Monday, 31 December 2018
Sunday, 30 December 2018
Saturday, 29 December 2018
Friday, 28 December 2018
Chasing fog has a lot in common with chasing rainbows. (I.e. when you get to the point where you thought you’d be able to catch it, it’s no longer there, but has moved further away...)
Walking (in the fog) along a familiar short path with apartment buildings on one side, you don’t really expect to suddenly find a tepee on the other! But there it was…
In a novel I’m reading at the moment, Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – a romance novel with a light touch of magic to it – there is a character, an elderly woman, who keeps bringing people strange gifts: “When Evanelle brought you something, you were usually going to need it sooner or later.” It seems my brother must have the same kind of magic as Evanelle; because the chain of coloured LED lights he sent me for Christmas has already come in handy. (When he bought it, he did not know anything about my problem finding more replacement bulbs for my old chain of lights – which lasted over Christmas, but broke down again today.)
Thursday, 27 December 2018
The Christmas Hirelings
- By: Mary Elizabeth Braddon
- Narrated by: Richard Armitage
- Length: 3 hrs and 53 mins
- Unabridged Audiobook
- Release date: 12-10-18
- Language: English
- Publisher: Audible Studios
- Category: Classics, British Literature
Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835 – 1915) was an English popular novelist of the Victorian era.
I don’t think I ever heard of her before; but I downloaded this audiobook for a bit of (free) Christmas listening…
I’d say the story is rather typical of its time… in the spirit of for example Charles Dickens. Sir John, an elderly man of high principles, lives alone on a big estate in Cornwall, with a niece as housekeeper, and a friend, Danby, frequently staying with him (moving around from one friend to another other over the year). This year, Danby suggests that Sir John ought to “hire” some children to come and stay for Christmas to cheer things up a bit – and he offers to arrange it. Sir John is sceptical, but accepts. Three children arrive; and especially the youngest, a little girl, manages (of course) to find her way into the affections of the grumpy old man. Mysteriously, the little girl also turns out to bear an uncanny likeness to a girl on a painting in the old house… Well, you can probably more or less guess how things go from there – adding a few dramatic turns, of course, but leading to a happy ending eventually… :-)
Well narrated by Richard Armitage; and yet I have to admit I kept falling asleep while listening, and had to rewind several times to catch up with where I was… So: good bed-time story; but all in all it took me more than the four hours to get through it!
(This has not been my sole reading/listening in December; but will probably remain the only book both started and finished within this month.)
Wednesday, 26 December 2018
Tuesday, 25 December 2018
Reading and hearing about other people’s Christmas traditions, including all the wheres, whats and hows of it, made me contemplate (once again) upon my own.
For nearly sixty years of my life, Christmas always involved a lot of travelling back and forth, both longer and shorter distances. In my childhood, we lived around 100 km away from both sets of grandparents – who in turn lived around 10-15 km apart from each other (in the same area where I live now).
Christmas nearly always meant travelling to stay with one or the other for a night or two; and never mind whose house we stayed at, it also involved some going back and forth between the two, and perhaps other places as well.
I have a blur of memories of me and my little brother (six years younger) sitting in the back of the car, in the darkness of winter, counting Christmas trees in the gardens we passed by while driving between the Village and the Town… Outdoors Christmas lights were not as common back in the 60s and early 70s as they are nowadays!
At age 20 I moved away from home; and from then on, the next 16 years involved hours of train and/or bus rides to visit my parents at Christmas.
Then followed another 19 years with me living in Borås, and my parents relocated to this area as well (dad’s childhood home); and my brother driving down from Karlstad + also doing a lot of to-and-fro chauffeuring between the city and the village whilst here.
After our parents passed away, a few more years of worry about the House (empty of people, but full of Things) until we finally got that sorted and sold in 2014.
Truly: At this point in my life, I count it as a Blessing just to be able to spend Christmas in my own home, and not having to go anywhere at all!
I also don’t mind spending Christmas “on my own”; as in my thinking there is a big difference between that and feeling lonely.
Sooo… This was my Christmas Eve 2018:
Around –5’C in the morning, but dry, and no wind. No snow, just patches of ice here and there (but not everywhere). I went for a walk into the city centre and attended a “Nativity” church service (starting at 11 am) in the church you’ve seen several times before on my blog:
Then I went home and ate lunch (prepared the day before). I never really cared much for the traditional “a hundred courses and too much of everything” kind of Christmas buffet anyway, so I skip most of that now… On a typical Swedish Christmas table you would find for example a ham, meatballs, sausages, ribs, a potato dish with sprats in it, and various kinds of cabbage… My Christmas lunch for One was meat loaf with bacon, a potatio gratin without sprats, and mixed green salad without cabbage…
In the afternoon at 3 p.m., we have the very strange tradition in Sweden to always watch the same Disney Christmas Special on TV. This goes back nearly 60 years now, to the very early days of television, when we had only one TV channel (and in black & white of course) - and Everyone watched Everything, because that was all there was. They have tried to change or move or remove that Christmas special every now and again over the years - but any suggestion of such a sacrilege still causes massive protests from half the nation. So we’re still stuck with it - nowadays in colour and HD, of course. (And of course a million other choices now, if someone really does not want to watch it!) So – did I watch?? The answer is: Actually I did… (Traditions die hard!!!) …with my afternoon tea and ginger biscuits…
After ‘Kalle Anka’ (Donald Duck), it’s time for Tomten (Santa Claus/Father Christmas) to come knocking on the door. Well, as you know, he already came knocking on mine a week early, disguised as postman… So I had a little basket of parcels waiting…
And, as has become our new tradition (to replace all the travelling!), I opened them during a Skype session with my brother (who also opened his from me).
