An Endearing Cynic

The American writer Gore Vidal died this summer, at the age of 86. I first heard of him when I read the diaries of Anaïs Nin in my early 20´s, he was very friendly with her, possibly her lover (said she, he later denied it) at some time. I had his book "Myra Breckinridge" (that was made into a flop of a film starring Raquel Welch) for years and never got around to reading it, then gave it away. Now I decided to read something of his and chose this one, "Two Sisters" from 1970, which supposedly is based on his relationship with his... hm, step-sisters once removed, or something. His ex-stepdad remarried the mother of the Bouvier-sisters, Jackie and Lee, and that´s the connection. Jackie later famously married JF Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis and Lee married a Polish prince by name of Radziwill. I chose the book both for being a bit on the short side and for the gossip-factor, I must confess.

Actually, I enjoyed this book a lot. More than perhaps I had expected. Vidal writes well, really beautiful prose, and I like that he is a bit of a cynic. From some of the reviews I have read I gather that the structure of the book was not that common in those days, that it was considered something of a pioneering work. These days of course, every writer with some sense of literary fashion has written at least one book in which he or she themselves are the protagonists, as Gore Vidal is the protagonist of this book. He also writes it first person, which gives the impression of it being a memoir, which of course it isn´t. They say a good lie should be served on a platter of truth.

The story begins in Italy, where Vidal lived for much of his life, on the balcony of his apartment in Rome, where his friend and collegue Marietta Donegal (Anaïs Nin?) unbuttons her shirt to show off her breasts, like some goddess of love. However, she is not there to make love, but to show Vidal a filmscript written by a former lover of hers and an old friend of both of them, who has recently died, Eric van Damm. The script is accompanied by a journal, adressed to his twin sister, Erica, but never sent to her.

The story jumps back and forth in time as Vidal reads the journal and the script, and he remembers his side of the story, as it takes place in Paris in the late 40´s. If there is any part of the story that reminds me of the Bouvier sisters it´s Eric´s film script, about two sisters in Ancient Ephesus, Helena, the Dowager Empress of Persia, and Artemisa, the Queen of Caria. There is also a half-brother, Herostratus, who has an incestuous relationship with Helena, and schemes to become King of Ephesus. Helena is engaged to marry Achoris, an Egyptian of slave origins, one of the richest men in the world. Artemisa, who is the clever one, is suddenly also widowed and immediately steals him from her sister. In the end, Herostratus, after a failed coup d´état, sets fire to the temple of Diana and trumps both sisters in the quest for immortality.

(Herostratus is actually modelled on a real, legendary arsonist, who set fire to the temple in Ephesus to become famous. Artemisa is also modelled on a real queen of Caria, who took part in the battle of Salamis, and Vidal has used her in one of his other novels, "Creation".)

This story somewhat mirrors what happens in Eric´s life, and Vidal´s own memories are corrected. The reading of the journals and the manuscripts will give him some unexpected revelations. And Marietta acts as Diana herself in a way, a vengeful goddess, who´s temple has been desecrated.

I like Vidal´s tone of voice, I like the warmth that is clearly there underneath the cold and clear observations. There are several themes in this story, and the quest for immortality is one. Art, children, politics, scandal. Love is another, forbidden love, one man´s love for another, a man´s love for his sister. Vidal was only 43 when he wrote this book, younger than I am now, but he seems old and worldweary, though still not totally free from illusion.

I´m pretty sure I will read him again. And you know, I think cynics are misunderstood. There is a disappointed idealist lurking inside every one of them, too loving to hate, too intelligent to be fanatic. I wonder what Vidal himself would have said about that. He probably would have turned up his patrician nose on me. 


