Tuesday, April 30, 2013

An Elegy! In the Summer!

I’m continually told Sweden is a wonderful place …in the Summer!

Today is Valborgsmässoafton in Sweden; The celebration of Spring. We are going to a traditional celebration tonight, where a huge bonfire is lit to frighten away demons of darkness and gloom and welcome the lengthening days. We have been invited to a celebratory release of the cows next week from their winter imprisonment! I wondered where the massive piles of manure came from as I hadn’t seen a single cow! It will be a moo-ving experience (thank you Karen). If I was a Student at Uppsala University I would wear a white velvet cap today and sing traditional Swedish songs. (I think that’s why my application to attend the university failed. I didn’t tick the ‘can sing traditional Swedish songs’ and ‘look good in a white velvet cap’ boxes)
The approach of Summer is a massive deal here. Mostly, I suspect, because winter is so long and depressing. I thought I’d try and capture the joy of the winter’s end and the celebration pending Summer.

In the Summer!

There’s no vast white expanse of snö and ice to light the endless darkness of polar winter
In the Summer

No need for arctic approved thermals and being labelled up to the hilt in Northface gear (because Canada goose is too expensive)
In the (it hits 20ºC if you’re lucky) Summer

No sour faced and bewildered vodka soaked locals, unwilling to make eye contact
In the (let’s all put our party hats on) Summer

No irritatingly hyper fit extreme cross country skiers in bright yellow, way-too-tight, 70’s ski gear
In the (what do we do now?) summer

No need for nature’s Aurora Borealis light show to illuminate the night (allegedly in these parts)
In the (24 hours of daylight preventing any sleep) Summer

No need to fathom the confusing winter tyre laws that make winter tyres compulsory but banned from certain roads
In the (still speed cameras everywhere and watch out for wandering Mooses) Summer

Your first Swedish word of necessity, to clean the car of the sticky black tar like residue from the roads, isn’t Avtettning
In the (now what’s the Swedish for ‘I don’t speak Swedish’?) summer

No need to stock up the potato store to bunker down for the season
In the (it’s still potatoes for dinner because meat is so ridiculously expensive) summer

No need open the local swimming pool when there’s a beautiful barely defrosted lake to swim in
In the (mosquito infested, midge plagued) Summer

Gone are the ‘Closed for winter’ signs at all the little seaside souvenir shops
In the (we still sell lots of seriously overpriced shit and shut at random times) summer

There’s a decent restaurant that’s open just 20 miles away
In the (cant get a table because of all the tourists) Summer

Summer lasts a whole week in Sweden!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Swedish Shampagne Shitfest!

* Warning! I say ‘shit’ a lot in this blog!

They say life is not about the destination but the journey. Sometimes the destination can be a poignant end to a journey someone… or something has been on.
I have to confess I knew very little about Sweden before I moved here. After 3 months of living here I haven’t really added to my bank of knowledge. Like everyone else, I was familiar with Abba, fermented herring (not so familiar) and Ryvita! I wasn’t disappointed! Pictures of Abba greet you at the airport along with other famous Swedes, whose names escape me. There are whole aisles of knäckebröd in the supermarkets. As for fish… that’s a blog dying (and stinking) to be written!
There was one other thing I knew about Sweden. Orrefors make beautiful glassware. Every Christmas for 6 years we were the recipients of 2 champagne flutes (the ‘Nobel’ design by Gunnar Cyrén) from Hubby’s Swedish boss. Being a plain girl with simple tastes, initially I considered them glitzy and gaudy but loved them anyway. When I looked to buy wine glasses to match and found out how much they cost, they suddenly seemed very elegant and understated and I loved them even more! They were very posh and very beautiful. I say ‘were’. Every journey takes its toll.
My champagne flutes have been on a bit of a journey with me from Sweden to England and on to America and now back to Sweden. As they have been repatriated to their home land I’m looking forward to making new friends, sharing a glass or two of champagne and sharing the harrowing story of the champagne flutes to a Swedish audience.
I’m never quite sure with after dinner stories whether to keep them as short anecdotes or stretch them out with detail into full stories. To tell my newly acquired Swedish friends, impressed with my Swedish champagne flutes (which are so posh, the local very posh hotel has a set in a locked cabinet as a display) the anecdote; ‘these very champagne flutes were once filled with shit in America’, might not amuse given their Swedish origin. It might also cause unnecessary alarm and concern that I might not have washed them properly afterwards. Besides, it’s an exaggeration! It wasn’t solid shit, more a murky brown shit fused water!
I guess I will have to tell the long version.
I never name and shame so I will have to stick to that principle here. Anyway, I blame myself. I thought my shitty visitor was only pretending to have the shits because he was a boring shit who didn’t want to go out and do Jack shit. We did go out but, as with a couple of other nights, had to come back early because someone had tumpkin ache! I'd been in bed ten minutes when I was woken to be told water was running down the kitchen walls. Someone had blocked the guest toilet… with shit…. And the shitty water was seeping through the walls down stairs into the kitchen… Into the kitchen cupboards to be precise. To be totally exact, it was filling up £900 worth of champagne flutes and it wasn’t with Moet! I was ‘lucky’ in that the wall cavity and plaster acted as a shit sieve so solid bits didn’t get through. It was more a defused eau d’ shit water.
White the shitty water filled 5 wall cupboards, 5 draws and 5 floor cupboards, the shitter went to sleep. Worse still, he suggested my 7 year old son had blocked the toilet; A toilet my son never uses (at the far side of the house – it was a big house – it was Texas!!!) with more shit than his total body weight! My son, capable of many shitty horrors, was not responsible for this one!
It was late. The shit flow was halted. I went to bed, while the vintage in the champagne glasses ‘breathed’ and matured like fine wine! By morning I had developed a cleaning OCD. It was less ‘once more into the Breach’, more ‘where’s the fucking Bleach!’  Armed with gallons of beach and rubber gloves I began operation clean up. Every vessel was filled with water with more than a hint of shit. I had to throw all my PG tips teabags away which was tragic enough, but I will never forget my elegant, tall Swedish champagne flutes, every one of them, filled with turgid brown water.
I was completely in the zone! Barking orders! Everyone was shit scared. Including me! Literally! Hard not to be with that many pooh particles about! I have been hospitalised with Campylobacteriosis which is caught via ‘fecal-oral, ingestion of contaminated food or water’ i.e. eating shit! I never want it again! I used spray disinfectant, proven to kill 99% of shitty things dead! I used so much I couldn’t breathe and began heaving. The last thing I needed was a sickfest to go with the shitfest. I did, for a fleeting moment wonder if it had all been a ploy to get me to do some housework!
All this time the ‘alleged’ shitter slept on! He emerged, with impeccable timing, when the last shitty item had been bleached.
Shitty Arse!
I wondered if the spray disinfectant would work on him.

Thinking about it realistically, there are two problems with telling the shitty champagne story to dinner guests. Swedes might not like the total lack of respect, indeed, the downright cruelty bestowed on Sweden’s finest glassware. Also, they might not want to finish their glass of champagne.
Ooooh! Every cloud! Alcohol is really expensive here. If I only half fill their glasses, they sure as shit wont want a refill!