Archives for the month of: December, 2009

It’s a bloody freezing day: at least -16°C (3°F), possibly colder.  After a while my camera stopped working; I think the cold must affect the battery, as it does with a car.  Anyway, it’s never too cold for the horses to want to go outside.

I’ve noticed recently that their nostrils become surrounded by tiny icicles attached to their whiskers.

They don’t seem to mind.

Santa & The Demon Drink.

Norwegian has a useful word; I can’t think of an English equivalent for romjul, or “Space Christmas”.  It means the interval between Christmas day and New Year’s day — actually, a week — the time when some of us flop around on the sofa like stranded manatees, eating and drinking more and more until we go-off pop.

The illustration is of St. Francis driving the demons from the lake by our house.  In the foreground is the diving board.

Can you see the little boids?  My wife thinks they are thrushes, though they look more like blackbirds to me; they’re eating the remaining apples.

It snowed another eighteen inches or so (45 cm) in the night.  But now it’s stopped and as you can see below, the sky is clear.

While some were breaking out their skis, I was breaking out the snow blower.  My wife had been out at three o’clock this morning telling the council snowplough not to spit his damp, council snow in the direction of our driveway.  The driver cleared the drive as an apology, but then came another foot of the stuff.  It’s beautiful snow, though.  Dry powder, very good for skiing and beautiful for snowblowing.

My daughter has made a Christmas tableau; here is a detail:

When I drew the curtains this morning, I saw this:

More snow.  Six inches in the night, a white Christmas.  Some of us — actually, the one who is about six inches tall — went back to bed.

It certainly looks nice from the bedroom.

But I generally stay inside on Christmas Eve.  We have shut the bird cage; not that he goes out much in wintertime, but we don’t want him to chew through the tree light cables.  Yes, Germans, we use electric lights on our tree.  Sorry about that.  I’ve never understood why bare candle flames wouldn’t set the tree on fire, though.  Norwegians, who all have wooden houses, are always very worried about fire.

Now it’s five o’clock on Christmas Eve and all the church bells are ringing.  Merry Christmas.

Someone has to go first.  Might as well be me.

Mmm, granbar.  I wouldn’t touch this stuff in the summer, mind you.

Oops.  Later, dude.  Gotta eat & run.

Can’t get left behind.

Don’t trip over those ears, Misty.

Break right!  Break right!

Go, man, go!

This is the life.

And so to bed.

My wife took this picture.

8 a.m. today. Waiting at Gardemoen airport to greet the U.S. president were Vesla, Misty & Holly

The American president, Barack  Obama, has landed on Norwegian soil.

“Too Busy”.

But Obama’s trip to Oslo to pick up his Nobel peace award is in danger of being overshadowed by a row over the cancellation of a series of events normally attended by the prizewinner.

Norwegians are incensed over what they view as his shabby response to the prize by cutting short his visit.

The White House has cancelled many of the events peace prize laureates traditionally submit to, including a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, appearances at a children’s event promoting peace and a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honour at the Nobel peace centre and  a lunch invitation from the King of Norway.

He has also turned down an invitation to meet the goats.

According to a poll published by the daily tabloid Vidergående Geiter, 44% of Norwegians believe it was rude of Obama to turn down a Goat House meeting, with only 34% saying they believe it was acceptable.

“Of all the things he is cancelling, I think the worst is declining the lunch with the goats,” said Siv Jensen, the leader of the largest party in opposition, the populist Progress party. “Even if he doesn’t normally eat hay, this is a central part of Norway’s daily life. He should respect mohair,” she told VG.

Although Obama will not lunch with Holly, Misty and Vesla, they may watch him on television.

The visit will test Obama’s rhetorical skills as he seeks to reconcile acceptance of the Nobel peace prize with snubbing Norway’s goat minority.

