Sunday, April 30, 2006
Friday, April 28, 2006
Friday, April 28th, 2006:
A sure sign of spring in Helsingborg
(for the first thing I thought, see below):
Spring brings many things;
Things that make you sing.
OK, that's enough poetry.
One sure sign of spring here in Helsingborg is the re-appearance of what is affectionately known as the A-Team (Alcoholic Team).
They hang out under a bent tree in a chuchyard on Södergatan, just across the road from the Charles Dickens pub, very close to Systembolaget (the horrible state-run booze monopoly). They drink, drink and are merry. Until they fight, or fall over, or both. And occasionally puke. But they come back the next day and start their unique rituals all over again. Bless them.
Yesterday, while having a smoke outside the aforementioned pub after work, I spotted the first few of this noble team coming out of hibernation. One of the team actually staggered very encouragingly.
The Yanks have Groundhog Day to herald the coming of spring, and I have A-Team Day.
It was a wondrous occasion for all, and there was much rejoicing. I just had to capture the moment and share it with you, my faithful readers.
I can't wait until the full posse gets there; then I'll know that summer's coming for sure. Maybe I'll post some more photos then. Something to look forward to. This is one thing that the Swedish government got right. Well done.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Friday, April 28th, 2006:
Bike-watching in Helsingborg
What I think:
It's pretty cool the way that many people commute around this fine city purely by the magic of pedal-power; it's healthy, it's efficient, it's good for the environment, it's relatively safe (there are fewer maniacal drivers here than in larger cities), but it's not for me. I walk almost everywhere; otherwise, it's a cab.
But I admire those who can be bothered to get their bikes out (sometimes carrying them down a flight or two of stairs), cycle to their destinations, and find suitable places to lock them up, fairly confident that parts won't get stolen (this is not London). Good for them, I say.
Then I started looking at the bikes many people ride. They look plain, boring, old-fashioned - ugly. OK, many people do have nice cool modern ones, but a lot of people (yes, even young people) ride bikes that look like they were designed by ABBA's great-great-grandparents.
I've been told that the "classic" look of these bikes is considered a chic and trendy thing; that owning one of these is a status symbol, of sorts. Have a look at this fine example of Swedish cycling trendiness:
Mama, I want one.
I want the tight Lycra shorts that go with it as well, pretty please.
Ooh, actually, can I have one of these instead?
Perhaps the singer from Roxette will let me sit in the basket while she joyrides around having "the look".
I'm told that they're comfortable, durable, and dependable. I guess that they're considered the cyclists' Volvos. But this "look" is dreadfully outdated, and these monstrosities do not belong in this millennium. It's definitely time that the Swedish government did something about it. In fact, I think it was time they did something about it around 1920. That's what I think.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Sunday, April 23rd, 2006:
Does the Swedish government trust Swedes?
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend pointed out an ad in a newspaper for booze. It seems that one can now order wine, beer, and spirits from a website, and have it delivered to one's home. Cool. No more going to Systembolaget
to get what is globally recognised as a part of a decent meal, or a good party. Or both. Brilliant.
But then I started reading reports of how Swedish customs are confiscating people's booze as it comes into the country because it's been illegally imported. It's apparently been illegally imported by legitimate companies who have legitimately legal licences to ply their trade. What? Let me get this straight...
So, I can legally order whatever booze I want in over the Internet in Sweden, but it could be impounded by customs upon its arrival, because it's illegal.
The Swedish government are ignoring European law (or rather interpreting it differently). People are ordering booze from Swedish-registered companies (over the Internet); keeping within the law, but unintentionally breaking it at the same time.
The Swedish government are allowing companies to offer the service, then immediately revoking their ability to deliver.
In a nutshell:
European law: You can order booze from anywhere you want; the Swedish government's monopoly on this is illegal, from our point of view.
Swedish law: OK, you can order from whomever you want.
No wait, maybe not.
Umm, no, you can't order booze.
