Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday, December 29th, 2008:
Aweigh with the ferries of Helsingborg

What I think:

After yet another successful gig at Trappa Upp in Höganäs (more on that later), we in the blues/rock cover band CSI: Helsingborg decided to have a Pissed Rehearsal tonight.

A Pissed Rehearsal is a rehearsal to which we bring loads of beer, and get drunk while playing. The logic behind this is that we will always have a good few beers before (and during) performing live, so we might as well get used to playing drunk. 

Having said this, I always drink beer at rehearsals anyway. But the others don't usually drink much. Except for CSI: Nils; we usually meet at Charles Dickens before rehearsals and down a couple there.

We also usually invite friends to our Pissed Rehearsals, and end up having quite a little party. You'd like these things, I'm sure.

In any case (of beer), I needed to pick up a case (of beer) for the Pissed Rehearsal. Rather than go to the state-owned, over-priced, horrible alcohol monopoly Systembolaget, we in Helsingborg have a great little perk: the ferry.

I was hoping to go with a friend, but the Yank was busy, Badlands had already been out and was going to work today, another Yank had a "screaming child and a troublesome vagina" to contend with (I didn't ask for further details), and my new-ish Brit mate was in Gothenburg.

Scandlines operate a three-ferry service. A ferry leaves Helsingborg every twenty minutes, and arrives in Helsingör (in Denmark) twenty minutes later. Which ferry you catch depends on when you get to Knutpunkten (Helsingborg's central station for ferries, trains, and buses), and get your ticket. 

Single (US/CAN: one-way) tickets are only 28 kronor (€2.52, £2.44, CAN $4.34,and about US$625.72). You only want to buy a single because you can buy beer on board, and Helsingör is crap this time of year. You just stay on the ferry and wait for it to return to Helsingborg.

You can only buy beer once you're in Danish waters, so buy it as you're either approaching or leaving Denmark. Smokers can buy cheap cigarettes in Swedish waters. You can only buy one pack from the shop (per ticket purchased), but you can usually buy more from the bar. But not always.

The names of the ferries are Hamlet (you can see "Hamlet's castle" as you approach Helsingör; Helsingör = Elsinore), Aurora, and Tycho Brahe. I got on Tycho Brahe.

Tycho Brahe was from this area of Sweden when it was part of Denmark. It's confusing, I know; read up on Skåne's (or "Scania's") history if you're interested, and/or on Tycho Brahe, if you give a hoot about this silver-snooted astronomer.

An interesting fact about the Tycho Brahe ferry: Did you know that this particular ferry has a Servicefart of 14,5 knob?I kid you not.  I just learned that yesterday evening when I was on board. Here's proof:
Remember that; it could turn out to be very important information on this journey called "Life".

Tycho Brahe is actually my favourite ferry of the three. This is because there's a nice little closed-off smoking room in the bar area. 

And before any non-smoking militants start ranting, I'd like to share a quote from the late great Joe Strummer from The Clash: "Non-smokers should be banned from buying any product created by a smoker." There, that's you lot told.

Anyway, after boarding and climbing the stairs to the bar, to my utter dismay, I found it to be closed. 

What!? OK, it was a Sunday, but it was early evening, for crying out excessively loudly.

I was not happy. I went back downstairs, bought a bottle of beer from whence they sell those red Danish hot dog things, went back up to the bar's smoking room, and sulked for a while.Then I had an idea: Why not do a "Top Toilet Tips"* about the ferry?

Here we go:

There are a few toilets on each ferry. It's only when it's very busy that you have to wait to relieve yourself. The gents' toilet on the bar/restaurant deck (Deck 5) looks like this:Because it was totally dead on this particular crossing, the toilet was nice and clean. It can get pretty nasty though, so be warned. The stalls are pretty basic.
But do you seen the little metal box in the top-right?

