XL Popcorn – The Public Enemy

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 629/1007
Title: The Public Enemy
Director: William A. Wellman
Year: 1931
Country: USA

It’s been an awful long time since I’ve seen an old gangster flick with James Cagney. I still find it hard to look at him without thinking of his role in Yankee Doodle Dandy which might just speak for the impact of that role rather than his role in this film. Or maybe I mean we have some classic gangster Cagney in this film, but maybe that’s just me.

The Public Enemy is one of those big influential films in the crime/gangster genre. It tells the story of career criminal Tom Powers (Cagney) from his delinquent childhood to his eventual death as an adult (not too much of a spoiler considering all these films end in the death of the gangster). As with 1932 version of ScarfaceThe Public Enemy tries to disguise this story of murder and bootlegging as a cautionary tale – the end card alone is ridiculous – but I guess you just did what you had to do back then to make your movies.

As films go it’s a pretty standard early 1930s gangster flick. Compared to a lot of films nowadays the overall acting is pretty average. James Cagney is the ultimate standout and Jean Harlow is the ultimate disappointment (for someone so iconic in 1930s cinema she really isn’t the best actress). The rest of the cast range from passable to good with a few just dipping into amateur. On the whole, this was actually quite a distraction and stifled some of the enjoyment that I got from this film.

Now, there are two scenes that I want to highlight because they show quite an interesting comparison into what was deemed acceptable and not acceptable at the time. The first is the famous scene where Cagney’s Tom shoves a grapefruit half into the face of his girlfriend. I was geared up to see something more violent, but the connotation that this could be one of many acts of abuse is enough to make you feel uncomfortable. Especially when you consider how much it would hurt to have grapefruit juice squeezed into your eyes.

The other scene is one towards the end of the film. Due to gangland incidents, Tom and the rest of the gang are hauled up in a safehouse until the heat dies down. The woman who runs the place (a fairly poorly acted character called Jane) essentially takes advantage of Tom who, even in his drunken state, says no to her advances. It’s clear by the next morning that she was able to get her way and, thanks to his inebriation, he has no memory of what transpired. Nothing in that scene was seen as controversial when it aired and probably isn’t seen that way now… but I think I stood on that soapbox when I saw The Wedding Banquet so I’ll step off now.

On the whole it’s an interesting film to see just where gangster films started to evolve. If you are able to come in realising that this is a film from 1931, with all the baggage that entails, then it’s a good way to spend 83 minutes.


Level One – Grim Fandango

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 71/100Title: Grim Fandango
Developer: LucasArts
Original Platform: PC
Year: 1998

Now that Oscar season is over it is time to get back to regularly scheduled programming. Probably should have been a classical piece since it has been a very long time, but instead it’s time to tick off another entry from the video games list.

As with a number of games, I am playing a modern/remastered version of Grim Fandango. However, in the interest of having a more authentic experience, I had the old-fashioned tank controls turned on. I quickly remembered why we stopped using tank controls… but hey it’s all about the experience.

When you see lists of the best adventure games ever released Grim Fandango is a regular feature. If it’s a list about the older puzzle/adventure games it will probably be milling around the top alongside a Monkey Island game or at least another LucasArts title. Strange to think that the Star Wars movies are partially responsible for this game.

Anyway. Let’s talk Grim Fandango. You take on the role of Manny Calavera, a travel agent, as he traverses the underworld to save the soul of a woman he accidentally sent on a perilous journey. It’s one part film noir, one part Day of the Dead and all the weird humour you’d come to expect from a LucasArts game.

When it comes to world building this game is an absolute winner. As any one who knows me would work out, a game that has films like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca as sources of inspiration is good by me. Then by filling this world with monsters, skeletons and guns that permanently kill you by turning you into a mass of flowers… well you get the idea. I really fell for a lot about this game.

Even the puzzles, which can be esoteric at times, are fun to solve… as long as you have some sort of hints with you. I don’t know if it’s the game or my television settings, but there are some puzzles where it’s hard to see what your meant to be interacting with (like the mug tree or the infamous road sign puzzle) which I can imagine being awful when this was first released. Still, that’s the wonders of the internet, if you get stuck someone can show you where the liquid nitrogen is.

At about 7-9 hours to beat Grim Fandango may not be the longest game out there, but with the remastered version being about £12 on the PS Store (I got mine on sale) you get good value for money with this old classic. Just, make sure you have hints. You can thank me later.