Umm, OK, you can order it, but it might get taken away from you at customs, OK?
The biggest advocates of this horrible monopoly are the current government. Isn't it interesting that the person in charge of Systembolaget is married to Sweden's Prime Minister?
It's time that Swedes had a proper choice, and it's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Saturday, April 22nd, 2006:
Publication of a book about Helsingborg?
A few weeks ago, I started looking into what it takes to get published properly. You know, like in books & stuff. I happened to find this agency in New York. Just for fun, I decided to see how far I could get in their "filtering process", based solely on this blog.
The first step in this was to fill in an online form. Based on the answers given, they would decide whether or not to proceed. I received an e-mail a few days later saying that I got through this bit.
The next step was to answer a couple more questions and attach "three to five chapters" of my work for their evaluation team to review. Hhmm...It's a blog; I haven't got chapters. So I simply copied & pasted the first month's worth of entries into a Word document, did a bit of editing, made a PDF and sent that.
Within a couple of weeks, I received a reply saying that, based on the material I had sent so far, they would be interested in representing me. I was to reply to that e-mail, indicating that I would like to move forward, with a request for them to send me a contract and a referral for a critique agency to look at my "work" in its entirety (I find the fact that my typing out a load of rantings is classed as "work" quite amusing).
By now, this was getting weirdly exciting. Would it actually be possible to get a book published, based on a blog that observes and pokes fun at various Swedish customs & quirks? Well, they seem to think so, strange bastards.
Within a couple of days, I received a contract and a referral for an agency to critique my "work".
I got in touch with this critique place, who replied fairly promptly, indicating that I needed to pay them $89 US dollars for their service. I get paid in a few days, so will dutifully send them my payment, and await their OK to send them what I've got.
As for the contract, it's pretty straightforward and without too much in the way of "legalese". I retain all copyrights, etc. and they get 10% of any money they make for me in publishing my work (ha-ha, "work"). They are to be my agents in the US and Canada only.
Once this critique thing is done, I'm to polish up my stuff a bit, based on the recommendations made, and I'll be assigned my own personal "Agent".
My agent will work with me to develop what I've got, and try to turn it into something saleable. He or she will then try to find a sucker-I-mean-publisher who will buy what I have to inflict-I-mean-offer. (By the way, did you know that the Swedish word for "victim" is offer?)
So that's where I'm at right now. I'm starting to wonder whether, if this actually gets somewhere, the Swedish government will do something about it. Time will tell. Wish me luck.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Saturday, April 15th, 2006:
Bald Easter chicks
I went out the other day and saw displays like the one below in a few different parts of Helsingborg; loads of twigs with yellow feathers stuck on them. I remembered that I'd seen these in previous years, but I didn't really give them much thought at the time. This year, being older and more observant than before (and slightly more sober), I started wondering.
Where did these feathers come from? Were they plucked from the cute little Easter chicks we see so much of at this time of year? Are there flocks of bald chicks huddled in some refuge for bald chicks right here in Helsingborg, even as I write this? Will their feathers ever grow back? I just had to find out.
So I asked my girlfriend. Being Swedish, she should know about this kind of stuff.
It turns out that these are birch twigs. Feathers of different colours are normally used, but the yellow ones they've used here could be intended to symbolise the sun. And possibly egg yolks. Maybe little Easter chicks as well. My girlfriend's smart. And as I said, she's Swedish, so she should know about this kind of stuff.
Apparently, around Easter time, Swedes go out and buy birch twigs with feathers on them. They bring them home and put them in water. After a few days, they start to produce buds.
As most people know, many of the little rituals that take place around Easter time are of pagan origin, and have to do with the advent of the coming of spring. This bizarre sort of birch twig-worship comes from that as well.
It almost makes sense. The yellow feathers: the power of the sun and the, erm, chicks (they're yellow, right) from the eggs (the egg, the symbol of fertility, has a yellow yolk), the twigs that start to blossom, etc. I'm not sure what other colours are used for feathers, but I'm sure that, whatever they are, they have some deep symbolic meaning as well.
