Thursday, July 02, 2009

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009:
A quick note about Helsingborg and Malmö:

What I think:

Since it's been a while since my last post (yeah-yeah, I know, shut up), I thought I'd just ease back into the blogosphere with a couple of quick observations. Yep, keepin' it brief.

People often ask me if I enjoy living in Malmö since I moved from Helsingborg. To be honest, it's a tricky question because it's still just a city in the south of Sweden, with the same accent, and pretty much all the same kind of stuff, except that it's bigger. I don't really go out anywhere that I hadn't already been when I was visiting here, but there is definitely more to explore.

And there are more dogs and bicycles. That's what I've really noticed: loads more dogs and bicycles here than in Helsingborg. But that makes sense, as the population of Malmö is about double that of Helsingborg.

But another thing I've noticed is that people here seem more friendly and helpful. It's a bit strange, but in Helsingborg, people who work with the public come across as they're going out of their way to serve you - as though they're doing you a big favour, and you bloody well better appreciate it - whereas in Malmö (from what I've experienced so far), most people serve you with a friendly greeting, and bid you good-day when you leave the shop, pub, or restaurant.

Crikey, that was a long sentence. But it's true. My friend The Yank went to some restaurant/bar in Helsingborg with great service, and the guy who owns it confided in him that his secret is not hiring anyone from Helsingborg to work with the public (there is a chef from there). There you go.

But at the end of the day, it's only about an hour's train ride away between the two cities (less than that on a fast train), which is almost exactly how long it took me to commute to and from work every day when I lived in London.
(Traveller info: At the time of writing, a single (US/CAN: one-way) ticket from Malmö to Helsingborg cost 96 kronor (£7.52; CAN$14.30; €8.82; US$5,049.99)).

I noticed an English sign in Helsingborg a while ago, and it got me thinking about what kind of English Swedes actually learn. I seem to remember being told by most Swedes whom I've asked that the standard English they learn is British English. But from what I gather, there seems to be rather a mish-mash involved. Most Swedes I've met use words like elevator (instead of lift), sidewalk (instead of pavement), and pants (instead of trousers). But they do seem to use mobile instead of cellphone.

And what's this about, then?
A Swedish company using both British and American spellings in one word. This made me cringe and chuckle in the same ermm... gesture (?).

Hhmm... I must have looked like I was having a seizure or something.

Actually, when I had a closer look at this photo, I could see someone watching me from the top-left window. And in the window directly above this shop, there's one of those models of a human body with no skin on.
Hhmmm... doctor's office?

But I digest. Beer.

Right. Signs.

On the street where I live in Malmö, people seem to be into making their own little signs. In front of our building, there's a little pave-stone pathway, with a randomly placed set of "rows" of bushes in sort of a mini-garden on the right, leading to the street. It separates our entrance's pathway to the neighbours' (US/CAN: neighbors') pathway.

Earlier this year, someone had place a bizarre little chunk of concrete, barely larger than a brick, between two of these bushes, right near the end of our pathway. A few weeks later, a little hand-written sign appeared in its place, taped to a stick which was stuck into the ground. It said what translates to "What gives you the right to ruin the bushes?"

People had obviously been using this gap between the bushes as a little shortcut from the corner of our little path to the main pavement, and one of our fellow residents got pissed off with that. We laughed and went "aww bless", as you do. That was that.

But then, a few weeks later, I learned a couple of new Swedish words. Did you know that there are words in Swedish to address male and female pet owners? Yes, of course, we English people know the "master/mistress" thing, but these Swedish equivalents are actually pet-specific.

Now, people here are very conscious of their pups' poops, and are good at picking up after them. It's just common courtesy, right?

Well, it appears that there is a rebel in our midst down here in the mean streets of Ribbersborg, Malmö. Somebody let their doggy do the doggy-do-deed on the edge of the pavement, just into one of the little mini-garden things across the street from us. With this doggy-do-deed done (dirt-cheap, undoubtedly), a local do-gooder done gone and drawn up a sign to display his dismay.

Here comes my (and your) Swedish lesson:
Matte is a Swedish word meaning female pet owner, and Husse is its male equivalent. "FY SKÄMS!" means something like "Shame on you!" or "For shame!"

So that was really all I wanted to write about this time.

It's good to learn new things, even if they're sometimes borne out of shit, don't you find?

But while I'm in this blog thing anyway, I might as well briefly mention a visit from an American friend living in Gothenburg. Won't take long.

Miss Kitten's visit
Miss Kitten is a fellow expat blogger. Check her out here if you've got a minute after this brief entry you're currently enduring. I met her online through The Local (Sweden's news in English), as they have a discussion forum, where expats from around Sweden get together to help each other out or throw poop at each other (get your Matte/Husse signs ready, dear students).

I'd met Miss Kitten in person once before, when my girlfriend and I went to Stockholm for a visit, and we were happy (my girlfriend and I) when Miss Kitten said that she would like to come down to Malmö for a weekend-ish thing to see me and my girlfriend. Miss Kitten did.

