Dispatch #30 – ABBA

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 not considering.

In fear of sounding like a plucky polemicist or a grouchy grump, I’ve always held a certain disdain for ‘pop music’; ‘pop’ is short for ‘popular’, ‘popular’ means ‘affordable’ and anything which is both affordable and popular is almost certainly ‘vulgar’ – I rest my case.

[enter stage left] Abba.

Abba are many things to many people – there cannot be many who have not stumbled across their glitter-laden path – to some they are the copycat pale imitators of the iconic British band and Eurovision Song Contest winners, Bucks Fizz  To others they are the unkempt glam throwbacks who launched their career off the back of the depressingly successful entertainment-vacuum musical and subsequent silver screen motion picture, Mama Mia! It would not surprise me one iota if 80 per cent of 20-somethings thought ‘the blonde out of Abba’ was called Meryl Streep and ‘one of the blokes’ was ‘in one of them James Bond films’.

They may have brought disco ball-flecked joy to hundreds of millions, put Sweden on the cultural map, possibly even have boosted its Gross Domestic Product by several percentiles, but I have always found something a smidge sinister about them. No.1 Rule Of Being an Englishman – don’t trust a man wearing Cuban heels or a woman who looks like she’s been dressed by a pimp.

What drew them to my attention was their somewhat over-zealous protection over their trademarked/copyrighted/whatevered name. So keen were they to make sure no one made money or sullied their songs using the letters ‘A-B-B-A’ that I dare say the moment any seven year old attempts to scrawl out the alphabet, a team of sharp-suited legal eagles appears over the infant’s shoulder in fear that after ‘A’ and ‘B’ he writes ‘B’ and ‘A’ and submits an entry to the end of term talent show.

Tribute acts Abba Queens, Abba Mania and Swede Dreamz Abba Tribute have all received ominous notifications NOT thanking them for the music or subsequent joy it might’ve brung; there are almost 50 such acts in the UK alone, contemplate the inevitable Japanese tribute band market and the mind both boogies and boggles.

There is probably more loose change down the back of the collective Abba sofas to solve the Third World debt crisis, do they really need to be so Money Money Money grabbing so long after the white suits and sequined miniskirts have been mothballed? It all seems so spoilsporty to my good self, but I guess in their own defence they may claim it is ♫ ♪ The NAME of the Game ♫ ♪

But whose name and whose game?

Now, the canned fish and seafood aisle is never my first port of call when I optimistically enter a supermarket in my endless and naive quest to find a Findus Lancashire Hot Pot Aga meal-for-one, but one could not help chance upon a familiarly-named jar of fishy splodge, or pickled herring as the Swedes like to call it.

Abba Seafood was set up and running in 1838, a time when Waterloo was remembered for being the battle in which your Father died rather than a disco-tastic dance floor filler. The band approached the company and negotiated a deal to ‘share’ the name long before any notion of the combo’s success had dawned. I  would humbly suggest the ‘original’ Abba would happily renege and perhaps suggest a tinker with that original ‘amicable’ deal.

The last time I saw a tribute act it was Bark at the Royal Festival Hall, did I rush out after and buy a Bark CD? No, I went out and bought every Bach long player I could get my manicured hands on, consider that Abba, if you really want to be the winners who took it all.

Abba, your attitude stinks like a, like a…an out of date jar of Abba’s pickled herrings.

Toodle pip,




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Posted in Culture, Ex pats, Fashion, Food, Gothenburg, Humour, Music, Stockholm, Sweden, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 38 Comments

~URGENT DISPATCH~

Tinsel pip,




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Posted in Hodge Podge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Dispatch #29 – Christmas.

A bit of a dandy, a bit of a cavalier and a lot of a charmer, rogue British official The Dippylomat. Esq. investigates…

 

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.

I had been invited to spend the occasion at the Swedish Embassy, could there be a better place to patronise and mock appreciate and understand the manner in which this nation spends the day?

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.

