The honest Melodifestivalen Preview from Ben

1 – Anton Ewald – Natural.
It’s a magnificent production. Best part of the song though is how the whole lyric flows and it is super super smooth. Anton needs a slap in the face for the routine though – dropping the dance routine in the second chorus makes him look worse at singing than he actually is. With the backing to help him he is doing fine – not great but not a hindrance on vocals alone. He could be covered up Sakis style and we could build a team around to sing behind. The multi-track gospel effect is tough, but worth a try as nailing it will soar up the leaderboard.  The breakdown into key change section is magical – best key change of the season. 12 points

2 – Ellen Benediktson – Songbird
Exactly like the kind of song it is, it takes time to grow on you and it is a shame in a sense it went direct to the final where it lost the chance of getting more listens. As a general rule, never send a song in 3/4 time, as they always do worse than deserved in Eurovision and are harder to pick up. However, it’s a beautiful lyric (I wish a little more direct about what the ‘songbird’ is and does) but the verbs trigger the emotional heartstrings throughout. Ellen nails it note perfect – almost arguably at a loss to the meaning, but I expect this will come through on Saturday. Worthy, and jury friendly. 10 points

3 – Alcazar – Blame it on the Disco
It is like Fredrik Kempe has taken Alcazar dolls and sat in his bedroom recreating his wildest schlager fantasy – it is like they are puppets on his string with this entry. While happy and bouncy and fun enough, the number of key changes and daft lyrics are confusing. Is this song ironic or serious, or just a piece of harmless fun? Assuming the latter, I want more oomphs in that production. It takes too long to start at the beginning and the recurring Blame it on the Disco line isn’t strong enough to hold (and isn’t even the main hook), and that main key change at the end isn’t as powerful as previous Alcazar’s. Missed opportunity. 4 points.

4. Oscar Zia – Yes We Can

And from Kempe puppets to another one.  Wonder if he wants to see Zia in his underwear?  This is the kind of song written for those types who want to get direkt to the MF final, secure another year of top shows in the summer season in Sweden, but importantly not get to Eurovision.  Yes We Can delivers just that.  While it’s quite direct and effective in a 8 song semi, it loses it to others in the same genre here, just as it is meant too.  His popularity will mean this will over-perform with the televote, but if the juries bat straight this will be too far back to be challenging.  1 point

5.  Linus Svenning – Bröder

It’s very nice.  And it’s an addicitive and growing melody, a Kempe ballad that doesn’t just give power but tells a tale and does it well.  However.  It’s a story twinged with grief and anguish.  The whole mood of the piece, especially the main ‘kära bröder’ is all to nice and happy to fit what is being said.  Give me some dissonance and discordance somewhere in this, don’t give me a plumping big and rather heartless key change at the end which spoils the emotion of this.  You have to do more with this to make it genuine to make it feel like a real piece of music, rather than one contrived again just for Melodifestivalen’s sad sake.  So close, but so far from what I would demand at this level.  6 points

6. Helena Paparizou – Survivor

As soon as I saw the lyrics I could sing that chorus melody.  It hits you hard and is the best hook in the final.  The bridge going into the final chorus too is magical.  But sometimes, you get too much of a good thing.  The song gets stuck on this hook so much that it needs to resort to fire and desire rhyming, and struggles in the final chorus to have anything extra to give it the oomph, the original hook was so strong Helena’s deviations lose the song power in the final minute.  It needs no key change, but a pause and big production drum beat going direct into the last chorus, rather than the failing blend at the moment, would help making it bombastic.  For now it’s just defining mid table.  2 points

7 – YOHIO – To The End

I’m going to tell you the same thing I told you last year.  Go and be yourself.  An Andreas Johnson song is not for you, you are a really cool character, but you keep coming here to Friends Arena with songs that don’t represent who you are.  It makes the whole package weak and forgettable, which is sad because your image is so cool that you have the chance to do something great and memorable, something which could translate from Israel to Iceland.  This wouldn’t.  Come back with a Japanese-language song with some of your trademark guitar playing and make it fun and make it you.  0 points

8. Sanna Nielsen – Undo

I don’t get Sanna.  I never have.  Perhaps I am not Swedish enough.  Empty Room was a lonely snooze, and how lovely as she is I’ve never been moved by her on stage.  Sorry Sanna.  Voice is great though.

The song works.  But that is works is so annoying. It’s singalongable in the same annoying way La Voix was, and I can’t get past the borrowing from Eric Saade’s It’s Gonna Rain in the verse.  Again, for something so sad why is the music so glad?  I could re-write the entire chorus lyric with ‘I-I-I will get there, I-I-I will be just fine’ and so on and it fits just fine.  More than fine.  It bugs me.  So does the ramping up key change (Kempe..) which is filled with as much emotion as he has hairs on his head.  Does nothing revolutionary in songwriting terms, and I understand the loving for Sanna but hope it crumbles along the way on Saturday.  As I don’t see this winning Eurovision either, I’ll be voting against Sanna because I fear this may weaken the UK’s chances of a good result and we need and arguably deserve one this year.  0 points

9. Panetoz – Efter Solsken

On the same lines as Oscar, this is mission accomplished.  Nice, and fun lyrically, but runs out of ideas far too quickly, some are predicting last.  It could squeak higher, but nothing to danger anything.  0 points

10. Ace Wilder – Busy Doing Nothin’

This is the David Lindgren of the field.  A nice 4 chord loop entry, sent in to the MF jury, gets through, shocks all to make it, delivers what it tries to do on stage, and is suddenly billed as a massive favourite.  Does really good with it’s post chorus (but no Björkman, isn’t not dubstep), and that is damn as hell effective.  However, like Shout it Out was, this is still really in demo format production based alongside the others, as it wasn’t expected to gleam to the top of the ratings as the others did.  What makes this so good is not in production but in feel, and the jumping around of styles with the same structure below gives just enough familiarity to join into and sound like quality, but the score underneath does little to surprise.  It also has the same beat as Shout it Out and will gain huge support in the arena, look out for the audible hand claps.  The lack of ending is a little bit of a downer on something unspectaclarly good, but music is about being effective first in a contest like this more often than not.  If you are going to do the simple chord loop, do it right.  This does that.  8 points.

