This July saw the premature celebration of next year’s 50th anniversary of our personal invasion of Sweden – which in turn took place on the 900th anniversary of the Vikings’ (Christianised, French-speaking and re-baptised as Normans) notorious intrusion on Saxon life at the battle of Hastings.
The theme of this panel is our voyage and the subtext is the emotional rites of passage that it led me into (and out of).Mick, Tony and I didn’t actually sail across the North Sea in a Norman galley in 1966, we travelled in relative luxury on Svenska Lloyd’s flagship Saga. Mick was still sick though. We didn’t leave from Broadstairs either, as the presence of Bleak House in the picture might suggest. But Broadstairs was, in a way, where the journey began, as that was where we first met Ann-Mari and Elisabet - depicted here in subtextual in-my-dreams welcoming poses (the pseudo Latin caption says ‘Here the affections of Viking girls’).
Wendy, my first proper lover, never came to Broadstairs and we didn’t split up until 1967 but that eventual break-up is part of the subtext of this trip for me too.
Eva sits in the cool Garbo-esque pose she adopts in my favourite photo of her from that time. Karin is playing the piano – what else? (Too much subtext here to even hint at).
I’m showing off my newly-learned Bert Jansch clawhammer guitar style and probably singing ‘Running from Home’. Tony is monkeying around as usual.
The lower border shows some of the things that attracted us and many of our generation to Sweden and all things Swedish in the 1960s: Margareta Arvidsson as the most beautiful girl in the Universe (I can just see Ann-Mari’s lip curl); The Seventh Seal as the best-ever art film; the tulip chair as Sweden’s supreme gift to the world of interior design.
Some things we didn’t know about Sweden at the time are referenced in the top border: the prominence of Bofors and Scania in the world’s arms trade; the secret nuclear weapons development programme at Ursvik (now a primary school apparently – hope the kids don’t get their rods mixed up); and the ‘mountain land rights’ trial that started that year in Ostersund, our destination, beginning a legal process that would eventually deprive 90% of Sami people of their traditional habitation in the northern forests.
The rune stone depicted in the top right of the picture is also near Ostersund and marks the furthest northern extent of Christianity 900 years ago – brought to Sweden by Ostman, son of Gudfast in 1050. Yeah – thanks for that Ostman.
Bergman’s black-hooded Death checkmated Ann-Mari two years ago, just as he did Paul last year – that was another reason for wanting to get together with our long-lost Svenska flicka friends.
Apologies to Agneta for not including her running home behind the taxi from the station on the night we arrived in Ostersund – now, as then, there just wasn’t room in the picture, little as she was.
Sports-loving viewers will notice no reference to England winning the world cup. We watched every minute of that dramatic game in Ann-Mari and Agneta’s mum’s living room. The triumph fitted our mood. Followed, unfortunately, by 50 years of…. well the hurt started to fade away and be replaced by indifference sometime during the reign of Sven Goran Ericsson – there, another Swede gets a namecheck.