Thursday, 29 October 2009


I managed to pack somehow

After the years of dragging the same suitcase across the world, I have rather a decent guess of its weight. Since the limit for luggage was 22 kilos and I guessed rather right that it would be 27-28ish, I was ready to cough up for the overweight; the luggage lady at the counter only attached a screaming orange tag that said Heavy, said That's it and wished me a pleasant journey.
I need to add that the remaining eight kilos of crap was in my messenger bag and in a plastic bag full of books.
On the other hand, when I was leaving Stockholm last time, apart from rather a heavy suitcase (them books), I had one piece of cabin luggage (full of books), one piece of ladies' purse (full of laptop and books) and a reasonable amount of reading matter for the time of flight (large canvas shopping bag full of books)... all in accordance with the airline regulations. The anti-terrorist measures require that I show my laptop and admittedly, the security folks were a little bit baffled when they saw that it was somewhere under a Finnish etymologic dictionary and Linné's collected writings. The look of sheer crazy was topped by my dad's wish to get a plush reindeer, which I bought on the airport.
So, nothing like that this time. I hung around the airport shops, sniffed a few fragrances, mostly said Oh, boring, then knitted for a while, attempted for some real airport blogging like Yarn Harlot, but the wireless LAN worked weird and when I managed to connect, it appeared that it was paid access... and nope, folks. My virtues are not many but supporting this capitalist blackmail is out of the question. Moreover, I had drained my weekly card limit long before.

Seen everything, been everywhere twice, has keys to all the doors

This is a way I and my friends use to describe the unpleasant sort of know-alls. It came to my mind after the security bullying check at the airport. The terminal was rebuilt, I thought to myself, and continued And there was that security thing two years ago, here, in place of the perfumery-cum-liquors duty free place, there was nothing... etc., when the abovementioned saying came to my mind. Indeed, I've been to real many places, to some many times, seen quite a few things...
Life however has its little ways how to deal with one's pride. In Vienna, they chased us out of the plane. I sat rather in the back, I like being behind the wind so that I can see something. I did notice a bunch of people even behind me but, well, no need to hurry, nor did I try to fight my way out of the plane, so I minded my own stuff. Then, the contents of the plane waited in the airport bus, nothing happening, when police got out of the plane with a handcuffed guy. I thought that such stuff happened only in the movies, that criminals were sent by mail.

Easy life of a spoiled capitalist brat
My father came to pick me. I was lazy to go by train and it's only two hours driving, eh. I only called him to pick me at the arrivals terminal when my ancient cellphone went dead so I was standing there, watching for a baby blue BMW. Good colour, easy to spot among those black and dark grey cars.
In the car, dad stuck a folder full of papers in my hands and said Read it. I browsed it, it seemed to be all written in legalese so I said Erm, legal papers, so what? and dad grinned and said I bought you a gym.
The background stories are two. First, dad had a 'readymade' Ltd. in the drawer, the company doing nothing, just being there for a case of urgent need when there would be no time to get all the paperwork for starting one done in time. Second, he rented some space to a gym owner, who, surprisingly enough, ran a gym, with all those machines and courses of various weirdo things like aerobics. The owner repeatedly failed to pay the bills so after a few friendly talks, the final unfriendly talk came and my dad just bought the whole gym, owner not included, since it would be illegal (but practical).
It is my father so I need to deal with this type of crazy pretty often.

How do I build a vault cheaply?
Another current problem that haunts my father. For some reasons I was asked the question. I know a few things about vaults, one being that 'vault' and 'cheap' are mutually exclusive terms. I won't go in the lengths and depths of the story, just mind that buying old and neglected buildings brings unexpected problems.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Upcoming things

Somehow, I happened to stumble upon rather interesting stuff lately.
Just to give you the idea, and excuse the lousy photoshop job, it's random pictures taken from elsewhere or by my dear friend who takes care for my mail.

From upper left:
(1) Vacarme by Rauch, I'm not sure.
(2) Via Lanvin in extrait
(3) mystery Weil
(4) Detchema by Revillon - I hear it's an aldehydic
(5) Fete by Molyneux - should be something green
(6) mystery something inscribed Champs Elysees - the eBay seller says it's some Guerlain thing but I discussed it with two other perfumistas and they are in disagreement. It was cheaper than a bathroom air freshener so bite it
(7) Samsara by Guerlain (the one with the red blob)
(8) Chanel trio of Bois des Iles, Gardenia and Cuir de Russie
(9) Le De by Givenchy - I have a sample somewhere and it rocks, it's a lovely honeyed scent
(10) No. 22 by Chanel - rather vintage, guessing from the bottle
(11) Miss De Rauch
(12) Numero Cinq by Molyneux - rarity of rarities
(13) Woodhue by Faberge
(14) Stolen Moments by Fragonard

You can expect a storm of reviews and hopefully interesting ranting in the upcoming weeks.

The Egg Dance

I don't think the metaphor 'dancing between the eggs' is used often. Neither I use it, one of the reason being its evocative power. Ever since, I imagined an Odette, tulle skirt and white pointe shoes (you have to pay extra $10 for white at Gaynor Minden, peach is the default colour), finding her difficult way between white eggs, and somehow managing not to break any.

The research grants have to be spent. Entirely, to the last cent and fragment of a drilled cowrie shell. I asked what would happen if some money was left and the reply was The research grant has to be spent in its entirety or else there would be troubles. What troubles, I insisted, and was explained that unimaginably difficult troubles and that the research grant has to be spent all, no exceptions.
If I weren't an arsehole, I'd ask several questions about the rules earlier and I'd find more expensive lodging because now, in order to avoid Apocalypse, I have to spend around 10 000 SEK (around a thousand euros) on things like photocopying and office supplies and travelling. I'm leaving on Friday.

