Music for Dark Evenings

There is much to do and little time to play right now. Which is why posting is becoming less frequent, and I suppose it will stay this way for the rest of the year. I will try to do something every week, at least, and more if I can. I so enjoy blogging (I think I probably carve out a new neural path in my brain every time) and it distresses me a bit when I have nothing to contribute. It´s like life itself is on hold.

We did get a real treat Sunday, however, when we attended the farewell concert for the collaboration between Norrbotten Chamber Orchestra and its long-time artistic leader, Petter Sundkvist, who is moving on to other projects. The program selection was the result of suggestions from the faithful audience, and they played such favourite composers as Sibelius, Mozart, Bach and de Frumerie. My personal favourite, though, was the last piece, an adaptation for orchestra of Sjostakovitj´s String Quartet No 8. My, that woke me up!

According to the conductor, Petter Sundkvist, this piece was written both as a lament over Dresden, which Sjostakovitj visited in 1960, and as a memorial piece over the the composer himself, who did not think it likely that anyone else would compose anything with him in mind after his death. He quotes from his earlier works, and the notes in the main theme corresponds to his initials. It was performed at his funeral in 1975. It´s really sad, but full of vitality as well; perfect for dark November evenings. 

I found a version of it on youtube, courtesy of Rodney Leinberger. Enjoy!


The Stone Age Rocks

Every year, for as long as I have been around, Swedish Television has had an Advent calendar program for children every evening in December, leading up to Christmas Eve. (In Sweden, Christmas Eve is The Day of celebration, and Christmas Day is just for eating leftovers and playing with your toys while mum and dad does crossword puzzles or watch a film.) It´s some kind of story, often connected with Christmas, and you can buy a calendar and open it with the television host or perhaps even the characters of the story. This year, the advent story is based on a Swedish children´s book classic, "Barna Hedenhös" (= the children From-Time-Immemorial, but it´s really not translatable and the books are not, as far as I can figure, translated to English) by Bertil Almquist.

The family lives on the Stock (= tree log) Holme.
"Barna Hedenhös" was an early favourite of mine and the trauma experience of having my father read it to me may have fueled me with some extra motivation to learn how to read for myself. What he did during his first reading was to improvise: "And pappa Ben says:" and then he would ad-lib something really funny that went with the pictures. The next time I begged him to read it he was, however, not able to repeat the performance, and I was so confused and provoked, because to me, letters were absolute, books were reliable (and I had a very good memory - I still to this day remember one of those made-up lines...), and they didn´t change from reading to reading. A book did not forget the joke it told yesterday!

Much of the humour is based on wild, unrestrained punning and unabashed anachronisms; Almquist was particularly fond of making up words with the prefix ur- which means ancient or primordial. Like in the book where the family Hedenhös goes to America, they arrive at a town called Urjork, or Ur York, which is, naturally, the original New York. The indians who live there are not iroquois, but uroquois. And they go on an excursion to Urtroit and visit with uncle Urford, riding on his horsepowered wagons. It´s all delightfully recognizable, and the well-travelled Hedenhös family also goes adventuring to Egypt, England, Paris (where they are kitted out by Mr Diur), and they even go to the moon, and to Mars! They also organize the worlds first international olympiad, the urlympiad.

Pappa Ben builds the raft Ur-tiki that takes them to America. (Remember Heyerdal´s Kon-Tiki expidition in 1947?)

Arriving at Ur York.
The illustrations are glorious, there are things happening all over the place, and there is such vitality to every character. 

Bertil Almquist was born in 1902, and the first book came out in 1948. The stories are very much of their time and have that hyper-positive attitude to technology and progress. It is what fuels them, really. The family is an ideal nuclear family: pappa Ben (= bone), mamma Knota (= another Swedish word for bone), brother Sten (= stone), and sister Flisa (= splinter). Pappa Ben may only possess a flint knife and a stone axe, but that does not stop him from building a jet plan (driven by uranium, in case you wondered). Their animals are part of the family, as well as being useful household assets, and they all come on the adventures.

