Sitting at Stockholm airport waiting for a train to take me to my parents’ town and I'm feeling deliriously happy. All around me I see tall Swedes, I hear Swedish voices, and I smell the enticing smells of Swedish cooking (no, that’s not an oxymoron). And of course I’ll soon be able to see my parents…
I love coming here to visit. Even though right now the sky is grey and the landscape is entirely devoid of even a dusting of snow (a huge disappointment since I know the whole country’s been covered in the stuff for the last few weeks), I feel embraced by a peace and tranquillity that perhaps signify homecoming, or could it be the remains of that valium I took earlier to take the edge of my fear of flying? In any case I know I made the right decision.
But would I like to live here again? I have toyed with the idea of buying a little cottage on a lake somewhere for several years. Property is surprisingly cheap and since the English pound is strong I could, providing I stay away from the centre of Stockholm, get an awful lot for my money. Last June my man and I spend a week at my parent’s place, and at that time of the year, when the sun refuses to sink far below the horizon and it never gets dark, we were both hypnotised by the beauty, the light, the smells, the sounds… Sweden in the summer is a place of magic. It’s a slice of paradise. We were ready to pack our bags then and there and move.
Fast forward to December when we arrived to celebrate my father’s 80th and it was a much less seductive place altogether. At that time of year, the sun doesn’t dare show its meagre rays until around 10am, and by 2pm it’s almost dark again. You feel claustrophobic and I think it could slowly drive an inexperienced person mad. And after 19 years away I doubt I'd have the necessary skills to deal with the unrelenting darkness.
And then you have the people. They are a tricky and aloof bunch. They don’t talk much; they don’t volunteer much information or ask many questions. In fact there is a Swedish proverb which sums them up perfectly: “en svensk tiger”, this essentially means “the Swede remains silent”, although the word tiger means both tiger (the animal) and to remain silent. I'd like to add the word ALWAYS at the end of that.
But considering this is a country with just 9 million people covering an area of approximately 173.700 square miles, which is almost twice the size of the UK (which is packed with around 60 million people) or slightly larger than California with its 34 million people, perhaps it’s not so strange that particularly those living in the northern half of the country firmly believe that less is more; after all they can probably go for days without seeing an unfamiliar face. And of course the lack of light for 6 months out of the year would be enough to make most people a little withdrawn.Ps. Thanks to all of you for your kind words. I appreciate them so much.