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Beyond the Lone Islands

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Rocket Post

Yesterday afternoon I suddenly found myself, for no apparent reason, without internet connection. What?! Why?! Help!!!

I confess: I have become an addict. I can no longer function without the WWW! Without access to it, I feel completely lost and out of touch with the rest of humanity!!!

Also have to confess, though, that the initial panic did not last all that long. After all, even though feeling a bit snowed in at the moment, I live right in the middle of civilization; and the only thing not in working order was the internet. Electricity, TV, phones etc were all working just fine.

So while waiting to see if the internet would sort itself out, I decided to watch something sobering to put things into perspective.

Nothing better for the purpose than the British film The Rocket Post (which I have on DVD).

The story is loosely based on experiments in the 1930s to provide a postal service by rocket mail to the island of Scarp off the coast of Scotland. (In those days, they did not yet have telephones on Scarp, and they were feeling a wee bit isolated.) For this purpose, a German inventor, Gerhard Zucker, was employed. Being German, he was of course received with some scepticism by the islanders; and at the same time, the German government was not too pleased with one of their own providing technology for the British. The story in the film focuses on this tension - and, of course, on a romantic love story... The making of the film was also surrounded by a bit of drama in itself, because while it was shot in 2001, it was not released until 2006 - three years after the death of the director, Stephen Whittaker.

Rocket mail, exciting though it may have sounded back in the 1930s, never became a big success. (And certainly not on the island of Scarp.)

However, one phrase used in the film hit me as I watched it yesterday. It was in some conversation comparing telephone vs. rocket mail: "Aye, but you cannot send letters by telephone."

Haven't we come a long way since then!!!

After watching the film, I unplugged my modem, plugged it in again - and voilà! I found myself once more reunited with the world wide web...

(PS. Photo of fireworks taken by me at New Year; not from the film.)

Friday, 26 February 2010

Rise and Fall

Since last night we've had a rise in temperature. A bit of rain on top of the snow. Not nearly enough to wash it all away though. Just enough to cause more problems with collapsing roofs, falling icicles, icy roads, delays in public transport etc...

Not having been out for two days, I still ventured out for a short walk to the nearest convenience store. Stupid idea. For the first time this winter, I slipped and fell. Didn't break anything, and luckily I landed in a heap of snow, and mainly on the part of my body designed for the purpose (sitting down). But also took a thrust with my right shoulder/arm (the bad one) with a shot of pain all the way up to the most painful spot in my neck.

So - foreseeing more time flat on my back* over the next few days, and less at the computer...

*PS. Reading this post over, the morning after, I feel that I should perhaps add that I was referring to lying flat on my back on my bed or couch - not out on the streets! ('Cos I'm not going out there again this weekend, unless some dire emergency forces me to!) LOL

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Going Nowhere

Haven't been out since Tuesday. Had my "exercises" (hm) with laundry and vaccuuming. Today we've had a brand new layer of snow again.

Since the weekend, more roofs of sports centres and such buildings have kept caving in (in quite a number of different places in southern Sweden). Some schools have also been shut because of the risk of similar things happening. There have been serious delays in train traffic (for example, no trains at all running on Monday between Stockholm - Göteborg, our two biggest cities). And the media of course delight in interviewing everyone about who is to blame.
(Who IS in charge of weather?)

Meanwhile, I have my own petty complaints like the weird sensation of being (painfully) aware of every bone inside my body. Hey, I know they're there, but do they have to keep reminding me...?

Picture found by Google picture search.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Doing My Best...

... BUT ...

Well! Getting more and more private here, showing pictures from my bathroom, and of my bare toes! Winter drives one to do desperate things...!

Whether it is besides or because of all the snow, the last few days have been really bad from aches-and-pains point of view, too. When I got back from today's walk I was feeling icy cold all over, and every little joint in the body was aching. How to survive the next few weeks or months without even the prospect of my weekly baths?! (See yesterday's post Waterhole.)

Today's answer is in the pictures above; in addition to which I also wore a microwave heated wheat cushion over my shoulders. The chair is one that I use on the balcony in the summer; and for the record, there was hot tea in the mug, and the book: Summertime by J.M. Coetzee (in Swedish)!

It's the first time in my life that I ever had tea and read a book "in the shower"!

Pedestrian Problems

Choosing some pictures today to give you an idea of the snow problems from pedestrian point of view. Here and there you do find a nicely ploughed sidewalk, going on for a bit - until...

