>A Whiter Shade of Pale……

>This morning started clear and blue again, with a few wispy, fluffy clouds in the heavens and a temp of about -18 at 09:00. I lit the stove and dragged some more firewood up from the shed to stack on the porch, ready and easily to hand. But now the cloud has thickened and the blue has been swept away, probably by the strongish, chilling wind blowing in from the Siberian East.  Bloody Ruskies!! And as the cloud thickens, the threat of snow increases. Having checked online, we are in for more of the white stuff later this afternoon and evening. But temps are about to rise to more manageable levels over the coming week. Pity/thankfully I’ll miss much of the improvement by being in France! Just have to raise a glass or two of rouge and bear up, I suppose.

Weather conditions change here very quickly at times. It can be clear and sunny one minute and clouded with snow shortly afterwards, with temps varying enormously too. When there is a chance of the Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights, we monitor a website which has a double-webcam link and is located about 250 miles to our North, just over the Polar Circle.


The site is maintained by a Brit and another who run a photographic gallery and Aurora-watching, outdoor experience accommodation business in a small village. When they have activity,  as long as the skies are clear, we also usually have a display.  It is really a most extraordinary phenomonon, though being that bit further North they invariably have a more colourful array. When we first saw the dancing lights in the sky, J and I both thought we were imagining it. It seemed so unlikely and almost unreal. Now we are used to it and, though never blase, certainly think little of the changing patterns and glorious skies we frequently have in winter.

I know everyone raves (rightly) about the Aurora Borealis but there is another colourful, atmospheric phenomonon that I look forward to making its annual appearance up here in Vaster Norrland!

One of the more spectacular sights we have every year, often just before Xmas, is Nacreous cloud formations. These are commonly known as Mother of Pearl clouds – and it is easy to see why. The colours can be beautiful, especially against a clear sky. It’s been our experience that they occur most frequently in late afternoon/early evening. They are also more accurately called Polar Stratospheric Clouds and form at high altitudes, 15 to 30 Kms above Earth.  There is a splendid book, for those interested in clouds: ‘The Cloud Book: how to understand the skies’ by Richard Hamblyn, is published by David&Charles. I heartily recommend it.

The following is not the best of photos – we have seen better displays but only when cameraless:

We must remember to keep a camera in the car in future, though this was taken from the front garden. It doesn’t fully capture the colours but the shape and quilted texture is fairly well represented, I’d say, and they change so quickly making it difficult to capture the true essence of the phenomenon, which can be found, given the right conditions, at latitudes above 50 degrees. Presumably, therefore, these can be seen in northern Scotland, for example. I’d certainly be interested to know.

I think something must have spooked Charlie when he was out yesterday afternoon; when he returned, just before dusk, he was a bit tetchy, restless and wide-eyed. J would say that is his normal look, but I know better; he and I have an understanding of sorts and a strange relationship, to say the least. He was reluctant to venture out this morning, preferring to pee in his tray – a rarity, because he generally much prefers the great outdoors for all his sanitary needs – not unlike the French really!  He nose-butted me at about 05:00 this morning but then curled up alongside me by the pillow, where his steady purring fortunately and effectively sent me back off to dreamland.  Maybe he had a run-in with Mister Fox – who knows!

Foxxy appears to be arriving later each day – just after 13:00 today before I spotted him creeping around the garden in front of the house. I had his tucker ready – a late, light lunch of rice, dried cat food and some old, unused cheap tinned, Lidl dog food. I found a tub of apple puree in the freezer, but don’t know if Foxes eat apples; they eat most berries, I know, but apple….pureed? I’ll give it a try tomorrow.  I think he needs variety in his diet – bound to be better for him!  He barely moved when I served his meal at its  usual place, instead hiding behind a pile of snow, ploughed into a Berg-like formation (Mount Håkan, we call it) by Håkan, who often generously clears our track with one of his huge tractorry things, piling the snow up into veritable mountainous pistes.  As I turned to close the front door, I caught sight of his tail whisking off into the denuded Lilac bush by the birch-tree with its bird-feeders, and by the time I got to the kitchen window – about 4.5 metres or so away – he had already hustled off with his tasty, take-away snack.

