You’ve probably seen the photos going around the Interent showing Mexicans wearing masks as a precaution against swine flu – right? Proof – if it is needed – that even in times of terror, people can still retain a zany sense of humour.
And if you’ve always wanted a droopy moustache, then why not go ahead and make your dream come true?
At first I thought that these humorous masks arose due to swine flu. But, apparently not. Back in 2003, when SARS was scaring the living daylights out of us, people were making fashion statements back then too.
After all, they didn’t want any monkey business out of SARS, did they?
I started wondering if these funny masks only made an appearance during times of pandemics and mass hysteria. But they don’t.
During the flu and allergy seasons in Japan, it is common to see people sporting masks, both to keep out other people’s germs and to keep in their own.
Although the Centre for Disease Control states that wearing a surgical mask is not likely to prevent you from getting a virus, if you want the comfort of wearing one, then you may as well do it with style.
On 17 May of every year, an entire country takes a holiday to go out onto the streets and take part in parades, bands, marching and general celebration.
If you happen to be in Norway, then you cannot help but be affected by the music, the rosy-cheeked smiles, the traditional costumes, the joy…
Now, if you ask them what they are celebrating, they will tell you that they are celebrating their National Day. The day they became an independent nation.
Independent from Sweden, no less. That’s right, Norway used to be under Swedish rule once upon a time… (But, hey, let’s not mention that again. OK?)
And although the Norwegians will insist that they are celebrating syttende mai (17 May); celebrating their independence…
… they are not.
What they are really celebrating is my (and Sir Pe’s) wedding anniversary!
So, thank you Norway, for all the music, cheering and celebration… we appreciate it.
Let’s make a date to do it all over again next year!
When I catch the crocodile who materialized out of my son’s imagination and into his bed at three in the morning, causing him to shriek so that the very heavens split apart, my heart stopped beating and I lay bolt upright for the next hour or two in a state of shock while comforting said son…
… I’m going to turn him into particularly ugly pair of Crocs.
I don’t have much for you today because I spent all day yesterday being sick. It seems I might be allergic to the allergy remedies I was taking. And when you mix three different remedies with some painkillers, stand well back! It is not a pretty sight.
I used up a whole roll of toilet paper yesterday – and that’s a record, even for me: Queen of the Toilet Rolls!
So, I have nothing else for you…
… except this.
For the past couple of days, this unusual visitor has been floating around. The swans just don’t know what to make of it…
It’s a replica of a Viking boat.
However, I think that it’s looking in the wrong place. If it would just row itself around the corner, I’m sure it would find what it is looking for!
Rune stones (also dating back to Viking times)…
Little known fact #1: The district in which we live has the most rune stones (in the whole of Sweden).
Little known fact #2: We also have the highest number of horses. 1 in 5 inhabitants in this district are, in fact, horses. (Closely followed by dogs and snakes, I imagine…)
Mind-blowing, I know!
Here ends Lady Fi’s Useless Facts Service.
If you want to find out how others live, then check out That’s my World!
Did you just hear a loud explosion? The sound of a thousand clog dancers tap dancing on a railway line? Or perhaps something that sounded like an earthquake – only squeakier?
It’s only me… do not be alarmed. Although I might warn you that a face mask or an umbrella might come in handy right now. Because no matter how I try, I can’t hold back my sneezes.
It’s the explosion of birch pollen and flowers that does it. And the sound of me sneezing is just the sound of spring gone mad.
A bit like me. As it’s World Laughter Day on May 3rd, Sir Pe suggests that I try to laugh and turn the allergy misery into fun.
I think having one of these nifty little toilet hats would help: I could blow my nose while people had a good laugh. Twice the fun and twice the value!
And if that doesn’t help, I could always turn to some good, clean, light-hearted fun.
Because, the more you laugh, the better you feel.
And the better you feel, the more you want to laugh.
That should scare my birch allergy away, don’t you think?
At least until next year.