The Power of Non-Verbal Expression

Whenever I meet a neighbour of my mother-in-law´s, they will tell me how wonderful she is, how she is sharp-witted, full of vitality, and how well she dresses. She is 92 years old. She has worked as a seamstress for much of her life, and she has made most of the clothes in her vast closets herself. At 92, as you can guess, she doesn´t usually have anywhere to go, not many friends still alive, she is nearly blind from macular degeneration, and not always steady on her feet. Still, every day she dresses well, puts on a necklace, a belt with a striking buckle, and she is never crumpled, untidy, or unmatched. The Swedish adjective for ladies like her is parant. My dictionary tells me it translates to something like strikingly elegant. Actually, it also means that the woman has a bit of regality about her. Confidence unlimited.

No matter how deep, and serious, and above such trivial things we want to be, it is an inescapable fact that the way we dress and present ourselves matter a great deal. People make a lot of assumptions about us based on our appearance (as do we about others, consciously or not), and I think that since one must wear clothes (or be arrested or freeze to death), why not wear ones that make one happy and make others treat one with respect.

Being a somewhat insecure dresser, and very interested in design in general, I have plowed my way through quite a stack of "How to dress"-books in the past. While all of these will stress the importance of being well dressed to boost one´s self confidence, they then will tear it apart by pointing out all the things about one´s body that needs to be covered up and hid from the public eye. It seems every categorization (you know them: pear, apple, etc) is based on a flaw of some sort and the only acceptable shape for a woman to be is hour glass, tall and slim. No wonder these books sell like hotcakes. The more of them one reads, the more insecure one becomes, and the more books one buys... and so on. I say "one", meaning "me", but I know I´m not the only "one" who has these issues.

Lately, I have been looking elsewhere of answers and I have found two books I can heartily recommend. The first one is "Already Pretty" by Sally McGraw, and I bought this book on Kindle. She has an excellent website which she updates several times a day, so you can get to know her and her work a bit to make up your own mind about it. This book is about finding one´s own style and learning figure flattery techniques to highlight or downplay parts of your anatomy, in any way you choose to yourself. But she is more of an advocate for flattering and highlighting than she is about hiding and downplaying. She doesn´t tell you you have to look like an hourglass. Or like a boyish supermodel. And she can introduce you to a whole community of women who dress happily and creatively after their own ideas. Some are fashionable, some are not, but all have their own great style.

The other book that made an impression on me is "Style Statement. Live by your own design." by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte. (Actually, this book could have been a recommendation by Sally McGraw, though I can´t really remember. She regularly recommends good reading on this topic.) This book isn´t particularly about what to wear at all. It´s more of a big questionaire, with illustrative examples, portraits of people they have worked with to figure out their style statement. So what is a style statement?

It´s a two word combination where the first word expresses your 80%, your foundation, your nature, what you are. The other word expresses your 20%, your creative edge, how you express yourself, what motivates you. The great thing about this is that the word combination is really unique to you, you are not ever put in a box with a lot of others that are "sporty" or "classic" or whatever (but of course you can be both those things). It´s about expressing what is authentically you.

The idea is that when you have "found" (caught sight of, more like) your core personality, every choice that you make can be made in accordance with that, and you will communicate much more effectively who you are and what you want, both in what you say and how you say it. And the world can respond. Self knowledge is always a good thing and this is a really good tool to get there, I find.

What my style statement is? You want to know? Actually, I think I´m going to keep that one to myself.


Buy Freedom! Change the World.

Suddenly, I´m reading at speed. This time, I have finished "Köp dig fri!" (= buy yourself free) by Ingrid Sommar and Susanne Helgeson. This is almost a Swedish equivalent of Lucy Siegle´s book about the fast fashion industry. Sommar and Helgeson are journalists who specialize in writing about new design in all areas, clothing, furniture, architecture, cars, whatever. What they have done is to ask a few questions about the way we buy stuff, use stuff, and discard stuff, and how that relates to economy and environment.

What they want to know is, what is quality? What is sustainability? And more to the point: does it matter if we buy second-hand or new? Does it matter if we buy hand made or industrially produced? Does it matter what materials are in the stuff we buy? Does it matter if the stuff we buy can be re-used? Does it matter where the stuff we buy has been made? Does it matter if we buy cheap or expensive? Does it matter if we buy stuff or "experiences"? Does it matter if we do it ourselves? How do we become good consumers? Where on the market can we find a sustainable product today?

