Fame and Good Fortune

Sign outside Soderkoping BokhandelSaturday 16th May – book signing day – the reason for our visit to Sweden. Surprisingly, we weren’t at all nervous. For our signing in W H Smith’s in Cardiff, we were terrified and wanted to cancel. We’re so much more relaxed in a foreign country. We should do all our signings abroad! Also, we didn’t have to do anything other than show up. Christina and Anders had arranged everything. We should employ them as our agents and managers! Pelle came home in the morning with the morning’s newspapers. We were on the front page! It was obviously a slow news day in Söderköping. Front page of the Norrkoping newspaperWe had a huge article in the paper. We never get this much attention back home. This may be the pinnacle of our career. Clearly, we’re in the wrong country. Move over, ABBA, Sweden has new icons. We dressed in our finery and arrived at Söderköping Bokhandel at 10:45. We found a sign outside, advertising the signing. A daughter of Christina’s friend collects autographs and wanted ours. She’d printed off a photo of us so we signed that. Christina bought her a copy of Silent Dawn.

full page article in Norrkoping tidningarWe’d barely put our rucksacks down when the first of the customers arrived. We cracked open a Red Bull and were ready to face the world. Fortunately, everyone spoke perfect English, so communicating wasn’t a problem. Everyone was lovely and impressed that we had learned to write our ‘darkest wishes’ signature in Swedish. Our written Swedish is so much better than our spoken Swedish. One woman saw the article in the paper and was curious, so came just to meet us. She bought a book. People seemed very excited to have us there. One man also saw our article and although horror scares him, he wanted to meet us. He was interested in hiking, so we were telling him all about our beautiful mountains in Wales. Everyone was fascinated with our stories about Wales and its mythology, the way we are with Swedish mythology. When we did the signing in Smith’s, only our awesome friends came to it, but here, we met so many new readers. To think, we thought no-one would come! For three hours, we barely stopped. We ended up staying an hour past our allotted time, and we sold more books than we did in Smith’s and way more than we usually do in cons. We bought another book, a beautiful one about myths and monsters, but this one is in Swedish. We’d spent the past two days in a book shop. It would’ve been rude to leave new friends behind. We’re now planning to have some of that artwork tattooed on us to remember our time in Sweden.

pushing a planeWe got back and were preparing to go exploring the nearby mountain, Ramunderberget when Christina got a message from Anders. A man named Michael had seen our article, where it says that we want to visit Stegeborgs Slottsruin. He came to the bookshop, but we’d already left. Anders told him that as Pelle’s car was in need of new brakes, we couldn’t go to the castle. He offered to drive us. Christina rang him and he arranged to meet us at the library. Most of our adventures start off like horror films and always turn out well, so we accepted. Meeting a complete stranger and travelling to castle ruins with him is how all good adventures start.

stegesborg slottsruinOn the way, we saw an unusual sight – two men pushing a small plane. We expected to see new sights in Sweden, but that wasn’t one of them. We also saw horses, cows, calves and alpacas. No elks,  wolves or bears. Duolingo made it seem like they were everywhere. Duolingo is a liar.

It turned out, Michael is a guide at the castle and a descendant of the Vasa Royal family who lived there. We got a special private guided tour. His brother built the herb garden behind the castle. So we were mixing with someone of royal heritage. That’s a first. The castle is beautiful. stegesborg slottsruinThe oldest part dates back to the 13th century. The top half of the tower was added in the 15th century and the king imprisoned his two daughters in it. Unlike Rapunzel, they didn’t have long hair to lure a brave rescuer, so they escaped using ropes from a wooden beam, then made their getaway by horse and cart. But the horses wore their shoes backwards, so it looked like they were going the other way.

stegesborg slottsruinThere are plenty of interesting stories with the castle, such as King Birger. When King Magnus Ladulås died, his three sons divided the country into three. King Birger got Stegesborg and Östergötland. In 1317, he invited his brothers, Duke Erik and Duke Valdemar to his palace in Nyköping for a banquet he threw in his honour. However, he imprisoned them in the dungeon then tossed the key into the river. They went there expecting a feast and died of starvation. His hospitality clearly needs work. Next time your siblings invite you round for tea, maybe claim you’re busy.

