With the previous year's packing list to help me, I stuffed my rucksack full of shirts and socks, and set off for Newcastle Airport. This time, I remembered to take an alarm clock. My flight, acquired for a song, required a very uncomfortable night's stop-over at Amsterdam Airport. The terminal buildings of Amsterdam Airport are gargantuan to the point of surreal. Most towns have fewer shops. Allow half an hour to walk from arrivals to departures, and don't dawdle. I saw a lady who had the unenviable job of trying to persuade people there to use the casino, at seven o'clock in the morning.
Stockholm was a blaze of light. I had been warned of the terrible weather, of how Sweden had been blattered by six weeks of heavy rain from cold grey skies. I had accordingly packed a rain poncho and woolly jumper. The sky was blue, cloudless, and I have never felt such a need for sunglasses.
The landscape between Stockholm and Herräng is not varied. Beyond the edge of the road, one sees areas of open grassland, at the edge of which is a wooden-slatted house, which 90% of the time is a shade of dark red, though it can also be dark yellow, or dark brown. These three colours make up 99.7% of all rural building colours in Sweden. I later learned that the red colour comes from an iron-oxide mixture, which is easy to make in an iron-rich country, and which is easy to repaint, since one just has to wet it and spread it around a bit more. Snag is, if you lean against one of these houses in a white shirt, you find that you are no longer wearing a white shirt. Beyond the house is a coniferous forest. It is easy to see why wood is cheap, like IKEA furniture, in Sweden. There are no hedges, and very few fences. My guess is that this is because there is hardly any livestock which needs containing. I saw no sheep, and only one or two herds of cattle in 100km of countryside.
Herräng was familiar to me from last year, except that this time all the grass was green instead of brown. The gymnasium was filled with people being given a lecture on the history of swing music. I had to ask to find this out, having been confused by the sight of a lot of people sitting about in silence, while music played, and one man stood in silence for many minutes, nodding to the beat, and looking around him with a "you see what I mean?"-look on his face.
HEAVEN AND HELL
This was the theme for the party that night. I had imagined that the dark side would have proven the more popular, but the Folkets Hus was populated with a generous number of angels, though I still feel that in a straight fight, we servants of the underworld would have had them. People danced with wings or pointed tails, and some with both. A couple of my potential dance partners hesitated to accept my offers of a dance, disturbed as they were by the rather realistic stage blood oozing from my eyes. As the night wore on, the blood proved not very sweat resistant, and was washed away.
After a while, the upstairs dance floor was opened, and people had to file past an archangel to get there. Many were sent to a deeper level of hell (the basement) for enforced alcoholic drinks and other such deviltry. On the stairs, an angel played the harp, and fluffy white clouds abounded. In heaven, hundreds of feet swooshed over the smooth floor to the rhythm of swing. There are plenty of worse visions of heaven, I'm sure.
I recognised one Swedish girl from the previous year. She had been one of the first people I had danced with at Herräng. She claimed to remember me, as the man who gave her one of her maddest ever dances. I don't remember having tried to dance madly.
Already the first seeds of doubt were sown. Last year, I had suffered a crisis of confidence on the dance floor. I had felt under pressure to dance pure Lindy hop, and to dance it well. This year I was determined not to be fearful of doing jive moves, and to be confident in my ability as a creative leader. This determination was to be tested.
I had thought that I would get to the beach on Saturday, as I had the previous year, but the day was taken up with faff. Registration and all such like tasks happened in Herräng time, that is to say, very late. I moved into the flat with three English dancers, which was to be home for the week. It was close to everything, bar the beach.
The flat was spacious, clean, unfurnished, but equipped with stove and washing machine, freezer and fridge. It was, I was later told, built in the 1980s. The mine at Herräng shut in the 1960s. The house had no sign anywhere that it had ever been lived in. The paint on the woodwork seemed to be the first that it had ever had. There was not a single drawing pin or Blutak mark on the walls - no sign that any picture had been put there. There were no scuffs on the skirting boards, no scratches on the floor. Why had this flat been built? If it was to rent out for holiday use, why was the rent only £200 a week? A great mystery, but I wasn't complaining.
The Swedes have an odd notion of bathroom design. I can see why they find ours odd. We have carpets in many of our bathrooms, which get wet, and are near impossible to clean if things get messy. They have a floor, the entirety of which is water-proofed, and which in theory drains into one drain hole. If done well, this could be a convenient, easy-to clean way far a bathroom to be. Unfortunately, the same problem afflicts this design as flat roofs in Britain: water does not run on a flat surface. After every shower, the floor of the bathroom was one big puddle. We did a lot of mopping.
