I went to Hamburg after I finished working at Lappis Restaurant in Stockholm. I stayed there for three months from October to the end of December. I was quite depressed by the winter weather there. It is very difficult to tell my friends what the Swedish winter is like if they haven't experienced living there in winter. It is uncomfortable, cold, lonely, dark and gray, gloomy and depressing. All those words are associated with the winter of the northern country. The days are short and getting shorter and shorter. It is light only a few hours a day. The daybreak is about 9 or 10 o'clock and the sun sets around 2. You are really lucky if you can see the sun shining in the sky. The skies are overcast every day, which makes you down. People can't afford to be cheerful, friendly and sociable. Even ice seems warmer than the feelings people get in winter. Sorry for those expressions. But this is what I tell people here about the winter back there.
At this time of the year, whenever I look back over the days I was in Stockholm, I always remember the Christmas I had there. It still lives vividly in my memory. I don't know how to put it. It was a cold, lonely but heartwarming Christmas. Still full of wonder. I understood how much Christmas means to Christian people and how much it changed the people.
As I mentioned that Stockholm winter was terrible and made you feel more dead than alive. So was the atmosphere of the kitchen in Lappis. The people I worked with there were all foreigners, poor foreigners. They left their home for some reason. I could see they were not happy in their homelands and now struggling to make a living.
It is hard to be a foreign labor in other countries. Living and working in foreign country and traveling to foreign places are two different things. If you travel to other countries for a short time, you may get a warm welcome. Most people you meet are nice and kind to you. But once you start living or working there, things are by no means easy. You don't get respected. You may feel a sense of outcast. The people in the kitchen were like that. They could never afford to be cheerful and friendly.
There were five people working on the night shift, including myself. One of the two cooks was a black American who was extremely quiet and rarely talked, except to ask me to bring dishes, to cut onions into slices. The other was Rubo, I still remember his name. He was middle aged, originated from Yugo-slavia taking his wife and a daughter. He was very temperamental. When he was in a good mood, he was humming and singing. But he took his spite out on us by shouting at us and throwing eggs at us when he was in a bad mood.
Then there was a young woman I didn't care for very much. She was from Romania. She came hard on us. She seems to look down on anyone who can not speak Swedish. As a cashier, being entitled to be in charge of the restaurant at night, she seemed to feel a need to act superior to others. So I kept her at a distance.
Of course we were not close. We just worked in the same place and bye-bye when the day's work was over. We never felt we were a team, never thought we would do one same thing together. We knew hardly anything about each other nor wanted we.
But a miracle occurred. On Christmas eve, we closed the restaurant rather early, about 10 o'clock. But strangely enough, no one left the work. I wondered why. As i was about to leave, I was stopped and told to stay by someone. I don't remember what went on. But when I realized, I found myself mingling among all the people, sitting around the corner of the kitchen and watching the people smiling warmly. That was the first time we had sat side by side, face to face. I even repeated after Dormitory, a Bulgarian man who said Christmas prayer. The air was filled with happiness, friendliness and made the place seem brighter and warmer.
We didn't have a Christmas dinner but Bulgarian nan's wife came over and joined us bringing some sweets. Everyone was smiling. Rubo's wife and kid joined, too. That was the first time I had seen them laugh together, even the young woman who was always sourpuss. I wondered what happened to us. The party was just like lonely people get together to celebrate Christmas. I guess they wanted to celebrate Christmas like everyone else. They needed someone to share the Christmas joy.
I still think it was a miracle that Christmas brought. It was the most impressive Christmas I have ever had in my life.
Then I quit there just before New Year's day and sailed from a port on the outskirts of Stockholm for Hamburg.
From Hiroshi Deguchi.
[Come to think of it, it was a blue, blue Christmas for Hiroshi then. But that little perk at the end, meeting as a group, with sweets as presents and nothing more, was a miracle! I can agree with that, considering... Andy.]
Images and article belong to Hiroshi Deguchi [copyrights reserved).
Check it out, man!
This article isn't the first from Hiroshi. Read about his experience with Singapore pop and the Thunderbirds.
A heart warming and very human experience; albeit felt under a trying situation. The festivities somehow united wary souls in their common quest - which is to be acknowledged and appreciated by another human being.
Let’s hope that this spirit is not exclusive only to the December festivities, but to festivities throughout the year and throughout our human existence. If we need a reason to rejoice and to celebrate this humanity, just look at the stars or listen to the whispers of the winds. They bring forth our human-ness and remind us that we - although fragile and lost at times, can always find companionship and love with another human being.
