Happy 2019!

I watched the last sunrise of 2018 from far above the clouds aboard a plane heading to Stockholm. And I spent the last day of the year half asleep thinking back at the year that’s been and trying to make sense of it.

2018 has been good to me. It felt a bit like riding a motorcycle on the highway for the first time. I am also sure that it tried to teach me some lessons but can’t really put my finger on it now and figure out what they were. It will hit me one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe years from now. I am grateful for them no matter when I make sense of things. I am grateful for many other things I learned, people that crossed my path, memories I made, tennis matches I watched, concerts I attended and the list can go on.

2019 is scaring me but I am in the position where all I can say is “bring it on!”. I do not fall for the over-romanticized New Years Eve and New Year resolutions are not my thing, life’s exciting enough without them. In the end this is just a night and January 1st is a tomorrow. For the lucky ones among us almost every today brings a tomorrow and if we really want a change in our lives we do not need the change of the calendar on the wall to actually make things happen. Or at least that’s how I see things. Yet, this is no reason to skip the parties, dinners and drinks. Hope your celebration sparked fireworks and fun, I wish you all peace, love, health and happiness. The rest can be worked on. Happy New Year!

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Tag, I’m It

I got a tag on Facebook to share in 7 days, 7 timeline posts with 7 book covers and pay it forward to 7 other people. No explanations, no reviews, only book covers… I will skip posting stuff on Facebook and tagging others but here are the book covers I came up with. Feel free to suggest more in the comments section.

Mircea Eliade – The Forbidden Forest

Radu Tudoran – All Sails Set


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Nightwish @ Partille Arena

Once I had a dream… to get a ticket to see Nightwish as a (pre)birthday present and this dream came true for the second time in my life.

But what I didn’t know was that all three Nightwish concerts that I attended would start with the same song, some 13-14 years apart. Yes, this is how long it took to see them live again, 13 years. Nightwish is the first international artist that I saw live, the first real metal concert that I went to. I saw them live twice in Romania, when they still had Tarja as a leading lady. The previous time I saw them it was 2005. The latest time I saw them was last evening, this time with Floor Jansen leading the show. This involved another trip to Gothenburg and I should say that I enjoy going there for rock concerts, I totally recommend it, it’s a totally different vibe compared to Stockholm.

Now, if my train hadn’t been delayed I would have listened to more than two songs of the opening act, Beast in Black, and I would have probably had a proper dinner too. Since SJ decided to leave Stockholm 20 minutes later than the scheduled time and lose some other 40 on the way, well, I am happy I actually got to the concert. This started with a plea to ignore our phones for at least two hours, to stop being slaves to mobile devices while nearly everybody was filming it with their phones. That plea was a bit pointless because the moment the music started it was so hypnotising that it was easy to keep the phone away and just enjoy.

By random I bought a ticket that got me really close to the stage so I didn’t need to watch the screens to see the reactions of those on the stage. While “Dark Chest of Wonders” was blasting all across Partille Arena, while all eyes were on Floor who is an extraordinary leading lady, I kept looking at Tuomas, the keyboard player, just to see how he sings along with her, though he had no microphone, how he looks at the audience and how he smiles. I swear that man breathes music and his life depends on it, and I don’t mean it from a financial perspective.

I kept myself from checking the setlist of the concert before the show, just to keep the element of surprise there. The second song was “Wish I Had an Angel” from the same album as the opening one, both songs from the Tarja era. For those who don’t know, Tarja is an icon of symphonic metal, a soprano and used to be a very charismatic figure when she was singing in Nightwish. Walking in her shoes is hard business but it doesn’t seem to be so for Floor. She nails Tarja’s songs, rocks the ones the band recorded with her and makes the ones they recorded with Anette Olzon sound metal, not just rock, to put it nicely, because I’ve never seen Nightwish live when Anette was their voice. Yet some of the best received tracks were from the Anette-era of Nightwish so now I am a bit sorry I don’t have this point of reference when talking about this band. I will not go through all their setlist because that would involve writing a whole novel. I was very happy that they played so many songs I liked, yet at the end of the show I started counting the ones I wanted to hear but didn’t make it in the live performance (like “Bless the Child”, for example).

One by one Nigtwish made us sing, dance, jump, scream, clap and enjoy the beautiful heavy metal music.  Every song they play has either an instrumental bit that is to die for or some lyrics that get stuck in my head. The harmony of the tune and the beauty of the verses blend together to create what can be simply described as Nightwish. Whoever knows this kind of music probably understands what I am talking about. Lines like “Think of me long enough to make a memory” or “Without you the poetry within me is dead”  are sprinkled, alongside many others, throughout their songs and most often they get lost in the background of the tracks they belong to, but not to the listener. And the listener in me was dying to hear “Ghost Love Score” live. And, as expected, they ended the concert with that track. The beginning was like an explosion, the joy of hearing it soon turned into the sadness of realising that it is time to go home but those 10 minutes were worth, to me at least, more than the whole two hours that passed until that moment. It’s the height of Tuomas’s merits as composer both musically and lyrically and it’s the song that got Nightwish fans asking themselves “Tarja who?” the moment Floor rocked this track to pieces when performing it live.

What more can I say? I would say go see them live if you have the chance and enjoy this genre of music. What else can I say? I have no idea when the two hours of the concert went away, it seemed like I just walked in and all of a sudden it was time to go. It’s not the type of concert I’d like company to, but yet again concerts are my thing and the number of people I like sharing this experience with is very low. It’s not entertainment, it’s a way of life.

