Friday, July 25, 2008

A letter from Stockholm

We had only three full days here. The first we spent in a heap, recovering from the long journey from Bangkok. We did manage to get up (on Friday morning) and have breakfast - I ate in silence, wearing my sunglasses, only just keeping my face out of the bowl.. we went straight back to bed afterwards. M was up again at about 2pm, but I slept on.. I think we went for a walk around the local streets, before finding somewhere to have dinner. I can't remember, two days later, where or what it was. That's exhaustion for you!

It seems Stockholm is having a bit of a heat wave - that'd be right! I am doomed to bring heat waves with me wherever I go. It's because I get too hot very easily, and obviously the gods are funny bastards and enjoy watching me melt. And get sore bits on my face from wiping gallons of sweat off with tissues. And wearing through several changes of clothes each day so I am also doomed to lashings of hand-washing. And having horribly hot, tender feet. For heaven's sake you lot up there, hot and tender are words usually found in recipes!!!


On Saturday, we should have been feeling much refreshed, but we both had a bit of traveller's tum. I flaked out after breakfast, actually falling asleep in the big chair in our room while the maid cleaned the room. She woke me gently to say "you can go to bed now" and patted me kindly. We were due to go at 1.30 to meet a dear friend of M's, one of his early Chinese professors at the ANU. [When we were here two years ago, Goran spent parts of several days with us, showing us around the best of the 84 museums in this city. I recall spending quite a bit of time falling back from Goran and M walking together, so I could let my jaw drop in private. Damask silk panelling on the palace walls! Hand-painted "wallpaper"! Gilt on the legs of the furniture used for arranging flowers and serving food. Amazing.] I didn't think I'd make it through the afternoon, but you just can't let ppl down .. can you. I spoke severely to myself and dragged my ass into some kind of vertical arrangement, and off we went.

Goran has since re-married, and he had arranged for us to meet him and his wife at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. Unfortunately the museum's administrators have removed the guts of the collection, leaving only a few rooms of rather ordinary items, but have spent a lot of money building a very fake Chinese garden. We had to leave after only a short visit, because Goran was getting visibly upset.

We repaired to the nearby Museum of Modern Art - I'm always keen on Modern Art exhibitions. On entry, Goran led us all firmly to the cafe, stating most determinedly that 'this is the best coffee in Stockholm, it's famous'. Rightio! The chairs were very strange, low and small of seat, almost children's chairs. But the coffee was indeed very very good. I was very self-controlled and only had one.

The exhibition was full of fairly brutal modern canvasses by an American painter, who echoed Dali in some of her attitudes to flesh - faces pierced and pulled by hooks, blood-stained cloths covering bits of bodies, that sort of thing. And a very strange and repellent animation involving two naked people, who give birth to a hippo and a whale. Odd.

We were happy after this to retreat to mere consumerism (having farewelled our friends), visiting the H and M store to try to find the bookshop/cafe we recalled from last time. We didn't find it (wrong shop, it turns out) but we fell into the H n M cafe anyway. M was looking very keen on his wine by then - we'd been speaking about 3.5* languages all afternoon and even for M it was getting a bit wearing.

Today we decided to head for the water. First stopping to buy an iPod recharger, because we left ours at home. We ended up stamping around through four different shopping malls before finding a place that hadn't sold out. After that we were free to go down to the quay - M suggested we take the boat to the castle and have a look around there. But by the time we got on the boat it was after 2pm, and the trip one way is an hour. The castle closes at 4... we decided to spend only half an hour looking through the grounds, and then enjoy the water views and cool(ish) breeze on the return trip. There were a lot of ppl on every possible bit of 'beach' sunbathing like mad. Apparently it's still very much the rage here. I find it almost shocking to see people with dark tans, or obvious sunburn. Tut tut!

M decided his feeties were falling off so he took the train back to the hotel. I opted to walk, feeling guilty about lollies I ate last night and an icecream that fell into my gob at the quay. By the time I'd investigated a few shoppies and sprayed my arms with six different new purrfumes, MY feeties were falling off, and I still had the uphill bit of Drottinggattan to go, to get back to the hotel. So I am lying on the bed, with the fan playing on my throbbing tooties, while I write this up ready to post when I next have Net access. Tomorrow we leave here at 7,30am to catch the train to Bergen, via Oslo. I'm looking forward to a day of no walking, of watching beautiful Swedish (and I daresay Norwegian) countryside passing by, and perhaps starting my first sewing project.

And no, I didn't buy any purrfume. But only just!

*English, Swedish, Mandarin (because Goran's wife is Taiwanese) and a bit of German and French to fill in a few linguistic gaps. I don't have any Swedish except "Tack" which is 'thank you". My Mandarin is pretty non-existent, although I can still understand a great deal more than I speak. I have the remnants of schoolgirl French, and M, clever clogs, speaks German like a native. So we had a very multi-cultural conversation!

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