The thaw began last week, and the snow piles have shrunk by at least half. Our arctic hare (the one that lives in our garden that is – not actually ‘ours’) is no longer white but not yet brown – he’s hedging his bets in an attractive mottled grey-white coat which, in town at least, matches the snow piles around him.
There’s a protective moat of ice at the entrance to our house. Until we get out there with the grit visitors will have to put on their skates in the road to reach us, or maybe get down on their hands and knees and crawl across the ice. It’s not that we don’t want visitors, it’s just that it’s the end of the bed and breakfast season, we’re having a slow morning, there’s no breakfast to prepare and there are no responsibilities – like making sure guests don’t fall over on the spring ice. So it’s midday and the moat is still there.
Some pavements are well gritted, others not. It’s not easy to keep them free of ice – the snow is melting during the day and then freezing overnight, so it’s constant problem.
Approaching a road yesterday I intended to cross it, but first there was a metre of ice to negotiate to reach the kerb. I edged my way forward enough to realise that there could be an accident, with me falling forward onto the road, so I thought better of it and turned round to retrace my steps. Too late. A passing tractor had already stopped to let me cross – a Kiruna habit, even when there is no pedestrian crossing. He was waiting patiently and not the least put off by my turned back. A queue of cars had formed behind him. I gesticulated vaguely in the direction of the ice at the kerb edge. He probably never walked anywhere in town – he was probably attached to his vehicle somewhere at the hip. He no doubt concluded I was ill or drunk and not to be trusted, and certainly way to slow. Eventually he moved on. I felt, somehow, I’d failed.
I’ve noticed that some locals walk surprisingly fast at this time of the year. Do they just feel the joy of spring in their step, or have they learnt from avoiding avalanches in mountain areas that if they just walk fast enough they won’t give the ice time to trip them up?
For me, though, it’s a frustrating and slow way to walk around town, but if there’s no time pressure I can view it as a challenge. To by-pass sheets of ice on the pavements some mountaineering of the banks at the sides may be required. In other places you just have to launch yourself forward onto the ice, stumbling nervously like Bambi, or sliding randomly like Charlie Chaplin, and then recover, proudly, on the other side, looking around to see if anyone saw you.