Veckans ord: startegi

Jag har ofta svårt att komma igång med saker, jag behöver en bättre startegi.


Far out

Having travelled through the southern reaches of Stockholm proper, we now set out for the archipelago. Utö is about as far as you get with the regular boat service and is a nice place anyway, so we got on the 08:45 service from Strömkajen with M/S Saxaren. The sky was mostly overcast, but didn't rain. We marvelled at houses along the way—those clinging to the cliffsides in Skurusundet and those on little skerries further out. (I reflected that while we passed forested islands, wide straits, and glacier-worn cliffs, what attracted our eyes were the signs of other humans, their abodes and vessels.)

Eventually we arrived at Gruvbryggan on Utö. Lunch was overdue, so we walked up the hill to Utö Värdshus. We were a bit wary after our experiences the preceding day, but we were courteously received by the maître d' and escorted to what we realised was probably the table with the best view of the sea. An unflappable waitress, named Niki according to her name badge, took our orders and soon returned with some very good food. It deserved to be accompanied by dessert and it still worked out considerably cheaper than our Old Town misadventure. Forks up!

Chocolate truffle, raspberry, blackberry, and bilberry with chocolate sauce

Very satisfied, we crossed the gravel path to the mining museum to get a short glimpse of the history of the island. The now water-filled pits of the mine itself were just a few steps away. We wondered how they'd achieved the carefully planed-off walls with the primitive mining technology used in the mine.

From the mine, we followed a path through meadows and little red houses to arrive at the old windmill. The insides were impressively well-filled with graffiti from the last two centuries, all the way up to recent days as the carefully engraved dates indicated. On a clear day the view would have been stunning, but it was beautiful enough as it was.

View from the old mill on Utö

We descended from the mill hill to the shops by the harbour in order to buy some of the famous Utö loaf. Saxaren returned and we got back on board and we retraced our wake all the way back to Stockholm.

Then I had to fight to get all the loaves into Honeybuns' freezer.


Getting across

Honeybuns and I decided to ride Tvärbanan from end to end and do some sight-seeing on the way.

Interesting sites in Stockholm

Hanging gardens in GröndalWe started at the Alvik end . The way out to Gröndal is one of the roller-coaster bits of Tvärbanan, with fairly steep inclines; very exciting. Gröndal is a little small-town district hidden right outside the central city with little traffic, quaint 1950s-style shops and greenery everywhere. I had sorted mail for this area, doing work practice in 9th grade, but never actually been there. We stepped off and walked around until we found a cliff overlooking the Essingen islands and lay there for a while, listening to the not-so-distant sounds of the city. Then we descended to the the waterfront and followed the boardwalk to its end whence we returned to the tram stop.

Fancy houses in Hammarby SjöstadHaving passed the flat Årsta Field we did some more roller-coasting to get to terminal at Sickla Udde in Hammarby Sjöstad. The worst sterility of the area seems to have worn off, but this was apparently neither intentional nor desirable—the boardwalk had been deemed no longer fresh and appetizing enough, so carpenters were busily replacing everything with fresh wood. We are now waiting to see if they will start euthanising residents deemed not to be hip enough.

Old and new, Stockholm styleWe got to the ferry just in time and rode over to the Södermalm side, where a judicious turn at the right time landed us in the 18th Century houses in the Barnängen area . We admired the gardens of Barnängen Manor, chatted with a lascivious cat and some busy bumblebees and walked up towards Vitabergsparken. More greenery, amphitheatre and a bandstand. I'm always interested in churches, so we ascended to the top of the park and Sofia Church. It was built in a period which made it either too late or too early to be architecturally interesting. The sound of someone furiously typing up in the organ loft was a bit curious, but perhaps not very strange in this day and age. More 18th Century houses. What does it take to get a contract here?

Now we were rather hungry and started our descent: Renstiernas gata, Katarinavägen and over Slussen to the Old Town . In hunger-induced brain-deadness we made the mistake of choosing a restaurant on Västerlånggatan, ordinarily we know that there is nothing but tourist traps there. Michelangelo did not disappoint in this respect but in most others. While we waited for our food I studied the rave reviews they had prominently posted on the wall—they were from 1979, when the restaurant had recently opened, clearly not only the prices had changed since then. The food was served reasonably quickly and it was competently prepared, but no more. I certainly could have done something just as good myself and for the price I would have expected a considerably larger portion. No tip.

Then, just the ordinary underground home.


Folk music

Lately I've been listening a lot to Hootenanny Singers. In spite of the name their thing was singing sugary harmonies of Swedish standards. Their heyday would have been when I was very small, so I don't consciously remember having heard them, yet they are well familiar, so I must have heard others hum the songs they had on Svensktoppen for weeks and weeks at the time.

Now I found a very rare piece, the Russian song Катюша performed in Finnish by the Hootenanny Singers, and while they're doing their best they have an utterly cute Swedish accent. :-)


Veckans ord: bulldog

Kung Adolf Fredrik avled efter att ha förätit sig på semlor – han bulldog.


