Thursday, December 20, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
This is the actual midwife’s note from when I was born. It has been sitting in my childhood album all these years. I was a healthy little baby who arrived a few days early. The doctors had predicted I would be born on 24 December, but I could apparently not wait that long. I was born at the darkest time of the year, but I like to think of it as bringing the light, because this is when the days start getting longer again. Be positive! Just like my wife tries to convince me to feel happy about the up-coming birthday, not everybody gets to be this age, which is true, I suppose.
As a child I always suffered from having my birthday just before Christmas; all aunts, uncles, grandparents etc always combined my birthday present with my Christmas present, so I only got one when everybody else got two! ‘tsnot fair! I thought. Nowadays I can just about cope with it.
This is a picture from my christening a few months later. There were two more siblings to come.
The money in
One of film’s objects of desire.
A popular Disney film of the day.
And the very first SAAB. Doesn’t it look futuristic!
When I googled the net I found some facts from the year I was born as well as the day, mostly from Wikipedia.
Liz and Phil (Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh) got married on 20 Nov.
The International Monetary Fund begins to operate.
Thor Heyerdahl's balsa wood raft, the Kon-Tiki, smashes into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands after a 101 day, 4,300 mile journey across the Pacific Ocean proving that pre-historic peoples could have traveled from South America.
August 14 - After 90 years of British colonial rule, Pakistan gains independence from the British Empire. While the transition is officially at on this day,
August 15 - After a long struggle India gained independence from British rule. Pakistan splits from India. Rajendra Prasad is the first President of India. Jawaharlal Nehru takes office as the first Prime Minister of India.
November 16 The British begin to withdraw their troops from
In a cave in and around the Wadi Qumran (near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea), several tall pottery jars containing leather scrolls are discovered, which later became known as the Dead Sea scrolls.
Born this year:
Hillary Clinton, Elton John, David Bowie, Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris, David Letterman, Salman Rushdie, OJ Simpson (oh dear me!), Carlos Santana, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stephen King, Meat Loaf, Marc Bolan (I know exactly against which tree he died!), Kevin Kline, P.J. O’Rourke, Ted Danson, Farah Fawcett, Dan Quayle (Mr Potatoe Man!), Sandie Shaw (“Puppet On A String”), Mitt Romney, Glenn Close, James Woods, Iggy Pop, Johan Cruijff (Dutch footballer and coach), David Blunkett, Arlo Guthrie, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall (Prince Charles’ wife), Brian May (Queen guitarist), Richard Grifftiths (British actor), Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Willy Russell (British playwright), Barbara Bach (Ringo Starr’s wife), Sam Neill, France Gall (French singer), Richard Dreyfuss, Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra) and Paco de Lucia (virtuoso Spanish guitarist) same day as I.
On this day in…
1968 - Apollo program: Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, is launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At 2h:50m:37s Mission elapsed time (MES), the crew performs the first ever manned Trans Lunar Injection and become the first humans to leave the Earth's gravity field.
(Didn’t work, did it?)
And then of course, adding to all the famous people above, …. I was born.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Yesterday evening Mrs S and I went with her work colleagues to a rather unusual, but not unique, restaurant in Düsseldorf. It was located high up in a tower which we have had our eyes on many times, wondering what it would be like to view the city from up there. Finally we got to experience it. It was stunning! Seeing all the glimmering city lights in the dark was breathtakingly beautiful. The restaurant floor was slowly revolving, while the windows on the outside and the kitchen and central areas in the middle were stationary. On the windows, names of what could be seen in that direction were displayed. Facing the window for best view, you kind of got disoriented with what was behind you. At one time you had the reception area behind you, only to find some flower decoration by a wall the next time you turned round. It was quite tricky to locate the toilets, so many people often sat tight and waited for the toilets to turn up again! Have a look what Wikipedia says and then check out the links for a spectacular 360-view and also the light clock in action. At last I know what those lights are!
(From Wikipedia)The Rheinturm Düsseldorf is a 240.5 metre high concrete telecommunication tower in Düsseldorf, Germany, capital of the federal state (Bundesland]]) of North Rhine-Westphalia. It was built from 1979 until 1981. The Rheinturm carries aerials for directional radio, FM and TV transmitters and has in a height of 174.5 metre a revolving restaurant and at a height of 170 metres an observation deck.
The Rheinturm was inaugurated on December 1, 1981 . It contains 7,500 cubic metres of concrete and weighs 22,500 tons. Until October 15, 2004, when an aerial for DVB-T was mounted, it was 234.2 metres high.
