Sunday in some parks in Stockholm

What do Anna Sterky, August Strindberg, Hjalmar Branting, August Palm and a fellow in gold lamé doing the vacuuming, have in common? Apart from them all being somewhat socialist in their world views, we saw all of them today as we walked through numerous parks in Central Stockholm.

There’s a lot of public art in Stockholm. A lot of it is in parks. And there’s quite a few parks. Mostly the parks are on hills and give some great views. Which is a good thing.

August Palm though is an exception. His rather distinctive statue is on the corner of three joining streets and right next to rather odd statue of a man with a vacuum cleaner.

Mäster Palm, as he was called, was one of the main drivers in the social democrat labour movement. He also had a rather odd beard.

Master Palm (1978) by Tore Johansson

Just to prove that newspapers haven’t always been impartial, he was editor of a newspaper in 1882 called Folkviljan (Will of the People) in Malmö. Three years later he moved to Stockholm where he started another newspaper called Social-Demokraten (The Social Democrat).

In 1889, Mäster Palm was sent to prison for three months for writing stuff in the socialist press. He spent a lot of time working with trade unions and trying to make life better for the workers of Sweden.

Another Social Democrat and leading feminist was Ane Cathrine “Anna” Neilson. Born in Denmark and working as a seamstress, Anna came to Stockholm where she fought for the rights of female workers.

Ana Sterky (1988) by Christina Rundqvist-Andersson

Oddly, though she never married the man she lived with for many years, she took his name. He was Fredrik Sterky. Both of them were lifelong trade unionists. Like a lot of Social Democrats, she edited a newspaper. Well, actually a magazine. For women. Or, to be more accurate, Morgonbris: arbeterskornas tidning (Morning Breeze: Journal for working women). It started life in 1904 and is still in existence. She was the first editor.

Meanwhile, back in the Social-Demokraten, when August Palm left as editor, Karl Hjalmar Branting took over.

Branting was a towering presence and a great friend of the working class. He was also the first Social Democratic Prime Minister of Sweden. Three times he served. And, while he championed the working classes, he was opposed to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.

Ironic that this massive sculpture of him looks like it was left over from Marx.

Branting Monument (1952) by Carl Eldh

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921, sharing it with the Norwegian, Christian Lous Lange. Sounds like a very powerful chap and one devoted to his cause. Interestingly, one of his first jobs as a young lad heading out of university was as an assistant at Stockholm Observatory.

Stockholm Observatory stands, obviously, on a high point in Stockholm. On a rather imposing hill in Vasastan, the 18th century building no longer looks up at the stars, now only looking over the roofs and buildings of Stockholm. A new observatory was built at Saltsjöbaden in 1931 and the one in Stockholm became a museum.

I don’t think the museum is open at the moment but, apparently, it’s full of astronomical instruments and so forth. It’s a lovely building and on the pinnacle of a swollen pimple of a hill.

Possibly the most impressive statue we saw today was that of August Strindberg, playwright, poet, writer, general all round deep thinker and the chap I wrote about back in December when we visited Dalarö. Here, rather than as a cartoon on a beach, he sits atop a mountain, atop a hill in another park. The mountain he’s perched upon has small figures featured in it from many of his writings.

Strindberg Monument (1942) by Carl Eldh

Strindberg was a self-confessed, lifelong Socialist and was very good friends with Karl Branting until they fell out over religion. Strindberg went all mystical and Branting called him a disaster because of it. Just goes to show how religion destroys more than it creates.

It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday in Stockholm. We had intended to visit the Academy of Fine Arts but, in the end, decided the weather was so lovely, we’d just stroll from the Konditori Ritorna (place of the mystic semla) to The Hairy Pig Restaurant (place of the mystic meat).

Of course, all food consumed today was delicious. Sadly, though not for them, Joseph and his wife had gone on holiday, so we didn’t see him, but the food was just as good as always.

In the meanwhilst, as we wandered Stockholm’s public artworks, Emma and Freya were thoroughly enjoying their day with the Perfect Swedish Family.

So, a good day all round.