Ticking along

I suspect my fan burnout last year may have been triggered by too intense computation, so I've cut down on the production rate.

Good shop, bad shop

Last autumn someone knocked over my bike in the bike stand so that my front wheel ended up all twisted. I sighed and put the bike in storage over the winter. (I'm not heroic.) In April, as the new biking season beckoned, I decided I had to get the front wheel fixed. Orion, the always-been-there bikeshop nearby, had finally gone bankrupt. I located a bikeshop in Huddinge Centrum. It will have to remain nameless in this story, because I'm not sure if it has a name, it has no sign and everybody just refers to it as “that bikeshop in Huddinge Centrum”.
It looked good, lots of bikes inside and out and two guys of indeterminate age in grease-covered clothes fiddling with the bikes.
“Can you straightenout my wheel?”, quoth I.
“Hmm, I can try…”
“When will it be done?”
“In a week.”
I got a receipt with a number and everything. Next week I decided I'd call and see how it had gone. I only got their answering machine, which mentioned their “new opening hours now that autumn is here”… They had had posters with dire warnings about fines for unretrieved bikes and I was quite anxious that my wheel not incur extra expenses, so the day after I hurried to Huddinge.
“Hi, is my wheel done?”
“Uh, wheel?”
“Yes, I left a front wheel here a week ago, number so-and-so.”
“Oh right, you'll have to check with Fred, he's the wheel man, but he's out somewhere right now. I'm sure he'll be back in a jiffy.”
I waited several jiffies, but nothing seemed to happen, and I had to leave. Next day I called, still the answering machine, so I had to get myself to Huddinge again.
Now Fred was in.
“Hi, is my wheel done? Front wheel, number so-and-so.”
“Oh that one, no, nothing doing, all broken.”
“Oh. So can I order a new wheel then?”
“Yeah sure, come by tomorrow, we're expecting new wheels.”
Actually I couldn't make it for a couple of days, but turned up somewhat later.
“Hi, do you have a new wheel for me?”
“No, we're waiting for a delivery, it should be here by tomorrow, come back then.”
Actually I let a week go by, just to be safe.
“Hi, do you have a new wheel for me?”
“No, we aren't getting any new wheels, it's these Chinese factories you see, everything is done in China these days. They have run out of metal, and what with the recession, they're not shipping, nobody's getting anything, no wheels anywhere, but come back tomorrow, maybe we'll have something then.”
This was not the ride I had been hoping for…

Eventually I gave up and decided I'd have to call around to all bikeshops to see if any of them might have a wheel for me. This week I finally got around to it and started with shops near work. Stockholm cykel & sportservice:
“Hi, I'm looking for a 26" front wheel, do you have one by any chance?”
“Yes, of course.”
Oh. Of course work stacked up, so I had to take a very brisk walk to get there five minutes to closing time.
“Hi, I called about the 26" front wheel. Oh, and I'll need a tyre and tube as well.”
“…and rim tape. Sure, just a sec.” picks down everything without even searching
“What's rim tape?”
“You put it on the inside so the spokes don't puncture the tube, I'll show you.” demonstrates
“Oh, I get it.”
I pay, rather more than I had expected, but it's been a while since I bought bike accessories last. I go home, assemble the wheel and then attach it to the bike. Something is wrong, the brakes don't fit, and it looks weird. Argh! I mismeasured, it should have been a 28" wheel!
I lug the assembled wheel back the next morning and after work I walk to the bikeshop.
I am received with a look of recognition.
cough I mismeasured, I should have had a 28", is it possible to change?”
“Sure, no problem, those things happen. 28" you said, here we are. I only have one with a quicklock, can you handle it? I'll show you, like this.” demonstrates
I get an almost impossibly glossy wheel and all the rest. The shopkeeper makes to turn to the cash register, but then decides he won't bother about the price difference. I am for my part profusely grateful.
Home again. This wheel requires a bit of skill to assemble, but when I finally figure it out, it looks very good. I snap the quicklock and my bike is whole again!
I rush for my helmet and set out for a quick tour around the area. It feels so good and effortless. Always when I'm on the bike again after a long period without, I wonder how I managed.

Life can be so good sometimes!


It can't be said better

Man walks on fucking Moon!

I admit it. In spite of universal franchise, washing machines, the United Nations, free health care and all the other things that make people's lives better, I still think the most amazing achievement of the 20th Century is that humans managed to travel to another celestial body.



Our last day in Britain. The morning we would spend going through book stores on and off Charing Cross Street. As it is one of the first, we started with Motorbooks. We found it only due to me looking in the right direction at the right time—it has moved from S:t Martin's Court to Cecil Court, the next street over. In fact all the nice niche bookstores on S:t Martin's Court have moved or disappeared and the streetlet now consists of an unbroken length of pubs. One of the bookstores on Charing Cross Road proper had a lament in its window, explaining how rising costs forced bookstores out of business, and indeed, several of my old favourites had disappeared, replaced by shops for traditional Chinese medicine and the ilk. I was much saddened. Still, Motorbooks was in good shape, even though the fantastic basement stairwell covered with graffiti, stickers, and business cards from every air line, military aircraft unit and private plane owner that had ever passed Motorbooks, was gone. I bought some books I thought I'd manage to carry and looked longingly at some others, which I'll simply have to order later on.

