I grow tired of saying this, so it will be the last time… Where is the rebel base?
I’m sorry. This is my last Sunday living in Sweden and when I get giddy I sometimes start speaking in Star Wars dialogue. I’m going to get it looked at as soon as get back to Tatooine on Tuesday.
What I’m actually getting tired of saying is: This is number 2 on a countdown from 10 of Things I will miss about Sweden vs Things I have missed about England. But, I must keep doing it for the benefit of readers just joining us.
What I will miss #2: The Water
So that is a photo of the place where I got married. As a matter of fact, that is a photo of the exact spot where stood to get married. And I’m sure you neither need, nor especially want proof of that, but here it is anyway.
We got married by the water, not only because it was beautiful, but because this spot is precisely 7 minutes walk from our apartment here in Sweden.
If you’ve ever looked at Sweden on a large enough atlas, you’ll notice it has more holes than the scripts of all 3 Star Wars prequels put together, and no matter how much of a Phantom Menace hater you are, I’d be surprised if you can find 97,000 of them. In which case Sweden has you beaten. In most parts of Sweden you are never far from the water, and while that might also be true of England, Sweden’s water spends a lot more of its time looking pretty in lakes than it does washing away the citizens of Cornish villages.
I live close by the shores of Mälaren. Sweden’s 3rd largest lake. And in summer there are very few things that beat sitting by the water with a barbecue, except perhaps mucking about in a tiny little sail-boat. And since I haven’t mucked about in a sail-boat since I was a teenager, I’ll have to make do with this…
Of course, every now and then some idiot blows past on a jet-ski, oblivious to anything but the James Bond music in his head, and making waves high enough to turn your warm, glowing barbecue pale into nothing more than a bucket of confused and recently woken ducklings. But, for the most part it is the picture of tranquillity. I have put it so high on this list because I honestly think it is one of the things I will miss the most, long term. Swedish lakes are incredibly beautiful, and standing at the seafront in Whitby, is simply never going to compare.
What I have missed #2: “…England’s green and pleasant land”
I’m not normally in the habit of quoting Blake. For the most part I think he was a zealous nutcase. But since he wrote one those poems which brings a tear to the eye of most English folk, which became a hymn… which brings a tear to the eye of most English folk… I suppose he deserves a mention. Don’t worry… there’s quite a bit of Shakespeare at the bottom.
Yes, even our Lake District has fewer lakes than pretty much any randomly picked 100 sq km of land in Sweden, but few places on Earth do green quite as well as England. Ironic for a tiny country, on a tiny island with a population of over 60 million.
I don’t really know how best to describe the way I know my homeland, because it differs greatly from the way other people around the world know it. “Where in London will you be living?” is a question I have often had from friends and colleagues. “Erm… Nowhere.”
Alright, it is a tiny island by comparison with so many other places around the world, and London is an absolutely enormous city both by population and area, so I can understand the assumption but bear in mind, when you next say to me “Ooh! I can come and visit you next week… I’m in London for the day!”, that as nice as that might be for you… we don’t live there, so you might have a long walk.
Whenever someone learns that you are from England, they immediately tell you what a wonderful place London is, and that is understandable (I have after all seen very little of Sweden besides Stockholm and brief visits to Malmö and Lund)… but that is not the England that I know.
Throughout my considerable spectrum of occupations in the British Isles, I have travelled to almost every corner; driven through hills and dales; over, across and along many of its lakes, rivers and canals, and there is much more to it than its famous metropolis. Everyone romanticises their homeland when they’re missing it, and lord knows England has more than her fair share of absolute hell-holes that you should try to pass through as quickly and quietly as you can (if possible with your eyes and nose covered). But my England… the one I know and love and miss, is much more than Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, and the London Eye. It is varied and beautiful, and my own writing is simply not up to the task of describing it. So, if you’ll excuse some of the more laughable lines in this brief lapse into homesickness, I will steal a few words from one England’s most famous sons…
This other Eden…
…built by Nature for herself,
Against infection and the hand of war,
This Happy breed of men…
…this little world…
This precious stone set in the silver sea…
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house
This blessed plot…
…sniff… See you tomorrow.