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måndag, februari 28, 2005
Even though the temperatures have plummeted to minus double digits, it is blindingly sunny, with blue skies and sparkling, pure white snow. When the sun shines through the windows, it is in fact quite hot. Walking past our apartment towards the entrance, Lars-Göran looked up and spotted this:
That's Bruce working on his tan, sitting on his little shelf that Lars-Göran built for them. They get a great view of what is going on out in the street and are able to catch a few rays of light as well. It just looked so sweet from the street.
Earlier in the day, it was more like a blizzard
It was lovely to sit here and watch the flakes rain down. I never get tired of a scene like this and I imagine myself as some great arctic explorer heading out into the snowstorm. Adventures like that have always interested me and I've read a great deal about both artic and antarctic exploration. The latest book has been the wonderful The Endurance : Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander, recounting Shackleton's heroic endeavour to cross Antarctica on foot from 1914-16. It is a stunning story of endurance and survival in an unforgiving terrain.
My love affair with extreme adventures began with this man pictured on our old $100 note - Sir Douglas Mawson. He lived in Adelaide and so we learned a great deal about him and his exploits in Antarctica. I guess I first heard about him in primary school social studies lessons and became fascinated with why people would push themselves so hard in such an alien environment. I couldn't even imagine snow and ice in sunny Adelaide and the more I read about how difficult it was to survive in these places, the more I wondered about their motivation (and sanity). One unbelievably poignant and sad documentary I saw was of the Swedish explorer Saloman Andrée's failed attempt to cross the north pole in a hot air balloon. I still get shivers down my spine thinking of the footage of that journey.
While I was searching for information about Mawson, I mentioned that he wore a balaclava and as my husband had no idea what they were, I googled an image and came up with the ultimate one, that I simply must have - the Pippi Longstocking Balaclava! Isn't it wonderful? And perfect for a cold day here and oh so very Swedish! After all, the legendary Pippi Longstocking is one of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren's best loved and famous characters. It is a sign of how seriously Swedes take their Pippi that when I jokingly suggested I could rob a bank wearing it, my horrified Swede said very seriously "I think that the small children would be very upset if you did that". Though that wasn't as funny as when I talked about it to an American friend and she was confused about how I was going to knit a baklava! I laughed for the longest time over that.
After the blizzard, the sun came out and it looked beautiful and fresh out in the street again.
The other night, a house was broken into not far from here. The owner was woken by the noise of breaking glass and phoned the police. They had an easy time catching the thief. As the snow was new and fresh, they simply followed his footprints from the house, up through the town and directly to his apartment where he was promptly arrested!
Treking around to the bays closest to the open sea, the weather closed in again with dark skies and the snow falling again for a short time. I was thinking of the photograph I posted a month ago, when we were talking about our "non-winter" and predicting an early spring and no ice. On that day, Fagerviken looked like this - quite a change from today's view:
With cold weather and more snowfall is predicted for the rest of the week, I can see that it will thicken the ice layer on the water. No sailing for the boats in the water now until spring.
lördag, februari 26, 2005
In the night.
I love the snow falling down. I'm looking out my window at the moment and it is like living in one of those snow globes. Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved shaking those glass globes to make the “snow” within swirl and dance. And today I was able to see it in real life.
It had been a sunny morning, then suddenly the sky turnded grey and the bitter, chilly air became very soft and still. Quietly, from some invisible blossoming tree, millions of cool, white petals rained down and muffled everything. It is as though a giant has opened his feather pillow and shaken it over Nynäshamn. I watch in wonder, then as suddenly as it came, the snow flurries vanished and it is now blue skies again, with bright sunshine and glittering snow all around.
The sun really does sparkle off the snow and it is now lying around in drifts all over town, no doubt creating a headache for some, but looking quite beautiful. It's not very good snow for making a snowman as it is too fine and powdery, so I just look and admire it.
The colder temperatures have ensured that the shallow bays are icy again, though the ducks don't seem to mind at all. I told Lars-Göran that we used to have a wine in Australia in the 1970's called Cold Duck (it was a ghastly, sweet combination of cheap red wine and champagne.....*shudder*) and he laughed, as the only cold ducks you can get here are these ones...
