Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Walking through lower Observatorielunden, I saw someone has painted on the roof of one of the buildings of the daycare center at the south end of the park:

"They said 'sit down'. I stood up"

Tomorrow, we're off to the Fatherland on the other side of the Atlantic. We'll be back in August.

The Swedish phrase for the day is femtio-års jubileum. It means fiftieth anniversary, which my parents are celebrating with the whole family for the next weeks. To think, my father was 21, my mother only 20 when they got married, and they're still happily married. It's a tough act to follow, but my brothers and sister and I do our best.

- by Francis S.

Monday, July 18, 2005

As we sat, drinking wine on the veranda at the house on Birds Island, celebrating the birthday of A., the TV producer, the physical therapist told a brief story of a man she knows who has an aphasia in which he is able to speak but unable to really make sense, he can only refer to things in terms of his old work life.

She asked him how his wife was, pointing to the ring on her own finger, trying to give him as much help as possible.

"Oh, my subscription?" he answered.

We laughed, of course. But I'm charmed by the idea of my own husband as a subscription that arrives every evening, eagerly awaited and alternately perused lovingly or consumed voraciously.

My husband the lifetime subscription.

The Swedish verb for the day is att prenumerera, which of course means to subscribe.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Aaron asks: "When did you first know?"

I think I probably knew already when I was five, and I couldn't stop myself from looking at an art book of my parents. A photograph of Michelangelo's David made me deliciously out-of-sorts, I wanted to be him and to have him at the same time. No one can tell me that small children aren't sexual beings somehow, which is not to say that adults having sex with children is a good thing.

But it wasn't until I was 14 that I admitted to myself that there was a real future in liking boys. It was all due to reading the book RubyFruit Jungle, which my sister had brought home from the University of Michigan. That book made me see that being gay was, in fact, wonderful and exciting. Not that I went out and announced it to the world. Or to anybody, really. I just said to myself, "This is for me." And despite a bit of dabbling in girls here and there, so to speak, until I was 22 or 23, I've never really looked back.

The Swedish verb for the day is att känna. It means to sense.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Tysta gatan - Quiet Street - is no longer my favorite street name in Stockholm; I've switched my affections to Tre liljor - Three Lilies - which is a little square tucked away up at the end of Norrtullsgatan, close to the old northern entrance to the city (both links in Swedish only, sorry). The name comes from an old hostel that used to stand there. The place, a U-shaped street curving round a small park, is called simply Three Lilies, without the appendage of "street" or "alley" or even "square" or "park."

I would love to be able to tell people when they ask, that I live on Three Lilies.

The husband used to take piano lessons in an apartment on Three Lilies from a man who would rap him on the knuckles with a ruler when he made a mistake. Not surprisingly, the husband never got very far with learning the piano.

(That's four Swedish words in one lesson. A bargain at half the price.)

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

When I first read a story in the New York Times claiming that the U.K. is a hotbed of Islamic terrorism, I thought to myself: Is this schadenfreude or fear or hubris talking? I was rather taken aback by the tone of blame, as if Britain got what it deserved for not curtailing civil rights enough, for not having its own "Patriot Act." Can you imagine how the U.S. would have reacted if British newspapers had written anything similar about the U.S. after Sept. 11?

If I were British, I would be profoundly offended.

(The Guardian certainly has taken note of the story from the New York Times, along with many similar stories in many of the biggest U.S. papers. Perhaps not so strangely, reading the Guardian's news blog post about these stories, the vast majority of the 80 plus comments there when I read it seem to be from Americans who seem hellbent on alienating the citizens of the only significant ally the U.S. has in its occupation of Iraq.)

The Swedish word for the day is offentligt. It means publicly.

- by Francis S.

Monday, July 11, 2005

It's Jehovah with his rank upon rank of heavenly aspirants bent on ramming God's will into the various orifices of the Devil's minions - that would be gays and members of the American Civil Liberties Union - so that said orifices can't be used for anything naughty.

Francis Strand, ranting on and on about gay marriage

For those of you who don't get enough of my bitching here, I've now got a story over in this month's issue of Sigla Magazine.