It’s not often I play cyber tag as I’m usually exhausted from chasing the anklebiters around all day. But as I was wondering what to post, a game of tag seemed the ideal way not to have to think too much to work off some of that Easter chocolate! (OK! I confess – there were some teeny tiny choccie eggs pouting at me in the pantry, begging me on their bare knees to be enjoyed! Who could resist such a challenge?)
I feel myself sliding away on the slippery slope of red herring-dom. So – to business! The very talented Maria-Thérèse of afiori snagged me in her silver net of charming notebooks and photos. The stuff she sells is just darling!
But wait – where is that tag and why is it itching my neck?
Five things I’m looking forward to:
- Shared moments of joy.
- Finishing off my next textbook and seeing it in action in schools.
- Delivering a brilliant translation of a book that looks at developments in the developing world.
- Having a day in pajamas.
- An end to poverty.
Things I’ve done over the past few days:
- Admired two grass snakes swimming and a couple more lazing around in the garden.
- Had my peace shattered when a neighbour suggested we kill the snake near her house. (We didn’t, of course!)
- Had a terrifying Hitchcock moment when a bird went wild inside the house.
- Entertained a huge bunch of wild children. (Where do they all come from? And who are they, anyway?)
- Ate home-made Polish apple cake. (And yes – you’re so right! I did not make it!)
- Sneaked downstairs to watch an episode of Life on Mars – superb!
Things I wish I could do:
- Make the world a happier place.
- Speak at least a hundred languages.
- Travel in time and space and dimension.
- Slide down a rainbow.
- Put laughter in a bottle and give it out to people when they need it.
- Wear stars in my hair.
- Invent a new season.
All the photos in this post belong to Maria-Thérèse and are taken from her site at afiori.
Our little anklebiter turned six last week.
Today, he shared a birthday party with one of his best friends. Nobody wanted to have 14 pre-school kids on a sugar high in their homes tearing pictures off the walls or swinging from the ceiling lamps like Tarzan and Jane (too late: this has already been done at home!) – so we did the only sensible thing – and held the party at a soft play area where they are used to kids smearing ice cream all over their hair and faces (four kids did this), screaming their heads off so that the windows shattered (all kids), throwing their juice on the floor (2 kids) and littering the floor with so much wrapping paper that it looked as if a confetti factory had exploded (the two birthday boys).
All in all, it was a successful party.
The only problem is that my ears are ringing… but I refuse to answer!
Sir Pe pulled the sandpit up yesterday. The sandpit where the kids spent hours playing with wet sand and making sand soup, and then trailing in the sand on their damp clothes. When they dried, golden dunes of sand could be found hiding around the house and secreting themselves under the feet and in the beds.
Now we have a garden that is acting like Greta Garbo. Listen carefully!
Can’t you hear it saying:
“I want to be a lawn!”
It’s been a while since I last saw my sister. That’s one of the downsides of living in different countries. And although she has already left us, I prefer to focus on hellos, rather than the vacuum that good-byes create.
So, this is us meeting up again. In our own inimitable way.
First off, my sister tries to strangle me while she is still half-asleep… (She’s the sleepy-eyed figure on the right.)
Then we take a good long look at each other, assessing the changes that have taken place during the past six months.
My sister thinks: Oh my goodness! The folds on her face make her look like an accordion. Poor thing!
And I think: What?! Am I really related to you?
What we actually say is: It’s just lovely to see you again!
Because it is.
Even if we are just that bit more more wrinkled and tired…
UPDATE: You can read more here! http://news.iskcon.com/node/1825/2009-03-14/mayapur_residents_recovering_after_car_crash
To my regular readers: some kind of normal service will be resumed soon! I’m preparing another edition of that whacky carnival you know as Strange Shores. I’ll be posting it up this evening (Sunday) or tomorrow morning.
To my irregular readers: the low-down as I know it about Braja.
- The very kind devotee Paul is going to print out all our comments on Braja’s last post and read them out to her today at the hospital. He then flies back to New Zealand. The link to the updates (that I posted yesterday) will lead you to another of Braja’s friends, who is constantly at her side. There is an e-mail address there, but as she is taking quite a long time to answer, I’m assuming that she has received a lot of e-mails. I’m sure she is very busy and distressed herself and doesn’t have time to answer them all.
