Sunday, 24 February 2013

Beating the January blues............

January is generally a shit month for everyone. After the highs of all the parties and nights out over Christmas, you are always brought back down to earth with a bang once the new year begins. The January blues usually kick in that moment when you realise that you have go back to work tomorrow!!

The January blues for me this year however were a different experience completely. Whilst I felt those same old emotions that everyone else feels, I felt something that I had not experienced before.................homesickness. Since I moved here I have not felt homesickness once..................until this January. Don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean that I have not missed home since I moved it's just that this felt different. Sweden has everything that I could get in England but somehow I suddenly felt like an outsider and began missing all the familiar surroundings. I think it maybe has something to do with the climate. It has been snowing here for the last 3 months, and that itself can become quite depressing. My sister loved the snow when she came to visit but that was only for 4 days. After 3 months the novelty wears off!!

Although I was getting tired of the weather I don't think it was the root cause of why I was feeling down................although I'm sure it played a part! I could not put my finger on why I was feeling this way. First I thought it was my job. Work had become quite stressful but nothing more stressful than I had dealt with before................Then I had a revelation.

I have done a lot during my first year here but now that I have settled in my job and bought a new apartment, it somehow felt that I had reached my goals. The whole first year had been one long adventure and it seems that there was always something new happening. In January the adventure came to a halt. I had no surprises anymore in England so when I moved here it was great as I was experiencing new things all the time..............but lately it was as if things had come to a stand still. It felt like there was nothing new on the horizon, nothing to look forward to. I had felt this way before back in England but the difference then was that I had my close friends and family around to take my mind off things when I needed to. I didn't see them all the time but just knowing that everyone who cares about you is close by is a comfort. It's definitely something we take for granted.

If I'm honest, I never expected to feel homesick. I read somewhere that that the number one thing to know about homesickness is that it will happen at some point. Some cases will be worse than others, but they say that if you expect that the feeling of longing for your home-country will show up at some point, you have a better chance at dealing with it. I'm sure that I am not the first person to feel this way. There must be others like me who didn't ever expect to be hit by homesickness that suddenly find themselves missing the familiarity of home and friends................the trick of course is learning to cope with it.

Aicha was really great to me during this time. It's always good to talk about how you feel, and whilst not everyone has the answers, making them aware of your feelings gives them a better chance of understanding what you are going through. They may not be able to come up with many suggestions other than being a listener but luckily for me Aicha had experienced this herself. She suggested a few things which really helped me and after a few days things began feeling better for me..........................watching the 'Only Fools & Horses' boxset did me a world of good!!

One of the things she suggested was keeping more contact with those at home. I speak to my family back home once a week but its normally just to my Mum. My aim now is speak to everyone at least once a week, but its not always easy catching everyone when they are free! We have also arranged a trip to UK for April, which I'm really looking forward to, and now that my sister is getting married in September, I will be there again in the summer. I love it when I go back home! After my trip to the UK in December I did not know when I would be going back and I think not knowing when I would see everyone again played a part in my homesickness. The other thing I need to do is get them over here more regularly. I've talked about it a few times with my brothers but nothing has been arranged yet so I need to push them on that one!

The other thing I realised is that I needed some new goals. The only box I have not yet ticked that I set out to when I moved here is to be fluent in Swedish. That is still a goal of mine but its not a cool goal like starting a new career or buying an apartment!! I will admit that I do not invest enough of myself in it but in time I hope I will.

It is always important to have a focus, something to work towards and look forward to. For years Aicha and I have discussed going to the USA but it never materialised. This year however we decided to go for it and I am thrilled to say that we have now finally booked our dream holiday! 5 cities over 3 weeks...................LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington DC and then finally New York. It's gonna be awesome! My goal now is too work hard and save as much money as possible to fund this trip........................cos Vegas ain't gonna be cheap!.................except the hotel though, that actually was the cheapest of the lot!!

My Swedish Adventure is back on and I now have loads of other things to look forward to. Football training has started again (another thing I had missed) and the team have arranged a pre-season boat trip to Finland, and the guest of honour is Ian Rush!! How cool is that! Rushie was one of my hero's growing up so I can't wait to be in his company.....................although they do say that you should never meet your hero's as you will only be disappointed! I'm sure I won't be though..................Rushie will always be a legend!

Having experienced homesickness, I thought it would be a good idea to post about it as I feel this may happen again someday and I can always use this as a reminder of how to beat the January blues!.........................all you need a Only Fools & Horses DVD boxset, a dream holiday and some football......................and Ian Rush!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Bish Family On Tour............

December was an exciting month for me. Not only was it Christmas time but I also had my Mum and sister to stay. It was the first time that members of my family (other than myself) had been to Sweden so I was really looking forward to it.

