It’s February and I need to talk prams.
“Well this is going to be a fascinating addition to the blog cannon Fraser, just give me a minute while I go find absolutely anything else to do”.
Now please bear with me dear reader, the reason I want to talk about prams, specifically our pram, is that the experience of using it during the winter months will give you a keen insight into Swedish life which all the textbooks out there cannot.
First thing to say is that it will come as little surprise to anyone that prams take an absolute pounding over here in the winter months and despite buying the equivalent of a Range Rover, ours was no different. After a few weeks of pushing, dragging and wrangling it through miles of snow covered payments, the tires were pretty much flat – yes, our pram is so fancy it has inflatable tires.
What a pain right? Flat tires on a pram, complete disaster, impossible situation, so on and so forth (*I appreciate that when held up against world poverty and other such matters, these are hardly big issues but it works for the narrative of the blog). Well as it turns out inflating tires on a pram over here is not only easy, it’s actually very much the done thing as we quickly discovered that every public toilet, including the one in the square outside our flat, has a built-in ‘pram tire pump’ specifically for the job. You can’t make this stuff up – and actually don’t need to,
All of which goes to show just how child friendly Sweden is. But this commitment to a sustained ‘pram friendly experience’ don’t end there. How many of you have seen, or dreamt that they’d live long enough to see one of these?
Pram parking spaces. What a time to be alive.
What is it you ask? It’s only a blooming pram car park! That’s right, most of the main museums have these during the winter but unlike those round the world where you might have an area set aside somewhere round the back, this being Sweden you literally have your own parking bay right at the front. And exactly like their car equivalents, the exact same rules apply – God only help you if you park across someone else’s bay, its nappy bags at 12 paces!
Now in last week’s blog I talked at length about how cold it was in Sweden at the start of the year and therefore how much snow we had in January. Imagine for a minute then how much I was talking about that at the time? It was honestly my number one topic of conversation, if not infact my only topic of conversation. Regular readers may have also noted that on occasion I may… perhaps… occasionally… now and again… be prone to slight exaggerations.
It should therefore come as little surprise that the impression I may have given people back home was that we were essentially living through a second ice age on a stable diet of woolly mammoth and sabretooth tiger and that the simple act of going to the shops was akin to trekking across the arctic tundra in speedos.
I may, may, have slightly exaggerated the situation which might go some way towards explaining why our first visitors in February, my mum and dad, came dressed as ‘Nordic Wing Commander Brendadio’ and ‘Dee of Antartica’. Indeed my mum even went so far as to buy a special pair of boots that can be used in -25 degrees.
However my warnings were in the end well founded when shortly before their arrival we had such a heavy snow dump that it was piled up in the streets above their heads.
I have a confession to make – the picture above is a lie. Here it is in full.
I couldn’t believe it. After weeks of saying how much snow there was, how cold it was, how difficult it was to get round the city, by February everything had bloody melted and it wasn’t actually that cold – I should say this is in relative terms, for any future Winter visitors I wouldn’t suggest just packing a couple of Bermuda shorts and flip flops!
Luckily however having promised ‘loads of snow’ we were able to find a great big pile of the stuff outside the Kings Palace. However again I need to come clean and admit that it’s actually ‘fake real snow’ imported from the north (where funnily enough they have loads of the stuff!) The snow itself was being shoveled into place for the yearly Royal Sprint – a World Cup race on skis around the Royal Palace (http://royalpalacesprint.se/en/)
However even without the snow though, one really good thing the council does throughout the winter is offer ‘free’ ice skating rinks throughout the city – well, free if you have your own ice skates, which the vast majority of residents do of course.
February was also notable for me personally for one other reason, the development of a potentially life threatening addiction to Semla cakes. I have talked about Semlor before: a Swedish specialty, they are a sweet cardamom-spiced bun filled with a mix of milk and almond paste, topped with whipped cream.
Historically eaten only on Shrove Tuesday as the last festive food before Lent, today they are available every day from shortly after Christmas until Easter. On average a Swede will consume five a year. Here’s how many I had in one week,
At one point I’d even taken to bulk purchasing and pulling articles out of the newspaper to find the best places to buy them from. I have a problem. I need help.
Anyway, the reason for my concern with this overloading on a cream bun? Well on February 12, 1771, King Adolf Frederick of Sweden died of digestion problems following a large meal and after completing his fourteen helping of his favorite desert, The Semla.
It is literally a King Killer – and I ain’t no King!
February included a day trip to the Stockholm aquarium – http://www.aquaria.se/. In the interests of full disclosure I have to say it’s not especially great for adults – I’ve been in bigger swimming pools. But Rosalyn did enjoy the brightly lit jelly fish tanks.
Also in February, baby weaning went from bad to absolutely dismal.
Pic of the Month
For the second week in a row I need to apologise to younger readers, though to be fair this image was available to people of all ages anyway so I’m technically not the one to blame. I’ve mentioned before that there are certain words in English which don’t carry the same ‘weight’ when Swedes drop them (regularly as it happens) into conversations as you can clearly see here in this advert on the Underground advertising a popular breakfast cereal…
Track of the Month
Dean Martin – Let It Snow,