Saturday, 27 February 2021


After my father died ten years ago, my brother and I were left with a house full of old papers and photos, most of which were related either to my grandfather's career as a journalist with special interest in local history, or to my dad's interest in railway history. Luckily, the main efforts of their interests in these fields had already been preserved in printed books.

When my grandfather died (in 1969, only 65 years old), he had nearly finished compiling a book about old 'crofts' in the parish where he grew up (small farms on ground owned by bigger estates - I think the English word croft comes closest). He grew up on one such croft himself. My dad (together with his mother and mine) completed the book and had it printed (much appreciated by the local history society). 

After that, dad also wrote four books about railways in south-west Sweden. (He grew up in a house by the railway in the 1930s, which was what triggered his interest.) 

After he died in 2011, there was an overwhelming amount of papers and photos left in the house to sort through and decide what to do with.

...Dad's study in June 2011...

The railway-related stuff we donated to the national railway museum. In August 2012 three guys from there came down with a big truck and took more than half the contents of dad's very large study away with them. (Phew!) We also gave some papers related to my grandfather's research to the local history society.  Even so, quite a few papers and photos related to our own family history also came home with me. Every now and then, I've taken a plunge into them. Bits and pieces have also got blogged about now and then over the years. But I obviously do not have the same perseverance for this kind of thing as my forefathers. (And I've also no wish for my own study to end up in the same state as dad's in the end...)  After a while, I always feel the need to come up for air and let "here and now" take over again. But that also means that whenever something inspires me to dive into the history again, I always sort of have to start over! (And this, I guess, is a typical starting-over post.)

There are very few photos from before the 1920s; and when you get back to the 1800s and earlier, the name-giving tradition in Sweden usually went something like this: Sven Larsson was the son of Lars Svensson, who was the son of Sven Larsson, who was the son of Lars Svensson, who was... etc... To keep people apart back then they usually also added the name of the farm or the croft where they lived. But to me, most of those place-names don't mean anything (and most people also did not stay in one place their whole life).

One day back in the summer of 2012 (while we were still up to our necks in it all), my brother and I went in search of the places where our paternal grandparents grew up, though - as we knew those still existed, and not too far apart from each other.

Our grandmother grew up on a farm. For both her parents it was their second marriage. Her father died when she was only 7 years old. Until she got married at age 30, she continued living on the farm in a family constellation consisting of her oldest half-brother (30 years older than her), her mother, a half-sister from her mother's first marriage, and a younger brother. (She also had five more grown-up half-siblings, one of whom returned from America to live at the farm again for a while when my grandmother was in her upper teens.) This is the branch of family history I heard most about in my own childhood.

The b&w photo of the farmhouse in the collage below is from the 1920s; the other three are mine from 2012. 

My grandfather on the other hand grew up in a small simple 'croft' cottage. As the only son of an unmarried mother, he was mainly brought up by his grandparents. (His own background was no doubt what inspired him later in life to dig into the history of other crofts in the same parish. But that wasn't clear to me back in my childhood.)

Back then, the cottage was grey and unpainted (the b&w photo). A century later, an idyllic little red holiday house.

So what inspired me to bring all this up again, just now? Well, as so often, one thought leads to another. Recently a fellow blogger wrote about a manuscript left behind by his father. A Swedish friend posted on Facebook about her latest family history research. I discovered my 'new' printer (bought last spring) can scan documents as PDF. And so, one day I found myself returning to some of my grandfather's notes from back in the 1950s. If nothing else, perhaps I can scan some notes to preserve them in a more handy format for the future.

These are notes typed on typewriter by my grandfather himself back in the 1950s and marked as related to family history. Most of them are just "bits and pieces" from different sources. And some things he seems to have kept repeating and putting together in different versions. A bit confusing (for me) - but I can't really blame him, I suppose, as I find myself doing the same thing!

Overall impression: Some ancestors were crofters and very poor; others were farmers and a bit more well off, but still had their troubles. Most families back in the 1800s had a number of children who died very young. Many women died giving birth. People often married again after their fist spouse died. (Which means lots of half-siblings to complicate the family tree.) Some individuals were regarded as odd, mentally deficient or fragile (how each one of those would have been diagnosed today one can only speculate about). Some got some kind of financial support from the parish in their old age. Some were sent away to institutions. Some people died young, and others lived to be surprisingly old (well over 80 or even into their 90s), in spite of poverty and various hardships.  