I had arranged to meet them at the coach terminal in the city and from there we would decide what we would do first. I had pre-warned them about cold weather so I was glad to see them step off the coach in their snow boots and furry hats!! We decided the best thing to do was to head back to the apartment to get settled in, then head out later in the day. So after a cuppa and a tour of our new place, we headed out to Kista Galleria, where we met up with Aicha for a bite to eat at the food court. My sister Charlotte was very impressed with Kista Galleria. She was quite jealous of the fact that we have a shopping centre right on our doorstep................and having fallen in love with the snow, it wasn't long before she began talking about her next visit!!

That evening we headed to O'Learys for some drinks and a few frames of bowling. I was fairly confident that I would emerge victorious but Aicha had other ideas. She pushed me close all the way but in the end I did manage to win..............just!! The highlight of the evening for me was watching my Mum bowl. You never quite knew what she would do next! I would say that 90% of her attempts would end up in the gutter................but on the odd occasion she would get a strike!! It was all or nothing!! She surprised us all................even herself!!

The next day was a Friday and the plan was to do some sightseeing around Stockholm. Aicha had to work so it was left to me to be the tour guide for the day. We started off by taking the tunnelbana (the tube) to Mariatorget, which is close to an area which has great views of the city.

We then walked to Gamla Stan ('Old Town' in English), which is the main tourist area of the city. We had been walking for a few hours by then and we were becoming hungrier by the minute so we stopped at an Italian restaurant for lunch. Aicha had finished early from work and came to meet us so we were all able to have lunch together. We then continued our tour of the city for the next few hours, taking in the Christmas markets and department stores, but by around 6pm we had no energy left so we decided to call it a day!! We did manage to get a few more pictures on the way though.............

On the Saturday we headed to Ulriksdal for a Christmas lunch buffet, otherwise known as 'julbord'. No Swedish-style Christmas is complete without a julbord buffet! Although there is some variation from household to household as to what appears on the julbord there are several standard dishes that are usually tackled in three courses. The first generally includes a variety of pickled herring and cured salmon, the second is bread, ham, liver pâté, red beet salad, and cheese, and the final course is comprised of the warm dishes with Janssons temptation (potatoes with anchovies), meatballs, sausages, pork ribs, and cabbage. By the end we could hardly speak we were so full!! The food was awesome and it great for me to have experienced this with mum and sister. We all really enjoyed it!!

After julbord, we popped in to say hi at Aicha's parents. Aicha's family have been to England on a few occasions but this was the first time my family had visited them. My Mum and Charlotte were treated to a tour of the house, followed by coffee and biscuits (or 'fika' as it is known here). It was nice seeing them all together at the Kermoury's. It had been a long time coming!!

After a few hours we headed back to the apartment where we prepared to watch the live final of The X Factor UK. Unfortunately it was not shown on TV over here so the only option was to try and stream it online. Aicha is normally good at sorting this stuff out but she was at a party that evening so it was down me to organize it. I did manage to find a website to stream it from but after 5 minutes it was shut down so, as an alternative, we decided to Skype my Mum's partner Martin and watch it through the webcam on his Ipad. This seemed like a good idea in theory but the reality was a different thing entirely!! The glare from the TV made it impossible to watch and the sound was of bad quality also....................which is quite important when watching a singing competition!! We tried again to stream it online but it was no use so instead we watched some stand up comedy with a few glasses of wine!!

They left for England the following day and it was sad to see them leave. We had loads of fun during their visit and it was great having them stay. I hope having now visited Stockholm they can see why I decided to move here..................and I hope it will be the first of many visits!!

The following weekend I went back to Brighton, which for once did not involve a wedding! It did however, as with previous visits, involve a lot of catching up with people, a lot of shopping.................and a lot of alcohol!! I spent the first day of my visit getting my Christmas shopping out of the way thus allowing me more time for socializing  I had a lot of people to catch up with in a short space of time, and, as expected, the majority of the catching up would take place in public houses! Unfortunately I wasn't able to see everyone I had intended to but I hope prioritize them next time.

By the Sunday the catching up I had done over the previous 2 nights had taken its toll and I was a broken man! Sunday is the day when all the family comes to my mums for dinner, and anyone who has popped in on a Sunday afternoon knows that it is a mad house!! With the kids running around causing havoc, it is 5 hours of carnage.................and right in the middle of it was me with the hangover from hell!! Luckily it did get better as the day went on and as much as the kids were giving me a headache, I loved  being with them. I really miss them a lot................. definitely more than I thought I would!!

I flew back to Sweden a few day before Christmas and I was looking forward to taking some time off to relax. Whilst I love going back home, it is never the most relaxing of trips as I am always trying to fit everything in within a short space of time. The main aim when I go home is to see everyone, and it when you have so many people to see it can take some planning! Over the Christmas period, all I wanted to do was switch off, eat some nice food and enjoy a few beers....................mission accomplished!!