I almost forgot the chap doing his housework in gold lamé. Here he is though I have no idea who it was made by or when or, basically, anything about it. Though, leaving a little something untold is always good.

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Semla seagulls

There’s a mouse in the house. At least one, very small, very fast mouse. Freya has been trying to catch it and, last night, she nearly managed. It dashed across from the TV unit to the next room and she took off like an Exocet missile. As the mouse managed to squeeze under the open door, she hit it with her paw, making it squeak in fear. She guarded the door for the next long while.

In the meanwhilst, Emma was lending a hand from the rear. She sat and watched, re-assuring Freya that, if required, she’d be there for her.

Freya is the little star of tonight, though. And one day, she reckons, she’ll get that doggone pesky rodent!

Her feat of flash was all the more impressive when you realise she’d already had an exhausting day. First thing in the morning she went on a two hour romp through the woods with Mirinda and Emma.

And even more impressive again, when you realise she’d also been to the café on Notholmen and, on the way home, had been fast asleep on the back seat. This might have been because of the huge crowds at Notholmen.

Only two weeks ago we were walking on the sea along with hundreds of other people. This week, the ice has turned to slush and the water is once more inaccessible by foot.

The day was quite mild and the café had a massive queue. According to Evelyn, it had been positively manic all day. Given we arrived at around 3pm (it closes at 4pm) and people were still queuing, seemed to indicate she totally earned her wages today. It kind of makes up for those long, lazy days with no customers back in late December.

Of course, it’s the winter school break, which also may have had something to do with it.

When we managed to get inside (there were plenty of tables) we were amazed that the food display was almost devoid of food. Most incredibly, there were no semla at all. I fancied räkmackor but, alas, it was slut. I settled for the pulled pork brioche while Mirinda had the soup.

Then, as we sat there, a big plate of semla arrived from the kitchen. The queue had dwindled by this time and, while all the tables had now been occupied, it was relatively calm. However, like the seagull telegraph, news of the new semla batch quickly did the rounds. Suddenly there was a very long queue.

Mirinda bemoaned the fact that she hadn’t jumped up as soon as they’d arrived and claimed one. Especially when they were reduced to six with at least nine people in the queue. They were all gone very quickly.

It was like the reaction you get when you leave a bag of fish and chips, open, on a bench in Brighton. Frightening.

And the morning had been so beautiful and calm. I even sat out on the terrace to work while Mirinda was discovering new paths through the forest.

It certainly looks like Spring has arrived a bit too early.

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What lies beneath

This evening I accompanied Mirinda on the constitutional for the first time in ages. It’s because I’ve been resting my foot. The one with the gouty extra big toe that has suffered through wearing non-forgiving boots. Now that the snow has all but gone and there’s no risk of slipping on anything, I’ve reverted to my old, soft, almost worn out, New Balance runners.

And it was a lovely evening with a full moon starting to peep over the rocks, between the trees, as the day came to an end. It’s a far cry from when we first started walking around the block in the pitch. It’s also a good deal warmer.

In fact, the day had been glorious from start to finish. Blue sky, no clouds, pleasant temperature. Actually, the temperature is a worry. Yesterday, I spotted this Tweet from Greta Thunberg.

Quite apart from the devastation, I really miss the snow and the cold.

An unexpected result of the melting snow is what’s left behind. Dog poo is everywhere, preserved by the cold, little bits of odd litter and, of course, the new cigarette butts.

I spotted this near the underpass at Trollbäcken Centrum, though they’re everywhere these days. Given there is an expectation that someone else will have to pick it up and dispose of it, the original wearer clearly doesn’t care about the health of other people, as is the declaration of so many mask wearers.

Speaking of masks, I felt there were more on the bus today but fewer in the supermarket. Not that either place was even close to being crowded. I went to Hemköp this week, for a change, and it was delightfully almost empty.

Back at home, Mirinda had meeting after meeting while I switched between housework and Dead Soldier Research. Today, I discovered a poor chap who survived the war only to stumble into a chalk pit near Epsom and die from the fall.

