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Beyond the Lone Islands

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Swedish Halloween/All Saints Day

Friday was a chilly, grey day, but without rain or wind. I was in town in the morning - the streets outside the florist's shops and supermarkets are all lined with grave decorations and candles (have been for a couple of weeks, culminating on this weekend). I live near an old cemetery, with a lot of very old graves, and very few new ones - but already on Friday afternoon, there were candles and lanterns lit on just about every second grave. More will be added... There are lots of people about, all the time - putting down decorations, lighting candles... There is very little talking; all is very hushed and quiet.

In a couple of hours, my aunt and uncle will come to pick me up, and we'll go on to my dad's house outside town, where my brother is also waiting. After a meal, we'll go together to mum's grave (and a few other family graves). This is the first Halloween after her death. (If you missed my Monday post, I've written more about my feelings and the family situation there.)

The pictures in this post were all taken yesterday. As you can see, most of the trees are now bare; just a few golden leaves left on some (next time the wind blows, they will go, too). The air is chilly, and darkness falls early in the afternoon, since we set our clocks back to winter time last weekend.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 87

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 87

plumber, autograph, Florence Nightengale, a chill wind’s a blowing, watering hole, sleek, triplets, backwards, surface, tension, parrot, free estimates, French fries, carpet, Braille, silver-tongued bandit

Note on the words: Picking up the link to #87 today, I find that I made a mistake when picking up the words from last week. I took surface and tension to be meant as separate words. I don't have time to rethink and rewrite today so I'll just make apologies and leave them as they are in my story.

* * *

Lost track of the story? I don't blame you. (You blame me, if that makes you feel better.) Click on the label SlumberPartyMystery below the post to find all previous episodes. This week's Chapter 34 picks up the thread way back from Chapter 28. In between, we have been following Lt Skittles and Diana visiting the Brigadier General (Diana's grandfather) at the hospital, and having coffee together in the hospital cafeteria, and going to the Modern Arts Museum. (If you missed last week's episode, which I'm afraid came in rather late, you'll find it here.) 

Now it's high time we get back to check on dr Adam Challenge...

* * *

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 34 – Adam's Saturday Adventures

Dr Adam Challenge's Saturday had not started well, and did not seem to be getting better. During Lieutenant Skittles' unexpected visit in the morning he had tried to remain calm on the surface, but their talk had left him with a lot of tension. After Skittles left - advising Adam not to leave town - on top of everything, Adam discovered that his toilet was out of order. He called several plumbers, repeating the same questions feeling like a parrot, but none of them would give free estimates on a Saturday. Finally he got in touch with one sleek silver-tongued bandit of a plumber who promised to come and have a look at it the same evening, but at four times the normal cost. In spite of the sunny day, Adam felt a chill wind blowing.

Right after that, just as Adam was contemplating going to his favourite watering hole and get himself a drink and some French fries for lunch, he got an emergency phone call from a patient having triplets. Adam found her lying on the living room carpet and there was no time to get her to the hospital. He had to deliver the babies himself. Luckily everything went well, in spite of one of them coming out backwards. The husband, before following the ambulance in his own car, compared Adam to Florence Nightingale and asked for his autograph in triplicate, to give to each of the children later on. He also wanted it in Braille for the children's grandmother but Adam said he would have to get back to him about that.

Watching the happy father drive away, Adam suddenly felt a lot better about himself. After all, the Brigadier General had not died; and today he had helped bring three new lives into the world.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Quotation of the Week (44/09) - What's Important

If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life or a state or a civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 3, Chapter 1

... I'm still rereading this book, slowly...

Monday, 26 October 2009

The Dreary Misery of Halloween

I can imagine the title causing a raised eyebrow or two, especially among the American readers. That is why I have to write it. During later years, the American pumpkin-horror-trick-and-treating has made its commercially inspired efforts to find its way into our tradition, too. I'm sure it has had its effect on the younger generation - for better or for worse is still debated. For most people, I think they still feel like foreign traditions rather than "our own". Personally I'm still not comfortable with them - even post-Harry Potter. (Which did open up my mind a bit about pretend-scary being a way of dealing with real-scary...) But then again I'm not comfortable with "our own" traditions either...

Swedish Halloween-All Saints Day traditions are basically of much more solemn nature. It's actually the only holiday that has sort of grown more and more 'religious' in later years, while every other holiday has grown less and less so. Not necessarily Christian-religious, but still religious. It is the holiday when thoughts are turned to the dead and loved ones no longer with us. Graves are tended, covered up for the winter, and on this weekend thousands and thousands of candles are lit in the graveyards. This is also the time of year when all of nature dies and darkness falls; we pass from autumn to winter. The trees drop their last colourful leaves. The very last flowers shrivel up and disappear. The weather is totally unreliable - there are often rainstorms, sometimes frost or sleet or snow. More often than not, Halloween night is stormy, wet, icy cold, and pitch dark. At least, in my memories, it is. And still people insist on spending this night of all standing about in graveyards, trying to strike fire to matches and candles that the wind immediately blows out again and the rain will drench.

