Archive for September, 2009

Viking spirit

Do you remember when we went rowing with God a few weeks ago? And it turned out that the gods in questions were, in fact, two men dressed up as Vikings?


Although dressing up as Vikings is not really a good way of describing their way of life.

They breathe, act and live as Vikings! For the older man that you can see at the front of the boat, Viking is a way of life. He has built seven or eight copies of a thousand-year-old Viking boat that was found here some years ago. Some of his boats, like this one above, are used to take passengers around the lake. Others are made exactly to scale and are seaworthy.


Like this one, which I spotted half-hidden among the reeds. The young man (standing in the water in the first photo) has also inherited the adventurous Viking spirit. When I talked to him, they had just come back from sailing this boat to Finland. And their next adventure is sailing off to Russia.

Quite a long way when all you have is a sail and some oars. I believe the hull is made of fibre glass rather than wood, but it is still a long way to go – just sleeping out in the open or under a cover on the bottom of the boat.

Who said Vikings didn’t exist? Long live the Viking spirit!

For more adventurous spirits around the world, please visit: That’s My World!

It’s a dog’s life!

We went down to the lake to enjoy the autumnal sunset. It was a lovely, warm evening.



Some of just sat and enjoyed the colours, while two small creatures had different plans …



To jump for joy…



For more joyful pets, please visit: Pet Pride.

Enjoying the view


An inspirational day

At last – the report you have all been waiting for about our grand TEDxStockholm event! As you know, I’ve already covered Hans Rosling (I’m not sure with what, but he’s covered) in a previous post. He gave a great lecture, and threw around brightly-coloured platsic IKEA boxes to show us that there is no such thing as developing and developed countries. The new emerging economies will soon catch up with the middle economies. (He later went on to illustrate this with this usual data bubbles.) One lonely green box remained on its own on the stage: the bottom billion (a new phrase that you will be hearing a lot. Remember that you heard it first here though). It is the bottom billion people, those living in desperate conditions, that we must all now try to help.


We had lots of interesting talks, coffee breaks and discussions. Professors wowed us and made us think, especially Prof. Johan Rockström with his dire prognosis on the status of the planet in regard to climate change. Luckily, this was balanced by two inventions that ought to help make the world a better place. I think the whole event was a crowd pleaser.


I was most impressed by David Bismark whose research is set to turn voting systems in say, Iran and Afghanistan – and even the USA, upside down via a very effective way of holding verifiable elections. (That means that anyone and everyone can see that the votes are counted correctly and that your vote really does stay anonymous).

And finally, an accolade to Edna Eriksson, who gave a wonderful talk about diversity: it’s not what you see on the surface that counts, but who we are deep down. Or, as she put it, “Don’t ask me where I come from. Ask me where I’m going. You’ll learn a lot more.”

But no day of inspiration would be complete without its wonderfully wacky goings-on. Like the art group Glimpse, all dressed up with Viking horns, recycled dresses and goldfish bowls as hats.


Yes … you could say that I fitted in perfectly!

Gentle giant

Just imagine… you’re sitting in your timbered red barn or wooden cottage. The snow lies heavy outside in the winter darkness. The fire is crackling and the kids are playing. And if you were a man back then – about 400 years ago – then you might have found yourself whittling pieces of wood and making toys for the children.

Old red barn

Old red barn

Apparently, this is the humble origin of the Dala horse, which is a symbol not only of Dalarna, where it comes from, but of Sweden itself.

The traditional Dala horse is smallish and painted bright red with a harness of white, yellow, green and blue. Each horse is hand-finished and the details are painted on by hand too.

In Southern Dalarna, you can meet the world’s largest Dala horse! This gentle giant is made of concrete and weighs 66.7 tons. I think you’ll agree that it is impressive in stature with its 13 metres of height!


It takes nine people to create a handcrafted Dala horse. And don’t worry, they are made out of pine and not concrete!

My own Dala horse is a rather shy creature and prefers to hide behind lots of kiddy-made jewellery.


For more insights into our wonderful world, please visit: That’s My World!

Celebrate our differences

The large dog stopped and – curious – bent down to say a gentle hello.


For a few seconds, two creatures that were so wildly different shared a common moment of connection; a bond between two fellow creatures sharing the same space, the same air.

I wonder if there is a lesson here that we could all learn – and benefit from.

For more animal encounters, please visit: Pet Pride.

Making the world a better place

As I still haven’t tired of telling you, tomorrow is our big TEDxStockholm event! And, apart from Hans Rosling (see my previous post), the agenda is packed with brilliant minds and innovators! Our theme is inspiration – and as I look through the programme, I think I can detect an underlying theme: how inspiration can help us make the world a better place.

There’s Isabella Lövin, who has written a book about the global problem of overfishing. What will happen when the seas are silent because there are no fish stocks left?

Then, there is Petra Wadström with her invention: SOLVATTEN – a system that makes unsafe water drinkable by using solar energy!


