Blue-Arsed Flies and Strong Beer

Not as hungover today as I should be, although having said that my head does hurt and I’m not exactly a bundle of energy. My brother and M picked us up in the afternoon and had arranged for someone to drive us back late last night too. This is the thing here in hillbilly-land, you see – there’s nothing called public transport (apart from the two train departures during weekdays and the school buses) and with distances like these (not too unusual for your neighbour to live a couple of miles away) you need a designated driver as walking home in -20 isn’t an option.

Fear registered in B’s eyes when my brother D announced they were going to enjoy some sauna shenanigans.

Inside?” B suggested as way of reassuring himself that this could not possibly be happening, “like at the gym?”.

No way!” D laughed and slapped him on the back, “outside of course!

B looked a bit deflated and glanced at me with pleading puppy eyes.

But it’s -18, D,” he began meekly but I could tell he’d already started to resign himself to the idea of rolling around naked in the snow.

Not in the sauna! And when you’ve warmed up you won’t feel the cold, it’s just a bit chilly getting out from the house in your shorts but then it’ll be fine, we have beers!” D announced cheerfully with another back-slapping frenzy aimed at poor B, who looked like he’d shrunk several inches from his former well-built 6’2.

I felt very bad for him, but the gratitude at having an evening with my sister-in-law M (who also happens to be one of my best friends) and the glass of wine she handed me soon overtook any pangs of a guilty conscience. We had a great chat, as we always do. It’s not all that easy to engineer – I live abroad and when I’m in Sweden twice a year I also have to rush around like a blue-arsed fly to see everyone, and she has three kids (well, four when mine’s around, given he only wants to see his cousins and I hardly get to see him when we’re there).

I suppose it’d be fair to say that B’s divorce is pretty fascinating – even to people here in the UK, it seems remarkable given most celebrity divorces with millions in the bank and custody for kids to fight over don’t take this long. Now, put this to Swedes and you’ll be met with furrowed brows and perplexed expressions. The whole house-wife thing doesn’t exist – the last generation of house-wives was that of my grandmothers, and even they had part time work. So the idea that B has to financially support another adult for the rest of his life they don’t understand at all, as they wouldn’t understand the concept of financially supporting another adult when you’re a couple in the first place.

Things are slightly difficult though, as it’s more challenging than a non-existing CV for B’s wife to get work, so it’s a moot point, but even there no one can understand how B can possibly be put in such shackles for the rest of his days. But that’s not what M and I chatted about in any great length, it was more me outlining the latest to her (not that much has happened recently) and her gasping wide-eyed at how so much time and money can be wasted on achieving not very much at all. It’s great entertainment material, that’s for sure – if only for as long as you can for a few moments ignore that this is a very sad thing for those involved.

B and D turned up when M and I were into our fourth (or was it the fifth?) glass of wine, and true to form the buggers had poured several strong beers into terrified B in the sauna, as well as several generously poured whiskeys afterwards. D looked very pleased with himself and B was slightly unsteady and had a blissful smile on his face.

Sum total: my precious B is now truly converted and into moose hunting, snaps songs and sauna. He proudly showed me a photo of him in just swim trunks (at least they didn’t strip him naked) standing outside in the snow with heat steaming from his body, and told me how refreshing this sauna business is and how he’s up for taking a dip in an ice covered lake next. This is a man who grew up in New Zealand and celebrated Christmas on the beach – gotta give him credit. Bet he never expected to celebrate on the other side of the world, naked in the snow, half drunk and with a bunch of sweaty Swedes.

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