- Henry the Dog’s Mum has asked her for a postal address to which we can send cards. In the meantime, I did receive a kind message from Paul, who has this to say:
“The address for the Apollo hospital, as well as phone numbers, email etc can all be found on the following website: http://www.apollohospitals.com/Kolkata.asp
I think it’s a very sweet idea for you all to send cards of support.
I have no doubt it’ll raise her spirits and touch her heart. :-)”
- Here is the address:
Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, Kolkata
#58, Canal Circular Road
Sheesh – do I have to do all the work for you?
- Please do NOT send flowers to the hospital as they are not allowed. I believe post takes somewhere between 10-14 days to get to India, so you’d better get started!
Just in: Vodka Mom has posted up a reply she got from Ramadevi. Apparently, she is willing to pass on personal messages to Braja, who doesn’t have her mobile in ICU. (So don’t try to ring yet!)
It’s seven in the morning here on Sunday. Can I please go and get a second cup of coffee?
The news about Braja’s accident has spread like wildfire and Lisa has suggested that everyone stop for a minute at noon today (Saturday 14 March) to send loving thoughts to Braja, her husband and their driver. In the words of Mother Teresa: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
Braja is doing much better and should be able to leave the Intensive Care Unit of the Apollo Hospital in Kolkata in about a week. Unfortunately, her husband has suffered more extensive injuries as has the driver, who might lose a leg. They are all being cared for well, and their fellow devotees are keeping them company both physically and in their prayers.
Some of you have expressed the wish to send cards to Braja at the hospital. One of her friends has sent me the URL to the hospital, so I will post the address shortly. I am just waiting for confirmation from one of her close friends at the hospital to make sure that we are not crossing any cultural lines here and also to ensure that the hospital will be able to cope with huge amounts of mail!
Check back here for more details later on.
And, as always, Braja’s carers are updating their site with news about all three. Visit this site for updates. However, I do suggest that not all of us email Ramadevi as her inbox will be flooded otherwise!
Now go out there and give your loved ones an extra hug!
Time for round two of my interview with the lovely South African Sea Monkey. (Yes – she did ask me quite a lot of questions! Sea monkeys are a curious bunch…)
What other jobs have you done? she asked me while peeling a banana daintily.
Other jobs? So, not my current jobs… (I can tell you more about these in another post one day, if you’re interested.)
Let me see: I worked in the school holidays as a cashier at a large supermarket. It was very stressful when we were busy and people shouted at me for being so clumsy at the till. And yet, at times I felt as if I were a therapist. Old dears would come in during the calm periods of the week just to chat because they were lonely. They all had their favourite ‘girl’ at the till and would queue up just to talk to us. Sweet!
I took a secretarial course in my year off and temped in various offices both near home and in London. My worst job in Londoon was when I worked at a prestigious PR company after university: the men were all so sexist and treated me as if I had no brains at all! My funniest moment came when I was a temporary secretary at a London council department. It was compulsory to stop working for coffee mid-morning and tea in the afternoon. The old ladies in their cardigans asked me to ‘please work more slowly so that you don’t show us up!’
One of my most rewarding jobs was when I worked at a home that looked after young adults with mental and physical impediments. Apart from changing tubes and catheters, the job entailed taking out the young people and .. wait for it… cooking for them! My boss told me that he wasn’t sure how they managed to survive my first weeks there because of the cooking, but after a while, I managed to learn a few set meals that I could cook without burning too much! Poor them…
I grew fiercely attached to these difficult but wonderful kids (OK – I was a kid too, about 23!) and would rage against people who thought that they shouldn’t be seen at the public swimming pool, for example, because they scared the ‘normal’ children by being ‘not normal’. It nearly broke my heart to leave them when the time came to go to China as a volunteer teacher with the British government aid program, VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). I wrote about some of my memories from that time here.
Other jobs include: teacher of English as a Foreign Language (in Spain, China and the UK). Waitress in Australia. Organizer of a ballet festival in Spain. Oh – and cook on a ship in northern Australia. Now – that is the stuff for another post!
