Sweden, where the spruce grows

I like drawing parallels between events. I find it interesting how sometimes things are right, when at other times, the same things are wrong. Obviously I don’t know everything and sometimes this ignorance leaps up at me and makes me laugh. A lot.

Today, for instance, we were walking along a road in Stockholm. The road runs beside the railway. We’d just left Bonniers Konsthall and were headed for The Hairy Pig. As I admired the snow plus railway track landscape, a big red train pulled in at the closest platform. I looked up and noticed the name. I laughed and drew Mirinda’s attention to it.

The train above is called Trainy McTrainface. Back in 2017, a public poll was created for people to name four new trains. A whopping 49% wanted Trainy McTrainface and, unlike the British, the Swedish people had their wishes fulfilled. Some commentators claimed, at the time, that it was ‘revenge’ for the non-naming of the trains ‘cousin’ Boaty McBoatface.

And there’s the parallel. While the Swedish authorities ask the public and then go along with what the public suggests, in Britain the people are asked, then their wishes are ignored. In a cute, pat the kid on the head moment, the British authorities know better than the people they serve.

The naming of the train can be read about here.

And, while I’m discussing parallels, let me add that, following on from yesterday’s post regarding a hare sighting by Mirinda, I now have to add the fact that we both saw one tonight. We were on our way to The Perfect Swedish Family, to pick up the girls when this big, floppy eared hare loped across the road in front of us. Like something out of a Disney movie, it then hopped up the drive of a house and, I can only assume, went home to the wife and kids.

When we saw the train, however, we were walking down the road having just visited the first retrospective of the work of Swedish artist, Ann Böttcher.

Ann has created a lot of very fine pencil drawings of spruce trees.

The spruce is very important to Sweden and she has mapped this importance on a rather beautiful time line called The Sweden Series (a Selection) which spans 400 years of the spruce in Sweden. It extends along, what appears to be, a corridor of the Bonniers Konsthall. Which is where we saw the exhibition.

It was another case of taking the two buses into Stockholm, stopping off for the best semla buns in Stockholm at the Konditori Ritorno, then walking across the frozen park to the exhibition space.

It seems, after only two visits, we’ve become Sunday morning regulars at the Konditori Ritorno. We not only recognised a few customers from last week but they (and we) were sat at the same tables. I wonder if they’ll ask each other what happened to us when we run out of places to visit in the area.

The walk from the Konditori to Bonniers Konsthall was a delight almost as great as the semla bun which preceded it. We walked through the park surrounded by the delighted squeals of children sliding down concrete domes, tummy first, as if in training for a future career in competitive luge.

We wandered between buildings draped in snow, all looking more beautiful than they possibly do at other times of the year. Until, eventually, we found the gallery.

It’s a lovely big, open, exhibition space, which Ms Böttcher was initially sceptical she could fill. Though, to be fair, she then changed her mind, worrying there’d not be enough room.

The retrospective presents the last 20 years of her work (2000-2020) and, amid the numerous, intricate drawings of trees, we also saw her other work. A tapestry created from discarded military jackets from the Second World War, name changes of an Irish asylum, particularly lurid cafeteria curtains from the 1960’s curling around and leading to casts of various body parts taken from her father and, of course, drawings of spruce hung on library bookcases. (The drawings are hung, not the trees.)

It was fascinating. I was particularly interested in her series of collages highlighting the Nazi obsession with genetic purity which extended beyond the German native ideal. In the 1930’s, the party systematically uprooted introduced species of trees and replaced them with ‘native’ varieties instead. As someone once said “…from the green party to the brown.

We thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, but more pleasure was just over the horizon as we made our way to The Hairy Pig where Joseph once more welcomed us like old family members and served us some more of his fabulous food.

Actually, this week, we decided to try having a starter as well. Mine was an exquisite artwork on its own.

Melt in the mouth venison carpaccio with Swedish blue cheese and crunchy walnuts.

As well as a delicious meal, we also met Ryan, a tour guide who originally hailed from Perth and, like Joseph, married a Swede and went all Nordic. A fun, very Aussie, fellow.

As well as delicious dining, we also bought various meat products from Joseph (in particular a slab of moose meat that had been shot yesterday) which we shall devour later. We were saying how it was a shame that The Hairy Pig isn’t doing better business. According to an Instagram account called Stockholm Food, it is a hidden gem. As Mirinda said, that’s all well and good but it would be better if it wasn’t so hidden.

After a decidedly filling meal, we headed, slowly given my foot, over the bridge to Slussen and the two buses home. There was a bit of a surprise when we managed to catch an earlier 401 which, in a classic knock on effect, meant a longer wait than usual to meet the 840, but, otherwise, it was all remarkably smooth and effortless.

I do love the public transport in Stockholm. I also love the fact that we are free to go and visit art galleries. Albeit there are certain restrictions (pre-book, limited numbers, keeping distance, etc) I’m not the type of person who can limit his cultural exposure.

Of course, Mirinda would prefer if the art wasn’t quite so modern. Maybe next time.

In fact, the only negative bit of the day was my foot, which, by the time we reached home was a bit of a throbbing mess. Still, at least I knew I was alive. As I explained to Mirinda, when she offered me a painkiller earlier in the day: “When I stop feeling pain, I’ll start looking for a pulse.” Which I thought was rather good.

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