So, the journey started well. We had been driving for three minutes when Olivia announced she wanted to be sick. Once at Stockholm airport (which seemed like a lifetime later) we lost Leonardo. I had that awful pit-of-the-stomach fear that only losing a child can give you. Eventually we found him, chatting to two Swedish girls who made Paris Hilton look like a red-neck.
“What were you doing?” I asked him.
“They’ve got nice gros-gouttes,” he replied grinning broadly. Gros-gouttes in the children’s word for breasts. This boy is three; what he’ll be like when he hits puberty is not worth imagining.
Although I was partly brought up here in Sweden I feel like a foreigner here. For a start it is 4.15 am and I am wide awake. The sun is shining. What is the point in that? In the winter it is dark all the time and in the summer it’s light all the time. That seems mad to me. Also everyone here eats meatballs; all the time. If you go out for lunch or dinner you will be surrounded by Swedes happily chomping away at their national dish. Now I like a meatball as much as anyone, but every day?
I am no longer surprised that on September 3rd 1967 the entire population of Sweden changed from left-hand to right-hand drive. Most of them live in identical houses painted the classic Falu red. They all eat the same food and they all drive Saabs or Volvos. It would be more of a challenge to get them to do something different.
Not that I’ve anything against this uniformity, or in fact Falu red which is as nice a colour for a house as you could wish for. It just seems strange to me now.
Yesterday we had a lovely day taking the children around Djurgarden which is an island a short boat ride from the hotel. It is entirely made up of fun things to do like a museum dedicated to Swedish characters from children’s books like Pippi Longstocking (where you can meatballs for lunch), Skansen, meaning zoo but which is actually an open-air museum dedicated to Swedish history and tradition (lots of red houses) as well as home to lots of animals including bears, wolves, seals and the totally mad-looking elk.
We ended the day at Grona Lund, a funfair. This is a name I remember from my youth. It was where you wanted to go and get drunk as a teenager. I never went then but now I have and although I was sober it was good fun. Generally I loathe funfairs but as with everything else we saw yesterday this has been very well done. There is no foul-smelling food but nice hot-dog stands (another national dish, just in case you can’t find a meatball) and lots of trees which give it an almost park-like quality. The rides of course are mainly terrifying. We went on a children’s version of a sort of human falling elevator which was far too much for me. I did enjoy the ladybird roller-coaster though; just the right amount of fear mixed with exhiliration.
So now it is 4.30 and I suppose I may as well get dressed. Luckily breakfast starts early. Meatballs of course.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007