Monday, May 31, 2010

Introduction III

I realise it's been 18 months since my last introductory post. A lot has happened since then, so it's time for an update. (Before last week's finale of 'LOST', a two-hour recap show aired to catch up viewers before the big finish. My island doesn't have electromagnetism, time travel, or polar bears, but there has been plenty of entertainment nonetheless!)

In the past year and a half, we have finished our house, so now, when people ask "is it done?" I can answer unequivocally, "yes." (I get asked that a lot, actually. Not sure if it's politeness or an underlying mistrust of my building abilities). The bathroom and the water system were completed in May 2009, and the majority of the snagging items were finished in June.

I had a metal roof installed in October '09, just in time for a harsh winter a few months later. Our house weathered the heavy snows just fine.

My big midsummer/50th birthday was a raging success. The weather was magnificent the whole time, and I was joined by many friends for a great day. In fact, we're doing it again this summer for my 51st, although it will be a much more modest affair; after all, 51 is not nearly as significant a number. (Unless you're Dick Butkus, that is).

We're doing lots of little projects around the house now. A colourful rug, new window shades, a TV set; all of life's luxuries off on a little island in the archipelago.

Grant is off to university in the fall, and I think Sooz, Ollie, and I will be leaving London for the US sometime as well. So there will be big changes afoot. But not just yet.

One last Eurovision post

First off, there's a bit of a backlash in Sweden against us folks in the UK. As one of the big 4 countries that contribute the greatest funding to the contest, we get a free pass to the final. However, the UK hasn't made much of it lately, finishing last this year and, in fact, last 3 of the past 8 years.

Swedes, who take Eurovision far more seriously, are smarting at their failure to make the final, and are pointing a finger at the UK, asking why the country of the Beatles and Radiohead can't muster the energy to send a decent song to the show. They have a point...

To close on a happier note, here's one of my favourites of the night, the Lithuanian band inCulto with "Eastern European Funk". Their lead singer said in an interview that it was "hard for a self-respecting band to make it in Lithuania, so they decided to respect themselves a little less." Brilliant. Be sure to watch all the way through:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lena is the winner!

After another eventful night, Lena Meyer-Landrut won for Germany with her song "Satellite". She's a bit kooky, our Lena. After she won, she asked if one of the presenters could hold the trophy because she "wasn't that strong" and if she "really had to sing it again" to close the show.

Following the contest on Twitter was really fun, my favourite comment of the thousands that flashed by was that Lena 'learned her English from Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins'. In fact her bizarre accent was the subject of much commentary, to the point that she sang about it at one of her press conferences:

The Germans really love Eurovision, so I am glad for them. Lena's from Hannover, so perhaps we'll all be there next year!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The final is tonight!

We're about 10 hours away from the show. We've had big parties in the past but it will be a small affair at our house this time.

It looks like Azerbaijan and Germany remain the big favourites. Safura is going first, however, which is not a good place in the running order of 24 songs. Lena is pretty late in the show, and my faves Denmark are last, which I think is good.

I'll be updating my Twitter again, so stay tuned for the really big show!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Second Semifinal

A better show tonight, but not as fun because there weren't any stinkers like on Tuesday. Ireland's Niamh Kavanagh (a winner in 1993) made it through, as did the bookie's pick, Azerbaijan. Romania made a good account of themselves, and Denmark, my early pick, made the final, too.

My favourite, to be honest, was Lithuania. Great fun, but they didn't make it. And, sadly, neither did Sweden's Anna Bergendahl.

Song-by-song snarky commentary is on my twitter feed.

UPDATE: The Local reports this is the first time Sweden hasn't been in the final. Damn.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The First Eurovision Semifinal

In some ways, the semi-finals are more fun. There's a much higher percentage of oddball entries to raise the humor quotient. Tonight didn't disappoint. The Baltic states were all loony, Moldova distilled the 80's perfectly, but Poland took the cake in the oddball stakes. Watch the rehearsal video and you'll see what I mean.

Albania and Belgium were my favourites of the ones that went through to the final, although Iceland was clearly the most popular in the hall.

Check out my twitter feed for a pithy song-by-song recap.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A succès fou!

Oh my goodness- we had the perfect visit! Made all our connections just fine, Susan got to see a smidgen of Stockholm and the weather cooperated beautifully! Couldn't have asked for better.

All was well out at the stuga, no difficulties (sadly no moose sightings but did see tracks and poop). Biggest excitement was when a tiny bright yellow bird flew into the window and was stunned, but took off after about 10 minutes and seemed fine. (So much for the decals!)

We saw Janne and his handiwork, took lots of pictures, played Sudoku and ate herring and had champagne. Even ran into Margaret at Saltsjöbaden on the return. A small photo gallery is here.

So, like I said, a crazy success!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Report from Sooz

She says the weather is perfect and they're having a great time. Apparently an excellent bottle of Susan's champagne was uncorked last night. Susan is an accredited wine expert; a handy skill in a close friend!

They plan to take the boat to Saltsjöbaden instead of Stavsnäs. Marg and I took that trip last May. It's much longer, but it winds through much of the southern archipelago, which is great on a sunny day, and it terminates much closer to the city.

I expect to see the girls back around 11PM, and I hope to post Sooz's photos tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The girls have landed safely

Sooz called and she and Susan are safely home. She said it was warm and sunny, a surprisingly nice day. It has greened up a great deal since our last visit a few weeks ago, and there are apparently lots of little white wildflowers all over the place.

There's no internet this trip (Sooz will go through Farmville withdrawal, I'm sure) but I will post any interesting tidbits that are passed to me.

