A small country

Sweden is a very small country. You are always finding that you know someone who knows someone.

When I was 16 my History of Art teacher at school was a Mr H. I didn’t know much about him, and while his lessons were interesting, History of Art was a compulsory subject all students had to take for an hour every week.

Four years later I found myself with an English teacher at the Post Office. She was a Mrs H, and as a native English speaker the Post Office hired her to train new staff in postal English (if you can even imagine such a thing). It was only for five or ten hours, and most of that time she and I talked about London, as none of the others in my group were remotely interested in languages.

Just over 12 months later, I spent a year in Brighton, studying for the first year of a (Swedish) degree in English at the University of Sussex. One of my classmates was Miss H, daughter of these two teachers. Slightly younger than me, we had just missed each other at ‘Sixth Form’ school. We ended up belonging to the Mock Turtle group of students, who went to the venerable old Mock Turtle tea rooms to drown our sorrows with cream teas and plates of cake after each exam.

It was so enjoyable that we continued this tradition once we were all back in Gothenburg the following year.

I used to think this was proof enough that you will always accidentally stumble across people who know each other or who are related, in our small country. Large on the surface, but small population-wise.

You may have heard in the news this week about a Swedish journalist killed in Kabul. He was the only member of the H family I never met. He was younger still, so there was never a reason to. But I knew Nils Horner was vaguely famous, through his work.

This is the one kind of small country coincidences I don’t like.


3 responses to “A small country

  1. Sweden sounds a lot like Santa Cruz. I’ve had a couple of those two degrees of separation from tragedy here lately as well. It’s an odd experience to read of a death in the newspaper and then finding that the person is your friend’s sister-in-law’s nephew.

    But the Mock Turtle tea sounds wonderful.

  2. It was. If we’d all stayed living near each other, it could have gone on for years. We got carried away with recipes for scones, and how many different kinds of cake to make.
    Then people had to go off to work and get married…
    When Son and I went to Brighton while looking at universities, we made sure to have a Mock Turtle tea.

  3. A lot of people find small places claustrophobic and judgemental. It’s good that you like it most of the time 🙂

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