… is a common Swedish joke. What does Norway have that Sweden doesn’t? You guessed it, a good neighbour. According to the Swedes. The other way round, perhaps, according to the Norwegians.
Or maybe they don’t joke like that.
In my case, what Sweden had in those short days when I was in Norway, and what Norway definitely did not have, was any semblance of the sun.
It saw me off when I was leaving Sweden. And greeted me when I came back. But in Norway, there was not even a ghost of it.
But maybe it was just a coincidence.
‘This is a Swedish cake’, a Norwegian said. ‘Try it, you will like it’.
‘Try this cheese they [meaning us] brought from Sweden, it is very good’.
Sweden also imports Norwegian cheese. The brown sweet one.
And we get lots of Norwegian salmon.
Norwegians speak Swedish, and they watch Swedish TV. Swedes don’t watch Norwegian TV. At least I have never heard them say they do. And do they speak Norwegian?
Do they even show Norwegian TV in Sweden?
I don’t watch any TV altogether, so I don’t know. But maybe it shows something about two countries that in one country they watch the other’s TV and in the other they don’t.
But what Norway really had was saeter. And Sweden? It probably does have them somewhere, but I have never seen them.
And in Norway, I saw one. A farm and a house in the hills. Where butter and cheese were made. The summer grazing land in the mountains.
And as soon as I heard the word, I remembered the whole of Kristin Lavransdatter. The wreath, and the wife, and the cross. All that used to feed my imagination. Long, long evenings and deep into the nights. Hungry, thirsty for reading. Throughout the book, I was wondering about this word, saeter. Of course, it was in Russian, and of course it sounded so foreign and exotic. And now I have finally seen one.
This is what Norway gave me, the discovery of what I have always known, but never seen. The imagined coming alive. The proof, once again, that all I have read, all I have imagined, is alive somewhere, and that I will meet it all one day.
Or not. Life may not be long enough to experience all we imagine.
Also because we experience a lot we had never imagined. So, there is a lot to experience, both the imagined and the unimagined, and also the unimaginable. And that takes time.
And Röyksopp, of course. Norway also gave me Röyksopp. Many years ago. I listened to them on the way back, through the Norwegian forest into the Swedish one and back to what Swedes refer to as ‘civilisation’.