As special attraction there is a light sculpture on its shaft, which works as a clock. This sculpture was designed by Horst H. Baumann and is called Lichtzeitpegel (light time level). The light sculpture on the Rheinturm is the biggest decimal clock in the world.
Monday, December 10, 2007
When the first Christmas card for the season arrives you know it’s getting closer. This year the first card to reach us was a rather special one. I, like so man other people, have a list (on my PC of course) of cards received and sent. People who fail three years in a row will be struck off our outgoing list. Then again you might forgive some people an oversight due to age or illness for instance. People lose your address, although I always put our address on the back, but there might be other acceptable reasons for failing to send a card.
Our first card this year came from somebody, from whom we did not get any card last year, and with whom we have no other contact. In this case I feared he was no longer with us, and I will tell you why.
Five years ago I was hospitalised for four weeks and next to me on this ward was an elderly gentleman who had been there for some time when I was admitted, and who was there for some time after I had been discharged. We were both seriously ill but I was going through some testing and he was waiting for a certain procedure to which there was a long waiting list. He had to stay in hospital not to get pushed down the list into another category. You have heard of the British NHS (National Health Service) I guess. It has not exactly got a reputation for speed and efficiency, to put it mildly.
Both he and I had soon slid into this institutionalised state of mind, living by the hospital routines and procedures. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon coffee, dinner and visitors – day in, day out. I soon got tired of the hospital food, which might not surprise you, but there was a break in the pattern when Devi, my bed neighbour, offered me some of his food that his family had brought him. He and his family are Sikh and were among the people whom Idi Amin expelled from
We heard from the nurses on the ward, when we came to visit Devi after I had been discharged, that he had left the previous day. We never had the opportunity to take up his offer of visiting them since we moved to
Last year we feared Devi was no longer with us since we did not get the customary card. I had even been thinking about writing to inquire about his health. So to get this card as the first of the season was a wonderful moment. For a non-religious person to get a Christmas card from a person of the Sikh faith is perhaps unusual, but this one in particular certainly warmed my soul. Call me sentimental if you like, I don’t care!
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Quite a few Christmas presents have been purchased although we will have “Secret Santa” for the adults, so we only buy one adult present and receive one, all very hush, hush! For the young children, well, the word “abundance” comes to mind. My young nieces still love pulling out the usual fun little things from their English-style stockings (that Mrs S loves filling) as does my 85-year-old mum. This year will be the first year of stockings for my 2 ½ -year-old granddaughter. I know she will be intrigued and excited when she gets hers!
The good thing about Christmas for somebody like me with one foot in each culture, English and Swedish, is that I get to celebrate the Swedish main day on Christmas Eve and the English one the following day. Not bad! My Swedish relatives love the added English ingredients and some German for that matter. So we are looking forward to our annual Christmas trip to
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Yes, I have started a photo blog, Camera Digitalis. I have been thinking about all the photos I’ve got on my PC, several thousands of them, including some old slides and also scans from old albums. I could have uploaded them to sites like Flickr, but I wanted to do something more with them, so I have selected them in a particular way and organised them in pairs or sometimes threes. On the odd occasion I have borrowed from other sources, but then I always include the source in the file name. I have uploaded 15 posts so far and there are many more in the pipeline. Most of my digital photos enlarge quite well when you click on them, which obviously is the best way to see details, but otherwise it might be more beneficial to look at them together.
You will get the picture (ha ha) when you visit. There’s a thought behind every post, sometimes obvious, other times more obscure, but since I have such intelligent and lateral-thinking readers and visitors, I am sure you will experience brief moments of enjoyment if you take your time to check out my photo blog. Comments are, as always, very welcome!
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Thank you Eric for that honour.
Eric says : Those people I've given this award to are encouraged to post it on their own blogs; list three things they believe are necessary for good, powerful writing; and then pass the award on to the five blogs they want to honour, who in turn pass it on to five others, etc etc. Let's send a roar through the blogosphere! The image above can be copied and pasted onto other blogs. Also, a small size of the award for sidebars can be found over at the writing circle site.
I don’t write my blog with literary ambitions, I just write a personal blog, nothing like a short story or a novel. It was very kind of Eric to award me this roaring lion; I hope I am a worthy recipient. The five blogs I will send this to are also personal bloggers, most of them expats. I always try to visit them regularly to keep up with events.
