The Two Australians

When someone comes up to you in a bar in Stockholm and says, “Are you the two Australians?”, your instant reaction isn’t good. “What have we done?”, you think to yourself. “Is this a Julian Assange kind of Stockholm moment?”, I wondered :)

He was an English bloke who I think was looking for a bit of a connection with someone from the colonies. His name was Peter. “We have those old-fashioned names: James, Graeme, Peter”, he joked. He had been sitting next to us at Torget in Gamla Stan, and had overhead our conversation with a bunch of Norwegians who were also here for Stockholm Pride”.

“We go to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki Pride”, a young Norwegian bloke called Kristian told me. He was maybe mid-20s, with an interest in politics, and so we chatted for quite some time about politics in Scandinavia and Australia. “You treat refugees very badly”, he told me. “They travel thousands of kilometres on boats and then you put them on islands”, he added, demonstrating more of an awareness of the Australian political scene than I thought may have existed in this part of the world.

I didn’t want to push him to talk about the bombings, but we did eventually get around to that. He told me the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg hadn’t acquitted himself well in the time since.

But it wasn’t just politics. He was interested in coming to Australia, has a good friend in Sydney, and was also interested in language and wanted to understand why Australian English often has an upward inflection at the end of words.

For both Graeme and I it was a lovely night of meeting and chatting with interesting and amazing people from all parts of the world, including a rather in interesting bloke from Argentina, in Stockholm for some kind of judo tournament.

Earlier in the day I paid a visit to the Fotografiska Museet where there’s three current exhiitions. There’s a major retrospective of the work of Robert Mapplethorpe which I enjoyed very much. Although I had seen many of the photographs before, it was interesting to see them as a body of work. Although best known for his rather explicit nudes, his work covers a far greater variety of content. Seeing the exhibition was enhanced by sitting down and watching a short film about his work which features a couple of his favourite models, including the singer Patti Smith, now in her 60s. Patti sings a wonderful acoustic version of her big hit, “Because The Night” at the end of the film which is worth seeing.

Installation at Fotografiska Museet in Stockholm
Installation at Fotografiska Museet in Stockholm

There’s two other exhibitions there right now which are also very good. There’s a really sad, moving exhibition about a young woman who self-harms. Even now, thinking about the exhibition I have goose bumps and feel a little sad to have been given an insight into her life.

And there’s an installation by Eleanor Neil, the wife of director, Francis Ford Coppola. The installation is in the form of a large “funeral mound”. As you walk around in the midst of it, you’re encouraged to think about love and loss and leave a hand-written message and stick it into the hay. I wrote something about “no longer boxing up emotions and feelings” which I’ll leave to your own interpretation.

Overall, it’s an excellent museum which is housed in a building that was going to be the “ABBA Museum”. “A much better use for the space”, I commented later in the day.

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