She thinks I didn’t see, but I did. I’m making dinner. Pasta, mindless, easy. The kitchen’s all steamed up and Alfie is under the table playing with those trains again, muttering to himself in that odd baby talk, but he seems content enough. Tess is in the bedroom, preparing for a presentation for tomorrow. I’ll take her a glass of wine as a peace offering. In a minute.
We went to an open air museum today, over on this wee island on the other side of Stockholm harbour, Djurgården. It’s maybe a bit embarrassing to admit, but I don’t think I knew that Stockholm is all made up of islands until we moved here. But one of the most striking things is that you’re surrounded by water in every direction. We’re on the island of Södermalm – the biggest island – and Alfie and I have got into the habit of walking down to the waterfront most days, then onto a wee island you get to by crossing a tiny walkway bridge. It is, as far as I can make out, just a big park with a handful of buildings here and there, so Alfie can scamper freely through trees and over soft bracken while I wander behind.
The island where we went today is kind of the same idea but on a bigger level. According to the guide pamphlet I picked up, it was once the king’s hunting grounds (it kind of faces the palace across the harbour) and these days it houses most of the city’s museums in and amongst wild parkland. You could completely imagine you’re in wilderness in the middle of it, though it’s a 5 minute bus ride to the city centre.
I’m not sure what made me come over all Stockholm tour guide just now, but there you go. I would say questions at the end, but I think I’ve just told you about the sum total of my knowledge of Stockholm, so you’d be as well Googling.
Anyway, we took the bus to Slussen, which is apparently a lock between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, though it’s covered in roadworks right now so it’s a bit hard to tell quite what it is. On one side a cliff rises sharply over the granite grey sea, on the other, the chocolate-box buildings and steeples of the Old Town. There’s this mad bridge to nowhere that comes from the clifftop but then just stops in midair; Tess said there’s a fancy restaurant up there. It was on the tip of my tongue to say we could go there for our anniversary in a couple of weeks, but it didn’t get any further.
There’s no one to babysit, anyway.
We got on this little ferry to chug across harbour, and it was a shame poor old Alfie dropped off in his buggy just as we boarded. He’d have loved it. It was a fairly blustery day, and the little ferry rocked and rolled over choppy waves, some of them even white capped.
Stockholm is an incredibly beautiful city. Today made me realise that Alfie and I have been missing out, sticking to our little neighbourhood, and I resolved that we’ll be better at exploring from now on. It’d do us good to get out of the flat more.
So this open air museum Tess had heard about at work, seems to be dedicated to Scandinavian history and culture, which is pretty cool. There are all these wee cabins and farmhouses built and set up just as they would have been hundreds of years ago, and – much to Alfie’s delight – a small zoo which houses only animals that are found in Scandinavia. We hung out by the wolf enclosure for yonks but didn’t spot them, and if we hadn’t dragged Alfie away from the baby bears who were wrestling with giant truck tires, I think he’d still be there now. We bought him a stuffed moose (elk? Who knows) to make up for it.
It was when we stopped for a coffee and cinnamon bun at one of the food stalls that I noticed this guy staring at Tess. Not staring, that’s giving it the wrong impression, he was with a wife and kids. A little older than us maybe, close cropped dark hair, anorak, smiley; from just a brief glance I surmised he’s one of those people that are so lovely you feel guilty for finding them a bit boring. He was looking as though he recognised her, then kind of trying to get her attention. A colleague, presumably.
But she ignored him. I’m sure she saw him, she must have, but she suddenly started making a massive fuss of Alfie, tickling him and making the moose fly in his face which made him scream with laughter. So she didn’t notice the guy waving at her. Or, she did notice him and was covering for the fact that she was ignoring him.
Then a bit later, we were queuing to get back on the ferry when Tess said she was going to nip to the loo. Alfie woke up in his buggy and started to cry, so I was lifting him out when I noticed out of the corner of my eye – Tess. Chatting to the guy and his family. Friendly, casual; she seemed to be being introduced to the wife. But she didn’t mention it when she returned to us a moment later.
So I didn’t either, and then I picked a fight about nothing on the ferry ride back.
And now I’m taking her a glass of wine because I don’t know what else to do.