Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Today is Valborg - or more properly valborgsmässoafton, in typical Swedish fashion a holiday that starts on the eve of the actual day - which should be celebrated with bonfires and university students singing "Sköna Maj" and a bit of mild revelry. The holiday may be named for a catholic saint, but it's really just the old Viking holiday to welcome the spring, and is no doubt a lot tamer than it was 1000 years ago, when people believed in the witches that were supposedly wildly cavorting about every April 30.

The husband and I will welcome it with a bowl of soup and a bottle of wine. After a snowy weekend, spring does seem to be here, a fact worthy of celebrating, even in our meager fashion.

The Swedish word for the day is annars. It means otherwise.

by Francis S.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The husband and I have been asked to be godfathers to Signe, the nearly six-month-old daughter of the priest and policeman.

O, how I love babies. Especially Signe.

It's the most pleasing of responsibilities, to be a godfather.

The Swedish word for the day is hedrande. It means honored.

- by Francis S.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Okay, so I lied. It wasn't a skiing wedding, despite it being held in Åre. It was more like a, um, television personality wedding, although it was mostly just the bride and groom who were the television personalities. Oh yeah, and the press, despite all attempts to keep the thing secret. There was lots of press standing outside the church as I ran into the sanctuary, late as always, the last to slip into my seat in the back before groom and his best man walked up to the front of the church. There was even a helicopter with cameramen circling round the wedding party which had been brought up to the top of the mountain for aprés-ski, complete with the sun making its way down to the Norwegian mountains in the west.

The bride was strong and striking and full of laughter, the groom charming and unshaven and a bit worried about whether he liked his suit. The ceremony started 25 minutes late because someone forgot the bouquets for the bride and her maid of honor, and my husband had to run back with the father of the bride to retrieve them from the hotel.

My favorite part during the seven-hour long dinner after the ceremony was when the bride's mother (a pop legend in Sweden) sang to the priest, in her deep whisky tenor, some song about not letting love pass you by. I had earlier stood in the men's room, peeing next to the priest and he had told me he had family, which my husband laughed at when I told him.

"Huh! I'm sure he must be gay," the husband scoffed when I told him. It's not always easy to tell these things, cross-culturally, even if I am an avowed homosexualist myself.

Which is why the song the bride's mother sang was no doubt a message of sorts. I kept watching him as she sang, but I couldn't read at all what he might have been feeling, except that he was no doubt all overwhelmed by the attention and a bit full of himself, a bit scared, at officiating at such a wedding.

The first Swedish phrase for the day is helt fascinerande, which means utterly fascinating. The second Swedish phrase for the day is tusen tack, Elke, which means a thousand thanks, Elke.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

We're off to Åre for a skiing wedding. Fascinating.

The Swedish word for the day is bröllop. It means wedding.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

While the Guardian reports that England's young homos have decided that a (small) potbelly is sexier than a stomach with abdominal muscles as well-defined as trigonometric functions, I don't think they were talking about potbellies (even nascent ones) on 42-year-old guys with grey hair.

So I'm on a diet, just like Mig, and making the 45-minute walk to and from the office everyday.

We're going to the Ionian archipelago for a week in May with A., the assistant director and her fiancé C., the photographer, and I want to look good in bathing trunks. Er, make that decent enough.

The Swedish verb for the day is att banta. It means to diet.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Budapest has hardly changed in five years: crumbling facades, grand avenues, and those wonderful men's thermal baths, where they give you to wear a little apron that looks like a white dish towel and functions like a metaphorical figleaf. It was me, the husband and a bunch of guys lolling about in hot water and padding around showing off our pale, tanned, hairy, smooth, flabby, skinny, round or nearly non-existant butts. It was humbling, all those butts, not to mention the thought of all the other butts that had been sitting on the same stones for the past 500 years in the same exact place under the same exact shallow dome, with its tiny hexagonal windows and clear and colored glass.

"You feel so connected to history," the husband said. "It's kind of a weird feeling."

Weird, but relaxing. Just what we needed.

The Swedish verb for the day is att bada. It means, of course, to bathe.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Once upon a time, I went to Budapest to take the waters at the baths of the great Gellert Hotel. A special price for foreigners (only twice as much as for Hungarians), armies of round little women in white lab coats (even in the men's locker room), and men's thermal baths straight out of a historical porn novel set in Rome, or maybe Turkey.

It's time to go back.

Budapest, here we come for the Easter holidays.

The Swedish word for the day is påskkärringar. It is a word that doesn't have a simple translation, because it refers to the little girls (and a few little boys, I suppose) who dress up as freckle-faced witches and beg for sweets at Easter time.

- by Francis S.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Whenever I arrive in the U.S., the most shocking thing is that everyone speaks English. It feels too simple and not to be trusted, and I find myself translating everything into Swedish in my head, turning myself completely around and making myself crazy.

Which leads directly to the second most shocking thing, which is to find that I've become inarticulate, no matter that my father thinks I am the most garrulous of all his children. I used to be garrulous, now I'm just vague and not so good at explaining myself, so it takes more words to say what I think. I haven't become so European as to give up trying to let everyone know what I think about everything, a trait that is characteristic of us Americans. But it takes an awful long time to do it these days.

The third most shocking thing is that the entire first section of the Chicago Tribune is devoted to war coverage, there are all of three articles out of some hundred that cover anything besides the war. This is actually not shocking, it's to be expected, but it does take the fun out of having a real U.S. paper and the time to read it every morning. And makes me uneasy, because there are many other things going on that people should know about.

It's good to be home again, despite the sleepiness from jetlag. By home I mean, sleeping at the husband's side in Stockholm.

The Swedish name for the day is Jon Blund, who is the Swedish sandman.

- by Francis S.

Friday, April 04, 2003

And now I'm off to America for a holiday.

I hope airport security isn't too painful.

The Swedish word for the day is sticka! It means get lost or beat it.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Miguel is back and better than ever. And he's started a group ex-patriot- um, I mean expatriate blog which I am plugging shamelessly, despite the fact that I am one of the members.

- by Francis S.
The stage was tiny and the room intimate, but with an astonishing and potentially distracting view looking down toward the old town. We arrived at the last minute, by invitation of R. the popstar, who sang a couple of her latest hits in a funky arrangement for acoustic guitar and three-part harmony. It was a luxury to be in such a small space, where the singers aren't embarrassed to begin again if they make a false start, where the guy who, I was told, sometimes plays guitar for a great Swedish jazz band, tells the crowd how it feels to be able to hear each individual clap, each separate laugh (strange, he said), where it's impossible not to be charmed when the headliners for the evening - an obscure Swedish singer who told us she once had a hit song in Japan, and her boyfriend, the aforementioned guitarist - sang "There ought to be a moonlight savings time." I was enthralled by that song. I wish I could find the lyrics somewhere.

The Swedish word for the day is igår kväll. It means yesterday evening.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

I've bought 100 shares of Jessica, 50 shares of Aaron, and 15 each of Nancy and Erik, yet I am worthless myself. O, the shame. I hate it when I get sucked into a new blog game.

The Swedish word for the day is aktier. It means, of course, shares.

- by Francis S.