|The Adventures of Tredington|
Hi. I am a Gloucester Old Spot pig and my name is Tredington.
I live in the ancient village of Stoke Orchard. My village is centred around the ancient Church of St James, which has around the front door carved marks from pilgrims setting out on the Camino Santiago dating back to the Middle Ages. The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book. I haven't lived here for that long though!
There are more Gloucester Old Spots in a farm just down the road, carefully kept away from the road because we are too valuable to have us out in the open. From an upstairs window in my sty you can just see the Malvern Ridge, where Elgar liked to walk and shape in his mind the Enigma Variations, Pomp and circumstance and other great works.
I have been to the Little Sunshines Nursery in Bishops Cleeve, and to Tredington Primary School between Stoke Orchard and Tredington.
I have been very happy here. But now it is time to move on. This summer I shall be moving to the small town of Trollhättan, in Västra Götaland County, Sweden, just South of Lake Vänern.
It is a long way from the Cotswolds to Västra Götaland, and big move for a small pig. This blog is a diary of my adventures.
Two months to go. I'm still not sure exactly what day I shall be leaving, but it will be around 15 July, so I am counting today as the marker for 2 months to go. There is so much to do! But I am determined not to worry about packing up all of my straw and mudpies and apple cores until much closer to moving day. I am still concentrating on enjoying my last spring in the Cotswolds and seeing all my family and friends before the big move.
Has one month gone since the last entry already. Really?
Well, the great day of the move has now been fixed for Tuesday 19 July. The removals team will be coming to shift me and my family out of our own muddy patch on 14 and 15 July, and so we shall be nomads for a few days before the day itself. I'm sure we shall find something suitable fun to do, hopefully with lots of muddy puddles involved.
The last month has been exciting and exhilarating and very busy. But most of all it has been wearing. What do I mean by that? Well about a month ago I had a deep, life-changing event happen: final farewells and goodbyes to a group of friends and an activity that I have been doing for, well, for nearly half of my life. And then three weeks ago I had another, and another. I have left my job, and left my social life, and my big auld porker of a son has finally moved out into a small sty of his own. Each of these events needs a month to settle in and get over. But there is no time for that, as they all keep coming along, week after week. There are sad aspects to these of course, but also exciting aspects. But most of all it is just wearing, the sheer pace of change.
And we haven't moved yet.
Learning Swedish, or indeed, Svenska as we in the biz must now call it, has also been good fun. Charts and lists and lessons and vocab lists until I feel my head is exploding. It goes well. And then I have an online lesson that reads out a single phrase and asks me to write it down and I cannot distinguish a single word and have no idea what they are saying and I feel as if I know nothing. Oink! Its very frustrating.
Calm before the storm. The farmer's tractor arrives at my sty on Thursday 14th to start the process of gathering up all of my belongings for the move. I have spent the last 2-3 weeks tidying and sorting and clearing and dumping and setting and, well, everything, in preparation. I have tried to keep to normality as much as possible, but certainly from this weekend when posters and shelves started coming down, that is certainly starting to go.
As I sit in my sty writing this, with neighbour working in their garden, and same auld trees waving in the wind, and familiar walls and scenery in front of me, I have to ask myself if it has really sunk in yet? We move in 4 days, arrive in Trollhättan in 8 days, and then we don't go back home after a week. Is it really true, or is it just a funny story happening to someone else? I'm still not entirely sure.
Here we are then, and the dust and lovely, squelchy mud of Västra Gotland's Elysians Fields are already washing the trotters of the entire Family Tredington. We have seen our first blue skies, and also our first grey skies and rain and rainbows and felt the bluster of the wind of our new lands.
We arrived 2 short weeks ago. We flew into Göteborg Airport late in the day, and stayed the first night at the Airport Hotel. Our first Nordic Trek having length of a couple of hundred yards. Late hours for the piglets and Scandanavian Furniture - such a treat after the Premier Inn Furniture of our previous four nights - and köttbullar for tea and saying, "Tack" to the waiter. The morning saw an early start to get on the road to Trollhättan and into the new sty ready for a long day of unpacking.
