From panties to pies

Kathleen Harman just had to pay homage when a legendarily saucy British underwear chain opened in Stockholm. The trauma left her young son in need of the home comforts of the city's most traditional konditori.

Tipping Point

I have inherited a fur coat from a person now long dead. The furry animals made to use the coat were dead even longer, one would hope.

Figuring that Sweden will probably be the only place that I could get away with wearing such a politically incorrect item of clothing, I spent quite some time slipping it on and strutting around, imagining that the coat had transformed me into a glamorous film star like Sophia Loren or Elizabeth Taylor in her heyday.

The truth, once I actually looked at myself in the mirror, was that I was more like Henry VIII in drag, but with a bit less of a beard. The problem with the coat was that it had been tailor-made – for someone else. Tailor-made, in fact, for an old girl who liked her pies even more than I do.

So, I think, upon reflection, especially my own stout reflection, that I will donate it to the jolly group of street drinkers who hang around outside my local station. In fact, it’s just the thing for a portly homeless person about town because it is a very warm article of clothing, with deep pockets, eminently suitable for the transportation of bottles of gin. Far more Elizabeth Taylor, the later years, some might say.

The subject of fur coats leads me to that of no knickers, a situation that we simply can’t have, given the chilly weather. For some strange reason I have long been the recipient of a regular newsletter called ‘Knickers Forever’ from Agent Provocateur, the upmarket, very saucy lingerie company owned by Joseph Corre. Corre is the son of designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, a lady who famously doesn’t wear knickers, and Malcolm McClaren, ex Sex Pistols’ manager , whose underwear habits I’m afraid I am not privy to.

Anyway, the most recent newsletter heralded the opening of Agent Provocateur’s first Swedish branch on Birger Jarlsgatan, Stockholm’s premiere shopping street. The shop was having its finishing touches done in readiness for its grand opening this week and it looked just lovely – all black and pink, a mixture of a boudoir and a jewellery box, with displays of lingerie looking like exquisite works of art, with the price tags to match.

Now, I have to say that as a general rule, I tend to do what most Swedish women do and buy my smalls, or not that smalls, in packs of three from H & M, for an entirely reasonable price. This is what most European women do, with the exception of the French who like to blow their household maintenance budgets on underwear that could double as dental floss.

But sometimes I think that it is nice to look as if one has made a bit of an effort because let’s face it ladies, even the most ordinary of presents is far more exciting when it has been beautifully gift wrapped. But Agent Provocateur does not come cheap, and with a pair of knickers costing more than many households’ weekly grocery bills, it will be a somewhat limited, rarefied market. But I have a feeling that my offspring will be eating quick cook macaroni and hot dogs for the foreseeable future. I may have given up on the fur coat idea but I will most certainly have the knickers, bra, black seam stockings and suspenders.

My poor young son had been forced to come with me on my research jaunt and was more than a little embarrassed by his mother taking photos of underwear while he had to be best lens cap and tripod boy. But in order to focus his mind on other things, I did promise to buy him a cake afterwards (this was obviously just before I had hit upon the ingenious macaroni and hot dog regime). As a promise is a promise, we found ourselves sitting on the antiquated, mismatched sofas that make up the charm of the Sturekatten Konditori on Riddargatan.

Sturekatten, for those of you who have never been, is the complete antithesis of just about every other café you will come across in Stockholm. Wonky stairs, complete with fusty, threadbare carpets take you up to a series of rooms which are decorated with funny little ornaments, needlework doilies and a disparate collection of crockery and furniture. It is just like going to your favourite, slightly batty, great aunt’s house for a cup of tea and a sticky bun.

I had the dagens lunch which consisted of a huge salmon salad, a blueberry muffin which was duly handed over to the best boy, a soft drink and a coffee for 90 SEK. My son had a cheese sandwich and a glass of orange juice which came with a straw that had a shiny whirligig thing attached to it. It was all eaten up, the whirligig thing dismantled and fiddled with, whereupon he pronounced that he thought that Sturekatten was ‘much better than McDonald’s’ which is tantamount to a Michelin star in the world of five year olds.

Just as well, darling, as it’s quick cook macaroni and hot dogs for you from hereon in.

Agent Provocateur, Birger Jarlsgatan 9, 111 45 Stockholm

Tel 08 678 2820

Sture Katten, Riddargatan 4, 114 35 Stockholm

Tel 08 -611 1612

Kathleen Harman


#MySweden: ‘My neighbourhood has a reputation for being an area for boring rich people’

Every week a new reader takes over The Local's Instagram to show us their Sweden. Today, James Brown from the United States shows us his part of Stockholm.

#MySweden: 'My neighbourhood has a reputation for being an area for boring rich people'
James Brown. Photo: Private

How old are you and what do you normally spend your days doing?

I am 53, for a few more weeks. I spend most of my weekdays working at my job, which I get to do from home most of the time. I am the Head of Online Education and Senior Advisor for Yoga Content for Yogayama, a studio franchise company based here in Stockholm.

In the evening and on weekends, I spend most of my time playing with my dogs, cooking and baking, and practising music. I play guitar and sing country music.

When and why did you move to your city/neighbourhood?

I moved here in July of 2018 for a couple of reasons. One was that I was offered a job here and, after being here for a month the summer before, I accepted the job so I could spend more time here in a place that made me feel very comfortable.

I have been teaching yoga for 22 years and had got burned out on the superficiality of the yoga world in the USA. Here in Sweden, the yoga scene is different. Before I came here, I thought I was finished teaching yoga, but then I saw how satisfying it is for me to teach Swedish students, who come to learn, rather than to get content for their Instagram feed.