In yesterdays paper, it was announced that the America-album will not be published in future. It is perhaps my favourite, but I can really see why they had to make this decision. The attitude to the indigenous people of North America is, well... shall we say naive and patronizing? A tad colonial? Remember, this was a time when Swedes had not yet learned that a person of dark skin-colour could take offence to being called a negro. To us, it was just a noun, and to some very old people (like the mum-in-law) it still is. We had yet to see "Roots" on television (I was not old, but I remember how BIG that was). If the world seemed small in the Hedenhös universe, to a regular Swede in the 50´s, it was actually pretty large and unknown.

Uncle Urford´s factory in Urtroit.
In some cases, older books can be salvaged from having become un-politically correct by changing a word here or there (as I understand has been done to Mark Twain´s children´s books, and Astrid Lindgren´s Pippi-books). But in this case, the whole plot is based on the "fact" that bulls (as everyone knows from the bullfights, right? it couldn´t be the BARBED arrows they stick in their backs, could it?) become enraged when you wave something red in front of them, and that indians have red skins. Pappa Ben solves this problem by introducing face paint to mask the redness and thus makes the indians and the bisons best friends forever... It´s a story promoting peace, but the premise is too way off. It´s unsalvageable. And I don´t think Almquist was a racist, more like the opposite. But for all the things he knew, there was so much he didn´t. If he were alive today, he´d probably cringe, as I did when I read it a few days ago.

Still, the characters are alive and well, and changing with the times. I think I´ll tune in at least for the first episode, to see what´s been done to them.


From The Front Line

How do I describe "The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard? It´s a book about writing, but it does not tell you where to put your commas. Nor does it tell you how to organize your papers, what software to use or how to beat procrastination. It´s a report from the front line of the writer´s life.
Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark. When I furnished this study seven years ago, I pushed the long desk against a blank wall, so I could not see from either window. Once, fifteen years ago, I wrote in a cinder-block cell over a parking lot. It overlooked a tar-and-gravel roof. This pine shed under trees is not quite so good as the cinder-block study was, but it will do.
Bastard photograph of The Baltic Bees in Luleå, 2011.
Here are stories about effort - like rowing and towing a log all day and all night against a current threatening to drag you out into the vast Pacific Ocean, because you want to salvage a fine piece of wood. There are stories about courage and endurance - like the one about the artistic pilot who risked his life doing impossible spins in the air for his audience. There are stories about faith, love and sheer bloody-mindedness, all the qualities an artist must possess, struggling for years with the exploration and realization of ideas that may never come to anything - and not going crazy. 

Dillard´s prose is challenging for someone like me, who is not a native English speaker. Actually, I think it´s probably challenging for those who are (and hurrah! for Kindle´s built-in dictionary) native, too. It is beautiful prose, though, and I feel that I´m on a learning curve on so many levels when I read her. Dillard has recieved a Pulizer prize for one of her books and I´m not surprised - I would guess that anything she writes is valuable, as well as beautiful. She writes mainly nonfiction, and when she wrote this book (it was published in 1989) she had yet to write a novel. Not surprisingly, she started as a poet.

Not all writers are terribly interested in language. I confess that being taught my basic language skills at a time (the 70´s) when punctuation and spelling was out of fashion (my teacher did not think we needed semicolon at all, and was adamant that the comma would be extinct within a few years), I have leaned pretty heavily on my reading experience and a "feel" for what is right. My interest has also been very much focused on story, on plot. Lately, however, it has become harder and harder to find something inspiring to read. It seems I have become tired of plot; there are only so many variations, after all. Surprisingly, sentences are beginning to intrigue me. Who knows, maybe I´ll be reading poetry next...

