smhwpf: (Treebeard)
The past few months I have taken the odd saunter, by bike and by boat, round various bays and islands and watery things. Some photos are in order, I think.

photos )
smhwpf: (Friar Sam)
This morning I went to the main 11am service at Katarina Kyrka, the nearest (or equal nearest) Svenska Kyrkan (Church of Sweden) church to me on Södermalm. I have another picture of it, from way back, here.

Actually, the nearest church to me is Sofia Kyrka, on the hill in the park down the road from me, which is a gorgeous building, but sadly currently closed for renovations. The congregation is meeting at another church a bit further away for now. But Katarina is just 10 minutes walk away.

I've been reading up on the C of S, and so far have liked what I've seen. They have women bishops, and perform same-sex marriages, and have a strong focus on social justice and development issues. They're just now having a theme week across Södermalm on Hunger, physical and spiritual.

They're also, despite being a Lutheran church, quiet catholic in some ways. See, they had a somewhat different history to the German Lutheran churches, coming into being when King Gustav Vasa decided that the Swedish church would no longer accept the authority of Rome. A little like in England, except it was over the Pope refusing his choice of bishops, rather than wanting an annullment. Then latest they adopted the Lutheran credo. But they still have bishops, and indeed can claim Apostolic Succession (though they don't seem to make a thing of that), they have a fairly liturgical structure to some services (my hymn book had liturgies for various types of service, including a 'high mass' (Högmässa), which would not be that unfamiliar to an Anglican, say), and they have a strong adherence to the liturgical year. The church had candles and a crucifix in it. They also, so I'm told, have a 'high' church end. I talked to a guy at work who goes to the Svenska Kyrka (though he's American), and who knows a priest in the C of S, and he'll ask about the different congregations in Stockholm for me.

Also, they are in full communion with the Church of England as part of the Porvoo Communion.

Anyway, to the service. This one was somewhat freer form, but I'm OK with that sometimes at any rate. Started off with a Taizé chant. Good, and varied music - some congregational hymns, some by the choir (who were very good), a guy with a guitar singing a couple of songs in English - one was a rather bluesy-country version of Amazing Grace, the other I couldn't understand very well despite it being in English, but nice tune. The 'Behold the Lamb of God' from Handel's Messiah by the choir at communion. The one minus point on the music is that the congregation remained seated for all the hymns.

Good sermon. Ironically, it was a fairly Mary-themed service, being the feast of the Annunciation. They had a girl of about the right age (i.e. early teens) reading out the Gospel. Which was at the start of the service, after the opening hymn. Like I said, quite free-form. Generally understood most of what was going on in Swedish.

I received communion. I asked one of the stewards beforehand if it was OK to, as a Christian but not a member of the C of S, and she replied "You are most welcome", which I count as a definite plus over the RC attitude (though I sort of understand it).

After the service they served brunch in the parish hall. Very nice soup. The people at the table I sat at actually talked to me, which is astonishing considering this is Sweden, and specifically Stockholm.

I will not yield to the temptation to give it marks out of 10, as that is not the right attitude. Generally positive vibes, not entirely sure if it is where I will stay. There are other C of S churches to try, and I will also try the English Church (Anglican) in Stockholm, and perhaps the Methodists. Perhaps the English Church last, want to get a feel for the ones in Swedish, as if I start going to services in English I'll get lazy and stick with that.

So, thus begins my new adventures in catholicy-protestantism.

And just something to leave you with. The Porvoo Communion has a Porvoo Research Network, or PoReNe. Srsly. Oh dear. Now I've got "The internet is for..." in my head. I am so going to hell.
smhwpf: (Default)
Been slipping with my Lenten posting. Night before last I was sitting in front of my computer wondering what to write, while the hour got later and later, and eventually decided it would be better to get to bed before 2 than to make a post. Then last night was round at a colleagues, got back late and really, really tired. But getting back on the horse.

Spring has quite definitely sprung in Stockholm. We've had a good share of sunny days, and today it actually reached a balmy 7 degrees C! (Swedes are like plants that turn their leaves to face the sun. Any opportunity to catch it is taken. Doesn't have to be warm.)