In my childhood memories, on Halloween, everyone was always in a bad mood. Whatever the weather, the graveyards would be visited - and at night. You lost your way in the dark, you got blinded by other people's candles, you stumbled upon things, your feet were freezing cold, your hands were numb, the wind turned your umbrella inside-out, the candles would not light, there was a lot of muttering between teeth if not outright swearing, and there was not one happy thought the whole day, because at heart, everyone was sad, and just wishing it would all be over. And no one could explain properly why exactly we were going through all this, except that it was what one was supposed to do. (And what would people think if one did not.)

My maternal grandmother died when I was six, some time in the early autumn I think. (While my mother was pregnant with my brother, and her sister with my oldest cousin.) So from then on, if not before, that's where my memories of the Halloween graveyard tradition start. Then my paternal grandfather died when I was 14, and in that churchyard there are several other old family graves as well. We made our rounds...

When as a young adult I moved away from home to another town, in another direction... I always avoided going home/ to my grandparents' town at Halloween. I was thoroughly glad to escape it all. The time of year still always managed to depress me, in spite of that. I never found Halloween church services uplifting either - choirs dressed all in black, solemn organ music, requiems, listings of all the people who died over the year...

Then for various reasons, I ended up moving to the town and neighbourhood of my family roots, after all of my grandparents had already left this earth. Some years later, my parents also moved back to the same neighbourhood. Halloween came upon us again... I still usually tried to avoid it.

Nine years ago, towards the end of October, something happened at my place of work back then, which was the start of my still ongoing vicious circle of chronic pain problems (neck-shoulder-arm). I don't want to put the details about that on the blog. But it's not a happy anniversary, and it does nothing to brighten up this time of the year for me.

One year ago, my father was still driving, but I was not too happy about that. Especially, I did not want him driving all the way into (or home from) town in the dark. I gave my parents two choices: Either I would go to the cemetery in town for them. Or if they still insisted on going themselves, they'd come to me for lunch, and we'd go to the cemetery while it was still daylight, and they must promise to go back home before it got dark. They said they'd think about it.

On Wednesday evening before Halloween last year, my father was brought into hospital after a fall at home, his leg muscles having failed him (he could not get back up on his feet again). He spent two weeks in the neurology ward, and nothing was ever to be the same again. My mother also had a shock and her health after this also deteriorated quickly. She died in May 2009. Dad still lives on in his own home with a lot of help from home care staff. One year ago, we would not have guessed that to be the situation today. But that's how it is.

Friday before Halloween last year, mum and I both went together to the hospital to visit dad. Mum then spent the night at my place. On Halloween Saturday, she went to the hospital to see dad, and then went back home on her own. I went to the cemetery in town, on my own, to my maternal grandparents' grave, and one more, to light candles; so at least mum would not have to think about that. It was an unusual Halloween in that it was a clear day, and very still. I also went before sunset, and alone, and by my own decision. It was peaceful and beautiful, and since it was not pitch dark I could actually see that. In a way, it was also oddly comforting that there were so very many other living people about at the same time, doing the same thing.

Seven months later, mum died. I took care of all the funeral arrangements. I dread this upcoming Halloween. As it looks right now though, my dad and my brother and I will also have the support of mum's sister and her husband, who will be joining us, on Saturday. I hope we'll somehow get through it together. But to say I'm looking forward to it, would be a gross exaggeration.

As I've written before on this blog - the grave next to my mum's belongs to a 16 year old girl who was murdered this past summer. Last week, a picture of her grave was all over the front page of the morning paper, because of the upcoming trial. I can't even put a name on how that makes me feel. It's just a Fact.

Anyway. If I won't be returning cheery wishes of "Happy Halloween" - now you know a bit about why.

If I had no other living person but myself to think of on that day (but I still do), this is what I think I'd do:

Before sunset, I'd go to the grave of my maternal great-grandparents, which is in a cemetery very close to where I now live. They died long before I was born, and I did not even know of this grave's existence until six months ago when my aunt showed it to me; but since I now pass that cemetery almost daily anyway, I have since then sort of adopted it as representative of all the other family graves I never go to. Not that I keep bringing flowers or candles or anything - I just walk by it. But at Halloween, I might take a candle there, and lighting it, let that be a symbolic nod (for myself) to all the other unvisited graves as well. After that I'd go home and make a cup of tea, and listen to some Celtic-inspired music. I'd probably choose the CD Under the Violet Moon with Blackmore's Night, and especially the song The Wind in the Willows. And then I'd watch Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (i.e. the first film) on DVD.

If all goes according to plan (which, however, remains to be seen), that's unlikely to be exactly what I will be doing on this particular Halloween Saturday. But I might do it some other day instead.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #86

Readers: Apologies in advance for the contents below! It was either this or skipping another week...
No time; and some of the most impossible words I've ever come across so far, I think... LOL

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #86

Incensed, sidewinder, bogus, conniption, Haz-mat, conniving, customize, perforated, zeal, rolling off a log, abstemious, chlorophyll, origami, cheerleader, dung beetle

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 33 - More Distractions

After having spent about fifteen minutes in front of the Pinnochio painting, Diana also dragged Skittles through the rest of the Modern Art Museum. He did not understand much of what he saw, but it was undoubtedly an experience unlike anything he had been through before in his life.

