In Sweden, children start school at the age of six – or, back in my time, aged seven – and so much of our early education takes place in the more informal setting of our nurseries, or ‘förskola’. Growing up, my förskola had a workshop, and placed in the middle of this was a large log. The purpose of the log was to allow children to let off steam, by hammering nails into it – a simple but effective method for dealing with frustrated six-year-olds. We also did basic woodwork, with my personal pièce de résistance being a wooden box with a hinged lid and lock. I painted it pink and declared it perfect for all my secret, magical objects, before realising I didn’t have any.

At the time I was reading The Little Vampire, which contained a very useful recipe for a flying potion. It seemed simple enough to make, but had to be left to brew in order to work. I didn’t want my parents to find out, and the box seemed the ideal place for a brewing flying potion. I can’t remember the exact ingredients, apart from vinegar and also cucumber, which was my own personal touch. I hid the box away, and when it was finally time to open the lid, I was stunned to notice that something magical had indeed happened. The flying potion was now covered with a thick layer of vinegar-reeking mould. Mortified, I scattered it in the woods so that no one would know.

This would have been the perfect moment to whack nails into a log. Instead, I sulked in the woods with my empty bowl, trying to take courage from the fact that at least I’d learnt the importance of following a recipe. Clearly, the failure of my flying potion lay in my foolish addition of cucumber.

Maria Smedstad moved to the UK from Sweden in 1994. She received a degree in Illustration in 2001, before settling in the capital as a freelance cartoonist, creating the autobiographical cartoon Em. Maria writes a column on the trials and tribulations of life as a Swede in the UK.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine.

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