Systembolaget Surry Hills

“What a beautiful t-shirt you have”, said the woman behind the bottle-shop counter. I reminded her we’d met once before in similar circumstances, and she’d said something similar.

Four years ago, when visiting Sweden I bought a t-shirt with “Sverige” (the Swedish name for Sweden) emblazoned on it, and I wear it from time to time. I swear the last time I wore it, though, was a couple of months ago as I entered my local bottle shop. At first the woman serving me was a little taken aback. “Why are you wearing a Swedish shirt”?, she asked me. As chance would have it, I entered the bottle shop earlier tonight and the same thing happened again.

This time our conversation progressed a little further, as I told her I’d obtained tickets for this year’s Melodifestivalen (the Swedish finals leading to the Eurovision Song Contest”. “So you have tickets to the final?”, she asked, adding “Oh my god, I am so jealous”.

“I can’t believe we have such a beautiful city in Stockholm, and such a wonderful new arena, and they’re holding Eurovision in Malmo”, she went on to say. I’m prone to agree. I mean, I think Malmo is a lovely city, and it’s closer to Europe than Stockholm, but Stockholm is an amazingly beautiful, world class city. And that’s what’s drawn me back to buy tickets for next year’s Melodifestivalen.

Truth also be told, I think Melodifestivalen is a far more interesting song contest than Eurovision itself. Long before all of the modern television talent shows, the team behind Melodifestivalen “created” the genre with weekly heats in a number of Swedish cities, a “second chance” final, and then finally, a national final, where the nation gets to vote about who will represent them at the Eurovision Song Contest. It appears as if the Swedes takes Eurovision far more seriously than many other countries. And yet, at the same time, they have a sense of humour about it all.

Three years ago I obtained a ticket for the dress rehearsal for the final. Tickets for the final sold out within minutes of going on sale, and the dress rehearsal was the best I could hope for. Last night, however, I was a little more strategic, with browsers open on two computers, and logged on early to join the queue on, the Swedish ticketing system. Earlier in the day, I’d read about, a company which apparently, had pre-purchased tickets from, and had their own separate allocation to sell. As I waited and waited in the queue on, I got a little impatient and so thought I’d try, and was lucky enough to secure some tickets in the category, “bästa sittplats” (best seats). I’m very excited, as I enjoyed myself a few years ago when I attended the dress rehearsal, and now I have tickets for the actual final. Yay. A friend from Paris will be in Stockholm, and so we’re going together which will be terrific.

It’s not the only reason I’m planning to travel to Europe in March/April. I’m also going to a radio conference in Berlin called, “Radio Days”, and hope to have some kind of role in the program there. And I’m also interested in going to the International ABBA Day Event in The Netherlands which is now confirmed for April 8. All I’m waiting for now is a confirmation about the date for the opening of the ABBA Museum in Stockholm, and I’ll be booking airline tickets.

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