Did you know that [counter] people have been having a skeg at my little autonomous region?


Nina Persson


Rather than fannying around in ten different car parks like I had done on the previous day, I made my first task of this day the purchasing of an all-day ticket for the Science Park car park in the the heart of the University of Jönköping campus. Then I used up the first hour of my allotted parking time wondering why I hadn’t thought to do that yesterday and why there were no swings in the Science Park.

Our Rose, who had travelled in from her lakeside residence on a No. 17 bus, met me at the library and said she was free until 2.00 p.m. when she would have to meet up with her ‘Fadder’ and her Student Union group for a wander round the town with a beat box turned up to eleven in tow and from which thundered a string of Dubstep’s finest recordings. By the magic medium of text messaging her 2.00 p.m. slot was extended to 3.00 p.m. so Rose had even more time on her hands and we didn’t know what to do to fill the it so we walked from the city centre almost the full length of the lakeside walk along the lakeside path to her lakeside residence, and then back again. The weather was beautiful, the views of the lake were beautiful and the summer houses, gardens, plants, birds and automatic robotic lawnmower devices were beautiful, but I could sense that something wasn’t quite right.


Lake Vättern.

Lake Vättern.


A spot of lunch in the sunshine by the harbour killed a bit more time but not quite enough so we drove back to Rose’s because we didn’t know what else to do while we were waiting for the Student Union Fadder woman to let her know exactly where they were to meet at 3.00 p.m. Poor old Rose at this point expressed her feelings of something less than total happiness. Settling in and making new friends was turning out to be a bit more tricky than it had been in Maastricht two years earlier and her room wasn’t as nice and it was miles from anywhere and a dozen or so other minor problems all snowballed up together to form an Arctic Circle sized one. A bit of reassurance and talk of a trip to the Government run alcohol shop in the town eased the situation a little but I still felt uneasy about her uneasiness as we drove back to Jönköping at 2.55 p.m.

She and I both knew that the group meet up in the afternoon would be crap but we both also knew that things would be worse if she didn’t go along and join in. It did sound like a load of old ridiculously silly type things to me though. The Fadders (or Fathers) who ran the show were just students who had the bottle to drag a machine full of really awful music (and I mean even worse than Simply Red, if you can imagine such a thing without your head exploding) and a squad of new students round the streets, having allocated themselves ridiculous names and painted their faces before setting off. Rose’s group turned out to be the ‘Gangsters’ but she refused to pay fifty quid for the customary brightly coloured workmen’s overalls which would have looked well daft on these people even if they had worn them properly but they tied the sleeves round their waists and wore them as trousers with the risk of their arses being exposed to all the world and the good people of Jönköping. And from what I could make out, they only wear these outrageous outfits during ‘Kick Off Week’ at the start of each academic year. At times like this I’m glad I’m an old fart and not a trendy young student.


The Fladders and Mudders of the University of Jönköping.

The Fladders and Mudders of the University of Jönköping.


After I had dropped Rose off in the car I stood and watched her from a distance to make sure she was alright. This reminded me of watching her (and all my other children, and the attractive young P.E. teacher) from beyond the school gates during the early days of her reception year to make sure she wasn’t standing all alone and tearful in the corner of the playground. Today I could see that she was smiling and she had a blue Student Union group headband on and I could have sworn I saw her mouth the words ‘Government run alcohol shop’, so I knew she was happy and I could make my escape.

Feeling slightly down in the dumplings, I wandered alone for miles and miles around the bits of the city that I had already seen several times. My afternoon took a bit of filling but I didn’t want to go too far away in search of something new and more interesting in case I got a text message from Rose to say that proceedings had proceeded to deteriorate or were at an end and my presence was required. But, although Jönköping was a lovely place, there wasn’t all that much to it so I ended up exploring some of the less fashionable streets where, as Paul Simon would have said, the ragged people go. I also followed the path along the eastern shore of Lake Vättern and the Netto shop where I chanced upon a magnificent range of low cost pan scouring pads but sadly I had no room in my bag to take them back to England with me which added to my melancholy mood.

I did a bit of stalking too. Not deliberately, of course. I had been warned about that! But as we were leaving Rose’s accommodation earlier in the day I saw her next door neighbour who was apparently called Erin and another girl so I said, “Hello.” An hour later I saw them again in the University campus and I said, “Hello” again. Erin looked a bit startled and confused. She had never seen me with Rose so I felt the need to explain the situation. Poor Erin didn’t look convinced or reassured that I wasn’t a loony. The other girl looked like she was in a trance. It’s amazing how people deal with shock and fear in such different ways. Did you know that the fixtures and fittings in the cells in Swedish police stations are all bought from Ikea?

