Thursday, 26 February 2009
We had to get off the train, go back home and retrace our steps. Nothing.
I rang it and rang it an rang it from the home phone. No answer.
I was just about to ring and suspend the subscription when an old lady answered. She hadn't been able to work out how to answer it.
I met her 10 minutes later, just blocks from home, where she found it.
I hugged her.
From extreme stress to great relief - all in the space of 10 minutes......
She saved me a lot of money and a lot of phone numbers that would otherwise have been lost.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Many of my family and friends have heard me rant and rave about environmental issues, and about how conscious the Swedes are in many ways, in comparison to other nationalities - it is that love of the environment, of nature, of the great outdoors that does it I think. Needless to say I was thrilled to read about this award and hope it will inspire people - big and small - to even greater things.
Here is part of the motivation behind the award:
The award will be given to a city that has a consistent record of achieving high environmental standards, is permanently committed to ambitious action, further environmental improvement and sustainable development, and can act as a role model to inspire other cities and promote best practices in all other European cities.
And why Stockholm?
Ten per cent of the city area is water, and the many lakes and water sheds are highly valued for recreational purposes. In fact, 95% of the population live only 300 m away from green areas, thus augmenting recreation, swimming, boating, better well being, water purification, noise reduction, enhancement of biodiversity and ecology.
The city council's holistic vision combines growth with sustainable development and includes the ambitious target of becoming independent of fossil fuels by 2050.
....emissions per person have, since 1990, been reduced by 25%. Transport emissions are relatively low, and all public transport (all trains, and all inner city buses) run on renewable fuels....
You can read more here:
The Stockholm City Council has a barometer outlining the indicators that are used to assess a city for the Green Capital Award. It is a wealth of information and includes statistics and links to strategic environmental policy and programs:
With all the talk at the moment of what the royal wedding will do for Sweden, tourism and the economy, as well as how businesses will milk it for all it is worth, I really hope Stockholm will be able to use all this international attention to bring focus to the award and environmental sustainability in general.
Woohooo Stockholm! Well done!
SvD, DN, Metro
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
There is plenty of media coverage about them so I won't write too much - read Sweden's English newspaper The Local for more coverage.
Watch this interview/announcement/press release and you will see how she glows, and he, although nervous, is clearly happy to make the announcement. The couple now have both the King and the Government's permission (can you imagine?) and can live more openly than they have in their years together - even if they will always need to be guarded.
Swede's love their Royal Family, and they love their Crown Princess. While a republican movement exists and there are those who question the rights, purpose and privileges of this family, there is relatively little discussion about Sweden becoming a republic - and all for good reason. Unlike their many of their European cousins the Swedish Royals have managed to stay out of trouble, and instead represent Sweden with dignity, warmth and respect. They bring focus to important issues, both at home and abroad, and they have been proclaimed to be a modern monarchy in many ways. The change to the law of inheritance from first son to first child and now the engagement between the Crown Princess and a man of the people are just two examples, albeit important ones.
The newly-engaged couple presented themselves well during the press release, talking of how their friendship grew to love and how secure Victoria feels with Daniel by her side.
Daniel in turn said " it is with joy that we look forward to our life together. A life, that for me, will to a large part be about supporting the Crown Princess in her important assignments for Sweden. And then I hope that I can earn the Swedish people's confidence."
Plans will now start for their future together including a wedding to be held in the spring of 2010 and the starting of a family.
Watch this (Swedish) announcement with the King and Queen of Sweden. In times of economic trouble this might just be a welcomed relief - a romantic journey for Sweden's gracious and humble Princess. A princess of the people, a princess of the forest, a princess who deserves every happiness that this marriage will hopefully bring her.
More quotes from Daniel "...in time I also hope to be able to contribute in different ways, to serve Sweden, health and entrepreneurship are issues that are important to me. As the Princess's husband, there will be a lot of demands placed on me. I am aware of that and I will do all I can to live up to those expectations. I know that confidence/respect is not something that is given, it is worked for and I will do all that I can to earn the Swedish people's confidence/respect."
