Thursday, August 26, 2021

The difference ABBA made to my life.

I don't think I saw the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton in 1974. Obviously I've seen the footage countless times since then, but on the actual night, at the tender age of six I was already long tucked up in bed before ABBA were declared the winners and their Scandinavian isolation came to an end catapulting them onto the international stage.

Fast forward a year to the spring of 1975. I had just turned seven and I remember my mum was ironing. Whether she was listening to the radio or ABBA the album, I don't know but I heard the song I do, I do, I do, I do, I do come out of the speaker and it was a life-changing moment, literally... I thought it was to most beautiful and romantic song I had ever heard and once we had the record, I used to play it while having my teddy bears marry each other. I admit I was a nauseatingly sweet child at times!

For the remainder of the 70s I lapped up their every offering, joined the fan club and subscribed to the magazine. Through the magazine, I got myself dozens of like-minded pen pals from as far apart as Iceland and Malaysia who in turn fostered my love of language, travel and the exotic. By the time I started high school in '79, I was trying to write to my ABBA pen pals in their own languages - first French then later German. I'd noticed another girl in my s1 class with ABBA badges on her blazer so Elaine and I became firm high school pals. By a year later, kids were starting to insinuate that ABBA were passé and punk was the way to go. Most jumped on that band wagon, but Elaine and I stuck to our ABBA badges despite the derision. 

When ABBA stopped recording in 1982, I had nothing new to listen to. I followed their solo careers, while also importing all their original late 60s Swedish material. I knew no Swedish so sat and diligently transcribed all the old songs in Mickey Mouse phonetics so I could sing along in Swedish. I could sing whole albums, despite not understanding what I was singing about. At the age of 22, I was offered a choice between extra Middle High German as one of my Honours modules in German or learning the Swedish language... There was no contest and I found myself in a small group of semi-closet ABBA fans, learning finally what I had been singing about a decade earlier.

With the Mamma Mia revival in the 90s, all notion of them being passé flew out the window and I even bumped into several of the punk proponents from my schooldays in the foyer at the Odeon in Glasgow!

Many years later, with my marriage on the rocks, I had fallen in love with my best friend after hours and hours of heart to hearts. I had small kids, I was a complicated package, so I decided not to enlighten him about my feelings. After a year of keeping my secret, we were at the work's New Year party when he asked me to dance. I refused, saying I was pretty shit at dancing, he insisted and dragged me onto the floor, we danced for 30 seconds to some Robbie Williams track before it came to an end. I turned to walk off the dance floor and had taken two steps when I heard the famous piano intro; our fate was sealed. I turned back and we danced to Dancing Queen and by a year later we were a couple looking for our forever home. ABBA had once again changed my life and that of my kids and kids to be, quite drastically!

Today I live in Scandinavia. My passive Swedish is definitely now at a level that would have helped me significantly back in the day, though my Danish is now much better. I was sitting on the computer this morning writing some applications for freelance work when who should pop up on Messenger, but one of my old uni Swedish class pals, Marc. What he sent me blew me away. It was simply the letters OMG and this link. Seeing the logo again after all this time, the backwards B, that this 13 year old used to wear around her neck always, the typeface, the sleek image brought it all back in an instant. I'm thrilled, I'm excited, and at the same time I'm devastated my dad and my friend Sheina aren't here to wait with me in anticipation. 

Bring it on!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Saturday, August 21, 2021

More Brexit delights

Charlotte finished her year in Madrid at the end of June and stayed on for a month to work as a private tutor. Having been confined to Madrid region because of Covid for the entirety of her stay, she wanted to see some of Spain once they relaxed the restrictions. To do so she decided to back-pack round the hostels of Spain alone for all of August (such a calm experience for me as her mum - sigh). 

Anyway, as always it's highlighting how shafted our kids are in comparison to the others still in the EU. Today for example, she decided to visit Real Alcázar, a wonderful palace in Seville. She had met some other students backpacking, so met up with a Dutch girl to go in. The Dutch girl was charged 6€ entrance. Charlotte, despite holding a French passport however, was charged 13.50€ entrance, as her student matriculation card was for a university outside the EU - Glasgow University. 

I so hope this generation rises up and revolts against all this crap in the coming years, rather than just putting up with being shit on from above.


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

More Brexit delights from this week

Léon's kilt pin fell off his kilt when he wore it to school on the last day. He only noticed it recently so asked me to order him a new one, something cheap, in case he was to lose it again... Jumped onto eBay, something I do much more seldom since Brexit as it is now cheaper for me to use web shops in the EU. A kilt pin isn't something you find in great numbers outside the Celtic corner of Europe however, so I ordered a quick £4.10 pin from somewhere in Scotland.

After much longer than the usual wait, instead of finding the pin in my letterbox, I had a letter from the postal service. The letter informed me that as of July 1st, goods coming from third countries now needed the correct duties to have been imposed on them at the other end. As the seller had simply sent it to me without doing this, not only would the duty of 8kr (92p) be added but also the post office's minimum handling charge of 160kr (£18.35). This brought my £4.10 pin up to £22.45. Needless to say, when I noticed the paragraph stating that if I didn't pay the duty and fine, the item would be returned to the sender, I opted to lose £4.10 rather than pay the charges. So all the little eBay sellers and web shops based in the UK just lost 300 million customers, because those of us domiciled in the EU27 certainly won't be buying anything from over there more than once.

Of course, this extends not only to purchases but also gifts, so the family back home can no longer send us anything personal for birthdays or Xmas, rather they need to order it for delivery from an EU-based web shop.

So they have also lost the ability to sell within the UK to families hoping to send the item out of the UK. How exactly is being outside this trading block benefitting the UK economy?😕

Friday, August 13, 2021

Ignacio Fernando Buchanan-Widmann

Back on May 16, we turned on Facebook and saw a strange status uploaded by our friend Simon over in Aarhus. His male (as he thought) cat had just had two kittens in his cupboard! In the uploaded photo, I could see they looked very like the second cat my parents had had when I was growing up, so commented that, and he offered us a kitten. Given Amaia is really not an animal person (like Charlotte), we have never had a pet other than the well-caged hamsters. I knew Léon and Anna would kill for a pet and Marcel was also a great animal lover so the five have almost always been at each others' throats on that front. 

    (Nacho at 3 weeks)

A few weeks later we were over at Simon's for the night. The kittens were only three weeks old so not particularly scary, even for Amaia, so when they hit 12 weeks and needed a new home Amaia actually asked to get one. My parents' old cat had been named Muffin as he was Muffin-coloured, so after going through all foods the kids could think of that were that colour, they opted to call him Nacho - as he looks a bit like a plate of Nachos and cheese.

Charlotte is still in Spain and was on holiday with the family she used to au pair for. Having mentioned the kitten to them, they pointed out that the Spanish name Nacho is the diminutive of Ignacio. So going all-out Spanish, the girls have now decided he's a Spanish cat whose veterinary registration should read Ignacio Fernando Buchanan-Widmann, though he will obviously be called Nacho at home! I imagine he will be the only kitten at Morud Vet's named Ignacio Fernando!

To be honest, I couldn't really be bothered with a pet but acquiesced as the kids loved the idea. I just felt I'd brought up enough kids over the years, wiped enough bums and had run out of steam. But the wee bugger is slowly managing to wriggle his way in. Walking up my front at 7am and gently waking me with a touch of one paw is making him hard to ignore and hard not to care about. He's very gentle and sweet. I've never heard such a purry cat, he's funny and I'm sure he's going to be a much-loved family member.

(Nacho at 12 weeks)