Tuesday, 17 May 2022

"Versaries"

 Not sure if it's a word, but I'm celebrating two different "-versaries" this week:

My 9th Postcrossing-versary...



 ... and my 6th Duolingo-versary... 

Of all the languages I've "dipped into" at Duolingo, my streak of keeping up daily lessons for 2188 days only applies to Spanish, though. It was the first language that I started to learn on Duolingo (from scratch), and it's also the language where I feel I'm still making progress.

Some of the languages on my Duo list I knew "more or less" since before (German, French, Norwegian, Danish). Others I've only really taken a "peek" at to get a rough idea what they're like. 

Besides Spanish, the ones that I put a bit of effort into are Welsh,Turkish and Dutch; and also Russian and Finnish. But with all of those I reached a certain level when it became too difficult and/or did not really feel meaningful for me to take it much further. But it happens that I revisit occasionally to rehearse some words/grammar already learned. 

Dutch somehow falls into a category of its own: Because it resembles other languages I know (like a mix of German, Scandinavian and English), I felt I reached a fairly good level of understanding (in writing); but when it comes to "using" it (writing/speaking), my brain tends to switch to German. And not wanting to mess up my German, I'll leave it at that. 

Right from start, the whole thing with trying to learn Spanish, and then adding even more foreign languages to the mix as well, was really just an experiment - to see what my brain could cope with, at age 60+. On the whole, I'd say it's gone better than I expected! But it also taught me (no surprise) that I do better with the languages where I can relate to words and grammar from other languages already familiar to me since before. But if too much alike, that causes problems too!

At the bottom of my list (below) you'll find Ukrainian, just recently added. I have no ambition of "learning" it, just wanted to check how it differs from Russian. (I sometimes recognize a word here and there when I hear it on TV.)




 


Sunday, 15 May 2022

A Rainy Week, and Getting Rid of Things

 

After a long dry spell, we had quite a lot of rain this week. I did not mind, and Nature obviously welcomed it with open arms...

I've been out for a walk now and then in between showers, otherwise I've been spending most of my time either engrossed in family history (see my Greetings from the Past blog), or going through (reducing/ getting rid of) some old papers of my own - a job that somehow seems to be never-ending, and mysteriously always seems to leave me with my bookshelves still looking as full as before, never mind how many binders and kilos of paper I removed. 

Yesterday, it was time for the annual "bulky refuse" day in the district of town where I live. I know from the Blog World that some of my readers in other countries have this service a lot more often; but here, it's one day in May (or rather, 1½ hours in that day) - and we're still supposed to bring the stuff to one spot on the estate where the trucks are parked. (I think you can ask for help if you've got very large stuff, though.) That spot is around 5 min walk from my building, and even using a shopping bag on wheels (or just the frame of that) I can't transport very much at the same time. Yesterday I made five turns back and forth, getting rid of broken appliances (like a bread machine, a fan, and an electric blanket that might not be broken but too old to be trusted), some smaller stuff (bulbs and empty ink cartridges etc that should not go in the ordinary household waste), and two carrier bags with empty broken or scruffy-looking old binders and folders. Phew. That actually kept me busy (and walking back and forth) the whole of those 1½ hours. (On the other hand, I also got my daily exercise.) After lunch I was so tired I lay down and fell asleep... Later in the afternoon, I ended up going out for another (short) walk, though -  enjoying a bit of blue skies again, and not having to carry anything except my camera.

 

Sunday, 8 May 2022

What I see on my Kindle

My previous post (with two reviews of books read on Kindle) led to a discussion in the comment section about a recent Kindle update - not made easier by readers perhaps having different versions of the device. 

As one can't add images in the blog comments, it occurred to me to do a separate post with images to illustrate what it is I see on my device. Maybe it can help someone - or maybe not. (If nothing else, it might be helpful to my future self, as I too keep forgetting every now and then where to find things...)

When I open my "Home" screen, vs my "Library" screen, this is what I see:


 

From the Library page, to find the Sorting and Viewing options,
click the three lines in the top right corner.

