Saturday, 17 November 2007

A New Chapter

After six months of sweeping floors, demolishing walls, ferrying building materials around sites, and occasionally buildings something, I am finally free of what has possibly been the worst job I’ve ever had. In fact it was the worst job I’ve ever had. But now it’s all over. I have a new job, and so ends my career in construction.

I’d be lying if I said working as a builder’s labourer was in any way a pleasant experience, but it certainly has been an interesting one. I’ve learnt a lot, from how to install doorframes and skirting, to the daily work conditions of unskilled migrant workers in Sweden.

There will be a few things I’ll miss. For one I could be a bit short on content for this blog. Where would I be if I didn’t have stories of rorts, thefts, and Polish workers getting shafted? (I’d probably still be stuck trying to stretch out my worn out gag about wooing Princess Victoria.)
I’ll especially miss witnessing the fine art of bludging being performed with such distinction and fineness. (At my last site, one of the workers would start up the coffee machine five minutes before our break, so the coffee was ready as soon as break time started. After all coffee breaks are for drinking coffee, not making coffee.)
And for what ever damage such work was doing to my mind, it has certainly hasn’t harmed me physically. For five days week for the past six months, I’ve been getting the sort of work out that many people pay good money for at a gym. Another six months and I’ll look like guy pictured on the right. Having said that, I’d be more then happy to reclaim my old puny arms if it means never having to set foot on a construction site again.

As of Monday morning, I’ll be sitting behind a desk in a warm office, drinking a nice cup of tea while I interview doctors over the phone. I’ll be working for a company that conducts research of medical practices amongst doctors the world over. Pharmaceutical companies, looking at the best way to market their products, commission most of their work. My job will be to interview doctors in the English speaking countries. And so begins the next chapter of My Life As A Swede.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Weekend In Stockers

Here are a few photos from my trip to Stockholm last weekend.

Friday, 9 November 2007


I’m starting to worry that my job is dumbing me down. That so much mind-numbing manual labour has caused large parts of my brain to completely shut down due to inactivity. Certainly something must be going on, for I cannot find any other reason why I have made so many stupid mistakes over the past six weeks.
It all started when I accidentally put my iPod into the washing machine. I had it in a side pocket of my work trousers, and those things are so small and lightweight. Easy mistake to make, could have happened to anyone. Although you’d think that losing a $300 iPod would be a good lesson in the importance of checking your pockets before washing. Yet two weeks later I managed to put my passport through the wash too.
Losing a passport abroad is a real hassle. To get a replacement I have to travel to the Australian Embassy in Stockholm to be interviewed. I also need to provide my birth certificate, proof of address, and my application needs to be signed by guarantor who can certify my identity. The guarantor must be either an Australian citizen, or from an approved occupation (teacher, police officer, etc). They must have known me for at least 12 months, however they cannot be related to me either through birth, marriage or a de facto relationship. Seeing as I’ve only been here 7 months, the only people who have known me for more then a year are Ankie and her family. Although when I spoke to the Embassy they said they’d let Ankie’s mother be a guarantor if I couldn’t find anyone else.

Luckily I had the foresight to bring my birth certificate with me when I moved here, so the rest of the application was pretty straightforward. I had all my forms filled out, signed by a guarantor, along with all my documents ready to go. I booked my trip to Stockholm and organised a day off work. I was even able to time my trip with the federal election so I could vote at the same time.
Then last Saturday, and this is where I really hit the heights of stupidity, I noticed all my forms and documents were missing. Somehow I managed to lose them. The previous day Ankie had been cleaning the flat, and the obvious guess would be she chucked them out my mistake, but she swears she would have noticed them and wouldn’t have done that. What ever happened to them, they are definitely not in our flat. I’ve spent the whole week tearing the place apart, only ever stopping to punch the wall and scream four letter words starting with ‘F’.

So now I have to start the whole application again, expect this time I have to organise a new birth certificate too. To do this I need to post my drivers licence back home to my mum, as she cannot get a copy without it, and a letter from me giving her authorisation. When that is all organised then I can make another appointment at the embassy and organise another trip to Stockholm. Maybe then I might finally get a new passport.

