When we left Denmark, here, we caught a train across the Oresund Bridge. It’s big, bloody humongous, actually. And the train is comfortable so it is easy to drift off, unless you are in the middle of reading Iain M Banks’ ‘The Bridge’ in which case you remain, like me during our trip, wired like a 1970s stereo system.
Opposite me sat a smallish weasel-faced man who kept trying to catch my eye. Eventually I gave in. I was trying to write the poem about Denmark that was in the last post, and had my journal open on my lap. In our time in Copenhagen we had heard maybe one voice raised in anger but this chap, on capturing me as his audience launched into a stunning denunciation of his ex-wife.
He called himself Michael Smith – Johnson and said he was Danish but had lived in Ireland for ten years so was probably Irish, naturalised Danish. Certainly his strongly Irish brogue suggested as much. He was missing a front tooth and there was a degree of ugly scar tissue around his mouth like he had ground his face into gravel on more than one occasion.
In a stunning twenty minutes of vitriol and virtuosity I captured this about him:
- he had two children by said ex
- he had another of 3 and one on the way with his girlfriend
- she was Muslim as was he apparently
- her father was an ‘ugly brute of a Turk’, his words, who was involved in some complicated affairs in Turkey involving electrocutions and elections
- he was worth €42 million net
- he had a charitable foundation that acted like a dragon’s den helping starter businesses
- he hated the Danes for their insularity as he saw it
- he had been homeless and empathised with anyone needing a start
- he had a PhD in anthropology – and another in business affairs
- he had played a role, not exactly well explained as ambassador to the EU for the Irish government
- he was considering the offer of a chair at Cairo university
- he spoke 17 languages and tested me in German and French, not that I passed
- he had a book being fought over by publishers, based on the story of his life and his unique philosophy which he called democraship or some such and if implemented would solve the financial crisis at a stroke
- And he never drank, even though his hands shook and his eyes belied his professed restraint.
When finally I looked down and refused to look up, he told me the English were the worst race in Europe and generally rhymed with bunts before he fell asleep. We moved seats at that point. I wish I’d taken a photo because you don’t often meet Walter Mitty in the flesh. Whatever country plays host to him has my deepest sympathy, though the writer in me wants to find a story into which I can insert Michael Smith – Johnson. One day. maybe..
That was my introduction to Sweden and Stockholm. Bizarre, beautifully bonkers, breathtaking but free of vitriol and, overarching all this: smug. It was all of those things as I will relate next time.