July 29, 2014

Tant Lund and the Flood

This week we have had thunderstorms (expected and welcome after the last month´s exceptional heatwave) and sudden and violent floodings (less expected and less welcome), particularly of the city centre in our neighbouring town of Piteå, where shops had to close to battle the waves and the rescue services were called out to everywhere at once to pump out water quickly before damages were too great and costly. At least it is getting people to talk about climate change, because this is what we Swedes used to call "continental" weather.

I experienced one great flood when I was little, perhaps ten years old. We were living right by a fair size lake, and we were lucky to have a slope of perhaps three meters between our house and the normal water level, but our neighbour´s house foundations were pretty much right on top of the water.

Grangärde Turisthotell (borrowed from here)
Her name was Dagmar Lund, we kids called her Tant Lund (tant being what you called all grown-up ladies when I was little, although the custom was actively counteracted in the progressive and feminist 70´s, and now no one want´s to be adressed Tant, because it takes their minds to someone like "Old Granny", which not even old grannies want to be these days. Anyway, Tant Lund was a grand kind of lady. She had run the local hotel before she had retired, and she had been married to a physician, and in old style introduced herself as "Doktorinnan" (= the Doctoress), and a lot of folks called her that. Out of respect, I imagine, but then I liked her very much.

My little sister and I (on skates) in front of Tant Lund´s house, with the promontory on the left. She had a boat tied to the front door during the flood. I think she was much entertained by that!

She was like an extra granny to me, unlike our other neighbour, Tant Ingrid (she was a first name-tant, which says something about the grandness of Tant Lund, who never would have thought of us calling her Tant Dagmar) who was nice but not as inviting. Tant Lund, on the other hand, almost always included my siblings and I in her projects. We each had a tomato plant in her green house, which we helped her tend (and she cleverly taught us all kinds of things about plants) and got all the produce from. She took us on mushroom hunting excursions and then taught us how to preserve them (her own secret methods), after which we made mushroom sandwiches au gratin for our parents. She made rhubarb pie with us. She made us help her guard the seagull nest on her small promontory. She sat angling with us on her lawn. She had a real, proper attic, the kind you only read about in books, full of old chests and furniture and treasure, and she would organize games with things we found there.

She had two daughters living far away, and grown-up grandchildren, one of which was a young man who had a large, very cool motorcycle. When he was visiting she would open her shed to show it to us every time we came over, which was pretty much every day in the summer. She loved that motorcycle, and now I suppose she saw her own adventurous self in her grandson. She had traveled much and had exotic souvenirs like a part of a sarcophagus on her wall. At 79, she started studying French.

She also had great style. She was the only old woman I knew who wore her hair long, but always elegantly up in a chignon (a bit like this). I once saw her hair out, when I came (early, I suppose) one day and she wasn´t dressed yet. She had a dressing gown that looked like a long smoking jacket and her hair was braided on her shoulder. As she got older, the chignon got darker and her hair whiter, so I guess it was a fake hair piece that she pinned on.

Grangärde village, and we lived just outside the photo, on the left. (from Wikipedia)
Anyway, I was going to tell you about the flood. The water came up at least half a metre, maybe more, over her ground floor, and a reporter from the local press came to make an article about the disaster. She stood on her balcon and told a dramatic story about how she had fled the waves crushing in on her in the middle of the night, having to take refuge upstairs. This bothered me, as she didn´t live downstairs at all! She had a row of guest rooms there, all furnished with different colours, the Green Room, the Yellow Room, and so on (her miniature hotel). But her own living quarters were upstair and had always been. (Her bachelor brother inhabited a bedroom behind her kitchen, but we didn´t see very much of him.)

Being childishly virtuous about truth-telling, this bothered me, and I complained to my father that she had told an un-truth to the reporter. He just laughed it off, saying that of course she had spiced up her story a bit, and there was nothing wrong with being entertaining. Commendable, even. (Like in "24 Hour Party People" when Steve Coogan/Tony Wilson says something like: If you have to choose between the truth and the legend, always choose the legend.)