Then we continued to Foyles. They were still in good shape and some more books were added to the collection. Then it was time to head back and pick up our bags. Pull the cart with our bags to Victoria, carry it down into the underground. Honeybuns is getting a bit jittery about our time schedule, I'm more like: “No worries, we should make it with minutes to spare.” She does not look calmed.
When we arrive at King's Cross the PA system blares: “This is an emergency, proceed to the exits immediately!” Oops, well, we were in a hurry anyway. The station pours out hundreds of people onto the street. We push ourselves towards the entrance to S:t Pancras, just as we see it being closed up as well. Is it more than just the underground station being closed? I accost one of the guards by the gate: “Pardon me, is the rail station closed as well?” “Yes, yes, don't you see, all the electricity is gone, nothing is running, everything is closed. Please move out of the way.” Clearly not all of the electricity is gone, as the escalators had been running and other signs of electrical activity are obvious, but of course you would have to have backup systems for those. Now what are we going to do? We'll miss our train and all connections, who should be approached to sort this out?
MillersPeople milling around.
After milling around a bit we sit on the steps outside the station and consider our plight. After a while it strikes me that there doesn't seem to be all that many other forlorn people milling around, maybe Londoners know what to do under these circumstances, but where do all the other tourists that should be on our train go?
Honeybuns peers curiously at some people that go up the steps, is there a pub up there, maybe we could at least have lunch? We lug our cart and ourselves up the steps and Blimey! there's another entrance to S:t Pancras and the station is obviously in full operation! We rush in, carry the cart down the stairs and come running into the Eurostar terminal as we hear: “Final call for the 14:34 to Brussels, proceed to checkin immediately!” I bang our tickets on the desk and we are checked in. We even have time to pick up some sandwiches and drink on the way to the train, which pulls away soon after we've sat down.
I love the active and curious mind of Honeybuns more than ever, as my breathing calms down. I also check some news sites with the web browser in my mobile, but there seems to be nothing about the emergency, maybe it's a fairly common occurence and nothing to write home about.
Our connection in Brussels is smooth and then we get to Cologne, where we have a couple of hours' wait. Time for dinner. We find a sushi bar, operated by some Vietnamese, and get some quite good sushi (yes, vegetarian too). They do however not accept credit cards. A Colognial sitting on the stool next to us offers to pay the difference for us, but Honeybuns runs away to a cash machine and gets some Euros.

Finally our train arrives and we pile into our sleeper. It is Czech too, but of a subtly different design than the one on the way down. We sleep the sleep of the exhausted, and enjoy breakfast next morning while travelling through Denmark. Again we have a layover in Copenhagen, which I spend writing a few postcards, and then we suddenly run into an old colleague of mine, who's also going back to Stockholm. No direct connection this time, we have get to Malmö first where we change to X2000. I make a point of travelling forwards and not reading on the way up. I avoid motion sickness this time.

Then, just a short tube-trip home. As I walk through the park on the way home, I see that the new playground has been opened and is full of children with their parents, playing in the early summer evening.


Here, fishy, fishy!

Charles Darwin in effigyRebbe Darwin in the foyer of the aquarium.
The next morning we walked down Vauxhall Bridge Road to the Sea Life London aquarium and got in as they opened for the day. So did also half a dozen school classes. Their main goal in life was apparently to be as loud as possible, and their teachers were dedicated to helping them in their efforts. The aquarium was marketed towards children, even though the darkened corridors and the calm of the fish tanks lent themselves to a more meditative experience than a hundred yelling pre-teens allowed. Fortunately they were in more of a hurry to get out of the learning experience than we were, so they eventually disappeared ahead of us. I've noticed before that modern museums often seem to encourage noise, both in exhibits and visitors. Presumably this has something to do with making science more attractive. I just don't get it.

Streaked gurnardIt was almost impossible to get good pictures of the fish, but here is a streaked gurnard. Note the tendril-like reformed pectoral fins, they are supposedly for probing for food on the bottom, but dammit, they actually walked along the bottom on those. I'd never heard of these, but they are apparently quite common fish.
We went slowly from tank to tank, gazing at marine creatures we'd never seen before. I reflected that it didn't seem as if they were interested in eating each other. Do they carefully select animals that aren't interested in each other or do they keep them constantly satiated with easily accessible non-struggling fish food, so that they aren't tempted to go for live food?

The shark tank was rather eerie, not only containing sharks and a big ray, but also some really big fish, all swimming around and around and around. We were reminded of the mental polar bear that used to be at Skansen, pacing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in its pen. (It's been gone now for many years, I hope they shot it.) I wonder what the sharks thought of it all.