But apparently, these twigs serve another purpose among the good Christian Swedish folks. Some people use birch twigs to whip themselves on the back at this happy time of year. This is to pay hommage to the man who got whipped while he was carrying a couple of big pieces of wood that were tied together, a long time ago, at around this time of year.
Convincing people that self-flagellation is acceptable and normal behaviour at Easter time is simply wrong. The Swedish public should be encouraged to enjoy this activity at any time of the year. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.
Saturday, April 15th, 2006:
Spring sprung in Helsingborg
Also, check out my little weather guy on the right-hand side of the main blog page. He looks bored, doesn't he? When the weather's nice, he should do a little dance (make a little love - get down tonight, etc.). Or perhaps just smile, for Christ's sake. And it appears that he can't tell time. I don't trust him yet. He's really got to prove himself. Otherwise, I'll report him to the Swedish government.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Wednesday, April 12th, 2006:
April flowers in Helsingborg
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Tuesday, April 11th, 2006:
Pubs + Helsingborg = Me!
I made an alarming discovery earlier. If you Google: the words "pubs" and "helsingborg", my blog comes up at number one (at the time of writing this).
That says far too seriously much about me.
I should get some kind of reward for the promotion of the pubs in this city. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it, like give me vouchers for free beer or something. That's what I think.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Monday, April 10th, 2006:
A misbehaving flat person
in Helsingborg and Helsingör
My young niece in Montreal sent me a letter about a book her class read in school called Flat Stanley. It's about a little boy whose bulletin board falls on him and flattens him. He gets very depressed, and I suspect he probably gets prescribed Prozac for a while.
But then one day, probably after a long group-therapy session, he realises that being flat isn't all that bad; he can fit into an envelope and travel the world very cheaply. My niece thought it would be a good idea for Flat Stanley to visit me in Helsingborg.
The idea was to take photos of Flat Stanley in different places, and send them back to my niece for her to show her class. A bit of a geography lesson for her classmates at the same time.
I thought, sure, no problem, I'll show the little chap a good time, maybe even bring him on the ferry over to Helsingör (in Denmark), so he could see two countries in Scandinavia. Big mistake.
As soon as he got here, he was very demanding, and only agreed to pose for pictures after I promised that I'd pay for all his drinks.
Luckily, I managed to get some nice shots of him to send back to my niece.
On the ferry on the way back to Sweden, Flat Stanley got very abusive toward the staff, stole a bottle of Jack Daniels from the shop, got in a fight with some big guys, and smacked member of staff in the mouth when he tried to break it up.
When we finally got back to Helsingborg, he was arrested on the spot, and the Swedish government did something about it; they deported Flat Stanley back to Canada immediately, via air mail.
Little visiting Canadian paper cut-outs should really try to behave when staying with friends and family abroad. That's what I think.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Tuesday, April 4th, 2006:
Weather in Helsingborg: could it get stranger?
There appears to have been some meteorological schizophrenia going on in Helsingborg today. It was fairly grey and cloudy this morning, but I expected that; it was a bit showery yesterday.
After lunch, I looked out my window and noticed that it had started to snow. Yes, snow on April 4th. I was most annoyed with that. I got extremely pissed off, quite frankly.
I went to the smoking room to have a cigarette to calm my nerves. When I got back to my desk, I was just about to complain to the Swedish government, but when I looked out the window the sun was shining. Yes, it was sunny. Just like that. The nerve.
Now, I'm just about to leave work, and looking out the window, I can see that it's grey and cloudy. Just like this morning. Just like nothing had happened.
I'm a bit worried about the weather. I came in when it was grey and cloudy, and I'm leaving when it's grey and cloudy. But in between, there's been all sorts of irratic behaviour. If I didn't have windows where I work, I would never have known that this madness was taking place. But I do know, and it has simply got to stop. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.