It still amazes me that they stay here all year and seem to thrive very well. We had an American friend who now lives in Stockholm come over last weekend and she was astonished to see the large number of ducks crunching their way through the icy waters here and the family of graceful white swans that live among them down at the harbour. I wonder how they find enough to eat and how they stay warm in winter? Not like some other birds I know...
Yes, that's my very nosey cockateil, Bruce, checking out the groceries to see if he approves. Luckily I had bought his parakeet mixture, so he was happy. As soon as I walk in the door with my shopping, I'm mobbed. Before I get a chance to take off my hat, gloves, scarf, coat, spikes and boots, Lambi has checked out the bags for any sign of something she might like to help us eat and now Bruce is joining in. It's like a zoo here at times.
In news around town, you can see that the fallout from recent events will result in at least 800 people losing their jobs here. That is 20% of the workforce in this town and is quite catastrophic. In response, we seem to be flavour of the moment with the media and Nynäshamn has been full of journalists, tv cameras and politicians all week.
On top of the reported job losses by those employed by Ericsson, there are many others who work at the plant but not directly employed by Ericsson who will also be jobless. These include a large number working there under contract via places like Manpower as well as over 100 employed by a local firm, Coor, who supply them with switchboard operators, receptionists, administrative staff, security guards, maintenance personnel, kitchen staff, gardeners. And the manager of Ericsson was reported as being surprised about the strong local reaction to the closure! Hello? What planet are you living on?
We know of a family where the father, his two sons and one of the son's wives works there. That is a whole family affected and unable to help each other out. There are others where both husband and wife are unemployed. The main anger and bitterness has been because people feel that they were lied to by management at the plant. There was not a hint that anything like this was going to happen. Over the last couple of years, workers here have endured cutbacks, less people doing the same job and introduction of large scale contracted labour. They have helped push the company to a record profit and their thanks is to be sacked.
I've heard from some that there was talk only last week to the union that it was going to be busy here with the chance of a lot of overtime after summer. A woman who has been on contract for four years was told that she would be offered a permanent position and the management has been having regular monthly breakfast meetings with the local government without letting anyone know what was really going on.
It's hard to know what is going to happen. I'd hate to see this become simply a characterless, touristy summer town. But I do know that I'm glad my mobile phone is a Nokia!
torsdag, februari 24, 2005
Now there's a surprise! :)
Thursday must be the longest day of the week. The excitement of last weekend has worn off, plans are made for the coming weekend and still there is that pesky working day in between before you can relax.
A friend here reminded me last week that Thursdays in Sweden are pea soup days. I come from a place that does not have particular foods for particular days of the week, so I always found this rather intriguing. When I was a child, we did have a rule about not eating meat on Fridays, but that was only in catholic families. This tradition however covers the whole country.
Apparently, this soup, called ärtsoppa, dates back to the Viking age. It was cheap and easy to prepare. When Sweden became catholic, pea soup became the traditional meal for Thursday dinner--thick and hearty, especially och fläsk (with pork) to tide the hardworking farmers over the fasting day on Fridays. Later, when Sweden became a Lutheran nation, pea soup continued to be eaten as a standard for Thursday dinners.
This is the case even today, where it is served every week in many homes, schools, work cafeterias and restaurants (not to mention the army, where it is made up in 200 litre batches!). It is traditionally served with brown mustard, a sprinkling of thyme or marjoram and Swedish crisp bread (knäckebröd). Over time, other traditions have grown up around it. When Sweden began importing arrack from Indonesia and Java in the 18th century, warm punsch, an arrack-based, sweet yellow liqueur, became drink of choice to accompany the pea soup. Then later, thin Swedish pancakes, topped with jam or fresh berries was added as a dessert.
So what's with the arsenic, I hear you say? Well, apparently, in the 16th century, one of the kings of Sweden (Erik XIV) was poisoned by the addition of arsenic to his Thursday soup by none other than his dear brother (who then became King Johan III). Don't you just love family feuds?
The soup is readily available in tins or fresh in the fridge section of every Swedish supermarket. If we eat it (and that is not often because of the unfortunate after effects) I prefer to make my own, using this recipe. I haven't tried the arsenic addition - YET!
