Brrrr, I am glad I do not work in construction during the Swedish winter! You must have to have Viking blood.
Recently I was passing a building construction site in Knivsta and I saw something that surprised me. Underneath some heavy sheets of steel, there was a sizable trench full of fire. A friend explained to me that because the ground is so frozen, they must first heat it up before they can dig. It appeared that they were going to lay pipe or something in the trench.
I did a brief search on the internet to see if I could learn more about how building is handled in super cold areas. There is lots of material—everything from what the Russians do, to how US Military Arctic bases handle the frozen ground, to tourist discussions. In some places, once the structure is built, then they go the other way and work to keep the ground cold so that the structure doesn’t lose support as the ground shifts and heats up.
In a previous post, I hinted at how out-of-the-ordinary it felt to me to see lit candles all over Sweden. I have seen them at the airport and even at work next to the pile of the day’s newspapers. It felt out of the ordinary to me because I lived for over 20 years in California where there is an ever-present fire danger and one must always think carefully about campfires, and fireworks, and careless cigarette smokers.
(Interestingly, I never realized how much the fire danger thing had been drilled into me until I moved to Sweden. That’s one of the best things about living in a new location—you get such a new perspective on your previous life.)
The fact that the ground was on fire was amazing to me. So was the fact that it could be safely left like that overnight for several days. (Technically, the ground was not on fire, rather there was fire in the trench and the steel covers kept the fire in the trench.) As you can see in the pictures, however, there was a gap between the covers and the trench so that the fire could “breathe.”
Most of the people I have seen doing construction work in Sweden are young men. It’s cold, hard, physical work. They have to wear a lot more clothes. If they’re working outside, they wear those one-piece insulated suits with lots of reflective bands. I see similar suits on sanitation workers, street cleaners, etc. I conclude that one sees a lot less “plumber’s butt” in Sweden.
On Valentine’s Day last month I was walking past some construction in Uppsala. There were three very young construction workers about to enter a work trailer. One of them shouted out a question to me. In another situation, I might have thought they were cat-calling or harassing me, but I knew they weren’t. (How could anyone do that in the Swedish winter anyway, with everyone wearing so much clothing that it’s hard to even determine gender.) I couldn’t understand what they said (it was in Swedish) so I did what I usually do in such situations which is to just answer yes or no and hope that it worked out.
I called out a tentative “nej” and they repeated it back to me, confused. I could see that it wasn’t a yes or no question. Darn. I called out (they were on the other side of the street) that my Swedish was not good enough to understand what they were saying. The one who had asked the mystery question switched to English. “How long will these last without water?” he asked. I saw that he had a dozen roses wrapped in clear cellophane in his hand.
Awww…how sweet. It was probably his first girlfriend. I saw that the building trailer wasn’t connected to water or electricity so he was in a pinch until he went home.
I had no idea what the answer was. I don’t know how the cold affects cut flowers, one way or the other. But I answered back that I thought they would be okay for a few hours at least. It occurred to me later that he could have let some snow melt in a cup but maybe ice water is not good for the flowers?
Well, Spring is coming soon and these issues will soon resolve themselves.
Until next winter.