June 29, 2014

Stray Snail

So I was cleaning the other day and found this fellow - he is dead, unfortunately - on the windowsill under the window in the livingroom that we open to air the flat.

The fellow is very small, only about 4 mm long, and I wonder about his natural habitat, because the window he must have come through is on the third floor. I know they are good climbers, we saw many of his cousins when we were in Österlen (southern Sweden) a few years back. It has been very windy, though - perhaps he flew in?

June 27, 2014

Imagined Sufferings

The other day when we were eating out, the husband reached over for the camera and took a snap of me. He then handed it back, saying: "Look how pretty you are!" This made me realize I may have been going on a bit much lately about being "old, fat, and ugly". As he likes to point out, that is all in my head, unrelated to any measurable facts, like what the scales say, and all about how I´m feeling. (Except that perhaps I am older. Every day.)

Pretty with beer.
We have a saying in the family that was minted by my husband´s father, who was a notorious freezer - he would never dress enough when going out, and once he got cold he always wanted to return home, ruining the mum-in-law´s expectations of a nice outing. Once, when the mum-in-law was scolding him for not dressing properly, he said: "It´s no use putting anything on, the cold is intestinal." (Sw = invärtes) At least he could always make her laugh, and it became a standard expression for all kinds of easily remedied or imaginary sufferings.

The mum-in-law´s partner in later years, after she was widowed, was also a man who couldn´t, or wouldn´t, dress. He famously went with her on a two-week cruise in Russia with no long-sleeved garment whatsoever. He also refused to buy anything, which didn´t stop him whining, so she lent him her cardigan (which was of a mannish style) and bought a Russian style one for herself. It wasn´t a bad acquisition (as vacation purchases usually are), she loved that cardigan and wore it to shreds.

She had one more suitor, about a year ago, who invited her to his place for tea. When we asked how it went she said that they had gotten on fairly well, except that he had complained about cold feet. (Swedes never wear shoes in their homes, it is considered very unhygienical, some wear slippers.) She asked why he didn´t get himself some wool socks, that would help. "It´s no use, they just wear out." That sealed it for her, she was not having another man in her life whining about being cold!

Looking at the picture, I realize that prettiness may be intestinal, too, and literally at that, since I love a cold beer on a warm day, and a true smile is the best makeover there is!

June 25, 2014

Birger Lundquist - Illustrator

Dagens Nyheter, our largest national daily newspaper, is having a jubilee this year, and are running lots of historical articles, most of which I enjoy to read, being bent in that direction. I particularly enjoyed reading about Birger Lundquist, who was a ground-breaking illustrator in the 30´s and 40´s, introducing a more sketch-like aesthetic to the newspaper illustration. He was aided by the introduction of blacker ink to the fountain pen, which made it easier to make a sketch on site that was print-ready, and no doubt photography helped to free the illustrators, allowing them to be a bit more creative.

The funeral of King Gustaf V.

He also illustrated books; among the authors he worked with was Alf Henrikson, who wrote daily verses in Dagens Nyheter and many popular books on history, both illustrated by Lundquist. When Lundquist died in 1952, only 41 years old, he was succeded by Björn Berg as Henrikson´s illustrator. I have mentioned Berg before, as he also illustrated a favourite Dagens Nyheter journalist of mine, Torsten Ehrenmark.

I snapped these sketches from the article, and found some more about him here. I absolutely love his style, as I love Berg´s, maybe it´s because they communicate a feeling of urgency that comes from being there when it happens. A photograph can´t do it the same way. Pressing the shutter takes as long whatever the circumstances. Drawing is another matter. Lundquist must have drawn all the time - he left some 80.000 drawings when he died.

One of his collegues, who were once typing in the car which Lundquist was driving, looked up to discover that he was drawing and driving at the same time! "It´s only landscapes," he said.

Study of Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander.

June 22, 2014

Midsummer Celebrations

The entrance to Gültzauudden. 

This year, we decided to be all traditional on Midsummer Eve, and go to Gültzauudden (= the Gültzau promontory, or spit) and celebrate properly. We don´t do it every year, I have to say, and much of it is about me being in bed until three or four in the afternoon most days. But now I´m on vacation (hurrah!) and as I need to readjust to dayliving, it seemed like a good idea to go. Mum-in-law is in a good shape and joined us. 

The wooded promontory has been a place for hanging out and having a good time since Luleå was established in this location in the 17th century. You can see ruins of a burned down dance palace, and there used to be a skijumping stadium here a hundred years ago. Now there is a beach, and a café situated in a building that is a copy of the old town hall, which stood not far from here. Between 1693 and 1861 a house just like this one was the seat of the mayor, the court, over-night accomodation for the county governor, the fire brigade, the jail, tax storage (some taxes were delivered in kind), and a tavern. It would barely house one family these days, we are so spoilt for space. Of course, in those days they didn´t have plumbing, no bathrooms or toilets, barebone-kitchens, and so on. What they did have was firewood storage, and I bet it cost a pretty penny to heat the place. 

