Wednesday 28 February 2018


Freeze-over at 6.55 am on 25 February

The above view is a very rare one indeed! Why do I say this? Well, you can expect to see it only about once in every four years. Several rare events have to coincide to result in this outcome. First, temperature the day before should not be much lower than 0° C, to prevent partial freezing over of Hammarby Canal. Second, there must be a sudden and large drop in temperature after midnight (after the last boat has passed the canal). Third, this drop of temperature has to be accompanied by a slight snowfall. Third, the snowfall must stop before dawn. And, fourth, I must have the good luck of looking out of my kitchen window just slightly before 7 am this time of the year, when dawn is already in motion, and before any ship has passed or crossed the canal.

Temperature not much lower than 0°C, the day before

Last week was a heavy one for me. On Monday, I had a jaw operation, which is preventing me from eating solid food until the stitches are taken out (will be tomorrow). As a result, I am living at the moment with a diet of cottage cheese, soup and yoghurt. This has a surprising effect on my contours, since I have lost more than 5 kilos in weight already. But it also somehow dampens vitality, with the body attempting to heal the wounds and coping with being sustained only by fluids at the same time. 

On top of that, I also caught the flu. This actually dampened my longing for fast food, but compounded the loss of vigour and caused my sleep to be troubled, short and interrupted. So it happened that I was driven out of bed already a bit after 6 am on Sunday last. A pity, since it was still dark and I had to turn on all the lights in the apartment to enliven spirit. But, gradually, as I was preparing breakfast [making coffee and opening a can of cottage cheese ;–)], dark changed to dawn and I started to glimpse a first rosy shimmer above Hammarby Sound. My kitchen table is located smack opposite, so I could watch it through the window without having to put my nose out into the cold.

And what a view it was! Silence supreme was reigning over Hammarby Sjöstad, not a sound, not even with a window slightly ajar. The lake surface looked like a newly painted hospital floor, white and even and, above it all, the perfect trimming of a rosy dusk.  

7.00 am. The first ferry disturbing peace and view

Alas, serenity did not last. As I was surpling my Nespresso, and the hour advancing versus sevenish, suddenly, the first ferry started up on the Southern Island and started its traverse towards our side of the Sound. This was no silent process, I can tell you! The vessel had to labour hard to get going! And the sound, the sound! Like a giant cracking giant hazlenuts! On and on the boat laboured, first forward a meter or two, then backward again to push off and get going again. Eventually, after 15 minutes hard work it reached the opposite berth, a traverse that usually takes only about four minutes.

This Sunday was special for yet another reason. The sun kept shining until early afternoon, a rare sight indeed in Stockholm winter time. Under a blue sky, and as the day progressed, large ship after large ship passed Hammarby Kanal in their voyage from the Baltic to Lake Mälar or vice versa, breaking up the ice and providing me with yet another view, this time smack below my balcony, and  far more common than the view shown in the head picture.

4 pm, large boats having broken the ice during the day.

How does Siberia come into the story, you may well ask. Very simple, our part of the world is at present subject to strong North Eastern currents, stemming from a high pressure zone hovering around Northern Siberia. They cause exceptionally cold air to stream over the still warm waters of the Baltic Sea, sucking up moisture as they go and unloading it in the form of very cold snow on us poor Stockholmers. Ever since last Sunday, each morning is greeting me with the picture you can see below.

Getting to my usual breakfast haunt, for a cup of coffee and a newspaper, means bulking up, wading through decimeter high snow drifts (plowing on my street is starting first later in the day) and being blasted by a storm of sharp icycles. How will this all end, I ask you! Will climate change bring consolation? I fear not! Whilst the continent down South will getting warmer, the Gulf Stream, a giant pumping action from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic, and warming Scandinavia (not to forget Iceland and Greenland), will surely start to subside, changing our climate up here to become more like that of Alaska (Stockholm is at the same latitude as Kodiak after all!). So I fear that we have to see this Siberian interlude as a first sign of things to come. God help us!

Every morning the same; blizzard after blizzard!