Tea Aid, watching rugby with the Irish Ambassador and first visitors

Welcome to blog number two. Can I firstly start by thanking everybody for their very kind words of support, messages about the baby and commercial, multimillion pound franchise ideas – Mark, I’m still waiting for Joyce to get in touch about opening a chain of tea shops in the country that consumes the third largest amount of coffee per head of capita – what could possibly go wrong?

And it’s on the subject of tea, an issue which I suspect will feature heavily over the next few years, that we start. As I mentioned last week we had our first visitors this weekend, Lauren (Loz) and Dennis. It’s hard to emphasis what a lovely person Lauren is, how many people give you a ‘thank you’ card on arrival, AND then another one on departure? But imagine my joy when she disappeared back to her room and re-emerged moments later with two giant packets of PG tips.

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Now the eagle eyed amongst you might question the sanity of removing said tea bags from their innocent PG tips boxes, and placing them into clear bags which look absolutely nothing at all like the bags Mexican crime lords use to transport their ‘products’ illegally into America. You might also then question the sanity of taking said bags onto a plane… but that’s just how Loz rolls – life on the edge!

Anyway, the main thing is that I now have at least two weeks of good old fashioned PG Tips to tie me over. I should also point out that Loz also brought decaffeinated Earl Grey for Alex… Mostly it was, all in all, a good tea day.

Regular (i.e. week one readers) of this blog will now that in my first week here I was spending an inordinate amount of time at a coffee shop called ‘Muggen’, or as I renamed it, ‘Mugged’ in light of what they were charging… Well in a startling new development I have a ‘new’ mugged… introducing, ‘Coffice’ (http://coffice.coop/?lang=en).

Coffice? I hear you cry? What a strange name for a coffee shop? Well hold on to your hats dear readers because the name is actually a clue to a little piece of genius… ‘Coffice’ is actually a deliberate combination of the word ‘coffee’ and ‘office’ (I suspect some of you may have figured that bit out for yourselves already) and is a literal translation for what it is – a coffee shop which doubles as an office.

What an absolutely genius idea, basically it\s set up for people in small start-ups, freelancers, contractors (and the unemployed – hello!) where you can go and work all day. It’s got small meeting rooms you can book out, brilliant wifi and more plug sockets than a branch of PC World. It’s a genius idea and could definitely be replicated in other cities where there are lots of small businesses/start-ups/big tech industry – Shoreditch/Old Street/Hoxton anyone? Actually, not sure about London but apparently this style of coffee shop is really taking off in the Nordics where they do pride themselves on their ‘independent’ tech industry.

The service is also exceptionally poor, which is actually great because you can sit there all day and not be disturbed – ordered a tea on Wednesday and it took the guy two hours to get it to me. Needless to say of course I don’t abuse the hospitality (I am British for crying out loud!) so its ‘black tea’ on arrival, overpriced sandwich for lunch (with a top mind Maddog) and fruit smoothy in the afternoon (the only 1 of my 5 a day)… job done.

One slight issue is that once again I have become known to the staff – “the usual?”, “oh go on then” (out of interest a ‘chai masala’ tea, which is actually quite nice) … but I have now worked out why I am remembered. I should have explained that we were only able to bring one suitcase each when we moved and everything else had been in transit for the past two weeks. Like an idiot of course I only brought one (unsuitable) coat, ‘The Burb’… so I rock up every day with the old mac done up to my neck, basically looking identical to the day before (a bit like a very cold Inspector Clueso without the hat and a beard instead of a tash). And of course they remember me because of it, “hey look, it’s that stupid English man my mate who does those on street questionnaires was telling me about…”

The other good thing is that it shuts at 6, at which point I go home and cook dinner… NOW, there will be some of you reading that last sentence and will have had one (or a combination of some) of the following reactions,

  1. What? They have Ragu in Sweden?
  2. Who is checking on Alex’s health? Do the local authorities know this is happening? What’s the number for social services in Stockholm?
  3. I thought I’d seen something on ‘World’s worst cooking bloopers 5’ about someone burning down a block of flats in Stockholm cooking rice…
  4. Pull the other one Fraser, it’s got bells on it.

Well silence disbelievers, because I cooked dinner every night last week and not one of them was Pork in Ragu (for those of you looking for the recipe online, it’s basically pork… in Ragu…). That’s right, with a little extra time on my hands I’ve taken to cooking real meals – ‘heat me ups’ aren’t really available over here anyway.

Now don’t get me wrong, I won’t be appearing on ‘ready, steady, cook’ with old Ainslie anytime soon and if a recipe says put something in and we don’t have it, then it ain’t getting cooked! But for the first time in my life I’m actually enjoying cooking, which is saying something given I have in the past, burnt rice (apparently impossible), set fire to a grill, and got Ed over to show me how to cook bacon.

