Monthly Archives: August 2007

Sea water

As Son and I frolicked (nearly, anyway) in the sea, I was reminded of how I’ve long claimed that sea water has medicinal properties. Though not by drinking the stuff, I hasten to add. I know for a fact that various skin imperfections (don’t want to put you off entirely) have simply disappeared after a week or two of contact with sea water.

Caroline Lawrence seems to know of this, as she wrote about collecting sea water for healing purposes in one of her Roman Mysteries. I’m always pleased to find how right I am…

Beach at Haverdal

Pure medicine.



Do we get many dragonflies in Britain? I ask because I only recall seeing one or two. Here on holiday we get lots of them, and I find that exciting not just because they are beautiful, but because of their role in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

Though I wonder if Philip’s dragonflies are bigger than the ones here. I can’t imagine any of these capable of carrying a rider as large as the Gallivespians, even though they are really small.

Some years ago “our” dragonflies had an unfortunate tendency to fly straight into the livingroom and get themselves entangled in the venetian blinds. In the end I got quite skilled at untangling them again.


I never thought I’d be singing the praises of my holiday newspaper Hallandsposten here in the blog. But it really is pretty good on books and culture. I have no idea how many copies they sell, but the borough of Halmstad has a population of about 90,000. Most households subscribe to the paper, which is cheaper than buying it in a shop. If it’s not with you by five a.m. you have cause for concern.

Three pages on books yesterday, with one on children’s books. Three reviews of girls’ fiction; two Swedish books and Jacqueline Wilson’s Midnight which has just been translated. They have a serious backlog of Jacqueline’s books here, which can only be good news for girls, who have plenty to look forward to.

Large spread on Liza Marklund and her latest book. All I know about her is that one of her audiobooks (in English) had a warning in the BBC catalogue for language and explicit content.

And it seems that the publishers Wahlström & Widstrand can’t have heard of, as they have just launched a few of their authors on youtube instead. People seem to think it’s a good idea, which will help them decide if an author is worth reading.

Another castle for Hamlet

We suspect that maybe Shakespeare got it slightly wrong. It could well be that Kronborg in Elsinore isn’t the place at all.

If so, it’s quite likely that what Hamlet called home was really Varbergs Fästning; currently in Sweden, but formerly part of Denmark.

Varberg is very nice, and the castle particularly so. When you’re done with the beach just south of the castle, where you don’t wear swimsuits, you can relax at the castle’s terrace café. The view is wonderful and any waffles or prawn sandwiches you manage to eat before the seagulls get them, tend to be very good too.

Varbergs Fästning


This morning saw the witch watching teenage girls riding other things than broomsticks. A young friend was taking part in a dressage competition, which was an entirely new experience for the bookwitch family. We stood around in beautiful fields watching girls and horses, all of whom had far better hair than I do.

The event made me relive some of those horsey books I used to read, when anything more real than a fictional horse would have made me quite nervous. I seem to recall a young riding heroine called Jill, whose name struck me as very exotic at the time. I was never quite sure about jodhpurs, which was an even more exotic word. Also seem to recall a pony adventure book written by a sixteen-year-old. At the time she seemed fairly old to me, so it must have been a while ago.

This spring Katherine Roberts had a new book out called I Am the Great Horse. It’s about Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great. The horse is actually the narrator of the book. Mary Hoffman sang its praises in a review, and the Resident IT Consultant sat down with the book and enjoyed it. I have to admit it’s still on my to-read pile, though this morning’s event has made me more determined.

And to spare Daughter’s blushes I will refrain from writing here about my childhood attempts at riding. But they are fairly amusing, and it’s my cheeks that should turn red, not hers.

Checkout crime

One reason crime is so rampant in Sweden might be that ordinary foodshops sell the books; often displayed next to the checkout. You know when you’re bored and impatient standing with your trolley; you might as well buy a book as pick up a bar of chocolate or the Sainsbury magazine.

Yesterday at Willy’s (yes, really) I found both Indridason, Nesser and Läckberg among the six or so paperbacks right next to the queue.

At my local holiday Spar a couple of years ago I found Stephen Booth next to my most favourite bread. Good place for him. I even wrote and told Stephen, and he was nice enough not to run kicking and screaming away from a mad email.

Maybe more foodshops should put books where they do the most good. My English Spar only offers Warburton’s sliced bread where I queue and it gets boring after a while.

If the queue is really slow you could always start reading.

The house of Hamlet

Well, we sort of waved to Hamlet today as we came past. Or would have done had he been real and not too long ago and all that. We went over to Denmark today, but not for very literary reasons. The Resident IT Consultant felt it was time he and Daughter visited Louisiana. The art gallery, not the state.

Louisiana is a great place. Good art, good food, beautiful park, interesting building. Expensive. The drive along the sea between Elsinore and Copenhagen is lined with the most wonderful houses, so the witch started dreaming again. Daughter pointed out she has no intention of learning Danish. Well, she didn’t put it as politely as that.

We admired the view of Elsinore castle all the way across on the ferry. Though with five ferries every hour in each direction, there is barely space for anything to be seen apart from boats. The ferry brought back memories for the witch, who entertained Daughter with seemingly not previously told stories of her life at sea. Hah, she even thought I made it up. And who would have thought that someone prone to seasickness would pick a job at sea?

And the castle at Elsinore wasn’t really where Hamlet lived. Shakespeare got it wrong. These things happen.