Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: One Lane Bridge

“Around that bend he would come upon either a wide, two lane crossing with low concrete sides or a large, old-fashioned steel-trestle one lane bridge. He was prepared to be shocked either way. And he was.”

From One Lane Bridge: A Novel, by Don Reid

Found this book temporarily free for Kindle yesterday. It seems still to be free today… Started reading it yesterday evening, got quickly drawn into it… Involves time travelling, but I have no idea yet where exactly it will be taking me!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: Dodger by Terry Pratchett

With winter giving way for spring at last (even if slowly), I’ve not had as much time for reading lately. Somehow I got off to a slow start with Terry Pratchett’s Dodger a couple of weeks ago.  Found it  kind of long-drawn for a while - although that may have been “me” rather than the book, I don’t really know! …

This weekend however I managed to pick up the thread again and enjoyed the second half more. This may have something to do with also making an effort to try and sort out what was pure fantasy vs reality. Because this is not one of Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and the story actually takes place in a sort of grey zone (or ‘fog’, as Dodger might call it) between the two. (Pratchett himself calls it “a fantasy based on a reality”). The setting is 19th century London, and some of the characters are historical while others are fictional.

If you do not consider yourself an expert on British 19th century history, I  would actually recommend starting with the “Author’s acknowledgements and excuses with, at no extra cost, some bits of vocabulary and usage” (found at the back of the book). I wish I had… Because there you will learn some of those things that kept me bewildered and looking up things in Wikipedia all the time.

I had no difficulty, of course, in recognizing the author Charles Dickens. Benjamin Disraeli also rang a bell – but who exactly was he again? (British 19th century prime minister) And what about Beau Brummel (credited with introducing, and establishing as fashion, the modern men's suit), Joseph Bazalgette (creator of the modern London sewerage system), Sir Robert Peel (creator of the modern English police force, and the reason policemen became known as "Bobbies" or "Peelers"), Angela Burdett-Coutts (the wealthiest woman in England in the mid 1800s), Henry Mayhew (an English social researcher and journalist and co-founder of the satirical and humorous magazine Punch), Sweeney Tood (fictional 19th century character of debated origin – a barber who murdered his clients). And last but not least – did the  Romans actually worship a goddess called Cloacina, goddess of sewer systems? Surely not?? (Yes they did!)

However, as Pratchett himself says: “certain tweaks were needed to get people in the right place at the right time” – and in the middle of it all we have a young man known as Dodger, invented my Mr Pratchett (but who could just as well have been a character in a novel by Mr Dickens). Dodger is a ‘tosher’ which means he lives by looking for odd coins and jewellry etc dropped in the old Roman sewer system under London. We also have a wise old Jew, a smelly dog, and a young woman in serious trouble…

Well, as I don’t want to spoil the actual story for you, I think that’s all you need to know, really! :)

Quotes:

Dodger lived in a world where nobody asked questions apart from “How much?” and “What’s in it for me?”

He wondered why people needed all these things, when he himself could carry everything he owned in quite a small bag, not counting the bedroll. It seemed to be something that happened when you were rich.

There were quite a number of people whom he could trust, but there were, as it were, several stages of trust, ranging from those he could trust with a sixpence to those he would trust with his life.

Linking to: Musing Mondays (April 29)

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Street Scenes

While our city is prospering and growing lately (with  new building projects going on everywhere), we are also getting “the flipside of the coin”…

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They come here from Eastern Europe: Not to live, not to stay, but to beg. As members of the European Union they have the right to stay three months as ‘tourists’ (or whatever). Technically they are not breaking any laws (because there is no law against just sitting in the street hoping that people will drop some coins in your paper cup). But being neither citizens nor refugees seeking residence, they fall outside the normal social welfare systems. From what I’ve read in the papers they also sleep rough – in spite of the hard winter we’ve been having. In a town this size there are no charity shelters to cover this kind of situation.

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I can’t imagine that these beggars are here, doing this, for “fun” - especially not in winter. But at the same time it can’t be ruled out (as some suggest) that it is “organized” (meaning some of the money might go to a boss somewhere who does not actually have to sit in the streets himself). But until someone can prove that, or some new law is introduced to prohibit begging… It seems we have to live with it. (The beggars who are here just now won’t be here forever. But no doubt there will be others.)

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Meanwhile, the rest of us continue running in and out of shops as usual, buying new spring clothes or colourful scrapbooking items or whatever. (I mention scrapbooking because a new hobby shop opened in town on Friday, and I popped in to have a look around… And yes, spent some money too.)