I gave it a massive bit of thinking and, well, it cannot be helped. Massive amount of photocopying, everybody will get Swedish notebooks and pencils for Christmas and I might make a hasty trip to somewhere like Uppsala because being aware of the upcoming possibility of the world ending, I just have to work on it hard.

Nope, can't be books. That would make the things much easier but... nope.

Next time: Whines and/or late Comnenian frescoes at Gotland, depending on my mood.

Friday, 23 October 2009

My inner anarchist

A few days ago, when I was hanging around in the lobby reading the internets, a late arriving girl materialized herself, I showed her the envelope with her name the reception guy left at the reception desk, we chatted a while and, well, since having a bit of company is never a bad idea, we hung around the town next day.

I was in Stockholm two years ago and I happened to see the changing of the royal guards. One bunch of soldiers arrived, another arrived, the leading ones said a few words ("Everything okay?" "Everything okay!" and both bunches left, one off-duty, one to take their positions. Passing the flag occured and maybe there was some fanfare. Apparently, this spectacle became popular so they improved it, throwing in a marching band and some new, exciting choreography. I noticed the marching band going around the Royal Castle on Sunday when I was hanging around the centre but it was Sunday and my first, last and only thought was that maybe some local garrison is keeping the citizens in a friendly mood, thus providing a Sunday promenade concert.


So, I was wandering around with K. and we happened to the Royal Castle around midday so I thought it a good idea to go there and watch. The bunch of soldiers that was finishing their shift assembled and looked decorative. To my utmost surprise, some army guy stepped out with a paper, announcing into the loudspeakers: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm Captain Mikael Larsson (1) welcome to the changing of the Royal Guard, blah, blah, blah, and the Royal Castle is open to the public from twelve to three, as is the Royal Souvenir shop, where you can buy souvenirs from the Royal Castle." I started to laugh. I couldn't help recalling the Dontgonearthe Castle (2) where you could stay overnight, get a tasty meal and tasteful souvenirs, too.
The whole army messing around took an hour, including a few pieces played by the marching band for the pleasure of the tourists so it probably counts also as culture.

Lately, I've been thinking what it is like, to live in a monarchy. Surely, a monarch is trained from childhood to shake hands of fellow potentates in the most socially acceptable way, to get the right attire for the right occasions, to sit for being portrayed on postal stamps (if someone uses them) better than any elected official ever may be. After all, even the most degenerate nobleman manages a language or two and passable table manners with years of care and tutoring. Since in the modern democracies, the head of the state is important mainly for performing various ritual dances, good table manners and using the right fork for the right course are enough; maybe anything else even stands in the way (in places where the president, Commander-in-Chief or Supreme Priest need to sign government documents, it is obviously advisable to teach them how to write their own name). With elected officials, you never know. Maybe they can eat only sandwiches and the concept of silverware is beyond them, they are likely to have hidden agenda and they are rather hard to behead or dethrone otherwise when they are raving mad. Also, bare head looks much worse on stamps than a crowned one.

Of course that I have some vague idea about the functions of the state. After the last few years' political mess, when things worked best in those long months after the general election when there was no goverment, or in days of temporary officials in place of ministers after the government was deposed, it seems to me that the importance of state in general may be a bit overrated. And with the president close to raving mad... Ick.

I'd better go and read something funny.

Added on Saturday, whatsthedate.
I bought a horse-shaped cookie cutter, talked to K. about our glorious traditions of cookies and decorated gingerbread and since K. was to meet W. at the royal castle after that army thing, we went there. We were a bit early so we had a chance to watch the marching band of Royal Navy. The glorious traditions of decorated gingerbread include decorated gingerbread soldier. Nothing said.
I didn't check whether in the Royal Gift Shop, one could get cookie cutters shaped like Princess Victoria but I'll be around for a few more days.

(1) Name obviously invented and if I got it right, it's by mistake.
(2) Terry Pratchett reference again, what would you expect? Check Carpe jugulum for more.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Byredo Quest

The other day I ranted about Bal d'Afrique, yet another day I tried Pulp... and since I happen to be in Stockholm, I wanted to get me a souvenir and actually buy Pulp.
Since I'm a smart girl, I checked the Byredo website, found their address and somehow supposed that they have a shop. The address was an office building, with Byredo placed in the 8th floor in the building directory. I asked the Mabel or Caroline in the reception whether they have a shop up there or whether it's only offices, she said Only offices, sorry... and off I went.
Later, I checked the website again, found a 'how to shop' file and they offered only the internet shop.
Serves them right, I'll get it on eBay.
I bought yarn instead at Yllet store, because Yllet has an actual store where you can walk in, ask Will six skeins be enough for a sweater?, and get the yarn packed in a neat paper bag.
Tee hee.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Random observations

It rained in the morning and generally, it was very close to that weather that says Go and jump under the metro train. It was probably the 'very close' thing that made a difference, I felt fine. The weather changed later on, and then again and again and again.

