Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: Lost Lake

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Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (2014)
****

Sarah Addison Allen is a New York Times bestselling author who grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. Her novels Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper and now Lost Lake all have a touch of the supernatural blended in with otherwise realistic stories.

(The first one I read was The Girl Who Chased the Moon, which I came across quite by chance in the bookshop downtown, and bought without knowing anything about it except what I could read on the cover. I think by now the only one of her books I haven’t read is the first one – I suppose I must rectify that.)

Lost Lake has quite a cast of slightly odd characters (although perhaps not all that much odder than most of us, when we scrape the surface). Kate, a young widow with a little daughter, is still feeling rather numb with grief after losing her husband. To escape her controlling mother-in-law, she decides to take her daughter on a summer trip to visit a place where she herself spent happy summers as a child; a kind of holiday camp resort owned by an old relative, Eby. Eby, also now a widow, is thinking of selling the estate, as she no longer feels able to keep it up on her own (or with just one servant/friend to help), and there aren’t many guests coming to stay any more.

There are still a few who return for their usual summer holiday though; and then there are the people living in the village as well. Among those an old childhood friend of Kate’s whom she hasn’t seen since back then.

In various ways and for various reasons, a number of people (all in some way a little “lost”) are drawn to the Lost Lake this summer – maybe even some who no longer quite belong in the physical world. Sometimes in this novel the line is very thin between physical reality, and a lost one that lingers (perhaps) only in our minds, but still tends to keep us in its grip anyway.

One review of this book that I happened to glance at before reading it, expressed the opinion that the novel could have stood on its own feet without any hints of the supernatural. I’m not so sure. I suppose that might be possible – but then it would have been a different book! As I understand it, the “stretch of reality” in this story serves to underline the theme of loss, and how to deal with it (or learn to live with it).

If you tried to separate the magic from the rest of the story, I fear that you might just find yourself lost!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday My Town: An Old Building

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I took these photos in town today. The colour difference on the top part of the facade is not in the paint but just light vs. shadow. It is not the oldest building in town. But at least no speculation is needed to tell you exactly how old it is!

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To the left is an old shop that sells artists’ materials.
To the right of the big gateway is the entrance to a small hostel/hotel.

To see other old buildings all over the world, visit:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

BTT: Why Read Fiction?

Deb at Booking Through Thursday wants to know:
”Why do YOU read fiction?

The Browning Readers

The Browning Readers (1900) by Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945)
Oil on canvas, Bradford Art Galleries and Museums.
(Postcrossing postcard recently received from the US.)

I suppose one answer to why I read fiction would be simply that I always did. It’s been part of my life since the Beginning. Before I could read myself, my mother read to me. There was no television in my first years of life, back in the 1950s. There were books, and there was the radio (two channels), and that was that.

When I learned to read, I continued to read books on my own; and besides school books, it was mostly fiction (mum and I frequently visited the library). I never questioned the “point” of reading fiction. But looking back, I think I’d say that fiction serves a double purpose: You can “escape” from your physical surroundings into a novel, but still keep learning things that apply to real life at the same time.

Kolobok

Today I received this postcard from Russia. The illustration belongs to a Russian folk tale, “Kolobok”. This did not mean anything to me until I looked it up in Wikipedia:

The Kolobok, (traditional Russian and Ukrainian pie/ small bread), suddenly becomes animated and escapes from "babushka" and "dedushka"s (old wife and man) home. The fairy tale's plot describes Kolobok's repetitive meetings with various animals (rabbit, wolf, and bear) who intend to eat it, but Kolobok cunningly escapes. With each animal Kolobok sings a song in which he explains his escape deductively: "I got away from Grandmother, I got away from Grandfather, and I will certainly get away from you". The fox manages to catch and eat Kolobok through distracting him by praising his singing.

This struck me as slightly familiar – and yet not quite… I read on, and realised why. In Scandinavian tradition there is a very similar story about a Pancake – but it’s a pig that finally eats it. And in other European countries there are other varieties still of the same tale.

Fascinating, isn’t it, how folk tales were memorised and kept alive even before they were written down.

