Sunday, June 10, 2007

Yesterday, A. the TV producer and C. the fashion photographer came over to watch the marathon from our balcony overlooking Odenplan. Well, that was what A. said, but I really think she wanted to help us get ready for an Arabian Nights masquerade party that the husband and I went to later in the evening.

We watched the runners for awhile, happy that we weren't out there sweating gallons in the heat. But the sun was hot on the balcony, and while it's fascinating to watch all shapes and sizes running, running, running, we moved indoors after 45 minutes.

A. was reading the Bible (in a new Swedish version that looks like a fashion magazine! Horrible...) in the living room when suddenly she heard someone outside yell "Jävla idiot" - which roughly translates to "You stupid fuck!"

The husband was out on the balcony and had seen it all: Across the street, four cashiers from the supermarket had piled on top of a guy who had tried to rob the store. One of the cashiers had even gone to the gym next door and gotten two reinforcements, who piled on top of the cashiers. The police arrived in no time, racing their car right through the middle of the marathon. It took them a good 20 minutes to get the guy, who was swearing and kicking the whole time, into the paddy wagon.

A. took photos of the whole thing, which she immediately tried to sell to one of the tabloids.

They weren't interested.

Eventually, it was time for the husband and I to get into costume - both of us with those funny black pants and shoes with turned up toes, me with a little knit cap and he with a blue turban. A., forgetting her disappointment at not selling the photos, put kohl around our eyes.

The party was in Haga Park, up at The Copper Tents, a folly built for Gustav III in 1787. I guess that's what inspired the theme for the party. So we stood around, a bunch of Swedes dressed up like sheiks and Sheherezades, and once we'd started dinner and the birthday girl had pulled off her black veil and revealed that she was dressed as a belly dancer (and a seven-month-pregnant belly dancer at that), we got down to the business of eating and dancing and drinking the night away.

Twice the party was interrupted by Hu Jintao, the President of China, who drove by in a motorcade to one of the little palaces in the park where he was staying during his visit here.

We all waved.

No doubt Hu Jintao, looking at all these crazy Swedes, was thinking to himself: "Jävla idioter."

The husband and I walked home through the park at 2:30 in the dawn, the birds all awake and chattering.

"Isn't it fun to dress up?" the husband asked me.

Oh, yes. Especially for the men, who all loved it. After all, we never get to dress up otherwise.

- by Francis S.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Summer has come, all in a rush: It never quite gets dark out, and as I wander through the apartment turning out lights before we go to sleep, the deep dusk outside means that it never gets quite dark in the apartment either. Dusk has always been my favorite time of day, and the long drawn-out dusk of Swedish summer is a bit romantic, a bit fantastical.

The other sign of the rush of summer is the panic of getting the balconies ready for the short season when you want to sit on the front balcony in the full sun to watch the world go by with a drink in hand, or on the shady back balcony for a bit of quiet breakfast or dinner with something juicy to read.

The priest and the policeman and our goddaughter Signe helped us get plants: ivy and tiny yellow petunias and some kind of purple sedge-like plant, clematis, and hostas for the back balcony; for the front balcony it was lavender and what could be a big mistake, polygonum baldschuanicum, which supposedly grows like mad (although I guess it can only grow so much in a pot). Then everyone, even Signe, helped plant everything, emptying the pots of the current dead plants and filling them up with fresh dirt that stank pleasantly of cowshit, and with new plants.

After we'd cleaned it all up, and Signe was finished coloring with crayons and we'd sipped the dregs of the coffee, and they were on their way out the door, the priest said as she looked at the three garbage bags full of old dirt and sticks and dry leaves and plastic pots and spindly wooden stakes, and then out towards the front balcony: "It's so strange about plants, isn't it? They're living things, you have living things sitting on your balcony right now."

Strange is right. Very Day of the Triffids.

I wonder what the plants are thinking now. Do they mind sitting on the windy balcony, listening to the busses going by, waiting to seduce a passing bee, hoping for rain, looking at the church at the end of Odenplan, or the library at Sveavägen, wondering if they'll make it through the summer with our horrible track record of watering?

The Swedish word for the day is törstig. It means thirsty.

- by Francis S.