Sunday, July 22, 2018

I’m Back

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… from my one-week holiday trip with my brother through the Swedish province of Småland over to the east coast and the island of Öland (connected by a long bridge to the city of Kalmar on the mainland).

We arrived back home (my home) yesterday (late afternoon-ish), and spent last night summarizing all our various impressions from the journey. This morning after breakfast, Per set off back to his home. He sent an email that he got home safely, so all is well.

We’re in luck that today has been a day of somewhat cooler winds and weather (around 23’C in the afternoon– while earlier in the week close to or even above 30’C). We’re supposed to get back to the really high temperatures again in just a day or two (and the rest of the week, and who knows for how long) – but even a temporary break is welcome, and gives me a chance to let some fresh air into the flat after having been away for a week. I even put on a top with 3/4 length sleeves today! - after wearing only tank-tops and the very thinnest and widest and loosest of my trousers the whole trip! (No jackets, sweaters or umbrellas etc packed “just in case” ever got used…)

The weather was hot and dry all week. In the north of Sweden, several large forest fires are raging – to the degree that we’ve been having extra fire fighter staff as well as equipment flewn in from several other European countries to help, and yet in some areas they’ve still had to just concentrate on stopping the fires from spreading (letting the area in the middle just burn down until there is nothing left to burn).  On the maps shown on the news we’ve been able to see that there have been fires in the south-east, too; and yet, miraculously, we seem to have managed to plan our own travel route so that we never even saw smoke. (Which makes it all seem strangely surreal when watching the TV news in the evenings and mornings at the hotels.)

What we did see, though, was nature in a state of drought very unusual for this time of year – looking more like autumn than summer in many places, with grass all yellow, trees with all brown leaves like in autumn (but weirder), and water levels in the rivers etc also very low. In the midst of all this, we’ve been driving through forest areas as well as visiting idyllic tourist sites in both countryside and city; also including lots of well-kept old wooden buildings.

A few random photos to whet your appetite… I’ll be taking my time blogging about places or themes one at a time in weeks/months (?) to come.

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From one of the many old homestead museums we visited.
Keeping in the shadow whenever possible was wise strategy this week :)

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A farmhouse, an old chapel ruin and a typical stone wall on the island of Öland

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This photo, also from Öland, primarily to show you one of all the trees with all brown leaves that we saw (the one to the left has no leaves at all, but I suspect that may not be all due to the current heatwave)…

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View from a walkpath on top of an old town wall in the city of Kalmar.
The red brick building in the background is Kalmar museum.

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A courtyard at a museum in Eksjö – a town still full of picturesque old wooden houses (see also the picture on the tray in the photo of my ‘souvenirs’ at the top).

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A stubborn sunflower growing out of really nothing but dry dust and dirt on a building site

The very first thing I had to do when I got home yesterday was to give “first aid” to all of my potted plants, both indoors and outdoors… My geraniums needed some serious emergency “surgery” (cutting off lots of yellow leaves) but I’m hoping they’ll survive and recover. The strawberry plants on the balcony looked like they’d given up as well; but sprang back to life surprisingly quickly when they got water.

The second thing I did was to plug all the cords back in that I had unplugged before leaving (in case of thunder); and then to make sure to back up  a thousand holiday photos from my camera, both to the pc and to an extra memory stick. (You think I’m exaggerating? I’m not!!!)

Today I’ve been having a lazy day, resting my (rather sore) feet, and basically just unpacking the clothes that need to go in the washing tomorrow…  And (much more fun!) all the postcards and other souvenirs bought in various tourist shops along the way. (See photo at the top of the post.) I don’t usually buy a lot of “things” when travelling, but as this trip took us through a part of Sweden known for its many glassworks, it was hard to resist! Besides postcards, I ended up buying something at each of the four glassworks we stopped at; and a few other things as well. (I’ll get back to them “in context”.)


