Just after Easter weekend there was a knock at our front door. The man who lives below had come upstairs to introduce himself. At least that’s what I thought. It quickly transpired he’d actually come up to complain.
Complaint 1 – A kid in one of the other flats had thrown a couple of ‘house parties’ over the Easter weekend which, to be fair, had been very loud and run into the early hours. We’ve all done it, parents are away and things get a little out of hand (just in case my mum and dad are reading this, I of course am the exception to this rule).
Complaint 2 – The floors in our apartment block are thin and he subtly requested that we just be a little careful shutting doors at night as they have a small child and it disturbs him.
All fair enough and I thought nothing more of it.
Well it turns out ‘complaint 2’ was a slightly bigger deal than he might have given me the impression. Now to be fair subtle isn’t really my style and I didn’t realise that he was in fact making a serious point about us keeping the noise down. At least I didn’t know until last Friday when this letter came through the door,
Couple of things,
- From that note you’d be forgiven for thinking we are a pair of 20 year olds having all night ‘rave ups’ and not a pair of people in their mid-30s who don’t know enough people in Stockholm to have a rave up (or indeed what a rave up is)… Not even mentioning the fact that one of us is nearly 8 months pregnant!
- In a letter crammed packed with hilarity, my two favourite parts have to be, ‘why don’t you just re-carpet the flat’? And ‘aim on the side of the toilet’. Read that again. ‘Aim on the side of the toilet’. I don’t know what is more disturbing, that I’m a 36 year old being told how to go to the toilet in my own flat. Or the fact they’ve been listening to me go to the toilet!
Anyway, apparently this is a very Swedish thing to do, as in sending notes rather than being confrontational – they even sign if off with ‘have a nice weekend’. Thankfully Alex, ever the diplomat, took matters into her own hands and sent back a nicely worded note that we will do our best to keep the noise down and pee against the side of the toilet, etc etc.
She also talked me out of buying a second hand drum kit, which in hindsight might not have helped resolve the situation. Of course how they are going to cope with a new born baby is anyone’s guess.
So whilst all this was happening we had two new visitors, the lovely Mark and Joyce Wilson [insert obligatory vantage point view spot picture]
Mark here clearly not willing to accept that the sun does occasionally shine in Stockholm for longer than a few minutes. And just look at that tweed jacket!
A most enjoyable weekend apart from Sunday when it rained all day – I’ve honestly never seen anything like it, it must have rained for 20 hours straight and I’m from Manchester. God help us in the winter when that equates to about 10 foot of snow.
One slight negative, one of my front teeth fell out over dinner on the Saturday night. Long story, it was an implant from 8 years ago so I guess it was its time to ‘pop’. Still obviously very annoying but I did once again get to experience Swedish service at its very best.
Me: “When’s the next appointment slot available?”
Dental receptionist: “22nd June”
Me: “22nd JUNE! 4 weeks? I’m missing one of my front teeth!”
DR: “That’s the earliest we can do.”
Me: “Are there any other dentists?”
DR: “Yes, of course, lots, I can give you some names and phone numbers.”
Me: “Will they be quicker?”
DR: “I doubt it.”
Me: “Are there any other options?”
DR: “Well there’s the emergency dental practice who will see you straight away and fix it today, no problem.”
So off I head to the emergency dental practice, Folklandvården, the entrance to which looks more like the staff entrance to an apple store than an dentists (this happens a lot in Stockholm),
Well imagine my surprise when I see that the logo below the one for the dental practice is for a company I used for work for in London called JCDecaux.
For those of you who don’t know JCDecaux (why would you?) they basically sell outdoor advertising space. I worked in the Marketing department and frequently came into contact with sales people. Now to be honest a lot of the time working with sales people does feel a bit like pulling teeth but I can’t help but think combining the two things is taking things a little too far,
“Failed to hit your Q1 Target? Well that’s a filling.”
“Missed two quarters in a row? Root canal time I’m afraid.”
Although saying that the threat of oral torture might have been quite useful in certain instances. Or just as a method to keep certain people quite for 10 minutes!
Once again though, I have to return to a common theme in this blog series, booze. Specifically the cost of booze. Specifically, specifically, the cost of beer in pubs.
No doubt most of you will know that buying beer in Sweden and the Nordics generally is an exercise in broad day light robbery. Let me put it this way, if you end up paying around £7/£8 for ¾ of a pint, then you are about ‘even’. It is seriously expensive.
But fear not dear reader because I have taken it upon myself to find the cheapest pint in Stockholm. And it’s on this journey of discover that I have encounter the Hellströms Bar & Restaurant – http://www.hellstromsbar.se/.
