Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday, September 25th, 2006:
Blog Emmy results received in Helsingborg

What I think:

Well, the results are in, and I didn't win the "Blog Emmy" for Best Foreign Blog this time.

Just as well; I probably would have behaved like a cross between Sly Stallone off Rocky, Homer Simpson, the Family Guy, and that stupid baby-faced baldy bloke who's now in charge of Sweden.

The winner was someone called Mar, who lives in Barcelona, Spain. Check out her blog called "Maremagnum", and you'll see why she won. She's brilliant.

Off to Malmö tomorrow, and will stay there overnight, so signing off for now, and saying thanks to those who took the time to vote and even made up some kind words to say. Bloody hypocrites.

By the way, when's the new Swedish government going to do something with their site? It's time they did, for sure.

That's what I think.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday, September 24th, 2006:
Thanking The Academy
- all the way from Helsingborg

What I think:

As you may have realised by now, I strive to bring you a fair, well-balanced, impartial, as well as informative, view of what it's like for a British-Canadian expat to live in Swedish society.

And I'm extremely proud to say, if I may be so bold, that I fail miserably at doing so.

This is why it is with utter shock, confusion, dizziness, minor palpitations, and a few mysterious penile warts, that I find myself nominated for a "Blog Emmy", in the category of Best Foreign Blog.

This is the brain-child of a blogger called Mysterious Lady, who is hosting this most joyous, typically-American, pat-on-the-back occasion. Because I happen to have been nominated, I think it's an absolutely brilliant idea. God bless ya.

If you're really bored, feel free to go to her blog, The Mysterious Lady's Clues To Life, scroll down past all the comments, and cast your vote for yours truly (that would be me).

Just for the occasion, I've made a hastily-prepared, and badly-PhotoShop'd image of myself:

I had just woken up, and was still in my underpants. I could be naked from the waist down and you'd be none the wiser, would you? I could even be physically aroused at the idea of winning an award for my contribution to Swedish culture, for all you know.

Seriously though, I think that my blog has had a greater influence on Sweden than one would imagine. In fact, I think that the citizens of this country voted in a new government because the previous one blatantly ignored my common-sense pleas, through this blog, to make Sweden a better place.

Each and every time I said "It's time that the Swedish government did something about it", did they? No, they did not. And they paid the price, bigtime. I hope the so-called Social Democrats have learned their lesson.

And now it's time for you to vote for my blog - and tell all your friends.
That's what I think.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday, September 22nd, 2006:
Tattoos in Helsingborg - Pain and prosperity
(with oyster sauce)

What I think:

For quite a few years, I had wanted to get a tattoo done but, like many people, I couldn't really think of anything that I might not be embarrassed about by the time I reach puberty (which has got to happen one of these years, for God's sake).

It wasn't until about a year after I'd moved to Sweden, at age thirty-eight, that I'd finally made up my mind. I would get two tattoos on my right upper-arm, just beneath my shoulder: two flags - a Canadian one with a British one just below it. For those of you who don't know, I've got dual citizenship; I was born in Montreal, and my dad's from England. I lived in London for twelve years before moving here.

I found a nice tattoo parlour here in Helsingborg, right near the Telegrafen pub. I think I may have chosen this particular place for its name, which instilled in me such reassuring feelings of confidence, serenity, and inner peace.
It's called House of Pain.

I got the Canadian flag done first, and the Union Jack maybe a year or so later. I have to say that their professionalism was impressive, and they did a great job. They even played some classic Black Sabbath, which was definitely good for me.

I won't go into too much detail about whether it hurts or not. Those of you who have tattoos know what it's like; and it depends largely on which part of your body is being done. The upper arm is not too bad; you kind of get used to it as it's being done. It almost feels good after a while - sort of a pleasure/pain thing. You're basically getting a few ink-filled needles stabbing you in a rhythmic sort of sensory drone.

So I've had these tattoos for a couple of years now, and I'm quite happy with them. But now I'm thinking of getting something done on my left upper-arm.

I like the look of those tattoos with Chinese characters, but they always seem to say things like "Peace", "Love", "Happiness", or "Prosperity". Yawn. I want something different. And I want to be absolutely sure of what I'm getting (I'm sure we've all heard these horror stories of guys walking around with "Wanker" tattooed on them - apt as it may well be).