Friday, July 13, 2018

Need to Vent

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Two months ago, I wrote a post entitled A Breath of Air; mentioning the installation of a new ventilation system in my building back in May, leaving us with “no air” during the first abnormal heatway setting in just then – and the relief I felt when ventilation was finally back on. As far as I can tell, it has been working fairly well since then – of course it’s still been an extremely hot summer, which means we don’t escape feeling that indoors as well. But having lived in this flat ten years now, at least I was able to say that in spite of the really extraordinary weather situation, the indoors climate was probably somewhat better than previous summers. That is, until

Not sure exactly which day I started to notice – it may have been a gradual revelation towards the end of last week. At first I just blamed the weather (and supposedly everyone else does, too); but gradually since Thursday or Friday, I started getting aware that there must be more to it. Like, way too much condensation on the mirrors in the bathroom if I took a shower in the evening before going to bed, and the towels not drying over night either… The nights were hot and stifling too – in spite of open windows and my own table fans going all night at full speed too. But in the mornings it was a little cooler, and sometimes I fell back to sleep, and when I finally got up, the ventilation in the bathroom was definitely on, whirring away as usual.

I think it was Friday night that I started to get seriously suspicious, noting that the ventilation was definitely off in the late evening and over night. However, in the morning it was back on again, and working all day on Saturdayuntil late evening, when it went off again. Then came Sunday, and that whole day the air stood still and it felt really hot and oppressive. At lunch time I noted that the kitchen fan wasn’t working either. (I ended up skipping hot food!). I was going to phone in an error report on Monday morning when the office opened – but then the ventilation was back on again?! - both in the kitchen and in the bathroom. So I thought they must have fixed it…

Until… Late evening, it was off, again, and remained off throughout the night, again. Tuesday morning, however – back on, again. But then I called to make an error report, even though unable to be very specific. (“It’s been on and off and on and off and now it’s on again…” How does one make that sound convincing??) The man answering said he’d tell someone to have a look at it. (And maybe they did; but of course in the daytime it was working just fine – so…)

Tuesday night… Yes, you probably already guessed: It went off again! Another night with “no air” – but on Wednesday morning, of course – back on again! I took a deep breath and called the office again. Different person answering the phone this time. I tried to explain and said that it seemed to me that there must be some timer setting on it, and was that on purpose? (If so, I did not think it a wise choice…) She called me back later and reassured med that a/ ventilation is meant be “on” around the clock where I live; and b/ apparently someone had been to check on it that same morning - but had not (of course) found any fault…

That afternoon, I had the laundry room, and while down there folding my laundry etc, I was looking at the booking board, and listening to the noise from the drying cabinet… And it suddenly struck me that the laundry room is in use from 07:00 in the morning until 21:00 in the evening, but not over night, and not at all on Sundays… I’ve never tried to use the room outside the given time frames myself, but I’m pretty sure they must have it on timer to prevent that from happening…

Of course, in the evening, the ventilation in the bathroom (and kitchen) again stopped some time after 21:00 (it was definitely off at 22:00). And on Thursday morning, it was back on again shortly after 7:00. I called again to report this. Unfortunately, this time it was a third person (younger female) who answered the phone, and I couldn’t really tell if she understood what I meant when I tried to explain my growing suspicion that somehow the timer setting for the flats had got changed to be the same as for the laundry room… (Not being a technician myself, alas I have no idea exactly how the system works.)

Obviously they either ignored this idea or still failed to find and/or correct the fault, because last night, the ventilation again went off just after 21:00, and back just after 07:00 am this morning (now I was checking the time more exactly, to be sure). So today, Friday morning, I called again… This time I think it was the same guy answering as the first time I called… He sounded unimpressed (I wouldn’t be surprised if by now I’ve become a “oh no it’s her again” at that office) but said he’d forward the message to the maintenace technician…

As on weekends there is only an Emergency number to call, I’m kind of dreading the upcoming Sunday… On weekends, there’s only an Emergency Number to call. (Like for Flooding or No Electricity – but no mentioning of No Air problems…)

Now excuse me. Have to get on with my holiday packing… One item that goes right to the top of list of Forget-Me-Nots just now is my little USB-fan!

(Photo at the top chosen just to illustrate that it’s still Too Hot…)




Tuesday, July 10, 2018

From Middle Earth to the End of the World

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Basically it’s been another week of Too Hot (for my liking) - and very dry and dusty. Last night we had a bit of thunder and a rainshower, and this morning the air is still feeling a little fresher… But according to weather forecasts we’re headed straight back to hot and dry. (Possibly some more random thunder somewhere - but who knows)…

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To be able to sort out where I’m standing in this photo, you probably have to know my city. Mix of reflection and see-though wall at our Travel Centre… I’m on the pavement outside, the wavy bench is on the inside!