... it suddenly stops! In this street corner, someone pushing a walker or pram or wheelchair, or for other reasons unable to "climb", just wouldn't get any further!

A pedestrian crossing over a heavily trafficated road - but if you manage to get across... surprise, surprise... you'll just find yourself facing another wall of snow, with nowhere to go!

Quotation of the Week (8/2010)

When you have only two pennies left in the world,
buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.

~ Chinese proverb ~

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Snow Situation

Going out for a walk in another direction today, I have to say the snow situation right now is really quite extraordinary. I don't think I've seen this much snow since the mid 80's, if even then. I moved to this town in January 1986 and I know the first two winters I spent here were very cold with lots of snow. But this much? I'm not sure.

At the same time I'm finding it a real challenge to quite catch the situation with the camera. It's hard to find definite points of reference; and the snow in itself gives so very little contrast.

My Friends-who-prefer-not-to-use-the-computer
will have to rethink soon!

And it has just started snowing again...


Most of the year, twice a week, I go to the hospital for individual physiotherapy exercises in the Rehab pool (which keeps a temperature of +33°C). This because of my neck/shoulder problems. After six months though (unless there are very special medical reasons) we have to take a break for three months, because there is a queue of patients waiting for their chance.

So far, since they introduced the three-months-break-every-six-months rule, I have been lucky: My first break fell in the early autumn and just after I had moved from one flat to another (so I really had a lot of things to keep me busy). And then last year the break was over the summer months.

After that I've had another six months training period lasting from late August until today. In the winter especially, although it is an extra effort with all the extra clothes etc, I really really appreciate the opportunity for exercises in wam water. I also find it serves as a kind of 'light therapy' because of the large windows and lamps and the reflections in the water. And even if I don't usually chat a whole lot with my fellow penguins on these occasions, it still also means getting out "among people" and seeing some familiar faces.

Today was my last appointment before the next long break. Yesterday, looking at the snow situation and weather forecast, I thought: No, I'll have to cancel. I did however set my alarm clock for the usual time this morning. I got up, and I looked at the thermometer outside my window: -16°C. That really is cold! But there had been no more snow to speak of falling over the night. The roads were ploughed yesterday. The busses would probably be running again. There did not seem to be much of a wind - yet. And it was my last opportunity for a very long while... So I plucked up my courage and determination, packed my gear, and got dressed (layer upon layer). I then as usual kept a lookout through the window for the bus, because this time of the year (trees bare) I can see it as it passes by (on a road some distance away) in this direction. And then at least I know it has not got stuck in some heap of snow (there is a tricky hill it has to get over on its way), and I have just enough time to put on my outdoor clothes and go catch it as it returns...

Then the phone rang, just a couple of minutes before I would have to leave. The call was from staff at the pool: No caved in roof (see yesterday's post), but they are having problems with frozen pipes! So they had to cancel! 

I'm so glad the call came before I left! (And that I answered!) It would have felt like such a waste of energy to get there just to find the place closed.

I'm now trying to pluck up that courage and determination again, to go out for a bit of a walk instead. (Without having to drag a heavy bag along.) At least I'm already half dressed for it... Maybe!  

Sunday, 21 February 2010

... And On ...

With the help of extra anti-sliding-devices in addition to the ones already permanently attached to my snow-boots, I did manage today to fulfill my mission to post the letter to my Friend-who-prefers-not-to-use-the-computer.

In spite of being well shod, it was quite an Expotition. I did not bring Provisions when I set out; but since the letterbox is next to a grocery shop, I did manage bring some home with me. (Provisions, I mean. Things To Eat.)

Sorry - I've been reading Winnie-the-Pooh again:
An Expotition to the North Pole...

There's really nothing better to lean on in this weather.

Somehow it did not seem very tempting today to sit down and eat my Provisions at one of the picnic tables spread around the neighbourhood.

On a more serious note:

Picture from local newspaper website

The roof of a sports centre caved in yesterday, from the weight of the snow. Luckily the football team practising inside managed to get out in time and no one was injured. But according to the paper they had only 15 seconds to get out from when they first understood what was happening until the whole roof collapsed. (They had to leave their outdoor clothes behind.) The same kind of thing has happened with sports centres in other towns, and also warehouses etc (i.e. buildings with flat roofs).

Now all sports centres in the area have been closed for the time being.

A lot of busses and trains were also delayed and cancelled this weekend.

More snow is expected tomorrow...
And even more later on in the week...

. ~ . ~ . ~ .

'My tail's getting cold. I don't want to mention it, but I just mention it. I don't want to complain, but there it is. My tail's cold.'

