Category Archives: Languages

Sisters and Friends

Tant Brun

I know we did colours yesterday, but permit me to add a colourful, literary lady; Tant Brun. She is one of Elsa Beskow’s three tants, Green, Brown and Purple. This one appears to run a café in Sigtuna. I was so full of having been ‘thrown out of’ another Sigtuna café the other day, that I completely forgot to mention Tant Brun. I bet she wouldn’t dream of behaving like that.

Bokhandel, Norrtälje

‘All’ postcards of Norrtälje that I have ever received, have featured this bookshop. I found myself buying the same card myself, and sending it, despite there being many others. But the shop is quite pretty and as the Resident IT Consultant remarked, it grows inside and goes on and on. Rather like Blackwell’s in Oxford.

Norrtälje Bokhandel

Norrtälje has another bookshop, too. Not as cute, but still a bookshop. (Last time in Norrtälje I bought four plastic fish-shaped soap dishes. Not in a bookshop, I hasten to add.)

As you will know if you called in yesterday, we drove south. After enjoying another breakfast on the terrace overlooking Mariestad harbour, we went to visit my oldest sister. I have met her a few more times than her little brother, whom we saw last week. Unlike him she has no lake, but her flat boasts a larger garden than Bookwitch Towers, and much more forest. Very nice.

Then we drove even more south and ended up at School Friend’s house. The weather continued fine, but it was the first time in over a week that I could sit still without breaking into a sweat. (I know. One shouldn’t mention perspiration. But sometimes it’s all a witch can think of.)

Today is Mr School Friend’s birthday. I’m hoping for cake. And a party. Coincidence is an interesting thing, and I am fairly certain I will see Brother of School Friend, who was once – a very long time ago, it has to be said – class mates with oldest sister (which is stranger than it might seem to you).

The road atlas

This is the book that brought us all the way north (well, more north than I am used to) and back again. Whenever the Resident IT Consultant asked how far it was to somewhere, I always replied ‘about an inch,’ because strangely enough, it always seemed to be. The atlas can rest now. We know the last part of the journey well enough to manage without help. Although it is a wee bit further than an inch.

The RCL

Yesterday I saw the Retired Children’s Librarian.

That is a phrase I have so far been unable to say on this blog, which makes it noteworthy. Saw her the day before as well. And before that it had been eight years. Bookwitch is only seven, which is why I’ve never said it on here. The RCL doesn’t travel much these days, and I find that the town where she now lives is – quite frankly – on the wrong side of the country.

It is far and it is not on the railway. That’s where the Resident IT Consultant comes in, because he can be made to drive witches to places not so easily reached by other means. (Before you ask, the broom suffers from heat exhaustion.)

The town where the RCL lives is a lovely town. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s just not convenient. So, in-between lunch at her place one day and dinner at a restaurant the next, we went to see her niece at Växplats Nybyn, which is where the RCL does most of her work in the summer. My old mentor might be gasping for air in the hot weather, but she still helps her niece with serving coffee at her herby heaven in the countryside, almost daily donning a pretty purple pinny.

Växplats Nybyn and the RCL

If you think the photos look a little dark, I’ll just mention this was immediately before some magnificent thunder and lightning. Which did make it a teeny weeny bit colder. Not to mention wet.

It’s a lovely place, even if it does have a geranium room, which is a sort of witchy hell on earth (me and geraniums don’t mix). Beautiful, but smelling of geraniums.

Geraniums at Växplats Nybyn

With a Pippi Longstocking hut for children, the niece has clearly had the same mentor I had. She used to have – pet – pigs, who all bore the names of children’s literature characters.

Växplats Nybyn, Children's corner

Zeki Loves Baby Club

How to sing an Irish baby song in Urdu.

I was a lazy mother. Taking Offspring to playgroup was intended to take a load off me, for a couple of hours. The other children were meant to entertain, and so were the adult playgroup leaders.

Anna McQuinn and Ruth Hearson, Zeki Loves Baby Club

Here, in Zeki Loves Baby Club, the lovely parents all join in and play and sing with their child. True, the presence of the other babies means Zeki enjoys his Wednesdays, but there is a lot of adult playing and singing.

