48 (more or less) hours in Stockholm

So my pal Chris Mitchell has got me into this new app, Polarsteps. It’s worked very well in the case of Chris’s current journeying, a positively Homeric odyssey across many parts of Scandinavia, moving ever further north as we speak (1). But how about for my more modest trip, to Stockholm and back for a conference?

I’ve been thinking a bit about my digital footprint recently. Not as much of a concern as my carbon footprint (and yes, the trip to Stockholm involved aviation fuel, unlike a German colleague, who had undertaken an epic of, well, not Homeric proportions given they hadn’t invented the train back then, but certainly more green nature than mine, training through Germany and Denmark to get to Sweden) but still.

Is Twitter any use to me, other than encouraging me to make glib pronouncements/rants about stuff I haven’t properly researched? Is Instagram better? What is the point of Soundcloud, exactly, assuming you’ve worked out that almost everyone that ‘likes’ your track is really just wanting you to sign up to some scamola where they promise to get three zillion plays of your track and attract two zillion fans?

So signing up to Polarsteps was an experiment. Given that two of the three people I sent the link to didn’t sign up and follow me on my journey, it didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. However, as Chris and one of my nearest and dearest did follow me, I decided to give it a go. One of the big pluses was that I could jot down some notes to go with a couple of photos very quickly on my phone: so, now the journey’s over, here are the edited highlights:

Edinburgh, 17th May:

They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. In this case it starts with a bus journey and about 5000 steps to the office in Leith. Still trying to find the ideal combination of walking and public transport to cross the congested, rheumy heart of Edinburgh. The trip to the airport this afternoon SHOULD be easier…!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh Airport, 17th May:

Yes, the Spoons is chock full of Rangers fans. One of them, my new friend Colin (2) (featured: hat, model’s own) is coming with me to Stockholm! A long round trip to get to Seville – he flies to Malaga in the morning. Hard to grudge the bears their enthusiasm.

 

 

 

 

Mid-air, 17th May:

I know Stockholm is in the south of Sweden, and probably on the same latitude as Dumbarton or somewhere, (3) but up there in the clouds it felt just a little closer to the sunset on the edge of the world.

 

 

 

 

Riddargatan, Stockholm, 18th May:

The foreigners thinned out as we left the taxi rank behind, until there was only me and the Swedes heading for the bus into town. Then quite a walk across the centre of the city to find the hotel. After all the delays to the flight, it was late before I found Riddargatan.

This morning’s breakfast is suitably non-generic: after some smoked salmon, cheese, turkey, air dried ham and lots and lots of different kinds of bakery, it’s time to face the public transport system again. But first, coffee!

 

 

Kista, Stockholm, 18th May:

My main takeaway from this conference (apart from the realisation that I am turning into a transport nerd) is that Stockholm has a great transportation system (see vertiginous escalator down to the metro) but they haven’t quite fixed the ‘first mile, last mile’ problem – i. e. the bit where you’re on foot. Google maps doesn’t quite cut it, at least for this old boy.

We are being guided to the restaurant tonight, which promises to be quite the experience…

 

 

 

En route to the restaurant, Stockholm, 18th May:

The only way to go out for dinner!

Riddargatan, Stockholm, 18th/19th May (by the time the penalties were over)

This was totally going to be about the lovely meal we had tonight at Lux Dag fur Dag – not nearly as er adventurous as the online menu promised, or threatened, depending on your point of view, but really well done food with outstanding wine.

Asparagus in the starters and main, mind. Anyone who doesn’t know the implications of lots of asparagus, don’t Google it.

Then I got back to the hotel, surfed the channels, and found Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt 1 – 1 with a minute of ordinary time left.

Genuinely conflicted. Any other Scottish team, but… I think of Colin and his Union Jack hat. And I think of Colin, a big kid with his dream just a sclaffed free kick away. And I think of the football induced agony all Scots football fans have suffered down the years, Huns included.

I don’t think I can watch the penalties. But I know I have to.

Stockholm Airport, 19th May

And so the airport bus (slower than the Arlanda Express train link, but 139 krone compared to 299) hauls it and our weary asses out of town.

Last morning spent exploring the Old Town, or Gamla Stan. I didn’t take many photos of it, because like many such picturesque places it’s better taken from a distance.

At its centre is a museum dedicated to the old explosives expert himself, Alfred Nobel. The prize ceremony is clearly a Big Deal in Sweden: folk get dressed up to watch it on the telly.

Pleasing to see there’s very little about a certain semi-retired poet from Hibbing, Minnesota, given the old curmudgeon didn’t turn up for his gong in person.

Much more interesting is a dress worn by May-Britt Mose in 2016. A researcher into our internal GPS system (boy have I used that these last two days!) the dress mirrors the neural network in that mode.

Also of note, another dress worn by Alice Ban Kuhnke, then Swedish Minister of Culture in 2017, designed to draw attention to the melting ice caps. I think she got people’s attention!

So long, Stockholm. I will definitely be back.

(1) You can follow Chris’s odyssey here.

(2) I think it was Colin. He told me and I instantly forgot. Let’s just say it’s Colin.

(3) Actually, it’s more like the Orkneys.

 

Since you’re here:

My new EP, ‘I Still Believe,’ is out on CD and download now. You can get it here, and you can listen to the title track on Soundcloud (for the moment) here:

 

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