The questions have been put to various designers, producers, researchers, artists, lobbyists, architects, and government officials. They have no clear cut answers. Seems like there is not much reliable research being done, that much of what we are told are mere opinions, opinions formulated from a very specific point of view. H&M even declined to answer the questions (which is an answer in itself, I think). The designers seem to be the ones who think about these questions most. Nirvan Richter, architect and carpenter, even says that the best product we can buy today is a course in personal development, from an existential perspective: "Not philosophy or theory, not shallow management, not religion, but a pragmatic guidance back to your self, back to what it´s about to be human, to experience deep presence. This experience is the prerequisite to the transformation that in itself is the only permanent solution to the dilemmas of human culture." (my own fast and dirty translation)

As it is, there are no sure answers. Everyone must do their own reading, make up their own mind. And shop, use, and discard accordingly.

Another thing in this book that stuck in my head was a history of consuming put forward by an American thinker, Paul Saffo, also a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He says that in the beginning of the 20th Century, the industry was all about manufacturing, and they became better and better at this up until the Second World War. At the heart of this system was the worker and the time clock. After the war, the industry became so good at making stuff that they were making more than we needed to buy, which is when manufacturing economy transformed into consumer economy, where everyone must be given the possibility to buy more than they can afford. So now it´s all about the consumer and the creditcard. Next, we are passing into an economy where the producer and the customer are merging into a creator. We consume things that we partly make ourselves, we read blogs, electronic books, we craft, design our own cars and bikes from DIY kits sold by manufacturers, craft, and thrift. The consumer race is more or less a thing of the past, he says, and empty-eyed shopaholics are turning into creative customers.

Well, I can see that, I am a part of that, but for sure it´s much of a generational shift, both in customer behaviour and what producers want to offer. It´ll take a few more years to work on all levels, everywhere, I think.

Another thing that keeps being repeated in this book is that stuff is not the devil. Things are not evil. Things are part of culture, are part of how we express ourselves. Things are important. But only when we value them. Buy, barely use, and discard, is not to value something. That´s about shopping satisfaction, about getting a kick from making a "good deal". It´s about exercising one´s spending power. That´s all empty calories.

Also, we need to start paying for what stuff really costs. As it is now, someone else is paying for our dirt cheap clothes and things. Sometimes its the people manufacturing the stuff, sometimes it´s future generations through environmental damage that we are not taking responsibility for. Do you know how much forrest is illegally clear-felled to make the furniture you buy at IKEA?

One thing that is not said in this book, but I say to myself after reading it, is that when we pass into a creative-responsible economy, our spending power will decrease. As it is now, spending power is firmly linked to self-value, self-esteem, status, and a perception of personal success. Economic growth is the creed that capitalism is based on, and that paradigm will have to go if this new order is going to work. And perhaps it will. But politicians will have to come aboard on this, will have to understand what is going on, and will have to be able to communicate that to everybody. Else the engine of consumer economy will just continue to be fuelled and burn more and more of our limited resources. But perhaps they will. Perhaps a new kind of citizen, with other kinds of values and behaviours will actually change the world. Returning to what Richter said, perhaps this will be a more enlightened individual on all kinds of levels.

And, you want to know one sustainable product that´s on the marked today? The bicycle. That´s the perfect product. We shall perhaps pedal our way into the New World.

About Food

After a summer of social eating, which means - in my case - mindless shoving in of treats that does my health and my figure no good, I was looking for inspiration, something to kickstart A New Beginning for fall. Well, actually, this year I have more concrete ambitions than usual (when I just want to loose the pounds). I have decided to really dig deep into my feeding patterns to try to find a solution to what might be a gallbladder problem, or what might just be IBS (irritable bowel syndrom), which is a fancy way for doctors to shrug and say "we don´t know". Also, if I could keep my weight stable, that would be a positive extra.