After surprisingly many hours we emerged, blinking in the brighter lights outdoors and then decided to walk along the South Bank. The used book market immediately trapped us and some urgently needed books were purchased. We counted bridges over the Thames and found a pub to have late lunch at, while peering at a cricket match on the telly. UK vs Australia, I gathered.

We got to Tate Modern, and looked at a bit of an exhibition. You need a very large museum to exhibit some modern art, e g when a piece consists of a Volkswagen bus and 24 sleds… However, we felt the need for more air and escaped out again fairly soon, continuing towards the Tower. We got there just in time for their closing. Bummer! We browsed the museum shop for a while and then went home, picked up food in a Sainsbury and ate in our room.


Plants, flowers, trees, epiphytes, and a bit of meat broth

The Grange Wellington served “Continental buffet” for breakfast. So with the “full English” at Gables Guesthouse, we went from a fat-and-protein based breakfast to a completely carbohydrate based.

Then the tube and a commuter train to Hampton Court for the expected next high point: the Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. There were plenty of other middle-aged middle-class couples on the train, most of them pulling little collapsible carts. When we arrived we found out that the first few days of the show were members-only, but out of the goodness of the receptionist's heart, we could have a couple of unbooked tickets. Quite expensive ones, at that.

Iron DragonFancy one for your garden?
Anyway, we were soon in, and about as soon as we got in, a drizzle started. It continued throughout the day, occasionally letting up in favour of serious showers. As we walked through the show, we found that it actually wasn't so much about exhibiting flowers as selling garden accessories. And what accessories! 1:1 scale gorillas in bronze, stylised giraffes, three-metre high sculptured dragons, garden fairies, gargoyles, module-assemblable mediæval ruins, fountains, gazebos, realistic giraffes, more giraffes, huge steel balls, nymphs in bronze, marble, and cast stone.

Concept GardenA concept garden. A friend commented: “Yeah, that's what I'd like my burial place to look like.”
There were also “concept gardens”, top-of-the-line garden designers coming up with the least likely design for you to have in your garden.

2009 is the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Henry VIII, which you aren't allowed to forget anywhere, so here there was a Tudor-themed scarecrow competition for school classes.

The Lifestyle tent had less immediately garden-related stuff for sale, paintings, indoor sculpture, clothes, sausages, organic apple cider, etc.

Carnivorous plantsCarnivorous plants are way cool, but did you know many species are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and plant theft? Only buy specimens that have been nursery-grown.
Finally we found a tent with actual plants. They were of course also for sale. Ducking for yet another shower we ended up in a tent where some unknown to us B list celebrity introduced a fashion show. It seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with gardening, so left to rest our legs over lunch in a food tent.

We found a tent exhibiting plants significant for British gardening history, not least ones that may have been, somewhere, on some occasion, possibly glimpsed by Henry VIII. This was actually quite good an exhibition and, incidentally, not at all as crowded as the other tents.

After having seen yet a few more stands hawking giraffe sculptures, we decided to leave and go see Hampton Court Palace instead. As luck would have it, a little lady was handing out leaflets as we were leaving and we accepted one. This turned out to be discount tickets to Hampton Court Palace, two for the price of one. What luck, ho!

MistletoeThis mistletoe is about as tall as I am, and there were several in the same tree.
On the way to the Palace entrance we found a tree with huge clumps of mistletoe, just above us. This brought us to a standstill for some time.

At Hampton Court Palace there were ongoing activities throughout the day: a reenactment of the wedding of Kateryn Parr and Henry VIII (him again!), including selecting a wedding gown, a stag party for Henry, the wedding dinner and so on. We decided to forego that and instead take in the palace at our own pace. We started by exploring the famous maze. It wasn't quite as large as I had imagined and at the time was invaded by an audio sculpture, which would make various sounds as people moved through the maze. It was actually just mostly annoying. Anyway, with my 1337 maze navig8r zkillz we found the centre of the maze no problemo and continued to walk around the rest of the garden. Or, to be precise, round the part closest to the palace—the garden is huge. Or gardens, there are several distinct parts of it.

The Great VineThe Great Vine is kept in this greenhouse. The field outside is where the roots are kept.
We never found the way into the Orangery but we found the world's largest (and oldest?) vine, planted in 1769 and still producing several hundred kilogrammes of grapes a year. The longest branches are something like 75 m, folded up several times inside the greenhouse.

Finally we entered the palace itself. There were several new exhibitions on Henry VIII (that man again!), they, like many other displays we'd seen recently, were much on how he really couldn't have acted otherwise than he did. Complete bollocks, one suspects. Anyway, there was much to look at and finally we found ourselves in the Tudor kitchens. They were furnished with mock food and one even contained a cauldron that distinctly smelled of meat broth. Veggie Honeybuns was much revolted.

Here too, the museum closed long before we were done, but we ambled back to the train, accompanied by lots of flower show visitors, their collapsible carts now unfolded and filled with seedlings, gardening tools and what not. Very few bronze giraffes, though.

