I’ve been looking forward to this. Every now and again I make certain Swedish observations which don’t fit in the overall theme of that particular week’s blog … ‘Hang on a minute Fraser, your blogs have themes and structure?´… Anyhow, these observations have slowly built up and I need a clear out. Thus it is best to think of this week’s blog as kind of smorgasbord of observations from the past six months.
But before all that, the big news from this week was the visit of my brother and sister to meet their first niece. Cue photographs,
A lot of people who read this blog won’t know my sister Roisin. Lovely girl, but does tend to says it like it is and before her arrival Alex was taking bets on how long it would take for her to make reference the current state of my hair. Regular readers will know that I am currently engaged in a Swedish experiment of sorts, namely growing a ‘top knot’ to fully immerse myself into Scandi culture. Things have not gone well. Not only can I now get my hair in my mouth, which has proven to be a lot less exciting than it sounds, but I have grown what can only be described as a slight mullet. This is not a good look and Roisin was in the house for about three minutes before uttering the kind of gentle, soothing, thoughtful words that only a sibling can, ‘Fraser, what is going on with your head?’
It has therefore been decided that a haircut is required to remove the offensive lower head shrubbery, but not before Alex went and bought me a hat. A hat which didn’t fit my enormous head (it basically has its own gravitational field). So the whole gang hot footed it down to the hat store near our flat, and yes apparently such places do still exist, to try on various different hat stand warmers,
Indian Jones Jnr, Young Ms Marble and The Little Russian Princess
For those familiar with the UK Northern Men cliché handbook, it will come as no great surprise that the hat I wanted was a flat cap. Alex is happy because it covers the majority of my offensive hair, however it has come at a price as illustrated in the picture below.
Flat cap + The Burb Mac + tweed jacket = me subconsciously joining my most hated enemy, ‘Country Folk’. I mean just look at that picture, throw a shot gun on top of that pram and me and Rosalyn could be off to shoot peasants or whatever it is countryside people do to pass the time. What have I become dear reader? What have I become?
So yes, on to the most exciting part (well for me) of this week’s blog, the chance to share with you some of the random Swedish observations from the past 6 months. Now for those of you thinking, ‘Isnt this just the stuff that wasn’t good enough to make it into the blog first time round?’, I say, Tish and feel free to judge for yourself.
By and large Swedes, and I’m happy for any of the ones who read this blog to correct me here, enjoy a bit of what I would call, ‘organised fun’. That is not to say they are without joy, far from it, it’s just that they tend to really enjoy fun that has been well organised with a clearly defined start, middle and end. I would also say that by and large they are a law abiding bunch (though surprisingly not when it comes to driving but that’s for another time). It’s therefore always a little bit of a surprise when you see graffiti. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of murals around the city which clearly have the full backing of Stockholm council,
The picture on the right is a roundabout near our flat (Slussen). The area is being entirely redeveloped with this as its centrepiece.
But it is amusing when you find stuff that clearly does not have support of the council because it is so rare. Which brings me nicely to one of my favourite games, spotting this ‘tag’ (I am so cool) around Stockholm.
Even my favourite hairdresser, Cut The Crap, hasn’t escaped
Now when I first saw this symbol I thought it looked like something from a Dan Brown novel, ‘The Illuminate Live In Stockholm!’ Or at very least some kind of Egyptian inspired hieroglyphic. But alas no, having focused on the design I’ve realised it’s actually a one eyed triangle smoking a splif … or so my mate told me… err, moving on…. How utterly disappointing. Though I do wonder if perhaps the ‘artist’ is trying to say something about the way that we all view life with one eye through a triangular window, our view distorted by a draconian government as illustrated by their continued hard line stance on so called soft drugs? Yea, maybe that’s it. Or maybe it’s some bored spotty teenager with access to the spray cans in their dad’s shed. I guess we’ll never know.
Parliament and the Palace
This blog has been accused of many things, most of which are not repeatable here as I know many youngsters read this, but one thing it has rarely been accused of is highbrow political observation. Well, indulge me for a moment dear reader and prepare to have your mind blown with some hard hitting politique!
On one of my first wonders through the city I discovered something very interesting, namely the close proximity of the Kings Palace to Parliament. If you look at the pictures below, on the left you have the side entrance to Parliament. If you were to turn 90 degrees to your right in that picture, you’d be faced with the building in the second picture, the Royal Palace.
Now the reason for showing you the side entrance, is that this isn’t actually an entrance at all but a thoroughfare. That’s right, anyone can ‘walk though’ the Swedish Parliament. The idea being that everyone is represented and equal in front of the law. A beautifully simple idea.