I started with Michael Pollan´s "In Defense of Food. An Eater´s Manifesto" (Sw: "Till matens försvar"). This is a criticism of what Pollan (and others) call "nutritionism", and having that explained was a real AHA-moment for me. We no longer eat food, Pollan says, we eat nutrients, like carbohydrates, proteins, good fats, evil fats, vitamins, etc. That is so right! Everyone thinks about food in those terms now. One can not go to a party without sitting next to someone who swears that LCHF (low carb, high fat) has made their lives worth living again. Only they are cheating at this very special occasion, of course. I have never actually seen anyone, IRL, so to speak, eating only meat, butter and vegetables. Never, ever. And so many people seem to do it.

Pollan explains how this started when authorities wanted to give recommendations to their citizens on diet, according to the latest scientific findings. If they said "eat less meat to reduce cancer risk", then the meat industry would explode. If they said "be careful with butter", the dairy industry would go after them. Lobbyism made them start talking nutrients instead. "Eat less protein. Eat less fat. Eat more fiber. Eat less sugar." And the industry would make up products like fat-free butter. Leaner meats (how does that happen? do we starve or excercise pigs?). Sugar-free sodapop. And if their products met with government recommendations, they could attach some kind of healthy-sticker to it.

Of course, this sucks. This is the reason we are totally confused about what to eat, and eat badly. So, what´s the solution?

The bottom line of Pollan´s manifesto is that we should
  • eat what our great-great-grandmothers would have recognized as food. (This pretty much rules out rice and pasta, for me, did you think about that, Pollan? Perhaps I´ll just start making klimp, schpätzle, and knödel a bit more often.)
  • buy nothing that has more than five ingredients to it, ingredients that you know what they are, and know will not harm you. 
  • avoid all so called health-foods.
  • avoid supermarkets. Got to the Farmer´s Market. (Coincidentally, one just opened in our town!)
  • plan the meal from the vegetables that are in season.
  • consider what your meat has been fed on. Use game, if you can. Eat happy elks.
  • first, choose local produce. Second, choose ecological. 
  • drink a little bit of alcohol every day. (Pollan says wine, but my grannies down the ages would have frowned upon such poshery and put a bottle of schnaps on the table.)
  • eat less, but better.
  • eat at the dinner table. (Pollan also says to eat in company as much as possible, but I´m not with him on this, since company always inspires generosity and, in the end, gluttony, at least where I live. Perhaps he means immediate family members, not dinner parties.)
  • eat slowly. (I´m the fastest eater ever. I think doing this would benefit me enormously.)
I have no quarrel with this. I think this is great, and I do most of it already. Pollan is a great inspiration, offers a few concrete, to the point ideas that one can do right now. He injects some new energy into my will to improve, he motivates me. Which is a great thing. And he did teach me something. That food is more than just nutrients. Which is something I really needed to hear. I will add also, as an old, frequent dieter, that food is more than just calories. This is what I tend to focus on come September, every year. Not so this year.

(While I have written this, I have also eaten my dinner, three pieces of oven-pancakes with honey. In my easy chair. Alone. Don´t tell Pollan.)


The History of Facial Hair

Sometimes I just fall over a book that I never in a million year could have gone out looking for, but that turns out to be a really interesting and entertaining read. This is one of those, "Svenska skägg" (= Swedish beards) by Magnus von Platen, who was a professor of literature (he died in 2002).

Did you know that men shaved already in the Bronze Age? For hundreds of years, the beard was a sign of old age and authority. In some places, beards were not grown until the next generation had taken over the responsibility for the farms. A bearded man was a retired man, someone perhaps with a position as alderman, a community leader.

During the Middle Ages a lot of knights shaved, since the beards prevented them to fit into their armour. And did you know that during long periods the wearing of facial hair was strictly regulated by law? During the 18th Century, for example, soldiers had to wear a moustache, and those who did not have enough natural growth, like teenagers, had to wear false moustaches. They were issued from the same supply depot that provided for other uniform garments. Some painted them on. At times, regulation demanded that they be blackened, by every soldier, regardless of haircolour. Imagine how that must have looked! Facial hair was very much something reserved for the military, and civilan men were a bit miffed about it, since moustaches were very popular with the girls.