I like this book a lot, and I´m sure I will return to it often. Dillard is refreshingly honest about the whole writing experience:
you are wrong if you think that in the actual writing, or in the actual painting, you are filling in the vision. You cannot fill in the vision. You cannot even bring the vision to light. You are wrong if you think that you can in any way take the vision and tame it to the page. The page is jealous and tyrannical; the page is made of time and matter; the page always wins. The vision is not so much destroyed, exactly, as it is, by the time you have finished, forgotten. It has been replaced by this changeling, this bastard, this opaque lightless chunky ruinous work. 
That´s bleak, and still, this book is so encouraging. Reading it is like sitting in a bar with an experienced and jaded older friend, or with a fellow postman after having worked through a snow storm, getting all those letters out there no matter what it cost you - with a well deserved pint in front of you, knowing that tomorrow it´s likely to be thirty below and hope to god the car holds up. You know. War stories. I have already bought my next Dillard book.


Too Many Gods

I have once been in the same room as Neil Gaiman. In 2000, I decided that a job is a job is a job, and that literature is the only thing worthwhile. To celebrate, I emptied my savings account and went to the Book Fair in Gothenburg, where, among others, I saw Gaiman and Terry Pratchett giving a presentation on how they had collaborated on "Good Omens", which was about to be released in Swedish. I enjoyed them a lot, and later read the book (in English).

The other day I saw that Gaiman had written something in the Guardian (I think it was a piece on Lou Reed). He is good, I thought, I should read one of his. I did read something of his not long ago (ok, ten years), "American Gods". That was good, I thought, but what was it about? I remembered a Mr Wednesday and a tree, and that was all. I was a bit puzzled about remembering so little about the book and decided to read it again.

The protagonist is a kind, honest, loyal, and not stupid man in his thirties who goes by the name Shadow. He has an unfortunate tendency to attach himself to Bad People, though, and has just served three years in prison. When he is released, he is hired by a Mr Wednesday, a one-eyed elderly man with a silver tie-pin in the shape of a tree. Shadow is now drawn in to a world of gods, magic, and other trickery. A war is starting, between the old gods: fertilitygods, wargods, deathgods, tricksters, leprechauns, djinns, trolls, brownies, anything you can think of; and the new gods: electrical gadgets, highways, shopping malls, media, "intangibles" (like hedgefunds), and so forth.

A recent addition to my own pin collection.
After I finished it, I tried for days to write something about it, kept going on and on, page after page, trying to understand why it wasn´t working for me. In the end, I came to the conclusion that I wasn´t being fair, I was judging it as something it was not. It is not a good read, it is an entertainment read. An excellent entertainment read, however, and a highly recommendable one. Perfect for the holidays, if you are looking for something that´s well written, cleverly plotted, and very funny. But it will not change your life.

But I expected more; I read it once already and I persuaded myself it was more. Why is that? It occured to me that I must still have the notes from Gothenburg, but where? These days, all my archives are digital, but I still keep a filing cabinet which my husband refers to as my "X-files". I don´t know what he thinks I keep in there, and honestly I hardly remember, but anything earlier than 2005 should be there. It took me less than 30 seconds to find them (to which I credit an anal-retentive streak). Disappointingly, all I wrote about Neil Gaiman at the time was that he had long, black, curly hair and looked like a stray member of Slade. So no clues there. And "Good Omens" certainly wasn´t very profound, it was a good romp about Armageddon.

As I leafed through my notes I saw that I had attended several seminars to do with the publication of the new Swedish Bible translation (which I also read later, cover-to-cover if you can belive it). There was a particularly interesting one about holy texts in all the world religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism. I still remember clearly some of the things being said in that seminar, I occasionaly quote from it. Perhaps it´s the topic: gods, religion. Perhaps I made some links of association there, and messed up my idea of what Gaiman and his work is about. Perhaps, also, I have become a more discerning reader; I am not at all unappreciative of Gaiman and "American Gods", but I confess, three days after I finished it, it´s already beginning to fade.


