Had a slightly rubbish week last week so to cheer me up on Saturday, Alex decided to treat me to a surprise night out. Alex had booked a steak restaurant in Södermalm (the island we live on) on the Wednesday. Saturday morning she gets an email saying it was too busy to take the booking. Not ideal, ‘but fear not’ we thought, we shall just wonder to one of the many fine eateries in our salubrious part of town until we happen upon something that takes out fancy.
With that in mind, at 6.30 pm we went to the fancy new burger place round the corner (think Byron burger). At this stage we both really fancied a burger… next free table? 9.20pm. Just the three hour wait then. Onwards…
Four. Yes four restaurants later, each of varying sizes and cuisines, and we still couldn’t get a table. Every single place was booked up solid and had a two hour minimum waiting time. The lessons are two fold dear reader. Whilst people do tend to eat early in Sweden, they also tend to book. Any future visitors coming to see us or just passing through, you can have no reservations about making reservations in Sweden*.
Secondly, Sweden is clearly doing well financially because everywhere, and I’m talking three Michelin stared places to places you’d want a tetanus jab after eating in them, is absolutely packed. Seriously, as far as I can tell, if you open it in Stockholm, they will come… shop/bar/café/restaurant/bowling alley/toilet museum, it really doesn’t matter, people will come in and they will spend money.
Unfortunately our little story doesn’t finish there. To round of the night, the idea was to go and see ‘Whiplash’ (Oscar winning film that I’ve wanted to see for about 3 months) at 9pm. Given it was 8 at this stage and we’d had no joy finding somewhere nice to eat, we thought we’d just go and buy the tickets… That’s right, sold out. A film on its last day of release, that has been in the cinema for over 3 months, has sold out at a 9pm viewing on a Saturday night.
As I said, open anything in Stockholm and they will come.
Completely exasperated we decided to cut our loses and headed to the nearest supermarket which incidentally happens to also be the best supermarket in Stockholm (yes, I really do need to stop spending so much time on my own during the day), pick up the required materials to make our own burgers and watch the final three episodes of the box set of Twin Peaks**. Now that’s a Saturday night!
Now Saturday was fantastic of course, but not quite what Alex had in mind. So to make up for it, she took me to the pub on Sunday to watch Manchester United v Liverpool. Now to my Liverpool supporting friends and people with no interest in football, I’m not going to dwell on the result here any longer than Gerrad spent on the pitch… oh look, I just used up all my time… but I did want to make the point that Liverpool are BIG over here. A few of their players are on TV adverts and the pubs are full of ‘Swedpoolians’ – or whatever the correct phrase might be. As I’ve said before, living in Sweden is not without its challenges…
So yes, the other big thing this week as the dreaded first creative writing class. As I mentioned last week I’m ‘working on a book’… When I say ‘working on a book’, I mean it’s taken me 7 years to write the first chapter, which means I’ll be about 234 when it’s finished – I’ll see you all at the book signing! Anyhow, to help move that process along a bit I’ve signed up for a creative writing class over here. To be honest, things didn’t initially sound great when I read this on the introductory email,
‘Writers of all levels and backgrounds are encouraged to bring up to 5,000 words of original work, a novel, poem, screenplay or can act out a play.’
Four words to fill a person with dread right there, ‘act out a play’… Things were hardly improved when I saw the profile of some of the people going,
“A writer, editor, and Creative Writing graduate student at The University of Oxford….”
“I like surfing, quantum physics, big data and cricket. :)”
Given I’ve never written anything, I’m not sure my, ‘I once wrote a short piece for the School newspaper, the Regal Beagle***’ was going to cut it… But I decide to hell with those kinds of intimidation tactics, nobody puts Fraser Hynes in the corner! … As if, they were as lovely a bunch of people as you can image, but it sounds more dramatic…
I won’t lie though reader, I was nervous going there. As part of my job I’ve presented to rooms with hundreds of people in them… to CEO’s, CFO’s, CMOs, basically lots of people with a big ‘C’ in their job title… and had to face some very difficult questioning… but reading out loud something YOU’VE created? Something that’s come out of your head? That complete strangers are going to judge? Well that’s a completely different ball game let me tell you.
So I arrive at the English Bookshop (http://bookshop.se/) – clues in the title, it sells books in English, with my 2,500 word transcript tucked discretely in my bag… but I’m early! Its 6.15 and the class doesn’t start till 6.30. So what do I do? Do I go inside probably the only shop in the whole of Sweden that I can actually browse and understand what I’m looking at? Or do I do that terrible awkward English thing of walking round the block for 10 minutes, pretending to look interested in shop windows full of things I don’t recognise… that’s right, 10 minutes in Stockholm cold it is, I’m such an idiot sometimes…
Anyway, I get back to bookshop as people are starting to arrive. If you’ve never done one of these random meet up things, can I firstly highly recommend it. You meet such an eclectic mix of people. So in the class we have a 15 year old poet and his mum… A more mature lady who is working on her memoirs having lived in LA for the last 30 years… An Oxford University undergraduate leading the course… (I think) her American boyfriend how is short film maker… And a New Zealander who has just returned from Zambia where she was researching the book she’s writing. Oh and me, new to Stockholm, trying to avoid diplomatic incidents…
How did it go?