I spotted one guy dancing that night, and pointed him out to many. He was covered in tattoos, and had a strange style. He didn't seem to be doing Lindy footwork, but some sort of shuffling series of steps, which was at once both vague and precise. He was very good. Those Brits amongst us, unfamiliar with boogie woogie dancing, suggested that it was boogie woogie. I thought little of this. Everyone always says "That's boogie woogie" if they don't know what they're watching.
The tattooed man turned out to be Peter Loggins, who taught at the camp with his other half Lisa. Peter, though a great dancer, proved to be a confusing teacher. Several times we the students were looking at each other, unsure of what we were being asked to do, as he counted us in "5, 6, 7, 8". He taught us a weirdly simple version of the balboa, the Dean Collins style of shim sham, which nobody mastered, and Dean Collins style Lindy hop, which was very difficult for most of the chaps to lead, since it is so different from what most of us have had drummed into us as correct.
First lesson was with Paul and Sharron. Sharron seems to be a paragon of normality, which is odd given that her boyfriend and co-teacher Paul is oddly tall, odd looking, pierced, and a wearer of bright orange, and of trousers so baggy that the crotch is at the knees, and the legs have room in them for a family of refugees. We learned a hip-hop routine as a warm up, then started doing Lindy moves with "gushes" or "gooshes" or "gershes" - his accent made it tricky to tell which, and I never asked him to spell it. This was Lindy with a hip-hop influence.
Janice Wilson, a quiet-voiced negress whose eyelids never opened more than by a crack, and whose style Lennart, the camp's organiser, greatly admired, took us for a few lessons. She taught us ‘musicality’ which first involved dancing to particular instrumental parts on the music: "The men are to dance the saxophone part, and the women are to dance the organ part." "Why are you men moving? The saxophone hasn't come in yet." When she showed us what she meant, she got a lot of applause. She certainly can dance. Later she too taught us Lindy with a heavy hip hop accent.
The eleventh lesson I had was with Chester Whitmore, and this was the first one in which I learned a new move. I'm glad to report that Chester taught us several. Until than, every lesson had been about learning jazz or hip hop routines, or, more often, had been about the finer points of styling - exactly how to do a Lindy turn. Most of the Brits wanted to learn more moves. They wanted to return from Herräng with a great set of moves with which to wow their friends. I heard one yank say that he was happy to have lessons on technique. He could learn new moves any day of the week back home. He was here for master classes in the finer points.
Our other teacher was Bill Borgida, yet another American. Bill told us in some detail how much he loved the Lindy turn. Yet again I was being taught the Lindy turn, in yet another way. I've never been taught it twice the same way, and many ways contradict. At one point, I was dancing with a young Swedish girl who must have been about five foot tall, if that. He told me that my feet were too far apart. I said that I stood that way in order to get down to a shorter partner. He said that I was wrong. It occurred to me to say, but I refrained from saying "Do you have much personal experience of being six foot three?" Bill is far from tall.
So all my teachers this year were American. According to Lennart in the opening meeting, only about 30% of the people there were Swedes. There certainly were an awful lot of yanks there.
HISS, GRUNT AND TVATT
Swedish is a beautiful language to listen to, but when written down, it appears to the eye of an English speaker, to be ugly and surprisingly rude. All over Sweden, signs say things that are rude: "Hiss", "Grunt!", or which are almost rude, like "Tvatt", "Skum", "Skotrum". Just so that you are not frustrated in your curiosity: Hiss means that there is a lift (elevator) nearby; Grunt means "shallow", and was on a sign to warn people not to dive off a jetty; tvatt is laundry; skum is foam, and is written next to fire extinguishers of that kind; skotrum is a room for changing nappies in. What is their word for entrance? Infart. For exit? Utfart. See? It’s just plain rude.
ONLY AT HERRÄNG
The standard of dance at Herräng is high. Everyone is trying to dance well, and has come a long way to do so. Here are three observations I made.
When watching the dancers in the evening, social dancing, one can fire an imaginary starting pistol in one's head, and see the whole floor respond to it. When the music comes into a break, everyone does something to honour that break, and when the music starts up again, bang goes your mental starting pistol, and away goes everyone on the floor, all at once. Marvellous.