Around the 1850´s, revolutionary winds swept over Europe and young men started wearing beards again, although they faced some resistance. The stories reminded me a bit about when women started wearing trousers, almost a hundred years later. One had to put up with stranger´s bullying in the streets, and such. However, when the Swedish king started sporting a beard in 1959, it became fully acceptable again, and facial hair fashions spread quickly. Actually, the Swedish regents wore beards until 1924, when Gustav III shaved his off. During these years the classic professor´s beard was established in culture, represented by men like Pasteur and Darwin. When the Swedish Academy met in 1899, 17 members (of 18) had beards.

Shaving returned with the invention of the safety razor by King C Gillette in 1903 and became necessary during the Great War, because of the gas mask (a bit like the medieval armour requirements). Beards became fashionable again in the 50´s, and there was another revolutionary beard sported by the 68-generation and the progressive movement in the 70´s.

I had no idea facial hair was so interesting, political and socially significant. I naively thought it was just up to every individual man. And perhaps now it is. But I´m sure there are work places where there are rules about these things, just like there are rules for women about skirts and make up. It just was not something I had reason to think about before. And did you know, at times it has been considered handsome in a woman to have facial hair, as a sign of character and forcefulness?


Visby, Gotland - Day Three

I made the most of the last few hours in Visby, as we were flying home again after lunch. I steered towards the one part of town I hadn´t yet seen, the modern harbour.

What a sight, eh? Two large cruise ships, and from the mass of chatting people coming towards me as I walked, I gather they were full of American cruise tourists. I hope they were happy with their day in Visby. Must be among the best things the Baltic has to offer. (I confidently say this now, not having been to Tallinn, St Petersburg, or... well.)

Chicory, a plant that was pointed out for me by another travelling companion on our way from the airport. I only knew this from literature before, as it was used as a surrogate for coffee during Bad Times.

It´s such a pretty thing, don´t you think?

50´s nostalgia, a Swedish hotdog stand.

Kids, doing justice to art.

The old Customs Office.

The ferry to the mainland.

The sight-seeing train, full of Americans, whose enthusiasm can be heard from afar.

Former prison, now hostel. I like the way they kept the barbed wire on the wall.

A ship store and a what - brig? I haven´t a clue, but it´s pretty.

What? Scots? University students, that´s my guess.

Antique knick-knacks. Lucky for me, I had no cash.

An old maltfactory is now the seat of the University.

The Almedalen Library. In retrospect, I wish I had explored the interior.

In Swedish politics, The Almedalen Week is an important happening every year. It started when high profile social democrat Olof Palme made speeches here every summer. Around that tradition, now all parties come here and organize seminars and there is a lot of lobbying going on.

It was nice to see it for real, as images from this place is all over the news every year. It´s a great opportunity for polititians to get points across, as nothing much usually happens in the media during the summer weeks.

Detail from the Olof Palme memorial monument.

The Almedalen Pond, in front of the Almedalen Hotel.

Oyster catchers on the lawn.

And let me finish with another picture of a couple of grey pears. Really, fruit trees make me so deliriously happy, they remind me of childhood summers and there is no such thing in Lapland, where we live, unless perhaps a small, sour, vulnerable apple tree by a protective housewall somewhere. An abundance of juicy fruit, that might persuade me to buy a cottage in Småland or somewhere when we are old and retired!

Bye, bye, Visby!

Faith, and the Process

This year, I packed my bags to Visby without bringing any books. Nothing to read, whatsoever, actually. I thought that if I really felt inclined to read, I would surely find something. I suspected that I would have fun and be busy, and I was not wrong. However, one of the people I met recommended this book to me, and I decided to bring it back with me.