"Metro, DN1, DN2, DN Blogger reactions, TV4, SvD1, SvD2, SvD3
In English Reuters1, Reuters2, Reuters3, Yahoo, The Local1, The Local2, The Local3
The Local - A Boost for the Monarchy
Because today is the last day before the Christian Lent, and while many eat pancakes today, the Swedes eat semlor. Originating in 1679, today was the only day they should be enjoyed, although the love of semlor and good old commercialism means semlor are available, and eaten, from Christmas right through to Easter.
So what are they?
Actually they are quite a plain cardamon-flavoured yeast bun cut in two and filled with almond paste and whipped cream, often served in a bowl of milk.
While this estimate of 5 million suggests more than half the population will eat semlor today, they are not everyone's cup of tea and many newcomers to Sweden struggle to understand what all the fuss is about. But as with most of Sweden's traditions - food is involved, food is always involved. It is the stuff memories are made of.
Semlor are in fact so much a part of Swedish society that semlor competitions are held each spring and the local papers (SvD, City, Metro, GT, Tasteline) rate the bakeries and make recommendations about where to get the best semlor. A competition was even launched back in 1998 to see who can eat the most semlor for the season with a website to keep track of competitors!! I might like semlor but I can't imagine eating 100 in a season - or 5 in one sitting! And can you believe there is a Semla Academy in Göteborg!
If all this has made your mouth water you had better dash out and get one (or two if you dare) - I know I'm going to pick up some this afternoon and I know a bakery who make nice little ones. If you are far from a Swedish bakery then try baking your own - here's a recipe.
Monday, 23 February 2009
If you want to do more than skate on your little local lake that at times might have half a metre of ice, and like me you do not have the knowledge, experience or courage (stupidity?) to head out in a private group then organisations like Friluftsfränjandet or Alliansen are your answer. There are also a number of other organisations around the country dedicated to cross-country skating.
Friluftsfrämjandet is membership based with local groups all over Sweden. They offer a range of activities such as family days, courses and longer tours - and that is just a few of their winter activities. Alliansen is a local organisation, part of Friluftsfrämjande, for the hard-core skaters. They offer courses for beginners to tour leaders as well as guided or leader-led tours for members. Their site is a wealth of skating resources such as where there are ploughed tracks (a nice smooth track on the open ice), information on how to get out if you fall in, an equipment guide, as well as general ice information. Unfortunately it is all only available in Swedish so you might need some help with this one.
It is a fantastic way to enjoy winter in Sweden. If you are not yet convinced, watch this film. I am heading down the cellar to get out my skates and dust them off before it is too late!
Sunday, 22 February 2009
She whipped around the track pushing Kieran in the chariot when he was too tired to skate himself.The sun shines much more in February, the days are getting longer as we speak. The sun is now rising at 7am and it feels like utter luxury to have it setting at 5pm - it is amazing what you learn to appreciate. Check out this table to see how quickly it is changing - 5 more minutes of daylight each day.
Friday, 20 February 2009
Many big businesses claim that the lack of women in their boards is due to the lack of competence, a lack of women with the qualifications to carry out such a roll.
So Anna Carrfors Bråkenheilm of Passion for Business (a great business mag for women) decided to help the guys out and has compiled a list of 549 business women who are ready, willing and able to do the job. That list took two people two days to compile and is now being sent out to all Swedish listed companies!
Kaxig is a word that comes to mind - which translates to cocky but it doesn't quite have the same feel. All the same - I love it! What will their excuse be next?
What it means in reality is that you will be free to buy an apartment and do what you like with it. You can sub-lease it, renovate and even buy it without the body corporate's permission. Today's body corporate control means not everyone is given permission to rent out their apartment - or even buy it in the first place, especially if they are not going to live in it.
While the news is good it is unfortunately limited to new production. Well, at least it is a step in the right direction.