One of the best things about the early spring is that I have been back on my bike for going to work, at least a fair proportion of the time. This afternoon I took advantage of the unseasonal heat wave to actually go for a proper ride. My typical weekend leisure ride has been a circuit of my island, Södermalm, but today I explored new pastures.

Started off going through Ladugårdsgärdet, a wooded area to the east of the city centre - in the less wooded bits, it has a lot of embassies. In the woods there were still some seriously icy bits of path, where I had to get off and walk. Hugged the coastline, then across the narrow canal to Djurgården; this is a royal park, a large island given over a few centuries ago to the people, and a very popular area for walks, cycle and horse rides. On the west side, which you get to from the city, it has several museums (including the famous Vasa Museum), and the Gröna Lund amusement park. But this was the first time I'd been on the eastern end of the island. Cycled round the edge of the island, till I got to Gröna Lund, where there's a ferry into the centre of town. Actually free with your travelcard, though one has to pay extra for a bicycle.

It was a rather nice sunset on the boat back.

Slightly less ruddy glory, but a nice view of the city. The main city centre on the right, the tiny Old Town island, Gamla Stan, dead ahead, and my beloved Södermalm on the left.

smhwpf: (Winter is coming)
Long time since I've updated. Seems a good time to rectify that.

Not a whole lot to report since my trip to China last month. (Not in public post at any rate). The main event has been the latest Buffycamp last weekend, in our usual haunt in the Old Baptist Chapel in Belper, Derbyshire. (If you need a place for a medium-large weekend gathering, it's a really good option, along with some of the other places run by the same company, like the Ebenezer where we have Bardcamp.)

We were doing season 5 this time - I got to be Xander, which was a lot of fun. As was the whole weekend, both the readthrough itself and seeing everyone and the food and copious quantities of drink. Won't oversquee, but good set of performances generally, good balance between relatively experienced hands in the main roles and newer readthroughers given a chance to shine. [ profile] mirabehn held things together very well as this year's Buffy, and well, [ profile] the_alchemist was simply born to play Glory. Which is fortunate, as she was indeed playing Glory. (And Ben, which I was surprised how well that worked).

Spent a few days at my dad's in Birmingham afterwards, also meeting up with Roger and Chandra WINOLJ, and [ profile] the_lady_lily, which was very nice. Also managed to get some serious amounts of sleep, which was much needed.

Back in Stockholm since Thursday. It is the eve of 1st Advent tonight, here as elsewhere, and it is very noticeable. (They mark the church seasons here quite strongly, despite being perhaps even more de-Christianized in practice than Britain). Some things jumped the gun a bit of course, but I was away, so this evening is when I really noticed it.

The Christmas markets are all out in force. They have a much longer pedigree in Sweden than in Britain (presumably a general Germanic thing), though I must say that these days Birmingham and Edinburgh's surpass Stockholm's. Had my first cup of glögg of the season.

Various seasonal products in the supermarkets. Glögg, saffron buns, pepparkakor (they've been around a while actually), and Mariestad's Christmas brew beer. (3.5% of course, the maximum for beer outside the state-owned Systembolaget boozers). They have a special beer for every season. Christmas, Easter, summer and autumn.

But most of all, the light. The whole city is lit up. Large Christmas trees covered in lights. Curtains of lights over the major shops, and overhanging the big shopping streets. Strings of light on the ships on the various channels of the lake and going out to the Baltic. And stars and electric candlestick triangles in every other window. Mine included, a star in the kitchen and candlestick in the main room. I worked out a couple of years ago that such things are not mere decorations, but a civic duty.

As the deepest of the winter gloom descends, with little more than 6 hours of daylight a day, light all over the city, defying the darkness. It helps make the winter bearable. And, very Adventy of course.

Took it all in this afternoon in a lengthy wander round town, after a long lie in this morning followed by some Palestine-related leafletting. First checking-out of the various Christmas present options. Not buying anything yet, still early days. Just looking for now. Or watching and waiting.