Incidentally, from Wikipedia I also learn that nowadays the word kolobok is also used for the yellow smiley emoticons frequently used in internet communication:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cookie?

Wednesday afternoon about 5 p.m.

Ding-dong! goes the doorbell.
I’m not expecting anyone.
When I open the door, I find two little boys (perhaps 5 years old?) outside, holding a plate with a few Digestive biscuits unevenly spread out.

Boy (very polite):
– Excuse me, would you like to buy some cookies?
Me (shaking my head for emphasis):
– No, thank you.

When I’d closed the door and got over the sheer surprise, I could not help laughing, though!

The End.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Never Assume

Recently (in a post entitled Silence is Golden) I sighed a little over noisy neighbours. Disturbances in the form of loud music seem to have been increasing lately, and become both louder and more long-lasting. It’s not easy to determine exactly where it’s coming from, though. Straight above, or one of the flats in the next (wall-to-wall) entrance? Lately I have been leaning towards the flat upstairs; as silence sometimes seemed to coincide with one of its inhabitants leaving the building.

Today was another Noisy Day – loud music starting already at 9 a.m., which is unusually early. It was like waking up into a nightmare rather than out of one.

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Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) - Alice in Wonderland
“At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her.”

It kept me on edge (not quite non-stop, but more on than off) past lunchtime. After lunch I went out. When I got back an hour or so later all was quiet – for about ten minutes. Then it started again.

I finally decided enough was enough; if it was coming from upstairs, I had to ask them if they had any idea how much the music actually penetrates through the walls to the neighbours. (I’ve been hesitant to ask before, for various reasons. For one thing, I don’t like to go visiting in my dressing-gown when not sure who will be answering the door.)

As you may already have guessed from the title, it turned out that the noise-maker today was not the neighbour upstairs.  Probably not most of the other times either. It pretty much stood clear as soon as she opened the door, that this neighbour was having the same problem as I. So instead of an argument, I ended up having a cup of tea and a chat in her kitchen, getting to know each other a little bit. And so at least something good came out of the day, even if the noise continued for several hours more. (Just now it’s quiet; although I’m not sure I dare write that, fearing a jinx!)

One of the things I learned (besides Never to Assume) was that besides a son (my former prime suspect), there is also a teen daughter in the household. How I can have been missing that fact for years is beyond me. But it does provide an alternative explanation to the clusters of young girls sometimes clattering up and down the stairs…

Thursday, March 20, 2014

That’s A Lot of Postcards

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(Postcrossing card from Russia, received 17 February 2014)

I’m still writing and receiving a lot of postcrossing cards, and enjoying it. Having been involved in this for about ten months, I’m coming close to 200 cards exchanged any day now (not including private swaps).

I still have enough inherited stamps to keep me going for a good while yet, I think! My “problem” is finding a good variety of local or “typically Swedish” cards to send. I realise this is mostly my problem though - as all the postcrossing cards go to different recipients all over the world, it wouldn’t really matter much if I just bought a hundred of copies of the same card and sent the same one to everyone. (Especially since Sweden is a small country with few postcrossers.)

So it’s really mostly for my own sake that I like a bit of variety – and get quite happy if the recipient in his/her profile states that they prefer something different than a typical tourist view!

The thing is that the number of tourist view postcards to be found in the local shops is rather limited. And to find views of other towns than my own, it seems I would have to go to each of those places to buy them. And since I never go anywhere (well, not lately, anyway!), and since most postcrossers don’t want home-made cards, I’m pretty much stuck with a limited number of views of Borås, and a few odd elks and cows:

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Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating just a little bit! Winking smile
(Sometimes one has to, for literary purpose, right?)
However, I did notice the other day that my stock of elks, cows and local greetings was running low. So when next in town, I popped into the bookshop to see what they had to offer in that department. I did find a few different ones that might look exotic enough (at least to people living in far-off countries that I myself find exotic) and decided to buy a few of each.

Behind the counter stood a young man. I put down my bunch of cards (twenty) in front of him. He took up the cards, started to spread them out to count them, and then kind of just stopped in the movement, stared at me and said: “That’s a lot of postcards!”