This is why stuff like Sanna does well after all…  Will be stunned if she doesn’t take it home.

Full of sunshine and sore arms

Hello blog world,


Yesterday was a Sunday, and a free Sunday all to myself.  Back to its well-behaved best, the Sun was shining in a sky of a blue colour that I’ve only witnessed as bright as here in Stockholm, and that same sky was cloudless, something as a novelty to the boy who has lived most of his childhood in England’s wettest big town.


I was going to a gym/swim combination, but I felt it wrong to let this fantastic weather go to waste.  Why be inside in the increasingly precious hours after all?


Before the Sun went down, I took myself on a lovely walk around amazing Akalla, how I love this place I live.  Since the riots in neighbouring Husby (note, not here), it has been funny to see that politically this area of Stockholm is getting a little bit more attention in upcoming-budgets.


Some money spent on the area has already been put to good use.  On one of my many walks around this beautiful city, we have on occasions stumbled across these outdoor gyms in the middle of forests.  This is perhaps not so glamourous, but a lovely spot nevertheless.  Located on the edge of Akalla’s edge, this outdoor gym actually sits on the grounds of Akropolis FC in the 4th tier of Swedish football, and you have to squeeze through the gates to get in.  


Now, British readers will tut at the idea of an outdoor gym being any good.  In the UK our conception of these contraptions is one of ridicule and failure.  The most popular ones placed by councils are green, metal, and have no resistance at all.  They feature treadmills where you run on hollow cylinders and exercise bikes where it feels you are powering through the air, with no contract to anything else around.  They are, unsurprisingly, built to ensure all possible safety in using them is assured, ensuring nobody can hurt themselves using them.  I still can use them a little bit – the pieces that make press ups and sit ups structured are handy, and one of the weight machine uses your weight at the resistance, but you can’t help but feel their only real purpose is to take off 2 or 3 lbs from those mums carrying around two pre-school kids to the park for a day.


In Sweden, this is serious stuff.  They are made of the finest timber and they are certainly not play things.  You are bench pressing, completing chins, lifting huge logs above your head.  Even though I’ve been training for a few months now, and am finally once again stronger than the dearest lady, those big logs at a little bit daunting on some of the positions.  Not daunting enough though for the favourite games of little kids to jump up on them in groups to pull them down, and then get whipped up as one drops off the beam.  We just would never take that risk…


The sit ups here are at a 30 degree angle, and give you a tough workout.  There are these jumping logs you have to try and get onto, and I’ve seen people tackle the tallest one direct from standing adjancent, to jump to the highest clearing the kids I teach in Year 4 easily.  And it’s lovely, and it’s looked after, and most importantly I am still feeling my thighs and triceps the evening after.  


Yesterday was just another day of feeling so lucky to be here.  I felt lucky to have a fun night out with MFKlubben, I felt lucky to sleep until 10 (although, I was in bed at 4…), I found new weird fruit on offer in Lidl I just had to buy.  And then saying out pumping the guns and jumping over the hurdles until the sun set before crossing to the nearby swimming pool to set some PB’s on the waterslide and teach myself how to do underwater handstands (ish – I’m getting there, but I’ve always had a funny turn about going over myself and I daren’t even try a forward roll).

When I give people, like my parents, a tour of why this lovely suburb is the best place in Stockholm to live, I now have another little tourist attraction to show them, one full of fun and, as I try to climb into bed, full of ache and pain as well…

Melodifestivalen 2013: The Robertson Preview

As it was so popular last time with Eurovision (still one of the most read blogs) here is my preview to Melodifestivalen’s final this week.  And it is pure Euphoria.

Oh not.

What a shockingly bad year we all have been saying haven’t we?  And we would be right to say so I should think.  The final is full of missed opportunities and it is all lacking a little bit of class.

I remember thinking back in 2012, when I recorded this episode of Nul Points ( – which is hilarious and you should listen), that no, Sweden doesn’t want to win Eurovision again this year – it was funny how those abroad thought it was completely the opposite.  MF has been a big show this year, but in becoming a big show it seems to have lacked quality and substance.  Voting seems unreliable, and its whole purpose is a little further away each year from the point of Eurovision – it isn’t about finding the right song for Sweden to win it again which I hope the final comes back to.

Many of the songs in the final are worthy efforts, but they are falling short at the moment.  Here is the rundown

1) Ulrik Munther – Tell the world I’m here

Or not.  It is a stupidly pompous title and lyric and gives Ulrik bigger shoes than he could fill.  Eric Saade has the act to sell I will be popular, but I don’t really care if Ulrik is heard by the world.  This big boy arena pop is well produced – but has no oomph in that production to make it isn’t something to get an arena excited.  His voice too isn’t big enough for this.  Still nice, but he needs to back to his guitars and keep it simple, and tell a story worth telling.  As an artist, you need to know what you can sell.  He can’t sell this to me sadly.  G:Son and Boström, as Eurovision winning composers, should know better.  They are also responsible for the awkward long instrumental before the last chorus which goes nowhere.

