Wednesday 5 August 2015

Have my photo taken with Swedish singer songwriter Anna Ternheim

Where on earth do I begin with describing this task? There's an awful lot to tell you about, and the narrative lurches from joy to despair and back again. Brace yourself for an extra-long blog if you can bear it!

The story goes back to about 3 years ago when Andrew and I chanced upon the Swedish version of the Wallander detective series on BBC4. We quickly became Wallander addicts and I was especially captivated by the very haunting theme song, called 'Quiet nights', sung by a Swedish singer songwriter called Anna Ternheim. When I did a Google search to find out more about Anna Ternheim, I discovered that she was due to play one concert in London the following month – such perfect timing! I duly booked tickets for Andrew, me and Lucy (always game for a gig our daughter). However by the day of the concert my life had been turned upside down by a potentially serious health problem and I couldn't even muster the strength to walk to the end of the garden, let alone make my way over to West London. Andrew and Lucy had to attend without me and Andrew came home raving about Anna's performance - ooh, I felt sorry for myself that night I can tell you.

I’m glad to say that after various investigations and procedures I returned to full health - but Anna Ternheim hasn't ever returned to the UK to do another concert. When I was putting together my list of sixty tasks, I decided that a good way of consigning that horrible period of my life to history forever would be to successfully attend an Anna Ternheim concert - and for some unknown reason I upped the ante of the task by saying that I must have my photo taken with her (I mean honestly, what was I thinking of? What if she didn't do any concerts over the next 12 months? And how did I ever think I'd get to meet her face to face??)

Well, as it happens, at my 60th birthday lunch back in May I received an amazing present from Lucy - she had found out that Anna was playing at a festival in Stockholm on 2 August, so she contacted Anna and her tour manager, gave them the background to my Sixtyat60 challenge and my Ternheim task, and arranged for me to meet Anna at the end of her concert. Oh and she also got her father to pay for the flights, hotel and festival tickets of course. What a gal!  Here I am having one of those 'Mum's getting all emotional again' moments when I opened her present.
Arrangements for Task 55 all seemed shipshape and tickety boo. And then last Thursday morning, two days before we were due to fly out to Stockholm, disaster struck. At home were eight healthy-bouncy-happy puppies (courtesy of our wheaten terrier Mabel) who were due to leave us for their new families the following day, thus freeing us up nicely for our Ternheim weekend. And then in the space of no more than an hour or two those same carefree pups suddenly plummeted into sleepy listlessness, interspersed with occasional vomiting and not so occasional nether region symptoms, as a stomach upset swept through the entire litter. For nearly 24 hours it looked as though our trip to Stockholm was a goner altogether. But the vet was brilliant, her medicines worked a treat, the owners were still willing to go ahead, and on Friday evening against all odds, the three of us were back on track for Sweden. 

Until, that is, we received a phone call at 11.45pm from a frantic Lucy in London announcing that she couldn’t find her passport. She scoured every nook and cranny of her flat all night long as the clock ticked away relentlessly towards our departure. The Passport Office couldn’t help, the passport remained at large, Lucy’s flat looked as though MI5 had paid her a visit and all to no avail. No passport, no trip to Stockholm for Lucy. I sat in the departure lounge at Heathrow in tears (not happy ones this time) the next day, Scandi-noir-esque thoughts in full flow. 

To add to our woes, as Andrew and I sought refuge in a glass of bubbly (in my view the only effective intervention at a time like that), we heard over the tannoy that our flight was delayed....and delayed again....and then it was called....and we boarded....and we sat on the tarmac....and we got off the plane....and we heard over the tannoy that our flight was delayed……you get the picture. We finally arrived in Stockholm at midnight, 8 hours late, exhausted as well as daughterless. 

 On Sunday morning we dug deep, located a seam of black humour in our psyches, resolved to enjoy ourselves on behalf of Lucy and made our way to the Stockholm Music and Arts festival where Anna was to perform that evening (see photo of me admiring a tiny poster). I was suffering from a tummy upset (I tried to convince myself it wasn't puppy related in any way) and unable to eat a thing, but frankly by then that just seemed like a minor inconvenience. 

First we watched Beth Hart perform on the main stage - wow, what an amazing voice she had! The sun came out and we felt the bonhomie seep back into our veins. Then Van Morrison (headline act) came onto the stage, his amazing band kicked into action and guess what......the heavens opened. After dancing gamely in torrential rain to Brown-Eyed Girl, Moondance and other great classics, we squelched our way over to the beautiful church (see photo below, which I took the next morning when the sun was shining) where Anna was due to perform at the end of the evening. We knew we'd have to queue for two hours to ensure getting a seat inside and we were damp, cold and hungry. But Task 55 was almost within my grasp......

By now you've waded through the despair bit - would you care for a dollop of joy now? Because after the hurdles and disasters described above, thankfully the rest of the story feels a bit like a dream sequence to me. Andrew and I landed up with fantastic seats inside the church and Anna's concert was one of the best I've ever been to - she's an extremely accomplished musician with a stunning voice and great stage presence, and she sang a set of beautiful songs to an audience who were clearly all massive fans, which added to the intensity. One especially striking moment for me was when she walked down the aisle and out of the church half way through the set to sing a song to the crowd of people who couldn't get seats and were standing outside in the chilly night air. She was gracious, self-deprecating and funny, as well as thoughtful and kind (not to mention hugely talented), which is, I guess, why she was also willing to meet me personally at the end of the concert. I feel very proud to have had my photo taken with her (see below) and I can now say that Task 55 is well and truly completed! 

And the moral of this story? Strength through adversity?  Or ‘It’s not the situation, it’s your response to the situation that matters?’  Or ‘Perseverance pays’?  Any of those would probably fit the bill.  But perhaps the most important thing is that I still feel a surge of happiness whenever I think of sitting in the church at Anna’s concert, thanks to my lovely daughter -  plus said lovely daughter has an incredibly tidy flat now as a result of putting her all possessions back in order following her MI5-style search.  

If you think that our struggles deserve to be rewarded by a small contribution to the amazing Alzheimer's Research UK charity, then do please visit  And tusen tack to Anna Ternheim for supporting my sixtyat60 challenge - she's a real star in every way.

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