It's okay to eat, but not a patch on our great South Australian tradition of the pie floater. This is also a thick, hearty soup, based on dried peas, but we add the essential meat pie and then smother it in tomato sauce, vinegar and white pepper. On a cold winter's night, it can't be beaten as a filling meal, especially when eaten standing at one of the pie carts dotted around town (the Adelaide Railway station one being my favourite). I looked around for a picture of a floater to show you, but I could only find this one, which is obviously taken by a foreigner as every self respecting croweater knows that the pie should be face downwards!
*shaking my head at lost traditions*
tisdag, februari 22, 2005
Two weeks ago, the Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson announced a record profit and predicted that the hard times were over and they were taking on more workers. In a small town like Nynäshamn, this was welcome news as Ericsson is the main employer here.
Yesterday afternoon, workers were called to a meeting to discuss the implementation of the new 3G technology, only to discover that the entire Ericsson plant here is to close and 463 people are now out of work. The town is already reeling from the shock news earlier this year that the navy's submarine base at nearby Muskö was moving to Karlskrona with a loss of 1,000 jobs (500 of those in Nynäshamn) and now, out of the blue, without any warning this has happened. We have 13,000 people in Nynäshamn, so the sudden loss of so many jobs will have a huge impact.
We have many good friends as well as acquaintances who work at both Muskö and Ericsson and now we are wondering how they will manage. These people have mortgages to pay, a family to feed and in several cases, both husband and wife have now lost their jobs. The mood in the town is very subdued and shocked. This will have a negative effect on other business - restaurants, cafés, hairdressers, clothing shops, book shops, car dealer, florists and other small shops will feel the pinch along with local firms who do business with these two large employers. The fear is that the town may become a ghost town and that plans to upgrade the highway and railway from Stockholm will now be shelved. The social costs here will also be high as people struggle with unemployment and a drastically reduced lifestyle.
Yes, Nynäshamn is a beautiful town, but scenery and beauty do not pay the bills.
Today, we went downtown to check out the local book sale and it was nowhere near as busy as it has been in previous years. No queues in the snow, no big crush in the shop or library. The news from Ericsson put a dark cloud over everything. We did manage to buy 36 books at bargain prices, so we were very pleased with our haul. Both of us are avid readers, so we can never have too many books.
The winter weather has finally settled in, with temperatures sinking to -10C this evening and snow and wind abounding. Spring along with hope seems a long way off tonight.
onsdag, februari 16, 2005
No, not me. I'm referring to Brucie.
Isn't he a handsome boy? He is such a little personality as well, strutting around the apartment, nibbling my books, nibbling the bed posts, drinking from the dog's bowl and generally brightening up our home. Lars-Göran makes noises about pesky Aussies invading his life, but I know he is really fond of both birds, but especially Bruce. I guess living in a household of all females, he needs some male bonding at times.
I'm having not so much a bad hair day as a bad hair month. It costs a bomb to have your hair cut in Sweden, so I try and have it done far less often than I used to back in Adelaide. It has taken me some time to find a hairdresser that I like and who doesn't charge millionaire's rates. I've been stretching out the cutting time, but now I need it badly. We also have a number of upcoming social events, so I thought it was a good time to make an appointment.
She's away in her homeland, Chile, for a holiday until March 9th! I'll have to hibernate under my hat until she gets back. I look like a shaggy dog at the moment. But at least I'm not having a bad hair day like this poor dog. Why do people do that to poodles?
And speaking of hats..... does this little number float your boat? I present you with the Chicken Viking Hat. I think it's very me, though I'm not too sure that pink is my colour. Maybe it could be yellow (sort of Tumeric Viking Chicken) or maybe orange (Tandoori Viking Chicken) or even black (Cajun Viking Chicken).
When I decide on the colour, I shall have one to wear around town while humming the Immigrant Song from my last post. I don't think Lars-Göran is too keen to be seen with me dressed like that, but I think it's fabulous. You need a bit of colour and frivolity to make the long dark winter seem a little brighter. I am surprised that people here wear such dreary colours in winter. Where are the bright splashes of red, blue, purple etc. It's all black, grey and neutral tones that say I am invisible. Somehow, that's not my style and so I get stared at for my bright hats, scarves and jumpers. But I don't care.
