I am rubbish at languages. During my GCSE French exam I left 5 minutes early because if I hadn’t I’d have missed the last bus home. In the same exam there was a question where you had to ‘join the dots’ and name the animal it created (and they say education is getting worse?). Well I ended colouring in mine because I didn’t know the French for centipede. My point is that despite being here now for 3 months I haven’t learnt much (any) Swedish. Now Alex, who for context speaks three languages, thinks that the reason for this is that I was taught so badly at school that I have a mental block about learning languages. She may have a point. Anyhow, whilst I am committed to at least learning basic Swedish, I have to date learnt very little.
Now the reason for this opening is that on Tuesday me and Alex went to an antenatal class done exclusively in Swedish. For those of you who know us well, it will come as little surprise to hear that we missed the registration cut-off date for English language version. No problem for Alex, she is basically fluent. Not so great when your vocabulary covers, ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘thank you very much’, ‘sorry’ and err… yea, that’s it. To compound matters further, we were of course late (another popular trait of ours) which in Sweden has the same effect on people as telling them you just ran over their favourite cat. Needless to say, we weren’t overly popular with the midwife taking the class to start with and things were hardly improved in the ‘round the house’ introductions when she explained I didn’t speak a word of Swedish.
Anyway, the class begins and as is the Swedish approach to childbirth, with just the hand movements of the midwife I could see she was adopting the classic ‘hold nothing back’ approach to explaining exactly what will happening in the delivery room (thankfully nobody threw up like at the birthing lecture we went to a few weeks ago!). It’s quite strange watching someone essentially ‘mime’ childbirth as you can imagine. Let’s just say certain actions could be interpreted in a number of different ways and leave it at that.
We then moved on to meditating exercises. I have to be honest I find the whole thing about meditating a little weird at the best of times, but imagine sitting in silence for 20 minutes, eyes closed, collapsing into your bloody ‘Shakra’ or whatever it is, whilst someone gives you instructions in a language you don’t understand… To be honest I mostly sat their thinking about the last episode of Game of Thrones from the night before.
Anyway, half way through the class – after an hour and a half!!! – the woman next to me turns and asks,
“Are you getting any of this?”
“No, not a word.”
“Oh that’s funny.”
Turns away and starts talking to her husband again! Thank you very much!
And of course, what Swedish birthing class would be complete without the use of a wipe board covered in loads of words that I also didn’t understand? Quick game, can you spot what’s strange about that picture?
Let me draw your attention to the top left corner for a moment.
No yours eyes do not deceive you, that is in an orangutan,
Now that picture had been pinned to the top of the board throughout the class and after a couple of hours I’d completely forgotten about it. Well imagine my surprise when the midwife suddenly, without warning (there may have been a warning, how would I know?) jumped up out her chair, started slapping her feet on the floor, bent her knees and proceeded to shuffle from side to side, arms swinging, head bent, with a low groaning noise coming out of her mouth – I honestly thought she was having a bloody stroke or something! I was just about to call an ambulance when suddenly everybody else jumped up and started doing the same bloody thing!! It scared the living crap out of me! I thought we’d stumbled into some kind of animal impersonation cult or something… Now I’ve seen lots of films and I know that in these situations you need to blend in, so I started doing the same thing… next thing I know we are all waddling round the room in what can loosely be describe as a mix of the monkey scene from The Jungle Book and a very bad amateur dramatics improv class!
Well fear not dear reader, as Alex explained afterwards apparently towards the end of labour, it’s a good idea to adopt an ‘orangutan stance’ – something to do with body shape, as I say my Swedish isn’t great and understanding various ways to say ‘thank you’ didn’t really help here – as it can help speed up the delivery process.
Anyway, you’ll be glad to hear (I’m not) that I’ve got ANOTHER three hours this Tuesday. Brilliant. What will it be this week, ‘right everybody, adopt the penguin stance!’… ‘Grab walk. Go!’… ‘You’re an elephant lost in Serengeti. Alone and facing the mortality of your situation, you find comfort in the shade of a tree… And scene….’
