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'In the north we do things - we don't just watch'

The Local · 23 Jul 2012, 11:53

Published: 23 Jul 2012 11:53 GMT+02:00

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It was my first night living in the far north of Sweden and things were getting stranger by the minute.

To my left at the dining table of a house in Vuollerim, just 25 kilometres shy of the Arctic Circle, a very drunk sixty-something man with grey hair, thick bottle-bottom glasses, and a beard so dense and impenetrable it might have been harbouring a small family of Arctic hares, was ranting about the pointlessness of modern culture in general and movies in particular.

“I don’t watch television and I never watch movies - if you want adventure, take an adventure yourself,” he said.

Nothing new there, you might think - the older generation is always moaning about something. But this chap (let’s call him Jens, because that wasn’t his name and I don’t want to get him in trouble), was no ordinary pensioner. He was a senior member of the film crew for an upcoming high-budget family epic, which had been filming in the area.

“But you’re working on what is likely to be the biggest Swedish film of 2013,” I spluttered.

“How can you not like movies?”

Jens, his eyes the size of planets behind his thick glasses, looked at me as if I’d asked him why birds fly.

“I come from the north – here we do things, we don’t just watch.”

And with that, he yelled across the table at another dinner guest:

“Pass the wine - don’t drink it all yourself!”

Well, he was taking the “doing” part seriously - he was certainly not going to just watch other people drinking.

How did I get to be here, in the thawing north of Sweden, around a dinner table surrounded by inebriated film-makers and locals, nearly 3,000 kilometres from my home town of London?

By a 7.5 tonne truck, that’s how, driven in shifts from London by my friend John and me. The truck contained the worldly possessions of my girlfriend and I.

We were leaving the coagulated, frenzied tumult of London life and, if we were going to do it, we were going to do it properly - no half-arsed move to Suffolk or even southern Sweden. We wanted beauty, isolation and otherness. We wanted northern Sweden.

Well, John and I had got stuck right in to the otherness, that’s for sure.

The pipes at the rental house had burst, so it was uninhabitable. A couple of phone calls later we’d booked ourselves in at the Hotel Vuollerim. We were lucky - a visiting film crew had nabbed all but two rooms.

When we’d arrived the receptionist had talked us into attending what she rather quaintly called a house-jumping dinner party that night. It was a local tradition, apparently.

She even hinted it was a peculiarly northern Swedish tradition, and a great way to meet locals. Each course was served in a different local’s house.

“We’ll have some of that,” we said.

A traditional Lapland house-jumping dinner? What a great way to kick-start my integration.

As we made our way to the first house and the first course, I asked one of the organizers who the other dinner guests were.

“Oh, they are mainly the crew from a film being made around here,” she told me.

Would any locals be at the dinner, we enquired?

“Of course, yes, myself and the other hosts.”

So you’re all from round here?

“Well, not originally...”

The dinner was fun. The food was heavy on northern produce, so lots of fish such as Arctic Char and even a Reindeer Carpaccio starter (surprisingly delicious).

Most of the film crew were charm personified. Even Jens.

They even sang lustily when asked by the organizers to sing the local house-jumping song, Hop For Vuollerim (melodically, a Frankenstein’s monster of a tune that sounded part Arrow’s Hot, Hot, Hot and part Rolf Harris’s Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport), while John and I, English to the last, were far too embarrassed and hid our faces trying hard not to laugh at the ridiculous lyrics:

“Hop, hop, hop, come and jump for joy in Vuollerim

Hop, hop, hop, let’s jump for Vuollerim

We’re jumping from place to place

Story continues below…

Enjoying the meeting with every face

One more jump seems fair

Everyone that wants and dare.”

After one particularly hearty rendition (yes, the song was sung more than once and the singing, oddly enough, became more uninhibited the more wine was consumed), I asked the film’s lanky production designer, why they’d chosen the far north to film.