Toodle pip,




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Posted in alcohol, diets, Ex pats, Food, Hodge Podge, Humour, RAF, Stockholm, Sweden, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Dispatch #28 – Immigration.

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 not considering.

Know Your Enemy; it is one of the maxims I have lived my life by, or rather it is a maxim that I have got the staff to live my life by – I try not to get my hands grubby. Everyone knows who the Swedes are; they are the fair – both by nature and appearance – quiet ones who are geographically shunted to the outer reaches of The Empire Globe – out of sight, out of mind.

No surprises. At least not until, as I did, you open your Swedish window and gaze down upon the minions below – not all of them are blond/e, many of them are not white; some, I suspect, were not born here – their darker complexions wasted on the paltry summer sun which fleetingly graces this hinterland.

Who are these non-native folk and why on earth would they go to, of all places, this godforsaken, partially-Arctic utmost limit of the European mainland?

Take the city of Malmö for example, some 30 per cent of its inhabitants were not born in Sweden, add to that the second, third and fourth generation of immigrants who chose to embrace these bracing climes and you will soon understand why it is a bit of a cultural smörgåsbord.

Of course many come from neighbouring countries with only a vigorous hike or a train ticket required to get them Swedeside. In fact it is hard to tell whether these non-Swedes are immigrants or just, well, just lost. In the Scandinavian vodka belt one might very well meander off the chosen path or fumble and lose a return train ticket.

But not all these immigrant can come from Norway, Finland or Denmark; the exotic dress codes, the sobriety and the slightly more palatable food aromas wafting upon the icy breeze defy that rationale. Indeed, there are 171 different nationalities represented in this city alone.

Let us reflect on our own fair isle for a moment, the list of immigrant groups to the United Kingdom does read somewhat like a guilty conscience: ‘sorry about your country, old boy, here’s a London city slum and a dank bit of the north you can reside in as way of an apology…sorry about the weather, that was partly why we colonised you in the first place’. However, the demographics of Sweden read like everyone else’s guilty conscience; it has not declared war since 1814, it has not colonised anywhere since 1721. Empathy just rouses suspicion in a British born and bred brain, even now the UK offer overseas aid with a cowering ‘please don’t bomb us’ whimper.

As of 2010, 14.3 per cent of the inhabitants in Sweden were foreign-born. Of these, 9.2 per cent were sober and fully intended to be here (born outside the European Union) and 5.1 per cent were drunk/lost (born not that far away.)

I had a peruse through the list of Swedish demographic groups, it reads more like a roll call for a UN delegate brunch  for the least fortunate nations of modern history. Bosnians, Croats and Serbs came as their country cracked; Iraqis shot here as fast as allied forces shot their countrymen; Somalians swarmed from their brutalised-by-the-British homeland; Chileans choked by England-endorsed despotism left in droves Sweden-bound. It seems that Sweden is one of the very few nations not culpable for these disgraced Empires’ hangovers and misguided witch-hunt fallouts.

It is humbling to hear of these immigrants’ plights and the Swedes ability to overlook the world’s warmongering and dictatorial indiscretions, instead offering refuge to the victims. But, still, it does beg the obvious question, where will all the Swedes run to if the colonial cannons’ crosshairs are fixed upon them?

Toodle pip,




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Posted in Culture, Denmark, Ex pats, Finland, Gothenburg, Humour, Norway, Stockholm, Sweden, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Dispatch #27 – Mexico.

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 not considering.

Mexico? Have I lost my Elgin marbles? Have I gone, what I might haphazardly suggest the Swedes spell ‘löcö’? Before now Mexico has never really featured on my radar, I once went to an American Ambassador’s fancy dress party as an ‘illegal immigrant’, but beyond that I have paid it no mind. Nor, incidentally, has The Empire, Britannia has enough drunk, shouty, stabby people of its own, muchas gracias all the same.

Yet Mexico, it seems, has been thrust upon me, like an awkward maneuver performed by one of its working class masked wrestlers.