Good, powerful blog writing would involve:
- A catchy post title and/or an interesting, attention-grabbing first paragraph.
- Good descriptive writing which engages the reader.
- The ability to be non-offensive when using expressions of strong emotion or opinion.
- Extra – Remembering to use the spell-check function! ;-)
So, here are my five (OK, six then):
I have to begin with Christina, who was the first blogger I visited after having read an article about expat bloggers. She writes lovingly about her family and she writes a lot about recipes and cooking. I always enjoy visiting her blog.
It’s fascinating to read Carol’s blog. She writes mainly about her family with four children, and she has a very good sense of humour. I find myself laughing quite often.
Matthew is a very busy blogger. Ham is in south-west
Haddock is an English family man living in
CanadianSwiss writes about life in general, travels, friends, OrangeX (visit to find out!) and what it is like living in
Christina G lives in
If you don’t know these people already, pay them a visit and see if you agree.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Most of us, if not all, have some stats provider. I have signed up to Sitemeter, but only the basic version, not wanting to part with money unnecessarily. So I have to accept the limitations in the stats provided. Sometimes I can tell who it actually is from the information. For instance some employers, big companies, institutions etc display their name, making it obvious to you who the visitor is. Then of course there are the ones who keep coming back to your blog, with the company name and location revealed, and you still cannot figure out who it is. Very frustrating! I am intrigued and puzzled sometimes; who is that? And they never leave a comment; it is like being teased!
Other visitors have somehow suppressed the information almost completely. Domain Name and Location display “Unknown”. What have they got to hide, I wonder? But the IP address is always there. Maybe there is a way of tracing that? Who knows.
Then of course there is the issue of the location of the service provider. If the visitor lives in a certain place, it is not necessarily the same place as where the service provider is located, so you cannot tell. Do I sound like an obsessed control freak? I would just like to know; I am inquisitive.
With my basic version of Sitemeter I don’t seem to be able to trust the Visit Length either. In the past I have spoken about a specific visit with a relative and asked how long it was, where Sitemeter told me “0 seconds”. Oh no, it had lasted several minutes. There must be some technical issue here, because even if you get a hit from somebody searching for certain words, surely they must spend a few seconds reading before they realise that you are for instance not an “Old Vinyl Dealer”. How does that work? I have no idea.
Anyway, it is good fun trying to keep up with who is visiting, but I do not spend sleepless nights over it!
Friday, November 16, 2007
1.My parents put my first name in the middle, because it flowed better when you said my full name. Consequently I get a lot of “official” mail looking like it was meant for my 86-year-old uncle!
2. I happen to think that grey/white is a perfectly beautiful, distinguished-looking hair colour. ;-)
3. I like driving, anything you can drive. I am not interested in the vehicle itself; it’s the controlling of them in traffic that I’ve always loved, from hunting with the wolf pack in the fast lane of a German motorway to negotiating a shopping trolley in the supermarket. I just can’t get enough of it, and I have never caused an accident in over forty years!
4. My pituitary gland has been killed off by a benign tumour, so I am on HRT for the rest of my life. Some cheating athletes would envy my stash of steroids!
5. One winter night in my teens I had been to a Hungarian restaurant (in Sweden) and had Goulasch Suppe and some sickly, sweet wine. When I got home I noticed that the alcohol did not go well with my Suppe, so I had to open my window on the first floor and “let the food out again”. The following morning I had to explain to my parents why the otherwise beautiful, snow-covered shrubs outside the living-room windows had an added orange colour. Embarrassing!
6. My favourite bird has to be the Kingfisher. When I proposed to my wife by the river
7. My grandfather never had to do anything like fighting a war, just dressing up in a funny uniform. Check out that triangular hat from ca 1910.
Here are the rules which you must abide by if you are tagged.
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
3. Tag 3 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.
I am tagging Scattered Chatter, An American Expat in Deutschland and Lulu’s Bay.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I have been away from my blogging desk for a little while because I had to make a trip to
The downside of living abroad is obviously not being able to see loved ones more frequently, but on the other hand, when you do, it is the more intense and wonderful. It is like a concentrate of feelings that you have to hold on to and treasure until the next opportunity. Christmas is really just around the corner, so it won’t be that long, which makes it time to get into some serious shopping!
