A Very Paddy Day

*Blows off dust. Taps blog. Hello? Testing. Is this thing on? Hello?*

So we bought the house in the end. Then I became a grandad. Anyway, moving on. 

Today it’s Saint Patrick’s Day. I’m sure all you wee ones, you millennials and generation ZX or whatever, you think it’s just back-to-back entertainment, don’t you? Drinking your weirdly coloured beer. Wearing your big hats. Waving at Michael Flatley on his popemobile as red-haired maidens troop past, spraying the crowd with milk. Well let me tell you right now, it wasn’t always like that… 

You see, when I was a wee fella, back around the dawn of time, Saint Patrick’s Day wasn’t a thing you celebrated, but endured. It was a day off, sure. But it was also a holy day. Which meant you were going to mass, regardless of what your thoughts on the matter might be. And if you were lucky you’d have some shamrock pinned to you first. And maybe – oh the joy – a green rosette or plastic flag-type thing. 

Mass, of course, would be an immensely drab affair. It was tragic how a priest could make damnation, sin, evil and eternal torment sound so boring, when Iron Maiden took the very same subject material and made it thrilling, if a little long, but Father Priestfellow always seemed to manage it.

After mass, there might be a parade on the TV, transmitted from one of our many (five) cities, but it was always a miserable rainy affair with tractors pulling trailers containing hay and trad musicians and maybe, if you were lucky, a gaelic footballer or two. And that would be it. 

Except for one thing. A truly magical thing. You see, Paddy’s Day usually occurred during Lent. That’s when Catholics give up nice things. Like cigarettes or beer. Or chocolate. I think pancakes were also involved in some way. And ash? I don’t fucking remember, it’s been a while since I was a Catholic. Anyway, as kids, you would normally give up sweets, and Paddy’s Day was a cheat day. Lent was turned off. So the gorging on sweets could commence. Or on cigarettes, if that was what you’d given up. Or sex. Just like the great man himself would have wanted. 

It was only when I moved to Dublin in 1989, to study, that I was exposed to a Paddy’s Day that could be described as joyful. It shocked me, to be honest. Celebrating a religious day? Having fun? Those bloody Americans, always ruining our misery by taking it and sending it back to us all bright and joyful.

It’s a weird thing to do, though, isn’t it — celebrating the person who helped usher in two millenia of crushing guilt and all but eradicate Ireland’s traditional religion and rituals. On the plus side, the beardy fella did give us green beer, plastic hats and liver disease, and I think we can all agree that was probably a win.

So happy Paddy’s Day. I guess.

/ Paddy

The House That Never Was

Gather round, children, to hear the tale of the house that never was.

Picture a Swedish summer house, a gorgeous little thing with two floors, built in the 1820s. It has no running water or indoor plumbing, like many Swedish summer houses. The owner bought it because it was located beside a parachute jumping course, and they did parachute jumping. So they used the house very occasionally to sleep in after jumping out of a plane. There was a well, which wasn’t working, a very basic outdoor toilet and no rubbish collection. But that didn’t bother them, as they performed all their bodily functions and collected water from the parachute club.

20190707_182852(0)I’d heard about this house through the person who stayed there occasionally as a caretaker, cutting the grass and such. I visited her and kind of fell in love with the place. Quaint didn’t begin to describe it. There was also a nice little shed, a half-built chicken coop, an earth cellar (collapsed) and ten thousand square meters of prime land. Also, a wood next door. Lovely.

There was also a man living in a box in the yard, but we’ll get back to him later.

The caretaker told me the owner was sort of interested in selling. In fact, she’d occasionally show up with people to view the house, totally unannounced. She’d also freak out occasionally over nothing. The owner, it seemed, was a bit special, with quotes around the special.

Anyway, I told the caretaker I was interested in buying it. She told the owner, who gave a price of 700,000 Swedish crowns (go look it up yourself). A good price, especially for the amount of land. So, as one should do, I booked a surveyor to go through the house and invited the owner along on the same day, so we could all meet. The surveyor surveyed, the owner shook my hand and laughed and nodded and only mentioned parachuting about eighteen times.