Oscar Bait – Phantom Thread

Title: Phantom Thread
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Year: 2017
Country: USA

This is the first time where I have had reason to write about Paul Thomas Anderson, so I thought that it would only be fitting that Phantom Thread would be the only one of the nominees to receive its own blog entry. You see, I would probably rank him among my favourite working directors alongside Hayao Miyazaki, Lars Von Trier, Pedro Almodovar and Wes Anderson – so I am going to take this chance and run with it.

Having seen Phantom Thread I am now only left with Inherent Vice and Hard Eight to see in order to complete the Paul Thomas Anderson oeuvre. I’m still hard pressed to see how, at least for me, he will ever top Punch Drunk Love – but he sure did come close with this beautifully twisted work of toxic masculinity.

Watching this in the context of Oscar season is pretty bittersweet. You see, Phantom Thread is never going to win the statuette. This isn’t just because it was a bit late to the Oscar hype party (seriously, I was thrilled to see PTA’s latest work get as many nominations as it did), but because this is not an Oscar film. I know Moonlight wasn’t either… but all the more reason for them to go for something more regular and less artsy.

As much as I thought, at the start of Oscar season, that my heart would belong to The Shape of Water – in comes PTA with this impeccably shot, dark and twisted love story about a master fashion designer and the muse that his plucked from a countryside teahouse. The three principle cast members are exceptional with Daniel Day-Lewis’ idiosyncratic performance completely leading the way no matter the scene he is in.

It’s also worth noting just how beautiful this film looks. The costume design is sumptuous and on point as is the cinematography and art direction. This is one of those rare films where it is hard to turn away not because it’s riveting, but because everything is so artfully done. In a better world Phantom Thread would have taken in more nominations but, as it is, 6 is still an amazing achievement.

So here we are. Now that I’ve seen all of this year’s nominees for Best Picture I can rest assured that this entry on the bucket list remains complete. It has been an uncommonly strong year (for the most part) for films that fall into the field of vision for Oscar voters. Sure my favourite eligible film of 2017 (which would be the Pixar film Coco) didn’t receive a nomination, but here is how I would rank these 9 films anyway:

1) The Shape of Water
2) Phantom Thread
3) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
4) Dunkirk
5) Call Me By Your Name
6) Get Out
7) Lady Bird
8) The Post

9) Darkest Hour

Oscar Bait – Get Out / Dunkirk

Title: Get Out
Director: Jordan Peele
Year: 2017
Country: USA

It’s highly unusual for a film to be out on DVD when it receives it’s Oscar nomination… this year there’s two. Get Out is an even greater rarity – a Best Picture nominee that will have been out for over a year before the Academy Awards are given out. I guess that speaks for both the quality of this film and the times that we live in as, usually, a film released this early usually gets forgotten.

So not only is this an early release, but it’s also a comedy-horror. If someone can tell me of another film of that distinct genre being nominated then please enlighten me as this feels pretty unique.

What sets Get Out apart from other horror films is, obviously, the race angle. It’s hard to go too far into a lot of it without veering into spoiler territory, but the main element is the whole ‘under the surface’ type of racism from people who claim to be otherwise tolerant. It’s all stuff that’s easy to recognise, but it becomes such a baseline that when actual racism starts to occur – such as when someone starts touching him as if he was a piece of meat on display, which echoed a scene from Ali: Fear Eats The Soul – everything feels even more heightened.

Watching this, it was hard to believe that I was watching Posh Kenneth from Skins acting his socks off in the directorial debut of sketch comic Jordan Peele. All things considered, this is a remarkable debut and is the exact sort of horror film that I really enjoy. It’s also worth mentioning the performance of Alison Williams, here’s hoping this is the beginning of more interesting roles for here.

At this point I really am glad to not be ranking this films until right at the end. So many great films this year that it’s getting ridiculously hard to differentiate between the top flight.

Title: Dunkirk
Director: Christopher Nolan
Year: 2017
Country: UK/USA

Despite being the second of the Oscar nominated films to be released, this is the film that I actually saw last. You see, I’m someone who didn’t see what all the fuss was about with Saving Private Ryan, so I kept putting off watching this again and again. Stupid really, I’ve never not enjoyed a Christopher Nolan film… so why would that stop now.

So yea, newsflash, I thought Dunkirk was amazing. I should have just trusted that it would have been because, after all, the Battle of Dunkirk wasn’t some huge victory with gung-ho Americans making wisecracks. No, this is a film about one of the largest and most miraculous retreats in modern military history.

