Incorrigible globe-trotting 85-year-old London-based American comic Lynn Ruth Miller has just returned from a performance in Stockholm… This is her story…
I flew Scandinavian Airlines to Stockholm and those people REALLY respect the elderly. I was assigned a middle seat and when I got on the plane I asked the senior flight attendant if there was an aisle or a window seat available. She actually kicked a middle-aged woman out of a seat so I could sit on an aisle. That is a real first. Usually the elderly are relegated to the toilet to sit it out until the flight finishes.
When I got to Stockholm, I could not believe how clean the city was – and everyone spoke AMERICAN English, which meant I could understand them – a change from Britain where they all talk like they are trying out for a Noël Coward play.
Magdalena Bibik-Westerlund, the woman who booked me for the Stockholm show, warned me to dress really warm because it was going to be bitter cold. However, I hail from Ohio where cold means that your breath forms a cloud so dense you cannot see your hand in front of your face and your nose is in danger of falling off if you do not protect it. This cold was comparatively mild, with no wind to intensify it.
My hotel room was very Scandinavian: it was about the size of a disabled toilet but it had everything you could possibly need in it, including a microwave, a refrigerator and a giant bed made for people who are at least 6 feet tall, which they all are in Sweden. I had to stand on a chair to get into it.
Small as the room was, the shower was huge. It was so big I could do a wild erotic dance between the drops of water. Not that I did. But it was comforting to know I COULD if I really wanted to.
The night manager Abraham had lived in Cardiff but, from what I could gather, his wife and two children decided they needed to get away from him and from Cardiff, so they emigrated to Sweden. Abraham refused to be parted from his children and followed them to Stockholm.
This attitude is totally unlike my own father’s, who could not wait to get the hell out of the house the minute I arrived.
He disappeared within seconds after inhaling the pungent odor of a new baby in the place.
According to my mother, he wrinkled his nose when he was introduced to me and said: “This kid stinks.” We didn’t see him again for over a year.
When he did return, he asked: ”Is she toilet trained?”
My mother, who had put a plug up my you-know-what, said: ”Of course she is. What would you like for dinner?”
Back to Stockholm.
The morning after I arrived, I went down to meet Magdalena, the woman who made it all happen.
She and her husband, comedian Janne Westerlund, founded the Stockholm Comedy Club. They do several shows a week, but Fridays are their all female shows and they are always a sell out: Female Fridays at the Gröna Lund-teatern where the Beatles, Abba and all the Swedish greats performed.
Magdalena and I had lots to talk about because she had lived in Bialystok, Poland, until she was seven years old.
My grandparents were from that very city and were such prominent citizens at the time that my grandfather’s name was Joseph Bialystotsky. However, when he arrived at Ellis Island in New York, the immigration officer asked my grandfather to spell his name and, as a result, he walked out of that office as Joseph Miller.
Civil servants cannot spell worth a damn.
That evening in Stockholm was the Big Show and it was very big indeed. There were five of us booked plus the most amazing MC ever. It was all in Swedish so I have no idea what anyone said, but every woman on that stage brought down the house.
I had been terrified. What if they didn’t understand me? What if they didn’t like me? And this is the worst: What if they did not laugh?
I walked on that stage feeling like it was the guillotine. But it was not. It was heaven. Everyone clustered around me after I finished and told me I was wonderful (in English of course). All I could think of was: Why didn’t I record this and send it to my first husband so he could see what he missed?
While all of us had been making the ladies (and about five men) in the audience laugh, the elements had been at work swirling around the buildings and trees like whirling dervishes.
When we emerged, it was a winter wonderland. Everything was covered with snow and the wind felt like it was 100 miles an hour. But this is Sweden where men are men and 30 below is balmy.
Magdalena and I had about 75 miles to drive to get to her home in Skebobruk, nestled in the Swedish countryside. When we got there, I met Janne, her husband and Zumo their magnificent Border Collie/Labrador mix baby.
It wasn’t until the next day however that I got a glimpse of how beautiful winter can be in the Swedish countryside. All the houses in the little cluster of homes the Westerlunds live in are bright red and they stood out like jewels against the white of the landscape and the tall evergreens that surround them.
We drove into the village for another one of those Swedish buffets with sufficient food to nourish a refugee camp overlooking a shimmering frozen lake. And then we came home to watch the Swedish Eurovision finals.
Evidently every single person in all of Sweden watched that show and called in their votes. There were two telephone numbers on the screen: one where you voted for free and one where you added a contribution for charity. That program alone raised thousands for charity and John Lundvik, a former sprinter, won hands down. He will represent his country in Tel Aviv singing the winning number Too Late for Love.
I listened to this young man’s lyrics about the danger of waiting too long for romance and I thought: You do not know what procrastination is, darling. Try waiting 85 years before you start shopping for a bit of nookie. I would have better luck snagging a hippopotamus than I would getting a date on Tinder. And at least a hippo wouldn’t be able to out-run me.
And there is always the problem of which body part to put on Tinder.
Now I am back in London.
My next stops are Barcelona and Amsterdam.
I do not let the grass grow under my feet, but then I personally have not seen my feet in 20 years.
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