We were there for the Beautiful Business Awards , being held for the second year in a row and hosted by Driftig.nu and Örlings PriceWaterhouseCoopers, supported by Nutek who this year added a category to the competition.
The evening's moderators were comedian couple Anna Mannheimer and Peter Apelgren who welcomed the audience and continued to entertain with their antics throughout the evening.
In their own words Beautiful Business Award 2009 is a national competition aimed to bring focus to exciting self-employed business women so as to inspire Sweden to more sustainable business practices. The Beautiful Business concept is about inspiring business that is characterized by sustainability, innovation and ambition. It is a mindset, that is equally admirable whether it be governing business thinking or general human behaviour. It is business with a conscience.
The competition awards Business Women of the Year, Service Developer of the Year and Challenger of the Year and is open to all women who have started or are running a business full-time. The first step is the nomination with the second being an application filled in by the nominees. It follows the BBA structure and requires the nominees to motivate why they are worthy of the award according to the following categories:
Sustainability: The company must be run with a long-term concept in terms of profitability, environment and ethics.
Innovation: The business shall be characterized by innovation and creativity in some way whether it be product/service, the approach, the industry, distribution channels or market.
Ambition: The individual shall have a strong involvement, great courage and strive from growth.
This year an amazing 1731 women were nominated with 432 of those submitting competition applications. Of those 62% have been running longer than 3 years and 60% are limited companies with 34% or the women born in the 60s and 24% in the 70s. All regions of Sweden were represented with 34% coming from Stockholm and 14% from Västra Götaland.
The evening progressed and the 12 finalists and their businesses, selected by a jury, were presented and interviewed. Following on, last years winners Lingon & Blåbär presented their company and talked about what the award meant to them. We then mingled, snacked and drank more wine before the awards were presented.
Business Women of the Year 2009 went to Nina Ottosson of Zoo Active Products AB who designs, manufactures and sells her dog toys to 25 countries around the globe. Click on this link to see her products and watch an interview (Swedish) with her here. It was no surprise to see Service Developer of the Year awarded to Kristina Theander of Middagsfrid. Kristina and her staff deliver cleverly packaged and planned groceries and matching recipes to health conscious households in Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. She takes away the what are we going to eat tonight stress in busy households.
Business Challenger of the Year was awarded to three women: Petra Wadström of Solvatten, Jeanette Gorosch of Nannynu! and Britt-Marie Gyllensvaan of Utbilda.nu. This award brings recognition to relatively newly started companies deemed to have great potential.Some of these women I have read about in business magazines, all of them were incredibly inspiring. They talked about the hard work and the determination that it took to get them where they are. It was wonderful to hear their stories and how thrilled they were to be nominated. Here is the whole list of finalists:
Nina Ottosson - Zoo Active Products
Jessica Löfström - ExpanderaMera
Mia Karlsson-Jonsson - Rex Bar & Grill
Bitte Ljungström - Vidilab
Petra Hammarstedt - Servicestaden
Katinka Bille Lindahl - LifeStone
Karin Bryskhe och Anna Stenstam - Colloidal Resource
Kristina Theander - Middagsfrid
Karin Almqvist - VICTRIX
Veronica Boxberg Karlsson - Better Business World Wide
Marianne Möllstam - Synergon
Veronica Hedenmark - VH Assistans
This fantastic award is the brainchild of Sofia Bergenstjerna and Frida Haavisto of Beautiful Business - themselves both very inspiring women. Fantastic that they have taken this opportunity to support both women and entrepreneurs.
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Who is looking after them? Who is tucking them into bed at night now their whole world has fallen apart? How will they cope in the weeks, the months and the years ahead. My heart goes out to them.
I imagine their father's family were upset to read this incorrect article in SvD.
After the Firestorm: An ABC News Special
At the end of a week of devastation, Barrie Cassidy presents a one-hour news special, reflecting on those left injured and homeless, and what lies ahead. There will be discussion from local community members about their experiences, as well as debate about the main issues affecting them. As the recovery operation in Victoria moves into full swing, the focus is on switching to the lessons that can be learnt from this tragedy.
