Friday, 30 June 2017

Postcards for the Weekend - City Views

Roma - Piazza di Spagna (Spain Square) 
Postcrossing card from Italy (July 2014)
Rome - Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square)

Het Damrak te Amsterdam | The Damrak, Amsterdam, c. 1903
George Hendrik Breitner
 Postcrossing card from the Netherlands (May 2015)
Het Damrak te Amsterdam | The Damrak, Amsterdam
Painting by George Hendrik Breitner c. 1903

Valencia, Spain 
Postcrossing card showing Valencia, Spain
(sent from Norway, July 2013)

Postcrossing card from Belgium (July, 2013) 

Brno, Czech Republic 
Postcrossing card from Brno, Czech Republic (October, 2015)

I haven't been to any of these cities myself. 

Weekend Linky Party:
Postcards for the Weekend 43 - City views (day time)

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Another Piece of Cake

Don't you agree birthdays seem to come round faster and faster with every year? And it seems to apply to official celebrations as well as personal anniversaries...

I think I have been blogging about my town's anniversary celebrations on 29th June almost every year - well, the last few anyway. Today it was time to appreciate that 396 years have now gone by since Borås first received its town charter back in 1621.

Besides free cake for the attending public, the ceremony in recent years has included announcing a new "ambassador" for the town for the year to come. Usually somebody already rather famous.

The person chosen this year might even be known to some of my readers here, as he has reached some international fame as a crime writer: Hans Rosenfeldt. Among other achievements, he is the creator behind the Swedish-Danish TV series The Bridge which has become quite a huge international success. (There have been two seasons so far and a third is coming. I know there have also been adaptations of the series made in the US and in Britain. I have only seen the Swedish original, though.) In Sweden Rosenfeldt is also very well known from various popular radio and TV shows. 

His connection to Borås is that he was born here. He doesn't still live here, though - and just now he isn't even in Sweden! So alas there was a little bit of a "Dylan moment" about his appointment as ambassador...

Hans Rosenfeldt
(Photo from Wikipedia)

He appeared only on a big TV screen on the stage to say hello from London; and sent his brother to attend the ceremony "live".

I heard a few mutterings among the audience ("why not choose someone actually living here") ... But then the real reason most of us were there was brought out - and we all got busy queuing and chewing instead. ;)


... and then the gulls discovered what was going on, and came noisily party-crashing...

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

I Spy...

I spy with my little camera eye... Do you see what I saw?

Mrs Mallard with her young ones out for a swim in the river - rather well camouflaged among the water-lily leaves.

Mummy, look! We can walk on these things floating in the river...

Linking to:

Outdoor Wednesday

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Midsummer Weekend


 Not my umbrella, and not today. But I'm pretty sure this is what would have happened if I had tried to take one out today!

 Image may contain: plant, flower and nature

I have given the geranium (from the balcony) shelter indoors for the weekend - and put the box of nasturtiums down on the balcony floor to be a little bit more safe from the temperamental gusts of wind and cloudbursts.

Midsummer Eve (Friday) started out cloudy but dry, then got into a sudden brief hot flush around noon, and then poured some water on us in the afternoon to cool us off again. Well - I say "us", although myself I was hardly out at all, as my aunt and uncle were in town and were coming to me for lunch. 

After that, it just kept getting wetter and windier. Yesterday I managed a short walk in the afternoon, between showers, without getting wet. Went for a turn around the old cemetery, where (among other things) these lovely bushes are in bloom at the moment. I think in English they are known as beauty bush

 Please note the hovering bumble bee!
Well done, new camera...

I was thinking maybe a short walk again today... But got no further than 3 minutes away from home (and should probably count myself lucky that I didn't!) before the sky suddenly grew all dark and burst into heavy rain again. Although I turned round immediately, I still had to change clothes and dry my hair when I got back in, and hang my jacket in the bathroom to dry!

PS. Elbow still on the mend. I managed to change the dressing yesterday; and before that, I was able to take a lovely long warm shower and wash my hair "thoroughly", without worrying about keeping the adhesive plaster dry. (If you've ever tried taking  showers and washing your hair while trying to keep one of your elbows out of those procedures as much as possible, for a period of four weeks, you'll know what I mean. If not, you'll just have to use your imagination.) 

