Looking back on Stockholm


My weekend away to Stockholm has been enlightening. Part relaxing, part educational. Part self-affirming. Being careful not to reveal too much of my sometimes dark interior, here are a few thoughts I leave Sweden’s capital with.

Blue skies make this city. When the sun is diffused from the clouds, Stockholm’s streets are dark. The bleached colours on the exterior of the buildings give the old town at least a tired looking feel. Those same buildings hug the small alleyways in between to such an extent that darkness can pass over them and the people who stroll up and down them.

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Eurovision 2012: Sweden’s Melodifestivalen

Melodifestivalen 2012

Hours after the Swedes have watched their 10 finalists for the Eurovision national final and decided on a winner for Melodifestivalen, I’m finding it difficult to summon the strength, enthusiasm or the necessary concentration to pen my thoughts on the whole affair.

This may possibly have something to do with the pre, during and post- show drinks I consumed and the extent to which I  underestimated both the punchiness of Swedish beer and the importance of eating enough during the day before drinking it. I didn’t get much sleep last night and what I did muster wasn’t terribly comfortable. I have been a low-powered blogger for most of the day as a result.

Perhaps I shouldn’t really be surprised. This isn’t just about burning the candle at both ends, or merely because of drinking on an empty stomach. There was something else at play here, I think. Something unique to the Melodifestivalen.

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Crap everything

I think I’m probably a little strange.

Last night – the night before the Melodifestivalen Final – it felt as though the entire gay population of Stockholm was out clubbing at a venue just a few steps away from my hotel.

The Paradise Club – in the form of a grey carbuncle poking up out of a busy main road – is about five minutes walk away from the hotel front door. A destination I’m reliably informed for lovers of schlager, lager and men.

It feels as though it’s ‘the’ place to go. Obligatory, almost. As though those already there are expecting everyone else in the city to force their way through the club entrance and have a good time. And that if you don’t men with rusty spikes will deal with you accordingly as you attempt to leave the country homeward bound.

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Missing home

Mahler live from the Barbican on BBC Radio 3 in Stockholm

I’m waiting for the pilot episode of Six Feet Under to download from iTunes. I’ve devoured the omelette I ordered from room service, locked myself out of my bedroom leaving the tray outside the room for collection and had to go down to reception to get a replacement key … in my pyjamas.

For most of that time, I’ve done something a bit unusual. I stumbled on the live broadcast of Mahler’s 7th Symphony given by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in London broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

If I was being a purist, I would have reached for earphones and listened in stereo. But for this evening, I was happy with just hearing the sound from the small speaker in my iPhone. Somehow – listening in from my hotel room in Stockholm – listening via a mono speaker felt ever so slightly more intimate. And it turned out to be quite a performance with a hugely appreciative audience registering their appreciation at the end of it.