Writing: on board the 12:23pm train from Copenhagen Central to Helsingborg Central. We’re just about to arrive so I’ll use the few minutes I have to start this entry.
Had a relatively good night sleep but still woke up a few times, which made me wake up at 7:30am with my brain being a bit off. My ass was expecting about 5 hours train ride altogether to get to Helsingborg… I wasn’t in the mood for it. I wanted to sleep.
But everything in life, I guess, has its own time; and on 7:30am this morning wasn’t the time to sleep. Put some clothes on (so to not offend fellow lodgers in the dining room) and went downstairs for breakfast.
Oh, the joy. One of the things I liked about the Danes was that they are not big fans of mess. Organization and order here matters, as well as cleanliness. Terrific, fantastic breakfast. So many healthy options, everything so fresh.
Writing: on board the 12:53pm train from Helsingborg to Gothenburg, where I will take a connecting train to Oslo, arriving 4:45pm. Close call… one missing connection and I miss the concert. Lets all hope for the best.
The hotel’s dining room’s windows provide wonderful view of the bridge and the sea. Looking through them, I noticed a brilliant sunshine, creating a view that is too pretty to describe in words. For me, that’s equivalent to an adrenaline shot—I wanted to go out already, so I can enjoy the view and the atmosphere.
With nature making love with my eyes right in front of my eyes, it didn’t take all too long to finish breakfast and check out of the hotel. The camera was in my pocket during the entire 2.6km walk, as I was stepping slowly, French‐kissing every moment of the huge privilege I was granted to enjoy these wonderful moments.
Middelfart, Denmark… what a beauty.
Later, I was able to release hold of my camera and put it back in my pocket; unfortunately, it was time to go. Made my way to Middelfart’s train station and boarded the train towards Copenhagen, where I was going to change trains to get to Helsingborg.
The two train rides were used predominantly for completing the June 11 blog entry. The ride itself is gorgeous; the sheer level of beauty often reflecting through the train’s windows makes you understand why people are so happy to live here. Whoever or whatever it is that created this planet, was very kind when she jotted down this part of the world.
I would prefer nature over buildings any day of the week. This part of Europe certainly deserves an in‐depth tour of its own. I’m starting to think, maybe I should take on some work for a travel magazine… should work on my English first, though. Eight years in Canada and still in progress.
At around 2:00pm, I finally made it to Helsingborg’s central station. Welcome to Sweden—another country its air I was looking forward to breathe.
My hotel, “Hotell Viking” (no typo; that’s how you spell “Hotel” in Swedish), was located a short 5 minutes walk from the train station. Exiting the train station, the sea is immediately to your left; like Middelfart, Helsingborg is a sea‐side city.
Cloudy skies as I walked towards the hotel, conveniently located beside a popular walkway beset with restaurants, shops and other businesses. The hotel received great reviews, which is the reason why I booked it. Warm, cozy atmosphere; the decor makes it clear to you that you’re in Sweden—dark and relaxing, antique‐like.
Whenever I complete a blog post whilst on the train, I often try to publish it as soon as I have some connection available; when I don’t have mobile broadband available, I usually upload the blog post as soon as I arrive at the hotel. Yesterday was no exception; quick set‐up in the room, hit the button to publish the post and off for a quick shower.
Got dressed and I was ready to explore the city for a couple of hours before heading to the show. An extremely helpful receptionist gave me all the information I need about where to find an ATM and how to get to Sofiero Slott (the venue); I promised her that I will love her forever, she said she’ll do the very same thing. At least one of us wasn’t serious in the slightest.
Equipped with all the knowledge I needed, I went outside to see what’s out and about.
Sweden, like Denmark and basically all countries in Scandinavia, is not a part of the EMU. Swedish Krona (code: SEK) is the currency here, with the exchange ratio being about $1 CDN to 7.6 SEK. Still, things are relatively expensive here.
Canada is known to have the best banking system in the world, sharing the honour with Australia. Canadian banks are efficient, secure, respected worldwide and extremely convenient to interact with. For reasons beyond the scope of this blog, I am lucky enough to enjoy benefits not enjoyable by many, as doing so much business with them means that they make quite a bit of money off me (banks always make money off your position, be it positive or negative). I never had any issue with my bank that took more than an hour to resolve, often without much intervention from my side. With all that in mind, I was absolutely certain that I will have no problems at all being financially adequate anywhere in the world (read: anywhere in the world worth visiting… at least for me).
Rule #1 in international travel is to always carry local currency. Imagine my surprise, then, when my bank card got rejected from the first ATM, then from the second one, then from the third, fourth and fifth.
