My mailbox was full and so was my inbox. As I waded through two weeks of correspondence at work today, I was pleased to see something unrelated to work: a package from Sweden. It was a t-shirt I’d ordered online a few weeks ago from QX, the Swedish gay site. The t-shirt says “fantasiens jättebin… & verklighetens kupa”.

A bit of Googling reveals the phrase comes from the book “Gösta Berlings saga” by Selma Lagerlöf. Selma was a Swedish author who was the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was also quite a well known feminist, peace activist and lesbian, which may explain why the t-shirt was being sold through QX. I’ve read a few articles about her tonight and she sounds amazing. The book itself is based on a real life story of a priest dismissed from his position due to alcoholism. The complete text from the book is “Här ha nu fantasiens jättebin svärmat omkring oss under år och dag, men hur de ska komma i in verklighetens kupa, det få de sannerlingen se sig om”. It’s probably a little too poetic for my more literal Swedish language skills, which translates this as something about giant bees of a fantasy year and the reality of a hive. I’d appreciate any assistance on this from a native speaker. Deep down, I suspect I may have bought a t-shirt which says the Swedish equivalent of “dip me in honey and throw me to the lesbians”.

Anyway, I bought it because I’m going to see Swedish pop singers Robyn and Therese play separate gigs in Sydney in a few weeks time, and I wanted something new and Swedish to wear. I’m either going to be really cool, or more likely, look like a fat bald middle-aged try-hard. Oh, and in case you’re wondering not all Swedish pop stars are referred to only by their first names :)

It was a bright spot in an otherwise challenging day. Coming back to work after a holiday is always a bit of a challenge, isn’t it? You stay in bed for as long as you possibly can, get to work exactly on time (not early, not late). And in my case, I went in casual clothing today, not a suit, preferring to wear some of the clothing I’d bought in Beijing. It’s about making the holiday last that little bit longer.

And then, of course, the reality is you have to actually work. Outrageous! And then you have the challenge of having been out of the loop for some important conversations and sometimes you can find yourself all afloat. Thankfully everyone recognises that, and you’re always given a day of grace. Besides, everyone wants to know about your trip. My two take home messages for everyone today were: undeniably, consistently the best food I’ve ever had on holiday; and The Great Wall of China is bloody amazing. It was especially fun showing some photographs to a colleague who worked in Beijing during the Olympic Games of the Olympic Stadium. My advice to you? Go, go to Beijing. Go now before it turns into New York.

5 Replies to “Jättebra”

  1. James,
    Love the t-shirt, but my Swedish is also not good enough to help! I like your translation anyway!
    Glad you loved Beijing. I was there exactly a year ago and hiked a part of the Great Wall. Fantastic!!!

  2. It seems to me that 9 out of 10 Swedish films I have seen include a Priest behaving badly.

    I’m sure someone could write a thesis on the subject.

  3. Liam – yes I’d heard. It was kinda relief though. Being a man of a “certain age”, I’d have preferred a “proper” show to a festival. I saw her a couple of years ago at the Oxford Art Factory, far preferable to a festival at homebush. So despite the disappointment, I was kinda relieved.

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