Saturday, March 29, 2008

And so, the annual changing of the number in my biography at left. Fifty approaches, I can see it on the horizon.

The Swedish word for the day is fyrtiosju. It means forty-seven. Although to be honest, I don't know whether it's correct to insert a hyphen or not in either language, and I'm too lazy to look it up.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It was another dinner, in honor of the visiting mother of the children's book author, and about when the lamb tagine and couscous had almost disappeared from our plates, we got onto the subject of teeth and braces and dentists. We went around and around about who had had braces, who had the best teeth and whether it was smart to have your wisdom teeth removed or not.

"When I was in fourth grade," the sea captain said suddenly, "I stopped brushing my teeth for a year."

We all paused, forks poised mid-air.

"What?" the husband said.

"Well, I decided that dogs never brushed their teeth and it never hurt them, so why should I brush my teeth?" the sea captain answered.

"But how did you keep it from your parents?" the children's book author asked, incredulous.

"It wasn't easy," the sea captain said. "Plus, I liked to eat sugar cubes. When I finally went to the dentist, I had eight cavities. And that was that."

We roared with laughter.

The Swedish word for the day is tandborste. It means toothbrush.

- by Francis S.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The rain in Spain does not stay mainly in the plain. It hits the mountains and the coast, too. At least it does in Marbella, Spain's answer to the posher parts of Miami Beach. Of course, there was sunshine there as well, and the husband and I each managed to turn our own particular shades of pink.

I hadn't been back to Spain for eight years or so. But it's the same - the arguing, the promenading, the little coffees cut with milk, the cured hams, the tile floors, the tiny bird-like old ladies in sweater sets and knee-length wool skirts and sensible shoes with low heels (who have replaced their mothers, long-dead, who wore heavy black widows' weeds), the strange love of creepy public ceremonies, from the painfully slow Holy Week parading of saints by men disguised in peaked black hats to homo-eroto-quasi-fascisto-pseudo-military displays of other men shouting weird orders at each other as they march 20 meters, back and forth, on a small stretch of street with hundreds watching.

Spain has such a peculiar pulse, fluttering and sluggish at the same time. Odd, that. If Spain were a person, she would be one of those types who rushes around the apartment madly cleaning, only to fall exhausted on the couch before jumping up to clean some more.

It was only four days - we were celebrating the 60th birthday of the mother of A. the TV producer. But it seemed much longer and so far away. Especially when we got back to the coldest weather of the year in Stockholm, and snow.

The Swedish phrase for the day is röda dagar. It literally means red days, which are how holidays are marked on Swedish calendars, and has become the commonly used expression for public holidays. Of which there are two for Easter: Good Friday and the Monday following Easter - and in many cases, an extra half a day before as well, since offices tend to let people out early on days before a holiday.

- by Francis S.

Friday, March 14, 2008

What makes this year's Eurovision Song Contest different from all other years?

This year, the husband and I are going to the dress rehearsal of the finale of the Swedish competition, Melodifestivalen.

I expect it will be as trashy as ever. And it's going to be hell, because I can't bring a blanket into the arena to pull over my head when the singing is just too awful to bear.

Check this space for updates.

The Swedish word for the day is paljetter. It means sequins.

- by Francis S.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Last week I went to the opera on Wednesday - by myself as I'd gotten a last-minute ticket someone had returned to a sold-out performance - and on Thursday to a hockey game - it was Djurgården versus Linköping, and I went with my favorite Finn.

As I watched the game, I racked my brain to figure what opera and hockey have in common. I watched the guys racing around the ice - it's far harder to keep up with than soccer, since everyone moves at twice the speed at least, and the puck is probably 20 times smaller than a soccer ball. I tried to remember the last hockey game I'd gone to, which was nearly 40 years ago. The Chicago Blackhawks. I don't even remember if they won.

"This isn't the most exciting game," the Finn said, despite the score going from 3-0 to 3-4. "I think it's because both teams already know they're going to the playoffs and where they stand."

To be honest, I have little idea what makes for an exciting game. It seemed exciting enough to me, all those 20-year-olds racing around on the ice, slamming each other into the boards, breaking their sticks or having to be escorted off the ice because they've seriously hurt a leg.

But as the minutes ran down, the question remained: What do opera and hockey have in common?

All I could see were the differences. Opera isn't a team sport, it's formal and hifalutin, the coaches are nowhere to be seen, there are no winners or losers - well, maybe when the mezzo can barely maneuver a long set of intricately curving sixteenth notes, the audience loses, although if she can compensate with the cadenza, which is nearly as long as the aria, then maybe she's redeemed herself and the audience didn't lose after all.

Then again, I suppose both opera and hockey require a certain amount of choreography, and they both have their divas. Everyone is wearing a costume that disguises them well, and both sets of players exude charisma and power and grace. And when played well, they give a sense of exhilaration.

I still vote for opera, big old homo that I am. It was a glorious staging of Orphée, highly stylized in the best way, and the painfully separated couple are ancient and grey and tired, which makes the story more about age and experience and regret, and less about youth and passion and loss.

Which is what hockey is about: youth and passion and loss. And winning of course. I guess youth and passion just don't hold my interest as well as age and experience and regret.

The Swedish words for the day is skillnad and likhet. They mean difference and similarity.

- by Francis S.