In among all the sad stuff one can come across some "gems". Like this piece of information:

My grandfather's grandmother's mother Annika (married to one of the Sven Larssons), born 1800 and died 1887, was "one of those women who back in the mid 1800s were hired to teach children to read and write, before there were any regular schools".  My grandfather notes that obviously Annika also taught her daughter Rebecka (his grandmother) these skills, because even in her old age (she lived to be 79), she still had a neat handwriting. 

(This story is included in my grandfather's book, related to the croft where Annika lived, but without making a point of the people mentioned being his own close relations.) 

Alas I have no photos of neither Annika nor Rebecka.

It may be a bit of a stretch, but I'm linking this post to Sepia Saturday 559.

Monday, 22 February 2021

(Audio) Book Review: The Scavenger's Daughters (Book 1-4)


Author: Kay Bratt

1. The Scavenger's Daughters, Audio narration by Will Damron (7:20 h)
2. Tangled Vines
, Audio narration by Kate Rudd (9:30 h)
3. Bitter Winds, Audio narration by Kate Rudd (9:35 h)
4. Red Skies, Audio narration by Kate Rudd (8:00 h)

Back in November, I read a book entitled The Palest Ink (reviewed here) without knowing that it was a prequel to a series: The Scavenger's Daughters. When I found out, I went in search of the those as well - and was happy to find all four as cheap double-deals for Kindle+Audible. (If that's still the case, I don't know.)   

The Palest Ink told the story of the hardships Benfu went through back in the days of the cultural revolution in China. Born to a wealthy family, he was sent to a re-education camp. 

In The Scavenger's Daughters (also previously mentioned by me here, as read in January) we meet Benfu and his wife Calla Lily many years later (modern times), as ageing foster parents to a large number of orphaned/ abandoned girls over the years, whom in spite of their own poverty they have kept taking in to bring up as their own daughters. (Benfu is a scavenger in a double sense: He collects - and finds value in - things that other people have thrown away. But he also collects children who have been discarded by others.)  

In book 2, Tangled Vines, we learn about how Benfu and his wife once upon a time (before they became foster parents) lost their own (biological) little daughter. She was stolen from them, and in spite of many efforts to find her, they never learned what happened to her. This is a multi-layered story which also deals with problems like child trafficking, domestic abuse and the difficulties for single mothers, among other things. 

In book 3, Bitter Winds, the focus is on two of the girls who are twins. One of them is blind, the other is not. They both depend on each other, but in different ways. And when the blind twin (a promising violinist) tries to get more independent and to find her own way to make a living, she ends up in a very complicated situation - including getting arrested, and sent to a mental hospital. Again, there's more than one layer to the story. 

In book 4, Red Skies, we meet an older daughter, Mari, who has moved out and is married, but she and her husband have no children. They are also struggling to make a living, by offering tourists to be photographed with an old camel of theirs (rather stubborn and unwilling!) next to the Great Wall. When Mari's husband gets sick, she has to try and manage everything by herself, and runs into even more problems. But she also happens to run into Max, an American photojournalist (with his own troubled past). And in another part of town, there is a little girl living on the street, longing for a family, but soon with even more troubles to face her... Again, a story with multiple layers, and not really self-evident how it will all fit together in the end. 

All in all, I'm very impressed with this writer, whom I'd never heard of until I happened to come across the first book by chance. All the books are written with so much passion and love, as well as good plots and interesting background. I still think that each one of the books will also work well to read as a stand-alone. (But like me, you might still end up wanting to read the others as well...)

I also very much liked the audio narrations - the first one read by a male voice (Will Damron, who also read The Palest Ink) and the next three by a female voice (Kate Rudd).

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Zooming in on the Tulips (Sepia Saturday)

20th February was my mum's birthday. She was born in 1930, so if she had still lived, today would have been her 91st. (She died three months after her 79th.) In my mind, I still associate this day with the first spring tulips, because she often used to get tulips for her birthday. Nowadays I often buy some tulips for myself for this day, and think of her. 