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Intrum Stockholm Open 2018

Tsitsipas vs Gulbis

This year’s Intrum Stockholm Open came with a totally different vibe, one linked to its 50th anniversary (celebrated with the presence of Swedish legends Björn Borg, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander) but also one imposed by the presence of the young tennis players, NextGen, as they are called, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov. It also brought back some veterans of the game like John Isner, Jack Sock, Fernando Verdasco or the long forgotten (or not) Ernest Gulbis. I couldn’t hide my content of seeing the doubles players again, the likes of Marcus Daniell, home favourite Robert Lindstedt or last year’s finalist Aisam Qureshi. And as always I was more than happy to welcome Romanian tennis player Marius Copil.

Players Longe

The tournament has two sides for me: one is played out on court, the other one is well hidden behind the curtains of the Players Lounge. I regard both of them with passion and each brings a different type of satisfaction. While most expect intriguing stories from behind the curtains, many are disappointed when they hear that the exciting things happen on the courts. That is where all the passion unfolds, both from the players and the audience too. In the Players Lounge there should be tranquility for the players, and above all there is professionalism and a lot of hard work.

With some of the longest shifts, the people working in the lounge have to be client oriented, have to show diplomacy, initiative, creativity, have a smile on their face and work in between 8 and 16 hours every day. The job itself offers access to the behind-the-scenes lifestyle of a tennis tournament but that only translates into breakfast with a view of practices on centre court, the responsibility to evacuate players during a fire alarm, and the satisfaction of leaving things in order when the doors get locked well after midnight. It also involves lots of coffee, ginger shots, baking traditional Swedish cakes and pies and celebrating players’ birthdays, with baking the birthday cakes included. The cherry on top is the opportunity to work in a team for more than a week, and this year’s team brought together a group of very bright stars that I couldn’t be more than proud of, grateful and happy to have worked with, the perfect people to watch the sunset from the peacefulness of the tennis hall’s roof.

Daniell/Koolhof vs Ebden/Lindstedt

For this edition, like never before, the doors closed behind the last player to leave the Royal Tennis Hall many times well after midnight. With the last matches of the evening starting at 18:30 or later, some days saw matches in play well after tomorrow had already started. Denis Shapovalov and John Isner were the main characters of these long matches, alongside Peter Polanski, Bradley Klahn and Tennis Sandgren. While I couldn’t enjoy all matches in their entirety, some that I’ve seen were a delight. Can’t say that about John Isner’s matches.

Jonny O’Mara/Luke Bambridge

Actually, I was quite disappointed by them and by the American’s style this year. On the opposite end in singles I can place Jack Sock, Ernest Gulbis who impressed me to the fullest with his journey from qualities to the final, and of course, Stefanos Tsitsipas. The best atmosphere with clapping, yelling and cheering was during the matches of the Ymer Brothers, both Elias and Mikael being present on the main draw.

But all amazing things inevitably come to an end and what seemed to be the longest 10 days of the Autumn passed in the blink of an eye.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

The last weekend of the tournament brings relief but also sadness. During the last hours of the finals day one finds itself caught up in between the desire to go home and rest and the one to spend a few more minutes contemplating the week that’s been in the place where it all happened. Going back to the normal lifestyle is hard, especially since working for this tennis tournament is like working in a bubble of joy (for me at least) and when the normal lifestyle after the tournament is totally different from the one before, but that is another story to tell some other time. Game, set, match, championship: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jonny O’Mara/Luke Bambridge.

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Annoying Pain and How to Treat It (Not)

It started with a sneeze after which I had to focus really hard to regain my breath. It was painful but funny at first since all I could do for a whole day was walk around the city on a beautiful Autumn day. Yet again, this was 3 weeks ago. After carrying things on my own two feet with a bit of Ipren here, a bit of Ipren there, a lot of Ipren in the end, a chiropractor who happened to be in town worked with me for two consecutive days, one for each day, and I was pain free. 5 days later the pain was back, my saviour was miles away from Stockholm so here I was going to the doctor at the local medical clinic, Vårdcentral, to those familiar with Swedish terms. And this is where my anger started.

After nicely explaining the type of pain, the fact that Ipren doesn’t help, though I took 3 or 4 per day, the maximum strength one can find in the pharmacy without a prescription, I got stuck with a handful of other painkillers and a promise that I will be referred to a physiotherapist. No X-ray, no MRI. Day by day and pill by pill my pain got worse and worse. And so did my liver. I turned to a mild shade of yellow and I was so pale, I felt sick just by looking at me in the mirror. I called Vårdcentral and asked for advice, left a message to my doctor and two days later I got a different type of medicine, a safer one. One that doesn’t ease the pain at all though. And I also finally got an appointment with a physiotherapist, that I managed to speed up a bit by crying on the phone that I am in horrible pain. Two more days and I will finally be able to talk to somebody who hopefully knows how to treat spine pain. Cause that is where all this started from. Practically now I cannot sit, stand, lay down, walk without crying every 30 minutes, not because I wouldn’t be capable of bearing the sharp pain but because its constant presence is driving me nuts. I want a hug! And a doctor who would actually listen to me and my needs before stuffing me with painkillers. The pain spreads from my back down to my toes and now I even feel it in my left arm, my head hurts because somewhere inside of me I suspect a nerve is really frustrated, I can only sleep because I am too tired. Another version would be to have a glass of wine before I go to bed but I am not that stupid nor do I want my liver to fail completely. And I also want to eat but I can’t. I’m in such a state that I lost my appetite and fell like throwing up. I’ve heard that Swedish doctors have the bad habit of treating everything with paracetamol or painkillers but this is the first time this happens to me. Guess it was about time. I will leave a picture of a sunset here to please the reader that kept up with my frustration to the very end. And I will indulge into Netflix because it’s pretty much the only thing I can do on this frustrating Saturday evening.

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