Since then we have slowly discovered our new environment and kulture. Lovingly recreating the auld and at the same time embracing the new. Köttbullar and Mash anyone? While we all eagerly embrace our new adventure, at the same time there is culture shock at such change. We unpack our belongings in a new sty and drive into new commutes for daily life, and then suddenly having to choose a brand of applejuice at the local supermarket becomes a challenge too great to resolve adequately with one's own daily resources.
Entertaining friends in my new home.
Life still has an ethereal feel of novelty and semester. Normality: the new, strange, abnormal normality that is our new life, will return only when Ma Tredington starts back at work and the piglets start back at school and nursery and I, well, I start back at whatever it is I shall start back to. That will all happen over the next month, or so. In the meantime we explore great new adventures: both redesigning bathrooms and driving across foreign countries; and working out which shops sell what. Each standard domestic chore is an adventure. Setting up car insurance and getting hold of a plumber and setting up a TV service is all a challenge to language and communication and organisation. We get through it all, or at least most of it, or some of it.
I had a session with my mobile where I scanned through 95 contacts and deleted 55 of them. Strange days indeed.
For nearly two weeks I found it all oddly deflating in inspiring my Swedish lessons. All of a sudden, in the thick of it, I found not any motivation to carry on with my Hur mår du? and Jag heter Tredington. It all seemed to be too much, and the new words I was picking up were all strangely niche and practical, like djupfrost and havsalt and parkering förbjidera. After two weeks. Two weeks. I picked up a parking display ticket from a teenager in a newsagent in a conversation conducted entirely in Swedish, and I think this was the first such conversation I have had here. Motivation will return of course.
On the road to Göteborg, which we have travelled several times now for airport pick up and drop offs for relatives, there is a Moose Bridge. The side of the road is mostly traversed with a moose fence, which runs alongside the road for miles with the aim of stopping these long-legged car-crushers from wandering onto the road. Twice the road travels through a cute wee arched bridge as a path is formed over the road to allow moose to cross in splendid isolation, lording it over the inferior wheeled traffic below. These bridges are a unique sight as one approaches, not quite like anything one sees in UK. Of course, it all begs the astonished response from an ex-pat pig with Scottish roots, "Really?! They built that muckle bridge jist for a wee moose?! Jings!"
Slowly our domestic life is turning Swedish. This is happening surreptitiously across our store cupboards as one by one we run out of the groceries and supplies that we brought with us from Blighty and replace them with svenska alternatives. Instructions are all in svenska of course, but that's OK because I already know how stock cubes work, and things like best before dates and and instructions to keep refrigerated for 3 days tend to be easily understood. Also surreptitiously, I am picking up this vocabulary to actually understand this sort of thing anyway. It is not the vocabulary one gets in lessons in conversational swedish. We have to learn this ourselves.
The terrible fear which binds one to a satnav is leaving, and now occasionally, nay usually, I drive away from the house without it turned on. I can get to the supermarket and the shops and school and back without it, and I feel justifiably proud of myself. One of my first destinations, programmed internally without my trusty external app., was the municipal dump, whereto I had made several trips in the early days. There was a week when I knew how to get to the supermarket and the dump but nowhere else. Sigh. Tied to the domesticities of life.
Svenska is a difficult language to listen to. I can read quite well and get on with my lessons quite well, but it remains hard to pick up conversation. My current challenge, when I buy groceries and I know that the store assistant is going to ask for a number of around one or two hundred kronar, is to then try to identify which number it is without cheating through a quick glance at the till. This remains a hard thing to do. The use of subtle differences in vowel pronounciations makes it hard to distinguish different words. Getting an amount right for the first time was a big personal achievement. I can now get a book for my two year old porker and read it to her, translating on the go, but I still really struggle to even parse words and pick up context from radio announcers. I'm not there yet.
I drive this massive Volvo nearly the size of a supertanker. I haven't got round to shaving regularly yet. I take my piglets to school and I wear jeans and fleeces. I have coffee and pasta for lunch and, this piece of writing aside, barely do anything else. I struggle to actually fit chores into the day. I listen to the radio in the mornings. Oh dear. Am I becoming the caricature stay at home boar? My one saving grace, I have not yet started to refer to the radio DJs as my friends.
Steering the supertanker.