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So we shop, and manage to put the beggars out of our minds for a little while... But as soon as we get back out on the street - there they are again (or still).

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I have no more idea than anyone else how to handle it. For years, my personal policy has been to only give to charity through established organisations or churches – not to any anonymous collector that happens to wave some list in my face in the street.

But these silent people with their paper cups sitting bundled up in the streets in the freezing cold all winter long... The same faces in the same street corners, day in and day out… By their presence alone, they bring world poverty uncomfortably close. Occasionally I break my own rules and drop them a few coins. Do those coins make any real difference? Probably not much. Does it make me feel any better? No. It just makes me think I need a new (or renewed) policy. (Actually I feel the town needs a policy. Or Sweden does. Or Europe. Or the World…)

Any thoughts, experience, advice??

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Booking Through Thursday: No Sporting Chance

This week’s BTT questions from Deb:
1. Do you read books about sports?
2. How about AT sporting events?
(Kid’s soccer practice?)

My answers:

1. No, I don’t read books about sports – unless you count Quidditch. (If anyone has actually managed to miss it, quidditch is a game played flying on broomsticks in the Harry Potter world.)

I have read, and am proud owner of, Quidditch through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp – one of the most popular titles in the Hogwarts school library. No wonder, since it contains lots of useful facts like:

The celebrated annual broom race of Sweden dates from the tenth century. Fliers race from Kopparberg to Arjeplog, a distance of slightly over three hundred miles. The course runs straight through a dragon reservation and the vast silver trophy is shaped like a Swedish Short-Snout.

(The proceeds from the sale of Quidditch of the Ages – © J.K. Rowling 2001 – go to Comic Relief, an organisation for fund raising for projects promoting social justice and helping to tackle poverty, worldwide.)

2. I was going to say I never read at sporting events, because I never attend any, and as I have no kids or grandkids I don’t have to watch soccer practice. But on second thought I have to take that back – as my balcony is only about 20 meters from a kids’ soccer ground! Official team practice and games has not started yet, but in the next few months I’m actually likely to read through lots of that kind… :)

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People not reading while watching soccer.
(Zoomed in from my balcony a couple of years ago.)

---

~ 6.30 pm: This may be a Booking Through Friday post before I get it posted, as my internet cable connection is down on Thursday afternoon…

~ 8.00 pm: (skipping much ado about nothing) It seems to be back, giving it a go to send this off!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our World Tuesday: Folk Costumes

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On Sunday I visited a very colourful folklore photo art exhibition at Borås Museum, by photographer Laila Durán. See www.scandinavianfolklore.com. [Make sure to click on the tabs ‘Exempel (I)’ and ‘Exempel (II)’ to see full size examples.]

I have to confess I had no proper concept myself of the many varieties in Scandinavian folk costumes until I saw this impressive collection of photos.

The costumes displayed in the glass case above are 19th century folk costumes from the parish of Toarp here in south-west Sweden. The woman’s outfit is original 19th century while the man’s sheep skin coat is a copy.

Linking to Our World Tuesday.

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mandarin Ducks

Yesterday (Sunday) I went for a walk to our Museum Park and also around the little lake below which is a Bird Sanctuary.

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I was especially excited today to catch sight of this lovely couple of Mandarins:

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The Mandarin is an East Asian duck. They were imported to parks in Europe and some feral colonies can now also be found.  In our sanctuary lake today I found them in the open part of it, so I take it they are free to come and go if they like. But it’s probably a good place for them to stay!

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I’ve never come so close to them before that I’ve been able to zoom them in… But today I was!

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This fellow – a Wood Duck I think – also turned up, but was chased away by the Mandarin drake… I think the Mandarin was a bit protective of his female companion and did not want any competition!

The Wood Duck comes from North America but is closely related to the Mandarin Duck.

Mandarin Ducks are referred to by the Chinese as Yuan-yang, where yuan () and yang () respectively stand for male and female Mandarin Ducks. In traditional Chinese culture, Mandarin Ducks are believed to be lifelong couples, unlike other species of ducks. Hence they are regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity, and are frequently featured in Chinese art.  --- The Mandarin Duck symbol is also used in Chinese weddings because in traditional Chinese lore, they symbolize wedded bliss and fidelity.

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“Hey, I think you’ve got enough pictures now! Bye!”

