Saturday, July 24, 2021

Mundane is also a word

My blogger friend Rachel Phillips is currently in the midst of a series of posts (three so far) about a trip she took with her friends Liz and Allal to Fés, Morocco. My blogger friend Tasker Dunham is currently in the midst of a series of posts (also three so far) about a trip he took with his friend Neville to Iceland. Both series are fascinating, somewhat exotic, and have a sense of immediacy about them because they are written in present tense.

I, on the other hand, haven't posted anything in a couple of weeks because my life in recent days is best described by The Three B's (or Bs): Blah, Bland, and Boring. [Editor's note. There really is no such thing as The Three B's (or Bs): Blah, Bland, and Boring. I just invented them. What truly would be Blah, Bland, and Boring would be if I told you that I still use the Oxford comma, which I most certainly do. --RWP]

I will tell you about a trip I took to Stockholm, Sweden, in 1969. I hope it will be fascinating and somewhat exotic. I will write in present tense in the hope that it will also have an immediacy about it.

It is February 1, 1969. I am sitting in the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, waiting for my plane to New York City to start boarding. My wife and two small sons have come to see me off. I will be gone for a month. The temperature is 85°F (29°C). Suddenly a woman carrying a long woolen coat with a big fur collar hurries down the concourse. I say to my wife, "She must be going somewhere cold" and immediately realise that I too am going somewhere cold, Sweden in February, and the heavy coat I intended to take with me, which I kept when we moved from New York to Florida a year earlier, is hanging in our closet at home. It was so hot and tropical today that I forgot to bring it, and there is not enough time to go back for it. I will have to figure out something when I get to Sweden so that I do not freeze. I do not make dumb mistakes often, but when I do they are lulus.


On the long flight from New York to Copenhagen, the flight attendants come by and say "coop cough?" occasionally, which I take to mean "Would you like a cup of coffee?" It is not English exactly, but neither is it Swedish. The attendants also provide us with blankets and pillows. It is nighttime over the Atlantic and we cannot see the ocean. I do not sleep at all. As morning comes, I see that we are flying at a great height over a land white with snow-covered hills. I ask the flight attendant "What is that down there?" and she replies "Scotland". It is to be the only view of Scotland, apparently a frozen wasteland, that I will have in my entire life.

I land midmorning in Copenhagen, disembark, and get my brand-new passport stamped. Danes do not like it when people say "CopenHAHgen" because that is the way the Germans pronounced it when they invaded back in 1940. Danes prefer that you say "CopenHAYgen" whch I find odd since they themselves say "CoobenHAWN" and spell it "Købnhavn".

Upon arriving in Stockholm on the same plane, I get my passport stamped again and make my way to my hotel on Strandvägen, a beautiful boulevard in Östermalmstorg (the eastern part of central Stockholm) next to a canal. Stockholm is known as "the Venice of the North". After unpacking, I take a taxicab to the IBM laboratory on the island suburb of Lidingö, which is not pronounced "la dingo" but "leeding uh".

I have learned a few phrases in Swedish out of a little book. Till höger (to the right), Till vänster (to the left), Var ar herrtoaletten? (where is the men's toilet?). Travel is so broadening.

A man of my word, I have told you about my trip TO Sweden. Perhaps in the next installment, if there is a next installment, I will tell you about things I did and saw WHILE I WAS IN Sweden. It seems only fitting.

I may be wrong, but somehow this post doesn't seem fascinating or somewhat exotic to me. Let me know if you don't think you can stand a second installment.

I guess some bloggers have it and some bloggers don't.

14 comments:

  1. I think the exotic accounts of trips are the ones where the traveler is out of their usual element, such as Rachel finding her way through the streets of Fés, Morocco and Tasker hiking across the terrain of Iceland. In your trip to Sweden you were out of your element as far as being in a different country and dealing with a new language but I imagine you were still living with most modern conveniences and such since you were there on a business trip. However, that certainly does not mean that your trip was not interesting. I would love to hear about it. I have never been out of this country and I doubt if I ever will have that opportunity. I would enjoy hearing about your trip to Sweden. I always thought Sweden was an amazing country. I just have one question about this first part of your trip. Did you ever get a coat?

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    1. Bonnie, I did! My new friend and work colleague Gunnar Göhl lent me one of his, for which I remain grateful to this day. I shall probably make one more post about my trip to Sweden.

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  2. Thank you for the mention about my Fés posts Bob. Believe me I was startled when readers asked me for another instalment and left comments like "I can't wait to hear what happens next". I then feared that what did actually happen next would disappoint and I had to push that from my mind and just get on and write.

    Curiosity about the mundane and how we live is of interest to people and it doesn't have to be exotic or wild or anything, just shared. I enjoyed your piece on your outward journey to Sweden and the thoughts such as about the woman with the fur collar making you think about the coat you left behind and the useless but so usual phrases that we get in phrasebooks. It is things like that make these sort of posts fun and very readable and moreish.

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    1. Rachel, I can't ask for more than fun and very readable. Thank you!

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  3. When I worked for the comoputer company I always changed plane at Copenhagen to get to Stockholm. The Swedish phrase I most remember hearing, was directed at me in English. For true authenticity, you have to say it with voice rising and falling on alternate syllables, beginning low: "You don't understand the Swedish way of doing things."

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    1. Tasker, I love the lilt the Swedes have, the voice rising and falling on alternate syllables, as you put it, and very well. It reminded me of what I said when I returned home. Using the same lilt, I said, "I cannot speak Swedish, but I can speak English like a Swede!"...thanks for helping that memory rise to the surface with your comment!

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  4. It is exotic to someone who has never left this country except for the occasional foray into Canada. I look forward to hearing more about your trip to Sweden.

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    1. Emma, it’s all in one’s perspective, I think. The beach is exotic to someone who lives in the desert, and vice versa. The mountains are exotic to the people of the plains, and so forth.

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  5. I'm still worried about how you are going to stay warm

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  6. kylie, I will alleviate your fears in my next post.

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  7. I read this this morning and was sure I'd sent a comment. I certainly wrote one. One of the problems of moderated comments.

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  8. Graham, I am this blog’s moderator and I have not received an earlier comment from you on this particular post in my email inbox (which is where the comments go) today. I don’t know what else to tell you. Whatever you were going to say, I hope you will say it again.

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  9. Which undoubtedly means that I never pressed 'Publish' or perhaps got sidetracked and never finished the comment because I went to look something up. 'Twas ever thus.

    Using the Oxford Comma is not boring. Knowing what it is probably is. I think that you and I have had this conversation before because we are both Believers.

    It's not, for me, a matter of being exotic but of being a real story of a real life that is different to my life (I have never been to Sweden) written in the tellers inimitable style.

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    1. Graham, thank you for the very unexpected compliment at the end of your comment! It is possible, of course, that you meant inimitable in a negative sense and not in a positive way, but I refuse to entertain that possibility.

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