Whilst I hate to give this film credit, I think I might appreciate Dunkirk a lot more because of Darkest HourThere is so much about Dunkirk that I didn’t know, so it was good to get that extra context before sitting down to watch this.

So this had an interesting story to tell, but that can easily be rendered dull by a poor director and script. Good thing Christopher Nolan was involved and found a way to create such an engaging film, despite there being no real central plot line other than ‘escape Dunkirk’.

The big thing that made this work was how Nolan found a way to interweave three distinct perspectives, operating in different time frames (1 week, 1 day and 1 hour) that are all cleverly brought together at the end. It allows for some excellent pieces of foreshadowing and callback as we learn more about what’s occurring.

It’s also interesting to note how little dialogue there is in a lot of this film. I guess that is part of what makes this true to life, but it just goes to prove how, sometimes, you don’t need a lot of spoken exposition to get the emotions and the story across.

There’s a lot that I really could say about Dunkirk, but I’m just going to leave this here. It really was a pleasant surprise just how much I enjoyed this film. Makes me wish I’d not waited for the home release and just seen this in the cinema.


Oscar Bait – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri / The Post

Title: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Director: Martin McDonagh
Year: 2017
Country: USA

I tell you, this awards season is getting harder and harder to pick a favourite. Seriously, last year it was difficult because of La La Land, Moonlight and Arrival all being incredible movies… but I am having real trouble here. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri just feels like a masterclass in acting.

If you had told me that this film was a Coen Brothers production I would have probably been taken in. I mean, this is a very black comedy starring Frances McDormand that is laugh out loud funny and yet has some extremely touching moments. Sounds like a Coen Brothers film to me.

Seriously though, for a film about a grieving mother who is relentless in her mission to bring the murderer of her daughter to justice, I haven’t laughed out loud so much in months. The script is a work of genius and I really hope that it wins the Best Original Screenplay nod as, of all the nominated films I’ve seen, it really deserves it.

Then again, the script flies because of the performances by the three leads – with Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell being the obvious standouts. Back when I watched The Shape of Water I thought I wouldn’t see a better leading female performance this year… only to be proven wrong. I also have to admit defeat that, once again, it won’t be Michael Stuhlbarg’s year as Sam Rockwell somehow makes you cheer for his utterly ridiculous and racist cop.

Going into this film I expected this to be all about the investigation, but instead this boils down to a character study about stress, grief and the sense for justice. There is a fantastic scene that really epitomises this for me, and it’s where Frances McDormand’s character gives a speech about culpability. There’s a wider message here for society as a whole (although she directs it at the church), but that’s something for another time.

Title: The Post
Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 2017
Country: USA

On the surface of it, I should have the same complaint with The Post as I did with Darkest HourThis is a movie about a newspaper investigation (something the Academy likes), directed by Steven Spielberg (whose films usually garner nominations) and starring multi-Oscar winning actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Hell, it even includes Michael Stuhlbarg in a supporting role… which appears to be a sign of Oscar quality nowadays.

The thing is, where this contains the recipe for Oscar glory this feels like a film that has been made more because of the current political climate than in the quest for awards. Because of this, and it’s something that becomes clear very quickly, it feels like The Post will be a film that’s remembered for a lot longer.

Also, whilst they stretch the truth of the involvement of the Washington Post’s involvement in the Pentagon Papers, they don’t just invent scenes that are out of character just for the sake of an Oscar nomination reel. Also also… at least The Post is interesting and paints these characters as real people that you can root for.

Now.. as much as I love Meryl Streep, I don’t think this is an award worthy performance. There’s not a whole lot for her to work with here (unlike Frances McDormand and Sally Hawkins) but, to be fair, that’s the role and she pitches it exactly correctly. Same goes for Tom Hanks… who seems to have been forgotten by the Academy of late.

For me, the best thing about this film was just watching Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks acting together. Considering all the scandals going on in Hollywood there is something mildly therapeutic about watching these two masters onscreen together. The Post is worth a watch just for that to be honest.

Oscar Bait – Call Me By Your Name / Darkest Hour

Title: Call Me By Your Name
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Year: 2017
Country: Italy/USA

Today’s pair starts off with a film that left me emotionally winded. I didn’t find myself bawling like a lot of people on the internet seem to have ended up, but this is a film that truly moved me. And by moved I mean that I was sat there in a state of emotional shock as the credits rolled beside Timothée Chalamet’s face.