It's still deep, deep snow around here. No place to sit and rest your weary legs.
It's not much better if you have a car.
Far, far better to be a warm, cosy dog.
I'm sure that when people talk about having a dog's life, they were not thinking of HRH Princess Lambi.
tisdag, februari 15, 2005
Remember the wonderful Immigrant Song from Led Zeppelin's golden days? It's a very, very appropriate description of Sweden today. And also very apt, as this week they were awarded a Lifetime Grammy. But I won't go on about Led Zep as I'm liable never to stop.
Snow continues to fall and now people are having to dig out their cars before heading off to work.
When I passed the blue car here while walking the dog, the woman had just finished sweeping the snow off. She was hot and flushed and a tad annoyed, especially as the snow plough had been through and banked the snow up near the car and she had to go back and get a shovel to dig out about 2 metres of snow to be able to back out. Still, she is better off than those who chose to park around the corner in the street.
Yep, that's a road you can't see there. But as it is only a very minor road, the plough hasn't come there yet. We are fortunate to live on a fairly major road, so both the road and footpath are among the first in town to be cleared. I don't miss the days of digging out the car and spending my time like this before going out. There are some advantages to not owning a car in this weather.
I think the snow looks beautiful, especially now that it is so pure, white and untouched. It is also the deepest I've seen it for a while, covering the trunks of the trees almost to the beginning of the branches.
However, it is a big headache for the local council, who are responsible for clearing the street for traffic. In this weather it is a full time job and the ploughs are working round the clock. But what do you do with so much snow? The ploughs push it into mountains in a safe place and later on trucks will come along and collect it to be dumped into the sea. In the meantime, there are hills of snow dotted all over town, much to the delight of the local children. The adults are less pleased, especially when these mountains take up half a dozen parking speces in the local shopping centre.
The snow changes character as time passes depending on the "warmth" of the weather. Today it is very slippery out as some of the snow has compacted into ice, then new powdery snow has fallen, disguising the ice and fooling people into thinking that it is safe to be there. I've seen a car that was unable to come up an icy slope, several cars lose traction and come sliding across the road (a combination of high speed and inexperience in most cases) and I saw several people slip over. I have been fine, thanks to wearing spikes on my shoes (a necessity for someone who first trod on snow at age 43!). While I love to be out walking in these conditions, I do have sympathy for the elderly who push their walking frames and mothers with their prams. It can't be easy battling through all of this.
You can see that while normal pedestrians and their dogs can walk on the footpaths, those with wheeled vehicles have to be out on the roadway. This is because the road is ploughed and traffic has compacted the snow to a more level surface. On the footpath, it is a bit like trying to walk up a sand dune. Imagine doing that wheeling a pram? Not fun.
Still, it is so serene and peaceful in the snow. All sounds are muffled and the view along Fagerviken out to the archipelago is picture postcard.
I got a call today from our American friend, Randall, who is currently in Morocco. He is planning on coming back to Sweden in mid April to collect his boat from Brantevik (a small town in the south of Sweden) and he plans on being up this way for a number of gigs in Stockholm in May, so we will have a chance to catch up and take him out sailing on our boat. Sailing? Summer? Hmmmm..... now that is a great thought!
söndag, februari 13, 2005
Yes! It happened. Overnight the snow queen descended yet again and turned Sweden into a winter wonderland. It was so mild and spring like yesterday that I hardly believed that any more snow was possible this year. But I forgot about the legendary "Siberian Express" weather system that comes through here around mid-February to late March. Maybe it was just denial. Anyway, I awoke today, looked out my front door to see this:
As you can see from the mounds at the side of the road, the snow plough has been through bright and early. It snowed steadily for the entire day, so it had to come back again for another sweep as the snow piled up. I think we got about 30 cm of white stuff today. It looks so pretty (from the comfort of my apartment, naturally).
It's not as cold as you might think from the pictures. Today it hovered around -2C with a brisk wind, but I saw on the weather service that they are predicting -11C for Thursday. That's a bit nippy for my taste, but at least the snow will be nice and crisp. Let's hope it doesn't freeze the train switches again as I hate being stranded part way through a journey.