It's also exactly 4 weeks until we all go out for our summer holiday and I must say I am counting the days!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Little jaunt among friends

I am very excited because tomorrow my pal Susan and I are heading off to the stuga, just us girls. I have never been out there without The Menfolk and I wanted to see just how easy it could be. As a reconnaissance mission of sorts, paving the way for future forays from fearless friends, I knew I could count on Susan to be up for the adventure.

We leave in the morning, not as early as originally hoped, since BA threw a wrench in the works in the form of a potential strike and they canceled our 7am flight. No strike now, but just enough chaos to mess up our plans. I wanted to take Susan to visit Östermalms Saluhall or Gamla Stan on our way to the bus-maybe we can do it on the way back on Friday?

So now, it's an exercise in precision timing. The plan is to leave Heathrow at 1130, get in at 1500, take the flyggbuss into town, get the bus at Slussen, get off at the ICA in Stavsnäs to buy some provisions for the next 2 days, and then board the taxibåt that I've scheduled for 1800.

Then, it's up to me to open up the house and get it livable, which actually is very straightforward, especially since Don and I were just there a month ago.

Hopefully we will have nice weather for our mini-break (ie no rain!) and maybe see a moose at some point. No other plans except to hang out and enjoy life. Oh, and tick off the items on the "to-do" list that Don has given me.

But the main purpose of this trip is sharing a little time with a great friend. I am hoping Susan will love "our" glorious little island as much as we do!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Back in the olden days, before I bought the Cinderella for our house, I posted quite a lot about various types of toilets. Strangely, those posts were among my most popular.

I have found a website that far surpasses me in this field, however. A young man has filmed literally hundreds of toilets of all ages and styles, going about their business, so to speak.

He has a You Tube channel of his work. It's strangely compelling.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The World Cup

I've mentioned that I brought a TV out to the house. I should come clean now about why I wanted one for the summer: the World Cup.

It's hard to explain to Americans what a big deal the World Cup is. It really does take over most everyone's daily life during the tournament. Imagine a Super Bowl every day for a month, culminating in a Super Super Bowl at the end.

We will be on Aspö during most of the World Cup. The first match is June 11, and the quarter-finals will be during our last weekend there. The games are on free TV almost everywhere in the world; Sweden is no exception, so I'll be able to watch with no problem.

A key match for me is England vs the United States on June 12, which is before we leave, but we'll be in Sweden to watch England play Algeria on the 18th. The Netherlands play Cameroon on my birthday, and I am sure Marcia will be in her orange shirt.

Sadly, Sweden won't be participating this year. They didn't qualify for the finals, being pipped, annoyingly, by the Danes. There is no love lost at all between those two countries, especially in terms of football. Should Denmark go on a run in the tournament, I plan to keep my Danish heritage quiet, at least while I'm on Aspö.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another Favourite

This is Lena Meyer-Landrut, from Germany, with "Satellite". Lena's the bookie's current second favorite and I agree there's something appealing about her. The song is catchy and her slightly odd English accent grew on me. The lyrics are a hoot, too.

Germany has a long history in the contest; they were an original competitor in 1956 and have been in the final every year except 1996. However, they've won it only once, in 1982 with Nicole's "Ein bißchen Frieden".

There's not a huge tradition of pop music in Germany. I can think of Kraftwerk, of course, and the Scorpions, but not much else. I do have a weak spot for Nena's "99 Red Balloons". (Come to think of it, her English accent is also a little off in a beguiling way.) She recorded a 25th anniversary remix last year, and I have to say Nena's holding up pretty well.

And we can't forget that Germany brought us the greatest single Eurovision performance of all time.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Bookie's Favourite

It's been a while since I posted about Eurovision, but the contest is only 3 weeks away, so I'd better get back on track!

I looked at the betting for the contest and it appears Azerbaijan is the hot favourite. The song is "Drip-Drop", performed by the 17 year-old Safura Alizadeh. The Azeri final was different than any I've seen before. Three songs and three acts were chosen, and each artist performed each song. After the 9 performances, Safura and Drip-Drop were named the winner.

This is a classic Eurovision song, for sure, and Azerbaijan will likely benefit from block voting in the Russian republics. The bookies may have something here!

UPDATE! I found a more recent performance, and it's interesting to see how the staging of the song has changed. It does fix a problem with the backing dancers in the original video that a friend spotted today:

Black Helicopters

One would think that living so far off the beaten path would make it less likely to be buzzed by low-level helicopters. But no.

At first, I thought it was the air ambulance, but this chopper just hovered around our property for a few moments and then moved on. After talking to Janne that night, we realized it was operated by Vattenfall, the electric company. Now that the snow has gone, but before the trees begin to leaf, it's the best time of year to observe power lines and trim any encroaching growth. We saw evidence of trimming off the main path near the midsummer dock, a bunch of branches had been cut and stacked neatly below one of the power lines.

It was strange to have a helicopter appear out of nowhere on such an otherwise quiet day. At least they weren't playing Wagner.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Stavsnäs Webcam

There's a webcam on a personal page of a Stavsnäs resident to which I have linked in the past; it's also one of the permanent links along to the right. It's fun to look at it to get a sense of the weather.

When we arrived back in Stavsnäs last weekend, our boat captain told us the bridge on the Stromma canal was out, causing a big traffic back-up. We decided to wait out the traffic and stop at the local ICA to return our recycling. I decided to get my MacBook out and track down that webcam.

It didn't take long; I went to the page, and sure enough, there I was in real-time, walking along, holding my computer. That's me in the photo. I thought about trying to find the person with the website, but I chickened out. It was fun to do, though.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Back in London

Back in London now after a busy few days. We had a great dinner with Janne Friday night and, with his advice, I successfully managed to install the bathroom cabinet. We cleaned up and left the house in good shape. I felt good about all of the errands and small projects we finished.

More photos on the webgallery. I've got a lot of material for the blog, so stay tuned!