Thursday, 28 February 2013

Swedish journey part 6

While we were in Sweden I had to buy myself a new Dala horse.  When I was little, I remember a set of 4 or 5 on the bookcase ranging in size from tiny to large, I've no idea where they are now so I had to get one for posterity!

This is a copy of a favourite photo from my album, Christopher, Rosalind and me dressed up for a fancy dress party with Daddy.  I'm so grateful he was such a keen photographer as without all his pictures we would have very little idea of any of our childhood and our parents' story.

This is an Orrefors fish bowl given to our parents as a wedding present which I cherish.  Bob and I visited the glass works during the trip and bought ourselves a 40th anniversary vase as a souvenir of the journey to leave as an heirloom for the future too.

Christmas in Sweden is full of memories for me, especially the fragrance of pepperkaker which are made every year.  The festival of St Lucia happens early in December when girls dress in white robes and parade with candles, the special girl chosen to be St Lucia also has a crown of candles.  

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Swedish journey part 7

Finally the day arrived when we drove to find the cottage where I had spent my summers up till the age of 6.  With much info from maps and google and a few wrong turns we found the nearest village to park the camper and got out the bikes. A 7 km cycle ride along a pretty lane, up and down hills and through birch and pine woods and there it was! It had changed a bit, being updated and freshly painted in the typical red but it was definitely the right place. 
After looking over the fence I spotted the owner in the garden and asked permission to take some photos, he very kindly invited us in to see the interior as well and more memories came flooding back when I saw the old water pump in the garden and the heater in the main bedroom.  We had seen one of these heaters at Skansen and I had felt very drawn to it and now I knew why.  We had used the pump for all our water as the cottage had no mains for water or toilets in our time in the 1950s.  The toilet then was a walk up the hill behind the cottage to a 'long drop' in a shed in the woods.
We said goodbye to our new friend and carried on down the lane to find the lake and farm I remembered.  At the farm gate we saw this stand for milk churns just as it had been 60 years ago.  At the time we collected all our milk in a billy can and I can well remember being sent to collect it and having to walk home carefully so as not to spill any. I wonder if it's still sold like that today in these outlying places.

 We carried on down the lane and then, there in front of us, was the lake where I spent so many idyllic childhood summers.  Just as I remembered there was a rickety wooden jetty at the water's edge where we sat to dangle our legs and splash each other as well as take our baths with so√Ęp brought from home.  What a beautiful place we found with a wide area for public use and also several pretty cottages nestling in the trees around the shores.  Maybe one day we will return and spend a night or 2 camped at the lakeside. 
We strolled along the lane and I picked a few wild flowers to draw later and I was so thrilled to find these harebells at exactly the same place opposite the cottage as 60 years ago.
Being surrounded by woods and wildlife, it's not surprising my Dad was keen to find free wild food and here we had plenty. The wild strawberries in summer, bilberries in autumn and the canterella mushrooms were delicacies I have never forgotten.  In fact they are the first things I look out for whenever we go rambling anywhere in the UK or Europe!
And finally a sketch of the cottage as it was in our day, rather old looking wooden walls with a bird's nest under the eaves and a rickety outside staircase to our parent's bedroom.


