It was only 2017, although it now feels like a century ago. It was an unusually hot summer and we were spending some of it on the outer edge of the Stockholm archipelago. As is the local custom, we had rented a red cabin by a lake. The days were insanely long and we spent them messing about on the water, in an old rowing boat, and eating hot dogs on the grass. It was idyllic: like something out of Pippi Longstocking.
After a week, though, our eldest kid began to get bored. He was 16 and at that stage in life when the pleasures of a bucolic family holiday start to fade. Increasingly, he scrolled through his phone, commenting on the infinitely more exciting adventures that his friends seemed to be enjoying. He wanted to do something: the challenge for us was what. After all, we were in the middle of nowhere and we had the girls (12 and eight) to think of too. Reading the pamphlets that the cabin’s owners had left behind, only one activity seemed vaguely suitable for our purposes: a moose hunt.
Now, it’s fair to say that this suggestion was not greeted with immediate or universal acclaim. The moose may be a magnificent creature (weighing up to 850kg and standing two metres at the shoulder), but it lacks the star quality of a tiger or an elephant. And although there are about 400,000 of them in Sweden, they are rather shy beasts that don’t venture out until dusk. Our son muttered that this was not the kind of nightlife he’d been hoping for and the girls had to be reassured that we would be hunting the animals with binoculars rather than guns. But eventually we set off in a battered campervan, driven by a taciturn local called Mani. Time dragged as we crept along the forest tracks, waiting for the light to fall to allow us a possible sighting.
Then it happened.
All of a sudden, our son erupted from the back seat. "Look over there!" he yelled, as he frantically switched his phone from WhatsApp to camera mode. We scrambled for our binoculars, too, while urgently directing the girls, who were sitting in the front beside Mani. The whole campervan was now abuzz with excitement. My wife and I felt vindicated that the trip had proved a hit after all. The girls were straining at the window and my son seemed genuinely awestruck: "Oh my God, this is amazing!" he exclaimed. Only Mani said nothing. It was only when we got closer that we realised why: there was no moose in sight, but there was a couple of locals having sex on the bonnet of a car.
At this point, time seemed to stand still (unlike the amorous duo who, it must be said, kept at it with admirable enthusiasm). Realising that we had unwittingly taken our family on a dogging safari, we desperately hoped that the path would provide a change of direction. But there was only one track in this forest and it led inexorably towards a sweaty mass of humping humans. Our son doubled up with laughter. The little ones exchanged confused glances as we tried to distract them. Mani caught our eye in the rear-view mirror as we crawled past the crepuscular copulators. "Welcome to Sweden," he said without looking round.
So where’s he going with this story, I hear you ask? When’s he going to introduce the tenuous corona connection that we all know is coming? Perhaps he’s going to make some contrived point about our inability to recognise a threat until it’s too late? Maybe he’s going to argue that brands need to be able to change track during a crisis? Or is this some convoluted parable about our collective loss of innocence, whereby we’re the children and a traumatic event has made us question who’s being shafted in the dark forest of capitalism?
Fortunately, it’s nothing so pretentious. Because, frankly, I couldn’t face writing about Covid-19 this afternoon. Not when I’ve just spent all morning – and most of the past few weeks – thinking about it. No doubt, the "10 lessons we can learn" pieces will flow later, but for now I’m afraid I just wanted to switch off and focus on things that make me feel happy (I mean stuff like family, holidays and nature – not dogging).
Actually, if you really want a moral to the story, maybe that’s it. The next few months are going to be very difficult for all of us and desperately sad for many. But precisely because the upheaval is proving so severe, it’s crucial that we look after our mental health and find ways to escape. Yes, it is absolutely right that we ponder the profound implications that this crisis will have for business, culture and public life – but we mustn’t let it consume us altogether. As well as racking our brains for deep truths and commercial ramifications, we must allow our minds to go on the occasional moose hunt. On which note: good luck on yours and thanks for indulging me on mine.
Andy Nairn is co-founder of Lucky Generals