There were lots of people, in spite of the weather. A cold wind was coming in from the north, bone-chilling, but no rain. This did not seem to put a damper on anyone´s mood, everyone was incredibly jolly, actually. The local folklore society ran the show, and had already done a version of it earlier that day at the folklore museum Hägnan, in Gammelstad. They were amazing, I thought. They must really enjoy what they do. 

We have been a few times before (more than ten years ago) and I can not remember it being so well organized , or so well-attended. I think perhaps our immigrants have something to do with that, they have re-vitalized the interest in folklore, which have been waning since the 70´s, when everyone was into sewing their own folk costume and polka dancing. Even I, as a ten-year-old, went to a schottische course. 

There was a fishpond/grab bag stand for the kids, music from the stage, a speech by the Council president, the children were "maying" the pole, which was then paraded and erected. The folklore specialists led the dance from a small circle around the pole, and so many joined in. After that, there was a dance show, and again, the audience was invited to join in, which they did, enthusiastically. 

We then took a short walk to the car and went home to enjoy our dinner of pickled herring. I lost control of my snapping finger and took 392 photos! Too much, really, but it was such fun. 

During the Council President´s speech.

The Little Frog Dance

So many little girls were dressed as princesses. Don´t remember that from when I was a kid. 

Doesn´t it look like he is jiujitsuing her? I love his style, he looks like Santa´s overseer. 

Some really lovely wooded promenades.

June 19, 2014

Glad Midsommar!

I recently had to ditch my old mobile phone (too hard to find batteries) for a new one, which has a camera in it. I keep forgetting and hardly use it - also, it´s crap unless it is very favourable light conditions - but this morning I was inspired to take a snap of a neighbour´s flower arrangement.

Now we embrace the Midsummer spirit: it is bitterly cold (8 degrees at the moment and the forecast says not to expect more than 10), and still, most of us will obstinately and bareleggedly sit outdoors on summer house patios with our barbeques and pickled herring lunches, with goose bumps, rattling teeth, fighting the mosquitoes and spilling our snaps (which is essential for warmth, ehum...).

Midsummer Eve is the real Swedish national holiday. We are never more truly viking-spirited than now, never tougher, prouder, or more serenely happy to be us.

June 18, 2014

Sketching on

So little time, so much to do. I know, I´m not posting drawings like I said I would, but I am drawing every chance I get. It is very cold outside at the moment, so sometimes I just take an old holiday snap and work with that. I just put a few pages through the scanner (I am struggling so with that old thing but it is much better than a photograph), and here is a selection:

Sunday dinner at Goodwill restaurant. 

From a holiday snap.

A garbage hut in our neighbourhood.

Holiday snap from Cornwall.

June 15, 2014

Not a Robot

The frustration I expressed the other day with not being good enough and doing enough work ended with a statement that I was open to suggestions. Today I got a newsletter, or "Sunday Dispatch" as he calls it, from Paul Jarvis, and it read like just that to me.

Jarvis is a webdesigner and allround creative, whose book on "Everything I know" I read during my blogging hiatus and apparently never wrote about on the Bookshelf. Well, Jarvis is no sucker-up, he is as real as they come and doesn´t exactly sugar-coat reality or his opinions, so if you want or need to feel unnaturally encouraged (which I confess I sometimes do), he probably isn´t the one you should turn to. Also, at the advanced years I´m at, I pretty much know what he is talking about, though I forget when I am in most need of a steady supply of coffee to stay on my feet.

Robots don´t get blue or wear their t-shirts inside out.
Anyway, this is what he writes:
"Come to terms with not being a robot

Too many productivity tips don’t take this into account: we need to sleep, eat, take breaks and move. As humans, our attention spans need variety and we can’t always control our thoughts or motivations.
This is also why I try to stay ahead of my schedule. Because sometimes my brain just isn’t working at full capacity and my time is better spent resting than working. So I set deadlines I can easily meet with some wiggle room instead of giving myself just enough time to get things done. That way, if I need a break, I can take it without breaking promises."
This will be my new answer to myself when I am disappointed with what I have managed to do: I am not a robot. I am not a robot. I am not a robot.

If I go on like that much, I will sound like one, though...

June 14, 2014

June 13, 2014


I just need to blow off some steam. A few weeks ago, I ordered three books from amazon UK, and they decided to pack them in two parcels. One parcel arrived, but the other did not. It made it as far as my so called "service point" - the Swedish Post Office, which has been a proud and revered institution since the 17th Century, is no more, alas - and then, because some poor sod had misprinted one number in my adress, indicating that I lived one single house away from my actual home, the parcel is now returning to the UK, and they are simply refunding me. I have to do the order all over again. If they had waited one more hour, I would have had time to catch it, as DK Post (so many operators involved...) was keeping me updated through e-mail, but they can not send me a notification with which I can collect my parcel, the service point has to do that. Been there before, it doesn´t work that way; DK Post only tells me where the parcel is, but can´t give me the number with which to collect it.


I turned to amazon UK with the exact reasons things had gone wrong, wanting to know what to do, wanting to be a bit reassured, and came in contact with a customer relations creature that must be a robot, because he kept speculating in possible reasons that my parcel had been undeliverable (I told him already!), and finally urged me to update my adress before placing my next order. My braincells were exploding like firework. It is things like this that make me go elsewhere with my business.