A week later, the surveyor sent me his report. The house was old so there was plenty wrong with it. Roof tiles incorrectly attached. Holes in the facade. Some rot in the wood. Also no water, and since the non-functioning well hadn’t been used for years, it might not even be drinkable. Water is quite important for most carbon-based lifeforms, so that was a concern. Also, their toilet solution was illegal, consisting of an outside loo where you shat more or less directly on the ground, violating environmental regulations. But, besides all that, still a pretty decent price.

There was also the man living in a box in the yard, but we’ll get back to him later.

I pondered the report. I would need to do many repairs, but the major issues were the water, the toilet and the roof tiles. So I adjusted down the offered price, put a bit back on for the furniture in the house, which I knew they didn’t really want, and offered 685. A good price. Or so I thought.

20190707_160702The owner didn’t think so, and flipped out, fuming that I was trying to change what she considered a fair price. That, however, is not how a fair price works. Both people need to agree that the price is fair, and I wanted a symbolic reduction, just to feel I was getting a deal, and to cover the costs of the vital jobs that had to be done – toilet, water, roof over head.

And then there was the man living in a box in the yard, who we’ll get to now.

The man was a parachute jumper, who stayed some weekends in a container they’d put on the property and wired up to the house’s electrical system. Badly. Possibly illegally. He paid enough rent to cover the house’s bills, and the owner had informed me that he couldn’t be thrown out, even if the house were sold, until the parachuting season was over (because we all know when the parachuting season starts and ends). She didn’t see this as weird at all.

Anyway, when she’d calmed down after my scandalous attempt to cut two percent from the price, she called me. This is a woman who likes to talk on the phone. I am not a woman who likes to talk on the phone (or, for that matter, a woman) and prefer everything in text, so that people who are good at talking don’t manipulate me. So I listened as she tried to manipulate me.

The lack of water apparently wasn’t a problem, as she’d been there for years and had never needed it. So that didn’t deserve any reduction. The toilet wasn’t a problem either as yes she knew it was an illegal solution, but she didn’t think the regulations were fair or even relevant, so that did not require any reduction. The roof tiles weren’t a problem as the man who’d installed them told her so, and the professional and independent (and expensive) surveyor I’d paid was therefore wrong.

The man who lived in the box in the yard wasn’t a problem either, as he was lovely, and he’d only need to be there until the end of the season, regardless of whether the house was sold and when, and could not be thrown out. He was even, it was argued, an asset.

DSC_0048Then came her deal. Instead of paying the 700, as was her original price, or the 685 I’d suggested, she offered that I buy the house for 650 thousand officially and pay her 50 thousand in cash. This would mean she had, officially, made no profit on the house, and would therefore pay no tax on the sale. And it would mean that I would pay more tax when I sold it in the future. Ten thousand crowns more.

She also wanted me to pay half of her fees connected to the sale, while I would pay all of my own fees. Which meant her “deal” actually made the price of the house go UP from 700 to 715. Win-win, was how she put it. Or, as I put it afterward, win-get-shafted-up-the-arse.

I explained my attempt to improve the price as a thing that we do in Ireland. Every price, I said, gets argued over, it’s just how we are. She informed me that she’d been to Ireland years ago, and I was wrong about that too, it wasn’t at all how we did things in Ireland.

It took me a few hours after vaguely agreeing to her terms (I’m not good at taking discussions on the phone, see above) to grasp the extent to which she was trying to fuck me over. I realised, as much as I wanted the house, that I was not willing to get screwed for it, especially by a person whose idea of a good deal is one where she gets 100% of what she wants and the other person gets sweet fuck all. I texted her to say thank you but no. She sent a furious reply, which I didn’t read.

I’m still looking for a nice little summer house, but now I think I’ll go through a realtor. At least I know in which way they will try to screw me. If you have one (a house, not a realtor) let me know.

But at least I learned something: Don’t trust a parachutist, they’ll always let you down.

