Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A bit of bad news

As regular readers know, a central figure of this blog is our friend Margaret, a transplanted New Yorker who has, for the past few years, owned a bookshop in Stockholm. In fact, her shop's blog gave me the idea to start my own.

Unfortunately, running an independent bookshop is tough even in the best of times, and the economic downturn has made it impossible for her to continue her business, and she has today announced the closing of her store.

I respect Marg tremendously for following her dream, and for working almost literally 24/7 year after year to make it a success. A bit of a selfish silver lining is that Sooz and I hope this might mean she will have more free time on Aspö over this summer!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Path! A Path!

At some point, not this year, we plan to make a deck between the two houses. The ground is pretty rocky and uneven, and having a deck will make it a lot easier and neater to get between the houses, especially in bad weather.

Pictured is a childishly simple rendering of how the deck will go, boulders permitting.

PS. Sorry for the Monty Python reference in the title!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Talked with Tommy today

Tommy, as you may recall, is the bathroom guy. Turns out he is in northern Sweden this week and he had just watched a motor race held on a frozen lake, which he said was "very funny". Turns out isracing is very popular, especially on motorcycles with huge studded tires. I bet it would be funny to watch, but not at all funny to do.

Anyways, he and Anders are still planning to come out to go over final details with us when we're there over Easter. Assuming all is well, he will start in mid-May, which gives us plenty of time to have everything done before our June holiday.

Sooz is very anxious to get this work completed. I can see her point; she does most of the cooking (and cleaning, to be honest) which is a lot harder without water in the house. Plus, being without the toilet is more of a hardship for girls. I'm still confident that we can get the water and bathroom work done in time. We should all know for sure after our visit in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Final Tick Jab

As I had posted last summer, we went for shots to protect us from tick-borne encephalitis, or TBE. This week was the last of the injection series for all of us, so we're protected from that disease at least.

Margaret told me this week that she hasn't had the shots at all, which makes me feel like a bit of a wuss.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Sky Chair

Janne and Margaret have a funky rope and canvas hanging chair in their home on Aspö. (Here's a photo of Janne relaxing in it last October.) We all thought it'd be fun to have one of our own, to hang it either outside over the deck, or inside in front of the corner windows. And once Sooz found out it was made in Boulder, her old university town, that sealed the deal. And, yes, that's the colour she chose, a nice regal purple.

She placed the order on Monday, and it's already delivered, ready to bring over on our upcoming Easter trip. Should be fun!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The weather forecast

I checked the Sandhamn webcam and saw a lot of snow on the island yesterday. A quick look at the weather forecast showed temperatures below zero all week. Janne did say it was cold when I talked to him last!

He advised me back last year not to expect good weather at Easter. I had hoped to put Järnvitrol on the house then, but I may well be doing it in May.

Lastly, Leksand won their first playoff game last night. They are sitting 1-4 and they need a strong turnaround to get back into contention and to keep Wille happy...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Arlanda Reunion

My association with Sweden began in 1989 when I moved there to work at Arlanda airport. The photo here shows the team on May 2 that year, after our inaugural flight. (I'm the impossibly blond guy, center, in the red tie. Gosh, that was a long time ago.)

The old gang in Stockholm is arranging a 20th anniversary reunion this May 2 and I will be there. Sooz, unfortunately, can't join the festivities as she has maternal responsibilities that weekend.

Monday the 4th is a bank holiday in the UK so I'll head out to Aspö on Sunday as early as my hangover allows to check on the house. I have a late flight home Monday so I am going to use the Aspö-Stavsnäs-Slussen-Centrallen-Arlanda-Heathrow transportation chain to get a good idea of the direct journey from my Swedish house to my London one.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Morning Sports Update

  1. Corrected: Leksand has begun its 10-game playoff to get promoted to the top league in Sweden. However, they have lost their first three games, and sit at the bottom right now. The series ends on April 9, so I'm hoping they'll recover and we'll see Wille in a good mood on the 14th!
  2. In related news, my beloved Manchester City beat its third Danish opponent (fourth, if you count the Faroe Islands) last night to progress in the UEFA Cup. They scraped through in typically insane fashion.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A laundry list

