Spending two days in Sweden with Richard Ayoade sounds like fun – have you ever been to Stockholm before?
Only for work. I did a short film where they got me to speak Swedish. I’m good on “thank you” and “hi”. I’ve got friends in southern Sweden – I’m actually on my way to see them now.
What were your first impressions of the city?
I really love it – it’s incredibly chilled. There is something about the way the buildings don’t go higher than eight storeys. The shopping’s good, the food is nice, and there’s enough weird culture for me. Scandinavia is a great place to find curiosities – they’ve just opened a Museum of Failure in Helsingborg [now closed for winter but open again in April].
Are you a city breaker by nature?
I used to go on city breaks and then I had children [Olly is 13, Luke, ten, Tom, five]. I did a year of them with friends – once a month, we went to a different European city, had lots of late nights and the same foot-long hot dog after the same club. It comes after me in my dreams.
What’s your favourite city?
I love Rome. I used to live there. My dad worked for British Airways and I was there from the age of ten to 13. And then I did Italian for my degree, so I went there again for 18 months, and accidentally lived in a brothel. I haven’t been to Italy for ages. My ex-husband is Spanish so we always went to Spain, but now maybe I can go back to Rome.
In Travel Man, you do a rooftop walk with Richard and there’s a telling “Oh” from you when the words “safety harness” are mentioned…
I’m not a thrill-seeker. I really like libraries and museums. And supermarkets. Give me 24 hours in a place and I can quite often look as though I might live there. All actresses can do that, it’s a magical power.
What do you make of Stockholm’s local speciality – meatballs – and the Swedish tradition of fika?
I didn’t love the meatballs. If you like eating reindeer, they were probably excellent but I’m not good on wild meat. But I really liked the posters outside: “Have a load of balls”. The fika [essentially a coffee break with friends] was great, we were at a nice waterside café, and cinnamon buns are one of my favourite things in the world.
You go to the Abba Museum, and show off some moves, while Richard sits out. Are you a fan?
I used to really love Abba, as far back as 1980, when I was still in single figures. To be honest, I’ve done more all-girl dance routines like Bananarama – I had limited access to boys as a teenager, but I guess boys wouldn’t have played anyway. Richard considered joining in but couldn’t quite go there – he feared the Twitter backlash. The museum is definitely worth going to, though. There’s a phone there, and supposedly if it ever rings, it’s one of Abba on the other end. Can you imagine what’s happening in Benny’s and Bjorn’s houses? “I’m a bit bored and lonely… I know what I will do, I’ll ring Abba Museum…”
What would you have liked to do on this trip that you didn’t get a chance to?
I would have really liked to have taken a boat trip out to one of the islands (there are 24,000 of them in the Stockholm archipelago!).
Where will we see you next?
I’m in the film of Jo Brand’s novel The More You Ignore Me, which stars Sheridan Smith as a young mother in the 80s. I play her GP, who’s trying to get off with her husband. And I shot a guest role in Sky 1’s Trollied over the summer. My character is someone who doesn’t have confidence in her own emotions and puts on a silly voice to get away with expressing them.
What about the rumours of more Miranda?
Well, she said no, then maybe, then there was talk of a film, and we were all booked for that this summer, but it didn’t happen. I know she doesn’t want to feel that she’s just going back and doing it for the sake of it, she wants to make sure it’s really good. I’d love it if she did it. She’s just done this West End musical and everyone apart from me can sing – this is me talking to Miranda through your pages – so why doesn’t she write a musical?
Follow in Sally’s footsteps
The rooftop tour
This one-hour tour, 43m above ground, across the rooftops of the city can be booked in advance. takvandring.com/en/
Abba: The Museum
Costumes and other memorabilia are just part of the experience at this interactive museum show-casing one of Sweden’s greatest exports, which opened in 2013. Buy tickets online at abbathemuseum.com/en
Great balls of meat
The restaurant that Sally and Richard visited, Meatballs for the People, always has at least ten varieties on the menu, from reindeer to wild boar to moose to bear. Book ahead at meatball.se/en-se CH