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Pining For The Fjords


I’m doing that thing I always do when I come back from new and wonderful, and I try to transport the lifestyle. When H and I went to Borneo by steamer sometime back in the 1800s, we came home and bought an entire pantry’s worth of ingredients to make complicated sambals and rending pastes, not to mention buying five limes for what would have bought us 100 kilograms of them in Kota Kinabalu.

I’m doing the Scandinavian equivalent. I’m eating rye bread and smoked fish, putting dill on everything, and being genuinely baffled at why everyone is so loud and rude and demanding. Why can’t my children be more Finnish, and refuse to make eye contact or talk to me? Why can’t they be more like the Swedes, and dress effortlessly stylishly and get about on bikes like it’s normal? Why can’t they be more Danish and tidy the fuck up occasionally?

It’s beyond me. Actually they are a bit Scandinavian, but like, Scandinavians of old. They are basically Vikings. They are raucous and they like fighting and they pillage the fridge and lay waste to the toy box. They sing all the time – nothing makes you realise you’ve been gone a while like getting in the car and realising the other three-quarters of your family know all the lyrics to ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry and have accompanying actions that they invented. They are mad for sacking. The Vikings used to sink their ships in their own harbours to repel invaders. May Blossom and Garnet have that down pat, scattering a minefield of Lego – the Lego I lugged home from Denmark in my suitcase, no less – to put us off entering their room. Or any other part of the house.

I admit I do hold some responsibility for their lack of stylish dressing. I had grand plans of buying them beautiful, sustainably-made, long-lasting classic clothing while I was away. The sort of clobber you see Princess Mary of Denmark putting her kids in. I was going to get right behind the Scandinavian ethos of ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.’ But then when I got there I spent all my money on gin and tonics with lingonberries in them and trouser-seam-taxing danishes and buns, so by the time it came to buying clothes I was forced to make do with a snow leopard onesie from H&M and a t-shirt that says ‘Super Trouper’ from the ABBA museum. Last Friday was unseasonably hot, and Garnet spent the day in his own portable snow-leopard coloured sauna, there by proving you can have both bad weather and inappropriate clothing, and make yourself pretty uncomfortable in the process.

As you can see I’m having a few issues with re-entry into this life that is apparently mine. I’m wary of telling you all too much about our trip, because it was basically fantastic and life-changing and all I’d every hoped for and more, and who wants to hear about that? Who wants to hear about how effortlessly I left behind my family and became my twenty-year-old self once again, in the company of my twenty-year-old best friend, albeit stuck in the bodies of a pair of exhausted mothers who are pushing forty. (I can’t overemphasise how disconcerting it was to take selfies and realise we are not twenty.)

So I’ll go easy on the anecdotes about the totally brilliant times we had. We had the odd slightly hair-raising moment, so I’ll write more about those in the coming days. But really, even they weren’t that bad and we coped with absolute aplomb every time because we found it was really easy to be our Best Selves when there were no demands on our time whatsoever.

As the trip wound down, we had a few serious discussions about how we were going to hold on to these Best Selves once we got home. We didn’t reach any firm conclusions about how this could be achieved, but basically I think I need to be more like I was on the trip. I need to be more open-minded and accommodating to what my companions want to do. I need to Fight the Ennui. I need to get up every day and go about life like I am going to three incredible museums, even if I’m actually going to pre-school, Harris Farm and swimming lessons. At the very least I need to scowl less and use my Scandinavian Face – serene, chin up slightly, eyes fixed calmly on a distant pine forest – more.

Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

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