Friday, December 19, 2008

We agreed to meet at Moderna Museet, Emi and I. She brought her youngest, and then she tricked me, the minx. I was supposed to treat her for lunch, but she snuck ahead in line and paid before I could stop her.

“I’m a Swedish woman, I can’t let you pay,” she explained.

Once we’d actually settled down, and the baby was chewing on bread and I had gotten my salad, we got down to business. Which was just really jabbering away. It’s been way too long, I told her. She agreed.

It used to be so odd, to meet people in the flesh after reading what they write. But now it’s par for the course. Although few quite live up to their writing the way Emi does - she's just as sexy, funny and charming as you would imagine. But what else can you expect from a blogging celebrity? She’s the bee’s knees, Emi is.

The Swedish phrase for the day is Brev till Marc Jacobs. It means Letters to Marc Jacobs.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The goal was preserved lemons – the Moroccan kind, salty and sour and full of flavor – and the only place I know to get them is at the lamb stall at Hötorgshallen market. The young adult author is visiting from London, so tomorrow it will be turkey breast with capers and sultanas and pine nuts and preserved lemons.

When I reached Hötorget – the Haymarket – the Stockholm Concert Hall, which sits on one side of the square, was jammed with cars and men in tails and women in evening gowns and Japanese paparazzi, all higgledy piggledy in the rain.

Ah, the Nobel Prizes. How could I forget? The time of the year when physicists and chemists and economists are treated like rockstars. I didn’t even mind them getting in the way as I ran to catch the market before it closed.

But when I got down to the stall, they had no preserved lemons, dammit. Will it taste the same with regular lemons?

The Swedish word for the day is besvärlig. It means annoying.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

When the sun struggles to stay above the horizon, and it’s dark when you rise, and dark when you walk to work, and it never really gets much lighter than dusk, it takes all my energy to not spend all my non-working hours at home, curled up with a book and a fire burning in the fireplace. But I force myself to take a walk each lunchtime: through the downtown park Kungsträdgården, then up Skeppsholmen past Grand Hotel and the National Museum on one side, the ferries out to the archipelago on the other. At noon, a light shines in every window, and the hotel is garlanded in green, and strings of lights hang on the ferries.

As I rounded the boat slips at the back of Moderna Museet, and made my way up toward the tiny island of Kastellholmen, I looked across the water at Gröna Lund, Stockholm’s venerable little amusement park. Long closed for the winter, I was surprised to see a single car on the roller coaster, whizzing around, and then stopping as if to tie its shoe. It looked so lonely up there, under all those banks of clouds pressing down on the city.

I continued on my way, and then when I was on the hill of Kastellholmen, looking again at the roller coaster, I saw the car had been joined by a second one. They looked as if they were playing together. Somehow, it was suddenly comforting instead of dismaying, watching the empty cars in the empty park, in the grey of deep midwinter.

And then I went on my way.

The Swedish word for the day is tröst. It means solace.

- by Francis S.