Panic on the streets of Stockholm 

To quote the Smiths in their song ‘Panic’ – ‘Panic on the streets of London, panic on the streets of Birmingham, I wonder to myself, could life ever be sane again?’ 
This song resonates around my head as I reflect over the recent happenings on the streets of the Swedish capital – masked vigilantes, street brawls, police attacks. 

A group of masked men gathered in central Stockholm with the motivation of protecting Swedes by attacking immigrant street children. Flyers have been handed out around town with the message that ‘enough is enough’. A Facebook invitation has also been sent out asking for ‘Vikings’ to start patrolling the streets in gangs to protect Swedish women from ‘Muslim rapists’.

What is this? What the hell is this? 

I don’t know what the solution is. But while we must remember it is illegal behaviour by a minority, we also must realise that it’s a symptom of a deeper panic. We can’t keep living in a bubble.

1) More resources must be directed to the law enforcement agencies. Tax income or small tax increases could be redirected to enable this. 

2) Racist groups must be strongly counteracted. The consequences of their actions should be felt by them. 

3) An education program for Swedes in schools must be instigated. Schools should talk about values, integrity and the benefits of diversity and pluralism. People are not born racist. 

4) A huge media campaign on the positive aspects of diversity must be instigated – not least on the TV. 

5) Refugees must be humanised and not marginalised. Tell us their stories. Who are these people? What have the faced? What are their dreams, hopes, wishes? 

6) Traumatised street children must be cared for. Resources must be directed to this. Small increase in tax could easily finance it. We all gain from this investment. 

I know none of this is simple, but it must be done. 

Sweden is changing. Right now it is changing for the worse, developing out of fear and paranoia. 

This can be turned around – Swedes need to be reminded of what makes them proud to be Swedish. And that’s not gangs punishing street kids in the name of Viking culture. It’s the way that this country has welcomed people in need with open arms – more than any other country per capita.  It’s the way this country has respected the right to seek asylum. That is Swedish. That is something for Sweden to be proud of. 

Time for Semlas! 

Today I’ve decided to indulge. I’m going to eat my first semla of the year. These creamy buns are filled with delicious almond paste and were eaten traditionally in Sweden to commemorate the start of Lent and the great Fast. In the south of Sweden, they still refer to them as ‘fastlagsbullar’ – Shrovetide buns. Nowadays however, semlas are usually sold anytime between Christmas and Easter. So I’ve done very well to resist them this far. 

I just love them. I could eat a barrel load. But I’d end up looking like a barrel if I did. I love the taste of them, and the feeling of luxurious indulgence. I also love the knowledge that as you take a bite into a creamy semla, you are biting into over 500 years’ history of Scandinavian baking. 

The word ‘semla’ comes from the Latin ‘simila’ which means fine flour and originally referred just to the bun without any filling. As long ago as the 1500’s, bakers started to hollow out the middle of the bun and fill it with cream and butter. As ingredients became more available, bakers started adding almond and cardemon and the type of semla that we know today developed towards the end of the 1800’s. After rationing of sugar and dairy products ceased at the end of WW2, the semla took off and became very popular. 

Nowadays the semla trend has reached new heights. Every year bakers around the country try to launch new types of semla, with their own spin on it -for example, the semla wrap, the semla burger, the semla layer cake.

All delicious I’m sure, but I’m a traditionalist in this matter. Give me a round fluffy cardemon-scented wheat bun stuffed with whipped cream and almond paste. And give it to me NOW!!! 

Sweden’s disgrace! 

In the latest poll today, over one fifth of the Swedish voting population would vote for the nationalistic right wing party, putting the party into position of the second largest political party in Sweden. 

Let’s be clear what this means. One fifth of Swedes support a party that has its roots in the nazi party, that has verbally and physically attacked minority groups and that believes in Swedish racial superiority. It’s a disgrace for all Swedes who believe in tolerance, openness and solidarity. 

It’s time to act. To speak out. This is not going away. As the established parties bitch at each other, the Swedish population grows tired of their rhetoric. Consequently, they feel more disengaged and resentful and turn to a party that seems to talk straight to their concerns and promises protection of the Swedish identity. It is scarily reminiscent of the past. 

Pastor Martin Niemoller, pictured above, wrote a famous poem after he survived the concentration camps of the Second World War. His poem criticised the cowardice of German intellectuals after the Nazi’s rise to power and their subsequent purging of one group after another. It’s worth reflecting over his words. They are very relevant today. Right now. In Sweden. About us. 

‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.’

Do these words resonate with you? Are we the cowards he’s referring to? Are we so comfortable and complacent that we just sit back and watch it happen? 

If, like me, you believe in a multicultural society, it’s time to take a stance. Write to your MP. Talk to your colleagues, neighbours and friends. Get involved. Share this blog. Root out those one in five and challenge them. Demonstrate. Communicate. Educate. 

Speak out. While you can. Before it’s too late. 

Top 5 Rude Swedish Place Names 


In Britain, and Sweden, there are many places with funny or rude names. 

What’s in a name? Does the name of a place say anything about its residents? For example, are the people of Uppsala upwardly mobile people? Or are the people of Sundsvall very sound in their values and morals? Maybe. If the name of place represents the type of people who live there, what does it say about the residents of these top 5 rude place names in Sweden? 

5) In the town of Mora there is a place called Rövhålet, which translates as ‘butt hole’. 

4) Bögs gård, north of Stockholm, literally means ‘Gay’s farm’

3) Kattsjärten in the county of Värmland is the evocative ‘cat’s arse’ in English 

2) Way up in the north of Sweden, you will find Sexträsk, which is the exotic place of ‘sex swamp’

1) But the most embarrassing must be the place called Djupröven, which is just outside of Uppsala. It means ‘Deep Ass’ in English. Says it all. 

There’s also a suburb of Stockholm which I’m always embarrassed to say. The suburb of Fittja sounds very much like the offensive word for female genitalia. Best to avoid saying it if you’re a foreign speaker of Swedish. 

What other funny or rude place names in Sweden do you know? 

Please share this blog, if you enjoyed it. 

Stockholm: City of my Dreams

A wintry Sunday walk took me up to one of Stockholm’s most popular view points. Standing over the water, looking across the harbour to the Old Town and the islands of Skeppsholmen and Djurgården, I noticed the place name – ‘Per Anders Fogelströms Terrace’. 

Per Anders Fogelström was one of Sweden’s most popular authors. His most famous work was a series of books which followed the fate of successive generations of Stockholmers from 1860 to 1968. I’ve actually only read the first book – ‘City of my Dreams’ – which describes the harrowing and tough existence of a group of working-class people in the impoverished neighborhood of Södermalm at the end of the 1800’s. 

As I stood on the terrace high up on Södermalm and looked down towards the town, I felt the breeze of history’s wings on my face. And I realized, after more than 20 years here, this is also the place where many of my dreams have come true.