Prediction: 5th 

2) David Lindgren – Skyline

The second artist of the show and the second one who deserves a big slap across the face.  Precisely, once again, at the part just before the final chorus.  David has got his composers to put in a one second pause in the music, where he looks into the camera, shakes his little bow-tie and then carries on hopping around the stage.  Who the hell do you think you are?  David, you are lovely, but you are a mummy’s favourite and a pre-school favourite.  You are not cool.  You come with a more ‘edgy’ song this year.  It isn’t.  The production is better than the demo-version-for-Danny-that-he-rejected last year, but the song isn’t.  The melody is harder to get into and sing along to.  The whole act doesn’t get the crowd as excited and you actually don’t have a new song.   Try playing last year’s entry over this one…

Prediction: 9th

3) State of Drama – Falling

I hope these guys didn’t actually go to Drama class, because the acting sucks.  They are calling themselves a new ‘hard-pop’ group, and do look like the middle-of-the-road mess.  I show some off some sick tattoos on my arm but that’s ok because I have a normal haircut.  The keyboard player has no haircut from this century, but is safe and likeable because he points at things and looks vacant when doing so.

The song itself is a good effort.  At writing the next song for the next American soppy film.  It doesn’t work as a stage performance, and was stunned it got through.  It’s all fake, but they want to be taken as real musicians.  I can’t find the right balance for it.  It’s just like an American teen drama, it is trying and failing to find itself.  I want to hold judgment in that, as relative unknowns in a tough semi, either they have a strong and loyal support or this does reach out to the masses.  I can’t see the attraction though in this for somebody to say it is their favourite entry.

Prediction: 7th

4) Anton Ewald – Begging

Artist number 4 of 4 who deserves a slap.  You have silly hair and no girl would find it attractive close up.  You are also acting like a know-it-all-prick when you have no record for doing so.  You have been a backing dancer for Velvet, Andreas Lundstedt and Danny and all three of them had a result in Melodifestivalen with you in the team lower than you would expect.  You are no big name and you are lucky you are cute to the 15 year old girls I teach.

You are a great dancer, but your style sucks.  You aren’t performing this story to the camera at all and other than your hardcore fans you are not attracting votes my friend.  All the shaking and prancing and hopping is not telling a story of how you a begging a girl for more.  Don’t even try and suggest it does.

Kempe has written you a song with possibly one of the catchiest melodies in the contest, although it runs out of steam towards the end, and sadly I find it hard to get over the Bieberpop genre it sadly is.  You take your jacket off and think you are the king pin but you don’t get anybody excited – it’s forced and you don’t have it.  You ruin it.

And then you have the cheek in the press last week to tell the people who say you aren’t singing to stop, but that is what you are doing.  Yes, you are correct, all lead vocals you are singing.  But you have the backing on tape as high as you.  Fact.  And it sings lines you aren’t.  Fact.  In Sweden, maybe you will get enough forgiveness for that, it is part of pop style at the moment after all.  In Iceland, Ukraine, Spain – three countries voting with juries on Saturday in Melodifestivalen, they will not get it.  It is EuroVISION.  You don’t sing it, we can tell, and it just looks wrong.  You have to sing it live in the final contest, so you better learn fast.

Or not, because you aren’t willing to learn.

Prediction: 6th

5) Louise Hoffsten – Only the dead fish follow the stream

You are not getting a slap.  Well done for that.  I am excited about you being in the final, but more because your songwriters have destroyed my theory on Melodifestivalen.  They have written 3 Eurovision entries before, all for Azerbaijan, and the worst placement was 5th.  Good record.  However I always said that those songs would all be last in an MF semi, and you proved me wrong in the biggest way.

How the phrase “Only the dead fish follow the stream” actually works as a hook I have no idea, and I quite like the structure of the chorus and it just has enough interest throughout to keep you going in the 3 minutes.  However, even being the only woman, I don’t think this translates into votes unless the media make it a scandalous issue for you.

Jury points, but last in televoting.

Prediction: 8th

6) Ralf Gyllenhammer – Bed on Fire

What a shock this was.  Who saw this as a contender a month ago?  Certainly not me.

It’s a concept song – not middle of the road lyrics about nothingness – but meaning lyrics about nothingness.  This song is the perfect alarm clock ringtone.  I need to try that.  And it is a song about waking up, and how you really don’t want to.  It really works!

Genre wise, and you can rip me for this all you like, it reminds me of my failed entry this year Soldier in the Sky (Don’t Cry), which is not meant to be faint phrase.  Wisely, Ralf slows it down and crams in less and perhaps has a shorter and easier tale to give in the three minutes than I did, but it gives him ample room to show off the voice well.

He needs to work on that first 30 seconds.  At the moment he is singing it the same as before, but at half-effort.  It might come across too much like a strangled cat for some people and lose votes straight away. I would sing it deeper, a bit more spoken and off the rhythm, and from there tell the tale more so you really hit that big note hard when you do.

I think this is a jury winner, and with the new televoting rules, will hold off enough competition to take the crown by a smattering of votes.

Prediction: 1st

7) Ravaillacz – En Riktig Jävla Schlager

When this song was announced, I was hugely excited.   Värsta Schlagern is a classic tune and makes fun of Melodifestivalen and Eurovision songs so well, and I was hoping for the same here.  I felt disappointed by this from the outside.  It is basically a nursery rhyme with a moderately funny text at best.  It doesn’t have a stage show to add to the spectacle and there is so much more you could throw at the idea of a rubbish Eurovision song.

