A Tale of Three City (visits) – #1: ‘Easter with the Outlaws’

Starting with the weekend just gone myself and Alex are passing through a bumper filled ‘tricolour’ of family related weekend visits. Each will no doubt have its own colours, flavours, tastes and sounds…  I might be stretching the metaphor slightly here… basically for three weekends on the bounce we have family over.

The weekend just gone (Easter in case you hadn’t noticed) saw the arrival of my ‘Outlaws’ the wonderful Brian and Helen Dobbins. Next up are the ‘terrible twosome’ Roisin and Kyle, my brother and sister. And to round off this veritable Smörgåsbord (see what I did there?) of visitors, we have Brenadido and Deirdre (my mum and dad) next weekend … God help the coffee shop counters of Sweden when my dad gets a look at those prices! But that is for another time, this blog is about the visit of the ‘outlaws’ and what you can expect from a Gold Star visit to see me and Alex!*

As regular readers will know, I find myself with a lot of free time at the minute so was more than happy to meet Brian and Helen at ‘T-Centralen train station’ (i.e. the ‘central train station’ – don’t let anyone tell you these blogs aren’t informative) on Thursday afternoon when they arrived.

Picture the scene. They have just arrived. I have an afternoon to introduce them to this unique land called Stockholm. I wonder what delights and marvels I should show them first? The beautiful vistas? The unique architecture? The medieval streets of old town? …. Or how about I sack off all that and just take them to Muggen (d) for a coffee?

Pic 1

That’s right, The Outlaws first introduction to this entirely new country and culture was an overpriced coffee and infamous ‘Jazz Sandwich’ at Muggen (d). Now in my defence, this blog has got a lot to answer for because the visit to Muggen (d) was done on request. Apparently it’s become a bit of a ‘celebrity location’ after my numerous mentions and media coverage in last week’s blog… ok, I say ‘celebrity location’ in the sense that I apparently mention it a lot and people want to see it… which is deeply, deeply depressing for all concerned.

Anyway, after a short hop round the cafés of Sodermalm, that evening we had dinner at our favourite restaurant Fem Små Hus (http://www.femsmahus.se/en/). Fem Små Hus literally translates to ‘five little houses’ and is incredible. It’s hard to describe but essentially consists of five big rooms which have been cut form the rock below and beautiful old building in Gamla Stan. The food is exceptional in particular the reindeer… now steady yourself dear reader, I know that the image of sweet old Rudolf, Blitzen and Dasher swishing through the air delivering Santa’s presents with big fat happy smiles on their faces just came cascading into your head, but you must remember we are in Scandinavia and it is the job of this blog to report the hard truths. They eat reindeer over here, end of.

Anyhow, moving on before we lose the vegetarian readers all together, Friday saw us do our favourite activity and visit the ‘old town’ Gamla Stan. Now I’ve talked about Gamla Stan, its beautiful old cobbled streets, hidden cafés and restaurants before so I won’t dwell on that again – and to be honest, if you come visit you will be going.

But one new Church we discovered contained a sculpture which has brought into question everything I’ve been lead to believe about what it is to be English**

Inside the stunning Sven Storkyrkan Cathedral (http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/stockholmsdomkyrkoforsamling ) is this monument…

A bad day to be a dragon

A bad day to be a dragon

Depicting, if you haven’t guessed, George, yes our George, slaying the dragon… Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’, 1966, The Queen… so on and so forth.

Only it turns out he’s not technically OUR George.

”What!” I hear you cry, “But I’ve sunk many a pint in the St George boozer at the top of our road!” And whilst that may well be true, according to the bumf under the sculpture he was Danish (!?!) and slayed the dragon in Libya! How you go from that to the patron saint of England is anyone’s guess, if only there was a place you could input questions like that which then gave you answers…

Anyhow, with my world rocked once, little did I know that on the way back to the flat it would be rocked for a second time in as many hours! Dejected (I’m building tension here, I wasn’t that bothered about the whole St. George thing) and wondering back through the streets to our flat, my world was about to come crashing down once again, for round the corner from our very own flat, about a 4 minute walk, Brian found this place,

pic 3

That’s right, the bloody ‘Tea Centre of Stockholm’ on our very doorstep!

Think of a type of tea. No really, go on, think of a type of tea. Got one? What is it? Yea, they sell that.

So after weeks of moaning about the general ‘tea’ situation over here, I took this news about as well as you can imagine,

pic 4

Anyhow… Now I believe that everyone reading this blog went to school? For some I appreciate memories from that time might be more ‘cloudy’ than others but please try for a moment to cast your mind back to those heady days. How many of you can remember your first ‘school’ trip? I’m not talking about the 6th Form jolly to Alton Towers, I’m talking about the FIRST school trip… You remember, the first time you got to wear your own clothes to school, the ‘seating politics’ on the coach which make the issues in the Middle East look like a small skirmish, the excitement of having a day off…

And how many of you also remember the inevitable crushing realisation that you didn’t read the instructions properly and that the trip is ‘educational’. Living in Manchester, this was commonly known as the annual school trip to Quarry Bank Mill. Essentially it was an old cotton mill just outside Manchester Airport which they’d renovated to FURTHER torture children – Im not exaggerated, they used to give a 2 hour detailed lecture on the development of the ‘spinning jenny’ to a bunch of 10 year olds… Now don’t get me wrong, with age comes an appreciation of such places, but aged 10 it felt like some kind of special torture.