/ paddy

Not Keeping It Down

Every winter in Sweden people cower in terror as the vinterkräksjuka (calicivirus) sweeps across the land like a plague of angry ducks (or whatever image appeals to you). I’ve watched people for years as they scatter in terror, washing hands frantically, avoiding workplaces, avoiding breathing, to avoid picking it up. And I’ve wondered – bloody wimps, what’s wrong with them? Shure it’s only a bit of puking.

Thing is, I’m immune to the vinterkräksjuka. Or at least I thought I was.

Enter early Friday morning, when the contents of my stomach emerged from my mouth, going the wrong direction, and kept on doing that for a day. I lay on my couch, staring up and pitifully groaning, too ill to sleep or read or Netflick (that is the verb, I’m calling it). All I could do was dribble enough water into myself so that I could puke it all up again.

not-knorrAfter a while, all I looked forward to was the vomiting itself, and the associated twenty minutes of feeling kind of okay that followed, before I descended into the valley again.

At one point, I really felt I needed to puke, but couldn’t face the old fingers down the throat. So I thought about bread. Just thought about it. And the floodgates dutifully opened wide.

Finally, a day later, it stopped. And some time after that, I felt I might try some food. Which I did – Knorr’s dried vegetable soup. It was like eating salty rainbows rolled in communion wafers. Marvellous.

Now, somewhat later, I am ready for the world again, wiser and a bit thinner. But I guess I learned my lesson – if you want to vomit, just think of bread. Mmm.

Interesting fact 1: People in Sweden pronounce the silent K in Knorr. It’s adorable.

Interesting fact 2: Pronouncing vinterkräksjuka is one of the required steps in becoming a Swedish citizen, along with inserting snus one-handed, forcing yourself to like dill, and incorrectly pouring a pint of Guinness. So get on it, would-be Swedes!

Interesting fact 3: Yes, I known it’s not Knorr, I can see it on the box, can’t I, but I needed that for Interesting fact 1 so just get off my back, will ya?

/ paddy

The Chicken Years

Internet advertising is an odd beast. Facebook seems to have pinned me as a man who likes his golf, his Trump and his new age retreats, to judge from the ads it shows me. From my age, perhaps. Or my maleness. Or the colours and texture of my aura.

But over the last few weeks, a certain ad has been following me around the internet, at least on my mobile phone. Any website containing advertising that I open will, in seconds, be showing me the following advertisement:

2017-05-15 18.47.02

These are chickens. Wearing reflective vests. One is pink. The other is yellow. You know, for those chickens who are picky about their colour schemes.

One question here is why chickens need reflective vests — maybe they’re laying tarmac, or directing crowds to fire exits? Fuck knows. The other question here is why the site lantbutiken.se is apparently so keen to have me as a customer. They sell farming equipment and I am currently not a farmer, nor an owner of chickens.

The ads they show me do push the whole chicken angle pretty hard. Observe:

2017-05-15 18.51.19.png

This chicken is wearing a camouflage vest. No, I don’t know why either.

It’s possible, I suppose, that I accidentally clicked on an ad for chicken stuff one time. So now lantbutiken.se is convinced I’m a chicken accessory collector just waiting to come out of the coop. Or maybe their calculations show that a 40+ man with an Irish surname simply must be interested in chickens, and that’s all there is to it.

2017-05-15 18.51.22

Here is a water feeder for chickens. And some kind of … chicken-proof apron?

So, lantbutiken, I’m afraid you’re clucking up the wrong tree here. Save your money and advertise to someone who doesn’t live in a second-floor flat, in a city. Although if I ever need to kit out an all-chicken army or building crew, I do know exactly where to go.

/ paddy

The Job Application Anecdote

I am the master of cringe-filled anecdotes. There’s the snus in the arse, for example. Or the one where I set fire to a newspaper while trying to impress a cute waitress at a café. But this one, my friends. This one is solid nuclear gold.

So I was applying for a new job. I got talking to some very nice people at company X, who wanted me to send in a work sample. That meant a simple game made in Unity, a nifty game motor. On this they would judge my game-making ability, and also me.