It’s half-term here in Sweden, or as the Swedes call it, ‘sports break’. That’s right, you’re supposed to go away and enjoy the snow at some ski resort or other. Of course – you can just stay at home and enjoy it too. The only problem is that then you are subjected to harrowing bouts of cooking and sleepovers.
Like yesterday. Anklebiter #1 had a friend over for a sleepover. They were up and breakfasted by 6.30 am and raring to go! By eight in the morning, they had finished their art session in the kitchen. They had obviously been painting and gluing and using glitter with blindfolds on. Either that – or the fairy godmother exploded in there.
The floor was a shimmering pool of golden glitter, with dunes of the stuff piled up everywhere. During her explosion, that fairy godmother had managed to splatter the walls, kitchen cabinets and floor with big splotches of purple paint.
So – please send help! Preferably a good cleaning lady or a fairy godmother (the non-exploding type).
The day was saved when I found some old pizza in the back of the fridge, which meant no cooking. Oh dear: I’ve just shot my Betty Crocker image to pieces!
How do I look? No spinach in between my teeth or holes in my trousers, I hope! Good… I’m ready for my interview with the very funny Po aka the South African Sea Monkey. She had a lot of questions, so after a quick cup of coffee, we got started. I was going to offer her some home-baked cakes, but she declined. I wonder why?
How did you meet Sir Pe and how long before you got married?
Gosh – she does know how to pick them! Well, I had just written a Student’s Book (to learn English as a Foreign Language) for a large Swedish educational publisher’s and they invited me over to Stockholm to write the Teacher’s Guide as well as other educational goodies for kids at Swedish schools.
So, I took a three-month sabbatical from my teaching job in England, and without a single word of Swedish in my baggage, turned up in Stockholm one sunny day in April back in 1996. After a couple of weeks, I decided that I ought to at least know some phrases in Swedish (it gets a bit monotonous saying Hej! all the time and sounding like the Swedish chef out of Sesame Street). So, I enrolled in a Swedish class for beginners. I found myself sitting next to the only Englishman in the class: his bow tie was a dead give-away!
This gentleman invited me to his 40th birthday party in The Limerick, a good old Irish pub in Stockholm. The date: 14th May. We went there after class, and some of Bow Tie’s workmates were there – including Sir Pe.
Now, I thought Sir Pe was a native Swede because he hadn’t spoken English for so long that when he did, HE sounded like the Swedish Chef with really bad English. Turns out he was a Swedish citizen (still is), but came originally from England.
We exchanged e-mail addresses (he was one of the few people I knew back in 1996 who actually had an e-mail address), corresponded for a couple of weeks and finally went out on a date sometime near the end of May.
Dazzled by my wit, modesty, good English and cooking skills (I burnt a hole in his coffee pot the first time I made coffee), we got engaged on 1st July 1996.
The words whirlwind romance perhaps spring to mind. Either that or: They’re nuts! After my three months were up, I went back to England, resigned from my job, packed up everything and found someone to rent my flat.
We didn’t get married in haste though – and waited for nearly a year before tying the knot in England on May 17th, 1997.
Oh my – doesn’t time fly by when reminiscing? Only time for the one question… Po had to get back to her place PDQ because she is hosting Strange Shores #4. So, visit her blog for a plethora of more real-life tales from nutty ex-pats.
It’s official! Thanks to Kelli in Denmark, I’m now sending off this catchy new tourism slogan to the Tourist Board: Welcome to Scandinavia: where the weather is out of focus even when you haven’t been drinking!
After the wet-washing-on-a-line kind of weather, Monday dawned clear and bright. As I picked my way carefully on the icy path at 6.45 am (out walking with the dog), I looked up to see the most wondrous moon setting behind the trees. It was ablaze – a glorious orange ball. I rushed back at break-neck speed to get my camera. (You need to understand that break-neck speed on a path of sheer ice is the equivalent of the speed of a snail…) Oh – the things I do for you, dear readers! Risk neck and limb to take a fabulous photo.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t it! The moon was nearly below the trees by the time I had slid my way back to a suitable shooting point. See that orange ball? That is the moon taunting me as it slides out of view.
