Saturday, 28 May 2022

Spring Market


Friday-Saturday after Ascension Day is traditionally Spring Market in my town. In the past it used to fill not only the main square but also the streets nearby, and was always crowded. I used to mostly keep on the outskirts of it just because of preferring some elbow-room... 

In 2020, after the outbreak of the corona virus (and before vaccine), the market was reduced to only a handful of stalls well spread out over the huge square. In 2021 (after introduction of the vaccine), it was expanded with a few more stalls, but still nothing like usual. 

Now in 2022, there are no longer any formal restrictions about distance etc. Yesterday I didn't see any ads in the local newspaper about a market though, and I thought maybe they had moved it to some other weekend. But today, there was an article about the spring market being "back", even if still not as big as in the past; so I decided to go for a walk into town and check it out. It was livelier than last year, but pretty much still limited to the main square, and with space between the stalls. I heard some people being disappointed; myself, I felt they'd found a sensible compromise.

There are three stalls I usually look for at the big markets - and I found all three pretty much in their usual spots. So personally, I have no complaints. ;) One is a stall where they sell cheap postcards. That one was back in its usual corner of the square, and I took the opportunity to stock up some new cards. Another thing I often buy at the market is socks - even if that's something that I can of course also find elsewhere. The third thing I nearly always at least look at, is handbags. I've also over the years fallen for many that turned out too small, too big, too heavy, not having enough compartments, not rainproof, or whatever...

This year, at least I had a pretty clear idea what I was looking for (having searched for a while for a replacement for a worn-out favourite). And, apart from the usual compromise of still not being able to find the equivalent of Hermione's bag in the last Harry Potter book (small, elegant, and weighing nothing, in spite of having room for a tent big as a small flat + the major part of the Hogwarts library), I think I found one as good as  could more realistically be expected:

Besides plenty of compartments, a zipper around the edge can be used to make the bag a little bit wider vs flatter.

An odd experience at the market today was a feeling of "shopping for free" because I was paying in cash with money that had been sitting idle in a drawer and my wallet for two years. During the pandemic it has become increasingly common (and preferred) here that we pay even very small sums by debit (or credit) card (or using phone apps). Some places don't even accept cash payment any more. But at the market today, no one objected. 

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Azaleas for Ascension Day

Today is Ascension Day (nearly over when I write this) - the 40th day of Easter, still a public holiday here (marked with red in our calendars) and always on a Thursday. It hasn't quite felt like a holiday here today though, because while I had been looking forward to an extra "quiet" day - without Men at Work on the roof and running up and down the ladder outside my study - they had obviously decided to ignore this holiday and carry on with the job as usual. That surprised me a bit - even if I know that some places of work, like supermarkets, never close on red days any more.

Well, never mind. (They weren't all that noisy - it just made me look twice at the calendar!) For my own part I didn't really have anything special planned. It's been a rainy week and after two days of hardly having set foot outdoors, I managed a walk during an afternoon break in the rain, though. Just my usual walk around the old cemetery - but that did turn out to offer some "extraordinary" beauty, as the azaleas, rhododendron and lilacs have just come into bloom:

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Spring Turning to Early Summer

 It's been a mixed week of this and that, but Nature keeps getting greener, as we're passing from spring to early summer now.

The red tree is a kind of maple, I think

▲From the old cemetery, where I walk most days.▼

Narcissus flowerbed

The cherry blossom trees in the big park downtown are of a later kind than some in other parks around town, but they too are beginning to fade away now (Tuesday).

Colourful flowerbeds along the river in the town centre

People enjoying the green lawns and the flowers in the park

▲Azaleas in the cemetery about to bloom▼

Some kinds of rhododendron in sunny places already in their prime
They're still at work on the roof of the building where I live, and we're still surrounded by scaffolding and not really able to use our balconies much. But this week I saw they had strawberry and tomato plants at my supermarket, and I decided to buy some, because if I wait, maybe I can't get any (or at least not at walking distance from home). 
The strawberries at the back in the photo are my old ones, which have survived several winters under the bench on my balcony. I replanted them in new earth a year or two ago and they still seem content with that. But I decided to go for more strawberries (I knew I had an identical empty window box in my storage room), precisely because they have proved themselves to accept the strange and varied climate on my balcony (hot and sunny vs chilly, went and windy, and freezing cold in winter). I'll hang them on the balcony rail later; for now I've put both boxes close to wall, out of the way for workers who might occasionally have to access the balconies as well (they're also exchanging drainpipes). I also bought one cherry tomato plant. That needs a more protected place than the strawberries but I had room for one pot next to my clematis (my other winter hibernator).

Clematis, photo from last month

Tuesday, 17 May 2022


 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! 

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