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Nov 22

Five centuries in this town

Posted on Saturday, November 22, 2014 in Humanities, My life

Old town


New town

On Thursday evening, I went to a lecture about this town’s history during five hundred years. As most of my followers know, I hate this town, so in a way, it’s odd that I wanted to go and listen to that. On the other hand, I also love history.

The guy who did the lecture works at the museum and he’s got a bit of a reputation (oddly enough, since he’s such an unimpressive character when you look at him – or listen to him), but it’s not about his personal life, I was going to tell you. Anyway, he performed well enough, as a lecturer.

The first ‘century’ (not quite a century) – the sixteenth – was actually before the town proper was founded, in fact before the earlier town too. From the early sixteenth century, there was a market place at the south end of the big lake.

At the end of one of our wars with our big neighbour in the east, the king wanted to place prisoners of war (officers, not ordinary foot soldiers) in the care of the people responsible for the market place. They, on the other hand did not want to play host to a bunch of foreign officers. They claimed that they were too poor, and that there were only a few old, infirm people living there, and finally, that only towns were required to house prisoners of war. Apparently the king really wanted to place the prisoners there, because his response was giving the market place town privileges.

This was built some distance to the south of the original market place, where there is still a church ruin and an old cemetery. To modern eyes, the town would look very small and cramped, with a number of houses laid out unevenly around a small cobbled square.

The town was in existence for just over a generation but there are some very interesting stories about it. The lecturer did not go into them during this lecture, but I happen to know that he’s written a book about them. I won’t go into the stories in this blog post either, since it’s about this particular lecture.

Then the harbour began to silting up and it was no longer possible to conduct the town’s main business – transport, and the town had to be moved. It was also built on a rocky slope which made it hard to expand. Despite that, the townspeople were reluctant to leave and (again, not included in the lecture) the authorities had to use underhanded methods to get them to move out. The final straw was that the Danes invaded and razed the town.

So after all kinds of trouble and tribulations, a town was built on a peninsula that would be more easily defensible. Originally, it was meant to be built as a fort (hence the name ending in -borg, which means fort/castle), but in the end, the fortifications weren’t all that impressive.

I’m not going to go into all the twists and turns of the town’s history. At times I found my mind wandering. In any case, the Danes returned a couple of times and burned the town again. When the defenders had to burn the few buildings they’d already got in place, to avoid having the enemy barricading themselves there, the wide streets made it easy to put out the fire. Despite that, the town was burned down a couple of times, notably close to its two hundredth anniversary in 1834.


What really caught my interest was the mention of one of our most famous 20th century poets (early 20th century). It amazed me how much he and I had in common.

His parents had a shop in town (so did my grandparents, not my parents). They felt ostracised by the townspeople. He (Birger), had trouble with his education (high school), just like I had trouble with mine (university). It was hard for him to focus, so instead he spent his time during lessons, looking out the window, memorizing what he’d seen then telling people about it, eventually writing it down. I, too, had trouble focusing and started to drift off into a fantasy when I felt unable to keep up (though it was mainly the exams and the papers that I had trouble with, not the lectures).

In the end, he left without sitting the exams, and started writing (in his case poetry). Even though he’d failed his music classes, someone was allowed to set music to his poetry so he became, rather against his will, a songwriter, and was forced to go on tour, though he felt too shy for that. Eventually, he ended up reading his poetry on stage, to the people of his own childhood home town, but despite all his self doubt, instead of being a failure, he was actually hailed as a great success, so I guess a few people really do end up popular, even in their own home towns.

Nov 9


Posted on Sunday, November 9, 2014 in My life

Recently, I had to go and have a few tests done. A very tiring day turned out to be a success in the end. I hadn’t slept at all before leaving for Gothenburg. (The tests are for my big project, that most of my friends will be familiar with by now). I was totally exhausted even when I left, not to mention when I got back.