We found vegan sorbet in the gift shop, as well as a model of the castle how it used to look. And we befriended a small black dog. We came to Sweden with a lot of Kronor, as people warned us it would be expensive. So far, all we’d bought was ice cream and books. This is how life should be.

Day: 3 Number of elks seen: 0. Number of alpacas: 2

soderkopings bokhandel

with Anders, the bookshop owner

Press Gang

Press interview in Soderkoping

press interview

Meeting the press, buying books and not seeing any elk. Day two of our Swedish invasion went well.

We donned our finery, packed our Red Bull and at 10:30, went to the Bokhandel as Anders had arranged for us to meet with the press. We’re not used to this kind of attention! It’s like being famous. Press interviews we’ve done have either been in email or over the phone. We prefer email. It means we can think about what we want to say and not disgrace ourselves. Speaking never goes well. Surprisingly, we weren’t nervous. At home, we would’ve been shaking and wanting to cancel it. In Sweden, we’re relaxed and not at all anxious. Sweden is good for us! Three journalists and a photographer showed up.

press interview in Soderkoping

Being photographed by the press

They were all lovely and spoke excellent English, which means we didn’t have to embarrass ourselves with our attempts at Swedish. Not sure our Duolingo phrases of ‘the bear likes the vegetarian’ and ‘my parents don’t like that you eat ants’ would have been much use. Anders said they often struggle to get the press, or only one shows up, so the fact that three came was very impressive. They were fascinated with Wales and the different mythologies. Two of the journalists, Patrick from Folkbladet and Elizabeth from the Norrkoping Tidning, then wanted to take us outside and do a mini photoshoot. That was fun. Again, it was like being celebrities. We could get used to this lifestyle! They were all really lovely. And the photos turned out decent. It’s rare we like photos of us.

press interview in SoderkopingWe succumbed to temptation and bought books. Being in a bookshop, surrounded by beautiful books, there’s only so much self control we can muster. There were some fantasy books in English, written by Swedish authors, so we bought those. The only Swedish author we’ve read is Stieg Larsson, so it will be nice to read more Swedish authors. We were tempted by some of the others, but our Swedish isn’t quite up to standard. Maybe in a year or two we can come back and buy them. We did manage to read some Swedish children’s books, so impressed ourselves with that. We’re easily impressed. We bought our niece a book by Sweden’s famous children’s author, Astrid Lindgren.

one of Lars’s models

Our next stop was the museum. It was small but interesting. The volunteer, Lars, had made a model of Söderköping, complete with tiny lawnmowers, bikes, and a man peeing in the alley. It’s the little things that make it. Lars was lovely and insisted on giving us a postcard and a book for free as memories, so we donated to the museum instead. He seemed surprised that we wanted to take a photo of him with his models. And we discovered that Cat is the same height as a Penny Farthing bicycle.

We visited another church and saw the boat Pelle is making. It’s incredible. He’s very talented. We then stopped at an ice cream shop, where they make their own ice cream and sorbet. They had two vegan sorbets – dark chocolate and blood orange. They were delicious. We managed to succeed at one mission – buying Dave honey with lemon. You can only get it in Sweden, so when he found out we were going, he requested some. That mission was completed successfully. Mission: Elk is not going so well. Maybe they’re not so keen on towns and shops. We’d brought a lot of Krona with us as we heard that Sweden was expensive. So far, all we had really bought was ice cream and books. This is not a bad way to live.

Lars with his model

In the evening, we watched three episodes of the Swedish version of the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. However, there were no English subtitles, so we had the Swedish ones on. We can read Swedish better than we can understand speech. We were thrilled when we were able to understand full sentences. Mostly, we’d pick out a couple of words and work out what it said. We finished the evening by listening to some Swedish music.

Day: 2. Number of elks we’ve seen: 0.

Made In Sweden

goths on a plane

Getting up stupidly early, having a mini meltdown in the check-in line and getting lost in a straight line. It could only be one thing: it’s travel time!

