I’m on the train back to Stockholm, having spent twenty-four hours in the company of Tony Becker. You know how I mentioned the other day in the world of ABBA fans there are some really wonderful people and some really awful people, with most of us somewhere in the middle? Well, Tony comes under the “wonderful category”. I can’t recall on which of his three trips to Australia it was that we first met, but suffice to say it was one of them. And the last time I came to Sweden, we met again for a few days in Stockholm. He’s a wonderful, gentle soul. And an excellent tour guide! When I mentioned I was coming to Sweden again, and would be near his town, Helsingborg on Sweden’s west coast he invited me to stay. We met last night at the ferry terminal. Did I mention the ferry? I’m not talking Manly Ferry, by the way, even though the trip is shorter. No, it’s a reasonably large – though not massive – ferry that travels between Denmark and Sweden. In between, you can make use of the the restarant, the cafe, the bar, or even the supermarket. For a boy from the bush in Australia, it was quite an eye-opener.
Tony’s tour of Helsingborg began with a meal at his favourite local restaurant which, as I recall, was called Sam’s bar. We both enjoyed an authentic Swedish plankstek which, unlike the gourmet variety I had the other night in Malmo, genuinely covers the entire wooden plate on which it was served. And from there, a tour of the town at night continued with a visit to the nearby castle which is well lit at night, and to the harbour. It’s quite a spectacular town at night. Apparently it’s also quite spectacular in summer as a holiday destination. On several occasions Tony apologised for the weather, which was reasonably wet for most of today.
For me, this trip to Sweden isn’t about experiencing Australian-like weather I explained. In fact, I’m slightly disappointed the weather has been so good. I came here with an expectation of cold, short days. But Stockholm, in particular, has turned on exceptional weather for me. The combination of blue skies, sunshine and snow has combined beautifully. Even with the rain today, I found Helsingborg and surrounds to be very beautiful.
Today we visited a few nearby smalltowns including Molle (a popular seaside resort) and Hogonas (where they made the tiles for the Sydney Opera House) , as well as the Kullaberg Nature Reserve. Kullaberg was spectacular. There were just a handful of groups of people there at the same time as we were there. Thus, there were some moments of pure silence (and communion with nature) as we walked around. For lunch, Tony suggested Ebbas Fik, a local cafe with lots of 1950s and 1960s retro popular culture on the walls. You can also buy vintage books and merchandise. Proudly, I ordered lunch for the two of us without anything going wrong. “I hope the right food arrives”, I joked, when I returned to our table. After lunch, we wandered about Helsingborg down near the harbour. Again, Tony apologised for the weather. But I was seeing the area with fresh eyes. And as I looked at the various shades of grey in the sky and the water I saw beauty.
Even now, on the train, as I look out the window, the skies are grey, there’s snow, and it looks especially cold outside. Inside, the train is warm, and reasonably packed. Maybe if I was out there myself, or had lived in this environment all my life, I would feel differently. But at the moment, I’m feeling pretty zen about everything I’ve seen today, even though I would normally describe such weather in Sydney as “pretty shitty”.