Down towards the harbour, the wind was blowing with added strength, and the main road into town was quite deserted.
Wandering along the park by the lake it was hard to see where the path was and where the lake started. No sign of ducks, swans or people. Not even taking a break on the park benches. I wonder why?
And no boats out on the water, that is slowly turning to ice. It amazes me how rapidly that happens. I guess it's already really cold and a small drop in the temperature combined with a lot of freezing snow pushes it over the limit. It was so blue and spring like yesterday and today it's a mid-winter landscape all over again. Still, I love the snow and think it looks really beautiful.
I must have jinxed the weather by talking about chilli yesterday. Though I'm chuffed that a friend of mine in Sydney has bought me a packet of the new Tim Tams and is sending them to me. Thankyou, Ellie! It was Ellie who also told me about a tour of Scandinavian Sydney that she is going on next weekend and a Nordfest which is on in April, for any of you lovers of Scandinavia in Sydney. I'm trying to imagine Scandinavian Sydney and failing miserably, but Ellie promises me lots of pictures, so I'll be able to tell you after she's been there.
People here must have chilli on the brain at the moment as four seperate people have made posts about these delicious Mexican food called Tamales. Friends from Ed, Malmö and Örebro have posted about them in the last week and today Francis posted the most delicious sounding recipe. I simply have to try these as we are both fond of hot, spicy food. Sandy tells me that I ought to be able to get most of what I need in Stockholm at Chez Albert, so I intend to pop in there later this week and check it all out. I've not eaten much Mexican food before as it was not so common in Australia. However, I love to cook and Lars-Göran has adapted well to eating hot Thai, Vietnamese and Indian style foods so this ought to be something he'll enjoy.
And if it's too hot, he can jump out the window and roll in the snow to cool down.
lördag, februari 12, 2005
I am in shock! I just discovered yesterday that my beloved Tim Tams now come in this wonderful flavour - Chilli Choc Fling! And I demand to know why I wasn't told about this. My friends in Australia tried to tell me that they had never heard of them. Now I ask you, we are all aware of my non existent computer skills, so where did this picture come from? Do you think I photoshopped it myself or something? Nope. This is the ridgey didge item.
I think that if you asked Australian expats which food they missed most from home, my bet is that Arnott's Tim Tams would rate as number one. The slogan "Arnott's is more than a biscuit company, it's part of Australian culture" is certainly true. I can't think of another company that makes me think of home like Arnott's. They did go down in my estimation when they discontinued the white Tim Tams, but their range of biscuits is a dream.
I have never been enticed to go over to Nabisco, though this little number may tempt me. Whoever thought of this combination is a genius! The only thing that really turns me off is the spelling of Biskit. I so hate that advertising habit of "funny" spelling. It's a pet peeve of mine as I'm a bit of a language snob, so I always refused to buy them, preferring the Arnott's Chicken Crimpy and Savoury Shapes. But the pull of the Vegemite is too strong.
Unfortunately, there are no Aussie product suppliers in Sweden and the biscuits they do sell in the supermarket here are .... well... underwhelming. Not much choice and most of them rather sad - digestives, shortbread, Marie biscuits (great name!) but nothing in the luscious chocolate coated range. I rely on friends coming over here and if they ask, I grovel for Tim Tams. My husband also loves them and can't understand why Sweden can't make a decent biscuit.
I was thinking about the Tim Tams last night when I saw that the movie Chocolat was on again. It's a film that I particularly enjoyed, though friends here have told me that it is not as good as the book, which I have on order from the local library. I usually wouldn't read a book after I've seen a film because I have a lot of trouble reading without seeing the characters and scenes as portrayed in the film. Usually I'd read the book first, then be disappointed by the movie! You just can't win, can you? I'll be facing the same thing later this evening as I start my latest book, Jacqueline Du Pré having recently watched and thoroughly enjoyed the movie based on it: Hilary & Jackie. Wish me luck!
It is snowing furiously in the south and west of the country today and apparently it is headed this way overnight, accompanied by strong winds. It is so still and mild here that I can hardly believe it's really going to happen. This time tomorrow, we might be back in the winter wonderland landscape - I'm looking forward to that. There has been far too little snow this season.