The (healing) wound is looking much better, too, but I'll spare you those pictures! ;) 

What I listened to in April (Short Reviews)

Norse Mythology Audiobook

Norse Mythology

  • Written by: Neil Gaiman
  • Narrated by: Neil Gaiman
  • Length: 6 hrs and 29 mins 

Publisher's Summary

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin's son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of a giant, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman's deft and witty prose emerge the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

- - -

I enjoyed listening to Gaiman's reconstruction of the stories from the old Norse mythology, performed by the author himself. Some of the characters and elements of the story/stories are more or less  familiar to me ever since childhood. I don't really remember how much we were introduced to them in my own school days back in the 1960s. In my memory, my main source of familiarity with them is an old school reader that belonged to my paternal grandfather back in his school years - printed in 1910. I still have that book: 

 Around ten years ago, I refreshed my memory a bit by reading a modern translation and interpretation of some of the old texts (and their context) by a Scandinavian expert on old runes (Lars Magnar Enoksen, Fornnordisk Mytologi).

I think Gaiman's book is worth reading if you like fantasy, fairy tale and mythology; not least because so many other authors through the centuries have borrowed a lot from these old tales. However, Gaiman pretty much keeps to reviving the stories as such, as readable fantasy for our time, rather than going into analysis.

- - -

Alice in Wonderland Audiobook 

Alice in Wonderland

  • Written by: Lewis Carroll
  • Narrated by: B.J. Harrison
  • Length: 2 hrs and 42 mins 

Publisher's Summary

Alice begins her fantastic journey by following an unprecedented White Rabbit with a pocket watch. While in the topsy turvy world of Wonderland, Alice takes advice from a caterpillar and attends a mad tea party. She meets the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, and participates in a ludicrous courtroom scene. Each character has its own charming voice, as B. J. Harrison delivers one of his most whimsical performances.

 Through the Looking Glass Audiobook

Through the Looking Glass

  • Written by: Lewis Carroll
  • Narrated by: B.J. Harrison
  • Length: 3 hrs and 5 mins 
Publisher's Summary

Alice sees the other side of the Looking Glass, and enters another world of whimsical enchantment. She encounters argumentative chessmen, Jabberwocky monsters, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and some very insolent flowers. Carroll continues the development of his Wonderland in this second, and many feel richer, adventure of Alice.
I listened to these two Alice books in close connection with also buying the second Alice film with Johnny Depp (Alice Through the Looking Glass). Before I watched that one, I also watched the first Alice in Wonderland film again. If you know the classic books, you should be aware that the first film mixes a lot of elements from both books. And knowing that, you must also be prepared that the second film sort of takes things "even further"...
I'm not sure when I first read Alice in childhood. I only have a very vague memory of reading it, or trying to read it, but at that age (whenever that was) finding it too weird. I don't think I ever had my own copy of it in Swedish, so if I did read it, it was probably borrowed from the library. What I do know is that I did not really begin to appreciate it until I read it in English many years later (well into my twenties, at least). I do suspect that a lot of the wordplay (which is really so very essential in that book) probably gets lost in translation. 
My copy of The Complete Illustrated Works of Lewis Carroll is from 1985. I have returned to Alice a few times since then.

I also have to say I like the first Burton/Depp Alice film (2010), even if it makes its own mix of the story. I think I may have to watch the Looking Glass one again to quite make up my mind about that. (But I do think it may be worth while to do so.)

Actually, I think that's probably why I decided to also listen to the originals as audio books in between. (The audios were cheap buys.) Alice is probably best read in print though - again because of all the wordplay that you may want to stop and ponder about. (But also the original illustrations.)
 - - -
The Once and Future King Audiobook 

The Once and Future King

  • Written by: T. H. White
  • Narrated by: Neville Jason
  • Length: 33 hrs and 3 mins 

Publisher's Summary

The complete "box set" of T. H. White's epic fantasy novel of the Arthurian legend. The novel is made up of five parts: "The Sword in the Stone", "The Witch in the Wood", "The Ill-Made Knight", "The Candle in the Wind", and "The Book of Merlyn".

Merlyn instructs the Wart (Arthur) and his brother, Sir Kay, in the ways of the world. One of them will need it: the king has died, leaving no heir, and a rightful one must be found by pulling a sword from an anvil resting on a stone. In the second and third parts of the novel, Arthur has become king and the kingdom is threatened from the north. In the final two books, the ageing king faces his greatest challenge, when his own son threatens to overthrow him. In "The Book of Merlyn", Arthur's tutor Merlyn reappears and teaches him that, even in the face of apparent ruin, there is hope.

