenly there is much to be cheerful about.
We do wonder why we came here, at this time of year, at our time of life, when the world has been made so easy by advancing technology and high standards of living. We could’ve been sat in a warm flat somewhere, further south (no snow, and if there was, someone else would be responsible and a machine would move it), easy public transport on our doorstep, no physical effort required. Everything could be done at the touch of a button, and instantly.
It was like that when we were in Stockholm. So easy. I read in the paper they were discussing putting in additional recreation facilities in the large open area nearby. Rows of raised objects at varying heights alongside the walking path. An obstacle course, for people wanting to get a bit of exercise as they pass through. You couldn’t make it up.