More work around the house. For a few days everything was a glorious, muddy, squelching mess, and I had to fight the urge to take up residence in the midst of it all. But all has now been closed over once again, and we have guttering that works and drains that work and parking for two cars. Our basement will no longer fill up with rainwater when the skies open, but instead the liquid should all pour into the drain. Our internet works once again, and we have lights in our kitchen. We also have a work surface upstairs whence I am typing this very message. Slowly our home is materialised around us.
I had a full conversation in svenska this week. Fantastisk! I had my hair cut (even pigs want to look dapper occasionally) and my barber, a fine chap from the Middle East, spoke decent svenska but no English. For 15 minutes we talked about hair and families and children and food and, for a reason I never quite worked out, price of internet and cable packages across the world. All conducted in svenska with no recourse to engelska for the difficult bits, we just worked and mimed our way around them. I wish I could have a conversation like this every day.
We have no pigeons in our garden. Our quieter moments are no longer illuminated by the soft cooing of Stoke Orchard, and I cannot say that I am sorry. While I know some that find the sound relaxing, I have always felt that rats with feathers are rats with feathers. Here we have no shortage of crows and ravens and magpies, who lord it over the garden as if they own it, and very much resent the intrusion of this family of pesky pigs. We have more beautiful garden visitors also, in particular a wonderful deer, or indeed perhaps a variable number of the same. Its always hard to tell with deer. Generally life is going well if one has to deal with deer in one's garden. We have also seen hares bounding away when disturbed, and one auld badger stomping across his territory.
I love a Natural World whereby so many different creatures, operating at different levels, can all so fervently regard the same wee stretch of land as being their own, private territory. I am well aware that our own claim operates at just one of these levels.
Bit of a delay from the last entry as our home has been without internet for best part of a week. This can add itself to problems of bath not draining; leak in kitchen sink; many problems with electrics, including one that means our geo-thermal heating unit cannot work; floors; walls; guttering; drainage and the rest. It seems the previous owners of the house were DIY fanatics, with more going for them on grounds of enthusiasm than of competence. No end of exciting challenges for the whole Tredington clan.
Went to the supermarket last week. Got everything on the list except for blöjar and öl. I couldn't find either. There I was, Friday morning in supermarket, wandering about saying over and over to myself, "Nappies and beer, nappies and beer." This is my life now folks. :)
There are many vintage US cars here. Back in Stoke Orchard we had our fair share of vintage Morgans and Bugattis driving up and down the Cotswold roads, especially if there was an event on at Prescott Hill. Trollhättan is very much a car town, and here the taste in vintage seems to run to ancient US models, and frequently one passes an auld Chevvy or Buick or Cadillac. Massive floorspace and enormous front grill and cavernous side doors and flowing, flying rear plates, but still with seating for 4. One cannot help but think that while the intention was to turn right at the junction and go to the supermarket, clearly instead one must have made a wrong turn and mistakenly driven onto the set of Happy Days. Look, isn't that Richie Cunningham in the passenger seat of that one? Very odd.
Still no internet. It is supposed to be in the pipeline to be fixed now, but will involve a professional coming to the sty to rip out the bodged DIY done by last owners and putting in something properly that will work. This will mark the one millionth time that this has happened in the 8 weeks that we have been here. Sigh.
One of the great things about living in a new country is that one meets customs and ways of doing things that are different, that one never suspected, because noone ever mentioned it. But why not?, is the great question. After all, we all love taking the mickey out of European cousins, and lots of national traits, like Belgian strong bier and German Oktoberfest and Dutch gouda and Swedish bad but also quite good pop music and French officialdom and all the rest. We make endless jokes and cartoons about the bread and beer and borsch and bullfighting and boleros and boulangerie of our near cousins. So when a funny food gets by and surprises us it seems like a bonus.
So here we go. In the UK we like having biscuits with cheese, and they can be circular or triangular or rectangular. Small ones can be as small as your little finger, and big ones can be as big as your snout. They come in all shapes and sizes, we might like to boast. But no, indeed not, because here in Sweden they have a size we never had back in the Auld Country. Here they sell biscuits for cheese that are a foot wide. Why did noone ever crack a joke about this? How did that slip by? When I first saw them in the supermarket I thought they were car wheels (I really did!) and vaguely wondered why a supermarket would sell such a thing. Even when I read the packaging and realised what they were for fully a day or two I still internally thought that they couldn't really be biscuits, but must be something else. But they are not, they are, and jolly fine the one brand I bought are too. I shall report back on how the second brand tastes in due course. But I haven't finished the first packet yet. Don't hold your breath!
