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Beyond the Lone Islands

http://dawntreader-island2.blogspot.com

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Here, There, Somewhere…

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Sorry, I’ve had rather a busy week with all sorts of this and that, “flying about” and not able to spend as much time as usual in Blogland. Hoping to to catch up soon…

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These birds and nests are found in a staircase at the service center where my dad lives now.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Quotation of the Week (39/2010)

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"Life is like a bag - it's empty and meaningless unless you fill it with something."

~Hans Alfredson~
(Swedish comedian, actor, writer and film director, born 1931.)

This quote is well-known in Sweden, but perhaps no where else (?) – until now! ;) The original context is a sketch performed by Alfredson in 1962, in which a church bell ringer comments on the new vicar of the parish, and quotes from his sermons about Life.

It popped up in my memory earlier today as I visited GB’s Eagleton Notes... And still lingered with me when I sat down again later to find a Quotation of the Week…

The picture is from one of my (I think maybe total of three or four?) park bench lunches this summer. The last time was actually Sunday a week ago. One of those rare warm and sunny days that sometimes come along just as you thought there would be no more days like that. (… or not until spring, anyway!)

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Market Day

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Last weekend in September means Autumn Market in our town. Some of the streets are shut off from traffic and filled with market stalls. The regular stores have their own special offers too. I’m not really a “market person” since I’m not very fond of being in a crowd. If I go, I like to go early before it gets too crowded, and I usually get tired rather quickly.

But… My camera wanted to go… ;) So we did.

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There are certain things I do sometimes keep a lookout for at these markets, if I happen to need them. Handbags for example, or woolly slippers, or gloves.

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Traditional Swedish clogs. Top part leather, bottom wood.
( I never wear them now, they’re too hard for me.)

But I wasn’t really in need of anything just now.
The only thing I bought was some post cards…

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Some extremely colourful doughnuts, which, for the record, I did NOT buy. ;)

… and a mug of popcorn. Photographers, take my advice: If your main purpose of walking round the market is to use your camera, do not buy the popcorn (or other food meant to be consumed on the spot) until towards the end! Unless you have someone with you to hold them for you… I was there in my own company, and hence, I have no photo of my mug of popcorn!

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I was never one to enjoy fairground rides myself – anything going round in circles, or up and down ;) I always preferred to keep my feet firmly on the ground!

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See more market pictures in my Picture Book.

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Thursday, 23 September 2010

What A Mess

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The final (?) result of the Swedish election has been announced. The Centre-Right Alliance gets 173 seats in the parliament, which is one more seat compared to the preliminary results on Sunday, but not enough to form a majority. The Red-Green opposition gets 156 seats and the new anti-immigrant party Sweden Democrats 20 seats, which gives them hold of the balance of power.

Appeals have been made for re-elections in some districts because of complications in the counting of votes. Some votes were “lost” and did not get counted, and theoretically that could still make a difference. The appeals will be examined by a special committee and that will take a while.

The whole election system has also been criticized, because counting all the votes together for the whole country instead of by district, the Centre-Right Alliance would have ended up with majority in the parliament. Changing the present system requires a change of law, however.

For now we are stuck with a minority government and the balance of power held by a party that none of the other parties really wishes to cooperate with. 

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The picture: Bicycles parked at the travel centre.
Photo taken from the top of a hill/rock nearby.


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Scroll down or click here for my Booking-Through-Thursday post.

Currently Reading - The Magician's House



Deb's Booking-Through-Thursday question this week is:

What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)  (I’ve asked this one before, but, well, it’s not like the answers stay the same, and darn it, it’s an interesting question!)

Well, if there is one question not likely to produce the same answer every time, I guess it's this one!

As usual, I have at least one audio book and one paper book going. The audio book is a Swedish crime novel from 2009, set on our west coast. Not much point in giving a review of it here since it's not available in English.

I'm also reading - in Swedish translation, borrowed from the library - a quartet of children's fantasy books by William Corlett, The Magician's House. The individual titles in English are
  1. The Steps up the Chimney
  2. The Door in the Tree
  3. The Tunnel behind the Waterfall
  4. The Bridge in the Clouds
I have finished the first two, am about to start on the third, and also have the fourth one at home. Reading the first book, I had no real sense of having read it before. The second book brought to mind vague memories of a TV series. Looking things up on the internet now I find that I'm right. The books were published in the early 1990s and two mini series based on them were produced in 1999. I think I might have seen only the second. Maybe I'll remember more when I get on to the two last books.