I can handle hurdles of many sorts, but things like that have the rare ability to piss me off and get me into anxious mode pretty quickly. Hell, it’s not that I’m in Sierra‐Leone or Nigeria; I’m in f’n Sweden for crying out loud.
That didn’t quite create a pleasant environment for my brain to swim in. Luckily, the knowledgeable receptionist in my hotel guided me to a foreign exchange booth that was still open.
Before heading there, I had a great lunch in a place called Haket right behind the hotel. Diverse menu—yet not too diverse, fortunately—a bit slow service due to the restaurant being completely full, but great food. Being inside certainly let me feel Swedish.
Back to the train station for the foreign exchange thing to trade some Euro’s for SEK’s. While being there, I decided to think ahead, and just in case my card isn’t accepted in Norway—get some of Norway’s currency as well. Being stuck in Norway on a Sunday without cash… brrrrrrrrr. No, thanks. Lets fix it right now please.
It was almost 5:30pm when I was done with everything and already tired. The Sofiero Slott was located 4.1km away from where I was, requiring either walking or taking a bus. In normal circumstances, I would walk it (for fitness’ sake, plus, hey, the one and only path you have to walk through is actually adjacent to the sea, providing picture‐perfect views) but I was tired already so I decided to take the bus instead—not without taking some pictures around:
Half an hour later, I arrived at the venue. Leaving the bus, I noticed huge line‐ups on both sides of the entrance.
The instructions for markknopfler.com ticket owners were to pick up their tickets at the entrance. Upon arrival, I realized that the huge line‐ups are for those who already had the tickets in their hands; a much shorter line‐up, containing maybe 10 people in it, was next at the entrance with signs saying that the line‐up is for markknopfler.com ticket‐holders as well as Golden Circle members (I suppose the latter is a venue‐specific membership club or something).
People arrived at the venue carrying all sorts of things—folding chairs, blankets, coolers, you name it; whoever was about to enter the venue had to have his / her belongings inspected first; then, markknopfler.com ticket‐pickup; and only then enter. That meant that every person took about 1 minute to enter the venue.
The markknopfler.com tickets were handed inside envelopes, as (almost) always. I usually check for the contents of the envelope before tossing it to the garbage; this time however, the attendant beat me to it. Inside the envelope, there was a yellow ribbon that I had to tie around my wrist.
Interesting, I thought. Now that I have a funky bracelet, am I allowed to… what exactly?
Turns out that there was an unadvertised benefit for markknopfler.com ticket holders. As this is a standing, general‐admission venue, the area closest to the stage was reserved to people with yellow wristbands. While hundreds of people (at that time; the venue filled very quickly as show time approached) were scattered far away from the stage, I could easily and safely step towards the fenced area, wave my wrist at the security crew and enter the area near the stage.
There were maybe 30 people there—the very front row was already occupied, but I found my spot at the second “row”.
Two Swedish guys, who were seated right next to me, came prepared with a cooler as well as a folding mat to sit on. It was a cloudy day, raining at times—I didn’t bring anything because I (foolishly) trusted the weather forecast that warned of high winds but no rain.
Conversation had been struck with the two Swedish guys who turned out to have seen Knopfler live last in 1996, and were very excited. Funny conversation with two great guys. It started to rain again, which is when the guys told me that I can buy a “Poncho” at the booth next to the merchandise store. They kept my “seat” as I went there, waited 15 minutes in line and bought the lousy piece of nylon for 40 SEK (about $5.5 CDN). Of course, once wearing it, I tore a bit of it apart; it was still usable though.
As show time approached I decided to get rid of some bodily fluid before it starts so I can preserve my good “seat”. Two booths were dedicated to the “golden zone”. Arriving there, I discovered a line‐up as long as if Santa Claus himself was there giving away free beers. 25 minutes (!) later, I was on my way back to my “seat” when I discovered that making my way there is simply not going to work. It would mean interrupting way too many people. Therefore, I decided to stay two or three metres back, directly facing Richard & Guy.
It continued to rain periodically, driving people crazy. Fairly strong wind, making the huge black fabrics—placed to protect the stage from side‐winds—sway rather violently. At 8:00pm sharp, Feelin’ Good started playing and the band took the stage.
The band members were again dressed in winter clothes; even Mike bothered to wear something warmer than what he had worn the day before (even Danny wore a long‐sleeved shirt). While the audience expressed a fair bit of joy during the concert, the weather didn’t; it rained occasionally—five minutes rain, five minutes stop and vice versa.
