Remember remember, on the Fifth of November

November 6, 2011 in SWEDEN | Comments (1)

All Saints Eve

In Stockholm thousands upon thousands of people bring lights to the forest graveyard of Skogskyrkogården and other churchyards on All Saints Eve. Saturday, yesterday, we were in this vast cemetery where among multitudes of others Greta Garbo’s ashes found their final resting place.

All day people had been coming to place their candles and burners, flowers and messages – on family graves or along the walkways . So many came. So many have gone. Some of the lost ones are mere children remembered with photos and flowers and sometimes toys. Toys are the saddest of all.

The night was filled with sweet touching melancholy of lights for souls flown on. Yet in another way it felt like festival, this public holiday placed on a Saturday in the Swedish calendar.  Families get together to make this pilgrimage for someone they shared. They talk and walk and hug and smile and there are traffic jams for miles. Dogs and toddlers bounce and run, reminding that as death comes new life does too.

Between the tall dark streaks of pine trees there were fields of candles glowing among rows and clusters of square stones – many more lights would come. It was only 4pm. The walkways up to the tall hills curled like strings of living jewels as people trudged their way up to the glowing top. From there you could see lights below in a valley – like an army camped in the night.

We placed two lights for my own beloveds gone on 2006. I used to write often to tell my mother about Sweden, knowing how she was missing us, and how she loved to hear of every flower that opened, every step our kids took, and every leaf that turned and fell.

“Mum” I said. “There are so many people here. Their faces hover in the dark behind the beds of lights. We have this new little dog you know …”

The night folded its sadness around me. November came – and where have I been?

Why have I not written my blog for 6 months? What would I tell my mother?

I have been writing something else. I have been foraging among clichés. I sniff them, gnaw them, polish them clean and arrange them so they become new ones to decorate 400 pages of glossy brochure.

You could say I have been too busy to write my blog, as I have this big fat deadline…

Fact is after looking day after day at this virtual reality you google to, I felt that sometimes you donät want to leak out drops of the PRECIOUS real stuff in words.


Briefly, it was a warm summer…

At midsummer we watched them dance around the midsummer pole at the palace at Tyresö. Remember midsummer in Sigtuna with the haunting sound of nyckelharps and men in yellow breeches, and all the other ones you shared with us? Now the midsummer dancers are getting old and sing with quavering voices.

But July we celebrated at our place in the country with warm nights and barbecues by the river, smoke drifting over reflections. We planted fruit trees and drank champagne for new growth, hoping the deer will not demolish them yet again.

July 2 was the wedding of the century in the hamlet of Ramshyttan – at the manor house that faces us over “dammen” – the serene dark river that flows out over a waterfall.  Tess married Paul from down under. The bride and her sister arrived in a carriage drawn by Ardennes horses (from down the way in Pershyttan).  I saw a local woman with tears in her eyes, ti was so moving to see the old days come alive. We met guests from 21 countries, including a barrage of Aussies  and a few guests bearing kilts.


Chris made the speech, banned from talking about God he did a good job of spirtualizing with TS Eliot. Fabulous to see Vicky with flaming hair, Kaarina and Tandi …and all wonderful local friends one never sees. And to see time can mend many sores 

We had three birthdays to celebrate that July, with Princesstårta from our new bakery  in Örebro – with blueberry, cream and vanilla filling. The flowers in the meadow tangled with the fluffy long grass,  in blue, white and yellow – the sweetest most warmly abandoned summer meadow since the  horses began their munching. Alexis wandered along picking St Johns Wort for medicinal wonders.

Every evening we saw Mr Beaver swim by with a silver streak as the twilight stretched into night (or Mrs Beaver or Miss or Master Beaver) – there are loads of them living in these waters. We saw a badger toddle over the road. The new Norwegian Forest cat roamed the village like a snowy princess. The reigning Norwegian forest cat sniffed at her cotton wool delicacy.

Took a floating dinner on a raft with dining table and grill, and good company, slipping slowly over Ramsjö as the low sun burnished the ripples and trees. Vic and Kathleen from South Africa were there – Vic wore a mask of mosquito netting to maintian his serenity.


