On the 25th Christmas celebrations were over and I was to join Honeybuns to see her Arctic relatives. When I left I noted that there was a lot of snow on my balcony, but temperatures had crept upwards and the snow threatened to melt.
Sundsvall, only halfway to my destination, where I had to change to a coach.
The temperature was probably around 260 K, but the double-decker coach arrived soon enough that I didn't have to freeze. Quite a few people were continuing northwards, so we were late in departure from the station. As I had a fairly tight change in Umeå, I asked the bus conductor, when he came by selling snacks, whether we would make it in time for the 18:15 connection to Vindeln. He looked a bit non-plussed and responded that I was sure to make it to the 22:00 connection, which was the only one running that day. What!? He took my ticket and went off to double-check. He returned a while later, having confirmed on both telephone and web that since it was a red day, no 18:15 service was running, and me having been issued a ticket for it wouldn't help the matter, sorry.
I texted to this effect to Honeybuns and soon had a response back that she and her dear mother would pick me up in Umeå. I briefly considered protesting that I could manage on my own, but didn't really look forward to arriving in the middle of the night and gratefully accepted the offer.
The afternoon was already quite dark, so I couldn't see much of the surrounding landscape and read a book instead.
The young woman who'd silently sat next to me since Sundsvall got off in Nordmaling and was replaced by a very large youngster who all but crowded me out of my seat and regaled me with a non-stop monologue relating his dangerous, awesomely skilled and/or illegal stunts in all kinds of motor vehicles as well as the exact number of screws, metal plates and other surgical repairs he had in his body at the time. I was thus doubly relieved to finally arrive in Umeå and see Honeybuns and her mother inside the bus station.
We were soon in the car, still warm after the ride down, and travelled another hour through the darkness to arrive in Vindeln to be met by a long-awaited dinner. Then Honeybuns and I went out into the winter night for a walk. I equipped myself with extra socks, ski pants over my jeans and thumb gloves in addition to my bulky jacket and hat. We went out, trying to find a bit of darkness to see the stars from, but even here civilisation insisted on lighting up the environment to keep anyone from feeling afraid of the dark. Or perhaps, keeping everyone in fear of the dark. After an hour or so my cheeks were frost-bitten and I had icicles in my beard so we returned indoors.
Sorsele at dusk and snowfall. We went out for an evening walk again, but even the quite moderate wind tore away the protective layer of warm air around our faces and let the cold bite at the exposed skin.
The screen of my mobile was unfamiliarly blank—my operator had no coverage here. Within a few days the battery was empty, the phone having cried itself hoarse. “Hallo? Anybody there? Hallo!? Can anybody hear me? Speak to me!”
When the wind abated it was quite pleasant to move around (still clothed in layers on layers) even though it still snowed and the temperature was still low.
After a night in Vindeln I caught the morning coach to Umeå (having called the bus company and ascertained it did run). A gaggle of girls of the fjortis persuasion sat at the front, chattering away while I tried to read.
In Umeå I had a an hour's wait for my connection, which I spent munching on the plentiful food packet Honeybuns' mother had supplied me with. Apparently quite a few people were going to Sundsvall, a bus company employee went around asking those getting off at stops before Sundsvall to get on an extra bus from a different gate. I had removed my hat and gloves while indoors at the bus station and when my bus arrived I didn't bother putting them on, expecting to get on the bus quickly. This was not to be, the queue got on the bus only slowly, people buying tickets as they got on, fiddling with their luggage and in general being very slow about things. The luggage compartment turned out to have frozen, necessitating a bit of violence on behalf of the bus driver to get it open, so when I finally got on the bus I was very cold, yet the bus just stood for a while with the front door wide open.
Then, when we left, the heating did not work. The bus driver fiddled with knobs and buttons on the dash and eventually I could feel warm air slowly blowing from the overhead nozzles, but it stayed on top of the cold air below and never reached floor level and my feet, which remained frozen the entire trip. And not only they, a passenger came up to complain that the lavatory had frozen and would not flush. The bus driver stated he could not do anything about this and we'd just have to cross our legs and bear it. I think he was a bit stressed by all this, as he almost left a passenger behind in Härnösand and almost left with the luggage of a passenger who got off in Timrå, in both cases only stopped by the rest of us shouting at him.
Anyway, I forgave the driver when we arrived at Sundsvall central station well before my train would leave. Well enough in advance that they hadn't unlocked the doors yet, so I and the other passengers stood on the platform, nervously bouncing on our toes to keep warm, until we finally could get on the heated train, jack in to the Internet and roll southwards. I hopped off at Arlanda, in the tunnel station which is cold every time of the year, likewise now, and waited for Upptåget to take me the minutes-short hop to Upplands Väsby, where Honeybuns had flown ahead of me.
Then, everything was warm again.