Sunday, 28 June 2015

Cutting-edge, touch wood

Turns out I am quite good at splintering wood! It is about "reading" the wood - seeing the patterns in the birch, oak or pine log and estimating the easiest way to make firewood of appropriate size without hurting oneself. I cut some wood using an axe, too. That was not anywhere near as easy. Hats off for woodcutters and carpenters and their muscles.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Svartsjö castle with surroundings

The building itself is not a museum, but one could say the surroundings are. A ruin of a so-called Vasa castle with parts from the 14th century is found at one end of the park, the bricks of which (144,800 of them to be more precise) were used to build the royal castle in the Old town in Stockholm after the 1697 fire.
Svartsjö castle itself had had quite a life, so to speak. It became a prison in 1891, back then when the Swedish lösdrivarlagen stated that people without a home and a job were criminals - but it also was disposed by queen Lovisa Ulrika and the king Adolf Fredrik in the 1700's who largely contributed to the expansion of the park (for example seen above - I loved the wilderness of the flowers and the cut-out paths). During the Scandinavian Medieval time, 1050-1650, the royalties did not have one single home but moved around the country and stayed at different castles and demesnes, so another royal temporal visitor of this place was probably the king Magnus Eriksson in the mid 1300's.

These days, you are welcome here to dine or for a piece of cake.
And to fish in some of the waters and to look at newts in the pond.
And to enjoy the summer!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

"30 minutes of evil plans"

L. and I lied in fainted positions on two adjacent sofas in the common living room.
"If I am not awake in 30 minutes, make sure that I am awake in 30 minutes", I said.
He smiled in a cute but borderline evil way.
"HOW do want to be waken up?"
"I am preparing a bucket of water!" M. shouted happily.
"30 minutes of evil plans!" L. concluded.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Flynn's "Gone Girl" (and "Dark Places")

I like Gillian Flynn's stories. I do not know anyone who does not. Before "Gone Girl", I had the pleasure to read "Dark Places" which is coming in cinemas soon. I did NOT portrait the main character, Libby Day, as Charlize Theron, but then I forgot from time to time what genre I was reading, too. Flynn's language gets beautiful, some phrases are poetically modern spot-on explanations that just make you smile - and then come the grose stuff and remind you about the title. That is why.

I do, however, like the choice of Ben Affleck for Nick Dunne in the screen adaption of "Gone Girl" (I have only seen the trailer). Everyone in the cast, actually, except for Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings and Sela Ward as Sharon Schieber. Character Sharon, in my opinion, is more warm and sensual. And the guy who plays Jeff is a bit off - I portraited him as older. Maybe the casting has to do with the usual Hollywood age discrimination; or maybe he, after all, was described as younger in the book and I portraited him too quickly in my head. But - of course you want to hear about the story! And the story is great. Too slow in the beginning compared to the rapid page-turning at the end, when the twists start to come. Counting roughly, after the "main" twist in the plot became apparent, there also was twist two, three, four, five and six. There were also about three "twists" before the main twist, if they at all can be called twists before the main twist is revealed. Far from all books keeps up the suspension to the last word - this one does indeed. Let us abstain from giving it a rating on a scale of five numbers and just say it is worth the reading if you like suspension and can handle a sparce amount of blood in written texts.

Disclaimer: I have, unfortunately, only read Flynn's books in Swedish. I had waited to read "Gone Girl", in particular, in English - but then we got books for free at work and I grabbed it like a hawk and then it was too late. Maybe next time!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Museum Mission: Gripsholms slott

Gripsholms slott is a rather big castle from 1537 in Mariefred, parts of which have been built over and over. Not the least, the windows have changed places - their old locations can still be seen where parts of the walls look a bit different from the rest (on the image above you can already spot five) - and expanded in size. All this a result of the reigning people's taste, since no war has ever touched the execution of construction.
The room above is on the same floor as a cool theatre from Gustav the III's time (the 1700's, just like the Drottningholm theatre - which is older, though) and could serve as a guest room in general or a room for the people taking part in the plays. One of the actors was never criticized for being a bad actor but for being an actor.
Only one room in the castle is left intact from the 1500's as it was, and it is not this one - but they are found on the same floor and are pretty similar when it comes to the style of painting the inner ceiling, for example.
I am almost always of the opinion that a guided tour is mandatory. At this castle, the tour is 45 minutes long, which of course is too short for such a big and old building but still is a good start. After the tour, one can stroll around freely and notice details. For example this one:
in the 1600th century (and probably for some time ahead), hands were considered the hardest part to paint and would 1. show off painter's skills 2. show off how rich the person of the portrait is, as doing as little as possible with one's hands is what preserves them best.
Gustav Vasa - the castle's first king, the guy who decided that the throne should be heriditary, living at a time when only kings could be portraited in full body size (the frame would otherwise be cutting the image at a person's chest) - kept the first collection of portraits in the country. It continues to expand and now includes for example Swedish celeb authors and the swedsih ballet dance Anneli Alhaenko (left). Among the first portraits in the collection were the effigies of a murdered noble family that was the biggest threat to the throne. 
More strolling.

