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.

16073492-Businessman-listening-to-headphones-on-a-train-Stock-Photo

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 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. 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

The Green Tooth Fairy

I went to the dentist a while back.

“So,” she said, “do you floss every day?”

“Of course I bloody don’t. I floss whenever I think of it, which isn’t often, and then frantically twice a day in the weeks before I visit you, in the hopes that you won’t see through me. I know it, you know it, so let’s stop lying and get this over with.”

I didn’t say that, of course. I mumbled “more or less” and opened wider.

But after that visit I decided to get serious about fluoride rinsing. I bought a bottle of the nice minty stuff the dentist recommended, but as I had an old half-empty bottle of Listerine knocking around, I decided I would use that up first.

And fucking hell it hurt. It burned. After thirty seconds of Listerine gargling I was red-eyed and gasping. But I kept at it, looking forward to the day I’d empty the damn bottle and get to use mouthwash that didn’t cause pain. And finally that day came.

2017-02-23-18-21-23

I started on the nice minty stuff. And it was fine, but it felt oddly unsatisfying. And after a while it dawned on me why – I missed the Listerine. More precisely, I missed the pain. So a few days later I bought a new bottle and cracked it open, dribbling with anticipation.

I don’t know if Listerine works any better than the minty stuff. In fact, I doubt it. But now I’ve trained my brain to associate a burning sensation with freshness, and from there there’s no going back.

Next stop – wasabi toilet paper. Who’s with me?

/ paddy

The Leaving Of Twitterpool

So here I am, then. Sneaking back in to do a blog post. With my tail between legs.

After that debacle in the US in November, I pretty much left Facebook and Twitter and stopped reading the news. The world is sinking into bubbling shit and knowing exactly the volume, depth and consistency of that shit makes me feel only depressed and hopeless. Also, the less I see of that fat orange mouthy fucker with the hair, the better.

But I realised a thing — blogging is now old-school. It’s practically vintage. The kids are all up in their Snapchats and their Instantgrams, but blogging is hard-core, with text measured in pounds and feet and not characters. Something requiring effort. Like a thing your old grandad would sit in an armchair and reminisce about.

Being (almost entirely) social media free is also great. You sleep better. You are less worried. You don’t know who just died. And when you meet friends in the pub, you actually have something to tell them that they haven’t already read in minutely commented detail. Just like it was in the past.

passionBut the social media itch remains. So you know what I did instead? I started, to my eternal shame, to use Linkedin as a social media site. I know. Yes, I know. I scroll through that sleazy little feed, nodding at people’s new jobs and titles and what motivational videos they recommend. And I feel so dirty. Plus, people even there are going on about fucking Trump. There is no escape.

Due to my shameful presence on Linkedin, and my having clocked six years at the same company, I’m a tiny bit keen to get myself a new job. So I’ve been looking at lots of job ads. And apart from being over-wordy and packed with awful English, there is a thing I’ve noticed. Passion.

When did having “passion” for a thing become required to get a job with said thing? Why is it no longer seen as okay to just turn up for the money? In the old days, were people looking for carpenters with a passion for chisels? Or plumbers who were team players? Or cooks who burned for, um, not burning things? I don’t think I’ve seen a game developer job ad where passion doesn’t appear in the first two sentences.

meeting

My good lady has the theory that the whole passion thing emerged from the middle class. Once people of all social classes had to go to work, it became nice to pretend that fancier people did it mostly because it excited them. The thing about paying the bills was secondary. Only riff-raff worked just for the money. But we work because it sets out hearts and minds on fire, and not because of the paycheck and free buns.

Maybe that’s the reason. Or maybe it’s just the way you advertise jobs these days (although I’m fairly sure that ads for more mundane or unskilled jobs aren’t all about the passion). I don’t have passion for my work. I enjoy it. I happily do it. But they’re getting my hours, and not my soul. Should I happen to have one.

And that’s it. End of post. Now, you may notice I’ve turned off the comments. That’s because I don’t want any. Comments have done enough damage in the world already and nobody ever came away from a comment exchange feeling any better.

So if you have something to add, send me a mail. Or a telegram. Or a nice big cake. Or just take me to the pub and berate/hug me in person.

/ paddy

Old Blog

So I had that new website and blog, over at Swimming to the Sun. The idea was to showcase my writing and do blog posts there. However, then a thing happened.

The thing was that I grew bored with it. I became more and more uncomfortable with a website whose only purpose was to yell: “Hey, look at me and my stuff!” So I stopped updating it. I tried to forget it existed. Then when the website rental ran out, I didn’t renew it. And now it’s gone. Gone! Like having all your ugly clothes eaten by moths.

Now the world won’t know which articles I have sold and to whom. Big loss, I’m sure you’ll agree. I have a very yappy presence on twitter, and I have this blog, in case I get the urge to go a-ranting. Which I probably will at some point.

So yeah, it’s back to basics. And I’d kind of pleased about that.

/ paddy