But enough about me, what’s happening in Stockholm?

Well last week was ‘Sportlov’. As far as I can tell Sweden is very cool when it comes to ‘organised fun’ (but in a good way – no one likes forced organised fun) and the idea of ‘Sportlov’ (which I think basically translates to ‘week of sport’) is that everybody who has them, takes the week off work and takes their children away to do sport. What a great idea? Apparently that mostly involves going up to the mountains and skiing, cross-country skiing, down-dale skiing (I made that last one up but you get the idea).

The only problem is that everybody wants a piece of the action so I was a little surprised to see a poster at the local cinema encouraging kids to pop in for a movie during sport week. I’m note entirely sure how smashing back a litre of fizzy pop and a bucket of popcorn ties into ‘sport’ … but then again McDonalds do sponsor kids football back in England so I guess anything is possible!

The big news of course though was the visit of our very good friend Lauren and her new fella Dennis.

I’ve known Lauren (Loz) for a very long time but it turns out that I went to the same secondary school as Dennis but we weren’t in the same year. I say weren’t in the same year, he’s a ‘little’ younger than me but we both (for a short period of time) got the same school bus together. Now given it was an all-boys school that usually means one of two things. Either I bullied him – you know what it’s like, older boys etc. Which would be bad. Or he bullied me. Which would have been disastrous (for me at least!)… Thankfully it was neither and we all got on very well, despite him being a City fan, but we all have our crosses to bear…

Friday night was excellent, after a few drinks round the flat (buying booze over 4% is an ‘interesting’ experience I’ll share another time) we headed out to already one of our favourite places to eat: ‘Meatballs for the People’ (http://meatball.se/hem/ ). Set up by an Australian (???) it specialises in, well you’ve guessed it again, providing meatballs… for the people! It’s a fantastic place to eat – people coming to visit there is an excellent chance we’ll be dropping in. It’s managed by this very flamboyant middle aged Swedish man who seemed hell bent on getting the three of us (not Alex of course) as drunk as possible – for the record any beer over 10% doesn’t taste great, but does have a kick… Interesting side note, it also does the best non-alcoholic beer known to man…. if you are interested in that kind of thing of course.

Saturday morning (afternoon, see above) we actually did something touristy! We live within walking distance of Gamla Stan (http://www.visitstockholm.com/en/See–do/Attractions/gamla-stan/) which is the historic part of Stockholm. Full of small winding cobbled streets, boxed in by the shop fronts of galleries, restaurants, café’s and tourist trinket shops, its definitely worth a leisurely wonder through its dense streets. In the centre is the Nobel Museum (http://www.nobelmuseum.se/) where we spent a few very interesting hours hearing about previous winners, their incredible achievements and equally incredible amount of money Alfred Nobel made from working out really good ways to blow stuff up (turns out inventing dynamite at the time he did was a nice little earner). The rest of day was spent popping by the royal palace (http://www.kungahuset.se/kungligaslotten/kungligaslottet.4.7c4768101a4e8883780002658.html) to see if the king was in and fancied a chat, and numerous Fika’s.

The big one however was the next day. We’d been invited to the British Embassy to watch the England v Ireland rugby match. What we only found out on Friday from Alex though was that the Irish Ambassador and about 20 of their delegates were coming down to ‘stir stuff up’… I jest of course, but given Dennis is of Irish stock, here was the first of my no doubt many potential international incidents.

Worst still (depending how you look at) the embassy is the cheapest place you can buy a pint, not just in Stockholm, not just in Sweden, but in the whole of Scandinavia – £1.60 a pint! That’s almost 3 times less than a cup of tea in ‘Mugged’!

So let’s look at the components of this potentially diplomatically disastrous combination: The rugby is on + two thirsty Mancs + beer cheaper than tea + the Irish Ambassador… As it happens of course, it all went off like a dream. England were as absolutely clueless (looking good for the world cup chaps…) as Sexton was faultless… and tragically we couldn’t work out who the Ambassador was to get a selfy with him! Instead you’ll have to make do with this one…

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Still, who knows, with any luck we’ll get the American’s in the next football world cup… now THAT would be an interesting Embassy session…

Till next time,

Fraser ‘always supports Australia in the rugby anyway’ Hynes

Regular features

Bump Watch: More circular

Beard Watch: More thickier

Picture of week

Loz goes on a rampage through Gamla Stan… not really, apparently these were pumps that back in the day Swedish peasants (i.e. 99% of the population) would use to use to draw water up from the wells below the city. I didn’t have the heart to tell Loz they were welded closed at least half a century ago…

Loz goes on a rampage through Gamla Stan… not really, apparently these were pumps that back in the day Swedish peasants (i.e. 99% of the population) would use to use to draw water up from the wells below the city. I didn’t have the heart to tell her they were welded closed at least half a century ago…

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