I had a game already half done, which I’d made to teach myself Unity. It was a novelty game in which you had to find swear words in a grid. I had an algorithm for combining swear words to make new swear words (arsenibbler, cumgurgler, fuckwaggler, and so on) to get points. The longer the swearword, the better. An odd idea, perhaps, but it amused me at the time, and nobody was ever supposed to see it.


But the game I had to make for the new job had nothing to do with swear words, obviously. So I cleared out the files in my game, saved the code that was useful, and built my new game. Which I liked, and a few days of work later, I sent it in.

All was well. For four hours. Until I got a short mail, written in a shaky and hesitant hand. Basically, it said:

“Um … that ideas file. Um. What the hell?”

I swallowed. I went pale. And I checked. Ah. I hadn’t cleaned out all the files from my filthy words game. I’d left one – just the one – which was a list of filthy words and game modes I’d thought to use. Pussygrabber. Cockgobbler. Fuckwangler. Turdlicker. The filthiest words I could think of. They were all there, in a neat long list.

When you send a list of extremely filthy words to the female recruiters judging you for a new job, you know it’s not going to end well. With all credit to them, they did their very best to handle the situation, and after a discussion, they believed me that it was a dumb accident. But let’s be honest – there’s no coming back from that. None. So the next morning, I withdrew my application for company X. Because even if I got the job, I’d always be THAT GUY. Pussygrabber Paddy, in the flesh.

In the end, it turned out to not matter, as I failed the coding part of the test. God never opens a window without slamming a trapdoor on your knuckles. Or something.

So hopefully I’ll never make an anecdote any better than that one. But, you know, given my track record, I kind of doubt it.

(All respect again to the recruiters, who did a great job in dealing with that dumpster fire of a situation. And if they want to make it into an anecdote of their own, they have my blessing.)

/ paddy

The Swedish Flag

This Friday there was an awful truck attack in Stockholm, where four people died. I wasn’t personally affected, even though it was just up the road from where I work, although I know several people who were scarily close to it. For the people who did lose somebody, it must be the worse thing in the world, and I can’t even grasp it.

A horrible situation, although on the day after I made damn sure to get into town and do the whole carry-on-as-normal thing. If life doesn’t go on, then we’ve lost.

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The view from my office after the attack

A few positive things came from the attack, though. One was the immediate and professional response from the police and emergency services, closing down the city and catching the guy a few hours later. The police were getting hugs and flowers from people all weekend, which was great to see in usually-reserved Stockholm.

Another was on social media, where the hashtag #openstockholm took off. People were offering accommodation and help and car rides and company to people stuck in town as a result of the attack and subsequent shutdown. It brought a tear to the eye, this random kindness on a massive level. Stockholmers, it turns out, have a great ability to react to crises, and will throw their doors wide open when needed.

Then people started putting Swedish flags on their Facebook profile pics, as one does after something like this. That’s when it got a bit strange for the Swedes.

flagHere’s the thing. Swedes are often embarrassed to fly their flag. They are generally damn proud of their country, but they don’t show it much. My Swedish workmates are much happier flying an Irish flag on St. Patrick’s day than flying a Swedish flag on any day, ever. It’s part of their “no boasting” mentality, but also because the far right have mostly claimed the Swedish flag, and the average person doesn’t want to be seen as a neo-nazi. You might see the blue and yellow on a bus on Sweden’s national day, or at a sporting event, or fluttering over a summer house, but that’s it.

It’s something that immigrants like myself find very odd. But after this attack, maybe it will change. I do love my adopted country and I hate to see them squirm and not show that love too. You’re awesome, Sweden, so go get your flag back. Remove it from the grubby hands of nationalists and “patriots” and fly it high and proud.

/ paddy

Sunshine and Sneezes

You can’t beat a good sneeze. Especially now that the pollen season is upon us, which sees me doing it quite a bit. However, when it comes to sneezing, I have a superpower.