If all goes according to plan, on Thursday morning at 9:20 President Obama will arrive in the city of Oslo in his helicopter.  That’s thirty minutes after his plane has landed at Gardemoen — not bad going!  I’m sometimes still in the duty-free half an hour after my plane’s landed.  At one p.m. the King will present him with the Nobel Peace Prize at the Oslo Rådhus or town hall (above).  Preparations for the ceremony are underway, causing long traffic tailbacks and the rerouting of public transport. At a cost of several billion kroner all of central Oslo’s manhole covers have been welded shut, just in case of something or other.  We should all avoid going to the city centre for the next few days unless our trip is really necessary. Don’t bother trying to get to work, especially if you commute via the extensive network of sewer tunnels.

You really need to click on this photograph to see the details.

If you stand on the other side of the mound where we live you see these rows of escarpments; ridges of earth and rock that were pushed southwards during the last ice age.  They extend all the way to the horizon.  It’s the kind of thing one normally can only see from an aeroplane.   Standing on the ground here, in the middle distance I can see fragments of our local town behind the dark avenue of chestnut trees.  With the sunset and the snow it looks like the sort of landscape a Flemish painter might have invented five-hundred years ago.  It needs angels and peasants.

Muntz seems like

a very happy little cat.

"Have you ever noticed how many fences there're getting to be? And the signs they got on them: no hunting, no hiking, no admission, no trespassing, private property, closed area, start moving, go away, get lost, drop dead! Do you know what I mean?"

This is my daughter as Kirk Douglas, and Askur playing his poor horse.  Lonely Are The Brave was one of the first westerns to be set in the contemporary (early ‘sixties) West; it’s a movie with a great tear-jerker of an ending where Kirk Douglas’s horse gets hit by a truck.  I know I cried.  I haven’t seen it for thirty years, I hope it’s still as good.

It’s still snowing.

We live in what’s known as “a snow hole”.

One reason I like the amusing and well-written blog called Poemas del río Wang, by the Hungarian publisher Tamás Sajó, is its photographs and illustrations, including the one shown above.  Another reason is that it makes me glad to be alive in 2010-ish.  If that sounds like auxesis, I should add that before 1990 the cultures of eastern Europe were much more difficult for an Englishman like me to negotiate.  Back then, it was hard to see what was historically significant or culturally distinctive.  That there were many connections to more distant cultures further east and south (as well as to my own) wasn’t obvious, either.  During the post-war communist years, everything that was cultually interesting about the Eastern “Bloc” countries was obscured; we saw an eastern Europe composed of nearly identical states.  Nowadays we know more.  From the author’s home, near Budapest, he steers his way through many cultures: Armenian, Venice, Russia, different parts of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt.  There are fields full of Persian lilies; melodies that have been played all around Europe in different languages (there are lots of videos of music and translations of song lyrics).  Scrolling down the long page you will pass extraordinary photos of Russian and German soldiers enjoying each other’s company in Poland in 1939, just before the war, and pictures from a book of the architecture of pre-war Bucharest.  There are also some lovely articles at río Wang showing pictures of Argentina: from giant cactuses to life in Buenos Aires, they are written by Julia, who sometimes comments on this blog.

Tomás is among other things an art historian and a Catholic.  Once you have got to Poemas del río Wang, you can find Tomás’s publishing house, Studiolum, where he has early editions of renaissance and baroque literature for sale in cd-form (a brilliant idea, I thought).  There is one of Erasmus, which includes what Tomás says is a self-portrait, drawn in the margin of his commentaries to St. Jerome:

Also next door is A Garden Diary,  the story of their amazing garden outside Budapest, written by Tomás’s wife, Kata, a psychologist, who created it.  One day I’ll write about that blog.

Tamás’s latest post has marvelous pictures of  brněnský drak — the dragon of Brno, in Bohemia — who started life as a crocodile, in the early fifteen hundreds.  The article links to dragons, to Spain and Majorca, to the medieval import of exotic animals to Europe and best of all to the 700 year-old European tradition of hanging crocodiles from the ceiling.  Previously all I knew about Brno was that it was the location of Mies’s Tugendhat House.  Thanks to Tamás’s scholarship, his love of travel and his fluency in so many languages we all have an opportunity to find out so much more.  It’s not just information, though.  Whenever I read something at Poemas del río Wang I dream about it for days afterward.

Update:  If you’re wondering what crocodiles and Majorca have to do with goats, dearieme has supplied the answer here.