Yesterday after my shift ended there was a lull, so my boss said I could take one of the paddleboards out = the best benefits package I’ve ever had 😉 There is a tiny island just opposite where the kayak place is, called Långholmen, on which is an old prison. It cracks me up a little that Stockholm’s version of Alcatraz is a leafy green island separated from the closest bigger bit of land by a sleepy canal maybe 7 or 8 yards wide. The movie Escape from Alcatraz would be a little less exciting if remade in Sweden, and involve more wading.
A tour around this island is my favorite paddleboard route as the sleepy canal is not only pretty useless at deterring hardened criminals from escape (in fact, according to Whacky Swede, it freezes solid in the winter, so they could just walk to freedom, which would be a terrible movie), it’s also very pleasant and easy to paddleboard along.
Maybe halfway along the canal I was startled out of daydreaming about nothing much, by a dude in a kayak shouting over at me. I say ‘dude’, though really I should say ‘gentleman’ as he was pretty elderly. I shouted back I was sorry I couldn’t understand, and he switched to English:
“Is that difficult?” he shouted.
I told him it wasn’t nearly as hard as it looked as they are more stable than you imagine, and he said, “or maybe you’re really good at it!” and I laughed and said okay, we’d go with that. He asked where I rented the paddleboard, I told him and said he should really give it a go; he said he just might and wished me a good day, then paddled off.
Huh. Well that’s a little unusual for Sweden. I know I’ve said in the past that I appreciate how Swedes give each other space and privacy in public, but I have to admit that it was pleasant to pass the time of day with a random friendly stranger.
About 20 minutes later, I was crossing quite a wide, busy part of the water, from the prison island back across to where the jetty is, concentrating a little because the wakes of passing speedboats make paddleboarding a little more dicey, when, of all things, a yacht pulled up beside me. At least, I think it’s what’s called a yacht – not the giant fancy kind that millionaires party on, an actual old fashioned wooden sailboat which may actually just be a sailboat, but what I imagine if I hear the word ‘yacht’ rather than a monster with a DJ booth on the deck. On this sailboat-yacht were maybe 4 guys and a girl, all around their early 20s. “What is that called, what you’re doing?” One of the guys shouted.
I told him, and when they heard my accent they asked me where I was from. I told them, then confirmed that I live here and am not on vacation. They asked me what I thought of Stockholm, and how long I planned to live here and if I could speak Swedish. I shouted back my answers, then they said to have a good evening, and sailed on.
Well, whaddya know? Two random conversations with friendly strangers all in the space of less than a half hour! Obviously the water is the place to be in Stockholm. Next time I feel lonely, I’m just going to get me a piece of driftwood, and float until someone comes to talk to me.
However, the question about how long I’m going to live here, gave me chills a bit. I know I can’t judge things on my first couple of months, but still, things would have to improve a lot if I was to really want this to be my life for good. But the thought of the alternative is worse, so I’m just going to shut that line of thought off and remember my nice paddleboard.