A teetotal version of a vegetarian sausage

Wikipedia turned 20 today. I read an article that claimed that the majority of articles on Wikipedia are more accurate than, say, the Encyclopaedia Britannica. However, the article went on to say that a lot of Wikipedia is either untrue and/or unreliable.

Possibly the greatest and the worst thing about Wikipedia as a source of information is the ability to change it. This is something that a lot of commentators maintain is what’s wrong with it. Of course, a print edition of a big international encyclopaedia has only one chance to be accurate.

I guess it just shows that the world still needs information scientists (librarians) to disseminate vital information for people who are, possibly, not so well equipped to figure out fact from falsehood, newspeak from actual journalism.

So, happy 20th birthday Wikipedia and, like Marion, the trusty and reliable librarian, long may you exist.

Moving right along…

I thought this picnic set looked nice and comfy with big fluffy cushions ready to receive aching butts and tired elbows. Obviously, no-one else thought so.

Regarding the weather, one of the things that Mirinda has embraced, wholeheartedly, here in Sweden is the Winter Palaver. Keeping calm while taking the requisite ten minutes to leave the house as she dons various layers and pulls the snow boots on, has become an essential part of every departure. I see it as being one of those things I see through Japanese eyes.

It is part of the Essential Slowness of our lives these days. The importance of the trip as well as the destination. The appreciation in all experiences rather than the irritation and impatience of the preamble.

As part of all this, we even have a Palaver Chair which sits in the airlock between the warmth of the house and the chill of the outside world. It’s ideal for putting on boots and connecting the girls to their lead.

The airlock was very handy today given the temperature was -10° and the snow fell in the patches between sun and blue sky. The wind made it feel quite a bit colder, something we felt slapping our cheeks as we went for our evening constitutional.

The blue sky was something I experienced from afar as it put in an appearance mostly as I sat in the spare room recording the Talking Newspaper with Robert and Mike P. As I told them, the snow lay round about and the sun made it sparkle. Farnham was cold, grey and miserable so they may have been a bit jealous.

Because of the recording, I didn’t go shopping until afterwards. This is something I’ll probably not repeat. A lot of people shop after 2pm at the Ica in Trollbäken on a Friday. It was not as pleasant as it can be in the mornings. I decided that I’ll shop on a Thursday when I have a recording of a Friday. Annoying in reference to the schedule but essential in reference to any kind of shopping pleasure.

Late on, as Mirinda talked on various forms of electronic communication, I took the girls out the back. Emma chased a stick while Freya went exploring. It was very cold. Emma didn’t seem to mind but, every time she stopped walking, Freya started shivering.

She is also sometimes hard to see. In particular in the half light of twilight, between the trees, she just vanishes. It must be very difficult if your dog is actually white rather than champagne coloured.

At the end of the day, John sent a photograph through the Weasel WhatsApp group. It caused him a lot of distress and garnered all manner of shocked responses from other dedicated purists.

When asked where the alcohol went, Tom reckoned it was extracted for use in hand sanitiser. I thought it was a teetotal version of a vegetarian sausage. Whatever, it can’t be good for you.

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Snowy joy

We had a lovely lot of snow last night. I know a lot of people don’t like snow, but I’m definitely not one of them. I love it. I think it makes the world look so much nicer. And, of course, I do rather like the cold.

As can be seen in the above photo, Max is covered in snow and ice. The other evening, on our constitutional, we watched a couple of women trying to gain access to a car in a similar situation. They were unsuccessful as the ice and snow had frozen everything shut up tight.

Seeing the issues the two women were having, I have decided my new job each morning is to free Max from his icy cloak. That’s why I bought the scraper yesterday.

I also had a wall of snow to clear away from directly behind the car. When the snow plough goes by, the snow gets piled up on the edge of the footpath. I took the shovel to it and had the wall flattened in no time at all.

Having the shovel in hand, I figured it made sense to clear the footpaths to the house as well. In fact, I was quite industrious.

Mirinda, in the meanwhilst, was wandering the local streets, walking and talking while the girls had fun in the snow. She returned, all aglow with the -7° crispness and snowy joy.

I have a Talking Newspaper recording tomorrow so half of today was spent preparing the clippings and running script. I managed to find a few stories that didn’t mention the virus. It wasn’t easy.

Late on, I took the girls outside and, as the snow fell, I threw a frozen stick for Emma to chase and return. I also collected some fire wood to, hopefully, dry out.