We have got out of the cold spell here and it's thawing again. Yesterday, I stayed in all day, as the streets seemed to be covered with a very unpleasant mix of ice and slush (and I couldn't think of any suitable footwear for it). Today, the streets and walkways were almost bare again, though. So after lunch, I decided to try a walk to the florist's shop in town. There were still some tricky spots along the way (like when crossing streets), but not too bad. Mission accomplished: I made it there and back without mishaps, and with a nice bunch of tulips of mixed colours to enjoy for the next week or so. 

The photo below is of my grandmother holding my mum when she was only 3 weeks old. And on the table to the left, what do you see? Yes! Tulips!

 Zooming in on the tulips for
Sepia Saturday #558 - Letter Z

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Another Sunny Walk

Sometimes my feet, my camera and my mind conspire along the way to take me on a little detour from where I had originally intended to go. Sunday was once such day; and living up to it's name as well (i.e. the Sun doing its best to fight the cold). 


That tree made me think of Treebeard from The Lord of the Rings...

The sign on the old red house says "Glazier's workshop". I don't know if they're still in business or if the owners have just kept the sign. (If you're thinking you've seen the house before, you probably have... On this blog!)

Through My Lens 

Our World Tuesday

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Shadows & Reflections

 Another cold and sunny week...

Shadow Shot Sunday 2 

Weekend Reflections

Friday, 12 February 2021

Breathe in, breathe out...


This "snow sculpture" (?) looks to me like a group of too many snowmen standing much too close together...!  I doubt that would have been my first thought one year ago, but now it is. The dreaded virus has messed with our minds as well as our physical health and our whole society (all over the globe) over the past year...

On Wednesday this week I had an appointment at my health care centre (HCC) for a spirometry, a breathing test to do with (in my case) asthma. It was one of the tests ordered back in the autumn by the doctor in charge of my annual checkup (the same one who messed about a bit too much with my blood pressure medication, as some readers might recall). But for this kind of test there was a waiting-list.

I've done it once before, but that was probably about two decades ago, so I can't say it was totally uncalled for to repeat it. Have to admit I was not overjoyed to be summoned in the middle of winter, though - with temperatures around -10°C (14°F)... On the other hand (I argued with myself), spring pollen season might not be better either, for this kind of thing. So I decided it was probably best to just try and get it over with as suggested. Well, at least as long as I did not wake up that day to some really disastrous kind of weather, like a proper snowstorm or something.

The weather situation on Wednesday morning turned out not too bad, though, even if we're still firmly caught in a cold spell. Around -10°C, plus a bit of extra wind chill, and a couple of cm of new snow had fallen on top of the old over night... But it had stopped snowing. And I'd been out walking almost every day in similar conditions over the past couple of weeks, even if not quite all the way into town.

Just going for a walk just now does require some preparation, though: Warm leggings and socks. Other trousers on top of that; and an extra ankle-long warm outdoors skirt on top of that. Three layers of t-shirts and sweaters, and a quilted knee-length hooded winter jacket on top of that. Knitted scarf and hat, warm mittens, and winter boots with studded soles. One of my trekking poles for extra support in tricky places. (On shorter walks just for exercise I often use two, but when going into the city centre that tends to just get complicated. One works as a compromise.) In this case, also a mid-size rucksack. (Because: 1/ there is no cloakroom at the HCC any more - so nowhere to put all the items and layers you have to peel off when getting in! - and 2/ I also had a couple of minor errands to do in town afterwards.)

Selfie from another day, in similar outfit.

From my visits to the HCC back in autumn, I knew the corona drill: The entrance doors are locked; to be let in you need to use your mobile to call the receptionist inside and first swear a solemn oath that you have no symptoms of cold. Not all easy to sound totally convincing after half an hour's walk in -10°C! - but they took my word for it. (For my own part I felt I had a clear conscience as I had not met anyone indoors since over two weeks ago, when I was last in town.) 

What was new this time was that I was now asked to wear a face mask during my visit. "Okay," said I, "but I won't be able to keep it on the whole time..." The receptionist looked at me suspiciously - until I pointed out what it was I was there for (breathing test). Well, I did wear the mask in the waiting room (although there was only one other person there, sitting at the other end of the room). Most readers of this blog are probably used to wearing masks a lot more frequently than I've had to do so far; but have you tried it combined with glasses, after just having come in from a walk in -10°C?? - I had to take my glasses off, they immediately got all steamy... But without glasses, I don't see anything either! Never mind, I did not have to wait all that long before the nurse came to fetch me.  (She called out my name, and at least my hearing is still good.) For the actual breathing test, I did of course get to take off the face-mask, or it would all have got very strange indeed.