When dancing in the dansbanan one night, there were about eight couples on the floor, dancing away, when all of a sudden the piped music cut out. Every couple, without exception, froze at that precise instant, each in dance-like pose. We were paying such close attention to every note, that when the music stopped, we stopped. We would have made a damn fine musical statues team. I received polite applause for filling in the gap, while they repaired the music, with a coarse-shouted rendering of "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens".
While dancing with a Swedish woman, I was amazed that she was so in synch with my lead, that when I by accident stumbled, she actually followed the stumble perfectly. Wow. I must have led the stumble very well.
Another nice thing about the dancing at Herräng, is that it is not accompanied by the ear-shattering volume of music which one gets at events in Britain. Every dance floor had a good sound system, and all of these were played well within their capabilities. In Britain, there is a law which demands that no matter how powerful a sound system is at a public event, it will always be over-loaded, distorting the sound, and deafening the people. At Herräng, it was always possible to have a normal conversation, even if near the speakers, and always possible to hear the music to dance to, and the tones of the clarinets and trumpets were never crushed into screeches or wails.
There were a few 'steals' at Herräng, when Americans were DJing. In a steal, people dance with a partner, but while they are doing so, they are looking out for opportunities to steal someone else’s partner. One is meant to steal never give away a partner, and one is meant to make it part of the dance. I managed a few smooth steals, and several rough ones.
I had one conversation with Sharon about the similarity of kung-fu and dance (with particular regard to arm tension, compared to Wing Chun chi sao). I don’t think that she was convinced. A passing Brit complicated matters by saying that martial arts were the opposite, because the man is trying to deceive his foe, rather than make his intentions clear to his partner. In the routine Sharon and Paul taught, I noticed myself doing kung-fu style diagonal stepping, and I still always kick with my heel on the floor. Old habits die hard.
When watching the 'jam sessions', I saw dancers with vastly more confidence that I have, showing off their stuff. I did also notice, though, that they seldom did any really complicated or flashy moves. Rather they did ordinary moves, with tremendous speed and confidence. Also, they were almost all American.
Reports from people who were around in week three said that the standard of dancer then was greatly higher than in week four. This came from women, who were unimpressed with the men of week four.
I now have a better grasp of what Ceroc and modern jive is. A major difference is that in Swing, the man leads the woman largely by moving her centre of gravity about, in relation to her feet, whereas in modern jive, her feet stay under her centre of gravity at almost all times, thus increasing the reliance on the arm-lead.
AN UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT
On the Tuesday evening, outside the canteen, many people were finishing their evening meal (the Swedish word for which means 'mid-day meal'), and chatting at length. In view of all these, some of the teachers at the camp, and their entourages, started very loudly making fun of modern jive. For a full twenty minutes, they shouted ever louder and louder, and laughed ever harder and harder, as they demonstrated how bad modern jive can look, when done as badly as they were doing it.
I suspect that you would agree that at an international meeting in Europe, it would be in poor taste to start telling jokes about Germany invading Poland. There would be a high chance that Germans and Poles might hear, and not find it terribly funny. Similarly, at an international dance camp, I suggest that it is not a very clever idea to proclaim that a dance style, related to the one you are teaching, is worthlessly bad. Within earshot and eyeshot of the tomfoolery, were many practitioners of modern jive. The commonest reaction was to ignore the performance. Some of us sat in stony-faced silence. Disappointed that the hilarity hadn’t caught on as expected, one of the teachers came over to "explain the joke". He told us that there was an amazingly bad dance which was popular in the eighties, and which had nothing at all to do with swing. It did occur to me to stand up and point out some excellent jivers present, but I said nothing.
Until that moment, I had been seriously contemplating offering a lesson in Ska dance at the camp. Ska is what I danced before I started partner dancing. I had brought some CDs, and had made some enquiries. People often offer lessons in other styles, at odd moments, at Herräng. I did not consider myself to be of the calibre of the other teachers there, but one lesson in the Moonstomp, Hunch, One Step Beyond Walk, Munchkin Skip and the like, might have been fun. That moment made up my mind for me. I offered no lesson.
So was my dance any good? Rationally, I can say that it must have been okay. When I dance in Britain, my partners smile as though they enjoy it, and often seek me out to dance with again. I am often complimented on having a clear lead. Mind you, I am often not dancing Lindy hop.
