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crayfish party time

If you ever get invited to a Crayfish Party,  just say yes.

There’s paper plates, adorned with crayfish. Napkins with crayfish pictures. Spiral decorations (blow the middle out to send them streaming) decorated with teeny tiny illustrations of (you’ve guessed it)..crayfish.

There’s traditional Swedish Snaps imbued with aromatic herbs, hard cheese with specks of chilli, crusty rounds of baguette, ham and cheese flan, and a vat….a huuuuge vat, of..(I know, you’re going to be suprised)..crayfish.

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Your plate is filled with half a dozen of the little nobbly critters at a time, and you tackle them with gusto (it’s the rules).  Pull the first claw off it’s body (it’s not for the faint-hearted), tug at (what I can only describe as it’s) thumb, give the fat pink claw a little crunch between your back teeth, suck out the tasty bit of white flesh inside. And same with the other one. Next it’s the body (try to avoid looking at it’s stalky, acusatory eyes). Firmly grip the head and pull off (sometimes the head is bigger than the body). If you’re really into the whole thing, you can suck out it’s brains. If you look inside first, you’ll see a gooey mustard which is known as the butter. Or you can conclude it’s the brains, and after one try, give up on that bit (slight shudder).

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What you’re really after is that fleshy body bit. Before you get to that bit though, you need to pull off the legs. Peel off the armoured shell which curls around it’s back. Pull out the black bit of (poo?) down it’s back (maybe it’s the intestines??). And “ta daa!”…you’re there. Three centimetres of pinky delicious, juicy, flesh down the hatch in the space of two seconds. Seems like a lot of effort for such a small amount of return. Especially after a dozen or so. They’re spiky little suckers: you might even notice injuries on your digits the next day (and you can only presume the alcohol numbed the pain at the time). Someone really should invent a crayfish stripping machine, expressly for the Swedish Crayfish Party. But maybe that would spoil the fun of it.  And it is a lot of fun. You see, it’s not just about the crayfish. It’s the whole ritual surrounding the Crayfish Party which makes it A-MAZ-ING.

You drink. The crayfish is washed down with lashings of locally brewed beer. And there’s the shots. Oh yes. Every so often (and it is fairly often) someone proposes a toast…

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…and bang, you down another thoat burning shot glass of snaps. When you start to experience the post-shot-shudder, you cunningly start to drink only half a shot glass each time. No-one will notice as they’re all so busy crunching, sucking, slurping, gulping…and singing.

Oh yeah. There. Is. Singing. You sing! To the crayfish. The tunes are familiar. I can tell you that at least one of these celebratory crustacian ditties was sung to the tune of ‘Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree’..but the words are:
“(something Swedish, something Swedish) Kraftskivan”

(At least I think that was it. I’d need to add some grammatical-accents to make it right but my keyboard doesn’t have the capacity. I also have to confess, that I was too tipsy to remember the word for “Crayfish Party”, so just had to look it up in Swedish. I welcome corrections). What I should have really done was picked up a song sheet.

Yup, there’s a song sheet :0). And at the end you down your shot. Of course.

I love it.  Bizarre, hilarious, ingenious, surreal.  A good combination. You might as well be Alice in Wonderland. Just more crayfish than tea and cakes. And no door-mice.

Earlier that day, we took the boat from Helsingborg to Copenhagen.

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To buy booze. This is one of the unwritten rules ahead of the Kraftskiva. You see, the alcohol is cheaper in Danish waters. So once the bell goes at half way, you can get a killer-deal on your beer and spirits. For the other half of the journey it’s a bargain on tobacco (thats cheaper in Sweden).

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There’s quite a good restaurant on the boat too, apparently. So if you want to, you can eat there as the boat chugs back and forth across the border. Quite a novel way to spend an evening (I’m thinking Stag Do’s).

Guess you could combine the two and have a border-crossing-Crayfish Party on the Sweden-Denmark boat. As it was, I think I preferred the little holiday park cabin which we all bus’ed ourselves out to on the Saturday night. ‘Holiday Park’ doesn’t really do it justice though: a little rustic hut, done up with pastel paints, colourful lanterns, sequined cushions and shabby chic rugs. You’d sleep on the couch in the lounge if you wanted to stay out there (lots of people do). There are scores of these individually styled huts and gardens in the midst of a oasis about 8 miles from town. Bjorn(and his Mum’s: the pastel and sequins)’s has tall black and purple poppies around the picket fence; a water fountain at the back, vines growing over the trellis and – opposite the kitchen door – a tiny version of the hut (also painted white and blue) hanging from the tree for the birds. His mum (I think she’s probably there a lot in the summer) grows red berries, among a plethora of other things, and uses the bounty to make jam and wine and pies. It’s like a little garden of Eden. Eve would definitely end up eating the apple out here. It’s all just so…pretty.

From there, we roll back into town. I hide an open beer can up each sleeve of my jumper and we sit at the back of the bus like a teenagers. There’s a once-famous rock band playing at Tivoli Metal Bar, where we loose Ola, who’s in a drunken-aftermath-of-Crayfish-Party-stupour. We then battle the swirling winds of Helsingborg (this is more like the usual weather) on the way to The Headless Swan (which is heaving. Clearly the place to be). Great night.

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The day before, I learnt some Swedish from Morgan’s niece, Saga. Saga is only seven; English lessons don’t even start until next year, yet she understood most of what I said but was just a bit shy to talk English to me. So instead, we skimmed stones, picked flowers, and did colours. I was rewarded with a bunch of little “lila” wildflowers: smile.

I have to learn more of the basics. I hate being responsible for the language barrier. I mean, I love to communicate. It’s one of the things I (like to think) I do best. I hate that I can’t have a decent conversation with someone without having to rely on their ability to speak English. And I like to talk (you don’t say). You miss out on people – and they miss out on you – when you’re not on equal terms with the chit chat. OK, so equal pegging might take a while. But ‘two beers please’ or ‘I live in Hertfordshire’ or ‘can you speak slower please’ would be a start at least.

So more Swedish, and more Sweden, would be good. Rye bread with salt ham and whipped horseradish. Lazy mornings. Nypon (rosehip) juice. Motorbike rides. Homemade meat sauce. End of the world lighthouses. Salty liquorice. Fairy-tale windmills. Sharing red wine. Watercolour washed skies. Just the tip of the iceberg. I suspect Sweden has more morsels to offer up.  All I’ve done is crack the shell a tiny bit.

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