“The light is different to anywhere in the world that I’ve been,” he said.

“And the scenery is breathtaking. It’s perfect for film-making.”

The next day, while John and I, nursing monumental hangovers, were gingerly moving boxes into storage, we asked our local helper, Anders, an 18-year-old student with a typically dry-as-dust northern sense of humour, if house jumping dinner parties really were a local tradition.

He raised one eyebrow, grinned and said:

“House-jumping dinner parties? What do you think? Do they sound northern?”

Lesson number one learnt - take nothing for granted up here. Nothing.

Paul Connolly

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:08 July 23, 2012 by azimuth
Only idiot could move from London to Sweden North...
17:43 July 23, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
Bravo for him to get out of the concrete jungle of London and into the beautiful vast wilderness of Swedish Lappland. I have no doubt this will be an experience of a lifetime for him.
21:18 July 23, 2012 by dizzymoe33
I like the idea of the "house jumping" parties!!! Great way to get acquainted with the locals.
08:02 July 24, 2012 by rybo1
One of the most interesting articles I've read in the Local during the past two or three years. We live in a small cluster of homes in a newly developed area south of Stockholm. We've been here for two and a half years and as in most of Sweden, I would think, my neighbors, except for an occasional wave are all but strangers to me. Too bad there's no House jumping here. I might have had an opportunity to know those who live near us.
10:36 July 24, 2012 by Grävling
Well done for have the guts to try something different with you life. If you don't like it, move back or go somewhere else. Allot of folk will be confused to why you did it, that's ok, it's because they would not think of doing it.
15:56 July 24, 2012 by shiraz
I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of house jumping :) why don't we have it more in other parts of the world ? we should do it everywhere. In the North of Sweden since people are so pretty I hope no one minds my saying this but it would be nice if there was a people jumping party ;) too ? I know it sounds very debauched but we need warmth now and then ; but I digress I think we ought to focus on getting people healthy, wealthy, youthful , groomed before we all try to jump each other. And I for one have to become worthy and pretty and beautiful too. So sorry for any offence caused ...
12:45 July 25, 2012 by Dahlia83
Azimuth, where in the world do you live?
14:26 July 25, 2012 by Borilla
Yes Azimuth, how stupid to move from a gigantic, polluted, run-down city with bad weather, full of large pink people with bad teeth. And one must not forget that marvelous British cuisine. While there is nothing to brag about when it comes to Swedish cuisine, it does make even British food look sad.
17:26 July 25, 2012 by Dahlia83
Well put Borilla. I can't take too seriously a comment from someone who cannot construct a basic sentence.
08:43 July 26, 2012 by Järven
Hmm, what about someone who uses Swedish word order in an English sentence, Dahlia 83? It's easy to mock. Bravo for making the move, but nothing will make you appreciate London quite like Northern Sweden does. Beautiful, unspoilt, unpolluted, and unbelieveably dull, cold, dark and xenophobic.... Watch a few episodes of "Pistvakt" to get the picture. ;-) Good luck, and may the force be with you.
14:50 July 27, 2012 by Swedish Cat
I have done both and believe the contrast is good. I enjoy big cities as well as the quietness in the North of Sweden. Good thing we have the option of choosing not only one over the other.. Welcome to Sweden and glad people are coming to settle up North :o)
17:36 July 27, 2012 by woder
perhaps moving from London (in fact the whole of Britain at the moment) is the only way of avoiding the traffic congestion & hysterical hype being caused by Boris ( our Loonie London Mayor for the uninitiated) and his cronies re the games - wise move Son - good on Yer
19:00 July 27, 2012 by Moniker
I happen to come from that general area and spent a good 20 years of my life there. Although I now call London my home, I enjoy going there occasionally. In fact, my British wife enjoy it even more. With that said, I fully agree with Järven.
23:52 July 29, 2012 by philster61
While I agree that his move from London would be far better for his health, that far north won't be. Especially his mental health
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