I like this. It's a special box for the junkies and self-harmers to dispose of their sharp objects, so as not to bring harm to others. I think it's a very nice and thoughtful touch. Bless.                                                                                              
The urinals also have a cool feature.                                  
They're placed over a grill, which is (essentially) a large drain. So if someone "misses", you don't have to stand in their pee-puddle. Hell, you can even just open fire directly onto the grill, if you want to (but make sure you're alone. Trust me; it can be embarrassing otherwise).

So that's it. I can highly recommend the gents' toilet aboard Tycho Brahe, especially if you're a self-harming heroin addict who hasn't quite mastered the fine art of aiming your willy effectively.

So, that was fun. But I was still pissed off that the bar was closed.Then we finally got to Denmark, left Denmark, I went down and bought my beer from the shop (which, by the way, looks like a lot of duty-free shops you see in airports), bought another beer from the hot dog place. Found my way upstairs and had a smoke (see A Day In The Life by The Beatles), and felt much happier.
Mission accomplished.

The Gig

CSI: Helsingborg played at Trappa Upp in a town called Höganäs on December 19th. We weren't really sure whether many people would turn up, as it was the Friday before Christmas. 

As it turns out, a British drummer friend of mine (from Mortice - check them out) turned up with his girlfriend. This is what it looked like just before we hit the stage:
Two of the people in that photo are in the band.

We actually ended up having a surprise opening act. One of the barmen decided to hit the dance floor to show us his bottle-juggling skills. 
Tom Cruise, he was not.

He kept dropping bottles, but persevered for what felt like an eternity, until one of the bottles finally smashed of the floor. Great, we thought, he's done. But no, he simply went and got another one, and his performance continued for a further eternity-and-a-half. 

Eventually, we got on stage and did our first set for our audience of two.It went really well anyway. And we were getting paid a really good amount of money for doing it, so no complaints from us.

More people started turning up just before we started our second set, which was nice. By the end we had a decent-sized crowd. And they seemed to like us as well, which was a bonus.

We ended our set with Neil Young's Rocking In The Free World. Some rather large female took it upon herself to steal CSI: Per's microphone to help us out on vocals during the choruses. CSI: Per is not a big guy, and he'd skipped the self-defense classes that every CSI is expected to take, so he was not going to argue.
She was adorable anyway. It was very cute the way that she sang "Keep on rockin' on the free world" in her extreme Swedish accent.

When we finished, and left the stage, she kept asking us if we know any Melissa Etheridge. 
Er, no. 
And we're finished. And we're not allowed back on stage. We're done. Finito. 

She was not a happy jumbo-bunny. 

So I gave her an XL CSI:Helsingborg t-shirt, and made her an honourary member of CSI: Helsingborg. That seemed to prevent any unfortunate squishing episodes.

Another brilliant gig that ended peacefully.

In summary, I think that the bars on the ferries should be open at least until 23:00 (11:00 p.m.), and it's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

* More Top Toilet Tips!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008:
CSI: Helsingborg to play at Trappa Upp
in Höganäs
on Friday, December 19th

What I think:

We found out last Friday that the good people at the Trappa Upp bar/music venue in the small town of Höganäs enjoyed our show so much that they want us to play again this coming Friday. Short notice, but yay.

I went up there a couple of nights ago with our bass player, CSI: Per, to drop off some posters for the owner (at the pizza place; he owns both places). 

It's not the best resolution here, but 
this is what the latest poster looks like: 
I thought that this would be a great opportunity to make use of some of our new crime scene tape, so we set about "cordoning off" random things in the central area of Höganäs.

We started off at the bike stand shelter (yes, there's a shelter for the bicycles) right next to the town hall, where we put tape on the sides...Then we did a few bits of some random fences around there, as well as some bins. 

Here's one with CSI: Per's official CSI: Helsingborg cap on top. He thought it would be very artistic. Per is Swedish.There seems to be quite a few benches along one of the main roads on Höganäs, and not just at bus stops. 

Where there were two or more in a row, we just had to wrap some CSI tape around one of their backs. Resistance was futile.Then we found a nice tree right near, what appeared to be, the central bus depot. Ideal.