The procedure took around 40 minutes, involving a number of deep inhalations and then exhalations ("as hard as you can, and for as long as you possibly can") into a mouthpiece connected to a computer (immediately turning my efforts into graphs).  First one round without bronchodilator (I had been instructed not to use that kind of medicine for 24 hours before the test); then I got to inhale some doses of that, wait a while, and then a few more rounds. The pauses were used for info and questions etc. The outcome of the test was pretty much as expected (by me), i.e. confirmed that I do have asthma (I've been on medication for thirty years...), but also that the medication I have is probably still sufficient.

A plus was that I also got a chance to consult the nurse about an allergy test (blood test) that was also taken back in the autumn. In all the other chaos back then, I never got the result of that. When I got the letter about the spirometry, I was reminded of that, so requested (via the internet) a copy of what that test had shown, and received a copy of the lab report by letter. That turned out more puzzling than enlightening, though, as the only thing it showed clearly was that I'm allergic to grass (which I've known for around 50 years without any paper to confirm it). However, it said nothing at all about other pollen, like the various early spring trees (which I did discuss with the doctor). On the other hand, the test did show possible sensibility to three kinds of food stuff (likely to indicate cross-reactivity with for example birch pollen; however, confusingly, birch pollen itself seemed not to be included in the test). Food allergies were not mentioned when talking with the doctor back in the autumn. If he had asked about that, I'd have suggested a couple of other things rather than those three included now. So now my head is full of questions, like: Why I was tested for things that seem random to me, but not those that to me would seem relevant? Or was I actually tested for more things but they don't show up in the results because they showed nothing? And as for those three mentioned that I've not noted reactions to myself - should I now try to avoid those anyway, or what??

The nurse was of the opinion that what's not listed on the lab report, is not likely to have been included in the test at all. So she said she'll add my questions to her notes. But she would not be able to ask the doctor who originally ordered the tests, as he's currently (again) not there... So I suggested she give the results (including questions) to the other doctor who had to step in back in the late autumn when the first one wasn't available either. At least I've seen her once, even if we've had no further contact since she got my BP back on track... (I so miss two previous doctors who used to work there, both of whom knew me well from years back... But those two are both retired now; and since then it's been a new one at every checkup...) 

Remains to be seen if anyone gets back to me to this time, without me having to call and ask again. (The nurses I trust; the doctors not so much!) 

It's another sunny afternoon just now, and I think time to get dressed for a another winter walk. But this time, just to get out and breathe a bit!


Sunday, 7 February 2021

Inspired Shadow Shot Sunday


Some more photos from the same walk as my last two posts, around the old cemetery close to where I live, the first day after it turned cold and snowy here. The building above is a funeral chapel. We're still in a cold spell here, but the first day was the most beautiful, with the snow all fresh, sunshine and no wind.




 InSPIREd Sunday


Shadow Shot Sunday 2

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Visiting Narnia

The lamp posts in the old cemetery remind me of the magic one in Narnia - especially on a winter day like those we've been having this week.


Friday, 5 February 2021

Winter Wonderland

We're still stuck in a cold spell here, with snow on the ground and also on the trees. On Tuesday, with the snow all fresh, no wind, and the sun shining, it was at its most beautiful. I took my camera for a slow walk around the old cemetery in the early afternoon. I was out for about an hour and came back with 60+ photos... Just choosing a few for this post!


Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Snowy Start to February


On Monday morning when I woke up, there was already quite a bit of new snow on the ground, and it kept on snowing most of the day... I didn't intend to go out at all, but after the plow had been round our street in the afternoon, and the snowfall took a pause, I decided to at least take out the garbage to the bins (at the corner of my building). And having got that far, I ventured a little bit further, to snap some photos with my mobile. (As I had put on my warm coat and gloves and studded boots anyway.) I was only out for about 10-15 minutes in the immediate neighbourhood, though.


Our World Tuesday Graphic

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