A bunch of things came together over the past few days:
  • Wille called and said he had a boat set for himself and all his stuff for the morning of Tuesday the 14th, so we'll plan to join him on that run, as we'll have a lot of stuff, too! The only drag is that we'll miss Margaret by a day as she's there for the Easter weekend. But we'll see her the following weekend for sure.
  • I spoke to Janne; he's back on Aspö and has ordered the lumber for the steps already, to be delivered with another job he's working on. He also priced out all the water hardware, which, thankfully, is right on my budget. He's also finishing off burying the grey water system and sending in photos of it for final building approval.
  • Sooz contacted IKEA to pay for our furniture order and get the final size and weight information, which she sent to...
  • ...Rutger, who is going to contact the harbor people at Stavsnäs and arrange delivery on the goods boat "Olliver" on the 14th.
  • And, speaking of Oliver, he had another thorough checkup today. We (mostly me, actually) were getting increasingly worried as he seems to be slowing down a bit (although he is still himself and quite happy). But his surgeon gave him a good going over and said he was doing just fine and that we shouldn't obsess over every little thing. I'll have to work on that...!

Monday, March 16, 2009

I couldn't resist

Marg forwarded this photo from yesterday's Aftonbladet, showing Malena in a triumphant but unfortunate pose.

Also I found a blog on the Manchester Evening News (of all places) with great Eurovision coverage.

That will be it from me on the singing for a while now, promise.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's the morning after

I made one final post from the pub last night but it didn't seem to take. Alcohol might have been involved. (Update: Not booze at all, but a technical glitch. It appeared sometime Monday afternoon. Go figure.)

Anyways, the winner was Malena Ernman, the opera singer, who stormed through on the public vote. The voting system awarded points from professional juries in various regions of Sweden. After that round, Måns was leading and Alcazar was third, so Sooz and I felt pretty smart.

But the public vote overwhelmed the experts, and in the end, Malena and her giant voice won the contest. (Caroline, frighteningly, came in second.) A good summary of the show is here.

We had a fun time; Sooz used her charm and we got tickets into the pub in the end. We met a bunch of Swedes and other Europhiles, plus we got to explore the Scandinavian neighborhood as well. It was a great evening, although we're feeling it a tiny bit this morning...!

UPDATE: I have added a little video of the crowd singing along to Måns' "Hope and Glory" to give you an idea of our evening.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Voting is complete!

My man Måns led after the professional voting, but the public vote put the opera singer through!! Details later...

At the halfway point

...Alcazar is the crowd favourite here in the pub!

Here at the Harcourt Arms

....the Swedish pub in Marylebone. The show's about to start and the place is packed!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ollie had a checkup today

He's been a little slow the past week, which has worried us a bit, so he visited his surgeon before his swimming therapy.

Overall, he's just fine, but it appears we've been letting him do too much lately in our enthusiasm for him to return to old his self. We've been playing with his tennis ball a bit and letting him walk off his lead. Both of those are still no-no's at this stage. It's really not until June 1 (his 6th birthday) that we can consider his recovery over.

We'll have to work to manage this, as he is generally feeling much better and he wants to play. It's hard to keep saying 'no' when he is feeling frisky and wants to romp around. The good news, though, is that he has the green light to walk longer distances, so we can at least partially compensate a lack of play with more time walking.

We still feel good about taking him to Aspö, although I will talk to Janne about maybe having a removable ramp on the main stairs. I imagine a wide plank that can be fixed at either end would do the trick, and as Margaret says, that would be handy for getting carts and luggage to the front door, too.

My pick for the Melodifestival

As much as I love the song contests, I'm not good at picking the winner; there are way too many variables in the criteria. You have to guess what Europe will like, not to choose your own favourite act, or the best song, or best/weirdest performance, or the cutest singer. Eurovision is a show, remember, that has opera singers, albino vampires and turkey puppets, all competing for teh same prize. It's a little like Ed Sullivan on acid.