We soon found out that Höganäs is a place with an obvious artistic flair. 

Yes, it was much to our delight that CSI: Per and I discovered amazing statues of a few small piggies grazing by the side of the road. 

One of them looked to me like the perfect little porcine crime scene. Come here, you.
I call it our Gig Pig. Perhaps we'll adopt her as our mascot. Yeah. And we can call her Giggle Piggy.

All in all, I think we covered a good wide area of central Höganäs (such as it is), and it's time that the Swedish government attended one of our gigs. That's what I think.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday, December 12th, 2008:
The second snowfall and
buying silly things in Helsingborg

What I think:

The second snowfall, errm, fell on Helsingborg. You may remember my post about the first one of this season. Some mystery joker, who probably lives in the building opposite ours, "wrote" in the snow.

It appears that this may now be a regular occurrence, as I just looked out the window a few minutes ago and saw this:
Yes, it's the word SEN upside-down. This is a bit more cryptic than the "STFU OMFG" we saw last time. Sen is Swedish for "late", but it's also commonly used as a shortened version of senare, which means later. (Here's a little Swedish lesson for you: sen, senare, senast mean "late", "later", "latest", respectively. Educational blog, or what!?)

While I did indeed wonder why someone would want to write "STFU" and "OMFG" in the snow, I could almost see the point. I took as a kind of a "No way! It can't be snowing, get outta here!" type of thing. But this one's got me baffled.

Is it some kind of message to one of my neighbours (US/CAN: neighbors) across the way; as in "I'll see you later"? Or could it be something more sinister? Hhmm... 

Answers in the comments, please. The writer of the best one will win something. Sometime. If they're lucky.

Moving on...

I made a rather silly purchase recently - but first a bit of background:

My girlfriend and I live in a small flat, but we have a fair-sized glassed-in balcony. We put a single bed and a side table out there, so that we could use the balcony as a spare room during the summer (all 17 days of it), and a little smoking room year-round.

One problem was that it wasn't very attractive. So, my girlfriend decided to do something about it. Here's the "before" photo, with GF starting to do something about it:
And here's the "after" photo, taken yesterday:
Much better, isn't it?
We laid some good (but cheap) carpeting out there, on which Lucy Fur can sharpen her little toenails whenever she pleases (she hates scratching posts, for some reason), and it's more pleasant on one's feet in general.

The balcony's fine when it's not winter, but since this is only for about nine days out of the year, it can get very chilly out there, and the carpet doesn't keep one's feet warm, even with socks.

Since my teen years (i.e. when it became important to be "cool"), I've had an aversion to wearing slippers. Now that I'm in my forties, I don't want to wear them because (unreasonably), I'll feel old; you know, the old man with pipe, slippers and newspaper image. Shudderingly retro, in a bad way. Even if the pipe is now a bong.

BUT, then I saw something I thought would be quite funky. Some slippers that you stick in the microwave for 90 seconds before slipping them on.

Yes, I bought a pair of Slippies.
That's all my years of accumulated street cred destroyed in one fell swoop. 

But they do work.

I have to say that I will normally only wear them when I go out on the balcony for a smoke, or when I'm sitting at my desk (which is right near the balcony door, so my feet do get cold).

But that's not because they're extremely uncool, but because they're not made for walking in. The soles are filled with flax seeds and some lavender essence (so your feet smell like an old lady's blue-rinsed hair), and walking in them feels like you're walking on a beach wearing socks & sandals. In fact, the text on the packaging indicates that they're not designed for walking in, as they don't have any grips on the soles.
While these Slippies are quite comfy, and indeed ideal for sitting out on a cold balcony for the duration of a cigarette, they're otherwise pretty useless items of footwear for wearing around the home. 

So I nominate Slippies my silliest purchase of the year. I may just ask the Swedish government if they have any ideas for next year's silly purchase; they seem to be good at spending money on useless things as well.