At the bottom, choose between Grid, List or Collection.
With Grid, I see only book covers.
With List, I see a small cover picture + title and author
With Collections, I see collections (folders) that I created myself.
(Inside the folders, the 'grid' view.) 

In Grid/List, you can sort by Most recent, Title, Author or Publication date.
In Collections, you can only choose between Most Recent, or Title.
In all three, you can also choose between Ascending or Descending order (A-Z or Z-A).

Create new collections by clicking "+" to the left of the three lines in the top right corner. The same book can be sorted into more than one collection.

In Collections, one folder is 'Uncollected'. (I don't think I created that one myself.) There I find books from the cloud not downloaded on this device. (Including my Audible books.)



Thursday, 5 May 2022

Two Novels set in France during WWII

 

 The Dressmaker's Gift by [Fiona Valpy] 

The Dressmaker's Gift
by Fiona Valpy (2019)

Kindle + Audible

Audio book narrated by Anne Flosnik and Justin Eyre
9 hrs 12 min

* * *

This is a story told from a double perspective of today vs the past. A young woman, Harriet, goes to Paris and obtains a job as well as living quarters in the same building where her grandmother lived and worked as a seamstress back during WWII. She has an old photo from those days of her grandmother with two other girls. As it happens, her own roommate turns out to be the grandchild of one of the two others, and knows more about all three of them. Through her Harriet gets to know their story. They all got involved in the resistance movement in France during the war, and also had to suffer for that.

I agree with some other reviews I read of the book that the double time perspective sometimes really doesn't seem to add all that much, and that to just tell the story of the three women in WWII might have been a better choice. Listening to the audio book, I also found the voices of the two narrators too similar, which didn't help. That said, I still found the book worth reading. For one thing, while I've read many books about WWII, I think they've usually been chiefly from either Jewish or British/American perspective (or Swedish) - rather than from within occupied France and the resistance movement there. For another, it's also quite a powerful story about strong friendship between women helping each other through difficult times.

. . .

The Last Correspondent by [Soraya M. Lane]

The Last Correspondent
by Soraya M. Lane (2020)

Kindle + Audible

Audio book narrated by Sarah Zimmerman
9 hrs 34 min

* * * *

This is a story of similar WWII background as the one above, also with the friendship between three women in focus, and set in France.

Quoting from the publisher's introduction:

When journalist Ella Franks is unmasked as a woman writing under a male pseudonym, she loses her job. But having risked everything to write, she refuses to be silenced and leaps at the chance to become a correspondent in war-torn France.

Already entrenched in the thoroughly male arena of war reporting is feisty American photojournalist Danni Bradford. Together with her best friend and partner, Andy, she is determined to cover the events unfolding in Normandy. And to discover the whereabouts of Andy’s flighty sister, Vogue model Chloe, who has followed a lover into the French Resistance.

When trailblazing efforts turn to tragedy, Danni, Ella and Chloe are drawn together, and soon form a formidable team. Each woman is determined to follow her dreams “no matter what,” and to make her voice heard over the noise of war.

Europe is a perilous place, with danger at every turn. They’ll need to rely on each other if they are to get their stories back, and themselves out alive. Will the adventure and love they find be worth the journey of their lives?

On the whole, I think I found this book more interesting, being told from the perspective of war correspondents, both journalists and photographers. It may have increased my interest that I happened to read this book in the early days of the current war situation in Ukraine, and parallel to hearing quite a lot on the news about the difficulty for reporters in our own time to collect correct information about what was really going on. There were parts that seemed a bit exaggerated to me, but in an afterword, the author says that while there are parts of her book that are entirely fiction, there's also a lot based on real events and people even if tweaked a bit to fit her fictional characters and story. 

 

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

A Walk Across Town

Yesterday I had an appointment to get my 4th covid jab (recommended here for 65+ now). As mentioned in a recent post, since my 3rd one (back in December), not only have they moved the vaccination center, but there have also been also some changes to the bus routes in the city. So I went for a 'trial run' 1½ week ago just to check things out. I'm glad I did, because that meant I didn't feel stressed about it now. It was another beautiful spring day - rather chilly winds blowing, but the sun made up for that. I took a bus about half of the way there ('the middle part'). The vaccination itself went as smoothly as the other times - one has to book time in advance, so no queue when I got there. Afterwards, I went and bought myself a hot dog for lunch, and then decided to walk the whole way back home - which takes me about an hour. 