We decide to have dinner in the Indian Diner just behind the hotel. Slightly on the posh side but excellent food and the staff saw fit to not only supply us with after-dinner mints, but also a long-stemmed rose to Honeybuns. Very sweet.


Goodbye, hello!

Leisurely packing of things in the morning, take our farewells of our host with promises to return one day and then catch the bus into town, pick up a Lincolnshire Echo and then wait for the train to Peterborough. A railway employee kindly and politely directs us to the right platform.

East Midlands Trains Class 153East Midlands Trains Class 153. Note that curiously the serial number on the side is 52319, but the number on the front 53319.

That special whine-growl of the diesel engine of the accelerating Sprinter, and we roll through the countryside. I do the cross-word puzzles—the Quick Clues is no problem, the Cryptic Clues is more of an effort, perhaps not more so than Geijerkorsordet in Dagens Nyheter, but it still nags at my language confidence.

We get delayed (a hallmark for this journey, it seems) and miss our connection in Peterborough, but it turns out trains to London run about every ten minutes, so we don't have to suffer the pouring rain for long. It feels very luxurious to just wave our Interrail tickets at the conductor.

Eventually we are at King's Cross again. I stand in an interminable queue to buy three-day travelcards for the London Underground, which for some reason can not be bought in the ticket machines, even though one-day travelcards can be. Ah, the Tube, the accumulated heat of more than a hundred years of trains and surely a milliard people. The Victoria Line, we find, has exactly two Accessible stations, none of which we will pass, so we have to carry our luggage down and up stairs. I check my map to locate the best way to continue from Victoria. We're soon by the quiet park of Vincent Square and I'm having déja vu feelings. We check in at the Grange Wellington Hotel but it's only when I visit the bathroom in the corridor that the memory clicks: This is the former Wellington Hall of King's College London, where I stayed a weekend twelve years ago. In the meantime the premises have gone from cheap to shabby. Still, they're reasonably adequate. (Googling around, I later find that King's College London started selling off their student housing in 2001, in an effort to improve their finances. This was not appreciated by the students..)

Having installed ourselves, we go out to introduce London to Honeybuns. Late lunch at an Italian diner, good food but snotty service. No tip.

Regent Street of course, where we hurry through the rain to Hamleys. We're both childishly interested in toys and spend a couple of hours going through the entire shop. They still have model kits, though set up in an interesting fashion: at one end of the floor they have the Revell kits, at the opposite end they have the Airfix kits, together with all other brands owned by Hornby, i e mostly model railway stuff. No Tamigawa kits anywhere. Hm.

We saunter down to Piccadilly Circus and meet up with an old friend of mine, find a cafe and bring each other up to date on our lives. Honeybuns patiently abides us talking shop.

My friend finally has to return to his family and we stroll past Trafalgar Square, where there is some kind of performance going on on the Fourth Plinth. We continue down to the Thames and take lots of touristy pictures of the Houses of Parliament and such. We return to our hotel room, which seems quite uninfested by cockroaches or any other kind of invertebrate life, and while the bed makes interesting squeaky noises it is more comfortable than it seems and we soon fall asleep.

Update. Of course Wikipedia has all answers. Class 153 units are originally two-car units, with a separate number for the individual car and the unit. Thus, the pictured unit is car 52319, but unit 153319.


Slightly subdued

Fossdyke canalPicture yourself in a boat on a river…
Honeybuns clearly had mixed feelings of concern and “I told you so”. I felt like a decomposing zombie at the breakfast table. Still, let's make the best of the day. We passed the nearby ASDA and bought sunscreen (SPF 50+) for me, no good hats though, but when we got into town I bought myself a snazzy-looking straw hat at the Marks & Spencers—not exactly my size, but when you are a hat size 64, you take what you get. Honeybuns suggested I needed a linen suit as well, but I wasn't up to that much clothes shopping at the moment. Instead we went down to the Brayford Pool to catch the Brayford Belle, a tour boat up the Fossdyke Canal, an (reputedly) originally Roman-dug canal connecting River Witham with River Trent. It was a quite pleasant trip at a very sedate pace (max speed 3 mph in the canal), with occasional comments from a (presumably) recorded tour guide, with the usual humorous quips on the sites we passed—in particular he seemed to be quite unimpressed with the students at the University of Lincoln, who were repeatedly ragged.

When we returned to town, we had a pleasant lunch at the Riverside Cafe and then ascended the hill to have a look at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, though all too short as they closed fairly early. I still had time to be impressed by all the tractors and farming engines on display. More visits will be necessary.

From there we proceded to the cathedral, where we sat and waited for Sunday Mass to finish and then walked about. We were handed a leaflet on how to make a pilgrimage inside the cathedral, with suitable prayers to say at various points. I thought to myself that if a pilgrimage was a journey of spiritual discovery, they couldn't bloody well know beforehand what prayers would be appropriate for my spirit at that point. There was plenty of reflection to be made at the shrines for the armed forces anyway.

