Monday, April 30, 2012

Macro Monday Musings on 30th April

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Suddenly, Spring is here. Just in time!

30th April is the traditional Spring celebration in Sweden – Valborgsmässoafton, Walpurgis Night, followed by 1st May which is Labour Day and a national holiday. As this year 30th April falls on a Monday, I’m sure a lot of people will be having a long weekend with the whole Monday off as well.

30th April is celebrated with bonfires and traditional spring songs; especially in the old university cities.

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YouTube video from Umeå (university city in the north)
This is one of our traditional Walpurgis Night choir songs; the lyrics are all about winter giving way to spring and summer.

In some cities a carnival parade, arranged by technology students, is also part of the tradition. (See my Walpurgis Night post from last year.)

I’m not planning on any big spring celebrations for my own part this year. It’s been good to get out a little bit with the camera again over the weekend; but after weeks of bronchitis and other problems, I still find myself getting tired very quickly. Going out at night to breathe in smoke from a bonfire while trying to sing(!) does not seem like the best idea how to treat my still sore respiratory organs…

Outdoors photography is more than usual something of a gamble at the moment. My eyes are still very sensitive to light, and I have to keep my sunglasses on most of the time. The sunglasses are polaroid. The real challenge occurs every time I’m inspired to turn the camera sideways – with the sunglasses on – because then the screen on the camera goes black and I literally can’t see a thing! So occasionally I do have to take the sunglasses off to get a clue what I’m aiming at…

I have to compliment my camera on doing a good job with these cherry blossom macros though. On top of my eyesight problems and wearing sunglasses, there were also strong gusts of wind to deal with, so I had to hold the branches with one hand and manouvre the camera with the other! (These photos are all straight out of the camera, no editing.)

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Happy Spring to all of you living in parts of the world where that may be applicable just now!

This post is linked to Macro Monday at Lisa’s Chaos.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Surprise: Yikes What A Lot Of Bikes!

Today for the first time in weeks I went into town “just for fun” - and was rewarded by a most unusual and surprising sight: The whole town square full of …

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…. MOTOR CYCLES! …

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I came home with 100 pictures from this event, so you’ll probably be seeing a few more in the near future!

Linked to Weekend Reflections and SOOC Sunday.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Opening Pandora’s Box

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Pandora was given a beautiful container which she was not to open under any circumstance. Impelled by her curiosity given to her by the gods, Pandora opened it, and all evil contained therein escaped and spread over the earth. She hastened to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped, except for one thing that lay at the bottom, which was the angel of Hope named Astrea.

No, this is not really Pandora’s box – it’s a small treasure chest that belonged to my grandmother Sally. This was one of the first objects I took home with me from the House after my father died last summer, knowing it to hold some old notebooks and other memorabilia. Until now, however, I haven’t really looked at the contents more than to establish that yes, there were the notebooks, and some various old letters and cards and press cuttings and such. 

But as this week I’ve been getting on with the old postcards, I decided to take a closer look at the letters in that chest to see if there were any that related to the same period as the postcards. I found some more postcards of later date than those in the albums, but only two letters written by my grandmother’s sisters.

Most of the letters kept seem to be correspondence between my grandparents in the late 1920’s, before their marriage. (Which may still hold secrets to be revealed – I have not yet read them.)

However, I also found some other documents I did not know were there, and those are what inspired this post.

I’ve known since early on in life that my grandfather’s mother and uncle both ended their days in a mental hospital. It was not a secret, but also not much talked about. In later years, I understood from my father that back in his childhood and youth too, these things had only been talked of “in a hushed voice”. My grandfather Gustaf was born “out of wedlock” and was raised primarily by his grandparents, while his mother was in mental hospital.

After my dad died last year, I found two files with notes on family history collected by him and his father before him. I was struck by the fact that while my grandfather had dug deeper into the history of earlier generations than I had been aware of, I found no mention of his own mother among those notes. I assumed he might have found that to come a bit too “close”. (I only need to look at myself now to understand that… I’m finding it a lot easier to dig into the history of my grandparents’ generation just now, rather than my own parents who only recently died.)

While trying to lay the puzzle of what I know and don’t know, I have wondered sometimes what kind of mental illness(es) it was that my grandfather’s mother and her brother suffered from; and if it might perhaps be possible to track down some old hospital records to find out a bit more - some time. (It’s not exactly been at the top of my priority list.)

However – I just found out I’m already in possession of more information than I was aware of. In that old chest, there was a scroll of rolled-up old letters, which I’d not properly examined before. When I sat down to sort these out, I realised that besides two or three written by Gerda to her parents – not really saying very much – the rest were official reports from the mental hospital sent to her parents.