On the way to Gothenburg, just as we (my sister and I) had got on the bus, there was this guy who missed the bus by only a few seconds. He waved his bus card, but the driver ignored him, even though my sister called out to tell him what was happening. A few minutes later, the guy caught up with the bus at a red light, but the driver still ignored him. That guy looked so disappointed. I’m wondering why the driver couldn’t have been a little more accommodating.

On the way back, we made such good time we ended up back a couple of hours early, by, among other things, getting off at an earlier station and walking really quickly.

Fortunately, it didn’t rain, though we’d been told there was a risk of that. We were also really lucky that the train was on time both ways (though there are delays or complete stops almost every day).

So now we’ve finally done the tests (except, sadly, one – a difficult one, not sure what to do about that). After a while, we both got a clean bill of health, which was a relief and a printout to send to Estonia.

Then the other day, we set out for a little outing – this time to the next town, Thn, to go and hear a lecture that sounded really interesting – about Sweden during WWI (which, as you probably know, we weren’t actually in). On the way there, again, the driver asked if we were adults (over 19, apparently, LOL).

Before the lecture was supposed to start, we managed to go to a store and buy new gloves. I got a pair of new red, touchscreen gloves. My old gloves were beginning to look a little worn.

When we entered ‘The People’s House’ (fancy name for a house dedicated to culture, in this case a library, a theater and lecture halls.), we had trouble finding the theatre, though we’ve been there before, several years ago, and walked back and forth in the foyer, and up and down the stairs, no doubt looking confused. When we returned to the foyer we found that someone had written in red letters on the whiteboard announcing the lecture, that it was cancelled.

Feeling a bit let down, we decided to go out to the big mall that is right between the two towns and try to do some shopping (for food, since the other shops would be closed). We finally managed to get our favorite vegan products (fake meat and cheese) and some chocolate.

It’s getting colder now, so I suppose winter is coming. At least there’s no snow yet. The trouble with snow is that in such a humid place as this, it instantly turns to ice and that’s no fun to walk on. So now I’m switching to my warmer scarf and I’ll be wearing my gloves every day. I’d already started wearing my parka. (TMI?). Don’t worry, this is it. Blog post over. 🙂

Oct 4

A lecture about the Titanic

Posted on Saturday, October 4, 2014 in Humanities, My life

The other night my mother and I went to listen to a lecture about the Swedish connections to Titanic. There were more than I could have guessed.

The lady who held the lecture is from Liverpool, but I think originally, her family must come from Ireland, judging by her name, which was, at least to me, very Irish. Now she’s living in Sweden and working in a museum in a town not that far from here, with an interesting past.

Having grown up in Liverpool, with its connection to Titanic, she’d always been fascinated in all kinds of shipwrecks, but mainly the Titanic. Before starting the lecture she lit a candle for the victims of the Estonia, since it’s been almost exactly 20 years since that disaster.

She started out telling us about a similar lecture she’d given the week before to a group of Somali refugee women. None of them had higher education, so the lecturer expected them never to have heard of the Titanic but she showed them a photo of the ship and asked if they knew what it was. They all answered together ‘It’s the Titanic!”. So clearly, everyone, everywhere knows something about the Titanic.

We got a chance to look at a photo of the menu for the third class passengers. Since so many of the passengers were Swedish, they had a Swedish type of breakfast, with oatmeal and herrings.

It also turns out that the mechanism that is to lower the lifeboats into the sea, even if the ship is lying on its side, was designed not very far from here, in the town with the movie industry. At the time no one expected the lifeboats to be needed, but this little industry took their responsibility very seriously and did a great job. Apparently, many of the few people who were saved, could thank this mechanism, among other things, for their lives.

During the lecture we were introduced to a number of passengers from the West of Sweden, some of which survived, and some, who didn’t.

There was a young woman, Dagmar, who was going to Chicago to visit relatives, accompanied by her brother, who would serve as her interpreter and, possibly, chaperon, and her fiance. On the fateful night, when they reported to their designated lifeboat, the two young men were told they were not allowed in it. At the time, they didn’t realize there weren’t enough lifeboats. Dagmar said she’d stay behind as well, but the men told her they’d take a later one, and Dagmar reluctantly agreed to depart. Not surprisingly, only Dagmar survived, but was traumatized for the rest of her life.