Mirinda had her first Town Hall of the year at 5pm and, afterwards, we went for a walk around the streets. While we didn’t see any discarded Christmas trees (from yesterday) we spotted a few houses that had removed their lights. Or, rather, turned them off.

I think the lights will all come down this weekend. Mirinda hopes not but we shall see.

It felt like quite a productive day. And, to top it off beautifully, I made a delicious frittata for dinner.

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Toss the Tree Out the Window Day

At 03:45 this morning, Emma licked my fingers in a clear signal that she wanted to go out to the loo. Freya followed us downstairs and, having first checked the time in the kitchen, I took them outside to ablute. We then went back to bed as if nothing had happened.

At around 07:00 I woke again and made my way downstairs. The house was strangely quiet. As I passed the microwave (my source of time in the first time of waking) the little screen was black. I then realised that the heater was off. It didn’t take long to work out that the electricity had ceased operations.

I shut myself away in the lounge (which the under floor heating had already heated) and wrote to Camilla informing her that we were in danger of hyperthermia and who knows what given I couldn’t have a coffee. I wondered whether I should have bought an emergency camp stove.

An hour later, when I woke Mirinda and told her the sad and distressing news that she wouldn’t be having a cup of tea this morning, I thought to check the fuse box. The main fuse had been tripped. I flicked the switch and, like a miracle from the gods, everything came back on.

I realise that Occam’s Razor dictates that I should have checked the power board first, but my defence is a lack of coffee.

My day improved after that little episode with a trip into Tyresö Centrum for vital supplies.

Given the new Swedish decision to start limiting numbers of customers in shops depending on square metre-age of floor space, every shop had a sign outside with a hand written number boldly proclaiming the magic number.

This was obvious for the mobile phone shop that could only allow 3. At least you can work that one out. Ica was 128 and that would be impossible to judge. There was no-one counting people in and out of the large shops. In fact, apart from the little signs, shopping was no different to normal.

I managed to buy a window scraper for Max. Given the weather conditions at the moment, this was very important. I also bought two pairs of the shoe spike things, something I’ve used often to remain upright on the icy paths of Farnham Park.

Speaking of the weather…we had a bit more snow in the night which meant an upsurge in snow removal machinery. I tried to get a photo of a snow plough while I waited for my bus back, but it was a blur to action. They really do race from one snow hazard to another.

On the way back, I was reminded that it was St Knut’s Day. It’s the day that the Swedes take down the Christmas Tree. Once denuded of decorations, a strange little dance is performed around the now naked tree. It is then tossed out the window (or off the balcony).

In fact, in most quarters it is still called Toss the Tree Out the Window day.

Actually, it doesn’t happen so often these days, but I did see a sad little pile of around five forlorn trees piled outside an apartment block on the way home.

Back at home, I unpacked, showed Mirinda the goodies I’d bought before we left for Norrby’s for fish soup. The garden looked lovely, covered in snow, though you could see where the dogs had left yellow snow where you wouldn’t normally notice. And, of course, once one dog has peed every other dog that passes has to add to the overall scent puddle. This makes it difficult to assure the owners that your dog didn’t do it.

We sat by the window, enjoying the fact that we were inside, all toasty, while the temperature outside was below zero.

The drop in temperature was the reason why Camilla and Anders came to visit tonight. They wanted to install two insert windows in the kitchen. Or, double glazing for people who prefer to retain their beautiful original windows.

We had a jolly chat which ranged from Russian drinking habits to microscopic bugs for which we all provide home, food and transport. Professor Anders really seems to know everything about Sweden and, it would appear, other things as well. He is definitely our go-to guy when it comes to burning questions.

Interestingly, while Anders informed, Camilla installed.

It was all very jolly though it did mean a late dinner given they didn’t leave until gone eight o’clock. Still, I’d planned sausages and mash (cauli) which only took half an hour.

Which, of course, only leaves me with this week’s glorious sausage.

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My so-called life (story)

It seems that when you order something through amazon.se it might get delivered to your house. It is also a possibility it will be delivered to the nearest post office. Experience has taught me that if the item is supplied from Sweden, it will go straight to your house. If, like the upright mouse I purchased a few days ago, it comes from, say, Germany, then it goes to the post office, and you have to go and pick it up.

And so, once again, I found myself heading for Sågen.

