On Being Just a Little Bit Swedish

Margareta, Monica och jag - 1

Margereta, Monica och jag (me) – today


I’ve just had the most marvelous two day visit with a friend from university days in Sweden. We hadn’t seen each other in 35 years. She came with her friend Margareta. Arran was at its most splendid, perfect summer weather, mountains looking like spiritual beings, a chance to eat and drink at my  favourite restaurant and cafes and the sea sparkling in the sunshine. My friends swam briefly in the sea at the newly reclaimed Brodick Beach. I watched.

Shortly after they arrived, my brain did its not so familiar switch to Swedish and I relished remembering words  I didn’t think I knew any more.  Apart from the chance to speak the language again, their visit also brought back memories of living in Stockholm four years and then the move to Linkøping to move away from city living.

Stockholm certainly had its good points. My favourite places, visited not too long ago, being Waldemarsudde and Blå Porten cafe which just happened to be next door in Djurgården to Handarbetets Vanner the traditional handicraft school where I learned to weave.

Apart from learning the textile crafts that eventually led to setting up my studio on Arran, I realised that in my soul there will always be a person who is just a little bit Swedish. I learned to be methodical and academic in my thinking and in my approach to learning the crafts, I learned to be proud of being Scottish and to update traditional textile skills to reflect the past but take their place in present day living. I learned to respect my body and my femininity and not feel ashamed to swim in the sea with no swimsuit (Why can I still not do that on Brodick beach, swim that is, let alone without a suit).

I learned to be a good parent, without giving up my own ambitions and to raise my daughter to respect her own being – even after we came back to Scotland.

There were frustrating times and very sad times during the five years I lived there and in the end I didn’t want to stay because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being a foreigner, with my daughter becoming ever more Swedish. But on the whole, I’m so glad I agreed to go there in the end and will always honour that young woman in me who had a chance to grow and develop in ways that would otherwise not have been possible.


June 1975



grey seal portrait - shutterstock

Today a surprise visit from friends Norman and Althea brought back memories of the time they used live in Whiting Bay and the astonishing fact that it is 20 years since they left and moved back to Morayshire. We’ve kept in touch and thankfully exchanged visits when I was able to visit Findhorn a few times and a wonderful trip to Pluscarden Abbey, still a working monastery. Plus the bonus of driving up to Lochranza, catching the Claonaig ferry and then driving via Oban up the Great Glen, stopping off at Fort Augustus to watch the boats manouevering the locks on the Caledonian Canal and arriving to a welcome at Roseisle where our friends live now.

Today was about reliving those times and choosing our favourite Whiting Bay memory. When our kids Jenny, Kirsty and Simon were pupils at Whiting Bay School, Althea and I were both at work and child minding was an issue. Many thanks are due to Kate at the Coffee Pot, just where the school bus stopped. The kids arrived there fifteen minutes before their harassed parents and were served carrot cake while they waited for their Mums, who were then served carrot cake and cappuchinos and an afterschool tradition was born.

The Coffee Pot is still in the same place,  and though all the rest of us have moved away from that neighbourhood, those times live on in our memories, especially Kate’s Carrot Cake.

Daughter and family are in Copenhagen this week, bringing another layer of memory for me as Copenhagen was the stopover place in the years I was travelling between Stockholm and Kilmarnock. Some of my best friends were Danish and I remember especially the day I left Sweden after finishing my oral exams for my Masters (I passed), going down on the train on my way to teach English in summer school in St. Helier in the Channel Islands. My friends met me off the train with tickets to hear Wilhelm Kempf playing Beethoven in the summer night at Tivoli Gardens, followed by a trip to a jazz cafe and dancing until the wee small hours. Great!

I’m so grateful for memories and the friends who shared them, especially when we can get together now, reminisce and create new ones – like eating crab rolls at the Wineport and seeing grey seals on the rocks on the way to Sannox Beach.

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