Considering my reading-pace this summer, I´m surprised I have already read it. I blame/thank the coughing cold and a sleepless night for it. And it´s an easy read. Göran Skytte´s language is that of the investigative journalist. It´s bold and simple, made to be concrete and easily understood by everybody. Sometimes I cringe a bit when it´s slightly less artful than I would expect from someone who after all took his time to write a whole book, but it´s clear that Skytte is best at home with the short and short-lived texts of the newspaper world.

The title of the book is "Omvänd" (= conversion), and it´s about his road to Christianity. Göran Skytte is known in Sweden as one of those big, burly, manly reporters who made their reputation digging up the dirt on Big Important Things, intrepid, fearless, with a massive ego to match. Womanizer. All during the 90´s he had his own tv show where he interviewed Everyone of any importance in Sweden. And for his time, he asked questions that were perhaps not that usual. Are still not that usual. About fundamental beliefs, and faith.

What I didn´t know, what no one knew, was how troubled Skytte was in his personal life. He doesn´t dwell on it, he focuses on his spiritual life, but he clearly mentions attempted suicide, years in psychiatric treatment, difficult relationships with women, debauchery. 

I confess, I was not a fan of his. I can´t tell you why, since I tend to gravitate towards the kind of television where people are given time to talk in depth, which is what he provided. Still. I don´t know. And without a warm recommendation, I never ever in a million years would have picked this one up. I did so because I am a believer in syncronicity, that one can find answers to prayers in the most unexpected places.

Göran Skytte is a confessing Christian, and I am not. That does not mean I don´t have faith. (In Swedish, the word tro means both faith and belief, which actually makes it easier for me to explain my standpoint in English.) I have faith in religious practice, and I am a religious (in my case, Christian) practitioner. However, I have no creed. I hold no particular beliefs in the nature of life, death, God. I work with what works, if that makes sense to you. It makes no sense to me to worry about and have standpoints concerning the stuff we can´t know anyway.

If you wish to pin me down, I guess I´m most like a Quaker. I would go to Meeting if there was one here where I live. I could start my own Meeting, but that is not my calling. At this time, anyway. The one person who I believe teaches the kind of religion closest to mine, and who is a great inspiration and teacher to me, is Eckhart Tolle. I think he has nailed it perfectly. When I first came across him, I thought, "that´s not new, that´s exactly the nuggets I have washed up from all my years as a searcher". But he really has the calling to shape those nuggets.

But I am digressing. I read Skytte in one sitting. What did I get from him? An injection of faith in the process, perhaps. I have lately had reason to re-evalutate a lot of my practice, I have felt old, I have felt like it´s too late for a lot of things. Skytte, being in his 60´s, is in himself a great reminder of how we remain like learning children, if we strive to live authentically and consciously. What I get is not so much a new idea, or even a new perspective, but rather an enhanced feeling. Energy. Fuel. A reminder that the process is just that. A process. That the goal is ever changing and elusive - that there is no goal. A tree does not stop growing, ever. Nor do we. The hundred-year-old platans and beeches in the Bothanical Gardens in Visby are a reminder of that.

Or perhaps there is one goal. And that is to share, and pass on.


Visby, Gotland - Day Two

Of course, we had some blind luck with the weather. I credit the sun gods with the fabulous way almost all my photos turned out. Our hotel was also the best. Some complained about hot rooms, but I have to say, we were perfectly comfortable the whole time. I slept like a log.

Another perk on this trip was getting to fly via Bromma Airport in Stockholm. That´s the smaller, older airport, and I haven´t had the pleasure before. I took a few photos there, but they are all bad and pointless, so I will not bother you with those.

This, folks, is a place I have visited before. It´s an old book store, and the place where I bought my new bible in 1999 (yes, I have been here before, also curtesy of Swedish football), when the new translation had just come out. And guess what, Margareta was my companion that time, too!

This year I bought an autobiography that Margareta recommended. I will blog about it when I have read it.

It says "Café" on the sunblind, and indeed they had one, squeezed into the old defense wall itself. I didn´t get a very good picture of it, and besides, we didn´t have coffee there anyway.
The Town wall from the outside. What Valdemar Atterdag had to overcome.

