We’d been tunnelling a while. Almost a week, in shifts. From the prison of the house there was little trace of our activities visible, the snow piles obstinately dominating our driveway. Over days of hard labour we kept each other’s spirits up with rousing cheers for a good day’s tunnelling, and ice cream treats. Our plan was to join up the two escape tunnels, one down the driveway and one up from the garage where the car was trapped, by Sunday evening, when the next snow was due.
The connection between the tunnels was rather wriggly, but calculated on the basis of the car’s reversing position from the garage and subsequent turning circle. Surprisingly this morning we realised we were almost there – the tunnels had connected. The time had come. Escape from Colditz.
Donning the arctic equivalent of motorbike leathers, Rolf strode down to the garage. The car reversed out beautifully, turned in three manoeuvres – and then got stuck up the driveway.
After some urgent adjustments with a spade the car was released. Blinking into the light of freedom, we sped off down the road before the battery died.
As we and our car sped away from captivity, a thick snow fog settled over the town providing perfect cover for our escape. Still weak from the ‘flu we just couldn’t resist going to see what it looked like now. Our first sight of the town, since arriving two weeks ago, was going to be disturbing – so many changes since we were last here, so many buildings gone!
We approached the site of the town hall. Snow had covered any trace there might once have been a building there. Your brain can’t quite accept it; mine put the image of the town hall back there anyway. On the other side of the road, a whole row of wooden yellow houses had also gone.
The white mist softened the blow of the loss. We couldn’t see so well what was there, or what wasn’t there. We were grateful for the soft focus. We sped out past LKAB’s main building site where now four, tall blocks of flats disappear into the white sky, like a mirage. Where did they come from?
And then we drove on to the junction with the new main road, now a completely new route across the foot of the ski slope and crossing behind the town. There are views from this road that might have helped us understand where we were – the new route is so disorientating – but these were all obscured by the mist. We were driving on an unknown road in the middle of nowhere.
It was a gentle re-introduction to Kiruna, to be repeated when we feel a bit stronger.