Saturday, 20 February 2010

It Just Goes On And On

Pictures above and below taken around 4 a.m. through the window.
The newspaper deliverers are having a really tough winter!!!

Since yesterday, we have probably had at least 30 cm of new snow on top of what was already there. It was also snowing earlier in the week. And it's still snowing! For today, there was a "class 2" weather warning (on a scale of 3) for a large part of the country.

I did go out for a very short breath of air in the afternoon today, but it was just too difficult to walk. My intention was to walk to the nearest letterbox and post a letter, but I gave up half way. The sidewalks hadn't been ploughed at all, and the streets were slippery with loose snow on top of treacherous ice. My friend will have to wait for her letter!

In the picture above you can see that the layer of snow on the ground now goes higher than the seats of the park benches!

To look on the bright side (for me personally), I'm glad that my brother managed to come last weekend when the weather was fine.
He also helped me get some supplies home from the supermarket.
Good timing, considering the new attacks of snow during this week!
I managed to get to my physiotherapy (rehab pool) Monday and Thursday; the rest of the time I've just been staying in!
(Apart from that very short walk today.)

In spite of the blessings of the Internet (♥2U!) there are moments...
A winter's day
In a deep and dark December; [in this case, February!]
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island...
~Paul Simon~

However, Saturday afternoon always offers a treat: my favourite radio talkshow or panel game, which is the Swedish equivalent of British Just A Minute. I learn from the Wikipedia article that the British game started in 1967; the Swedish one has been running since 1969 so was not far behind. The object of the game is for four panellists to talk for sixty seconds on a given surprise subject, 'without repetition, hesitation or deviation' (and challenging each other if they think someone does not keep to the rules). It always gets hilarious, and serves as my weekly laughing exercise!

Wish I could give you an example. but not much point in directing you to the Swedish Radio podcast site. (Any Swedish followers I'm sure will find their own way.) So I got curious to see if maybe BBC4 also had their version on the web...? I found two episodes currently available on BBC iPlayer (limited listening time). So if you don't know the programme, you have a chance to find out what it's about.

Now having listened to one of the British ones, it seems to me that the Swedish version tends to have more detailed subjects; often long sentences which are kind of short stories in themselves. Like, the British programme I listened to had one subject entitled "what's in my handbag". While today's Swedish programme happened to have one about "how I came to discover what X keeps in her handbag" - and X in this case being the leader of one of our political parties (aspiring to be our next Prime Minister if they happen to win the next election), whose handbag has been much discussed in media lately because someone found out it was a very expensive one!

What makes YOU "LOL" - laugh out loud?

Once Upon A Time

80 years ago today, a little girl was born far up in the North of Sweden. Her name was Birgit. 25 years later, that girl herself became a mother. My mother. She died last year on 26 May, at the age of  79 years, three months and a few days; so did not live to celebrate her 80th birthday today.

The photo above shows my grandmother with my mother in 1930.
I borrowed my aunt's family album a couple of years ago and used my digital camera to copy some of the pictures in it. This one was originally black-and-white, but I chose a sepia tone in the editing for this post.

When I was born, my parents (married the year before) had just moved to a new town, only a couple of months before my birth, and my dad had just started a new job. Mum was at home with me, her first-born child, in a town where she knew no one at all except her husband, who was at work all day. To me, at the age of zero to five, this was probably the most natural thing in the world, because it was my world. It is only much later in life that I have sometimes wondered what it must have been like for her. The only company she had during the day was little me and the radio.

One thing my mother sometimes did back then, to amuse herself as well as me, was to draw pictures. When I was about 1½, she put some together into two little hand-made picture books, which I still have. She covered the pages with sticky tape, which was probably a good idea at the time. I doubt she considered the possibility of the books surviving 50 years, and what sticky tape might do to the colours in the long run!

Anyway. I scanned these pictures now, using some colour adjustments on the scanner; and then put  them together into four collages, which you will find below.

The picture books were based on me. I'm sure I loved to be in focus! The fun thing about them now is that they show glimpses of the flat we lived in, the furniture we had, the clothes I wore, and the toys I had at that age. And one thing you will notice is that my Mum kept a tight rein on me, quite literally!

The first book is still kept together by the original binding.
It shows the procedure of taking little me out for a walk.

