Thursday, May 31, 2012

BTT: Do It Yourself

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question comes from Cathy De Los Santos, who asks:

If you could write a book, what would it be about, and why? (Though, of course, some of you already HAVE.)

I used to want to be a writer - or at least I used to think of myself as someone who wanted to be a writer, which is not necessarily the same thing. I never really had my head full of stories waiting to be written though… At least not with plots long enough to build a book around.

Back in the 1990’s I attended a few summer courses in creative writing and I enjoyed that a lot; but I still never really felt that I had The Great Story lurking, just waiting to be told.

This past year, after the death of my parents… Going through old photo albums, and notes on bit and pieces of family history, and old postcards collected and written by my grandmother’s siblings… I do sometimes wonder if there might be a story waiting among those fragments…

I think that if I could, I’d want to write a book about “ordinary people” whose story would otherwise be forgotten. To be able to make characters interesting, who would not have thought of themselves that way.

As I write that, I realize that we do have a very strong tradition of working class literature in Sweden. I read a lot of that kind of books back in my youth.

Best known abroad is probably Vilhelm Moberg’s The Emigrants series, about Swedish emigrants moving to the USA in the 19th century; also filmed by Jan Troell in the 1970's. Probably very hard to outdo!

Looking at facts rather than dreams… Forms of writing that always came easier to me have been letters, short reflections, essays, occasionally a bit of poetry. Blogging is perfect because there are no rules. A blog post can be anything (except perhaps a Great Novel). So maybe I should just stick to that…

… Or if I ever do write a book, perhaps I should try an epistolary* form! Winking smile

*(= “written in the form of or carried on by letters or correspondence”) 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

T for Trollhättan

Until now, my ABC Wednesday posts, apart from following the alphabet, have been about quite random things. It occurred to me last week, that I might try to focus more specifically on Sweden in these posts. And why wait until the next round? Actually the letter T is as good as any to start, because…

Trollhättan is the Swedish town where once-upon-a-time I was born and bred. I lived my first 20 years there or in the vicinity of it.

The town is situated in the province of Västergötland in Sweden (about 100 km north of where I live now). Through the town runs the river Göta Älv (connecting Lake Vänern with Gothenburg [Göteborg] on the west coast).

Trollhättan is famous for its locks and waterfalls, which attract lots of tourists to the area each year.

For centuries, the falls at Trollhättan were an obstacle for boats travelling the river. A first set of locks was completed in 1800 …

… followed by a bigger set completed in 1916, which are the ones still in use.

Trollhättans slussar

The maximum dimensions for a boat to traverse the canal are:

  • Length: 88 m
  • Width: 13.20 m
  • Mast height: 27 m
  • Depth: 5.40 m

In the late 19th century, hydropower was developed in Trollhättan. The Swedish energy corporation Vattenfall ("waterfall") took its name from the falls in Trollhättan.

The waterfalls are shown to turists during the summer. In May, June and September only on Saturdays, in July and August every afternoon at 3 pm. It’s a spectacular view with 300,000 litres of water per second rushing by.

Trollhättefallen

One weekend in July each year there is also a Waterfall Festival with more frequent showings of the Falls including night shows with lightning (see the first picture above).

Below is a video which shows the water being let on. The name of the town means Troll’s Hat (bonnet). The place is mentioned in literature from 1413. The “hat” is supposed to refer to the rocks at the falls. In local folklore people used to believe they saw trolls and elves dancing in the mist that arose from the falls. (Watch the video closely and you might catch a glimpse of them!)

 

http://youtu.be/ddQbps1yYEI

Historically, Trollhättan housed a lot of industries, like NOHAB that produced railroad locomotives, and the main production site of Saab Automobile. Since the years when I used to live there, several of the old industries have closed down or gone through mergers with foreign companies etc though.

The town now has a new nickname: Trollywood, as it has become a center for Swedish film production. About half of the Swedish full-length films are produced there these days.

Personal notes

My parents moved to Trollhättan in 1955 shortly before I was born. My father got his first job as an engineer with Vattenfall (then a public utility) and he remained in their employ until his retirement.

We lived in a town flat until I was five, then moved to a village outside town. From 7th grade (junior high) I went by bus to a school on the outskirts of town. For ‘senior high’ I went to school in the town centre.

Fil:Polhemsgymnasiet i Trollhättan.jpg

At the age of 20 I moved away from home and went to live and study elsewhere.