This came to fluorescent-stripped light one Friday afternoon whilst striding a shopping trolley up and down the aisles of my local food court. Most of the fresh foods look like they have been clubbed over the head and dragged in by a bedraggled hunter. For a fussy connoisseur, pickings are slim and mostly pickled.

Whether the Swedes had gone on a hunger strike was not clear, but what was obvious was that the store was deathly quiet, a quiet I had not heard since I squiffyly bellowed ‘You know Abba were miming, right?’ at a Swedish Embassy musical soirée.

But hold the Ericsson phone, there was life…and it was all centred in one aisle. My curiosity got the better of me and I waited for the blond/e mass to dissipate. They left behind the bare shelves of what had once been the Mexican food aisle, and I don’t mean ‘shelves’, an ENTIRE aisle had been reserved for cacti and sombrero adorned tins, jars and spice-mix boxes. Like a pack of malnourished wolves with a wild boar carcass they had stripped it bare. And sure enough, as the checkout bleeped and blöoped their items out, every basket contained at least one item from the now barren Tex/Mex shelves.

Why…varför…¿por qué?

In short, I wish I knew.

No one knows, but this quite genuinely appears to be the embryonic stages of a tradition, like ‘Christmas’ or ‘colonialism’. At the very heart is the notion of ‘Fredagsmys‘ which literally translates as ‘Fredagsmys’ or, if you ask a native, ‘Friday Cosy’, a custom akin to the slightly more dogmatic and restrictive Jewish Friday tradition of Shabbat.

Everywhere else in the world it would be referred to as ‘I am Knackered and Can’t Be Bothered to Cook or Go Out Day’, but since the early 1990s some entrepreneurial Swedes have made it into a marketing Mecca – they have found a way to fleece the hard-earned kronor from the, err, fleeced pockets of the Average Swede while festering with his/her loved ones on the sofa. Sweets, snacks, fizzy pops and all manner of calorific mucks are consumed by the snow-shovel load, but where there is muck there is gold and the company on the winner’s podium is Santa Maria.

For all intents and purposes this Swedish-based company has snuck into homes, removed the meatballs and replaced them with the ingredients of a taco…and no one has cared, not a jot, in fact they have embraced the taco to such an extent that the day is morphing into ‘Taco Friday‘.  Every year Santa Maria makes 85 million taco shells along with 200 million tortillas..that’s an awful lot of Tex/Mex for a population of 9.5 million.

Food pundits, health campaigners, social historians are all scratching their Nordic noggins trying to pinpoint the precise origins of this weekly custom; Ladies and Gentlemen, let me come  to your assistance – The Brits have been sitting on their posteriors doing nothing but eating rubbish since records began, welcome to The New World Empire, you appear to be settling in nicely.

Toodle pip,




ATTENTION BOTH THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND EMPIREES: My name Juan, I take Dippylomat hostage…you subscribe or I break ‘is monocle.

Posted in Benjamin Disraeli, Culture, diets, Ex pats, Food, Gothenburg, Humour, RAF, Stockholm, Sweden, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Dispatch #26 – Environment.

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 not considering.

At last some respite and a chance to don my civvies and leave the city of Malmö. I head to the coastal town of Ystad, but before the Baltic Sea spray has washed off the suburban grime the electronic synthesised opening strains of the National Anthem sound an incoming text message. Damn and blast. I am being sent back to Malmö to destroy the myth that the Swedes give a flying fir cone about Britain’s our planet.

It frustrates me that I have been instructed to prove the Swedes are the worst at something they are considered the best at – being green – on my weekend off. Perhaps that is why I have been sent to Malmö – a city still stained black from its industrial past, surely if I can prove that Sweden is as environmentally friendly as an oil slick then this city would be the place to do it.

In its defence, Malmö, at its heart, is pretty, baroquey, gothicy and all the other pretentious superlatives you pick up while eavesdropping someone else’s tour guide around any gem of a European city. But is Malmö really a gem? Beyond that heart lies an urban sprawl in a perpetual state of modernisation with all the lumbering cranes and dug up roads that requires, one may muse to one’s self ‘it’ll look nice…when it’s finished.’