A good Advent to all who mark it, and whether or not, an easy winter to all in northern climes.
smhwpf: (Going places)
Well, one thing I can't complain about at work is that it doesn't take me interesting places. Setting off for Accra, Ghana, in a few hours time, to take part in a pair of events related to SIPRI's Africa Security and Governance project. It's not my normal area of work, but the project is a huge, multi-programme, cross-cutting thing, managed by my boss Elisabeth, so I was also roped in. I wrote the mapping study on recent UK policy and security-related activities in Africa, which will hopefully eventually see the light of day as part of an edited book.

Anyhow, this particular event is co-organized with one of our African civil society partners, WACSI, the West Africa Civil Society Institute. First of all there's a seminar launching a WACSI/SIPRI report on the Dagbon Chieftancy Crisis, which I was marginally involved in as the SIPRI 'research contact' for the study, although as it turned out this did not require anything beyond commenting on various drafts on my part. It is a fascinating paper, an almost Shakespearian tragedy of power politics and family rivalry. (Ghana is generally one of the most peaceful and stable countries in Africa, the intermittent Dagbon conflict being a rare blot.)

Then there is a three-day capacity-building workshop for African CSOs, where a few SIPRI people, myself included, will be running sessions. Mine, no surprise, will be on quantitative methods.

I have never been to Ghana before, and indeed have never been to West Africa. Won't have a lot of time free to see stuff, but hopefully some. There for six days in total.

Little bit warmer than Stockholm, round about the high-twenties/low-thirties Centigrade (80s F), albeit with periodic thunderstorms. Whereas over here we still get excited if the sun comes out and it gets up to 4 or 5 C (around 40). Which it did today, which was nice. Might even be able to get the bike out when I get back.
smhwpf: (Giles party weasel)
One of the best things about my 'hood is Reggev Hummous, a "hummous and espresso bar" about 8 doors away from me. Not even 1 minute's walk.

Good hummous is hard to come by in Sweden. The stuff available in the supermarkets tends to taste almost, but not quite, entirely unlike hummous - Tesco's in Britain for example is far superior, though any Levantine would be far from impressed with it. Even in the innumerable kebab and falafel places dotted round the city the hummous tends to be so-so. There's maybe one or two places in the Hötorghallen (a massive food hall of joy in central Stockolm) that sells something somewhere near the mark.

Reggev's, however, is the real deal. They serve you with a big bowl of hummous, with a pool of olive oil and herbs in the middle and a little dollop of some sort of spicy sauce on the side; and as for the quality, well, let all other hummous in Stockholm bow down before this hummous. It's served with a couple of round pitta breads and a small bowl of pickled vegetables, making for a solid and well-rounded lunch.

There are numerous variations on the theme; hummous with chick peas and egg, hummous with foule, hummous with pine nuts, hummous with mushrooms, hummous with mince meat, with lamb sausage (the latter two of less interest to me of course), hummous with shakshuka, and a few dishes that get so enthused with adding all sorts of other stuff to the hummous that they forget to include the hummous, which is kind of breaking with the theme, but we'll let them off. For the most part it's hummous all the way down. There's some side salads one can get too.

Prices are from SEK69-85 (£6.50-£8), which sounds like a lot I know, but fairly typical of lunch in Stockholm. Also the Crown is crazy high at the moment.

As the name suggests, they also serve various caffeinated beverages, though one can also wash one's hummous down with a rather nice lemon and mint drink called a "limon-nana" for SEK15 (£1.40).

I go there from time to time when I'm around. Quite often for Sunday lunch. I went today, as I was working from home. I tend to go for hummous foule or hummous pine-nuts. I have to say that it makes for about the most overall satisfying lunches in town.

The one problem with Reggev Hummous is that it's tiny. Also, justifiably, popular. So far I've always managed to get a place to sit, though it sometimes involves squeezing up next to other customers.

On second thoughts maybe I should lock this post in case any Stockholmers read it and it gets even harder to get a seat...
smhwpf: (Tea)
OK, if this is something to do with Operation Payback or something? Not funny, guys. (OK, not funny whoever did it or why. Other possibilities that occur to me include those angry at Sweden's participation in the war in Afghanistan, or Tea Party activists outraged at Sweden's over-50% share of government expenditure in GDP).