Well on Saturday, we went to Stockholm’s Quarry Bank Mill. This being Sweden of course, it was a ‘little’ different.

Skansen (http://www.skansen.se/sv) for residents of Stockholm and the surrounding area brings back (the good kind) of tear inducing memories of school trips and summer holidays with the family. Set on one of Stockholms islands, Djurgården, a short ferry ride away, it was the world’s first open air museum and zoo.

Model map of Skansen – it’s big… and err, open air

Model map of Skansen – it’s big… and err, open air

In addition to the Zoo, they have recreated five centuries worth of Swedish history in the form of authentic historical buildings and dwellings from each time period,

Life ‘back in the day’ - Dull...

Life ‘back in the day’ – Dull…

...Very dull

…Very dull

Most of the buildings are also peopled by characters in period dress,

pic 10 pic 9

I have to say it’s an incredible place to visit, especially by boat. But as these pictures show, as with most things in Stockholm would be a lot more fun in the summer,

pic 11 pic 12

Now this was interesting. Apparently back in ye olden times every village would have one of these in the centre of town, usually next to the local pig sty. They were used as punishment for annoying mothers-in-laws who would be chained by the neck to them, sometimes for days on end!

Pic 12 a

For starters, can you believe such a thing used to exist? And secondly, that they got rid of them??? …. ONLY JOKING HELEN!!!

Now like me, do you ever have one of those times in life where you say something and the people you are talking to you reply, ‘how do you NOT know that’? Well mine came when Alex said that she had arranged a three hour, six course cruise through the Stockholm archipelago.

Now I’d heard that Stockholm was an ‘archipelago’ but if I’m honest didn’t actually know what that meant. It’s clearly a ‘blind spot’ in my knowledge, much like how to know when a potato is properly cooked and the correct way to put a sleeping bag back into its bag… I digress. For those of you like me not familiar with the concept, The Stockholm archipelago is a cluster of 30,000 islands, skerries and rocks spreading 80 km east from the city into the Baltic Sea. It’s common for Stockholmers to have a summer house on one of the larger islands and spend their 5 week summer holidays there.

Anyhow, the trip was stunning and to get in the spirit of things I even dressed up as a ships mate,

pic 13

Thankfully Brian’s camera phone is infinitely better than mind and he was able to capture some stunning shots,

pic 14 main

Whereas I of course was much more interested in taking pictures of stupid things, like this boat shaped like a coach. Probably my favourite picture in the history of photography,

pic 15

All in all then, a fabulous weekend, throughout which myself and Brian worked our way through a selection of Swedish native beers. The evidence of which is below in order of preference (left to right – things got a little ‘messy’ in ranking terms toward the right there).

pic 16

Needless to say, the findings will no doubt be ratified over the next two weekends.

Till next time,

Fraser ‘Spinning Jenny’ Hynes

*Unfortunately our ‘Gold Star’ visitors package is available for a limited time and only to ‘Gold Star’ members. To qualify for Gold Star Membership you need to be either a parent or next of kin.

**I’m not technically ‘English’ which is long story for another time, but let’s not dwell on that and maintain the dramatic tension, well ok, ‘mild interest’ I just generated.


I almost forgot. We finally have the internet so can ‘faceskypetime’ or whatever it’s called. Get in touch via facebook if you want to ‘link up’ or (again) whatever it’s called.

Bump Watch

Bump has been very active this week and is show an aptitude for ‘performance’. There is an excellent chance there might be a little ‘Oscar’ winner in there… or maybe a ‘Bafta’… ok, ‘TV Choice’ award, but they all count!

Picture of week

Things have been slow on the old work front this last week so I’ve taken to modelling. I say modelling, I’ve allowed my likeness to be used in a series of decorative serving plates in some of the more ‘trendy’ boutique shops of Stockholm,

Pic of the week Pic of the week 2

#Disclaimer: Nothing about the above paragraph is true but there is an uncanny resemblance don’t you think?

Track of the week

Dedicated to Brian and Helen, Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf


If you want to know why, best to ask them as I’m staying well out of it!

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Three City (visits) – #1: ‘Easter with the Outlaws’

  1. Brian & I are going to Vinopolis this Thursday 16th for the Whisky Tasting session purchased by our respective children as a Christmas Present.
    Helen is otherwise engaged (can’t control her own diary apparently) so Brian is let loose.
    We’re taking a wheelie suitcase to buy more stock at the Whisky Shop afterwards.
    I’ve already got over 60 different Malts laid down for afterwards.
    Sara has to pick up the pieces on Friday.


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