Following the crowning of my NHS experience with a stint at a PCT and the resulting redundancy (traumatic, though much wanted and worked for), my husband and I are going back to my roots near a small village in Smaland, Sweden. These are our experiences.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Can't reply to comments!

Sorry chaps.

Not sure if I should reply to someone called Troll Paladin or whether it would be giving my head for washing, but hey

Yes, elks drive..

Saturday, June 21, 2014


As you may have gathered, Sweden is a country that values its' traditions, of which there are many more than the UK.  It is actually very nice to have so many things to celebrate.  Graham grew up with birthdays and Christmas and a smattering of Easter, that his non-Christian family didn't really know what to do with. (Mind you, neither do many Christian families, so no problem there then) and Bonfire Night.  

Today is Midsummer's Day.  It is traditional, on the longest day of the year, to spend most of it in bed nursing your hangover from Midsummer's Eve. As it traditionally rains, this isn't too much of a problem.
It's traditional here to celebrate the eve of something rather than the actual day.  So when people went off early on the day before Midsummer's Eve, it was an Eve Eve,  Would that be called a Lilith? humm.

So, back to Midsummer.

You dash off to the supermarket on the Lilith and load up with pickled herring, potatoes, sausages, fillet, creme fraiche, dill, strawberries and cream, having a blazingly polite row with the old granny who has just taken the last of the Swedish strawberries to add to her 500kg.  You have to make do with Dutch ones.

Then you and everyone in the entire country packs up in a synchronised traffic jam and head to the summer cottage or a relative's summer cottage or a random summer cottage that you've always fancied, with the sill, etc and the beer/schnapps/wood alcohol. This involves more blazingly polite rows, usually with the Police, who can't understand that you need to read the paper whilst driving amongst so many other cars.  (yes this is so common they actually list this together with not talking on the mobile phone.  It explains why I have no fear of meeting elks on the way home, but of meeting other cars).

The main event on Midsummer's Eve is the raising of the midsummer pole, that has an uncanny resemblence to the May Pole of rural England.   There are other similaries....  You can do this in a family, but most go to the nearest Local Historical Society who dress up in traditional clothes, dress the pole in flowers and greenery and inflict folk songs on law-abiding people.  We all (ha ha ha) dance around the pole to the lilting '3 small frogs' 'I'm getting the washing in' etc etc, in our flowery crowns. Absolutely nothing is about sex or fertility or blood, at all, in any way.    As we weren't allowed to go to these innocuous festivities when we were young, I feel the LHSs are failing somewhat, somehow...

You then move on the real party, when you all eat the stuff everyone has bought, slap a load of mosquitoes, slap the first person who has had too much to drink and then just give up and join in with whatever fertility paganism is going.

There are, of course, local (or soberer) variations of these traditions, but not many.

I actually feel it's a shame that the maypole dancing has been relegated to the children and their respective parents/strike that, their respective mothers.  It would benefit the rest of the adults to not be so much up their own arses.  However that is a fine Swedish Tradition and not to be messed with!  The wood alcohol could problem be dispensed with though...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Normal Life Day 2

Day 2 is being uploaded/downloaded/sideappatured on day 3 because I left my computer in the cafe, still good things come to those who wait.... [Ed - ?????relevance????]

The day started off as normal with alarm at 6, loaded the car with all the bags and zoomed off to make carrot cake, fetch the buns and passionfruit cake, order the bread for paninis, make chocolate balls and lentil pies... open up and then collapse in a weeping heap in front of everyone..(as they say here for everything - only joking)
Never thought I'd live to see the day I used sprinkles! (only joking)

Behind any great quiche/cake is a load of washing up

Managed to have a 5 min break and look out of the window.  The slope is still covered with wood anemones, like stars.

There was an evening (!) meeting at 6:30 of the Habo Tourism Network, which was very interesting and potentially very useful.  The women from #sveciatravels were certainly pros.  It was fun meeting people too and putting faces to names. Bit of a bombshell with the announcement that Landhs (one of the best cafes in Sweden) are buying the local cafe here.  

Left just after 9 to drive through the STILL DAYLIGHT!! It's such a lovely drive home (not joking).  (only joking)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

'Normal Life"

In the strange world of Facebook, I have been 'challenged' to provide photos and a commentary on 5 consecutive normal days.  Presumably normal in this context means the next 5 days, come what may.  I guess most of us won't win the lottery or a Nobel Prize in the window, so it's a little vignette of how life goes on.  I thought that this was quite a good idea actually, so I've decided to also blog them.

Starting with yesterday, naturally.
Tuesday was the second day of my weekend.  It's the equivalent of the wage slaves' Saturday and yesterday kicked off with the dentist and a root canal filling.  Surprisingly, there are no photos.  I had thought to get lots of other shopping for the cafe, but felt unable to do more than food shopping and I also managed to stop at a garden centre (shame!) and got 10 geraniums.  There are rumours of good weather coming!

