Monday, May 05, 2008

In which I am nearly arrested in a Swedish nightclub

I've been to Sweden!! Lara and I went for her "stag" night; she insists she's not a chick, so I must remember to stop calling her that in my texts. It turned into more of a hen weekend though. We met at the Europa (after a raft of texts from her saying that she was already drinking - the tramp) on Friday afternoon to catch the 2pm bus to Dublin, where we were getting the half six flight to Copenhagen. (Slight digression: I had a fab day at work on Friday - I was on a half day, and I spent most of it either in the café or floating around the office encouraging people to eat the ANZAC Biscuits I'd spent until 1am the previous night baking - they weren't your classical ANZAC Biscuits, due to me accidentally buying baking powder instead of baking soda, and our oven not having baking trays, so half of them got cooked on a wire rack, which was interesting, but they still tasted all right, and one of the lads at work even knew about the ANZACS!) The entire bus trip down we spent moaning about how we should have brought something to drink, but we remedied that as soon as we arrived at the airport ... mmmm Beamish! It turned out that our flight was delayed, so we went on a wee shopping expedition and came out with some Boru vodka (Sweden pics here). I can highly recommend it - it comes in handbag (not that I own one of those, but Lara does)-sized bottles! Purchase complete the plane was ready for boarding, and we (i.e. Lara) used our womanly wiles to swap seats with one of the blokes next to us, so we could sit together. Next on the list was a 200ml bottle of Nicolas Feuillaté champagne. Lara had never had champagne on a plane (beats snakes any day), and it was her hen weekend, so we considered it £6 well spent. Stupidly we only got the one bottle each.

We arrived at Copenhagen too late to get the train to Ronneby (Lara's home town), so had to spend the night in Malmö at her friend Jimmy's flat. This involved haggling for a taxi, which you only apparently do in Malmö. One of the drivers even looked pointedly at me carrying the bag of vodka and told Lara that if we could afford to buy that we could afford to pay his exorbitant fare. I could see he was looking at the bag, and thought that he was refusing to take me, because I looked like a (high class, thank you very much)n alcoholic! However, we eventually found a more amenable driver and arrived at Jimmy's, where Lara was greeted with hugs and kisses, and I with beer. This was the start of my two-stop multiple-beer-tasting trip; I must have had at least 15/20 different beers in the four days, and it was excellent. (I even liked the "3.5-ers", as they're called, which is all you can buy at 11pm on a Sunday night.) We drank in the house for a while and Christian-I (Christian the First), Jimmy and Lara put on dreadful music (think Total Eclipse of the Heart etc.) and sang enthusiastically to it (Lara danced at me again - it's equally as terrifying as Spence and Pooh Bear singing "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" at me), while Jakob and I cowered on the sofa (sometimes I had to back warily out of the room). Finally they bored of that, and we left for a pub. Lara managed to scare off a chick whom Christian-I was interested in by sitting down at the table next to him. It was the funniest thing I'd seen in ages; Christian-I was just sitting at the table talking to this chick, and Lara slid in next to him. Next thing the girl just got up and left, without saying hello or goodbye or anything! I think she might even have spilled some of her drink as she flounced off. Mental. We stayed there until closing time, and then walked back to the flat. I managed to pick up (literally, from a bus shelter) a Leonard Cohen World Tour poster on the way back, which is now on my bedroom wall; and it's in Swedish. Lara, Christian-I and I (Jakob went home and Jimmy went to bed) sat up drinking and talking, which was amusing, because Christian had spent all night refusing to talk English (which I thought was really funny), but when we got home he forgot about it, which was even funnier, especially when he remembered again; until he made a booty call (who turned up within minutes, it was like she was waiting outside the front door), and then passed out. Lara and I decided that since it was half three, and we were getting up in three hours to catch the half seven train (there was no train at half past eight) to Ronneby we should really get a bit of sleep too.

