Sunday, 29 November 2009

How I got my smell back

Arriving in Singapore, and more about that later, I noticed that I could not smell anything. In a way, my body did me a favour, but since pig-boy was out of the way, I quite fancied to smell the city. And, I have found the best cure! A ton or so of Wasabi really did the trick, and even though it was so strong and so fresh that I think I lost my sight for a while, once my eyes stopped to water, all my senses were fully recovered. Except, perhaps, the common sense.

Just my luck

Of course my flight to Singapore could not go without any adventures. First of all, the plane from Århus to Frankfurt was delayed, meaning that I had about ten minutes to cross from one terminal to another, which left me rather stressed and breathless. Breathless beeing the important point, since I started to smell something fishy as soon as I approached my seat. There was a distinct smell of.. something.. and it wasn´t me. Also, I was not the only one to react, since many of people passing were sniffing in the air...

To make a long story short, it turned out that the guy next to me was working, and living, on a pig farm. And pig farms smell. A lot. I am sure that he had showered, and he was very nice, but the smell.. oh the smell.

This was the one time I wished that I had been wearing a burka, since I could not very well cover my nose for the ten odd hours the flight took. Fortunately, I lost the sense of smell somewhere over Kiev. Many of my co-passengers, however, didn´t and I could see that they were wondering which one of us was the smelly one.

The effects of Schadefreude

Because I am prone to accidents and mishaps, I often get a, albeit brief, feeling of panic when I am about to do something out of the ordinary. I travel quite a lot, and since I am born in communinst Czechoslovakia have a liberal view on smuggling, but since the alcohole laws in Sweden changed have not smuggled anything. Yet, every time I am at the airport, at any airport, and am passing through the green line in customs, I cannot help thinking-what if they search me and they find something? And I try to look as innoncent as I can, and either smile at the custom officers, or avoid eye contact, in short what ever strategy I have just then decided would be the best one.

I am also afraid of mixing up time of important meetings, taking wrong meeting rooms etc etc. Until now I have never been afraid to go to the wrong airport though. In fact, it never even occured to me. So, imagine my surprise, when I, last time I was in Sweden, witnessed a couple having a huge fight because they have done just that. They had crossed the entire Stockholm going south west, to Bromma, when they should have crossed and gone north west to Arlanda. They had just realised their mistake and were furious with each other, as both claimed it was the other one´s fault. I tried not to eavesdrop, but by the state of them am fairly sure that they have filed for divorce by now.

So, there I am, Monday morning, happy about a mistake I haven´t done yet, and since there weren´t any free seats, I waited for the boarding standing by the exit. I was second in line, after a obviously very important and busy businessman. He was juggling betweens texting and calling on his Blackberry and was the image of a busy bee and, needless to say, very very obnoxious and annoying. When the stewardess had checked his boarding pass he took off with zeal of his own, and you can imagine my surprise, not to mention his, when the opening he strode through, turned out to be glass. The bang made the entire terminal freeze. If he hadn´t been so pompous, I might have felt sorry for him, especially when I saw that he had made an imprint on the glass, where especially his left nostril was clearly visible, but he had been so full of himself that my schadefreude simply flourished. I giggled all the way to the airplane, and noticed only when I was just about to climb the stairs into the aircraft that this was, in fact, wrong plane. I had been so fuelled that I passed my plane and tried to board one that was going to Kiruna instead of Århus. So, boarding the wrong plane is a new worry of mine.

Friday, 30 October 2009

More covers..

The image is not the only thing that fascinates me on a cover. Some books also have recommendations- and I do have to admit, that more often they not, these serve the exactly wrong purpose with me. If you have a recommendation by an obscure little newspaper that you KNOW has no literary fame what so ever.. well then... you know that nobody of importance had anything better to say.. which means.. why not just skip the recommendation?

