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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Was it all imaginary?

Four experiences belonging to the same country.

I am arriving by small plane. Winter night-time. Dense fog masks the urban contours yet this grey-white mattress is no more than two metres thick. Trees and street lamps without roots push up through the mattress, spines on a painful bed . What on earth can be going on at ground level?

The temperature is minus fourteen. I am alone in the cab of a monster forklift truck. A normal truck, scuttling about an industrial site, typically lifts two tons; this one can lift eighty tons. Cautiously I ease the truck forward fifty metres, select reverse and travel backward fifty metres. Later I expand this event to two hundred words.

It's summer. A ferry is leaving "my"country for another sharing the same coast. We have crossed an inlet, decorated with tiny uninhabited rocky islands of cheerful beauty. Now we are leaving the inlet for the open sea by an equally beautiful rocky gap. Briefly I'm scared, the gap is so narrow, surely this elegant craft will scrape the rocks as it passes by. It doesn't.

Winter again.  Out of my snugly insulated bedroom I move  on deep compacted snow between the pines. Behind the hotel in this silent world is a lake, solidly frozen for several months. I walk out on to this flat surface, keep going, keen to cut myself off from artefacts for a while. Eventually I turn and the distant hotel windows, yellowy-white against black, are knitted in the furry wool used for baby's first garment.

Sweden. I had good professional reasons for travelling there but haven't been back since I retired. I regret that.
 

5 comments:

Joe Hyam said...

A remarkable country. On first appearance grim and rather dull. With acquaintance full of unexpected pleasures, not the least of which is the warmth of welcome extended by a people you believe at first to be dour and stand-offish. The first glass of schnapps begins to explain the reality; after the second no explanation is necessary.

Lucy said...

I long for Scandinavia, all kinds of Scandinavia. I might well get there too. These descriptions are strange and appetising; I was good and didn't jump ahead to find out where you were writing about.

Sir Hugh said...

Good evocative stuff.

I travelled by boat through the Baltic to Finland over thirty years ago. The memory of passing many small islands and unusually, looking down onto them, has remained imprinted when other aspects have faded.

I made related comment about special places on my last post.

Ellena said...

There are times when we feel trapped in some situation and don't do what we later think we should have done.

Roderick Robinson said...

Joe: We both went to Sweden for the same reasons, I suppose. It led the world in what was later to be identified as logistics. That was professionally rewarding enough but would have been difficult to write about for general consumption. You're right, of course. I could have written about the people as well. Especially our mutually shared "king". Always a pleasure to get on the Stockholm plane.

Lucy: Not peeping! That pleases me enormously. If you ever do go, buy the appropriate clothes (and footwear) and go in winter. Despite the disadvantages, notably the short day, this is Sweden at its most memorable. And Stockholm is wonderful - a beautiful and artful division of land and sea.

Sir Hugh: I was, of course, travelling to Finland on the ferry. If I'd had the money and they'd been available I'd have bought one of those islands. There seemed enough to go round.

Ellena: Yes, I should, shouldn't I?