The icing on the cake is, as always, seeing my granddaughter, to follow her development, experiencing everything new that she is capable of. It all happens so fast in a little person’s life. She represents life, promise, the future, and does a very good job of compensating for the loss of an old life. What a sweet smile she’s got.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
All year round we have the privilege of watching birds feeding from the feeder right outside our glass patio doors. I am not a proper ornithologist, I just enjoy watching them and learning a little about them, their behaviour most of all. Sitting at the dining table I have learned about the pecking order for instance.
When a Nuthatch approaches, every other bird takes off instantly. He or she picks a few seeds and then disappears into the woods at the back of our garden. The next species down in the order is the Greenfinch, and they are generally quite aggressive, in particular a certain male (I believe). I call him the Big Bully. He does not approve of anybody sitting down on any of the other three pegs. Not even the one opposite, which is more or less hidden by the seed container itself. He just “shows his muscles” and looks extremely aggressive; when other minor Greenfinches act out proper aerial battles around the feeder, they hover much like Hummingbirds, nearly coming to a standstill in the air. They normally accept other Greenfinches sitting opposite, or possibly a Great Tit or Blue Tit.
When the Greenfinches feed, they remain sitting on the peg, obstructing others from feeding, whereas the Great Tits and the Blue Tits take their seed off to a branch, which they use to hammer the seed against to open it. These two species are number three and four in the pecking order, and they are much friendlier towards other species.
Quite a few seeds end up on the grass below the feeder, and all the birds above sometimes go down there when the feeder is crowded or they have been out-muscled by the Big Bully for instance. Many other species visit our garden regularly, like Long-tailed Tits, Robins, Black Caps, Crested Tits, Wrens and Woodpeckers. The list is long. But yesterday there was a first. I only recognised it thanks to the many times I have flicked through the bird book looking to identify newcomers.
Two metres away from the dining table, right by the glass doors, there is a shrub. All of a sudden there were two minute birds, jumping frenetically between branches, looking for food by the looks of it. They were not much bigger than a big insect, and I immediately thought “Goldcrest”! But after having consulted the bird book, I realised they were most likely (juvenile) Firecrests, because of the white stripe above their eye. I had seen
Friday, November 02, 2007
After disembarking we sped down the Autobahn (via a stop-over in
Then it was time to surprise my sisters, so we found their rather posh hotel and boy did their jaws drop! All crew members posed very willingly and thought it was all a wonderfully crazy idea. Here they are with my younger sister and friend R. Not only was R a good car mechanic, he had also sewn the trousers he is wearing in this picture. He has since made a good life for himself, starting out as a plumber and ending up owning more than one company, mostly based on his clever hands, but most of all he was what George Bush did not think the French had a word for, an entrepreneur.
In the next picture my sister can be seen on the right and her Swedish flat mate on the left. Pretty young women in uniform seem to have a certain attraction and influence on young men’s hormones. Just look at the smooth operator on the right in the suit! Does he look interested or what!
We had a lovely reunion after many months of not seeing each other, and then it was time to wear out the tyres on the German motorway again. All went well until all of a sudden we started losing speed, and my friend uttered a few words not suitable for children’s ears or this blog. Mechanical problem! The car came to a stand-still on the hard shoulder and I started going over my German vocabulary from school in anticipation of having to deal with a rescue situation. But oh no, R knew instinctively what the problem was and quickly figured out how to sort it out himself. It turned out that the accelerator wire (Sorry, but I don’t have the correct vocab here) had got disconnected from the engine. Does that make sense? So, a little stopper thing with a screw in it had come off and disappeared on the motorway. He needed to attach the wire again somehow.
R goes to the boot, opens his case, finds his toiletry bag, gets his electrical shaver out and I just look on perplexed. Next he gets a screwdriver out from the toolbox and starts disassembling the electrical plug. I am none the wiser. He takes one of the two pins from the shaver plug, disappears under the bonnet, puts the wire through the accelerator lever, attaches the little shiny pin on the end of the metal wire, thus securing it to the lever, which makes the engine go vroom, vroom, revs the engine up.
And rev it up he did, and off we went. We got home safely without any more adventures of the unforeseen kind, but I always knew that R’s clever hands would always rescue us if needed. I have heard of green fingers, but I can only think of “clever” hands for somebody who is so versatile. What if he had used razor blades for shaving? I am confident he would have come up with another smart idea, Mr Clever Hands.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
We entered the valley at the lower end, near
After a meandering drive in the drizzly weather along the
…which astonishingly enough was built 20 years before the town wall on the left, which, in its turn, was built by Kurfürst Balduin in 1352! The hotel was filled (read ‘cluttered’) with old paintings, hunting trophies and suchlike, and had a beautifully decorated Postbriefkasten mounted on the outside wall. Although staff were friendly, they charged us extra, quite disproportionately, for a two-hour extended stay due to illness and topped it up with charging us for an extra cup of tea for Ms S, who due to said illness had not been able to enjoy her breakfast. So much for being friendly! As for the kitchen, I have had better school dinners. So there, ha!