But maybe I missed the point.  This is such a Swedish tradition, and to send something so innocently bad really is the worst that it can be, and that is part of the charm.  Tommy Körberg, I have huge respect for, and he sings the pants off this.  This is fun on stage and to be honest, it does completely fit the bill here.  Remember Sweden, as hosts, has qualified for the final automatically and can send whatever they like.  And none of these songs would win Eurovision anyway.  Hell, Europe needs educated to what this word schlager means anyway, and I would love to see the BBC squirm in their translation of the title for English subtitles.  Let’s send this!

Prediction: 10th

8) Sean Banan – Copacabanana

I can cope with Sean.  I was introduced last year through Melodifestivalen, and I think he is a great character to play.  Last year, his song was one of my favourites – it had a super hook and really spoke out to me with some great lyrics that really played with some of the problems new immigrants to Sweden have.

This year, he has taken it further and thrown all but the kitchen sink at the performance.  SVT want this to qualify for the ratings, and have let it change the rules of the competition (to have more than 8 people involved, even if they aren’t all on stage).  SVT argue that this is because it’s not 8 people at a time, and it is similar to Anna Bergendahl’s glowsticks (which I assume have now all been used up by the way).  This is a wrong argument; audience participation is very different than fixing people in the audience.

As fún as this is, some of the references are way too obscure.  Danny gets second place, ha ha.  Pontare will sadly be forgotten.  Christer Turkman just looks like a racist joke than anything that actually has any substance.  Catchy.  You bet.  Fun if you are 6 years old.  Absolutely.  Winning the televote.  A dangerous possibility.  Suddenly, these international juries seem like an excellent idea.

Prediction: 3rd

9) Robin Sjternberg – You

If anything wants to scream out dark horse, it’s this one.

However, in second chance history across Eurovision, only one song to my knowledge has ever made it to represent their country after being knocked out in the first round.  That was Drama Queen by DQ, a horrible drag act that flopped in Eurovision but got loads of positive PR in the week of the Danish final, taking a very split vote in a great final very undeservingly.

Robin is gaining momentum with his song.  I would be proud of this representing Sweden in Eurovision.  Lyrically, the meaning in the main part would fit the atmosphere in the Malmö Arena just fine with the fans all around the stage.

However, this relies on one hook so much.  He delivers it great, and it does build up to a performance crescendo which so many of the other songs here forget to do.  And however sweet it is, Robin is the kind of artist you have to grow to love.  Perfect for a competition like Idol.

In Eurovision, the vocal gymnastics on offer in the final minute are not going to save you.  You will be forgotten long before then sadly.  I have no issue to sending this to Eurovision, but I fear a bottom 5 position if we do send him.

Prediction: 4th 

10) Yohio – Heartbreak Hotel

Well, it certainly is a contemporary choice to send something inspired from the Far East.  But that is about as contemporary as this gets.

As an artist idea, it is spot on the money, but actually the only thing revoluntionary here is the image.  The song is a dead fish following the steam of pop/rock numbers and is catchy in the sense of having a stupidly simple oh-oh post chorus.  The talent that this kid has isn’t being put to good use, and his superb ability to be a musician is lost.

On the production scale, this is the weakest of them all in the final.  It is so generic; it is not stylistic at all to the artist and doesn’t play to his strengths.  On stage he has no choreography other than to wave his palm at the camera – and when he hits the big(ger) note for the final chorus, the music falls back to where it was before, it loses any oomph it needs.

Still, would probably do ok in Eurovision just for the shock factor.  But not well enough to do us proud.

Prediction: 2nd

I am of course buzzing for one of the most fun weekends ever – and one which is amazing to be here in Stockholm for.  Life is pretty much on hold the next two weeks and writing this will be one of the only bits of free time that I have.  However I am glad I wrote this, I haven’t done any Eurovision journalism for a while so it was nice to actually write something for the world to see.  I miss it and would in the future relish some more!

Especially with the quality of the songs, it is a short reminder to me that the fans are so amazing and it is so exciting to see them all together this week once again.  We are the community and we do need to use that voice a little more.  Watch this space on that one.

Sambo De Amigo

She lives with me.

And so far this is so good.

Firstly, can I chatter away at how amazing she actually is?  She is so selfless and helpful and knows how to make me happy.  She is good at the things I am not.  She is proactive in her time and surprises me each day in what she is able to do.

Yes I’m working the longer week, but already she’s got me worried about what I am doing.  She does do more housework and more cooking, I am tired and she looks after me.  Nice, and I am so grateful, but it has to be the other way sometimes too.  I think, despite the horrible pile of marking, I am going to have to go through this upcoming half term holiday ensuring that I fuss over her a little bit.  Thank her for creating almost all the IKEA furniture and sorting out the recycling and the little jobs and such.

And onto the marking, and the work/life balance.  I think it is ok you know.  Yes this is a silly late bus home, but we are having time off and I am coping.  Ideally, I should be settling myself into routines rather than swimming in the deep end with upheaval, but she has actually fitted into my life quite simply.  I may be in the deep end still but actually it feels like there is a float underneath me to catch me and drag me to safety if I run out of steam.  Rather than be a needy hindrance on my professional life, it’s actually being a pleasant and needed comfort from it.  The last two Sunday’s I’ve had the same thought in the afternoon that the thought of being in school the next day actually seems far away, like I’ve been away from the place, and it’ll be new to get back into the swing of it.  I’ve not felt like that before, and my mind has just so been put at ease.