The next room was incensed with heavy aromas. In the middle of the room stood a sidewinder on a platform. As they got close to it, an alarm went off. Men in customized Haz-mat suits came running into the room. They seemed to be going into conniption and at the same time showing great zeal in examining the sidewinder. Skittles didn't understand a thing what they were on about. He feared a conniving setup and looked anxiously around for the emergency exit. Diana, however, said that it was all bogus and part of an art performance. She clapped her hands, and the men in the Hazmat then did a sort of cheerleader dance before they left the room. As they left, Skittles noticed that the back of their suits were all perforated.

In another room, there was a painting of an abstemious hermit sitting on a pillar looking out over the desert. At the bottom of the pillar there was an oversized dung beetle of chlorophyll-green colour. Diana stood for quite a while in silent admiration of this painting, which was entitled Rolling off a log.

The last room turned out to be an enormous plain white hall, containing nothing but a very small piece of colourful origami artwork. The sign said it was of Swedish design. After having expressed some appreciation of this, Skittles suggested that perhaps they should go and have some lunch. Diana, apparently, had nothing against that.

Friend's 50th Birthday Party

Click on image to enlarge. Copyright: DawnTreader.

Yesterday I had the honour of being a guest at a friend's 50th birthday party. I have not been showing a whole lot of pictures of friends and family on the blog. Myself, I confess I also feel a lot more comfortable behind the camera than in front of! However, I decided to do a collage of some of the photos from yesterday. It will give you an idea, and since the pictures don't get too detailed this way, I don't think anyone would mind.

Middle: Birthday Boy.
Upper right-hand corner: Birthday Boy's Wife (in blue).
Upper left-hand corner: Peruvian friend dressed up in his national costume.
Bottom right-hand corner: That's me to the left (in blue).

Birthday Boy and Wife have been close friends of mine for almost 24 years. When I first got to know them, individually, they were not yet a couple. As newly-weds, a few years later, they were my next-door neighbours for a while, across the landing. They have their own house now since many years, and two teenage boys. We do not see as much of each other as we used to, but we usually get together in a small circle of friends once or twice a year. They're also the kind of people you can always turn to in a crisis... Even if it was a while since you last talked!

Yesterday was a big party, so I also got to meet with several old friends I had not seen for years. Didn't have a chance to really talk to all of them, but it was good to see them, and to catch up a bit with some of them. It was a long time since I attended a party this size. Some 50th birthday parties I've been invited to during the last decade I have not been able to go to, because of my chronic pain problems including difficulties travelling etc. This one was at my friends' own house and not too far away, so I was happy to be able to go. It was an open house kind of thing, so people kept coming and going. I came among the first, who also happened to be people I know fairly well; and I got a lift home with a friend and her daughter before it got too late (long-lasting) for me, so it all worked out well.

Birthday Boy had said he did not want presents, but would be happy if people wanted to give some money to a foundation for which he works, helping people with drug/alcohol problems. Besides such a contribution, I made him a birthday card with a collage of autumn photos that I had taken the same morning. (Follow link to see it in my Picture Book.) Inside the card, I included another collage of pictures from the years we've known each other. I also took 38 photos during the evening which I will copy onto a CD for him (after some editing - I've spent this morning fixing red eyes!!!). He took some photos himself too (you can see he's holding his camera in the picture above!), but being the focus of the party yourself, it is not easy to concentrate on being the photographer as well... (I know from experience...)

No one else seemed to have brought a camera.
Strange people!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Cruel But Necessary

The geranium plant had been growing big as a bush on my balcony during the summer. It won't survive winter outdoors. There was no place for it full size indoors. Either it wouldn't get any light, or I wouldn't get any light... I had to cut!!! Remains to be seen how it recovers from surgery...

It's my own balcony in the background.
No peeping into the neighbours.
Best to be on the safe side (referring to previous post)!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

I Knew I'd Get In Trouble

I knew I'd get in trouble with my camera one of these days.

This summer I've been walking around town a lot taking photos, and getting more and more unconcerned what people might be thinking about it. It's not unconceivable that behind my back, perhap I'm getting known as "that woman who always stops and stares, apparently for no reason at all" or "you know, the one always waving a camera about even in places were there's nothing really interesting to photograph".

For example, people who rushed by in their cars over the bridge on Sunday morning, probably never even caught a glimpse of those spiderwebs that I was taking dozens of pictures of, walking back and forth on the sidewalk very slowly, stooping down and whatnot.

I'm still hesitant about taking pictures of people in the street. I did take some such pictures at the autumn market, because somehow, on such special occasions, people don't seem to be bothered about it, or even notice. Sometimes, I also try to get shots of people from a distance - like walking away from me. Just to get some sense of motion into the photo. Their backs turned towards me, they don't notice; and it's highly unlikely they would even recognize themselves if they ever came across the picture. Which in turn in itself is extremely unlikely that they ever would since I'm blogging in English and rather anonymously.