The issue of Scriptores rerum suecicarum was resolved. Nope, the work is not in the catalog. Why should it be, it's on the shelf in the reference section. Only in the main reading room, there are by sheer guess 100 shelf metres of books, how the hell am I supposed to find something without physically going through that? Sigh. The librarian was however helpful. After reassuring that I had checked the catalogs and that the book actually exists and that there are good reasons why it should also exist in this library, he let me have a form filled, said that it may take a few days, "you know, this is one of the difficult searches", and half an hour later, the three volumes of SRS landed on my table. I wonder whether the difficult search was like this:
Librarian, let's call him Bengt: Hey, Lasse, someone wants this Scriptores wtf thing and we should have it here.
Lasse: Well?
Bengt: It's not in the catalogs.
Lasse: And what it is, then?
Bengt: Scriptores Rerum Suecicarum
Lasse: Gee, it's in the reference library there and there, why should it be in the catalog when it's on the shelves. Them studip readers.
Bengt: goes away

I found what I needed and asked the photocopy service to pretty please copy around 150 A3 pages of that. Later on, I dropped at the copy counter again and they had An Issue. Like, to keep it A3 or to shrink the two A3+ pages to one A3. I don't have that bad eyesight but I spend way too much time reading and I want to read, not to labour over the text. I was politely explained that it's gonna be expensive, you know, said My research grant covers it, want pay beforehand? and made a long sigh. I mean, I don't blame the librarians for asking, I wonder what made them ask. In this polite and careful and neat and nice Sweden, someone actually had ordered a heap of copies and never came to pick them, moving away without leaving the address? What about my general trust in humanity?

The other day, I went down the street (Sveagatan, namely, but it's not that important) and sniffed something extremely familiar. Tauleto, damn, I decided after a while. Nope, can't be that one unless someone poured half a bottle on themselves a minute ago. Gotta be this one... well, I lead such internal dialogue deciding that it's extremely unlikely that the smell would be actually Tauleto, it seemed to be filling the entire street. I bitterly regretted then and regret it now that it doesn't have any staying power or it would be a wonderful gourmet-fruity fragrance.
The solution presented itself some time later. I had bought a Lindt and Sprungli chocolate with blueberries that smelled so intensively of blueberries... I carried the gnawed-on bar in the front pocket of my bag. Sigh. Want the smell bottled.

Random observations

It rained in the morning and generally, it was very close to that weather that says Go and jump under the metro train. It was probably the 'very close' thing that made a difference, I felt fine. The weather changed later on, and then again and again and again.

The issue of Scriptores rerum suecicarum was resolved. Nope, the work is not in the catalog. Why should it be, it's on the shelf in the reference section. Only in the main reading room, there are by sheer guess 100 shelf metres of books, how the hell am I supposed to find something without physically going through that? Sigh. The librarian was however helpful. After reassuring that I had checked the catalogs and that the book actually exists and that there are good reasons why it should also exist in this library, he let me have a form filled, said that it may take a few days, "you know, this is one of the difficult searches", and half an hour later, the three volumes of SRS landed on my table. I wonder whether the difficult search was like this:
Librarian, let's call him Bengt: Hey, Lasse, someone wants this Scriptores wtf thing and we should have it here.
Lasse: Well?
Bengt: It's not in the catalogs.
Lasse: And what it is, then?
Bengt: Scriptores Rerum Suecicarum
Lasse: Gee, it's in the reference library there and there, why should it be in the catalog when it's on the shelves. Them studip readers.
Bengt: goes away

I mentioned it at Ravelry where several librarians live. They headdesked, passed it on to their colleagues and I'm afraid that Royal Library became a bit of laughing stock. Eh.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Random observations

I wandered around the town and nothing particular happened. The low sun causes light to reflect in weird ways and swells my eyes, helped by the wind.
I got melancholic (in fact, I was first pissed by the lack of exhibits in the Ostasiatiska Museet and then freaked out by too many people at the Fridrich exhibition in the National Museum) and since the hostel room is otherwise empty and I found a socket there, I connected the lappy and let some music play. A random list of things I find pretty stayed in Winamp since mom wanted 'to listen to something' in Cyprus and then asked me to turn the howling off. Including some selection from Goran Bregovic.

I'm synesthetic ever since. I must have been a difficult child. I don't think I was annoying in the sense of running around, knocking things over and screaming, but just saying weird things. Like, explaining that I like this and that song. And described it in colours and spatial characteristics, not even shape. "Eh, see the kid's creativity, how cute, but, dear, everybody knows that music doesn't have colour." Same about numbers, letters, words, ideas. They don't have shapes, colours, sounds... I don't have early memories of connecting something with smells or tastes but it does work the other way, scents and tastes have their colours.
In winter, among other charity gifts, I got that Best Of of Goran Bregovic and I became aware that without having it formulated, Death gives me an intense feeling of scent.

Forget the pictures, they totally don't go with that, although under the impression of the Caspar David Friedrich exhibition I saw today, I won't make guesses what goes with it better. But... it's cedar and cade, very smoky, and something mineral, I don't know how are the mineral notes rendered in perfumes but imagine Olivier Durbano mineral. Limettes - the candy sweet citrus, and other citruses, pungently sour ones, and something bitter and cruelly adstringent like falling leaves. All of that thrown on the snow - whatever Luca Turin may say, snow does smell... of snow. Or it's my synaesthetic perception of cold, I don't know.

The song recalls me of another thing. Fifteen years ago, on a school skiing trip (someone decided that sports and socializing are good for kids, let they may suffer in any hell of their choice), in January, I got sulky because of what the other gals said or just because, I think that then, my nerves were already on the go, and I just went out to the snow. I was sitting on a tree stump and meditating and being aware of people left behind and the night forest. Thinking of it, it was a perfect time, place and mood to kill myself. I did not so that I could go through all those wonderful arguments with parents, depressions, a neat pneumonia two years later (not related to sitting in the snow and watching the starry sky) and the world may be enriched by my sarcastic remarks.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Some more

There was another knit café (or stitch'n'bitch if you may please) at Marias Garn in Södermalm. That was the first time I didn't get lost while getting up to the surface from the metro.
I found Maria's shop rather easily, first, I checked very well the location on Google Maps, then I made a cross into the mediocre map provided by Stockholmska Something (dunno what exactly L in SL stands for, linjer?) and quite importantly, there was a huge purple and blue skein hanging in place of a banner. I had been told on Thursday that Maria stocks Wood Harmony by Knitpicks and I had wanted to get a set of interchangeables in Florence but didn't manage so today was The Day. I got some yarn, too, and cast on for Laura's scarf. It's a birthday gift, no pictures, she follows the blog.
The weather got lousy and I have a mild suspicion that my last year's SAD may be back. At least when I got off at Gamla Stan to change the metro lines and a train whizzed next to the metro line and I recalled how I had been to Elisabeth's to Linköping and how I'm too much of a chickenshit to even mess around Stockholm itself and even less to go to Vadstena where I'd like to go and where I actually should go... well, within ten minutes, I felt like sitting down to the curb and crying bitterly. The only thing that prevented me from doing it was... the social phobia. People would look funny at me and it would feel too uneasy, you know. Apparently, the whole thing got Uroboros qualities and started biting its own rear.

