Armed with maps, metro tickets, warm clothes and the correct pronunciation of Södra Ängby, I set off on my intrepid trip to discover this suburban residential development built 1933-40 amongst pine trees and birches overlooking (if you live in the biggest and most expensive houses) a beautiful sound with a bathing beach. (Somebody was just coming out of the water as I walked down. I had earlier seen patches of ice in shaded spots . . .)
It looks idyllic today: the villas were built amongst the existing wood and are well-maintained, but a look at a Wikipedia photo of the area in 1938 also makes it look like an intrusion into unspoilt terrain. There are shades of a less experimental Weißenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart.
I did like it but wondered about the practicalities. As I was walking back towards the metro station I saw a man walking towards me. Emboldened by his le Corbusier glasses, I stopped him and asked if he lived there. Of course, he spoke good English. He admitted that, yes, flat roofs were a problem with heavy snowfall, and sometimes he went up to shovel it off. The down pipes were originally integrated into the structures but were difficult to maintain so had been reconstructed externally. The trees had conservation orders, but the birches in particular had grown too tall and too numerous since the villas were originally constructed. Notwithstanding all this, he loved living there. I could see his point of view. (He also supported Derby County, which is where we parted company.)
I wonder what it’s like to live in Stockholm. Could I grow reconciled to the winter and the dark? How long do Swedes have to wait for spring? Today in Södra Ängby I saw winter aconites blooming: they are already ancient history in my northern garden. No, I don’t think I could wait so long to see signs of life returning each year. However, I was entertained by watching a magpie construct a large, untidy nest right next to the metro station, and back in the centre I came across some tame thrushes in a park.