I followed the river where I could. In some places it's still not possible, but the plan is to continue building footpaths in park-like environment and close to the river more or less all the way through town (north-south).

There are still quite a few old textile factory buildings along the river;
nowadays many of them have been converted for other purposes.


 

In the building across the water there are student's rooms.
This is close to the university.

Part of the Textile Fashion Center

Old railway station (nowadays offices) and behind that the university


 

The Textile Fashion Center with Textile Museum and School of Textiles (part of the university). Just now, the building kind of looks like an art project in itself! But I suppose they're renovating the facade.

My favourite sculpture -
House of Knowledge
(by Jaume Plensa)

Flowers in bloom in all the parks now

One of my favourite views with the old church tower in the background

Still some cherry blossom trees in bloom as well!

Classic old cinema theatre to the left

The railway station + travel center for some of the bus lines


When I reach the old cemetery, I'm 'almost' home...

Today, my arm is a bit sore from the jab, and I've been feeling rather tired. But not sure if the tiredness today is from the vaccine - might just as well be from walking, and start of the birch pollen season! 

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Progress

 It's been another week of breathtaking spring beauty...

 
On Monday, I went back to the same park as last Thursday, to take some more photos. By then, the flowers on the trees had gone from darker pink to nearly white. I was happy to also see and hear a lot of bumble bees enjoying the flowers. The last couple of years the trees and the bumble bees have not been in sync, but this year, they seem to be! :)


 

At home, noisy roof-work has continued...

When ordering my groceries with home delivery this week (as I do once a fortnight), I was a bit nervous that the delivery might coincide with lifting all the heavy pallets of new tiles up onto the roof - involving a huge crane parked outside my entrance all day, same as when they took the old tiles down...  Not much I could do about it, though, except hope for luck - or for the delivery guy to just handle the situation anyway. (After all, they're probably used to encountering strange situations from time to time.) 

Well, as it happened, we were all lucky. (Me, the roofers and the delivery guy.) The Gigantic Crane came and did its work on Thursday - and I stayed in until it was done, hardly even daring to look out the windows... ;) No, I'm exaggerating a bit. I actually did look out the windows quite frequently - I just kept missing the actual lifting, and thought to myself "maybe just as well..." The heavy pallets of tiles kept magically disappearing though, while a tower of empty pallets grew on the ground... At the end of the workday, they were done. And on Friday when my delivery van arrived, there was nothing in the way on the driveway. So all went well!

The photo is from Friday afternoon. It's become a new habit of mine these past couple of weeks to walk around the building and "inspect the roof" in connection with my afternoon walk... Looks like next week will be about laying the big tile puzzle up there!


Sunday, 24 April 2022

Spring Has Sprung

A lot has happened in Nature over the past week. On Thursday, I went for a walk to post some postcards - and was surprised to "suddenly" find the cherry blossom trees in this little park in full bloom! I also found wood anemones in a little copse of wood nearby.


On Friday, I went on a little 'reconnaissance' adventure by bus. Bus routes in the city have recently been changed and stops/changing places moved, because of a big project to totally reconstruct the square which until now has served as main meeting place for all the city buses. Figuring out where to go instead just now is not all easy!

Moreover, one is nowadays supposed to use one's phone to find out how (and when) to travel from A to B by bus - and instructions when a journey requires a change of buses  are just now more confusing than ever. Where to get off bus 1 and where to board bus 2 may just now, in some cases, be quite a long walk apart.

The week after next I'm supposed to go across town again for my 4th covid vaccination. On top of changed bus routes, they've also recently moved the vaccination center. Having struggled with the travel app for a while without getting any suggestions that made sense, I decided I'd probably better do a trial run first, without the added stress of time pressure!

