Friday, April 20, 2007

The husband and I are leaving shortly on a jaunt to Vietnam with A. the TV producer, C. the fashion photographer and his daughter. A bit of Hanoi, a bit of phò, a bit at a resort somewhere (C. the fashion photographer is treating: he got paid for a job with rooms in a luxury hotel somewhere in the southern part of Vietnam on the coast for a week).

In the meantime, have you ever wondered what the husband looks like? Or what about me? Or maybe the dining room of our apartment? I've had a policy of never putting photos up here, but I do have some at my Myspace space, which I still don't fully understand the purpose of. Except that it seems like one should have photos. And you're supposed to collect friends.

See you when we get back.

The Swedish word for the day is semester, which means vacation and has surely been the word of the day before at least once, if not more than once.

- Francis S.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Today is National Eggs Benedict Day.

National as in U.S. national.

Due to the amount of work it takes not just to make Hollandaise sauce, but to poach the damn eggs, I am not celebrating by making a plate of what is basically glorified eggs and butter, a high-cholesteral orgy. No matter how much the husband loves it, I'm just not making it.

(Did you ever think how many countries are invoked in eggs benedict? The sauce is "Dutch," the muffins are "English" and the bacon is "Canadian." It's quite the international dish, namewise and in a most American way, even if it was invented in America.

The Swedish word for the day is ägg. It means egg or eggs.

- by Francis S.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's peculiar how some things get reversed here. Like for instance, as noted in the comments of the previous post, that Swedish children dress up as witches and go begging for candy at Eastertime instead of on Hallowe'en (A. the TV producer loves to tell the story of when she was 12 and she was out dressed up as a påskkärring - Easter hag - and she saw on the other side of a copse one of her friends in regular clothes talking to a group of boys and A. suddenly realized she was way too old to be doing this, and she hid behind a rock with her little sister, whom she had forced to go with her). Also, Swedes have an early morning mass on Christmas day, rather like a sunrise service - it does actually take place before the sun rises at 9:30 or so - instead of a midnight mass, which they have on Easter instead.

So there we were, at midnight mass on Saturday night, in which they gave us candles that we lit at the end of the service when it was midnight and Easter had come. Afterwards we stood outside with our candles in the freezing cold drinking cider in little paper cups underneath huge flaming torches in front of the church, the choir singing something I didn't recognize.

In true Swedish fashion, we'd discreetly spiked our cider with little bottles of vodka that someone had handed out at the dinner we'd been to before we went to church, passing one on to our friend the priest, who had been one of the two priests leading the service.

"Usch, that's strong!" she said. "I hope no one can smell it on me."

Then she went and changed into her fancy black dress with the clerical collar, and her fancy black stack-heeled Mary Janes.

I asked her why she didn't wear the shoes during the service. Do vestments and stylish stack-heeled Mary Janes not match? Do stack-heeled Mary Janes send the wrong message? Does God not like stack-heeled Mary Janes, do they make Jesus weep?

"Too dangerous," she said. Those vestments encourage tripping apparently, and high heels only increase the risk. No one wants to end up unintentionally on their knees on those stone floors or worse, while dispensing communion wine accidentally smash the chalice into some poor woman's mouth and chip a tooth.

The Swedish word for the day is bön. It means prayer, and shouldn't be confused with böna, which is a bean.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

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.