Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 21 June 2014

The longest day. Midsummer celebrations in Sweden and four of us had a table in the sun in Brighton.

In 1976 we took a 'play' to Sweden.

From Gothenburg to Uppsala, from Umea to Lund. But not necessarily in that order.

Umea was freezing and got dark at 2.30 in the afternoon. Lund was dreamy.

We travelled down, over night, from the frozen north on the Orient Express. It was a sleeper. We each had white linen sheets on our perfectly prepared banquettes. But I never slept in mine, nor he his.

God's Gift had joined the company.

As the train chuntered out of Umea we started talking. For 716 miles we carried on the conversation. We stood outside our wooden cabins as the train racketed down the East of Sweden. The rest of the company slept as we whispered our way towards our future.

By the time we arrived in Lund you would have thought we would have ceased our talking but we didn't.

Those unmade beds were testimony to our all night chat.

We arrived at 6.00 in the morning. We even talked all the way to Rolf's house. He gave us breakfast of toast and Knackerbrød with Jarlsberg cheese.

I got knackerbrød crumbs stuck to the underneath of my lip, I could feel them on my chin. I was too embarrassed to wipe them away, in that moment I knew I had fallen in love with the old git.

We toured Sweden regularly. And then life got in the way. Work and telly, theatre and radio. Our oldest friend THE BEAR went back to live in Malmø from Stockholm, whilst we, now, watch 'Wallender and "The Bridge' to spot old haunts.

I can remember our first midsummer. In Waxholm, although I may have got the location wrong. Waxholm is a little island half an hour from Stockholm. We made a record in a well worn Waxholm studio, bought the map and had it framed lest we forget the café with the cake with green icing, and the walks round the island.

Our first midsummer was just as you see in the tourist brochures.

One big table.

A good many folk sitting round it.

A very big dish of crayfish.

A lot of music - made by the many folk sitting round the table.

A good deal of schnapps, beer, aquavit, Gamel Dansk and a lot of laughter.

The sun never sets. The light hovers soft, ever present. As tiredness takes over, the afternoon turns into evening, turns into day-night, turns into a mellow morning when pastries and coffee arrive.

The opportunity to skinny dip and take a sauna is always available, although remember he's from the north and I'm a good East End girl, so we didn't jump in we just sat and ate and carried on talking.

37 years ago, give or take some smørbrød, and the memory lingers.

It is possible to taste Sweden in 'Ikea' but is a jam on the North Circular really worth the trip.

My husband has Viking blood, he's got Baron Dupuytrens Disease, which is a shortening, thickening and fibrosis of the palma fascia. In other words he's got this funny thing in the palm of his hand which indicates that he probably got it from some Viking hoard that came over raping and pillaging Leeds all them years ago.

With his Viking blood and my Russian peasantry, we have been know to drink a bottle of vodka dry. But that was back in the day when we didn't have children, cats, weeds and ageing relatives. Now a bottle of filtered water with a couple of blocks of ice will do.

It's nearly 9.00. and it's still light, I've watered the veg, turned down the doors of the plastic greenhouses so the tomatoes get a warm nights rest, eaten some cashew nuts, and been joined on the kitchen table by King Solomon, who doesn't know the longest day from a packet of cat food.

Maybe next year we'll join our friends in Sweden and eat crayfish. Getting older means less prevarication. The Bear now has a pacemaker and I've just rubbed pain relief gel into my knee.

The old man is upstairs, our silence is companionable. I will light some candles and call him down, have a chat, yup the talking continues, then go to bed.

Glad Midsommer to you all. Skol.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At June 22, 2014 9:35 AM June wrote:

Hi Jeni

Thanks for sharing your memories with us.
You look back and think was that really me, where have all those years gone?
So thank you.

Much love

2. At June 22, 2014 11:06 AM Penny wrote:

Dear Jeni
That writing course is paying off ! You're my first port of call when I turn my computer on, hoping for a lovely read, like today's post.

3. At June 24, 2014 9:06 AM 'L' wrote:

Lady Jeni! U didn't man your blog for some time. I was worried u had gotten stuck down memory lane!!
You really have to write a book of your life's experiences and upbringing (if u could call it that!). It would make a fascinating read.
Give us more of Jewish life back in the day in the East End, its intriging!
We need u on air again!
Hugs xxx

4. At June 29, 2014 9:32 AM Mary Bennett wrote:

Hi Jenni, just discovered your blog, my hubby and I whatched you on Good Food Live a life time ago we loved you and the show. Great that I can now follow your Blog, you have such a sunny personality. There are drains and radiators in this world and your definitely a radiator. Keep being positive.

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.