Friday, July 1, 2011

No Sleep til Stockholm

I'm tired. Actually scratch that, I'm shattered. This time it has nothing to do with sleepless kids. It has everything to do with having just come back from Sweden.

The picture above, of Lake Mälaren in Sundbyholm, just outside Eskilstuna, was taken near midnight. That's right, midnight. Beautiful isn't it? By 1 am (see below) it wasn't much darker. By 3 am it was fully light again, sun blazing, creeping around the corner of my curtains, lighting up the room, playing havoc with my body clock. I was torn between trying to sleep, part of my brain screaming for rest, the other part urging me to get up because outside it was so light. The beauty soon becomes wearing. Come on darkness, my old friend, I started thinking.

I've been going to Sweden two or three times a year for the past ten years. Usually I go in winter, when it's cold and dark. Occasionally, I go in summer when it's warm(ish) and much lighter. This is only the second time I have been in midsummer. Often I come back scratching my head. How does this quiet, peaceable, easy-going nation produce so many crime writers? It is a country entirely free of menace, though as I live in London that might not be saying much. I wonder from where the gruesome muse comes. Yes it's cold and dark and the nights are long, but it's like that in many places in winter.

But when I visit in midsummer, it all makes sense. No one sleeps. The streets, the bars, the restaurants are still full at midnight, and are teeming early in the morning too. It's as if people are determined to make the most out of every second of daylight. And in summer that's a lot of seconds. The sun disappears below the horizon for an hour or so, as if it's taking a short breather. A few weeks of that, of staring at the ceiling in the middle of the 'night', while light streams through the blinds, would be enough to turn anyone's mind to murder. I'm back after two nights where I slept for a maximum of six hours, and drank enough coffee so that I sweated pure caffeine, I'm ready to rip the head off the most unassuming person if they were to look at me in the wrong way. My hands tremble, my eyes feel like they're boiling inside my head, and I feel like I'm typing with the arms Yrsa so memorably described a few weeks ago in her post from Thailand.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to murder a few people horribly in prose, then I'm off to bed.


  1. Thanks, Dan. You have solve a mystery plaguing me for decades. I now understand why Swedes are so at home on Mykonos. They're used to never sleeping in the summer!


  2. My nephew and his wife will be celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary in mid-September. She is Swedish and my nephew has been living there for a few years but for the sake of the American relatives making the trip they wanted to choose a date when the weather would be pleasant but the sun would be behaving sensibly. The Americans didn't make it through the twenty-four hour wedding reception sun or no sun.

    My nephew thinks winter's darkness is far easier on the system than summer's sun. I didn't realize that the body refuses to obey its needs and decides to party if the "sun is over the yardarm". Technically, the sun doesn't go below the yardarm for a few weeks so drinking yes, sleeping no.

    After reading a seemingly endless list of mysteries set in the Nordic countries, most of them of Swedish origin, I don't know why the Irish have the reputation of being the world's greatest drinkers.