In the UK, public service broadcasting (that is to say the BBC) is part-funded by everyone who has a TV (with a very few exceptions) buying a TV licence. When I was growing up some people had old Black and White TVs and they paid much less for their license than people who owned colour TVs. Black and White was definitely thought of as a second-rate option although with a bit of practice, fans of sport could manage to work out which shade of grey their team was wearing on their jerseys.

It’s now mid-winter in Abisko and in a few weeks we’ll get to the “shortest day”. In reality, it’s already been a few weeks since the sun rose over the mountains, but for a short time each day, we see the pale pink hues on the mountains as the weak sun clips the peaks on their Southern side. Looking in other directions at that time, the sky takes on a soft, cold, pale blue complexion. The pink and the blue don’t really remind me of anything else that I’ve ever seen. They are beautiful pastel shades, so beautiful that I imagine a paint company marketing them with glamorous, irrelevant names – the pink perhaps being christened “Candy Cordial” while the blue would allow your walls to be painted with the latest “Crystal Breath” shade for only $30 per can.

During the rest of each “day” the world is black and white or shades thereof. Being Sweden, this doesn’t mean that, like the UK TV license, things in the local shop are suddenly cheaper, just that the world looks completely different. Trees are black, the tracks on roads are black, the moon, house roofs and most flat surfaces become white – very white. Everything else takes on a shade of grey, resulting in a stark but very beautiful scene indeed, much like one of those old Ansell Adams prints. The biggest exception to this of course, is when the northern lights appear. In complete contrast to the monochrome world, during an auroral display, the sky develops green and (sometimes) purple streaks and the snow strongly reflects the green, sometimes to the point where you can read the dials on a camera without having to use a torch.

This is the way it’s going to be now for a couple of months, until the sun comes back and brings with it the colours that change the beautiful scenery once again and at that point I will have to start thinking up some new, unlikely names for the paint company’s new shades!

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