The passage through parliament. Inevitably the area is also a hot spot for protests of all shapes and sizes.
Sweden, it should be noted, is a fiercely egalitarian society, which makes it fascinating that this symbol of democracy should be so close to the Royal Palace, traditionally, lets be honest, hardly the most democratic of institutions. Even more interesting for a country so ingrained in the concepts of equal society, the Royals are actually very popular. It’s the one side of Swedish culture I’d genuinely like to understand better.
Sticking with politics (random nonsense to follow shortly I promise), one thing that’s really noticeable walking around Stockholm is the number of beggars who appear to be of Romany decent. Not only is this indicative of the changing demographics of the country, but it does seem to be raising some difficult questions in terms of how Sweden integrate people with different views on how a society should function. This in turn seems to be creating a backdrop of political tension from which the far right is emerging. Concerning times.
Suicidal Baby Ramps
From the highbrow to the ridiculous (BOOM! This blog is a veritable rollercoaster this week! ha ha). Stockholm is extremely child friendly but I can’t help but feel there is a subtle ‘cull’ taking place in the city via the medium of stair ramps.
Practically every long stairs case in Stockholm also has a ramp for buggies. But frankly this one is ridiculous.
Alex there giving you some perspective on the situation.
Come on Sweden, this is a joke right? I mean who in their right mind would push a buggy up something that steep? Only a complete idiot…
Well lucky for you dear reader, I am that complete idiot!
Crazy as it seems now, I actually attempted an incline this steep a few weeks after Rosalyn was born. I was out with Alex’s parents and decided that rather than simply carrying the pram up the stairs with Alex’s dad, I’d go native and push it up the ramp. I mean, if they’ve been put in, surely they must be safe?
Let’s just say that I got half way up before the shouts of ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’ echoed round the city centre. The incline was so steep, the pram was above my eye line and I hadn’t noticed that Rosalyn had slipped down to the bottom of her bassinet, completely out of everyone’s view. A few more steps and there is a good chance she would have come out of the bottom and landed on my head.
Funnily enough I’m yet to see any local use one of these ramps.
Nobody. And I mean nobody, likes to queue as much as us Brits. But there is a new challenger in town for Sweden hath achieve the new gold standard in queuing by expertly combining the two places you spend most of your life standing behind other people. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you the Supermarket Post Office.
Yes dear reader, the rumours are true, the truth is out, in Sweden most post offices are INSIDE supermarkets. It is queue-tastic! Not only can you wait at a checkout for your shopping, you can THEN go wait for your mail as well! All in one simple, never ending queue motion.
And if you thought Swede’s had a penitent for organised fun, they REALLY enjoy organised misery. Because let’s be honest, that’s what cueing is, I’m fairly sure nobody has ever said, ‘do you know what I’m really looking forward to tonight is cueing up outside that club in the rain for two hours and getting refused entry because of my shoes.’ (Little insight into my early years going out in Manchester there). In Sweden, and quite rightly in my book, they take their queuing very seriously. Indeed lots of shops and government services still operate the old ticketing number system (the end game of all cueing plans) and something I haven’t seen since I was a child when my Gran would take me to the butchers during school holidays.
10 weeks old today. Crazy. What can I say? Well over the last couple of weeks she has really started to develop. Small things of course, like trying to grab things that are dangled in front of her, a more extensive vocal range, more and more interactivity and so it. It’s been such a privilege to have had the opportunity to be on hand and witness all these developments. I’ve been very lucky.
Picture of week
Our football season finished last week but not before I was lucky enough to capture this incredible sunset just before our penultimate game. I’ve experienced a lot of football firsts in Sweden, swimming in a lake after a game (I am from Manchester so that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise) and this isn’t exactly the worst sky I’ve ever played under (again, I am from Manchester). It’s been an interesting season, very different to what I’m used to but a great group of lads and I’m already looking forward to next season already. Even if that does start next May… Talking of which…
Medborgarplatsen, Södermalm. Ok, so it’s not exactly the most glamorous place in the world to start off with but at least in the summer the bars are lively, the sun is shining and the booze flows.
And now? It looks like something out of Mad Max movie.
And I’m sorry but this is just deeply depressing.
The majority of bars have done away with their outdoor seating areas now save for some single seats bolted to the wall. I can only assume these have been left for the foolhardy or clinically insane. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there just something very bleak about a single seat, bolted to a wall, outside a pub. Very bleak. And that’s before you see the same photo in black and white. It’s like something out of a Charles Dickens novel,
Track of the week
City dwellers becoming countrified? It’s happened before, it’ll happen again,
Fraser ‘Organiser of organised fun’ Hynes