All sounding rosey isn’t it?

I’ve sat for the last five minutes pondering how to put in some negatives but I can’t.  Even my fear of loneliness for her seemed mistaken, and actually she functions arguably even better than me on her own for a long time.  And I’m good at that.  She is enthralled by this city and it really seems like there is no way back for us.

The only thing I could mention is how she was late for our scheduled swim on Friday, and we both got a bit troubled by it.  As she reasoned, we were so used to our own plans that when they change and depend on each other it makes decisions so much harder.  But, we made things good, and were very happy with the outcome of going shopping.  It just took a few minutes of confusing new emotions to try and balance it all.  If that is the worst things get we are a very lucky couple.

We are in the honeymoon period of it all, but I think, as a team, it’s so great and refreshing how we complement each other.  Even I have some useful skills in being able to understand the Swedish things, find the right TV show to watch together, suggest fun plans for the day and so forth.  And then I get a tasty dinner.

Life is good.

New Chapters

It is one week until my life gets changed upside down.  I will have another person to share my flat, to share my space, share my food, share my money and share my bed.  Or should that be our money and our bed and so on…  In one sense, what is all mine is really all now shared. 

It’s going to be a very big step and a very big change.  I feel an enormous sense of responsibility, I feel the pressure to make things work is fully on my side and, although I fully expect it to be amazing and magical – I expect now that I will always be the one feeling guilty. 

I do often now anyway, in this long distance perfectly satisfactory yet limbo-like state of the last few years.  Our relationship as lovers is one that lasts for days, and as best friends we utilize a plethora of social networking methods to keep in touch.  I really realized this much this week, for the first time in ages I felt ill.  Ill enough that I was barely able to go home without having the thought of needing to jump out the bus for fresh air plaguing me at every instant.  I just had to get in touch with her, share this, and have a good old grump until I slumbered off and actually woke up reasonably peacefully.  What a luxury this is in our modern world, and what a luxury it will be to mope in person.  I only wish at the moment that I am going to able and considerate enough to do the same.

Knowing her as well as I do, this is a silly fear, but one still with rationality.  Sweden is tough to move to.  It is still dark, it can be very lonely, and the whole world seems locked away behind doors that may be welcoming, but choose to look the other way more often than not.  Especially as she’ll be working at home, and I’ll be working lots. 

We have plans and strategies in place, one time a week we should do some form of exercise together, a long walk, a swim, a dance etc.  One time a week we need to have a good old mysig night in. One time a week we will go and explore somewhere new on our SL cards. And so the list goes on, idealistic and aspirational, but that is what it needs to be.  I do not want toRemember we are both physicists (of a sort anyway), so some mathematically rationality and shoving is needed here.   And I need that too, I need to make sure I have a confidence to fit a work/life balance that actually does succeed for us both.  The balance of time apart and together isn’t easy.  I just realize, having had my traditional Friday night swim, that this is quite likely the last time for a fair while I will be doing that.  I’m settled and about to knocked right out of balance.

It also changes the nature of the relationship.  We are, I hope fair to say, at an interesting crossroads.  We want to really give this whole sambo stuff a go; we want a fair crack of the whip, and now at that.  It is the first time when opportunities make it sensible to give it a go, with her flexible work and my secure place to live.  To be honest, if all goes well the relationship could progress reasonably quickly, at least in Swedish terms.  But similarly, that possibility does not mutally exclude others.  Moving in adds another hurdle of difficulty, but we are the same team with the same ideals as before. 

Overall it is excitement, huge huge excitement.  I can’t wait for next week.  I can’t wait for the fun and frolics of it all.  And sure, I want a great last weekend of so called ‘freedom,’ but I also want to be free to enjoy all the fun of the next one.



I have a bus journey to fill time on.  The iPod is low on battery, the Kindle is safely at home.  The powerpoint for Physics next week can be made next week, the planning for that is all done anyway.

So I’m going to blog.  Without a subject, without a purpose.  Oh dear you think, and you no doubt stop reading now.  Oh dear I think, as I realize how embarrassing this could be.  Also, I notice now how often I use the word realize, and how I always notice word change the spelling of it to American English and how I never correct it. 

I think I’ll merely blog now as a running narrative.  About all I notice from this point of my journey home to when I get home to the lovely internet to upload.  I’m at Danderyd Sjukhus (try saying that if you don’t understand Swedish). I wasn’t really planning what bus to get back, and it so happens I missed my bus by one minute, so I’m going to go home via the bus to Näckrosen then the T-bana, so possibly something interesting there.

What do I notice?  I notice a …..nothing.   The faces are blankwith no seeming emotion of an outside world waiting here.  I know what I’m like.  I can’t help but mumble words to my songs, or find something as interesting as the snow anything but irresistible to play with under my feet. 

As I board the bus, my favorite spot is taken.  The one next to driver which means you get a great view of all around and of course anything exciting on his dials.  So, with a bus at 21:11 fairly quiet, I take prime viewing spot at the far back centre. 

I don’t know what I’m looking out for.  In desperation, I spot the cars overtaking us and all I think is how I really have no desire to be in one, driving and owning myself.  The costs, the hassles, the breakdowns, the risks, they aren’t worth any freedom it can give, and I just feel so lucky to live here.

