Ex-Londoner Paul Connolly has just survived a northern Sweden heat wave. But it wasn't the high temperatures that were the real problem, he recounts.
Hot weather is not unusual up here in northern Sweden. Despite most southerners thinking of the north as a permanently frigid wasteland, populated only by odd expats and arctic foxes, temperature ranges are quite impressive. Last year we had a -35C spell in winter and a 33C period in May and June. This year’s range was not so impressive as the lowest temperature recorded in these parts over the mild winter was -22C and even that was only for two days.
That said, these last three weeks have been extraordinarily hot. Our shaded thermometers have hit 41C twice. In the summer we generally just leave the windows open (with an insect screen obviously) and let the air circulate in the house. With no breeze, however, this just doesn’t work. So we closed the windows and let our little A/C unit do some work for a change. It made little difference. The house was transformed into an oven. The twins’ nursery was a steady 28C, despite making sure the windows were totally covered by blinds.
The high temperatures have even affected our lake – the shallows have been infested with nasty algae that leaves a rash on the skin after swimming. According to the locals it's never been seen this far north before.
However, the worst thing about the hot spell has undoubtedly been the increased insect activity. Horse fly season up here is usually quite short – two weeks at most. But this summer they have hung around for a good deal longer. And they have been SAVAGE.
Long-term readers may recall my hatred of flying things (even birds are a little suspect in my world). When we moved to our house I invested in a couple of mosquito killing machines. Last summer they worked hard and well, so that this year we've noticed a huge decrease in mosquito activity. This might be partly due to a dry spring but, even so, I've seen perhaps four or five mozzies all summer and not suffered even one bite. But the local horse fly (broms) population have taken up the slack with a vengeance.
One little sortie down to our beach on the lake lasted just 20 minutes due to the very assiduous attentions of horse flies. I was bitten seven times in that short period. And the bites really hurt. My usually fearless girlfriend, who generally writes me off as a bit of a wuss when it comes to all things insect-related, even stopped going out for her daily walks because of pesky horse flies.
As you might imagine, I'm not happy with this situation. I've, temporarily at least, bested the local mygga. I'm not going to be made housebound by horse flies. So what am I going to do? You guessed it – I've found a horse fly killer too. My friend up north has purchased an H-Trap
and reckons he's seen a massive dip in the horse fly population.
I know it seems a bit extreme for just a two-week window of horror every year. But biting insects like me a lot. And they like one of my daughters a great deal too. We have short summers here and I want to make the most of them. So I'm going to invest in one for next year's battle of the insects. My little corner of northern Swedish paradise WILL be bite-free next year...