Having failed to find any sea bass on Wednesday, I made arctic char on Mediterranean vegetables for dinner tonight. It was delicious.

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Concerning post offices

Back in Farnham, Emma would sit at the window of Mirinda’s library and bark if anyone walked by. We were worried that she’d do the same here and be an annoying presence in our street. Fortunately, she has been as good as gold. Rarely barking and being nothing but cute and cuddly and the target of many admiring glances. Though she still looks out the window. (Note that the window is open for the first time since we’ve been here.)

I think she doesn’t bark because the house is too far from the footpath and her sight has never been very good. It’s certainly not because no-one walks by. There’s an almost constant stream of people out for their daily exercise, sometimes with a dog, sometimes a stroller and others out jogging.

Emma tends to look out the window when Mirinda is coming or going, which is what she’s doing in the photo. Mirinda was about to appear from the front door and head off for a coffee at Trolläcken.

I also had to go to Trollbäcken today. Unusual on a Thursday but I had a very important letter to post. I needed to send more documents supporting my residency application so an unscheduled trip to Hemköp was required.

So, clutching the precious letter like the White Rabbit and his invitation to the garden party, I headed to the bus stop.

Arriving opposite the shops, for the first time I can remember, the main road was empty. Obviously I had to get a photo.

Today was the first time I’ve had to post something. It was very easy.

Post Offices are located inside other businesses here. Actually, I have no idea if there are any dedicated post offices in Sweden. I’ve not seen one. There’s one at the Coop in Tyresö Centrum and, of course, the one in the newsagent where I have to collect parcels but nothing like the post office we used to have in Farnham. And, in fact, they’re far more like the post office they now have in Farnham. At WH Smith’s

Maybe it’s the way the world is heading. One day there’ll be no dedicated post offices.

Anyway, as I said, it was very easy getting a stamp and posting the letter and I headed back home. Coincidentally, I read a Tweet today, from someone I follow, who has had their residency confirmed. My fingers are crossed.

Now that the snow has gone, the back garden is once more accessible, so I spent a bit of time giving Emma a run around, chasing pine cones. Freya, meanwhile, went investigating.

Mirinda had a Town Hall today. The first time for a month. She enjoyed it thoroughly and was on a high for quite some time afterwards. I’m surprised she calmed down enough to go to sleep later on. Good to see her so happy.

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Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

The Cansfields moved today. I sent them good wishes via Satellite. At the end of the day, Nicktor sent me a photo showing James in the hot tub, relaxing after, I guess, a long, hard slog transporting belongings from one abode to another. It feels a bit sad that I’ll never see the previous Casa Cansfield again.

Not that I thought THAT much about it. Being a rabid embracer of change, I’m really looking forward to seeing the new place.

I wasn’t, really, looking forward to going shopping today. I was concerned with the new recommendations announced yesterday. However, there was no real discernible difference going shopping today as far as masks were concerned. Maybe there were a few more, but the bus mask wearers were in the usual minority.

That’s what happens with recommendations. Generally, people can (and will) weigh up the risks and act accordingly. At least they do here in Sweden. In the crowded centre of Stockholm, I assume there were more masks and distances increased between people but out here in the sticks, things just carried on as they have since we’ve been here.

Another big concern had been if all the shop assistants started wearing masks. This is a great way to remove any joy from shopping, something I actually enjoy. But, no, like the bus, there appeared to be no difference and I had a lovely chat with the woman at the fish counter in Ica as well as my usual catch-up with the barista at Espresso House. Who drew a heart in my foam. And both of them remained at least 1.5 metres away from me.

Late in the day, the Prime Minister held a press conference to announce new measures, mainly the fact that pubs and restaurants are now required to close at 8:30pm. This was supposed to be the law earlier, but there was a loophole in the previous legislation regarding the stopping of selling alcohol after 8pm. This loophole has now been closed. This does not impact us at all.

Another recommendation is for people to shop individually rather than in family (or other) groups. Again, this doesn’t concern us as I do all the shopping on my own anyway.

