The Final Countdown – 1…

Well, my big move from Sweden back to England is almost upon us. There’s packing to be done. The apartment is littered with unfilled boxes, and a little procrastination seemed in order. So I made a cup of tea; told facebook I was procrastinating; told a few of my friends, and had a conversation in the kitchen about procrastination in general. It seems as though all that remains is to spend a little time with you people, and then I guess I’ll actually have to put things in bubblewrap. Incidentally, to make this all seem even more last minute than it actually is… I am actually writing this on Friday, though you will be reading it on Monday.

So… it’s nice of you to have stuck with me through all 10 of these. And, if you haven’t done… I’m sure you’re just as nice, just perhaps not as bored as the ones who have. By this time tomorrow I will have landed back in the United Kingdom. So I should give you one more example of something I will miss about Sweden, versus something I have missed about England.

As you may or may not know, I have never really been much of a people person. I’m not exactly anti-people, but I have never actively sought the company of other human-beings. I never got very good at interacting with them really. So many people over the years, having observed my awkwardness, would say:

“Just be yourself, and everything will be fine.”

After a few years I accepted that this might be a good plan and finally actually started not to try so hard… After observing this , those closest to me started saying things like…

“You do talk… a LOT! Perhaps just try not to give so much information.”

So, now I was confused, because that’s what I’m like when I’m “being myself”. So I tried not speaking, and people thought I was weird. It seems as though I was always struggling to find an in-between. And then… I met the lady who is now my wife. She remains the only person who has ever told me to be myself, and actually meant it. She knows I’m a procrastinator; she knows I sulk sometimes; she knows I talk waaay too much for a single human-being, and she doesn’t care. She knows I’m a perfectionist, and is well aware how often that goes hand-in-hand with procrastination, but she just laughs it off.

I guess what I’m doing here is being myself, and giving you far too much information about why I don’t seek out the company of others. However, when others find me, I’m usually very happy to have them in my life, just so long as they don’t expect a regular schedule of social interaction, or indeed interactions of any kind that take place before noon.

Why am I banging on about this? Well…

What I will miss #1: These People

Everyone

 

Some people drop into your life and drift out just as quickly. New family and friends usually come as part of a package deal when a new relationship comes along, and where my wife’s family and friends are concerned I have been fortunate. I love them all, and will miss all of them. Not that I won’t see them from time-to-time, but they certainly won’t be just around the corner any more.

But then… if you’re really lucky, you get a part of that package which was much more than you expected. For me, that is this person:

Tilda

She has been a friend to me in ways I could never have anticipated, and she means more to me than she knows. I might even go so far as to say… all I want to do is praise her. Sometimes she is a pain in the ass. We have our differences and I’m certain there have been many times when she would have liked to wring my neck like a chicken, if not for the fact that she would never do that to a chicken.

All of these people were unexpected benefits of being married to the lady I waited my entire life for, and I hope they know how deeply their absence will be felt.

Of course… as with all the other things on this countdown, there are compensations. In this case…

What I have missed #1: These People

UKpeople

There are one or two missing from here, simply because I have no photographs of them, but basically, the people in this photo are those around whom my life in England, to a greater or lesser extent, revolves. Some of them are a greater influence than others, but all are important to me.

Of course, none more so than these ones:

Me & Kiddies

…if you can ignore the elderly bloke in the middle. He’s only there to stop them from escaping.

My children are a couple of years older now, but this is still my favourite photograph of all of us.

But there is one missing. The boy who became a man… the man who became a King… the king who became… a GOD!

Richie

Whoa! Did I oversell that, or what? Alas… his plans to become ruler of the world have so far come to nought, but he did get married and become a father. And he remains one of the most important parts of my life. I’m looking forward to seeing him again. To that emotional, heart-rending moment when I knock on his door again, and he answers it with the words…

“Oh it’s you. Come in and try not to break anything.”

All of them (though I have seen them many times since moving here to Sweden) have been dearly missed, and all of them… more than the Springtime; more than 24 hour shopping, or the beautiful countryside… are the things pulling me back toward home.

I don’t seek out company, but sometimes it finds me and refuses to let go. Sometimes, in spite of myself, there are people who my world feels emptier without. Most of them are on this page. My beautiful wife of course, is going with me on this next adventure.

This next, will be my 28th address. When I was younger, I used to long to keep moving.  Every time I moved was a chance for new friends, and new adventures. The rootless life was something I craved, like so many other people in their teens, and their 20s. Nowadays though, I have much more of a solid idea of the people and places that I want around me, and – to borrow a phrase from Marvin the paranoid android – when people tell me that a whole new life awaits me, my response is likely to be…

“Not another one!”

The Final Countdown – 7…

Welcome back. 7 days to go. Shall we continue?

So if you’re just joining us, I am writing a list of things I will miss about Sweden (which I am about to leave behind). But, in order to be fair to England (which I am about to return to), I am also adding a “thing I have missed about England” to each one. Now, just 7 days remain.

Today… public transport.

