The gates of Mordor
Or possibly to the Temple of Mammon. The huge shopping centre outside Sundsvall was heaving with happy consumers today and I skirted round the edges for a while.
I found the chocolate money I felt I needed to make Advent really pop. And the chocolates necessary for various visits that are in the diary. It was like a well oiled military manoeuvre: reccy, in, search and basket, out again!
There were so many cars, and so much confusion! Not my scene at all, but needs must and I had a few hours to spend whilst Keith was receiving his gold medal for zealous and honest service to the state, for 25 years. Impressive! I missed mine by a couple of months since I retired at 61 - shame. We could have had matching medals.
So whilst Keith was being given fabulous flowers and being dined with the chancellor I went to my favourite second hand shop and found treasure, this time in the shape of many small wooden frames. I have a cunning plan, requiring frames made of wood coloured wood.
There was a language incident which caused a wait of 15 minutes and an intervention was necessary to smooth the way.
An immigrant couple had bought a garment they thought cost 99 kronor, they were charged 165 kronor and discovered it as they sorted their change out.
I think they were speaking Arabic to one another, quietly, but worriedly.
The man tried to explain the situation and that he wished to give it back as it wasn't a good deal. (I'm guessing a bit)
He hadn't even left the shop with his purchase.
The man behind the cash desk was also an immigrant and spoke almost no Swedish.
It was his first day on the till, possibly in the shop.
There wasn't a lot of communication happening.
Quietly, but worriedly.
The woman in charge of the till came over and tried to explain to the worker how to do a return and write a credit note.
He didn’t understand any of those words.
The customer walked her over to thee stand where the garment had been hanging, with a huge notice saying 99 kronor.
She explained it had been put in the wrong place.
The woman tried to explain the concept of a credit note to the customer, kindly and slowly and with gestures - no cash in hand, but a credit note.
She asked - Do you understand?
The customer said, in Swedish Nej.
That was a piece of clear communication at least.
Here comes the intervention with a radical suggestion that you, dear reader have already thought out for yourself no doubt!.
I suggested I could give her 165 kronor and she could give it to the frustrated but calm customer, and then give me his credit note.
I could then pay for my frames with it.
Det var snällt! She said "how kind!"
So we did.
It was so simple, and quick but the time it took was long.
There was a young lad standing behind me in the by now considerable queue.
We chatted about how easy (haha) we'd find it to do business in , let's say Arabic... and how kindness is needed.
i spoke about my own confusion the first years in Sweden, he expressed surprise that I wasn't a Swede.
I pass a lot of the time it seems.
He was covered in tattoos as far as my eye could see, and was buying a 10 inch high statue of the virgin Mary holding a rose in her upturned hands.
He wondered if it might possibly be Mary, he thought it was "nice somehow".
I spoke about Mary, the rose without a thorn, and agreed she was a very nice statue.
I am grateful this whole event, time-consuming as it was. It felt like a series of connections were made, some eyes opened - including mine - to how incredibly vulnerable we are in a culture we don't understand, a context that is new and complex, in a language from a different family, with only a few words to play with. Also to how much kindness there is, even on a hectic day where shopping is a chore rather than a pleasure. No-one was cross or unkind, even when there was such a lot of confusion and cross purposes.
If only the Brexit negotiations could be this civilized!!
I understand that confusion and irritation abound, and that everyone is at everyone else’s throats in the Tory party. Fancy getting into bed with the dreadful DUP with brexit on the cards! The man across the table from me is actually cackling!! He promised to "find the funny side of this big mess" when it began, I am full of admiration for his approach.