The Swedish word for the day is hundkäx. Which literally means dog biscuit, but is the Swedish name for wild chervil, and looks to me rather similar to Queen Anne's Lace, although a botanist or my mother and sister, who really know their wildflowers, would no doubt disagree.

- by Francis S.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Okay. I'm doing this only because I promised Sinéad. But, it's the last meme I do. I am unavailable for memework in the future. I'm taking the meme-baton and throwing it into the Baltic.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?
A Confederacy of Dunces - only because it would be great fun to do all the voices.
Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Not really. The first time I read it, when I was 10, I wanted to be the children - either Scout or Jem - in To Kill a Mockingbird - that's the closest I've probably gotten to having a crush on a character.
The last book you bought is?
Robertson Davies: The Deptford Trilogy
What are you currently reading?
Robertson Davies: The Deptford Trilogy. Re-reading it, actually. I read it probably 20 years ago, and saw it in the bookstore and thought I'd see if it still holds up. Which it almost does. I'm surprised he's not more widely read still.
Five books you would take to a deserted island
The Tale of Genji - it's so long, and full of color and adventure and eros and elegance and culture, it evokes a world like nothing else.
The Bible - yeah, okay, so a lot of people choose this one, and not because they're religious but because it's got so many great stories and poetry and wise and crazy things in it.
Ulysses - maybe I will finally finish reading it.
Portrait of a Lady - it's engrossing and bears a lot of re-reading without becoming boring; and Henry James is divine, in a fussy kind of way.
William Trevor: The Collected Stories - to have something full of the milk of human kindness (and evil), and a little less daunting to read.

And, I pass this on to no one.

The Swedish word for the day is varelse. It means being, as in a living creature.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Oh, no. Up goes the ratchet.

A.'s little sister and her boyfriend, the ex-football player are here in Sweden just now rather than the U.K. And, we've talked to the friends from London, the photographer and his wife, who are safe. However, we haven't heard back from M., the TV producer.

The Swedish word for the day is attentat. It means attack.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Walking along the Djurgården canal, just below the tiny palace of Rosendal, I heard the metalic buzzing of a propeller plane. Looking up, I saw that it was trailing a banner reading: "Grattis H.H Dalai Lama på 70-årsdagen." Which means "Congratulations to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his 70th birthday."

There you have it, the Swedish phrase for the day.

What I want to know is, who paid for the sign, and was the Dalai Lama there to see it, or was it someone trying to recreate a sort of if- a- tree- falls- in- the- wood- with- no- one- to- hear- it- does- it- still- make- a- sound kind of thing?

- by Francis S.

Monday, July 04, 2005

This morning, on Karlavägen, that glorious street of ancient ladies, I passed a woman wearing little white crocheted gloves. I am old enough to remember the days when my mother still occasionally wore little white gloves, crocheted or plain, and a hat, and underneath, that most peculiar of garments, a girdle. By the time I was 8 or so, such things had gone out of fashion, and I have no doubt my mother gladly put the gloves and the hats and the girdles away in unused drawers and boxes in the back of the closet.

I think any woman who says she isn't a feminist has forgotten that there was a time when you weren't properly dressed if underneath your dress, you weren't wearing a girdle with all its strange and horrible white fastenings.

The Swedish word for the day is trosor. It means panties.

by Francis S.

Friday, July 01, 2005

I don't really remember what it was like when I first got eyeglasses, in the second grade. But it surely must have been like today, when I picked up my new glasses, with a new stronger prescription: Suddenly, the world is so in focus it's making me queasy. I'm born again, and the new me is seasick. (Strangely, my contact lenses, of which I have run out, have not changed in strength, according to Petra the Optician.)

"They're art director glasses," the husband said to me, approval in his voice. Which means that they are thick black plastic and very beatnik. I leave all my fashion decisions up to the husband, since when I moved to Stockholm I lost the ability to distinguish between what is fashionable, what is hopelessly 1993 and what is ridiculous on a man of, um, 44.

Now, can I make it through the walk home without either stumbling or spitting up?

The Swedish word for the day is glasögon. It means eyeglasses.

- by Francis S.