And to finish off a rather amusing story from Germany about Zoo tempts gay penguins to go straight by importing some Swedish females. That Swedish reputation seems to cross species!
torsdag, februari 10, 2005
The official release of the names of the 565 dead and missing Swedes in the tsunami disaster this week has brought the whole issue back into the national consciousness again. It is sobering to read down the list and see so many from one family missing - mum, dad, the kids.... really, really tragic. My stepdaughter was here for a few days and she told us of an acquaintance whose mother had died after a serious illness last year. The family did not want to spend the first Christmas without their mother in Sweden - it felt too hard. So dad took his teenage kids to relax for Christmas in Khao Lak, Thailand and they were caught up in this awful tragedy. They all survived, though spending a long time in hospital. I couldn't believe how unfair it was that these poor people, who were already struggling to come to terms with a loss found themselves in an even more distressing situation.
Things like this really make you sit down and take the time to be thankful for the things that you have and the family you have around you. Sometimes we get so caught up in outside happenings that we can miss seeing the small things in our lives that make all of the difference.
It is hard to be so far away from family and friends as you do when you live overseas. I think of them often, wonder how they are and if they think about me as well. I was so happy yesterday to get an email from a friend in Adelaide announcing her daughter's engagement. Congratulations, Alison! I hope you and Simon will have a lifetime of happiness together.
Life goes on in Nynäshamn much as usual. The sun is shining again after several days of bleak, grey sleet and this makes a world of difference to my motivation and view of the world. Instead of scurrying through town with my head down and hood tightly clasped around me, I can take the time to look around and see small things that cheer me up.
I can even laugh at the shop windows, proudly displaying their range of summer wear while it is still below zero. Who is it that decides these things? I stood in the snow-blended rain yesterday gazing at the bikinis, straw hats and sunglasses and just shook my head and pulled down my hat, drew my warm downfilled jacket closer and put on the lined leather gloves.
Soon it will be time for the annual book sale (February 22nd at midnight) and I'm hoping to score some bargains again this year. I normally don't go to sales, nor did I in Australia as people behave like lunatics at these sorts of things as seen yesterday in Britain at the opening of a new IKEA shop, where people were carted away in ambulances after brawling over a sofa! The book sale here is far more civilised, with people queuing up quietly until the shop opens, then going in and looking around. It is crowded ceratinly, but nobody is aggro or beating up anyone else. I'm sure the vikings are turning in their graves!
tisdag, februari 08, 2005
The "Viking Run" or Vikingarännet is an annual ice-skating event where the participants skate all the way from Uppsala to Stockholm along the frozen waters of Lake Mälaren - a distance of 80 kms. Do you think they are all seriously mad? Yep, me, too.
When I say "lake", I don't mean a small body of water, either. Mälaren is the third largest lake in Sweden and is 110kms long and about 70 kms wide, though a very irregular shape as you can see from the map here. Its shores are indented by numerous arms and inlets and thousands of small islands. At one time it was actually part of the Baltic Sea, but since the 12th century, because of a fall in the water level, it has been an inland lake. This winter has been fairly mild by Swedish standards, so I wondered whether it would be possible to actually hold the race at all. This thought occupied my mind as we made our way up to see our good friends Lennart and Anna, who live in the northern Stockholm suburb of Upplands-Väsby. We used to live here as well and know Lake Mälaren well, having sailed over quite a lot of it in the summer. In winter, it is usually frozen over, but as there is no ice in our waters I assumed it would be much the same there, but I was wrong.
When we left Nynäshamn it was +2C and when we got off the train an hour and a half later in U-V, it was -3C. Sure, that's only five degrees difference, but it was enough to put a real chill on the air and also enough to keep the freshwater lake frozen to a depth of about 10cm. I am so surprised by the difference in weather conditions between the coast where we live and the more inland areas. It is certainly much milder where we are. Lennart told me that the Vikinarännet is going ahead as planned, but the course will be from Uppsala to Kungsängen, rather than all the way into Stockholm. You can see them on this map. Uppsala is located in the top centre of the map and Kungsängen marked with a blue dot. Just slightly north east of Kungsängen, you will see an area called Munkholmen. That is where we were yesterday.
