It’s been four years since my girlfriend and I moved to northern Sweden from London.
Things have changed rather in those years.
With the birth of our twins we two have become us four.
We now live in tiny village in a lovely house overlooking a lake, where we once lived in a flat so central in London that the shouting and singing from night buses would keep us awake.
Our girls play on a trampoline with a view of a huge lake. They can wander around our part of the village and we know they’re safe. It’s a slice of paradise and no mistake.
But it hasn’t always been easy.
My girlfriend fell pregnant within six months of us moving here. She was pregnant in a house busy with renovation works. For a time we had no stairs or kitchen.
That was bad enough but Donna really missed her mum and sisters.
The demands of having twins in a country thousands of kilometres from a family support system also meant that I couldn’t pay much attention to work matters. There simply wasn’t the time to do any networking.
For a while times were a little hardscrabble.
But the good always outweighed the bad. Walking through our quiet village with snow softly falling at -10C was an authentically magical experience.
Winters are fantastic in northern Sweden – as long as you wrap up. Photo: FB
As was having a dip in the lake at the bottom of our garden when temperatures reached 30C the following summer.
Almost the best fun we've had, however, was derailing people’s misconceptions of northern Sweden.
British people (and the British press as proved here with a typically dishonest, numbskull story from The Sun) know absolutely nothing about northern Sweden.
Some of them really were expecting polar bears and year-round darkness.
But, to a person, they were dumbstruck by the beauty of where we lived, enraptured by the friendliness of the locals and seriously envious of the high quality of life up here.
Moving here was the best thing we could have done. We're both settled, both working and have Swedish friends.
Of course, there are drawbacks.
The horse fly ('broms') season, all three weeks of it, is hell for me. I dare not leave the house for much of July, although Donna and the girls manage.
And I really do miss takeaways, although my waistline does not.
Also, I went shopping this morning for a family event we’re arranging this evening. It was a 120km round-trip. Distances are vast in the north.
But the lack of traffic meant I was back in under two hours.
And that family event for which we’re preparing?
Donna’s sister and family were smitten on a visit to the north last year and are moving here – they arrive this evening.
Without us, they wouldn’t have known how wonderful northern Sweden is.
And now they’re going to be here to share it with us.