As the afternoon wore on I returned to two of my favourite cafés for coffees. At Johan’s the Viking ladies from the first day still weren’t there but this time neither was the broken handle on the toilet door. In the space of three days its status as a toilet door securing implement had deteriorated from a bit dodgy to ripped completely off. The facility was deemed out of bounds so I had to go to the toilet at another café over the road in the hope that the staff there didn’t notice me sneaking in and out without buying anything. I was tempted to ask if I could buy their toilet door handle and take it back with me to Johan’s but not all Swedes have a sense of humour and, despite the Ikea furniture, Swedish police station cells aren’t all that comfortable.

The other café that I visited again was the Pique Nique, which was quite possibly the brightest, most cheerful and welcoming place I have ever had the pleasure of drinking a cup of coffee in. What I also liked about it was that one of the two ladies that ran the joint was the spitting image of Nina Persson, the front woman in the band The Cardigans . . . the best band in the world in my opinion and the first band on the moon as they would claim themselves. For a moment I thought I had found the Nina that I had come to Sweden in search of. However, having already met her and spoken to her once before in Birmingham, I realised that this lady couldn’t possibly be her because she was at least a metre taller than the real Nina.

I don’t want to sound weird about my fondness for Ms Persson but it was a bit weird walking around Jönköping in the knowledge that it was her home town. So it was quite possible that she had at some point drunk from the same coffee cup as me in the Pique Nique café, that she had bought an all-day pay and display car park ticket at the same ticket machine in the University’s Science Park car park as me and that she had had the same trouble as me with the toilet door handle in Johan’s café.

So it wasn’t all that unusual when one of the Cardigans’ hits kept getting stuck in my head during my stay there. I bet you can’t resist singing along a bit yourselves, my dear readers.



So I cried, and I begged for you to

Love me, love me,

Say that you love me.

Fool me, fool me,

Go on and fool me.

Love me, love me,

I know that you need me.

I don’t care about anything but you.


But she lives in New York now so I didn’t bump into her as I had hoped and if she thinks I’m going over there to go looking for her she can go and bloody well whistle!

Eventually the time came round for me to go and meet up with Rose again and what a difference a litre cardboard carton of cheap Australian rosé wine had made. Her favoured brand had been called ‘Rosie’, funnily enough. The afternoon and evening had been quite productive for her in terms of networking with international students who liked a drop so our panic was suddenly over. I had spent much of the day stressing over how hard it would be if she was still upset when the time came for me to go home and leave her behind in Sweden and she had spent much of the day not really knowing or caring what was going on the world. What a terrible waste of stress!

After my final Jönköping coffee with my daughter, back once again at the Pique Nique café (I really had had more than enough coffee by then and was gagging for a real drink), I took her back once again to her lakeside residence and left her there tucking into more wine with the Indian contingent of the residence’s residents and who seemed like a right good laugh and who were cooking Indian food that smelt absolutely gorgeous and much nicer than the knäckebröd and raw fish that I knew that my next meal would comprise of.

Rose seemed happy but I wasn’t. My age old complaint of feeling utterly miserable at the thought of going back to England had hit me hard today. It is bad enough going home at the best of times but when you’re leaving your lovely daughter behind it’s even harder. I didn’t want to go without her for three reasons. I would worry that she was alright whilst living so far away from home, I was envious of her and the experience of living in Sweden for four months, I knew that I would miss her badly and I still hadn’t seen a moose.

I went back to my hotel for the last time. Tonight, strangely, it was packed to the rafters with Swedish heating engineers who were attending a week long training course there.

I lay on my bed and listened to the fine music of the Cardigans, the Wannadies and the Concretes who were all excellent bands and all from Sweden, as I drank a bottle of cool Eriksberg beer from the bar (my final Swedish luxury), finished off the remains of my litre of rough Aussie wine and drooled over my Rough Guide to Sweden book to make the embryonic plans for a future, more extensive visit to this wonderful land.

Rose had given me a spare wristband to get me free entry into the Akademien night club in town but I was worried that I would bump into Erin and her mate again and scare them again so I had an early night instead. In my comfy Ikea bed I laid back, I thought of England and I sighed heavily.


My electronic tagging device.

My electronic tagging device.

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