We all went for a hike through the woods by the frozen lake shore near Sättra. It was clear and sunny, but very cold as you can tell from the multiple layers and extra scarves I am wearing.
I think Swedes are more used to this weather and need less layers than I do. Still, it is lovely to be out in the woods on a cold day and I was surprised that so many people were enjoying the day out as well. Lennart told us that we would stop for a break by a wind shelter that has recently been constructed. They had brought thermoses of tea and coffee, sandwiches and some sausages to grill over an open fire. Along the way we collected wood that could be used in the fire. You can easily tell who is the pyromaniac of the group:
I keep looking at the ice between us and the island of Munkholmen and just can't believe this is where we sail in the summer. It looks so strange to see it as a solid mass. There were several skaters out on the area taking advantage of the perfect conditions and getting in practice for the upcoming race.
We spoke to this couple you see pictured just before they set off. They were easily in their late 60's and were out from Kungsängen for what they called a half-day tour around the area. They made me feel positively lazy with their obvious high level of flexibility and high level of fitness. You can see that they love being out enjoying nature and the winter. Lars-Göran also loved to skate long distance in the winter. He said that it both gave you a different view of the islands as well as made the winter seem shorter and more bearable if you had something to do.
After the couple set off, Lennart started up the fire. He put so much wood on it that I wondered if we were going to spit roast a lamb or something. It was quite a substantial fire.
The sun was lovely and we enjoyed the warming rays while Mr Pyromaniac worked on the fire, adding logs, more logs and rather a lot of greenery that made it very smoky if you stood in the way of the wind. There was only a slight breeze around, which was good as it kept the wind chill factor low. However, it was blowing from the lake and towards us. For some funny reason, nobody wanted to sit in the wind shelter. I wonder why?
Once it settled down, we grilled korv and chatted while enjoying the sunshine and the view. It really does provide a beautiful backdrop to the grilling.
It is hard to believe that this lake has over 1,000 islands dotted along it's 110 km shores. I really love this area for it's beautiful pine woods interspersed with birch trees. It was my first taste of Swedish nature and my first sailing experience in Sweden. Lars-Göran is not as fond of it as he finds it a bit closed in and prefers the more open, stark, barren and windswept landscape of the outer archipelago. Still he enjoyed his tramp in the woods and the company of good, good friends.
And for those of you who were wondering. Yes, Lambi was with us. But as usual, she was more interested in the food, so she was pretty much glued to the container of sausages and not so much attached to us.
söndag, februari 06, 2005
The weather has been glorious here today. Stark, blue cloudless skies, the gentle sun streaming in through the windows and the sound of birds chirping outside the open window makes for a perfectly relaxing sort of day.
We had a wonderful time yesterday with our friends Bosse and Ann. The fact that they arrived at 2pm and left after midnight and I don't believe there was a silent minute that whole time will give you an idea that we all got on famously. The time included a trip down to the boat (of course!) to check out our progress, then drinks, snacks and chatting followed by dinner and much more chatting. They arrived bearing a beautiful plant for me, Muscari armeniacum or Grape Hyacinth. It is sitting in a sunny spot by the window at the moment and the rich blue flowers are a sign that spring is almost upon us. While in Australia it is more common to bring a bunch of flowers, I've noticed here that people often bring plants and over the years I've collected an array of potted plants. Some are seasonal ones (daffodils and amaryllis) and others (like orchids) grow all year. I love to have greenery around and as we have west facing windows, they get plenty of light and seem to thrive in the constant temperature.
Bosse and Ann also brought several bottles of South Australian wine for us to share. I thought it was so thoughtful of them to have gone to the trouble of seeking out not only Australian wine, but also wine from my own state. So it was a real South Australian feast, featuring Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Yalumba.
When Lars-Göran watched me dividing up the left over main course today, he confessed that he didn't remember eating it last night. All he remembered were the snacks and drinks! A few too many drinks, I think. I wonder if he remembers his THREE servings of pavlova?
It was so nice to get together. We only met them recently and ibstantly felt a rapport and going by last night, I think we shall be firm friends. There was nothing we felt we couldn't talk about and I enjoy that sort of relaxing friendship. We are looking forward to getting to know them even better.