And things were just as normal at Norrby’s where, being a Wednesday, we went for lunch. I had the wonderful fisk soppa (Mirinda went for the goats cheese pie) and we finished with the most delicious buns. Mine had jam with white chocolate drizzled over it.

Mirinda’s was strawberry jam and was made up by the young woman behind the counter. The one who invented the cheese pie. She is amazing. The buns were extraordinarily good. Far too much so.

Today the temperature reached double figures, so I was forced into shorts and, I completely blame Swedish buns for this, they were tighter than they used to be. It might also be the lack of an exercise bike.

Another unfortunate but modern day normal thing, was an old man having a very loud phone call on the bus home. Rather than holding the phone to his ear and having a private conversation, he was using the phones loudspeaker and yelling at it. It was very annoying. At least I couldn’t understand what he was saying, everyone else in the bus was treated to whatever he was going on about.

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From everyone in Australia

It was inevitable that the paradise that is Sweden would start to change. From a smattering of masks worn by the few, this afternoon we had a recommendation by the Stockholm regional infectious disease doctor (Maria Rotzén Östlund) to always wear a mask on public transport. Previously it had been only during peak hour. Also, they should be worn in supermarkets.

This follows the increasing discovery of the super spreadable British strain of the virus.

These measures are recommendations. There is still choice in Sweden.

Apart from that unwelcome news, Mirinda had mail today. It was posted in Australia on 15 December 2020 and arrived here on 23 February 2021. Alongside the date and time of postage, it also features the phrase “Stay safe & connected Australia.”

I’m not sure how ‘connected’ we can stay when the mail takes three months. As Mirinda remarked, it must have been like that in earlier times when a visit by the postman was a cause for celebration and deliveries were monthly. Or when the post was delivered by the weekly coach and you picked it up from…actually, I have no idea how mail was distributed before we had dedicated postal delivery people.

Given the majority of the population would have been illiterate I doubt they really took much advantage of the services on offer. Whatever, I’m confused.

Here I am, looking quite confused about how the virus could affect the mail and not concerned that the hairdresser hasn’t visited the village for a year.

But, back to the delayed post. It was a Christmas card. A rather odd Christmas card. ‘Odd’ because it’s not signed by anyone and is from ‘…all of us in Australia.’ Still, a lovely surprise given we don’t get a lot of mail other than the impersonal shopping specials junk and the local, unreadable, newspaper.

Being a Tuesday, I spent most of the day researching dead soldiers (Mirinda said I should find a happier hobby because every anecdote I have these days ends with “…then he died of his wounds“) and listening to Mirinda’s endless stream of on-line meetings.

Though, they proved to not be endless, as we sat down to a dinner of frittata featuring some delicious Hairy Pig chipolatas.

In the meanwhilst, and just in passing, and referring back to the great majority of the population, I spotted this nursery rhyme on Twitter.

While it dates from the 18th century, I think it quite accurately describes the modern world of liberal governments, greedy capitalists and general bastardy rampant at present.

The difference between the rich and poor is as wide as ever.

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A return to dirty paws

The butcher is starting to recognise me. She gave me a very cheery ‘hej hej’ this morning as she was opening up. I was leaning against the wall, in my usual Monday spot, and she emerged, big smile on her face, to open up the awning and put the ticket machine outside.

It made me wonder what people think when a regular stops coming. What do they think? I remember when I stopped seeing Vivienne and The Lady From St Mawes and was concerned they’d died.

But, of course, people just change; things change. One day we’ll move somewhere and the butcher will stop seeing me. For now, though, our very loose relationship will continue to light up my Monday mornings.

One big change I noticed, on the way up to the butcher, is that the lake is no longer welcoming walkers.

I wonder how many people have taken advantage of the icy shortcut across the lake. I guess the very short time of cross country skiing is over. The skis will be returned to sheds across the Stockholm area, waiting for the next time.

I was rather saddened when I walked by the home made ice rink on the way to the bus. What was a perfectly serviceable goal mouth area for young ice hockey players, was now a wet white tarp, lying on the ground. A plethora of black hockey pucks littered the ground. It hadn’t lasted very long.