I am cursed / blessed with a photic sneeze reflex. Which means that when I emerge from an interior space to a brightly sunlit exterior space, I will sneeze. Violently. Usually twice. It also means that if I feel the tingle of a sneeze that doesn’t quite want to arrive, I can shove my face into a lamp and bring the sneeze on. Very handy.

For years I thought this applied to everybody and was quite surprised when I found out  it didn’t. Some mere mortals, apparently, only get to sneeze when the sneeze is good and ready. There are theories about why the photic sneeze reflex works, to do with nerves in the brain and such. Even Aristotle noticed it, when he wasn’t busy incorrectly counting women’s teeth. But work it does, and when it comes to sneezing, I’m no slouch.

genes-for-achoo-syndrom-sun-sneezingI like my sneezing so much that I am amazed by the number of people who block their sneezes. They clamp their noses, sending the sneeze booming around the insides of their skull, in a way that sounds physically painful. I’ve always wondered – why on earth would anybody do that. Is it a fear of contaminating others? A terror of seeing snot and spittle? Or a religious conviction that sneezing is too much like sex? Fuck knows, but lots and lots of people do it, in my workplace as well as in the great wide world in general.

If anybody knows why people do this, please share it. Because I fully expect to one day be a witness to a head boinging off, or an eye popping out and dangling from its fleshy wire.

In Sweden, by the way, you say “Benny!” when someone in your vicinity sneezes. The proper response to that is to yell “Björn!” and then go put on spangly trousers.

/ paddy

Springtime For Sweden

The first signs of spring have come to Stockholm. There are snowdrops sprouting, there are drinkers sitting outside of Snaps in Medborgarplatsen, wrapped in blankets and grimly pretending to be having a good time. And there are people standing against sunlit walls in every corner of the city, with their eyes closed, basking in the rays like vertical seals.

2017-03-25 12.51.58

Here we see a few, snapped by myself yesterday. In this shot we have two proper baskers, two semi-baskers, and a tanned guy who knows exactly what I’m up to.

This behavior will continue on into April, until that first hot day when it is agreed that Stockholm may now shed its black coat and don its skimpy summer things, even though it’s really a bit too cold for that yet, but fuck it.

And for the sake of disclosure – yes, my coat is black. It’s just the rules, okay?

/ paddy

Jazz on the Train

I was on my way to work. It was a typical March morning in Stockholm, which meant the weather could be snow, or blazing sun, or icy gales, or all three at once.

On trains, I am peculiar, especially in the mornings. Things annoy me and they annoy me five times more than normal. These things include (but are not limited to):

People eating their messy breakfast on the train
People having loud conversations on the train
People shoving their massive luggage into other people’s way
People putting on makeup on the train
People with awfully leaky headphones

Of these, the headphone leakers are the worse. Yes, I’m sure your music is fun to listen to, but if you insist upon playing it so fucking LOUDLY then use good headphones and not those pieces of cheap shit they gave you when you bought your mobile telephone.


But no. People will play the most appallingly annoying music at full tinny volume, in total disregard for those around them (meaning, of course, me).

So on this particular March day, I was noodling about on my phone, reading news, playing a game, the usual sort of thing, when a man got on the train and sat close to me, wearing headphones. And the air suddenly filled with jazz.

Not good jazz either. Shite jazz, with the same piece repeated over and over. I did my usual scowling but the man didn’t notice or care. Then I wasn’t sure it was him, so I scowled at some other likely leakers in my vicinity, and shook my head, and muttered to myself.

dogThe music kept on going, becoming more and more annoying. So finally, I moved. At which point I noticed that the music, oddly, was now coming from ahead of me, and not from behind.

And it clicked.The music was coming from my own mobile, from a game I had been playing. Luckily I was spared any embarrassment as pretty much everyone around me had headphones on and couldn’t hear a damn thing. The sweet and awful irony.

Note that I didn’t mention dogs on the train being a thing I dislike. I’m trying quite hard to like dogs and so far it seems to be working.

Until someone invents leaky dog headphones and I am forced to go postal.

/ paddy

Weird And Wrongish Tingles

I found this weird thing on the internet, and you know you’re in for a good time when a blog post starts off like that. So buckle up.