The route I tried involved 15+ min walk from home to the railway station, waiting there 5 min or so, 12 min by bus (to the Arena which used to serve as vaccination center, last year) - and then an additional 10 min walk from there to the new vacc. center. I can do that (at least this time of year, and in nice weather). I'm sure there must be quite a few older pensioners and disabled people for whom it means serious trouble, though. And just using the app on the phone, without being familiar with the geography, I could not have figured it out! (The route suggested by the app includes two buses, but still having to walk about the same distance in total...) 

Well, at least now I know. (And as pensioner, I travel free in the non-rush hours.)

There were some lovely cherry blossom trees in that part of town as well. 

And before I returned home (the same way, but reversed), I also made a little tour of the shopping malls and looked into a couple of fashion shops that are not represented in the city centre. Have to say that a lot of the fashion this spring still does not really impress me, though. I tried on a few items but in the end only bought one - more to reward myself for the effort than because I really needed it. But it does go with other existing items in my wardrobe!



Tuesday, 19 April 2022

A Noisy Day

After a quiet Easter weekend, this morning I was awakened early by a lot of banging outside. I still felt tired though, and as I knew the noise had legitimate cause (roof work on the building), I stayed in bed, turning the radio on. Somehow I must have fallen back to sleep (slumber) again, because next time I woke up (which I wouldn't have done if I'd stayed awake!), it was from a rather chaotic dream of being in a war zone... No need for advanced interpretation of why - with the war in Ukraine constantly on the news, the last book I read being about WWII, and now this going on outside my windows:

They've spent today stripping the roof of the old tiles, throwing those in a 'small' (well...) metal container up on the roof, which was then maneuvered down from there by a huge crane outside my windows, and (noisily) emptied into HUGE metal containers on the ground... They filled at least two such huge containers today.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the building, they were putting up some more scaffolding (involving other banging and drilling noises).  

It's been a lovely spring day outside, but what with that crane swinging heavy containers in the air outside our entrance most of the day, I ended up not going out until they had stopped... (No doubt they would have "let me out" safely - but since I had no special plans anyway, I just found it better to wait!)

I got some vacuuming done - trying to cancel out one kind of noise with another. I also cleaned my winter boots (I have several pairs, high and low and with different kinds of soles) and took most of those down to the basement storage room. (Hoping we won't have more snow now - even if one never really knows!) Then I ended up watching TV most of the afternoon until 4 p.m. And then I went out for my walk... 

For once, I think I'm quite happy with 'daylight saving time' this spring after all. ;)

Remains to be seen what tomorrow will be like. The degree of noise (and mess) is likely to vary quite a lot depending on what they're up to at the moment - it's just a bit hard to predict from day to day, especially since they're working on more than one building simultaneously.

Monday, 18 April 2022

Easter Weekend Walks

I haven't really "been anywhere" or done anything special for Easter - but the weather has been mostly sunny, and a bit of colour is beginning to come back into the world...

After lunch on Saturday, I walked into town and back, with my camera.

Scilla on a sunny slppe

Tussilago (Coltsfoot)

Pansies had been planted out in the park for Easter

Easter Tree in the main square

Various items on display outside a shop

Unauthorised graffiti rather than "art",
but still kind of hard not to smile back at...

Old stone cross with shadow in the old cemetery
 

Pansies near the chapel in the cemetery

 
In the afternoon of Easter Sunday, I went out without any special plan, but ended up taking a partly less familiar route - up a street over a hill and down on the other side. I hadn't brought my separate camera, but I had my phone...

 
Crocuses


 
A mural on a vacant demolition site. This is an "authorised" mural, painted at one of our art festivals some years ago - but back then, one had to enter an enclosed courtyard to see it. Now the old building that was facing the street has been torn down, giving a different setting to the artwork (plus some later graffiti added).

 
Walking back towards home along the river, I spotted a bird not usually seen there - an  oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus).  Or actually, two of them - as can be seen in the following photos. They are waders, and just now the water level in the river here is unusually low, after a long dry period with very little rain. Normally, they wouldn't be able to wade in this spot, I think! I regretted not having brought my proper camera, as in the glare of the sun, I couldn't really see the screen of my phone! But I snapped some random shots anyway, and they came out "ok".

 

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