Yesterday, not far from where I live, I stopped in the street and got the camera out to get a shot of the continued autumn colour change in the treetops. I did not even really notice there were people further down the street, until after I put the camera back in its bag. Then I heard and saw them, a bunch of school boys occupying the whole sidewalk, shouting rather loudly to one another. I crossed the street over to the other sidewalk - still at quite a distance from them. Then as they approached, suddenly one of them called out - surprisingly polite, considering the language they had just been using towards each other:

- Excuse me!
I wasn't looking at him, and at first did not get that he was talking to me, across the street. He repeated:
- Excuse me!
- Yes? said I, turning towards him, thinking maybe he wanted to ask the time or something.
- Were you taking pictures of us? (suspicious tone of voice)
- No, said I, surprised (and hoping to myself I was telling the truth).
- But you had your camera out just now! (still suspicious)
- Oh... Just the trees... said I, with a very vague wave of my hand towards the distant treetops... and feeling very stupid, because the view was not really all that obviously stunning and worth taking photos of!

By then I sort of half expected having to clear the memory of my camera on spot, under supervision of half a dozen nearly-teenage-boys...

But astonishingly, all I got back was an "oh" and a shrug.
And they continued their way, and I mine, in peace...

When I got home, I checked my camera.
The boys were not in the picture.
Relief for my conscience!

But perhaps I'd better check the surroundings as well as my "focus" next time, before taking pictures in strange places... Or I might end up arrested for suspicious behaviour or something!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Quotation of the Week 43/09 - Acts of kindness

Acts of kindness, like breadcrumbs in a fairytale forest
Lead us past dangers as light melts the darkness

Acts of kindness, like rain in a draught,
release the spirit with a whoop and a shout.


From the song I don't believe by Paul Simon (Surprise, 2006)
Read the full text at
(And don't be deceived by the title!)

During the last week I have been in mood for this CD, Paul Simon's Surprise, and played it several times. By now faithful readers of this blog know that I'm a Paul Simon fan ever since my teens. I have quoted other lyrics of his previously, I think even from this album. Today, listening again, it was the words above that "popped out" to me. However, the lyrics in full are also worth pondering over. The song is entitled I don't believe. Much too often when someone utters those words, we kind of take for granted that we understand what that means. Instead of taking the trouble to ask: What exactly is it that you don't believe?

Sunday, 18 October 2009


Earlier this week, GB at Eagleton Notes had a post about making time to "stop and stare". He also referred back to an earlier post in which he included in full the poem from which that expression comes - Leisure, by W H Davies. I liked that poem so much that I printed it out. I'd also like to repeat it here:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

This morning, I went for a walk. My plan was to go for a stroll first, and on the way back pop in at the supermarket to pick up a few things. I'm a town girl, and going to the supermarket on a Sunday doesn't usually bother me, if it happens to be practical...

But today, Nature overwhelmed me with the most spectacular show I think I ever saw. I had to stop and stare!!! I'll pay my respects to the supermarket another day. Today, by the time I got as far as that place on my walk, I could no longer bring myself to break the atmosphere of tranquility and beauty by going in there. It would actually have felt like a sacrilege...

First, there was the morning mist on the river, lifting gently...

... revealing the whole bridge railing full of spiderwebs, a long row of them, one after the other, dew drops making them look like jewellery in the low morning sunlight...

So I passed the supermarket, without going in.

Instead I turned around, and went back again along the river...

Then, under the high alder trees, suddenly there was the song and dance of hundreds of birds, high up among the branches and leaves...

They were much too high up to let me identify them properly, or catch them with the camera... They were quite small. The ones I caught a glimpse of looked like great tits. This surprised me though, because those usually stay here for the winter. At least we see some of them then, too. But I've never, at any time of the year, seen like a hundred or more of them together before, behaving like this.The overwhelming impression was a concert of praise and excitement, like a last gathering and rejoicing over the autumn colours, before leaving to go south for the winter. I have never seen anything like it. I have never heard anything like it. They were fluttering about all the time. At the same time, leaves were dropping from the trees. Sometimes, you could not distinguish whether that yellowish thing headed towards the ground was a leaf or a bird.

Again, I stopped for a long, long time and just stared!
Finally I went home, because my feet were getting cold from all the standing still...

At home, I looked up the great tit  (Parus major) in my bird book. It says most of them stay here over winter. But some do leave, "especially certain years"... because of lack of food. Made me wonder if it was that slush-attack the day before yesterday that made them decide to leave! Or if they can sense in other ways that it is going to be a bad winter...? Anyway, it was a really impressive farewell-concert...

More pictures from today's walk in my Picture Book. I took I-know-not-how-many photos of the spider webs, because it was hard to determine how they would actually come out...! More might be coming up in future posts...

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #85

I apologize for last week's absence from the Wordzzle. I was too distracted by other things to be able to focus. Now I'm back to tackle my own words... They seemed pretty good to me when I sent them to Raven a couple of weeks ago. Now suddenly they seemed not so easy at all...!

Raven's Wordzzle # 85
early morning light, Pinocchio, mist, leaves, sandy, coffee, walking, traffic, pray, stomach,
train, art, admirable, cotton, fluffy

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 32 - Distractions

Much to his own surprise, while having coffee with Diana in the hospital cafeteria, Skittles found himself telling her all sorts of things about his own past rather than taking the opportunity to ask her some questions that had been on his mind since the previous day, about "the case". In fact, he was starting to wonder if there was "a case".