Moreover, among the notebooks, I found one which contained my grandfather’s very detailed account of his impressions and thoughts from when he, in 1923, a week before his 19th birthday, for the first time went to visit his mother at the mental hospital Restad in Vänersborg; accompanied by his grandfather (the grandmother having died the year before). He also went there again on his own the following year, and made notes then as well.

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“There is no risk that a visit could in any way make their condition worse.” 3/3 1923 – stamped by the chief physician at Vänersborg’s Hospital and Asylum.
My grandfather’s notebook on top. It’s written in such tiny handwriting that I had to use a big magnifying glass to be able to read it.

While there is no specific diagnosis mentioned in any of these documents, the official reports state that Gerda was suffering from visual and audio hallucinations, was often aggressive but also passive and uninterested and mostly staying in bed. She seems to have grown worse over the years and at no time do the staff express any hope of her getting better.

The few letters which she wrote herself to her parents and her son are from the earlier years. The first report and letter are from January 1919. This could mean she was first admitted to the hospital in 1918, when she was 40 and my grandfather Gustaf 14.

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From Gustaf’s notebook it seems there was a time in his childhood when his mother was living at home and working at factory in the village (he was trying to find out when visiting her at the hospital, if she still remembered those days too). 

Her brother was committed to the same mental hospital already back in 1909 or earlier.

The hospital had separate wards for men and women, and the brother and sister seem not to have been in contact with each other. All the official reports include notes on both of them, though. On each report there is a typed line that says: “Enquiries about patients should be made by letter, not telephone, and must include return postage.” The actual reports, however, are all written by hand.

The brother was obviously physically strong and usually spent his days doing outdoors work; but is said to be performing his tasks “like an automaton”. (I was a bit surprised to find that word used in psychiatric context back in the early 1920s.) He suffered from strange delusions and kept talking nonsense about wars and of going hunting for exotic animals like elephants and tigers. His condition seems to have remained more or less unchanged through the years.

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I went searching on the internet for some facts about the place. The Hospital/Asylum at Restad was built between 1900-1905. It was a huge institution which housed over 1000 patients, long-term and short-term. Back then it was a very modern facility for its time, situated near the river and surrounded by a big park.

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It was a self-supporting community. They grew their own crops, kept their own livestock, cooked their own food, baked their own bread; there were workshops for carpentry, paintwork, tailoring, shoemaking and whatever. They had their own water tower and electricity and even their own tram system for transportation of food and washing. (You can see the tracks in the photo above, I think.)

What I have not been able to find out on the internet is what kind of treatments they gave the patients back in those early days, except trying to keep them occupied!

Gerda seems to mostly have talked of the nurses as being kind, and had no complaints about how she was treated, except perhaps for one remark that her son makes note of on his second visit in 1924: “The other day they had put Gerda on a table and held her there. ‘I suppose they were angry with me,’ she said.”

For young Gustaf it was obviously a heartwrenching experience to visit his mother in this environment, among a lot of other mentally ill people.

Between 1906 and 1957, nearly 2000 people were buried in the hospital’s own cemetery, most of them anonymously, their crosses only marked as male or female. In 2009, a memorial was raised to honour them all posthumously:

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My grandfather seems to have arranged for a proper gravestone for his mother though (she died in 1933); and later when her brother died (in 1956), his name too was included on that headstone.

While Gerda spent perhaps about 15 years in this institution, her brother lived there for 47 years or more.

From Wikipedia I learn that the first antipsychotic drugs weren’t discovered until in the 1950’s. When they were introduced, they revolutionized psychiatric treatment.

In 1989, most of the psychiatric care (I assume a lesser number of hospitalised patients by then) was moved from Restad to a new general hospital.

Currently, the old Asylum area is being turned into a modern housing estate with the old buildings now used for hotels and businesses and cultural activites etc.

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In 2011, a brand new unit for psychiatric care was built  quite close to the old one. This will take 82 patients, with 54 of those places set aside for forensic psychiatry. (Compare that to 1080 back in the early 1900s.)

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The first three photos in this post are my own;
the rest I found at nyheter.vgregion.se,
www.restadgard.se and www.nusjukvarden.se

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Angry Bird Attacks Cyclist

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(Yes, Ginny, the title is especially for you…)

Can’t resist borrowing the above series of pictures from my morning newspaper. (I used the camera to just snap photos from the paper spread out on the kitchen table.)

It’s courting season for the Western Capercaillie 
(Lat: Tetrao urogallus, Swedish: Tjäder)
This includes territorial competition between neighbouring cocks or cocks on the same courting ground. Apparently for this cock, a human on a bike is to be regarded as an intruder as well!