It was the perfect day to go outside. After snow overnight, the sun came out, the clouds rolled away, and everything was beautiful.

Mirinda went for a two hour walk in the forest and came home saying it was the most beautiful walk she’d ever been on. Her cheeks were rosy and her smile very broad.

My plan had not been to go to Sågen. I was being interviewed by Ann for the up-coming monthly FATN Magazine so, after exercise and a shower, I settled back on the bed upstairs and, basically, had a lovely chat with Ann…Charles lurking somewhere in the background. Ann threatened to feature me a while ago, but we’ve only just caught up. According to Charles, there’s enough material for two magazine editions.

Then, after our chat and Mirinda’s return, I headed down to the bus stop.

There was a lot of snow removal action around the place. A big gritter, a couple of snow ploughs, householders with shovels. It was all happening and just goes to show how used to the situation they are here.

At Sågen I was confronted with a big grader on the footpath (that’s how they keep the footpaths useful) and then a big frozen lake outside the Hemköp.

Because I didn’t have my skates with me, the mini lake meant a bit of a detour to the post office. This did give me the opportunity of snapping a picture of a small statue.

The piece is called Ungdom (Youth) (1973) and was made by Axel Wallenberg (1898-1996). Axel started off studying accountancy but then, sensibly if you ask me, switched to art. His sculptures are all over Sweden, from north to south. He also made a load of medals, metal railings and other decorative pieces. He won awards for his works and was regularly exhibited. He was very well regarded. And rightly so.

However, I felt a bit sorry for the naked youths. They looked a bit chilly. Though, I rather liked their snow hats.

Given I’m an old hand at picking up parcels from Post Nord, I was in and out in ten minutes and back home in under and hour. All sorted and now Mirinda has a weird, upright mouse to help in her wrist issue.

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The rudeness of strangers

Before we came to Sweden, we’d read how Swedes tend to be a bit standoffish when it comes to strangers. How they are very family oriented to the exclusion of all else. Since being here, on the whole, we have found the Swedes we’ve met and the ones we pass on the local streets, to be friendly and happy to chat.

Mirinda regularly returns from walks to tell me how many locals she’s chatted with along the way. She tends to recognise the dogs more than the people but that doesn’t stop the humans talking to her. They seem to have a bit of a fascination with why we’re here and for Max. In fact, most people she meets and chats to know us by Max.

Then, of course, there’s Camilla and Anders and The Perfect Swedish Family who are all, very friendly. It is different, however, when it comes to going shopping.

One of the things that is quite difficult to get used to is how fellow bus passengers have no regard for anyone but themselves. In fact, when I’ve gestured for people with strollers to get on the bus before me, as well as a flicker of gratitude, their faces also show surprise.

Seemingly able-bodied young men charge onto the bus ahead of old men with walking sticks, school kids take the best seats for the disabled, ignoring the needs of others.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a criticism, it’s merely an observation. I have experienced the height of cultural rudeness in various countries around the world. I find it fascinating more than anything else. Is it a lack of empathy? I don’t know.

Also fascinating is the fact that we have had very little sun since October. Which is one reason why I’ve included the photograph below. As you can see, there is the vaguest slash of blue sky. Sadly, that was it for the entire day as the wind and rains came for most of it, making for possibly our most miserable Swedish day.

Not that I was miserable. I went shopping first thing then waited for the Polish dryer chaps to arrive with a tumble dryer that actually works.

They were rumoured to turn up at 6pm, but it was sometime closer to 7pm when Anders announced their arrival, and they all started installing another, reconditioned machine. I was cooking dinner and left them to it. We were dining early because Mirinda had booked onto a talk from Chawton House.

I had discovered that pork tenderloin was readily available in Ica and decided to try the Mușchiuleț Sibian from my Romanian recipe book. It’s not always easy to get the proper cut of pork from UK supermarkets but there’s a lot of it in pork crazy Sweden.

And it was very good. Almost as good as the freezing time I spent with the girls outside to give Emma a bit of a run around and Freya a bit of a shiver.

Freya really does prefer the warmth of the inside.

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We can be heroes!

A few editions of the Talking Newspaper ago, I read a piece from the local Surrey MP, Jeremy Hunt. He was looking for nominations from Herald readers. These nominations were for persons or groups who had been ‘Covid Heroes’ throughout the miserable months of 2020. The Community Awards were in conjunction with the Herald. And, unbelievably perhaps, we won.

