Ingen dryck, ingen glass, ingen korv

I stood before a room painted in eye watering red. In the centre of the room, a figure kneels, in silent prayer. The figure appears to be that of a young school boy. On the wall in front of the boy is a small painting of a finger, pointing. The boy seems to be praying to the pointing finger. I entered the room and looked back into the face of the child.

HIM (2001) by Maurizo Cattelan (1960-)

The piece is shocking, unexpected. It asks questions about forgiveness, and how bad a sin needs to be before it’s unconscionable. How do people find power in their beliefs in order to forgive in the first place? Hitler, a Catholic, according to church doctrine, could be in heaven if he’d confessed before death in that bunker in Berlin. I think even his suicide could be forgiven, given it stopped any more sinning.

The picture of the finger, appearing to point almost accusatory at the school boy clad Hitler was a pop art piece by American artist Roy Lichtenstein. It is an image borrowed from American recruitment posters from the First and Second World Wars. ‘Uncle Sam needs you!’ it is saying to the praying boy.

I saw an amazing exhibition of his work back in 2013 at the Tate Modern. His Pop Art works are instantly recognizable.

The room, the finger and the schoolboy are in the Moderna Museet, which I visited today before buying some new shorts; the main reason why I was in Stockholm.

To diverge into the mundane for a moment, my two pairs of shorts I bought back in 2018 at Rivers in Caloundra have almost given up the ghost. Actually, Mirinda would say the ghost has been well and truly given up, elaborately exorcized and sent packing. Clearly, I needed replacements. So I decided to visit a number of places to buy some. I was successful and managed to find pairs on special.

My new ‘at home’ shorts

Naturally, I didn’t want to waste a day in clothes shopping, so I decided to combine the chore with a bit of pleasure. And so, I went to the Moderna Museet.

I caught the Liljeholmen bus as usual. As I entered the bus, I noticed, for the first time, a sticker indicating the items a passenger cannot take onto the bus. These are drinks, both hot and cold, ice cream and hotdogs. There is no such embargo on soup or alcohol. A bit specific, I thought.

Lack of sausage aside, the bus always makes for a very pleasant trip into Stockholm. Okay, it takes longer than the train, but I get to ride the tunnelbana as well, which I always enjoy.

And, of course, there was a visit to my favourite café, for essential fika, before I hopped aboard the 65 bus to Skepsholmen. As we headed off, I was very glad I was on a bus, as the mob waiting for the tram was so massive that I reckon I’d still be there had I joined it.

The exhibitions at the museum haven’t changed since my last visit but, I’d stopped halfway last time, so I, more or less, took up from where I left off. Oh, there was also a new exhibit downstairs by the extraordinary Vaginal Davis. She has been described by Agony Magazine as “a manipulative filthy black jungle temptress who lures innocent suburban white boys into a world in which their only escape is madness or death.

And, speaking of magazines, I was entranced by the covers of Puss Magazine on display in the museum. One, in particular, drew my attention and made me wonder why it hadn’t been used on a t-shirt. I’d have bought it.

Puss magazine ran for 24 issues from 1968 to 1974 and was somewhat political and a tad pornographic. Perfect.

But, back to Vagina Davis. I have to say, she is a total cack. Her exhibit begins with a mocked up cinema where strange films play. There are seats in the different areas. People were ‘enjoying’ the experience, I think. At least the ones I was sat with. Of course, given she’s American, the films were in English so I could enjoy the visuals without having to read.

After the films, the exhibit featured a wall of pictures behind a pink mesh curtain. In order to look at the picture, the visitor has to go behind the curtain. A rather heavy metaphor if you ask me.

Possibly the most unexpected exhibit was The Wicked Pavilion which included a tween bedroom, featuring a single bed, a giant dildo, magazine covers and songs playing. It “…brings together the icons, celebrated and forgotten, that populate her universe…” apparently.

I particularly like the innocence of the room, subverted by the enormous presence on the bed.

By the time I’d finished going through Vaginal Davis’ artistic works, it was time for lunch and, naturally, I had lunch at Café Blom.

Not only that, but I ordered it in Swedish. The woman took my order. I then asked if it sounded Swedish. With the sweetest smile she emphatically replied “No. But I understood what you wanted and that’s the point of communication, right?” I agreed, somewhat crestfallen and enjoyed my räksmörgås. My crest quickly rose again, given the deliciousness of the Café Blom räksmörgås.

Having filled myself with shrimp and culture, I headed back to central Stockholm to buy the shorts I’d originally travelled into town to get. Then I caught the train home where Mirinda drove me home from Vaghärad.

I got home to discover that Jason had bought a mountain bike…but more about that tomorrow.

Before finishing this post, I have to include my favourite piece from the gallery today. It’s a sculpture and represents our favourite Swedish poet, Gustaf Frödings.

Fröding in Alder (1922) by Bror Hjorth (1894-1968)

Hjorth, who I’d never heard of before today, was a fascinating artist who I might write about in another post.

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Avoiding the chicken poo

Jason slept in a bit today. He emerged from the stuga after midday. Normally, I’d think this a bit excessive but, in this case, it was understandable. His final night in Hamburg had been plagued by snorers, one of whom packed and left the hostel at some ungodly hour. Jason said his sleep time was meagre and unrealistic. So, obviously, he slept in today.

Apart from the final night’s lack of sleep, he had a fantastic time in Hamburg, with lots of parkour and an amazing few hours at the Miniatur Wunderland. After Mirinda found out about it, she said we had to visit Hamburg. Every time I’ve mentioned visiting the city, she’s been a bit half-hearted about the possibility. Given her love of miniature things, this has now changed.

After lunch (a lovely, creamy and chilled avocado soup) we headed over to KSP and Jonas’ place to tend the chooks. They are away this week and asked Mirinda to feed and water the chickens, collect any eggs and feed the cats. Of course, she said yes.

The smell of the coop as I stood outside immediately transported me back to Cambridge Park where we lived for a while when I was in my early teens. We had a chicken run at the back of the garden. It was very similar to KSP’s. Especially the smell.

I didn’t actually go inside the hen house because I wasn’t wearing chicken poo shoes like Mirinda – the ones that KSP pointed out to her. I think my stretchy, cloth coated shoes would have transported the smell home with us, along with the memories. So I just carried the food down and the eggs back up (there were five) as well as feed the cats.

I say ‘cats’ but we only saw one. There’s apparently two.

We’ll be returning on Thursday, so maybe I’ll see the other one then.

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Comings and goings and bicycle tracks

Back in December, I wrote about the new mountain bike track being laid out in the woods. It runs along the side of the main track and heads up to the Vitalis School. The work has been slow as volunteers put in the hours that they can. Work actually stopped for a while as the weather improved. That was after they worked through the worst of the snow last year. This morning, as I walked to the shops, I received a notification that the track was finished and open for use.

Except it’s not.

There are still sections that are ‘roped off’ with plastic tape and there’s a rejigged pallet barring the way in one section. A fellow was up on a high section today, removing boulders.

As I was walking towards the ICA, two people on mountain bikes rode past me, on the way into the woods. I did wonder whether they’d seen the notice and were wanting to be the first riders on the track. If so, they were doomed to disappointment.

I was heading for the supermarket a bit later today as Adele was leaving and she wanted one of my amazing Americano coffees. I also wanted to say goodbye and would have missed her if I went shopping at my usual time.

While it’s been a flying visit, it’s been an excellent catch-up. Today she was heading to London to meet up with Dave and Molly who have been busy watching musicals on the West End.

There were problems with her flight booking because of the third party company she’d booked through. The company is called eDreams. The check-in staff at Arlanda said they were always having problems with the company. I suggest not using them.

There was also an issue with the trains from Vagnhärad which caused Mirinda and Adele to head in the wrong direction and wind up at Nyköping instead of Stockholm Central. They quickly changed trains and headed into the city instead.

It all turned out for the best and Adele made it, lugging her massively heavy bag along behind her. It helped that the plane left late.

While it’s been a lovely four days, I reckon Freya will miss Adele the most. She does love a new lap.

Then, at the other end of the day, Jason returned from Hamburg. He raced from Arlanda to Vagnhärad in record time and was home by 10:30pm. Of course, it helped that his plane landed almost 20 minutes early.

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Why the Spanish don’t sing

Well, England has done it again. Made it all the way to a major final of an international football competition and lost. How is it possible? Why can’t they “bring it home“, as so many supporters cry? You have to feel sorry for Gareth Southgate. At the end of the 90 minutes, he looked devastated. Strange really because I’d have thought he was used to it.

Not to take anything away from Spain. They played a much better game than they did in the semi-final against France. Actually, both teams played well. It was a very even game. Even the fuzzy haired Marc Cucurella behaved himself. (That may have been because every time he received the ball in the first half, he was roundly booed.)

Spain won 2-1 in Berlin and the Spanish went wild. They, coincidentally, also beat Germany and France 2-1 in their last two games.

There was no victory song for me. Instead, I sat, shaking my head. England had done it again. Speaking of singing, I also found out why the Spanish don’t sing their national anthem before the start of the game. It’s because their national anthem doesn’t have any lyrics.

Anyway, as the cheering died away from Euro 2024, it spelled the end of my football watching for a while. It’s been great, though I did miss having Jason with me. He was watching it in Hamburg in the hostel where he was staying. I was, obviously, on my own. Mirinda joined Adele in the stuga, only returning after the final whistle.

They’d been out all day; meeting Nicoline, doing the tour at Tullgarns slott, having lunch at Tre Små Rum, the usual things we put visitors through.

I stayed home and prepared a smörgåsbord for dinner. It was very well received.

And I’m happy to report that Adele really enjoyed the pickled herring.

I should mention that Donald Trump was shot in the ear today during a rally. The shooter was trying to assassinate him. A lot of people were claiming it was staged. A lot of other, more sensible people were saying no-one could deliberately shoot someone in the ear from so great a distance. Whatever the truth is, it won’t hurt the Republicans as the November election draws closer.

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Undampened by rain

Tonight we had a lovely meal at the Stadshotell. We were going to eat at Matstudio, but I guess they were full because they didn’t really reply to my booking email. I say ‘really’ because they replied to my query by saying they weren’t open for dinner on a Sunday. My request was for a Saturday. I did correct this, but reply there came none.

Not that it mattered. Dinner was, as I said, lovely.

It was our second time dining at the Stadshotell. They serve an excellent fish and, apparently, a great dessert. While our waitress gave me a spoon, I was left to sip my espresso martini instead.

For me, the meal was an escape from captivity. I’d been at home all day with the girls. This was mainly because of Freya and her latest season. I spent the time in various household tasks and in researching a couple of dead soldiers. I may also have watched a bit of TV.

While I enjoyed a largely restful day, Mirinda and Adele crammed a lot into theirs.

In the morning, they enjoyed a boat trip around the archipelago, followed by a drive out to KSP’s place. Next up they went to Stendorren for a beautiful, if somewhat crowded, walk. According to Mirinda, the car park was the fullest she’d ever seen. Though, it wasn’t as bad as this indicated, during their walk.

Then, to finish, we headed into town for dinner. We would have walked, but the rain which has been forecast for a few days finally fell. So we drove. Obviously.

And, I’m happy to report that the rain did not dampen the day one little bit.

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Elsa in the woods

Freya came into season today. I found her nappy, put a pad in and, subsequently, protected every surface in the house. And me, obviously. My shorts needed washing but, otherwise, all was well. Except for Freya who didn’t talk to me for the rest of the day. Instead, she appeared to be sulking.

She wasn’t too happy when Emma went for a walk with Mirinda and Adele and it was just the two of us together at home. Mind you, she might have thought it was a bit odd when Mriinda and Adele went for a swim and tied her to a tree.

The temperature and humidity were too much for me, which is why there was swimming today. Though not for me. Or Jason, who left for Hamburg and a parkour event this weekend.

I wasn’t stuck in the house all day, though. I went into Trosa first thing in order to buy some salmon and then visited the Systembolaget for essential beer supplies.

On the way back I was savagely attacked by a very tiny bit of fluff called Elsa.

She was four months old and a bundle of energy. Her owners had her off the lead so Elsa kept out of their reach as she raced around like a lunatic. She ran up to me a few times but stopped and turned back when the woman owner made a strange noise and called her name. I thought she responded really well for a puppy.

Elsa looked a bit like Emma did when she was the same age.

By bedtime, Freya had come around a bit and things returned to normal.

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Gaz and Jase go shopping

Our latest visitor turned up today. Adele arrived with a very heavy suitcase and fresh tales from Scotland. She, Dave and Molly were in the middle of a holiday, and she’d managed to find four days when she could come and see us. Well, Mirinda really. I’m just an inescapable part of the deal.

The last time I saw Adele, she was driving away from Dural with a wombat in the seat of her car, just before she left for home. It was a fun day which also included a piano accordion.

Anyway, Mirinda headed into Stockholm to meet Adele off the Arlanda Express while I prepared my Swedish meatballs for dinner. Mirinda had suggested I make them. And, if I do say so myself, they turned out very well. But, of course, I had to go and buy the ingredients first.

Last night, Jason said he’d like to accompany me. I was sceptical given I leave so early but, true to his word, he was awake and ready to go not long after 7am. And we had an enjoyable, if somewhat hot and humid, walk to the ICA and back. I even introduced him to my friends in the cemetery.

It wasn’t the only graves I saw today. Later, showing Adele around Trosa, we ended up at the church before heading back to the Stadshotell for a pre-dinner drink.

Strangely, after walking around for a bit, I mentioned to Jason how odd it was that we hadn’t seen anyone we knew. Then, as we walked back to the car, who should suddenly appear on bicycles but Harald and Annette. Mind you, I was surprised we saw them given how many other people were milling around. I’d forgotten how crowded Trosa can get this time of year.

Though it wasn’t crowded at the World’s End.

Back at the house, my meatballs were consumed and declared delicious. My singing, not so much. There then ensued a rather boisterous discussion, including topics such as just about everything that’s wrong with the world. Such fun.

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Combined squeals of delight

When Mirinda walked in the door tonight, Jason and I erupted with yells of delight. Ollie Watkins had just booked England a place in the Euro 24 final. She said it was a rather noisy greeting but appreciated, nonetheless.

She had spent most of the day in Stockholm at a pitch event for entrepreneurs. This included one old fellow who wanted to market a broom for turning off fire alarms.

My morning had started a lot more sedate as I headed up to the ICA first thing. The weather was lovely, the warm feeling of being home, a delight.

As I always say, going away, on holiday, is great, but it makes coming home a delight. I guess that really depends on where you live but, in the case of Trosa…well, it’s just brilliant.

While Mirinda was having a ball in Stockholm, Jason and I were just chilling until the semi-final which saw two amazing goals, a negligible penalty and one of the most unexpectedly exciting 91st minutes of a football game I have ever seen.

It’s been great having Jason here to watch the Euros with. It’s a pity he’ll be in Hamburg for the final, and I’ll be watching on my own. I should have recorded our combined squeals of delight so I could play them back during the game on Sunday.

Apropos of nothing much, I received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions yesterday. I may be a bit pedantic, but I feel a letter from a British government department really should be written in a well-structured way. And make some sense.

Here is what passes for public service correspondence these days:

I know that the Department of Education stopped teaching grammar a long time ago, but this is ridiculous.

I wrote to the email address and thanked them.

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Disney confection

Our final Värmland morning saw the cottage bathed in mist and strained sunlight. The mist gradually cleared and, by the time the packing and tidying was completed, the day was bright and blue. It made a change from the days of rain we’d been ‘enjoying’.

The drive back to Trosa was punctuated by two planned stops and one unplanned when a ginger cat decided to cross the road in front of us. It was fortunate there wasn’t a massive great truck bearing down on us because I doubt it could have avoided us as successfully as we did the cat.

Apart from that skidding blip, the drive home was uneventful. Well, if you ignore the Tiguan rejecting the cable I was using to connect the phone to its brain. It meant the maps kept vanishing. Still, we managed to find somewhere for Mirinda to stretch her legs and have a coffee, just beyond Karlskoga.

It was a lovely spot (like so many Swedish rest stops) with a big restaurant/cafe sitting on the edge of a lake. It was called Lake lodge – Sjökrog and is quite the popular stopping spot. And it’s easy to see why. As well as light snacks and coffee, they also serve full meals. And, on a gorgeous day like today, there’s a large outside area full of tables where you can eat and stare off into the watery landscape.

In fact, there’s only one thing wrong with it. The constant traffic on the E18 was extremely noisy. As well as the eatery, there are also a few motel type rooms. I’m not sure that I’d be able to sleep there. And it wouldn’t just be the noise; I reckon the rumbling would be hard to ignore as well.

Not that that was a problem for us as we climbed back into the car, suitably rested and headed off for our second stop, Stora Sundby slott.

It stands in a massive park of around 3,800 acres and hugs Lake Hjälmaren, the fourth-largest lake in the country. It sits as unobtrusive as a carbuncle, fantasy elements abounding as its turrets reach into the sky. On such a blue day as today, it looks somewhat unreal. I thought it looked awful; I was alone in my opinion.

It was based on the castle in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe and would have been better had it remained in the pages of a book. It is the result of too much money and too little taste.

In the 19th century, Count Carl de Geer moved into an existing castle. His wife, Ulrika, wasn’t impressed with the place and told him she wanted something a bit more showy. He was one of the wealthiest Swedes alive at the time. He sent a request to Peter Frederick Robinson in Scotland. Robinson was the architect of Scott’s home, Abbotsford House. The architect replied with a series of plans.

The Count then employed Master Builder Abraham Nyström to make Robinson’s drawings real. It took Abe 16 years but he finally finished and, in 1848, the confection we saw today was unveiled.

Actually, the inside was not largely changed. It’s a bit like Castle Street in Farnham whereby the outside of the building was clad in frosting, hiding the old-fashioned castle behind it. Which is odd. If Ulrika disliked the old castle, why didn’t she get Carl to change the inside? It’s not like she’d see the outside very often. Unless, of course, she just wanted to impress the neighbours with her lack of taste.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I was fascinated by it and would love to go on one of the guided tours inside but there’s no way I’d call it attractive.

We walked along a lovely woodland track in order to see if the castle was improved with distance (it wasn’t) and came across a massive duck colony.

It wasn’t the only bird encounter as Jason swam out to a small rocky island and managed to cause the mass evacuation of about 62,000 seagulls. They left the small island covered in guano, eggs and the bodies of dead friends.

While Jason was sitting, contemplating the world from his rocky spot, we visited the rather Spanish café and enjoyed some seriously good sourdough open sandwiches.

We went and collected Jason only to find a naked man and his family, splashing around at the edge of the lake. While unexpected, it was largely ignored. I love the Swedish lack of stupidity. He obviously didn’t have any swimmers but really wanted to join his family in the water. Easily fixed. Strip off.

A while later, all suitably refreshed, we headed out on the final leg of our trip home.

Back in Trosa, Jason cooked pasta (I was still on holiday) and, afterwards, we watched Spain beat France in the Euros.

A lovely, relaxed end to a wonderful holiday break.

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Big ugly American car cemetery

Today we went off-road for a bit. Mirinda wanted to drive down the other side of the Övre Fryken Lake and, as we drove, the road became narrower and narrower. What started as a pedestrian/cyclist/car shared track, gradually ended up as two wheel ruts, good enough for a lone jogger and barely driveable. In fact, I’m pretty sure Max would have literally, ground to a halt.

Max has a pretty low wheelbase, being a Mini. The Tiguan sits much higher and, as the lone jogger assured us, would be fine over the many rocks and holes that lay ahead of us. We also had the four-wheel drive option which we switched into as the track descended an almost vertical cliff.

We were returning from Torsby after visiting the small Rottneros Train Station which Nicoline had suggested we may have wanted to visit.

It is ridiculously cute yet unnecessarily big. Thank you, Nicoline. I loved it. It was well worth the visit. Of course, while I stood on the ground to take the photo above, Jason climbed a big pile of gravel to get a better view. His rapid scaling of the hill of loose rocks was a bit easier than his experience at the Torsby Ski Tunnel.

It was at the tunnel where we dropped him off. He thought he’d be indulging in a bit of downhill skiing. When he searched, unsuccessfully, for the ski lift, he realized he was in the midst of a cross country skiing situation. He felt a bit daunted by it as he clambered up the tunnel while the young kids and octogenarians swished by, mocking his inability to remain standing.

Of course, we indulged in a much more sedate and, dare I say, sensible activity. We popped into Hembygdsgården Kollsberg for a few hours of wonderful wandering about.

The museum features 19 old buildings that have been transported from various locations in and around Torsby and rebuilt on a very picturesque bluff, overlooking the lake. On a day like today – all blue and warm – it made for a delightful excursion.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out anything about the history of the museum as a whole but the first building to be erected on the site, Kärråsen, was donated and rebuilt in 1923. The building was originally built in 1846 and belonged to a nail smith and his family.

It has been furnished as a blacksmith’s house on one side and a small school house on the other. This marks the first hembygdsgården that we’ve visited, where a visitor can look inside the buildings. And we took full advantage of the fact.

From the smith’s place to the café; from the squelch mill to the lumberjack’s cabin, we popped into them all. I particularly enjoyed posing as a lumberjack, reading a Swedish magazine from 1950.

There was even a somewhat overgrown amphitheatre. It seats 800 people, though it will need a bit of severe strimming before it can be used. I rather liked the old building now being used as a performer’s dressing room. It has the best view I’ve ever encountered from a dressing room. And I’ve been in a few in my time.

I stood at the bottom and, without really projecting too much, could be heard easily by Mirinda standing at the very top. This proved yet again the genius of the Greeks, who knew a thing or two about sound and how to hear it. There would be no microphones required at this theatre.

It reminded me of the Russian singer who was invited to sing at the Sydney Town Hall many years ago. He walked onstage to be confronted with a microphone on a stand. He exploded, saying he was a professional singer who did not need such a monstrosity in order to be heard. In his anger, he knocked the mic over. Apparently he sang perfectly. And everyone heard him.

Of course, that was way back.

Unaided by electronics, I did my best Hamlet to a very distant Mirinda, who the eagle-eyed may spot in the photo above.

Having looked at every building on the site, and had a lovely open sandwich from the café, we heeded Jason’s desperate call to be saved from the tunnel and met him in the car park.

From the safety and comfort of the car, he regaled us with his tales of woe, which included a general lack of food at the ski tunnel. We took pity on him and drove him to the big ICA where he indulged in a big sausage which Mirinda smelled before he left the shop. He was surprised her sense of smell was so powerful. Obviously, I wasn’t.

Actually, Mirinda’s sense of smell has gone a bit wacky. She keeps smelling cigarette smoke while standing in the small kitchen at the cottage. Neither Jason nor I could smell it. Maybe it’s the ghost of a chain smoker whose soul lingers in the curls of smoke rising from his last cigarette. Or maybe she is just smelling things.

But, back at the car, we managed to navigate the tiny track and popped out at a proper road and headed for our temporary home for the final time. Though not before we saw my favourite, ugly American shit bucket car.

It appears to be in its final resting place as grass and various wildflowers attempt to reclaim it.

Jason had a more favourable opinion. Apparently he likes butt ugly cars and will, one day return to Torsby with his yet to meet Swedish girlfriend and attempt to resurrect this piece of crap.

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