Got home, collapsed, had a cup of tea and then heaved myself up to start the accounts, paying invoices and filing.  It's illegal to use Excel here, so I have to pay for a proper book keeping program.  I have no idea how to use it, and keep filling in things in the wrong spaces, but I have every hope that things will turn out alright in the end...

After a bite of lunch, I thought that I'd better iron some tea towels and table clothes for the cafe. This is only half of the way through.

I so need to get a more cheerful ironing board cover!

That lasted until G came home and I was bound by my duty as a good wife and cat slave to start dinner. As I haven't yet got routines going, such as, what G is going to buy on Sat so we can have dinner on Tuesday, we had salmon from the freezer, boiled potatoes and dill and peas pureed with mint.

The cat was very, very pleased with the salmon, ate one skin almost without stopping to chew and promptly went upstairs to sleep it off.  Didn't see her again the rest of the evening.

This is Psychokitty halfway through her dinner, she's not that keen on her picture being taken and hasn't got a diners instagram account.

After that, well, it was getting things in bags, piling them by the door for taking to work the next day and then collapsing into the sofa (again!) and listening to Radio 4 as there was nothing on the telly.  Tell a lie, there was ice-hockey, but I guess we're not yet completely Swedish and so fail the Norman Tebbit test... Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

May flowers

I know it's a cliche, but May really is the most beautiful month.  Even when the weather has been pants, like this year, it's lovely.  The pines and firs send out their new shoots, light against the dark and the birches are like spring green mist.  After a long dry spell, the rain came and it's been raining on and off with daytime temperatures of around 8-12C for a week now.  It feels colder than minus temperatures, probably because it's meant to be nice!  However, the smell is delicious, rich and light with the promise of sun and flowers.  And the cows have been let out!  It's a real family day out, even in the rain!

I'm sitting now in my café, watching the blossoms spiral down from the tree outside the window, hoping for nicer weather and some customers.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"You are the brand"

The café is up and running, though I'm waiting for my first electricity bill to see if it can pay for itself yet.  It's not exactly packed, though people are coming back and bringing friends.  As it's not on the main drag, it's more of a special visit sort of place, so it makes it very weather dependent.  I've been amusing myself by guessing how many visitors will come when I read the weather for the day and so far I've been very right!

Marketing is interesting though.  Trying to convince my marvellous, though London, graphics man that it is actually OK to put up laminated A5 bits of paper cos it's the only thing that works on a hamlet notice board.  Social media is definitely good, if you are prepared to use it to communicate things totally unrelated to any sort of real life and to be relentlessly perky.  It's having a sort of BlackBook effect on me though, probably one of those balance of nature things, like sugar and insulin.

 I've been firmly resisting, so far, fame.  ??? I hear you cry, 'how on earth can you be famous'.  Indeed, but apparently the web abounds with blogs that net huge earnings, lucrative deals and general well-knowness etc. On the same floor as my humble cafe is the office of one of those bloggers, who shall be known here as Cup Cake Queen of Norway.  CCQN is very good at what she does and works relentlessly. She jets off over the world and stays in 5 star hotels advising princesses etc having been a normal housewife before she started the blog thing. It seems so unusual to actively go against society's wish for fame/ the desire to leave something of worth that I think that it must be a hangover from childhood upbringing/indoctrination.  It probably explains my resistance to updating this blog and improving my writing skills.   I'll have to get fame therapy, there must be a blog somewhere....

Friday, April 11, 2014

Big non-salty chocolate balls.

Well, I've been running the café for a month now and feel that I'm settling into things.  Consequently I've been able to think about things like blogs, signs, philosophy and breathing.

One of the main differences between here and London is taste.  This is especially true in the country, where big city sophistication certainly does not rule: big, cheap, simple, but of the highest quality is the desire. Yes, quite. Tastes also vary country to country. Obvious, but it means that things you take for granted don't happen as expected.  Take for example, Chocolate Balls (no, they are not salty!).  Every single child here lives for CBs.  I had my first one when we were on holiday here as a small child and thought they were hideous, sweet, gritty and severely not enough chocolate.  Despite tiffin being much better and basically the same sort of thing, children are essentially conservative and tiffin is a little sophisticated.

Much recipe research ensued and some chocolate balls were constructed.  I thought they tasted lovely, cocoa, butter, espresso coffee, vanilla essence and a high class brand of oat as befitting a high end cafe like this, but I realised that I had no idea what they should taste like.   A randomly sampled mother said that she made her's with no coffee and water.... hum....  I hastily repaired to several well known cafes to shameless nick their knowledge and bought 4 different chocolate balls.  They were twice the size of mine, made with the Swedish equivalent of drinking chocolate (not so chocolate and twice as sweet).  After sampling all 4 with my morning coffee, I was so sugar-high that I was forced by the worried expression of those who share the space here to run up and down the stairs about 10 times.  Some of the sugar was burned off and I was able to stop talking and keep the same space for at least 15sec.

Recipe has since been amended, though still with coffee and cocoa, just less and with some Oboy and milk instead. I've also been forced to buy sprinkles for the first time in my life to coat them. Oh, the degradation...