Anyway, the reason I picked up these was just browsing through a fantasy shelf at my local library, feeling in the mood for something like that. The jacket blurb of the Swedish edition says the series will appeal to Harry Potter fans (which I am one). This made me look for similarities vs differences while reading...

One reason why I would not really compare The Magician's House series to Harry Potter is that even if there are some common topics involving magic and alchemy and parallell worlds, there is a vast difference in complexity. The Magician's House like most children's books has a very limited set of characters. One of the things that makes Harry Potter stand out for me is the amount of characters involved. Most children's adventure books choose the easy way out and send a handful of children away on a holiday. Corlett follows this traditional pattern; while J.K. Rowling does the opposite and makes a big school the "magic place", the centre of action, and a mirror of the surrounding grown-up world (involving more and more people with every book, and revealing more and more of the complex relationships that bind people together, or drive them apart).

It might be fairer in some ways to compare The Magician's House to C.S. Lewis's Narnia series. Here too we have siblings (William, Mary and Alice) going to stay at a relative's country house, discovering secret passages, and meeting talking animals. But unlike Narnia, they do not really enter into a different world, but remain in this one; although making contact with one magician and alchemist who seems to be able to travel in time. (If my vague memories of the TV series serve me right, I think in the later books there is also a magician's assistant involved.)

During the reading, my thoughts also wandered off into comparing the ideas of shape-shifting used by Corlett vs some other fantasy authors.

As far as I recall, shape-shifting is an idea that C.S. Lewis does not use a lot. At least not as a positive idea. The only example that comes to mind of someone willfully turning back and forth between human and animal shape is the witch in The Silver Chair. (Her animal shape is a snake.) There are plenty of talking animals in Narnia, but there is usually no confusion who is animal vs human - except for when Eustace is turned into a dragon for a while (in The Voyage of the DawnTreader), which is caused by enchantment and greed.

In J.K. Rowling's wizarding world only a few magicians called animagi are able transform into animal shape. You meet them in either the human shape or the animal shape. You never see the human and the animal together at the same time. There is also the idea of "patronuses", but a patronus is more like just an animal-shaped reflection of the soul (all white, like a cloud or ghost). A patronus can be produced to defend you from certain kinds of evil, or be sent to give a message to someone else; but the human sender remains him/herself.

In Corlett's books, animals are their own characters; but by magic (or by using their senses the right way) humans are able not only to talk and listen to certain animals, but also to sometimes "become one" with the animal. At other times, however, you see the same human and animal side by side. One person can enter different animals at different times; and more than one person can be inside the same animal at the same time. It is unclear to me in these books what is supposed to happen to the human body in the meantime, since they also seem to be able to travel "with" the animal from one place to another.

Terry Pratchett uses a slightly different version of it in the Witches subseries within his Discworld series - if memory serves me right, he calls it borrowing. In his story the human body remains apparently lifeless in one place, while only the soul or mind enters into a bird etc and goes flying with it.

Yet another version of the idea is found in Pullman's His Dark Materials series, where -in Lyra's world- each human has a visible daimon in animal shape, beside the human body. While someone is still a child, the daimon keeps shifting shape into different kinds of animals (in grown-ups, the daimon has settled into one shape). At the same time a point is made about keeping the human body and daimon together; they should not be split up.

I read a couple of books about shape-shifting myths a few years ago and realized there are a lot more varieties of them than I was aware of. The ideas go very far back into mythology and story-telling.

I'm only half way through Corlett's story yet, and don't really remember how it ends, so I shall wait with my final "judgement" of it. I borrowed it because I was in the mood for some "easy reading", and so far that is what I have been getting out of it - plus some trigging of comparisons with other books in the genre.

Picture from the TV-series The Magician's House

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Autumn Fashion

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Going shopping the other day, I was struck by the lack of colour that met me when I entered the store.

In a month or so we will be entering a time of year when the whole world around us (at least here in Sweden) turns all gray, black and white. Why do fashion designers assume that we should also want to dress ourselves in these colours and just blend in with the background?! 

What did I buy? Ahem, well – a black/greyish denim skirt… But the point is, I don’t (usually) want to be ALL clad in black.

If I opened your wardrobe, what would I find?

