Tuesday, 25 September 2007

The Perils of Live Television

Swedish TV is pretty much the same as Australian TV. They show the same crap but obviously in a different language. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Pop Idol, Big Brother, etc. We’ve even got those phone-in quizzes in the middle of the night, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before.

If you want to know the full story, read this. She must love Youtube now.

Friday, 21 September 2007

The Jokers and the Thief.

I’m pleased to say that work has been relatively entertaining of late. More demolition work? No, just my work colleagues.

Regular readers of this blog may remember me mentioning a guy called Peter, who I worked with at Vasastaden in June. To refresh your memories, Peter was like a half-man, half-pig hybrid. He was exceptionally lazy, even by Swedish standards. The past two weeks I’ve been working with him and his equally slack accomplice Robban. Whenever I look in their direction, they are very rarely doing any actual work, and more often then not will be standing around chatting, or finding some other fun activity to do instead. For example today Robban made a Ned Kelly-style helmet with some left over metal tubing. Yesterday Peter and Robban were having a knife throwing competition against a soon-to-be demolished wall. The two of them seem incapable of working for more then 15 minutes at any one time before getting bored and distracted. When its break time, you can guarantee they’ll be the first in the tearoom, and they’ll also be the last to leave.

My other co-worker is Bjorn, the suspected alcoholic I worked with in Eriksberg. He is not nearly as lazy. In fact he is as busy as a beaver, and I mean like a beaver. He is constantly collecting and scrounging together tools and materials to take home. Last week he was using an electric drill he borrowed from the storerooms. “Hmm, this is a good drill,” he said, “I should get one like it.” Five minutes later I see him scratching the initials of the previous owner off, and replacing them with his own. Often he can be seen rummaging through the skips picking out bits of wood or metal he thinks he can reuse. The other day he took home a whole bucket of light switches and power point sockets, as well as some curtain railings. On Monday, he even took a green plastic “Exit” sign. He reckons they’re worth 700 Kr (A$125). I imagine half his home consists of DIY renovations with second hand materials. And as of this week his back door probably has an “Exit” sign too.
Bjorn isn’t too subtle either. He tries to be and thinks he succeeds, but it’s blatantly obvious to everyone in the whole building. You know he’s up to something when he turns up to work with his large rucksack. Rest assured he’ll leave that afternoon with it looking noticeably bulkier and heavier.

Certainly Peter and Robban have noticed Bjorn’s thieving, and their not impressed. Despite hardly being role-model employees themselves, they’ve been quick to take to their moral high horse, and denounce Bjorn’s light-fingered side work. “It’s okay to take some things from the rubbish if you do it after work”, Robban told me last week, “But when you’re at work, you work.” This was followed by a brief pause, where Robban must have become aware of how much work he had actually done as he then added “And talk. Sometimes we talk, but we don’t take things like he does. It’s wrong.”
Conversely, Bjorn is equally unimpressed by Robban and Peter’s idleness. “I’ve never had to work with people so lazy,” confided Bjorn the other day, also assuming the moral high ground. “When we finish here, I refuse to ever work with them again.”
Thus this week I’ve been stuck between conflicting sides, as each cannot help but gripe to be me about the other. I have to admit I’ve enjoyed watching them bicker and argue, while being completely oblivious to their own misdeeds. I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I understood more Swedish.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Still Here

Since my last blog entry, I’m afraid there hasn’t been much luck on the job front: I’m still dying of boredom in construction. I’ve applied for one other job, at least got an interview this time, but again missed out. The depressing thing isn’t so much getting rejected, but that fact there are so few jobs to get rejected from. In the past four weeks I’ve checked the newspapers and various Internet sites everyday, and still only found two positions I could realistically apply for.

So my life as a construction worker continues, with no end in sight. Although at least this week I can find solace in the fact that I’ve been assigned to one of my favourite jobs in construction: demolition. Nothing relieves stress and frustration like standing in a room with a crowbar, tiger-saw, and orders to destroy everything in sight. Sometimes I like to take the crazed psychopath approach, where I just grad a crowbar and hack away at the walls with all my energy until things start to fall apart. When I really get into it, I feel like a rock star trashing a hotel room. But it can be tiring, so other times I take what I like the call the surgical approach. This is where I analyse a structure and identify its weak points. I then cut away the bare minimum from a few sensitive areas, give the wall gently push, and watch it all come crashing down in one hit. It can be quite empowering.

At the moment, I’m working in an office block called Canon House. A company has just bought a floor of office space and wants it renovated. Apparently this is a common line of work in this industry as corporations are constantly moving premises. Often they can never accept a new place as it is, and feel the need to have it renovated to suit their needs. As a result such projects often involve renovating places that are less then a year old.
This current site is a good example, as we’re basically tearing down recently built walls, and ripping up brand new carpet. The walls I’m tearing down are almost indistinguishable to the ones that my co-workers are putting up.

In this particular office space I’m working on, one half is portioned into individual offices, while the other half is open-plan. The new tenants want us to tear down the partitions in the first half, so it is also open-plan. Meanwhile in the other half, the half that is already open-plan, they would like us to build partitions to make it into individual offices.
In the end they’ll have an office that is pretty much identical as it was before, expect facing the other direction. Then they’ll probably move, and another construction company will be called in to renovate it once again for some other company. Corporations really are bizarre entities.

Friday, 7 September 2007

It Could Only Happen In Sweden No.2.

For the most part living in Sweden doesn’t feel all that different from living in Australia. But then I read an article like this, and suddenly feel like I’m on a different planet. For those too lazy to check the link and read the whole article, basically a school in southern Sweden has just banned students from wearing Swedish football shirts for its annual school photos. The principal argues that anything with the Swedish flag can be interpreted as xenophobic, and therefore racist.

Imagine a school in Australia banning Wallaby rugby shirts on the basis they could be construed as racist. Our government is making immigrants confirm to supposed ‘Australian values”. The population gets ever more jingoist and the flag ever more sacred. Even when a group of young white men dress themselves in the national flag and run round bashing anyone that looks Middle-Eastern, our Prime Minister refuses to admit they might be racist. Yet in Sweden, adolescent school kids are being accused of racism for wearing a football shirt. In complete contrast to the rest of the world, patriotism really isn’t a virtue here. Any outwardly demonstration of nationalism is generally viewed with suspicion.

The other big news story here is a small newspaper in Örebro has published some controversial cartoons depicted the Prophet Muhammad, not dissimilar to the ones published in Denmark last year. The reaction hasn’t been anywhere near as strong as that towards the Danish cartoons, but there have been a few Swedish flag-burnings in the Middle East. Are Swedes offended and hurt at seeing their national flag destroyed and desecrated on national television? They couldn’t care less. The strongest reaction I’ve come across has been mild amusement.