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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Exhausting week

I'm exhausted. Completely wasted. My mother has been visiting for an entire week. She has a different pace in her life than I have. I worked from seven until noon most days and then she and I went on excursions around the province, making use of our summer passes. The train service has been struggling with delays due to extreme heat, lightning and staff shortage. We sat in a train for one hour in Lund one day, waiting to go on a ten-minute journey. It's those moments when you miss not having a car.

In this record-breaking weather (incredibly hot and humid) my mother has been very busy at my apartment. She dusted the cabinets, rearranged the ornaments in them (so now I don't know where everything is), scrubbed the balcony floor, defrosted the freezer, ironed my curtains, replanted all the flowers and cooked for us. When I came home there were chores for me too; I hung the curtains, vacuumed and brought the big rug outside to really beat the dust out of it. Very hard job in these temperatures.

Our trips have taken us to main cities and small villages around the province. We have been to fleamarkets in Lund, Malmö and Simrishamn. Purchases included several scarves, new sunglasses and a blouse. We have been in Helsingborg, where I showed my mother my favorite café, Ebba's. We also made use of two gift certificates (winnings) to get back massage in a small village in the middle of Skåne. We would never go to Hörby otherwise, but now we had a reason. Cute town, but not much to do there. Another first visit was to Trelleborg, a town on the south coast. It took forever to get there (no train service), almost two hours by bus. It was a nice place with interesting shops. We also took the local bus from there to the beach in the afternoon. It was the first proper swim in the ocean this year. It was great! There are no strong underwater currents on the south coast (like there are on the coast where the summerhouse is). We also went into the ocean outside Ystad, it was a beach very close to a train station, and that was also a great experience.

I have to comment some more on the weather. It's has been 28-32 centigrades in the entire country (sometimes hotter in the far north than down here)! We generally don't have air conditioning in our homes, so this is very straining. All the fans and mobile AC units are sold out at the stores. After using all the short pants that I own (two pairs), I continued on to wearing dresses for work. This is unheard of. I have never before worked in a dress, because there are no pockets to keep the cell phone and swipe card and everything else I need to bring with me in the stacks. The janitor gave me a piece of string to have around my neck for the cell phone, and a clip for the swipe card to be attached to my clothes. It functions, but it takes some getting used to.

This morning my mother and I went to Simrishamn by train (two and a half hour journey). It's on the southeast end of Skåne. There was a market day and also a fleamarket. There was a stall where they sold old postcards (mainly from different villages, with images of the churches and aerial photos of houses). It's popular to collect postcards from different towns, and I looked for "my" town. There were a few, but one in particular caught my attention. It was an undated postcard, probably from the 1940s or 1950s, of the church, and it had a birthday greeting on it. The remarkable thing is that the addressee was my great grandmother..... I'm sure of this, her address is correct, and also the date matches her birthdate. A truly amazing find. (And I really wonder how that postcard ended up there).

After a great Mediterranean style buffet lunch at a restaurant we had some ice-cream and then my mother took the bus back to the summerhouse. I went on a train journey that lasted three hours. There was railroad work that prolonged the trip. I was very happy to be home again this evening.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Appreciative customer

It's still hot weather here, but not as bad as last week. The biggest problem is the humidity. It's around 24-26 centigrades right now. It's not as slow at work as you would think. I have just spent the afternoon at the storage and that was not fun. My colleagues haven't had the opportunity to shelve much during my absence. There were quite a few books (probably thousands), and it will take a long time to get that under control. During the summer we also get those optimistic visitors who think that they can get the book right away. We have next day delivery from the stacks, and some people think that is a too long wait.

This week we had a visitor who was very lucky with her request. Late Sunday evening she sent a rather desperate e-mail, requesting a slavic work which she didn't even know if we had. She took a chance and travelled from Göteborg (four hours away, at least) the next morning. I had by then located it in the old card catalogue and given the request to the storage round staff. It was extremely difficult to find the book, because it had been misplaced by several meters. When it finally arrived at lunchtime, she was very, very happy. She needed the book for a chapter of her thesis, it was the very last thing she had to check before sending it off to printing. She asked for my name, and soon a packet arrived, containing a small gift (a book and a fridge magnet). Glad to know that our efforts are appreciated.