Just imagine a world where millions of people can get easy and cheap access to safe drinking water! It’s mind-boggling!

I’m also looking forward to hearing more about the Peepoo bag from one of the brains behind this invention, Anders Wilhelmson.


Over 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic toilets and sanitation: that’s 40 out of every 100 people! Naturally, this lack of toilets affects society because it contaminates both fresh water and ground water. The Peepoo bag acts like a toilet except that it is much cheaper than investing in the infrastructure needed for water toilets. Not only is this bag affordable, but it is bio-degradable AND it converts the contents into harmless fertilizers that can then be used on crops. Ingenious!

Last but not least: laughter also makes the world a better place, don’t you think?

Here’s the description I sent into TEDxStockholm about myself:

Lady Ficurious, humorous, passionate about ideas and chocolate. Tongue-in-cheek intellect, love immigrant, loser of keys, earring enthusiast and reluctant cook. Word guru extraordinaire, creative writer and happily-failed domestic goddess.

(OK! So I didn’t really call myself Lady Fi. After all, I don’t want my id taking over my ego…)

So, while I’m away – how about a little entertainment? How would you describe yourself in a humorous way? Or if that is too hard, how would you describe me? (Remember – the theme is kindness here!)

Entertain me in the comments, please! I mean – do I have to do all the work around here?  ;-)

Give me a new mindset!

Sweden’s first public TEDx event is taking place this Saturday. We’re called TEDxStockholm (I know – it’s catchy, right?) and are operating under a licence from TED – Ideas worth spreading.

We have a great line-up of speakers: from graphic designers and environmental journalists to the wizard of data bubble software himself, Hans Rosling. Actually in real life Hans Rosling is a Professor of Global Health here in Stockholm, but when he gets up on stage – then watch out! He transforms statistics to magic while also popping every pre-conceived notion you might have about them and us, the poor and the rich, the developed and the developing countries.

He uses statistics, history and facts to show us that the world cannot be divided into such simplistic categories. It is, in fact, a much more complex place. We might be stuck in our old ruts, our traditional mindsets – and he wants to drag us into the modern world and a new way of looking at it. (If you have 20  minutes, this is well worth watching. It’s a talk he gave to the US State this summer.) He is a myth-busting professor that presents his data with all the adrenaline-fuelled passion of a horse racing commentator!

Oh – and have I mentioned that this guru is one of the main attractions on Saturday?

I’ll be there watching and acting as one of the moderators for our discussion groups.

And somewhere along the way, I hope to gain a new mindset!

Rowing with God

“Look! It’s God!” the kids burst out as we rounded the corner into the sunlight and ran excitedly past the two 1,000-year-old rune stones.

I peered closely. I could see an older bearded man with sackcloth clothes, and a bowl and spoon chiselled out of wood by hand hanging from his homemade belt.

“No! Over there!” shouted the kids and pointed at a man in a sackcloth dress and bare legs.


A Viking boat full of passengers

We had come upon one of the many events celebrating the Vikings in our little corner of the world. The two men in dresses were, in fact, dressed as Vikings and they offered interested spectators a ride in one of their Viking boats. (Actually, these are copies of a thousand-year-old Viking boat that has been preserved in one of Sweden’s museums.)

My two kids, one of their friends and I clambered rather awkwardly into the boat. Everyone was set to work – even the kids – and we had to row out onto the lake using the very large, heavy, hand-carved oars. It was hard work! Finally, the cloth sail caught the wind and away we sailed on the glittering water.

We were the last ride of the afternoon. With tired arms and a happy heart, we waved good-bye to the two Vikings as they sailed off into the setting sun – satisfied that we had had a little taste of history that sunny afternoon.


For other views of the world, please visit: That’s My World!

Playmate wanted!

Will you play with me, please?


Look, I’ve got a  new toy. Do you want to play?


Does anyone want to play? Anyone?


At last! A little friend…

For more playful pets, please visit: Pet Pride.

Singing for your supper


Opera – you either love it or hate it!


My post last week about a woman hitting my daughter in the face with a rolled-up newspaper provoked a lot of thoughts from you, my dear readers. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights.

This led me to do some thinking (I know – a dangerous occupation!) about whether parents should have the right or not to spank their own kids  and whether this should be allowed in schools.

You can probably guess where I stand – right? I’m against it. Full stop.

I  notice, though, that this is not the case in many countries.


Spanking kids in the home is widely approved in the States: all 50 states allow it, although spanking kids in school is banned in some states (the blue ones). So, here it is widely accepted and perhaps more of a norm.

In Europe, the story is slightly different. Corporal punishment is banned outright in many countries (the green countries), whereas a few (the blue ones) allow spanking in the home but not at school. The red countries show you where spanking is not banned at all.


I’m glad to say that Sweden was long in the forefront (in fact, it was the first country) when it came to banning spanking. Corporal punishment at school was banned back in 1958 and in 1966, parents no longer had the right to spank their kids either.

