Home, sweet home. It’s always with a sigh of relief and a contented smile on my lips that I touch down in Old Blighty after being away somewhere. Even when it’s my native country I return from. It’s just home, and has been for a long time now.
It’s funny how life turns out in a way that you may not necessarily have expected or planned. Certainly, London and the UK never really appealed to me as such when I was a teenager and started to hatch my escape plan into adulthood and building my own life. In fact, I had my sights set on the States and not just because of the portion sizes. London was kind of intended as a good compromise. There I was, 19 years old and having lived all my life in a small town in the middle of nowhere, a little hillbilly with grand plans. I had decided that I was going to get at least one other language under my belt, so my immediate objectives was to spend a year in an English speaking country to get my English fluent, then perhaps a Spanish speaking country to get my barely conversational Espanol going too, after which I’d go to university in Sweden or elsewhere. To do all of that, I was toying with the idea of first the States and then migrating down to Mexico.
Given that it was my first step out into the Real World, I figured I’d test myself by heading to London first – it seemed better to panic and only be a two-hour flight away, than across the Atlantic or even further afield – to see if I could cope without my Mummy and Daddy. Or, Mamma and Pappa, as it were. For a few months, perhaps, and if it all worked fine I’d cross the pond.
I can’t pinpoint the moment I fell in love with London, the UK and the British. It was more a case of somewhere along the line discovering that I had, and that it was home. I can’t put it any other way. In the little town where I grew up, where outside with my morning coffee the only sound would be birdsong, I always felt restless. Here in London, with constant traffic and with so much pollution you never see a sky full of stars like you can in countryside Sweden at night, I feel calm, at ease and content. My heart is here. And I guess it’s almost like a bit like a long marriage by now – I winge at sub standard health care, the weather (which can only be God’s idea of a practical joke) and London’s public transport, but I do so with a sense of love. I might tut and sigh when London leaves the toilet seat up or fails to put its socks into the laundry basket, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
That’s not to say I’ve deserted my native Sweden, not at all – I am fiercely proud of my roots and all the values, traditions and the cultural compass I was raised with. It’s really strange, actually, my patriotism is a bit schizophrenic now that I think about it. When I’m in the UK, I act as if people are mad if they don’t have a framed picture of Sweden above their beds and I’ll preach about this fine Nordic kingdom until the cows come home. In Sweden, I’m the opposite and get wound up because people don’t know how to form a queue and how bloody sensible and beige everything has to be.
The good thing is, I have the best of both worlds. In fact, I have the best of all the world. B being a kiwi means that we can head to the amazing Land of the Long White Cloud without it setting us back more than the flights and a bit of spending money. We get to have white crimbos in the postcard winter wonderland that is Sweden in December, and we get to enjoy those unbeatable Swedish summer too. As for my old crush on America, we’re indulging that too – in a couple of years, I turn 40 and B turns 50, and we are going on a month-long roadtrip through the States to celebrate our milestone birthdays. And of course, London is littered with Scandinavian restaurants, cafes and bakeries (not to mention designer shops), so I can have a slice of Sweden in London without going further than Marylebone.
It’s amazing, actually, how well B’s Swedish is coming along. Well, he seems to speak with a Norwegian accent, which I can’t quite fathom how he acquired, but he makes himself understood and I can no longer talk about him when he’s within earshot as he understands a lot. Not that I ever have anything bad to say about him, but he doesn’t need to listen in on me gushing about the greatness that is B.
Hm. Time to pour myself another mug of coffee, I think. It’s gone 11am and I’ve only got through four.