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
I'm sure it is Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner in their book Riding The Waves Of Culture who say something about old isolated countries (like Sweden) being full of old friends. Until the 50s there was not the movement around the country, or in and out of the country and people were pretty isolated, villages would be cut off from each other for months of the year and families had known each other for generations. And we all know what we are like with old friends - we just know each other, we understand, we don't have to explain and there is no need for small talk. And we all know what it is like to try and break into a group of friends who have known each other for years. It is hard and it takes time.
While Swedes of today might be much more mobile, with people moving around to go to university or for employment, things are not all that different. Culture does not change as quickly as what circumstances do, it is ingrained in our way of being. Words like shy, introverted, reserved, wary and guarded are all used to describe these people. But however you describe them Sweden is a country full of old friends, many have known each other since day-care and with so many moving to the big cities it is possible to remain close to school friends even in a new city. All this makes it very difficult for outsiders, many of whom say they struggle to meet Swedes, to form friendships with Swedes.
Friendship needs no words - it is solitude delivered from the anguish of loneliness. ~Dag Hammarskjold (a Swede).
When I first came to Sweden in the early 90s I developed an analogy that still rings true today. In this country you can stand out on someone's doorstep and bang and bang on the door, ringing the doorbell for all you are worth. You might be standing out in a blizzard with the wind blowing cold in your face and the snow sleeting down around you. Yet you will stand there, feeling sorry for yourself until someone is willing to open the door. If, or once they finally do, you are welcomed inside where it is warm and hospitable. There is food and drink, fun and merriment. There will be people you will be introduced to and you will have good friends for life. You just have to get past the front door!
Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them. ~Francesco Guicciardini
But getting past the front door is no easy task. A Brazilian neighbour told me when I first moved here that you have to say hello to a Swede everyday for about a year before things move to the next step. While this is possibly a gross exaggeration and clearly not true in every case, I have once again been reminded of the validity of his comment. Shane’s post about his lack of friends and small social circle after a year in Stockholm and lunch with a Belgium woman new to Stockholm both remind me of how hard it can be. Especially for someone here on their own – ironic considering Stockholm supposedly has more single households than any other capital in the world and almost 20% of Stockholmers were born abroad – with many more born somewhere else in Sweden.
Strangers are just friends waiting to happen. ~Rod McKuen, Looking for a Friend
I warned my Belgium friend not to expect any invitations – none of the customary – lets all go out for a drink after work., - friends are going to see a movie Saturday – want to join us?, - do you have any plans for the weekend? - or any other of the invitations one might expect to get from colleagues having just moved to a new job in a new country. Sadly, she confirmed I was right.
It is even part of the language and regrettably I find myself reflecting over my use of vocabulary in a way I never used to – friend, school friend, friend from work have all become vän (friend), kollega (colleague) and bekant (acquaintance) – the word friend can’t be used lightly, carelessly.
So it is not so strange that non-Swedes become friends with non-Swedes and expats move in purely expat circles – it is often not for lack of trying or lack of wanting. In fact many leave when their time is up, sad that they got to know so few Swedes while living in Sweden…… And while it is true that many of us are so busy we don’t have time for the friends we do have, let alone new ones, it is far from the entire explanation.
There is magic in long-distance friendships. They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound. ~Diana Cortes
But even there it can be difficult to get to know other non-Swedes as those of us who are here long-term are often self-protective. My friendship group has bled many times over the years as friends have opted to return home, or move on to another placement. My dearest, oldest (as in longest) Swedish friend looked around the room during my recent birthday celebrations and commented on how few had been at my 30th, a decade earlier. We long-termers joke about asking people how long they plan to be here and about being wary of those who say anything less than us – it is painful to lose someone every couple of years. And the irony of it all, some of my dearest friends have packed their bags and left, but I wouldn’t be without them.Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends. ~Shirley Maclaine
So what is the answer? How do you make friends in Sweden? How do you even meet people that might possibly become friends? You have to go out on a limb, and you have to do it time and time again, even in the face of potential rejection. You have to approach people who you like, who seem interesting and you cannot wait for them to approach you – because it just might not happen.