I notice going past offices with lights all ago but movement all gone.  There must be a better way.  We must have a drive towards requirements for business in particular to be world leaders in best renewable practice.  As I really learnt teaching politics at school, all politics in modern democracy is about middle-term decisions in the human world, where we focus on what we plan to do, to marry, to have children, to find a good school and so forth – and in the Earth’s lifespan that time is miniscule.  Politics is hopeless because it works for such a short time that there just isn’t any true motivation to make fully perfect and fully unbiased decisions.  To put even better, democracy assumes everybody is able to make decisions better for life.  It doesn’t, it makes it better for your life and your priorities, it is too fickle.  It is a sad realization of the world and not a happy one for us to realize.  Every dominant species before us with that philosophy has faded out.

I got on the T-Bana.  Only waited for minutes, great going, arguably I am going to be home only 7 or 8 minutes later than normal.  This is good to know. 

I notice how surprisingly busy it was, with me just able to get a seat (I politely offered to another, but wasn’t taken).

I enjoy the Tunnelbana now so much more that I use it so much less frequently.  The adverts now don’t really test my Swedish though, which is a bit of a shame.  The excitement and buzz of a new place and the new cultures feel like they fade a little now.  But it’s not holiday, it’s real life.

I want to make sure I’m crossing a border now.  Maybe this isn’t me here to stay forever, but it is to stay for now.  I’m giving this place a good proper go again, a new invigoration. 

One stop to go.  A chance to reflect.  The eyes around me look tired.  They look sad and almost upset.  Sterile soldiers back from a battlefield of labour.  Eyes emotionless as we glide into our final stop. My smiles and glances must be odd.

And I arrive home. The modem goes on, and I’m connected to the world once more. I will watch news videos, eat, and sleep ready for the new day.  It is a routine I wouldn’t change for the world, but one that sadly (definitely not the right word) is going to change for meals being ready that aren’t the same pasta dish each night, a warm, ready, welcoming home, complete with cuddles and kisses and love.  And I promise blog to be so grateful each and every night for it, even when I really want some alone time to surf the unbridled web and drift out of one day into another.

See you later,

2 points for a win

Enjoying the relative freedrom of a Sunday for a change, after another friction-burning swim I managed to catch a little bit of the Arsenal vs. Man City match.  And almost immediately the game was dogged by a seemingly dodgy decision, Dzeko being brought down in the box stopping his goal-scoring opportunity.  Or at least the referee thought so, awarding the resulting penalty and red card.

In the referee’s rule book, he is completely correct to do so, but the commentators then held a long discussion about the rulemakers, rather than the rule enforcers, that need to change some of the ideas about football.

I couldn’t agree more.  The game of football has evolved through time and the rules have always changed to follow suit.  The early game has all sorts of oddities compared to today, kidney-shaped penalty areas, keepers allowed to handball to the half-way line, a three-person offside rule and many more.  The speed of improvements to the game, in fitness, in technology, have not been matched by the organizers and rulemakers.  On the top of my head, the most substantial changes are that more substitutes are allowed in most competitions nowadays, and the general failure of golden and silver goal methods for ending football matches.

The modern game is quicker, players are fitter and faster and more powerful, the ball is easier to control if you are a skilled player, and almost impossible if you aren’t.  Players are paid so much and are so valuable commercially, that yes, sadly they need rules that protect them more.  Especially with the huge power the players have, no matter of nutritional advice and training can guarantee that they will be safe always.

But it is a contact sport and that needs to be considered too – part of the game is the strength, and is the threat of intimidation that comes with great players.   I loved playing in midfield in my final year at university.  I wasn’t hopeless, but not the next Xavi either.  Part of the fun was the scraps, the jostling for the headers, the will you/won’t you mental battle to diving into a 50/50 tackle.  That needs to be kept in the game.

I don’t expect you to agree with everything here but hopefully this will make some common sense.

1) Be lax on goal celebration laws

It is right if a player is overcelebrating that they get a yellow card.  If it is timewasting or antagonizing, then it needs to be stopped and punished accordingly.  Taking a shirt off doesn’t necessarily do that.  If it has that effect should be a referee’s judgement, not automatic.  Taking off a shirt is a practice masculine form of celebration in many parts of the world, and if appropriate or not needs to be judged.  I am surprised, given how often it still happens, that the players’ unions have not further raised it as an issue.

2) Allow for a greater variety of pitch sizes

One of the greatest stories I heard was about Graeme Souness as Rangers manager.  In a two-legged match against Dynamo Kiev, Rangers got battered away from home.  On returning, Souness ordered the pitch to be narrowed to the minimum limit to stop the Ukrainian wingers.  And it worked.  Pitch sizes are now not allowed to be changed during a season, and, especially in European competitions, the dimensions are made more and more restrictive in choice.  Home advantage is being nullified and that is a shame.  Surely the pitch should be a part of the tactics too – as long as all is open and both sides are aware, loosening of the restrictions will pose more interesting tactical games.

3) Trial Goal-Line Technology

I don’t care if it isn’t perfect – if we can see on the TV in 5 seconds what has happened, then for the referee not to know isn’t fair on him (or, for equality’s sake her, that is point 4).  I am glad it has finally started, but it took years of begging just to get it tried out.  There are plenty of pre-season tournaments and the like that trials can be happily done, but FIFA sat on their hands shamefully.  Also, to trial something in what at least should be the biggest club competition in the world (The World Club Cup) really does degrade the competition.

4) Men’s and Women’s football together

When Perugia got their PR train in motion to try and sign a top female player for the men’s game, all I thought about was why not.  If women are good enough, then let them.  It would be hugely unlikely to be truly world class just due to natures of body types, but who knows.  Somebody who is good enough should have the chance to play, and if they are not they will not get picked.  That simple.  I do not believe it would degrade women’s football – I don’t think the WPGA in golf have suffered with female golfers trying their hand at the men’s game.  It also should be allowed for youth too.  The UK has a silly rule about girls and boys need to play separately in their teenage years, even though you can find many girls still bigger and stronger than boys at that point.