Lara's mum met us off the train when we arrived, and we showered and had some breakfast at her house. (I think breakfast included beer, certainly vodka.) Lara got a mysterious phone call as she was dressing, telling her to check her mailbox, so she booted up the computer and checked her mail, none of which seemed very interesting. It transpired, however, in the actual mailbox of the house was a pink note, and a key. The note was a treasure hunt, with both drawings and a google images search of the things she needed to get (these included things like a free rose and four ice cream spoons). The key was supposed to fit a bike downstairs, but turned out to have nothing to do with any of the bikes (Britta forgot to lock said bike). The bike itself was a work of art: old school, and decorated with giant daisies, diet coke cans and Lara, wearing a black helmet several sizes too small to fit over her deads, with a pink fluffy tiara attached to the top. Class. She set off to ride through town on her treasure hunt, and her mum and cousin Tina (the quietest person I've ever met) and I set off to meet the others. We'd finally left the house and were half way down the street when I got a text from Lara saying whatever I did, not to forget the vodka, so we had to turn back - Lara's mum wasn't very impressed with this, and I was scared. All ended happily however, and we made it to the Japanese tea house in the park, where the picnic was being held. We hid ourselves behind rocks and "surprised" Lara at the appointed time. It was less a matter of leaping out and shouting Surprise! though, and more of the clambering down and walking for two minutes to reach the picnic area variety.

We'd had to prepare for the occasion by getting a small gift that represented a memory that you and Lara shared. Everything that sprang to my mind was something I couldn't take on the plane, which was awkward, so I decided on a large unbreakable wine glass - we've had very bad luck with wine glasses in our flat. There were about 13 of us, and Lara had to guess who had given her each present. Some of them were hilarious, a cucumber and a leek, and some were lovely - she got two pieces of art from the lads. (All this was accompanied by wine.) Next was the picnic, and the food, all prepared by the bridesmaids, was phenomenally good (and all vegetarian). Even better, when the wine ran out we had vodka. After that was the well known Swedish institution: the quiz walk. Yeah, I'd never heard of it either, but it's more or less like a multichoice pub quiz where you have to walk to the questions, which are stuck to trees. I'd contributed at least four questions to this, because I wasn't sure how dodgy it was likely to be (Lara's mum was there), and they ended up choosing the rugby one (Why does Lara watch rugby? a) A keen appreciation of the finer points of the game b) A keen appreciation of the finer points of the players c) To have something to talk to the digger drives about the next day. Thinking about it now, I wish I'd put water cooler in the last answer.). My favourite question was How did Lara and Emma become friends? Correct answer: When Emma stole Lara's potential boyfriend.

After we arrived at the car park we were ferried off to the spa, where I distinguished myself by both getting completely lost (that place was like a rabbit warren!), and falling over in a spectacular fashion in front of everyone. I wish I could put up day-by-day photos of the buise on my thigh, it's still going strong, and the colours have been sensational. I also have one on my elbow and forearm (on the same side), and when I eventually got into bed on Saturday night my leg hurt a lot, so I raised myself up on my elbow and that was equally painful. Turning over has been fun. Lara got her makeup done at the spa, and at one stage the woman said "I'm going to do your lips now, so don't talk or drink" (she had a beer), her instant reaction was "But that's what I do..." We went back to Lara's place, where she and Tina and I got changed. I wore the rather revealing dress that she made me buy on Thursday night (before I made the ANZAC Biscuits); no pics in existence, that I've been able to track down. It's kind of blue and green tiger stripes, rather low cut, and quite fitted; looks good with red hair though.

Anyway, we went to the nightclub next, which was grand, until the polis decided to come in, with the intention of stopping trouble before it began (apparently), and tried to talk to me (in Swedish). They concluded that I was so drunk I was "unreachable", probably because I stared blankly at them when they spoke to me. They took me outside to drive me home, which would have been interesting, considering I couldn't understand them, didn't know Lara's mum's address, and have no sense of direction anyway... Fortunately Lara had noticed the attempted abduction, and came to rescue me. However once the cops have made their minds up, there's no changing them apparently - even though we were standing outside, obviously fine, they still wanted me to go home, so Lara ran inside to let everyone else know what was going on. She'd been inside for about two minutes, and I was standing talking to Eleanor; the police came back and pointed at Eleanor, and said "You have to take her home. Now", which was funny, because Eleanor's not from Ronneby either, and didn't know the house address. They were very insistent though, and I don't know what they would have done if Lara hadn't turned back up and told them it was a ten minute walk, and that's how we were getting back. So Lara, Tina, Eleanor and Christian-II (Christian the Second) and I all ended up back at the house drinking, instead of at the nightclub. Eventually it was only Christian-II and me sitting on the sofa talking, which we did until we fell asleep (his feet on my stomach). Eleanor said it was funny listening to us fall asleep because our words got slower and quieter, until they stopped all together. I woke up at some point in the night and decided to go to bed, which provoked a muffled noise of discontentment when I moved.