Honestly, I once saw a book in Sweden actually printed with a recommendation from Köpingbladet, and I wanted to cry. My Swedish favourite is when the book about the illustrious Mitford sisters was printed with recommendation claiming that Shakespear could not have written a better story. I dare say he didn't.

Of course, when one of Dan Brown´s was reprinted with the claim "probably the most intelligent and accomplished author of our time" not only was I hoping that Heineken would sue, but please? Really?

More judging..

Another cover I absolutely fell in love with. And apart of being, possibly the first blog in the history, this book breathes English countryside, English dry sense of humour and the mastery of the understated. It is, after all, The diary of a provincial lady, written in the late 20s.
The author lives in the country side with tho children and a husband, and runs a household of a Cook, who has bad temper, is touchy and whose preferred pudding is jelly, which the entire household hates, a series of Helps who all have their quirks and bad habits, apart from being extremely hard to find and even harder to keep, and finally an au-pair equivalent Mademoiselle, who not only has the latin temper, but who also makes running commentary of the household in French. Add a number of peciuliar neighbours, such as the snobby, ignorant and egocentric Lady B., who is hated by the entire county, a Vicar's wife, who is so prone to monologues and so drony that the only way to get rid of her is to fake death.. In short, this is a pick-me-up in book format, whether you have ten minutes or two hours to spend.
Incidentally, I booked a flight with British Airways today, and found to my great satisfaction that they offer many more titles than for example SAS. Flying BA, you can be a Lady, a Sir, and a Lord. An easy way to be a Lady for a day then..

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Skiing- and the art of language

Funny how different languages have a different take on the same thing. And how that, in its turn, maybe mirrors the spirit of the nation. Skiing, being a reasonable new phenomenon, is a good example. Languages such as English and Czech simply took the noun and made it into a verb. Expressive and pragmatic at the same time. Swedes go on skis, and I think that Germans either run or go as well. (maybe that is down-hill vs cross country?) Any way, this illustrates the movement and already gives you an idea about the speed. (Swedish go means go in a car, not go as in walk) Given this, it is ever so slightly worrying, and also entertaining, that Danes STAND on skis. And I just see hordes of little Danish children, who during the winter season happily stand on their skis in their back garden, as Denmark is rather flat and they may as well stand there as anywhere else.

Judging a book by its cover - more

In saying that I judge books by their cover, I love browsing through book shelves until I find a book that talks to me. In all fairness, when it is an author I know and like, I can forgive a bad cover, but normally, I like my books to talk before I even open them. There are books I know I have to have, just by seeing the cover. I suppose this is how normal people pick up in bars. I do it in book shops. Very different results- but a book will not throw a drink in your face. Or leave because another reader has bigger.. book shelves.

One book I just knew I have to buy was Irène Némirovsky´s Suite Francaise. There are many reviews out there, and this forgotten author has since had a revival with all her books published again. Her penmanship is, of course, skillful and captivating, but that is not the reason why I loved this book. It is the story about the story. This is the first time in my life that the slogan "buy one get one free" really functioned. Suite Francaise in it self is a book you don't want to put down. I have never managed to get through Proust´s Swann´s way, the three times I tried I collapsed on page 27, but I imagine that you can call Némirovsky´s writing skyle Proustian. She depicts the start of the German Occupation, through the eyes of characters belonging to different social classes, in different regions, and with different lives to live. You feel the circle growing closer, some of the characters meet, some you think will meet. Or I should say, would have met, if IN had been allowed to finish the book. She was a Russian jew in occupied France. Worse, she was an intellectual jew. And here we come to the story about the story, as a third of the book consists of INs battle to continue to make a living and also, by her family and friend´s fighting for her survival. This is the more touching, because the entire time you know, that neither Irene nor her husband survived. Their two daughters were hidden and taken care of by friends of the family, needless to say, in dangour of their own lives. During the entire was, and decades thereafter, the daughters held on to the suitcase of their mother, never opening it. I suppose you would not want to be confronted with what you thought was the diary of your mother being hunted to death. I think it was in the 90´s that they actually looked into the suitcase and discovered that it did not hold a diary, but the manuscript of this book, that quickly rose to be a bestseller. And with a story like this, how could it not?

