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

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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 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.

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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