August we rented a teeny romantic red and white cottage on Utö – our accessible island in the southern Stockholm archipelago. The cottage, booked over the net through Utö turistbyrå ( cost SEK 1750 for 2 nights for 2 to 3 people. It was around 22 sqm – but managed to feel very livable with bedroom, teeny dining room with white table and four chairs, teeny porch with table and chairs, teeny teeny kitchen with oven and loads of cupboard space fully stocked. The kitchen lacked a sink and there was no bathroom. The loo was 20 m walk to an “utedas” outhouse. The washing up place was on a table under the pines – there was a garden tap. This is genuine Swedish milieu – a simple “sommarstuga” in the country side (“på landet”) – it might have electric heating but plumbing is ragingly expensive to install.  Might I guess Sweden has half a million such habitations left from the days when people really did live in the countryside. Now they merely visit it. Or the Dutch and Germans do.

This cottage lies in a historical mining village on Utö, near the pits now filled with deep water.  Gruvbyn is the main village on the island, and has the yacht marina, 4 or 5 restaurants and cafes, tiny museum, camping place, bike hire and beach.

We extended our favourite walk to Rävstavik. Starting at the smooth and rippled rocks of the outward facing shore and its gnarled pines, we followed a trail laid out by the school kids on the island.  It takes you along the coastline round a peninsula, disappears in reeds and emerges in boardwalks, meditational somehow in its gentle natural beauty and confusing directions.  Quaint educational signs written by the school kids of Utö. Met French, Dutch, Belgian tourists on the walk – as puzzled as we were by the signposting. Into the fringy, shaggy forest and finally home.

We saw the sun go down facing west on an island just offshore Utö island, reached by a bridge. Mesmerizing to just stare at the water and the ripple of rocks, with ducks swimming amid the dapples and dazzles.


Kajsa, Karin, a colleague from the old days (1990s) at another travel operator. We indulged in all-inclusive at Superclubs in Jamaica, including a toga party at Hedonism, and endless strawberry daqris and banana daqris/daqueries  (which we drank without spelling) – and then no daqris at all. A hotel in Montego Bay had allotted us a room at the back with a severely hollowed out bed, plus the scuttle of cockroaches. And a cut off phone. As comfort we went to the bar to ask for a strawberry daquri (daqueri)? The barmen popped his nose in the fridge and said. No strawberries. Banana daquri? Same ritual. No bananas. What do you have? Jamaican beer. There were many more happenings at that hotel to make it a stronger runner up for Faulty Towers than John Cleese’s namesake.

So the point is. Karin had a birthday in August this summer, in true Swedish style…she managed to find a stuga (wooden cottage) – this one in a park. But this was to be more of a Spanish occasion. Borrowing from her family holidays in Spain, she dressed herself up like the world’s most famous beachside paella restauranteur and made a gigantic paella that took hours…


September was warm by our standards. We were grilling by the river still in Ramshyttan. It seemed summer would go on and on forever. Happiness is sometimes just this, a fragile dream.

October was golden. It was a treat to walk through the suburb of Sköndal, by lake Drevviken, along endless walking paths and through copses of oak and other deciduous trees.

The oak woods came alive with the sliding sound and kluff of acorns dropping. I understood why the sagas have the woods peopled with elves and fairies. You sensed hidden friendly life there. A pitch black squirrel ran up a tree bearing one of those precious acorns so there really was something.  

Meanwhile maples flamed their magic way, dropping deep piles of red leaves (still deep and crunchy through into November). Then all the other trees turned gold.

Last week the grounds, lawns, and even the paths were totally covered by these crusty golden drifts of leaves.  Mellow, almost liquid gold. Our little American cocker spaniel bounced through them enjoying the crunching.

But a big machine came and lots of men. Big blue bags of leaves were placed beside our walking paths, and Lady barked to see something new there.  Luckily it costs too much to get rid of them all, and the little sculpture park is still drifting with this old magic. And Lady can still bounce and crunch.

Tomorrow I will go back to writing about luxury hotels for this big and glossy publication…

Talk to you later.

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