Knitting apparently has some sort of calming properties, after two hours of messing with the scarf - one day I won't improvise the designs... one distant day, and then I won't be ripping things constantly - I felt just fine. My mood shifts are annoying even to myself.

Falling In Love - Scents And Treats For Fall

We moved to the neighbourhood where I halfway live until nowadays some 15 years ago. Then, people would still sometimes plant potatoes in their front gardens, or at least peppers, those could well use the tiny pieces of earth surrounded by heat-emitting walls and they are expensive vegetables, after all.
Not any more. The neighbourhood became an expensive one, with really filthy rich people moving in, buying the old decaying villas, rebuilding them,with less or even less taste, to modern haciendas with swimming pools and gardens that look rather like countryside after nuclear attack. Soil soaked with selective herbicides so that no dicotyledon plants may ever live in the lawn, mulched pads, not with flowers but with the latest fashion in conifers. I always want to weep seeing such a garden and remembering that only a few years ago, the previous owners had the most impressive neglected rockery where the nice small colourful flowers took undisputed reign and spread everywhere.
There are some pretty old gardens, though, and old tough gardeners; and an occasional young crazyass weirdo who thinks that flowers are perfectly fine, but why not add a tang to the whole composition designed by a leading landscape architect of the town by something that's not only pretty but also edible?
It's been only an apricot tree until last year, when I, upon a whim, bought a pack of tomato seeds. Very late, the tomato plant showed first fruits only in December, after lots of care and persuasion. My mom didn't hesitate to show a certain amount of disdain when I insisted that we need, at least, mint for my mojitos, sage for my saltimboccas (1) and basil just because. And lavender, rosemary and a few others, when we're at that.
In summer, our geriatric dog succumbed to cancer of everything so mom decided to rearrange the garden quite a bit. The dog used to dig holes, uproot plants she didn't like... and such. I used my extreme powers of persuasion and we got rid of one weigelia (I hate hate hate weigelia, it's fugly) and I agreed that I'll do some guerrila gardening and plant the garden variety irises somewhere but not in the garden because mom hates them, and we'll get Iris pumila instead. And, I pressed, wisteria, jasmine, creeper roses (many and then some more) and...
Then I left for Italy and while mom didn't have me nagging behind her back, the irises destined for the unsightly patches of non-lawn down the street, the irises got planted under the trees where they'll die of lack of light (I hope winter comes late and I'll be able to replant them when I'm back from Stockholm, I don't like the regular irises that much but I don't dislike them enough to kill them) and added holly, three damn varieties of ugly prickly holly, two shapeless shrubs of Potentilla fruticosa, with red and orange flowers - I detest the whole potentilla genus if its members grow anywhere else than in the cracks in the sidewalks or somewhere in the wild. The shrubs look like worn-out brooms. And the whole mix is planted without thinking, using the age-approved style of Take a plant and stick it in the soil just somewhere.
Well, things will be dealt with. I at least plagued the whole garden with tulip bulbs, obtained for five cents each at the 'plant and wait for surprise' box at the gardening fair. Such tulips are the coolest.
Now, the tasks are still a few. One is to introduce stealthily an apple tree to the garden. I know which one, there is a sort of apples that smell like cranberries, they are small with bright white flesh and nearly neon pink peel and I'd have to order it from a nursery that specializes in long extinct breeds of plants. No garden is complete without an apple tree.

Not that I'd be such an avid gardener as to have written an almanac, including stories about what sprouts in March or when... idunnowhat. I just mess around. There however are a few seasonal associations (2), the strongest being late autumn.

Sometimes, the days are misty, smoky and grey, with a strange adstringent smell of fallen leaves that rot on the sidewalks, being trampled by the winter boots of passers-by. And some distant childhood memory brings apples to the mix. It's not even that long time ago when the high school at the end of the street had a huge apple orchard. It slowly gave way, bit by bit, to a new annex, then to tennis courts (I've never seen them used for anything) and then the last part was cut down to build a new canteen, the ugliest building in the vicinity. Those 15ish years ago, we'd go and pick apples, being allowed to eat as many as we could, instead of some real sport. I suppose we enjoyed it more than running around... at least I did.
There's something special about fallen and rotting apples. A mixture of awful and divine, they smell apples and rot and mold, you feel the potential for their delicious applines being ruined but still there's a particular and enchanting crushing sound when you step on one such. They get thrown on the compost heap with other garden debris that cannot be burned because it's wet or because there's police within noseshot, it's somehow prohibited to burn garden trash but nobody cares too much... thus autumn smells of rotting leaves and apples and burning rotting leaves.

For some reason, I've always liked apple fragrances. Until the recent yield of Delicious and flankers, there were not that many, in fact, I can think only of All about Eve. I suppose that there are many others but until recently, I wasn't much into perfumery and nothing had hit my nose.
At a certain point, which was a dreary day in late winter, I was in Italy, along with my SAD, generally whiny mood and a bottle of calvados, when it randomly occurred to me that, well, if other people can make perfumes, then why not me, I checked the supplies, made a nice cedary base, wondered for a while, bought more on eBay and within the week, I had the mildly disgusting Eau du Calvados ready.

