The purpose of this blog is to explore the experience of living in Sweden in a humorous way. Now I appreciate the level to which someone finds the blog humorous is open to interpretation but it’s with that in mind that I’m particularly conscious I mustn’t allow it to become purely about our daughter, Rosalyn.
As much as the arrival of our first child has already deeply impacted our experience of Swedish life and will no doubt provide numerous opportunities for ‘hilarious’ incidents in the future as we navigate the treacherous waters of bringing up a baby in a foreign country, I want to assure you that she will not be the sole focus. There are few things in modern life more boring than reading extensive, tedious details of someone else’s child’s development, “Oh and this morning little Timmy sat up on his mat and smiled….AT THE SAME TIME!”
However as anyone with a child will attest, for the last four weeks Rosalyn has basically been our world and whilst in the future I will endeavour to limit how much time is dedicated to her, in this posting I need to share some of the detail. So please forgive me, normal service will resume eventually.
The first thing to say is that it is impossible to work out how something so small can consume so much time. Up until this week, a productive day involved having a shower, dressing in clothes you haven’t slept in, going out to buy lunch and sending one email. That was it. And to be honest sending the email was optional. Spending time with Rosalyn is basically like living your life on fast forward.
Thankfully though we appear to be doing a fairly decent job so far. As I noted last week, childcare in Sweden is exceptional and at the weekly check-up with our neonatal nurse, Rosalyn is perfectly in line with where she should be in terms of physical development with one notable exception. She has a slightly oversized head. Ah the curse of the cranium!
Perhaps the most interesting thing is the general Swedish approach to childcare. Given the often contradictory advice in books and online, you could go crazy deciding on the best course of action in completing the simplest of baby tasks. What I like about the Swedish approach is that it is much more laid back, basically, ‘do whatever works’. For example, we’ve felt incredibly conflicted about having Rosalyn in bed at night. A huge ‘NO!’ according to a lot of US/UK websites for obvious safety reasons, interestingly over here it positively encouraged and I know that in other cultures is the norm. Regardless it’s the only way we’ll be getting a decent night’s sleep, so…
The other observation the nurse made is that myself and Alex seem very relaxed about everything. Well despite a few anxious moments, the reason for this is very simple, we have been extremely lucky to have had fantastic support from both sets of parents and Alex’s sister who has two small girls. Which brings me nicely to the arrival of my mum and dad this week to meet their first grandchild.
You forget what a momentous experience the process of having a child is for your own parents and I have to say they are both completely besotted. But then Rosalyn is clearly a special girl because an extraordinary thing happened the other day. Whist in a cafe, my mum and dad started up a conversation with a random Swedish chap who was out having lunch with his child – as discussed previously, Swedish maternity cover is both extensive and evenly split between the mother and father. Now Swedes are, by and large, very nice people once you get to know them but generally take a little time to ‘warm up’ and things didn’t look great when the opening of the conversation went like this this,
Dad: “What a lovely little boy.”
Swede: “She’s a girl.”
Classic Brendadio and a clear conversation killer in any language. But no! Contrary to all expectations this in fact led to a very friendly chat about why they were in Sweden, how they were finding Stockholm, etc, culminating, inexplicably, in this chap giving Rosalyn a little toy he’d bought that morning for his own daughter.
Which beautifully leads to the real reason for talking about toys for Rosalyn.
Brendadio is building her a car.
Now I know what you are thinking, ‘Fraser whilst it may appear that first time drivers are getting younger and younger, I think you might be getting ahead of yourself a bit’. Well fear not dear reader, I haven’t completely lost my mind through sleep deprivation, Brendadio isn’t building her an actual car, he’s building her a ‘swing bin car’,
Now according to the designers, these cars can be constructed from a plastic swing bin, a couple of planks of plywood, three foot of metal tubing and an electric drill (http://www.lightning-cars.co.uk/). So far, so exciting – to be fair to Brendadio he is actually a very talented mechanic, craftsman and artisan – is that the right terminology? His children’s lack of manual life skills are a constant source of frustration…
Indeed there were unprecedented levels of excitement about the whole thing right up until the moment in the press conference on Tuesday (held in our living room) when he announced that in addition to building the car, he will be basing its final design and colour scheme on the classic Lotus Caterham 7,
It was at that point that the energy fell out of the room.
