For the last couple of days I’ve been wondering if I should share with you one of the downsides of being in Stockholm at the moment. Even though, as I’ve said, it’s lovely and sunny in the daytime, it can still get quite cold. Unfortunately that’s caused my body some slight grief, and after much hesitation, today I’m revealing my legs, and the slight case of cold weather hives I’ve developed.
Cold urticaria is the proper name for the red welts which have emerged on my legs in the last few days. Even though I’ve kept myself reasonably warm and protected, it’s still been cold enough to have developed a fairly minor outbreak of the condition. According to everything I’ve read, it’s reasonably common, and even though it can sometimes cause death, it’s fairly easily treated with some extra moisturiser. So there you go. The bad as well as the good.
I was up reasonably early this morning checking out the online news. OMG, there was talk on Twitter, briefly, of another leadership challenge back home. Following on from successful leadership challenges in Victoria and the Northern Territory, there was talk Kevin Rudd had the numbers and was about to challenge Julia Gillard for the ALP Leadership. Seriously, the news in Australia is never as interesting when I’m back home as when I’m overseas. The talk was short-lived and quickly denied. I dropped a “sorry” note to my colleague back home, apologising for going on leave and leaving her to deal with the breaking news associated with all of these political happenings, as well as the election of a new Pope.
After a morning coffee, I spent a bit time of time wandering around Gamla Stan, the Old Town in Stockholm which is absolutely stunning. Since Sweden remained neutral during the Second World War, Stockholm escaped the bombing which destroyed many of the Old Towns in Europe. Thus, Gamla Stan remains wonderfully intact. And unlike other Old Town areas, such as Sydney’s “The Rocks”, Gamla Stan is more than a museum, more than one big tourist shop. People live in Gamla Stan. They have jobs in Gamla Stan that aren’t necessarily tourism-related. It’s wonderful to see an Old Town that’s living and, seemingly, thriving.
As I wandered around, a poster caught my eye in the window of The Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament. It was a poster which declared the Swedish Parliament passed lots of legislation every day. At the very top of the poster was an image of two men kissing. (OK yeah, that’s what caught my eye). For just a moment I reflected on the significance of an “official poster” from the Swedish Parliament of two men kissing. And, in contrast to Australia, it wasn’t a safe sex poster or something like that hidden away in a public toilet or a gay bar. It was wonderfully re-assuring to see something like that all official-like.
But Sweden’s like that, you know. It’s been fascinating to reflect on the much discussed, much publicised gender equality you see here. And you do see it, most commonly when you see men pushing prams and bottle feeding their children in coffee shops and restaurants. Sure, men in Australia and other parts of the world do this also, but it’s so common place here no one seems to blink, whereas I think back home people would look and stare.
I also reflected today that the last week or so has flown by very quickly. Tomorrow I need to do clothes some washing, ironing and packing ahead of my trip to Berlin on Saturday. I also need to wash the sheets and make the bed, and clean up a little bit in the apartment I’ve been staying. In stark contrast to staying in a hotel or a hostel, it’s been so wonderful to have a place to call my own for the last week or so.
My friend Sue meets me in Berlin on Sunday, and we’ll be spending a few days there, followed by a few days in Copenhagen, and then back to Stockholm. We’ll be here for Easter which, apparently, is a pretty terrific time to be in Stockholm. Already the countdown is on with the feathers on sticks (a Swedish Easter tradition) all over the city at flower shops and stalls at the moment.