"John," said Diana – because he had just told her his first name – "I think I'll skip my bowling appointment, I'm late for it already. Won't you come with me to the art museum instead? They have a painting on show that I'm just dying to see. A friend told me it's so spectacular it makes you want to pray.You don't mind walking a bit, do you? There is so much traffic." She didn't really wait for Skittles' reply, but went on: "I'll just go and put my bowling bag in a locker here, and make a quick phone call to Sandy, that's my bowling friend. See you in a minute!"

Skittles watched her walk off. She was wearing a blue cotton dress today. He had a curious fluffy sensation in his stomach and was not quite sure if that was the heavy piece of cheese cake he had just been eating, or possibly something quite different.

An hour later, they were standing in front of a huge painting entitled "Pinocchio waiting for the train in early morning light and mist among the falling leaves".

"Well, what do you think?" said Diana. "Is that an admirable piece of art or what?!"

Skittles really thought that "or what" would be the more accurate answer – but nodded, and tried to look as if he understood these things. He had never set foot in a modern art museum before in his life.

Friday, 16 October 2009


This was the sight that met my eye when looking out from my windows this morning.

I do not rejoice. It is not really snow - it is pure slush. Icy cold and somehow even wetter than rain. There is no proper footwear that will hold against it and still keep your feet warm. It does its best to kill what was left of the glorious colours of autumn. It tells you that gloomy November is on its way...

See more photos from today here in my Picture Book.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Honest Scrap Award, with and without Stipulations

It has happened again: I've been honoured with an Award!
I think it is the third, and I never quite know what to do with them.

The first one I accepted gratefully, but could not fulfill the attached rules, because I was still fluttering about almost by myself out in the vast cyberspace, not having anyone to pass it on to. I made another promise instead, which I have kept. You can read about that here. I said I would continue to explore the blogworld and hopefully make some new friends. I did, and I have!!!

Since then, I've seen other awards floating about, and I have also gathered that some people just love awards, while others have quickly grown heartily tired of the vast set of rules they usually come with.

The next award that came my way I also appreciated because of the giver and the motivation, but I decided not to send it on, because again, I found I got stuck on the to-do-list that came with it. And in connection with that, I also sort of made a promise, that if I ever gave away an award, it would be without to-do-list.

Then, the other day, when I looked in at Rae's Us in Tejas blog, I found myself on her list of recipients of the Honest Scrap Award. The way she describes it, I understand this to be pretty much the blogworld's equivalent to the Nobel Prize, and that of course makes me extremely proud to be nominated for it - and especially by Rae, who is a truly worthy recipient of that award herself. I'd have sent it right back to her if she hadn't already just received it.

However. This award too came with a whole bunch of Stipulations. (Rae's excellent wordchoice, but I added the capital S to make it look even more impressive.) Rather time-consuming ones, too. This requires some thinking! Especially since it is the Honest Scrap Award, and I have recently been having very serious conversations with blogfriends about honesty and promises. Not connected to blog awards, but still!

My decision: I will gratefully accept the award from Rae, because I feel very honoured to have her as a faithful follower of my blog; and because she used the word Stipulations instead of Rules! I will also more or less follow the Stipulations for my own part. I.e. visit the blogs of the other people she chose to give this award to; choose seven new recipients of my own; and share ten things about myself. But: When I send it on, I will make the Stipulations entirely volontary for those friends. They have so totally already earned it, without having to work extra for it. I think that is the best compromise I can arrive at.

Most of you know some of the others already so the checking-each-other-out part might not be too overwhelming. Come back another day if it doesn't suit you right now. The list will still be here. What you choose to do with the award itself after looking at it, that I leave up to you!!!  Here it is:

Ahem... Silence please... My announcement:
I hereby present the Honest Scrap Award to the following people:

To Rose-Anne at Welcome to My World (who likes awards), because it was she who got me blogging in the first place. In Rose-Anne's world, you'll find some honest scrap-booking.

To Scriptor Senex for his Words, Words, Words and Phrases blog, containing scraps of interesting information about obscure words and phrases in the English language. (This blog however is only one in a long list of enjoyable blogs by same author.)

To GB at Eagleton Notes, because his very honest blogposts and comments marked by British humour always make me smile and sometimes laugh. If you don't find him at home there, try his New Zealand blog, because he is about to travel again soon.

To Dan at Wood and Pixels Narratives for his striking pictures, thoughtful reflections and steadfast faithfulness in encouraging and keeping up an honest dialogue with other bloggers (me included).

To Simply Heather, especially for hosting  the Soaring through the world in pictures blog, "where people become friends, as they share their findings with each other". Heather is the honest wonderwoman in the background who takes care of all those little details that make it all the easier for the rest of us. (Layout and such.)

To Raven at Raven's Nest for keeping up her weekly Saturday Wordzzle Challenge in spite of all the chaos going on in her house lately. She keeps her participants constantly torn between despair and inspiration in our efforts to make sense of those impossible word combinations. She is also a very honest blogger.