There was also a young engineer by the name of Kvillner. He had a deprived background, but had worked hard as a waiter, to put himself through a famous technical college. He headed to the UK to board another ship, but due to a coal workers’ strike, he had to take the Titanic instead. Before departing, Kvillner wrote and sent a letter to his fiancee. By the time she received it, he was already dead.

Finally, there was a young man who had escaped to Denmark, to avoid doing his military service. From there, he’d made his way to the UK, then because of the coal strike, was put on the Titanic, instead of the ship he’d been intended to go on.

He and his two friends were hoping to get to know some charming young ladies, but had to content themselves with making new male friends and learning all the ins and outs of the parts of the ship they were allowed on.

The three young men were in the bow of the ship and on the night of the disaster, they were woken by water coming in through the side of the ship. They ran up on deck, aided by their knowledge of the ship. The young man we were told about, had in his hurry left his coat and shoes behind. It was cold up on deck, so he returned to get his outer garments, but when he came downstairs, he found that his cabin was no longer available. The sea had broken in everywhere. He ran upstairs again, to find that the last lifeboat had left.

He looked into the eyes of his two friends and everyone else standing on that deck, reading the same feeling of hopelessness there as he felt. Despite that, he made a desperate vow not to die that night. He thought of his mother and what losing her only son would do to her and determined that he would fight for his life.

Eventually, he ended up in the water, and since he was young and strong, he was able to make his way to an upturned lifeboat. It was already occupied in a way, by several others. Later, the young man was to write about that night, when he ‘did things he didn’t want to remember’. He was one of the few who survived to be picked up by the Carpathia.

Ironically, he who had gone to such lengths to avoid the draft, ended up being drafted into the US army and sent back to Europe to fight in the trenches. He later remarked that if he’d known what he’d had to go through to get to America, he wouldn’t have bothered. But he survived the war and returned home to his town in America, where he was always known as ‘Titanic man’.

Sep 29

Interesting lecture

Posted on Monday, September 29, 2014 in Humanities, My life, Other

Today I went to listen to a very interesting lecture about the Norwegian Resistance during WWII, or rather the interactions between the Resistance and Swedish people living close to the Norwegian border.

It was a bit surprising to me that the rather rural, and in my eyes primitive nearby region, the ‘backwoods’, had such a heroic and adventurous past.

The woman who did the lecture had written a book about the interaction with the Resistance, and was apparently behind an exhibition that was the starting point of her book and the lecture we heard today.

Something I had no idea about until today, was that during the war the region (where our little cottage is) was forbidden to any outsider, because of fears of espionage.

One funny story was about a little Finnish ‘war child’ who had been a little too observant in the farm where she lived. She’d found an amazing piece of silk fabric (a parachute) hidden in the barn and had to be kept quiet. So a man, working with the Resistance, who was known to be very eloquent and also kind to children, traveled all the way out into the woods and gave her a big, expensive doll, on the condition that she kept quiet. There was a photo of the girl holding two dolls, one of which was probably the ‘bribe’.

A rather less funny story, was about a Swedish man who for the rest of his life was the target of threats from old Nazis.

Some members of the audience had stories of their own to tell. One of them was really touching and sad. The sister of a man in the Resistance was a journalist. She wasn’t careful enough about her activities and was caught by the Germans and sent to a concentration camp. At the end of the war, she was taken by the famous Swedish White Buses (sent by a Swedish count) to the south of Sweden, but the first night there, she died. Despite what you might think, apparently mother was ‘happy’ that her daughter had died in Sweden (i e not in a gas chamber).

I’m glad I forced myself up at rather an early hour, despite my cold (which isn’t too bad, but still) to go and listen to this lecture. It was fascinating and I learned so much about a time in our history that isn’t very well known to the general public. (For instance, much of this has been classified until recently).


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