The melodifestival is Sweden's process to pick their entrant; in fact Sweden makes a bigger production of it than every other country. This year's rules have a professional jury as part of the process, to make it harder for the telephone voters to send a novelty act to Moscow.

So that leaves us only the credible acts to choose from, which narrows things down some. Last year's winner, Dima Bilan, was a cute guy with a novelty skater and violinist joining him. I think Måns Zimmerlöw is pretty close to the same mold; his is a bit more upbeat Europop song, with eye candy dancer/singers in backup, and so I am picking him to be Sweden's choice this year.

Sooz is putting her money on Alcazar, which is a good choice too; they are truly old-school Eurovision, which might be musical comfort food in these tough times.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bathroom update

I talked to Tommy last night, we went over a few details. I had asked him if the Cinderella could be hooked up temporarily in advance of our April visit and he explained why that'd be difficult (i.e. costly).

He doesn't have a final estimate yet but advised that other bathrooms they've done on island homes cost about 80,000 kronor, so I'm assuming something similar for ours. We'll talk again to finalise all the costs and details, probably when we're there in April.

He said there would be no problem in completing all the work by early June, which is the most important thing.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eurovision "Andra Chansen"

Last night was the "second chance" show. Songs that didn't make the cut on the day were put into one last runoff to get into the final next Saturday in Stockholm.

Our favourite by far was Caroline af Ugglas, (literally "Caroline of the Owls") whose ballad "Snälla, Snälla" ("Please, Please") was a fantastic piece of American-Idolesque over-emoting, complete with touretteish hand and foot movements and a camera angle which looked a bit too deeply into Caroline's nostrils. Superb.

There are a few decent songs into the final and I promise to publicly make my pick later in the week.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Over hill, over dale!

At last, I've made the decision on how to get us to Sweden in June! After much hemming and hawing, I finally booked the Eurotunnel and then the Kiel-Gothenburg ferry for June 14-15.

Seeings as the drive from our house to Kiel was a bit too long of a journey for one day, I decided to break it up and make it to Holland on Sunday, overnight there, and continue up to Kiel at a leisurely pace on Monday for the ferry at 1900.

We then will arrive, refreshed, hopefully, in Gothenburg on Tuesday morning and the rest of the drive across Sweden should only take 4-5 hours. Whew! Maybe when I was twenty I could do a 12 hour drive in one day but not these days, especially with a Corgi in the back! I'll be fine-tuning the route in the next month or so but at least I've got the basics confirmed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Good news/Bad news

The good news is that I talked Sooz into going to see the Swedish Eurovision final at the Harcourt Arms. The bad news is their tickets for the final are now sold out! Darn.

It's being shown at the Swedish church across the street so we can see it at least, but maybe we can still get into the bar. That is a fairly Swedish part of London so we'll go early and check it out.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Just talked to Wille

...he's up in Leksand and they just had another 70cm of snow over the weekend. Funny because there's still very little of it in Stockholm. Hockey-wise, Leksand is doing well; they've won their division and are now in the playoffs to get promoted to the top level. Six teams all play each other and the top two go up.

He didn't go to the melodifestival last week, although his son Eddie did!

House-wise, he is going to go north to a friend's to get all the wood for the garderobes; he told me it'd be cheaper and a better match to the wood of the house as it's all northern pine. He'll do some of the cutting at his home and bring it all down mostly made, so we can just adjust on site. He is firm on being down to us on April 13th so that's great news.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Melodifestival continues

Last night's was in Malmö, and this show was top-heavy with a range of well-endowed singers. The winners were Malena Ernman, an opera signer who hit high C frequently, and Agnes (pictured), who wore a gold lamé catsuit for her disco number.

Next week is the 'second chance' round, and then the grand final the week after. A Swedish pub in London is broadcasting all of the shows. I'm trying to talk Sooz into going..!