For the uninitiated, Call Me By Your Name tells the romantic coming-of-age story of a 17 year old boy falling in love with a 24 year old visiting academic with Northern Italy as the backdrop. This sounds like the synopsis of a number of different gay interest movies, I know that, but there is an honesty and a style that sets this apart. It also has world class acting and Michael Stulhbarg in a supporting role (who I have adored since seeing him in A Serious Man back in 2009).

This is about as far as I want to go when talking about Call Me By Your Name. I went into this film unspoiled and this is nowhere near old enough a film for me to delve into those. What I can say is that this movie kept me thinking days later and even got me listening to the soundtrack when I was in the office (the appearance of Sufjan Stevens helps here). The world created in this film feels like a more tolerant one than would have probably existed in 1983, but that’s a small niggle in another excellent film.

The fact that, at some point in awards season, a film like this could have been considered a front runner shows how far we’ve come. Between this film and Moonlight‘s win at the Oscars last year, it is heartening to see these slower independent films about homosexual love getting some recognition. Lightning probably won’t strike twice here in terms of award wins, but it will be interesting to see how it turns out on Sunday.

Title: Darkest Hour
Director: Joe Wright
Year: 2017
Country: UK

Right, so I really wanted to stop watching this about 30 minutes in. Pretty much every year there is one nominee that I find frustrating. Last year this was Fences and this year it’s Darkest Hour. However, unlike Fences, not only did I find Darkest Hour frustrating but I also found it quite dull.

Getting platitudes out of the way first, yes Gary Oldman gives a great performance in this film and is able to completely disappear into the character.  It’s a performance where, much like Meryl Steep’s rendition of Julia Child, he is able to give an excellent rendition of what people expect Churchill to be rather than what he was probably like.

Okay now that’s over and done with – boy did this film paint with broad strokes. Anyone who disagreed with Churchill (and actually wanted peace) might as well have been standing in the corner twirling a moustache. Similarly, I understand that this was a dark time in Britain’s history… but I am sure there were still ceiling lights. Every time Churchill gives a speech it’s like the opening scene from The Lion King.

Still this would be mostly forgivable if it wasn’t for the fact that the final 20 minutes of this film are complete and utter fiction. It’s such an aggravating choice for Joe Wright and the scriptwriter to have made to have Churchill base his final decision around the Dunkirk evacuation on a straw poll of the British public that he encountered on the longest tube ride in British history. 10 minutes for one stop? Give me a break.

In the end, if I ask myself the question of why this film was ever made – the only answer I can give is Oscar bait. I know this is why a lot of films end up getting full funding, but as a piece of art I don’t see it and, more importantly, as a way to cast light on an interesting period of history this film fails because of that awful piece of fiction on the London Underground.

Oscar Bait – The Shape of Water / Lady Bird

Happy Acadamy Award season y’all. For the first time in years I will not be staying up to watch the Oscars live… since I will be in Singapore! Now, those posts won’t be going up for another six or seven months, stay tuned for those, so let’s get started with the first of this week’s Best Picture nominees.

This year, I thought it would be fun to publish these films in pairs – the first being a film I was eagerly awaiting to see and the second being a film that I only saw because of awards season. With this being the first of the posts, I am starting with the film I was most looking forward to seeing.

Title: The Shape of Water
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Year: 2017
Country: USA

Watching Pan’s Labyrinth in the cinema was one of those movie-going experiences that has remained with me. It is 12 years later and I still haven’t gotten up the courage to put myself through that it again… also just thinking of The Pale Man is enough to give be the heebies.

Still, the seed was planted and I have been awaiting for the next great Guillermo Del Toro film, finding enjoyment in his Hellboy films in the mean time. From the early buzz alone, I knew that The Shape of Water was going to be special. I mean, a dark romantic story between a mute woman and the creature from the Black Lagoon starring Sally Hawkins and Ocatvia Spencer? Someone sign me up.

Little did I know just how much I would love this film. Somehow Del Toro is able to make Baltimore and a secret government laboratory feel magical and surreal. Given his work on Hellboy II it’s little wonder that he can pull this off, but it feels on a completely different level here. The excellent score provided by Alexandre Desplat’s score helps to further highlight this (much like he did with his work for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel).

How can I talk about this movie without mentioning Doug Jones as the creature. Performances like his, and Andy Serkis in Lord of the Rings, never get the plaudits they deserve and yet The Shape of Water would be dead in the water (excuse the pun) without it. The make-up job on the creature is one thing, but Doug Jones needs to get us to love him despite the fact that he ends up eating a live cat!

