A frozen Stockholm..

A scorcher! Today is forecast to reach the dizzying heights of zero degrees Celsius – hardly sunbathing weather, yet naked men are out and about. I’ll come back to them.

While Karl erects a coffee table barely higher than an ant, Anna serves home-made bread in an upturned, knotted handkerchief. They pad around their flat in fluffy dressing-gowns, speaking lovely, undulating Swedish.

As they boil eggs, I spend a short time watching my laundry from the loo. Though unusual in the UK, Swedish flats commonly house washing machines in the bathroom.

I feel that childish sense of wondrousness this morning: while snow falls on the street far below, I stand at the sink, frowning at a joystick instead of a tap. Breakfast is a further enigma. This continental concept of cold cheese and bread has never sat well with me, but cheese and marmalade together? Anna nods encouragingly.

Fish roe in a tube is liberally applied to my hard-boiled egg – a popular combination on a Christmas dinner table in Sweden. The egg spoon is plastic, which admittedly guards against tarnishing and that metallic after-taste, but it isn’t weighty enough to break into the damn shell to start with.

Narnia awaits outside, a land of fairytale. Ill-prepared in jeans, we drive out to Kalltorpssjon, a lake frozen to a depth of forty centimetres. Swedes skate on this deep lake, wearing salopettes and pushing prams, or towing placid, dummy-sucking toddlers in an array of sledges.

Managing a couple of 1200m laps without breaking any limbs, I brush away the light dusting of snow with an ice-skate, revealing  blackness below. Only a foot or so of ice separates me from fathoms – leagues, even – of freezing water.

It all seems safe enough, but most people have mini ice-picks around their necks, to claw their way back onto the ice in the event of falling through. Nearby, there’s a sauna in a hut at the lake edge, from which pink users emerge. Steaming humans walk to the large hole cut in the ice, entered via swimming-pool steps.

Some men –  only men, unfortunately – remove their towels for the rapid plunge into the lake, exiting with appreciably diminished members..