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Swedish journey part 6

We finally left the camp at Rafhagsudden with sad farewells to Per the friendly owner and promises to return and headed to Stockholm.  We had booked a camper car park near the city for a few nights and found it easily, located underneath a high bridge between an island in the harbour and the mainland.  It was very crowded and we had barely 6 feet between each vehicle but being within 2 kms of the city centre it was worth it and not expensive.  On the first evening we walked to town to get our bearings and had beer in the sunshine overlooking the harbour. 
On Saturday morning we set off to the city to do some sightseeing but as the day progressed it started raining and I wasn't able to take as many photos as I had hoped.  We saw as much as we could, had a sandwich lunch and headed back to the car for the rest of the day.  Next morning it was still raining so we stayed in, read and sketched and kept ourselves amused.  By 3pm all was dry so we set off to explore our island and the area nearby.  We climbed to the top of a rocky park with a fabulous view of the city and watched a speedboat race in the harbour.
Monday was dry so we set off to visit a couple of the museums.  First we went to the Vasa museet which is an amazing display of an old ship lifted from the harbour which had sunk around the same time as the Mary Rose in England.  The Vasa has been extensively restored and many of the artifacts and even skeletons are on display. 
In the afternoon we went to Skansen, an open air museum filled with a large collection of all types of typical Swedish buildings, all transposed here for a fascinating display.  Each shop or home had it's own guide who was very knowledgable about the lifestyle of the inhabitants and the history of the building.  We spent a wonderful afternoon going around, chatting to these very friendly people.
The next morning, despite having another night booked in Stockholm, we felt the call of the sea and set off for Trosa a small harbour town an hour's drive to the south. Without a booking , and only wanting to stay one night we were given a wonderful spot to park with this fantastic view from our deck on an upper level of the campsite.  We explored the delightful town in the morning and have added this place to the wish list for when we return!
At last it was time to head for Norrkoping where I was born.  Our campsite was by the river on the edge of the city but within walking distance through fabulous open parkland and gardens. One of the parks we walked through was the location of the midsummer festival which I remember going to as a child and which we saw while we were there.  The next day we walked to town and found the apartment block I lived in as a child and it matched up very well to the photos taken by my Dad all those years ago.  Then a walk around to see some of the other sights.
 Being an arty type, I can never resist an art supply shop and popped into one I found during our wanderings. I chatted to the manageress who turned out to be English and came from Epsom.  After saying what a small world it is I told her why I was there looking for my roots and that my Dad had worked for Dunlop. "Even smaller world" she said, "my sister and her husband worked for Dunlop in London and here too!"  We exchanged email addresses and when I returned home I found out that Jacquie's sister had actually worked for my Dad in London in the 1960s before being posted to Norrkoping with her husband who had been one of my Dad's trainees.  I still can't quite believe this amazing coincidence.
We were very impressed with Norrkoping as a city while we were there.  It's set on a river which has been channelled to produce hydro electricity with weirs.  The old waterside mills and warehouses have been renovated for modern use as museums and university campus.  There is a waterside walkway, partly attached to the side of the buildings so that you can really appreciate the power of the water rushing over the weirs, deafening in places, calm in others with seats to enjoy the view.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Swedish journey part 5

Before we left for Sweden Juliet said to me it would be great if being there triggered some forgotten memories and how right she was.  While at Kalmar we cycled out to the next peninsula, Revsudden, through the forests and along the cycle tracks some of which were hard to find.  By following the map we found ourselves in a deep overgrown area which didn't seem right but we carried on, swatting mosquitoes and pushing our bikes over the rough ground till we reached a road, fortunately the right one.  As we cycled along I spotted this arrangement at the side of the road used as a house number marker and the memories came flooding back!  I photographed it to draw later.
At the end of the peninsula we found a tiny harbour with a few assorted boats tied up next to these old cottages.  We had hoped there might be a cafe of some sort where we could get a drink and maybe a sandwich but it was too small so we drank some water and sat in the sun while I drew this on one of my pre-coloured pages.
We cycled back to camp for a late lunch but chose to take the longer way along the road instead as we didn't want to get lost in the forest again!
We found juniper bushes along the shore as well as all the pretty wild flowers.  These here came from Oland during a walk through the woods after lunch.
Another day we drove across the bridge to Oland  and travelled south a bit and then north to the capital, Borgholm. This is where the Swedish royal family has it's summer residence.  The harbour is full of yachts and the town itself is very laid back with the typical wooden buildings and interesting shops and cafes.  We had a delicious lunch overlooking the water which only cost us £10 a head. Everyone thinks Sweden is very expensive, but if you eat where the locals eat and have a simple meal, it's good value for money.  Drink costs more, but at lunchtime we didn't need more than a beer.
Oland is famous for it's windmills dotted along the length of the island which is about 130 kms long.
One my memories of my Dad is him having his tea with Mum watching the news, they always had Ryvita with ham or cheese and only when we arrived in Sweden and saw the amazing selection of crispbreads could I understand his liking for it.  It comes in all shapes and sizes up to pizza size sold whole or in triangles.  Of course I went crazy and bought as many different ones we could carry and we only finished the last one a couple of weeks ago.  Wish I could have squeezed in a few more!


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Journey to Sweden part 4

We spent a week at the campsite near Kalmar on the East coast.  Our pitch was very close to the water's edge which was lined with reeds, where thousands of dragonflies spent their time flying around, catching their prey.  We found this wooden box near the shore while walking one evening and puzzled as to it's use till I spotted a nymph attached to the side and a dragonfly emerging from it. There were several empty ones as well so I took one to draw later. They were not nervous creatures so I was able to draw this live one as it sat on my shoe.  When we arrived home a month later I found one, dead in the boot of the camper car which must have got trapped when we had the doors open.
This is the view I painted one day while sitting next to the camper car in the warm sunshine.  I really like the Swedish climate in summer as it's not too hot.  The Baltic coast with all the islands dotted along it is really beautiful and we plan to return some day.
This is a selection of flowers I collected while walking near the shore and through the woods.
We had a wonderful view of a pair of crested grebes building their nest among the reeds.  It was fascinating to see the male dragging along quite large twigs and bunches of weed to prepare for his mate.  I kept an eye open for the mating display but sadly missed it as a few days later the hen was sitting proudly on her nest!  We saw and heard several other birds but I think what I thought was a Jackdaw was really a hooded crow as we saw many of these all over the place, as common and tame as pigeons, stealing crumbs and getting into our rubbish bags.
The swan and her cygnets were a common sight arriving around breakfast time and doing a circuit of our waterfront, then heading out to explore the islands across the water.  The heron occasionally flying lazily by on his tablecloth sized wings.