To understand why is to understand a historical tale of woe, disappointment and frustration. You see for the past 40 years, Brendadio has been building (and I use the term in its most loose definition possible), an actual Caterham 7 in his garage.
The ‘WHAT IS IT CALLED AGAIN?’ project, as it has become known, has been going on for so long it’s actual become something of an Urban Myth amongst my friends…
“Hey whatever happened to that car your dad was building when we were in primary school? You know, the, erm, what’s it called again?”
“The Caterham 7? Oh yea, he’s still working on it.”
“Still working on it? Didn’t we have this exact same conversation six years ago?”
“Yeap, and three years before that… and two years before that…. and we are scheduled to have it again in five years time to mark the twentieth fifth anniversary.”
Now in his defence, Brendadio would point out (swear in fact) that in his garage he has all the parts to make the car… they just haven’t been put together yet.
What we would argue is that if he applies the same approach to Rosalyn’s Caterham 7 as his own, she will have her actual driving licence before it’s finished.
So the battle lines have been drawn dear reader and neither side is backing down. Brendadio has committed to having it ready in time for her 2nd birthday, so watch this space for new developments.
Special thank you to the wonderful Emma Cunningham for the brilliant t-shirts. Inspired stuff and made his day.
4 weeks, incredible, where has the time gone? We also have a card that says ‘today I smiled for the first time’ but unfortunately we haven’t yet been able to capture her doing it as it’s still somewhat unpredictable. But victory will be mine!
Picture of week
Football in Sweden is clearly not meant to look like this.
Last Sunday I returned to playing football. Now Swedish football seasons run through the summer (for fairly obvious reasons) and ordinarily the games are played on AstroTurf. However every now and again there is a game on grass. Well I can only assume that the referee, unfamiliar with the properties of this strange green natural surface, didn’t realise that when it rains heavily for ten hours, the water tends to collect on of the ‘strange green spikey thing’ and create small mud baths.
It was awful, but did create some absolute comedy gold. There were parts of the pitch where the ball literally wouldn’t roll, let alone bounce, cue hilarious groups of grown men trying to ‘hack’ the ball out of puddles the size of paddling pools and achieving nothing more than drenching the person opposite them. Or the sight of people kicking the ball ahead of themselves, only to run past it as it got held up in the puddles which acted like glue. The only thing you can say is there were no winners that day, certainly not football.
On a side note, I drove some of the lads to the game and ended up with an Italian, a Dutchman, a Ukrainian and an Algerian in my car at the same time. Now that may well sound like the opening to a terrible joke, but is in fact a great example of how wonderful the world could be if we all embraced our friends from around the globe as Sweden does.
NEW FEATURE – Winter Watch
No word of a lie. On September 1st I nipped out to the shop at the bottom of our street and for the first time felt a slight chill in the air. It hadn’t been there the day before (i.e. August) but literally on the 1st, things turned. I have subsequently heard that it has already snowed in the far north of Sweden. And last Friday whilst playing football at a sports complex, I wondered into a fairly innocuous looking industrial building to be confronted with this,
Winter Is Coming (yes!) and as I’ve been reminded extensively over the past week, I was born in Australia in the middle of heat wave which I truly believe has left me with a pathological aversion to being cold. Now at this stage some of you might question the sensibility of moving to Sweden, but let’s leave that for now and focus on the fact I am genuinely concerned about the forthcoming winter.
As such I have set up this feature to chart our decent into the big freeze. Wish me luck.
Track of the week
Gary Numan – Cars, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ldyx3KHOFXw
Fraser ‘mine’s a hot water bottle’ Hynes