To the Dragons at Dragon's Lair who mysteriously also always keep watch over the Wordzzles and give astonishing insights into the world of Dragons. Did you know for example that Dragons can write poetry in imitation of classic poets? Dragons are also very honest in their opinions about humans. I'm not quite sure how they stand on accepting awards from us, unless the awards are edible. Maybe I'll find out.

To Dr John at Dr John's Fortress (who I know does not like awards with Stipulations attached), for his surprising combination of very honest sermons vs. enjoyable crazyness in his fiction.

Now the reader who has been paying attention will shout: HEY! That's eight, not seven! Well, since I'm not sure whether dragons really want to be counted as people, I found it best to be on the safe side!

Now, here are my ten facts about myself. Actually you will find more than the stipulated number here too. I thought I had better try and make up somehow for all my other Stipulation-breaking.
At the age of 5, I liked to draw pictures. Also periodically later in life.
At the age of 10, I liked to read Enid Blyton. I have enjoyed almost any book with a secret passage in it ever since.
At the age of 15, I was madly in love with Simon and Garfunkel. Still am. I also thought I was one day going to be a librarian. That plan changed.
At the age of 20, I moved away from home to another town to study, joined a gospel choir, made some wonderful friends (quite a few of them I still count as friends 34 years later) and generally led a very intense life with a lot of fun. (Looking back, I don't understand when I found the time to actually study.)
At the age of 25, I was working as secretary for the executive manager of firm of consultants within the paper industry branch; and some of my spare time was devoted to a Christian book-café.
At the age of 30, I had completed another three years of university studies (English and German), moved to the town where I still live, tried to earn a living as a substitute teacher, lived in a sort of Christian community (15 or more separate families/households but with a lot of common acitivities and interaction) and again made some wonderful friends who I still count as friends 24 years later (although we no longer live so close).
At the age of 35, I had given up my teaching career (chiefly because it got too stressful when I could not find a full time job in one place) and was working as medical secretary at an occupational therapy unit.
At the age of 40, I was still in the same job (with proper medical secretary qualification added) but in a different church (and also 4 years of part time academic theology studies added). I celebrated my birthday "big" (well, sort of) with family and friends from both the past and the present.
At the age of 45, I had an unfortunate kind of accident at work in which I pulled a muscle or two rather more seriously than it seemed at first, and ended up with chronic neck-shoulder-arm pain problems. That turned most of my life as I knew it before pretty much upside-down, and not in a good way.
At the age of 50, I had been in early retirement for a while already. I was not really in the mood to celebrate my 50th birthday at all. But then I was invited to spend it with a group of friends from 30 years back, in the town where I lived back then; and still having them as friends did feel worth celebrating!
Since last summer, I have moved to a new flat, both my parents' health deteriorated seriously last autumn, and my mother died at the end of May this year. In the midst of all, in January, I entered the Blogworld. And somehow gradually found all the above Honest Scrap Award-worthy people, "and then some".

Friends - this blogpost took me three days to write.
I did feel inspired to write it, or I wouldn't have made the effort.
But I honestly don't think awards should come with Stipulations.
Only pick those up if you feel really inspired to.

Myself, I'm going to put this award in my sidebar. I worked hard for it. I still haven't checked out all of Rae's friends (now wasn't that an honest confession to end with!), but I'll get round to that.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

An Artistic Experiment

Today I left my camera at home when I went into town to post a letter and pick up some groceries. I've grown so used to bringing it with me lately that now I feel like I've forgotten something when I do not have it with me, even when I left it at home on purpose!

I've taken so many photos these past colourful autumn weeks... This one, I played around with quite a bit in PaintShopPro9, and was pleased with the water-colour-ish result!

Monday, 12 October 2009

P.S. I Love You

Lately I haven't been watching a lot of films. I happened to pick up this one yesterday when I had to go to the supermarket to buy some food necessities. I had never heard of it before but it seemed it might be just the thing for a grey autumn Sunday afternoon. It was. It goes straight to my favourites list, because it was bittersweet and humouristic at the same time, with that odd twist that makes it not-just-any-old-romantic-comedy. It is about a 30 year old woman, married since 10 years, and then her husband dies of some illness. After his death, she starts receiving letters from him. He wrote them before his death, and they are delivered one by one, with the purpose of helping her get through grief and find herself and her life again. Every letter has that PS to it - I love you. It sounds a bit weird, and it is, but at the same time it had a strong ring of reality to it. It is about remembering, about picking up the scattered pieces of a broken life, and about embracing and letting go at the same time. It is beautiful and joyful and sad, and I loved it. The acting is superb, the music wonderful, and the film is set partly in New York and partly in Ireland.