The weird thing in question is called ASMR. Please take a few minutes out of your day to imagine a few disturbing phrases that ASMR could be an acronym of. Done? You sickening pervert. So let’s clean our hands and move right along.

What ASMR actually stands for, we’ll get to later. But what ASMR means in practice is soft-spoken ladies on the internet whispering into a microphone and making all sorts of soft and cosy sounds, using their hands and lips and a variety of objects. Pops and scrapes and crinkles and lip-smacks and hair ruffles are the order of the day here.

Before we get any further, here’s an example:

That’s a head massage.There’s a huge number of other options out there, including lots of odd role-play stuff like going to the doctor or hairdresser or dentist (which we all find relaxing, right?) or watching someone wrap presents. Literally thousands of videos. Shockingly many.

At this point I’d normally have a good old giggle and point at the sad internet freaks who are into this kind of thing. But here is the problem – it totally works on me.

The soft popping and scraping and whispering sends my head into fireworks of tingles. It’s like when I get a haircut (an activity I enjoy way more than I let on to my hairdresser). I can’t really explain why it works, but it does. It sets my brain alight, leaving a calm and slightly numb feeling in my head, lasting for many minutes. Like mindfulness but without any of the boring effort.

Here’s another one. This is Maria, possibly the most popular ASMR video maker. Her top posting has over 17 million hits. This lady does this full time, and makes enough that she doesn’t have to work with anything else. This, people, is her actual job.

And there’s lots more out there. Search and you will be amazed. Or very, very troubled.

The big question is – is it sexual? Maybe, but only in the same way that getting a massage is sexual. The ASMR fan base seems to be equally male and female, and while there are plenty ASMR videos made by men, the majority are done by women. So is it some kind of weird maternal thing? Might be. But whatever, it works for me.

It’s not all whispering and head touching. Here’s Charlotte wrapping presents. She has a lot of videos that are mostly noises. Page turning. Writing. That class of thing.

But enough from me. Get out there and explore. Put a good pair of headphones on. And be prepared for some very odd looks from those in your immediate vicinity.

ASMR = Autonomous sensory meridian response. Or possibly Anal Sector Marzipan Roulette. Does it matter? Not a whole lot.

Extra material: The brilliant Jenny Nicholson does her own take on ASMR.

/ paddy

The Arse Tobacco Anecdote

I was in a pub a few weeks back, attending a concert, when I felt a pressing need.

I entered the toilet space, and read the notice on the inside of the door, which warned about the dodgy lock. Check it several times! it yelled. I checked it several times, gave it an extra tug, checked it again. All seemed in order.

I removed the clothing around my crotchal area and sat down for the commencement of my business. Said business was underway when I noticed that somebody had left a little container of snus on a shelf just within reach.

snus-2Note: Snus is Swedish mouth tobacco that people shove up under their upper lips, giving them stained teeth, a slightly deformed face and, one supposes, good feelings. It is banned in the EU, except in Sweden, as they really REALLY wanted Sweden to join. So they got themselves a mouth tobacco exemption.

Anyway, there I was on the toilet, reaching for the snus that wasn’t my own, out of boredom. It was further than I thought so I had to raise my buttocks from the toilet to reach it. Grabbing the container, I idly opened it to check if anything was inside, hovering over the toilet seat as I did so. I had taken out a snus portion (basically a small teabag) and was sniffing at it curiously when the door suddenly opened.

The person who’d defeated the dodgy lock was a young woman. For a second she stared at the man who was leaning forward with a snus clamped between his fingers, looking for all the world like he was about to shove it up his arse.

The unfortunate lady gave a terrified squeal and bolted. After a portion of numb silence had passed, I scuttled forward, trousers around my legs, shutting the door with sweaty fingers.

When I left the bathroom and crept back to my friends, I spotted the lady in question across the room, holding onto a beer glass with a glassy expression. As if she’d looked upon the face of evil and knew that nothing, ever again, would be any good.

I hope she one day gets to tell her own anecdote. I suspect she might.

/ paddy