The Overlord Embroidery

After I had posted about the Quilt exhibition, it occured to me that I have told you nothing about an amazing work that I particularly wanted to see when we were in Portsmouth, and the reason we had to run from the Historic Dockyard to get there before it closed. "There" being the D-Day Museum.

It looks a bit like a pillbox, and there is a real Picket-Hamilton fort on display outside the entrance. There are also tanks, canons, and a statue of Monty. 

Monty´s plan for invasion.
Inside the museum you find all sorts of D-Day souvenirs. 

I can´t remember now how I heard of the Overlord Embroidery, but I can tell you it was commissioned by Lord Dulverton (that would have been Frederick Anthony Hamilton Wills in 1968), to commemorate the invasion of France during the Second World War, as a kind of counterpart to the Bayeux tapestry. I have never seen the Bayeux tapestry in real life, but it´s used to illustrate medieval battle quite often, so if you are the least interested in history, you will have seen bits of it. It´s 70 meters long, made in the late 11th century, and isn´t really a tapestry at all, but an embroidery. According to legend, it was made by William the Conquerer´s wife, lady Matilda, but that´s not likely to be true. It does, however, depict the events around the Norman invasion and the battle of Hastings and it was, indeed, made shortly after, probably in England. There´s a replica in Reading, and they have this website that explains all about it.

The Overlord Embroidery was designed by artist Sandra Lawrence, and made by the Royal School of Needlework. It´s 83 meters, which makes it longer than the Bayeux tapestry, and well, of course it would be. It´s made, as far as I can figure, in a similar way as its French counterpart. (If you can indeed argue that the Bayeux tapestry is French. France as we know it didn´t exist, nor did Great Britain, the Normans were never actually thrown out, the rules to rule changed over hundreds of years, and the tapestry is, I think, more about the history of England than the history of France. The French own it, though, it was discovered in the cathedral in Bayeux, and today it´s on display in a museum in Normandy.)

Photography wasn´t allowed, but I got one little snap before I realized, and living dangerously, I will share it with you, to give you an idea of what it looked like in real life, up close. Excellent handicraft, no unfinished edges there! It´s amazing, even the husband, not having a particular interest in needlework, was impressed.

I bought a fold-out souvenir of the whole embroidery, and have taken a few snaps of those, to give you an idea. There is more information at Sarah Lawrence´s site, and at the museum´s website.

When we were finished with the museum we walked leisurely back to our hotel along the Millenium Walk, passing the Capstan Square, where there was once a chain going over the entrance to Portsmouth harbour, stopping ships from entering. You can also see the Palmerston Forts, built in the mid-1800´s in case of a French invasion. Some of these have now been turned into hotels, I understand! Wouldn´t it be cool to stay there!

The Capstan.


Quirky Quilts

"Glazovo" by Adinka Tellegen.
The other day, I had a half hour to spare and decided to pop in at the art gallery in the Culture House. I was in luck (I´m afraid I don´t keep up with all the new exhibitions) as they are presently hosting the 5th European Quilt Triennial 2012. There were 211 entries from 22 European countries and we get to see 44. This event has evolved from the German Quilt Biennial, which in 2000 was extended to cover all of Europe.

According to Professor Dr Frieder Hepp of the Kurpfälzisches Museum der Stadt Heidelberg (one of the organizers of this exhibition) in the foreword to the exhibition catalogue, an appearance at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham has led to an increase of English quilter participation. And many of the quilts that got my attention were indeed British. Britain has also contributed with the only male participant, which is attributed by Hepp to William Morris´ legacy. I suppose the average German male finds quilting a bit girly...

In the foreground, "Home Sweet Home" by Birgitte Kopp.
Detail from "Cloud Computing": plastic, string, pen.
I love textile art, and I´m not the only one. For those of us who practice ourselves, it is hard to resist not touching and exploring the techniques used, and there are several signs requesting that visitors keep their hands to themselves. Many of the quilts are - as you would expect in a traditional quilt - very sturdy and made to last for centuries, basically, but some are not traditional at all, rather artful installations based on the idea of what a quilt is. My grandmother would not have been impressed with loose threads and un-finished edges, but I think she would have been inspired by the variation of motifs.