Now I won’t lie. There is surely no coincidence that the word ‘hell’ is contained in the name of this boozer. Indeed even Beelzebub himself would argue it’s a bit of a ‘do-er upper’, but since seeing that sign on the front claiming you can get a pint, well ¾ of a pint, of Stor Stark (large strong) for 28 Krona (£2.14) I’ve been waiting for someone stupid enough to go in with me. Step forward Mr Mark Wilson, here seen holding in his hand the receipt as evidence that 2 ‘pints’ did indeed cost us 56 Krona,
And how was it you ask?
Absolute crap. Seriously, the worst pint I’ve ever drunk. To give you an idea, imagine someone took all the excess beer that gets collected at the end of the night in the drains underneath the beer taps and poured it into a giant vat. A vat which was left out in the sun for a few days and occasionally stirred with a giant rusty metal bar. Now imagine that liquid is transferring it into a giant keg and run through pipes which haven’t been cleaned for 12 months. That’s what it tasted like.
Still. Pints a pint right?
Further experiments with Swedish alcohol continued when we once again went to Pelikan, http://www.pelikan.se/en/ – rapidly becoming a favourite restaurant over here, especially (cliché alert) the pickled herring.
Two weeks before taking Mark and Joyce we’d gone with my mum and dad and indulged in a round of Aquavit which is a Swedish spirit you drink with dinner. Given no lessons were learnt first time round, myself and Mark decided to do it again (despite me saying what a bad idea it was). Well as you can see from both these pictures taken three weeks apart there isn’t a great deal of love for this particular Swedish ‘delicacy’. I will however endeavour to keep taking people until at least one person enjoys drinking it,
It does however bring me to a very interesting observation about Swedish toilets (not a great link, but do please bear with me). They have a very strange habit in Sweden of having a sink in both the cubicle AND the normal ‘communal area’ of the bathroom. As someone who is, to put it mildly, a little funny about such things this creates a complete social breakdown.
You go to the bathroom and wash and dry your hands in the sink in the cubicle. You walk out into the communal area and head for the door… Only there are people in there looking at you… Do they know about the ‘double sink’ thing? Do they think you haven’t washed your hands? That you are one of ‘those’ people? … You think about heading towards the door safe in the knowledge that YOU know you have already washed your hands but then the fear starts to bite, what if they don’t know about the sink in the cubicle? What if they think you are some kind of ‘no hand wash animal’?… The social pressure builds and you eventually head to the communal sink to wash your hands for a second time… But then you think, what if they DO know about the sink in the cubical? Do they now think I’m some kind of ‘two wash weirdo’? That I have some kind of skin condition that requires a double wash? Or perhaps I am so OCD that I need to wash my hands whenever I see a sink? Yes, that’s it, a ‘multi-sink hand washer’… Not wishing to offend any further, you proceed to wash your hands in ALL the sinks in the communal area mumbling something along the lines of ‘dirty hands make Fraser a naught boy’, before slowly exiting the bathroom felling a heavy weight of shame and a pair of extremely clean hands…
In other news, I also attended my next writing class (those of you who requested a copy of the first chapter of my book I promise I will get it to you shortly). It was quite interesting this time round as no one had any work prepared so we did some writing exercises instead. Firstly you had 15 minutes to describe a person’s car and contents and in that description reveal things about the owner. The second challenge was to describe a man and woman on a third date going back to the woman’s house. Through description of her flat, you had to reveal things about the woman including the fact she was recently divorced. All good exercises, but the end one was the best and I’d love someone to have a go at it.
Basically the course leader had previously entered a writing competition where you had to write a one sentence story that featured an item or items. She won the competition with this beauty,
“It was my turn to wear the dead boy’s glasses.”
If you can think of one or do better I love to hear them – my effort wasn’t especially great to be honest!
Growing, growing and growing some more. Movement, alertness and activity is becoming ever more visible and seems to increase the later it is in the day, peaking at night. Which is of course brilliant news, we have a baby that likes to wake up at night. Yeah!
Picture of week
On the subject of toilets (how lovely Fraser) this has to be the most random thing I’ve ever seen in one. Sat directly above the toilet in ‘The Half Way Inn’ pub (http://www.thehalfwayinn.se/) near our flat is this bust from the bow of a ship. As you can tell, most men use their right hand for balance when going to the loo.
Track of the week
Beastie Boys – (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)… well in Sweden anyway…
Fraser ‘crank it up to 11’ Hynes
*BREAKING NEWS* *BREAKING NEWS* *BREAKING NEWS* *BREAKING NEWS*
I almost forgot! We had our first ‘Swedish celebrity spot’ at the weekend. I say we, Mark pointed her out. We were having dinner in the apparently hip, happening, hot spot, Strandvagen 1 http://www.strandvagen1.se/ (overrated if you ask me, but what do I know) when Mark noticed sat behind us, Victoria Silvstedt … no me neither… but apparently she has done some bits and pieces you might be familiar with, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Silvstedt and apparently will be VERY familiar to men of a certain age.
We will remain vigilant in our quest for more celeb spots over the coming years.