Wednesday 12 April
A friend recently returned from South America, having cycled through half of Chile. He doesn't like to sit still. He is applying for jobs, looking for something exciting. On a whim, he applied to be a German video games tester. Fortunately, he is German. Unfortunately, he hates video games. Today he revealed that he had been invited to an interview for the job on the following day.
Looking through the job description, we wondered why a good knowledge of video games was required when the principal task was translation. Asking my brother for advice on video games, we realised why. To 'nerf' means to release a patch (I don't know either) to deduce how good a weapon or armour is. To 'buff' is to improve said weapon or armour. To 'frag' means to kill, for some reason, and 'farming simulator' is an in-joke that everyone pretends to love.
We ask ourselves if German gamers would say farming simulator or 'landwirtschaftssimulator'? Frag or kill or töten? Is there a German translation of nerfing? After concluding that my friend likes neither video games nor translating, he decides to skip the interview and apply for other jobs instead.
Thursday 13 April
Through social media, I try to make out what is happening in the aftermath of the terrible fire in Dunkirk refugee camp.
The approximately 900 people who had stayed in local sports halls since the night of the fire were recently told to leave. Several individuals and families boarded buses headed towards accommodation centres in the south of France. They are being encouraged to seek asylum in France which, in some cases, could result in a higher likelihood of being granted asylum. For others, it means being driven hundreds of miles away from their families in the UK.
Yet others are still in the Dunkirk area, shelterless. Some have gone to Calais. Others are staying in the proximity of the camp that burnt down. After the demolition of Calais in October last year and since the destruction of the Dunkirk camp by the fire, small ad hoc camps in forests and by the sides of roads have started to appear.
As a former volunteer at the Dunkirk refugee camp, I am starkly aware of my distance.
Saturday 15 April
It's Easter and our flat is full of chocolate. We are a bit confused as to why we are meant to consume our weight in chocolate eggs, but we don't ask questions.
My half-Swedish, half-English flatmate has flown back to Sweden for the holidays, and has taken with her a suitcase filled entirely with chocolate eggs. The British ones are much better than the Swedish ones, she says. Although I'm not convinced, I'm understanding that Swedish Easter eggs are not actually made of chocolate, just filled to the brim with the stuff.
I meet a Czech friend who tells me that in many Central and Eastern Europeans countries, eggs are hollowed out and meticulously designed with bees wax and dye. For those who design and paint eggs for a living, it is not unusual to create over 700 per year. It is quite a contrast to the Swedish tradition of hurriedly painting boiled eggs in bright water colours, only to crack the eggs against each other as soon as the paint has dried. The last person with an uncracked egg wins.
My partner tells me that in Cyprus, massive bonfires are lit outside churches. Although someone gets injured every year, it all seems relatively minor when compared to Greece. Every Easter on the island of Chios, a 'rocket war' is staged between two rival Orthodox churches and the flames of the rockets can be seen soaring through the night sky.
We're still confused about the chocolate.
Monday 17 April
I am on the train back from Edinburgh, having caught up with two friends I lived with during our first two years of university. At the time, we were all new to the city and living away from our parents. We sit in the grass beneath the castle, licking ice creams from Mary's Milk Bar, intrigued but supportive of their new goats cheese and honey flavour. In the year since we last saw each other, both my old flatmates have become engaged to their respective partners.
After looking through Pinterest posts of floral decorations and images of past weddings at their preferred venues, they go on to tell me about their thoughts on name changes and titles. I am struck by how different the last conversation would have been in Sweden.
How would their names sound double-barrelled? I didn't learn the term 'double-barrelled' until I moved to the UK. And it took me time to pick up on it as a marker of social class. I cannot recall ever having discussed or even reflected on double-barrelled names in Sweden. To my knowledge, it has no association with class.
My two friends discuss whether they would want to be called Ms or Mrs – I thought it was just a bureaucratic distinction to fill out on forms. One of them told us how she had thought that she was getting a new teacher one year at school, but came into the classroom on the first day of the new school year to find that it was her old teacher who had changed her name. I'm reminded that at my school, teachers were called by their first names.
On the train back to Glasgow, I overhear a very different conversation. A young Canadian visitor and a Scottish pensioner are sharing the seats in front of me, and get talking.
The Canadian woman tells the man how she at times found it difficult to understand the Scottish accent. As the train sets off, she rummages through her bag for a snack. 'Would you like some?' she asks the older man. He asks what it is, and she tells him it's a Cornish pasty. Pay-stee. 'Ha! You mean a Cornish pass-tee. Now I'm teaching you English!'
The man tells her that he's heard that many Americans are going to Canada these days. She confirms that it's true, and speculates that it is due to their dislike for the sitting president. 'Oh yes,' says the man. 'What's his name again – Rump?!'