Natural materials in perfumery are like wine, they need to mature. I needed to brag to someone so I sent a sample to Elena who was politely unimpressed. I let the matter rest, thinking that she may be right that it has no decent top and that I may throw in some bergamote and I halfway forgot it. After one move and several months later, I checked the marmalade jar with the first batch (eh, kitchen industry, anyone dare to whine?) and it.... evolved. It still may need a touch of bergamote, I don't know, after all, the Vieille Reserve flanker is not an abandoned idea.

I got my own autumn scent.

I wore it quite often in summer, it has a certain tart tanginess, after all, it's apples, and the linden blossom gives it a slightly sickening yet enchanting quality (decadence, anyone?). I made it as concrète, dissolved in wax, since my kitchen industrial equipment (3) wouldn't permit much more and I thought that in case it went bad, I could use it as an ointment for cracked heels. I still have to test what it does in an actual autumn and it may include curling up at the fireplace and knitting. Hear around Christmas.

The idea came from the direction of Helg of Perfume Shrine, my half-evil enabler, and the other participants are The Non Blonde, Mais que perfume, Ayala Smelly Blog, Savvy Thinker, Olfactarama, Notes from the Ledge, Ars Aromatica, Mossy Loomings, I smell therefore I am and
Tea Sympathy and Perfume

Note: I'm a stupid blonde so I somehow didn't understand that adding the picture is a part of the whole thing. Fixed now.

(1) mental note: everybody loves saltimbocca in my family. Gotta persuade mom that it's not a stew with sage and prosciutto, that the point is elsewhere.
(2) only the most inept balcony farmer can remain untouched by seasons changing; if nothing else, in the supermarkets, they tend to have huge advertising campaigns like Spring is here, get yourself some spring plants.
(3) you heard about cottage industry, didn't you. Kitchen industry is similar concept. It's performed in the kitchen with things that naturally appear in kitchen, such as empty marmalade jars or old pots.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Out in the wild

I met knitters.

In case you've forgotten, I sometimes knit. I took one of the nearly eternal sweaters for the way from Italy to Sweden. On the train to Bassano, during the flight from Vienna, in the bus to downtown Stockholm and so on. I finished it two days ago, after having it reknitted two or five times. Since I finished the sweater and since I'm a chickenshit to go shopping for yarn, I had nothing to knit so I was only sitting there. There's another s'n'b on Saturday in a yarnstore so I'll get me some knitting material then.

Stockholm showed me its elusive face again. I got lost. Again. Somehow, the good ole left and right doesn't work the way it should, and the farther bits of the city seem to lack some comprehensive street plan. Or something like that.
On the way back, I waited for the metro and a guy started talking to me. I made a puzzled face, said Studip furriner no speak Swedish, then he asked in nice English whether I had by chance a cough pastille, I said No, sorry, and he apologized for bothering. There's something barren and melancholic about Stockholm's subway stations, they lack the opulent lustre of, say, Moscow or Prague's metro, or that well-inhabited messines of Italian metropolitane, they are neat, spacious and somehow sad. The guy was nice and sort of worn out and the whole situation felt as if it happened in some Aki Kaurismäki movie.

On the way back to Östermalm, I continued being sad. For being a sociophobic chickenshit, for not being able to learn this damn language well enough to grasp more of the general culture. Sigh. I forgot to get to the surface on the right place so I went around the Royal Library. Lousy pic of a place where I spend my days:

It's pretty.

In the hostel lounge, I met Karina, the knitter from Skåne, who, as I reckon, has something to do in Stockholm. I wasn't a chickenshit yesterday when I asked what was that pretty yarn she was using, and today she was finishing another washcloth, we talked for a while. There's that social element about knitting which I totally love. It connects people.

Another hostel dweller started chatting with me and upon seeing that I sort of know Swedish, he managed to make me switch into it (I'm not the worst chickenshit on the world, at least) and then laughed that I sound like a Finn. Erm.... I'm not absolutely sure that it's not a nicer way of saying that I sound like an idiot.

Random observations

A girl fell asleep in a book a few tables away. She looks so peaceful, apparently dreaming of something better than the book provided, I guess she was studying some highly exciting municipal regulation regaring sweeping the sidewalks in timely manner. I totally understand.

I discovered an article on late Comnenian frescoes on the isle of Gotland. Translated into normal language, Byzantine frescoes in Sweden. Who said that globalization is a modern phenomenon? Phew, liar.

Murasaki Shikibu would be an excellent blogger.

It's still sunny and wonderful. I'm meeting, if I find the place, Swedish knitters today.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Random observations

Someone wanders around the reading room wearing a rather oppressive melon perfume.

They are moving the card catalogue somewhere. Well, in fact, they are moving it to the internetz, but also physically. I just saw two guys transporting the chest of drawers on some sort of industrial wheelbarrow. They looked very concentrated and serious, after all, moving a catalog is a serious business.

I puzzled the photocopy lady by getting the form right but not actually speaking Swedish. After having adapted to the environment, I don't find this discrepancy unnerving but rather funny.

Some books come with cushions. Cushions to make the books comfy, not the readers.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Just to interrupt the endless ranting about my mental states.

In case of popular request¨for something irritating, though, I may put up some pictures of my current rash.

Chickenshit memoirs

In fact, it's not that bad. Today, for example, I boldly went to Svante the Librarian and boldly asked where the lecture on medieval bestiaries takes place. He didn't bite me and went to show me where the auditorium is. There were days when only the idea of possibly going to a library would make me shiver.