"Cloud Computing" by Allie Kay, in its entirety.

I actually fell hard for the most quintessential English quilt, by sole male participant and Brit, James Fox. It is a traditional quilt with a mix of classic English symbols: a football, teacups, Victorian sentimental images of doves and burning hearts. The name of the quilt is "I know there´s many things I´ve never seen..." and the title is also embroidered around the football in the center of the quilt. I suppose I have to call it camp, and actually, in retrospect, it was more fun up close than from a distance. The idea of its Britishness endeared it to me at first sight.

Another English participant, Alicia Merrett, has noticed the likeness between a quilt and a city map, and has made a very handsome quilt based on what London looks like from above. She calls it "Mayfair 1761", and I suppose that´s exactly what this is.

It´s also hard for me to resist quilts that are made of all those kinds of things that sewers, knitters and embroiderers tend to collect: old buttons, tiny scraps of beautiful fabrics, zippers, thread, a meter or two of yarn, pearls, and so on. Vera Shcherbakova´s "Chrismas time" is a glam-fest, it even has bits of mirror sewn onto it. And fur, which feels very Russian, somehow; it makes me think of bitter-cold steppes.

There were also entries that were political, like Jutta Kohlbeck´s "Surveillance State" - a piece with a current topic, as it happens. Not that it´s really new; I understand that George Orwells "1984" rose precipitously on amazon´s bestseller-list after the Snowden incident. Kohlbeck has made a quilt with many, many eyes and some of them hang loosely attached to the quilt itself.

On second thought, I wonder if Merrett´s "Mayfair" may also have a political dimension to it. She has, after all, chosen the part of London where probably the most powerful people of the British Empire lived - and still lives. The British Empire may not be any more, but to the rich and powerful of this world, I don´t suppose that matters very much; the arenas change, but the players remain the same. Or perhaps she just liked the way the streets curved.

The one piece that really would have made my grandma snort, would have been Ulrike Lindner´s "Colours in the wilderness". This is not handicraft as much as art, a play with the concept of quilting. It has a wonderful 3D quality to it.

Very similar - and yet very different - is Monique Dumont-Simone´s "Day after day", which is as delicious as a wedding cake and very girly with its transparent patches of pastel-coloured fabric. There are also unexpected scraps of paper in there, all held together by strategically placed knots. This is a quilt for etheral princesses, who dream lovely dreams on fluffy, pea-free, mattresses.

Dumont-Simone says in the catalogue that this is a textile diary for summer and autumn of 2011: every square represents a day. Can´t find anything about her on the net, so perhaps she does live in a fairy tale castle.

In the middle of the room: "At the same time", Gabi Mett.
There is also an exhibition of quilts at our regional museum, one I have been meaning to see, but they have such lousy opening hours (close at 16) and I never seem to manage to get there in time. A few years back they had a great show with both new and really old quilts, that I saw with mum-in-law (while she still had her eye-sight). We still talk about that sometimes, particularly one was memorable, where the quilter year after year had made her guests sign patches of black felt with white chalk. She had then embroidered their signatures and made a huge (she must have been a great hostess) quilt of it, and on the border she had embroidered some bible verses refering to hospitality. Amazing. Another quilt impressed me for another reason: it was made of old men´s suits, worn shiny but still good enough for a duvet. It was a poignant and very physical reminder of the poverty and scarcity of all things out in the forest villages in the 19th century.

There were, of course, so many more quilts to see, all equally fantastic. I have been trying to find a website for the Quilt Triennial, but there doesn´t seem to be one. If it comes to your town, I recommend a visit, even if you´re not that into handicraft. This goes way beyond that.

"The difference" by Cecília Gonzáles-Desedamas.