No really, you can get them this big.
I spend a small portion of my week cleaning the sty. I must admit, that while I quite like doing lots of housework, I detest cleaning, and only do it when the dirt and muck cannot be held off any other way. I have formed a bit of a routine, so that on Tuesdays I do the upstairs and on Thursdays I do the downstairs. Each week is the same. Tuesdays upstairs. Thursdays downstairs. For 6 weeks now I have done this. Upstairs. Downstairs. Upstairs. Downstairs. After six weeks of this routine we now have the dirtiest stairs on the street. :)
Much more fun is me dismantling and rebuilding a whole room. I started off just ripping out a few wardrobes, but some were fixed to main fittings, and one formed a whole part-wall of its own. At the same time we had the auld heater taken out, and this involved taking out a large tank from this room, and a chunk of floorboards had been removed to put this in in the first place. So in the end I had to replace part of the floor, and build a part wall, as well as more standard patching and replacing of wooden panelling and other bits. A stupendous paint job is now required as all the uncovered bits are different colours underneath, and of course there is lots of untreated wood about now. Hugely satisfying and great fun. I would rather do this than vacuum any day of the week.
Nappy training was so quick for our older porker. Really it took one morning. Around lunchtime she got the hang of what to do and that she had to hold on when she wasn't doing it, and really that was that. Hasn't gone so well with the younger sibling. She got the hang of holding on quite quickly, but she absolutely, adamantly, obstinately will not do it the potty what it is she is supposed to do there. I have found it deeply, intensely stressful to perch at the edge of this experience and repeatedly attempt to will out through sheer strength of mind an outpouring from someone equally determined that there will be no pouring out.
Currently it is a scoreless draw. Don't hold your breath.
Autumn in Trollhättan is beautiful, with colourful leaves and plentiful fruits and pumpkin displays everywhere. Of course, autumn is beautiful everywhere, but nice to confirm that here is no exception.
We do not get traffic congestion in Västra Gotland. While our own village was small and pretty, we used to live just off the M5 between Bristol and Birmingham, and we knew one end of a UK traffic jam from the other. But here there is just nothing. I mean, Trollhättan has a rush hour, and a quiet period, and it has main roads and side roads. But all of this relates to flow of traffic, not to congestion because that does not occur. Even on the motörvag down to Göteborg there is other traffic, but not so much as to fill the view or slow you down.
The roads here are not vastly bigger than roads at home. But overall one gets the strong impression that they are big enough. This serves to strengthen the almost constant impression one gets in the UK that the roads are not big enough, no matter where one goes. Lots of people come to Sweden and talk about room and space and slower pace on the roads. I now understand why.
Typical Trollhättan Traffic Jam
I have discovered, rather to my surprise, that Sibelius 2nd Symphony is an iconic symbol of my leaving the regular work that I did for a quarter of a century before coming here. Back in the auld days, I used to regularly get the train the Paddington, and then walk into Whitehall through Hyde Park and St James Park. I would listen to music, and Sibelius 2nd was a favourite. When I left work there was a great space inside, but no particular momentus, internal drumroll to signify the great change. Then one day I walked in from my sty to town, and I played this piece of music for the walk, and all of a sudden I got this great emotional surge coming from nowhere. Now I live here, and I went walking again the other day. Same piece of music, same great surge. Amazing.
I can confirm that, although it was always been great, Sibelius 2nd sounds even better now that my time is my own.
Isn't it great how bread, such a fundamental and straightforward staple foodstuff, can nevertheless be so different in each kulture across the globe? Wheat, ground and baked, seems so homogeneous, and yet every different region has its own variants that characterise so deeply its population. I sit here and type these words and now I am longing for the taste of an Aberdeen roll, which would immediately bring back the taste of home.
My local favourite has become bread with beetroot and carrot. I generally have a roll with peanut butter and a banana for my lunch.Who could possibly refuse bröd med rödbeta och morötter when offered on a plate?
Sigh, it was a mistake to write out this piece at a quarter to 12.