And if that fails or if you don’t quite have the courage then the best place to start is the expat organisations, and there is a growing number of them. There are always others keen to extend their social network, and you never know, some of them might have Swedish friends too. But realise it takes a long time to develop into friendship!
Friends are relatives you make for yourself. ~Eustache Deschamps
Friendship is a glorious thing, something we all need, we all benefit from. It makes the dull days shine brightly, the bright ones even more magnificent. And the smaller our family, or the further away they are, the greater our need for friends. As I looked around the room on Saturday night I saw just a handful I’ve known longer than my oldest child (6), but I saw many dear people whose company I really enjoy, whose friendship I really value. I am one of the fortunate ones, I can truly count both my age and my success by my wonderful friends.
There are big ships and small ships. But the best ship of all is friendship. ~Author Unknown
Mums In Sweden
Lost In Sweden - bulletin board
International Friends of Stockholm - one of many facebook groups
International Woman's Club - Stockholm
Eurocircle - Stockholm
American Club of Sweden
English Speaking Community Club - Stockholm
Just to name a few.
Monday, 16 February 2009
Hit the big 40 on Saturday which is why I have not had a chance to blog the last couple of days. We had a great party at home with a 60s, 70s or 80s dress and music theme - lots of fun!Not only did I get some really lovely pressies but some friends also made very generous donations to the Australian Bushfire Appeal, in lieu of a present.
So far over AUD 80 million (over 444 mil SEK or 52 mil USD) has been donated as Victorians continue to struggle, fighting fires and fighting to pick up the pieces. Yet as my sister put it, this damage was just two days in our history, peanuts compared to the suffering of the many people in war-torn areas around the world.
I am eternally grateful for the simple things in life - family, friends and the opportunity to celebrate what I have and where I am at!
Hooray for family, friends and celebrations - what more do we really need?!!
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
The wildlife - one of the things I love and miss about Australia. I'm sure everyone has seen this by now, but click on any of the following photos for the stories behind them. Koala Sam's encounter with Mr Tree is one of the most inspiring stories to come out of Victoria's tragedy.
Wildlife rescue centres are being set up around the state to help these guys. Healesville Sanctuary are taking injured animals and I bet the country vets are doing their fair share of voluntary work to help the shelters. It will be a long time before they have a home to return to.
Generosity like it is has never been know before. When people are in need Aussies are FANTASTIC at rallying together to help out. People are not only generously donating money, but food, clothing, toys, household items and the list goes on.
My cousin is one of the many people out there gathering all she can from her friends to donate to those who have been left homeless. An old school friend is collecting to help a friend of hers who lost everything and setting up a website to help her community. Another friend has started a project to collect photos for those who have lost everything, to help them rebuild at least a few photos from their past.
The comradeship, or mateship, as we lovingly refer to it as. The loyalty not only to friends and family, but to those we share any situation with. In this case, neighbours.
In this case, professionals from around the country who have volunteered their services to help locate and identify the bodies.
And finally, stubbornness and determination. That fighting spirit that takes risks and battles on, against all odds. While some vow never to return, many, many more are vowing to return and rebuild.
We often talk about national traits and these are the things that I love about Aussies - pitching in, whether it be to fight fires, care for wildlife, or give to those in need- time, money or anything they can get their hands on. There is great empathy and compassion for the underdog. There has always has been.
This is an extension of the mateship, binding people together to support each other if they are in the same situation, whether they know each other or not. It is an admirable trait.
And finally, the fighting spirit - it is what brought people to the country in the first place - they had to be daring, gutsy and willing to take a risk to settle here. You see the same traits present in the people of today when they declare they will be back. Many accept it is all part of the course if you are going to live in the bush.