Tomorrow my mother will come to visit. There is a big orienteering competition close to the summerhouse next week, and a family who will participate in it are going to stay at the summerhouse. I have to work, but my mother can make some excursions of her own during the day. I'm sure we will visit some fleamarkets on the weekends also.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hot weather

It's incredibly hot weather here. About 28-30 centigrades and not a cloud in the sky. This is my first workweek in two and a half months, and it is not pleasant in the stacks. It's an old house (more than 100 years old) and very little or no air condition is the standard here. We are melting away and it's difficult to even think. We have all the windows open and there is a separate fan in my office. They had changed some routines during my absence, but most things work the same way as before. The database went down over the past weekend and it took a while for the technicians to get it running again. Luckily, there aren't that many visitors. I assume most people are at the beach instead. I have made some short trips after work, mostly to get something to eat. I really don't want to cook in my kitchen when it's this hot. There is no progress when it comes to the genealogy either, I can't do anything that requires that much attention to detail. This weather is affecting everything. I'm wearing the thinnest blouse I have, but it doesn't help.

Saturday I went to the nearest mall, but didn't spend much time near the shops. I had heard of a restaurant that I wanted to try, located a few blocks away. It's called Lucy's and it's like an American 1950s diner. Very cool interiors with a jukebox, parts of a car and lots of memorabilia from that era. The food was also good, I had the peanut butter and bacon-burger. After that, I made it by one bus, one train and one bus to the summerhouse. I went there because some friends were coming for afternoon coffee on the Sunday. It was nice to sit under the sunshade, eat my mother's homemade cake (she had picked the blueberries and raspberries herself) and drink the homemade elderflower lemonade. I was lucky on the way back, the return trip only took two hours. Normally almost four, but I was able to catch delayed trains at two locations.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Moose dinner

Saturday I returned to the summerhouse, after first spending the day in Helsingborg. There is a very nice restaurant called Ebba’s, where everything is in the 1950’s style. The interiors, cutlery, plates and also the menu. They have fabulous cookies. But I had the shrimp sandwich, and there was more shrimp than sandwich. Very tasty.

My mother’s birthday hardly ever gets celebrated properly because we usually work with the flea market that week. However, there was no flea market this year, since there hadn’t been enough things donated. So on Sunday my mother invited some friends for a moose(!) dinner. Very unusual, but my father had given her the meat after his last hunting trip (but I think someone else shot the moose).

Two of my mother’s friends visited for a few days and they helped her get a new microwave oven. We made some excursions and I got to see a presentation of the most known company in Åhus – Absolut Vodka. There is an exhibit near the production plant in the central village. It was an interesting presentation, we learned that there is a truckload of glass bottles arriving every 15 minutes from a Småland glassworks and that almost all the vodka is exported. Their storage is a gigantic place, 23 meters high and fully automated. Absolut is the third most sold vodka in the world and the brand is known for the artistic bottle designs and the marketing.

Other activities at the summerhouse included mowing the lawn and dog-sitting. It was a small dog and she was easy to handle. One day I tried to go swimming in the ocean, but it was really cold. I was one out of two people on the beach that day, so I understood the water was cold. But I still managed to get burned by the sun. The weather has for the most part been pretty wet and there are many more mosquitos than normal.

I have now returned home, but will once again go to the summerhouse tomorrow. It will be the last weekend before I start working again.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summerhouse visit

The train strike is over, they were able to agree the day before one of the busiest travel weekends in the country, Midsummer. I made it to the summerhouse by two trains and a bus. We celebrated the Midsummer Eve rather quietly, with boiled eggs and pickled herring. There was also a group of folkdancers entertaining at the local community park. Saturday we went (by bus + train) to visit my mother’s friend for some pretty good homebaked cookies. Sunday evening we attended a concert themed “In the rosegarden” at the local church. Very high quality soprano singers.

The visit at the summerhouse was nice, but it was somewhat darkened by the number of machines that broke down, or had already broken down. It started with the brand new TV, which, after many discussions, was exchanged with the help of a neighbor who brought it to town (we don’t have a car). We got a new one of the same brand and it works better. Then one morning the opening mechanism to the microwave oven broke, so that the door couldn’t be opened. I had to use a lot of force to get my mother’s porridge out… Amazing. The fan above the stove is also broken and the weather station lost the connection to the main receiver, and wouldn’t start again even after the batteries were exchanged. My mother said “What’s next!?” and we were both thinking of the fridge, which has been repaired three times in recent years. They don’t make durable household machines anymore, that’s for sure.