But it's far too nice a day for indoors - off to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.
fredag, februari 04, 2005
Despite the snow still lying around in patches, it feels like winter is slowly losing it's grip. The animals are more frisky and the new shoots are appearing. I noticed a few crocus shoots peeping up through the lawn by the front door. I was amazed to see them in early February, but I guess they know what they are doing. It's still cold - hovering just below zero, certainly cold enough to regret not wearing gloves outside but it's warm enough not to want to hibernate. And the sun is warm enough to feel good on your face if you stand out of the breeze.
The days are getting longer, too and I notice it especially in the mornings. It's so nice to wake up to almost daylight.
It's been a crazy sort of week and I've been flat out. I'm really looking forward to the weekend as it is one full of dinner with friends and lots of laughter over a glass of wine. Some new friends are coming here tomorrow so I've been busy cooking up a storm this evening (I like to actually sit down and talk to guests. There is nothing worse than being invited over to someone's house and they spend the whole time in the kitchen!) and then we are off to our oldest friends for dinner the following day. They live in a northern suburb of Stockholm and we haven't seen them since they arrived home from a month in Thailand just before Christmas (they fortunately arrived home two days before the disaster). So we have a lot of catching up to do. Both sets of friends have sailing boats, so I expect we'll also be talking about projects with our boats and plans for summer sailing. I've been in touch with an American friend who lives in Gävle and hopefully we may meet up on our way up to Höga Kusten.
Today as I was going to the shop, it occurred to me that Sweden has an easy, convenient re-cycling system. It's far better than anything I remember in Adelaide. We always recycled and my council area (Burnside) were environmentally aware and arranged periodic collection of recyclable materials. However, here in Nynäshamn the system is much better.
Most of the recyclable stuff can be taken to a collection point located at the local shopping centre carpark. How great is that? You simply bring your cardboard, tetrapaks, plastic containers, bottles, jars, tins, batteries etc along with you. Place it in the marked container and head in to shop. You are charged for shopping bags here, so most people re-use them and they are perfect for transporting your packaging to the shop and your shopping back home. If the bag is too old and starting to break - recycle it and buy another at the same place. In terms of convenience, the system is wonderful for the consumer - there is no excuse not to recycle.
Most people have these nifty compartments in their "bin cupboard" under the kitchen sink, but I just use my paper shopping bags and when they are full, I take them to the shop. At the carpark, I place the stuff in the appropriate bin:
Those ones take cardboard packaging and hard plastic (like toothpaste tubes, tomato sauce bottles etc). The glass is put in special containers as well. The green one is for coloured glass, the white one for clear glass containers.
There is also a system here for monetary refunds on some types of bottles and cans (pant). For those, there are special machines located just inside the door of the supermarket. You insert the bottles, cans, crates or whatever and are given a slip of paper with your refund that can be cashed at the checkout (or deducted from your bill). These machines have laser readers that read the barcode on the items. This is because it is possible to buy soft drinks from places like Estonia and Poland here. These have not been taxed in Sweden, are a little cheaper but the containers are not recyclable.
A woman was nabbed here last year cheating on the system. She had printed off barcode labels for Swedish drinks and glued them to non-Swedish bottles and tried to collect a few hundred kroner from them. Security spotted her and she was arrested. I couldn't believe that anyone would bother for just a few bucks. Surely it's not worth their while.
Anyway, I have a pavlova to get organised for tomorrow, so I'll leave you with a funny picture I was sent by a friend the other day. It's a motto to live by!
This month's postsAnd the sun shone through our window (måndag, februari 28, 2005)
Catching Snowflakes (lördag, februari 26, 2005)
Ärtsoppa (arsenic optional) (torsdag, februari 24, 2005)
February Made Me Shiver (tisdag, februari 22, 2005)
Awesome hair day! (onsdag, februari 16, 2005)
We come from the land of the ice and snow (tisdag, februari 15, 2005)
Footprints in the Snow (söndag, februari 13, 2005)
Some like it hot! (lördag, februari 12, 2005)
What is life? (torsdag, februari 10, 2005)
The Viking Run (tisdag, februari 08, 2005)
Lazing on a sunny afternoon (söndag, februari 06, 2005)
The days are packed (fredag, februari 04, 2005)
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