What the Critics Say

  • AudioFile Earphones Award, 2009
"For those who have never read these five books, prepare to be surprised by their adultness, their laugh-out-loud humor and tongue-in-cheek commentary on modern life; for those who know them well, prepare to be delighted with Neville Jason's transcendent reading. The lovely timbre of his narrative voice, his rhythmic, easy pacing and host of individual characterizations transport listeners into White's weird and wonderful otherworld as quickly as Alice slipped through the looking glass. This long production is so entrancing that one wishes it would never end." (AudioFile)
I have not read this series before. (The books were originally published between 1938 and 1977). I did buy them (or the first four) condensed in a paperback some years ago (before Kindle), but as the print is very small, and as my eyesight began to deteriorate in that respect, I never got round to reading it. So took my chance when I found it on audio book sale now. Neville Jason's narration is good, and just as the "critics" review above says, I was also rather surprised at (and amused by) the author's tounge-in-cheek humour in many passages - like, every now and then sort of stepping out of time-period he's writing about, and comparing it to later periods in history, which might be more familiar to his readers. He also puts a different focus and twist on the love story between Lancelot and Guinevere than I recall from other versions of the Arthurian tales that I have read.

However, I think I still feel that among the Arthurian books I read/listened to recently, The Mists of Avalon made even more of an impression. But even though they both go into depth with the story, they are rather different in style from each other.

The first version of the Arthurian tales to enthrall me in the past, by the way, was Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy from the 1970s: The Crystal Cave (1970), The Hollow Hills (1973) and The Last Enchantment (1979). I read the first two back in my upper teens, probably in Swedish translation the first time. (My English paperback copy of the Crystal Cave was printed in 1977.) I have reread those more than once over the years.


Saturday, 24 June 2017

Postcards for the Weekend - Iconic Person

from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings"

Postcrossing card from Russia, April 2017
(Illustration by Andrei Arinouchkine)

from J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter"
(played by actor Robbie Coltrane in the films)
Postcrossing card from Japan, May 2017

Searching only among this year's Postcrossing cards, I come up with these two iconic fictional characters who have become famous all over the world and loved by people of all ages - even though neither of them is even the main character in the story they appear in.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Balcony in Bloom (oh, well...)

Someone (you know who you are) asked me for me a "balcony in bloom" post. Actually there isn't all that much in bloom at the moment. However, I suppose one advantage of blogging is that there's nothing really to prevent me from mixing present and past!

The thing is, my balcony is very much exposed to Wind and Weather; and we have been having quite a lot of both.

The month of May was rather chilly with a lot of frosty nights; which means most of my "gardening" consisted in covering and uncovering my faithful perennial survivors: the two clematis plants climbing up a trellis on the wall, and one small balcony box of small strawberries. 

The clematis seemed to appreciate my care and rewarded me by being very lovely at the end of May and beginning of June, though:

 By now they're well past their prime - but still rather decorative in a more subtle way:

(A bit later on I'll probably be cutting off many of the seedheads to try and tempt the plants into producing a few extra flowers instead.)

The strawberry plants have grown green again and it seems I can look forward to a few berries too (if the birds don't get them first!)

The orange flowers are kalanchoes which I bought in full flower and just put out in the pots in which I bought them (in holders that one can hang on the railing). I've often had kalanchoes indoors but it struck me that being succulents, they might actually be able to cope with the varied climate on my balcony too. (Ice cold showers one day, and hot burning sun the next...) So far, so good - even if these too are about to lose their prime glory now. (I've had them for just over a month.)

On the balcony table, I have a geranium which I can easily just take inside if the outdoors climate gets too extreme. (Like this week, when it's been sunny but still so windy that one day the pot just fell over, in spite of being in the most protected spot... It's also been too windy most days to have the parasols up. Which means I haven't really been out there myself much either, except to give the struggling plants some water when needed!)

I never got round to buying any pansies this year - partly because of the frosty nights, and partly because the neighbourhood florists' shop closed down earlier this year. (So no longer just a spur of the moment thing to go and buy a plant or two...)

