When the younger officer has gone, the older man sits alone in the staffroom drinking his coffee. Older men rarely know what to say to younger men to let them know that they care. It’s so hard to find the words when all you really want to say is: ‘I can see you’re hurting.’


You might not know exactly how it feels, but perhaps you’ve also had moments when you stare at yourself in the mirror and think: This wasn’t how life was supposed to run out. That can terrify a person.


‘Grandchildren would make him feel important?’
Anna-Lena smiled weakly.
‘Have you ever held a three-year-old by the hand on the way home from preschool?’
‘You’re never more important than you are then.’


‘I can’t decide,’ the bank robber said, which were probably the truest words the bank robber had uttered all dat. When you’re a child you long to be an adult and decide everything for yourself, but when you’re an adult you realize that’s the worst part of it. That you have to have opinions all the time, you have to decide which party to vote for and what wallpaper you like and what your sexual preferences are and which flavour yogurt best reflects your personality. You have to make choices and be chosen by others, every second, the whole time.


She liked a drink and could tell dirty jokes, no matter who she was with. If anyone even asked what God would think about that, she always replied: ‘I don’t think we agree about everything, but I have a feeling He knows I’m doing the best I can. And I think maybe He knows I work for Him, because I try to help people.’ If anyone asked her to sum up her view o the world, she always borrowed Martin Luther: ‘Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.’


Her son loved her, but she never managed to get him to believe in God, because although you might be able to drum religion into people, you can’t teach faith.


Nothing is ever easier for people who never do anything themselves than to criticize someone who actually makes an effort.


‘How old are your grandchildren?’ she asked.
‘They’re teenagers now,’ Estelle said.
‘Oh, sorry to hear that,’ Anna-Lena said with feeling.

Estelle smiled feebly. If you’ve lived with teenagers, you know they only exist for themselves, and their parents have their hands full dealing with the various horrors of life. Both the teenagers’ and their own.


People’s dreams are always at their grandest when they’re looking for somewhere to live.


And I…damn, I love being boring with Ro. Does that sound mad? I love arguing with her about sofas and pets. She’s my everyday. The whole…world.
‘I like the everyday,’ Anna-Lena admitted.
‘Your mum was right, the ones who make you laugh last a lifetime,’ Estelle repeated, thinking of a British author who had written that nothing in the world is so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour. Then she thought about an American author who had written that loneliness is like starvation, you don’t realise how hungry you are until you begin to eat.

(Charles Dickets, Joyce Carol Oates)


Nothing must happen to you
No, what am I saying
Everything must happen to you
And it must be wonderful

(Bodil Malmsten)


Because perhaps it’s true what they say, that up to a certain age a child loves you unconditionally and uncontrollably for one simple reason: you’re theirs. Your parents and siblings can love you for the rest of your life, too, for precisely the same reason.


The truth. There isn’t any. All we’ve managed to find out about the boundaries of the universe is that it hasn’t got any, and all we know about God is that we don’t know anything. So the only thing a mum who was a priest demanded of her family was simple: that we do our best. We plant an apple tree today, even if we know the world is going to be destroyed tomorrow.

We save those we can.