Thursday, 31 May 2012

WeekX: Dog Biscuit or Cow Parsley?

This picture could have been taken in Sweden, but the location is Glynde in Sussex. One thing I really miss about Sweden is the nature and I often forget that there's nature in England too ... My friend James took me on a 7 mile* walk from Lewes to Glynde and back, a walk featured in the guide book "Cheeky Walks in Brighton & Sussex". Although 7 miles turned into 9 miles after we got  lost and bumped into a sign saying "private property". My legs are still burning from stinging nettles and it was a bit worrying seeing another sign saying "save the gorillas" ...

Talking about animals we also saw lots of cow parsley or "dog biscuit" (hundkex) as the white flower is called in Swedish. After ten years of living on and off in England I still haven't learnt many plant names. I should get out more ... In nature that is. Let's hope my remaining four Swenglish hosts in England like trees and bees and green things in general.

*about 11 kilometres. (I can't get used to  the English way of sticking to their own measurements. It's extra confusing as 10 kilometres = 1 Swedish mile and 1 English mile = 1,6 kilometres, so when James first asked if I wanted to come on a 7 mile walk, I was automatically thinking 70 kilometres!


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Week11: Off the Wall

This is the most scary thing I've done so far during my Swenglish adventure ... The person I'm staying with this week is more sporty than I thought ... As if last nights climb wasn't enough she woke me up at 7am today to go for a run! It feels like I'm training for the Olympics or something.

I'm trying my best to keep up with the life-styles of my hosts, but some weeks are more challenging than others ... I know I cheated with the sea swimming, so at least I can take pride in climbing up a wall.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Week11: On the Road

A lot of the people I’ve stayed with so far have been writers of some sort, so this week makes a refreshing change as I’m spending time with a saleswoman. To be able to come to a work meeting with her, I had too dress up as a businesswoman myself: swapping my Dr Martens and leather jacket for flat shoes and a smart cardigan. I felt quite nervous and out of place, but loved the drive to the meeting.

Sitting in the car I tried to think of the differences between English and Swedish roads and driving. The only obvious difference is that the English drive on the left which I’m used to after going everywhere on my bike in my ”old life”. It only gets a bit confusing at roundabouts, I’m never quite sure which way to go ... I do have a driving license, but when people ask if I drive I usually say no. To drive in a small town in Sweden is different to hitting the motorway ”on the wrong side” in England. Another difference is traffic jams, it seems to be more of them in England, but then there are 62 million people living in the UK compared to 9 million people in Sweden ...

My host is a very good safe driver and I think most English people are as polite in the traffic as they are in shops. The only thing that worries me is that it tends to be more drunk driving in England than in Sweden. The drink-drive limit in the UK is 0,8 promille compared to 0,2 in Sweden ...

PS. the pics of me in as a businesswoman didn't turn out very well. I'm obviously not made for it ...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

WeekX: Snakebite

I'm asking everyone I'm staying with what their favourite drink is and so far real ale and red wine seem to be the most popular drinks, but I've also had a few odd favourites like Bloody Mary and Prosecco among my answers.

My own favourite alcoholic drink is Snakebite & Black (half lager and half cider with a splash of black currant). Not all bars will serve it though because they fear you might get too drunk as Snakebite tastes a bit like squash.  And I've never managed to get a Snakebite in a Swedish pub, so I sometimes make it at home.

This week I'm having a break from Swenglish which means I can drink exactly what I want as I usually try to drink whatever my host is drinking (or not drinking). The best places to get a Snakebite in Brighton are the Caroline of Brunswick, Prince Albert and the Hobgoblin.


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Week10: Wildlife

I thought that staying in a house with two kids, two cats, mice and fish would be enough wildlife for me to cope with, but on the Bank Holiday Monday my host and her family took me to the British Wildlife Centre outside Lingfield.

The animals in England are pretty lame compared to the animals in Sweden. I wouldn’t really feel threatened by badgers, otters and foxes if I encountered them in the wild. In Sweden I’ve had my heart stopped on a couple of occasions when bumping into an elk or being close to a wild boar. I have never seen  wolf or bear or lynx, but they all live in the Swedish forest. The most exotic animal at the wildlife centre was the Scottish wildcat who can run 30 miles and hour and can’t be tamed even if you look after it as a kitten. I was also quite impressed by the showcase of flying owls.

During the day I tried to think about how an outing with an English family differs from an outing with a Swedish family. Having your picnic outside even if it’s cold and rainy is definitely somethng that happens in both countries. However it would be rare to have crisps with your lunch and is something I would miss if I move back to Sweden. (One of the few times I've seen portion sized crisps bags is at school discos.)

In the picture above the wildcat is about to be fed chicks for lunch. The youngest boy in the family couldn’t believe that was the same sort of chicken he was having, saying that his sliced meat was ”fake chicken”.

P.S. When we got back to the house one of the so-called domestic cats had done a runner, but was found the next day.


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Week9: Quiz Me

I’d been dreading that I would be taken to a pub quiz at some point. I like the idea of this English tradition: to gather in a pub and team up with friends and strangers alike to answers questions about anything from historical battles to the ingredients of a specific recipe. But in reality quizzes make me uncomfortable because it reminds me that my general knowledge went out of the window when I finished school. And any day I’d prefer to have a chat about weather to being trapped in a quiz for two hours.

The closest Sweden comes to quizzes are "tipsrundor" - nature trails with multiple choice questions pinned to trees. This activity normally takes place in the morning and you’re more likely to win a wooden carved horse than a bottle of wine or cash to spend in the bar. Despite my love for nature I’m not a big fan of this activity either. There’s something about playing games that I can’t get into, perhaps because I don’t care too much about winning or losing. In fact I often want to lose so I can get on with doing something else.

Yesterday wasn’t too bad though. The person I’m staying with has got a good brain. He follows the news and there are books on political, historical and social topics in his bookshelf. When he went out for a cigarette everybody had to wait for him to come back so the quiz could continue ...

There were a few questions that would be easier to answer if you grew up in England, e.g. who was the composer on the £20 note (Elgar) and which East Enders character survived being buried alive by his wife (!?). I was happy though that I knew the answer to the literature questions: in which decade the Lord of the Ring novels were first published (50s) and who the heroine was who married Mr Rochester in a Charlotte Bronte novel (Jayne Eyre).

It also helped that we were about ten people in our team and I wasn’t the only one hiding behind my glass. Funnily enough no-one at our table knew how many fluid ounces there are in a a UK pint (20). There were eight teams taking part and we came number four.

P.S. I was ashamed not to know how many stars there are on the New Zealand flag (4) as I've got NZ relatives and my brother is a flag freak!