The stage, at times, looked as if it was going to hitch a ride with the wind and be swept with it to the North Pole; looking at the band, I could tell that, during the first few songs, they were rather annoyed and / or concerned with the weather and its impact on the stage and the equipment.
The rain didn’t spare the instruments; during few of the songs, Mark had to use his towel to wipe the guitars as they became too wet to play with effectively. Having to use the towel for his hands as well as for wiping the guitars, those damn towels often fell off onto the stage, making Mark evidently annoyed. I’d say it would be a fair bet to say that this particular show had everyone but the audience worried—the stage crew, production, management and of course the band.
A few seconds of panic took place at the beginning of What It Is. The song opens with Richard Bennett striking the F♯m—D—E chords on the acoustic guitar along with the drums; lo and behold, no sound emitted by the guitar whatsoever and we had a drum solo for the first 10 seconds of the song. A crew member’s attempt to fix this by turning a knob on didn’t seem to do the trick; within seconds the entire incidence was behind us as, I believe, someone hidden from the audience’s eyes flipped a huge ON‐OFF switch to an ON position and business is back as usual.
The concert featured a 15‐songs setlist with no special surprises. After a few songs during which the band’s frustration was somewhat evident, the concert shifted gears and the show became as brilliant as I’m used to.
The Swedish audience seemed more participating and warm than their Danish counterparts, sending loud cheers and long arms into the air. Dire Straits tunes yielded massive cheers, especially after Sultans of Swing which got people of all ages dancing as if there was no rain at all.
During Marbletown, right after the sentence “Hope that it don’t rain”, Mark looked up towards the (then raining) sky with a half‐sarcastic half‐hopeful look. Very funny moment for me at least (I noticed some other band members grinning). Well, his hope didn’t come true as the rain was quite persistent.
As Speedway at Nazareth was starting, Mark approached the microphone and said (in a really low voice so I’m not sure I’m quoting correctly) “this is a song I wrote about (?) a Swedish friend of mine”, probably referring to Stefan Johansson, the race‐car driver.
The show ended at 10:00pm; I guess everybody was relieved that nothing got ruined due to the bad weather. Another good concert is over, time to go back.
Exiting the venue took about 20 minutes due to the venue’s exits serving as a brilliant bottleneck. A bit tricky for a few thousands of people to exit through two narrow gates. As I was relatively at the front, not only it took forever to get out but, also, the line‐up to bus 219—which was supposed to take me back to the hotel’s area—became as long as the line‐up for merchandise returns in Future Shop, Canada.
Therefore, I decided to walk back—which is a good thing, otherwise you wouldn’t see these pictures.
Walking southbound, the shore to my right, it was not completely dark yet. Looking at the sea, I saw rapid waves being swept onto the shore right beside me; behind them, a distant shore lit by shimmering lights. To the south‐west, a huge ship appeared to be holding in its place, way far ahead, its lights shining in a sweet orange‐ish shade.
Tall grass between the sea and me, and the wind makes it bend every now and then, creating an illusion of waving grass.
The waving grass… where have I seen it before?
Chéticamp. That lovely tiny little town off the west coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada… at night, the view is very similar to Helsingborg’s beautiful, wild‐looking sea. Having Chéticamp in mind, and the human brain working associatively, other memories creep in—mostly uninvited—as I walk back towards the hotel.
I remember a summer month in a year that now seems too distant to be real, as if I was living in another world back then. Perfect July‐August weather in Chéticamp. I remember a car being driven from Chéticamp’s town centre, through the causeway onto the peninsula. Not a soul in sight; about 24℃—quite respectable in Nova Scotia standards; absolutely clear blue sky in mid‐day, making the Atlantic ocean’s blue mix with the brilliant green surroundings in a way that pleases the eye almost to an orgasmic level.
I remember pulling over next to where the waving grass looked thick enough to lay two heads upon as if it was a brilliant giant pillow. Sweet, crisp breeze makes its way from the ocean onto my face as I am laying down gazing at the sky, while the wind that didn’t make it towards my face certainly made it towards the ocean, yielding gentle, whispering waves. The scent of sea salt mixed with the sweet scent of green… rejuvenation, courtesy of mother nature.
Thousands of kilometres away, millions of years later, I am shot with a cannonball of history; Chéticamp is now yet another piece in the puzzle of life, gone missing drowning into levels as deep as the Atlantic ocean surrounding that distant memory. I may have “got lucky” more often than “now and then”; granted, I won some; but who knows—I may have actually lost more.