Well I can’t divulge details that might affect the integrity of the session, but it went something like this. We all sat in a circle and the host introduced herself. We did the usual, ‘Hi, my name is [blank], and I’ve been a writer for [blank]” – kind of like an AA meeting for people with an addiction to paper and ink. Then it’s straight into the work.
First out the blocks was the 15 year old poet. Now I, like a lot of people I suspect don’t really get poetry. Most of it seems to have no structure and essentially be a collection of self-indulgent twaddle… but let me tell you, this 15 year olds work was brilliant. Honestly, I’m going to get his name because I’ll be amazed if he isn’t published at some point in the future. Beautiful use of language and technique. Just amazing. The way the session works is the reader goes through their work out loud and then the rest of the group critiques it, the ‘author’ having to sit in silence.
Well, if I say that the 15 year old after we did 20 minutes of critique of his work was left asking for some ‘negatives’ about it, that should give you an idea of how good his work was. My only thought at the time? I really, really hope I’m not next.
As it happens I didn’t have to go next, American read a few pages of his new screenplay and the New Zealander read a chapter of her book… apparently readers are pre-determined and I didn’t have to read. However, the class is every two weeks (not next week because it’s Easter). So at the next class I will read… just not after that kid!
So if the last few weeks have been all about me dipping my toe into the world of Swedish Politics, this week has been all about getting famous on the Swedish Charity scene.
Famous? You say? That’s right, famous, because I have made it onto a Swedish news website! Basically there was a charity walk on Monday afternoon through the streets of ‘Slussen’ – cool part of town that I go on about – and I made it on to this reputable news website’s home page,
There I am…
What do you mean you can’t see me? I’m right there! How about now?
Ok, I say I was ‘involved’ in the charity walk, I was involved in the sense that I was sat in Muggen (d) and it happened to start outside my window. But that really is me in the window and I can prove it, because here’s my view of the walk…
You’ve got to take fame when you can… Anyway, if you want to check out the charity, they do some pretty amazing work round the world for people with mental health issues, http://www.fountainhouse.org/
So finally (finally!) one thing people have been asking me a lot about is the work situation. Well it’s a long complicated story which I’ll get into another time, but I just wanted to share with people some freelance work I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks for the fine people at Millward Brown, Adrian, Emily and Oliver. I can’t give too much detail because of something called a ‘confidentiality agreement’ (whatever that is – I’m joking Emily, just joking!) But basically the project involves working on a market feasibility project for this new start up who have come up with what I can only describe as an incredible new product. Just incredible. If they get it right, I guarantee that in a year you will all be familiar with this product and they have the potential to make millions (before you ask, I have indeed looked into buying shares and unfortunately you can’t… not that I’ve ever bought shares or no how to do that, but that’s what I’ve been told anyway).
My point is this. When working on projects like this, I’m not sure there is a better job in the world. You get to help, in perhaps only a small way but still, people develop something that has huge potential, speak to some incredibly knowledgeable, smart people and work with a company who are developing something which could literally have an impact on all of our lives. That’s the sweat spot of market research (or whatever you want to call it) and honestly, it can’t be beat.
Till next time my friend,
Fraser ‘names not down you’re not coming in’ Hynes
*Apart from the wonderful people at ‘Meatballs for the People’, they always have ’a little extra room at the back.’
**On a serious note, if you have never seen Twin Peaks or like me were too young to appreciate it first time round, stop reading this blog immediately, get on Amazon and order a copy now. It should be compulsory viewing and I can’t think of anything good that’s been on TV in the last 20 years that hasn’t been influenced by it… Actually, ok, just watch the first series when David Lynch was still interested and the first 6/last 4 episodes to the second. The rest is a bit self-indulgent, but worth dragging yourself through.
***Not actually the name of our school newspaper, we didn’t have one, I made that bit up. But I’ve always thought ‘The Regal Beagle’ was a great name for a newspaper. It’s actually the name of a pub in Canada which does a great line in oversize portions of chicken wings. I digress.
BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS! You won’t believe this. I’m sat in a new café today Vetebullen (http://www.yelp.se/biz/vetebullen-stockholm-2) and who is sat on the table next to the door as I walk in? The creative writing course tutor- you can’t make this stuff up. Anyway, she asked if I will be reading next time. I said yes. So there you have it, let the critique begin!
Bump Watch: Bump was a little naughty this week and went through a few days of rapid growth wiping out mum. All fine though, the ‘iron girders’ I pulled together last week are helping and after a couple of days off work ill, she is back to firing on all cylinders.
Beard Watch: The beard is back. Beard watch is over.
Picture of week
Track of the week
Out of respect for the 15 year old poet, I was thinking of other ‘exceptions to the rule’ and came up with this. As a rule, I don’t especially like Country Western music… but as I discovered on Tuesday, with every rule there is an exception… An ‘oldie but a goodie’ from Glen Campbell, Wichita Lineman,