Along one wall of there was a temporary exhibition of wooden sculptures on the Life of Christ, which generally failed to impress me. The artist did not seem to like “representatives of the state”, though. There was restoration work under way at various points in the church, here too with some annoyance expressed at meddlesome Victorian restorers, who'd messed up some items. Then again, I suspect the eroded stone sculptures were not merely due to Victorian sulphur emissions.

I like churches, especially when they are mostly empty, they are good places to sit and relax, or cool down on hot days, and mostly there's always something interesting to watch. So we remained until the church closed, and then walked down the hill to where we found an Italian restaurant by the river and had some very nice salads.

After dinner we continued down the river along what seemed to be the old industrial area of Lincoln. Now there seemed to be some work at turning the old factories into housing. We tried to figure out how the local economy worked. In the city centre there were a number of closed-down shops. Out in North Hykeham there was any number of new housing developments that clearly still had not sold out all houses, but which must have been good-quality farmland just a few years ago. The house prices did not seem very high, especially considering the generally high housing prices in Britain. I wonder if the financial crisis hit recently, just when all these projects had started and the shops had been hit worst and first.

Green Dragon pub.Old and new. Very British.
Honeybuns decided the surroundings felt creepy, so we returned towards more populated areas and managed to catch a bus going our way.


Ups and downs

Now then, the event for which we had come to Lincoln: The Royal Air Force Waddington International Airshow.

As I've mentioned before, I've longed to see an Avro Vulcan in the air and XH558 was one of the main attractions, if not the main attraction. During the spring there was some question whether the Vulcan To The Sky Trust would be able to afford the airshow circuit during the summer, but a major collection effort succeeded in securing the needed funds, so everything was set for a great show.

On the suggestion of the Tourist Information officers we didn't even attempt to order a cab to get to Waddington, but instead walked there. It took us two hours in the brilliant morning sunlight, but it really seemed as if we walked faster, or at least kept an even pace with, than the car queues that stretched as far as we could see.

When we got to Waddington village we got ourselves drinks for the rest of the way but hadn't even finished them before we found ourselves inside the airbase and then on the airfield itself. And then! I'm not the only one to state that the Brits really know how to put together an airshow, and Waddington is probably the largest of them all. It is a two-day event, but I'm not sure if we could have seen it all even if we had spent both days there. (Though another couple at the bed & breakfast had arrived several days early to see all the planes fly in and would remain a couple of more days to see them fly out again. That's devotion. Not least on the part of the wife, who clearly wasn't all that keen a plane spotter. On the other hand, as I've implied, there's plenty of other things to do in the area.)

My little Exilim is not very good at photographing planes in the air, so here are some pictures of pretty aircraft on the ground (and there were probably several hundred there to look at, so imagine me rushing about going “Ooh, look!” all day, yet seeing only a fraction of what was there):

Aérospatiale GazelleA Gazelle from the Empire Test Pilots' School, which is partly run by QinetiQ, the privatised part of the former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.

Hawker HunterA privately-owned two-seater Hunter.

BAC Jet ProvostOne of several Jet Provosts, this in Kuwait Air Force markings. A four-ship formation Jet Provosts gave a very nice performance later in the day.

But, it wouldn't be a British air show without some completely unrelated displays as well, so in the middle of everything was the local stationary engine society, displaying their carefully polished machines:
Crossley PE 1060A Crossley PE1060. The Crossley Brothers were strict teetotallers, so they refused to sell their engines to breweries.

And next to that, rows upon rows of carefully polished vintage cars:
A carThis is a car, I don't know anything about those. Oh, well, the one in the background is an Audi 100, I know because we had one when I was a kid.

Of course all the armed forces were there, recruiting. The RAF brought out all the fun you can do besides killing people, such as e g joining the RAF Bobsleigh team:
BobsleighsFor optimum performance you need a hill. With ice.

Now of course, there was considerable activity in the air. The Polish Air Force display team Orlik did a very nice performance. They were then followed by the Red Arrows. When I first saw them at a Bromma air day ages ago, I first didn't get the point, they seemed to just fly round and round. Only after a while did I realise the extremely precise formation flying they did, reformating so smoothly you had to strain to see how they did it. Today, with only a few scattered clouds, they were able to do their full ‘high’ programme. Their speaker, “Red 10” kept up a constant patter, carefully introducing each pilot with humorous quips (“‘Boomer’ has flown in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, so he speaks both languages fluently. He is now struggling to learn English.”) and also stressing the combat experience of each.
The Red ArrowsHopeless picture, I know, but, The Red Arrows!