Two traits that just might develop out of all this is the tendency to plan and to have more of a long term perspective. Hopefully John Brumby will be successful in introducing tougher building restrictions for the bush as outlined in this article. Ty commented on the flimsiness, and cheapness of the country dwellings when we were in rural Victoria just a month ago. In light of his comments it is ironic to see from these photos how the fires engulfed houses but seemingly left many trees intact.
Housing is relatively cheap in Australia. While more solid buildings might cost more in the short-term, hopefully people can see the long-term advantages. The estimated extra AUD 20,000 is peanuts when you look at it from this angle. Perhaps that famous Australian Dream needs to be adjusted slightly.
It is also encouraging to see in this article that other important issues of forest management and climatic change coming to the surface, amongst all the debris.
Aussies are a fantastic bunch - like no other. Let's hope they can rise to the challenge and begin to have a more long-term approach to life.
DN1, DN2, DN3, SvD1,
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
The hot topic in Australia at the moment in the decision to stay and defend one's property. It seems many of the deaths were the result of people staying and yet not having the resources to have any affect on the fire, let alone defend their property, or themselves. When they realised it was not possible to battle the inferno they got in their cars to leave. Sadly, many died trying to escape. Others are criticizing the lack of warning. Information was not circulated in time to give people a chance to escape.
CFA backs "defend or go" policy.
Fire authority warns against knee-jerk reaction to evacuation policy
Then there are those who say that more can be done in the name of prevention. There are those who say we need to return to, or increase the use of the aboriginal methods of burning off the undergrowth. Australian firestorms prompt call to return to Aboriginal bush control
Or that fire is something we need to understand, accept and prepare for if we are going to pursue that great Australian Dream of land around us in the outer green suburbs. Australians 'unprepared' for bushfires
Other issues at the moment include:
Power lines to blame for the fires, not arsonists. Why are they not dug into the ground like they are in so many other places around the world? Especially considering the damage that storms can do, gum trees dropping limbs, fire threat etc etc. Is it simply because it costs too much and no-one is prepared to bite the bullet and make the investment? Is there an unwillingness to be long-sited rather than short-sited?
An act of terrorism? A very scary thought. And if it is not true the spreading of such stories is in itself scary.
Bodies that will never be identified. Horrific to think that they have undergone those sort of conditions. What must the heat have been like? But how can we not identify people in this modern day and age? Is our fear of big brother and criminal intervention greater than our common sense? DNA registration would not be a bad thing in times like this? Did we not learn this from the tsunami?
Anger over not being able to return to their properties as roads and conditions are not safe. I understand the desire to go home, to see it for your own eyes, to be reunited with loved ones, to find out if they are still alive, to pick up the pieces and get on with life. But surely the police know what they are talking about when they say the roads are not safe? And perhaps there is some good that comes from staying in tents on an oval with other victims.
'Greenies' blamed for fires' fury. or National parks 'part of fire problem'. It is a complex issue and one I have contemplated a lot. Plant more trees is my motto, far too many have been chopped down in Australia - yet it is the trees that become a death trap. Angry survivors blame council 'green' policy. Perhaps we are just not meant to have a home among the gum trees.
And finally there is the overall environmental issue, seemingly overlooked. My first thoughts as I read the Swedish articles in DN, SvD, and many of the Swedish blogs about the fires is that Australians are still dealing with what has and is happening, they are in shock, in mourning and it is going to be a long time before they are ready to talk environment and consequences. Yet I know that Australians are not too keen to talk environment at the best of times. There is not the consensus there, like here, that weather extremes are due to climatic change and environmental damage. There doesn't seem to be the same willingness to accept responsibility, take action, make a difference. And it doesn't get nearly the amount of media coverage or political focus there that it gets here in Sweden. But aside from all that, it is not the time to start pointing the finger and telling people they need to live in a more environmentally conscious way.
However I did find, thanks to a cousin, a little article in The Age that suggests some people are willing to talk environment. Thank you Freya Mathews, you give me hope. I only hope the Government is willing to listen to you.