Sweden, like most European nations, has been around a long time. I breakfasted this morning in a handsomely vaulted room built in 1307, by the Skandic knight Jens Uffesen Neb. It is now called the Beatles Lounge, because, at my very table, George Harrison and Paul McCartney had once lunched, in 1967. You can't get much more historic than that, can you? In the photo, George is having a quiet smoke, while Paul looks unusually animated, having perhaps spotted Britt Ekland across the room.
As Miss Ekland testifies, the Swedes are an attractive people. One of their least attractive qualities, alas, is a certain moral narcissism. They promote themselves as "the humanitarian superpower", and appear to have fallen badly for their own publicity. The other day The Independent carried the inspiring tale of a Danish yachtswoman who had courageously rescued a "refugee" from the hell of Copenhagen and singlehandedly sailed him across the water to Sweden - and freedom:
Annika Holm Nielsen, a 24-year-old Danish youth politician, sailed her yacht across the five-mile strait from Copenhagen to the Swedish city of Malmo, with a refugee on board, in a trip some have compared to the rescue of Copenhagen's Jews during the Nazi occupation.
She met the man, whom she called Abdul, shortly after he arrived at Copenhagen's Central Station from Germany, and took him to the marina where a friend moored their boat. "I was standing next to a person who was completely exhausted and in such great need," she told The Independent. "We took this decision because we thought it was the safest thing to do, it wasn't something symbolic." She added: "He told us he had been on far worse boat trips."
What a heartwarming heap of total bollocks from The Independent's sob-sister Richard Orange. For a start, unlike the bad old days of Nazi-occupied Denmark and neutral Sweden that "some" are comparing it to, there are no border controls whatsoever between Copenhagen and Malmö. You just hop on a train at the aforementioned Central Station in Copenhagen and hop off a half-hour or so later on the other end of the impressive Øresund Bridge at the Central Station in Malmö. I did it myself the other day, and was looking forward to sitting back and enjoying the peace and quiet of Scandinavian First Class. But, just as I took my seat and settled in, a gaggle of Abdul's fellow "refugees" swarmed in, young bearded men and a smaller number of covered women, the lads shooing away those first-class ticket-holders not as nimble in securing their seats as I. The conductor gave a shrug, the great universal shorthand for there's-nothing-I-can-do.
What Abdul made of being shanghaied by some high-class Nordic totty to serve as her cabin mate on a stomach-churching voyage of moral exhibitionism, I cannot say. But, from personal observation, the "refugees" around me seemed to take it for granted that asylum in Europe should come with complimentary first-class travel (see picture at top right, from a German train).
There were more shrugs at Malmö, when I asked a station official about it. He told me that, on the train from Stockholm the other day, a group of "refugees" had looted the café car. The staff were too frightened to resist. "Everyone wants a quiet life," he offered by way of explanation. Sweden prides itself on accepting more "refugees" per capita than any other European country, and up to a thousand a day are registering for asylum in Malmö. I daintily stepped around that morning's intake slumbering on the concourse.
I see that The Washington Post, attempting to explain the "humanitarian crisis" to its readers, printed a fascinating map showing the painstakingly negotiated agreement on the distribution of "refugees" within Europe: for example, Germany will take 17,036 "refugees", while tiny Estonia has consented to accept a mere 199. However many hours the Continent's prime ministers spent arm-wrestling with Chancellor Merkel over their quotas, it was completely wasted: under the Schengen agreement, once you're in one Continental country, you can pretty much stroll into any other without requiring the services of that seafaring Raoul Wallenberg de nos jours.
For example, Swedish railway officials may long for a quiet life, but not all the "refugees" do. Some had gone on to Finland, but had pronounced it too dull. They found life livelier in Malmö, so they were headed back. Lively it certainly is. There has been a string of mysterious small bombings and minor grenade attacks around town in recent months. There is no apparent purpose to them, except perhaps to show that in a society as famously well-ordered society as Sweden such things can now be done with impunity.
I spent Saturday with the pessimistic Teuton Henryk Broder, author of The Last Days of Europe, so maybe that's why I have the vague feeling that the great course of Malmö's history from Jens Uffesen Neb to George Harrison is about to give one final spasmodic shiver and slide off the cliff. As Paul McCartney once observed to his Swedish fans:
All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay.
~Reader Scott Gabler writes to query the size of my security detail:
I cannot tell you how much I respect your attendance to the Danish cartoon anniversary. Could there be a more significant celebration of free speech?
I do have a few questions though: How big was your motorcade? How many dozen five-star hotel rooms and ladies of the night were required by your security detail? How long was Copenhagen Airport locked down for your arrival? These seem to be the status symbols of choice among the ruling elites today, a far cry from Washington crossing the Potomac....
Actually, one of my favorite moments at Saturday's event came as I was leaving Parliament in the company of a Danish MP. She said she'd see me at the restaurant but she had to pick up her bicycle and pedal there. That's right: Danish legislators bicycle to work. I don't know if they have a 40-man entourage furiously pedaling on tandems behind them, but, if so, I didn't see any. As I've sighed to no effect so many times before, in the US the transformation of citizen-legislators into courtier-dependent Gulf emirs is one of the reasons why America's political class is so disconnected from the rhythms of ordinary life, and why it seems to attract so many psychologically unhealthy types ...and why a nation of 300 million people winds up with an inside-the-bubble election contest between the wife of a previous president and the son and brother of two previous presidents. Indeed, I think the main thing people like about Ben Carson is how normal he seems - which is why saying not a thing in the debates only drives his numbers upward.
~Speaking of boomer pop, as we were doing above, our great expert on such matters, Dan Hollombe, writers from Los Angeles apropos the rhymelessness of "Moonlight In Vermont":
In the mid 1970s, Hal David attempted to write sort of an updated west-coast equivalent of "Moonlight In Vermont" called "99 Miles From LA". Instead of Haiku, the gimmick is that the whole tone-poem is nothing but a series of obvious metaphors. Instead of telegraph cables, we have the more contemporary telephone poles. While he almost makes it to the end without any rhymes, he simply couldn't resist coupling "Crying" with "Flying" in the bridge.
I find the musical structure interesting. All chromatically descending major7 chords until you get to the bridge, which utilizes the exact same meter, only with minor chords. It was #1 for a few weeks on the adult contemporary charts, although it only made it to #91 on the mainstream charts.
"99 Miles From LA" (written with Albert Hammond) is perhaps my favorite non-Bacharach Hal David song (with the possible exception of "American Beauty Rose"), and the Johnny Mathis arrangement is one of the very greatest records of the Seventies. It always cheers me up to think that the same bloke wrote "24 Hours From Tulsa" and "99 Miles From LA". I only wish Hal had made it a trilogy and done, "17 Stop Lights From Cleveland".