It’s a very sweet book, with quite irresistible illustrations. It makes you want to go to this baby club, where children and adults alike have a great time, and the children doubtless grow up to become good people.

At the back of the book you get the words to all the songs, including Rolly Polly in Urdu.

The ferried witch

Friday was Furusund day. Well, Furusund morning, anyway. Furusund – which features in Evert Taube’s songs, as well as having been the holiday home of Astrid Lindgren – was smaller than expected. Nice, but there was no ‘downtown’ Furusund to speak of. You sit there looking at the sailboats, when along comes a monster boat.

Furusund

And when we had looked our fill at Furusund, the Resident IT Consultant – with little consideration for lunch – drove us to Kapellskär, which is near-ish, and where the big monster boats to Finland and Åland depart from. There wasn’t much there either, if you overlook three monster terminals for very very big boats. (Son and Dodo and Dodo’s family passed through a few days earlier, as Son day-tripped his out-laws.)

Kapellskär; the way to Finland

There was a beach we tried to look at, and a campsite we didn’t. And there was a ‘Loppis’ – a local flea market – which sold tea and ice creams as well as other people’s cast-offs.

I really wanted a wall hung telephone table, but ended up with a table cloth instead. (Will fit the suitcase better.)

Secondhand books, Kapellskär

Beach at Kapellskär

The Resident IT Consultant asked to be allowed to look at the secondhand books after he’d drunk his coffee. So we both looked at books. In the children’s corner they had plenty of Mårten Sandén novels. I didn’t need any more books, however, and the one sporting an English title on the cover which the Resident IT Consultant found, turned out to be in German.

Secondhand books, Kapellskär

Gifts on a road trip

Why do children grow older so fast?

I have unearthed an embarrassing number of books, mostly children’s, that I had stashed away to give people in place of flowers and stuff. They last so much better than flowers. Or chocolate, or wine. Last better than the children, too. Or perhaps I mean they last better than childhood. The children are still here. Just older.

As for giving English language books to Swedish children, there is a thin line between the books being too childish or the English too hard. If I can’t give these books to someone now, it’ll have to be the Salvation Army next.

Or, possibly, someone’s grandchildren, if people could only acquire some and have them grow at a suitable speed. Actually, as I moan, I have realised that one old/new friend got herself a grandson three weeks ago. I hope he is a fast learner.

We are setting off on a road trip. I hate travelling, especially driving. But we have some people we want to see, who are best seen by driving, and too far away for a comfy day trip. Besides, we are being dis-located. Son and Dodo are coming, and they are bringing Dodo’s parents and siblings, which means the Resident IT Consultant and I have to clear out for a week.

The house is boiling. They are welcome to it.

Those who have nothing

To continue with my book-eating shark topic, I was reading Den luttrade bibliotekarien’s blog and what she gave up on reading. Like many others, she has only more recently begun allowing herself to give up on books.

It made me think of what we used to say back in the late 1960s; ‘eat up’ and think of the poor starving children in Biafra. Not quite sure how me stuffing myself with food I didn’t want, was supposed to help those with no food.

Reading to the end could almost be the same idea. You should be grateful you have a book, however bad or boring it might be, because there are people who don’t have any.

As with food, what’s fascinating is that we all feel differently about what is good, or bad. And in times of real need we will be thankful for whatever comes our way.

I tend to cherry-pick what I pack for my holiday reading. I don’t want to be stuck with nothing, so take more than necessary. If I’m going to carry books back, I want them to be good enough to trump the something nice I could buy to take home with me. Those I’ve given up on stay in Sweden. I sometimes think that if I came here unexpectedly with nothing else to read, I’d be grateful for what I’d find, and give whatever it is a second chance.

And on that cheerful note I suppose I ought to ban anyone from ever being allowed near my shelves, because you will see what I didn’t carry home again. (Some are doubles, though!!!)

Some Edinburgh trams for you

What enabled us to waste all that time on the coffee with the ridiculously large dollop of whipped cream for the Resident IT Consultant, was the fact that he insisted on getting to the airport the long way round. I mean, why spend 30 minutes when you could make it last almost two hours?

So, we got the train and then got on the famous Edinburgh tram. Which is now actually running. It can’t have taken them more than ten years to build. It’s a very strange feeling to look down the tram tracks and see an actual live tram coming towards your stop. Almost as if you were in Manchester, or Gothenburg.

