I have my own company, F B HYNES Ltd.
Let that settle in for a moment, I have a company.
Has a certain ring to it does it not?
Now I know what you are thinking, what the hell does F B HYNES do and where can I buy one? Well first let me introduce you to the team behind the company name. F B HYNES LTD currently has one Director (me), one board member (me), one employee (me) and one product (err… me).
Fear not dear reader, I’m not about to pull a ‘Kardashian’ and look for exciting ways to ‘leverage the brand equity out of myself’ – something I suspect that would be a rather unsuccessful venture. No, I had to set up the company so that I could go back to work (the irony lost on no one).
That’s right I am back in work, back at the coal face, knuckle to the grindstone, or in my case, fingers to the keyboard. Regular readers will know that I’ve been doing bits and pieces since moving to Sweden – it’s not been a complete doss! But in terms of having a proper job (whatever that is) as of last week I am officially back in the world of employment and basically doing a 6 month maternity contract for the same company I was working for when I left London, Millward Brown.
The reason for the corporate vanity project… I mean setting up F B Hynes Ltd, is that in order to take on the work as a freelancer I needed UK Indemnity Insurance. Ah UK II, such a simple thing to obtain as a UK resident. Such a pain in the ass if you aint one… and that’s before you even consider the tax issues. In the past few months it’s been a slog through a mountain of HMRC admin – top tip dear reader, if you are ever struggling to sleep at night Google ‘rules governing non-UK residency tax’, it’s an absolute page turner! The Foreign Office (hilariously it turns out my situation is covered by an actual European Convention), 3 UK accounting firms, 1 Swedish accounting firm, six insurers, The Swedish Tax Office (Skatteverket) and some very helpful chaps and PWC. Who knew tax was so complicated?
Now what is interesting in all this is that for the duration of the contract I’ll be primarily working out of Millward Brown’s Stockholm office and as such am gaining first hand insight into working life in Sweden. Which as I’m sure you’ve heard, is apparently very different to everywhere else in the world.
Firstly though, isn’t it always a little intimidating when you start in a new office? Straight away you are disturbing people you don’t know with incredibly mundane, but ultimately critical questions,
‘How does the kettle work?’
‘Where’s the toilet?’
‘Where can you get a decent sandwich round here?’
‘Where’s the stationary cupboard?’
‘Ok, but who is actual person I should call in IT if I have a problem?’
You know, the crucial stuff. Questions which are often meet with a wall of silence or reluctant nod and huff in the general direction of where what you want should be. Only it never is because Jean in accounts borrowed it last week and never brought it back.
Well I’m very happy to report, and in complete contrast to what you may have heard or read about people in the Nordics (more on that in a moment), that everyone in the office couldn’t be more helpful and friendly. Hell, even when I put my teabag in the plastic recycling bin (the shame Fraser, the shame) they could not have been nicer about it. Honestly it feels like I’ve been there for months not weeks.
I’m kind of fascinated by the Swedish mentality. Here’s the thing, every Swede I’ve spoken to says the same thing, ‘most Swede’s aren’t like me, they are very private and don’t like to chat to strangers’. Every one of them, the irony of course that they are a Swede chatting to a stranger seeming lost. In fact I’m yet to meet a Swedish stranger who wasn’t happy to have a chat.
I bring this up because I got asked the same question when the office went out for lunch. I find it hard to answer because I genuinely think Swedes are a bit hard on themselves and think they are more reserved than they actually are. I’ve been asked countless times by lots of different people, ‘but they are very quiet and introverted aren’t they?’ Not in my experience. Perhaps there is some truth in the suggestion that it takes a long time to really get to know them, but I do think there is a difference between the perception and the reality. At least that’s what I say anyway – have you not read the title of this blog?
Well I must have made a good impression because I’ve already been given a key and code for the office. I’ve even locked up a couple of times already! That is one thing I love about Swedes, they treat you like an adult. I’m sure we’ve all worked in offices which might as well have seen you back in school – people sat at their desks waiting for the clock to hit 5.30 so they can run and catch the (school) bus home… ‘Prefects’ patrolling the smoking area to see who is bunking off… Headmasters shouting at people in front of the whole class as part of some massive ego trip. Crazy.
The attitude in offices over here, and as a researcher I appreciate I am going off a sample of n=1 (little research gag for you there, this blog has got everything!) is that you are respected and treated like an adult. Get your work done in whatever way works for you, what’s the problem? I love it. Plus, the MD Bjorn, a really nice chap, used to be a baker and celebrates by buying traditional Swedish baked goods for everyone on ‘Fika Thursday’. Love it. They are all a credit to Millward Brown.
