There is actually silence as I sit at the table typing in a log cabin by a lake in Sweden. To my left, through the long windows that dominate this lovely room, silver sunshine dances across water. The lake is surrounded with conifer trees, occasionally interspersed with rocky outcrops. The water is a perfect Swedish blue. There are perhaps two or three other wooden houses like this one but they are far away across the lake, only apparent from their little lights at night. It is truly stunning.
But wait, there are noises: wind gently blowing in the tall pines, a snap from a log on the fire, a rustle as Husband turns another page of his book. How so quiet? Have we buried our three noisy boys in the woods? Certainly there have been moments when it’s been tempting over the last two days, when they moan or bicker or fight in the back of the car… But no, now there is actually peace. Eldest sleeps on into the glorious morning. Middle One lies in his bunk playing on his Nintendo DS. Youngest, below him, silently places stickers in his sticker book. It’s nothing short of an Easter miracle: a very rare moment of family calm - and the reason we came.
You’re going where for Easter? friends asked. Sweden, I said, for four nights, to stay in a cabin in a forest by a lake, not far from Gothenburg. It will be perfect, the space and the view from the cabin, the city only twenty minutes away for when we get bored and want coffee and a cinnamon bun or a mooch round a museum. You’ll be chipping the ice off the lake! they said, or finding a dead tattooed woman in the woods! But we’re here now and there’s neither, in fact, it’s wonderful. It’s everything I dreamed it might be, and I have dreamed about coming to Scandinavia a lot. Not quite sure why… Actually, yes I am.
It started with furniture catalogues when I was a child, clever blond-wood shelf systems and sparsely designed chairs, all Swedish or Finish or Danish, and was later consolidated by Carl Larsson’s illustrations, the Swedish painter/writer, whose children’s books I came across years ago when I worked for a publishing company. I took my favourites - charming domestic scenes from the 1800s, cozy interiors, picnics among silver birches - every one an idealised tableaux of family life, and framed them. And then there was just this vague notion that Sweden would be beautiful and clean and empty and quiet, a bit cold in April perhaps, but still the perfect antidote to hectic life in south London. And so it is.