I'm firmly decided to find some professional help. I'm not sure how long will my resolve last, I've seen way too many professionals in the field to harbour rather a deep mistrust and, frankly, I think that shrinks are idiots and I have a reason.

There's one particular thing about boring family holidays. People have nothing better to do so they rant.
For reasons I don't remember, my mother started digging up things she didn't want to talk about. It's no secret that I was depressed, had a nervous breakdown and all that stuff. Or, at least, I don't make it a secret. It's not my fault that I have mental problems and that at a certain point, they were severe. But that's another story. Well, mom started with that.
To put things short, I had social phobia to an extent that complicated my life at least since I was 14 or 15. I don't really know when I started to be depressed, I was diagnosed when I was 18, based on things that were going on for at least two or three years. I was drinking. Not that I'd be an alcoholic but I needed something to get me in a state that I wouldn't be scared dead to go out of the house and walk ten minutes to go to school. I did make it home somehow, though. And, I literally spent not one afternoon sitting under my writing table, being scared. At a certain point, I was around 17, I stopped thinking. My brain wouldn't work, my attention span was a few seconds so when finally a few molecules of noradrenaline made their way through the synapses, I thought to myself something like Oopsie, I'm at school, I somehow forgot, before falling into obliviousness. And there was a paralyzing fear, almost all the time.
Nobody was really aware of all this.
I was seeing a counsellor. It was my mom's former colleague so I took the liberty to be very wary. That was one of the good points of social phobia, I was too scared to share the real stuff. Anyhow, when I admitted to drinking from time to time, the counsellor promptly sent me to a real shrink since he interpreted it as alcoholism (1). The shrink had more of a brain to see that I was depressed, gave me a prescription... and after several years, I slept something like normally.

I knew that my mom somehow got to know that I was seeing a shrink and that she had access to my files or the information from them. At that time, I was of age and I didn't give any consent to the shrink to spread the material around, nor to anyone to go and see it. Which meant that someone somewhere commited a felony. When my mom proudly announced that to me, to see how powerful or how caring or what the fucking hell she is, I did a bit of shouting and thought something about arseholes.

However, we had a discussion, mom started digging up how I was a normal teenager, how there were no problems and that I had to be lying to the counsellor and to the shrinks and how everything was made up etc. It didn't make too much sense to me, I never understood the depths of mom's delusion about her little sweet princess (2).
Mom continued on the theme of how she got to know what was going on between me and my counsellor and psychiatrist. That, well, the counsellor knew her and that he found it important to inform my parents. Erm. Let's admit that at least until a certain point I was a minor so legally it would be borderline okay, ethically, however, totally off anything. It's simply not done. But, at a certain point, I turned 18, got the right to vote and to get bank loans and simply became a citizen with all civil rights applicable... and apparently, nobody cared. Not my counsellor, not my shrink, nor my mother. The counsellor told her stories about my alcoholism (3). Either him, or mother when telling me, omitted the fact that I drank not to get high but to overcome my anxiety. The shrink, as I learned, felt compelled 'to hear the other side of the story' (4) and invited my mother for a chitchat. Despite knowing that I didn't wish my parents to know, explaining the reasons. Despite the fact that it was simply illegal. Both had to be aware that it wasn't in any perfect order.
Mom also gave a long rant, how the shrinks are studip because I apparently lied to them that I was an alcoholic and that it's not true. Because, behold, she never noticed that I'd be coming home drunk. I didn't comment it because I had hard time not to giggle or, in fact, to fall under the table laughing my ass off.
The other thing that almost made me explode was when my mom claimed that I told her that I didn't want to kill myself, that I was sick and may have taken more meds than it was healthy. Sure, a whole pack of benzos. Even if I had said it in some weird state of mind, it's around as believable as pink unicorns.
The legal debate was nutritious, too. The Righteous One said that there's nothing wrong at all when a concerned doc contacts a family member and blabbers everything out. And that there's no reason to be angry because it was only with the bestest intentions towards yours truly. And that there's no reason to be angry because it was long time ago.
I couldn't reply that well, it was against the docs' own code of ethic conduct, that it was totally illegal and that, in this light, Hitler was a nice guy who did so much good things for the workers and built nice highways and who cares about those few mishaps that happened to the Jews and Commies and whoever else.
Mother started to sulk and kept it for quite a while

Gotta love delusions.

Not that I would be absolutely against messing into people's lives for their own good, it needs to be done sometimes, legal, illegal, nice or mean. The same rule as for using coconut-rich perfumes or brain surgery applies, though: Proceed with extreme caution.

If I ever show such a level of self-delusion, please, euthanise me before it's too late.


(1) Shrinks are stupid
(2)namely Cinderella. The shoe stories will follow someday.
(3)see note (1)
(4) because everybody knows that there are the good teenagers which are good and the rest is problematic young delinquents and generally bastards that are not to be trusted evah, regardless of objective facts, developmental psychology and such nonsense. For more explanation, see note (1).

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The post-it problem

I think that everyone who had the dubious pleasure of my company noticed an OCD (1) strain in me. And that I can be damn irritating with that one.

I also make a frequent use of post-its. I evolved a habit of using those green ones, 7.5x7.5 cm for the bibliographic.... how do I say scheda in English? Well, sort of like index cards. Neon yellow ones are permissible, too. Not those regular pale yellow ones, nor, say, pink or blue ones. Gotta be green (or, in a sheer necessity, neon yellow).

I usually carry handfuls of post-it blocs around, I have some in my diary, but I happened to have ended up here with a single neon yellow post-it left. I need to write and I have nothing for my bibliography! and I'm in a country where I have no clue where to actually go and buy post-its (back home I'd go to the department store to the stationery; or to Esselunga; or to Ufficio moderno di Firenze before they had closed down. I'd know places).