Unfortunately I have no photograph of Tant Lund. And I wouldn´t even want to try drawing her from memory. She was too great to fit on a piece of paper, a true Legend. Greater than I understood, probably. Perhaps I would have been too shy of her to get to know her if I had been older. I think she fundamentally shaped my idea of what it is to have class, style, and live a good life.

July 25, 2014

Who wants to be a nurse?

One report after another in the papers say it is hard to recruit nurses, both fully trained ones and orderlies.

I know one nurse and she is not working in the profession any more, having been completely crushed by the burden of the job. (She has actually been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress!)

Having witnessed some chaotic situations at our local hospital lately, I wonder who is going to want to take it on. Worrying, to say the least.

July 24, 2014

Symphony Hall

In 2009, I spent a few days in Birmingham on my own, and was lucky enough to be able to attend a concert at the wonderful Symphony Hall, which is situated at the Centenary Square in the company of the ICC (the convention centre), the Hyatt Hotel, the Repertory Theatre, and recently, the city library.

They had something called Igorfest during April and May of that year, a final instalment in a series that had been going for four years, a project to perform Stravinsky´s complete works. What I got to hear was his Biblical Works: Babel; Abraham and Isaac; The Flood; A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer; and lastly, Threni - Lamentations of Jerusalem. They had a pre-concert talk where you could get some background and it was most interesting, although I remember little of it now. One of the works, it might have been The Flood, had only been performed once before, and none of them are often performed, which made it all the more sad that there were so few in the audience.

When it started, I recognized the voice of the reciter, and it turned out to be one of my favourite actors! Samuel West was, among other things, Anthony Blunt in "The Cambridge Spies", a series we have seen several times. (His mother is the wonderful Prunella Scales, Sybil Fawlty in "Fawlty Towers"). West often narrates television documentaries and it has happened that I watched something less interesting just to hear him speak. (I may have mentioned his gorgeous voice and this concert before.)

This time, there was no concert on while we were there, but the kind concierge at the ICC let us in for ten minutes to take pictures and just admire it. He said it is built on springs to prevent the vibrations from the trains going underneath it to reach the hall. It was obvious that he was very proud of it and very proud of his city, too. And rightly so. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is perhaps most famous for having had Sir Simon Rattle as their conductor for almost two decades.

July 23, 2014

Ghost Worker

I think anyone who works at night can feel a bit like this guy.

He is so cute, reminds me of Laban, the Little Ghost. I found a cute film about Laban on youtube, where he and Prince Mischief tries to convince the Queen´s friend that ghost exist.

(Put up by Jordan Raikonen.)

July 22, 2014

Sun Stroke

The weather map these last days has been very red, indeed. It looks like the whole world is in the red zone, and our national weather forecasting institute, SMHI, has issued a warning concerning unusually high and potentially dangerous heat levels in the north of Sweden. Here, that is. Honestly, I can´t remember there ever being a heatwave of this magnitude since I moved here some two decades ago. With temperatures over 30 C/85 F every day, at least no one can complain about there being no proper summer! Some complain about the heat, of course, but most manage and even enjoy it. Some think it silly to issue warnings, considering it´s fairly moderate temperatures on an international scale, but while many Swedes are well-traveled, many are not, and as they say on the SMHI website, "Sweden may have a relavitely cold climate, but the population´s sensitivity to heat is also higher. We have defined our warning criteria to suit our inhabitants." (my translation). They issue warnings when the prognosis says the temperature will be over 26 C/79 F three days in a row, so that those who work in nursing and hospitals will be able to prepare. An article in the daily local paper says that mortality rates are 10% higher in the heat, and what happens a lot is that people sit in the sun (Scandinavians love sunbathing) and don´t drink enough.

No worries about the mum-in-law, though. She loves the heat, and worries about her home help people, pressing them to drink several glasses of water, juice and whatnot while they are with her. That´s her thing, really, nothing cheers her up more than being of help to others. She is overall in much better shape and now gets a weekly checkup at the hospital, as a "day-patient". No more acute rushes to the ER, or so we hope.

