Archive for August, 2009

You say moose; I say elk

120px-Moose-warning.svgIs it a moose or is it an elk? Well, if you’re in Sweden, it’s both!

What you might call a moose in North America is what we Europeans know as an elk. (Not to be confused with a type of deer that North Americans call ‘elk’. Are you with me?) Elk are widespread in Sweden, and even near Stockholm there are wire fences separating the woods from the motorway in order to keep the elk off the roads.


Swedish elk

I’ve seen glimpses of adult elks as they retreat into the woods. I’ve admired elk poo. But I’ve yet to see a full-grown one face to face. They are called King of the Woods over here and with their long graceful legs, they resemble giraffes as they run off into the forests. They may be regal and … well … big – but, at heart, they are shy creatures.

Once, a couple of years ago, as we were going back home in the car, I spotted a young elk – a year-old-bull calf – standing near the cycle path, looking out over the lake serenely.

I got Sir Pe to stop the car and ran back to the elk armed with only a smile and my mobile phone camera.


It turned its head slowly and stood staring right at me and the kids. Slowly, slowly, it began moving towards us. Nearer and nearer. It looked as if it was ready to take on the world. Another passer-by recommended that we begin backing away slowly as even young bull calves can be very dangerous due to their size.

Just then, a strange cry was heard and the bull stopped. He gave us one more look and turned, unafraid and graceful, towards his mother. Together, they walked back to the forest that was their domain.

For more animal stories, please visit: Pet Pride.

Of Shakespeare and baboons

Alexander McCall Smith, whom I wrote about recently, has started up The No. 1. Opera House project in a small, converted garage just outside Gaborone, Botswana. This tiny garage is a restaurant by day and an opera house by night. A full house is 60 seats.

The first opera will have its premiere there in October of this year and it is called The Okavango Macbeth. Apparently, the opera explores the themes of Macbeth set amongst a colony of baboons.

baboonfight1That must be Lady Macbeth on the left! Photo taken by Max Waugh

Perhaps with their clear social hierarchies, they too have Lady Macbeth issues!

Or maybe it’s just a case of monkey business?

Actually, I love the idea of having classics in new settings…

How about Romeo and Juliet, with their families fighting like  … well … cats and dogs?

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

And what about Othello? Green with jealousy over his beloved Desdemona – set among chameleons?


Jealous Othello

And, of course, we mustn’t forget this passionate couple…

Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra

… Antony and Cleopatra!

You know what? The phone’s ringing off the hook (I’ve often wondered about this expression. I mean, if it’s off the hook, then it can’t ring. But I digress…) and my house is surrounded by movie moguls who want to buy the rights to my idea. They’re stampeding like wild elephants.


I only hope they give me an offer that is ‘herd’ to resist.

Floating surprises

I love meeting the unexpected.

On a lovely summer’s day, the kids, friends and the dog were all swimming in the sun-dazzled lake, when suddenly…

… this appeared silently around the corner!

A floating jetty!

A floating jetty!

A floating jetty, complete with table, chairs and a picnic!

After saying our merry hellos, the jetty  puttered peacefully away.

It is quite a common sight to see these motorized jetties during the summer. However, a couple of weeks ago, I was out enjoying the sight of dawn spreading out her pink fingers across the sky, when I came across the unexpected and delightful sight of a floating jetty disguised as a …

… tent!

This floating tent-on-a-jetty docked on the shore of the lake for a couple of nights before disappearing as mysteriously and silently as it had appeared.


Beauty is everywhere – especially where we least expect it.

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

It’s a stick-out!

Giraffes are tall: the tallest mammals in the world, in fact. With legs that go up and up and up.

tongue_2Picture taken by Paddy_K

They also have very, very long tongues. A giraffe tongue can be up to 21 inches or 53 cm long.

But I do believe that the tongue of my dog, Oscar …


… comes a close second!

For more pet stories, please visit: Pet Pride.

The misunderstood pizza

Last weekend, we had some visitors – and a very happy time was had by all.

