Wednesday, 31 August 2011

For the Love of the Game

My parents and I were watching the evening news when the name Rolf Tardell flashes across the screen for one of the reports--apparently he is the editor for Aktuellt and shoulders the journalistic responsibility for the feature stories. My father turns to us, "You know, he and I used to be correspondence chess players."

Mom: How do you know it's him?
Dad: There can only be one Rolf Tardell in Sweden.
Me (struck by irony): What?
Dad: Correspondence. Like when you send instructions for the next move by mail.
Me: Who won?
Dad: I did.

I can just imagine my dad opening up a letter and reading Rook to C3 and moving the piece on his own chessboard. He said he would pull out the old letters and show me sometime. I had some idea people played chess by mail, though never that my father did--but now that I have been reminded, I am a little sad that such a practice has been, by all accounts, abandoned in favour of the internet. There is no need to wait days for a reply. A prolonged game of correspondence chess requires a patience that one is hard-pressed to find in these times. I can't explain it, but something about the whole matter stirs my imagination. To think that my father once exchanged letters with young Rolf Tardell the would-be journalist. A whole game! By mail!

It makes me think that my own letter writing should be adapted to include such old novelties--Natalie and I could start up a fierce game of checkers. Or Risk perhaps. How long would it take, think you?

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Karate Kid

I emailed a karate dojo to inquire about their adult lessons on Sundays.

Hello! I am a twenty-four-year-old girl, and I don't know whether that means I am counted as an adult or a youth for your classes. I am interested in taking a karate class. How much do beginner lessons cost? Is Sunday the only available day?

The dojo master emails me back.

Hi Sanna!
 You are now registered in the karate beginners class for adults which begins on Monday 5/9, six o'clock at the school gym. Welcome!

Well, choice is overrated anyway.

Se & Synas: To See and Be Seen

"We're moving!"

After thirty-one years as an optician and twelve years of owning his own practice in Umeå, my uncle is moving his store to Ånäset, a small, picturesque town set half-way between Umeå and Skellefteå. Today I, along with him, Daniel, Johan, and the movers, helped him pack up and leave.

There was quite a bit to pack, as you might expect, and someone was inspired enough to give me power tools. I took down all the shelves in the lens room and packed and pulled and moved mountains. Of stuff.

 This will be his new place of residence. It obviously needs some work, but it has the potential to be lovely. The building looks to be from the fifties and was previously inhabited by an optician who also seems to have dabbled in a bit of jewelry and clockwork. Apparently the wide spread did the store no good, and it closed its doors in 2006, leaving the land empty of a friendly, neighborhood optician.

It's strange. Though abandoned only in recent years, one could think the place had stood empty for more than twenty. The kitchen is in shambles, with musty ink kits and dust and holes in the ceiling and desks from earlier in the century. The reception room has an ugly red and yellow carpet. The front room's walls are papered with some oddly-flowered monstrosity. And there is no internet to be found on the premises. It's as if the place was suddenly and simply abandoned.

Apparently the place had once been an apothecary, a pharmacy of sorts, and it certainly shows. The walls and floor of the kitchen are entirely tiled, reminiscent of a laboratory and whispering of a bygone age.

With the grates covering the windows and the sun beating down, it reminded me of Singapore and our terrace house in Bukit Timah.

A forgotten desk that I entirely intend to sand down and repaint.

In an old broom closet, my uncle found (strangely enough) the white robe of the Optician Who Came Before.

He even left his name tag. 

Johan and Daniel rest their weary limbs after a long day. 

 Uncle directs the troops

 No moving day is complete without a trip to the pizza parlour.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Gym Buddies

Jenny and I went to a dodgy looking gym today. It was a small storage room with gym equipment--one treadmill, two bikes, and one broken weights machine--and yellow, fiberglass insulation across the windows. But hey, we take what we get. And we're grateful.

On our way back, we stopped in a secondhand store right in the middle of the residential area, and Jenny wanted to buy a pair of black boots, a gauzy, purple blouse, a patent leather dress, and a green velvet skirt. We didn't have any money, so she buried the blouse in a pile of clothes, performing the old tried-and-true hide-your-favourite-article-from-other-customers trick.

Jenny: I know it's going to be gone next time. I just know it.

Me: You afraid some other goth is going to come along and buy it?

Jenny: There are more of us than you think. 

Since she sews, I have asked her to help me with some high-waisted skirts. In exchange, I promised to lend her my black pirate coat that she may trace it for a pattern.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Operation Underdog

Sundays always fill me with hope. There is something about joining together in one accord that makes me hopeful for the future. And I say this, despite the outward lack of success in our church. Last Sunday, the first Sunday of the fall, we had an outstanding turn out of twenty-eight people. This Sunday, we had lost seven people, or rather rotated them out, save for the few faithful--they seem to move in cycles, like the ebb and flow of the ocean. Today was the lowest number in attendance we've ever had, according to my father.

The dwindling numbers are largely due to a change in leadership as the old pastor stepped down and my father took his place. Change is a great thief of believers.

We meet in a school cafeteria; we have one piano and one microphone. To add to our one-woman-worship team we need amplifiers we do not have for musicians who have not yet volunteered. (Myself excluded--I volunteered--but I wouldn't call myself a musician.) But we do have a good projector and many chairs, which we arrange hopefully every Sunday in the belief that more people will come.

 I led Sunday school.

We drew manga warriors for our Armor of God lesson, whilst discovering we all like Beyblade--Kai being a clear favourite. Having things in common with nine-year-olds seems to be a recurring theme with me. 

Kai Hiwatari: Because he's awesome.