I had sunstroke once, as a kid on vacation with my parents in Italy. We were out walking in the sun during lunchtime (heading out for ice cream, I think) and I remember falling into the ditch. There wasn´t much talk about drinking enough water that I recall (it was more like "don´t drink so much, you´ll just have to go to the bathroom again and it´ll be such a hassle"), but after that incident my parents bought sunhats for us kids. I had to buy one for adults, as my head even then was unusually large.

I look grumpy on all snaps from that vacation - heat and sun never was my thing, and the ideal at the time was to soak oneself with oil and bask in the sun until almost black. Was there even such a thing as sunblock? My mother and my siblings all take sun well and tan beautifully, but my father burns easily and tans slower and I take after him. I was actually reproached for being pale, like it was a character flaw. It was often suggested that I should just pull myself together and "train" my body to tan. Luckily, the culture has changed since, and people know a lot more about how dangerous the sun can be. Thank god for science!

July 21, 2014


Perhaps I have already passed on a link to Mattias Inks, a quirky illustrator whose work I am falling ever more deeply in love with, but I don´t mind reminding you if that is the case. His world is populated with the most endearing creatures and every thing seems animated. I have just recently begun to suspect how much he bases his drawings on the real world. His eye must be something very special, indeed.

July 20, 2014


Birmingham is very exciting, architecturally (I blogged about the new library at the Bookshelf), and they were busy at work on their fancy new railway station when we passed by. This is the entrance:

And the fence that surrounds the construction site is also used as a makeshift gallery:

July 14, 2014


So I didn´t read much during our trip to England recently, but I did leaf through one of those free airport magazines (can´t remember the name of it) and came across an interview with British comedian Francesca Martinez, who has cerebral palsy (but prefers to call herself "wobbly" according to Wikipedia).
"I once met a guy in a pub and told him that the world made me feel abnormal. He said: 'You are abnormal: most people in the world live in dire poverty. You are lucky, so take your head out of your arse and open your eyes.'"
Then I read this otherwise very funny piece by David Sedaris on the New Yorker website:
"I thought of the first time I had a kidney stone. That was in New York, in 1991, back when I had no money or health insurance. All I knew was that I was hurting, and couldn’t afford to do anything about it. The night was spent moaning. Then I peed blood, followed by what looked like a piece of gravel from an aquarium."
Now that really made me feel lucky, who live in a country where I don´t ever have to consider whether I can afford to ask for help when I am in pain, or even minor discomfort. On reflection I suppose we all have limitations, either in ourselves or imposed upon us by the world we live in; but I think that no matter how lucky we are, it is natural to regret the things we can not do (and there will always be plenty of those). Perhaps realizing that one´s potential is in some ways hampered is even necessary to be able to turn one´s attention to the possibilities we do have, and be creative within that framework.

July 10, 2014

Cute Buttons

I found these at a flea market in Scarborough. Aren´t they wonderful? I bought ten of the little pens, and see before me a black (silk?) cardigan with those pen buttons, that would be just a dream. I got twenty of the other ones and I think they will do nicely on a white linen shirt. I do have a weakness for nice buttons, and will often pick up odd ones. Nothing will transform a regular, boring shirt like a new set of buttons.

July 9, 2014


I was looking through my files and found some photos from an art exhibition in January. I give you two works of art from Hans Isaksson´s "+-0 (plusminusnoll)" (= plusminuszero):

From the presentation: "What we see, and how we perceive it, is above all a matter of perspective, of how perceptive one is as an observer. Reality is not a stable spot but a result of expectations, and in Hans Isaksson´s artistic work there is also play beyond the illusion, where everything always is something else. There are no facts, only interpretations of facts. Johan Hedbäck, colleague and friend of Hans Isaksson, suggests an attitude one can adopt when looking at Isaksson´s art in a recently published monograph on Hans´s work: "Perhaps one should do as when looking at faint stars at night; try to focus one´s gaze close by but not directly on the object, to see it more clearly"." 

(my quick & dirty translation)

= Canvas on oil.