FATN managed to continue recording the newspaper throughout the year owing in great part to Charles, quickly followed by Tim. Then, Clive and I read in a test edition before more readers were drafted in. And, finally, other FATN volunteers rang around our listeners, letting them know what was available and how to access it.

Lockdown(s) must be particularly difficult for the visually impaired (and, obviously, other people with disabilities) and if we managed to bring a little companionship (and news) to our listeners, then how could I be anything but pleased?

So, chuffed and glowing with the news, I joined Mirinda for our weekly trip to the island. Which looked particularly beautiful with the snow that remained.

And then we had a load more snow as we left. We drove home into flying snow flakes, smattering against the windscreen. It was all very wintry. And a delight.

But, back in the Café Notholmen, Mirinda decided to try a second semla bun. Having read that normally the semla bun has marzipan in the middle rather than nut butter, she figured it was worth a second try.

You can see the semla buns in the display cabinet above. The creamy ones with the little bun caps.

According to Mirinda, it was a lot better than the one from Norrbys, but still wasn’t close to the perfection of saffron, cinnamon or cardamom buns. She’ll happily have one a year when semla time comes round but that’s it. I had a coconut tower which was a lot better than semla, in my mind anyway.

Having spent a wonderful hour (or so) in the café, we circumnavigated the slott before climbing back into Max for the drive home and a bit of Swedish mysigt.

Finally, as the fire crackled away and the doughnut house glowed with warmth, I made, what I think, was the best bacon wrapped chicken breast I have ever made. And I’ve made a few.

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Español, Sweden style

I read something very annoying today. Facebook has announced that if WhatsApp users refuse to accept their new data harvesting policy in early February then they will have their accounts deleted. This includes having your phone number stored and ads streaming at you constantly.

I spent an hour or so looking at alternatives. Eventually, having read a lot of information, we downloaded and have started field testing Signal (‘we’ being Mirinda and me). So far, it’s looking very good, and it’s not giving our information away to anyone who will pay.

Now, the hard part will be to convince everyone we communicate with to make the switch. Like Facebook and Messenger, we shall be deleting WhatsApp from our devices.

But, things became better…

During the day, we took a lovely wander along the duck walk trail. We were not alone. There were scores of other family groups doing the same thing. Apart from one family group (grandad and two little kids) who were gleefully sliding down a small embankment on sleds. It was all very jolly.

And, although the sky was not blue and the sun was hidden behind the clouds, the reflection at our lake was lovely.

Sadly, it didn’t snow but that did mean it was an easy decision to go out for dinner.

As I’ve mentioned before, we have been searching for tapas close to us. Mirinda found a possible contender in Huddinge, half an hour away. It’s called Julius and boasts a menu that changes monthly.

We took a punt and booked for our habitual linner spot.

Actually, our linner spot has become a bit fashionable these days with the serving of alcohol stopping at 8pm every night. It means more people are eating earlier. Except for the teetotallers, I suppose.

The drive was long but the trip was well worth it.

The food was fantastic. Tapas with a Swedish slant. We had the whole tapas menu, eight dishes between us. Perfect. Delicious. Fantastic.

First came the meat dishes. Venison, elk, bear, a carnivore’s paradise.

And then came the fish. Char, prawns, and the most delicious tuna I think I’ve ever tasted. An explosion of delight for the tongue.

All in all, an amazing meal, thoroughly enjoyed. We’ll definitely be returning, particularly given they change the menu monthly.

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The crusty flannel

In the early hours of this morning – 03:25 to be exact – Emma and I were suddenly flung from the bed, left in a pile of Gary, bedclothes and puppies. It was Freya’s faulty entirely.

Freya suddenly exploded into her snorty, nasal thing, and I was instantly awake. I grabbed her from where she was lying between me and the edge of the bed. It was a successful attempt to stop her waking Mirinda.

The bed we’re sleeping in is actually a couple of singles pushed together with single mattresses on top. My side is slightly the wrong size. When I wake up in the morning, my mattress is always over hanging the bed frame. This is not normally a problem and I just slide out of bed.

Because Freya was between me and the edge of the bed, when I turned to grab her, my movement sent me and the bedclothes off the bed. Freya, I flung off towards the door. Emma landed on top of me. If the room had been light enough to see, I’m sure Emma’s face would have registered great surprise.

As I lay, momentarily stunned half awake, Freya tried to approach me with her snorting. I grabbed her and flung her through the door. I then followed her. Emma followed me.