I stumbled upon a blog called "Me Thinks... (我想...)" by someone who calls themself D.A., who lives somewhere in the States, and I got inspired. This blog celebrates all things Chinese. (Coincidentally, Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson, is on telly here as I write this - no joke.)

I left a comment asking for a translation of a phrase that I thought of, one which I decided that I'd really like to have tattooed on my arm - if there aren't too many characters involved.

D.A. was more than happy to help. He (or she; this person's profile doesn't give much away) promptly replied in a comment on my previous blog entry, and helpfully offered to find a shorter translation if there were too many characters. Turns out that it was a bit long, so I requested a shorter version, if possible. D.A. got back (in another comment on the same blog entry) with the definitive translation of the phrase I will soon have tattoed on my left upper-arm.

This is what it looks like:
Now, is that cool, or what?
OK, so now you're wondering what it says, right? Well I did say that I wanted something different, and I can assure you that this will be a conversation piece. It's a reminder of one of the many things I enjoyed during my time in London; something that I will certainly return to one day.
It says: "Beef in oyster sauce".
I can't wait 'til I reach puberty.
You know, so many people in Sweden walk around with boring, unoriginal, out-of-the-book tattoos that have no real meaning. It's really sad, and it's time that the newly-elected Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006:
Back in Helsingborg,
going back in time...

What I think:

Warning: this is a very long post. Get some popcorn, or something.

-> Brief introduction, for your
entertainment pleasure:
Now and the past...

I'm back in Helsingborg now. I was in England last week, and flew back to Sweden on Monday, September 11th. It was actually quite freaky flying on September 11th, for some reason. Took ages to get through security as well.

Then as soon as I got back, I wrote a tribute to one of the victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York. So my mind was very much in NYC, although, somewhat ironically, I'd only ever visited New York airports; en route to Europe or Montreal.

I was part of this bloggers' tribute thing, in which all 2,996 victims had at least one blogger write about them. Scroll down or click here to read my tribute to Theresa "Ginger" Risco; she was pretty amazing.

Now that I'm back, I feel I should bring you up to date with what's been happening since the end of July. I thought I'd start with the most recent event, then go back to an event way back in July. Unfortunately, neither have much to do with Sweden (directly, anyway), so if you're here to read about Swedish culture, please come back another day. You've been warned.

Before I start, I'd like to explain one of the reasons I haven't blogged for a while. My girlfriend, who had moved all the way from Stockholm to live with me in October last year, moved back in July. Yes, we split up, but it was all very amicable. I still talk to her nearly every day, and we're still great friends. Go here (to my birthday greeting entry for her) for a stunning photo.

By the way, thanks for all the concerned-sounding e-mails and comments. As if you care.

-> The Wedding -
Simon and Marie, September 8th, 2006:

You may remember from my "Beaches and shy people in Helsingborg" entry that I mentioned having a brief conversation with Benny about Simon's wedding(?). Well this was what we were talking about. Him and his Swedish girlfriend Marie were finally doing the nuptuals thing.

I arrived in London on September 6th. The wedding was to take place on September 8th, at some place called Belvoir Castle, somewhere outside Nottingham. I came to the UK early to visit some of my London mates.

At 07:34-ish on September 8th, I got on the train at St Pancras train station in London, bound for Nottingham. All I had was a not-so-detailed map with a markered dot which showed that Belvoir castle was not too far away from there.

Once in Nottingham (at 09:36-ish), I managed to find the bus station, and enquired about how one might get to the castle. I was informed that there are no buses that go out that far, but that I could take a bus to Bingham, and hopefully get a cab from there. OK.

Once in the little town of Bingham, I looked everywhere for a cab office, but there weren't any. I went to the local Sainsbury's and asked where I could get a cab from. Apparently I needed to order a cab, but no one there had a phone number.
I was directed to the library.

At Bingham's ultra-modern book-lending facility, I asked the kind lady behind the counter if she had any phone numbers for a cab. She informed me that she had, but she couldn't find her glasses. She thought that she may have left them in the office, and could I wait a moment, please. Mm-hmm, OK.

