One thing that I really like about Britain is the fact that nature here is not generally out to kill you. That’s not to say there are no dangers, however. But on the whole, the British countryside is mild and tended – sweetly rolling hills, dotted with lambs, lush valleys and well-trodden footpaths (usually with a pub at the end). To a foreigner, Britain really can feel like one, big garden.

Nature in Sweden is slightly different. Our family used to own a summer house in the woods, a rickety old cottage where we’d spend our holidays. It was a fantastic place for a kid, although not without its challenges. For example, there was no electricity or running water. Instead, there was a pump in the garden, spewing forth rusty, frog-peppered water, and an outdoor toilet, attached to a small barn across the road. The nearest shop was… actually I have no idea where it was – the woods seemed endless.

It should be pointed out that my family was perhaps not the most natural of nature-dwellers. I remember hanging out of the car window, as we randomly cruised down dirt tracks, looking for mushrooms for dinner. Then there were the night-time visits to the loo. The surrounding woods were pitch black and teeming with all the monsters that a child under ten was able to conjure. Not only that, but the toilet-building itself was home to several adders. We donned wellies and stamped through the grass, staring straight ahead so as not to accidentally eyeball a wolf or a moose.

Luckily all beasts remained in the shadows, which was just as well, because one thing that the experience taught me was that trying to tell a venomous adder from a harmless grass snake by torchlight is really not much fun at all.


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