So, what was YOUR silliest purchase of the year? Please do share.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday, December 8th, 2008:
Music and mayhem in Helsingborg

What I think:

Well, it happened again today. Somebody came up to me, asked if I was Mark Base, and mentioned that she reads this blog. While this most often happens at PL13, this time it was at a bus stop in the south of the city. I had just finished rehearsing with a Christmas Choir (my former workplace has a few people who sing some songs at Christmas and Midsummer, and I agreed to continue playing guitar for them), and I was waiting for a bus to go home.

Meeting this girl made me realise that I haven't written anything for a while, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to bring you up to speed with things over here in the south of Sweden. Oh, by the way, "Hello girl from the bus stop!" (I do remember your name, but I'm not sure of how to spell it). Plus I'm not sure if you'd want to see it published here, even if I happened to get the spelling right.

Work-wise, I'm still mainly getting jobs from the company I used to work for, but I've had a couple of other things as well; most recently some voice-over work, which is fun. I'm actually going to Malmö tomorrow to do a bit more of that. 

OK, that's work out of the way.

The end of October and the first couple of weeks of November were an exceptional time for music in Helsingborg. I'm hoping that this turns out to be some kind of trend; perhaps some decent bands won't always necessarily skip Helsingborg when going to do other gigs in the bigger cities elsewhere in Sweden, like Stockholm and Gothenburg. One can always dream.

CSI: Helsingborg in Höganäs
But first, a bit about my band, CSI: Helsingborg. We had a gig at a place called Trappa Upp (Upstairs) in a town called Höganäs, which is about a 20-minute drive north of Helsingborg. Trappa Upp is an odd place right in the middle of some sort of industrial estate. And, as the name suggests, it's up a flight of stairs. But once inside, it's actually quite a nice venue.
"Good evening. We're with the crime lab."

It turned out to be a really good gig, even though there were only about 20 people there (including bar staff). A bit odd for the Friday after pay day, but nevermind. It was great to see my burger-stabbing friend there with his girlfriend. They'd recently moved to Höganäs, and thought they'd come and check out the show. So, M. (the girlfriend) was the official photographer for the evening.

The Pink Floyd Project at The Tivoli
The following evening my girlfriend and I went to The Tivoli to see a Danish tribute band called The Pink Floyd Project.I can definitely say that this was the best show I'd seen during my time in Helsingborg, so far. The music, the visuals, everything was just... wow. I almost felt stoned watching/listening to them. Check them out; they got some stuff on YouTube.  After the show, we went into the adjoining bar within Tivoli, the Vinyl Bar. It turned out that my bass player from CSI: Helsingborg (CSI: Per) was there with his lovely wife and a mate. So we had a few more beers.

After the show...
Then this guy suddenly appeared wearing a tiny Borat-style thong swimsuit, and with his hair in bunches.

Apparently he was wearing it for a bet, but he was quite embarrassed for a while. But then he got used to the attention and decided to shake his exposed booty.No, it wasn't pretty.

I don't remember much more about that evening, and the photos remaining on the camera didn't give me much of a clue, but I don't think it was anything more exciting than this. Because this really looks pretty exciting, doesn't it?

A birthday party
The following week, I was invited to a party to celebrate the birthday of the drummer of my other band, Suckerbucket. I went with The Yank and another friend. 

It wasn't exactly a surprise party, per se, as Mr Drummer's wife had made about 14,682 hors d'oeuvres, and had bought 687 bottles of bubbly. But we gave him a bit of a surprise when he opened his front door to find about 50 people singing Happy Birthday to him.

And there was another surprise in store for him anyway. Some of the guests had organised a little band to play Stevie Wonder's Happy Birthday. They even got some funky costumes together, and got Mr Birthday Drummer Guy to join in and bang a snare drum as well.
Quite an impressive performance. And visually, it almost rivalled The Pink Floyd Project. 
But not quite.
Afterwards (i.e. after we'd polished off the 687 bottles of bubbly), The Yank, the other friend, and I went to Pub Punkten for a couple more beers. Then I went home, eventually.