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Monday, 20 September 2010

A Twisted Situation

2010-09-19 Tornado

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The “twisted situation” referred to in the post title is the result of our election yesterday.

As mentioned in a previous post A Game Not Over: For the last four years, Sweden has had a right-wing coalition government, led by the conservative Moderates and supported by the Liberals, the Christian Democrats, and the Center Party (which claims to be a green party, but there is an ‘even greener’ one among the opponents). Before this election, the other three parties in the parliament formed a left-wing coalition – or, as they prefer to call it, a Red-Green cooperation - led by the Social Democrats and supported by the Left Party and the Green Party.

Sort of back-stage, there have also been a few small parties hitherto too small to be included in the Riksdag/parliament. The biggest among those is the Sweden Democrats, which by all seven established parties is regarded as racist and xenophobic (‘fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign’).

What happened in the election yesterday was not only that the Sweden Democrats have now “entered the stage” (with 5,7% of the votes – the threshold is 4%); they will most likely also end up in a balance position in the parliament, since neither of the two opposing coalitions got proper majority of their own.

The result is still not final, but the conservative Moderates have been increasing their percentage while the Social Democrats have gone back, so that these two parties now each has about 30% of the votes. The rest of the parties all end up between 5,6 and 7,2%. The preliminary result is that the right-wing Alliance will have 172 seats in the parliament, the Red-Greens 157, and the “outsider” the Sweden Democrats 20 seats.

This means that the right-wing “blue” Alliance is still larger than the left-wing “red-green” opposition, but if the Sweden Democrats as well as the Red-Green coalition vote against them in the parliament, they won’t get their propositions through.

All parties on both sides have stated clearly that they do not under any circumstances intend to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats. But how to go from that promise to Reality… That is the tricky bit. Because the Green Party has also stated firmly that whatever the outcome of the election, they do not intend to switch sides afterwards and join the “blue” coalition.

There are still a number of votes not counted. We won’t have the final result until Wednesday. Media keep repeating now that just possibly the remaining votes might turn the balance to an actual majority for the “blue” alliance; but it does not seem very likely.

The same kind of situation with the Sweden Democrats applies to several municipal and city councils all over the country.

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The photos are of a sculpture called Tornado. I have shown it before, I think. These pictures I took yesterday as I passed it on my way to give my vote. Looking for an illustration for my post today, it suddenly took on new dimensions of symbolism… The whirlwind, and the mix of colours… blue, red, green – and white, for the still “unwritten page” (what effect the new party will have)…

Quotation of the Week (38/2010)

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“My favourite poem is the one that starts 'Thirty days hath September' because it actually tells you something.”
~ Groucho Marx ~

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap-year.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Breakfast

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Ginny wanted to see the green tomato marmalade spread on something, so here it is, on my breakfast sandwich.

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Covered with slices of cheese, and with a cup of tea.

Some people don’t understand the combination of marmalade and cheese. Some people do. Among those who do, there may be a sub category holding on to the firm conviction that the marmalade should be spread on top of the cheese, not under it. My answer to that is: When the marmalade turned out a bit runny, it has its practical advantages to put the cheese on top! Other than that, it does not really matter much to me in which order I put them on…

To which category do you belong?

 

Friday, 17 September 2010

Something Smells Good

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Any idea what this is?
You’ll get the answer further down in the post.

Woke up to a rainy day today. The bowl of green tomatoes sat on the breakfast table.

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I decided to weigh them.

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Turned out I had enough for half a batch of green tomato marmalade…  (0,5 kilo)

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I also had a lemon (which the recipe requires.)
So I squeezed the juice out of that, and grated the peel.

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My old recipe uses lots of sugar… 1,5 liter for 1 kilo of tomatoes?! That seemed a bit much…  I checked some other recipes on the internet and decided 4 deciliters was probably enough for my half kilo of tomatoes.

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What I did not have was whole chunks of ginger root (which are supposed to cook with the tomatoes and then picked out before you put the marmalade into jars). I did have ginger powder, though. So I added some of that. I also had cinnamon bark sticks (there’s your answer to the first picture). Cinnamon was not in the recipe, but since I was in experimental mood, why not? If nothing else, it looked nice for the picture!