When my dad retired from work in the early 90’s, my parents moved back to dad’s childhood home near Borås.

Actually I’ve not been back to Trollhättan after my parents moved away from there – which means not for 20 years. I may have passed through a couple of times, but not properly visited.

The photos above are all copied from official websites. In my own photo albums, I can’t find a single photo that properly shows “the town” (or the falls, or the locks). Back in my teens, I was obviously more interested in people than in landscapes and architecture!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lilacs and Shoes

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There is an often quoted phrase or story in Sweden about a shoemaker who in the month of May put up a sign on his door saying “closed between bird cherry blossoms and lilacs” (‘stängt mellan hägg och syren’). Well, the shoemaker did not get a very long holiday this year. I noticed Bird cherry blossoms last week and now the lilacs are out too!

We’re still enjoying summery temperatures here - actually some of us are already beginning to complain a little about the heat! Not very serious complaints yet, since the novelty of it is still welcome after the long winter! But hot enough now to make many want to seek shadow rather than sun in the afternoon…

The indoors temperature in my flat (and so I suppose most of the others in this neighbourhood) reached 26° Celsius yesterday, which is just about the limit for what I feel “comfortable” with. This morning with open balcony door it’s down to 24 on the shady side though, so “so far so good”.

But in the afternoon hours when the sun hits the balcony, even with the parasols up it gets much too hot out there. And in the Study as well.

Yesterday I went outside for a while and sat in one of the gazebos in the park.

What is bothering me at the moment is that longer walks are out of the question this weekend because of a blister I got from a new pair of shoes the other day. They seemed soooo comfortable at first… but then after walking into town in them… I got this blister in an unexpected place on top of the foot. Yesterday I thought I’d be okay with a band aid and different kinds of shoes when walking to the supermarket. But when I got back home I was bleeding… ouch.  So I guess I do best in “putting my feet up” over the weekend, letting it heal properly…  Meanwhile, I’ve also put a pair of shoe blocks in the shoes, hoping that will stretch them!

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A piece of good news is that for the first time since my additional eye problem two months ago, I’m reading a book on paper again  - The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen. I have an audio book going too, though.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

S for Swedish Summer

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Suddenly, we have Summer. Strolling into town yesterday afternoon I found people spread out on the lawns in the park. Just as it should be on a day like that.

Hard to believe that only five days ago I was still using my winter jacket because there were such chilly winds blowing. The last couple of nights it’s still been around 21°C outside on my balcony late late in the evening… Last night I stepped outside barefoot for a breath or two just before I went to bed. The damp evening air  enhancing the fragrances from my plants (see previous post), the neighbourhood all quiet, all to be heard was the sound of a soft wind brushing the leaves of the big trees nearby… And I suddenly realised how much  I miss that soothing sound in the winter.

The photos below are from the park in among the buildings where I live (just a minute or two away):

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The crab apple trees have burst out in blossoms over the last couple of days too.

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There are a few gazebos here and there as well, if you want to seek shelter from sun/wind/rain.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Long Weekend Summary

Ascension Day, the fortieth day of Easter, always on a Thursday, is still a holiday in our calendar. The Friday is not, but those who have the possibility often try to get a long weekend out of it. My brother did, and came down for two nights, staying at the House outside town (our parents’ old place). Thursday night he came to me in town towards evening for tea and freshly baked hot scones. The day was chilly and grey, and summer still kind of hard to believe in.

Friday we went shopping for an extra computer screen to connect to my laptop. I hope this will make blogging a little easier again with less strain on the eyes:

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I also bought a 2 TB extra hard drive for back-ups!

We went to a restaurant for lunch, and from there on to the House, where the first thing we did was take Harry-the-dog out for a walk:

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Beautiful spring greens in nature, but very chilly winds down by the lake, and I did not regret having chosen my winter jacket over my summer one:

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But evidently the concrete slabs on the garden path were beginning to soak up some warmth from the sun – at least enough for the one of us dressed in fur:

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When we drove back into town in the late afternoon, with a little detour to watch the progress of spring in the surrounding countryside, there was hardly a cloud left in the sky:

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Saturday was Spring Market Day in the town centre.

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Actually the market goes on for two days but on Friday I forgot about it; and as the restaurant we went to was not where the market was, we never noticed!

Sometimes things just go on over your head…

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Saturday morning however I was reminded of the market at breakfast when reading the newspaper, and decided to walk into town to have a look around. Actually found some things I needed – like new summer socks.