Today is the start of the yearly elk-hunt in Sweden. I do not take part! No one in my family that I know of ever did... I did twice in my teens try rifle-shooting on games days in senior high school. That was because it involved less running around than the other alternatives... It did however involve lying down on muddy ground. Whether I ever managed to hit the target board, I cannot remember. Anyway - I much prefer shooting with the camera. And an occasional walk around the zoo is really enough wildlife adventure for me.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Quotation of the Week (42/09) - Friends

"Always be kind to your friends, because without them you would be a stranger."
-Source unknown-

In my previous flat, I had a big noticeboard in my hall, full of photographs of friends and family, postcards and newspaper cuttings. I found no good place for it when I moved to my present home (last summer). Looking through the photos, it also struck me that many of them represented the past rather than the present. (Years fly by... Little toddlers grow up to be teenagers and young adults. And then for some reason the parents stop sending me family pictures at Christmas!) So I made some different arrangements where I live now. I put the old photographs in an album, and put some newer ones up in a different way. Anyway... Among the old yellowed newspaper cuttings was one with the quotation above. (In Swedish, so the above is a translation.) It's still in my mind even though it's not on my wall.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Mere Christianity

I think few readers of this blog will have missed the fact that I'm a C.S. Lewis fan. (Hello! My blog title and my blog name are both his inventions!) In case you did miss it - now you know, because I'm telling you.

I don't think I actually read even the Narnia books until I was in my late 20s; but then I read almost every one of his books, theology as well as fiction, and a few biographies about his life as well. In my third term of college English literature studies, I wrote my essay on the concept of good and evil in the Narnia series. I think I can safely say that no other writer has had as big an impact on my overall understanding of Christianity as C.S. Lewis. Books by and about him (most of them in English small print pocket editions) occupy approximately 50 cm of my shelfspace. (He shares a shelf with Tolkien and J.K Rowling.)

I have kept returning to his fiction frequently; however, it has been a while since I properly reread any of the theology books. Some weeks ago I took out Mere Christianity to look something up. I got caught. The book has stayed on the shelf next to my bed since, and I'm reading it slowly. I'm rather fond of the picture on the cover of my 1979 pocket edition, so I scanned it for you:

The following quotation has been lingering in my mind this week. It's begging me to share it. Lucky me - when I googled, I found the whole book availabe as e-text. I can copy, don't have to type! It also means that if you urgently want to read more of the surrounding context, you don't have to go find the book...

The contents of this book were first given as radio talks. Lewis kept that style in the printed version. If he had lived today, I think he'd have been a great blogger!

'A "talk" on the radio should, I think, be as like real talk as possible, and should not sound like an essay being read aloud. In my talks I had therefore used all the contractions and colloquialisms I ordinarily use in conversation.' (Quote from the Preface)
From C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 2:

Very well then, atheism is too simple. And I will tell you another view that is also too simple. It is the view I call Christianity-and-water, the view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is all right - leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption. Both these are boys' philosophies.

It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of - all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain-and, of course, you find that what we call "seeing a table" lands you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end of. A child saying a child's prayer looks simple. And if you are content to stop there, well and good. But if you are not - and the modern world usually is not - if you want to go on and ask what is really happening - then you must be prepared for something difficult. If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.

Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are not silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack. When you try to explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an instructed adult, they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is all too complicated and that if there really were a God they are sure He would have made "religion" simple, because simplicity is so beautiful, etc. You must be on your guard against these people for they will change their ground every minute and only waste your tune. Notice, too, their idea of God "making religion simple": as if "religion" were something God invented, and not His statement to us of certain quite unalterable facts about His own nature.

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. ---
Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Some Groundhog Blogthoughts

Some thoughts on bloglife inspired by posts and comments during the past week...

In theory, I don't really expect anyone to actually keep up with every word I write. (I've said that a couple of times before.) That would be totally ureasonable, because I don't have the time or energy myself to always read every post in every blog I follow either. (And even less comment on.)

And still, when writing, one sort of assumes that readers have read - and what's more, also still remember the contents of! - previous posts... Because honestly - and I think most of you will agree with me - otherwise one would never get on with anything... One would be stuck in a kind of Groundhog Day (the movie with Bill Murray), just repeating the same things over and over. (In the long run, not much fun for anybody!)

The thing is, after a while, one knows there are certain readers who usually do miraculously manage to keep up pretty well. One gets comfortable, and forgets that not everybody was there from start; and that those who weren't might need to be filled in sometimes about certain facts briefly mentioned in the past.

Thinking about it now, this week has been a sort of Groundhog Day (or week) for me. A lot of going round in circles and repeating, although trying to learn from my mistakes at the same time. (That is what they do in that movie. If you've missed it, it's worth seeing. More than once.)

In the meantime, I realize yet again that I've come across some really amazing people here in the Blogworld. When I started this blog ten months ago I was kind of writing into empty space. I no longer feel like that. Thank you.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Another Day

I'm still really tired after the adventures of the day before yesterday (see The Troubles of Today 6 Oct) - and this whole tomorrow-today-yesterday thing is getting really confusing now! I will have to think of some other kind of heading soon...

I was made aware by comments from concerned friends on the last two posts, that it might perhaps be a good idea to repeat the facts that I myself suffer from chronic pain in neck-shoulder-arm, and that my dad has problems walking (among other things - it is a neurological problem). It was too far for him to walk within the hospital, and I can't push a wheelchair, and these facts combined caused A LOT of problems - which I really should have foreseen more clearly than I did (and protested more loudly than I did about the arrangements, or lack of, in this case). I probably would have, if I had had a bit more time to think than just finding out about the appointment half a day in advance... Hence I also had not seen the letter which said quite clearly that blood samples should be taken a week before the doctor's appointment. Home care staff missed that line, which made the whole extremely tiresome day quite meaningless, because without the test results the doctor of course could say nothing. This is what I had in mind in the last post when I argued that "worrying" a bit more beforehand, in this particular case, might actually have helped...