It doesn’t look like a gem and it doesn’t look green.

But it is. It is in fact an emerald, the greenest of all gems.

Under every Swede’s IKEA-molded sink you will find a veritable smörgåsbord of recycling bags and in every Swedish block of flat’s cellar/yard/out-house you will find corresponding recycling bins. The Swedes recycle ‘the lot’ and ‘a lot’ of it; in fact, if it is not labelled ‘Chernobyl Fallout’ you’ll probably find a recycling bin for it – in total, 34% of all household rubbish is used as something else by someone else at some point.

The Swedes set a high bar and curse my luck it is Malmö which ably balances on that bar – it is considered the most eco-friendly city in the most eco-friendly country in the world.

The city is blighted with its heavy industrial ship-building history; the harbour was one of the largest in the world and set more boats afloat than Helen of Troy, but what now the galvanised hull of the market has rusted and fallen out? The harbour looks to fester like a decaying spectre of global-warming industry past. Would it be here I found oil drums bobbing in the coastal waters, or chemical paints dribbling into the lapping waves? I felt positive; there was still a small hive of industry, a company floating in the face of environmental legislation, perhaps?

No. As it turns out the harbour is now used to make, of all cursed things, turbines for wind farms. DRATS. And then, holding a telescope aloft to my monocled eye, I see it, parked out in the midst of the choppy waters, flapping its eco-friendly arms in my distinguished vicinity, the world’s third largest wind farm – Lillgrund.

From here on it was just blow after blow after blow, and that was not the energy-giving Arctic wind, that is my mission. Malmö is Sweden’s first ever Fair Trade City..blah, blah, blah..set to be carbon neutral by 2030 blah blah blah…the list is endless, and no doubt written on recycled paper.

While I am reluctant to do so, I think I will have to concede; the Swedes may have won this battle, but they will not win the war. I cannot admit defeat and send this Dispatch though, so instead I just text the Foreign Office back:

Toodle pip,




ATTENTION BOTH THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND EMPIREES: Recycle this Dispatch and send it to you nearest and dearest – the planet will thank you for it.

Posted in Ex pats, Hodge Podge, Humour, Nature, Sweden, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Dispatch #25 – Gangs.

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 not considering.

There is a confession I feel compelled to make, I have not always been worthy of the title ‘ambassador’, far from it indeed. Despite my privileged upbringing my first class carriage slid off the rails – I was a rascal, nay a rapscallion…and a gang member to boot.

To be fair, when I was eight years old, EVERYONE was in a gang. Gangs did not do much though; my rap sheet reads like a chapter from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but without the adventure…or Huckleberry Finn. It included such skullduggery as going to the forest and…being in a forest; going to the river and…being near a river; cycling off into the sunset and…being home in time for supper.

There was one rule which governed the gang, a rule which pervaded most gangs – NO GIRLS.

Gangs seemed a very short-lived affair of my otherwise law/rule abiding life however; the strict guiding hand of the late Mr Dippylomat Snr put paid to my mild-mannered askew ways – the business end of his slipper aided the swift conclusion to this wayward blip. The rigidly applied No Girls rule also grew increasingly tiresome, there comes a point when a gang daredevil becomes a lone Lothario – the company of ‘one girl’ soon outweighs the company of ‘lots of boys’.

Gangs were passé, and using my logic they were only for immature fools and/or homosexuals. I stand by this rule to this very day and my evidence is not in short supply. Now, I am not here to cast dispersions on anyone’s sexuality, but perhaps macho biker gangs should be aware of how men who prefer the company of other men and who dress in leather and ride ‘pillion’ look to the law-abiding world – are you off to a biker meet or a gay bondage party?

Motorbike gangs are nothing new, in fact in Swedish society when they are not smuggling Romanian school girls to sell as sex slaves you might very well find them teaching road safety in Swedish schools. It is the new kids on the block who are showing the most staggering levels of incompetence and immaturity; gangs which are made up of immigrant savages and savage natives.