“Twenty,” said I. Without going into the whole story  of Postcrossing, which might have made me miss my bus.

“Twenty,” said he (except we both spoke Swedish, of course) and entered the number into the cash register without any further checking. Evidently he was in shock.

For all I know, he might just now be writing a blog post about the woman who came into the shop today and bought twenty (20!) postcards. In the bleak month of March; and she was not even a foreign tourist!

BTT: About Re-Reading

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Deb at Booking Through Thursday wants to know this week if our habits of re-reading books (or not) has changed over time:

I’ve asked before if you re-read your books (feel free to recap), but right now I want to know if that habit has changed? Did you, for example, reread more as a child and your access to new books was limited by how often you could convince your mother to take you to the library? Has the economy affected your access so that you’re forced to reread more often now? Have you grown to look at old books as old friends so that you’re happy to spend time with them rather than rushing the next new thing? And, just to give you something to think about, here’s an interesting blog post about this very thing.

I’m pretty sure that I did re-read favourite books even more often back in childhood; both some that we had at home and some that I borrowed repeatedly from the library. But I still do it. Economy has never seriously restricted my access to books, as I’ve always been able to borrow from libraries. And in later years, modern technology has made access to a wide variety of books even easier. So when I re-read a book it’s not because there’s no alternative, but because I want to.

I’m 58 now but I still like to re-read (or listen to) both old and more recent favourites every now and then. I still enjoy re-reading certain old favourites from my childhood and teens, even though I know some of those stories almost by heart. Other titles I can suddenly decide to re-read because something makes me realize I don’t remember them, even though I know I did once read them. But I’ve also kept collecting new favourites along the way.

I think there are lots of books well worth diving into a second time, or more. Some books I may have read ten or fifteen times and would happily read again, because they’re well written and full of details to enjoy. (It’s really not much different from seeing a favourite film or TV-series again.)

However, re-reading a book you read a long time ago may sometimes bring surprises too, because even if the book has not changed (the letters and chapters all still there in the same order), your own experience has. So you may be seeing something quite different this time than you did last time.

… As I wrote that last paragraph, something just recently read kept nagging at the back of my head… I checked my Kindle highlights, and there it was. From Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen – new book which I’m currently reading and have not finished yet:

Once he’d asked, “Don’t you want to read? There are hundreds of books in the sitting room.”
  She had laughed and said, “I’ve read them all. I want to remember them the way they were. If I read them now, the endings will have changed.”
  He didn’t understand that, but then English hadn’t been his favourite subject.

Yes, there are books like that too – perhaps better just left on the shelf! (smile)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Queen of the Castle and Captain of the Ship

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A new playground is being built at the bird sanctuary lake. The old one is situated higher up on the hill but I guess the new position closer to the water will provide easier access (especially for those with prams to push!) - and a nice lake view for the parents.

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I think this construction is meant to resemble a ship:

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Ruby Tuesday Too

Swan Lake II: Light as a Feather

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More from my walk along Swan Lake.
(Compare previous post.)

For Mosaic Monday 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Swan Lake (FMTSO: Water)

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We’ve been enjoying a week of beautiful sunny spring weather here. Yesterday I decided to walk to a little lake on the outskirts of town which is also a bird sanctuary. There are some rare birds kept within fence, but the lake is also popular among some that are free to come and go as they please – like the whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus) (which are migrating birds). Just now there was a great number of them!

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spring Rolls

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We had a wonderful early spring day here yesterday.
Sun shining from a blue sky, and nature beginning to show some colour again. I took the camera out for a walk, and as sometimes happens, it took me for a somewhat longer stroll than I had expected. It was that kind of day – and I was not the only one to think so. The first sunny spring day always brings about a remarkable change in city life:

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Students sitting on the stairs outside the college.

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The outdoor tables at the riverside café suddenly very popular again; and not an empty park bench in sight.

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The playground in the park crowded.

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And the mallards proudly pruning themselves!