Regular readers of this blog will know that a couple of weeks ago we had a slight, I’m going to call it, ‘misunderstanding’ with the people who live below our flat. To recap they asked if we could keep the noise down at night – I know we are right old pair of ravers, what with Alex being 8 months pregnant and all. Anyhow I didn’t realise they were being serious until this letter with its now infamous request ‘to aim for the side of the toilet’ came through out door,
Well in a shocking new development this week, they are selling their flat. Sincerely I hope we haven’t driven them out, surely we aren’t that bad to live below? We’ve been tempted to go down and talk to them about it, but I think the best plan is to leave them to it. It should be said that the last couple of weeks have been fairly hectic in terms of parties in our apartment building and I’m hoping this is the real reason they are leaving. We all have balconies into a courtyard and there have been various late night shindigs during the week which have gone onto the earlier hours. During graduation week, which I touched on in the last blog, people were partying in the courtyard till 4 am on a ‘school night’ which did not go well and I’d like to think it was the final straw for the flat below. Well I hope it was and not the thought of us having a screaming baby in a few week’s time.
Of course the reason for all these late night parities is in part because it is Midsummer, the celebration of which officially starts today and sees Stockholm deserted as people go off to visit friends and family – apparently it’s as big as Christmas over here. It also because we’re getting to the stage where it just doesn’t really get dark. Check out these pictures taken at 10.30 pm on Wednesday. Without knowing it was 10.30, it really could have been any time during the day. It’s a little bit crazy,
So last weekend we had a visit from the wonderful Rob Philips. An old friend of Alex’s, new friend of mine, he came over for what turned out to unfortunately be a bit of a flying visit.
We were however able to take him to visit the wonderful island of Grinda (http://grinda.se/en/) which we haven’t been to before. Situated a two hour ferry ride from Stockholm town centre, it is a truly beautiful and extremely popular destination for ‘Stockholmites’ to go to for a day trip. Without doubt one of the most incredible things about living in Stockholm is how quickly you can get out of the city and be in some of the most beautiful countryside anywhere in the World. For anyone coming to visit us in the summer I’d highly recommend making sure we do a day trip with you – they are relatively inexpensive and truly worth the hassle.
What surprised me most though was the number of people who had gone to the island just for the day (you can camp, hostel, hotel). Then again, with incredible views, which unfortunately I didn’t do justice to, and a warm summers day which was by the far the hottest we’ve had since moving here, why wouldn’t you pack-up a picnic, fill-up the cool bag and head out there?
Actually, when the sun is shining the whole of Sweden is beautiful, even the most unlikely places …. Very subtle segway Fraser, very subtle…
When I joined my football team over here in Stockholm (Långholmen FC), one of the first things I heard about was a mythical football pitch which is generally regarded as the most beautiful place you can play football anywhere in the world. The reason? It’s next to an incredible lake, which tradition has it you have to swim in after the game, regardless of what time of the year it is or what time of night. Personally I thought it was a bit of urban myth… how wrong I was. Because last Friday night we played at the famous Älta IP.
Now here’s the pitch. So far, so normal…
Turn to your left however and you get…
The big question of course. At 10pm once the game was over did I get in? You bet your ass I did!
How was it? Bloody freezing, what did you think it was going to be like? It was 10pm at night! But still, it’s not every day you get to play football and then go for swim in a lake now is? Funnily enough there aren’t many lakes in South West London and there is NOWHERE along the Manchester ship canal you’d go swimming in!
Before I go, last weekend was big in Sweden for another reason of course, there was a Royal Wedding.
The ceremony took place in the Kings Palace, about a five minute walk from our flat, and of course we missed it. Typical really. When the Olympics were on in the London the bike race went past the top of our road in Putney. We missed that. Four years living in Putney we never once made it to the boat race, which starts IN PUTNEY! We have previous. Then again, if you don’t get invited…
The big news though had nothing to do with the Royal Wedding because Alex has gazumped my celebrity spot from a few weeks ago, Victoria Silvstedt (who I’m not sure is actually that famous) with true Swedish Royalty, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
For those not familiar with Zlatan, he is a very famous footballer and extremely popular figure over here. Basically Sweden had a Euro qualifier at the weekend in Stockholm and Alex was having lunch in the hotel the team were staying in (the circles she moves in, honestly). Needless to say, everyone in the hotel restaurant was nudging and pointing when he sat down for lunch and although she had no idea who any of the other players were, she did know him. Clearly my years of football brainwashing are starting to pay off!
Moving of its own accord much more visibly now as the countdown to launch day draws ever nearer. Exciting seeing visible lumps and bumps poking out, but also a little bizarre to think there is a little person in there desperate to get out. Not long now!
Picture of week
Product diversification? International copywrite infringement? Even grubber than the one in London? Take your pick.
Track of the week
Pregnant? Time to get some practice in Swedish style with The Jungle Book…
Fraser ‘I wanna be like you’ Hynes