I know I am turning into Old Granny Whine, but I do have to say it is a mystery to me how the postman who does these rounds can fail to deliver a notification to me, even though the adress is slightly wrong. I have a similar job, and know people get adresses slightly wrong all the time, particularly when they gift each other magazine subscriptions. Unless there are several residents with the same name, it´s hardly difficult to imagine where it should be going, and make sure the adress on the subscription is corrected. With a letter, you don´t even have to do that. And if you are a summer vacation stand-in postman, or work at the service point, how hard can it be to look me up in the on-line phone&adress database? I am a returning customer there (and they should remember me, I have complained about the service there before)!

The Swedish Post used to be proud of being able to deliver a postcard with just a name and a town written on it. "As reliable as a letter in the mail", used to be a saying that was justified.

June 12, 2014


I had a lovely day yesterday with a friend who is also artistically inclined. We drove out to Gammelstad, which is Luleå´s old town, and took some photos and made a few drawings. The sky was a bit cloudy, but we had no rain, so with a jacket on it was quite comfortable. You can see my friend´s photos on her blog. We had both brought our telephoto lenses, and it was impossible to get the whole church in one shot.

Some quick history: The peace agreement between the Swedes and the Russians in Nötebro 1323 didn´t exactly specify where the northern border was, because this was uncharted territory, the land of the Laps (Sami), really. So, it became a matter for the Swedish Crown to establish a presence and put down the Swedish flag, as it were.

The first ones going out were the priests, of course, and in 1339 the first services were held in Luleå. Simple wood churches were built in every river valley along the coast, and in 1492 the stone church you can see today in Gammelstad was consecrated. By then Luleå was a thriving and even rich community. There is a lovely altar screen in the church, dating back to 1520, but the church was not open to visitors at the late hour when we got there. I am sure I will get an opportunity to go back and take some more photos later this summer.

The church is surrounded by the church village, rows of tiny houses built to accommodate the settlers who were scattered over a far too large area for it to be possible to congregate for services every Sunday. They would all come in for major church holidays and coordinate church services with markets, dances (to marry of their sons and daughters and generally have a good time), and thing, or court assemblies.

There was a harbour here, at the site where today we have the folklore museum Hägnan, where we sat for a drawing session. There is a café, but it had closed for the day. The harbour had to be abandoned in the 17th Century due to the elevation of the land, which is at a speed of about a centimeter a year. You can imagine what that does to a coastline in some three or four hundred years! The new town was built where it is today (though the working harbour is even further out nowadays), but Gammelstad has remained an important neighbourhood due to the church, which is now on the World Heritage list. It is a nice place to live, if you can afford it.

While I was drawing I was vaguely aware of my friend taking a photo of me and smiling - I reckoned I was looking funny, but was too engrossed in what I was doing to pay it much more attention than that. When I got home I realized she had used my camera, which is why she was looking so mischievous. The sparrows were quite unafraid, looking reproachfully at us for not bringing a picknick to share with them.

Old Harbour Street (Gamla Hamngatan)

Folklore museum Hägnan


June 10, 2014

Animal Encounters

Saturday morning I met a baby magpie that most likely had fallen out (or been pushed out, I have seen on nature documentaries how tough it can be) of a nest that´s been in a birch here since before I moved here, 23 years ago. I don´t suppose it is the same magpie couple, they must take over abandoned nests. It is quite a construction, with a very good roof over it. I felt sorry for the little fellow, but I was firmly taught never to interfere with nature, as there might be a parent somewhere actually caring for it. One quite often sees large, almost adult, fledgelings on the lawn, being fed by parents. I have never seen such a little magpie on the ground, though.

 It made me think about some other animal encounters I have had over the years. This year I have yet to see a hedgehog, they seem all disappeared since the landlord has started re-draining the house foundations. Perhaps that is where they dig down to spend the winter in hybernation, I don´t know. I just notice they are gone. Last year I saved a hedgehog who got his head stuck in a milkshake mug. Only the week after I found the magpies feasting by the side of the road and I thought someone had thrown away another fast-food meal, but it was the hedgehog they were eating - he had been run over by a car.

One summer, I was followed every morning for a couple of weeks by a pair of ducks. They seemed to think that my cart resembled their mum or something.

And one winter, I locked eyes with a fox for some 30 seconds (which is a long time staring at anyone who is staring back), and I could then see his tracks on the new-fallen snow preceding me all the way home. That was cool, and my only fox encounter.

Also, there were the elks, I got pretty excited by them. But it takes a very snowy winter to drive them into the town, looking for something to eat. I remember people being very reckless, going much too close. Elks are huge and deadly dangerous, not unlike bears, which people also have no respect of. People think they look cute, so they must be kind also. I blame Disney.

Rubus Arcticus

In bloom right now is our provincial flower, Rubus Arcticus. It will later turn into åkerbär, or the arctic strawberry. It is tiny, difficult to find, difficult to pick, but so full of amazing taste - there is really nothing like it. A real delicacy.