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December 1, 2004

Diamonds Are Forever

Sitting watching adverts on tv with Colin tonight, one came on for vodka. Anyway, in it the guy dies (probably from drinking too much) and looking for everlasting happiness for him his friend takes his ashes to a company which turns them into a diamond and it ends up in a tooth of a gorgeous girl's mouth.

So we both agree that it's pretty cool and probably better than feeding the worms but then we have the fantasy/reality discussion - Colin claiming that it's just a beer ad and hence, the things that happen in it are not part of the 'real world'. Anyway, by complete coincidence later tonight I ended up reading an article on things to do before you die which mentions LifeGem, a company which will happily turn your ashes into quality diamonds good enough to become part of a ring or, more practically, cut through glass!

December 4, 2004

New Passports

I renewed my passport this week and after complying with the regulations (mouth cannot be open, eyes cannot be looking away, no shadows on face...), got photographs from two identical looking photobooths with hugely differing results, chose the better set, handed in my application, and waited. Soon enough, and a whopping £95 later, I collected it, turned to the photo page, and discovered that the picture is printed so badly that it's barely distinguishable as me. Apparently the passport office are using such appalling digital scanners and printers that it looks like it's been printed out from a home computer from the 1980's. I can see problems ensuing when I use it, and as Colin pointed out, get accused of buying it on the street in Bangkok.

December 5, 2004

Off To Sweden

Tomorrow I'm catching a flight over to Sweden to spend a week with my old chum, Belgian Chris, who's just bought himself a house over there. Apparently, it's far away from civilisation, deep in the voods in the middle of nowhere...

December 8, 2004

Finding Badabruk

I flew into Gothenburg's (ironically called) City airport, another of Ryanair's special destinations that's so small it doesn't have a cash machine within 10km. So, almost stranded forever without any Swedish Kroner I hunted through my bags until I found enough forgotten cash to get the coach into Gothenburg.

Leaving my bags in left luggage I spent a pleasant few hours wandering around the city before I caught the train to Kil, a one street town, where Chris met me and we got onto a small train into Varmland's forest. An hour later we stepped off into the darkness at Badabruk, the station nothing more than a small concrete platform surrounded by trees. I followed Chris as he led the way through the forest towards his house. Bada isn't so much a village as a random scattering of houses in the Swedish countryside, and as we slid around and fell on the ice with my bags it felt as though we were never going to get there.

After thirty minutes of walking, however, we made it to the front door of Chris's red wooden house, far, far away from civilisation. He lit the wooden stove, we sat down, and there was nothing else to do but open some beer.

December 10, 2004

Swedish Rally Car

I'm lovin' it!
Yesterday, in need of some transport that would fit in with his retro lifestyle, Chris bought himself a Saab 96 from 1967 and we headed across the mountains to pick it up from the small town it was in. It turned out to be an ex-rally car, with sponsorship stickers across the bonnet, and this coupled with the fact that it had an oversize exhaust seemed to clinch the deal for Chris. He paid for it and we were soon on our way, flying back towards Torsby at a frightening 50kmh.

There seemed to be a few live wires lying around as when I moved my feet or touched the dashboard I was sometimes met with electric sparks. Also we discovered that occasionally when driving along a winding country road, the lights will suddenly cut out and won't come back on until you pull over, get out, and bang repeatedly on the bonnet. So it tends to have it's quirks but it means that going for a drive is much more interesting for you and for anyone following behind as the car periodically disappears into the darkness.

December 11, 2004

Fear of the Toilet

outside toilet
Probably the toughest thing about staying in Chris's house is the fact that it only has an outside toilet. It wouldn't be so bad in the summer but right now when it's sub-zero and there's snow on the ground you don't really feel like using it, especially in the middle of the night. It's in a timber outhouse at the bottom of the garden that also doubles as the woodshed and there's no heating or light in there so the entire process becomes something of an endurance test.

After trying to put the ordeal off for as long as is humanly possible you finally end up making a desperate dash across the garden to the shed, then sitting there freezing in the dark, listening for bears coming out of the forest. Then, before you lose all sense of feeling in your legs from the cold, you get things over as quickly as possible before making another mad sprint back to the warmth of the house where you spend the following twenty minutes standing against the wood-burning stove to thaw out.