Finally, you have Sally Hawkins in a career best performance as Eliza – the mute cleaner who falls for the creature (I am reluctant to use the term monster because of how you fall for him). Without the spoken word available to her, she is able to deliver an exceptionally engaging and emotive (whilst not being over the top, like in the days of silent movies) performance where she is able to make your heart soar before slowly breaking it.

So yes, in any other year The Shape of Water would definitely stand out as the film to beat. But 2018 is a remarkably strong year for nominees.

Title: Lady Bird
Director: Greta Gerwig
Year: 2017
Country: USA

So occupying the second slot is Lady Bird – mainly because the trailer I saw made this look like a fairly typical (and beautifully shot) coming-of-age comedy about a misfit girl finding love and finding herself. Aaaaaaand that’s pretty much what this film is. Except that it’s a well made film with yet another exceptional performance from Saorise Ronan and an emotional turn by Laurie Metcalf.

Look, I am underselling this, but with a score of 94% on Metacritic it feels like a lot of this went over my head. Then again my experience of being a guy who has no idea about what it’s like to be in an American high school means that I don’t get a lot of this. Also, I know I taught in a Catholic school… but it didn’t have nuns and priests as teachers.

There were some real laugh-out-loud moments… however I wish that I didn’t see all the beats coming. I don’t know if I’ve just seen a lot of high school films (very possible) which ruins some of the reveals, but at least they were done well. Also, it’s nice to see Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet in the first of their two big roles of the year.

Now, unlike last year, I have opted to not do any rankings until the final nominee post of the year. With a lot of these films being written up in retrospect, I know just how difficult the final ranking choice is going to be amongst the top 4. Lady Bird doesn’t rank among them, but that’s just my opinion.

Good Eatin’ – Turmeric Waffles and Pink Peppercorns

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Food items: Turmeric Root and Pink Peppercorns

I have been a bit lazy with my food list items as of late. Both of these have been laying in my spice cupboard for a few months and I just haven’t been bothered to find recipes (you know how it gets if you’re in a bit of a funk). Still, it’s amazing what some time off work can do for your goals.

This morning I resolved that today was the day that I would cross both of these off within one meal. There just had to be a way to find something for both the turmeric root and the pink peppercorns. After all, the earthiness of the turmeric and the berry-like pepperiness of the pink peppercorns should go well together, right?

Well, I couldn’t find one thing with both ingredients – so I just went for two simple recipes to have as part of one meal: steak and waffles. I mean, if chicken and waffles can work then why not this combination?

Long story short, they worked. This is the first time I’ve used my new waffle iron and I am very happy with the results, although it would have been better to have doubled the amount of turmeric to get that proper earthy taste. At least I now have a good base recipe waffles, so thank you Stay At Home Mum for that nugget of information.

The pink peppercorns were the real revelation of this meal. I’ve previously only had them as part of some white chocolate bark. I know some people like pepper and chocolate, but I’m not convinced. However, with meat I can agree that they are brilliant.

Despite their name, pink peppercorns aren’t related to other peppercorns. They have a similar look and a slight overlap in flavour profile, but that’s it. The overall flavour is sweeter and more resinous than regular pepper. Also, it has little to no heat so  – if you dump loads into a recipe like I did – your tongue won’t be on fire.

I would really recommend this recipe for pink peppercorn steak over at Recipe Geek. The sauce really tasted like something I would order in a restaurant, which is the ultimate praise for a recipe you randomly find on the internet. Probably because it contained wine and cream, but hey delicious is delicious.

Progress: 676/751

XL Popcorn – Fellini Satyricon

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 628/1007
Title: Satyricon
Director: Federico Fellini
Year: 1969
Country: Italy

During our recent trip to Stockholm we went to a photographic exhibition centred around the relationship between people and their horses. One of the photos on display was of the horses involved in the making of the earthquake scene of Satyricon and so I finally got the reason that I needed to give this a go.

Now. Going from the picture in the 1001 book, I was expecting a film that would be a bit weird. Not possibly upsettingly weird like Salo; more like the final disturbing 10 minutes of The Shining. Honestly, with this as a yardstick, Fellini did not disappoint.

It would appear that, when making Satyricon, Fellini was seeking a way to stay true to the spirit of a Roman text about the various adventures of a man that usually ends up with him having sex to get out of a scrape. It’s the ultimate exercise in organised chaos that, because of the fragmented nature of the surviving text, ends up being a bit disjointed. Then again, that’s pretty much the point.

