That bloody bike.
Shortly before moving to Sweden Alex’s best friend’s dad gave us a bike. The thinking was simple. Stockholm is a famously friendly cycling city and we could use it during the summer.
Now as you can see from the cover picture it wasn’t just any old bike. Oh no, it was a tandem. Now don’t get me wrong, the bike is a beautiful piece of machinery despite being over 40 years old, but did I mention it was a tandem?
I won’t lie dear reader, to put it mildly I haven’t been exactly what you would call ‘enthusiastic’ about the bike since we got it. In fact you could argue I’ve been boarder line psychotic in my hatred for what is essentially an inanimate object. To be honest I’ve always thought of it in the same way you might a nice (but ultimately useless) birthday present from a distant aunt … Yes, the thought is great, but you know you are never going to use it and it will just end up taking up space in your flat until a suitable amount of time has passed and you can chuck it in the bin.
Only difference here being that this present was 7ft long, 3ft high and destined to become an elaborate clothes hanger in our flat for four years until we shipped it back to the UK with us.
In fact the phrase, “that bloody bike” became so popular in our flat whilst moving that it entered my everyday vocabulary,
“There’s no more space in the spare bedroom Fraser.”
“That bloody bike!”
“I can’t move those boxes, it’s in the way.”
“That bloody bike!”
“Manchester United have just conceded another goal.”
“That bloody bike!”
“We are out of milk.”
“That bloody bike!”
You get the idea.
Now my suspicions that this 7ft yellow albatross was going to be hung round my neck for the next 4 years were compounded further when shortly after receiving it we found out that Alex was pregnant – the only thing more useless than having a tandem when you are pregnant being a 9 month only infinite supply of alcohol of course.
A further problem I have with that bloody bike can be explained via a very simple social experiment. I’m currently writing this blog at everybody’s favourite overpriced Stockholm cafe Muggen (d) which has a cycle lane in front of it.
In the last 20 minutes I’ve seen well over 100 people cycle past my window. And how many were on tandems? Zero.
Indeed during my time in Stockholm I’ve probably seen tens of thousands of bikes. And how many were tandems? Zero.
…Not a tandem. Not a tandem. Not a tandem. Not a tandem…
Are you starting to see a pattern here?
Want to know why nobody rides tandem’s in the middle of a city? It’s simple really. They are death traps on inflated wheels.
Seriously, if you are on the back of a tandem you are basically the literal definition of placing your life in someone else’s hands. The bloody things should come with a health warning, ‘only ride on the back of this in a city if you have led a full and meaningful life because there is a 50/50 chance you are going to die today’.
Thankfully a solution to the problem presented itself.
Alex’s best friend Emma and her husband Per, who happens to be half Swedish, came over this weekend and it was decided that the bike would be taken to the beautiful island of Gotland (http://www.destinationgotland.se/en) where Per’s family have a summer home. Couple of reasons,
- Quieter roads = less cars to run you over when you fall off
- Lots of open spaces = more opportunities to ‘commando roll’ into a field when you fall off
An altogether more suitable environment, but how to get the bloody thing down there given Gotland is a 2 hour ferry ride from a port which is 60km from Stockholm? Well a number of options were discussed, should we drive it down in a car? Put it in the hold of a bus? Or just get Per to ride the bloody thing the 60km to the ferry port…
Now I know what you are thinking, ‘but it’s a tandem Fraser, surely you jumped on the back and rode it with him?’ Well let’s just say that after a few practice runs it quickly became apparent that it was in everybody’s interest (ours, members of the public, the emergency services) that Per, who to be fair is a regular Ironman competitor, took the bike on his own.
Because as these pictures clearly indicate,
- I can’t always be trusted to pull my own weight.
- I nearly toppled it three times in the five minutes ‘d*cking about on the back’ (see a.)
- It looks like I’m sat in the baby seat, which frankly looks even more ridiculous than a man cycling a tandem on his own.