Seeing as I’ve already booked my train trip and it’s non-refundable, I’m going to Stockholm tomorrow anyway. But now I’m basically going all that way just to make a very lacklustre decision between Kevin Rudd and John Howard. It’s the sort of uninspiring choice a moron like me deserves.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Politics and Scandals

I’ve tried to keep up with the Australian election. I’ve checked the news daily but to be honest I’m bored. Everyday it’s the same. Rudd says this, Howard says that, Rudd responds by saying something remarkably similar but opposing Howard on some minor trivial point. ALP goes up 3%, then down 2%. Columnist after columnist offers tedious analysis of every word and action, all claiming they were the one that always had faith in Rudd’s ability, even when everyone else doubted him. How does the election coverage drag itself out for six weeks? So much fuss when we already know that a bland conservative politician who wears glasses will win it. So instead I’ve been following Swedish politics in what has been a week of full scandals.

But firstly a quick run down of the political situation in Sweden. The current Prime Minister is Frederick Reinfeldt (pictured right), who was elected last year as part of an alliance of various right-wing conservative parties. Swedish politics has traditionally been dominated by the Social Democrats (hence the large welfare state and strong union movement) and the centre-right parties have only ever received enough votes to form government on four occasions. So Freddie’s election win last year was a pretty big deal as conservative PM’s in Sweden are as rare as Liberal voters in Brunswick.
But from the minute Reinfeldt assumed government, his government has been plagued with scandals. Literally within 24 hours two ministers were already in trouble for hiring nannies under the table, and not paying their TV licence fees. Two weeks later they both resigned. A month later, another minister was exposed for hiring personal staff off the books. Since then there have been regular incidents of ministers misusing government credit cards, avoiding tax, and not fully disclosing their personal shares portfolios.

But the big scandal this week is probably as close as Sweden gets to a sex scandal. It involves one of Prime Minister Frederick Reinfeldt’s personal aides, Ulrica Schenström, who last Friday night went out on the town in Stockholm with a journalist from one of the main TV stations. They had a few glasses of wine and were later seen kissing (pictured left). The photos have since been splashed across the front page of every newspaper.
It’s a bit hard for opposition parties to criticise a single woman for having a few drinks in her free time and kissing someone in public. So instead they’ve made a big deal of the fact that she was supposedly on call in case of a national emergency, and that by being out drinking in a bar she was neglecting her duties.

Much media analysis has been dedicated into determining how much she had drunk, and whether she was drunk or not. She has denied she was drunk and insists she could have still performed her duties if called upon. Reinfeldt has accepted this, and didn’t want to pursue the issue further. However it was later revealed that their bar tab was Kr945 (A$160). It might sound like a lot for only two people, but keep in mind that alcohol is very expensive in Sweden, wine is particularly expensive, and in their circles they were probably drinking at a pretty upmarket bar.

Yet this new piece of information has led to an outcry from the media and opposition parties. Some articles have used words like “wine-fuelled” and “heavy consumption”, and the assumption seems to be that she was drunk rather then simply drinking a very expensive bottle of wine. Both Schenström and Reinfeldt have been hounded all week, until finally she resigned. And if that wasn’t enough, it was also revealed that the journalist in question paid for all the drinks, thus constituting a bribe. She may be facing criminal charges soon. If it wasn’t for the fact she was a right wing, union-bashing neo-liberal scumbag, I’d almost feel sorry for her.

Nor do the scandals don’t end here. Ulrica Schenström’s replacement, Nicola Clase, has already got into trouble. Apparently she hired a carpenter under the table to do renovations on her summer home.

On the whole this week Swedish politics has been providing far more entertainment then either Howard or Rudd. However, having said that, Sweden hasn’t quite provided the same scope of scandals as Australian politics. They’ve never had an ex-PM getting caught wearing nothing but a towel in a seedy bar in Memphis. Nor have they produced a minister like Tony ‘I gave up a son for adoption, now I’ve found him, now I’ve learnt he was never actually my son and my ex-girlfriend liked to sleep around’ Abbot. And unlike Australia, Sweden isn’t about to elect a man who likes to get absolutely hammered and go to strip clubs.

It Could Only Happen In Sweden No.4.

Following on from my recent blog entry on the Swedish drinking culture, here is another hilarious example of the country’s rigidness when it comes to their alcohol laws. In a perfect illustration of bureaucracy triumphing over common sense, a 77 year-old man was recently asked for ID when buying a slab of low-alcohol beer. Both the cashier and the store manager refused to accept that the elderly pensioner was over 18, unless he could prove it with sufficient identification. Not only that but the local council have backed the store with one councillor stating "They are not supposed to sell alcohol and tobacco products to people under 18 and it's not always that easy to tell."