Monday, August 27, 2012

The party before our wedding party

Now that I've satisfied the wedding geeks I can tell you about the rest of the trip to Sweden. I'm also avoiding making the thank you notes I decided to make myself. I spent  most of the afternoon getting the design right. Quite frankly, I'm exhausted. I think I'll leave the actual making of the notes to tomorrow morning when it's cooler. So I can focus better. Yeah. That's it.

Back to Sweden. First off, it was cool. The day before we left Florence was 40C and when we landed near Stockholm it was a brisk 13C. I hate to say "Brrrrr" when I've done nothing but complain about the heat for awhile, but it was definitely pants and long sleeves weather. Something more than sandals would have been nice, but we flew Ryanair, an airline whose rules about hand luggage border on fanaticism.  I'm lucky I had any clothes at all.

We spent the first two days helping Leif's brother get ready for his and his wife's joint 40th birthday party. When we arrived he handed us a diagram of the tables and told us that even though this wasn't to scale everything should fit when we move the tables around. I was to find out over the next few days that as a computer geek he's well suited to diagrams, printed material and planning.

Me and my father-in-law.
Working together in total silence.
Kind of like with my own dad.
The most frustrating part of the pre-party was setting up the party tent. Here's the deal. I've been camping, and helping with the tent, since I was probably eleven years old. Not some nifty, throw-it-on-the-ground-and-it-sets-itself-up kind of tent, but an eight man canvas tent with a hugemongous canopy off the front and about a fifty poles. I know a thing or two about setting up tents. The two men assisting me pretty much ignored every suggestion I had, until they figured out that I was right. Of course they never actually came out and said that, they just mumbled something about it seemed that this was the only alternative left to them, given their lack of supplies and/or tools. Whatever.

The beautiful tables.
We got the 20' x 30' tent set up. We got the tables covered in crisp white  tablecloths, the chairs covered in white as well. Each place had three sparkling glasses for wine and water, there were flowers and silver candlesticks and each person had a program for the event, thoughtfully filled with sixteen (numbered) Swedish drinking songs, a seating chart, and a short biography of each guest. Cross-referenced to other guests when necessary. For instance, along with other interesting information mine said that I was married to N2, Leif's seat assignment.

The birthday boy and girl dancing.
There were toasts, slide shows and singing for the birthday couple. I do have to say that Swedes are no slouches when it comes to singing drinking songs. None of the half-hearted humming and sideways looks to be sure no one sees you actually singing like at an American party. They sing loudly, beautifully and with great enjoyment. Of course, they know the reward is worth the singing. Later there was a DJ and dancing. It was a long and fun night.

But it wasn't over when we left the party. Oh no, people. There were still more adventures that night because Leif and his dad decided that given Sweden's zero tolerance laws on drinking and driving (and the fact that we all wanted to drink) we would ride bikes to the party and home again. The party was held in an old granary on a farm out in the country.

The trip there was an exciting, off-road thrill ride led by Leif's seventy five year old father. Nothing more embarrassing than riding through the forest wearing a pretty dress while an old man keeps yelling over his shoulder "It's a trail, really!!" over and over again. Because this is exactly the kind of situation where you meet hordes of other cyclists who for unknown reasons have also decided to ride in the middle of nowhere. I was grateful to make it to the barn in one piece and relatively clean and most of my dignity intact.

The ride home was even more exciting. While Leif and his dad had checked the bikes over before we left the house, what they checked were the vitals for riding: brakes, chains and tire pressure. What they overlooked in the bright afternoon sunlight was the lights. We left the party at about 1:30am so lights were essential to a safe ride home.

Leif's bike had lights front and back, but only the front one worked. My bike had no lights on it at all, something I missed in the light of day. His dad's bike also had lights front and back, but his front lamp didn't work. So at least we had a plan based on the available equipment. Leif would lead, I would be in the middle and Tord would take the rear. As we left people waved to us, probably thinking they might never see us again and/or that we were crazy.

We took the long way home because I insisted on using the bike trails that were paved, not the "trails" we took earlier. So we headed off into the sunrise, three black blobs cruising along the side of the road with minimal lighting. For the first kilometer or so Leif kept fiddling with the front light of his bike, and I couldn't figure out why till I noticed that there was very little illumination on the road but when we went under trees they were beautifully lit from below. His light was pointing pretty much straight up into the air and he couldn't get it to stay down. I breathed a little easier once we were off the narrow country road and on the actual bike trail because then the lack of lights was less of an issue in my mind.

Suddenly the bike path veered away from the road and headed off into the middle of a grain field. My confidence in the whole project plummeted at this point. We were headed of into the middle of nowhere with possibly impaired reflexes and judgement and minimal lighting. Once I stopped (sort of) freaking out and looked around it was really kind of beautiful. The moon had finally come out from behind some clouds and the whole scene was bathed in that silvery light only the moon can do. It was also more effective than Leif's front light. We rode through an intersection and as I was wondering how in the hell could there be two intersecting bike trails in the middle of nowhere the path turned back to the road and Leif's dad was yelling "No, no, no!" Well, actually he was yelling "Nej, nej, nej!" because Leif was making a turn he felt we shouldn't. Of course he was right, this is his hometown after all and Leif hasn't ridden some of these paths for years.

Suddenly Tord yelled again and headed off to the left almost without us. And there we were riding for all we were worth to catch up with an elderly man....the bike  with the rear light leading the way, the bike with the front light close behind and the bike with no lights (me) bringing up the rear and praying we didn't meet any cars. If heading into the middle of a wheat field in the pitch dark was unsettling, heading into the forest was downright scary. Somewhere along the way we managed to sort out the riding order so the lights were in the right places again and I was safely tucked between them.

St this point I pretty much gave up worrying about how badly this whole ride could go and started laughing about it. Because it was funny. It still is funny. And yes, we got home just fine. No one fell down or got lost or run into. And now I have a unique story about that night that no one else has. You may be saying to yourself "What about Leif and his dad? Don't they have the same story?" Yes and no. We all participated in the same ride, but our views on what happened are probably very different. His dad acted like it was nothing unusual to ride off  into the black night without lights. Leif was a little less enthusiastic, but still acting like this wasn't the weirdest idea ever. And no, there are no pictures of us heading off, helmet-less, into the night. Use your imagination.

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