Some time after lunch (Cornish pasty) I picked up that we were not going to see a Vulcan in the air. Briefly: Ex-military aircraft require a Permit to Fly. This has to be regularly renewed, and this entails demonstrating that the aircraft is in a certain defined good working order. The Permit to Fly for XH558 had expired the day before. This obviously would not have come as a surprise for the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, but what with one thing and the other, they had failed to fulfil the certification requirements and had instead just hoped that the Civil Aviation Authority would waive the requirements for that weekend, seeing as they had an airshow to do and all that. The CAA did not agree and thus the plane was grounded. To say that I and a significant part of the other roughly 100 000 attendees were disappointed is like saying it's a long walk to the Andromeda galaxy. I would have appreciated a bit more grovelling on the part of the VTTST spokesperson rather than the “Unfortunate, but we couldn't really help it.” attitude displayed. That they got their PtF renewed just a couple of days later further indicates some seriously bad planning. Boo, hiss!

Ah well, there was still plenty to see in the air and on the ground: More Hawks in the air, the aforementioned Jet Provost display, some quite interesting formation flying and simulated missile attacks by a group of Hawks and Falcons, helicopters cavorting, and then a very noisy display by a solo Eurofighter. I'd worn ear protectors all day, but when a plane like this turns on the afterburner, it's like it grips your stomach and shakes it, you have to tense up just to remain standing.

We made a quick tour of the various stands, I picked up some pre-ordered modelling supplies in the Hannants booth, and then I spent an hour in the Airfix tent.

Eventually the day wound down and we started to look for the exit. Food time! The first pub we found in Waddington was full and didn't look as if it served food either, but then we came to the Horse & Jockey, where we were welcomed and had a perfectly good dinner. On consideration, we didn't feel like walking the two hours back, but when we had finished dinner the stream of cars leaving seemed to have thinned out, so we decided to get a taxi. The pub staff recommended Discount Cabs, so I called them and they promised to have a car there in 15 minutes. 15.00 minutes later our cab turned up. We piled in and the driver sort of dove into a rabbit hole in the village, bypassing all queues, while lambasting Vulcan To The Sky in no uncertain terms and a very thick Lincolnshire accent and then deposited us by the door. And it was cheap.

Honeybuns had during the day become increasingly more agitated about the state of my skin. I for my part considered myself to be well protected by the tan I had gotten myself in Lappland, so wasn't too concerned, but it did feel like maybe it would be a good idea to apply some cream to my face and legs before going to bed.

Then. The next morning. My bright red face was oozing yellowish liquid and I'd covered the pillowcase in stains. My legs wouldn't bend properly and my skin felt too small for my body.

That day we would clearly only do shady activities…


Lindum Colonia

Lincoln has an interesting topology. Most of Lincolnshire is fairly flat, but here there is a fairly high hill. On top of this hill stands Lincoln Cathedral, a very tall building, which accordingly is visible very far away. The modern city centre lies down by the river Witham (downtown, as it were). You go between the two by way of High Street, which continues as Steep Hill.

Riverside Cafe on the High BridgeThe Riverside Cafe on the High Bridge over River Witham.
So, this Friday morning we got off the bus by the market square where we wandered around the stalls, to the musical accompaniment of a country & western singer (who actually was quite good), and Honeybuns bought herself an interesting cheese. We ascended Steep Hill, which, in addition to other interesting shops, contained a goodly number of used book shops, which obviously all had to be visited. As we were going to do some walking that day, we couldn't obviously buy all worthy books, but some sufficiently light-weight items found our favour.
High StreetThis is just High Street, it gets steeper than this.

Eventually we were at the summit of the hill. Not by coincidence, this is where the Tourist Information Centre is (there is another one down at the city centre, but it is currently closed for renovation), so I might as well stick in a bit of tourist information here:
The general area of Lincoln has been inhabited for a long time, but the name and the first stone buildings date from the Romans. There are still a few remains, such as bits of the old city wall, left from Roman times. The next high period for the town came with the Normans, who started on the castle and the cathedral, both of which were greatly expanded in mediæval times; there are also a few Tudor era houses left. The first World War I tanks were constructed in Lincoln and during World War II Lincolnshire was “Bomber county”. All these various historial eras are carefully commemorated with signs, museums and the items themselves, of course, and there are a number of marked theme trails around town, so show off Roman, Norman, etc remains. Even though the town is so obviously prepared for tourists, there didn't seem to be particularly many around, which I provisionally put down to the English school term not being over yet. Swedish tourists were clearly not common here, I suspect they only leave Regent Street to go see Mamma Mia!.

Lincoln Castle model for non-sightedLincoln Castle in bronze.
Cobb Hall TowerHoneybuns descending into the interior of Cobb Hall Tower. Lots of dark nooks and crannies down there.
Anyway, we decided to start with Lincoln Castle. Inside the walls was a carefully tended garden, just made for picknicks. We had a long look at the Magna Carta, went through the prison exhibition and then climbed the walls and the towers. The sky was overcast, but from the Observatory Tower we felt as if we could have seen all the way to the North Sea had it been a clear day. Towards the west we could see another castle tower, which we couldn't fit to any feature on our maps, very strange.
View of Lincoln and surroundings from Observatory TowerA view southwards from the Observatory Tower of Lincoln Castle.