But just imagine this: an enormous Chinese Lantern … without the gold lettering… and orange in colour… That’s right! A huge orange hanging in the sky. So big you could see all its dimples … its lunar cellulite, if you like.
And have you noticed how blue the photo is? Just one more bit of proof that winter is so cold it is blue!
I like it.
Sunday morning. A wet mist hangs like damp washing over the countryside. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s unpleasant. And no – the photos aren’t out of focus. The weather is.
As that old cliché goes: it’s good weather for ducks. Their orange feet are the only flashes of colour to cheer up the day.
What a shame that you aren’t here to share it!
Anyway, if you want to escape our candy floss mist, then head on over to the third riveting edition of Strange Shores: a blog carnival written by ex-pats. It’ll leave you shaken, and quite possible, stirred.
A ghostly mist has settled itself over the lake. Now and then you can see apparitions of the hardy – and brave – folk who are out on the lake, skiing in the slush or skating on the lake. The snowracers race like bullets over the snow. Everyone is bundled up in hats, gloves and bulky coats.
Cue music. Cue twirling swirling colours. We go back to the turn of the 19th century. Travel back in time more than one hundred years ago …
… to this: Australia!
I’m captivated by these hardy pioneers! They look as if they are going off to church – not about to start a race. In the cold snow.
Apparently, round the end of the 1800s, skis were called snowshoes in Australia. One of the oldest ski clubs in the world was started in Kiandra and still exists today.
No gloves, long skirts and hats. I like to think that, although physically confined by their clothing, their spirits were free as they raced down the hill at exhilarating speeds.
Did you know that Flickr: The Commons is a place where institutes can upload their old photos and save them for posterity? This photo is part of the Powerhouse Collection.
In honour of his foot/leg’s second anniversary, Sir Pe was obviously bored at work kind enough to snap this photo for you of his rubber thingies. The ones with nails that you put on the bottom of your shoes and strap around your ankle. Even if you fell over, you would need all the skills of a yogi in order to impale yourself on them. But good luck trying.
Actually, you if you really wanted some home-made acupuncture, then I would advise going with the Leki stick. It’s got a sharp little spike that you can pull out when needed – it gives you extra grip on the ice. Actually, I was quite impressed to see that the crutches Sir Pe came home with (after his fall two years ago) also had these spike contraptions on them.
Anyway – back to the saga: on the night that Sir Pe came crashing to the ground, so did lots of other people. In fact, Sir Pe found himself in the waiting room of the hospital next to a colleague of his!
“See you around the office?”
“Not for a while…”
Instead of the usual eight falls a night, there were 42 on the night of that snowstorm. So, as you can imagine, patients were stacked up in the corridors because there was nowhere else to put them. (I imagine Michael Moore would have had a field day in there!) Sir Pe spent the first night in the corridor.
The next day and night saw him still waiting for his operation, but at least he was moved up to the deluxe accommodation. He was put into the medial supplies store room. He told me he quite enjoyed it as he got a lot of company from the doctors and nurses who kept popping in to fetch the bandages and drugs. (I’m sure he liked it because he kept inhaling….) As no one knew when he was going to be operated on, he wasn’t allowed to have any food. So, for three days he was kept on a drip with a sugar-salt solution topped up with morphine.
He was moved to a ward on the third day and – finally – got his operation that evening (i.e. three days later). The doctor had been working for two days with no rest, so it’s no wonder the bones didn’t set properly. Well, at least he got the correct leg!
What strikes me as slightly ironic is that there is a craze over here in Sweden for beds of nails. Yes, beds of nails that you might associate with India. People lie on them or stand on them. Supposed to be very therapeutic. And expensive.
Can you see the similarity between the nail bed and the nail soles for your shoes? Next time you want some therapy, just give me a call and, for a reasonable fee, I’ll come over and walk on your back with my rubber thingies.