Retracing my movements today, I was in fact only a couple of blocks away at the time of the second explosion. But far enough to only read about it on the internet when I got home.

Guess we really are a normal country now, people blowing stuff up in the streets and all.

Update: It seems that the person killed was one of the bombers - an eyewitness who attempted to give him first aid says that it looked like something had exploded against his stomach.

It also transpires that, ten minutes before the first explosion, an email was received by Swedish news agency TT, including sound files, containing threats. Rough translation of (most of) the article:

"About 10 minutes before the explosions an email was sent to TT, also addressed to Säpo [Swedish security police], where a man addresses Sweden and the Swedish people:

He refers to the Swedish silence over the drawings of Lars Vilks [artist who drew cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed], and the Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan, and says 'now shall your children, sisters and daughters die like our brothers, sisters and children die. Our actions will speak for themselves. So long as you do not stop your war against Islam and humiliations against the Prophet and your stupid support for the pig Vilks,' says the man.

Thereupon the man exorts all muslims in Sweden to 'stop fawning and humiliating yourselves'. He ends the message with another call to 'all Mujahadin in Europe and Sweden: 'Now is the time to strike, wait no longer. Use whatever you have, even if you only have a knife, and I know you have much more. Fear nothing, fear not jail, fear not death.'

Säpo have not commented on the contents to TT, or confirmed if they got the email, which contains sound files where both Swedish and Arabic are spoken. Neither have TT confirmed whether the email had anything to do with the explosions.


So. Not would-be Wikileaks avengers, it would seem. Great. I am sure that all but a tiny handful of Muslims in Sweden will treat this guy's message with the disdain and revulsion it deserves, but that won't stop the fucking fascist asshats of the Sverige Demokraterna from making hay with this, nor the Muslim community in Sweden from suffering the fallout in terms of general suspicion from the white majority, and harassment from the police and Säpo.
smhwpf: (Default)
Continuing my holiday narratives. Yesterday I went to Stockholm's big open-air museum, Skansen, where they were holding a Centenary Spelmänsstämma - Musicians Gathering, or more colloquially, Session. As the name suggests, it was organized for the hundredth anniversary of a similar event, which basically seems to involve getting EVERY FIDDLER IN SWEDEN IN ONE PLACE, along with accompanying accordionists, funny-looking-harp-fiddle-cross players and so on.

The music was scattered all over Skansen's vast area - it's basically intended to be a recreation of Sweden in miniature, with examples of different types of houses, churches, shops, etc. from different regions, as well as animals, trees, etc. They have a big annual Midsummer celebration there, as well as a series of summer Allsång concerts, which as far as I can gather is a massive festival of Swedish Cheese.

Anyway, so you basically couldn't go round a corner without coming upon people playing music. The first place I came to was an ironmonger's shop (of the ye olde variety of course) with about a dozen fiddlers, a guitarist, and a badly-drowned-out recorder player, pretty much outnumbering their audience, and not caring a damn.

Rather a lot of the music was taking place under whatever cover was available, as it was raining with steadily increasing intensity.

The big event of the afternoon, though, on one of the main Skansen stages, was the Orsa Spelmän, and various musical friends. They had 17 on stage by the end. Accompanying the band on accordion and piano is someone you might just recognise from the not-very-good photo below. He is, without a doubt, the best-known exponent of Swedish traditional music today. He was also in some pop band in the 70s and 80s.

A huge crowd defied the rain, which was quite heavy for a while, before... getting heavier. And heavier. Until eventually all brollies, raincoats and plastic coverings were in vain, and yet still almost all of the crowd remained, teeth-chattering and almost swimming in our clothes, barely able to move hands enough to applaud, yet still raising a solid cheer at the end of each number.

Eventually I admit I did, like many others, retreat to under a canopy outside the restaurant near the stage, from which one could still confortably hear the concert, though line of sight was somewhat impaired. But I went forward again to hear and cheer the encore!