Recycling is a big deal here. This is true particularly in Trollhättan, which likes to boast of itself as the recycling capital of Sweden: a proud and not insignificant boast. Each day we receive spam mail in our post box that is around 2 cm thick. This goes straight into our recycling box. We then sort this paper out from metal, wood, plastic and other materials. Every 2 or 3 weeks we have a pile about 25cm deep, which then gets taken to the local recycling centre whence it is collected and pulped and made into more paper. An excellent example of green ecology in action. I cannot conceive of how this process could possibly be made more environmentally friendly.
Unexpected items that I cannot seem to find in Sverige and so have to buy over the internet, number 73: a tattie brush. Why do Swedish cook shops not sell tattie brushes? How do Swedes clean their tatties? I had to buy mine from amazon.co.sco instead.
I've taken the mickey from our hosts today, so I must end with a fantastic tale of local service. There is a real attitude around of "we shall get it done," which underlies customer service and is really great when seen in action. I can recall a couple of instances, perhaps both trivial, but still such great examples of just making life work.
The first was in a hardware store, very soon after we moved, when I wanted to buy a broom handle but no broom (don't ask why, has to do with Gloucester skittles!) I got to the front of the queue armed with this broom handle and a couple of dozen words in the local language, and of course this thing had no barcode nor price. So it was a problem, and I said just to leave it because the queue behind me was building up. But instead the shop assistant just smiled and replied, "No, we shall get it done, it is what we do." And a moment later I got a price and I was able to buy it and that was that.
More recently I was planning a long distance walk, and wanted to book accommodation at B, having walked to A earlier that day, only to discover that transport from A to B was unavailable. I called the hostel at B to ask if there was an alternative, but the bus service was non-existent. There was a pause at my end of the phone while I pondered what else we could do. But then the chap at the hostel simply said, "Don't worry, if you stay here we shall get you from A to here somehow." With that one simple phrase all logistics for this walk fell neatly into place, and we were sorted.
What a fantastic national attitude. No wonder this is so consistently rated as a happy and satisfied country. I don't believe it is caused by diet or environment or anything else like that. It is caused by this wonderful attitude shared by all. Don't worry, we shall get it done. Love it.
Woosh, and suddenly a month has gone past. How on Earth did that happen?
I have not really been neglecting my blog writing much, although I admit I have been a bit! We have had visitors, and half term, and a wee bit of sickness, and I even found time to go hiking for a couple of days. And time went by. Now I am back, and ready to write about snow.
On Saturday at the beginning of November it snowed. A pretty affair, flakes came down and covered our lawn and when it was done we had a good 3 or 4 cm. Good enough to look pretty and enough for a Snögubbe in the garden. So the porkers and I went outside and did all of that. Then on Sunday the temperatures rose again and the surface stuff disappeared and only our snögubbe was left, looking rather aged and drooping now. We thought that was fun, and we looked forward to the real falls later in the winter.
Then late on Sunday evening it began to snow again.
It snowed for 48 hours, and three feet came down. We really had three major early November falls in a continuous loop. I had to do a full car and path clearing on Monday morning, then again on Tuesday morning to get the car out, then again on Tuesday late morning to get the car back in again. I had to clear around 20cm of snow Tuesday late morning that fell onto the hardstanding that had been cleared early that morning. It is hard work for a wee pig without opposable thumbs, I can tell you!
Autumn in Trollhättan
So we got full and immediate trials for our boots and clothes and sledges and snöskofflar and hats and gloves and all the rest of it. We also got a test of the winter tires on Ma Tredington's car. No test for my car unfortunately, as I was well and truly beached on summer tires, now at the back of a national queue that seemed endless (it took me three weeks in the end to get my winter tires!)
Our snögubbe had disappeared by now. Not because it had melted, but because the head had fallen off, and the rest was completely submerged in the new fall!
Comforting, somehow, to see the chaos on the first Monday morning. So even here actual snowfall produces a fair degree of confusion. My winter tires notwithstanding, it all got pretty organised pretty soon as the ploughs and gritters were out as soon as the actual snowfall had stopped, and the place was all navigable towards the end of the week, even in summer tires!
Well, what can I say about the gap between entries? Suffice to say that my attempt at taking a Christmas break has clearly succeeded beyond my wildest dreams! I always think that it is a mistake to try and play catch up after taking a break with something like this. Much better just to get on with it.....