At Herräng, though, things seem different. For some reason I haven’t quite worked out, I can’t tell how good the women are. All the stumbling and bad dance seems to be the man’s fault. Things I get away with in Britain go disliked there. I felt judged and found wanting. Some of this was in my head; some of it was real. I wasn’t sure of the proportions. I cannot enjoy a dance if I think my partner isn’t enjoying it. Some women might have been more skilled at looking as though they were enjoying it. One dissatisfied customer can be tremendously deflating.
One evening, early in the week, I heard music suitable for jive, and invited a British friend onto the floor. With a couple of lapses into Lindy, we jived the whole way through. I even led the Armjive - jive’s crappest move - just for the hell of it. I declared that I wanted to make a badge saying "I went to Herräng and did the Armjive". I wanted that spirit of fun to last. It didn’t. At least, it didn’t for me. My friend reports having had much more fun than she’d had the year before.
How on Earth did I manage last year, when I knew far fewer moves? I seemed to be doing the same few moves over and over again. For one thing, I’m not used to dancing on such crowded floors. I’ve never been so jostled and kicked as I was there. There are only so many moves one can lead in a small space. Was I being jostled because of my incompetence? I don’t know.
I never asked the teachers and top dancers to dance. Perhaps I should have. When watching the top dancers dance, I don’t see that they do many flashy moves. Lindy hop is largely about listening to the music and interpreting it, using a few standard moves as tools.
By the end of the week, I was only dancing the slower numbers, and caring less. I was perhaps dancing better, I don’t know. Certainly my partners seemed to like the dances more, but still I didn’t get that feeling I get in Britain. I was not having fun. I was being inventive for the sake of doing something. I was moving my feet around because I had gone to a lot of trouble to be there.
One woman there took the trouble to come over and give me a style tip, which she did with great trepidation and careful tact. I thought her tip quite reasonable, and that it was never likely to cause me offence. Women do say, though, that many men take very badly to such things. "I hope you don’t think I’m being harsh," she said. She wasn’t at all. She was expressing her opinion, and I happened to agree with her (I do drop my right shoulder on 4 a bit too much, especially when dancing with short women) and I said so.
Walking back to the flat after blues night, I tried to work out how I was feeling. I failed. It was too unusual a feeling, a sort of weird tingly unreality. Fatigue was part of the cocktail, certainly, but blues night is such an odd experience, that I think my senses didn’t know what emotion to use.
I danced a fair few dances, until I’m not sure when - perhaps around five or six in the morning. I really can’t remember. Most of these were with strangers. The hottest dance of the night was with a (German?) girl, who hugged back, felt physically warm (or was that in the mind?), and at times seemed to be breathing in a manner unrelated to her movements. Another memorable dance was with a beautiful Russian girl, in long gloves, who gazed at me, bathed in flattering red light.
It was a Spanish-looking American girl’s 28th birthday. They played a blues jam session for her. A circle formed around her, and various men joined her, danced with her for a bit, then were succeeded by the next (inevitably, the crowd reacted when two men joined her at once, and when two women got involved). I thought that I had pretty much cracked blues dancing, but these guys were really showing her a good time. She danced very well, and I remember the way she seemed to draw in breath as she paused to appreciate the moment, happy to do little with her arms, and happy to be led so very well. One guy I remember danced very fast, despite the slowness of the music, but he made it look right.
American women chirp. The tradition in Sweden, we were told, was to dance two dances. After dancing two long, slow, moody, bluesy, close numbers with one woman, I would wander over in a dreamy haze to my next victim, and say I my mellowest tones "Would you like to dance?" to which these American girls would chirp "Sure." After two long, slow, moody, bluesy, close numbers, during which I’d do my best to dance as the music suggested, I would thank my partner for the dances, and she would chirp "Thanks". So much for my ability to affect their mood.
The women seemed to be more pleased with my blues dancing than with my Lindy. Then again, every woman there considered herself a Lindy connoisseur. Blues one just makes up on the spot, so I suppose it’s easier to fool them.
Some comedy blues rules had been read out at that evening’s meeting. These included that everyone should wear clean clothes, that men should remove all contents from their right trouser pocket "to avoid misunderstandings", and that there should be no hands on bottoms before 4 a.m. Though I made references to it, I took no advantage of the obvious implication of that last rule, after 4 a.m.
Also in that meeting, the 'blues guard' was demonstrated. This was an inflatable ring worn around the woman’s waist. I later discovered that a wreath of flowers worn around the lady’s head was a far more effective design.