Actually, it was rather misty this morning. The air around me was a white gauze. And, the once white ground is rapidly becoming more dirty piles than virgin swathes.

Something I’m appreciating is what it means when you have a good, solid snow infrastructure in place. All of those big machines roaming the footpaths and roads. Even when the snow isn’t as regular as it used to be.

As the snow gradually melts, the things that are cleared first are the things you really need: roads, footpaths, driveways.

Even the path to your house becomes ice and snow free first. Well, as long as you dig out a channel when the fall is greatest. Or your landlord does.

It works very well, making my trip to the shops very easy, if a bit slushy.

Of course, the downside to the conditions is that the girls get muddy paws every time they venture outside. Particularly given the amount of hair they now have. Kate would be aghast. Not that it bothers them.

Emma, in fact, looks far more like a teddy bear than usual, which insures she gets maximum compliments. And cuddles.

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And gradually the snow melts

Tommy (of The Perfect Swedish family) turned 50 this weekend. Given his nearest and dearest were going to be showering him with half a century of celebrations, they weren’t able to take the girls this weekend. With Mirinda not feeling very well, this turned out to be a good thing. Mind you, we didn’t go to the island which, I think, is the first time we’ve not gone since we arrived in October.

That’s not to say we didn’t do anything.

Had Mirinda felt better, we’d have gone out to dinner but, because she still felt a bit poorly, we needed to go and buy food instead. She drove me to the Ica for salmon – her choice. She then decided we’d drive to the sea. As you do.

We drove the short distance to the ferry stop at Årsta brygga where you can catch the Waxholm II to the island of Utö, something we really need to do at some stage.

By the way, the little dots in the photo above are ducks sitting on the ice. As we stood on the dock we watched another couple skating all over the place.

As we arrived in the car park, the ferry arrived and disgorged its load of passengers. I can only assume they were returning from a weekend away. A lot of them had dogs, skis, luggage, bikes, etc. Unhappy visitors returning to their not-on-an-island lives.

Having watched all the action there was to watch (the ferry wasn’t scheduled to leave for a long while) we took a very slushy walk along the side of the sea, walking by an ingenious park bench with a hinged seat. Just perfect for sitting on when the weather has been wet.

Mirinda mentioned the hinged seat with regards to our terrace. If only the seats had been hinged, and we’d lifted them up, she’d have been able to sit out there. Such a simple idea. Strange that this is the first time I’ve seen it. Someone in the UK needs to do it in parks. It would certainly save a lot of wet butts.

The slushy path led to the end of, what appeared to be, a marina. It was empty of any craft but looked like it might be quite busy in warmer months.

It didn’t take long before it was time to return home. Not that it was cold. The temperature was about 4° when we arrived. Oddly, this has become my new benchmark for not wearing a fleece. In the UK my benchmark for shorts is around 10°. Given we’ve been subjected to some days being colder than -15° this winter, maybe my temperature control system has improved.

Not that I’m in a hurry to wear shorts yet. By the time we headed back home, Max told us the temperature was falling. As I emptied him of recycling at the car park, I realised I would have been quite happy to put a light fleece on.

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When Mirinda saw an älg

A while ago I found a new recipe for keto rolls. I’ve had to hunt around for the ingredients but, this week, I managed to succeed in buying almond flour (or almond dust as I call it). Today, I made a batch. I think they came out pretty good.

We ate them for lunch with a slice of cheese. The rolls are quite small.

I think the novelty of having cheese rolls for lunch may have cheered Mirinda up a bit from the rigours of her cold. At least she seemed to be better. Because of her cold, of course, we didn’t go out to dinner today, something we normally do of a weekend. If her recovery continues, maybe we’ll be able to go tomorrow.

Speaking of my poor, ailing wife, I forgot to mention that she saw a moose the other day. This is something she’s wanted to see since we arrived and Camilla told us a family of them regularly visited the house.

We’ve seen birds, deer, hares, squirrels, cats but no moose.