Damn this beer, but it's really warm here in Malmö and it's going down a treat.

So, Miss Kitten came to Malmö. But the first thing we did when she got to Malmö was go to Helsingborg. Because no trip from Gothenburg to Malmö is complete without a ride on the ferry from Helsingborg to Helsingör. Some might disagree, but you shouldn't listen to them. Ever.

The plan was to get on the ferry to buy a case of beer, which we would bring back to Helsingborg, and to a CSI: Helsingborg rehearsal. Miss Kitten was into the idea, so off we went.

The ferry trip...

Miss Kitten prefers to keep relatively anonymous on the Internet, so I've done a bit of Photoshop stuff on her.
Here she is on the ferry.
That's the famous Helsingör castle (or Elsinore, for all you Shakespeare buffs). We didn't go there though; we stayed on board, bought beer and headed back.

Also joining us on the ferry trip was Kieron, a friend from England (someone else was there too, but we'll get to him later. Maybe.). I don't think Kieron is too concerned about having his identity blasted all over the Internet, so I'll use his real name. He has a cool expat blog as well, and you can read his adventures about moving to - and adjusting to - life in Helsingborg here ->

And because Kieron is not too bothered about being on the Internet, here is a photo of him, in all his glory:

I took another photo of Kieron, from a bit of a distance, but he looked at it and got a bit prima-donna-ish about it, saying that it showed that he had a big belly.

I told him that was nonsense, and that you could barely see that little huge beer-bulge trying desperately to flop over his trousers (US/CAN: pants).

What do you think? Has Kieron got an enormous spare tyre (US/CAN: tire)?

Just in case you're having any difficulties in spotting it, I've given you some indication as to its whereabouts.

Go to Kieron's blog now, and leave a comment with your thoughts on the matter. It doesn't matter if it's irrelevant to his current post; Kieron would love to hear what you think about his belly, I can assure you.

After buying the beer, which is an essential part of every CSI: Helsingborg rehearsal, we went to the Charles Dickens pub for our pre-rehearsal beers, which are an essential part of every CSI: Helsingborg rehearsal.

There were a few beers with Miss Kitten, guitarist CSI: Nils, and maybe a couple of others I can't recall just now.

Here's Miss Kitten retaining her anonymity:
We had a great, fun, rehearsal. Afterwards, Miss Kitten and I took the train back to Malmö, and we went out the next evening with my girlfriend (after a bitchin' lasagne that I'd made especially).

And that's it! Told you it'd be brief.

Many thanks to Miss Kitten for having visited us in Malmö.

Before I forget though, I have to tell you (briefly) that I made a blueberry swirl cheesecake at some point. It was lovely, and here it is:
That's all.

But hang on a sec though.

We had another visitor from Gothenburg; this time an English girl. I also met her through The Local's discussion forum. She goes by the name of VikingHumpingWitch.

VikingHumpingWitch's visit
As per the "Visitor From Gothenburg to Malmö" protocol, we went to Helsingborg, and dutifully went on to fulfil the "Buy Beer on Ferry" clause. Fully.

We then met up with The Yank, who was drafted in especially for this mission. We arranged to meet at Hamnkrogen (known as The Circle Bar to us foreign agents), and consumed what we thought were pretty crap beers.

I think she wants to remain anonymous, so I've given VikingHumpingWitch a bit of a disguise - through the magic of Wicca (and with some help from Photoshop).

Here are VikingHumpingWitch and The Yank at The Circle Bar:
After that, we went to the Charles Dickens pub, where we met up with Ken, who doesn't mind having his name (or image) on the Internet. Ken Malone is a media whore, just like me.

Here's a photo of me and Ken:

Ken has a blog called Football Fashion Fanatics, which is mainly about the different (American) football jerseys that different American football teams wear. Apparently he's fanatical about them. I am not. But he writes pretty funny stuff anyway, so you really should check him out once you've finished reading this brief entry.

Guitarist CSI: Nils joined me, Ken, and VikingHumpingWitch for the pre-rehearsal imbibing at Dickens.

CSI: Nils is the one on the left:
The couple behind them were fun. The old pervy bloke (US/CAN: senior citizen perverted guy) took VikingHumpingWitch's hand and attempted to explain to his wife (who looked quite a bit like Tweety Pie from the old Warner Brother cartoons) that this is the level of beauty to which she should be aspiring. As shown above, VikingHumpingWitch merely politely turned purple and blue in embarrassment.

We had a great, fun, rehearsal. Afterwards, VikingHumpingWitch and I took the train back to Malmö, and we went out the next evening with my girlfriend (after a bitchin' pasta thing that I'd made especially). I think.

That was it! Another satisfied visitor from Gothenburg. We're hoping to get more at some point (some Metal-headed Kiwi is expected sometime within the next little while, I think - if he doesn't wuss out).