Just below the tower are two cannons, popular to climb. When Silvia and I were passing by, a guide was telling historical facts to a group in Estonian - a guide that later told me she works at the castle which these cannons destroyed! 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

6 a.m.

"The light is very nice 6 in the morning. Or is it too early?" David said and meant Saturday. Well, since the summer light is that great and Swedish summer is so short, options were few :) First photoshotting stopping point was Monteliusvägen which is known for this view - and can you believe, there were other people there. For the sake of the soft ligtht, perhaps? Must be.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Before I forget: a list

I would like to have the time to do certain things this summer. I publish them here so I will not forget. (It is Silvia on the photo, by the way.)

1. Read "The Imperfectionists" by Tom Rachman.

2. Listen more to the radio. Technically, listen more to podcasts and programs I have head of (hehe) that are available on the site of Sveriges Radio and get started with the supposedly splendid Värvet interviews.

3. Read "Canada" by Richard Ford. Possibly also make a new cover to cover it, because the ones I have seen are so unappealing that I have refused to buy this book even though I wanted to.

4. Go to concerts with Edda Magnason, Robert Plant and Alice Cooper. Last year, I discovered the country singer Kacey Musgraves; this year, it is more about the youtube-versus-stage comparison, but of course there are new singers too. Like Plant. I guess he is not a hard rock guy. That will show once I am there. No cheating (googling).

5. Visit Birka.

6. Remember the other points on the list.

And what about you? What are your summer plans? I would be happy to know!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

News about the News

"My friend who is a meteorologist and has worked for SMHI", my colleague revealed, "says that TV4 buys the more positive weather forecast calculations, while SVT buys the more negative ones."

Good to know!

"Jana, you are the best teacher in French we never had" (two charming students said)

This was the best celebration the school ever had, people said. It was very joyful - students running to hug me (Linus, the other walked) and hugging each other and crying because such a great time is over, an unexpected Hollywood-style speech was held to tribute some teachers. I was happy to see and shake hands with many parents, too, and see students relax and be the more joyful selves. Not the least: the headmasters had arranged for an ice cream bar in the staff room!

Monday, 8 June 2015

How you get to do whatever you want in an apartment:

Make sure that the previous tenants were mafia members doing money laundry, opera singer Malena Ernman says. Everybody is just happy they are gone, so she can play the piano and sing with her mezzosoprano voice as high as she pleases.
(Interview published in the magazine Kupé that is available for free on fast-going Swedish trains and online.)

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Tempus and hot air balloons fugit

The city is slowly, slowly getting warmer. At today's picnic in Hagaparken, I put on sunscreen and sunbeams bombarded us when rain didn't. Weather was rather schizophrenic, as somebody put it. It has been such a cold spring! And before we know it June will be gone. So to be on the safe side, my vague plan to go on a hot air balloon tour should be in a warmer country. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

And Brussels, of course

I almost did not visit Brussels at all - L. and I intended to go to Bruges, the Venice of Northern Europe, but woke up with too little daytime left for a trip that takes two hours one way - so we went to explore the capital. 
Atomium was probably the coolest thing I saw during the Brussels visit. I had very low expectations, thinking it is just another tourist attraction, but look at the photo! It is so cool - and close to the airport, at least by car, if you stil lhave some time before the flight takes off. Each ball is a a museum, interconnected with escalators.  
We walked and walked, visited curiosity shops and parks and disagreed on whether the royal castle was inside or outside town. Evidence: in town. I am right in front of the royal castle, where, just as in Stockholm, the royal family has not resided for years and years.
Biggest cultural "shock factors"during this brief visit: the Belgian subway is very empty and the main thing about the french fries that are sold on every tourist-dominated corner is not the fries but the sauce.
It is also interesting to see how the French and the Flemish culture meet - but to be more precise, Belgium has been under German and Spanish regime and became independent from the Netherlands in 1830. After the second World War a piece of Germany was given up to Belgium, making German one of the three official languages (1 %, according to the CIA World Factbook). When crossing the different regions with the different official languages, the names of cities change accordingly! More unexpected is that it is - as I was told - according to the law forbidden to speak French in adjacent regions of Brussels at schools and other institutions to keep the Flemish intact, or however that extremism can be explained. Nor does everybody speak both French and Flemish. In Leuven, for example, I could not order food at a restaurant in French, as the waitors spoke Flemish only.
There is still more to explore, of course. I am sure I will be back here again soon!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

On a guided tour: Me

What it is like being famous: you are mentioned on guided tours without knowing it! Our school had arranged for a welcoming day for the new students, and the older students were their guides. At least one guide mentioned that one of the French teachers has a blog! She meant me :)

Monday, 1 June 2015

Cooking INSIDE a dishwasher

At my friend's work, a young lady invites people for lunch dates with food she cooks herself - one of the most recent dishes being fish. Wrapped in many, many layers of aluminium foil together with potatoes. Put inside a dishwasher (without detergent) that over time keeps a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius (and hence suitable for certain kind of cooking). And it was delicious! My friend said. I am a bit sceptic, inclined towards fascination.