Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cruisin' in Åland

JenniferEarlier in the spring, our upstairs neighbor P., who is an enthusiast of America in general, told us that he wanted to do something nice for us, and take us somewhere (within driving distance, for reasons that will become clear) to see more of Sweden than we've been able to. After some debate, he decided to take us to one of his favorite places, which is not strictly speaking in Sweden at all. The Åland island chain lies between Sweden and Finland, and is politically a part of Finland, although the residents speak a dialect of Swedish, and the islands enjoy some degree of autonomy that includes a tax exemption on alcohol. Many of the Baltic ferries therefore are based in Åland, so that they can sell booze cheap in their large duty-free stores. The eastern edge of Åland is only about a 2 hour ferry ride away, and it is a popular place to go for a week or so on holiday, while day trips are also popular.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tibble Days

JoeE. and family (the Dutch hosts of the World Cup Final party we attended a couple of weeks back) are having their summer vacation now, and very thoughtfully suggested that we might like to use their house some while they were away, as a sort of country holiday. Even though they're gone for a few of weeks, we're only able to take them up on their offer for a few days—the hamlet they live in, Tibble, is a good 23 km from our house as the jackdaw flies, and while there is a regional bus stop not 100 m from their front door the bus doesn't run during the summer. Nevertheless, we were able to hitch a ride out last night from a friend who is in the process of buying a house out this way, so we'll have a sort of four day weekend, albeit with both of working from home for parts of it.

Aside from remembering how to use an espresso machine, this morning's most important task was getting to the grocery store, which lies 6 km away in the outskirts of Rasbo (or possibly Gåvsta? The divisions between villages are a little abstract out this way…). So I hopped on board the rather cunning cargo bicycle parked out in the barn and headed off down the road. How was the bike? I've been rereading the Aubrey-Maturin books for the summer, so with apologies to Mr. O'Brian I'll sum up the experience thus:
By the time I'd made it to the edge of the village, I could tell that she was a slab-sided Dutch herringbus that griped something awful if you tried to put her within a few points of the wind. But with her hold stowed to bring her by the bow and the wind on her quarter she was a pretty smooth sailer. Still, I was happy to get her into port before the black squall whipping in from the east caught me.
The first drops of rain fell as I was pulling in to the drive, and a few minutes later we got a nice heavy rain (our first in a while, and perhaps enough that we won't need to water E.'s garden today). Unfortunately, it also took out the power (not an uncommon occurance in these parts, as Jennifer somewhat belatedly remembered), so our lunch was simple bread and cheese (there's a fridge full of Gouda, naturally), washed down with a bit of Trocadero (a local soda that's sort of like a fruity ginger ale). On the plus side, what was shaping up to be a hot, humid day, with a high around 30°C, has turned cool and breezy.

According to the Norwegian weather service, tomorrow will have a high of 17°C, proving yet again that we are incapable of packing correctly for even the shortest of trips in Scandinavia, having brought nothing but shorts and light-weight shirts. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bottling summer

JenniferIt's that time of year again— sing hallelujah, the smultron are ripe! This year of course I have been keeping a careful eye on the smultron patch, noting the state of the flowers and early stage berries. Even so, it was my nose that let me know they were finally ready—their delicate sweet smell, wafting across the sidewalk on the early-evening breeze, mixed with the scent of warm pine trees in the sun... heavenly!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dutch disaster

JenniferThe World Cup final between Holland and Spain was last Sunday, and E. had decided to throw a big party at his house, not only for the joy and comradeship, I suspect, but also perhaps as an offering to the Fates. You see, E. has played quite a bit of team sport in his past, and therefore is a little superstitious about these things. He stopped shaving after Holland's first win; he hadn't washed his Holland jersey since then either; he was initially contemptuous about Paul the Psychic Octopus, but then he became quite a bit apprehensive, when Paul predicted that Spain would win. (In sympathy, I had not washed my orange t-shirt since the first game, and I also confess that I was more than a little worried by Paul's prognostication.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Horrible Revelation

Joe Amazingly, we've been in Sweden for two and a half years now. How long is that? Well, last night our gregarious, raggare neighbor (a very nice fellow we've mentioned before) stopped by to surprise us with a "taste of home". He had been out waxing his recently acquired 1959 Ford Fairlane over the course of the long summer evening, and such a quintessentially American activity requires that most American of drinks, a self-proclaimed king of beers which shall otherwise remain nameless.

'Twould have been unneighborly to refuse, so I had a beer. Know what? After more than two years of being subjected to Swedish beer, which is (with very few exceptions) truly awful, this stuff (which I couldn't even bring myself to buy on the 4th of July)—it isn't so bad. I'm not saying that it's good, but it isn't actively bad.

What's next? A renewed appreciation for Oscar Meyer hot dogs?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Working the World Cup

Jennifer The World Cup is going on right now, as some of you are doubtless aware. The exit of the United States from the tournament at the hands of Ghana is upsetting, but really, they didn't look so good anyway. Fortunately, plenty of soccer that does look good is still going on. The Dutch post-doc E. is a sporty fellow—he started the office betting pool, and knowing that he couldn't possibly concentrate on anything else while Holland was playing its quarterfinal match against Brazil, he decided that we'd just have to watch it at work. He brought in snacks and his family as well, with his two the young boys both wearing as much orange as possible (they spent most of the time playing with the orange balloons). And so at 4pm we gathered in the conference room and set up the streaming video, and had a very good time indeed as it turned out, as Holland beat Brazil 2-1, in a very entertaining match, to advance to the semifinals next week.

E. and I share some superstitions about sports; for instance, he will now absolutely not wash his orange shirt while the tournament is going on, and he is a little too disturbed to hear about Paul the Psychic Octopus who has correctly predicted every German win so far. Neither myself nor E. had chosen Holland to advance this far, and we are both pretty well out of contention for the small office pot. "It's worth it," he said, "if I have to lose the betting in order to win the Cup that's just fine."