When I went into the restaurant afterwards, it seemed like all the players Skansen over had taken refuge there, and were sessioning in every corner. In one area I counted about 50 fiddlers playing together. However, the serving woman insisted that, ratehr crowded as the place was one had to either eat or leave. I did need to dry out rather badly, so headed home.

The planned dance on the outdoor dancefloor for the evening had in any case been cancelled on safety grounds.
smhwpf: (Default)
I've been taking the past week as holiday in Stockholm. Been a good week, gone on a good cycle ride, some walks, some practical stuff, museum visit, drinks with people, etc. Decided I'll be bored by next week, so back to work, and the third week of what would have been my Palestine trip I'll be in Edinburgh, visiting family and Festival.

Anyhow, one of the things I did during my unexpected period of leisure was to take several hours cycling round Stockholm taking photos. I managed Södermalm and Gamla Stan (the Old Town) in that time; this post covers the former, another will cover Gamla, and the north part of the city will have to await another occasion.

Unfortunately not all my pics came out - my new camera started playing up at one point and everything was fuzzy (as I say, cameras hate me); after a while I switched to phone, then later back to camera when it felt better. Anyway, here's what we've got.

Click for pics )
smhwpf: (Giles party weasel)
I'm going to live on Södermalm!

This is a matter of considerable squee. Södermalm is in Stockholm's inner city, one of the many islands on which Stockholm is built, a large lens-shaped island just south of the Old Town (Gamla Stan). It is, IMHO, possibly the best part of Stockholm to live, as well as being generally regarded as one of the coolest.

Background on my moves and the Stockholm housing market )
Södermalm was the area I most wanted, but I was beginning to think I'd have to compromise again, when just yesterday a place came up, there's a business that owns a block and that has a few SIPRI people as tenants, and they rang up our personnel officer saying they had another flat available. So I saw it this morning and took it without further deliberation.

What I particularly like about Södermalm is that, while it has everything happening in it - bars, restaurants, music, interesting and alternative shops etc., once you get away from a few main roads, it is incredibly quiet. Wide, tree-lined streets with only residential traffic. It is a marvel of urban planning. It also has copious green space, parks, cobbled lanes up the cliffs to the north (about the only serious hills in Stockholm), and of course plenty of waterside.

For those of you who have read Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy, it is an area where much of the action takes place. Lisbeth Salander and Michael Blomqvist both live there. Very minor spoiler for book 2 ), while Blomqvist's flat is on Bellmansgatan, I think at the northern end up the cliffs overlooking the water.

Since I don't earn that kind of money I am further south, in the area commonly known as SoFo (South of Folkungagatan). It is a fair bit smaller than my current place, but sufficient, and actually a slightly lower rent. Best of all, as it's let by a business, there's no time-limit on how long I can stay.

In conclusion, SQUEEEEEEE, SÖDERMALM!!!!!!
smhwpf: (Winter is coming)
The Swedish winter has decided it means business this year.

My first winter here, many years ago on my first Swedish sojourn, was pretty cold - I think par for the course. The first one when I returned, two years ago, barely deserved the name of winter. This is what it looked like in mid-January. When I went up Ekebyhovsbacken baht'at and baht'coast. Barely a few days of snow the whole time. Last year was colder, fair amount of snow, but still not that bad.

This year? It's like two years ago the Swedish Winter got really sick or really depressed and just stayed in bed all the months he was meant to be out. Then last year he was still kind of recuperating, getting back into the game, remembering how the job is done. But this year - he is BACK, he has thoroughly spanked his inner moppet, and he is making up for lost time.

It is now (as you may be aware) late February. We've had temperatures ranging from -5 to -8 mostly the past several days, and kind of wondering when it was going to change, and then today it got colder. It is -14 Celsius right now, and blowing a blizzard. I checked on my computer weather gadget, and Stockholm is COLDER THAN CALGARY. I know this is cheating as it is 1am here and mid-afternoon there, but I checked this morning (when it was the middle of the night over there), and the score was Stockholm -13 Calgary -9. As for Toronto, don't even. And you Canucks think you're tough.

