I didn’t expect to be writing this blog. I’d envisaged a short post containing lots of pictures of the baby accompanied by a ‘hilarious’ story about a hospital related mishap I’d had to deal with whilst navigating the Swedish healthcare system.
However our first child seems to have inherited her parents’ penchant for turning up late and as such is stubbornly stomping round her trailer, refusing to come to set until she has the right motivation – and I thought girls weren’t a pain in the backside until their teens?
The due date was last Wednesday and despite two visits to the midwife in the last three days, we still have no idea when she will grace us with her presence. So with that in mind I’ll stick to the usual format and fill you in on some Swedish occurrences this week starting with Stockholm Pride.
From what I’ve seen Sweden must be one of the most liberal and tolerant countries in the world. As far as I can tell there isn’t even a debate about sexual orientation, it is just simply accepted with the conversation going something like, ‘you are gay, so what?’ – I’m conscious Pride is about more than that but you get the idea. You often see couples of all combinations in and around the city, which is exactly how it should be. How anyone can be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation is just beyond me.
However, I’m obviously no expert and live in a progressive part of a progressive city, so I’m sure that in some quarters there are still issues and confrontations. But then I think anyone reading this blog would be lying if they said they hadn’t personally witnessed, or indeed been subjected to sexual discrimination at some point in their lives. And only the extremely naïve would be unaware that this type of discrimination is still common around the world – in fact it seems to be positively thriving under certain government regimes. All of which I believe makes events like Pride, even in a country as progressive as Sweden, extremely important.
Of course it’s not only about awareness! It also happens to be a massive party and as you can image is insanely popular in Sweden. This year’s Pride had about 40,000 people taking part and 400,000 spectators, the majority of whom appeared to have positioned themselves on the start line at the bottom of our street. Included in the hordes were the four Hynes/Dobbins parents, one of whom we had to stop clambering on to every passing float! (You know who you are!)
The sheer scale of the things was immense as this picture of the road all the floats were lined up on shows (also included is a picture of Alex playing the worst real life game of Where’s Wally ever,
And yes, as readers of last week’s blog will know the parade did indeed completely block off our route to the hospital, which would have been a lot of fun I’m sure had we needed to make a dash for it!
Finally, the excitement wasn’t to end there though because later that night we made it onto primetime news coverage of the event on TV! Here we are,
What do you mean where? Right there,
That’s clearly the top of my head!
Anyhow, unfortunately I need to now turn to darker matters and a Swedish organisation rapidly developing into my nemesis – ‘Stockholm Parkering’ (http://www.stockholmparkering.se/SitePages/Parking-in-general.aspx).
My run-ins with Stockholm Parkering have already been well documented in this blog, like the two £100 fines we’ve received for parking within 10 meters of a corner (no really) – a fine £40 more expensive than if you park without a ticket (which of course makes a lot of sense). You see they are no fools and have developed a system so complicated that you can’t help but fall foul of it at some point during the year. Think I’m joking? Here is a typical Swedish parking sign,
Got it? Me neither…. And we have three of these, all saying different things, covering 15 meters of pavement outside our flat,
It’s insane. Add to this the fact that our flat is in the middle of three parallel roads which they clean on alternate days of the week. The ‘cleaning period’ last 5 hours which means that every couple of days everybody has to move their car (if it’s left on the street, it gets towed, even though the cleaners use about 10 minutes of the 5 hours allocated to them!). The result is a daily exodus of cars from one street to the other… it’s like the first settlers of the new world dragging their carts across the wilderness (little dramatic but you get the idea).
The real highlight of parking in Stockholm however is this,
When you see yellow paint on a curb (and they are usually about as visible as this one) it means that is a loading bay and you can’t park there between 7am – 5pm. As you can see, they aren’t exactly the best maintained lines in the world and returning late one night I missed one of them. Next morning I found this under my windscreen wiper,
Now does that, or does that not look like the most severe parking ticket you’ve ever seen? My instant reaction was, ‘clamping, towing, mega-fine, court appearance, prison sentence, poverty, life of crime, execution’ (in that order). Well guess what? In classic Swedish style it was a actually a very polite, slightly passive aggressive note asking for me to support tradesman trying to deliver goods to the shops I like to frequent… The fact the loading bay in question services a Haberdashery and Mountaineering Shop, shows just how ineffective this approach is on me, so it quickly went in the bin.
Still I can’t help but feel that it may have played a part in what was to come a few days later when I walked out of our flat to be confronted with this!
That’s right, our car had been wrapped in plastic sheeting! Now they ‘claimed’ it was because they were repairing the roof of the building opposite and didn’t want our car to get damaged. But I know the score with Stockholm Parkering, this was a message, ‘mess with us and we will wrap you up in fines’… Well Parkering if it’s a war you want, it’s a war you’ve got… now where’s that yellow paint stripper…
Some other randomness from another week of waiting…
- Up the Apples and Pears
Whilst copyright infringement remains somewhat a grey area as far as the law is concerned, you have to applaud this lot for some inspired branding,
You can almost hear the conversation with Apple’s layers now,
“Are you honestly trying to tell me you aren’t implying you have a link with Apple?”
“Absolutely! Look we use a Pear in our branding not an Apple… What? You think it looks like the Apple logo? Really, because I cant see it myself…”
- Baby Torture
This must surely be the strangest of all baby related products I’ve come across so far in Sweden,
How? HOW? Can this be comfortable? It looks more like something you’d find in a kindergarden torture chamber (now there’s a disturbing thought!). However apparently these hammocks are the next big thing over here. Not for me.
- Bloody call centres
They don’t miss a trick do they? We finally got our landline up and running yesterday. Nine minutes forty eight seconds later, a phone call trying to flog me something. Thankfully (for once) the guy only spoke Swedish and when I said I only speak English he quickly hung up. Hopefully that will be the last time we hear from anyone as it will hopefully be noted on whatever ‘list’ they bought. I suspect not.
What can you say that hasn’t already been said? It’s actually getting ridiculous now and whilst I didn’t expect to be writing this section this week, I’m 100% certain I won’t be next time round. Come on girl, it’s show time … though if you could hang on until after the United v Spurs game tomorrow afternoon, that would be awesome – no prizes for guessing when she will arrive now, hey dear reader?
Picture of week
Now I know this is a family friendly blog but I have to share this picture with you. This isn’t a novelty, it’s an actual beer you can buy over here in Sweden (we bought this is a very ‘mature’ café/restaurant near our flat). You see the think is that the word ‘f**k’ carries a lot less cultural weight over here and as such is seen as much less offensive. Indeed you often hear it dropped casually in conversations Swedes are having amongst themselves.
And how was it? Surprisingly fucking good.
Track of the week
You know who still keeping us hanging on,
Fraser ‘Parking Wars’ Hynes