Sweden has as many gangs as other countries have…gangs, but the Swedish gangs have ridiculously silly names, are they hardened underworld criminals or failed rap artists: Bloodz, Original Gangsters, The X Team and the gang which begs pity rather than installs fear, Fucked For Life.

One of the biggest and most notorious is the Black Cobras. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not here to belittle their work, I am sure they have a fine line in drug dealing, intimidation, gun running and all the other crimes they have cooed at while watching Sopranos re-runs. This collective of oiks were originally Danish but now happily ply their trade in Sweden – they even have a youth outreach project known as the Black Scorpions where the under age brothers – who get a pretty easy ride with the Swedish legal system – can hold the smoking gun help out on school holidays.

With all the street swagger and hoodies in the ‘upright position’ they ferret around causing mild-mannered mayhem and occasionally crossing that fine line and coming to blows with their main rivals, namely the Bandidos, Hells Angels, AK81s and the Bloodz.

Here they are:

Well, I certainly would not want to meet them in a dark alley late at night, come to think about it, I don’t want to meet them in the broad daylight with the Arctic winter sun shining on their not fully-evolved faces. This gang warranted further investigation, the members stomping ground is just a Molotov cocktail’s throw from my outpost. What were these young chaps capable of, a poke around a newspapers library soon put my mind at rest:

Advice to War Cabinet: Replace stealth bombers with stink bombs.

Toodle pip,




ATTENTION BOTH THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND EMPIREES: I do not run a Gang so much as a Ladies & Gentlemen’s Club, subscribe to these Dispatches for membership and a weekly newsletter.

Posted in Benjamin Disraeli, Culture, Ex pats, gangs, Humour, RAF, Stockholm, Sweden, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Dispatch #24 – Myths.

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 not considering.

Pains me though it does, it would appear many of you might be one cucumber sandwich short of a Harrods’ Summer Holiday Hamper. An audacious and arrogant claim I’ll admit, but let me take you on an amble through The Average Brit’s psyche and try to surmise how I perceive you perceive Sweden from my disadvantage point here on this Nordic landmass.

There are, of course, varying views but myth seeps through them all like gin through a Victorian women’s refuge.

Firstly, we have the, well, it does not matter what they are now, come The Invasion they will dutifully be used for human shields and cannon fodder. There is not much to say about this ilk, they may hear the word ‘Sweden’ but their brains lose track as their attention span fizzles to a close after hearing the letters ‘Sw..’  Where their broken brains take them after is anyone’s guess, but more often than not they conclude the rest of the word is ‘…itzerland’.

So to debunk Myth No.1, Sweden is not…well, it is not Switzerland. To clarify, Switzerland is the politically neutral country which always bags half of the gold medals during the Winter Olympics, whereas Sweden is the politically neutral country which always bags half of the gold medals during the Winter Olympics – seriously, how could anyone muddle them up?

The next category of Brit will be the foot soldiers; they know which way to point a musket – historically at anyone not as pasty-skinned as us and/or not drinking tea – and are drone-esque when it comes to taking orders. These are the people who are hungry for the hype and swallow the myth along with their meatballs with voracity.

I can begrudgingly admit that the Swedes do, possibly more by luck than judgement, get, on occasion, things (a bit) more ‘right’ than the rest of us do, but they are not Utopia-dwelling Super Humans who live until the age of 200 and live in flats which are as clean and as minimalist as a NASA vacuum chamber.

Debunking Myth No.2: they do not live forever, just longer than us; their standard of living is not perfect, just more perfect than ours; their trains are not always on time, just more often than ours; they are not beautiful, but they are more beautiful than us. Now ask yourself this, do I really want to live in a country where I can’t adorn my sitting room walls with the height in British good taste?

The third category is by far the most detrimental to any British stronghold Swede-side; launch the word ‘Sweden’ into a dinner party conversation and the aforementioned category guests will gush in envy of the nation. The gushing continues like a globally-warmed glacier until a Category Three will shoehorn in the issue of suicide like a quasi-Stephen Fry followed by a cod science explanation so fishy it smells like, it smells like…it smells like Sweden:

“They have one of the highest suicide rates in the world, don’t you know? It’s because of the 23 hours of darkness and the 13-month long winters.”