So the language slowly improves. A combination of lifestyle and probably personality means that comprehension of written Svenska is now much better than comprehension of speech. I am comfortable in reading longer texts, although still mostly stories for younger porkers. I am slowly working my way through tales of folklore that are available online somewhere. Text here is getting more complex, but equally a lot of the tales are familiar and use familiar text
Tripp, trapp, tripp, trapp, tripp, trapp, sa det i bron.
"Vem är det som trippar på min bro?" skrek trollet
so it is perhaps not as challenging as it seems!
We are enjoying winter and winter weather enormously, even though it is not as much of the frozen north as it might seem. Trollhättan lies on a latitude somewhere between Aberdeen and John O'Groats, and climate is really pretty familiar to these places most of the time.
We have had 2 or 3 big snowfalls, mostly related to the wind turning round and hitting the town just after running over the lake to pick up lots of precipitation. Temperatures have mostly been touching positive numbers in the afternoons, and then dipping into single figure negatives at night. Certainly the big snowfalls only lasted a week or two before a thaw set in and the snow gradually went. The exception being a tiny pile of supercompressed stuff from the bottom of the pile made by the snowplough outside our house, which is clinging on grimly to existence beyond all reasonable expectations!
The weather has been raw and exposed and bracing and chilly more than it has been frozen or blizzardy, if indeed that is the correct adjective from blizzard. With the right tyres on the car, though, it has all been straightforward.
Right. Next entry next week, just you wait and see.
Modern tech. is a big deal for your modern family of pigs, moving to a new country with a new language. We use it so much that I sometimes wonder how it was ever possible to do such a thing as this without it. Certainly for the first 2 weeks I was glued to a satnav every time I left the house. I was fearful even to put the bins out without my familiar beacon to guide me home. I guess back in the Stone Age - 1996 say - people just looked at maps and got lost sometimes.
Google and google maps lets us find out where things are and when they are and how to get to them. Language is a barrier, but not an insurmountable one. Things which are important but are not in tourist shops, like supermarkets and DIY shops and shops for winter clothing, and all known to Google, if not to us. I guess in the Stone Age people had to use yellow pages and their eyes and talk to neighbours.
Netflix and Amazon let us watch our favourite TV shows, and give the children some old, and indeed some new, favourites to relax with. In the Stone Age we would have had to watch local TV.
Skype and email let us keep in touch with family and friends. In the Stone Age we would have had to phone and write letters.
Google translate gets used a lot. In lets us translate stuff. Not just kul stuff like "Zoo Opening Times," but also oroligt but important stuff like, "cook from frozen." In the Stone Age we would have had to use a phrase book and a dictionary.
How on earth did people do it?
|A break this week from the delights of Trollhättan, as the entire family of pigs have spent the past week in Køpenhavn - that's Copenhagen, capital of Denmark to you and me - and it seems only proper to give over a post to this.|
Køpenhavn is Danish for "wind tunnel," or at least it should be. Danish architecture goes in for big, square buildings, and the wind which has picked up a bit of northern chill from the Øresund Strait comes roaring between them ready to catch and nip little exposed snouts and trotters. You walk along the side of one of these big buildings and think to yourself, "Its quite calm today." Then you get to the end of the sheltered wall at the corner and take one more step and .... Good Grief It Hits You! We were well braced for the week.
It was great to travel to a different country across the sea and yet still go by train. The Øresund Bridge looks on the map as if it is a 15km structure, but in fact the actual bridgy bit is only a km or two long. The rest consists of railway line running along a causeway through the sea, which I assume is a mixture of the natural and the constructed. It is jolly nice in clear weather, more dull when the mist has rolled in.
I hadn't looked up a single word of Danish, but took urban myth at face value that if one can speak one of Danish, Norwegian, Swedish then one can be understood across Scandanavia. This certainly seems to be true, because in my experience everyone talks English anyway. I continued to speak my pigeon Swinglish at about the same rate as I do at home, regardless of how people responded to me, and a number of delightfully mixed conversations resulted. Not much change there then.
We visited the Aquarium and the Zoo, which were fab and groovy, and the Crown Jewels at Rosenberg Castle, which are much more accessible than the British things at the Tower of London Plastic Tourist Emporium. We went to the World's Flagship Lego Store and bought some lego and had a steak and guinness pie in an Irish Pub, so pure Danish all the way there. Highlight of the trip perhaps ice creams in the freezing rain on the walk back from the Zoo to the Rail Station. Our younger porker eating exactly half of hers before falling off to sleep mid-bite.
