Thursday, April 19, 2007

Easter Holiday

I remember six years ago when we came to Normandy to view properties at Easter, it snowed and hailed. This year we were much luckier.

We had glorious sunshine all the time, not a cloud in sight for ten days and it was lovely and warm during the day but turned a bit chilly in the evenings, so we had an excuse to light the fire.

We always take some gifts from
Germany to our friends and neighbours, wine for instance. Yes, wine to France. I suppose that is like coal to Newcastle or ice-cream to Eskimos you might think, BUT there is an awful lot of very indifferent plonk in France, to put it politely. In our supermarket we really have to look hard to find some really good, French wine, and then it is normally quite expensive. German wine might not have the best of reputations, but some of it can certainly compete with the French. In my opinion the French are being left behind by the New World viticulturalists. How about an Aussie Shiraz? Yummy!

We had our Easter eggs delivered by Mr Bunny, or M Lapi in French, who arrived on his little bike. Some of them ended up in the Chicken Box.

In order to celebrate Easter like true Europeans we had, not only the bunny, chicken and eggs, but we also had a witch on a broom stick, which is a Swedish, pagan custom. Tradition has it that all the witches mount their brooms and fly off to Blåkulla (a mountain) at Easter to party with the Devil himself. They are often depicted with a black cat and kettle on the stick as well, although I am not sure about the symbolism in that. Flight attendant with an inflight drink, perhaps? Our witch was made by my niece C, who was nine at the time. Excellent work, don’t you think?

The warm weather had had its effect on plants and trees of course and the plum trees were in full blossom; beautiful!

Since we don’t have a landline we have to use mobile phones, which can sometimes be a bit of a problem due to poor network coverage. The signal comes and goes, but we have certain spots that tend to be reliable; you really don’t want to be disconnected in the middle of a sentence. One spot is at the back of the garden by the fence to a farmer’s bull field, the other spot is a hundred meters down the country lane by another field, One day I was standing there talking on the phone with my back to the field, and I got the feeling that I was not talking to my mother only, but that somebody else was listening in. I turned around and saw this chap taking an interest in my private conversation.

When I told my mother she roared with laughter; she could hear the animal breathing! I don’t think my mother has ever had such a heavy breather on the phone before. Show some decency, please! Then all his mates queued up to take part as well. Hey guys, behave!

Talking about cows and bulls and other creatures, there is another strong, rural feature that dominates at this time of year, manure. All the farmers pile it up in the fields to ‘mature’ before they spread it. You just have to get used to it. I’d like to think it clears my lungs, kind of medicinal.

Next stop Stockholm and hopefully somewhat fresher air!

Two years old!

After Normandy it was time to pop up to Stockholm for my granddaughter’s second birthday. Doesn’t time fly? So did we, with one of those low-budget airlines that treat you like cattle, not as well as French farmers treat theirs even! You queue at the gate, well, not British style in some sort of organised way, but more like a free-for-all, greased-elbow fashion, only to race across the tarmac overtaking as many fellow passengers as you can on your way to the aircraft. Once on the plane, you have to have a well-developed technique of squeezing past others in the aisle to get to your desired seat, preferably by one of the emergency exits; otherwise you have to sit so tight to the seat in front of you that you might as well take off your reading glasses when you read the emergency instructions on the back of the seat in front of you! Somehow it does not seem to matter that there is no complimentary meal being served, because, how the hell would you eat it without encroaching on your neighbours’ space or making a mess of it all? The airport bus in Stockholm was much more comfortable in comparison. We got there in the end, to the party.

My greatest contribution to the party was inflating most of the balloons; the whole place was full of them, they were everywhere. Then of course there were presents, which little A managed to unwrap with some paternal assistance.

During the day, several people, who were not able to attend the celebrations, would ring and speak to the two-year-old. Her vocabulary is not of Shakespearian magnitude yet, but she managed quite well, and, as you can see, she used an ear-piece in line with Swedish safety thinking. Well done, Mum and Dad!

To complete the picture of a successful birthday, Mum had made a birthday cake which we all enjoyed. But perhaps the best of all is that little A now can say ‘farfar’, Swedish for granddad. My heart melts. Happy birthday sweetheart!

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