To debunk: no, they don’t, so subsequently, no it isn’t.

Sweden is nowhere near the top of the ‘topping yourself’ national statistics, nor is it at the bottom – it is in fact one of the very few league tables which Sweden just floats around the average of.

So why do so many people think otherwise?

Here is why, the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D Eisenhower. Makes you want to swap your top hat for a deer stalker for a bit of Holmes-inspired detective work doesn’t it? Trust me, it is a long story, but in short it all stems from Dwight and his cohort Joseph McCarthy’s unhealthy obsession with ‘Commie bashing’. Back in the 1950s life in socialist countries like Sweden was starting to look all a little too appealing to post-war Yanks, so before the Stars and Stripes became the Hammer and Sickle and Stripes, the witch hunters took a few ill-informed haphazard pot shots at Scandinavia, cranked up the propaganda machine and poor ol’ Sweden bore the brunt with this somewhat unfortunate and inaccurate reputation.

The cruel irony being that nowadays if Swedes had to live in America they probably WOULD want to kill themselves.

There is of course the fourth and final group of Brits, sadly they are few and far between, but you will know them by their declaration: “Allt jag vet om Sverige är korrekt, eftersom jag läste The Dippylomat esq’s Nordliga Plights.” And obviously Sweden needs as many of these as possible.

Toodle pip,




ATTENTION BOTH THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND EMPIREES: For everything you don’t really need to know about Sweden, subscribe to The Northern Plights.

Posted in Ex pats, Food, history, Hodge Podge, Humour, Stockholm, Sweden, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Dispatch #23 – Quirk.

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 not considering.

Even a stiff upper lip is prone to the occasional quiver. I am made of strong stuff – the Bestish of British, if I may be so bold to declare – I therefore never get homesick. I never tire of being the stranger in a strange land, the problem arises when you realise that YOU are not the stranger, everyone else is a strangerer.

A momentary lapse of resolve found me standing in Malmö’s central railway station, a hub for Scandinavian and international travel. I needed to escape to…anywhere, anywhere which had the words ‘Great’ and ‘Britain’ in its cartographical description.

As I anxiously waited to embark my escape train I took a moment to gaze upon the nine to fiver proles as they herded themselves on and alighted themselves off the trains. Something unexpected dawned on me – it sent a cold shiver down my spine – were these natives actually not that different from us?

A ludicrous notion of course, but on appearance alone Sweden does to the casual formal British observer seem relatively normal; they dress like Us and they walk like Us and they do things, like Us.

But don’t be fooled, they are NOT Us.

It is now, with hind-monocled-sight that I would like to introduce to you my Very Own Theory, which I refer to as ‘Reverse Cultural Shock‘ – little peculiarities which arise over time and make you hoik up an eyebrow and mutter with a modicum of disdain ‘how awfully queer’.

There are more of these than you can shake your walking cane at, but the one which makes me drop my pipe and recoil in aghast horror is that of snus.

Just imagine Sir Walter Raleigh returning from The Americas with his cargo of fine Virginia tobacco; he never held a competition to find the dumbest way of ingesting the toxin, but if he did, snus would have won – nicotine-stained-free hands down. The Swedes, pretty much exclusively, shove this snuff-like tobacco up their lip, and leave it…for hours, they look like they have been punched in the mouth – repeatedly.

As the tobacco seeps into their gums The Average Swede goes about their everyday business. You won’t notice it at first, but once your fleeting glance lands on a bulging top lip it is hard to distract yourself – long term users are grossly evident.

People may follow my blazed trail and it is only fair to warn them, snus does have a somewhat detrimental effect on the gums – the blackened rot does not sit well with the average Swedes pale skin and blond(e) hair.

