Meanwhile back in Sweden…

It’s been pointed out for some time now that I haven’t updated this blog for a while. Well it wasn’t until I checked earlier this week that I realised ‘a while’ had somehow turned into six months. Six months! Where has the time gone? And more to the point, what the hell has been going on?

In the interests of providing a comprehensive record of the unique experience that is living in Sweden, whilst at the same time not boring you to death dear reader, I’ve decide to quickly cover the last 6 months in bite-size weekly chunks until we get back up to speed. Starting with a very cold and surprisingly dangerous January…

Our extended Christmas break in the UK over it was time to head back to the (not so) warm embrace of Sweden. We had boarded the plane with a fairly healthy dose of trepidation after seeing a picture a friend of mine had posted of his office car park in Stockholm under the heading, ‘we’ve just been hit by a snow storm’.

Pic 1

Our sense of trepidation was heightened by the fact that we had acquired, and would have to transport, two more suitcases than we’d left with, which I blame squarely on a new condition commonly referred to as ‘grandchildoverindulgenitus’.

Pic 2

Arriving at Stockholm airport, our nerves already jingling about what lay beyond, we were instantly put at ease with the announcement that the temperature outside was actually nothing to worry about, sitting as it did at a positively tropical -12. Yes, that’s right, -12. We were reliably informed we shouldn’t complain because the week before it had got down to a toe curling -25. Yeap. Minus. Twenty. Five.

It’s worth noting at this point that I hate being cold – which does beg the question why I live in Sweden but let’s put that to one side for a now. I attribute my pathological hatred down to the fact I was born in a heatwave in Australia, which I believe seared an imprint of ‘heat’ onto my DNA creating a fairly rubbish set of ‘X-Man’ like abilities. Namely I’m able to find, in any given situation, an array of different ways to moan about the cold. A skill which came in very handy as the temperature for our first few weeks back very much hovered around ‘God that’s cold’ and ‘No really, that’s cold’, thus having the ability to come up with new ways of essentially saying the same thing came in very handy.

Pic 3

The digital thermometer in our flat on basically any day in January. Outside temp top, inside bottom. Fun fact, we have no control over the internal heating as it’s centrally regulated. So whilst this is lovely during the winter at the time of writing we are lightly cooking in shorts and t-shirts.

Of course the advantage of these temperatures, and yes even I admit there are some advantages, is that you are guaranteed snow. Lots of snow. Lots and lots of snow.

Of course they also bring a whole new list of exciting and interesting ways to die. The first of which I like to call ‘frozen drain death traps’.

Regular readers will be familiar with my ongoing ‘battle’ with the Stockholm city drainage system. Basically because there is so much snow fall every apartment block – a.k.a. the majority of buildings in central Stockholm – have external pipes running from the roof down to the pavement. At the bottom of which are drains cut from the pavement which run from the edge of the building out to road.

Now these drains are a minor annoyance most of the year, especially as they are spaced about 5 meters or so apart and thus require some expert buggy manoeuvring, But what do you think happens in the winter? That’s right, the water they spill out freezes, turning the once simple act of going to the shop for a pint of milk into a death defying scramble across sheets of black ice with only rock hard concrete to soften your landing… Every 5 meters…

The second ‘death trap’ is rather more complex. Frozen lakes.

This probably won’t come as a huge surprise but back in my home town of Manchester, North West England lakes don’t tend to freeze over. Actually we don’t have any lakes in Manchester but you get the point. Unsurprisingly the same cannot be said of Stockholm. And when I say lakes, I’m not talking about glorified duck ponds, I’m talking multiple football pitch sized bodies of water.

Take this one for example.

Now believe it or not people swim in that in the summer. Hard to believe right? More interestingly, in the pictures above you can see that a skating track has been cleared around the edge of the lake, which runs for about 15 km and must make for an interesting part of the daily commute to work! You can also see a small ice hockey pitch which has been cleared for kids. Getting out on a frozen lake is very much the done thing during the winter.

