Archive for August 14th, 2012

I set out to avoid the Olympics in London, where I spend much of the week. All the edicts about what you could and couldn’t do, say or print had been annoying me so much in the run-up to the opening ceremony. A Swedish friend of mine suggested a house swap way back in February and I leapt at the idea. Ironically, I ended up watching loads of track and field events during the second week on TV in Sweden and grew quite addicted to keeping up with the ever-growing British medal tally. Now I’m looking forward to the Paralympics.

We swapped pets as well as houses and looked after the wonderful Doglas, a Bernese Sennenhund, a breed I’d never heard of. Related to St Bernards, he had been shorn of much of his thick coat for the summer so that he wasn’t too hot but, even so, he spent a fair amount of time lying in the bathroom, the coolest room in the house. He is the best dog, not retaliating when he’s barked at by yappy little terriers, or running off to herd up the cows we encountered on this walk, even though that’s what is in his genes. We quickly became bilingual in Swedish dogspeak, which is not difficult as it’s fot, pronounced ‘foot’ for ‘heel’ and sitta for ‘sit’ but barely needed to tell him to behave.

I’ve been to this part of Sweden many times before over the last 15 years or so and this was one of the first times the weather had been pretty poor throughout but we still enjoyed many long walks, good food and the quiet, gentility of a largish seaside village in the summertime.

We managed a couple of dips in the freezing sea (an early morning and evening tradition with locals, who wander or ride their bikes down to the beach in their bathrobes) – mine on a particularly seaweedy, squally day, quite unlike the sunnier day that dawned when I took the picture above.

This is Hovs Hallar, quite close to where we were staying. You can see the Danish coast across the Kattegat, depending on which way you look.

You make your way down to the beach through quiet, silvery woods and knee-high heather.When you arrive, the beach is pebbly and sown with random grasses and yet more heather.And the purity of the air is evident in the rich lichens growing on the stones along the shore.

We were even treated to a 4.4 magnitude earthquake on our second night, which is relatively unusual for the region, which has tremors roughly every decade or so. I woke up and thought it was thunder followed by the dog bumping into my bed.

It was also lovely to unexpectedly have the Boy with us before he heads off for a year in Australia. Of course we squabbled (this is real life, after all), the tension of a long separation that I’m none too keen on rubbing our emotions raw at times. But these are some of the impressions that will keep me going over the months of grey wet pavements ahead.

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