It’s indeed very easy to get confused at this spot, in more ways than one, by the way. Yesterday, I ended up going on an unplanned trip to The End of the World, because I happened to step aboard the wrong bus. (19, 20… I totally blame the heat!) I realised the mistake within 30 seconds or so, but then it was too late, as the bus was already turning out onto the motorway. So nothing for it but to “enjoy” a tour of the gigantic desert-like industrial area where we were headed – much larger than I ever imagined… (I’ve never been round it all before.) Felt like something from a science fiction movie, and made me realize that I live in a rather cosy little bubble, usually.

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Photos taken with my phone through the bus window at the End of the World (i.e. where the bus turned and – thankfully – went back into the city again).

I decided to look upon the adventure as practice for an upcoming roadtrip with my brother again next week. Even with basic plans mapped beforehand, one does usually also happen to take an unexpected turn somewhere. (Especially when making the basic plans from maps and guidebooks dating from the previous century… Relying on apps and GPS to help with the final adjustments to the Real World!)


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A postcard that arrived a couple of weeks ago from a penpal in England.

If posts are scarce over the next couple of weeks, just assume I’m off discovering something or other. (Hopefully there will be photos to prove it later.)



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Lakeside Revisited

It’s Too Hot again! (29 C ~ 84 F)

Yesterday it was still a little cooler (only around 20 C ~ 68 F), and I took the bus out to the beach/lakeside in the afternoon.

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Someone might argue that hotter would be better for the beach. Not for me though. I’ve never really been a “beach person” (as in sunbathing) - and even less so nowadays. (For one thing, it seems to be so far down to the ground these days; and so much acrobatics involved in getting back up again.) What I prefer to do when visiting the lakeside is to just stroll around a bit with my camera – for which I really prefer 20 C rather than 30… (I know, because I tried both!!)

On my post So Fast (21st May) there was some discussion about the identity of this tree: apple or cherry?

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I went back yesterday to check, and I think we have an answer:

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The berries are very small – but so were the blueberries (bilberries) that I found out on the woodland peninsula.

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen such tiny ripe blueberries before. (Hadn’t the light happened to fall on one, I probably wouldn’t have seen them at all.) No doubt the looong period of dry hot weather this spring and summer is to blame. Even over the past week with somewhat cooler temperatures, there has been no rain. (Farmers are also seriously worried about their various crops, by the way – and some have even had to send cows to slaughter because there won’t be enough hay to feed them all through winter. There have also been many forest fires all over the country; and around here, I can’t recall ever having heard the sound of emergency vehicles so often as I have over the last couple of months – I think almost daily!


On the whole, the greenery just along the river still seemed to be thriving, though.

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The ferns have now got company from willowherb. Well – those often do seem to thrive even in dry places. We also call them “navvy rose” here as they often grow along the railway banks.

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I was also keeping a lookout for these flowers (below), wondering whether they would be in bloom yet – and yes, they were:

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Melampyrum nemorosum
In Swedish they are called “Natt och Dag” = Night and Day. These also grow at the northern end of the same lake, in the neighbourhood of where we had the House. I remember them from childhood when I went for walks with my grandmother down by the lake; and they are still growing in the same spots as back then. (I think I mentioned them in some post last summer, too: I was so happy to also find them at the southern end of the lake area.)

The water levels in the river are probably running a bit low:

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But still obviously deep enough in the middle for small boats!


Still felt quite warm enough to have an excuse for treating myself to an ice-cream when I got back to the ice-cream kiosk by the beach… Ooops, that photo is on my mobile… Never mind, here is very similar ice-cream photo from the Town Park on Saturday…

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Back in April, when trying on my summer clothes after getting them out of winter storage, I was fully determined that my diet this summer was not to include ice-cream… well, not much, anyway… possibly on Special Occasions… (like an Exceptionally Warm and Sunny Day…)

That was before we accidentally happend to get the Spain’s summer weather instead of our own; and no one could have guessed how very many Special Occasions that would turn out to involve!