I ventured out a fair bit today - went to a Palestinian film in the afternoon, with a discussion with the Director afterwards (may post on that later, if I get around to it), and then stayed in town, had dinner and went to a folk music concern at Stallet, which I don't get to nearly enough. Pretty good, Esbjörn Hazelius and his band, fairly trad Swedish. I am fairly sure I recognised one of his songs as a Scottish or Irish tune, but couldn't quite place it. Quite a full venue - the lead singer made a comment about us "defying the weather's might" or some such.

Remarkably, the Pendeltåg (commuter train) home was only about 20 minutes delayed. You'd think Sweden would be used to dealing with snow - and it certainly deals far better than Britain, say. But the pendeltåg in particular always gets thrown off the first couple of days of heavy snow. I think the roads beyond the city get quite bad too, but I don't use them. The headline SNÖKAOS!!! is always blazed across the front pages. So 20 minutes on a night like this is not bad. However it did mean I was between buses and had a 15-20 minute stomp through the biting winds. Fortunately the Swedes really know how to heat buildings efficiently. Once inside my flat I am very glad I am not enduring a British winter.

The biggest upside of the winter is being able to walk along the lakes. I live right by the head of a bay, Edsviken, one of the many long fingers of Lake Mälaren poking their way inland. A couple of weeks ago, one bright sunny Sunday (I think it may have even just about positive temperatures in the heat of the midday sun), I went for a longish walk along the bay. They'd carved out a big wide track down the middle, and hundreds of people were out, mostly on these longish strap-on skates that are probably useless for pirhouettes but very good for just skating a long way in a fairly straight line, some skiing, some walking, one ridiculously brave soul even cycling - quite a few people walking or skating the dog, and a fair number trundling along on their skates pushing prams. I was rather tempted to get some of those long skates myself. A kilometer or so along the local Scouts had set up a stall selling hot and cold drinks and sausages in the middle of the lake, which was proving very popular. I ended up walking all the way to Ulriksdal Slott where the trail ended (I'd vaguely hoped to get all the way into Stockholm City), then, being some way from useful transport links, went over land and then another bay to the SIPRI office to hang around until it was time for church.

I should take some more photos of all this. It can be rather stunningly beautiful. Where I live - Sollentuna - is a suburb dull as ditchwater, but it is right beside this wooded bay.

Still, I did manage a couple of pics from the lake two weeks ago. )

Still, I am rather hoping it starts getting warmer before too very long. But from the look of it, ol' Winter is looking like he's having fun and not planning on going home any time soon.
smhwpf: (Dr Who Tardis)
News from my adopted land.

The Swedish Riksdag voted yesterday by an overwhelming majority to legalise same-sex marriage in churches. Shamefully, the only party voting against (with one exception) was the Christian Democrats. This despite the fact that the Swedish Lutheran Church (to which 74% of Swedes nominally belong) supports the new law. The churches still need to decide whether to conduct same-sex marriages themselves, and the Lutheran Synod will decide in October. I'm presuming, given the above, that they're likely to vote yes. But not holding my breath for the RC Church to come to a similar decision.

Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin celebrated the passing of the new law by publicly snogging (pdf link) the Vice-Chair of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights. (Some have complained that this cheapens it, as Sahlin is, as far as we know, straight.)

Less positively (IMO), a new IPRED (Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive) law came into force yesterday, allowing copyright holders to require ISPs to disclose details of file-sharers. It led to a 30% fall in internet traffic on the first day.

Well, this is admittedly a rather selfishly-motivated response on my part, as er... someone I know really, really well downloads episodes of House and stuff using BitTorrent, and yes artists do need to be able to make a living... but well, privacy and giving power to corporations and stuff and... well I kind of think that it's a case of sticking one's finger in the dyke, and that actually in an age when data exchange is virtually cost-free, society kind of needs to come up with a better way of rewarding creative artists. Also not convinced that downloading necessarily adversely affects sales in all cases - like quite a lot of people, including this person I know really well often buy CDs/DVDs of something having first got it through file-sharing.

Hum. Well, all the reports say they're going to be going after the major users and the uploaders rather than minor downloaders like... this guy I know really well, but still probably best for such folks to use Pirate Bay's new anonymous surfing service.