PS. After I’d already posted this, I happened to come across a meme called Mandarin Monday… I just can’t resist linking up!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Excitement of Spring

We’ve been having a beautiful spring weekend here. Excellent weather for photography – even if still a remarkable lack of greenery.

Yesterday I walked into town and back twice, for the clothes swapping event. Here is a photo I snapped in the town park, but forgot to include in yesterday’s post. As far as I know it had nothing to do with the clotes swapping event as such…  It just looked like they could have benefited from taking part! :)

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These two girls were both dressed in the same kind of silly overalls – and seemed to be headed towards the Green Rabbit… (Notice the green ears sticking up in the background above!) In case you don’t know our Rabbit, it is a sculpture formally entitled Mate Hunting:

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(Collage using a summer photo of the Rabbit.)

As for the whats and whys of what was going on, your guess is as good as mine: Student thing?? Hen party?? Just going crazy celebrating the arrival of Spring?? :)

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pursued by the Press

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Today was a national Clothes Swapping day in Sweden, arranged nation-wide by the various local branches of the Swedish Society for the Conservation of Nature. I’ve never partaken in one before, but since my wardrobe was in need of some clearing out anyway, I decided to give it a try.

The procedure is simple enough: Hand in (maximum)five items, receive one coupon per item, come back a couple of hours later and use your coupons to “buy” other items. (If you’re as lucky as to find anything you want.)

What I had not taken into account was the intense media coverage…

Arriving at the Swap Place around 10.15, I had hardly entered the room before I was attacked by a reporter from the local radio station, wanting to ask me a few questions. Taken by surprise, I agreed...

Reporter: Why are you here today?
Me: I read about it in the paper and thought why not.
Reporter (expectantly): So, do you do you do a lot of second-hand shopping?
Me: No, I can’t say I do.
Reporter: Do you have a lot of clothes hanging unused in your wardrobe?
Me: Er… Not really.
Reporter (getting a bit desperate now): But you think swapping is a good idea and people ought do it more?
Me: Yes, why not. 
Reporter: So are you here mainly to get rid of things or will you be back later hoping to make some finds?
Me: Mainly to hand in a few things. (Taking pity on the reporter, and the possible radio listeners, I added:) But yes, I’ll probably come back and have a look around too.
 

End of Interview. (I don’t know if it was ever aired… If I’d been the reporter, I think I’d have made an effort to find a more enthusiastic interview subject!)

Coming back to the Swap Place around 1.15 pm. Once again I had hardly entered the room before I found myself approached by another representative of the Press:

Reporter 2: Hello, I come from the local newspaper, I wonder if I may ask you a few questions and take a picture?
Me (horrified): Oh no, please… I’ve already been on the radio this morning, that’s enough for one day…!

Mercifully she went on to someone else - and from what I overheard, had better luck there. (A younger and more experienced second hand-shopper…)

Myself I left within a few minutes, after quickly having established that there was nothing in my size that I was interested in at all. Which did not really matter to me – I was just relieved not to have to pretend that it did! (Frontpage headline: She Gave Away Half Her Wardrobe and Got Nothing in Return!)

PS. Found it best to pixellate my photo before putting it on here, as I did not ask anyone’s permission to take it!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Booking Through Thursday: Languages

Deb at Booking Through Thursday asks:

I saw a Latin edition of “The Hobbit” last time I was at the bookstore… Do you read any foreign languages? Do you ENJOY reading in other languages?


If I did not read any foreign languages – or did not enjoy it – I would not be reading this question…!

I know it’s hard for many who have English as their first language to quite grasp – but there are actually quite a few of us using English daily on the internet, to whom English is in fact “foreign language” even if we use it fluently… :)

My first language is Swedish and I’ve lived all my life (57 years) in Sweden. I started learning English in school at age 10. I’ve been reading books in English since my early teens. I studied it at University. For a period of my life I also taught it to others.

But there’s also the fact that ever since the early days of television back in the 1960s, in this country we are used to hearing English daily, even though it is not our first language. We get all foreign films and TV series in the original language(s) with subtexts rather than dubbed (except some children’s programmes and films). And most of the foreign films and series that we get are English and American.

Besides Swedish and English I also know German well enough to be able to read books in it (I studied German at University too). Have to confess it does not happen very frequently though. We aren’t surrounded by the German language in the same way as with English. I’m not sure when I last read a whole book in German. Must be years ago. While I got really hooked on English classics during my University studies, I can’t say the same of German literature. I don’t own many German books. But I have one favourite, and that’s Michael Ende’s Die unendliche Geschichte (The Never-Ending Story) which I have read in the original a few times. Not just recently, though.