And of course it goes without saying that I had to walk out on to it – think of me as your very own Swedish guinea pig. Now I can’t tell you what an odd feeling that is if like me you’ve never done it before.

pic 13

I know it sounds, and let’s be honest is, ridiculous but it’s like you can ‘feel’ the water under your feet. There is also a strange ‘silence’ the further you go out which of course means every little sound you do hear is clearly the ice cracking and you are about to die a fairly horrible death. Irrational I know but after venturing 20 odd feet from the shoreline I had a very sudden urge to head back in. Very, very weird, though next year I do intend to go as far as skating on it – though why taking a blade shaped piece of metal to a frozen lake is a good idea I’ll never know!

Of course the upside of all this snow is that everything, no matter how dirty, grubby or ugly underneath, looks incredibly picturesque. However there is of course yet another downside to all of this (did I mention I like to moan about the cold?) and it’s to do with the pram. Inevitably the tires get clogged up with snow. Snow which has mixed with all the crap on the floor you can’t see. The same snow which melts in your flat leaving lovely new dirt patterns on the floor.

pic 14

The solution? Well I deeply ashamed and embarrassed to admit this, is a rubber ‘buggy’ mat.

pic 15

Why ashamed? Because that’s the exact same mat I ridiculed in a previous blog, about which I said and I quote,

‘What is one of the biggest fears associated with being a new parent? Germs. And where are germs found? In dirt. And which specific part of baby apparatus comes into the most contact with dirt? Pram wheels. And how does one combat this? Simple really, with a £20 (!) ‘Deluxe Floor Protection System’. Or, as you might know it better, a ‘Plastic Sheet’,

Matt pic

Exhibit A. The Deluxe Floor Protection System ©

Now you may be asking, why the anger Fraser? Surely you didn’t spend £20 on a bit of plastic you could buy for a fraction of the price? Of course not dear reader, I’m not an idiot!”

Well guess what? I am indeed an idiot.

Baby Watch

January was designated as launch date for two key development exercises, sleep and food training.

Sleep training… also known as putting her in her own cot… also known as ‘the worst’, was not something we were especially looking forward to. As a new parent with a personal track record of bad sleeping habits (as I’m constantly being reminded by my parents) you hear a lot about how awful it is to get a child to sleep for any length of time on their own and I have nothing but sympathy for anybody going through it at the moment.

We were dreading it and had waited till a Friday on the assumption we wouldn’t be getting any sleep for at least three nights – we even stuck motivational notes to the wall to keep us going! Well I’m relieved to report that due to a combination of luck and good fortune, it’s generally been ok (touch wood, cross fingers, hop on one leg). Inevitably there are the odd nights where you don’t think you’ll ever sleep again and find simple tasks like making a cup of tea akin to working on the latest NASA project, but thankfully she’s mostly enjoyed having her own space.

Food training on the hand went exactly as expected and has thankfully improved in the past 6 months (a bit).

Pic of the Month

It’s always been my intention that this blog be suitable for kids. Yes there might be the odd word here and there or the occasional ‘adult theme’ but generally I like to think it’s a fairly family friendly and I know that some people do read/show it to their kids.

So in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to warn you this week’s Pic of the Month is most certainly NOT children friendly. If you have children or are easily offended yourself, enjoy the weekend and I’ll see you next time. Otherwise read on.

Still here?

Ok, let me share with you some graffiti Swedish style. I spotted this on my way to work in January covering a poster in the entrance hall to my tube station. Not only do you have to wonder how they got it up there in the first place (if you’ll excuse the expression) but you also have to admire the ambition of the piece of street art.

How you feel about it and what it’s trying saying I’ll let you decide for yourself. For me it’s about the disposable nature of media in a society ravaged by decades of moral decay. Or it could just be a guy with a really big ‘opinion’ of himself.

pic 20

Track of the Month

Tom Jones & Cerys Matthews, Baby its cold outside

Till next time.

Fraser ‘bring me my thermals’ Hynes


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