However, last time I was over, I was given an almighty challenge when asked if there was anything that I should bring back from my travels.
“a penguin” she said, “a penguin?” I replied incredulously – “yes – a penguin is what I would like”, and obviously I couldn’t disappoint…
I spent one of the most enjoyable days ever wandering around the various interior, design, art and toyshops throughout Stockholm; mooching around looking for the perfect penguin gift. I found a few possible contenders, and was also sent on a few abortive missions when shop assistants suggested other shops that might just have that elusive bird. Everyone I met that day was intrigued and entertained by my quest and I heard so many fantastic and fun stories about penguins. I was having a fabulous time of it – despite not actually finding what I wanted. Now it turns out that a lot of the penguin stories are (unfortunately) urban myths – but they are wonderful stories none the less. My favourites are the classic backpack abduction, the rather farcical plane watching and one which seems to be another of those “world famous in Sweden” stories: the penguin in the bath (apologies for the language, but I cant find it in english!).
Now I had it in my head that I wanted to find a specific type of penguin: a stylish, contemporary, not too expensive, relatively small and definitely Swedish made. I kind of assumed that I would find a nice crystal one – but no… they only make tacky ones or eye wateringly expensive ones. I looked at the handicraft shops – and they had (of course) lots of elks – but no penguins. I went to one of my favourite shops Designtorget but they were having a “duck week” so were overrun with lots of perfect ducks – but again no penguins. But sitting in a pub chatting to an old work colleague who I had bumped into in the street he reminded me of the toy manufacturer Brio and there range of classic wooden toys – maybe they had a penguin? So off I trotted to the largest toy shop I could find and found my gift: