Sunday, 28 March 2021

Group Outings - Sepia Saturday 563


The Sepia Saturday prompt photo this week made me think of this one from my grandfather's album. Unusually it comes with a note of the year (1924), location (name of a farm/estate) - and the occasion being what we in Swedish call a gökotta. 'Gök' means cuckoo, and 'otta' means early morning; put it together, and you have an early morning outing in the spring (May) to listen to the birds - especially the cuckoo, as a sign of spring.

There are some superstitions connected with hearing the cuckoo - bad luck or good luck depending on from which direction you hear it. I don't know if it's the same in other countries, as in the Swedish language the meanings are also connected to rhymes:

Södergök är dödergök, västergök är bästergök, östergök är tröstergök, norrgök är sorggök. In English that is: (Hearing the cuckoo) from the south means death; from the west is the best; from the east means comfort (consolation); from the north means sorrow

In church context, however, gökotta usually denotes an outdoors early church service on Ascension day (commemorating the ascension of Jesus into heaven, after his resurrection). But the word can also be used for an early picnic on another spring day - for example 1st May, which is Labour Day here. But as 1st May was not made a holiday in Sweden until 1939, I assume that the occasion in the photo above was Ascension Day, and an outdoors church service. A quick search informs me that in 1924, Ascension Day was 29th May; which in that case dates the photo more precisely.

At first I felt I could not identify anyone in the photo, but having got it enlarged on the computer screen, I do think I recognize the tall man in the dark hat in the middle in the top row as my grandfather. In May 1924, he would have been just a month short of turning 20 years old. I don't recognize anyone else in the photo (like my grandmother or her sister or brother).

The 'gökotta' context set me thinking about a few of those kinds of outings that I attended myself back in my youth.

For example, in 1975, when I was 19 going on 20, a youth group from my church back then went on an early morning gökotta on 1st May (which by then was a holiday). This was in the forest up on the (not very high) mountain Hunneberg - better known for chances to catch a glimpse of an elk (moose) than a cuckoo, but I'm not sure we saw any of those either. The photo below shows the classical charms of cooking breakfast outdoors in the forest on a chilly and damp morning in May, though:

On Ascension Day the same year (only a week later), a larger group from the same small free church went on a day-trip to an island off the west coast, visiting another church there. But of course following the tradition of holding the meeting outdoors on this day. Our choir probably joined forces with theirs - I don't recognize half the people in these photos.


Of course the ritual again also included the usual burning of sausages on open fire... ;) And that's me on the right, by the way - just to prove how hard it can be to recognize people in old photos! (Hey, did I really have that much hair, once upon a time?!)


Linking to Sepia Saturday 563

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Read in March 2021

The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths (2021)
(13th in the Ruth Galloway series)
Audio narration by Jane McDowell
(9 hrs 20 min)

After some time at another university, we find Ruth (a forensic archaeologist) back in North Norfolk again in this book, and in a new position at the university there. 'The Night Hawks' is a group of metal detectorists, searching for buried treasure on the beaches. On one of their searches they come across not only a hoard of Bronze Age weapons, but also a dead body; which means that Ruth and DI Nelson (father of Ruth's daughter Kate) once again get together on a job. A lot of the charm with this series of books lies with the recurring main characters and the development of the relations between them. (Not just Ruth and Nelson, but also their colleagues, friends and families.) But I also really like the balance between archaeology (mysteries of the past) vs present time detective work.


Silent Tears by Kay Bratt (2011)
Audio narration by Shannon McManus
(10 hrs)

In February I wrote a separate review of a series of novels by Kay Bratt, The Scavenger's Daughters, set in China. Silent Tears is not a novel but a documentary, based on her personal experiences of four years of volunteer work at an orphanage in China.

When her family relocated to rural China in 2003, Kay Bratt was thrust into a new world, one where boys were considered more valuable than girls and poverty and the one-child policy had created an epidemic of abandoned infants. As a volunteer at a local orphanage, Bratt witnessed conditions that were unfathomable to a middle-class mother of two from South Carolina.

I was interested to learn more about the author and what inspired her novels; but if you haven't read the novels, I would recommend starting with those rather than with this book.


Death Beside the Seaside
(Lady Hardcastle mysteries #6)
by T.E. Kinsey (2019)
Audio narration by Elizabeth Knowelden (10 h)

I read four previous books in this series last year (read in September, reviewed in December); so when this one as well recently turned up at low price, I thought "why not"...

It is July 1910, and Lady Hardcastle and her maid/companion Flo decide they deserve a holiday at the seaside. But of course they stumble straight into another mystery to solve. Another guest at their hotel disappears, and so does a strongbox with unknown content. And that's only the first mystery in a series of events to follow - also involving Lady Hardcastle's brother, who is a Secret Service agent. I have to admit I found the plot in this book a bit hard to follow, but that may be because I mostly listened to it at bed-time... I might give it another go some time when I feel a bit more alert. The narrator of the audio books is very good and a pleasure to listen to. 

The Art of Inheriting Secrets
by Barbara O'Neal (2018)
Audio narration by Stina Nielsen
(12 hrs 50 min)

Olivia lives in California and writes about food for a magazine. When her mother, a well-known artist, dies, she is astonished to learn that she has inherited an old estate in England, which she knew nothing about - and a title to go with it. She travels to England to sort out the legal details (intending to sell the place), but also to try to understand why her mother never told her anything about her past. The estate, Rosemere, turns out to be an impressive old manor in a state of disrepair. And although she has never seen it before, Olivia finds that the house and its surroundings also seem strangely familiar to her - from her mother's art.

As she begins to look into what can be done to restore the building to its former glory, she also learns more about the past, and gets to know some people living in the village now. And of course a romance develops too...

The novel has its charms but somehow I felt that the story lost pace along the way and turned too predictable before the end. (Plus a love-scene or two that sort of felt "added" rather than essential to the plot.) 


Saturday, 20 March 2021

Bagpipes, Games and Crowds - Sepia Saturday 562

A crowd at a football(?) match, and a Scottish bagpipe band - what are my chances of matching those Sepia Saturday prompts? Considering my disinterest in all kinds of sports, I decided my best chance of perhaps finding a bagpipe would probably be my photo album from 1971. (Counting on my fingers... 71, 81, 91, 01, 11, 21... 50 years ago?!) 

1971 was the year of our first family road trip through England, Wales and Scotland by car. (We had previously been to London for a week in 1969, but then by plane.) Scotland included Edinburgh. Edinburgh included the Castle, and the famous Tattoo - or at least I seem to recall some minor version of it. (?)

In my album, I find no photo evidence of actually having watched the bagpipers, though. Only of having visited the castle, with a crowd of other tourists - and having bought a postcard.

Me (15 going on 16) and my brother (9) looking down on the views from Edinburgh Castle.


A few pages further on, I find us playing golf at St. Andrews. No crowd to cheer us on, but it is a game, and it includes hitting a ball...


And, surprise: At the very back of the same photo album, there are also some photos included from a school event the next spring (1972). It seems that at least once in my life did I actually watch a football match, and I even took photos of it. I'm not sure whether it was a teachers vs students game, or mixed teams from two different schools. My form in upper secondary school (classical/arts kind of program) was all girls, but a couple of the older guys in these photos were my teachers. The one in glasses was my form-master, and I think the one second from the left in the bottom row in the last photo was my art teacher.

  Linking to Sepia Saturday 562

Friday, 19 March 2021

Spring Equinox

It still doesn't feel much like spring outdoors, but this week I decided to get it started indoors anyway. I put my spring/summer curtains up in the kitchen, and yesterday I walked to the florist's shop downtown and bought some new flowering pot plants + a bunch of tulips.

Kitchen window: Daffodils and kalanchoe

Bedroom window: Two different kinds of geranium


Pink kalanchoe for the living room window

Busy nest-building magpie
(zoomed in through my kitchen window)

Skiving magpie enjoying the view

Sunday, 14 March 2021

A Pipe in the Mouth... (Sepia Saturday 561)


 “A pipe in the mouth makes it clear that there has been no mistake–you are undoubtedly a man.”
-A. A. Milne

In a photo album I think my grandfather received for his 50th birthday (1954), there are several photos of him smoking a pipe. I vaguely remember that from my childhood as well, but I think perhaps he mostly smoked outdoors.