5) 2 points for a win

It’s purely mathematical.  2 divided by 1 is 1.  Therefore two points for a win.  Yes there is an argument for it encouraging great attacking play – but it simply isn’t a fair system.  We can do more things to encourage attacking that are fair.  The issue is that it is possible to frustrate in football and limit teams’ ability to do well.  Look at the success Chelsea have had on many an occasion in the Champions League.  A bigger pitch would make defending harder, as would a more liberal offside law, as would removing restrictions so that you could be off the floor at a throw in and I’m sure much more.  Then it will be so hard to purely defend that we can actually have a fair system again.

And that’s it for tonight.  Let’s keep the beautiful game beautiful.  I recommend people to watch old football matches from times gone by on YouTube.  It is equally beautiful as now, but so different.  Try it – and see where the game has come from and where the game needs to go for the future.

On Top Of The World

As I suspected would happen from my last blog that Kindle acquisition is taking up huge lumps of free time with the abundance of free material and the information it can bring.  It’s great to feel a desire to get through the Communist Manifesto (surprisingly relevant ideally to a modern world economics, but limited by how global our world and the people have become) and a plethora of books on things from travel to science and odds and sods of anything interesting in between.

Over the holiday, I realized by around the 3rd January that I was actually rested.  I had the common ironic syndromes of this – my body deciding it would be perfectly wide awake at 03:00 for no apparent reason.  I’ve done that since I was a small boy fairly often – and I’m perfectly fine with it, but it only happens when I don’t need any more sleep.

In resting up over the two weeks, I hit the sales to show and get things at a fraction of the Swedish price.  And in that I’ve had to move up a trouser size.  Gulp.  Not really a huge shock, but the time cometh and I just crossed the 32 in barrier.  Thankfully, some of trousers in Sweden do still fit and I’m going to make sure they do.

I had been taking my foot of exercising too.  Yes, I can say I was working hard, that’s normal – I remember my first few months in Sweden when I was able to have a cheeky swim midweek and so forth and I wondered how on Earth I managed to fit it all in now, and once a week on a tired Sunday afternoon anyway was hardly inspiring any anaerobic respiration through my muscles.  I also insisted on the fact I wanted to turn off my fridge and freezer before leaving, which meant eating up about a kilo of blue cheese in 4 days before I left.

I wasn’t that hurt though even with an expanding waist band or the scales saying I was the wrong side of the 13 stone barrier.  After all, I know my upper body has bulked out since kayaking more than ever before.  I was able before I left to actually do something close to resemblance of a normal push up, a huge achievement I never really thought I would get to do.  I kind of sensed though that I needed a purpose and a fresh excitement to exercise again.  So, after a clever facebook advert, I have signed up for the 10 km Kistaloppet in August.  Now, a 10 km is not that far, but I want to set a semi-ambitious target of being able to complete it in 55 minutes.  Hopefully the excitement of a real race with thousands of others will be the spur particularly over the summer months to keep up the good work.   In the same vain, I’ve cut out cheese and any kind of spread from my diet and am focusing on eating silly amounts of vegetables at home (there is no way I am limiting what I eat at school).

What really hurt was how unfit I had become.  I struggled through staff innebandy on Wednesday noticing my heart rate exploding after a couple of minutes.  I was a passenger in the games and so out of touch.  My body confidence was pretty low.  I realized I was not in my best shape, but did not consider this.

And so I looked forward to finishing school on Friday.  If I have nothing planned for a Friday I will work usually to about 18:30 and then head swimming until the pool closes at 9.  It’s a great end to the week, the pool is always quiet and I even have a few friendly faces there now.  I was intent on doing a good session, I bought new goggles and everything.  I lost count of how many lengths I did and so forth, which is actually very unusual, but I managed to do all 4 strokes and sprints and long 30 minutes stretches that were so hard I got friction burns on my armpits from hitting the water relentlessly.  I stopped as the last person in the pool when I suddenly realized I was hitting my wall and I wasn’t quite sure I was in 100% consciousness.

Boy was I proud of myself that night.  I was too hungry to eat when I got home, so I’ve been grazing on cereal, bread and mushrooms ever since.  I just felt so good and I lost track of how much I ate.  I treated myself to use the sauna as well.  I felt I had achieved so much and I was so proud.  This was the road to recovery, the shining light.  As I feel asleep reading my kindle, I recall the words gently swaying on the screen as I lay in bed, the little shot or two’s worth of whisky hitting me hard in this state of exhaustion to send me into what I believed would be a dreamily long sleep.

I was not impressed that the first memory of this morning was that it was still dark, about 03:30 infact, way before I wanted to be up on the Saturday morning.  Especially after my momentous triumph of life the night before.  My head was spinning and liquid was dripping out my nose at every opportunity.  I was broken; I had done too much and my body couldn’t cope.  Some night-time grazing combined with soothing wet towel on my boiling forehead and the combination of paracetamol and anti-allergy tablets brought me back to a state where I would, eventually, drift back off to sleep

I awoke happy and content once again, and have hit the ground running with working and all sorts of jobs today.  I thought that every week and weekend might feel this good.  But then I remembered that I’m going to have so much marking to do that I realized these were the good times, and it was going to get tougher very quickly.  I hate marking but I love teaching.  Marking is by far the least inspiring part of my role.  It is far more satisfying seeing the learning happen live than it can ever be on some A4 paper.