Everything from the out-of-sync dubbing to the filters on the camera serve to make this film feel otherworldly. I use otherworldly because it’s a kinder word than ‘barmy’, which Satyricon is also. Afterall, this is a tale where the protagonist ends up being chased by a man dressed as a Minotaur, kidnaps an oracular hermaphrodite, narrowly escapes an earthquake and has sex with a goddess to cure his impotence. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Since this veers so much between plot fragments Satyricon really is a film where it helps to have the Wikipedia page open. I don’t think you’re meant to quite be able to follow the thread of the story line as it plays like a game of exquisite corpse put on celluloid. We begin in a Roman bath watching two men arguing about their lovers and end on one of them being offered a pile of money in exchange for an act of cannibalism. I mean, I watched this film intently and I still puzzle as to how we ended up with this conclusion some 2 hours later.

There are still three more Fellini films left for me to watch: Amarcord, La Dolce Vita and Juliet of the Spirits. I think that whatever film I see of his will end up feeling positively grounded after Satyricon. Then again, that’s what makes for a legendary director: someone who puts their mark on different genres and someone whose films are still interesting to talk about, even if you wouldn’t particularly rate them highly.

The Great EU Quest: Sweden – Exit Via City Hall

Good news: the rain was basically over and done with by the time we’d finished our breakfast. Bad news: a lot of plane delays meant we are set to get home after 11pm. I’m just going to filter out all airplane related rants, because positivity.

Anyway, with out flight (originally) set to depart at 6pm we had most of a day to say a goodbye to Stockholm. This started with our first breakfast that wasn’t bought in a supermarket, so we ventured back into the Old Town to find somewhere suitable. We settled on a Café Schweizer whose distinguishing features are a near constant smell of oranges and walls that have been scrawled on with permanent marker.

For 89 Krona we got orange juice, coffee and a sandwich. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to prices in a country. In the UK that would be daylight robbery, in Sweden this felt almost reasonable. I did enjoy my salami and brie sandwich, even if the only reason I picked it was because of the sheer number of poppy seeds.

After this we did some light souvenir shopping before crossing over to Riddarholmen. Why? Well, yesterday, when we clambered up to Monteliusvagen, I spotted a place that looked like the ultimate place to take photos of the lake to the west of Stockholm. We would have gotten better views had it not been so cloudy/foggy, but I think we managed to get some cool views.

From here we got to our first and only destination of the day: Stockholm City Hall. This building’s main claim to fame is that it hosts the Nobel Winners’ Banquet on December 10 every year. Also, you can see the top of the City Hall’s tower from pretty much anywhere in Stockholm. So yes, it’s a place to go.

The only way to see inside is via a guided tour, which is given every half hour. With the weather being a bit grey and misty we were very lucky to get the final two tickets on the next tour. We were also very lucky to get Joanna (probably spelt wrong) as a tour guide as that made the 50 minutes just fly by.

The interior of Stockholm City Hall was far more impressive than I could have imagined. From the painted cityscapes in the Hall of the Prince (done so that you would get a view of Stockholm no matter which side of the table you are sat on) to the brickwork and columns in the Blue Hall (which isn’t blue because they thought the red bricks looked nice just the way they were).

So this was all well and good. I was not at all prepared for the Golden Room. The walls are covered in glass mosaic tiles containing a gold leaf. The walls depict famous people and events on Swedish history with the back wall showing a woman (representing Sweden) in the centre of the world inviting countries from the east and the west to broker peace.

There are plenty of other stories about the construction of the City Hall, all of which are entertaining and embody exactly what it is that should be admired about Scandinavians. For the history and the artwork I think I preferred this guided tour to our experience in Fotografiska. Don’t discount this building just because it’s a town hall.

Lunch… well that was meant to be at the airport as a way to keep us going through the flight and into a late arrival. Well, you can see from the picture what we ended up doing. A bagel at the airport Starbucks cost more than breakfast. For something more substantial you are looking at £25-30 per person. So, we just cobbled together our remaining Krona to buy crisps, chocolate and some bottled water. I mean, it’s fine but I am really looking forward to being able to get lunch for under £5 again.

Anyway that’s it for Sweden. I’m writing this on the plane home polishing off the remaining pieces of the (rather nice) salt-fudge chocolate bar. I think we got the timing perfect for our itinerary and I am now thinking about a future weekend away that I want it do in two months time. I’m between Malta and Cyprus right now… so I guess we’ll see where I end up.