It was quite a nice tram, with wipe-clean seats (I sat on one of the priority seats and the Resident IT Consultant almost died with shame) and plenty of suitcase racks. We had combined train and tram tickets, but the conductor still had to give us a real tram ticket. It bears the words ‘Edinburgh trams’ at the top.

When I see that, I see the word ‘trams’ and in Swedish that means rubbish. The nonsense kind, not what you put in bins. And I suppose that when you take into account all those years we were despairing of ever travelling on a tram, you could possibly label it Edinburgh nonsense.

Other than making me get out of bed two hours early, it was a fine way of travelling. Not trams at all.

(Not like Son and Dodo who made sure they were on the very, very first tram on the first day. That’s a bit trams[igt]. Albeit fun and dreadfully important for every self-respecting nerd.)

But will it travel?

I was talking to Son the other day. He was reading a book, for money. This happens occasionally with foreign books, because how can the linguistically challenged publisher decide whether or not to buy a foreign book, even when it is a big seller in its country of origin?

You can’t be sure it will do as well in your own country, and better to pay someone a smallish sum for an opinion, than spend loads of money on publishing a book that won’t sell.

I remember my foreign reading challenge from a few years ago. Not only was it difficult to find the books; a new country every month for a year, but it can be hard to love anything too far removed from your own back yard. Even when you are the open-minded soul that – of course – I am…

It wasn’t actually the Swedish book I liked the most, or that I felt I could identify with. You’d think so, but I couldn’t.

The title was snappy and very catchy, and that goes for the one Son is reading now, as well. I can’t tell you which book it is, as that would be wrong. I had heard of it, and sort of admired the slightly ludicrous title, without feeling tempted.

What enraged Son were some facts that strained credulity. Unfortunately – for him – I could confirm that in this case it was actually pretty realistic. Strange and unusual, but it happens/happened in Sweden. As he’s not all that far from having been a teenager himself, his reaction is probably more similar to the intended readership here, than most older readers would be.

So the incredible facts, as well as some general loose living among the main characters, might make him give negative feedback. Maybe not. We both agreed that the gatekeepers who would ease or prevent British mid-teens from reading this book would not like the idea of what goes on.

While I’m not someone who believes in too much guarding, in this case I reckon the gatekeepers might save readers from a book that simply hasn’t travelled well.

Malteser

There was an empty box – previously – of Maltesers that I needed to dispose of recently. I realised as I stopped to consider the ex-contents that I couldn’t remember what Maltesers taste like.

Although I no longer eat any chocolate, I can usually dredge up enough memory of what I used to eat and like. And then I want to cry.

But Maltesers? No. I did come to them late in my chocolate eating life, but still.

To me they have literary connotations. I was at the English department at the University of Gothenburg, when two of my lecturers happened to meet mid-corridor. One of them offered the other a Malteser, and then felt he had to offer me one as well.

Wanting to show my appreciation and also how well read and generally well educated I was, I mentioned that I’d just read a novel where Maltesers featured heavily. (And I’m sorry, but I can’t remember which novel. Maybe Graham Greene?)

‘Yes,’ said lecturer no. two, naming the book. I was so pleased he knew what I was talking about. These days I don’t think you could expect someone else to have read, and remembered, the same book. There are too many books we might be reading.

So we enjoyed some literary chocolatey bonding before we went to our respective classrooms.

Just wish I could recall what they are like. I’m sure I liked them, but not so much I’d buy them for myself terribly frequently. Now, give me Anton Berg’s chocolate covered marzipan any day! (Obviously I mean, don’t!)

Andreas Norman and the chicken sandwich

Andreas Norman uses a fair bit of English when he talks, so I needed to come up with a way to mark his English words and phrases in the translated interview, where English is so plentiful that you’d not notice. Those are the green bits, in case you were wondering. (Why green, I couldn’t tell you, though.)

Andreas Norman

Here is the interview, homemade translation and all. And the green bits, totally untranslated.

His novel Into A Raging Blaze is published today. In it Andreas says uncomplimentary things about the MI6 and the Swedish Foreign Minister.

The chicken sandwich is what got slightly in the way of conversation at his end. Beats Ferrero Rocher, I suppose.