Outside of Stockholm lies a wonderful archipelago – 1000s of rocky Islands, of various sizes, with soaring pine and birch trees and tiny little summer houses tucked away. The Swedes know how to preserve a natural area, and this is a great example – they even have composting toilets as standard, and humping buckets of water to and from wells is an everyday and much-looked-forward-to activity.
And then we have the ticks. The unassuming little Ixodes ricinus is the rogue in question, and can infect you with the unpleasant Lyme disease or the altogether more unpleasant, and incurable, TBE (Tick-borne encephalitis). These little blood-sucking buggers hide in trees and grass and latch onto anything passing which might be a deer (although their standards of “what might be a deer” are generally fairly shabby).
So after a day in the archipelago there is a certain ritual to follow. You must remove your clothing and get a loved one to scan every square centimetre of your body, flaps and all. Any ticks discovered must be removed carefully, by plucking them off in one piece with a tweezers. Care must be taken to not press the tick’s juices back into the host’s body, along with any malevolent and possibly lethal germs.
I was out on the islands last week for just one day and picked up about 8 of the bastards; M got 13; and H8 got about 10. And removal is not the end of them–they show up even days later, crawling out of shoes or unwashed underwear, like Jehovah’s Witnesses on a wet Sunday morning.
And when I think about it, this tick-picking ritual is probably how Sweden got its over-sexed reputation – all the couples in their summer houses of an evening, stark naked and carefully picking through every nook and cranny of each other’s bodies.
And if you are single and have nobody to search you, why then you can always call in the cute babe from the cottage across the way to help out. And if one thing leads to another, and floppy bits turn out to be not so floppy any more, just remember that you are doing your bit in upholding that ancient Swedish tradition – the après-tick.
You can always tell I have no idea how to wrap things up when I fall back on the “porn movie” ending. Ah well…