Then, the other day, taking the girls for a walk she spotted one some distance away. She stopped and regarded the moose while the moose stopped and regarded her. The dogs didn’t see anything, which is not surprising. Emma can’t see very well and Freya ignores anything she doesn’t understand.

Mirinda took a bit of film of the moose. Judging from the size and with absolutely no knowledge of moose beyond eating it, we think it may have been a juvenile. Anyway, it wasn’t very big. Maybe it was a Shetland moose.

I have read that moose are actually solitary animals. They come together for a bit of nooky time then go their separate ways. The female has a baby which stays with her for a year before heading out on its own. Which makes me wonder about Camilla’s ascertain that a family often roams the properties.

We’ve finished the moose that we bought from Joseph at The Hairy Pig Restaurant but we do have some of the sausages left so, tonight we had wild boar. I wonder if this means that Mirinda will now come across one when she’s out walking.

Regardless of the portents, they were delicious, particularly with mashed cauliflower and fried red onions. I think they may have gone well with the keto rolls I made. If only we hadn’t eaten them all with cheese for lunch.

I guess I’ll just have to make some more.

I’ve just realised, looking at the photograph above, that the cheese has passed its Best Before Date. I guess it just proves my belief that cheese never goes off. You just trim the mouldy bits off to get to the good stuff protected underneath.

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Ingenuity plus Perseverance equals Cool

I was sitting at Mirinda’s desk this morning, typing up my blog post for yesterday when, suddenly, the room darkened momentarily and there was a long and deep whoomp sound. It made me jump. It was the snow starting to slide off the roof.

It happened a few times throughout the day. For something so ridiculously light, snow certainly makes a lot of noise when it drops to the ground en masse. It also made me wonder what would happen if Freya happened to be underneath when it fell. Fortunately, she never was.

Sadly, the falling snow heralds the end of the cold spell with the temperatures returning to the plus side of the thermometer. The world will start returning to normal. Which is a pity.

I was a bit concerned that the noisy snow would impact on the Talking Newspaper recording I presented today but it didn’t. Not even slightly. Tim had to stop me a few times because I occasionally sounded like Davros, but, otherwise, it all went very smoothly.

I had Ann reading with me, which is always a delight and we had two hours of fun and laughs intermingled with some serious news. I was helped at my end with a cockerpoo on my lap.

Normally I lie on the bed when I’m recording but today I was washing the bed clothes so had to make do with a chair. Obviously, Emma wanted to lie on my lap. Which meant she had to have the laptop on her head. Fortunately it was my tablet which is lighter.

Given it was also Magazine week, over dinner, we listened to the second half of my interview with Ann. It sounded like fun. Which it had been.

In health news, Mirinda’s cold continues to annoy her. She keeps asking me to test her for a temperature, fearful she has the dreaded plaque. Her forehead is normal. I keep assuring her, she has a cold. A normal, every day, annoying but common, cold.

Speaking of the plague, there was a lovely story online today about an absconded prisoner who turned himself in to police because he couldn’t stand the people he was locked down with. He said he needed to get back to prison for some peace and quiet.

And, in further news today, NASA successfully landed Perseverance Rover on Mars. There were the usual loud cheers from the Control Room. There were also loud cheers heard during an interview with an engineer who worked on the helicopter. And, while the whole sending a Rover to Mars thing is still extraordinarily amazing, adding a helicopter has to be amazingly amazing.

The engineer was thrilled with the landing and was keen to discover if the helicopter, called Ingenuity, was going to work in the thin atmosphere and low gravity of Mars. Obviously, a special chamber had been created on Earth for testing but, as she said, there’s nothing like the real thing.

Ingenuity is housed on the underside of Perseverance. I think of it being like the sports car in Robert De Niro’s RV in Meet the Fockers. The tiny chopper will be launched soon and will scout out possible locations for Perseverance to head for. So cool.

And, in case anyone is wondering how I am managing to remain healthy while being surrounded by Mirinda’s cold germs, here’s my secret:

The Sytembolaget site describes it as having a spicy “…taste with a little sweetness, hints of rosehips, blackberries and blackberries.” Just like cold medicine. It works a treat.

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