After what seemed like about 27 seconds (could have been more, could have been less), the kind/blind lady, now bespectacled, returned. She reached over to the bulletin board behind her, removed a bit of paper, and handed it to me. There were two cab numbers on it, which I duly noted.

By now, it was after 10:30 (without any "-ishes" this time). The wedding was to start at 12:00.

I found a phone box (US/CAN: phone booth) across the market square from the Co-op. The lady at the first number I rang said that they wouldn't have a cab until about 11:30 or 11:45. Hhhmm...I said that I may call back if the other company didn't have any cars (I didn't know how far away it was, but better late than never).

At the second cab number, I had to repeat the name of the castle a few times (and spell it out) before the lady knew what I was talking about. It appears that Belvoir is pronounced "Beaver". After listenening to some discussions in the background ("Where? He wants to go there now?", etc.), it was arranged for me to be picked up in a few minutes outside the Co-op. Phew.

Moments later, a very old guy pulled up. He eyed me suspiciously before waving me over to the car (ear- and nose-rings seem to have that effect, even if I'm wearing a suit).

It was quite a long ride, at least 15-20 minutes. I was sure that it would cost at least £20 (about US$38 / €30). When we finally got to the castle, he declared that the fair was £7 ($13 / €10). Good result. I gave him a tenner and told him to keep the change. Made it.

Went in, chatted with Neil (the best man and a close personal friend of mine), drank some white wine, went out for a smoke, waited, chatted with another guy called Simon (not the groom), drank some white wine, went out for a smoke, waited, drank some white wine, chatted, waited, drank some white wine...At some point, Johnny (Yank) turned up, and I think we had some white wine.

OK, long-story-short time:

The wedding itself was good. A civil ceremony, and not too long. There was a string quartet, which was a nice touch.
Then out on the grounds, photos were taken, three cannons were fired (BOOM...BOOM...BOOM - very cool!), and tea and scones (with jam and cream, naturally) were served.

A brief "religious" ceremony took place. It was OK, but I didn't think the guy on keyboards was so great. I guess Depeche Mode were unavailable for the occasion.
A nice "sit-down" meal. Very nice. I switched to red wine. The speeches were great, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

A tour of the castle was to take place. Actually it did take place, but I missed it somehow. I found the bar though.

Images: Part of the castle...
and Simon and Marie, both looking great in this season's casual wear.

(Do have a look at the castle's website; the photo above does not do its magnificence or grandeur any justice at all.)

The disco was great; there was no ABBA or Roxette. In the adjoining bar, a chocolate fondue fountain was flowing, and a tasty buffet was served. I was a bit disappointed though; there were no cucumber sandwiches on stale white bread with the edges curling up (according to some people I know, this is standard fare at all English weddings).

Besides that, a fantastic evening was had by all. I think.

A bit of partying continued at the hotel before we all went to bed. Well most of us did, anyway. Yank left his room to visit someone in the middle of the night, only to find one of the bridesmaids shagging someone on the stairs.

Yep, a great wedding with all elements one would expect, and then some.

After a great English breakfast in the morning, it was off back to London for me.

That's it, in a rather large nutshell.

-> Late-July, 2006:
Trip to Helsingör (Denmark)
with Johnny (a.k.a Yank):

One day, Johnny asked me if I'd like to join him on a little trip to Denmark, to pick up some beers, and go somewhere for some - err - beers. I agreed. (For those who don't know, Denmark is only a twenty-minute ferry ride from Helsingborg. And beer is expensive in Sweden; go here and here for related entries.)

We found a nice square and had a couple of beers. I was taking a few photos as well. After a while, I went into a pub on the square to use the toilet. While I was there, some drunken Danish guy came up to me, and told me that he didn't like having his picture taken. I explained that I didn't even see him, let alone take his picture. I offered to show him the photos I had taken, but he just mumbled menacingly, and went back to his seat on the terrace outside the pub.

I told Johnny about this, and we had a laugh. And a beer. I decided to take a photo of Johnny from an angle that would very obviously include drunken Danish guy. When I did so, nothing happened; he just left soon after.

