FAREWELL TO LUGNADAL

Lugnadal in Swedish means a “calm valley”.  It’s also the name of the first Swedish house I stayed in back in 2000 on our first trip to the country.  After a storm-tossed trip by ferry from Newcastle to Gothenburg in mid-December across a belligerent North Sea, it was pitch black when we reached Lugnadal in the early hours of the morning.  It was a blessed relief after over 30 hours of weary travel by boat, train and car.  We awoke the next morning to a bright, crisp Skåne morning in what is an old farmhouse typical of the area – four connected sides around a central courtyard.  And it’s where my love affair with Sweden began.

Now, sadly, it’s up for sale; too big for the one person still living there.  But it has been like a Nordic spiritual home to us for nearly twenty years.  On that first visit, we received a wonderful welcome as we drank coffee – the strength of which was a bracing introduction to Swedish life – and Gammel Dansk in the warm, rustic kitchen.  Later, we were initiated into a Scanian rite of passage: homemade besk, a very alcoholic spiced spirit made from wormwood, which puts hairs on your chest.

Lugnadal is nestled close to the main road running from the small fishing port of Simrishamn up the east coast of Skåne.  Across the road and a few minutes’ walk brings you to the lovely beach at Lilla Vik.  Though it was too cold to swim in the sea on our first visit, I’ve plunged in many times since; the last time only a couple of weeks ago.  It was a warm day yet despite the weather, there were only two other people on the beach.  Over the years, Lugnadal and Lilla Vik have seeped into the Malmö Mysteries and I have unashamedly plundered the house and surroundings in the books.

Lilla Vik is where Anita retreats to when she needs a mental break.  The beach also features at the beginning of the next novel, Mourning in Malmö (out on January 3rd!).  The house itself was used as the home of painter Pele Munk in Murder in Malmö – appropriate as the present owner is a good artist when time allows.  And the houses perched on the heights above Lilla Vik were the inspiration for Anita’s holiday residence in Midnight in Malmö alongside the home of retired diplomat, Albin Rylander.

The nearby town of Simrishamn has also featured in the stories, particularly Midnight, as this is where Anita spent her teenage years after the family’s return from England and the subsequent break up of her parents’ marriage.  Her friend Sandra still lives there.  This is where our friend intends to move after leaving Lugnadal.

It was with sadness that we left Lugnadal for the last time two weeks ago.  It was looking at its most peaceful, surrounded by gently swaying trees.  The sun shone out of a deep blue sky.  We take away a host of memories of joyous gatherings and deep conversations, much laughter and a few tears.  We’ve always been welcome there and made to feel at home.  It’s been an integral part of the Swedish experience; a source of inspiration.  Its tranquillity will be greatly missed.