A bit of a dandy, a bit of a cavalier and a lot of a charmer, rogue British official The Dippylomat. Esq. investigates…
My sincere and bespokely-worded apologies; my peeplessness both humbles and disgraces me – it shames me to my very colonial core. I would so dearly love to write that I have spent the time deep undercover; perched behind enemy polar lines, but alas this is not the case. Neither have I, in dippylomatic terms, gone ‘rogue’ and idled the days away languishing in a thermal spa bath with twee, blonde nymphette Nina, she of bland band The Cardigans fame.
The truth is oh so much worse…
I have been caught.
…and it was but just an Etonian schoolboy error which led to the disclosure of my secretive sleuthing. I had written a strongly-worded letter of electronically mailed complaint to the most abhorrent cafe I had ever supped in. My opine contained a number of words which had, it would so seem, ‘flagged up’ both my thoroughbred nationality and the true reason I sully my soles on this permafrosted land.
For the record, never use the words ‘Earl Grey’, ‘crumpets’, ‘wench’ or ‘carpet bombing’ while airing your disdain in the written form.
I assume it was no coincidence, but days after the mouse had clicked upon ‘send’ an official summons was thrust through my letterbox. I was given an address and a time and told not to be, under any circumstances, late. The letter was embossed with the letters ‘SFI‘ and from its content I can only guess that this stood for:
Swedish Forcibly Induced.
The building in question, on approach, had all the charm of a Russian gulag. I found myself sitting in a draughty outhouse where I am herded among other captives – NONE of them were Swedish, had I been sentenced to some form of cultural-cleansing facility? Whatever it was, it was being done on an unprecedented and industrial scale. Research tells me that currently 125,362 are undergoing the cultural-conversion treatment.
Then we hear our punishment, delivered by an individual who ominously described himself as ‘teacher’; teacher’s first shudderingly sinister words were delivered with the good grace of a Gestapo officer shining a 100watt light bulb into our collective faces:
“In a year’s time you will ALL be speaking Swedish”.
Or, as it sounded in my top-hatted head:
“Ve have vays of making you talk.”
Well, we will see about that, Ölaf, or whatever phlegm-inducing grunt your parents named you after. Conversations with my gloriously multi-cultured fellow inmates led me to learn this was in fact a program which attempted to coerce us fresh-off-the-boaters into learning the whys and wherefores of the Swedish ways…and then to communicate them in the Swedish brutish banter, i.e. in a matter of months we would all be able to speak like we were singing and hide our grimace when we gnaw on the boney claw of a crayfish.
I left Week One baffled as to how I would shake these shackles; did I ever really want to be ably able to assemble flat pack furniture? Did I ever want to find an ABBA track ‘catchy’? Nej, tack you very much, but then the queerest thing happened while mingling with Malmö’s glitterati.
A waitress approached me and said: “Vill du prova en härsken fisk hor d’oeuvre?”, without hesitating I responded: “Nej tack, jag skulle äta hellre en franskmans socka. I had aghasted myself -I was talking bloody Swedish, I had the Brain of a Brit, but with the silver tongue of a Swede. I have spent nigh on a year trying to demean myself enough to blend in and now it was being handed to me on a silver platter.
Being behind enemy lines has never been so easy.
ATTENTION BOTH THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND EMPIREES: Have YOU been affected by SFI? See this Dispatch as an open forum to discuss your experiences. And for Pete’s sake, SUBSCRIBE.