“Food, glorious food”

On Friday 1st May (2009), 8 people including some of St Mary’s choir and 2 of the clergy set off for Sweden. Having negotiated passport control and various security checks we were on the plane to Copenhagen. Although some of us had been before, this time it was a whole new experience. Rather than taking the train we were driving to Växjö. Then it had been Advent with snow, now Spring had sprung in May, with lots of blossom and greenery, and lots of sunshine.

As with our last visit we had a packed programme. Our first destination on the Saturday morning was to the Nykulla outlook tower. Those of us with keen eyesight and /or binoculars could see all the way across to Växjö. Then it was on to the House of Pancake, based in a converted barn in the countryside, for soup and pancakes – either savoury or sweet. As it was such a beautiful day we sat outside, surrounded by various rural sounds including lambs let out after winter.

Granhult Church (with caption)Next we visited Granhult’s wooden church, one of the oldest in Sweden. The talk was provided by a lady dressed in national costume; an English translation was provided by her husband. Whilst the outside was interesting, the inside was wonderful as it was covered with multi-coloured wall paintings.

Our attention switched from matters spiritual to matters temporal when we enjoyed coffee and cakes in the old vicarage nearby.

The reader will perhaps have noticed the subject of food cropping up on a regular basis! So they will unsurprised to find that in the evening, at the lake side Church summer house, visitors and hosts sat down to a 3 course meal. A quartet of Swedish singers performed, amongst other pieces, Swedish songs, a setting of a song by Shakespeare and the Beatles “Here, there and everywhere”. The British contingent performed a hymn “Be bold, be strong” and “Bring me sunshine” on the grounds that you can’t get more British than Morecombe and Wise. Then, as the sun was setting, it was time to go outside, for more traditional Swedish songs, including those welcoming the Spring, and the lighting of a bonfire.

Headington Spring Welcome (with caption)At the Sunday service at Högstorps Kyrka, the visitors participated by joining the choir in singing the hymns and sacred songs, reading the New Testament as well as the Gospel and – in Wendy’s case – conducting the performance of ”All in the April evening”. After the service we all did our own thing with our host families. This included visiting a lake, walking through the woods in Växjö and introducing our unsuspecting hosts to “Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west”.

On the Monday morning we went to Växjö Municipal House to discover exactly why in 2007, Växjö became the “Greenest city in Europe”. After coffee and a promotional video about the city, the environmental co-ordinator So Hie Kim-Hellstrom gave us the reasons why – guaranteed to make the average eco-campaigner really green with envy. For anyone wanting to know how, someone in our group will have the brochure.

Our final destination was the Dean’s house where we met the Dean of Växjö and had one final meal – traditional Swedish meatballs – with our host families. Then it was time for goodbyes, back into our cars and on our way back, remembering the marvellous weather, excellent food and above all, the extraordinary kindness and generosity of the congregation at Högstörps Kyrka.

Sarah Clemetson