Wednesday, 30 October 2013

28 days later...

I can happily report Sweden is not overrun by Zombies / a rage virus. 2 ‘grown-ups’ (debatable: see photo*) and 2 cats left Edinburgh for the land of Volvos, Abba and Ikea 28 days ago, much like my Viking ancestors in reverse, but in a small truck rather than a long boat (much 10/4-10/4 rubber duckie fun was had by all). Since then, there has been much to surprise, delight and disgust me.
*These make me giggle. Every time.
Having been warned that the Swedish peoples tend to be shy / standoffish (this was by Swedes, so it’s not racism…) I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how friendly and helpful everyone has been, from the smiley ladies at the tax office to the nice people who helped me push my friend’s trusty old Volvo (which is as old as me, if not older) away from the petrol pumps in the rain, when it wouldn’t start (I’d managed to flood the engine. Clever me.)
I have, of course, also provided many moments of entertainment, and simple confusion, for the natives in my attempts to get my head around their mother tongue. When a couple of friends got engaged I told them I was so ‘upphetsad’ (excited) for them. You can imagine their amusement (and slight fear) at the fact that upphetsad tends to mean excited in the aroused sense.
When I told our bin man I’d lived in Edinburgh for 70 years, rather than 17, he was kind enough to point out I didn’t look old enough to have lived there that long, despite the fact that I had just got out of bed and ran out of the house like a demented leprechaun to catch the bin collection. The lady who offered to help me in a shop to be told: ‘No thanks, I’m dainty’ just looked confused. Given my distinct lack of daintiness, I’d say she was very confused.
Speaking of shops brings me on to something I like a whole lot about Sweden. No queues. You take a numbered ticket when you go anywhere you might need counter service and wait until your number is called. This means you can browse, sit, or even leave and come back if your timing’s good, rather than stand in a queue like a fool. Logic. I like it.
Another thrilling observation I’ve made is that of the Swedish dustpan and brush. OK thrilling may be pushing it a bit, but it’s the little things… And, in this case, the long handles. Simple, effective, logical. I ask myself: Why are people in other countries still bending over? 
Why do we bend and scrape?
I considered calling this ‘Confessions of a Swedophile’, but thought people might get the wrong idea. Also, there are some things over here that I am not a fan of. And some that are just plain wrong. I give you... salted liquorice. WHY? Why take something revolting and make it even more so? Also: Emmerdale and Holby City. Yes, you read correctly. Of all the British TV on offer, they import Emmerdale and Holby City. All I can think is that there’s a bargain bin in the TV show shop (or wherever it is these TV executive types buy their programming) and they were in it.
If you were hoping for me to wax lyrical about the beautiful Swedish countryside, gorgeous buildings and fascinating history I think you know by now, if you’ve made it this far, that you’ll be waiting. If you really want to see how beautiful it is watch this. We’re getting down to the nitty gritty. I did mention disgust earlier and, let’s face it, this is what you’ve been waiting for. The toilet.
Beautiful Sweden. But that's not what this is about.
Yes they have toilets, and yes, they look pretty similar to most toilets in the western hemisphere (aside from Italy – no holes in the ground here thankfully), but when you live in the countryside, as we do, there are other aspects to consider, like shit tanks. Not every home is linked up to the main sewerage system, so when you flush your ablutions (as my Nana called them) are not taken to the ocean, like Nemo, they’re taken to a big smelly tank under your garden (where you will certainly not find Nemo). And, more logic, these tanks need to be emptied every so often.
Now it’s not that we didn’t check the tank, it’s more that we neglected to check it for a few days, and the day it unexpectedly reached capacity happened to coincide with a class 2 storm. Excellent. A shit-storm it was not, but it did mean having to use the outside toilet which, when the wind is howling in the pitch-black night, is atmospheric to say the least. That said, given outside toilets don’t flush, there are times when the phrase ‘I can’t see shit’ is a positive.
As God is my witness, I will never take a flushing toilet for granted again.