In the meantime, thanks for taking the time to read this brief blog post.

But wait: Did you know that CSI: Helsingborg had a gig way out - far, far away - in Tjörnarp, near Höör?

No? OK, hang about... This will be brief.

CSI: Helsingborg play at Tjällaren in Tjörnarp
We got this gig in the middle of bloody nowhere, and we said yes please!

CSI: Helsingborg will investigate wherever we must.

So off we went.

Tjällaren is a weird venue. It's downstairs in some odd-looking building.
It's a members-only pub. Here's their website - it doesn't look like it's been update since the discovery of America, but you'll get the idea. You actually have to apply online (or presumably through word-of-mouth as well), but you can't just turn up and expect to gain entry. Unless you're drunk or in a band, or both, apparently.

The message below translates to: You're obese and ugly; turn around and leave now, lard-assed eye-sore.
Or, in some dialects of the extremely complex Swedish language, it means: Members Only.
I think that this is the correct interpretation, actually.

Once inside, there's a coat-check place on the left (a must for any Swedish venue - but it doesn't necessarily have to to be on the left), and a corridor straight ahead (see CSI: PER wheeling that wheelie-thing so professionally).Down the corridor and to the left is the main bar area. It's a pretty good size. I wasn't standing too far way when I took this photo:The stage was actually OK as well. Bargain.

After we set up our gear (I like to say "we" so that I feel that I've been involved in the process. Well hey, I'm like the lead singer, OK? I don't have to do that roadie crap.), we were invited to a barbecue (US/CAN: BBQ). Brilliant!

One of the CSI guys knows someone, or works with someone, or whatever; it was a nice barbecue, and with a nice host with nice friends & family of his.

This guy was just a totally normal down-to-earth bloke, living out in the middle of nowhere, roasting pork chops and hot dogs for us. And there were plenty of different salads as well. Yum!

But there's always something
a bit different about country folk, don't you think?
I found a guitar inside and sang a wonderfully obnoxious version of the Stones' Sympathy For The Devil,
and everyone was happy and cheered appropriately. Thank you. Thank you very much. No, I don't know Dueling Banjos.

And the band was getting well into happy-party-gigging mode.
Well, most of us were.
Can you spot the designated driver below?

We got to the venue and hung out a bit before the gig, as you do.

Here is the rhythm section,
all set to rock the socks off some down-home country Swedes:

Here is the guitarist just itching to make amazing screechy sounds
to scratch everyone's ears:

Here is probably one of the scariest photos I've ever seen of myself.

Well the gig went really well, with the exception of some drunk guy insisting that we must know some Guns & Roses.
(We don't; there's a good reason for that, and it's not to do with their inimitable skill and acumen.)

I had a great time, and met some great people.

But then there was the question of where to sleep. We're CSI:Helsingborg, so the guys live in Helsingborg. But I now live in Malmö. And it's like three in the morning. Hhmm...

I decided to sleep on the floor of the rehearsal space. I mean, it's carpeted, and I'd slept in worse places, so why not? But then, upon our arrival, the floor - carpeted though it may be - became less appealing.

So I created the Bubble-Wrap Bed®.

There was some bubble-wrap, that had been wrapped around some speakers we'd received, tucked away behind a room-divider, so I thought I'd give it a go. Why not?

So here's a self-portrait of me
lying on my newly-created Bubble-Wrap Bed® :
The result? Don't bother. It wasn't comfortable; not worth the speakers it was wrapped around.

I just waited a few hours, walked to the station, and went to Malmö. I suggest you do the same (but call me first).

Finally, that's all I have for this brief blog post.

But there's juts this little get-together I had in Malmö that was pretty fun.

Don't worry; it's brief.

Visitors from Helsingborg in Malmö
The Yank came round a few weeks ago with his lovely girlfriend.
Another friend came round at around the same time, but without his lovely girlfriend.

We decided that we would have a barbecue (US/CAN: BBQ) on the beach (US/CAN: in the backyard).

This "other friend" I mention did not seem really sure about having his name and image published on the Internet, so I lent him a funky wig and facial hair, in case any photography would happen to take place. I also thought it wise not to mention his real name, but go by his screen name on The Local's discussion forum, which is "tom."

So here's me, tom., and The Yank
having a very serious discussion about
The Role of the Stand-up Comic in the 17th Century
And so it was off for a little picnic on the grassy part of the beach for a little barbecue thing (US/CAN: BBQ thing).

Here's The Yank in action.
Look at how he flips them chops.

And look at how .tom - OOPS! Tom forgot his disguise! Oh no!
OK, I'd better end this now.

Just a sec.
Here's a photo that was taken
when we were relaxing very naturally:

To sum up, then...
The people of Sweden should know what kind of English they're learning: British or American.. There should never be any confusion over things like pants, underpants, cigarettes, fags, homosexuals, braces or suspenders. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it.

That's what I think.