December 13, 2004

On The Road Again

Helena picked us up at 08:00 and gave Chris and I a lift into Karlstad from where I was catching the train to Stockholm. It was a cold, bright morning, all the trees were white with frost, and the sun was just rising. We grabbed some breakfast at the station, said our farewells, and after passing out on the train for a bit, I awoke in Stockholm.

Being in a big city was, once again, something of a shock after a week in the Torsby voods but Stockholm is such a pleasant place to wander around, with great shops and lovely architecture that I soon recovered and had a very enjoyable afternoon.

I'm staying the night in the Fridhemsplan hostel which even has cable tv and broadband internet in the rooms (though I left my Mac in left luggage at the station)and tomorrow I catch a flight to Helsinki.

December 16, 2004

Sweden Photos

I'm back in Finland now after flying over from Stockholm and having a wonderful time in Sweden. I didn't get much of a chance to write about all the great partying we did at the weekend in Torsby, so here instead are some of the photos which tell the story pretty well.

Sweden photos

December 17, 2004


lake at torsby
Although Torsby is a small place with a population of only 4,000, it felt really good to get back to nature for a while, relax, and stand on Chris's porch late at night listening to the silence and looking at the stars. There isn't much in the area apart from woods and moose but Torsby's claim to fame is that it's the home town of Sven Goran Eriksson, England's football coach, whom everyone there seems very proud of.

Torsby camping and Helena's restaurant
Torsby webcam
Maps of Torsby

December 21, 2004


In what was beginning to be yet another unusually warm winter, enough snow fell on southern Finland this weekend that it would have brought Britain to a standstill. Everyone here was delighted to see it. It seems to be something of a national crisis if there isn't a white Christmas in Finland, but I understand as everything now looks so much more beautiful and it really brightens things up on these short, dark, winter days.

My body seems to desire to be in the cold these days as well. Whereas a few years ago I just wanted to stay in hot, sunny places, I now find I need more of a balance and more seasons in my year and I enjoy being in arctic conditions as much as in the tropics. Shame I can't feel my feet anymore though.

Study showing length of the snow season in southern Sweden has decreased by 40% since 1960 (2.3Mb pdf)

December 22, 2004

Stock Photography


Probably the worst stock photograph ever.

- from Getty Images
via jamjar

December 23, 2004

Moving Hosts Again

I'm in the process of moving the site to new servers as Bloghosts, where bronek.org is currently hosted, is closing down at the end of this year. Hopefully, things will go smoothly but there may be some temporary problems over the next couple of days as things transfer.

Can You See This?

Well, if you can see this then you're looking at the site in it's new home at totalchoicehosting.

Happy Christmas!

December 27, 2004

Christmas 2004

For Christmas we travelled up to Turku and spent it with Carita's grandparents and family. Remarkably, my lovely girlfriend knew exactly what I wanted this year (other than some Valium) and ensured that Santa had visited the Apple store.

Christmas was white, really white in fact, as it snowed much of the day. In the evening, after lots of eating and drinking, Carita and I had some beer in the sauna then stood outside in the snow to cool off - we hadn't had quite enough beers to go rolling in it, however, this time.

December 28, 2004

Zimmer on Skis


Sometimes the Finns invent strange things.
Take this for example, from a company called Scanmobi.

It's basically a walking frame for old people, crossed with a pair of skis. Why? So you can take your grandfather out and push him down a mountain?

Why not?


Just when I needed a haircut, Poland, home of my ancestors and the Pope, comes out with the latest innovation - Hotcuts. There, in the Warsaw salon, customers' grooming needs are met by girls dressed only in lingerie. Sounds much better than Toni and Guy...

December 29, 2004

Off to Lapland

We're leaving in a couple of hours to catch a flight up to Ivalo in Lapland for New Year with the reindeers and really looking forward to it. The flight takes 1hr 40mins so it's quite a bit further north than here and inside the Arctic Circle. Oddly enough Finnair doesn't classify their tickets as economy or business class - instead we have 'Happy Hour' tickets!

Saariselka webcam and tourist info
Lapland map

December 30, 2004


Watching the news is so difficult in these last days since the Asian tsunami. Seeing places I've been, now destroyed, Thailand, a country I feel so close to, in mourning with thousands dead, and wondering if friends and people I've travelled with in the past are amongst those dead. I'd even been thinking about spending this Christmas in Thailand but instead came here. In Lapland it feels so peaceful and removed from the horror that much of Asia is going through but still, like many people, I just can't keep it out of my mind.