The next morning we had a Swedish breakfast (fil (a kind of yoghurt which isn't yoghurt), bread, cheese, a kind of pastrami with olives in it, coffee, jam, boiled egg) and Eleanor told brilliantly inappropriate stories: "Do you remember the time we watched German porn in the hotel room at the Young Greens convention?" and "We had a competition to see who could kiss the youngest person at a Young Greens' convention. I won" (said with some satisfaction). We went for a walk round town after this, and I took lots of pictures of the houses and the cobbles (beautiful to look at, but you wouldn't want to be wearing heels). We also visited an art gallery and Lara got a wedding present for Armand - it's absolutely perfect. Then we walked home and Lara found a pizza place that opened at 3pm (although I'd swear we'd only just finished breakfast), so we walked there. We had to have pizza so I could have pizza salad - a peculiarly Swedish invention that comes with all pizzas. I have to admit I'm a convert, although I can't see what it really has to do with pizza at all. As far as I can tell, it's thinly shredded white cabbage, marinated in oil, white wine vinegar, black pepper and tarragon (I think, if not then definitely some dried green herb). Christian-II and I had a couple of glasses of beer, and I couldn't finish my pizza, so I was eating it for the rest of the day.

That afternoon Martin (the other lad) came round with some more beer, and we all sat on the balcony overlooking the garden drinking beer and talking nonsense (there's no point in trying to recreate it here). Later, Lara and I went to visit her brother, where I had Bear Beer, and discovered a herb called dragon. None of us could work out what it was in English, which was really annoying. Turns out it's tarragon, and I'm now officially calling tarragon dragon from now on. I just need to work on my accent. After that we caught up with the lads and Martin's sister drinking beer in the town square (as you do), so we got some of our own and repaired to Martin's sister's flat which was just around the corner (like everything in Ronneby) until she threw us out, because she had to work in the morning. Lara, Christian-II and I went back to her mum's garden (her mum was getting up at 5am for work the next morning), where we remembered we had vodka. Unfortunately after that we didn't really feel like drinking 3.5% beer, and I was getting the sniffles, so I went to bed. Lara and Christian-II (who was getting up at half five to catch the train to Stockholm for work) stayed up (drinking the 3.5-ers, it was always going to happen).

On Monday Lara and I got up at a leisurely hour (having been awake enough to wave when her mum left), had showers and prepared breakfast (bread, cucumber (a present), pineapple (a present), coffee, jam, cheese, fil, salami, and a bizarre-looking vegetarian paste thing, which tasted surprisingly good), which we ate outside in the garden. We then discovered that Lara still had a bottle of wine (another present) which we could have drunk last night, and which she now couldn't take as carry on luggage. So annoying. We wandered down to the train station, and failed to buy tickets at the ticket machine, so got them at the counter instead. I got a chocolate bar called Plopp for Jill, and an ice cream (for me). Once on the train we lamented our lack of alcohol, and half way to Copenhagen Lara remembered that we still had several 3.5-ers in the house. Of course.

We had a quick pint of Tuborg at the airport and bought provisions for the flight: wasabi peas and cheese. On the flight we caved in and bought a small bottle of wine each, followed by cans of Tuborg (to go with the peas of course), and I chatted up one of the flight attendants, who had tried to speak to me in Swedish. On our way off the plane he wished Lara a happy wedding, which made her ask me how long I'd been talking to him...

I think that's about it. Unfortunately instead of crossing another country off my list I've just added another place I want to go and live. Alors, c'est la vie.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

My bad

I've been ridiculously bad about updating this site, and I meant to do more this weekend, but I didn't. However, I did manage to upload a bunch of photos!! Not all by any means, but I am feeling slightly better...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

So - actually oysters are so me

I have a picture of the dozen oysters that Kipper and I devoured for "lunch" today. It may possibly include the glass of wine that I may have had... but I couldn't comment on that.