What I will miss #7: The Stockholm Subway

Västra Skogen Subway Station - Blue Line

Västra Skogen Subway Station – Blue Line

It’s important to note that I am not ordinarily a fan of public transport.
The attempts of governments worldwide to get us out of our cars and onto public transport have variously failed because few people are willing to give up the warmth, comfort, convenience and privacy of a little island on wheels which almost always takes you directly from door to door, in order to share the confinement of a large steel tube with herds of angry, impatient commuters whose wishes, needs and emergencies are so obviously far less important than yours.
It’s crowded. The air (if it can be so called) is often unpleasant mixtures of urine, stale cigarette smoke, body odour, the coughs and sneezes of the guy next to you who is unwilling or unable to cover his mouth while he sputters out the most recent strain of flu, and the kind of perfume/aftershave that only sells by the litre and is usually applied in similar quantities.

But we don’t all have cars. Some of us don’t even have homes of course… but that’s a different discussion. Those who ordinarily drive have times in their lives when it simply is not practical, financially or otherwise, to own and/or drive a car. And, here in Sweden, it has never really made any sense for me to drive. For one thing I simply couldn’t afford it. For another, I live in a city whose public transport network is extraordinarily efficient. Now, as I usually explained to my tourists (see tomorrow’s post), I am English… so it’s fair to say that I am probably quite easily impressed by the efficiency of public transport in other countries, but be honest; how many of you can say that your subway stations look like this…

Solna Centrum station - Blue Line

Solna Centrum – Blue Line

Or this…

Tekniska Högskolan - Red Line

Tekniska Högskolan – Red Line

The Stockholm Subway System has 100 stations covering almost 66 miles. More than 90 of those stations have been decorated in various ways by more than 150 different artists. Some are fairly subtle, such as my own local subway station at Vårberg, on the red line:

Våberg - Red Line

Vårberg – Red Line

Some, such as the one (below) where I have been working recently, in the north of Stockholm, are innocent enough in the daytime, but when you finish work late at night and find them deserted… they take on an entirely different character.

Duvbo - Blue Line

Duvbo – Blue Line

DuvboFaces

Harmless enough for those not especially nervous about deserted subway stations. Not so much for those who watched An American Werewolf In London when they were children.

Particularly when the walls are decorated with creepy faces such as these.

Still… since I grew up around the Yorkshire Moors I suppose it makes more sense for me to be scared by this sort of thing…

an-american-werewolf-in-london-moors

…than it does to be scared of this…

An-American-Werewolf-in-London-Ken-Taylor-poster-variant-mondo

Anyway… as usual I have wandered so far from the point that I have fallen, bruised and scratched by thorns, into a deep ravine and awoken to find myself in a fire-lit hut, painted with a foul-smelling paste and waited-upon by strange little creatures whose rudimentary sign language leads me to believe that they think I am a god.

Back on Earth meanwhile… I was explaining that the Stockholm subway system is an interesting place, and I shall miss travelling on it. And I shall particularly miss my favourite station at Kungsträdgården:

Kungsträdgården - Blue Line

Kungsträdgården – Blue Line

No ordinary station this one. It is full of plants, sculptures and relics from the old city; including a working 400 year-old fountain. I was first there with my wife on my second ever visit to Sweden and have loved it ever since. Here she is at this subway station, looking like a tiny little Alice (she’s 5′ 9″), on our second date:

Amki In Wonderland

Amki In Wonderland

I have loved this subway station… and her… ever since.

However fascinating the artwork at such stations might be though, riding on public transport still sucks harder than Ben Affleck in a wind-tunnel, trying to empty a swimming pool with a drinking straw while acting out scenes from his latest movie about selling vacuum-cleaners on a rapidly de-pressurising aircraft.

And that’s why…

What I have missed #7: Driving a Car

PORSCHE-911-DRIVING-EXPERIENCE-2

Alright… so it’s fair to say that the above image misrepresents my personal driving experiences in much the same way that “acting” misrepresents whatever it is that Ben Affleck does when he gets on screen. I have driven a Porsche 911… once… about 25 feet… and I was in a company car-park at the time. But I do think the image represents what driving can feel like. And to those friends and colleagues of mine who are about to say “Hah hah! But driving in England can’t possibly be like that!” I say…

Take THIS!

642x336xOopnurthring-642x336.jpg.pagespeed.ic.9ip1jRrjMQ

And THIS!

Mam Tor-PkDistrct

And one of these…

TdY_0001

And that’s just a small selection from around the Peak District, close to where I will be living. I didn’t even include other beautiful parts of the UK.

Driving comes with a little more danger than does public transport; whatever the cause of the accident when travelling by train, you can be fairly confident, as you lie in your hospital bed/coffin that it was almost certainly not your fault. But the next time you find yourself sitting on the train, searching for an answer to one of the following:

“What time is it… *sneeze*?”

“What are you looking at?”

“What is your problem, mate?”

“What are those bats doing on my tin-foil hat?”

Consider the peace and tranquillity of that tin death-trap we call the auto-mobile.

That is all for today. More tomorrow.

