I AM a representative of the former British Empire and the current Commonwealth of Nations; I am the descendant of Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and the son of an RAF pilot. I did
not graduate with First Class honours from Cambridge University and since then have not entered the Foreign Office’s prestigious diplomatic corps.
‘The Northern Plights’ documents my assessment of Sweden for the possibility of any future conquests which the British Government’s War Cabinet is
I am waiting for a delayed flight, I am awkwardly perched in the supposedly ‘First Class’ departure lounge revelling in the joy of my inconvenience – oh, British Incompetence and Inefficiency™, how I have dearly missed your familiar ways; sterility, punctuality and functuality cut no mustard with my good self, it is the bemused bus queues, the harangued huddles of stranded commuters and the collectives of complainees that bind Britain.
My mission on temporary hold, I am returning to the Motherland for Christmas, having learned a hard lesson from last year’s merry-less Yuletide.
Let me recount the tale of mistlewoe and whine which came to be my 2010 debut Swedish Christmas and as I do so relive their traditions in all their pine-scented albeit gory detail.
It started off badly and went downhill faster than an Olympic gold medalist skier. I arrived Christmas Day mid-morning and rapped the door with the brass handle knob of my walking cane. After a short wait I am met by a somewhat hungover looking hostess. Knowing I pride myself on etiquette she tried to politely explain I was late – a DAY late.
Christmas Day in Sweden is what we call in England ‘Boxing Day’; the drink is drunk and the delicacies are devoured. Swedes up and down the country are sniffing around plates of leftovers in the lingering fog of fumes which was yesterday’s snaps binge. I had missed Christmas, but as I walk away the subservient Swede cried after me ‘nej, nej…’. I was then asked inside and told the day will be reenacted for me in its entirety.
Bring on the Dopp i grytan, the greasy, seasoned gloop leftover swampy waters previously used to boil the ham; guests are
dared invited to dip bread into as a precursor to the main course.
But before my main meal fate is sealed and at the very split second Queen Elizabeth II address Her sadly diminished Empire, the Swedes, as if in an act of defiance, sit down and watch reruns of Kalle Anka, or as we would know him, Donald Duck. The Queen struggles to maintain our attention for seven minutes, but in Scandinavia Donald, by far the most popular Walt Disney creation here, keeps all generations of the treasoning Swedes glued to their seats for an hour – the country is effectively closed down by a duck. And as if to add quacking insult to injury, the running order of the cartoons does not change; year after year the same cartoons at the same time for as long as any Swede can remember.
The Swedish festive main is entirely unique, in that it is the only national Christmas dish which does not differ from what they eat herring-fuelled day in and anchovy-laced day out: balls of meat, rolls of fish and cold cuts The Swede’s logic apparently being ‘we love it, let’s celebrate by eating more of it’.
The largely carnivorous banquet is left to settle, disturbed only by the obligatory dance around the tree. At 19.00 hours the second bout of cartoon watching commences, this time it is the 1975 short animation Christopher’s Christmas Mission. A Robin Hood-inspired seasonal tale about a philanthropic Stockholmian boy to be watched while seeping Christmas porridge down your gullet to fill any gaps until your back teeth are floating in an unholy glut of food. In short, they eat too much and they watch rubbish on television, what kind of savages are these people…it makes your blood run
cold even colder.
Right-o, I am boarding back to Blighty to eat turkey and Brussels sprouts, just like they did around that manger some 2011 years ago.
ATTENTION BOTH THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND EMPIREES: This Christmas why not offer your loved ones the gift of Subscription to The Northern Plights – it is free, but priceless.