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At the very beginning of dawn, the tree courting begins on a thick branch of a lookout tree. The cock postures himself with raised and fanned tail feathers, erect neck, beak pointed skywards, wings held out and drooped and starts his typical aria. This consists of four parts, tapping, drum roll, cork pop and gurgling or wheezing.
(Wikipedia)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

O for Old News (ABC Wednesday)

Still recuperating from my bronchitis och cough, and not having a lot of new exciting experiences to blog about, over the last few days I’ve had another go at getting on with blogging about the collection of old postcards I found among the inherited family papers and photos back in February. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll seize the opportunity once again to draw your attention to the special blog I created for the purpose: Greetings from the Past. There is a button leading to it at the top of the sidebar in this blog; and below the button also a “newsflash” showing the very latest of my old news. I have just recently been putting in a whole row of new posts though, if anyone wants to catch up.

So far the postcards in my great-uncle Gustaf’s album have turned out to be organized pretty much in the order that they were received around 110 years ago. Basically I’m studying them one by one, trying to collect whatever clues to family history I can find in the short messages. But I also keep learning all sorts of odd facts from the picture postcards themselves.

One of the things that keep hitting me is that at first glance, I tend to think of things I see in the old cards as “an old church” or “an old house”; but when I look up facts in Wikipedia or Google, more often than not I find that when the postcard was sent, that building was brand new. 

These ancestors of mine at the beginning of the 20th century were living in a rapidly changing and expanding world. They were using postcards to communicate almost as we today use emails and text messages. Mail was sorted aboard the trains and delivery was fast. (I know back in my childhood in the late 1950’s we got mail deliveries twice a day.)

Some people weren’t content to just stay home and wait for old news either.  I already know that a few pages further along in the postcard collection, I will find both my great-uncle Gustaf and his sister Gerda in North America, across the Atlantic Ocean.

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An Easter Card sent to my great-aunt Gerda in 1902, while she was still in Sweden. At Easter 1903, she had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was living in Chicago.

Gustaf and Gerda were two of my great-grandfather Samuel’s children from his first marriage, born in 1878 and 1881. My grandmother was their half-sister, born in February 1900 to Samuel’s second wife. When these two older half-siblings went off to seek their fortune in America, my grandmother Sally was not yet three years old.

ABC Wednesday

Monday, April 23, 2012

Macro Monday

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“All gardeners live in beautiful places
because they make them so.”
~
Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) ~

For Macro Monday

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tussilago / Coltsfoot

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Tussilago farfara, also known as Coltsfoot.

The name "tussilago" means "cough suppressant". Although still coughing, I was not really tempted to pick these for medicinal use when I came upon them yesterday down by the river… I was just happy to find a sign of spring!

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Took the last cortisone tablets on Friday. Although still coughing, there’s been less of it today, and the good news is that today for the first day in nearly two weeks (“touch wood”) I have not felt in need of any extra asthma inhalations. Tiredness seems now to be taking over instead – I feel I’d like to sleep for a week!

Linking to Straight Out of the Camera Sunday

Friday, April 20, 2012

Horses and Friday Fence

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Looking through some photos from last year I found these, which I think I never got round to blogging. The field where I saw the horses in September 2011 is across the road from the country church yard where my parents’ grave is.

If you want to see more photos from the countryside around there, also visit my Picture Book post today (Friday My Town Shoot Out – Rule of Thirds).

This post is linked to Friday Fences # 29

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Fickleness of April

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▲ Yesterday morning (Tuesday) this was the sight that met my eye through the windows. ▼

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The snow did not last very long, but the poor spring flowers are having a tough time between freezing every other night and thawing again when the sun comes out.

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Forsythia (photos from today, outside).

Further north in Sweden they’ve had much worse snow chaos lately, and more is to be expected. Here in the south-west we might get away with rain – but that yet remains to be seen.

Snow video from the Swedish Television website

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

N for Nebulizer

When visiting my health care centre on Monday because of bronchitis and asthma trouble, as part of the examination I was introduced to a Nebulizer .(Swedish: Nebulisator) It was new to me, so afterwards I looked it up to learn its name and a bit more about it.

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Nebulizers are used for the treatment of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Nebulizers use oxygen, compressed air or ultrasonic power to break up medical solutions and suspensions into small aerosol droplets that can be directly inhaled from the mouthpiece of the device. The definition of an aerosol is a "mixture of gas and liquid particles," and the best example of a naturally-occurring aerosol is mist, formed when small vaporized water particles mixed with hot ambient air are cooled down and condense into a fine cloud of visible airborne water droplets.

