A bit of a dandy, a bit of a cavalier and a lot of a charmer, rogue British official The Dippylomat. Esq. investigates…
She can be a cheap, nasty trollop, but I might just forgive her; a soul-destroying harlot, but who am I to suggest she has not sought redemption for her sins? Indeed, you will struggle to find many Swedes who will not be thanking Mother Nature for her delivery of this year’s sumptuous summertide. The dog days here are routinely and ruthlessly curbed, but this year, for reasons one should not dare question, we received a thorough thawing.
In order to suckle the last drop from summer’s teat I decided to take advantage of a sultry September evening – one never knows whether this will be the last wisp of warmth before we take that icy plummet into the polar winter. So off I tootle, trouser in sock, to take in the sights, sounds and the smells of sunny Sweden.
As I freewheel I momentarily close my eyes and scoop in deep breaths of the pure dusky air to spark memories of the year’s sun-drizzled frivolities. The smell of summer meadows joyously tickles my memory and I am whisked back to the frollicks of a certain field, a picnic and an amusing, if not somewhat embarrassing, incident with Lady Dippylomat involving a haystack and a pitchfork; I cycle on and the woody waft of Nordic pine engulfs me, I am back, back camping under the stars in a forest clearing with just a hip flask and a reservation at a nearby 5 Star hotel to keep me safe. What memories will flood back with the next aromatic inhale? My oh my, of course, it is the smell of the Tropics – coconut and vanilla wafting on a cooling sea breeze…
WHOA!…wait a tickety-tock, the smell of tropical shores in Sweden? I don’t think so. Come to bally well think about it, you’re not really going to smell Nordic pine or summer meadows as you ween your wheels down a cycle path lined with looming concrete-clad tower blocks.
But as every Swede knows, the smells are there, they linger in every suburban street in every Swedish city. In the same way warm patches seem to permeate the shallow end of a municipal swimming pool, so too do these faux natural smells permeate Sweden.
What the devil is that all about?
One will do one’s best to explain. It all starts with a farmer, standing outside of his ramshackle farmhouse, and ends with the abundant use of fabric conditioners. Let me abridge some contemporary history to enlighten your good selves.
For context we must consider both the Swede’s incessant desire to make things ‘fair’ and their more than passing obsession with modernity – pleasing aesthetics greatest foe. Where we might see ‘rustic’, you can be assured that a Swede will see ‘rundown’. And, in the early part of the 20th Century, ‘rundown’ was precisely what Sweden was: idyllic village life had gone to pot as the country finally woke up to industrialisation and towns were heaving at the seams as…the country finally woke up industrialisation.
To solve the crippling urban crisis, the ridiculously ambitious and arguably naive Million Programme was born. The notion was to flatten and rebuild whole swaths of old city quarters and build additional apartment blocks to house all the newly arrived yokels – ensuring everyone had access to an affordable and suitably okayish standard of living. It was planned that in one decade 1,000,000 flats would be built, between 1965 and 1974 that figure was exceeded with a total of 1,006,000 new flats.
That’s an awful lot of flats; functional, affordable, with all the charm of a Soviet ghetto and, most pivotal to my point, with communal laundry facilities. Every single block has enough washing machines, tumble dryers and drying rooms to keep the Average Swede in fresh breeches and pantaloons.
Situated in the monolithic towers’ basements, each laundry room has a ventilation window and each laundry room is probably in use for at least 12 hours a day, every day. Billowing out fragrant, warm air like an industrial air freshener.
Those climbing Sweden’s slippery social ladder might well break ranks from the hoards and cram a washing machine and dryer into a flat not designed to accommodate such mod cons. Nothing says ‘we’ve made it’ in Sweden quite like an Eletrolux Series 4.42 vibrating and thundering through its last spin cycle while you’re trying to watch a climactic episode of Wallander.
Toodle pip my dears, how I have missed you,
~The Dippylomat, Esq.