In rather more pleasing legislative news, Stockholm's public transport provider, SL, has apparently banned standing on the left on the escalators. There's always been signs telling people to stand on the right, which most people observe most of the time, but now it's BACKED UP WITH FINES!!! Of up to 500 Kröner (about £42). As a Londoner at heart (and a rather impatient blighter at times), this pleases me immensely.

Good News

Dec. 9th, 2008 10:46 pm
smhwpf: (Sandman)
I aten't dead. (I suppose that also counts as good news.)

Amy Goodman, anchor of Democracy Now! - a progressive-oriented news programme that airs on radio and TV channels across the USA, and also on the internet - was in Stockholm today. She is here to receive a Right Livelihood Award, which is billed as an Alternative Nobel Prize. She was also speaking this evening, and I went along to hear her, along with a couple of work colleagues.

She was very good - talking about the media, and what is wrong with the media, but also the power it can be for good when it is used to give a voice to ordinary people and hold those in power to account. All fairly obvious stuff, but peppered with all sorts of interesting and inspiring anecdotes both from recent history and her own experiences. She talked about having Ken Saro-Wiwa in her studio, not knowing who he was and giving him two minutes because their schedule was packed, then as he talked and she started to realize just how important what it was he was talking about, dropping the rest of the guests on her schedule for the morning to let him continue! Then after his murder by the Nigerian government (in which Shell, against whom he was protesting was complicit), her team went out to Nigeria to investigate and dug up more shit, this time about Chevron. A local community had been protesting about the company's activities, and had sought negotiations with the company. They thought they'd got the company to send a representative to see them. Instead, the boat they met at the riverside carried troops who shot at the demonstrators, killing two. They were sent at Chevron's behest, and Goodman's team was able to nail the connection.

She talked of how people in rich, powerful countries can be seen by those facing war and oppression as both the 'sword' and the 'shield'. The sword, because so many of the weapons used to prosecute war and oppression come from our countries. (Sweden, she remarked, has the second highest per-capita arms exports in the world). But the shield, because public opinion in these countries, the power of the media on the rare occasions it does expose what goes on, can help put a stop to them.

The most dramatic story she had to tell was of the Santa Cruz Cemetery massacre in East Timor in 1991, at which she was present - I'd not realized that. (East Timor was my big area of activism in the latter half of the 1990s). This was when occupying Indonesian forces shot dead over 270 protestors at a demonstration in the East Timorese capital Dili that followed a memorial for a student shot dead in a church by the Indonesians. The massacre reached the west because other journalists had secretly filmed it. But Goodman was there with her cameraman, and attempted to film openly. They hoped that by going to the front and openly showing their equipment it might deter the worst excesses from the soldiers. It didn't work of course, and Goodman and her colleague were beaten to the ground, their equipment taken or smashed. Her cameraman was badly beaten. The soldiers kept shouting "Australian? Australian?" Australia was one of the Indonesian dictator Suharto's closest and most subservient ally, and had barely even protested when Indonesian forces murdered five Australian-based journalists just before the original invasion in 1975. But Goodman shouted "American! American!" and showed her passport, and they lived and were let go, and were eventually able to slip out of the country to tell their story.

She concluded by saying that we each had the choice of being part of the 'sword' or the 'shield'!

Feeling all re-energised now. (Well, somewhat). Also listening to Democracy Now, which I'd maybe watched one or two You Tubes of items from, but not watched through before. It's very good and is basically a full news programme with general headlines as well as the specific things they focus on. Today it is from Sweden naturally, so I am rather ironically getting a whole load of stuff about what's going on here from an American source. And info on cool Swedish peace organizations that do things like breaking into BAE bases and hammering weapons. (Well, a couple of their activists did).

Anyway, Democracy Now! is a very good news programme and everyone should watch or listen to it instead of CNN or BBC!


