We were sweet seventeen, Carol and I–heading for a summer in Sweden without our parents. The fact that we would be staying at the homes of our new found Swedish penfriends (both of whom had parents of their own) didn’t seem to matter somehow. We felt sophisticated, boarding that plane. And so excited that we charged through customs on arrival, forgetting to collect our luggage.
We’d already spent time with Nina and Harriet on the first leg of the exchange. To say the arrival of these stunning blonde beauties caused a stir on the dancefloor at our favourite, tiny, downtown disco was an understatement. The DJ even felt it worthy of an announcement. “Swedish girls in the house, tonight, lads!”
Yep; it was that long ago. Were our noses put out of joint at the reaction of the boys we’d had our eyes on for months? Ever so slightly.
We knew we had no chance of turning as many heads when we arrived for the second leg of the swap, for our Scandinavian summer. But as holidays went, it was one of the best. Wonderfully welcoming families; nights away in holiday cabins. Breathtakingly icy dips in freshwater lakes. Crayfish parties. Squealing rollercoaster rides at Liseberg Amusement Park. A day trip to Denmark. Parties with jaw-droppingly handsome Swedish boys. And a couple of dodgy, wiggly, precarious pillion rides home on spluttering scooters in the dead of night through inky-black pine forests with heaven only knows who at the front.
Carol and Harriet lost contact; and Nina and I nearly did from time to time along the way. But we popped back up on each other’s radars often enough to arrange visits to each other’s countries again with boyfriends, then partners….then children. And now; empty nesters all, it’s time to introduce Nigel to some friends who, although I’ve been lousy at keeping in touch with them, will always be very special to me. And, it’ll be his 56th country. In return, I get to meet a former teenage penfriend of his, in Norway. Nigel got to know the place fairly well in the 80s, as his father lived and worked in Stavanger for 3 years,but it’s new to me.
We’ll be heading up from Stavanger to Bergen, then on trains to Oslo, up into Narvik in the Arctic Circle, then down to Stockholm and Gothenburg. Look out for updates….if we can’t find a folding airmail envelope and a ‘par avion’ sticker….they’ll be on here 😉