Waiting for SK535

This will almost certainly be my last blog until I get back to Belfast. I’m going to try and make a point of blogging more often – I have plenty of thoughts I can inflict on the world!

Yesterday was another gorgeous day. Unfortunately we were on the move for most of it, and over two hours of that was in a very warm train without air conditioning and two opening windows. After a quick stop at Kulturhuset and ICA in T-centralen, we got back to Ropsten for the 4pm boat to Tranholmen.

Billy had told us the water was warmer than at home. Apparently not yesterday – it very much reminded me of the Atlantic and Co Donegal… We relaxed for the evening, I got a few pics of the house, and I set the alarm for 6.45am.

Since yesterday, a rather nasty low pressure area has descended upon the north sea, promising us wet weather at home as well as here. Billy, Eva, Ziggy, Jo and I therefore had a rather wet trip across Lilla Vartan, but a very loud thunderclap as we left the house was followed by one at least two miles away as we left the jetty.

Thankfully, it was a lot less wet (but not actually dry) when we reached Arlanda, and there this blog entry stops. Departure is in 35 minutes, and once again we have exit row seats for extra legroom. Even better, I’ve booked the window seat 😉

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Starting the long journey home…

Yesterday we did very little. We had breakfast, relaxed, went to prayers at 12 and 8 (in Swedish – we understood very little!) and went for a walk along the lake and into RĂ€ttvik church. We spent most of the afternoon on the jetty at the lakeside, admiring the still waters, while Jo painted the scene.

Jo’s friends Lars and Aislinn called by in the evening with their sons Ryan and Theo. Lars is from Sweden, and met Aislinn at Corrymeela. Both boys were born in NI, and are bilingual.

We met two of the Lutheran priests at StiftsgÄrden. Gisela has been at StiftsgÄrden for a long time, while Theresa has been here for two months. They appear to wear a dog collar on alternate days, when they take devotions in the chapel.

The first stage of our journey is two trains back to Stockholm, changing at BorlĂ€nge. We stay at Billy and Eva’s again tonight, and then fly back to Dublin and drive to Belfast tomorrow. We may yet visit Skansen this afternoon, the local equivalent of the folk museum at Cultra, but long journeys can be tiring and we may just go back to Tranholmen. Wait and see.

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Friday, Friday…

It is a quiet Friday morning here in StiftsgĂ„rden – Jo and I are hoping to go to the prayer time in the chapel at 12, and then visit the town of RĂ€ttvik after lunch.

StiftsgÄrden is owned by the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden, and is both a residential and conference centre and a small hotel. The main building has a 3 star badge.

There is both a chapel in the main building and the local parish church nearby.

Jo and I met with Nils, the director, last night, and talked about Corrymeela. There have been strong links in the past, and we batted around ideas for better links now – hopefully this will help Nils in talking to the folks in NI. It was an interesting evening.

The journey yesterday was quiet, but long enough at 3.5 hours. Sweden built most of its railways inland, so as not to scupper the boat trade along the coasts, so there is plenty of forest to see!

StiftsgĂ„rden is very close to Lake Siljan. I took a walk to the nearest garages last night, and came back along the side of the lake – the gravel path ended at a memorial to the people of Dalarna, specifically RĂ€ttvik who had fought alongside Gustav Vasa against Christian II of Denmark in the 16th Century. After that, I took what looked like a well-trodden path back to StiftsgĂ„rden which turned out to be too well-trodden – I have lovely muddy converse now which are still drying!

To be honest, at this stage Jo and I have mixed feelings about going home on Sunday. We’re really enjoying the holiday, and not necessarily looking forward to having to work on Tuesday, but part of us also wants to get home to our own stuff!

More later.

Now what was today’s little amusing story going to be…

I’ll come back to that. I’ve actually just remembered, but I’m going to make you wait until the end of this post anyway.

This time tomorrow Jo and I will be up at StiftsgÄrden. Not the Norwegian royal palace, but StiftsgÄrden RÀttvik, about which I know little beyond it having links with Corrymeela and being in Central Sweden on the shore of Lake Siljan.

Today was another long day, but moving a bit more slowly as we get more and more tired (and start looking forward to our 3 hours 23 minutes train trip tomorrow). We started with a visit to MusikmusĂ©et, which is very much interactive, with bongoes, a hammer dulcimer, a harp, electronic drums and other instruments available to try out. We moved on from there to the NationalMuseum, with its collection of artwork, and from there to Moderna musĂ©et. Alas, the Modern Museum has most of its artwork in MĂ€lmo, and is concentrating largely on photography for the summer, but we also got a chance to visit ArkitekturmusĂ©et. I’ve given up translating things which you can guess!