Outdoor Wednesday

 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Silence is Golden

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View from my window this morning

One disadvantage of living with or among other people at all, is that one is not in complete control over sounds vs silence. Today was one of those days for me. A distant irritating bass beat was forced on me by a neighbour for hours on end (will that youngster never go out?!) – not really loud enough to formally complain about in the daytime, just still loud enough to slowly drive me mad... The only way for me to distract myself then is to put on other music of my own choice, but too loud for my own taste – while what I really want a lot of the time is just plain silence (or from time to time an audio book, which does not go well with music either)…

The most welcome sound to my ears lately has been when the constant background beat suddenly stops, followed by hasty steps running to and fro for a bit, then the slamming of a door, and finally someone rushing down the stairs… Phew!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Start of the Day (FMTSO+Weekend Reflections)

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Alas, this week neither I nor the Sun have been in the mood to get up and start the day early. So I picked this photo from my archives.

When the sun does choose to show its face in the morning, I can see it rising over the horizon from my kitchen window (which faces north-east).

This photo however, was taken from my living room, and shows the sun using a window on the next building as a mirror. (Almost exactly a year ago.)

Friday My Town Shoot Out

Weekend Reflections

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Magpie’s Nest

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Two magpies are building a nest in a tree I see from my kitchen window. They seem to be doing a somewhat better job of it than the ones (or were they the same??) who tried it in another tree close by last year.

Those two last spring must have been newly weds and inexperienced at nestbuilding, because they kept bringing one twig after another, but just couldn’t make them stick in the tree – invariably, they dropped right down to the ground again! (It was rather amusing to watch them.) After a few days of trial and error they gave up and left. Whether they found a better tree, or decided to take a building course before they tried again, I’ll never know.

The Magpie's Nest
from English Fairy Tales
by Joseph Jacobs (1890)

Once upon a time when pigs spoke rhyme
And monkeys chewed tobacco,
And hens took snuff to make them tough,
And ducks went quack, quack, quack, O!

ALL the birds of the air came to the magpie and asked her to teach them how to build nests. For the magpie is the cleverest bird of all at building nests. So she put all the birds round her and began to show them how to do it. First of all she took some mud and made a sort of round cake with it.

'Oh, that's how it's done,' said the thrush; and away it flew, and so that's how thrushes build their nests.

Then the magpie took some twigs and arranged them round in the mud.

'Now I know all about it,' says the blackbird, and off he flew; and that's how the blackbirds make their nests to this very day.

Then the magpie put another layer of mud over the twigs.

'Oh, that's quite obvious,' said the wise owl, and away it flew; and owls have never made better nests since.

After this the magpie took some twigs and twined them round the outside.

'The very thing!' said the sparrow, and off he went; so sparrows make rather slovenly nests to this day.

Well, then Madge Magpie took some feathers and stuff and lined the nest very comfortably with it.

'That suits me,' cried the starling, and off it flew; and very comfortable nests have starlings.

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So it went on, every bird taking away some knowledge of how to build nests, but none of them waiting to the end. Meanwhile Madge Magpie went on working and working without looking up till the only bird that remained was the turtle-dove, and that hadn't paid any attention all along, but only kept on saying its silly cry: 'Take two, Taffy, take two-o-o-o.'

At last the magpie heard this just as she was putting a twig across. So she said: 'One's enough.'

But the turtle-dove kept on saying: 'Take two, Taffy, take two-o-o-o.,

Then the magpie got angry and said: 'One's enough, I tell you.'

Still the turtle dove cried: 'Take two, Taffy, take two-o-o-o.'

At last, and at last, the magpie looked up and saw nobody near her but the silly turtle-dove, and then she got rarely angry and flew away and refused to tell the birds how to build nests again. And that is why different birds build their nests differently.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

FMTSO: Stained Glass

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This stained glass window is found in the Gustav Adolf Church in Borås, built in 1903-06.

The apostle depicted is St Peter, to whom Jesus said “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Gospel of Matthew 16:19).

At the bottom of the window you also see the town’s coat of arm, which consists of two sheep shears.

 

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(The window to the left, on the wall next to the pulpit.)

Friday My Town Shoot Out

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