Today started off a little overcast, but turned into pure blue skies and gelato. I bought a pair of goldy/bronzy wedges today, to replace my favourite blue sandals, which I discovered were coming seriously to pieces in the airport, as I was waiting for my - yet again - delayed SleazyJet flight. The freakiest thing is that I bought them from the first shop we went into. (I know: it was i) a decision ii) so quick!!)

Kipper got a new phone, all she required (and maybe a glitter bar) from Lush, and I stopped her buying a dress with her phone money.

For dinner Kipper and I are having: the smelliest cheese ever (if Roquefort is medium, this is guru level), fantastic olives, cheap bubbles, blinis, fresh sardines with beans and tomatoes, red wine and more cheese and salad. Oh, and we're listening to Boplicity.

Must get back to the olives and bubbles. God I love Paris.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hounded by the ghost of Flat Past

Well, to be strictly correct, it's more Luke-the-not-landlord, not the flat. Once we texted him on the Friday to say we were moving out the next weekend, he phoned straight back - a first! - but we weren't prepared to talk to him until the weekend; and he didn't call back or come round at any stage during the week; until Saturday afternoon, when we were in a secondhand shop buying a supremely cheap (£40) tv, because the broadband people were coming round on Tuesday.

Did I mention he's so assiduous at the moment, because he hasn't been around for three months to collect the rent? Unsurprisingly we a) forgot about it, and b) spent it (on essentials, naturally).

Lara looked at her phone, and said "I'm not answering it - we've already moved out." She's such a bad influence; I didn't answer mine either, and he left a message saying "I'm in hospital" (sure you are), wanting to send his mother(!) round to pick up the keys and rent.

So then we were quite bad, and either didn't hear our phones (genuine, honestly), or were in meetings (also genuine), or at the gym (really! I know it sounds bad); but we also failed to call back. So this week we decided that we had to call him. Two bottles of wine later, we'd made a huge list of bargaining points, which I won't reproduce, but included: no contract, no receipts, toilet leaking into kitchen, the fact that he didn't have keys himself (I could go on), and psyched ourselves up to call him. It was engaged. For about 15 minutes. We texted him saying "We've been trying to get in touch with you (which we thought was a nice touch), but your phone is engaged. We're going to bed but will call you after work tomorrow." Twenty minutes later he texted Lara saying "My phone is on 24/7", which made us squeal in disgust (we had been drinking), and want to stay up to 3am to call him then. That was Tuesday. Wednesday we were at a bbq (fantastic weather, and so much food we ate ourselves sick). Tonight we must call him, because I'm off to France tomorrow, and Lara's going to Sweden to collect her cats. I just want this sorted. Gargh.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More damn packing

We're moving out of our flat tomorrow, and I'm gutted. There are so many things I adore about the house: it's three stories, my room is enormous, the ceilings are all really high, the wooden floors are beautiful, the bathroom is red. There are annoying aspects too - the so-called landlord, the fact that none of the windows open because they're all painted shut, the toilet which leaks into the kitchen, the garden at the front not being big enough to sit in, having to put the heating on for half an hour before you can have a shower; but I'm still going to miss it.

I haven't done any packing: a combination of laziness (and being out drinking) and ostrich behaviour; Lara keeps telling me how much she's done. I'm out buying things - I need three cans of chickpeas and 10 pairs of chopsticks now, right?

Still, the new house has some good points: opening windows, a wee garden in the front, and a wee garden at the back, a spare room... I'm starting to struggle here. It's easily the best of the places we've looked at, but it's not a patch on our current place.

So, yeah, bring on the weekend - I can hardly wait. (Thank Dionysus for The Vineyard.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Paris part deux


On Saturday morning we jumped out of bed bright and early at 11am (this was to become our typical rising time) and went to the markets. When Kipper isn't living in Tourcoing, she lives in the 12me arrondissement, which is apparently quite a posh part of Paris, so the market was rather expensive. That didn't stop us purchasing an immoderate amount of cheese ("the most expensive Roquefort in Paris", and two types of goat's cheese), and a variety fruit and vegetables and a bottle of rosé. We went back to the apartment (which definitely bears a small description) to gorge ourselves.

Bathroom chandelierThe flat is on the 7th floor (opposite a place called "Ladyfitness", which advertises itself as "Concept No 1 en France"), and belongs to an actor. It's decorated in a manner that may euphemistically be described as "eclectic". I only took one picture, and it doesn't quite sum everything up, but it made quite an impression on me: it's the bathroom chandelier and it's plastic. Every time I went in there I would whack my head, and it would make a cheap plastic noise (the chandelier, not my head).

