Thomas Ewing surprises The Lord Mayor in his Parlour
The most recent Tale of the living link between Prestoungrange and Goteborg in Sweden comes from local artist Thomas Ewing, living just 200 yards from the Prestoungrange Gothenburg. Tom reports what life was like when his role in the Arts Festival took him to Goteborg City Hall and right into the Lord Mayor's Parlour on December 19th. He was there to present his latest painting to the Lord Mayor and his family.
"In Sweden Gothenburg is spelt Goteborg - and pronounced Yotibore. I went there just before Christmas to present my painting to the Lord Mayor. The painting was in Celebration of the Lord Mayor's visit on July 23rd 2003 to Prestoungrange and Prestonpans. He had officially come to The Pans to unveil a new mural and to name The Lord Mayor's Bar upstairs in our Gothenburg pub on the High Street.
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I was commissioned in May to capture the essence of that day in two broadly similar paintings, one for the Lord Mayor and one to hang for ever in the bar! It was decided at the Arts Festival that since I'd painted it I had better be the one to give it to the Lord Mayor.... just in case there was feedback!
I arrived by plane in Goteborg early in the afternoon and eventually found my hotel two hours later. I checked in then ordered a taxi to go meet the Lord Mayor ... but it was at this point I realised I had no idea where I was meeting him! So I asked the girls behind reception ( who luckily spoke English ) but they were as confused as I was.
I was supposed to meet him just after three and I was already late. I only hoped my painting had made it on time, and was unscathed from its journey by courier. After checking my email I found the destination but by then had missed my taxi, which understandably had grown tired of waiting.
I was still late!
I finally arrived at the City Hall at 3.40pm and thankfully the Lord Mayor was very understanding; and it was straight onto the wine. What a great host! It was only after I had seen the photos we then took that I wished I had taken my jacket off, or smiled, or looked less tired. But we artists can't always get it all right now can we?
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After showing me around the truly impressive City Hall [and another glass of wine ], we set off for the centre of town. We took a tram (much less expensive than the impatient taxis) to the City's historic Liesberg theme park. It was lit up like a Christmas town, every tree was covered in thousands of white lights. It was absolutely stunning. We accidentally bumped into Lisbeth's family there too.
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The Lord Mayor, Jorgen Linder and his wife Lisbeth explained to me that the rollercoaster is made of wood, and is considered the best in the world. But sadly the big rides are closed during the winter, so I was unable to enjoy having my soul ripped out of me on the world's best timber rocket ride! What a pity...
On the plane out I had drawn up a mental list of topics I could use as conversation starters if any painful silences occurred during my time with the Lord Mayor. After a great
deal of thought my list totalled .... Henrik Larsson!
Thankfully, but perhaps not surprisingly, the Lord Mayor and Lisbeth are magnificent hosts, even with a guest as humble as I felt myself to be. Jorgen Linder has a wealth of information on his beloved City indeed it is a subject he appears to know just everything about.
However, as I suspected, Larsson was to play his part. After showing me around the theme park, we went for a meal in an Italian restaurant. The food was excellent and more wine flowed, and I was feeling the full benefits of it all. The Lord Mayor explained the relationship between his town and the Gothenburg pubs in Scotland. It was of course also a Scot who introduced the idea of using the profits from alcohol consumption in the bars of Goteborg to help their community. He also expressed his pleasure at having visited Prestonpans in July, saying he was made to feel very welcome indeed.
Finally, there was that hoped for lull in the conversation. I was at my subtlest as I leaned over and said in an overly loud voice: "Henrik Larsson"?
Thank God the response was positive. "Ah Henke, ya" [ in Sweden Larsson is evidently known as Henke ] and the Lord Mayor is a very big football fan! We had a good long chat about Sweden's chances in Portugal next year; and from there the conversation flowed from football to art and back to football.
It was a most enjoyable meal. Afterwards the Lord Mayor showed me the cinema as
I suggested I might catch a film. Unfortunately, the Return of the King was sold out, so I decided I would go for a pint instead.
So finally it was time for goodbyes. They thanked me for the painting, saying they were well pleased with it and hoped that I enjoyed all my time in Goteborg. I thanked them for making me feel so very welcome, telling them next time I'll be on time and stay longer.
They really were excellent hosts, and it was an honour to have painted for them and to have spent the afternoon and dusk with them both.
After that I went for those couple of beers in a Swedish Irish bar, but at £5 a pint I decided to return to my hotel on the tram .... only to discover I had become completely lost. The time was 8 pm.. But the tram did eventually run past my hotel. I got off and saw a woman with a bag of grapes in her hand bowing and chanting to a shop door.
Clearly I was becoming disorientated and I decided I needed some sleep. After a 6 hour fight with overly plump pillows I finally nodded off.
Next day I remembered I didn't know what time my flight was. But I checked on the internet and then it was off to the airport in a taxi, which for some reason was a stretched limo. I was worried this would bump up the price, but then realised that taxis were so expensive anyway I wouldn't notice the difference!
I had just experienced one of the strangest days of my life, and I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it. Goteborg isn't cheap, but it is very beautiful and the people are very friendly. A few hours later and I was back in Edinburgh; it was snowing and I went to
the pub. At less than £5 a pint the drinks were a bargain, but I was already missing
Goteborg. I'm saving up to go back."
[ When questioned, Tom said he could not remember meeting any of those famous Swedish blondes the Prestoungrange Gothenburg is inviting to visit in Prestonpans! ]
Published Date: December 19th 2003