Køpenhavn was at least half shut for the winter. The famous Tivoli Gardens in the very centre, and the less famous but wonderful sounding 86 acres of social history and preserved dwellings from times past at Frilandsmuseet, both closed for the wind tunnel season. We could go back in summer and have another equally good but different week. And we probably shall.
Before moving here I found it really hard to get much insight into what the climate would be like. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are no end of tables of average temperature and global temperature and some stories about occasional minimums and maximums. But none of these statistics give insight as to what the weather is actually like, from one week to the next. So fear not internet, here is the veritable truth!
We arrived on July 19 in the middle of a heatwave, the same heatwave which we had experienced on July 18 back in Blighty. So for the first week the house was too hot and bedrooms were hot at night and we were dreading the fact that it would be like this all summer every summer. But of course it was not. Temperatures relented after a few days and the house became bearable again. Mostly the summer was really nice. Sun shone, temperatures got into the early 20s and then relented at night, so that days were warm and pleasant but nights were cool enough to sleep properly. We found no requirement for heating the house, and none for air conditioning. That is a good summer in my book! We had the heatwave on arrival, and I think one other that lasted for 3-4 days, but no more.
Autumn was much like home. Temperatures dropped, it rained a bit but not really that much. I seem to remember the locals saying that it was a particularly dry autumn. It was very pretty, but then there are lots of trees around here, and places with trees tend to be pretty in autumn, so no great revelation there. We wore fleeces a lot and sometimes jumpers underneath, but found no requirement to go to winter jackets even into October.
Winter on the whole has been occasionally cold, but not persistently so. Snow has come in falls of 20-30cm, temperatures have dropped to -15, we have had days when temperatures has not risen above -6, but these have all been exceptions. Normal weeks have seen a bit of snow or sleet, and night temperatures in the minus single figures, and day temperatures in the low positive figures. Weather outside has been bracing with winds coming off the lake probably more chilling than sheer air temperature. We have had a couple of big snowfalls, the biggest being the earliest in the first week of November which clearly caught everyone, your porcine correspondent included, by surprise. This saw a fall of many 10s of cm over 3 days. I have used snow shovels and have had to clear the path and car, but only on 5-6 occasions over the winter. There is no need to take care when piling snow, because each fall has melted and disappeared before the next one arrived.
We wear local winter clothing, which keeps us all warm of course. The only problems arriving on rare occasions when we make the mistake of assuming that because it looks nice outside today we can get away with a lighter jacket. Generally big mistake. I have continued to wear a basic padded leather jacket on warmer afternoons throughout the winter. This was one I very nearly threw away before moving here thinking that I would never wear it.
On the whole it has been remarkably similar to a winter in the North of Scotland with the lake effect bringing a wee bit more precipitation when the winds turn round the right way. On the one hand one might expect that, as latitude is just above level, with not much change from an absence the gulf stream effect.
Spring I cannot comment on, and of course all of the above is based on a single experience, but what else can one do in a travel blog?! Perhaps next year's blog will be all different!
I can't remember if I have talked about money much in this blog. I doubt it!, because I barely know anything about it. I don't know what the coins are, and I don't really know how much anything is. This is because we never use actual money!
I converted around £200 into swedish kronar for a week holiday we took before the move. That lasted me for the holiday, and about 4 months living here. Then I took out another thousand kronar or so about 3 months ago. That finally went about a month ago and I have had no cash in my wallet since then, but it doesn't matter. This does not stop me from going on train and bus journeys or buying hotdogs in a sports stadium or a single litre of milk from the local shop or other stuff that would need cash elsewhere.
The point is that one uses a bank card here for almost everything, and a phone for the rest. Actual cash is needed for supermarket trolleys and swimming pool lockers and it is used by the tooth fairy. Apart from that, its a card for everything.