Picturesque ruins are just part of the landscape here - the Victorians would have loved it.

I absolutely love the look of old stone constructions. There is such beauty in the patterns, the way things were made, and remember that this wasn´t supposed to show at all. This would have been totally plastered over and covered with painings or whatever.

Look at the detail of that!

Again, I had a most informed and enthusiastic guide.

The walk down by the sea shore.

Lover´s Gate.

It´s so impressive how they have preserved the medieval town´s structure, while still bringing Visby into the modern age. I imagine that many old cities could have had this kind of ambience, but either old walls and buildings have been torn down by utilitarian builders, or fires have taken their toll.

I am very excited to find modern artwork in places like this. The old bombed out cathedral in Coventry comes to mind. (Which I seem to have NOT BLOGGED ABOUT! Have to make amends and dig out those pictures!)
Another WWII bunker down by the harbour. I loved seeing this, my maternal grandfather spent seven years on this island, prepared to defend us against the Germans or anyone trying to have their way with us. He might have been sitting right here. Who knows?

As so often happens, the older generation is already gone by the time we ourselves are mature enough to have formed relevant questions to ask them.

Grey pears.

Me, in front of a pavillion in the Bothanical Gardens. (Photo credits to Margareta)

Red troll grapes.

In the evening, we went to an outdoor restaurant (in the old(?) grounds of the Freemasons, where we were treated to a medieval meal. As you can see, we ate part of the meal from communal wooden boards. Also on offer were whole roasted lamb, and an assortment of side dishes and condiments, such as a special kind of sweet, stewed cabbage.
Some questioned the authenticity of having a belly dancer for entertainment, but actually, hoards containing plenty of Arabian coins have been found on Gotland, and they would certainly have been dealing in slaves at some time. I don´t think it´s particularly unrealistic to imagine that one or two exotic men and women could have resided here.

After this, we walked home through a quiet and sleepy Visby, to nightcaps in the hotel bar, and a good night´s sleep.


What I don´t know about this book

Allow me to complain a bit about how hard it is to find something really, really interesting to read. I mean interesting in the "stay-up-all-night-hardly-even-thinking-about-food" kind of interesting. Since Murnane´s "Barley Patch" there has been nothing.

I had high hopes for Jenny Diski´s "What I don´t know about animals" (= allt jag inte vet om djur). It was a short loan, as there was a queue to it, and what you see in the picture is exactly how far I got in a fortnight.

I loooved Diski´s travel books, particularly the one where she goes to the Antarctic on a ship, and the one where she travels across North America on a train, and the one where she goes to Jukkasjärvi - wait - that´s all of them! I haven´t read any of her novels, though. This is not a novel, nor is it a reportage, it´s more of an auto-biographical essay, I think. Can´t really say for sure, as I didn´t read through it.

I should, really, give Diski one more chance, sometime when there is more time available. But for sure, it´s not something that pulls me in. I´d have to make an effort. It´s the subject. I don´t know much about animals either, and I´m not that interested in the way animals are used and misused in culture, which is what I´m guessing this is all about.

I´m continually on the look-out.


Visby, Gotland - Day One

Coming here is a bit like going abroad. Weather, culture, magic!
I was superlucky to be able to come with my husband to Visby this year. He was at a conference all day - poor him! - while I was taking in the sights with a collegue´s wife, Margareta, who - my brilliant luck! - has lived here as a kid, and is also very well-read on history and such. I can´t think of a better guide for the short stay (two nights) we had.

A few images just to give you an idea of the things that caught my eye:

Nature! In the cultured manner of the Bothanical Gardens.

And the smell of the roses!

The old hotels.

The medieval defensive wall goes all around the town.

And some more modern defenses.

A reminder of the town´s former status as part of the Hansa trading system.

The old mote, where I´m told the kids used to do tricks on their bikes.

St Gertrude had her own convent & church.

A walnut tree!

And it´s fruit.

From the cathedral.

What the cathedral used to look like when spanking new.

I have an affinity for gargoyles.

The main square - jesters and their audience.