What I did though, actually on the day before my Famous Fall towards the end of May ('famous' only among devoted readers of this blog), was to prepare a box for planting some nasturtium seeds. And as I had done everything except put the seeds into the soil, I did manage to do that a day or two later (in spite of my sore arm).

This is their status a month later (yesterday evening). Six out of seven have come up. Whether they'll also produce flowers remains to be seen!

That's it! - for now. 

Linking to
Outdoor Wednesday

Friday, 16 June 2017

Postcards for the Weekend: Historic Site / Building

Berlin - Pariser Platz - Brandenburger Tor
(Brandenburg Gate)

Postcrossing card from Germany, March 2017

Tokyo, with Tokyo Tower
Postcrossing card from Japan, April 2017

The Mysore Palace (southern India)
Postcrossing card from India, May 2017

Raffles Hotel in Singapore
From Maria in Singapore, March 2017

Hunebedden, or dolmens (megalithic tombs),
in the province of Drenthe in the Netherlands

From Jarina in the NL, March 2017

Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis
"the setting is thought to have both lunar and solar alignments"

From John in England, August 2015

Weekend Linky Party: 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

What I listened to in March (Short Reviews)

I often wish I had (for example) Librarian’s consistency when it comes to writing book reviews. I don’t, though! Partly I blame it on the fact that I listen to audio books a lot more than I read with my eyes these days – which makes it harder to go back and recapitulate. So I often end up just writing about some books that somehow make a special impression, and if I also happen to find the time and inspiration around that time to write about them. Checking my blog, that does not seem to have happened for a while now (since February or so)…

That does not mean that I have not been reading / listening, though.

In March, I listened to audio versions of these two books (which I have read in print before):

The Distant Hours Audiobook

The Distant Hours
by Kate Morton
Narrated by Caroline Lee (22:30 h)

This novel by Kate Morton I first read (in print) back in December 2011. This is what I wrote about it back then:

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. My most recent read. (How memorable it will seem in a year’s time… remains to be seen!) This book won “General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2011 Australian Book Industry Awards”.

I mentioned it in my BTT post last week, when I still had 1/4 left to read, saying: “I’m still feeling that on the one hand I want to just keep reading to find out about the mysteries involved; on the other hand I want it to last because I so much like reading it.” I finished it over Christmas, and I have to say it did manage to keep up the suspense until the end. It is a story told from more than one perspective, and going back and forth in time, so sometimes a little hard to keep in memory or be sure who in the story really knows what. (Or, indeed, how much I as reader can trust what I know!) I would call it a modern Gothic tale, and from three real classics mentioned in it I would say it also picks a lot of inspiration from those three: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Mysteries of Udulpho.

Well. At least this novel proved memorable enough for me to want to reread it again, six years later (but this time as audio). In the meantime I have read her other four novels as well; and I dare say it’s likely I’ll want to reread (or listen to) those as well at some point. She is a good storyteller!

Publisher’s Summary:

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

Evacuated from London as a 12-year-old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe and taken to live at Milderhurst Castle with the Blythe family: Juniper, her twin sisters, and their father, Raymond.

Fifty years later, as Edie chases the answers to her mother’s riddle. She, too, is drawn to Milderhurst Castle and the eccentric sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. For the truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it....

Die unendliche Geschichte Audiobook

Die Unendliche Geschichte
by Michael Ende
(The Never Ending Story)

Narrated by Gert Heidenreich (15:06 h) – in German

I mentioned this book too in my review of Ende’s Momo back in February – which my first attempt ever to listen to an audio book in German. I think I bought them both at the same time, but I started with Momo as that is the shorter of the two. Probably also the better choice to start with as it is shorter and the story a bit simpler. The Never Ending Story has a lot more fantasy characters in it, and originally the story also sort of involves the reader’s visual impression of the printed text (some parts in red ink, some in green). But since I do own it in print and have read it before (in German), I enjoyed the listening experience now. Basically it is about a boy who finds a magical book, and escapes into it…

Publisher's Summary (English version)

In this classic fantasy novel from author Michael Ende, small and insignificant Bastian Balthazar Bux is nobody's idea of a hero, least of all his own. Then, through the pages of an ancient, mysterious book, he discovers the enchanted world of Fantastica, and only Bastian himself can save the fairy people who live there.

Shy, awkward Bastian is amazed to discover that he has become a character in the mysterious book he is reading and that he has an important mission to fulfill.

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