Alice Munro, the Academy´s Choice

Entrance driveway.
The Swedish word for short story is novell. You see how one can go wrong in translation there? That is the worst trap of speaking a foreign language: when it has words that sound and look familiar to you, but has a whole different meaning. I know a real live person who once had an English girlfriend. He went to visit her and was picked up by her slightly suspicious father at the airport. Having spoken at length about the weather, he resorted to that other safe topic: traffic. "Are there any fart controls here?" he said. (Swedish fart = English speed) And there is a classic story about a Swedish road engineer at an international conference on traffic safety, who said in a discussion: "It´s not the fart that kills, it´s the smell." (Swedish smäll = English crash)


When Alice Munro had just been announced as the recipient of this year´s Nobel Prize in Literature (it bugs me when people say someone has won the Nobel Prize; it´s not a competition, it´s an award) the media was all over it, of course. Malin Ullenhag in Dagens Nyheter wrote a short piece about the short story vs the novel, where she argued (based on an essay by literature historian Andreas Gailus) that the short story is the genre of crisis, rather than psychological development. The short story maintains the protagonist´s lack of insight and in that regard, the short story is "stupider" and "more honest" than the novel. I thought that was an interesting point and something to keep in mind during the reading.

I have, in tandem with a friend, read Munro´s latest collection, "Dear Life" (Sw. "Brinnande livet"), and I suppose we chose that one because it was on the e-library. It is also her last collection, as she has announced her retirement.

It is made up of ten proper short stories and one separate collection of four auto-biographical stories, where she tries - I think - to explain how she became the person she is. It is really the story of her mother, a frustrated social climber who never got anywhere but instead was disliked by everyone for her delusions of grandure. In the end, she dies of a disease related to dementia. Munro doesn´t spare herself, she readily confesses that she didn´t visit and didn´t go to the funeral, and she also mentions her father´s new wife in such a way that I get the feeling they got on better. Munro leaves a lot of room for the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. It seems to me that Munro is a lot like her mother, and that she knows that too.

Munro is unsentimental and almost cruel in her candour, just as Ullenhag says that short story-writers are (or should be). And I suppost that is what I like about her the most, that she doesn´t avert her eye from the less savoury parts of human existence. In this collection (which is the only one I have read so far) some themes of the stories are
  • people just letting things happen to them. They are all frustratingly passive. Almost aggressively passive, which is not the same as passive-aggressive.
  • people believing that their imaginations are the truth. Many of her protagonists seem very deluded, perhaps psychotic. 
  • strategies for those left over. Those who live their lives on scraps from other people´s table, as it were. 
  • fear of community. Actually, community in a Munro story is mostly about oppression, and alone-ness is about freedom. Munro´s people find meaning in their work, for the most part; they seldom find it in each other. 
She has a bold way of adding seemingly irrelevant information to her sentences, information that doesn´t seem relevant to the story. But after a while I realized that she doesn´t write story in a classic way, it´s more like mini-portraits of psyches, and by making them more complex, she is also making them more real. Her characters have so many dimensions, sometimes contradictory, that you feel they just have to be real.

My reading partner was less enamoured with Munro. She found many of the characters irrational, illogical, unreal. When we discussed the first story, about a young mother who acts recklessly towards men, my friend found her unrealistic, while I thought that she acted exactly the way one acts in times of great distress. I thought about this when I walked home, and I think that Munro´s stories are like a dirge to the parts of me that are dead: from broken promises, abandoned hopes, crushed heart, shattered illusions. She offers no solace, but she says "I know", which is all one can do, really.

I really like Munro, reading her opened up some issues I have been struggling with in my own writing. I have already bought another of her collections, "The Moons of Jupiter" from 1982, partly because I want to see if her themes are consistent throughout her work or if they change from collection to collection. Also, I want to read her in her own language. I usually feel there is something missing from a translation. Not always, but sometimes.