Yesterday, I tried to call home care to discuss how to avoid this kind of thing next time, but of course the Right Someone was on holiday for the rest of the week. (Aren't they always...) I did talk to Someone Else, but had better try again next week to get hold of Ms. More-Directly-In-Charge to make sure. So it's still hanging over me.

Today I was still feeling strangely extraordinarily stressed... It kept getting worse until in the late afternoon it dawned on me that I had forgotten to take my blood pressure pills in the morning.  (The fact that I forgot to take them still indicates stress...)

This was another depressing post to write and probably to read. I don't want to write stuff like this. I want to write fun-to-read stuff. I hope I'll be able to get back to that soon. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Troubles of Today

(Readers are advised to read yesterday's posts before this one.)

Sorry, Jesus! For once (-?-) I have to argue with you: I actually think a bit more worry yesterday might have saved at least about a dozen people a lot of trouble today. I  would not even be surprised if today shortened my own or someone else's life by a few hours, but that will of course be hard to prove...

I'm lying in bed now, at four in the afternoon, and don't have enough writing energy to go into details. But to sum up: All that came out of today was that some blood samples got taken that should have been taken a week before, which  could have been done locally without going to the hospital in town. Since it was not, all the rest of today's hospital visit was a total waste of time and energy for me, dad, busy specialist doctor, several nurses, receptionists, drivers and others...

Well. One more lesson learned: Next time, home care staff will have to accompany dad to the hospital, even if I sit in on the actual talk with the doctor. What was I thinking?! What was anyone thinking?! "Good will" is not enough to get through a day like today. My dad needs a lot more physical assistance than I can provide; and don't think that just because you're in a hospital, there is always staff at hand... If I knew who to yell at, I'd yell. Loud. However, I don't really know who to blame... Lots of individuals today went out of their way to be helpful; the fault is not with any of them. Tomorrow, I'll try to phone Someone In Charge and talk calmly about how to avoid the whole thing from being repeated...

Thanks to all who responded to my worries from yesterday and who have been thinking and praying. Keep it up, please. I'll need it.

Monday, 5 October 2009

The Worries of Tomorrow

In spite of the quotation I just posted - "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" - my thoughts will not quite let go. Home care staff phoned at noon and assumed I knew my dad has a hospital appointment tomorrow. I did not. I also don't know how long they have known; or how long dad himself has known. Anyway, now I can no longer claim ignorance, and will have to accompany him. That is, they are going to put him in a taxi and expect me to be there when he arrives and take it from there. Dad himself has no idea what kind of specialist it is that he is going to see or why (I talked to dad after I talked to the staff). I have some idea, but am confused, since I thought this was something that had already been dealt with and decided not to proceed with. I'm trying very hard just now to postpone the worries until tomorrow. Actually not so much worries about what the specialist might have to say - that I can postpone until I know. What my mind is circling around is the details of how to get dad and myself through the practical procedures and the maze of hospital corridors tomorrow. I might be able to be of some intellectual support, but when it comes to physical support, don't try to lean on me...! Waiting is not what I'm best at, either - in a physically upright position.

Quotation of the Week (41/09)

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
--- For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
The Gospel of Matthew 6:27, 32-34 (NIV)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Perspective Matters

Last Tuesday, I wrote a post about Walking My Camera, and coming home with a lot of pictures. I only showed you a few of them, though. Now I'm going to take you on a walk with me around the same lake, where there is also a bird sanctuary. The reason for this is that besides some unusual birds (which I don't have the names for) I also at one point had a very surprising sight of something completely different. For a moment, I almost thought Aliens had landed - and then I'm not talking birds! The Thing was Huge, and because of that there were two things about it that surprised me: One was that I had not seen It the last time I walked around the same lake only a few weeks earlier. The other strange thing was that only a moment after I saw It this time, It was out of sight again, and did not reappear.

We start from the south end of the lake, and walk north along the west side.

12:11 Here are some birds I don't know the name of.

12:13 Approaching bird sanctuary.

12:15 Black swans are not a common sight.

Some birds are kept within fence.

12:27 The north end of the lake.

12:36 Now we're on the east side looking back across the lake at the sanctuary.

12:38 Further away from the sanctuary.

12:40 Further still. All peaceful and quiet.
12:45 Next time I turn round to look back, there It is:

A few more steps... And It was out of sight again! Spooky.

12:48 Back at the south end of the lake. No It in sight!

Of course It is no space ship, even if it does seem rather 'alien' in these idyllic surroundings... The only reason for UFOs entering my mind in connection with It was really a recent discussion with someone... ;) It is here to stay, because It is part of a new district heating power plant, at quite a distance from this idyllic lake. And only visible from a certain point of view, if you walk around the lake anti-clockwise. Last time, just like now, I walked round clockwise; and then you don't see It at all, unless - like I did now - you happen to turn around and look back at exactly the right (or wrong) spot!


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