One of the parcels from my brother contained some coloured LED-lights (see below + the 4th photo from the top).
For now, I have hung them on a bookcase in the “dressing room” corner of my study; but I think they might actually also fit my little Christmas tree, should I fail to find any more replacement bulbs for the old chain of lights (problem mentioned in a previous recent post).
A bit later, I also talked on the phone with my aunt, who had sent me a package of Christmas “goodies” including tea, crisp bread and chocolate.
Later I watched a film on DVD that I’ve had for years but never got round to before now: The Soloist, from 2009. About a newspaper journalist who discovers a homeless musical genius (with some mental health problems) and tries to improve his situation. The story was a bit different from what I thought– and probably all the more realistic, for that very reason. (No simple answers.)
What inspired me to watch that on this particular day may have been the Romani beggar sitting on the street outside the grocery shop in town where I stopped by on my way home from church to buy a few “extras”. Because it was Christmas Eve (and perhaps because I had watched A Christmas Carol the night before!) I also gave her a bit “extra”… (Not that I know if you can rightfully call it “extra” when I rarely give anything - like that, on the street - and every time I do, it sets me wondering whether I do it for them, or for myself, and if it really helps improve anything, in the long run, and… and... Ah well. Again: No simple answers!)
Eventually, late on Christmas Eve, I went to sleep in my own cosy bed…
… wearing a Christmas present from me to myself…
PS Today: Obviously one can easily spend another day just contemplating Yesterday!
“Normal” Advent calendars only have 24 windows/doors to open (at least in Sweden, where our main day of celebration – including opening of presents – is Christmas Eve). But I decided to continue with these daily images on my blog all December, until the New Year.
Today’s photo is a stained glass window in Växjö Cathedral.
Merry Christmas to all of you around the world who have Christmas Day as your main day of celebration!
Monday, 24 December 2018
Sunday, 23 December 2018
Saturday, 22 December 2018
A Snowpeople post by Yorkshire Pudding today informed me that there has been a minor media storm in Britain about referring to snowmen as "snow people". This sent me in search of a certain photo in one of my childhood photo albums… Contributing a piece of evidence that not all snowpeople were SnowMen in the past, either. There were SnowLadies as well! (I somehow think she would have objected to any other title.)
The young artist with her creation Grevinnan von Snöö (The Countess von Snow) back in 1969.
Snö is the Swedish word for snow. The spelling von Snöö with double ö was deliberate. The Swedish nobility often embroidered their names a bit extra like that.
(I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of the dog. It’s not written down in my album!)
Friday, 21 December 2018
Thursday, 20 December 2018
My Christmas Tree (60 cm high) has been with me for 32 years now – its little chain of (10) lights included. I have replaced a few bulbs over the years. But this year, it turned out more than just one or two were broken. So I ended up replacing all of them with a complete ‘new’ set of spare bulbs (bought a few years ago) – and voilá – it worked. Now I pray these will last a while (at least over this Christmas!) as I’m not sure they make this kind any more… (Ah well… One year/problem at a time!)
Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Tuesday, 18 December 2018
In Sweden, Jultomten (Father Christmas / St Claus) traditionally comes knocking on the door on Chrismas Eve, handing out parcels. I guess even He must be feeling that Christmas is starting earlier and earlier these days… Yesterday, he turned up knocking on my door a whole week early. Disguised as a postman… But…
Monday, 17 December 2018
Sunday, 16 December 2018
Saturday, 15 December 2018
Today I took the bus into the city centre shortly in the afternoon. There was a sort of scattered Christmas market going on, but I only had a quick look (and a sniff!) while passing…
My destination was a church concert: Handel’s Messiah, in Mozart’s arrangement, performed by a local choir and orchestra. A friend of mine was in the choir. I’m no musical expert, but to my ears it was a wonderful performance, and both the atmosphere and the acoustics in this beautiful old church are absolutely perfect for this kind of music. (As for the Mozart arrangement, the conductor explained before the concert started that -among other things- this involves more instruments being used than in Handel’s original version. That’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t have been able to tell myself… I enjoy listening, but I’m not good at “analysing” music.)
I resisted from taking any photos during the actual concert – but snapped this shot just afterwards (with my mobile), while the audience was clapping.
Friday, 14 December 2018
All my outgoing Christmas cards and presents have now been written, wrapped and posted. My Christmas Crib is up on its ususual shelf in the study, with angels singing happily in the window nearby; and St Lucia (St Lucy’s Day, 13th December) has been celebrated.
Actually I celebrated Lucia two days in advance, as the Borås City Lucia with maidens came visiting the park at the housing estate where I live on the 11th. I have blogged about the Lucia tradition many times before – for example back in 2014, when I visited the official Lucia crowning ceremony in the main square in the city centre. This year I did not go to the “big show” in town on the 12th, but was content to get to see and listen to a shorter version closer to home.
However, Thursday the 13th turned out quite a nice day for a walk (frosty but dry), so after posting my last bunch of postcards at the station, I decided to go for a (day-time) “window shopping” walk around the city.
An arts & crafts shop
Coloured lights in the hedge outside a restaurant
▲ A “Fair Trade” shop selling handmade stuff from around the world ▼
▲ A toy shop ▼
(This may well be the cutest Christmas display in town!)
▲ A shop selling various kinds of bags
▲ A “deli” selling cheese and tea and sweets and such.
(This is not where I usually buy “my” tea, though.)