I left when the floor was all paired up, no spare women left to ask.
I had taken the Penguini with me last year, and I took them again. This time, I used them. I wasn’t sure why I volunteered to appear in the cabaret, although the announcement that they only had a few acts was a factor. On the night, they had plenty of acts. I got very nervous, and I considered very seriously, several times, pulling out. I knew from past experience that I got little joy from performances which went well, and tremendous pain from those that went badly. I practised the act. It lasted nine minutes. They wanted acts to last three minutes. I practised juggling the Penguini. I dropped them, over and over again. I had forgotten how to juggle. I got even more nervous. I went outside to time my act, over and over again. The show started. I was given a radio mike, and shown how to switch it on. I waited, practised, dropped, got nervous. I heard myself being introduced, and ran to the stage, wrestling with the radio mike. The audience saw an empty stage, then a flustered Englishman gangle onto the stage at high speed, and come to a halt while a howl of feedback deafened everyone. "Oooo!" said the audience, complaining at the din. "The sound effects come free" I said, and then went into my act. Once I was going, I was too busy to be nervous. I could see the big-wigs in the front: Frankie Manning, Dawn Hampton, Chaz Young and the rest, all looking at me. I could also see a surprising number of video camera lenses pointed my way. Lots of people who were actually there were not going to see my act live.
My act was a severely cut-down version of the full act, but probably none the worse for that. The audience groaned (after a five second delay) when I said "... and you will notice that he is doing this entirely without the aid of a net. Annette couldn’t be here, she’s ill, she sends her apologies." I had first checked with a Swedish girl that Annette was a name known to Swedes. The audience seemed to like it well enough. I kept it short and made a quick exit. I felt that I had rushed it, though. Several gags needed a bit more room. It was really a stand-up act, justified by a minimum of juggling. I pretend that the Penguini are using me merely as a platform, and that they are leaping rather than being thrown. Half the act is one-ball juggling, much of the rest is two-ball. I did one reasonably tricky three ball pattern and got off. At least I didn’t drop anything. At one point, I asked the audience for complete silence, while Luigi Penguini concentrated for his next death-defying stunt. How daft people are. The whole audience fell into perfect silence, out of consideration for a three-inch tall stuffed penguin.
|See this act now, if you want, because in 2007 a guy called Clint Luckinbill uploaded his video of it to YouTube. Alternatively, you can just look at these silly animated penguins:||
The cabaret was hosted by Paul Overton, and he did it very well, even if his all-orange outfit did camouflage him rather too well against the curtain. As well as Paul’s mechanical singing fish impressions, there were tap dances; Lindy dances; a very slick comedy dance by a Japanese couple (who got laughs, among other methods, by doing the Long Legged Charleston the way I normally dance it); a cunningly conceived song and dance by a load of American girls, about the mosquitoes of Herräng, who accompanied themselves with slaps and stamps; a few world dances; some instrumental solos; and to finish off, Dawn Hampton dancing to a long Arabic-sounding modern number. Paul’s intro said that no one wanted to follow her. In the event, one girl who had been on earlier joined her for a while, and danced in a sort of Indian way for a bit, before dancing back off again. A bit carried away there, I think. Alcohol was involved.
After all this. All the performers were called back up onto the stage, and I was one of the last to make it there (having joined the audience after my act). I shuffled on and wound up in the middle at the front, which was the only place left to stand. I put down the Penguini in a row in front of me. Paul then announced that we were all going to do the Shim Sham. I don’t know this dance, and I did not consider it wise to stand in front of a host of excellent dancers who did know it, and block the audience’s view. I mucked about with the Penguini for a short while, and then left the stage. What happened next was, for me, the funniest moment of the night. The Penguini, three little juggling balls in the shape of penguins, were in the middle of the stage. In front of them, was half the area of the stage. Crammed behind them, were a few dozen first-rate dancers, none of who had the temerity to walk in front of the Penguini, nor to kick them out of the way. They danced the entire Shim Sham on each others’ feet.
As she came off stage, Dawn Hampton grabbed my hand and shook it, saying "Good show". I had first become aware of Dawn Hampton while reading the in-flight magazine on the way to Amsterdam Airport, in which she was featured. She is clearly a major figure in the world of jazz. I’m sure that the handshake she gave me would have had more impact on me, had I known about her several years previously.