Well, one little thing did happen…

You see, after walking back with our friends, I offered to make a home-made pizza – with real mozzarella cheese and everything. Those of you who know me, will understand what a rare offer this is – and what an honour. Sort of like finding a gold card in a Willy Wonka chocolate bar.

Anyway, everybody decided to take a vote on it: eat my homemade efforts or buys pizzas from the local pizzeria.

Who do you think won?

PizzaThat’s right. The unanimous vote went to buying pizzas as take-aways.

I’m not sure where I went wrong… Don’t people realize that the burnt edges give you extra fibre and taste — not to mention some chewing resistance?

Ah well, genius is so often misunderstood…

Leafy thoughts


I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.

Walt Whitman

More words can be read at: Muddy Boot Dreams

The generosity of strangers

A while ago, I read about a group of people who wanted to spread a little joy to others. So, they went into libraries, supermarkets and other places and taped five dollar bills onto items that they found there. They always made sure they wrote a little note on the money so that the finder would know that someone had placed the money there as a random act of kindness.


Book anyone?

One of my jobs is housed in an old apartment building, and one morning, I was greeted with this sight.

The sign reads:

Dear Neighbours,

We have cleared out our bookshelves. Take whatever you want!

After a couple of weeks, the basket was empty and the books had found happy homes and satisfied new owners.

Similar acts of generosity can be seen in our neighbourhood. I remember that when we first went to look at the half-built house that was later to become ours, Sir Pe and I walked around the area to get a feel for it. One of the things that helped us make up our minds to buy the house was the fact that several houses had bowls of plums outside their gates, with notes encouraging passers-by to taste the fruit.

A couple of weeks ago, I walked past a house with a bountiful gooseberry bush and a sign that said:

Help yourself to the gooseberries.

Help yourself!

Help yourself!

It doesn’t take much effort to smile at someone, to show kindness to friends and strangers alike.

Love and kindness are never wasted and just like a boomerang, eventually find their way back to the giver.

As Lao Tse said:

Kindness in words creates confidence.
Kindness in thinking creates profundity.
Kindness in giving creates love.

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



By D.H. Lawrence

This is a fabulous poem about Lawrence’s encounter with a snake – and also his own battle with the urge to kill that snake. Yes, it’s long, and yes – it’s poetry. But I make no apology: for poetry speaks to our souls and our emotions. If you just don’t have the time to read everything, then I suggest you enjoy the first and last verses.

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before


He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.


He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.


I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

Taormina, 1923

For more concise pets, please visit  Pet Pride.

Of miracles and kindness

MiracleHave you read the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books written by the prolific author Alexander McCall Smith? I hope so – otherwise you are really missing out on tales of kindness, human nature, good and bad in Botswana.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished the ninth book in the series: The Miracle at Speedy Motors. Mma Precious Ramotswe, the only lady detective in Botswana, once again sets out to deal with a number of cases in a very compassionate and gentle way. There are the threatening anonymous letters, a client’s search for the truth about her family, as well as her husband’s own pursuit for a miracle for their wheelchair-bound foster daughter.

Oh – and let’s not forget the girl-obsessed mechanics at her husband’s garage and her assistant, Grace, wearer of extremely large glasses.

Mix these characters with a dash of detective work. Then sprinkle with a large dose of human compassion and reflection. You then enter another world where the pace is slower, and where gentleness and kindness – not to mention lots of red bush tea – can still solve most troubles.

Images of summer Sweden

August: hot days, cool quiet mornings, school starts next week. Shining sun and clouds – a premonition of autumn.

It’s a time to savour: hold on just a little longer to those long light nights that are already getting shorter. A time to remember that the sun shone high in the sky well past 10.30 at night.

Hot air ballooning at 10 pm

Hot air ballooning at 10 pm

It’s a time for sweaty or wet (depending on the weather) blueberry picking in the mosquito-haunted woods. And for lingering swims in warm waters. And ice cream.


August is a time to love and hate with its dazzling days that can turn chilly on a whim, with those glorious sunsets putting on a peacock show of colours earlier and earlier.


It’s a time to enjoy the blossoms of summer, even as they wither on the stem.

A bit like life really.

For more nostalgic posts, check out: That’s My World!