Of course some things about office life never change. I still get the tube to work and ‘Meal Deals’ look surprisingly similar wherever you are in the world,
One major positive about starting back to work, for Alex at least, is that I’ve had a haircut. As has been commented on extensive by primarily family members the hair situation had gotten out of control. I can see now, looking back, that in my quest to complete the ‘Swedish Top Knot Social Experiment’ I may have let things run a little wild. It was therefore decided by Alex (I say decided, think more along the lines of grounds for divorce) that I would get it cut before starting this job. The reason I bring this up is that I didn’t go back to ‘Cut the Crap’ (an actual hairdressers on Södermalm). No, instead I went to the exceptionally cool – far too cool for me – Creative Headz (http://www.creativeheadz.se/). I mean honestly, look at this place,
So a few weeks ago I drew people’s attention to what I have called ‘Stockholm suicidal baby runs’. For some inexplicably insane reason, the Stockholm local council have decided to install pushchair ramps on a many public staircases as possible. Regardless of the incline. This means ramps exist which you are expected to push a baby up I might add, that Evil Kenevil would think twice about tackling
Well I thought I’d seen the worst of it but it turns out I’d barely scratched the surface. Last week Alex took Rosalyn to the hospital for a check-up. She looked on a map and found the quickest pedestrian route. A map which included a small run of dotted lines. Thinking nothing more of it, off she set. See if you can work out what the small run of dotted lines represented? The hospital is the tall building on the right of the first picture,
Who has taken a pram up that??? It’s practically vertical! There are parts of the Everest ascent easier to get up than that. As these pictures show it was absolutely chucking it down and for one tiny moment, Alex actually contemplated taking a run at it. Thankfully she resisted the temptation, but I challenge anyone foolhardy enough to push a pram up that (baby optional).
More updates on previous posts, a few months ago I became convinced that people were purposely leaving things out on the streets around our flat for people to pick up and take away with them. These included some of the following,
Recently things have veered from the disturbing…
Two things. Even if that was your kids dummy, who would reuse a dummy you’d lost and then found again on the street? And secondly, even more disturbingly, who would use someone else’s dummy they found lying around on the street? “Oh it’s fine, it’ll clean up.” No. No it won’t.
… to the bizarre,
Anyone want a poster of the IFK Osteraker Vikings 2000/2001 squad? (http://www.kth-hockey.se/) No? No one, you sure? In fact I bet there are people in that picture who wouldn’t want that!
Anyway, I found all of this to be very trivial and rather dull (just like you do dear reader!) until I stumbled onto a rose in the thorn bush. Now I understand that I may have taken this whole thing too far, but please stay with me because whilst walking past a skip the other day I came across this framed poster.
That is a film poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, created by the legendary graphic designer Saul Bass (http://www.saulbassposterarchive.com/gallery/film-posters/). I’ve always wanted to hang one of those in my house (Vertigo being his best work in my opinion – though you should check out title sequence work as well).
Anyhow, I was pushing Rosalyn along whilst Alex grabbed a coffee when I saw a local chap throw said poster into the skip. He watched me. I watch him. I could see there was pain there, that his hand was being forced by factors beyond his control. Cruel decisions had driven him to this act and I could see in his eyes that he was saying, ‘Fraser, forgive me for this, I had no choice. You must save this piece of art. Go with my blessings’.
Well do you know what happened next? That’s right, I left the poster exactly where it was and moved on. You see I draw the line at ‘bin dipping’. Side of the road? Ok. But out of a skip? Not for me. But you know what? Even now, many days later, I do wonder where that poster is. Did if find a new home? Was someone else able to move past their native country reserve and save it? We shall never really know dear reader, but I for one like to think of that poster adorning a wall somewhere in Stockholm bringing joy and countless talking points.
It’s been very strange writing the blog this week given the events in Paris. Seems wrong writing about relatively trivial matters and I’m sure everyone has felt to same way at some point this week. However I firmly believe that if you change who you are or your attitude to life because of events like those in Paris, then you are merely facilitating those who would take those very things from you.
To my French friends, my thoughts are with you. Paris is one of the great cities of the world. France is an incredible country. Both are full of remarkable people, culture and heritage. Nothing can change that.
We are slowly starting to introduce the bottle. Great news for me as it’s apparently preferable that the father gives it to the baby so that they don’t get confused. And hasn’t young Rosalyn grown? Hard to believe how small she was only a few months ago.
Picture of week
You know its cold when they are playing hockey outside.
Some pictures of our local hockey pitch (is that the right word? Is it a rink? I really need to read up on this stuff). Important thing to note? This isn’t the version of ice-hockey we all watch once every four years at the Olympics. No, this is called Bandy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandy) and is much more similar to football than anything else – its 11-a-side and they play with a small ball. All of which probably explains why in making the pitch they basically poured a load of ice over the full size astro-turf football pitch which normally sits in the middle of the stadium. Gotta love the Swedes, no mucking about, just throw a load of ice on it.
Track of the week
Theme tune to one of the great TV comedies, why do only fools and horses work?
Fraser ‘LTD’ Hynes