I went to Historiska Museet yesterday. I love it there because they have nice things exhibited.
Admittedly, I'm an intellectual snob so I was constantly near banging my head against something hard. What I love about Sweden is that it's rather an user-friendly country but sometimes they just go too far. Like, the tags lack basic info like origin, dimensions, material used. Rants about their function are highly useful to the general crowd, an emulation of a Romanesque church space is neat, too, but, what if an art historian wanders in and wants to see, o woe, details ? In clear light? And that exhibition on Virgin Mary and a general ideal of a woman was neat but the clear light whine is still valid, and I'd want a catalog. With pics. In colour. The large and neat works on Swedish medieval scuplture are rather old, with pics in black and white, you know, so that there'd be something. And, anyways.
Admittedly, most of the place was empty, one thing I like about Medieval stuff is that as long as it's not that colourful 14th century Italian stuff or International style, nobody is too much interested in it because, well, it's not colourful and pretty most of the time. Apart from that stomping teenager and stomping guards chatting on the cellphone so I could mess around and stick my nose to the hollowed-out backs of the statues and such, while whining that there's no catalog available and that I'm stupid not to have studied more.

I have another rather OCD issue. I don't like going to places where I can't understand the native dialect. And, I don't like going here up north because I look like a native. My command of Swedish is passable but I don't speak it. I mean, in, say, Italy or in the Reservation, I generally look foreign so people are pleasantly surprised that I speak Florentine or Moravian (instead of textbook Italian and Czech) and even if I make a neat blunder, they are fine. Here I'm expected to be a Swede and to speak, obviously, perfectly. I thought that maybe getting a massive Finnish accent to my English would at least make the things self-explanatory... well, for the next time.

On my way back, I passed a secondhand bookshop. I sneaked in - I don't really like shopping in places where I might be approached by the staff, especially in this country, that's why I sneaked in. I would like to get the whole five volumes of Aron Andersson's Medieval Swedish Sculpture in Wood (or how the hell it's called) so I thought it would be worth checking. It was, I found volumes III and IV of Andersson, that book on English influences on Norwegian sculpture that was a pain in the arse to find and which I have only in a lousy photocopy. Then the bookshop guy came to kick me out ("vi stängs" or something), I grabbed the two books and asked whether, by chance, they may have volumes I, II and V. The guys said that they should be somewhere around, that they may have more books that may interest me and that I should drop by some other day. If I were a cat, I'd purr.

The issue of green post-its and the resulting inability to do something in the library remains unresolved, though.

(1) Obsessive-compulsive disorder. A thingy that makes folks check ten times that they really turned off the gas stove and such.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Bal d'Afrique - perfume review or something not resembling one at all

I had never heard about Byredo before I started digging on eBay, felt an urge to check something, found something else and when I was at it, I checked what else the seller had. Bal d'Afrique sounded quite exciting as a name of a fragrance so I looked for the company... and found out that it was a Swedish one.
Not that I doubted that there'd be a perfumer or two in Sweden, they seem to be everywhere but, well, it was somewhat surprising.

The whole range comes in identical bottles - to enjoy a piece of good glass sculpture, one needs to turn to Guerlain or some other huge fragrance house that can afford to have their own designs made in bulk. I however love the packaging. The ornamental logo, stickers with some trellis pattern sealing the box... as a neat coincidence, the perfume arrived when I was reading Ernst Hans Gombrich's The sense of Order.... Or, not actually reading, it was a library copy and several arseholes made so many underlines and notes that I couldn't, I only checked that the book is highly useful, I want to own one, and bought it on eBay, in the lovely first edition with ornamental designs on the dust jacket. While speaking of books, Byredo has a range of candles, featuring one named Bibliotheque.
Back to the fragrance. After the very citrusy start, there indeed is quite a handful of violets - I read them spicy and woody, that's maybe the reason why I perceived the whole fragrance as citrus-oriental, a sparsely inhabited realm. In fact, the notes taken from the Byredo site describe it rather as citrusy-floral but those are the weird flowers which I don't perceive as typically floral. Violet is simply peculiar to me, I guess I need to get a bottle of ionone (there's a bad drugstore back in the Podunk and they should have food flavourings, not the bestest start but good enough, and I love violet bonbons so I could make some when I'm at that) to get the fragrance separated from disturbing elements. Jasmine - nope, this is not a jasmine fragrance as such. I know jasmine when I meet it, I wore jasminum sambac in my hair for the whole May and I do have several jasmine perfumes; I guess that jasmine stays hidden, only making the whole thing seamless and generally neat.

There was a neat little envelope with a neat little card in the box. On the card, there was a romantic rant. Something about a hut with floor of red mud, and how the people gather there. I'm not romantic, I'm afraid so I had a nice laugh - my imagination immediately produced some highly serious gathering interrupted by a wandering chicken. My grandparents lived in the countryside until relatively recently, cottage with mud on the floor (not mud floor, it was concrete, but people went in their wellingtons to the kitchen so the result was pretty much similar) and it was much less cute than one would imagine.
Escapism is easy with the abstract nature of perfumes but it can be somewhat tricky. But... the fragrance is nice. It doesn't evoke exotic natives and red soil to me but I suppose it doesn't matter. I like it anyway - if nothing else, it's one of the fragrances that are prominently citrusy but don't turn foul on me.

Top notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Neroli, African marigold, Bucchu
Middle notes: Violet, Jasmin petals, Cyclamen
Base notes: Black Amber, Musk, Vetiver, Moroccan cedarwood

You can get the whole range of perfumes for 950 SEK /115 euros for 100mlhere.