Downstairs, the snorting stopped, and I looked at the clock. I then cursed Freya and, realising my side of the bed was now unusable, curled up on the lounge for a few hours.

And it would have been fine except for the strange dream I then had which had me waking up suddenly and in a panic at 06:30 feeling as fresh as a discarded, crusty flannel.

So, not a good start to the day. Still, as the sun slowly came up, I realised there was still lots of lovely snow outside. That eased the lack of snooze a bit.

Normally, of a Friday, I’d shop at Trollbäckens but, because today was not Epiphany, the System was open so, naturally, I went to Tyresö Centrum for essential alcoholic supplies. Having finished the bottle of Auxey-Duresses we’d brought from the UK, an emergency bottle of white was imperative (I bought a bottle of petit chablis) and I was out of my little freezing friend.

This stuff seriously keeps out the cold. Which is weird when it is kept in the freezer.

I was also out of beer but that’s hardly worth reporting.

And, because it was the end of the week, I stopped off at Espresso House for Friday fika.

I had a lovely chat with the barista who shared my preference for cardamom over semla though she said she was rather keen on cinnamon.

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Overnight snowfall

This morning, I was upstairs going through my normal exercise routine when I stood up to do some leg stretches. I leant forward against the window sill. It was the first time I’d really looked outside. There had been some snow.

And the snow continued through the day. Light but persistent. And the temperature never rose above zero so the snow remained.

Before sunset, we went for a walk around the neighbourhood, passing gardens with giggling children sliding down shallow slopes next to carrot nosed snow figures. It was about as idyllic as one could get.

Okay, I realise there’s lots of people who hate the snow but, aside from the obvious problems, everything looks beautiful. And the kids just love it.

In a strange twist of coincidence, the dryer at Farnham died. I ordered a new one to arrive on Saturday. Then, as if in some sort of mass dryer suicide pact, the new one here stopped turning. I feel like it’s a Dryer-mageddon!

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen…I managed to make the cod and chorizo parcels tonight. And, according to Mirinda, it tasted better than before. I agreed.

I think it was the quality of the fish and the very tasty chorizo sausage.

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Remote hugging

There was a light fall of snow this morning. Rather than blanketing everything, it was more like a fitted sheet. A sheet which not only served to make the world look clean and white but also made walking down to the bus stop a bit of a slip hazard. I know, I slipped over in the car park and had a wet butt for a while.

I noticed that the weather (it stayed below zero all day) didn’t deter the determined Swedes. I walked by many groups, just walking around the streets, taking in the air and generally enjoying the outdoors.

While I waited for the bus, I noticed two couples meeting in the car park. They were obviously meeting for a collective walk. They had all the gear, the men wearing black, the women in red jackets.

I heard faint shouts of welcome as they approached each other. Then the two women hugged themselves, shaking from side to side, stopping about two metres from each other. They were clearly giving each other a Plague hug. The men bumped elbows. The four of them then set off for their walk.

I went to Tyresö Centrum today for the shopping. The place was unusually quiet. I was somewhat surprised until I reached the System (for necessary aquavit and beer). Then I realised why the place was quiet. The shop was dark, the door was barred, it was closed. My mouth gaped, I sank down onto a handy bench.

Today is Epiphany, the 13th day since Christmas and, here in Sweden, a public holiday. And, on a public holiday in Sweden, you cannot buy alcohol. So, the System is shut up tight. Of course, I hadn’t realised and so the fridge remained dry.

The other thing that happens on Epiphany is the appearance of another type of bun – so many things in Sweden are celebrated with different types of bun. This one is the semla bun.

We had to try one. It is, after all, very important to fit in with the traditions of one’s adopted country. The two above were from Norrby’s.

The bottom and little top are of the usual bun mix, the cream is lightly sweetened and in the middle is a blob of something that resembled a particularly rich peanut butter. After eating mine, I had an epiphany of my own. The semla bun is the first Swedish bun I haven’t liked. It was far too rich for my delicate palate.

(I have since discovered that the filling is generally almond paste. The one we had at Norrby’s had peanuts in it and did not taste like any almond paste I’ve ever made.)

At first, Mirinda suggested that it was good the semla was only available once a year but, later, when we decided we didn’t need dinner, she said having had one once, we need never have one again. I would have drunk to that but the System had been closed.

Bloody Epiphany!

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