Finally hunger drove us out and we found a little vegetarian restaurant on Steep Hill, where some rather surly teenagers served us a quite good lunch.

Bishop's PalaceThe remains of the Bishop's Palace.
Then we walked a circuit around the cathedral, but decided to see the mediæval Bishop's palace instead. It is mostly a ruin these days, but an audio presentation did its best to bring its old splendour alive to us. I actually enjoyed this audio tour better than the one at the recent Titanic exhibition as this one only played fairly short clips and then waited for the user to start the next clip, thus allowing much better self-pacing.

Lincoln water towerA rather fancy water tower.
The museum closed, so we had to leave, and decided to set out to find the mysterious tower we had seen. Oh, it was a water tower. Apparently it didn't qualify for marking on any maps, just being public works, as it were. We found a pub for dinner and then descended the hill for the bus home.


Running late

X2000 pulling in at Stockholm Central StationX2000, the vomit express.
We found somewhere to house the cats and went for a longer trip, to England where my heart lies. The usual trip with the 12:21 from Stockholm to Copenhagen and then the night train to Cologne, from whence on to Brussels. Well, not so fast!
We were late into Copenhagen, but as SJ in their wisdom had insisted on purveying us with tickets with generous margins between trains, this was not a problem. However, the motion sickness which I had accrued on the X2000, was.
Eventually we boarded our sleeper, which was a Czech single-decker this time, and rolled through Denmark into the night. I didn't sleep very well (Honeybuns bravely slept in the upper berth, risking being tossed to the floor whenever the train lurched) and when I headed for the shower in the morning, not feeling particularly well at all, the conductor informed me that we were already running two hours late, so they were going to dump us in Dortmund, from where we could catch a faster train to Cologne.
We gathered our belongings and then scrambled to this other train, some platforms away.
Well on the train, I withdrew to the lavatory to yell at Ralph, after which I felt slightly better and then dozed a bit.
Kölsch beer advertisingThey are still remembered!
Our wide margins saved us again, so we had no problems catching our connection in Cologne. While we waited, Honeybuns explored the just-opened food stalls and eventually found me an unfilled croissant (you can't imagine the stuff the Colognials put in their croissants!) which I gingerly nibbled at, but my oculo-vestibulo-gastrointestinal system had calmed down by now.
Instead of the usual Thalys, we travelled with an ICE train. It seemed to me they must have straightened the tracks, because the journey was half an hour shorter and I didn't quite recognise the landscape we passed through, even though the stations were the same. This meant I missed my favourite sights on this leg.
In Brussels we spent a long time going in circles, trying to locate the Eurostar terminal. Finally we found the mysteriously elusive entrance and ended up in long queues for checkin, exit passport control, security control, and entry passport control (Britain not being a part of the Schengen area). Eurostar has a serious case of flight envy, but doesn't quite manage to pull it off: All luggage has to be tagged and “Dangerous items such as knives” are prohibited, so I slipped my Victorinox in my suitcase, expecting it to be placed in a locked hold after being X-rayed, but no, the suitcase was just given back to me, so there I got on the train, equipped with a deadly weapon—not only did I have a knife, but I could…err…use the screwdriver to take the train apart while rolling, yeah!
Eurostar train at S:t PancrasEurostar at S:t Pancras.
The train accelerated through Flanders, briefly stopping in Lille and then, with no further ceremonies, dove into the Chunnel and just as fanfare-lessly popped up somewhere near Folkestone a short while after. After a surprisingly short trip we found ourselves at S:t Pancras.
We had a while before our next train so had a spot of food and then wandered around S:t Pancras and King's Cross, looking for ice cream until I found a Möwenpick freezer in a shop in the former station. Another item worthy of notice: The public lavatories at King's Cross will cost you 60p, but the ones at S:t Pancras across the street are free.

National Express DVT Mk 4Two National Express-operated Driving Van Trailer Mk 4 at King's Cross.
Then we got on the next train, for Newark, and this is when the real travel started. While high-speed trains take you from A to B very efficiently, they tend to travel in trenches for noise-protection reasons. This means you don't actually see much of the landscape you travel through. Now we finally travelled on a normal train on an embankment and could enjoy the view of East Anglia, spotting churches, looking for cows and gazing at the horizon. At Newark North Gate we arrived a bit late, but still managed to get on our connecting railbus to Lincoln.

At around 16:00 we were in Lincoln, some 28 hours after leaving Stockholm.

Pulling our bags on a cart we stuck out like sore thumbs and we had hardly exited the station before the locals descended upon us, eager to tell us how to best get to the tourist information centre. On the other hand, the town was already closing down. We had time to get ourselves sandwiches and juice at the Coop, but by the time we had finished them all shops and restaurants had closed. (Later on British colleagues extolled the wild nightlife of Lincoln, to which we can just say “What!?”) We wandered around a bit, but decided we needed rest, so returned to the rail station and took a taxi to our bed & breakfast, which turned out to be just as friendly and comfortable as we had hoped for. Soon we slept.