Living in Sweden

Winter is coming

When nocturnal temperatures drop into single digits before the middle of September, you might be understood to ask yourself ‘What the hell am I doing here?!’ London weather is by no means comparable to the Caribbean, but compared to what we get up here, it looks pretty balmy.

Think I am exaggerating? Consider this: the palm trees, wisteria, camellias, olive and fig trees you put so nonchalantly into your front garden, expecting them to thrive in return for a little tender loving care, all face the same destiny up where I live – DEATH. Come mid October, you will see me frantically pacing the garden with my hand truck, pruning back roses, mulching, feeding and wrapping them to then ferry them into the greenhouse.* Which will be heated to a temperature around 0 degrees C (as opposed to around minus 15 on some days…) and will, by the way, cost me an arm and a leg in electricity bills.

Speaking of wrapping, this year I will go all Christo on the garden. Given that the last frost killed all flower buds on the hydrangea hedge, the magnolia and lots of the rhododendron, fleece shall be the fabric de jour. Yes, I always wanted a garden, but this is not what I had envisioned. And yes, I am TIRED of it.

This coming winter will be our fourth in Sweden. I remember the first one – the incredible darkness, black like treacle from 4pm onwards. The first thing I did was buy a cart full of 80-watt light bulbs to turn the house into something putting Harrods at Christmas to shame.

The second winter saw us moving into our own house. There’s a lot of excitement around moving into a house that you built from scratch – built-in ceiling spots and as many sockets for table lamps as you please being just one of the thrills. The second winter was also the first that saw a feeling of great, great sadness surfacing. Just like my surroundings, it was pitch-black dark inside of me. Someone had turned the lights off and I just couldn’t find the switch.

I met the third winter with a renewed fighting spirit, a cupboard full of supplements and a plan. I would go out for walks as soon as the sun came up, I would eat super well (with a focus on omega 3s, lots of fresh fruit and veg and good carbs with the odd treat thrown in), and I’d take myself and the family on breaks that included a good dose of winter sun.

Winter #3 lasted from end of October to mid May. Somewhere towards mid March I ran out of steam. There’s only so much Vitamin D you can take, only so many school holidays you can be away and only so much money you can spend on flights. I spent most of April eating biscuits and crying into my Earl Grey tea.

The nights are drawing in, and I feel a little bit of anxiety rising as to what I am going to do with this coming winter. I don’t have to go to my GP to know I am SAD (how aptly described!). I need to find out what I am going to do about it in the long run, and I doubt that my GP can help me here.

*yes, even a potted rose will not survive a winter in Sweden


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