The following week, my girlfriend and I went to see another band at The Tivoli. This one was called Detektivbyrån (which translates to The Detective Bureau). They only play instrumental stuff, but it's pretty cool. It's sort of electronica mixed with vibes and accordion. It was impressive to see someone who could make an accordion actually look cool.The drummer had a funny bit as well... He was talking about how he had been taking sax lessons, so we thought that he'd be wowing us with his newly acquired saxophone skills... But sax is also Swedish for scissors, so we were treated to him using a pair of scissors as a percussion instrument.Believe it or not, he was pretty good with those things... And it was kinda cute when he came out from behind his drums to play them; there was a little tiny microphone attached to them. Bless.

All in all, a very enjoyable show. Apparently I'd have enjoyed it even more if I'd have understood the banter between songs. 

The Cat
For no reason whatsoever, here's a photo of Lucy Fur, with her leg in the air, like she just don't care:
The Futureheads
OK, now I started to feel as though we were getting spoilt here in Helsingborg. The night after Detektivbyrån, the UK band The Futureheads played at the Tivoli.

To be honest, I hadn't heard much about them before. I moved to Helsingborg in 2002, and I think they really took off at some point after that. I don't listen to radio here, and have had very little contact with the music scene anywhere, really, besides doing stuff with my own little local cover bands, and anything people would randomly recommend.

It was an English guy from my old workplace who mentioned that The Futureheads were coming, and that they'd be worth checking out. He'd seen them a couple of times already, and said that they're worth checking out. So I watched a couple of things on YouTube, bought some of their stuff on iTunes, and yeah, liked them.

So why not?
The show was an absolute blast. These guys were here to play some great tunes, to party, and just generally have a bloody good time. MIssion accomplished.They enjoyed chatting to the crowd and talking absolute bollocks to/about each other. The bass player's tambourine bit was magic, and the lead singer's urgent exit for another bottle was sheer class. (OK, I may have a slightly different definition of class to some others'.)

Check these guys out; they do a brilliant version of Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love
Have a look/listen to the video below:

CSI: Helsingborg at Pub Punkten
On November 28th, CSI: Helsingborg played at Pub Punkten, which is a little bar in the south of Helsingborg. 

One thing I was pretty excited about was that I had ordered some proper crime scene tape; you know, the kind that they use to cordon off crime scenes? Well, I had some custom-made and sent over from some place in the UK. 

So anyway, this CSI: Helsingborg crime scene tape arrived about a week before our gig, so I got to wrap it all over the place. I've got four rolls of 250 metres each; I could cordon off a whole kilometre if I wanted to. Haha! Brilliant!

Here's the door to Pub Punkten:
This was a great gig. There was quite a large crowd, and everyone seemed to enjoy it (with the exception of one drunken old lady with red hair (sponsored by l'Oréal) who claimed that it was too loud. I bought her a white wine; that shut her up for a while anyway).

There's this new-ish English guy in town whom I've started hanging out with a bit (another I met through this blog). I gave him my camera to take some shots, but the battery was pretty much dead, so he didn't manage to get many. Plus he left about fifteen minutes before we finished, as he felt that he was starting to get very drunk. Ah well. Anyway, great gig, great fun. 

Our next confirmed gig is at Telegrafen pub on February 27th, but we may play in Höganäs or at Punkten again before then. We shall see.

Another blogger in Helsingborg
By the way, before I forget... A while ago, I mentioned another Helsingblog reader who was thinking about moving here from Manchester. Well it turns out that he is indeed moving here. Coincidentally, I mentioned him in my post about Helsingborg-based bloggers; it turns out the he's started a blog as well. Be sure to check out Kieron's An Englishman in the Borg, where he gives us a weekly update of what he's learning about moving to Helsingborg.

I think that when CSI: Helsingborg play, any old ladies with fake red hair and seriously crap attitudes should be banned or, better still, imprisoned - at least for the duration of the performance. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. 

That's what I think.