SKATING (AND DANCING) ON THICK ICE

We’re now back on our finca here in southern Spain for the Easter / Passover break (and a happy whichever one you may or may not celebrate), and in our case, dozens of farming chores of varying degrees of arduour. In other words, time is precious and I can only devote the bare minimum of it to this post, which will be mostly about the pictures. Fortunately, during our recent spell in Jönköping (Sweden) something particularly picturesque and photogenic occurred, in that the local Lake Vättern froze over. While the main lake itself was covered in great chunks of ice and snow drift, its small tributary Lake Munksjön, around which the center of the town sits, became a perfectly level and smooth outdoor ice rink. This proved a great winter tonic for the locals who seem at their happiest when on skis and especially on skates. The resultant images of impromptu ice hockey games, ice fishing and townsfolk simply strolling across the lake reminded me of paintings by the elder Bruegel.

I hope that these “gouache” enhanced pictures (taken with all I had to hand – my iPhone) give some sense of the stark-yet-charming beauty and drama of the scenes, of both Vättern and Munksjön…

 

 

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JOHN’S SHOPPING, BUT NOT COPING…

If you ever wondered what all those dots and dashes are for on Scandinavian words then the name of the town in Sweden Dido and I are soon to move to might help.

Jönköping without its umlauts (or “umplaghs” as Dido refers to them) looks fairly straightforward to the English eye. Jonkoping instinctively, phonetically looks like it should be pronounced “John-coping”, but the presence of the umlauts immediately sets alarm bells ringing. You just know that “John-coping” is wrong with the result that you find yourself instinctively “accenting” the word. However, unless you are familiar with “Northern Germanic” languages the chances are that instinctive accenting will be wide of the mark.

In my case for instance, before I knew better, I found myself pronouncing it something like “Jern-kerping” whereas after being corrected by a helpful Swede I was told to pronounce it more like “John-shopping”. Of course, “John-shopping” is only an approximation of the correct Swedish pronunciation, but it does at least indicate the effect of the umlauts.  Moreover, since I’ve been using it, the constant stream of polite corrections from dismayed Swedes has ceased.

The one thing all our new Swedish acquaintances have told us is that our ability to pronounce Swedish words correctly, including Jönköping will improve over time.

Whether or not we have sufficient time in Sweden to master Swedish enunciation will depend upon how well Dido’s new tenure at Jönköping University works out. As things stand she’s planning on this being her professional swansong, but even at 57 this still leaves us with plenty of time – potentially…

Far more accessible than Jönköping’s correct pronunciation is its pleasant geography. The town is situated on the banks of Sweden’s second largest lake, Vättern (yes, another umlaut, and no, I haven’t been informed yet and all guidance welcome) and during our recent visit I manged to get some striking images of it, and the natives enjoying themselves along its beach.

One of the things that I’m falling in love with in Sweden, and something I already miss when I’m not there is the astonishing crystalline light and the startlingly vivid colours and tones it produces on everything it touches. These pictures illustrate this pretty well…

 

STOCKHOLM’S INDIAN SUMMER

I get the feeling that a warm, sunny September in Stockholm is rarer than a hen’s tooth, and judging by the way the locals were eagerly soaking up the precious UV, like squirrels frantically collecting nuts for winter, this was an extremely welcome climactic anomaly.

In any event, the low-slung solar disc  was a tremendous bonus for me as it cast a magical golden light and long shadows on a city even more handsome than its inhabitants. In the images presented here I’ve tried to encapsulate the experience of  seeing colourful Stockholm bathed in that extraordinary light and contrast.

Mind you, rarely have I gone anywhere for a first visit with more preconceptions, and the sight of so many impossibly good-looking, blonde, bronzed sun-worshipers fulfilled two of those on a very long list. (The rest of that list, in regards to preconceptions both confirmed and shattered is a definite subject for a future post).  Enough to mention here that something I wasn’t expecting was the apparent identification many men of a certain age in Stockholm seem to share with Jeremy Clarkson – I’ve never seen so many men, in one town, of 50+ years of age, in white shirt, sports or leather jackets and tight jeans…