One thing which several foreigners asked me about, was whether I had tried to make my act sound like Monty Python. Apparently, so far as they could tell, I was talking in a Monty Python accent, whatever that is.
I changed into my pathetic excuse for a costume (bunting taken from the kitchen ceiling, three juggling clubs, silver paint on face) and joined the throng down at the Folkets Hus. This was the one night I forgot to use my 100% DEET concentrate Die-You-Fiend mosquito repellent. A friend gave me some of her repellent cream. I got bitten more than the rest of the week combined. Learn from this and take some powerful stuff - if it can eat its way through a glass bottle, that's a good sign.
They had really gone to a great deal of trouble. There were fabulous costumes all around. Freaks were a popular choice, and many people has extra hands, women had beards, one woman had no legs at all, some people had two heads. Strong men with 'weights' were well represented. A gorilla sat in a cage. Horse rides were offered. A man did a fire-breathing act. I tried passing clubs with another juggler, and discovered that ten years of neglect can really damage one’s juggling skills. Balloons, pop corn, mints and more could be bought with a kiss. A wheel of fortune offered various prizes. Several people proved able to ride a unicycle.
Party goers on Circus Night. Not all the women at Herräng are this beautiful, but a surprising proportion comes close.
We entered to watch the circus performance. They started with the climax, and worked their way up from there. All the performers were members of the same family. These were the same people who were the band for the dances in the evening. The first act was a very impressive slack-rope act, which included riding a unicycle on the rope, climbing a ladder on the rope, juggling on the rope, and doing wild swings on the rope. Another act was a very odd contortion/quick change act. A woman climbed to the top of a tube, hooked parts of her costume onto unseen hooks, then contorted herself into the tube, and fell through it to be caught in a sling at the bottom, showing the costume which was hidden beneath the last. The fact that she didn’t seem to be having fun added to the weirdness of the act. There was also a good juggling act, during which the audience, as audiences always do, went wild at the easy tricks, and waited quietly during the really difficult stuff for the next cheap flashy trick. Another act involved standing on a plank, which rolled on various impossible combinations of rollers beneath. Perhaps the real show-stopper though was the woman who tap danced, then tap danced and juggled, then played the trombone, the trumpet, then two trumpets at once, then three trumpets at once, and then played the lute with both hands while playing the trumpet which she balanced on her lips. Great roars from the crowd.
This was the last night. The previous year I had danced until 7.30 a.m. This time I didn’t do so well. I lay on the dance floor and got half an hour’s sleep at about 5 a.m., during which I fattened the local mosquitoes quite a bit. I was dancing well (to the slower numbers), but still didn’t really know how I was being received.
I did the last couple of things which needed doing, like putting out the rubbish, which in Sweden goes into a locked room in an outhouse. I don’t know why they are afraid of people's stealing their rubbish.
I then set off for Stockholm. Some Swedes had got on their mobile ‘phones, and organised a party in Stockholm at the Swedish Swing Society venue (which is tucked away, far from the street, and very difficult to find), for 20 krona a head. I was to help out. The venue was very pleasant. They had two big changing rooms with showers, a big central curving bar, comfy seats to lounge on, and on the walls pictures of swing-related things. The décor was a warm orange. They had two dance floors. One was used by various people to crash out upon, and the other, next to the bar, was where we danced.
Before the dancing, I hung up streamers, used tin foil to decorate this and that, lit candles, went out to buy chocolate sauce for the ice cream, and the like. They went to a lot of trouble to make the evening go well. There seemed to me no need to decorate the place, and I was impressed too by the variety of foods they offered.
It was odd to see all the same faces I’d been seeing all week. At the end, there was a great deal of swapping of e-mail addresses. E-mail is excellent for this sort of thing. I’ve already exchanged e-mails with several people met at Herräng. In the village shop this year, was a computer linked to the web. It was possible to buy a half-hour session on this machine all week, while the shop was open. The booking sheet was full. Lots of people wanted to check their e-mails and do urgent surfing. The cyber-world made its presence felt.
Something must be written about the lack of people and cars in Stockholm. Stockholm is a capital, and a major city, with a population of millions. Where was everyone? In the middle of the day, in fine weather, on a wide street straight through the centre of town, one could at any given moment see a handful of cars and a couple of people on the pavement. At no time did I ever see anything resembling a throng. A throngless capital city seemed wrong to me. Unfortunately, there were still several branches of MacDonald’s.