Nov. 17th, 2007 11:48 pm
smhwpf: (Default)
Got my bike back from the bike shop today after several weeks, and the weather was still just about bearable enough to roam about my island for a while, and I got to a little islet off the west side of it, which I wandered around for a little while. Stockholm is a huge archipelago on the lake Mälaren, a long, thin inlet from the Baltic which is freshwater westwards from Stockholm. My island, Ekerö, is three islands to the west of the Stockholm mainland. All quite sparsely populated, covered in woods and generally very beautiful.

I got my bike back first of all about a month ago, but it needed putting back together as I had to take the pedals off and turn the handlebars round and stuff to put it in its box. I tried to put it together myself, but while I have enough bike-fu to repair a puncture and a few other simple tasks like that, when it comes to anything more complicated I am made of fail. i like to try though, before giving in and taking it to a bike shop. It's like I've almost always tried to start conversations in Swedsh while I've been here, sort of to show willing, even though I know we're going to be speaking English a few sentences in. (Getting better on that score.)

Got the bike back from them a week after that, and did my first bit of roving, happening upon a very pleasant peninsula. Then I cycled into town to Church on the Sunday - about 20 kilometres each way, but there is cyclepath all the way, proper cyclepath, set off from the road, continuous track, not loads of little twists and turns like the Sustrans network in Britain, and clearly signposted. It's bizarre. It's like they actually want cyclists to be able to get places in a reasonable time.

Next day I cycled into work (about 17k) - couldn't cycle home, as I had to go to Swedish class way off in the south of Stockholm which I had to get to in a reasonable time, but the next day I did, which was when doom struck.

Y'see, one of the things I did before taking the bike to the shop was putting the pedals back on. I had asked the guy to check that too, as it didn't feel quite right, but he obviously didn't. As just as I was crossing over to the island east of mine (which is rather a large one), the right hand pedal came off, as it had sort of been threatening to for a while, as I crossed my fingers and hoped it would last the journey.

I'd checked. I'd looked over the first pedal, and found a little 'L' on it, so put it on the left hand side. Problem was (as I discovered out there in the middle of nowhere at night), there was also an 'L' in exactly the same position on the other pedal. They also had an 'L' and an 'R' respectively somewhere else, but really - not helpful. Of course one should be able to tell from the fact that when you've got it right you're screwing the pedals on as you cycle rather than off, but that so discriminates against the completely lacking in spatial awareness.

So I walked to the next bus stop, locked the bike and got the bus home. Next Saturday I came back with my tools and put them on the right way round, but the thread on one side was shot to pieces, so it kept coming off again. I managed to limp my way home putting all the pressure on the other pedal, which gets kind of tricky when there's even a hint of a hill (it's generally pretty flat fortunately), and screwing the pedal back on a couple of times. And so tail between legs back to the bike shop.

Who kind of took their time, but got there in the end, bringing us back to where I came in.

Not sure I'll be doing much more cycling till spring comes round. We had our first snow last weekend, and things were decidedly icy earlier this week, though as I say it was a very sunny day today. I'm told you can get winter tyres so that you don't break your neck on the ice or PLUNGE FROM THE BRIDGE over from Nockeby to Kärsön into the icy waters of the Mälaren. Downside is, this is achieved by loads of extra friction, which makes getting anywhere (especially 17km away on a freezing cold morning) somewhat problematic. Might compromise and cycle as far as Brommaplan sometimes, then get bus.

But 'tis a beautiful island. I've explored on foot a few times of a weekend. There is waterside, and there are forests, vast acres of forest in which I actually managed to get myself lost one time. Another time I got myself up to the only thing on the island that can vaguely be called a hill - indeed there's not much of them in the Stockholm area generally - and though it's not really much more than a hillock you can still see for a vast distance around, out across the lake with its myriad bejewelled islands. I walked home through the woods. It was still autumn then, and I was surrounded by this deluge of red, orange and yellow rain from the falling leaves.

I shall have to post some photos at some point. I mean, I don't have to wait till I've left a city to post photos of it.

But winter has begun now, and only the pines retain their leaves. The sun sets not long after 3pm, and soon the pavements will be piled high with snow swept from the roads. But glad the year afforded me at least one more sunny Saturday with a bicycle in working order!


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