Running to stay still

Making your peace with the world around you, and more particularly with the life you’ve led, is not always an easy thing to do. We all makes mistakes after all, and believe me when I tell you I’ve made more than my fair share already. I like to say that I don’t have regrets, but I’m not sure I’m being completely honest with myself. What I really mean when I say that is that I wouldn’t change anything, but it isn’t really the same thing. I wouldn’t change any of the decisions I’ve made along the way because to change even the smallest one of them would mean accepting a new life with unpredictable consequences. I wouldn’t have my daughter for example. I would almost certainly never have met the man who has become my most trusted friend in the world. And, given the almost impossibly unlikely chain of events that led to my meeting her, it’s a stone cold certainty that I would never have encountered the woman I love.

Not wanting to change any of the decisions you have made is an easy thing to say if you like where you are in your life at the moment, and that, at least for me, has become a bit of a contradiction these past few weeks. What happens for example, if one of the many thousands of decisions that led you to your current happiness is also responsible for your refusal to accept that same goddamn good fortune? It’s a puzzler innit?

Now try to bear with me here because I’m trying to explain, in my own twisted way, why I have been missing from this blog for a few weeks.

When I was 17 years old I did something that seemed like the right decision at the time. I won’t bore you with too many details… Suffice it to say that I left somewhere with a cheeky smile on my face at the thought of being a stranger in a strange new place. It appealed to me (laugh all you like, but I was a teenager and I stick by that excuse). A couple of years later a situation cropped up, which was not entirely my fault this time, and the same thing happened again. “I can do this!” I thought. “I’ve done it before… It’ll be fun!” and off I went. The next place was not to my liking at all and before long I did it again… and again… and again! I am now at my 26th address, living on someone’s sofa, with people much younger than myself.

Now if none of this seems relevant to my current situation perhaps that is unsurprising; it didn’t seem relevant to me until a few weeks ago, when I had cause to say something like “…because that’s who I am isn’t it? I’m the guy who wanders in and out of people’s lives and leaves no impression.” I kept a relatively calm expression on my face at the time (I hope), but at the moment I said it I instantly thought Shit! Is that right? Is that who I think I am these days?

You see the problem I’m having is that I am now happy. I love most of the people in my life. I love the lady in my life very much and, perhaps even stranger still, I love the people in her life. This has led me to a bout of misery because I seem to have got into a position where I more or less just expect it to end at any moment. It is that misery that has kept me from this blog for the last few weeks, and it’s time I grew up!

Still… there comes a time in every man’s life when he’s lying beneath a beech tree in England, trying in vain to read a Swedish newspaper, and he sees an elderly man walking down an otherwise deserted country lane, pushing a Yorkshire Terrier in a baby-buggy. The world grows silent for a moment, and time seems to stand still as all the swirling, tumultuous fragments of his life stop moving and go “Wha..?”.

These rare moments of clarity are the ones which make you laugh and smile, and remind you what a strange and wonderful place the world really is. And… if you’re quick and careful… you can use these precious seconds to creep up behind all the broken bits of your mind and club them over the head with a big, fat, sweaty lump of common sense! Then, when you have them all gagged and tied up in the same place, you can say “OK guys… I’ve let you run riot in here for a long, long time, and we’ve all had a lot of fun, but I really need to talk to you about something.”

Since I last wrote here, I’ve been interrogated by a bus-load of Finnish drunks – Escorted into hospital with kidney stones, by a man with a snapped wrist, who had only been discharged the day before (thanks Richie) – Stuck on the tarmac at Skavsta while Ryanair crew attempted to discover the identity of the passenger who wasn’t supposed to be aboard – Attended May bonfires and 80th birthday celebrations – Met more of Amki’s relatives than I have seen of my own in over 30 years (and just when I think I’ve met them all, 2 of them wait till I go home to give birth to another!) – I’ve been measured for a suit by a man who wouldn’t seem out of place in Royston Vasey… and had many more emotional and scary moments besides.

None of these things are excuses for my long absence. If I was going to make up an excuse it would almost certainly have had more lasers and exploding, psychic zombies, riding in on Great White Sharks. No… it is simply my usual, long-winded way of saying “I’m tired of this now”, and of getting, finally, to the hysterical irony that followed my recent revelation:

In order to break this juvenile habit, and make my current situation more stable… I have decided to make the biggest move yet, and travel to a stranger new place than ever before.

Talk about saving the best for last!

Yes… I suppose most of you saw this coming before I did, but I have now started looking for work across the water, in Sweden. None of this is certain of course… it depends on finding work there, which may take a long time, or it may not happen at all.

What it does mean is, that I may take the blog in a new direction, OR… I may simply make a new one. I’m still going to try getting the novel published, and I still hope to find a more workable theme for the YouTube channel, but at this point I’m thinking that either the channel or the blog, or both, will be heavily influenced by my attempts to get work in, and move to, another country.

So there you go. If I’ve given you anything new to think about, then… I’m sorry! Go back to your Sunday and forget about it. If you’ve had similar experiences, please share them; I’m sure I can’t be the only nomadic loony on WordPress.

For now though… It’s good to be back.

See you soon, and don’t bend over for the soap!

The strange man who saved my sanity… at least temporarily.