PS. I also know a little bit of French – studied it for five years at school – but don’t think I ever read a whole book in it. (Not in the last forty years anyway!) I also took Latin for two years in senior high school - but I try to avoid even mentioning that!! (as I remember so embarrassingly little…) 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Signs of Spring

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I’ve been having such a busy beginning of the week I’ve hardly even had time to stope and take photos.

Spring is finally here. Yesterday I did some spring cleaning on my balcony, and when taking a little peek behind the cover I put up to protect my clematis against the sharp contrasts of frost and sun last month, I was thrilled to see this tiny sign of life:

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I also have some hope about my strawberries:

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My balcony is really just about as much garden as I can handle; but I also got a phone call a couple of days ago reminding me of the Big One, out at the House. A neighbour wants to take down some trees. As we have quite a few big trees on the border of our property, it was hard to quite picture over the phone which ones he meant. So I ended up going out there today (actually he came and picked me up and then drove me back into town again afterwards).

If things go according to plan I might hardly recognize that corner of the garden next time I go out there… But it’s likely to be to our advantage as well to get this done before we put the house on the market. Believe it or not, I was so busy taking in the whole idea, that in spite of bringing my camera in order to take some “before” pictures, I completely forgot all about that. (That should tell you something, even if I’m not sure what.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Now I know…

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… who is moving into the Mystery Place that I strolled around exploring a couple of weeks ago, while waiting to be connected to my new broadband cable.

They were actually kind enough to send me a brochure to enlighten me. I suppose they read my blog… Winking smile

Whether by strange coincidence, or intuitive association on my part … The new tenants on these premises turn out to be none other than the local Electricity and TV and Broadband Cable companies. Yes, that’s right: The Very Important People (and Cables) that enable me to communicate with You!

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Hey, I’m at a loose end here!

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I have no idea what this is. It could hold the very Essence of Blogging for all I know…

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This is where the Electricity Company used to reside (well, the offices anyway). The photo is copied from their website, it’s also used in the brochure informing the public about their Move. It’s an old photo showing electric cables being put down into the street at a time when the town “had at least one car” but not very many. Long before TV, not to mention the internet… I suppose a certain update might be in order!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Enjoying the Sun

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… but it’s still cold, no real sense of spring in the air …

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Green Or No Green?

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Visited the Golf Club on the outskirts of town today with my aunt and uncle.

The weather is still sunny, dry – and cold.

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The only green to be seen was green plastic covers...
But the restaurant was open, and we had lunch there.

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“Easter Tree” at the entrance.

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Inside looking out.

Linking to Straight-Out-of-the-Camera Sunday

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Connected!

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“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things.”
~ Steve Jobs ~

Whoever may deserve the most credit… After the initial hiccups, my new broadband is finally up and running. I’ve also managed to install the new wireless router; and the computer, the mobile phone and the Kindle all seem to be connecting as they should now. Phew… :) 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Still Waiting

Today, mid afternoon, I got first an email, and then a phone call from my new internet provider, announcing happily that now I should be able to connect to the new cable. I was busy just then doing laundry; so I waited until I was done in the laundry room to try it.

Do you think it worked?

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Right: Empty promises…! I still just get  “Unidentified network” and “No network access”…

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So I called to complain report. One reason I chose this company was their generous support hours… Or so I thought.

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Someone answered the phone readily enough – only to say that sorry, the support guys had gone home at 4.30 pm. But she’d leave them a message for tomorrow…

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Tomorrow morning I’ll be out though, so remains to be seen when we’ll get things figured out!

Meanwhile, my old broadband is still working – at least today – so no real panic yet. Just a bit of frustration…

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If you’re wondering what it is you’re looking at in these pictures – so am I! Ever since last year, they’ve been digging and renovating and building at this site and I still haven’t got a clue what it is they’re actually going to DO here. Easter Sunday I took a walk in that direction – not having been that way since Before the Snow; months ago. I was able to walk around the whole empty site now, but I’m still as puzzled as before. The only thing that’s obvious is that they think they’re going to need lots and lots of parking space!

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The site is close to the little park where I go looking for butterflies in the summers. It’s not been quite the same since all the digging started at the opposite end of the park, though…

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