Cochem itself is a very picturesque little town with a pretty square, relaxing river promenade and the famous Reichsburg Cochem on a hilltop. The castle, which was originally built in the 11th century, was completely destroyed by French soldiers in 1869. The castle that stands today was rebuilt in the 19th century. From it you have some stunning views, and if you take the lift up to the nightly illuminated cross, you will have an impressive view of the castle itself, and if you walk even further up, you can take in both the cross, the castle and the whole of Cochem. Can you spot the cross? (Click on photo to enlarge.)
Next stop was
The Porta Nigra, the town gate, is the oldest German defensive structure; it stands today at the one end of the lively, pedestrianised town centre, so it really feels like entering the town when you walk through it. The fact that it is still standing, is quite a construction achievement, since they did not use any mortar, only iron rods to hold the massive stone blocks together.
Passing through the old gate you soon find yourself at the main market square, Hauptmarkt, where you will find the Petrusbrunnen (St Peter’s fountain), with St Peter and the Four Virtues, the Marktkreutz (Market cross), symbolising the right to hold markets and also Germany’s oldest pharmacy with records dating back to the 13th century. The present Löwenapotheke building is as young as from the 17th century though.
In our modern times we speak about carbon footprint, but now I understand better why the Romans were able to leave behind such long-lasting imprints on our culture. Hail Augustus!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
That’s what my wife called me the other day when she offered my services to our new neighbours. She did say that she would ask me, but how could I deny helping them? What would you have done? Our young couple and their two toddlers moved in recently and were just up and running when mum had to be admitted to hospital. The following day dad had one of his most important days of the year at work, and simply could not stay away. They knew nobody else, we had just had some initial conversations with them, but we were really strangers to each other. I am a teacher who has been vetted and gone through every possible police check in the
Having had recent practice with my granddaughter I wasn’t worried how I would cope with the situation, but I was only concerned with how the little ones would perceive me. Being at home with mum normally, how would they react to a stranger in the house? Would they see me as an intruder in their lives? After a while I could forget all of my worries; they were as good as gold all day. We had met briefly the previous day and I had played a little with them in their garden, but that was all.
We went through their whole, normal day without a tear or whine. They had breakfast, played inside, went for a walk in the double-buggy, listened to crows in the trees, saw some cows in a field, went to the playground with swings, slides etc, played in the garden, then quietly inside before midday nap (bottle, nappy change, a little cuddle, tuck in). They went to sleep without any fuss and woke up later with smiles on their faces. Some more play before lunch, which ended with the 18-month-old having a yogurt-covered face. How could I not let her practise eating with a spoon? Full tummies and happy faces. The 2 ½-year-old was quite happy staring at the TV screen with English children’s television, but when I asked him if he would like to go out and play in the garden, he went for his shoes and ran to the kitchen door.
So when dad came home from work in the afternoon, he was expecting to find me slumped across the sofa completely exhausted. He looked almost bemused at me when I reassured him I was fine. The children were happy, clean and nice-smelling. Then I helped dad getting them ready to go and see mum in hospital, and I was left with a very good feeling inside.
I hope nobody suggests I start a Rent-a-Granddad business; that would be too exhausting. But the odd, emergency baby-whispering is just about OK.
BTW – I have been a bad blogger lately, not enough time to write, and not even time to read other blogs. I have to do better!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
So once when I visited my mother, I got the old projector out, selected the family photos and brought it all to
So now I had a treasure of old slides on my PC, but some of them had not fared well over the years; there were scratches, cracks in the colours, dark spots, minute hairs, fluff and so on. This is where the newly acquired Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 (too long to say!) comes in handy. I have started working on some photos, cleaning them up by using mostly the Scratch Remover tool, with stunning effect.
I have also learned how to add watermarks to photos, so I thought I might do that with some of my most precious pictures. The first picture is of my dad when he was not yet forty, I believe. He is standing somewhere on the south coast of
The second picture is of yours truly in the late sixties. It was taken at Rödby ferry port in
Our first stop-over was