Friday, 23 October 2009

Judging a book by its cover

I don't know about you, but I always do!
And as a picture says more than a thousand words, which one would you buy? And what were they thinking?
My quilty secret? I have all the Julia Quinns! I started with the Bridgeton series, and am totally trapped, in spite the vile cover! I love historical romances, they are so easy and pleasant, here you also have funny characters and situations and what else do you need? Apart from, of course, with the American version, I would be ashamed to be seen reading them- but this is what the back of the book shelf is for!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The challenges in everyday life of an expat

Who knew that a Danish card is NOT a credit card issued in Denmark, but a special card that allows you to take out money in Denmark? Obviously, not me, so was stuck with a LOT of groceries and no money today, rush hour, to the great joy of the cashier and the guy behind me in the queue.

How I missbehaved

After witnessing the pigeon incident, I went to the National Gallery- one of my absolute favourite spots in London. This was one of the first paintings I saw. Needless to say, it struck me as really funny. Unfortunately, very few people around appreciated my laughter. If looks could kill... I might have suffered..

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Doves, pigeons and rats

The Swedish language does not differentiate between doves and pigeons, both are called "duva" so one needs to say whether it is a city dove, meaning pigeon, or a forrest one, still meaning pigeon, but a nice one.

I don't know about you, but I associate London with pigeons thanks to Mary Poppins, and am therefore more forgivingly inclined to the London pigeons then say, to Swedish ones. Because face it, pigeons are rats. Albeit with wings, but rats they are. So, even if I really like Mary Poppins, to feed pigeons and think this is nice and quaint... I always did find that..rather funny..

Passing St James park, I saw the funniest scene. A boy of about eight was happily feeding about three pigeons, while his parents were fondly filming this scene of bonding between man and beast. Watching this, my opinion swayed ever so slightly in favour of pigeons.. but once I had passed I heard screaming that sounded as if somebody was attacked. I turned around, and saw a radically different scene than the one I witnessed just moments ago. A big flock of pigeons had arrived and not only was the poor boy covered had to toe in pigeons, they also seemed to be quite dissatisfied with his supply of food and were picking at him quite ferociously. I am not sure, but I think that Alfred Hitchcock and a little budgie somewhere not too far away were laughing. I am NOT trying to say that the pigeons then took of with the boy, as I walked on and did not watch the carnage, but I don't think that it is altogether impossible.
When I passed later, the pigeons were washing their (bloody) feet in the Sepentine...

London trophies

I love London. It does not have the elegance of Paris or the buzz of New York, but only in London are you overtaken by four horse- and carriages, accompanied by riders, and it turns out being a school on their way to - I think- polo practise. All the kids have riding outfits, that there is a professional name for, I am sure, and look so English you have to hold yourself back in order NOT to turn into a paparazzi..

Passing a real estate agent, I noted that the flats don't have living rooms, but reception rooms.

I remember reading in a book (84 Charing Cross, by Helène Hanff) that if you go to London in search of the literature, you will find it. Since I much rather shop for books than for anything really, my big problem was the airline limitations. (and, of course, the limitation of getting to the place that currently is my home- it is so isolated from anywhere that it might as well be Sibiria) (my impression is however, that through the history of times, it has been very easy to be sent to Siberia, so this would be the key difference..)

Anyway, after coming home (which again, very very difficult and involved crawling, begging and buying a bottle of champagne to get a lift) I am all of twelve books richer and, am just embarking on placing a post order for more of the above. And, like a child at Christmas, this little pile was arranged so that it would be the first thing I saw when I woke up. (needless to say, getting up and going to the bathroom in the middle of the night dis-arranged the pile and nearly killed my toe - another advantage of paperbacks..)