I tried the whole range of Byredo perfumes at Fragranze back in Florence. Their new Blanche didn't really impress me but I'd happily get Pulp. Apparently, the authors imagine smashed fruits under the word pulp where I'd go for ground redwood tree on its way towards a bajillion of sheets of copier paper.

Thinking of it, it's maybe the creators that long for somewhere exotic else. Bal d'Afrique, Chembur, Gypsy water... one cannot but think about, say, Patou's Normandie, Colony or Vacances. I'm really tired by travelling and the idea of creating something like I'm Not Leaving My House (with notes of three days old bread, wilting plants and dust bunnies on a bleak autumn day, for example) is already kicking my shin.

Getting lost.

I always prided myself on my orientation abilities bordering with geniality. I wouldn't get lost nearly anywhere, be it a city or a forest, with the notable exception of Venice, which is understandable, and Stockholm, namely downtown Stockholm, where I actually had problems finding myself for most of my previous stay.. and the first thing I did was that I went somewhere and supposed to be going in the opposite direction.

There's something elusive about Stockholm. Many years ago, I remember having read a detective story that happened there, with all the neighbourhood names like Solna or Nacka sounding like a strange incantation and I remember my surprise on finding out that Södermalm is actually an island. And the street plan just puzzles me somehow.

Florence has a twisted street plan, too. Literally.
Florentia was located as a Roman colony, the colonies had a grid but the main axis followed some local logical line, in this case, the Arno. Only later on, the actual town was located, this time on the grid that followed the north-south and east-west axes. As a result, most of Florentine streets follow a grid but it is not immediately apparent that there are two grids. To add a bit of confusion, the fifth line of city walls formed a polygon, now there go the grandi viali and the neighbourhood streets are parallel or perpendicular to the adjacent viale so going from the center towards the edge, one may feel that they go straight ahead or at least moreless so... to find themselves lost.
I needed to read a treatise on urbanism of Florence and stare in the maps for quite a while but since then, I always knew where I was and where to go. Apparently, I need a book on urbanism of Stockholm.

I ventured out - I wonder whether it's really a social phobia or something or whether I'm lazy but I have problems dragging myself out to wander into unknown. It's not that bad as dominocat describes (I really like that blog), I usually manage somehow, it just feels very very uneasy. At least I manage to make myself comfortable with a place by simply walking it up and down... which doesn't work too well when the blistery thing on my heel is still oozing something.


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Greetings from Stockholm

The main quest was to get some shoes.
Size 42, black, sans heels. Since I lived in eternal summer for a while and some of my autumn shoes fell apart, I was left with a random pair slightly narrow for my bear paws. Narrow shoes mean that the feet are pressed backwards and this mechanics explains the holes in my heels. I played brave and didn't change the shoes straight away in the shop. After pointe practice, I'm no stranger to pain in the feet and cramped muscles of whose existence I had no previous knowledge but I persevered half a block. Not that the rest of the walk would be easy but now I'm back at the hostel, with my feet propped on a chair.

I managed to get hold of someone who gave me a few hints regarding my biology course. Like, that I should enter my courses in the System. The System is totally user-enmical. Things that could be done in a click or two are done in fifteen. The layout is messy. I have problems understanding what, say, Structure and Properties of Biopolymers means. Which is fine, I'm supposed to study that one in the future but figuring out how some silly studip list of lectures works took me five hours. Alphabetic order is apparently something totally not en vogue at the faculty of natural sciences, nor is some generally discoverable logic. I made up some sort of schedule, submitted it for approval and now, bite it. I'll do whatever I may stumble upon and find interesting (meantime, I sort of arranged an exchange of hard to find U. S. books for yarn - a good part of the annotations adds a list of recommended books that look like hard to find ones. I guess that the staff wants to brag how good their English is or something). And, be assured that I did my best to avoid anything that smelled of lab and had 'practice', 'exercise' or the worst, 'parasitology' in the course description. I'd rather have some mud au naturel, if I may please.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

On the road runway

Do you know that icky advert for Taft hairspray? Featuring that kitschy blonde with big mouth and big hair? It goes like Morning, Someplace, sunny, your hair looks plasticky all over; Midday, Anytown, windy, your hair holds and holds its excellent plasticky look; Evening, Podunk, sleet, your hair looks the same fugly all over.

Erm, here's one of them. There was a whole series of adverts on TV, all along the same lines. I hated them all. Karma kicked me in the shins so apparently, I live in one nowadays.

Yesterday morning, Larnaka, sunny, 25 degrees dipped in the sea, getting more sun rash to have a nice memory of holidays. Pissed and over-tanned.
Yesterday evening, Vienna, something like rain. Landed in the airport hotel, in a 200 euros room (comfy bed, admittedly, and I damn needed one. And feather pillows). View of a parking house and if I tried hard, of the Terminal 1 and a railway station. Could be 150 trashbins, admittedly.

Today morning, Vienna, there was some weather but I forgot to notice, pissed.
Today noon, Stockholm, changeable, rather cold, pissed and sleep-deprived. I seem to hate travelling.

Two days of near-panic state. I'm tired by all that travelling and there's always that damn social phobia. I apparently have an issue with the North. I look like a native. So, people expect that I'm Swedish or something like that. Which is why I don't speak Swedish. Speaking silly furriner Italian is fun, as a silly furriner, I'm always doing rather well. Silly furriner Swedish when I look like a Swede? Not fun. I should learn a handful of Finnishisms or something to feel better about it. Or I'll stick to English.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Dear all,

I'm on holidays.
So far, the most exciting events were:
- getting so much tan that I look like a member of some weird ugly subculture
- being bitten by George, the beach cat, because he didn't like being touched on his belly
- Greek cuisine as a whole

Mail will be answered and stories written as soon as I'm back in civilization that features reliable internet connection. Meantime, have some fun.