Queuing for Ice Crime

Sydney Queues

Three slices of ham please...

Three slices of ham please…

You know those stupid machines at the supermarket deli where you’re given a number and have to wait your turn, even if there’s only two or three other people waiting?

Minutes go by (it seems like hours) while your eyes remained focussed on the display above as you wait for your number to be called.

My Swedish teacher, Marianne once joked she thought they HAD to be a Swedish invention.

Systembolaget Södermalm

Systembolaget Södermalm

Of all the countries in the world, the Swedes seem the most inclined to form queues without thinking twice about it. Here in Australia, we’re also very vegalitarian, but we usually tend to get a little grumpy when it comes to queues, and of course we “don’t like queue jumpers” :)

My most famous memories of waiting in queues in Sweden were on a Saturday afternoon minutes before the closure of the state-run bottle shop, Systembolaget, and in a phone shop.

In the case of Systembolaget, I once blogged

In Sweden, there’s a government-owned monopoly bottle shop chain called Systembolaget, which operates with restricted hours. On weekdays, it’s normal trading hours; shorter hours on Saturday; and they’re closed Sunday. At night, bars also have limited trading hours with many closing at one, others at three.

And as much as I like to think of myself as a bit of a libertarian, I’m beginning to conclude these restrictions might actually be a good thing. By putting a limit on the hours in which you can purchase and consume alcohol, I think there’s more of a chance that people will go home to bed, as opposed to the all-night temptation offered in Sydney.

Although Systembolaget now operates like a supermarket chain, it wasn’t so long ago that you had to go in, make an order for what you wanted, and then wait for someone to bring your order out to you. There’s a few of these older style shops still around, apparently.

Surry Hills must be the only place outside the former Soviet Union where people queue for bread.

Surry Hills must be the only place outside the former Soviet Union where people queue for bread.

As for the phone shop, I also remember vividly waiting with Graeme in a queue in Stockholm. We were the only people in the queue, but we were still forced to go through the farce of waiting as they called out the numbers of people who were “before us” in the queue, but who had obviously already been dealt with. “77, 78, 79, 80″, the assistants called out the numbers, as if in a scene from Monty Python, looking around to see if any of the other people might have been hiding, until finally our number was called out.

Queuing for nightclubs in Sydney has for many years been a real joke. On NYE especially, nightclub bouncers make on with the pretence their club is full, and people are thus forced to wait in a lengthy queue down the street, when mostly they’re only half-empty. It’s all about making the nightclub look to the potential customer as somewhere they simply must enter since, after all, there’s a queue.

Queuing for Ice Cream

Queuing for Ice Cream

More recently, places like the Bourke Street Bakery (not far from where I live) has also become a regular space where people will queue. I kinda understand it there, as the shop is very small, but I still think it’s bizarre that people will queue for bread. I mean, it’s Sydney; not 1976 in Poland.

The latest crazy queue in Sydney is the ice cream queue. There’s an ice cream shop in Darlinghurst where there’s regularly a queue of 50 or 60 people waiting. “It’s fucking ice-cream”, a friend of mine observed last night, wondering why people would be prepared to wait 20 to 30 minutes in a queue.

The similarities between Sydney and Stockholm seem to be increasing every day…

Foto:Cecilia Jansson

Jonas Holmberg

Just because I have the complete recordings of ABBA in my record collection, it doesn’t mean I stopped listening to new music in 1982. But that’s what online music stores often presume.

I have stored most of my music collection on Google Music, and I’ve also bought a fair few albums via the Play Store. But because there’s a large number of ABBA recordings stored there, it seems like the only recommendations I get are for The Carpenters, Billy Joel and the like. As my tastes in music are much, much broader, it frustrates me the algorythm (or whatever it is) assumes I would only want to purchase similar music.

But of course, I’m not “normal” in that sense. For many people it seems like music is like a haircut: at about the age of eighteen to twenty five they settle on what they like, and stick with it for life. Although genetics have forced me to compromise on the issue of haircuts, I continue to listen to new and varied styles of music. For example, I really like a lot of hip-hop, which separates me from many people my age.

Occasionally, though, the Play Store manages to get it right, and recommends something I really like. Thus, I have a new Swedish musical obsession. His name is Jonas Holmberg. He was one of those “Recommended Artists” in the Play Store, and so I decided, on spec, I would have a listen.

After a couple of listens, I bought his two albums of Swedish language versions of jazz and pop classics, and they have been barely off my music player over the last two weeks. I’m listening again tonight.

He has a beautifully clear voice and diction (good for improving my Swedish), sings with passion, and is backed by some wonderful instrumentation. Even if you don’t speak Swedish, his two albums are really very, very listenable.

I’ve recommended him to my friend Grant (also a Swedophile) who was mightily impressed.

From what I can see, Jonas performs semi-regularly around Stockholm, and occasionally has appeared on Swedish television. Hopefully the next time I visit Sweden, he’ll be performing somewhere, as I’d love to hear him perform live, and not only on recordings.

You can listen to some samples of his work on his website.

My favourite is the track, “Allting börjar om”.

Katarinahissen view of Stockholm

The Bug

Taco Truck pop up restaurant in Stockholm

Taco Truck pop up restaurant in Stockholm

I received a “hi, how are you email” from a friend in Stockholm the other day.

Co-incidentally, I’ve been thinking about Stockholm a little bit lately. In fact, I’ve also been having a few dreams about Stockholm lately. In the latest, I was in Stockholm in the middle of summer and checking into an hotel. Almost as soon as I’d checked into the hotel, I received a phone call from someone back in Sydney telling me my apartment was on fire.

“I could read a lot into that dream”, my friend told me in a later email. She’s right, you know.

Every time I visit Stockholm another friend asks me the question, “Have you got it out of your system?”. My reply is usually, “No, not at all. In fact I think it’s getting worse”.

This “journey” of mine goes back many years, but only really solidified when I went travelling for several months in 2008. The combination of a healthy tax return and a feeling of being burnt-out resulted in a sudden and deliberate decision (perhaps) to run away from my life here and to discover some new adventures. It was one of those life-changing experiences. Since then, travel has become a much more important part of my life, I feel I have a better balance between life and work, and I’ve found myself on a life journey which has taken me back to Sweden a further three times (2010, 2011 and 2013).

I’m not sure if it’s Sweden or Stockholm in particular, though. I think Sweden’s great, but when I’m in Stockholm I feel really, really happy.

No doubt part of it has to do with being on holiday, and all of the joy that usually brings. On a deeper level, I suspect there’s also an underlying feeling that I’m not entirely happy with everything in my life.

Or maybe it’s just that Stockholm is a great place?