01 February 2005
Luckily no-one was hurt except the poor moose.
By Alison Wetterfors in Sweden
Imagine the shock of the Lindeman family, gathered around their TV for a quiet evening’s viewing, when a moose crashed through their French windows, cannoned into the sofa, sent it and them shooting across the room, and charged on towards the mirror on the far side. Luckily no-one was hurt except the poor moose.
The theory goes that it had been eating windfall apples, which had fermented, and under the influence thereof had seen a rival in the mirror, which led to its precipitate arrival in the living room. A shaken Mr Lindeman commented afterwards, ‘We spent the night with my aunt. She has a first-floor flat!’
OUT OF STILLNESS
Every year thousands of people visit the house on the south coast of Sweden which belonged to Dag Hammarskjöld, Swedish diplomat and Secretary General of the UN from 1953 until 1961, when he died in a plane crash during a diplomatic mission to Africa. He was much respected for his wise political judgement and moral leadership.
After his death, the manuscript of a spiritual diary he had written was found and published under the title Markings. He said it represented his ‘inner dialogue with myself and God’. This inner dialogue brought him in 1951 to a deep religious experience.
In 1956, during a diplomatic journey through the Middle East, he wrote, ‘Understand—through stillness; act—out of stillness; conquer—in the stillness.
‘To love life and people as God loves them—for the sake of their infinite possibilities.’ This July the centenary of his birth will be celebrated: a chance to appreciate anew a great statesman and a man of faith.
The southern part of Sweden, with its open farmland and deciduous woods, has a special identity. Years of Danish rule are noticeable in the style of the churches and houses. They even have their own flag, a combination of Danish and Swedish. The local accent forms a link between Denmark and Sweden, and the mighty Öresund Bridge joins them to Denmark and a wider region of the EU.
The Nordic countries, often clumped together in outsiders’ minds as Scandinavia (of which Finland, Iceland and Denmark are not part geographically), have distinctive characters and an interesting relationship. Over the centuries some have dominated and ruled others. Norway’s relationship with Sweden reminds me, as a Scot, of our relationship with England. This year also marks the centenary of Norway’s independence from Sweden.
Despite history, there is more that unites than divides. The Nordic tradition of open democracy, equality and finding consensus has stood them well, and men like Hammarskjöld have been a product of that.
The Swedish Government has given the go-ahead for the planning of a new parliament building in Kiruna for the indigenous Sami people. The Chairman of the Sami Government, Lars-Anders Baer, commented, ‘This is an important step. To hav e our own parliament building can contribute to holding us together, but also function as a link with Sweden—a sign of reconciliation.’
A conference to mark the end of the Decade of the World’s Indigenous People was held in Stockholm recently. It aimed both to emphasize progress made and to get to grips with outstanding issues which affect aboriginal peoples, such as land and water rights. Speakers included AnnChristin Nykvist, Sweden’s Minister of Agriculture, and Sir Douglas Graham, former Justice Minister of New Zealand, who spearheaded a process of restoration to the Maori.
IT’S A FINE THING!
Earlier this autumn, a certain Mr Nylander in Sweden was astonished to receive a parking ticket from England. It demanded a £90 fine, on the grounds that he had parked illegally in Warwick. All well and good, except that he had not left Sweden this year. Nor had the vehicle in question, a snow-mobile! With impressive Swedish logic, Mr Nylander commented, ‘If I wanted to go on holiday with my snowmobile, I think I would go somewhere where there is snow, like Finland.’