Beer is good here. Of course, beer is pretty good everywhere, so no great surprise there, but good to know that here is no exception. Prices are sensible, certainly it doesn't need the silly money expected in Norway's pubs. In general I find that one can buy a 330ml bottle of beer for about the same price as a 500ml bottle in Blighty. Local brewers are generally good, with a bunch of established breweries producing decent stuff that is regular and consistent, and some more micro breweries producing stuff that is sometimes good, sometimes bad and generally inconsistent. So that is pretty similar to the rest of the world.
|| There was a good selection of Juleöl at Christmas time, which was expected and enjoyed. Now that we are in late March all of a sudden there is Päsköl available for Easter, which was unexpected, but brings great joy regardless. Any country which produces a range of beers to celebrate each successive festival is OK by me.
Öl gives us perhaps the best story of specific pronunciation of Swedish vowels we have met so far. In a restaurant Ma Tredington and I ordered food, and then I asked for två öl. Well, that produced a blank look, so I tried again, pronouncing öl with every different variation of the intial vowel I could think of. Nothing. So I just said, "Beer." The waitress immediately lit up with recognition and said, "Öl!" I find it extraordinary that she could not have worked out what I was saying. Not only was her procounciation so close to mine that I could not tell the difference, but in addition the context was so specific that I could only be asking for one of 3 or 4 things at that point. And it certainly wasn't vatten or vin. Sigh. Great language, but you need to get your tongue round some very specific vowels out here. Failure to do so brings no öl, and that is serious!
In general I like to take an attitude of, Everything is great, all new experiences are good, with me to a new country, and in general I find that works pretty well. However, one area where I must sigh and report unmet expectations is in the preservation of fruit and veg. We are finding the shelflife of fruit and veg from the supermarket to be remarkably low. In fact it is often zero, in that we buy it, take it home, unwrap it, look at it, sigh, and throw it straight into the bin. While this might be good for the local economy, it is less good for our diet.
This is not one fruit nor one veg nor one supermarket, but seems to be true across the board. It is a strong enough trait that it has dramatically altered the way we buy this stuff, and unfortunately also the amount of it we end up eating. I don't know if this is driven by bad things, like lower standards in market cycle of fresh produce, or good things, like less artificial preservatives injected into the foodchain. But regardless, the end result is less green stuff in this pig's trough, and that is certainly not a good thing.
Must try harder. Perhaps this spring we shall get better acquainted with farm shops and things will improve. Keep watching this space!
We have enjoyed celebrating Påsk, that's Easter to you and me, this spring. Many shops, not least the supermarkets, are full of Påsk delights, both big and small. Spring growth and riotous colour, both natural and unnatural, is everywhere, and many smiles are bestowed upon it all. We all particularly like the Svenska birch twigs with feathers thing which is everywhere, including our own sty, and looks fantastic.
Our own supermarket certainly was not behind in giving its shoppers the full Påsk experience. I took the two piglets along to choose a few decorations for the sty. There was a wide range of eggs and paints and chicks and ducks, just as one might expect back in Blighty, and also Påsk witches, perhaps less expected from home. There were stickers and paper decorations and table napkins. There were plastic hangers and books and paper chains. The whole display was offset with a massive, cardboard display stand for Påsk cards which towered up well over my height and formed a sort of ceremonial archway for everything else. On this stand were arranged more Påsk cards than one could shake a stick at, giving a huge selection for the potential customer.
Rather a shame then, that it was just here that the two piglets decided to fall out over some trifle and in their haste to each assert authority managed to knock this cardboard display and send the whole thing toppling over. Påsk cards were everywhere. All over the floor in great sliding swathes. No staff around when needed of course so there I was, grunting at my piglets fortissimo, on the floor, trying to pick up hundreds of cards and surrounded by collapsed cardboard and bits of display and two rather gobsmacked youngsters. It was the sort of scene which I thought only happened in sitcoms and not in real life. Just exactly the scenario for which the word mortified was invented.
Oh, memories of Påsk. Don't you just love it?
There is an art shop downtown selling stickers and cardboard and tape and glue and stuff for young piggies to make into projects during the school holidays. Nice place, we have used similar places for years. This one is very expensive though. So expensive it sometimes almost beggars belief. For example, this Påsk they sold Påsk decoration things, and this included a packet of 6 polystyrene eggs for piglets to paint, to avoid the waste and expense of using real eggs. Just plastic things, nothing to them really. Trouble is, the whole point of this product's existence is rendered null and void by the small fact that a pack of 6 of these is more expensive than half a dozen eggs at the supermarket. Ho hum.