The top left photo in the collage is one of my favourites from the old albums. It shows my grandparents at the well on the property they (or my grandfather) bought in the spring of 1930. The house was built over the summer and they got married in the autumn the same year. The well would have been built before the house; and indeed there is also a bill dated 26 April 1930 which does not only serve to date this photo to around that time, but also informs that the well was built by their future brother-in-law (he married my grandmother's sister later the same year). The other two men in the photos above are named in the album, but unknown to me. My grandfather was a journalist, so met quite a lot people.

Linking to: Sepia Saturday 561


Thursday, 11 March 2021

Hey, what happened to Spring??


Please note that this is not a black & white photo...!

Tuesday, 9 March 2021



We still seem to be stuck in between winter and spring here, a kind of non-season that does not inspire much photography. On Saturday, the sunset seen from my living room window was quite spectacular for a while, though.

On the whole, Nature as well as People just seems to be waiting for Things to improve. The snow went away, there was spring in the air for a while, but then it got colder again. Today when I went out there was a flurry of snow whirling about again, and I also noticed that it was very silent - the birds seemed to have put their singing on hold as well.

Yesterday (sunny but rather chilly) I walked into town after lunch. My main errand was to a chemist's shop for a some medical & hygiene supplies; that's about as exciting as life gets nowadays. On my way back I also passed my favourite tea shop, though, and noticing that there were no other customers at the moment, I took the opportunity to pop in there as well, and was happy to be able to add two little packets of tea to my booty. Shops here now have to limit the number of customers to the size of the place; for the tiny tea shop that means only one or perhaps two at the same time. I noticed they had moved their queue ticket machine outside.

I can't remember when I last went into a shop to just "have a look"... (If I don't know exactly what it is I'm after, I don't go in.)

In spite of various restrictions we still seem to be on our way into a third wave of covid here, the numbers increasing again. The good news (I just watched another one of the twice-weekly corona-related press conferences on TV that have become routine ever since last spring) is that death numbers are going down, though - assumed to be related to successful vaccination of old people in care homes, or with home care (and of staff working with those people). Vaccination has been going a bit slower than first estimated though, because of delays in delivery of the vaccines. As 65+ I'll be in the next priority group, but probably at the bottom of it (as they'll be going from older to younger). So I'm expecting to have to wait a while yet before it's my turn. 


Our World Tuesday 

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Friends (Sepia Saturday 560)

Since last week, I have continued to go through some more of my paternal grandfather's notes from his own research into his family history. I've also been looking at some of the old photo albums (again). There are very few photos from before the early/mid 1920s. Two of my grandmother's old albums have no notes in them at all. All the original photos are very small. Some later albums have notes, but the photos are not in chronological order, and the notes are more often to do with "where" than with "who" or "when". (To my grandparents, the "who" was probably usually considered obvious... To me, not so much!)

In last week's Sepia post I showed photos of the farmhouse where my grandmother grew up vs the small cottage where my grandfather grew up (with his grandparents). They both lived in the same neighbourhood / village. My grandmother Sally was born in 1900 and my grandfather Gustaf in 1904. In childhood, four years age difference is rather a lot. (When they got engaged, in 1929, she was 29 and he 25. They got married a year later.) However, my grandmother's younger brother Nils was born in 1902, and my guess is that he and Gustaf were friends even from childhood/school. (Back in those days and in a countryside village, school is likely to have been a small one of the kind with children of different ages taught together.)

Please tell me what you think: Is the boy/young man on the left (or in the middle in the third photo) the same person in all three? I recognize the one on the right as my grandmother's brother. I also know that it is my grandfather as a young man to the left in the middle photo; but I'm less sure whether it is also him in the two childhood photos.

The photo on the left is from my grandmother Sally's album, and under it, she has just written "Two friends". The middle photo is from Gustaf's album, a note says it's from around 1922. The third one is also from Gustaf's album, below is the full picture:

The album text under this one is just "In the [village] football team". No names. Comparing it to the middle photo in the collage, can you see why I'm picking out this particular boy from the team as probably being my grandfather? ;) 

As for the first photo, I'm wondering about the occasion, as it seems to be a professional photo. To do with school, perhaps? They're wearing very similar outfits.

Linking to Sepia Saturday 560 

Their prompt picture:


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