May the force of good and love be with all ❤️ Do listen to my song “Life Is Amazing” and rejoice everyday that we are still able to experience the world.
I understand what it's like during winter. It's depressing. I was in Yugoslavia many years back when I was there on an official trip as a government officer. The days were gloomy and not any people outside.
Andy, You are amazing.
You made my writing come alive; made my young days bright.
Thank you so much.
You're the writer Hiroshi and adventurer.
Thanks for the letter; it's truly a Christmas message for all.
We need to understand those we work with, live with and have fun with.
It's the only way to a peaceful and prosperous world.
But are we really going that path?
"Blue Christmas", a Christmas song written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson is famously performed by Elvis Presley; it was first recorded by Doye O'Dell in 1948, a tale of unrequited love during the holidays and is a staple of Christmas country music.
The song has been recorded by Shaking Stevens, Martina McBride, The Browns, Johnny Tubb and more popularly by Jim Reeves too.
The flip-side is WOODEN HEART, definitely as popular as Blue Christmas?
I know how Hiroshi felt during the winter in Stockholm. I fortunately grew up in the westernised Singapore and during my stay in Scotland in 1977 to 1980 we lived like the locals - music, song and booze. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Scotland and the locals certainly treated us like their own. Guess we were very lucky but do have wonderful memories of all the seasons.
Thanks for the early comments guys.
Hiroshi's story rang a bell somewhat.
Yes, winters are pretty dreary, cold and wet and this was my stint in Canada. Nothing much to see except snow and sleet everyday. You just want to get home to a warm heater in the room.
The only thing I enjoyed was with the Canadian families I got to know. They were absolutely charming and warm, inviting me to their Christmas lunches and 'stay-back-please' dinners. Of course with the Christmas carols at the university church nearby and George Michael's LAST CHRISTMAS in vogue [it was the 80's], my experiences were enjoyable.
One big difference though. I guess the Singapore we live in was more westernised than the Japanese one then in the 70's. And as Hiroshi described, it took him time to get used to it.
But it ended well for him.
Mainly private parties.
Would normally go out with different girls at different Christmas parties through the years.
Those were THE DAYS my friend!
Ha ha, he he.
[From a reader who used to study in London/England].
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Like your story Hiroshi… Christmas is magical. Peace on earth goodwill to all men. Often in the midst of the celebrations we forget about the significance of Christmas … the birth of a saviour. Christmas is not just merrymaking and feasting … remember the poor, the old and lonely, the sick ones and those who are less fortunate. Blessed Christmas!
hi, yes Christmas has been so commercialised that its true significance has been drowned . Thanks for reminding us. BLESSED X'MAS N A SAFE 2022 to you and loved ones.
A sad experiences of Hiroshi, but thank God for the Christmas season that bring joys and unite people all around, wishing you a very merry Christmas holidays with your loved ones Hiroshi San 🙏
hi, thanks again for the greetings. You stay safe too.
AGAIN, MANY THANKS TO THOSE WHO HAVE WRITTEN IN.
I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good.
Thanks a lot!
Thanks for the positive vibes.
Appreciate your call.
Please visit the blog again.
Merci pour ces belles photos
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Kali Dass S
Lih Yih Fung
THANK YOU ALL FOR
LIKING THE PHOTOGRAPHS
Good memory, Hiroshi !
A life-lesson/experience that you obviously will never forget
Thank you, Eddie.
When I look back over the days, I realize they surely gave me valuable and important time.
Koh Sui Pang
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Merry Christmas Hiroshi and Brother Andy. Blessings of good health and happiness to you both and families. Indeed a fantastic story shared. I’m amazed by your well written blog. Stay safe and God bless🙏❤️👍
...a good story. memories that make us who we are today. I had my share of it.
I just listened to the beatles music like yesterday, gonna get by with a little help from my friends and detroit city by bobby care for therapy. for uppers, i put on the beach boys, jan n dean and later on even the monkees music. it got me through the rough patches of youth and it worked for me. happy new year horoshi n all andy's bloggers !
I had my share too studying in Canada where a nasty landlady would turn off the heater in my room if I was one day late in payment.
I complained to the authorities called The Rentalsman. They did a great job, reprimanded the lady, who by the way wasn't a native-born Canadian but from European country, and I never had another night of sleeping in freezing weather.
So Hiroshi, looks like your sharing is gaining momentum. It's not that we want to tell unpleasant stories but just truthful ones. After all it's Christmas and 2022 in the making.
Thanks again to the both of you and all others who wrote in.
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