27 March 2010

I flew to Sweden for a work trip, because my job is extremely arduous and I travel all the time and never hear a word of sympathy from my readers. I got off the plane at Stockholm airport and boarded the express train to the city. During the journey a short informational video was screened about how to use an escalator. You should always ensure your baggage is kept in front of you, apparently, or there is a risk it may topple over, bounce down the steps and seriously injure a passenger behind.
After the announcer had explained the nature of the danger, there was a dramatisation of a typical wrongly-placed-baggage accident. A woman nudged her suitcase, which clipped the ankle of a man on the next step and then plunged spectacularly down the escalator, gathering tremendous speed as it fell.
I waited eagerly for the final frame, in which the rogue luggage slammed into an innocent family, killing and maiming everyone in its path, but in fact it landed safely and didn't even break open. Mystifyingly, there was no escalator at the end of the journey anyway.
When I stepped out into the streets of Stockholm, it was desperately cold, and yet one of the first people I saw was a bare-legged man dressed as a Viking. I assumed most Swedes must wear Viking costumes at night, but I never noticed another one.
At my hotel's reception, the check-in bloke gave me a form to fill in, so I gave him my credit-card details and promised my life savings in the event that I should accidentally bump against one of the tiny tinnies of beer in the mini-bar.
"Sign here," he said, in his Flowerpot Men accent, "and on the backside."
As unsympathetic readers will know, I am a Z-list celebrity and highly sought-after nude model in Australia, but I didn't realise my fame had spread to Scandinavia. I waited for the receptionist to drop his daks so I could autograph his buttocks, but all he did was turn over the sheet of paper and point to another dotted line.
Stockholm was covered in snow. The whole city was like a big, white blobby thing.
The next morning, after an overnight snowfall, it looked even whiter and blobbier, but I decided to use my brief leisure time in Sweden to visit the Skansen, an outdoor museum, where a visitor can get an idea of what Sweden looked like in the past: it looked like a big, white blobby thing.
Also in the Skansen was a museum of smoking and, less promisingly, matches. (The match was a Swedish invention. Who knew?) I quite enjoyed looking at all the old cigarette boxes, printed in the days before every packet came with a picture of a cancerous tumour on the front, and even the different matchboxes were oddly pleasing when displayed together in a cabinet.
Elsewhere in Stockholm is a museum of drinking, which I will visit next time. If they had a museum of kebabs, the Swedes would have memorialised my entire adult life.
I had lunch with a beautiful actress, which is never a good idea. I buttered my bread with the table knife, which left me with an implement the size of a cheese knife to eat my lunch with. Then I tucked into my forkful of what I assumed was coconut relish but turned out to be pickled horseradish, which tore through my nostrils like cocaine cut with detergent, and seared a big red hole in my brain.
The national pastime in Sweden in winter is falling over on the icy pavements, and I threw myself into this with culturally appropriate enthusiasm. I slipped onto my back outside the railway station, and even managed to slide halfway under a taxi while I tried to climb into the back seat.
A more realistic informational video might show people, rather than suitcases, toppling to the ground, and hundreds of Swedes hurrying past them taking no notice at all.