Despite all the things that could be taken as setbacks, the spilt milk that we could cry over, we find blessings in meeting. We have fika; we hear the Good Word; we pray for each other; we have Sunday school for the little ones. And all this, in it's simplicity--men and women from different nations meeting under one God--is what gives me joy and brings me hope. There are new adventures on the horizon.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Here's to You

Tomorrow is my parent's thirtieth wedding day. Over these years they have moved countless times, traversing countries, fearlessly throwing themselves into uncertain circumstance, living on a shoestring that could have thrown a wrench into the machinations of marital bliss, had they been a lesser couple--but they have weathered whatever storms have come their way and are the stronger for it.

The ever-impressive matching sweaters

Jobs are better done in pairs

Their love is a grand love in humble form, the kind that spans continents and still, when stripped of all else, exquisitely reduces to a goodnight kiss that has lasted for thirty years. No one could ask for better people, kinder souls, braver heroes, or more excellent parents. Here's to celebrating you and all you have done together.

We love you.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Hardcover Covet

I would like very much to make these new hardcover Penguin classics mine. They are designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith and are simply darling. 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Dinner in Black and White

 For dinner, we visited Karin, an well-traveled elderly lady, to have surströmmings kalas, or a fermented herring party, which is usually held outdoors and in the summer because of the pungent smell. But as it was slightly chilly and wet outside, we had to stay indoors. We kept the balcony door open, and through the curtains we could look out over the river.

I had promised my mother I would eat a surströmmingsklämma, a open-faced sandwich with fermented herring, potatoes, sour cream, tomatoes, and chopped red onion.

Helga had also made meatballs, in case I didn't take to the herring.

Karin, the lady of the hour

 A little after-dinner verse-and-prayer

The Dinner Guests

Recycling Is Good for the Soul

All the things we sorted through yesterday received word of their fate today. We took them to the recycling center--a large hill with containers set aside for all different kinds of refuse--where they told us we would have to rip the covers off all our hard covers books to separate the burnables from the paper. (What?) After a lifetime of treasuring books and guarding them with the utmost respect, I felt pretty good to ripping the stuffing out of Carolyn Keene. After we had disposed of the bodies, my father and I had to flatten the banana boxes they came in. I grabbed a piece of gold metal trimming, held the boxes down with my foot, and beat their corners out of existence.

All in all, a very violent day.

Rummaging About

Yesterday my parents and I once again drove to the cottage, but spent most of the day at our rented storage room (previously mentioned), trying to clear out as much unnecessary, unused stuff as possible. And when I say stuff, I mean stuff--things that haven't seen the light of day in twenty years.

I dug through a box filled with mine and my brothers drawings and various other creative manifestations. Mine were depictions of houses or parents or princesses or baby birds in nests. My brother's were usually hockey goalies or battle scenes with tanks and dying soldiers with guns larger than their bodies. My parents sorted through boxes and boxes of books--and my father found his complete, hard-back series of classical literature--and sorted out the books we no longer needed, enough to "furnish our own library," according to my father. They would soon find their home at the big, metal container at the recycling center.

For lunch, we went to my grandmother's, who had placed a basin of water and soap out in the garden for us to wash up.

She had made us oven sausage, though she forgot to peel off its orange wrapper before cooking, which my mother ate, thinking it was strips of bell pepper. In her defense, she said it tasted a bit plastic.

A bumblebee joined us for lunch.

We barely had a moment to breathe out after our meal--such is life--and we drove the short distance back to our many bags and packages of yet-to-be-sorted things. I found some stamps, a book of traffic signs, and a plastic bag of letters sent between my parents when they were young and far apart.

A beautiful day.

Found the John Carter sci-fi series in an old box. Both parents mystified as to how it got there. Suspect it may have been a part of my grandfather's collection. My mother reminded me the other day that women have only been allowed to vote in the past hundred years, and with this new found freedom, they have chosen to cower in bikini-clad terror whilst their man-candy in red underwear fights off the evil alien for them. Good to know.

Did you know that Sweden was one of the first independent nations to grant women the right to vote? Between 1718 and 1771, Swedish women, if they were taxpaying members of a city guild, could vote in local and national elections, though the first right was rescinded in 1758 and the latter in 1771, with the signing of the new constitution. Women were given back their right to vote in 1921.

My grandfather didn't have a coin jar. But he did have a coin purse.    An American dollar minted in 1922.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Oil Painting

I've changed a few things. Liked the old things, but not terribly pleased with the execution. But now that I've put a few more hours into it, I'm much happier. Not nearly done, of course. Small details to put in and all that.

Monday, 22 August 2011

I Like This Dress


 We have once again made our way back to the cottage, and it has proved to be a very wet day. Therefore, we have stayed indoors and put up new roller blinds and moved paintings about. I do not want to admit that autumn has come already.

We shared a meal of moussaka. 

Would you care for a slice of roll cake? It's raspberry. 

 Mother sets the table. Father stokes the fire.

I put on my yellow makcintosh and went for a walk in the rain. There are many great beauties in this world, and they are always admired, always praised for their exquisite form, their vastness, their vistas of burning hues. But a great many beauties--bursts of red pomes in the mountain ash, a rain-wet hare that darts across the road--are ignored or forgotten altogether, trod underfoot because one does not think to look down to see them.

Tread softly. Stars about.

Enid Blyton once wrote that the droplets which cling to the middle of lupines are very tiny mirrors the fairies used to fluff their hair.
The high woods of the North make me expect trolls behind boulders.  

In my journeys, I struck upon a family of mushrooms that invited me for tea. I took their picture to thank them for their efforts.

Some mushrooms are shy, like this tiny button that hovered like a jellyfish in emerald seaweed.