...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Really random thoughts from Lancaster

Thanks, everyone who sent their well wishes by comment, mail, SMS or phone! Marcus is doing a bit better now. The worst days of the conditioning treatment seem to be over and he got his stem cells a week ago. Now it's a long wait until the stem cells settle in his bone marrow, and a long, long recovery period. Marcus is still not out of his reverse quarantine, which means that they will still be regularly checking his blood values and looking for signs of infection and side-effects. His intestinal track is a bit irritated, but he's on antibiotics and other medication. He's also on the process of changing his blood group as the new stem cells take over. But today, at least, all seems well. I visited him over the weekend and we talked by phone today. Unfortunately, I developed a sore throat yesterday, so I can't visit until I feel well again.

So, I'm at just at home and I thought I'd write an update about my previous week, when I was in Lancaster for a conference. I realized that it was ages since I travelled alone – four years ago to be exact, when I travelled back to Sweden! Managing solo travel gave me a confidence that I could still handle unexpected events by myself (I arrived in Copenhagen to find out that my original flight to the UK was cancelled; I got re-routed to Brussels), but I must admit, travelling with a partner is much more rewarding, and less mentally taxing, in that you split the thinking between yourselves.

Besides, travelling alone, there's no one to talk to! Instead, I had a soliloqy by computer. Here's what I wrote in my room in Lancaster the morning after I arrived. One of the joys of travelling? You can write about the small things:


Got up at 3:50 AM yesterday to catch my 5:15 taxi to the airport in Norrköping. Flight from Copenhagen to Manchester got cancelled. Got rerouted to Brussels airport where there was a three hour wait for the connecting flight. I had brunch there, bacon and eggs and bread and coffee. For paying 10 Euros for that, it was really sloppily made. The chef looked like Manuel from Fawlty Towers, and cooked like him too. When he was struggling to crack the eggs open, I was a bit suspicious. Even more so when he poured a load of oil into the egg form on the grill skillet – Gordon Ramsey would be horrified that they cooked the eggs there instead of on a pan! – and the oil was enough to deep-fry the eggs. The bacon was as brown and crisp as crispbread and there was some raw egg on the corner of the plate, which I reminded myself not to touch with the fork. Unlike other airports, they had no McDonald’s or Sbarro’s or that kind of thing, so, I was hostage. After brunch, Herman Lindkvist’s book on Japan made time fly. Thank goodness.

Three take-offs in one day really takes its toll. I wonder how the flight attendants take it? My veins were running on coffee, but I never drink more than 4 cups (the Swedish average!). Thankfully the train company extends the tickets when the flights are delayed, so I didn’t have to buy a new train ticket for the one that I missed. (Funny details was that it was that a man drank strong beer in the train – not taboo! – and that the doors said “smile, you’re on CCTV!”. The English to me, seem very safety conscious! But these little things remind me that I'm abroad).

At Lancaster, I met Ayeray at 3pm for fika instead of at 12ish for lunch (it was Starbuck’s). The city center looks nice, like a big shopping district. Went to university at about 6pm by bus. The streets of Lancaster are curvy and narrow – so narrow that, when cars are parked on one side, only half the lane becomes available for the bus. Combined with left-hand traffic ("driving on the wrong lane"), I always had the illusion that the other cars were going straight for us! I had to struggle not to jump off my bus seat! I walked around campus looking for the Conference Center. The campus is huge and the buildings don’t have big signs, so it's good to have a map. I think I’m getting better at directions.

Was at my booked student room, finally, by around 7PM (8 Swedish time), which means I’ve been up for 16 hours and on the go for 14. Bought mineral water at the nearby cafeteria (water is not potable, they say). The student room is about as big as a room in a cruise ship to Finland, except there is a desk on the other side instead of another bunk bed. I did some short emails, and then washed up.

The sink is strange (or just typically English, I've heard). It has two taps, one has ice cold water and the other one has scalding hot water, but they don’t mix in any way and there are a few inches’ gap between the two sprays. So, I can’t wash my face with lukewarm water. Either one hand gets burnt and the other one gets icy, or I scoop cold water in my cupped hands, and then hot water, in a matter of half a second. Of course, the idea is you'd have to mix water in the plugged sink, but I'm reluctant to do this where I just brushed my teeth. Thank goodness that the shower has a blender though! Otherwise, I would have to shower turning around, like in a rotisserie :-)

Nice touches: they had free soap and shampoo for conference guests, and a towel. Which is good, because I didn’t occur to me to bring a towel, and who knows what would have happened if they didn’t provide one! Yikes! The scenery from out my window is also nice: green rolling hills with properties divided by low hedges.

I was dead tired after my shower, so I decided to plop into bed. After all, I was awake the whole day! The sheets look nice and thick and … Oww! The bed turned out to be so hard it actually hurted to plop on it! I could feel the fat, sturdy springs with my fingers. There was no mattress; just the bed spring bottom covered with a flat sheet. As long as I didn’t move so much, it was alright. Then I slept from 9pm to 6:30am. It’s 7:35 now. I don’t know what time breakfast is served at the cafeteria, so I might as well go there now.


So much for those random thoughts. Next time, I will really get back to blogging about Sweden more, and those mushrooms I've been talking about!


Anonymous liz said...

The sink: I think you're supposed to plug the drain and fill the basin with water (hot, warm or cold - according to your needs) and wash your face and/or hands in the "puddle" ;-)

8:41 AM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

I wrote that too. But I was a bit reluctant to do that knowing I (and others before me) have been brushing teeth, spitting or washing their hands there before me. Wouldn't things be much more hygenic with a blender instead? (Supposedly, collecting the water in the sink is supposed to save water, but I think I'd use the same amount having to clean the sink all the time... Whadyathink?)

6:41 PM


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