A beer or two later, Johnny was assessing the remaining-Danish-coins-versus-affording-another-beer-each situation. It looked like we may have been about 25 öre off (mere pennies). Johnny didn't look happy. Here he is with the empty glasses, holding the remaining change:Armed with my charm, I approached a table near the pub where a lady and her nice (though seemingly inbred) little son were sitting. I explained the situation, showed her the money we had, and asked if she would swap one of my smaller coins for a slightly larger one.

I don't remember what the amounts were exactly, but she was happy to oblige. I insisted that she take the change I knew we'd have, but she wouldn't hear of it. The little boy was happy to take it though. Everyone was happy.

Turned out that we even ended up getting change from this as well, so even Yank was happy again:

After our final beers, we were just about ready to leave, when I noticed a group of men sitting on a bench that encircled a tree. They were just sitting around drinking.

Wow. I had just discovered the Helsingör A-Team!

A while ago, I had written about the Helsingborg A-Team's first appearance this year on the square across from the Charles Dickens pub. This was how we in Helsingborg know that springtime is here. (Another photo of them here as well.)

Having had a few beers, and being in very close proximity to them, I decided to ask them if I may take a photo of them for my blog. They were most obliging:

Johnny and I made our way to the shops, bought the beers, etc. Then I don't remember what happened. It was a couple of months ago anyway.

To summarise the important bits of today's lengthy post: I'm single now.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Monday, September 11th, 2006:
Remembering Ginger

What I think:

How, you may ask, can one "remember" someone whom one had never known?

While researching the life of Theresa "Ginger" Risco, I felt that, even though I'd never met her, I kinda started to get to know her through some of the heartfelt tributes I read about her. And she had the extremely charismatic character of someone I definitely would love to have known.

It appears that Ginger, who was given the nickname because of her bright red hair, was one heck of a go-getter. In the largely male-dominated world of finance, her passions for learning and perfection, along with her tell-it-like-it-is and don't-take-crap-from-anyone attitude, served her well and got her far.

But she was also described as being an incredibly fun and cheerful person, as well as being "the glue of the family", according to her brother, John Caggiano. At Mother's Day, Ginger would apparently send her brothers reminders to make sure that they wouldn't forget to buy gifts for their mother.

So what did she do for a living? Theresa Risco worked her way up from a secretary to Senior Vice-President at Fred Alger Management. According to her boss, Fred M. Alger, writing in a letter to her husband, "She was the best our firm had to offer, the best on Wall Street."

I'd say that's pretty impressive, wouldn't you?

From her husband of nine-and-a-half years, professor Bill Nelson, we learn that her thirst for knowledge was unquenchable, which made it very difficult to teach her something new. Every answer was greeted by another question from her.

"She never just accepted something, she was constantly probing for more information. She always felt she had to know everything," said Nelson. "She had great admiration for thinkers."

Ginger's determination to succeed also meant that she had actually held down three jobs while taking classes at different schools in New York, eventually ending up at Columbia University. How's that for multi-tasking? I have trouble chewing gum and walking at the same time.

But there was even more to Ginger than this. She was also a very cool chick in the Seventies. She actually hung out with the Grateful Dead in Haight-Asbury. Talk about street-cred.

Ginger was also extremely fit (is there no end to this woman's talents and achievements?). Check this out: she ran the New York Marathon, and walked home before her family even considered going out to meet her at the finish line.

One thing I love about people is a good sense of humour (US/CAN: humor). Ginger had this too. Apparently, in 1992, she wore a badge on her stylish designer suit that read "I'm for Hillary's husband."

So, what do I think about Theresa Risco? Let's see:

Intelligence? Check.
Ambition? Check.
No-nonsense attitude? Check.
Family values? Check.
Physical fitness? Check.
Sense of humour? Check.
Coolness factor? 100%.

Need I say more?

Ginger, this tribute on this day is for you, from a British-Canadian admirer living in Helsingborg, Sweden.

And to Mr Nelson, and everyone in Ginger's family, my thoughts are with you on the fifth anniversary of your tragic and pointless loss.

That's what I think.

Note: Get to know more about Ginger. Have a look at this article in the Columbia Spectator, which was a key source of information.