The first "powered" or pressurized inhaler was invented in France in 1858. This device used pressure to atomize the liquid medication. The pump handle was operated like a bicycle pump.

In 1864, the first steam-driven nebulizer was invented in Germany. The Siegle steam spray inhaler consisted of a spirit burner, which boiled water in the reservoir into steam that could then flow across the top and into a tube suspended in the pharmaceutical solution. The passage of steam drew the medicine into the vapor, and the patient inhaled this vapor through a mouthpiece made of glass.

The first electrical nebulizer was invented in the 1930s, but many people in the 1930s continued to use a much more simple and cheap hand-driven one.

Exactly what kind of electrical nebulizer  it was that I used now, I don’t know. The picture is from the Wikipedia article. The one I used looked similar but not the exact same shape.

Anyway (for those of you who did not read my previous posts this week) it was a test treatment to see how well I responded to cortisone. Afterwards I was prescribed a short cortisone tablet cure to help me through the present problems (my regular everyday treatment with dry powder inhalers having proved not quite sufficient in connection with a bad cold last week)

Sorry if I seem a little obsessed by my own respiration and not much else just now… But breathing is rather essential for the rest of life, you know! ;)

Find more interesting N-words at ABC Wednesday

Household Remedies

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In yesterday’s post I asked what you thought might be the origin of a paler version of the picture above. It was created by using the ‘colour reduction’ filter in Picasa. …In the version above, I’ve added colour boost to the colour reduction ...

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Cinemascope

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Lomo style.  Getting any ideas yet?

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HDR style

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Ta da! The answer is: Fizzy Vitamin C dissolving in a glass of water on my sink.

Some people believe very strongly in additional vitamin C as household remedy in connection with colds. I’m oversensitive to fresh citrus fruits so don’t eat oranges etc. (they make my mouth itch), but I do think I usually get enough vitamin C from other fruits and berries and vegetables and juices.  In recent years I have not had a lot of colds; I can’t even remember when  I last (before now!) had a really bad one with fever and chest infection.

However,  someone mentioned their faith in vitamin C last week and as I happened to see a tube of them in my grocery shop, I picked one up. I suppose a temporary boost for a few days might do more good than harm (or possibly no difference whatsoever).

I think I would really have preferred it with fewer artificial colour additives though.

My own household remedy this week has been lots of cups of herbal peppermint tea with a little honey added. That’s between all the other cups of black, green and rooibos tea as well!

Do you have any household remedies? Or remember any from your childhood? One that I recall is that my maternal grandfather used to smear butter on skin irritations like burns or bites. (Of course in those days that would be real butter and not table margarine!)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Update

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 Short health update: Got to see a doctor at my health care centre today (not my regular GP but another one whom I know since before). I got to do expiratory tests before and after inhaling cortisone through a machine for a while (which did bring some relief), and a quick blood test. She then prescribed a 5-day-treatment with cortisone tablets (besides the basic asthma inhalations I already take regularly).

It has been my own feeling as well that it’s basically been a virus infection taking its natural course but with asthma complications going a bit beyond what I’ve experienced before. For a while I thought it would be enough to just take extra inhalations of the ordinary meds, but hopefully the cortisone tablets will be a better alternative to help calm things down.

I’m really, really longing for a night’s “undisturbed” sleep! Not expecting that to happen immediately, but I do think I’ll be less worried tonight, feeling a bit more reassured about what “is” and what “isn’t” going on!

Meanwhile, you may try guessing what the picture is!
(It’s not an x-ray of my airpipes!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Slow Motion Battle

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“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”
~ Margaret Thatcher ~

I haven’t been able to be out and about much this week; I’m still fighting the battle with the viruses that invaded my body earlier this week.  On Thursday, however, there was also a battle going on in the football field I can see from my balcony. And it wasn’t football! It was the Home Guard practicing self defense – I think. Most of the time they seemed to just be hanging around doing nothing though - and when they did take action it was all in slow motion. Just like me…

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Spring is also taking things very slowly. But it’s on its way!  The Clematis on my balcony has survived another winter in its pot, and is showing little buds.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Fences: Entangled

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Nature has a fascinating way of not caring much about human-made obstacles sometimes…  Like when a tree decides that “hey, what do I care about fences!”

Friday Fences # 28

 

 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Feverish Wednesday

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“An illness is like a journey into a far country; it sifts all one's experience and removes it to a point so remote that it appears like a vision.”
~ Sholem Asch ~

Can’t recall the last time I had a cold of this magnitude. Feverish all day. Trying to keep myself upright as much as possible though because it’s better for my breathing. Been watching TV, not really caring what’s on. When I find myself watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills I know I’m not quite my usual self…

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