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Journey to Sweden part 3

This week we have Jo and Pip staying and what a lovely little boy he is.  He loves his food and his bathtime is a riot of splashing.  It took him a little while to settle in his bedroom here but last night he slept right through from 8 till 630 so we're all happy people today!  The sun is shining and we're going out later after his nap.
So, back to the Sweden trip, we left Jo's house and headed for Harwich where we caught the ferry to Esbjerg in Denmark on the 4th of June after seeing a few of the Jubilee celebrations on tv.
We stayed on a campsite on the edge of Copenhagen for 3 nights to visit the city and have a look around the coast nearby.
On the 9th of June we crossed the Oresund bridge into Sweden on a rather damp and misty day.  We headed for our first stop at a campsite near Kalmar on the Baltic coast.  When we woke the next morning the sky was blue and the view out to sea absolutely lovely, we'd arrived in paradise!
We spent a week here, exploring on our bikes through forests of pine and beech, driving to Oland and visiting the glassworks at Orrefors.



Friday, 15 February 2013

Journey to Sweden part 2

Saturday afternon at Justine's and the crayons and paints come out, we draw portraits of each other and have a gossip.
Kirsty was very busy studying for an exam, Steph was making earrings for a friend and Sarah earned some pocket money collecting the rosemary bugs that feed on Mum's plants.
After leaving Justine's we moved on to Alderstead Heath where we are closer to Rene, to stay for another 10 days.


It's in a lovely setting on the North downs in Surrey, you'd never believe the M25 and M23 cross each other only a mile away.
Then on to stay at a camp near Jo and James for a few more days and have lots of cuddles with baby Jimmy the Pip!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Trip of a lifetime to Sweden

In 2012 I fulfilled the dream of a lifetime to visit the place of my birth.
My parents met and married there in 1947 and brought up a family of 4 children before returning to England in time for me to start school in1955
I was born in Norrkoping and wanted to find where we used to live in the town as well as the country cottage we used every summer.  We also wanted to see some of the beautiful Baltic coast and countryside.
We crossed the channel from St Malo to Portsmouth on May 17th 2012 and headed to Hamble to visit Christopher for a day before going on to stay at Justine's.
While we were there, Justine, the girls and I went to visit a garden open for a charity day and had a great time exploring the formal gardens as well as the amazing bluebell walk. We all took sketchbooks and spent some time drawing parts of the garden before we got too cold and had to head off for hot chocolate and cakes!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The end of the Nature journal

This is the last post from my nature journal of 2012
We had some reasonable weather in December so I took my walk to the beach quite often.  One day I walked right to the water's edge and saw these strange creatures half buried in the sand over a large area.  I picked one up and studied it for a while so I could draw it when I came home. There were various sizes and shapes and they reminded me of glass paperweights with coloured patterns inside.
The next day I returned with my camera and found there were only a few left so I took a couple of photos for reference and to compare with my sketch of the day before.  I posted these on Nature Sketchers blogspot asking if anyone knew the name of the creature.  Several comments gave the name moon jellyfish or Aurelia Aurita, so it was an interesting way to share my find and learn at the same time!
The weather turned wet and windy again and I found these pretty coloured lichens on a fallen branch.
I had an enjoyable time last year making a record of all the flowers, weather and life in and around my garden and am already plannning my next sketching project so watch this space!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Wild life and windy weather

Our garden is full of fragrant flowers well used by the local bees so I was sad to find this one lying dead in the garden but pleased to have the opportunity to study it in detail.  There is a beekeeper quite near to us  and I often buy his honey so it's nice to think his bees may have collected nectar from my garden.  I did read once that eating the local honey could give one immunity to diseases!
A few more weather windows.
It's surprising how many different mushrooms appear in the grass in autumn.  Fun to draw but I'm not tempted to try eating them!
A windy walk one day and I was surprised by a flock of chaffinches taking off at the same time as a big gust of wind blew a lot of leaves up in the air mixing them with the birds.
The sycamore tree opposite the dining room window is a popular perch for birds and it's lovely to be able to see them now the leaves have fallen.  Recent visitors include long tailed tits, green woodpecker, jays and magpies as well as the regular robins, blackbirds, tits and thrushes.