July 7, 2014

A Homely Feeling

I am really trying to draw every day, even when I go nowhere "interesting". The other day I was cleaning, and not much else, and I took a break from vacuuming and made this sketch.

Actually, these little drawings of our home is very dear to me, and whenever I come across one of them, they make me very happy. I suppose they make me aware of how much I love our home. No photograph has ever made me feel that way, that´s for sure!

July 5, 2014

Local Theatre

We have a really cool theatre in our town; it is housed in a row of old harbour storehouses. It´s a great way to preserve old buildings and the character of a place. The theatre was founded in 1967, as the first regional theatre in Sweden - a collaboration between Luleå municipality and the county Norrbotten, and the building was finished in 1986. Since 1996 the university runs a drama school here, accepting eight students every other year.

The first play I ever saw here, in 1992 probably, was "Dagning Röd" (= daybreak red) by Bengt Pohjanen. Its subject was a religious sect in Tornedalen (north of us) in the 30´s and this is still such a tender spot for many that someone threatened to bomb the theatre! We had to leave our seats and walk in the winter cold along the quay while the dogs searched the premises!

We don´t go nearly often enough, but in 23 years I have seen some great plays, most memorable was perhaps "Macbeth" and "The Seagull". I can´t help it, I love the classics, even more if I have seen them many times before. Going to the theatre for me is like having a storybook read to me, and like a little child I want to hear my favourites over and over and over...

July 1, 2014

Home-made Sketch/Notebooks

The husband has been telling me for weeks to blog my sketch/notebooks. He thinks they are cool, and who am I to deny that? I have never found a really good notebook, trying out this and that, and when I started drawing more this spring, even whipping out my old watercolour set, my need for something better than Luleå could offer became acute. I considered ordering from afar, but balked at the expense; I go through quite a few pages a day. Finally I thought: perhaps I can do them myself? I consulted the Internet, and of course, it had much to offer on the topic. I studied and learned, and this is what I arrived at.

I buy a standard white printing paper, size A4, which is a bit heavier than normal, 160 g per square meter, but still smooth and glossy, which I like. It is thick enough not to bleed through most pens, colours, and inks. They come in packs of 250 sheets, which will last me at least six months.

Then I use an awl, a cutting-board, a darning-needle, some heavy thread (I use a cotton crochet yarn for lace-work, because it´s the kind of thing I have lying around), a pair of scissors, tape, and punch pliers (not pictured). Here we go:

Fold the sheets in half. I use eight in a book.

Punch six holes through the folding. 

Thread the needle and start sewing from the outside. 

Stitch back and forth and join on the outside, where you started.

Tie a tidy knot and cut the ends by about a centimeter.

Cover and fasten the seam on the outside with a nice looking tape. 

I use two pieces that overlap. Don´t try to fix it if it goes wonky,
it doesn´t matter much.

I don´t make a cover for each sketchbook, instead I use the same cover over and over again. These covers are sold in a number of stores selling stationary and such. I also have one that I got from the husband´s stash - something he picked up at some conference. I prefer it since it is rather sturdy, but it is of poor quality and will not last long, unfortunately.

Just finished the sketchbook of the week.

Two punched holes and an elastic band makes a holder for the book.*

Two punched holes in the cover, and two in the pen case, an elastic
 to tie them together.

Here I added the sketchbook. The elastic goes over the center fold. 

And I close it snugly, with the pen case attached at all times.

I use this book for graphite drawings and put pages in made by
oven paper to prevent smudging.

Here is one that has two pockets and don´t need an added elastic. 

I use this only with the fountain pen. Minimalist!

As the books are finished I just put them in a drawer. I plan on a fancy
box when I see how much a year makes.

And that´s it. Simple, really. I have experimented some with putting pages of other colours in there, but I don´t like the texture of the coloured paper that is available. I really enjoy that glossy stuff! Perhaps it is because it gives me more control, I don´t know...

* If you are wondering about the coffee filter - they make a great substitute to blotting-paper. Also, you can sharpen your pencil over it and retain the litter in it.