However, I have an addiction.  I want that feeling of pride, that achiness in every muscle, that joy as the trousers fit once again.  I want to get fitter and this time I am going to make that a priority alongside my work.

Slightly more power in my hands

Dearest loveliest Santa this year has supplied me with the new toy I am typing this post on, a kindle fire. I’m regretting this decision immediately, the keyboard on this thing is too fiddly to type on, and not just for being too small. The amount of times that I have pushed the page back button when I mean to backspace being the main drag in the design functionally, only seconded by the reloading of pages in the book store each time you switch search options.

However that book store itself has been a fascinating revelation. Flicking through the free books section in all variety of topics dear to my heart and I have delivered twenty homework-marking-putting-off-inducing titles to go through for my leisure. Reading is something I don’t do enough of, mainly as I’ve never really found it easy to find what I am looking for.  I’ve never ever been a fiction fan, and my childhood was spent with a fascination of the world atlas and fact books. Nowadays I’m ideally looking for political commentaries looking forward to the uncertainties of decision making in the troubled near future humanity is going to face.

However all of this inspired me. Many people dream of, or aspire to, write a book. And clicking through the Amazon store and seeing nowadays how the downloads have, refreshingly, first time amateurs side-by-side with seasoned professionals.

That’s one thing I love about Eurovision, and indeed the modern age in general. We talk through politics about equality, about providing opportunities fit for all to succeed, and the ability the internet provides to do that is second to none. Anybody can try anything, and you more than often will flop as the nobody, but being able to try and having the hurdles of publication removed creates a beautiful world where choice is in the hands of the seven billion and not the chosen few. It is something inconceivable to the thinkers of yesteryear, but something all would embrace if they could all imagine.

To write would be to akin to songwriting for me. I want that one shot when I get it right and I get some fame and glory from it all. But it’s no real career move, or ambition. I’ve always wanted that chance to do something that people think is really good. It’s that simple. The fame and recognition of being good is more than any monetary value can be for the smile on my face.

But then, the query would be what to write about, especially when trying to consider how to control the splurging writing style I have.  The Eurovision market is probably saturated, and maybe it would be unhealthy to investigate it further. However my favourite thing is to try and see how the things can change in the future, and that does excite me. I could attempt the same for politics, but think I don’t know enough. Similarly I could see if I can create a novel, but doubt I would have the knack of that to do it.  I could use this to have an excuse for a journey and to write about it, but, well, that just doesn’t feel right.

But a couple of hours on Christmas day were spent quietly in bed on my own flicking through the books online thinking that I could have a go too. This has inspired me and frankly should inspire everybody on the planet. The ambitious kids I teach should all have a go, now, as this is not a skill wasted but a skill learned, developed, enjoyed by self and by all. We need a world that continues to make creative culture free to all to truly find the very best on our lonely planet.

Home for Christmas


Home reminds me of so much that I look back on with regret.  I look at the chamber of computer games through the cupboards wondering what right minded person thought all of these were necessary.  I see the components all on standby, or the TV being ignored, and despite at the fate of our planet.  I see the shattered dreams of broken promises – the guitar I got for my brother he has barely touched, the smoky, ash-filled chamber of our conservatory, and the saddening routine of sofa positions my mum sits after another hard day working for the council.

This isn’t life.  This isn’t what human beings should be all about.

And yes, it is loving, warm, safe.  But it is all tainted beauty, troubled by imperfections and not striving to be the best and it brings out the worst in me and everyone else.  I have to leave the house at least once a day just to make myself feel sane and remind myself there is a world outside those doors.

It’s why I left – and in fact the entire area around in this lovely yet wasteland-like town of Rochdale only speaks out about the imperfections.  This just is not a pleasant place to be, and frankly, my heart depresses flying over from Sweden to the UK each time.  The deep reds and browns of our lifeless, tired estates sprawl monotonously across the city landscape, whereas seeing the lush snow white across the entire of Sweden, with pockets of water and forest, always gives me a reassuring piece of mind that I did the right thing in moving out there.

And this night makes me wonder about how amazing a Christmas can be.  Gets me thinking idyllically about that a snow capped Swedish countryside cottage that is also warm, loving and safe.  But differently, we think about the outside world.  We have developed relationships at Christmas that require more than a Christmas card that I scruff through the door at 21:00 on Christmas Eve – but those of neighbours and friends that actually do want to celebrate.  One that is exciting, honest, and built around that we can all have fun together.

Of course, one thing all of my family lack at the moment are children.  And of course, children do make the season.  Perhaps this is just a little rant at the sadness I have in feeling it is all a little bit forced now, when otherwise it would be so natural and exciting.  Who knows?  I can’t wait for that opportunity, assuming all of life’s remaining hurdles fall in place.

I think the main thing is though here, is that we share so little common interests.  We don’t horrendously enjoy the company of each other.  I love these guys to bits, and get on with everybody – but there is a limit to it.  Being in this home for too long drains the meaning of life out of me.  This is a desolate and lonely place and I feel for my little brother who needs to break free in order to do what 19 year old boys need to do.

However, tomorrow excites me.  I’m excited about presents, I’m excited about food and I’m excited about the good times.  I value it; I am not at all ungrateful.  In fact, more than anything I realise just how lucky I am to see the bigger picture, and how much I feel I need to set a good example to all in the future.  This break has been the reflection time I have needed and tomorrow I will put on a good shirt, join the family and do my darnedest to have a whale of a time.  It’s not all doom and gloom here you know, and I want to make sure you understand that.

Merry Christmas all!