Sweden 1977

Uppsala: I am late for work. It’s the only reason I am on the faster road, the E4, and see the bearded stranger hitch-hiking north. He’s going all the way to Sundsvall , about 300 km. I need to be in Bjorklinge by 9.30; I can’t take him far but it’s a start to his day.


Viksta: We have no idea why the stranger is standing by the road near Viksta. We invite him into the car. None of our family speak any English so he spends the journey, before we turn off the E4, looking out the window. Trees. Just trees.

Tierp: I need someone to talk at. I pick up a hitch-hiker. The sulphur dioxide from Germany’s Ruhr Valley is wiping out Swedish forests and fish. Who’s doing anything about it? I rant. The bearded stranger nods understandingly. We take a quick walk to the lake near Mehedeby so I can collect samples for the biology class I’m teaching later.

Gavle: We are proud of our new Opel and even prouder of some of the English we are learning. Picking up the bearded stranger gives us a chance to practice.

Hagsta: I try it out on the bearded stranger: is suicide a good way out? I’m an experienced iron-worker, made redundant last year, completely bankrupt. He isn’t committing: but at least I’ve spoken the idea out loud.

Soderhamn: The hitch-hiker has come a long way already today, along the E4. I tell him that he’d be foolish to sleep rough north of Sundsvall: wild elks can be truly dangerous. I suspect he’ll ignore me. He’s even proud to tell me that he has remembered to buy cheese for his dinner.

Hudiksvall: Not many people from around here know anything about Africa. I enjoy talking to the bearded stranger. I have just written a letter to the Prime Minister recommending that he send soldiers to kill Idi Amin in Uganda. The stranger isn’t sure that’s worthwhile. We’ll see.

Gnarp: It’s a day off work, away from the bank! I am heading to the north to the Swedish National Parachute Jumping Festival. I feel so happy that I pick up a hitch-hiker. I tell him about my houses and my yacht. When I add that I also own a private plane he asks why I am not flying north.

Sundsvall: maybe it's my lucky night. I ask the hitch-hiker where he wants to go. As far along the E14 towards Norway as possible, he says brightly. We drive, the talking becomes more desultory; I think he doesn’t like me. Anyway,  I ask if he wants to stay at my place for the night. He mutters something about wild elks and asks to get out at a layby next to the lake near Stode.