This is a proper good read, and - it has been said - unlike many recipients of the Nobel Prize, an author that should be accessible to most readers. I´m not so sure. I think that to really appreciate her, you need to be a survivor; on the other hand, there are many of us out here.


Literary Magazine

The latest edition of free literary magazine Five Dials has a translation to English of one of the most talked about literary works (if you can call it that, but I suppose you can) in Sweden this year. It´s Jonas Hassen Khemiri´s open letter to Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask.
I am writing to you with a simple request, Beatrice Ask. I want us to trade our skins and our experiences. Come on. Let’s just do it. You’ve never been averse to slightly wacky ideas (I still remember your controversial suggestion that anyone who buys sex ought to be sent a notice in a lavender envelope).
And there´s some other stuff in there as well, like an interview with Richard Ford (who is pretty high up on my to-read list since seeing an interview with him on television). 


Dover Castle - Day Three (Western Heights)

Our third day in Dover, we had smashing weather. Not knowing how long it would last, we decided to make the best of it and go for a morning stroll on the pier. This is not a fancy entertainment pier, like they have in Brighton, but a more sensible and useful sort of construction. They have a café, of course, and we had a cup of tea while watching the gulls, the anglers, and the ferries.

Like I said, there isn´t much beachlife (at least not in early July), but there were a few people stretched out on the gravelly beach.

When we had had enough of the sea, we went to find something called The Grand Shaft. The fort on the Western Heights was built mainly during the Napoleonic Wars, that is, early 1800´s. The shaft is a shortcut to the town, and it was finished in 1809. It has three staircases, and was intended to get the troups down quickly from the Drop Redoubt to the harbour in case of an invasion. As it turned out, the invasion never came, and the shaft was used mainly for quick access to the pubs and the brothels of Snargate Street.

It wasn´t open, sadly, so all I have is photos of the entrance. There are great photos of the shaft here, and of the old Barracks, which were demolished in the 50´s.

After that we walked up towards the Western Heights, in search of the forts there. We weren´t entirely sure what it was going to look like, but we knew there wasn´t some kind of ordered and organized museum with opening hours and tea rooms. We had a rough idea of where to look, though.

First, we entered an enclosed pasture for Dexter cattle - bulls, scarily enough. It was a rather steep climb, pretty views all around, and orchids growing in the grass. I was walking along rather absent-mindedly when suddenly the ground opened up before me and behold: a castle dug into the ground! It was pretty amazing. After we had a good look at it from ground level we found the entrance, walked around inside the moat, and came out through a narrow tunnel.

The remains of the old Roman pharos - the lighthouse - was lost during the construction of the Redoubt, but later rediscovered and put back in its original place, on top of the Redoubt. Not accessible to us, unfortunately.

A hole in a hatch...

... enough to get a glimps of the inside.

A bit shaky, the small film here, but I´m posting it anyway.

There weren´t that many people up there, perhaps a handful of other visitors - only men (what, ladies aren´t interested in old forts?).

The blue arrows show where we came up through the cattle field and how we walked from the Drop Redoubt over to the detached bastion. Clearly, there was a lot to explore on the Western Heights, and we easily could have spent a week or two exploring Dover and its surroundings. Which is a good thing, if we decide to come honeymooning in Dover Castle´s little flat some time in the future!

The detached bastion was even harder to spot since it is not kept in any condition for proper display. And this is what would happen to the Drop Redoubt as well, if nature could have free reign there; it only takes a few years for the bushes and trees to completely cover it up. It´s all owned by, and cared for, by English Heritage.

The view from the detached bastion over the Drop Redoubt and the castle: the Great Tower to the left and the church with the Roman lighthouse appoximately center picture.

When we got back to the hotel, we treated ourselves to a proper English Afternoon Tea, with sandwiches, scones, and cakes. If you have one of these, you needn´t bother with dinner.

There is much more to see in Dover, like a Roman painted house, a Bronze age boat, a Bronze age metal hoard (axes and things), and... ok, that´s about it. But they have the castle, and it´s pretty cool.