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I did not buy any of the ones with toes, though ;)

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Today, Sunday, as unlikely as it seemed only a couple of days ago, we suddenly went from spring to summer.

I had not really intended to grow a lot of things on my balcony this summer. But with the sunshine and warmer temperature also came an itch in my green thumbs this morning. So the thumbs got the legs to agree to a walk to a garden centre – in spite of having to climb these stairs (a steep walkbridge over the railway tracks) - not only once, but twice!

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As a result, I now have a little garden:

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So the faithful clematis (to the right) got company not only by some new wood strawberry plants (replacing old ones that did not survive the winter) but also two small tomato plants (cocktail and cherry) and one Physalis (Cape gooseberries – in the black pot). Never had one of the latter before so that will be interesting.

(My brother deserves a thanks here as well because he also helped me get some soil home on Friday, or I wouldn’t have been able to plant anything today!)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

They Flapped Their Arms and Jumped

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I never know what I’ll find when I go into town on a Saturday. This week I found a demonstration of crossfit training going on in the park. Personally I find it strenuous enough just to hold the camera steady for a short video:

http://youtu.be/Pm8S_hArv00

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- How about you guys? Sure you don’t want to try?
(Yes, I heard her ask them!)

~~~

“Look, I really don't want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you're alive, you got to flap your arms and legs, you got to jump around a lot, you got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death. And therefore, as I see it, if you're quiet, you're not living. You've got to be noisy, or at least your thoughts should be noisy and colorful and lively.”
~ Mel Brooks ~

Hmm… I think I’ll stick with…

“Cogito ergo sum / I think, therefore I am.”
~ René Descartes ~

Thursday, May 17, 2012

BTT: Live or Get Lost

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question reads:

If you had to choose to live within a novel, which would it be?

Oh this is the kind of question that ties my brain into knots. It so depends… Who would I be in that world? Would I still be me? Because, you know, if I suddenly dropped into a famous novel, still being me, that would change the story – and who knows how. And if I suddenly found myself not being me, or my identity questioned, I’d probably find that rather frustrating as well. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole:

Dear, dear! How queer everything is today! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!

The question also reminds me of the British mini series Lost in Austen from 2008 (4 episodes), in which a modern girl switches places with Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  I quite enjoyed that series.

Watch the trailer on YouTube

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

R for Roadworks and Riding Police

ABC Wednesday - R

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There are lots of chaotic roadworks going on in our town at the moment.

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I haven’t got a clue what they think they are doing here. Possibly a roundabout? - since this is one of the few crossroads in town that doesn’t have one yet…

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At the moment, it’s just a place of Big Confusion for drivers as well as pedestrians. Fences in all directions, road signs and traffic lights lying on the ground…

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It seems even the police have got so tired of the traffic situation that they’ve decided it ‘s easier to use horses rather than cars… Or?

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It was a nice Sunday afternoon for a horse-back ride for sure, but I was still a little confused by all the police in town this day, both riding and driving. (I didn’t take a lot of photos of the police cars but they seemed to be everywhere; as were their horse-riding colleagues.)

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Look closely at the photo above, and in the background between the horses you see the non-violence sculpture (a gun tied in a knot) in a park named in honour of Anna Lindh, Swedish minister of foreign affairs who was assassinated in 2003 (in Stockholm).

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Besides the fact that the town was swarming with police, everything looked very peaceful. On a Sunday afternoon, only one department store in the town centre is open. Some people were enjoying the sun at the outdoors cafés and restaurants by the river, but nothing special seemed to be going on… Except for…

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… the police riding round and round… Which is not an everyday sight in our town. Mounted police are usually only seen at special events.

So the only thing I could think of was that maybe there had been something that I had missed? But if it was over, why on earth were the police still hanging around?

Not until I decided to take the bus back home did I finally get a clue, from a conversation I happened to overhear on the bus. It was national league football night, with a game starting in a couple of hours. Our team (Elfsborg) playing a team from the capital (AIK). Evidently, what the police were waiting around for were hordes of fanatic football supporters arriving and making their way through town to the arena…

 Matchrapport IF Elfsborg - AIK

I checked the newspaper the next day, but no major dramas reported, only that our team won by 1-0.

