Have you ever found a bag of candy on your desk after you called someone about a broken lamp? If you have, it is probably Mikael Filippi Farmar, the caretaker, who has been there. But it is not just candy that makes him popular around the student housing area in Lund.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t blow up”, Mikael Filippi Farmar says before jumping down from his ladder and flipping the switch above Sverker Kock’s bed. The light comes on, and its dim light mixes with the morning sun inside the small student apartment at Vildanden.
“There, now you won’t have to use a headlamp anymore”, Mikael Filippi Farmar says and packs up his tools.
While we are on our way out the door he takes out a bag of Malaco candy and hands it to Sverker Kocks.
“Some study-motivation for the day.”
Sverker turns a page in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter and laughs.
“Mikael always shows up when you need him. You can’t be anything but really pleased with him.”
Mikael Filippi Farmar works as a caretaker for AF Bostäder. But caretaker does not really cover it; he also often steps in as both a psychologist and a dad.
“To a lot of people, this is their first residence after leaving home, and moving out is never easy. That’s why I like to help them out as much as possible. During the days they should be able to focus on their studies and not have to worry about a broken lamp.”
When a new student moves into one of the 303 housings that Mikael Filippi Farmar is in charge of, he always gives a small speech where he welcomes the new tenant and explains how things work around the house.
“I want to meet them face to face, so we can establish a personal connection. That welcome speech is the best part of my job.”
After visiting Sverker Kocks, there is a newly vacated corridor room on the third floor in house 5B that needs a cleaning inspection. It is not hard to believe that Mikael Filippi Farmar used to play handball for the team Lugi – the soon to be 50 year old man basically flies up the stairs, and I struggle to keep up.
“I used to play a lot of floorball and badminton in my free time, but now I’m playing more and more golf. My golf clubs are all polished, just waiting for spring.”
But he denies that playing golf would be a sign of a mid-life crisis
“I haven’t noticed any kind of crisis. On my birthday, we’re going to Barcelona, and I am only looking forward to it.”
Apart from exercising, Mikael Filippi Farmar also enjoys filling his free time with travels and friends. The family weekends are almost always booked up.
“Even though I don’t have Facebook”, he laughs.
Once inside the cleaned apartment, Mikael Filippi Farmar walks around with a pleased smile.
“This is looking great, isn’t it? Students are usually great at cleaning, even though I sometimes look at it the day before and think ‘how are they ever going to get this done?’”
The work day always begins at 7 am. That way there is time to go through emails and make a plan for the day. Visits to tenants do not happen before 9.30 am at the earliest. Partly to give students time to sleep if they have been partying the night before, but also because he “is not a morning person”.
“There is always something to be done around the yard, and I have a notebook where I write down the things that need fixing. If nothing else, I might oil some student’s bike.”
During the day he then spends as much time as possible in the corridors.
“I want to be seen so they know I’m here and feel safe. I also really enjoy chatting with them in the kitchen.”
He tells me about an international student, with an amazing knowledge of cooking?
“Just the aromas in the air while she cooks makes me really happy.”
There is a fluorescent tube that needs changing at Gamla Magasinet and we get into Mikael Filippi Farmar’s blue BMW. While driving along Åldermansvägen, I ask if he has ever gotten really angry with a student.
“Sure, I can get pissed off, but I never show it. It is better to explain calmly to the students what they could have done differently.”
The fluorescent tube is changed in no time.
“The good thing about this job is that I learn something new every day. When we have contractors here, I usually follow them around and look at how they work.
The interest in working with his hands comes from home.
“My father always did a lot of practical work, so some of what I know I got from him. But I know most of it from trying different things and looking at what my colleagues do.”
During Christmas of 2013, Mikael Filippi Farmar was nominated for “Christmas present of the year” in the magazine City by student Isabella Caligari. She tells us via Facebook that she thinks it is important that anonymous driving forces like him get the recognition they deserve. Mikael Filippi Farmar agrees that his profession is underrated.
“A lot of people seem to think that we are just a bunch of old men sweeping the floors. But we do a lot of administrative work and have to make decisions about our budget.”
After seven years as a caretaker, he has no plans of quitting. The opportunity to work with students in Lund, his hometown, fits him perfectly.
“I really enjoy working with young people and share the things I have learned. Older people already know so much, so it’s more difficult to make an impact on them.”
He gazes out over the yard at Vildanden, looking pleased.
“Yes, it really feels like I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
Mikael Filippi Farmar goes off to rake some flowerbeds as I and the photographer, Jens, start walking back towards the centre of Lund. Each of us with a bag of candy in our pocket, of course.
Facts about Mikael Filippi Farmar
- Age: Turned 50 in March.
- Family: Sambo Maria and sons David and Adam.
- Lives: Norra Nöbbelöv.
- Does: Works as a caretaker at AF Bostäder and is responsible for Vildanden and Gamla Magasinet.
Text: Axel Vikström
Photo: Jens Hunt
Translation: Emily Eriksson