Life and times
The actor and comedian has been learning about pricey hamsters, tweeting dogs – and slutspurt
Actor and comedian Sally Phillips
STOCKHOLM. TODAY I LEARNT six improbable things before my hotel breakfast, which included, unexpectedly, gazpacho. 1) Swedish doors open in the opposite direction. 2) North Korea owes Sweden €300 million for 1,000 stolen Volvos, and every six months Sweden sends polite but pointless reminders. 3) Swedes love Donald Duck so much it is now illegal to vote for him. 4) Stockholm has condom ambulances to deliver to those caught unprepared. 5) The Swedish for ‘end-of-season sale’ is slutspurt. 6) Although Sweden is renowned for its progressive politics and gender equality, relations between the sexes are not good. (Note: No relation to 5 but with some impact on 4.)
I’m here for the Komedi Film Festivalen with Brit contingent Jennifer Saunders, Beattie Edmondson and Tommy Jessop, so I am confused to be asked over and over in interviews, not about French and Saunders or comedy or films, but about #Metoo. I don’t have any experiences because there’s not too much sex-pesting in British comedy, thank God. ‘Men don’t make passes at girls who write farces,’ I say to the presenter, unhilariously. She then asks me a lot about Brexit and disability rights, which I probably deserve. Memo to self: Swedish press is too hard, avoid.
I discover later that the energetic Swedish #Metoo campaign has had more publicity, gone deeper and brought about more policy change than in the UK, but has also been a lot more divisive. The suicide of its most prominent target, Benny Fredriksson, artistic director of Stockholm’s Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, has catalysed criticism from many prominent Swedish women.
I FLY HOME TO the three badly behaved boys I live with. Blame the parents. My youngest, Tom, turned seven and we bought him a Syrian hamster. It cycles through names: Spiderham, Buddy, Eminem, Chris, Minion, Hagrid and finally Herbie. It’s hard to know who’s more afraid of who at first, Tom or Herbie, but gradually they both acclimatise.
All three kids coo around his cage and spoil him with rodent chocs and raspberry-flavoured popcorn. Herbie does bite and poo a lot, and has already cost more in vet’s fees (£28) than he himself cost (£10), but it’s still somehow nice to have a furry friend in the house.
I HAVE JUST FINISHED making a movie with dogs in it, so I asked my Twitter followers for good dog accounts and I am now following as many dogs as I am comedians, which I regret. Twitter is not the best platform for dogs I realise. They’re better in a more visual medium like Snapchat. Let a dog on Twitter and it does not shut up. Also, dogs tweet in a weird baby language, which makes me want to sing so high only the dogs of Twitter can hear me, ideally somewhere crowded like a dog IT conference, until all the screens of their doggy phones shatter and they get glass in their paws. I have no quarrel with the Dogs of Instagram. Dogs of Instagram, as you were.
RECENTLY I HEADED OFF to Los Angeles to play the former Finnish Prime Minister, Minna Häkkinen in the final episode of the HBO series Veep and as a result I missed the premiere of my new film, Surviving Christmas with the Relatives. I was 90 per cent gutted, 10 per cent relieved to be released from the stress of the red carpet. It’s a Christmas movie written and directed by James Dearden [Fatal Attraction ]and although it’s a small film we’re hoping it’s turned out well. And no, the dog in it doesn’t have any lines.
Surviving Christmas with the Relatives is in cinemas now
In Stockholm, I discover, there are condom ambulances to deliver to those caught unprepared