Come on England or Heja Svergie?
They say that when the gods want to punish you they answer your prayers. At the beginning of this World Cup I was thrilled (being half Swedish) to have two teams in it. If Sweden don’t make it past the group stages (and why would they?) I’ll have England. When England lose on penalties, I have Sweden to fall back on. I have supported each teams with equal enthusiasm from the beginning, watching every match, wearing the appropriate colours, singing both national anthems with pride and joy.
On Saturday though I have to decide which one to root for. It’s no good just being happy whoever wins because, as any football fan will know it’s no fun without the agony and/or the ecstasy. Do I go with the country I grew up in, where I was born or do I opt for my home, where I’ve lived and worked for the last thirty years? Being Swedish is being part of an exclusive club of around 9 million people (0.1 per cent of the world’s population) who are always unaccountably thrilled to meet a compatriot. It wasn’t until IKEA took over the world that anyone had heard of us. In fact I was delighted when, in their last match, Sweden played Switzerland because some people don’t seem to know that they are different countries. Sweden is a nation that is ferociously proud of its heritage; ABBA, pickled herring and Midsummer frolicking. When I see the blue and yellow flag I always feel a pang of something between homesickness and pride. But England is my home, my husband is English, my children are English (even if they speak a smattering of Swedish) and, as a Chelsea fan, my footballing roots are here.
So will it be ‘come on Engerland‘ or ‘Heja Svergie?’ I don’t think I can quite stop myself favouring an England victory. I have suffered enough heart-breaking penalty shoot-outs to feel I deserve some success. But if Sweden win, I won’t be totally distraught. And then once they get knocked out? Well then there’s always France…
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019