Winter is bliss in Kiruna. However, many people in other, warmer, places, think I’ll be cheered up by signs of spring and keep telling me it’s just round the corner. They enthuse over early spring bulbs and the warmth in the sunshine, and then, feeling a bit sorry for me, make sympathetic noises and reassure me it won’t be long until spring arrives. They think I must feel very, very depressed, being still in the grip of deepest winter.
Personally I hope it will be a very long time before spring arrives, but I’ve decided to look for some signs of it now, just so as not to disappoint people.
This is what I found:
Street lamps. That’s the first sign of the spring. The street lights are now off in the middle of the day. Once there was darkness, now there is light – actually five hours of daylight, compared with none at all just a month ago. The light returns at the rate of ten minutes everyday. Phew.
Birds. Summers are short and they have to make the most of it. So even though it’s only January, the tits have noticed that daylight has flooded back and are singing loudly to mark out their sparse, snowy territories.
Picnics. We can have them. It may be cold, but at least there’s light.
False optimism. Our neighbour has already installed a soft drinks machine in the garden in anticipation of the long spring and summer days. They can’t use it yet, but we like to look at it.
Big trucks. Roundabout this time the snow piles up in the streets so high that it has to be removed by big trucks and taken away to the humungous snow pile on the edge of town. When the snow is removed you can see the tarmac of the pavements again. This isn’t necessarily an advantage – it will be much more slippery than the layer of snow was – but it is, surely, a sign of spring.
Discarded ice cream wrappers. I saw one this month, weighed down by a pile of snow. On the other hand I saw one in December too, so perhaps a false sign.
Outdoor festivals. There’s one this weekend actually. OK, it’s name isn’t very spring-like (‘Snow festival’), but we get to hang around on street corners and eat reindeer burgers.
Christmas lights. A few people have removed them – a sure sign spring is on the way.
Later (over the next few months) the following signs of spring will appear:
Rautas premier. The start of the ice fishing season in the Rautas river. Maggots are in huge demand and the town is empty.
Hares. They’ll change from white to dappled brown and grey to match the ground in spring. They usually change in advance of the snow melting so become very visible.
Snow melting. Wet slush everywhere. Masses of ugly, grey grit on pavements to stop us sliding all over the place.
Light. Infuriatingly huge amounts of it. Hardly any time for sleep.
There now. Does that sound more cheerful?
I thought not.