The other reason is that the way things are in the USA have changed so much in the past couple of years that I just wanted to be in a different place. Although I grew up in the USA and have always been proud of my country, it just doesn’t make sense to me any more, so I was happy to take the opportunity to be somewhere else.

What do you love the most about your city/neighbourhood?

I love that it is quiet and beautiful, while still having easy access to all of the necessities of daily life. I rarely have to leave to get what I need, which is good because I rarely want to.

What annoys you the most about your neighbourhood?

My neighbourhood, Östermalm, has a reputation for being the area that the boring rich people live in. I am neither boring nor rich, so I have to overcome that unusual stigma when people learn that I live here.

Also, the people on the street are not very friendly. I have heard from my Swedish friends and coworkers that this is particularly true for this neighbourhood, and when I have visited Gothenburg and northern Sweden, or even gone to other parts of Stockholm, I did find the people there to be much more friendly and smiley when passing on the street.





Good morning, #MySweden, today I am going to tell you about my dogs, because bringing them here from the USA was, by far, the most difficult and expensive part of moving my life here. Their names are Diane, who is 13, and is named after “Show me the receipts, Diane” (google it); and Bobby Brown, who is 8, and whose name you will understand if you google the origin of Diane’s name. Together, they are the most important things in my life- my best friends, my constant companions, and my number one anti-depressant. They are a necessary ingredient of joy in my life here in a new, not super friendly country. Nothing helps me bring a quality of mysigt, the Swedish word for coziness and warmth, to my life like these two radiant and loving souls. But they weren’t here when I first arrived in July, because the steps to bring them here were far more difficult than I ever imagined. It took several visits to the vet to get the export process finished, and, because I moved from a small town in America from which not many people travel internationally, the local vet was unfamiliar with the extremely complicated paperwork needed, and there were mistakes in the first few submissions of the almost ten-page documentation that had to be approved by a government agency there. So, instead of bringing them with me when I first came here, I had to make two more trips home just to deal with that. And it was worth it and a whole lot more. Because they are here now, and have been since the fall. Every day I tell them how much I love them and how happy they make me … and they love living here, because my job here allows me to work from home, so I am with them most of the time. The people I work with here have come to know and love them as well, and people from my company stay in my place and take care of them when I have to go out of town. They eat excellent, Swedish raw meat at every meal and they are delighted to do so. And we recently bought smart Swedish winter coats for them so they could romp in the snow comfortably. I can’t imagine what life here, alone in a strange place without them, would be like. Fortunately, I don’t have to. #TheLocalSweden #jamesbrownlive @jamesbrownlive

A post shared by The Local Sweden (@thelocalsweden) on Mar 2, 2019 at 1:07am PST

How should I spend a day in your neighbourhood?

The answer to this is easy: walk around. Within a few minutes walk from my house, you can be on the waterfront, in any of a number of world-class museums, in the middle of a bustling shopping area, in our well-well-preserved old town area, in a beautiful old park, or just walking around admiring the architecture. I never get bored walking around this area.





A snowy Sunday in beautiful #Östermalm, in central Stockholm. It’s been coming down all day but, fortunately is not sticking. I was surprised with the last round of snowfalls, my first winter in #MySweden, that nobody cleared any of the sidewalks in my neighborhood. For two weeks, walking was a high risk endeavor for my dogs and I. In any other snowy city I’ve ever lived, everybody clears the walkway of ice and snow in front of their property. It’s a legal requirement in some places. I would have thought that, in a place as experienced with snow as Sweden is, they’d do the same. I read online that, if you walk like a penguin, you’re less likely to fall. But I’ll take my chances. I’d rather fall on my behind like a clumsy human than waddle through life like a flightless bird. Do any of you other expats come from a place where it snows? How is it different here? #TheLocalSweden @jamesbrownlive

A post shared by The Local Sweden (@thelocalsweden) on Mar 3, 2019 at 6:52am PST

What's a fun fact not everyone knows about your neighbourhood?

From the 1500s until the late 1600s, this area was used for cattle grazing. Then part of it was used as a military exercise field beginning in the late 1800s. Then in 1880, a new urban plan was set forth to make wide avenues and grand residences. That was when my apartment building was built, as were many of the foreign embassies that are still here today. 





This is one of my favorite things I have acquired in Sweden. I wear it all the time because it makes me feel connected to the long history of my new home, even when I am not in Sweden. It is a tin wire bracelet, made by the indigeonous, nomadic Sami people who roam Northern Scandinavia with their herds of reindeer. Using metal wire to decorate clothing, jewelry, and other personal items dates back to the Vikings. This kind of application, using tin wire woven into reindeer hide and fastened with a reindeer antler clasp, was probably first done in the 1600s. The tin thread was traditionally made by splitting a small tree branch in two, removing the central pith, then refastening the two pieces together. Then molten metal was poured in and, when it was cooled, it was drawn through smaller holes drilled into pieces of antler. I looked at hundreds of examples of bracelets before I found the right one for me. I got this one at a small shop on Gamla Stan, here in Stockholm. #MySweden #TheLocalSweden #sami #saami #tinwirebracelet #reindeer #jamesbrownlive @jamesbrownlive

A post shared by The Local Sweden (@thelocalsweden) on Mar 2, 2019 at 8:11am PST

Follow James Brown on Instagram here. To find out how you can become The Local's next #MySweden host, click HERE.