After that, we met up with Mina, who used to be a volunteer at Corrymeela, and headed back to Billy and Eva’s where we finished the evening watching True Talent on TV3.

This is very different from the X Factor, because the audience doesn’t get to see the singer! It is divided into three groups by age, and only if over 50% of that age group votes for the singer does their seating group turn round to view and cheer them, and only if 50% of all three groups vote for them do they continue on to the next stage.

It’s all rather different from X Factor and Britain’s got talent, because although they have to pass auditions with producers and be mentored by the judges, who seem to have more credibility than the British ones (if only I could tell you what they actually say!) they are judged at this stage solely according to their voice. Not their looks, not how stupid they look on camera, but by their voice. The atmosphere round the judges is also one of cooperation rather than rivalry.

What I wonder is what will happen in later rounds – has the series already been filmed in full, and each successive round use a brand new jury, or will they logically have to revert to “seeing” juries, losing the blind element? Time will tell…

Today, on the way home on the T-bana, we were in an old train, rather than one of the new sleek ones – presumably they use these at peak times to maximise capacity. The ones we usually get are nice and modern, have air conditioning rather than opening windows, and have names. Not castles or glens like trains in Belfast, but girls’ names, like Agnetha and all sorts which I can’t remember off-hand. Each two-car train (coupled to make trains far longer) has a name painted just above the cab window before it sweeps down to the windscreen.

And that was today’s amusing little story.

More, this time from RĂ€ttvik, tomorrow. Sleep is called for.

Now for some linguistics…

One of the interesting things I have noticed while I have been here are the words that come into Scottish from the North Germanic languages which are absent from conventional English.

The first one I noticed the other day is the Swedish word for child, barn – like the Scots word bairn, and one I noticed two hours ago – bra for good, like the Scots braw.

It’s a very small world.

This morning felt a little like a return to London, because SpÄrvÀgsmuséet (the Transport Museum) is like Covent Garden Transport Museum in some ways. There are cabs of T-banan trains, but there are no simulators to teach you how to drive a Tube tram.

It’s very interesting, because it’s too easy to forget that Sweden changed sides of the road in 1967, but the museum’s stock of right hand drive buses quickly brings this into focus.

We also had the chance to admire the Lego in LeksaksmusĂ©et, the toy museum in the same building. I owned many of the sets on display, and most of the others had been on my wishlist – I still have most of the pieces of those sets, but the instructions are long lost.

Afterwards, we headed into Gamla Stan again. Lunch outside Nobelmuséet was followed by the Changing of the Guard before we visited the Cathedral, including their statue of St George and the Dragon, commissioned by Sten Sture to commemorate the Battle of Brunkeberg in 1471, perhaps representing himself as St George and King Christian I of Denmark as the Dragon, and Sweden the maiden Sture was defending.

After a visit to PostmusĂ©et (surely you don’t need a translation?) we headed into the main city again, got some food to feed Billy and Eva and some ice cream for us, and headed back to Tranholmen. Tomorrow we are going to head for some art galleries, and who knows what else in our last full day in Stockholm – on Thursday we head to RĂ€ttvig for two days.

Ej Upp lass…

I find the instructions in T-bana stations amusing. Ej Upp is Swedish for “Not Up”, but it’s pronounced like an English Northerner saying “Ey oop, lass!” I would share the joke, but it’s probably not funny…

This morning we bought our tickets for the Kungsholmen Rund boat tour, and visited Nordiska MusĂ©et – a celebration of the Nordic people and their culture over 400 years – everything from housing to clothing, toys etc. Part of the exhibition includes commentary from the Sami people on the experiments in eugenics carried out on them.

After lunch we called into VasamusĂ©et – the new final resting place of the famous ship that sailed and sank on the same day in 1628, as it was too narrow and hopelessly top heavy. It was raised from the bed of Stockholm harbour in 1961.

We finally got going on the boat tour this afternoon! It was a slow run round Kungsholmen (the King’s Island) – so called because there already exists Drottningholm (the Queen’s island) and a Knight’s Island, so the King of the day decided to call it after the rank, rather than himself. We also went along Langholmen. A very enjoyable 50 minutes, but after it we were glad to get onto the T-bana to Ropsten and back onto the bus ferry to Tranholmen…

Tomorrow we hope to go the Transport Museum and revisit Gamla Stan. Photos from today and yesterday are currently uploading!