Holidays are stressful. We spend so long being excited about them then the day before comes and we don’t want to go. Packing is a nightmare and the cause of many tantrums. Leaving all our packing til the day before probably wasn’t the best idea but we were busy before. When we say busy, we mean we were doing pole. We only like Morrisons or Tesco own brand of soya milk, so that has to come with us. We also bring lots of food in case we can’t find anything we like.  Red Bull is never left behind. You don’t go on adventures and leave your soldiers at base camp.

Swedish Glace in Sweden!

We were so overwhelmed by the thought of packing, that we spent most of the day learning Swedish on Duolingo because we couldn’t control the panicky mess that were our brains. We eventually started packing, debated for ages about what to wear, fetched our books and started packing. Convinced they’d lose our suitcases, we put two copies of each book in our hand luggage. A copy of Soul Asylum and Bleeding Empire were slotted into our shoulder bags, because they’re the biggest novels and would weigh down the suitcases. The one hand luggage was just under 10kg. Perfect. The other was 7.5 kg. We also filled some rucksacks, as we’d paid for priority boarding so we could have decent sized cabin bags.

SoderkopingBut it’s always the suitcases that cause the problems. Weigh, moan about the weight, take things out, strop, rearrange things, add things, vow we’re never going on holiday again, weigh and after many hours we’re ready. We’d gone to bed at 10:30. Y’know, being sensible. We realised we didn’t have a luggage tag for the case we’d borrowed from our sister, so cue a panicky moment of creating one, laminating it and tying it on with ribbon because we couldn’t find our cable ties. We got up at the ungodly hour of 1:30 a.m. then drove the three hours to Stansted. We’ve never flown on our own before and we’ve never gone to Stansted. This was huge for us. We parked and got the bus to the airport. One man complained that people had their cases where people should stand. Sir, the bus is so crowded we can count the fibres on the passengers’ clothes. Don’t like it? Don’t get on.

Selma

We got to the airport, and luckily our check in desk was right by the doors. We tried logging on to our Ryan Air account to find our boarding passes. Lynx asked a guy where we could print them out. He said we didn’t need to, if we had them on our phones. Cat finally managed to log into our account and after much yelling at the speed of the Wifi, she found our boarding passes. It said they weren’t mobile friendly. We had to get the app. While Cat downloaded the passes and took screenshots of them, Lynx downloaded the ap and we joined the queue.

Luciferia

The downloaded speed was agonisingly slow. 2% and we’d already moved in the queue. 3%. We moved again. We reached the corner. 5%. Now we knew how Jack Bauer felt. 13%. Come on, app! We were getting hot with stress. 23%. We were near the desks. The queues were moving too fast. The download was moving too slow. 32%. The women in front of us checked in. Never have we wanted to be at the back of the queue so much. 33%. Our turn. Cat handed over her phone and we secretly prayed to Hermes that the boarding passes would scan. We don’t print them out at home anymore because they never scan properly. The boarding passes scanned. Lynx cancelled the download. Cat told the woman Lynx’s boarding pass was on the same phone. The woman swiped left, surprised to see a screenshot of Duolingo with an insult in Swedish. “The problem is you are too ugly.” Cat had saved it to remember to show people. Now it looked like she had deliberately saved it to be able to insult someone in a foreign language. Swipe right, lady, swipe right.

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the lockkeeper’s cottage

The suitcases were under weight, preventing another embarrassing scene like the one for Paris that will haunt us forever more. We went to security and that’s where the fun begins. Two trays for our huge coats, hoodies and spiked boots. One tray for the laptop. One tray for the power pack kindles, phones, wallets. One for each of our four bags. The lady told Cat she didn’t need to remove her boots. The scanner bleeped. Cat had to remove her boots and be subjected to a patdown. The woman poked around the boobage. Cat “That’s my bra.” The woman grabbed the hand held scanner. It bleeped. Cat “My bra.” Seriously, love, we can’t even hold a bottle with our cleavage, we’d never be able to conceal weapons.

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the mangling house

The first thing we did when we cleared security, was buy Red Bull. Our stress levels lessening, we headed towards the gates. We found somewhere to sit and while Lynx started on this blog post, Cat went to the toilets to put makeup on. She suggested we go one at a time to save lugging our bags.

