Outside on the steps of the St. John Church up in the park, a bunch of children were dressed in white frocks or knickers, as if it were a hundred years ago, and the few women with them were wearing rather plain long blue dresses with matching short fitted jackets, and straw boaters with blue ribbons. I watched them as I walked past the gravestones and the scilla (which has come earlier than I remember it ever coming to Stockholm), not coming closer to ask why they were dressed so. A movie? Some kind of party? Strange, that.
As usual, they had let us out of the office early on Maundy Thursday, to get a headstart on the four-day-weekend that is Easter here. We were planning on going out to the archipelago, but the husband has a nasty sinus infection and so we will stay in and recover from last weekend. Which was about as full as it gets.
First, there was my birthday surprise, which turned out to be a dinner of meze with A. the TV producer, C. the fashion photographer and C.'s son and daugher as well as the daughter's boyfriend, the sea captain and the children's book author, the French Basque and her boyfriend the Belgian, plus M. was here from London. A. remembered that I had wished long ago for the Annie Liebovitz book, A Photographer's Life 1990-2005, and I also got Amy Sedaris' ever so helpful hostess book I Like You and a pair of oh-so-very-modish Prada sunglasses from the husband (plus flowers at the office that all the girls ooh-ed and aah-ed over, and causing my boss to say something along the lines of "all men should have a husband" - which was written up as one of the quotes of the week in the catty little employee weekly newspaper.)
Strangely, on my way to having a diversionary drink with A. the TV producer, a gaggle of American teenagers were streaming into my office building as I was coming out, and I couldn't resist asking if they were from my hometown. The woman I asked was aghast: "Oh my God, yes! Are you from there? Do we sound like we're from there?" she said. I explained how I knew they were there, and then asked if the daughter of my friend was there. Someone went and got her, and so we met, through sheer coincidence.
Then on Friday, we went to see Mats Ek's staging of Strindberg's A Dream Play at the Royal Dramatic Theater, but the performance was cancelled due to the lead being sick. We went ahead and saw what they offered instead, which was The Dance of Death, another cheery offering from Strindberg. It was grim, and you definitely see how Ingmar Bergman comes out of the tradition of Strindberg, but it was so very modern, the poisonous relationships, the absurdity. I'm still not really able to fit this into the Swedish national character however, Swedes just don't seem that dark and tortured to me. Sure, they have their winter sides, kind of grey and mumbly, but mostly they're rather matter-of-fact and far more social than they think they are.
On Saturday, we had a huge dinner party - 32 people - here in our apartment, a birthday party for our friend the priest, who turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. Out went the dining room table and into the back hall, in went three round tables that the policeman and I hauled up the stairs and wheeled into the apartment, and then the 32 chairs. There was ironing of table cloths and laying down of place settings and getting up of bouquets and finding utensils for the caterers, and after dinner the rolling of tables and hauling of chairs into the little back spare room, so we could have a space to dance, which we duly did.
There is something to be said for having a party where one is not the host: You can speak with whoever strikes your fancy and worry about the little things instead of the big things, and you never end up feeling like you had 32 small conversations but never really managed to speak to anyone.
It exhausts me just to write all this (it's taken me two days).
But I'm charging my batteries. I think I have just about enough energy to give the windows their annual spring soaping, rinsing and wiping clean.
The Swedish word for the day is påskafton, which is Easter eve, more commonly known by us religious types as Holy Saturday.
- by Francis S.