So did he make it? Well this is the route he took,
Amazingly there is a cycle path all the way. As I say, it’s a very bike friendly country and anyone looking for some good bike routes when they visit should check out this website, http://www.bikemap.net/en/regional/Sweden/
Well congratulations to Per who against all the odds survived the journey and safely deposited the bike on Gotland where it will no doubt spend the next 40 years of its life.
And do you know what? I don’t miss that bloody bike one little bit.
Now as fun as the messing about on the bike was, the real highlight of the weekend had to be on the Sunday when were experienced our first real taste of Swedish summer, spending the afternoon at one of Stockholm’s numerous surrounding lakes.
The day began with a visit to Per’s brother Jonas’ house to meet up with his sister-in-law Jane and their two incredibly cute daughters Louisa and Helena. Coming from Scottish stock, both girls really enjoy their rugby with Louisa in particular keen to show me her tackling skills… I really don’t think these things through properly dear reader and the potential danger only occurred to me as she hurtled, full pelt, in my direction. Needless to say tackle practice did not go great for me,
Per’s brothers family are actually in the process of building their own house. Apparently in Sweden because there is so much space and an abundance of raw materials, it’s actually much more practical to build your own house than in the UK.
The lot where the house will be build. Admittedly some imagination is required at this stage but it’s going to be spectacular when finished.
The most fascinating thing for me though was that if you look at the mound Alex, Emma, Jane and Per are stood on, that actually needs to be removed ahead of the building process starting. Or, form another angle, the entire rock face to the right of the picture.
But without the use of dynamite (bit tricky given there are houses on the other side of that mound) how do they do it? Well apparently they ‘vibrate’ the rocks which causes them to break up so they can be easily removed. How cool is that? As a bit of a geek, I’m hoping to see that action. Also, this being Sweden of course any felled trees are recycled and used in other building projects in the area.
From there it was straight off to the highlight perhaps not only of the weekend but also of the summer so far, a visit to Bagarsjön lake. Absolutely stunning and we were reliably informed by Jane that there are numerous others just like it dotted around Stockholm.
The best bit though was that the water was warm enough to swim in. Sun shining. A 20 minute drive from our flat. Incredible. Any visitors coming over next summer must insist that we spend at least one afternoon at one of Stockholm’s lakes. Yes the city is beautiful with lots to see, including the amazing Vasa Museum which we sent Per and Emma to – still the best place to visit… But it’s definitely worth giving up an afternoon to go swimming when it’s this good and so close to where we live.
Of course it wasn’t all fun and games for Alex and Emma who unfortunately had to consign themselves to a quick game of ‘pregnant rugby’ on the beach. I have to be honest I’m not sure it’s going to take off,
I’d like to the leave the main body of this week’s blog with a bit of an oddity.
Last week were walking past the main square near our flat and came across the erection of what looked like a small grandstand and pop-up bar. Well imagine our surprise the next day when it played host to a giant (I use the term very loosely) bowls tournament. Actually not boules, Pétanque to give it its correct French name. How did I know it was French? Well they had live music on and the musician was playing classic French folk music. You know the type, all very sad and depressing in a way that only the French accent can deliver.
Now you might be thinking, grandstand? Surely they don’t need a grandstand? Well you would be wrong. It’s been running for well over a week now and is heaving… ok busy… every night,
I did a bit of online snooping and apparently it’s a yearly festival (http://www.mariabouledagar.se/?page_id=65) celebrating ‘boule culture’ (who knew that was thing?). And it goes without saying that next year myself and Alex will be entering. As the promoters say, it’s a heady mix of ‘BOULE, BEER and ROCK N ROLL’ and what could be better than that? Our current team name ‘Hobbins Hurlers’ however needs a bit of work.
Stockholm. Every now and again just a little bit odd.
Two bumps in one place.
Picture of week
Have been cleaning our balcony this week and spotted this. That does not bode well in any language.
Congratulations of the week
No track of the week this week (which I sense nobody will miss). Instead I want to say a short congratulations to two old friends, friends of the blog and all round good eggs, Dan and Jo who finally got engaged this week after (I think) 12 years together. Excellent news.
Fraser ‘more Goose than Maverick’ Hynes