I’m a bit worried about how he is going to manage after we’ve gone next week. Apart possibly from Matts & Gertrude, who live about a kilometre from us, I don’t think anyone else will consider feeding a fox. Håkan and Monica, for example, have Hens on the farm, so it is not a sensible option for them. Monica does like to see him around, she says, and admires his pretty coat and colours.  I have some pix of him visiting and will stick them on the blog , when I get my new camera USB lead.

I just nipped out to dismantle a wooden garden table stored in the woodshed. My fingers are numb – difficult to use spanners etc., in thick, padded gloves. It’s -10 out there. I could see my hand  gaining an un-natural blue-tinge as I finished off! Charlie joined me for a brief hunting expedition among the logs and under the sawdust laden floor, unsuccessfully on this occasion, and trundled along ahead back to the warmth of the house. Sensible buggers, are cats!

Rolf paused briefly to chat – partly incomprehensibly for both of us, I think, in retrospect. I thought he was asking me if I was going to chop some wood. I now reckon he was asking me about buying some wood; the Swedish verb, Köpa – pronounced ‘Shopa’ – not too far from ‘Chop’ in my opinion! An easy enough mistake to make in the lightning-swift flow of repartee and banter in a foreign tongue.

The snow has yet to return, though things are beginning to look a bit ominous. This is indeed unfortunate, cos I could do with popping out to buy (köpa) some mer (more) plonk. (As a Scot, I am always surprised by  the large number of Scandinavian words that are similar to idiomatic Scottish expressions. Hus, mus, mer, tva, barn (bairn), ken, etc., – an obvious Viking legacy in my old homeland). But back to wine-buying: I won’t have a chance before J returns from Wales and London – she returns on Sunday when the dreaded/useless Systemet (the System) is most firmly closed.

Our local, Kommun, provincial town is a place called Sollefteå, about 50 miles off to the South. It’s not arresting architecturally but a pleasant enough town to live in, I’m sure.  There is a Systemet there, where we once ordered 10 boxes of Beaujolais in a single order. Needless to say, it didn’t arrive! Instead they sent one three-litre box to our local ombud,  in Fun City, (an area sales outlet that holds no booze but acts as a delivery depot for orders), delivered by bus. It then took about a further three weeks to have the order fulfilled. They got the full wrath of our anger and displeasure. So much so that they sent us a small hardback book about cheeses – few of which we can possibly find, let alone buy or savour in this region! It was a decent gesture, however, no doubt triggered by J’s (in particular) frontal assault  on them, and astonished Aggie, the Swedish owner of the ombud.

Swedes seldom, if ever, complain. There is an strangely constricting cultural concept – Lagöm. This ensures that few raise ripples. It sort of means that it is good not to complain or argue, that all is for the best for everyone. A societal more that I believe is, in reality, little more than a very insidious and submerged method of Swedish State control. It is drummed into Swedes from birth onwards, reinforced through their schooling and they take it merrily with them to their frequently frozen graves. I loathe the very concept because it is so insidious;  unscrupulous Swedish businesses  and organisations/associations – the bigger the more appalling – rely on it to ensure they get away with regular breaches of contract and providing virtually no consumer protections to the public. It stinks!! Swedes, however, don’t see it like that – they have been told otherwise, all their long lives. It is undeniably part of the fabric that binds Swedish society together. It’s also, to my mind, one of the reasons why Swedes are often mistreated at the hands of businesses, and get what they deserve!

That little rant over, I must now get it together and head out for wine. I think I’ll drive to my old favourite, Strömsund Systemet, where – as I’ve mentioned before in this blog – the hooch is carefully hidden from sight, or kept securely behind locked, glass display cabinets.  Mustn’t tempt the natives too much, you see!


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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