What the Swedes realized early on was that punishing kids by hitting them was not more effective than a minute’s time-out or a scolding.

Kids who get spanked may well behave themselves out of fear, but those who don’t get hit, learn their lessons out of respect and love.

In the words of Bertrand Russell:

I found one day in school a boy of medium size ill-treating a smaller boy. I expostulated, but he replied: ‘The bigs hit me, so I hit the babies; that’s fair.’ In these words he epitomized the history of the human race.

Living cliché

I know that sunset photos are pure clichés.


But I wanted to show you where I live.


It just so happens that I’m living in a cliché.


For other views of the world, please visit: That’s My World!

Setting sail

Have you ever noticed…


Slugs setting sail

How – after the rain – brave slugs set sail over grass and road…

Tiny boats, leaving behind a wake to tell the story of their long and slow journey

To new destinations.

Even the humble slug is a miracle of life.

For more miracles, please visit: Pet Pride.

Hands off!

Jacki over at Moving at the Speed of Light posted a link on Facebook about a 61-year-old man who tried to shut a crying two-year-old up by slapping her in the face several times.

Like everyone else, I am shocked that he thought it would help. And totally appalled by his actions. It also got me thinking…

You see, I’ve been in the same situation myself. And yes – if we’re honest, we’ve probably all had our nerves stretched to breaking point by children screaming – and that never ever justifies what he did.

screaming-childWhat surprised me were people’s comments saying that they would have punched him back, or done worse, if it had been their kid. Naturally, this is our very first reaction as a parent. As I said, this happened to me once. But I didn’t punch back – although I was so furious that for a few seconds it was all I could do to stop myself from whacking her.

Yes – in my case, it was a woman on a train, who couldn’t stand my daughter’s crying. She was having a typical toddler melt-down where I couldn’t reach her anymore and anything I said just made it worse. So, I pulled her into my embrace and was hugging her. Unbeknown to me, a woman (who I think was slightly disturbed) came up from behind – she was facing my back but my daughter’s face – and then it happened.

She whacked my then 4-yr-old in the face with a rolled up newspaper. My daughter wailed even more and my son joined in.

What did I do? I stood up and yelled at the top of  my lungs and told her to back off. I hollered so that everyone in the compartment heard me saying that she had just assaulted my child. Two men stood up and moved in front of us to protect us. Everyone else heaped criticism on the lady and called her a bad person.

She retreated, looking very shame-faced.

The two men got off the train before we did. As we stood up to get our things together, the lady came back to apologize, saying that she thought it would help me shut my child up. Words cannot describe how furious and disgusted I was with her at this point.

I will never understand how a complete stranger could think it was justifiable to hit a crying kid in the face…with a rolled-up newspaper.

I also believe that it would not have been justifiable to hit this woman in the face either. And this is where I and many of you, dear readers, may differ. Yes – your first instinct is to hit out, but I didn’t because this is not the kind of message I want to send my kids: that you can solve violence with violence.

Now, you might say that hitting the woman would show my kids that violence is wrong. But I don’t think so: kids just don’t get the subtleties that it is never all right to hit except in certain cases. All you’re doing, in my opinion, is reinforcing the idea that violence can solve problems. (And when this kind of thinking is transferred collectively to the way countries think, then you get all sorts of wars and conflicts around the globe.)

You see, my child thought that she had done something wrong and that it was her fault she got hit. It took over a week of discussions and explanations to help her see that she wasn’t the one at fault.

Do I think that screaming assault as loudly as I could helped her understand that hitting is wrong? Yes, I think so.

It takes a whole village to raise a child, goes the saying. And, in this case, I think that my daughter understood the message when several passengers rose as one to protect us and scold the woman.

For me, the solidarity of many adults banding together spoke louder than hitting back would have.

Call me an optimist and a fool: but I like to believe that the message of love incorporated in not hitting is stronger than the message of hate embodied by an eye for an eye.

Running: with or without?

Every year, women gear up to race  in Sweden’s biggest sporting event for women: Tjejmilen, which means ‘women’s mile’. Except in this case, we’re talking about a Swedish mile.

And naturally, a Swedish  mile isn’t the same as a British one. A Swedish mile is 10 km. So, when someone says they cycled 20 miles, you do the maths and then go to lie down on the sofa, totally exhausted by the sheer thought of it all.

Anyway, I digress. This past Sunday, it was time for 26,000 women from 23 countries to put on tight lycra and run in the Royal Park in Stockholm.


According to one of the national papers, a reporter overheard a young man stating his suprise:

“Just imagine! 26,000 women … without handbags!”

Hmmm… surely it would be even more surprising if 26,000 women ran with their handbags?

Golden haze

The countryside lay in the golden haze of summer, beckoning me from the train window.


I answered its call – and found myself in a rural Swedish oil painting.

For more beauty from around the world, please visit: That’s My World!


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