(In spite of all the ice-cream, it seems I have still managed to walk off a couple of winter kilos, though. A few items of clothing even got taken back from the pile I was thinking of giving away… Which means my wardrobes are overfull again! – lol)



Monday, July 2, 2018

Read in June 2018

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Last Train to Istanbul
by Ayse Kulin (2002)

Audio book narrated by Sanjiv Jhaveri (12:09 hrs) (2013)
(Bought from Audible in May 2018)

The story is set in Turkey and Paris in the early years of World War II. Among the main characters are two sisters born in a privileged Muslim family, Sahiba and Selva. Sahiba marries a prominent Turkish diplomat, while Selva falls in love with a Turkish Jew, Rafael. Although Turkey had long been a safe haven for Jews, marriage between a high-ranking Muslim girl and a Jewish boy was still strictly forbidden. Selva and Rafael defied their parents and fled to Paris in hope of a better life there - only to find themselves trapped when France got invaded by the Nazis. Turkey attempted to remain neutral in the war, and Turks living in France were encouraged to return to Turkey; also including Turkish Jews. Unofficially some Jews were given Turkish passports and identities in order to be helped out of France. An intricate plan to escape from France back to Turkey by train is involved in this book (not really a major spoiler because of the title!) I found the story interesting as it involved aspects of WWII that I knew very little or nothing about before. (Had you asked me before I read this book, about Turkey’s role in WWII, I wouldn’t have had a clue!) At times I found some details of the story a little difficult to follow (only listening to it as audio book, without access to the text); but on the whole I liked it, and I think the narration also added to the atmosphere. I’m sometimes a bit sceptic about texts being read with “foreign accents” in English just because the story happens to take place in different country - but in this case, in an “international” setting, I think it works well.


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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
by Anne Brontë (1848)

Audio book narrated by Mary Sarah Agliotta (13:33 hrs) (2010)
(Bought from Audible in June 2018)

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the second of two novels by the English author Anne Brontë (1820-1849; sister of Emily – author of Wuthering Heights – and Charlotte – author of Jane Eyre). It was first published in 1848 under the pseudonym Acton Bell. Probably the most shocking of the Brontës' novels, it had an instant success, but after Anne's death Charlotte prevented its re-publication. (Their brother Branwell and Emily had also both died before Anne did; in the autumn/winter of 1848.) So The Tenant kind of fell into oblivion for a period of time; but was later “rediscovered” and included among the classics together with her sisters’ more famous novels. Most critics now consider The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to be one of the first feminist novels; and I do feel I agree with that.

I think I read it many years ago, but don’t really remember what I thought of it then. The style in which it is written may feel a bit outdated as it consists of letters written by the main male character Gilbert Markham to a male friend, and diary entries by the main female character Helen, who moves into Wildfell Hall under the assumed name of Mrs Graham, a young widow with a little son. (In reality, her husband is still alive – but she has had to flee from him to protect herself and her son). In spite of her cover story, Helen soon becomes the victim of village gossip and slander.

I recently watched a BBC mini-series from 1996 based on this novel (three episodes on DVD), and that made me curious to re-read the original story.* Finding it available as fairly cheap audio book, I ended up listening to most of it, but also reading some parts on Kindle. I’m not wholly enthusiastic about the audio narration performance… thinking I might have done better to choose a version with a male and a female actor alternating to read the different parts. (It gets a little confusing at times whose story it is that one is listening to at the moment.) But that aside… From today’s perspective, 2018 and with all the #metoo discussions and stories stirred up last year, I think this book still stands out as a really strong voice not only for women’s rights (which, one has to remember, were practically non-existent in those days) but also about abusive relationships.

And if anyone is thinking that “fake news” and rapid spreading of rumours and slander can all be blamed on modern technology – think again!

… Well, I only “tell the tale as ‘twas told to me”: I don’t vouch for the truth of it, but at the same time, I don’t see what reason Sarah should have for deceiving me, or her informant for deceiving her; and that was what she told me that the footman told her …
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, chapter 51

*(PS. The BBC mini series really does a pretty good job of retelling the story as well – in three hours rather than 13. Felt a little bit “episodic” though which is what made me want to go back and compare it to the original novel.)




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