My mother has been busy writing her life story. A few years ago she was given a book in which to write down her family information, and this book will be given to her first grandchild. She hasn’t had the opportunity to do anything about this until now, and we have spent quite some time talking about the questions in this book. She needed documentation and I went home yesterday, partly to get family photos copied for this. Now she also got one more book for the second grandchild, so she will be very busy with this project.

During my visit we also went swimming in the small indoor pool at Furuboda (too cold in the ocean) and visited the local historical museum (for the first time ever and we have lived in the area since the mid 80’s).

I’m back home now, also to water my plants. One didn’t make it, but it’s ok. During my absence a painter has been here to fix the damages from the window exchange earlier. It looks good, the damages are not visible anymore. The entire building has also been painted now, in the same color as before, dark yellow.

I have one more week of vacation and I haven’t decided what to do really, but I’m returning to the summerhouse tomorrow. Today I was at work, and the first thing I see in the lunchroom is a newspaper article about the dangers of working during your vacation. Many people answer e-mails and phonecalls even though they shouldn’t, and I am of course one of them. There hasn’t been that much to attend to, I have mostly sent the messages on to my colleagues. Today I got two work-related questions and had to send documents to a colleague. I try to go there late afternoons and hide in the stacks to do my research, but they spot me anyway.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Crowded trains

There hasn't been that much going on here. The weather is nice and I have stayed at home for the most part, mainly because my train pass expired. I have of course been busy with Olga's biography. I also admired the guy who stood on my balcony, first cleaning, then painting both the roof and ceiling of it, and the wall (in three different colors). It's a little strange to have builders walk past your balcony and windows every day, and I have to make sure I'm properly dressed... It's at the end now, the scaffolding will be gone soon.

The train strike is still going on, unfortunately. The summer pass (travel in the entire province at affordable price) started this Sunday and I made the mistake of going to Malmö. Getting there was ok, but on the way home the train was extremely crowded. I have experienced worse train rides in my time, but still, it was not pleasant. It will be 28 years of daily commuting this fall. Incredible what I have put up with all these years.

At work my colleagues seem to be doing fine. They were surprised to get 120 requests from the same person yesterday, but they managed. It has slowed down at the library, but we get these hobby researchers during the summer and they can challenge us quite a lot. I'm visiting my workplace right now, and from the documents posted on the intranet I can conclude that I have been elected member of a committee here and that I will be in charge of a workshop I have never heard of. Interesting.

This upcoming weekend is the Midsummer holiday, and I plan on going to visit my mother at the summerhouse. I might stay there for a while if the weather is good.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Travel diary from 1894

Last weekend was also fairly long, three days, since the national holiday is June 6. We normally don’t celebrate it much. I usually go on a shopping trip to Denmark that day because the stores are open there, but the train strike is still going on, so I decided it was too much trouble. Instead I have done some short trips to different malls. I also spent Saturday at work, to avoid getting strange questions from my colleagues. I did some research for the biography. Other activities at home include a thorough cleaning of the bathroom, handwashing blouses, a minor reorganization of the wardrobe and some cooking. Today was very hot, 26 centigrades, and I did basically nothing. I went for groceries at 7 in the evening and almost melted away. We are not used to this kind of weather, I hope it cools down soon. Frequent readers of this blog (if there are any at all) know that Swedes have to complain about the weather, no matter what.

My grandmother’s cousin sent a very interesting document he had found in his father’s belongings. First an explanation: my great-great grandfather was a sailor and he seems to have been quite adventurous. He had actually lived in New Zealand 1872-1878, before his marriage. In 1894, then married with three children – one was Olga, he made the journey back to New Zealand, this time with his brother-in-law and his family. The latter family stayed there until 1908, when they moved on to Australia (we visited the descendants there in 1998). My great-great grandfather tried to urge his wife to sell the house and emigrate with their children, but she refused. She was very religious and was worried that the children would not get confirmed properly, as she did not think New Zealand to be a “godly country”. I have known about this story my whole life, but I didn’t know that my great-great grandfather wrote a travel diary during his voyage to New Zealand in 1894. It took a little more than two months by train and ship from Copenhagen, via Hamburg, Bremen, Southampton, through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, India, west and south coast of Australia, Tasmania and finally Wellington. The diary is an incredible account of the people they met, the sights they saw and even what they had to eat. He had sailed the seven seas since 1869, and you can tell he had been in those ports before, he commented on it. After three years in New Zealand he returned home. He never managed to persuade his wife to emigrate. If he had, this would be a completely different story…