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Into the pot with the tomatoes, the lemon juice, the grated lemon peel, the ginger, the cinnamon. I also added just a little bit of water because my recipe said so. I should probably have left that out. Especially since I did not have any of that Certo pectin stuff at home either (which helps the marmalade set).

Boil for 20 minutes, then add the sugar.
Let the sugar melt and let it boil again.

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Skim the foam of the surface. (Not that there was much of it. Pour the marmalade into jars. I used four “baby food” size jars.

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And then just hope that it sets! I think this batch got a bit runny, but I’ll no doubt be able to use it anyway.

The balance between sweet and sour (and ginger and cinnamon!) came out quite nice (to my taste).

And the four little jars of marmalade do make it feel more worth while having watered those tomatoes on the balcony all summer… It’s been “ages” since I last made my own marmalade  – well, at least three years, because that’s how long it’s been since I last grew my own tomatoes!

 

 

 

Thursday, 16 September 2010

BTT: Day And Night


http://btt2.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/day-and-night/

Today’s question is suggested by Mae.
“I couldn’t sleep a wink, so I just read and read, day and night … it was there I began to divide books into day books and night books,” she went on. “Really, there are books meant for daytime reading and books that can be read only at night.”
- ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera, p. 103.
Q: Do you divide your books into day and night reads? How do you decide?

Interesting question! My answer has to be "sometimes, but not always". And I guess it depends partly on the book, partly on me - what kind of stress level or mood I'm in.

There are definitely books that I would classify as daytime reading, and which I can't read (or listen to) at night. That would include books with complicated plots, lots of facts, heavy language structure, or too much violence or negative thoughts. At night I prefer a book which is entertaining, but does not require too much of me, intellectually or emotionally.

I'm less sure if there are "books that can be read only at night". A book that I can read at night, I think I can also read in the daytime.

I often find children's books good bedtime reading if I have difficulties relaxing ;)


(Illustration from Winnie The Pooh. Piglet dreaming of Heffalumps.)

Harvest Time

 
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Taking into account how many litres of water I had to carry through the flat from the kitchen to the balcony during the hot weeks of the  summer, I’m not sure the harvest from my tomato plants this year can be considered “worth” the trouble. Only three or four fruits (did you know they are fruits, not vegetables?) reached even a shade of red while still on the plant. Today I had to harvest the rest, green as they were, or the next wind would just have scattered them over the balcony floor.

DSCN7561-2 tomatoes 2010 07 22 22 July. The tomato plants are the big one in the right hand corner and the smaller one in the black pot to the left of it.

DSCN8108-1 17 August (“big” tomatoes)

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8 September (the same pair as above)

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13 September - Cherry tomatoes from the small plant (the size of cherries)

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Yesterday I ate the red ones. To be quite honest, the ones I buy at the supermarket taste better…

This was my first attempt where I live now to grow tomatoes. At my previous flat, the balcony was a little bigger and more sheltered, but had less sun. I never managed to get the tomatoes red on the plant there either. But some years I got enough of green ones to make a few jars of green tomato marmalade from them. The recipe includes lemons and ginger (and sugar, of course).

Well, this year at least I got a blog post out of them!

 

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A Game Not Over

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The election campaigning is a game not yet over.
Our election is next Sunday, the 18th.

For four years, we have had a right-wing government consisting of an alliance of four parties. For this election, the other three major parties have formed a left-wing alliance. 

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Media report that more people than ever are voting in advance in this election. I think I’m going to wait until Sunday. Not really because I can’t make up my mind, but because I still find it a sort of Special Event to go and vote on the actual day.

Do you find it a Special Event to go and vote?
And have you changed your political opinion over the years, or have you always voted the same?

I have not remained loyal to one party. I have voted for different parties over the years. Sometimes I’m not sure how much it is politics that has changed, and how much it’s me.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Game Over?

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A walk in the rain on Sunday gave a feeling of “game over”. The days of summer are behind us. Whether we like it or not, we have stepped over the border into early autumn.

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Usually September is a time of the year that I like. This year, however… I’m somehow getting the feeling that autumn won’t be a sparkling show of colour, but rather one of those that just sort of fade into brown…  

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… Or is it all in my own mind?

What’s autumn to you, what does it make you think of?

Here’s an autumn joke that I came across while in quest of more serious quotes. In spite of being set on gloomy mood, I couldn’t help laughing…

“Fall is my favourite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change colour and fall from the trees.”
~David Letterman~

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