Rule one in horror: never split up.

SoderkopingAfter several minutes, Lynx was getting concerned. Cat had been gone a long time. The Silent Hill siren wailed. Cat: ‘I’m lost! I couldn’t find my way out of the toilets either, neither could another woman, so we buddied up and left together. I thought I was heading in the right direction but I definitely didn’t walk this way!’

Lynx: ‘Can you see Boots?’’

Cat: ‘It was a straight line! I don’t know how this happened!”

two cats getting along

Lynx: ‘LOL! Head for Boots then turn right. I’m outside a travel shop.’

Cat: ‘Ooh found 5p.’

Lynx: ‘nice.’

Cat: ‘I can’t see Boots. I’m in a circular area with loads of shops. I’m going back to the toilets and trying again.’

making friends in Sweden

Two minutes later, she returned, looking sheepish. It wasn’t the best of starts for her. Lynx went to put her makeup on. She walked into the toilets and encountered a queue of women. She walked past them and only found stalls. “Where are the sinks?” A woman then said “excuse me.” Lynx headed right towards other stalls. The woman: “excuse me!” Lynx “I’m looking for the sinks.” Excuse me? Did she just accuse Lynx of queue jumping? Does she not look British? Did she not hear her clearly say out loud to herself “where are the sinks?” How insulting.

Selma has accepted us

We found our way to the gate and boarded almost immediately. Normally, we just selected ‘random seating’ so rarely sit together, but they’d put us 17 rows apart, and as it’s our first time of flying without a chaperone, Lynx paid to sit by Cat. Then we spent almost the entire flight asleep. The Sertraline makes us twitch, so Cat twitched a lot while she slept and kept getting woken by the man beside her accidentally elbowing her. Maybe he was checking she was still alive.

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St Laurentii church and belltower

Christina and Pelle met us at Skavsta airport in Nyköping with two giant cans of Red Bull. We’re not saying that’s how we expect everyone to greet us, but this is a standard we could get used to. The airport is the biggest one in Sweden. And it’s tiny. But we impressed ourselves by understanding signs. The drive to Söderköping was lovely. We spent the whole time staring out the windows, trying to spot the elk that Duolingo convinced us are everywhere. We saw a sign warning us about elk, but not elks. Day 1 Mission: Elk – Fail.

SoderkopingWe dropped our bags off then went with Christina and Pelle to return the car to Pelle’s colleague. On the way back, we stopped at the supermarket. And found the greatest surprise – they sold our vegan ice cream! We have Swedish Glace, and have never found it in any other country we’ve visited. We hoped, that as it was Swedish, Sweden would sell it, and they do! They had vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The UK stopped stocking the strawberry years ago. We are two very happy goths. A woman saw us, stopped and stared then uttered “tvillingar?” Twins. Us “Ja.” Check us out understanding and speaking Swedish! We made sure to learn that phrase, because it’s the most common question we get asked in the UK, so we figured it would be the same in Sweden.

SoderkopingWe stopped at Söderköpings Bokhandel, where we’re doing the signing on Saturday. It’s Sweden’s oldest bookshop. We met the owner, Anders, who is lovely. Our wallets were itching to be opened and we had to resist from buying a Game of Thrones book about the history of the Targaryens. Our Swedish isn’t that good. Yet. We managed to read some children’s books, so we were happy. We also stopped at the library to get a map and information brochures.

SoderkopingLater, we took a walk around Söderköping and took photos. It’s so beautiful. The buildings are so unusual and old. It’s really peaceful and quiet. There aren’t many cars. This is not a tourist destination. It’s unusual for us not to go somewhere touristy so this has made a lovely change. We walked along the Göta Canal and called in at the local pub. The landlord is American and seems really nice. We already love it here. We explored the town, taking lots of photos.

We’ve made friends with Christina’s cats, Selma and Luciferia. Luciferia is very shy but oh so fluffy. Selma only allows three people to touch her. That number has grown to five as we won her over with our average Swedish and nose boops. By the evening, Luciferia also decided she liked us and came for fusses.

Day: 1. Number of elks we’ve seen: 0

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finally meeting Christina after years of Facebook friendship.