Have to confess – I never really understood sports… ;)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Convertible

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Last Sunday I came upon this beauty parked among all the typical family cars outside the supermarket. I’m embarrassingly hopeless at identifying cars – but surely this must be a Cadillac, right?? Coward that I am, I didn’t dare go too close (like lean in to take photos of the interior) – fearing I might set off an alarm or something! … ;)

http://youtu.be/Qe6UpGFlRGM

Cadillac – Hep Stars*

I’m dedicating this post especially to two of my blogging friends: Eva of Eva Ason’s Art who paints charming water colours of old cars (among other things) – and GB who might be missing his “handbag” (recently having returned from New Zealand to his other home in the Hebrides).

* The Hep Stars was a successful Swedish rock groups in the 1960s; outside the Nordic countries probably  best known as a launching point for keyboard player and composer Benny Andersson, who went on to enjoy worldwide success with ABBA. 

They were the first pop stars I “worshipped” back in my pre-teens … ;)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Book Review: The Tiger’s Wife

Cover

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht  (2011)

The Tiger's Wife is the first novel by Téa Obreht, born 1985 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia; now living in the United States. The novel won the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Summary from Wikipedia:

The Tiger's Wife is set in an unnamed Balkan country, in the present and half a century ago, and features a young doctor's relationship with her grandfather and the stories he tells her, primarily about the 'deathless man' who meets him several times in different places and never changes, and a deaf-mute girl from his childhood village who befriends a tiger that has escaped from a zoo. It was largely written while she was at Cornell, and excerpted in The New Yorker in June 2009. Asked to summarize it by a university journalist, Obreht replied, "It’s a family saga that takes place in a fictionalized province of the Balkans. It’s about a female narrator and her relationship to her grandfather, who’s a doctor. It’s a saga about doctors and their relationships to death throughout all these wars in the Balkans."

My comments:

One of the things that ran through my mind while I was listening to this book was how difficult it is to dig into the past and reveal “the truth”. All that remains (if even that) is the stories of what happened; and stories have their own life. When we are not sure about the details, we fill in the gaps with guesses and traditions and our own imagination. In this story, the curiosity of a modern, well-educated young woman with a scientific approach to life, clashes with old legends, superstitions and traditions, as she is confronted with both personal loss (the death of her grandfather) and the misery that she meets in her work as a doctor. While she is trying to solve the problems of here and now, in her mind she also keeps returning to the stories her grandfather used to tell her.

Kipling’s The Jungle Book plays a role in the plot – a book the grandfather used to carry with him at all times.

For so young an author I think this novel shows extraordinary depth and insight. In some respects, her style of writing reminds me a bit of Paolo Coelho; there is that element of some things going beyond what we can hope to ever fully explain. At the same time there is something very solid and physical about Téa Obreht’s storytelling.  I hope she’ll go on to write more novels with the same interesting mix of intensity and distance.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

BTT: Turning Myself Inside Out

This week’s question from Booking Through Thursday:

In or Out:
Do you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert?

Well, that’s a bit unexpected for a BTT question, isn’t it?
Actually I think there are both sides to me; and I feel that my position on the scale has shifted a bit back and forth over the years depending on circumstances.

I was never a huge fan of yes/no tests, because more often than not I feel that my real answer would be somewhere in the middle. But I went in search of some online personality tests for this question.

Funtestiq said I’m “balanced”. I took the test twice. The first time it said I was more extrovert than introvert. The second time it had me exactly on the balancing point. I have no idea what question(s) I answered differently the second time.

The Introvert-Extrovert test at Nerdtests gave the result “balanced” as well. I took that test twice too (with about half an hour in between) First time I was slightly more introvert, the second time more extrovert. Although that tests consists of only ten yes/no questions, I don’t know which one I answered differently the second time there either!

BBC’s personality test says I’m a Mastermind. However, since my extraordinary talents as a visionary and leader within the fields of science and technology were never rightly appreciated (not even by myself!), it seems I’m at risk to just overindulge in eating, shopping and watching television instead. (It should however also be pointed out that Masterminds often have an “unusual sense of humour, which arises from the ability to spot surprising links between seemingly unconnected facts”.)

According to a Jung Typololgy test I’m INFJ, i.e. Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging. “INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents.” Some famous INFJs were Mother Theresa, Shirley Temple and Nicole Kidman, to stick with female examples.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)     

Nicole Kidman

How about that for me in a nutshell? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need some tea and biscuits and a good TV show. Rain is hammering on my windows and I intend to be an introvert for the rest of the evening!

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