They fought manky-gummed tooth and claw to keep the right to shove tobacco up their lips in the light of stringent EU smoking regulations. Go to any workplace and you won’t see people ‘nipping out for a crafty fag’ but what you will see is men and women with a large lump of black gunk peeping out over their teeth resembling a chunk of charred reindeer steak.

In all honesty, there is not much ‘cool’ left in tobacco consumption, but what has not gone up in smoke is probably lodged, fermenting in a Swede’s mouth.


Personally I am a pipe man, but I much prefer to smoulder than to smoke.

Toodle pip,




ATTENTION BOTH THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND EMPIREES: If you really must get addicted to anything, then may I dare suggest you get addicted to these Dispatches? Just subscribe once, you might even like it.


Posted in Ex pats, Gothenburg, Hodge Podge, Humour, Stockholm, Sweden, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Dispatch #22 – Religion.

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 not considering.

I’ve gone for many a brisk Sunday morning constitutional through a plethora of European ‘centrum’ city streets; I have soiled the soles of my brogues as I wade through Saturday eve’s fallout of discarded kebab, burger, falafel, gyros and langos wrappers while I try and enjoy the tranquil silence – the calm AFTER the debauched storm.

But nowhere – NOWHERE – have I experienced a hush as hushed as a Swedish Sunday Silence. In most countries the Sabbath’s air is, at the very least, punctuated by the subdued nagging of a middle-aged woman trying to motivate her browbeaten husband, or her shrill, curt instruction to her children – her message is clear:

“We’re going to be late for Church.”

But Sweden, it seems, is a godless country. One particular Sunday morning ramble took me to the foot of the 105-metre spire of St Petri, a staggering goliath of a medieval church – architecturally it is to Sweden’s Malmö what the Notre Dame is to France’s Paris. Surely here my monocled-eye would manage to spy the usual dour expression so often frozen onto anyone wearing their Sunday’s finest.

But no. No incessant clattering of pealing bells, no organ grinding out its deathly dirge, no hushed chatter of a deluded congregation – zip, absolutely nothing. As it turned out the church in question was not just ‘out of service’, it was shut – permanently. Sure the building still looms like the spectre of Biblical-bullying bygone times, but with my ear trumpet to the studded oak door I can reveal that inside it was as quiet as a church mouse, in fact it was quieter, because the church mouse has had to relocate to find a new source of broken Communion breadcrumbs – my guess is that the mouse may now have starved to death.

Atheism may be a step forward for critical thinking, but it is a tad of a blow to Empire Builders like my good self.

Gone are the days when the British Empire could waltz into a country, shoot a few savages locals and scare the bejesus out of the rest with demonic tales of fire and brimstone. We could then distract them with Empire-endorsed Bible classes; while they lived in fear of plagues of locusts we could strip their land bare like a plague of, well, like a plague of locusts. We WERE better off and they THOUGHT were better off; everyone was a winner…sort of.

Things were so much easier before the scheming likes of Charles Darwin and his so-called proof there was no God foiled our modus operandi. What ‘in God’s name’ are we to do now?

At last count, 52% of Europeans believed there was a God and did things like ‘pray’ rather than ‘go to a doctor’. Turkey, which must be very poorly by now, topped the believers chart with 95% of the Ottomans worshipping some God or other, but in fighting fit Sweden only 23% confess to a belief in God. The Church of Sweden has 6,664,064 members, of which only 2% regularly graze their knees on a prayer mat.

That’s a whole lot of people we need to distract before we plumb the depths of their reindeer stocks.

Advice to War Cabinet: Pray for a miracle.

Religion depresses me; I am off for a drink, now who serves Holy Spirits around here?

Toodle pip,




ATTENTION BOTH THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND EMPIREES: On the Seventh Day God rested, but later on in the evening he got bored and created The Dippylomat esq and instructed him to teach ‘manners maketh man.

Ergo, I hereby cordially invite you to subscribe to these Dispatches.


Posted in Architecture, Culture, Ex pats, Gothenburg, history, Humour, Religion, Stockholm, Sweden, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments