Frightened by a duck

In the Moderna Museet there’s a cafe with a lovely outside space, tables and chairs surrounding a beautiful cherry tree, still in full blossom. We sat there with a beer/wine having viewed the best of Giacometti. There were quite a few people there. There was also a couple of ducks: female and male. Clearly together.

The female duck was after some table scraps. I guess they get a lot of handouts from people so they just wander around looking hungry.

A young couple were sitting at a table, next to each other, which is weird to start with, and they were approached by the female duck. The woman of the couple stood up as if a bat had smacked her in the face. She looked under the table, holding desperately onto the back of her chair, as she watched the female duck stand, threatening her. The young man with her stood up as well. They were both, clearly, petrified.

Eventually, the young couple moved to another table, watching the duck warily. The duck merely shook its beak in disbelief as it claimed the table for its own and trotted off to harass another group of diners.

The ducks on Skeppsholmen are not to be trusted. As opposed to the bridge that connects the island to the, for want of a better word, mainland. The bridge has a small plaque on it which, in part anyway, reads:

“In May 1652, Admiral Fleming accompanied Queen Kristina across the bridge. He stumbled and pulled the Queen down in his fall. At the last moment, General Wachtmeister managed to grab her dress and pull her to the shore. It is said that the Queen fared well because she was accustomed to drink [sic] water. Fleming, however, who only drank wine and beer, was less fortunate.”

We walked across a different bridge to Queen Kristina. That’s because the one she fell off was made of wood and burnt. The next one, built to replace the first one, was also made of wood and, burned as well. Then, because technology had moved on a bit, the final one, the one we walked across today, was made of wrought iron.

The present Skeppsholmsbron (Skeppsholm Bridge) was completed in 1861 and has three divided sections. In the middle there’s a single lane for traffic and either side are walkways for pedestrians. It’s a perfect bridge, I have to say.

Then you get a couple of stupid pedestrians who spoil it for the rest of us and give walkers a bad name. A couple of people, walking along the bit reserved for traffic, held everything up today. I feel we need a hashtag. Like #NotAllPedestrians. It’s like dog walkers who don’t pick up after their dogs.

Anyway, that’s by the by. Today we went to Skeppsholmen to see an exhibition of works by Alberto Giacometti at the Moderna Museet. And, as a day out, it was pretty brilliant.

For a start, we both fell in love with Skeppsholmen. It was once a naval base. Now it’s a delightful space full of trees, gardens and museums. It’s very welcoming. Even the outdoor art welcomes you with open arms.

Part of The Paradise (1966) by Jean Tinguely & Niki de Saint Phalle

The museum itself is massive. Part of it was originally a drill hall for the navy while the rest of the building was built specifically to be an art gallery and opened in 1958. It’s a lovely, big, open and bright space full of the kind of art that my mother and father-in-law would both detest. Not that they’d call it art, of course.

It also contains the sort of art I find sometimes intriguing, sometimes disturbing and other times hilarious. It is art that expands the viewer’s vision to include the vision of the artist. Sometimes that’s not a good thing, today, however, it was very good.

According to the small guide for the exhibition, “Throughout his artistic career, Giacometti was preoccupied with his own inadequacy when it came to depicting reality.” So, it seems, that he decided not to bother and created his own.

The Nose (1947) by Giacometti

A lot of his works are extraordinary. His very thin heads are remarkable. From the side they look thick, substantial, complete but, viewed from straight on they are thin, very fine presentations of faces. Though they appear to have been squashed.

Here’s a short video of what I mean but am clearly unable to describe properly:

The exhibition had a lot of his distinctive long thin sculptures. They come in various sizes. From the really quite tall to the almost microscopic. Here’s the smallest, with me for scale. And I wonder why he didn’t use a smaller base.

We thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, which is slightly more than you can say for the add-on exhibition downstairs. A deconstructed wind turbine blade, some yellow cloth over deflated beanbags, a cross and an odd video which was strangely erotic but indistinct at the same time. I have to say, it reminded me of the worst excesses of The White Bus, though, obviously better.

Possibly, the most satisfying thing about this small exhibition was the photo that Mirinda took of me watching the odd video.

Still, you can’t know that you don’t like something unless you actually see it. So that’s something.

Anyway, if I was the type of person who ticks things off lists then moves onto the next, I’d say that Giacometti is nicely ticked.

The rest of the day was spent heading over to The Hairy Pig (obviously) where we were royally entertained by Joseph and Ryan (Aussie tour guide). And fed. Naturally, we were very well fed.

We had a jolly good laugh with Ryan. He related a funny story about his dead grandfather which I’ll add to tomorrow’s post. For now, let me end this post by saying that we will return to Skeppsholmen and give it a good explore. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Sitting in a field of primroses

On November 22, 2020, we were given a parking fine for, apparently, parking without paying. As it turned out, we had paid and I could supply a receipt. A month later, on December 18, 2020, I received the welcome news that I was correct, I didn’t have to pay the fine and I could throw the ticket away.

Well, it’s happened again. Today we went to the café on Notholmen and returned to the car to find another parking ticket claiming we hadn’t paid. When we had. As soon as we returned home, I typed an email to the parking company and included their receipt to show I’d paid. Now I’ll just wait another month for the ticket to be annulled, as they call it.

The café was quite busy, with lots of people gathering for someone’s birthday as well as the usual hordes happily sitting outside enjoying the fact that it wasn’t raining. We both thought it was lovely seeing so many families out and about, lapping up the island delight.

And we spotted a couple of newcomers. Newcomers who the girls were very interested in.

The two big, black and white rabbits, have been holidaying on a farm, waiting for the weather to warm up enough for them to move back in on the island. I don’t think the girls have ever seen a rabbit before – at least not this close – and they were suitably inquisitive.

When we think about things we’ll miss about Sweden (in the if and when) the café on Notholmen is definitely one of them. We’ve come almost every weekend since October and now feel, not just like locals, but more like pieces of furniture.

There’s times I even feel like a bit of the landscape.

After a lovely brunch, we went for a short walk along the pier, checking out the two boats moored there. Actually, one was leaving. The one I’d have preferred. Of course, Mirinda would have had either of them. I pointed out that the smaller one would have been very difficult for me to climb into from the dock. Whereas, the bigger one, had a bedroom. And a sliding glass door.

I think I convinced her that my choice was definitely better.

I noticed a lot of fisherfolk today. On the bridge and on the rocks. I’ve yet to see anyone catch a decent fish. Lots of tiddlers that just get dehooked and chucked back. Of course, here in Sweden, you can eat what you catch but, I fear, a lot of the fisherfolk I see will probably go to bed hungry.

Apropos of nothing on the island, this morning, I clipped my reading of Nicktor’s football report from the Talking Newspaper this week and uploaded it here for anyone who might want to listen. It’s less than three minutes.

To finish this post, providing a marvellous full stop, I want to share something I spotted on top of the plastics recycling bin today.

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Starting over further back

I learned a valuable lesson today. When it comes to editing the Talking Newspaper, it’s a good idea to read BOTH sets of stories. In that way, you don’t tend to make the kind of mistake I made today. Then your mistake and subsequent explanation made to the engineer, won’t be left in the recording. It was fortunate I didn’t swear.

It went a little something like this:

ME: ...Robini polled 287 votes more than Mr Hall to take the town’s county seat at the fourth time of asking – having finished second in 2005, 2009 and 2017. Meanwhile, fellow Lib Dem Paul Follows, won Godalming South, Milford and Witley by a huge margin of 1,158 votes [pause] And I’m not going to read that because Susan just said the same thing. I’ll start back from just after the three years. [pause] But there were no sour grapes from Mr Hall

Obviously I should have restarted from long before the years, but I guess I’m a bit used to depending on the engineer to understand what I’m saying. I shouldn’t. It’s hardly fair. Particularly while recording remotely.

Apart from hearing my own mistake while listening to the recording over dinner, it all seemed to go fine. Susan was my reader this month and Mike R the engineer.

Actually, Mike recorded it ‘multi-track’ so we could hear each other while not being recorded. It means all three mikes are left on. Then, during the edit, Mike deletes the tracks not needed. It’s a great way to avoid losing any chat because the microphones have been turned off.

It’s also a great way to gauge the humour in my Letter from Sweden because I hear them laugh. Having a live audience gives me a chance to pause slightly where needed rather than second guess the listening audience.

As soon as we’d finished recording, I had to high tail it up to the shops. And it rained. Not heavily and I still wore shorts but it was annoying. Especially given that, as soon as I returned home, it stopped raining and the blue sky returned.

Mind you, the rain returned late in the day, just as Mirinda went for one of her walk ‘n’ talks. Which meant damp puppies.

I stayed at home and made dinner. A delicious frittata which I was particularly pleased with. My frittata skills are getting very good.

Before going to bed, and clearly not satisfied with recording all morning, I recorded the latest episode of my podcast Letter from Sweden. Given I wrote the letter back in March, it felt odd reading about the weather when it is so different now.

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The old clip, edit and record

Today I was preparing and editing this week’s edition of the Talking Newspaper when I came across a story in the sports section of the paper. It was about a goalkeeper and his miraculous saving abilities. It was accompanied by a number of photographs that looked somewhat familiar. In style rather than content. I wondered if the writer and photographer were the same.

I wrote to the journalist and asked, given there was no credit for the photographs. And, I was correct in my assumption. Text and photographs were both by the same person.

While it won’t exactly win a Pulitzer Prize, it’s a notch above most of the local sports reports I usually read. I guess having written two books about Aldershot Town Football Club, Nick Cansfield should know how to write. He’s had enough practice, anyway.

I’ve often mentioned Nicktor during FATN recordings. It has mostly been in connection with the two of us going to see The Shots. Or when he’s had photos in the paper. Given the plague, I haven’t been able to for over a year so this edition will make a pleasant return to the old days. Sort of.

From next month, we are returning to the old clip, edit and record of the old days, so I was on a pretty tight schedule to finish the clippings asap. The idea is to have the stuff ready to record by 14:30. I think I made it.

I had to have a Zoom call with a solicitor at midday, regarding the Septic Deed for the cottage, so that put me a bit behind, then there was a bit of confusion over who was reading with me this week, but, had we been recording today, I think it would have been fine.

Ann and Susan gave it a trial run last week and said they managed, so I’m sure it’ll all be fine when it comes down to it.

I spent a bit of time fine tuning my latest Letter from Sweden. This month’s is about the rocks we see all over the place. Like this one:

I took the photo above during our constitutional before dinner.

The evening was glorious. Again. Pretty much like the entire day.

As we walked around the neighbourhood, we saw a lot of people outside, enjoying their gardens. Kids playing and being generally full of playful noise. Spring is definitely here.

That was my day, pretty much. Apart from a bit of time spent throwing a tennis ball for the indefatigable Emma.

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Altered route

Walking back from the bus stop today, I was struck by the brilliant blue of the sky against the green of the grass surrounding the houses along my new route home. While it may be a bit quicker, the new route takes me by gardens and gardeners, families playing, and a delightful lack of traffic.

Routes were very much to the fore this morning. And, continuing on from yesterday’s post about public transport, today was a big day on the buses for some.

Being Wednesday meant a trip into Tyresö Centrum and, as luck would have it, I managed to catch the 824 which goes around the back streets rather than the more direct way. I prefer the 824 as it winds its way through the ‘burbs.

Climbing aboard, I managed to get a good seat with provision for my trolley, something that doesn’t always happen. The bus pulled in at Trollbäcken centrum and the driver suddenly left the bus and dashed across the road to talk to, what appeared to be, an SL instructor.

The two men made their way over to our bus and the driver showed the man something on the outside top corner of the bus. While I didn’t understand anything they were saying, it appeared that the instructor was telling the driver that he shouldn’t worry about it until he took the bus back to the garage.

The driver thanked the instructor and climbed back aboard and we continued our journey.

We picked up an old chap at one stop who looked a bit grumpy. He sat across the aisle from me unsmiling and miserable. His misery was about to be increased.

As we were about to move away from one particular stop, the driver grabbed his microphone and announced something. Obviously I have no idea what he said but, given the entire bus didn’t empty while the driver ushered us safely to the shelter of a bus stop, I sat and watched. And waited. The bus moved off.

Except, instead of going straight ahead, the bus turned left, along a road I’d never seen before. This was exciting, I thought, eagerly soaking up the new area. To me, anyway.

Not the 827

While I enjoyed myself, the fellow across the aisle from me started talking. Not loud enough to be heard by anyone other than me and his invisible companion but enough to indicate that he wasn’t happy with the turn the bus had taken. Eventually, he could take no more. He stood up and went to talk to the driver.

To the driver’s credit, he held his hand up to indicate the man should wait. He pulled over safely then turned to talk to the man. Obviously, again, I had no idea what they were talking about, but it did seem to be a repeat of whatever the driver had said over the bus speakers.

My assumption, at this point, was that the driver had announced a deviation because of either an accident or road works or something of that ilk and the man hadn’t bothered to listen to the announcement and just needed a private consultation. Anyway, the moany man sat back down and we continued our journey.

And what a journey. It probably added about ten minutes to the normal trip but it was so worth it. The route usually takes us by huge blocks of flats and lots of schools but not today. Actually, the route was essentially the same at the start and finish of the deviation apart from a short stretch of road but there was a lovely new long bit in the middle driving by beautiful houses perched on rocks, with woods on either side.

There was a brief moment of panic as the driver, having forgotten to stop, pulled over and let a woman with a stroller off the bus. As he tried to leave the impromptu stop, the doors refused to close, so the bus wouldn’t move. He tried all manner of things while the moany man (and another slightly happier one) started getting decidedly anxious.

The driver managed to fix the problem by doing what every technician knows will fix most things. He turned everything off then, having waited at least 30 seconds, turned it all on again. It worked and we continued on our way.

Eventually, we reached Tyresö Centrum and I went and shopped for the essentials then had a latte at Espresso House where the two baristas raved about the weather and told me how much I’d love the Swedish summer once it arrived.

Heading back home I once more had the good fortune of catching the 824.

This bus had seven women on it plus a woman driver. And me, obviously. I know the exact number because, when the driver reached the diversion point and rattled off her spiel, every one in the bus raced up to the front to engage in a long, involved though generally cheerful, chat with the driver.

Before the announcement of the diversion, everyone (but me) sat at the back of the bus but, following the announcement, they were all gathered around the front of the bus. It was as if, by sitting too far back, they’d miss something important.

Anyway, all was well as we repeated my trip from earlier though in reverse. I mean the route, rather than the bus. Driving the entire diversion in reverse would have been an extraordinary feat. And rather nerve wracking for all of us.

I related my morning adventure to Mirinda as we sat in the garden at Norrbys Trädgård over a bowl of fisksoppa. I think she enjoyed my transport tale as a healthy distraction. Or diversion.

We sat outside and round the back, somewhere we’d not sat before. It was a very pleasant lunch and, happily, gave Mirinda a break from work which was sorely needed.

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I do love a tram

I was a bit concerned with our trip into the city today because of the long Metro portion of the trip. Then I discovered, what I thought was the Metro was, in fact, a tram. Obviously this put me in a much better frame of mind, both for my own selfish love of trams, and the fact that Mirinda prefers being above ground on any journey.

Stockholm tram (Tvärbanan) line 30 goes from Sikla to Solna (and vice versa), through both scenic and not so scenic parts of the city. It is a lovely long journey, running for 18.94 km with 26 stops. Even if you are travelling from Gullmarsplan to Sundbyberg, it’s still a very enjoyable journey.

The reason we were going to Sundbyberg was to visit the Migration Agency to have our photos and fingerprints taken for our residency cards. As I wrote yesterday, it was all a bit rushed and sudden.

Fortunately, Malin was free to take the girls (otherwise they’d have been stuck in the house), which meant they had a couple of lovely walks while we enjoyed the hottest day in Stockholm this year.

The temperature was 23°, the sun was bright and the sky very, very blue. I even wore my French artist’s hat and neither of us put on the fleeces we had tied around our waists. We’ve been acclimatized to the chilly since October so today was a bit of a weather shock to our systems.

Of course, we were early, given the rather long buffer we put in place. The Migration Agency gives you a ten minute window and, if you don’t make it, you lose it. So we thought it wise to not just get there early but also to scope out the office and determine what we were to do.

The office is currently on pandemic rules which means there were crowds of people on the pavement outside and hardly any on the chairs inside. Having seen it, we then headed down to a handy café for a beer and coffee.

Eatery is a number of things. It operates an order and pay system at the door for food whereby you pick your meal then go and collect it at the food counter down the back. Here you can find salads and vegetables and bread to go with it. The food looks like good no fuss fare. And it seems to be quite popular with most of the outside tables taken and quite a steady stream of people inside.

As well as an eatery, you can just have a drink. Which we did. I was going to try one of the tempting cannoli sat in a glass jar on the bar but the barmaid was a bit distracted so I didn’t bother. Probably for the best. Besides, cannoli and IPA doesn’t really work.

Anyway, at the appropriate time, we returned to the Migration Agency and, after a bit of indecision regarding whether we should stay outside or enter, we entered, flashing our appointment details at the security guard who just waved us through.

I missed the touch screen for registering our arrival but, fortunately Mirinda found it. She punched in our code and the big screens placed us at the bottom of a long list. We sat down, prepared for a long wait. We didn’t have a long wait.

Suddenly, our code turned green and climbed the long list, reaching the top very quickly. We headed for the counter and were processed within the ten minutes. We were back outside before we knew it and heading back to the tram stop for the enjoyable trip back to Gullmarsplan.

As we headed back, it, not for the first time, made me wonder why people drive cars when they could enjoy such a wonderful way to be transported around a city. Then I remembered that the people who drive the cars are, basically, responsible for the lack of good public transport infrastructure simply because they choose to drive cars.

It’s sad, because our trip was largely stress free while the cars on the road appeared to be full of stress as they avoided pedestrians, trams, buses and other cars, while negotiating the roads and looking at their phones. Humans can be a bit odd sometimes.

At Gullmarsplan we were gifted with the experience of a young man pushing in to a very long queue for the 807 bus back home. Clearly someone who feels they have some sort of privilege that I was unaware of. He was followed by a little kid who just decided he didn’t want to wait for his elders to take seats first.

We really needed a Viking to haul them both back, dumping them at the end of the queue.

You have to wonder why these people are so ignorant. And maybe that’s why people drive cars everywhere because they can’t abide the rude little bastards that push in and claim the seats rather than stand up for the old, infirm and, frankly, more attractive, like they should.

That aside, the whole day was a joy of efficiency, sun and tram rides.

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The day that Clive swore

Arena is the local council magazine for the Rushmoor Borough Council area. It is produced four times a year and details the various services supplied by the council as well as new things that are happening. It covers Aldershot and Farnborough. And, four times a year, FATN produces a recorded version for the visually impaired. And that’s what I read this morning.

It’s generally just dull facts and lots of phone numbers with some interesting stories dotted through. And, actually, the best bit is just chatting before and after with the other readers and the engineer.

This edition included Ann, Clive and me reading and Charles recording and repairing.

Poor Clive has been infected with shingles, on his face and hairline. The poor thing was reading with one eye and in some pain. But, as both he and Ann proclaimed, “The show must go on!” And it did.

And, for the first time ever, the normally calm, collected and erudite Clive stumbled a few times and used rather strong swear words to express his irritation. Very unusual and, frankly quite funny. Had I had a mouth of coffee at the time, I’d have spat it all out. It was a good job my microphone was muted because I was in fits of laughter.

Poor Clive. He did manage to see the doctor and has been given medication. Charles said his cleared up pretty quickly because it was caught in time. Let’s hope it’s the case with Clive. Obviously, we all made the right sort of ‘get well soon’ noises at the end of the session.

I then said it was a bit annoying that everyone sympathises when someone has shingles but when I first told people I had gout they just laughed. Which made them all laugh. I said I’d understand the jollity if I was being wheeled around Farnham in a bath chair. Charles said I needed to get one.

Anyway, because of the recording session, I had to shop later in the day than usual.

And, for the first time since arriving in Sweden, I actually worked up a sweat it was so warm. In fact, we were tempted to eat dinner out on the terrace. Then the sun started to dip, the wind sprung up and we decided it was too chilly.

Possibly the most exciting thing that happened today, though, was being able to get a booking time at the Migration Agency where we have to leave our fingerprints and a photograph for our residency cards. I’ve been trying ever since we received the letters confirming our residency but today was the first time there’d been any times.

And so, tomorrow, we are unexpectedly but excitedly, off to Stockholm.

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Dorian Grey at Notholmen

Today started off reasonably enough but, by the time Mirinda had visited the woods with the girls and had a long Skype session with Bob and Fi, it had all gone a bit grey. Then, when we went to the café on Notholmen, the drizzly rain had started. And that was it for the day. Drizzle and grey.

While mildly unpleasant, the weather did mean there were fewer people on the island. For us this means no queuing and small children dodging, but for the café it means fewer customers. And, given the fact that May has arrived, heralding longer hours (10:00-17:00), it means longer hours for the staff to stand around waiting for people to turn up and buy stuff.

Evelyn told us today that she’d worked all week and, it being so quiet at times, had started listening to an audio book version of The Picture of Dorian Grey. Which, of course, prompted Mirinda to tell her all about Oscar Wilde and Ernest.

I thought it appropriate that she should be listening to a book about someone called Grey during a week where most of the days were, basically, grey.

Evelyn also told me that I was drinking the last bottle of Dubbel IPA for the season. The brewery only produces it in winter and, Evelyn reckons, I drank it all. She also said that they were going to order more next season, especially for me.

Next week, though, I’ll have to return to the more summery beer I drank when we first arrived. Not that that’s a problem, of course.

While the weather was not particularly pleasant, there were still a few hardy souls sitting in the marquee and one couple still outside, hardly sheltered from the drizzle.

Walking back to Max, we noticed that a green painted bench had been placed near one of the spheres in the Tyresö Slott park. At first glance, the bench looked like some jokester had moved it there from somewhere more appropriate. However, as the number of them increased as we passed each sphere, it was obvious it was a change of season thing.

And while the ground gets increasingly covered with anemones, bringing a flowery carpet to the park, one area is becoming alive with primrose. Which, to me anyway, seems appropriate in a park designed and based on the English model.

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Visiting the Hallwyls

There can’t be that many people who have seen the cherry blossom in both Tokyo and Stockholm. Well, apart from people who live in either place. That’s what I was thinking today while we stood beneath the cherry blossom in Kungsträdgården. Mind you, I then saw a Japanese woman taking a photo of her kids under the blossoms so, perhaps, she’s another.

The number of people would be further limited by adding the fact that it’s during our wedding anniversary week.

The other week Mirinda thought the cherry blossom was fake. I don’t know how she thought someone was going to fill a huge area with fake trees full of blossom but, she did. Then she read about the cherry blossom in Stockholm and that it was real. She was determined that we should see it today.

We had also booked into a restaurant for a continuation of our 30th anniversary celebrations. And there was a sort of plan to go to a gallery. As it turned out, we didn’t go to a gallery. We went to a house instead. The Hallwylska House Museum.

Completed in 1898, the house was the summer home of the Count and Countess Walther and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl. They were ridiculously rich and more than a little eccentric.

As an indication of their wealth, the build of the house had no budgetary restrictions. It is still one of the most expensive private residences ever built in Sweden. You can see where the money was spent. Even the family portraits in the Upper Vestibule were copied from the originals by the artist Julius Kronberg (1850-1921). The originals came from the Walther’s family castle in Switzerland. They were returned after being copied. I guess, if you visit Schloss Hallwyl in the canton of Aargau in Switzerland, you can see the originals.

Wilhelmina had always intended for the house to become a museum. It was bequeathed to the Swedish state and, in 1938, became the museum it is today. The only stipulation was that it remain essentially unchanged. Which it has. It’s quite amazing.

Even the museum staff are in period costume. They all look like domestic staff in the great house. It gives the whole place a wonderful air of still being used. Even the creepy, headless butler.

While there were plague restrictions in place limiting the number of people in each room, we had a lovely wander around. Mind you, there was a bit of a problem between the Billiard and Porcelain rooms.

The Billiard Room allowed for three people and the Porcelain Room only two. The Porcelain Room is a dead end, and you have to return through the Billiard Room. We were two in the Porcelain Room and there were three women in the Billiard Room. It was an impossible situation.

I guess we could have created one of those logic problems like the fox, the chicken and the seed but, instead, we managed by holding our collective breaths and running on either side of the billiard table.

The Porcelain Room was amazing. Wilhemina collected things and one of her collections was over 500 pieces of porcelain. Among the many cups, saucers and plates, she also collected little figurines.

If you go on the guided tour (in Swedish) you can see even more of the house but, given we arrived on the spur of the moment and you had to pre-book, we satisfied ourselves with the ten rooms on offer. It was enough.

We’d already wandered around under the cherry blossom and had our usual fika. We were ready for a bit of a rest when we emerged from the house.

Of course, we had to have a bit of a sit down so we found a very handy outside dining place and I had a beer and Mirinda enjoyed a glass of rosé. We were not alone. There are quite a few outside dining places along the Wolodarski section of the Kungsträdgården and they were rapidly filling up. We collared a table and watched the people being showered by the flying blossom on the occasionally stiff breeze.

It was then time to wander down to the Bistro Bestick where we were booked in for a late lunch. And what a brilliant choice.

I’d been trying to find a Michelin starred place for our anniversary but without much luck. Then the Bistro Bestick popped up. I am so glad it did. Not only brilliant food and an excellent cellar, we had a jolly good chat with the head waiter, Dimitrios and found out his life history. More or less.

He was heading home to Greece last year, to start working in a Greek restaurant in Athens then the pandemic hit. He had cancelled his Swedish life in anticipation of a new start but, with three days before the Greek lockdown, he returned to Stockholm to start again. Fortunately they took him back at the restaurant.

I have to compliment the chef (and owner) Björn Fischer who has amazing skill with food. I particularly loved his crème brulee topped with 36 month aged parmesan and truffle. Genius.

All in all, a lovely Stockholm day and end to our anniversary week of celebrations.

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Political post; best avoided

There was a whole load of local elections in Britain today. In an extraordinary feat of self harm, Hartlepool elected a Tory. Well, actually, less than half the electorate of Hartlepool elected a Tory. Only 47% turned out to vote. To me, this says that the majority of the electorate is happy for the minority to look after their interests.

The apparent Hartlepool apathy could, I suppose, be because of Plague Fear. I do wonder, though, what a government has to do before a country rebels.

Hartlepool has one of the highest levels of unemployment in Britain (9%), it has nine food banks, 26.7% of children are living in poverty; the statistics make for some grim reading. And yet they choose to be led by a political party which has, over the years, caused these statistics through its austerity programme.

Almost always, it’s been a Labour stronghold, so the Tories see this local election as something huge. And it is.

They did vote for Brexit in Hartlepool. 69.6% voted to Leave with a turnout of 65.5%. Maybe it’s something a lot simpler than subservience and cap doffing. Maybe it’s about believing lies. Perhaps it’s believing that their rights were being stolen by the EU. Possibly, the Faragian propaganda worked very well in Hartlepool and continues to flavour every political decision.

This would seem to be correct if we look at the 2019 election results. Hartlepool threw a bone of support to The Brexit Party. A huge 25% of the vote went to Richard Tice, cutting down the votes for both Labour and Conservative. Labour just hung on, but it was a close thing.

That’s Richard Tice, wealthy, long time member and donor of the Conservative Party. Surprisingly, he is the son of a philanthropist. I wonder what his mother thought of his politics. I assume she was proud as Punch when the referendum result was read out in 2016.

What I really want to know though, is how many people in Hartlepool are jumping up and down and celebrating (with water, given they can’t afford anything else) because they have made it clear they want even less control over their lives, more cuts and a privatised health service.

That’s possibly the most extraordinary thing. The Conservative government is happily chipping away at their beloved NHS in order to give the insurance industry even more money than they have now. And Hartlepool is happy about that, it would seem.

But, how will the unemployed of Hartlepool afford health insurance? Has the electorate in Hartlepool heard about the American system and how it’s virtually impossible for a poor person to get medical treatment without overpriced insurance? Because that’s what they’re going to have to get used to.

Did anyone in Hartlepool clap for the NHS last year? If so, I suppose it was a slow hand clap, announcing the day was coming when it would no longer exist. Will they be crying that they didn’t know, and then start blaming the Conservatives? Finally?

I listened to a podcast about PT Barnum this morning. It reminded me of the Conservative Party. Particularly given there’s a clown in Number 10 these days.

And Hartlepool shows us that there is, in fact, “…a sucker born every minute.”

Posted in Gary's Posts, Sweden 2021 | Leave a comment