The other one is a set of six pictures. I'm not sure if there were originally some more. There is no text but the pictures show details from our flat. The radio. My bedroom. Our living room. My parents' bedroom. The hall. And some of my favourite toys.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

In Memoriam - Dr John

Today the sad news reached me that a Blogger friend passed away a few days ago. Dr John Linna, Wisconsin USA, of the blog Dr John's Fortress died on Monday, 15 February. His funeral, as I understand it, is/was held today (Thursday). My sincere condolences go to his wife Betty.

I think I first made blog aquaintance with Dr John about a year ago through the Saturday Wordzzle Challenge hosted by Raven of Views from Raven's Nest. Possibly, it might have been the other way round. Anyway, Dr John was an inspiring and imaginative partaker in the weekly Wordzzles. As I came to understand after a while, he was also hiding behind another signature: Fandango of the blog Dragon's Lair.

Dr John had a very special gift for mixing "crazy" fantasy fiction with profound Christian theology. At his Fortress, each Sunday, he preached a double sermon: One as himself, and one through the fictional pastor Joan of the village Pigeon Falls, where the most incredible events often took place. Like the whole village disappearing and going back in time a century or so... Somehow, Dr John still always managed each week to fit a "real" sermon into the situation, following the Common Lectionary used by the Liturgial churches.

The last sermon(s) published on the blog is from 1½ weeks ago, 5th Sunday after Epiphany. The Bible context is from Luke 5, when Jesus first meets the fisherman Simon, later to become Peter, leader of the twelve Apostles and founder of the Church. Here is a quote from the sermon that Dr John chose to put in the mouth of fictional pastor Joan of Pigeon Falls:

He does not notice the fish. He does not smell the fish.
He sees only Jesus.
In a moment everything has changed.
Coming back to shore he leaves his boat and catch behind and follow Jesus.

"In a moment everything has changed."
Dr John - You are ashore now, having left your boat and catch behind.
You will be missed by all your followers.
But we know where you went and whom you followed!

Psalm 23
A psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A Sunny Snowy Countryside Walk (2)

Behind the Mill, a path goes on over a small island, embraced by two different arms of the river. We continued our walk across it to the next bridge. The area is a nature reserve. In the summer, the island is a sort of meadow, with quite a few rare plants. This winter, it is a vast white field.

Hopefully the information on this signpost was not too important.

Half way across the island.

The other arm of the river.
This turned out to have its own set of ice formations.

On the other side of the river, the path leads on into the wood.
We did not go further this time, but turned around...

... and walked back towards the Mill.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

A Sunny Snowy Countryside Walk (1)

On Sunday, while visiting our Dad, my brother and I went out for a dog-and-camera walk in the afternoon. We were lucky with the weather: Sun shining from a clear blue sky, over vast fields of untouched snow. The snow stays so much cleaner in the countryside than in town!

Usually, it is my brother with the dog, and I with the camera.

It is an even competition who makes more stops:
the dog or the camera.

On rare occasions, the dog and the camera trade places.

The goal for our walk was a nature reserve area at an old mill.

The ice formations at the mill-dam waterfall were amazing.

"Ice pancakes" was my brother's name for these.

. ~ . ~ . ~ .

In another post, I will show some more photos from the little island behind the mill, and the other arm of the river - which turned out to have its own impressive set of ice-art.

I will also be showing photos from this walk at my Picture Book blog this week (starting today).

. ~ . ~ . ~ .

PS 1/ Meanwhile, outside my windows, the sky is all grey and it's snowing again...

PS 2/ This is my second post today. To learn how we celebrate
Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras / Shrove Tuesday) in Sweden, scroll down!

Proper Preparation For Lent

This pastry has at least four different names in Swedish:
Semla, Fettisdagsbulle, Fastlagsbulle or Hetvägg.

Semla derives from the Latin semilia, which was the name used for the finest quality wheat flour or semolina.

Fettisdagsbulle, because it is a bun traditionally eaten today on Fat Tuesday (in other parts of the world known as Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday). Which is TODAY!

Fastlagsbulle, because in Christian liturgical tradition, Fat Tuesday is the last day to go crazy about food before the start of Lent (Sw. fasta or fastlag), i.e. 40 days of fasting and restraint leading up to Easter.

Hetvägg, because someone in history couldn't be bothered to translate German correctly. This name (which in Swedish literally means hot wall, but is derived from German Heisse Wecken meaning hot buns) is mainly used when - according to old traditions - you eat the bun served in a bowl of hot milk. This was traditional dessert on Fat Tuesday. In my childhood, we usually had it every Tuesday throughout Lent (but no other time of the year). We also sprinkled cinnamon on the milk.