Busman’s holiday…

Well, I am now an internationally noted pianist.

This evening, we went to St James’ Church in Stockholm, as planned, and sat down to discover that their organist had been delayed due to a road traffic accident… so muggins here volunteered to play piano.

There followed an interesting hour and a half of sightreading and changing of hymns as the minister (a Scottish lass married to a Swede) and I worked out what we could do in mid-service. It was a delight to do, though, and I hope the result honoured God.

I hope to get a week off next Sunday!

The rest of the day… I spent this morning sorting out photographs (see the results on my flickr) and then Eva went with us to the Photographic gallery (Fotografiska). We had an interesting walk round – highlights included Liu Bolin’s “The Invisible Man” exhibition, where Liu has painted himself to hide himself in the picture – in some pictures he is more obvious than others – and Jacob FellĂ€nder’s “I want to live close to you” exhibition. Jacob visited twelve cities, including London, New York, Mumbai, Paris and Dubai, and used modified cameras which only advanced 35mm film by 10mm at a time to overlap images. Other exhibitions included “Northern Women in Chanel” and some of Robert Mapplethorpe’s work.

After that, Eva dropped us off near the City Hall (Stadshuset) where we had hoped to go on the Historical Canal Tour (Kungsholmen Runt), but all tickets had already been sold. After ice cream, Jo and I visited the City Hall, which looks very like a church from the side, but very different from the inside. There is a large oak in the main courtyard – the building dates back to the 1930s and is made of red brick, and is built on the site of a mill – which reminds me of Belfast City Hall being built on the site of the Linen Hall. After that we grabbed a quick snack before church, and the rest is history.

Tomorrow we hope to get on that boat tour. Billy and Eva have suggested we take the 76 bus from Ropsten, which apparently does a grand tour around the most direct route, but after that we will hit the museums. Forecast isn’t great for tomorrow, so indoors may be rather popular for us!

Day 2 in Sweden

Well, here we are, and it is not tomorrow morning by any stretch of the imagination – although photographs will have to wait until then!

This morning, Billy was pup-sitting a neighbour’s westies, so he, Jo and I took them for a walk round the island.

Tranholmen is not quite free from the internal combustion engine, but they are very much limited to excavators being used in construction, lawnmowers and possibly a tractor. Cars are banned, and bicycles and shanks’ ponies are the order of the day.

The whole island is wooded, with gravel paths, and the vast majority of houses are wooden. Many are now lived in 12 months a year, but at one time more would have only been summer houses. As I noted yesterday, Billy and Eva’s house is beautifully warm.

It is linked to the mainland in Spring, Summer and Autumn by a ferry to Ropsten, or your host’s boat. In the winter, they erect a bridge, and the lake freezes over anyway.

After the walk, Billy accompanied us on our first visit to Stockholm city, and took us on a long walk round Gamla Stan – the old city, and also the site of the Royal Palace.

The Royal Palace is quite curious – unlike, say, Buckingham Palace, the public can get very close to it physically. Hopefully pictures I’ll take during the week will show you how close. Perhaps if we’re there at the right time of day, we’ll get to see the changing of the guard as well.

Before we even got there, though, we had noticed a number of zombies around Stockholm C(entral). These undead followed us into Gamla Stan, but the good, or disappointing news, depending on your point of view, was that it was all an arts event as part of the Stockholm Festival.

Tomorrow we are pondering a canal tour and then the 6pm English service in St James’s Church (Sankt Jacobs Kyrka), Stockholm – but first sleep and a long quiet morning!

Oh yes…

Got the wireless connection working!

The other thing to mention is that never mind all the kids in Belfast going to meet Jedward or One Direction… we trumped the lot of them by running into Kieran Goss and Brendan Murphy (ex The Four Of Us) at Arlanda Airport. They had been on our flight from Dublin, and were heading to do some recording – we had enjoyed their concert with Tom Paxton, Eddi Reader (ex Fairground Attraction) and Maura O’Connell in the Grand Opera House back in April!

I expect that to be the end of the namedropping… for now!

Delayed by the need for sleep…

Well, yesterday I left the British Isles for the first time in my life.

We left the City North Hotel after a nice breakfast at 9am, checked in, and took the long walk to gate 105. Quite why the gate numbers are lower the further away you go from check-in I dunno, but we got there and settled down to wait.