After cheese and rosé we went into the Marais district to buy Kipper some new shoes and rugby socks to go with her new grey dress from H&M. The weather was phenomonally warm and sunny (and that wasn't just compared to Belfast!), though I was so cheerful it could have been snowing and I wouldn't have cared. We had to change at the Bastille Metro station (cue more pics), and wandered around for a wee while before we found the shopping part Kipper was looking for.

Bastille Metro station One of the things that I particularly noticed about Paris was the amount of dogs and bikes in the town centre. They have a great system where one can hire a bike from a docking station very cheaply (you're not going to catch me on a bike for any money - I have enough problems walking), and drop it off at another docking station when you've finished with it. Cyclists seem to own vasts tracts of roads, and they even have their own traffic lights set down very low (took me ages before I worked out why they were there). I took a picture on Sunday evening after we'd had Salad Niçoise at Cafe Hugo with Kipper in the foreground, so you can see how close to the ground they are. There's also a good shot of her famous boater.
Baby traffic lights

It took us forever to find any shoe shops, but along the way we came across all sorts of thurmaturgical delights. My personal favourite were the "baguettes magiques". I may have stopped and squealed when I saw them, in the time-honoured schoolgirl fashion. I had to have a photo.

It was the final day of the Paris sales, so we stopped in at numerous boutiques, at one of which Kipper bought a lovely green jumper. I was slightly taken aback at how tactile the young male sales assistant was - in a good way though, he wasn't at all sleazy. He fluttered and fussed around her like she was a model on a catwalk; it was nice (not to mention effective).

Magic baguettes After we'd finished shopping (I talked Kipper into a fantastic pair of strappy, but eminently wearable, silver sandals) we stopped at a café for a drink, some people/dog/bicycle/shoe watching, and to plan the evening. Kipper had some other friends over in Paris, and we arranged to meet them at "the most trendy and pretentious café in the whole of Paris". We started off at the bar over the road from it, but the service wasn't that great, and the mojitos weren't as good as they previous place they'd been in, so we chanced the pretentious place (Café Charbon) and found it to our liking - guess that makes us young, smart and bohemian. Kipper's French friend told us that we'd hit the perfect time for visiting it: down season in Paris. Apparently it's usually filled to overflowing and impossible to get into. We liked it so much we stayed for dinner - I had the most heavenly steak tartare. Afterwards we went into almost-Belleville (I was very excited, The Triplets of Belleville being one of my favourite films at some festival) for a post prandial drink. It seemed a bit odd, drinking in the 'burbs, but I guess that's what you get, in large cities - or even N.Z. for that matter: I've driven to Newtown for a drink, for heaven's sake! Catching the Métro home is not something you do there though...

A Métro station

I was at a metal gig last night...


Don't ask me what the hell I was doing there; well, actually, I can tell you: being scared by the people, and then having a beer, and giggling at them. In fact I got an attack of the giggles, when the band on the left came out. (I think they may be called Lesshelp.) The lead singer was wearing a welding mask. No really. It was unbelievable, when he wanted to sing, he had to lift it up with his hand, and push the microphone under it. The rest of the audience seemed to find this perfectly normal, so I choked quietly on my Tennant's. I would have taken a picture, but it was all I could do to remain upright. When they first came out I decided that they were a bunch of tossers (the lead singer calling for multiple naked chicks in the audience may have had something to do with it - I mean would he even know what to do with one?), who thought it was cool to wear sunnies inside at midnight; but actually they had lots of short (= good) and amusing songs - current favourite "Obsessed with cheese", which goes: "Obsessed with cheese / Obsessed with cheese". It's great! I think Lara and Armand should have them at their wedding.

The general audience I found really scary. Stereotypes bad, I know I know, but they were all scary fat geeky fanboys; either with long hair (which they obviously spend more time and money on than I spend on mine), or no hair and long beards (again more time and money). I'm sure they didn't come straight from their computers to the gig, but that's how it felt... So I grabbed another beer (oooops - budget!), decided it was okay to laugh quietly at them, and enjoy the music. I didn't head bang though, I'd need a wig for that.