Monday, 27 February 2012

On the Road - On My Way to My First Swenglish Host

On my way to my first Swenglish host - an English woman in her late forties. To be continued!

In Limbo at Hotel Pelirocco

I've only got a couple of hours left of "freedom" before I move in with my first "Swenglish study object" in Brighton.

I was supposed to start the project yesterday, on my actual birthday, but a friend bought me a night in the Hotel Pelirocco so I decided to to stay in the Sputnik room and have cocktails with a few friends in the bar as a proper send off.

In a minute I'll check out, pick up my backpack and catch the bus to the Preston Park area where I'll be staying this week. I'm equally nervous and excited!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

3 days to go until the big 30 and the launch of Swenglish

This is the week of goodbyes for me. Saturday I did my last day at Hove Library where I've worked part time for the last couple of years to support my writing.

In the picture is one of my dearest (ex) workmates Barney and I will miss him a lot. However he's one of my "Swenglish victims" and in June I'll spend a week shadowing him as he goes about his every day life, including coming to work with him. (Hopefully I'll have a bit of distance by then!)

Most of the English people I'm going to stay with live in the Brighton area, but I'll treat the project as if I'd left town to go travelling; I won't meet up with my friends, attend any writing group meetings or engage in any of my regular activities. I'll be totally in the hands of the people I'm shadowing and staying with.

I'm also saying goodbye to my housemates and the room I rent in Hove. At the moment I'm going through my clothes, putting them in "keeping", "not keeping" and "maybe keeping" piles. I'm very sad to part with my black buckle bondage trousers, but they are worn so thin you can see through the fabric in places, so it's time for them to go! After all I've had them since I was 21, back in 2003 ...

Only three days to go ... Brighton & Hove TV LTD will follow me as I move in with the first person.

Friday, 17 February 2012

2 Non Blondes - Evidence that all Swedes are Not Blonde

The best thing about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is that this film gave the world a new image of Swedish women.

Every week, at some point, I get asked "Where are you from?" And when I say "Sweden" people do look surprised and say "But you're not blonde!"

I try to come up with imaginative answers like "Actually I'm the only Swede in the whole universe who is not blonde, you have met a very unique person".

However since The Girl with the Dragon tattoo came out people tell me that I remind them of the main character, Lisbeth Salander (from the Swedish, original version of the film). I take it as a compliment even though we're not that similar, really.

I was damned when I found out that the actor Noomi Rapace's dad was Spanish, hence her darkish  looks. But as far as I know my own parents and grandparents and their grandparents are all Swedish born and bread. I admit that my hair is not naturally as dark as in the photo, but I'm definitely not blonde. Mousy brown is closer to the truth.

I read somewhere recently, perhaps in a Lonely Planet guide, that about a third of all Swedish girls are blonde. But then it depends on what you mean by blonde; there are a lot of people with ash blonde or light brown hair. (I wonder though, if Swedish men get the same hassle, being asked why they aren't blonde. I wouldn't think so.)

Funnily enough, before moving to England, I thought that all English people had ginger hair. Perhaps this notion was based on the pictures in my English text book at school. Now I'd say that most English people have different shades of brown hair, but I could be wrong. In this day and age of hair colour explosion it's hard to tell.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Swedes Can Feel Cold Too

'But how will you get here?' the musician in Hanover asked on the phone. I had no idea what she was talking about, then realising she was referring to the snow that had fallen over the weekend. Down in Hove where I live there the ground was bare.
'I can handle it,' I said. 'I'm used to it, from Sweden.'
'Oh, I'd forgotten you were Swedish.' the musician said, which made me happy. That she thought of me as a poet and writer instead of a Swede. After all we were meeting up to collaborate on a poetry/music piece, not to eat meatballs and drink vodka.

I frequently forget that one of my best friends is South African, and it took me a year to realise another friend was half Filipino ... I'm aware that people have a need for labelling each other and I frequently get referred to as "The Swedish Girl". Most of the time I don't mind, but I don't like it when people assume certain things because you're of a certain nationality. It feels like I don't have the right to be cold because I'm Swedish which doesn't make any sense to me. Yes, I'm used to snow and a winter that last for up to six months, but I still get cold, and I've suffered more from the cold in England because the houses here aren't as well built as in Sweden with insulation and triple glazing.

I made it to Hanover without any problem and laughed at people scraping the last bit of snow off their cars to make snowballs. But I almost got as excited as an Englishman seeing the snow on the hills in the distance ...

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Where My Life in England Started

I was nineteen years old and had just graduated from school  in Sweden. All I wanted was to leave my boring hometown (Nässjö) and have an adventure. Signing up for a 3 month English course might not sound like a classical adventure, but it changed my life forever. From the moment I got off the coach at Pool Valley, I knew I wanted to stay in Brighton.

Yesterday I went back to Loxdale Centre in Portslade where I did the previously mentioned English course back in 2001. For the fifth (!) time I was invited to do a talk, titled "Life after Loxdale" where I told the students about my experiences of living and working and writing in England. I also introduced them to performance poetry through my stage persona Lou Ice. Even though most of the students were Swedish, I did the talk in English which is quite nerv-racking as I feel more "judged" than if the audience had been English. (Most Englishmen seem impressed that people can speak English at all as they're not very interested in learning languages themselves, but this is one of the stereotypes I want to explore through my Swenglish project)

I have really fond memories of Loxdale and still remember my time there vividly. Some bizarre things stick out in my mind, like my teacher's voice when she read us an extract of Dorian Gray from our textbook. I thought she had the most perfect English accent and could happily have listened to her reading all day. (In the window you can spot Gill and Sue who were two of my teachers.)

So, ten years later I'm still in Brighton & Hove, but the question is: do I stay or do I go? To quote from The Journal of a Recovering Taiwanoholic:  "After 10 years you either stay or go. Become a lifer or get a life."