I’m back in Edmonds now, finished with research and filming for the year. Like a big-game fisherman, finally back in port, I am pleased that we have six great shows in the cooler.
When filming I don’t give my wardrobe a second thought (obviously). The idea of putting on makeup is laughable. And I’ve never put anything on my hair…but the hair causes me problems. While I’m not picky about other things, I don’t like my hair blowing funny. If the wind is coming at me head-on, it’ll actually give me a good wind-blown look. But if it’s blowing against the grain, we have to wait for the wind to die down before we keep shooting. For a decade we’ve been waiting. We routinely lose great on-camera bits because of the wind and my hair. A couple times I’ve toyed with “product,” but I just can’t bring myself to use it.
As we were wrapping up our last show of the season, we were grabbing some glorious sun in windy Stockholm for on-cameras, and my hair was causing everything to grind to a halt. The weather was changing and we had to get the on-cameras shot. Someone said “hairspray,” and our local guide popped into a fancy hotel and bought a can. Simon, my producer, took me aside and spray-painted it all over my head. I stood on the pier with the wind coming at me from the wrong direction, nailed the on-camera, and the hair was perfect. It was like I’d just discovered hairspray. For ten years I’ve been fighting the wind. Now, as we wound up this shoot, I finally discovered hairspray. I have a new (and unlikely) friend.
Along with hair, I worked on taming Nordic history. I discovered how Scandinavians define their Middle Ages (which they do differently from the rest of Europe, because there was no Roman Empire to fall up in the north). The Viking Age is defined by the first and last Viking raids on England: 793 and 1050 A.D. And in Scandinavia, medieval times are also called the “Catholic Era” — stretching from the end of the Viking Age and the coming of Christianity (around 1050) until the Reformation (1527).
I got some more clarity on Scandinavian history. There were different Viking groups in each country. As Vikings, Norwegians went west to Iceland, Greenland, and America; Danes went south to England, France, and the Mediterranean; and the Swedes went east into Russia. (The word “Russia” has Viking roots.)
While Swedes went abroad readily, they were slower to open their doors to non-white immigrants. But Sweden has come a long way when it comes to accepting immigrants, as a popular story illustrates. In 1927 a black man worked in a Stockholm gas station. For Swedes who hadn’t traveled, he was the first black person they’d ever seen, and people journeyed from great distances to fill their car up here, just to get a look at him. (Business boomed, and his job was secure.)