Today, the Swedish semla consists of a cardamom-spiced wheat bun which has its top cut off and insides scooped out, and is then filled with a mix of the scooped-out bread crumbs, milk and almond paste, topped with whipped cream. The cut-off top serves as a lid and is dusted with powdered sugar. Nowadays most people have it with coffee or tea - and some cafés have it all year round.

After eating a number of them, though, a period of fasting and restraint is not a bad idea...!

I usually eat just one or two this time of the year, and never felt a craving for one in the summer or autumn!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Quotation of the Week (7/2010)

"Never allow someone to be your priority
while allowing yourself to be their option."
~  source unknown ~

Photo edited in Photoshop Elements.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Valentine's Greetings

Wishing Everyone a Sunny Valentine's Day

If you'd like to learn something about a completely different Valentine than whoever the saint was who gave name to this day, I propose a visit to the Valentine's Day post at my blog Through My Spectrespecs, about the 16th century Benedictine monk and alchemist Basil Valentine. 

Some people say that love is all about chemistry.
Others might say it's all about alchemy!

Friday, 12 February 2010

About Me And Languages (7)

Britain 1974

In June 1974, just after my graduation from 'senior high school', I went on my last family trip abroad with my parents and brother. Again, we went back to Britain. (As life turned out, I've never been back to Britain since. Always meant to, but never happened.)

Much of this trip - as so many of our family holidays! - was planned around my Dad's fascination with railways. I'm not sure if I've mentioned that before. But the fact is, before I moved away from home, I had been riding on a lot more old steam-trains than on modern trains. And when I say a lot, then I mean A LOT more than I ever cared to count, in Sweden as well as in Britain.

Still, I have to say I preferred the railway museums and actual steam engines and trains to hunting down possible remains of no-longer-there railway tracks and station houses buried deep in some forest, which is how many of our holiday trips in Sweden were spent! Which basically meant Dad running around a lot with his camera with the rest of the family spending hours just waiting in the car, since we hadn't the faintest idea how to go about looking for something that was not actually there.

But I digress. Back to Britain 1974. The list below is just a small selection of a much greater number of railways we visited on this trip. These are all just narrow gauge railways in Wales. There are many more such railways in other parts of Britain. There are also tramways, and train museums, and...


Don't worry. I'm not going to include all of them here.

The Great Orme Railway, Llandudno, is not really a railway but a tramway, first climbing up a very steep road, and then continuing far up above the town.

Up on the summit: If you look closesly at the background here, it is vaguely distinguishable that in this place it had become a tradition for people to place white stones in patterns and words that could be seen from above and afar. (I tried looking for pictures on the internet to see if this is still so, but could not find any. The tramway seems still to be going strong, though.)

These old photos of mine in the old albums are all so washed out by now... It's fascinating to see that my new scanner (bought last summer) and other photo editing software still manages to bring some life and colour back to some of them. I should probably scan all my old albums before the pictures fade out altogheter, but that's a big job!

Me at Conwy Castle on the North Wales coast.

I think my Mum probably did have some say in making up the tour too, because besides railways, we also did visit quite a few castles and abbey ruins and other historical places.

Here however we're queueing for another railway, up Mt Snowdon.

Here's the proof that we did go up, and did not just buy the postcard!

Probably the most famous railway station in Wales, because of the name. (I checked, but they did not bother to include it in my edition of  Everyman's English Pronouncing Dictionary...)

Another Welsh narrow gauge railway.

A Celtic Cross bought in a souvenir shop at Devil's Bridge and to this day one of my favourite pieces of jewellry. It can be worn either as a brooch or on a chain around the neck.

A scene repeated many times on our journeys.

Badbury Rings, an Iron Age hill fort in east Dorset.

I'm not sure how important this trip was to me from pure language point of view. However, I think it did lay a further foundation for my interest in the Celtic culture and especially the King Arthur stories.


In Cornwall, among the places we visited were Tintagel (castle connected to the Arthurian legends) and Land's End, but for some reason I don't have any photos of my own from either of those places, just postcards.

From Cornwall, we continued our journey along the south coast:

Brighton: Beach life (above) and Palace Pier (below)

Dover Castle

After our tour of the south, we went back up to Yorkshire. Above and below: Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire, founded by Cistercian monks in 1132, and the largest monastic ruin in Britain.
My Mum posing in the picture below. 

The very last day of the trip I revisited the family I had been staying with for a whole month two years before, in a small village near Doncaster in Yorkshire. 


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