We watched the 11.05 Copenhagen flight leave, and I helped a kid find Mater and a hydrofoil from Cars 2 which kept flying off the table between us (to my and his parents’ amusement) and then we left Ireland on the 11.50 flight.

The MD82 was nice and comfortable, and the raspberry muffin I bought was lovely- smelled great, tasted better.

We touched down in Arlanda ahead of schedule, and got our bags by 3.45pm local time (that’s 2.45pm real time). Our host Billy took us down the E4 to Stockholm and to the jetty where he keeps his speedboat.

Unfortunately, by then it was chucking it down, but he got us into the boat, and across to Tranholmen.

It’s a bit early for first impressions, but Billy and Eva’s house is beautiful – made from wood and actually very warm. Pictures will follow once I take some, but I’m having trouble connecting from my MBP to Billy’s wireless network and I’m writing this on my iPhone!

To cut a long story short, I was shattered and in bed and sleeping well before 9pm. It’s still raining outside, but I think we’re going to get a walk today, then hit the old town (Gamla Stan) after lunch. More later.

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Oh, what a glorious day…

Tomorrow, for the first time in my life, I leave the British Isles and their territorial waters.

Oh, and today Jo and I had ice cream at the Gelateria in Bray.

That’s it.

… you want more?

Oh all right then.

This morning we stopped at Tesco in Greystones for the makings of a picnic before hitting the road to Enniskerry. Missing out Powerscourt because we are doing this on a budget, we headed on past Glencree to Sallygap and down along the military road to Laragh and then into Glendalough.

Glendalough is quite curious. Although the Church of Ireland has twelve dioceses, it has a lot more than fourteen cathedrals, because as well as Belfast Cathedral (built for the then united Dioceses of Down, Connor and Dromore) and St Patrick’s Cathedral (the National Cathedral), the twelve present dioceses were once divided into (at least) 35 smaller dioceses. At one time, all of them would have had their own cathedral, and indeed, to this day, the Diocese of Clogher has two cathedrals (one in Clogher and one in Enniskillen), making it unique among the dioceses that have never been split.

The Church of Ireland Directory notes a considerable number of cathedrals that have closed or been destroyed, including one which was destroyed by fire in the 12th Century. However, it makes no mention of Glendalough Cathedral at all, even though it was also destroyed before the Reformation (by the English Army in the 14th Century as it happens). I think it may have ceased to have been a cathedral in 1215, however, when Dublin and Glendalough dioceses were united, which makes things a little different… as well as the method of its destruction.

From Glendalough, we went down the Vale of Avoca to Arklow, and from thence along the coast road to Wicklow, and the N11 to Bray, where we hit the gelateria. Jo has pics of the two ice creams – she had a small chocolate ice cream, and I had an extra large mint choc chip. Look out for them on facebook soon.

After that, we hit the M50 and M1 to the City North Hotel. A nine-day trip is at the point where it is nearly cheaper to stay at a hotel offering free parking for guests for the duration of their trip than to pay for Airport parking, and I think that as a result we are effectively getting a free night’s accommodation, and only paying for breakfast. Dublin Airport was offering me parking at nearly €80, which is no joke.

Tomorrow morning – I leave the British Isles and their territorial waters for the first time in my life. Oh hang on, I’ve already said that, haven’t I?

The big trip!

Well… it has been a long time since I blogged.

So what’s different about today?

Two things.

For a start, it is a year since Jo and I met each other one quiet nervous Tuesday evening in Common Grounds Café in Belfast.

Secondly, we are off on holiday together. Starting today.

So this morning I drove out to Curtis Cars in Glengormley to collect a new door mirror, as some lovely person decided to damage it squeezing through the large gap between my car and the van on the other side of the street sometime on Saturday night. ÂŁ100.33 later, I drove out to Jo’s uncle’s house in Ballyclare where Brian helped me fit it with the aid of a torx screwdriver or two. I then picked up some nice sandals (for use without socks) and a stick in Abbeycentre (check the Millets sale) before heading back to East Belfast.

We finally left just after 3 and hit the M1, A1 and M1 to Dublin. Two and a half hours later, we hit the M11 car park.

We finally escaped the Bray traffic jams, stopped for indulgence at McDonalds in the Town Hall, and drove round to Fiona and Mick O’Hara’s.

Tomorrow we’re going for a nice drive round Wicklow to Enniskerry, Glendalough and Wicklow town before heading to the City North Hotel – maybe there will be photographs before the end of the trip?

Right now, Mick is pondering games with round balls instead of oval balls, so it may be time for hot chocolate and sleep…