>Blinded by the Light

>Another day without snowfall. So far. And it looks set to continue that way today.  Glorious clear blue sky and full sun again, barely a niggardly -25 when I surfaced this morning at something ahead of 09:00.  Mind you, it was that temp when I slouched off to my scratcher at about midnight last night. Must have been colder during the early hours, then!

Luckily, and having (too much)  experience of such temps here, I put the electric heating on before snuggling down for the night, so the house had a reasonable warmth this morning.  We have a fairly standard central-heating set-up here. A smallish wood-burning spis/stove which also has an independent electric boiler and pump etc.,  as a back-up. With no shortage of timber here, it is a sensible arrangement. The drawback is that we have mostly birch and pine for fuel. Pine burns okay but is only really useful for initially lighting the thing as it burns way too fast and generates little warmth. The birch is better and burns more efficiently. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t burn or keep the small fire-box alight overnight. Hence the benefit and the need for the electric standby. It would be good to have some oak to burn but it doesn’t grow up here at our latitude. You know what they say – or sing – about birch:

Or, at least, what Bill Morrissey  thinks about it……..’Nuff said, bro!

It’s okay in the South of the country, where there is a fair bit of oak woodland, for example in Skåne. So, if nothing else, old Inspector Wallender and his cohorts will have the benefit of decent firewood logs, though probably at frightening cost.

No sign of Mister Fox early this morning. Maybe he’s fed-up with the cold, too! He did eventually turn up, at about 12:30, chasing off the Magpies that share his scavenging grounds below the small bird feeders.  I made his Brekkie and rushed out rattling the container – a small round plastic ex-biscuit thing – because he recognises the sound now.  I dumped it below the feeders and retreated.  He crept up warily, sniffing the air – as always – and keeping a cautious eye on the front door, porch and me, grabbed the container in his jaws and set off over the mounds of snow at the bottom of the garden, disappearing down the principal village road,  and took off to eat in safety and maybe even warmth – who knows!?

This is the bustling road through the village, in summer:

In the distance, again, is Rolf, still auditioning for ABBA it seems from his striking outfit,  heading to visit Kjell ( pronounced Shell) – another near neighbour – for Fika!

When the snow goes, there will doubtless be countless empty plastic biscuit containers littering the area, which will baffle the natives. Give them another reason to scratch their heads and chew some snus. It’s a pity Mister Fox – the bugger – never brings the empties back;  he must leave ’em somewhere!  You’d think he’d never heard of recycling – and him a Swede, too!

Charlie crouched on the threshold and simply sniffed the frosty air  before whinnying piteously and brushing past me on his way back upstairs. He’s waiting for the temps to rise before venturing out today, I’d say. More sense than his old mucker, Jack, who, daft as a brush – or a cocker-spaniel – raced out into it, rolling in the snow happily before barking a bit to rouse and infuriate our neighbour’s dog, a young, rapidly expanding Älghound that is always kept tethered by the house or in a netted compound beside Håkan’s garage-cum-workshop.

Älghounds (pronounced Ellyhound) are huge bloody things when fully grown. They are used for hunting Moose. Good ones are prized, praised and excercised,  often being hitched up by those extendable lead things to their owners who occasionally trudge morosely along behind them. Although more often than not, they have to help propel their owners by dragging them along while they either sit on a cycle chewing a sachet of snus (snuff) – a summer, no-snow around on ground sort of method – or, in winter, pulling the hapless bossman/woman on a sparka – a kind of minimalist small sleigh affair. (I will post a piccy of Rolf on his sparka soon, when I get my new USB camera cable)!

They are used to locate the prey, the enormous and none-too-bright oven-glove adorned Moose.  When they smell one, they take off through the forest, powering through the snowdrifts as if they didn’t exist.  To illustrate the stupidity of your average Moose, you only have to know that they are apparently not afraid of these dogs. (Eat your heart out, Charlie Darwin). Instead they initially take-off, then knowing the hound poses no real threat to their well-being, they stop  and stand their (dying) ground while the frantic, panting hound barks loudly and incessantly to attract the attention of, and guide the hunters to, the animal. Which they quickly – not to say sportingly – dispatch with their finely polished rifles.

 The hunters then have celebratory Fika – hard to resist an opportunity if you’re a Swede – before gralloching the beast, scooping out the intestines etc, some of which are given to the dog as a reward – instant gratification. It’s then that the difficult part begins – getting a couple of tonnes of delicious but inert meat on the (moribund) hoof back to base from an often inaccessible part of the forest is not easy – especially in mid-winter! For this, little sled-things, attached to a snow-scooter (where possible), are a positive boon.

Time to sign off. I still have a little packing to do and I must walk down to Roger’s mailbox and collect his post this afternoon. Also have to take a quick run into Fun City for petrol and stamps – must send a card off to the Grandsprog, Hamish aka Kitey, whose birthday it is on Friday/25th. Doubt the card will reach him on time, though sometimes post from Sweden is surprisingly fast and efficient.  So I’ll leave it at that with another summery photo: the house gable-end with my shadow stretching before me!

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About yractual

A former lawyer and national daily journalist, now a freelance music journalist, with moves bewteen Spain, Sweden, France and who knows where next! A Scot by birth and inclination. Lover of acoustic ragtime-blues guitar and ukulele. Work with music titles across three continents.
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