Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Lucas and Lotta invited us to a New Years-party at a friend of theirs, Linda. I have met her before, but just briefly.
Everybody brought a bit of food and drinks and then we pooled it. It turned out be a great party with lots of dancing and several friends I haven’t seen for a long time. Rikard Bauer was there, and Svante showed up as well. Of course, Bonen, Lucas and Lotta was part of the tram as well, although Lucas fell asleep early :-).

Thanks for a great party!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dinner in Tygelsjö, then beer in Malmö

Today we had dinner together with my sister Milla, her husband Bobbo and their kids Veronica and Martin. My mother also joined. As always, my sis served fantastic food and I ate too much.

Later on, we met my crazy (but dear) friends Lucas, Bonen and Kimmo for a few beers at Brogatan. A great place, but jeez, the beer is expensive.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Visiting Mom in Sweden

Last two days we have been in Sweden together with my mother. As always, we have eaten well and made an excursion, this time to Hovdala slott. Winter is here with low temperatures and frost, but almost no snow. Nice to be here!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Beautiful Christmas weather in Amsterdam

The lovely weather tempted us to take a walk downtown. We warmed up with a visit to Foam photography museum, and a fika at their nice café afterwards.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas dinner in Uitgeest

It is so lovely to meet all of Femke’s family again. Especially her grandparents, who both have been ill but now looked a lot better.
Femke’s sister Marjolein and her boyfriend Jeroen had prepared a nice and spicy soup, while Femke’s mother Pin served paté and then delicious ostrich beef. Femke made a very special and tasty dessert, soesjestoren - a kind of puff pastry balls filled with vanilla cream. I rounded it off with home made Swedish chocolate balls to the coffee.

Christmas walk

We started Christmas day with a nice breakfast and then a long and refreshing walk on the beach in Wijk aan Zee. Later on, the rest of Femke’s family will come over to her parents place for Christmas dinner.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lonely Christmas eve

In Sweden, we celebrate Christmas the 24th of December. This is not the case in the Netherlands, so my Christmas eve was a bit odd – I spent it alone in the sofa of Femke’s parents, watching tellie with a cat sleeping in my lap. Femke and her mother went to Church in the evening, while I was supposed to drink whisky with Femke’s father Jelle. But he had caught a horrible cold, so had to go to bed early.
Tomorrow is another day, with the real celebrations here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A beautiful day of flying at the coast

Sky. Sea. Sun. Lots of fresh air. Beach. Dunes. Waving to children. Smiling when seeing dogs at play. Saying hello to a sheep or two.
Flying is a magic thing.

Yesterday, I planned to go flying, but the forecast never came through, and we baked gingerbread instead.

Today, it was the other way around. The forecast was bad, but all the real life-readings looked good, so I took the train out to Wijk aan Zee anyway. And got some really good flying! The sun was out most of the time, the wind was right and not too strong, and the first hour or more, I was all on my own in the sky, except for numerous sea gulls.

As last time, I started with flying North to Egmond aan Zee. Maybe two thirds there, at a tricky part of the dunes, I had to land. But luckily, I had a smooth restart and could continue all the way to Egmont aan Zee. There I turned around and flew back to Wijk. On the way back, I met two other pilots, who I took photos of. At Wijk, I turned around and flew to Egmond yet another time. Then going back to Wijk aan Zee again.

This time, it was a lot harder to make it. At a tricky part, the wind suddenly dropped and I found it impossible to stay up in the air. Another pilot had just landed at the same spot, probably for the same reason. Now, we were both trying to get airborne again, but with difficulties. You need a certain amount of wind strength to stay up – when the wind hits the dunes it is deflected up, and that up-wind is what keeps a soaring paraglider in the air. If the wind is to weak (or if it is coming in on the dunes in the wrong angle), there is not enough upwards energy to keep us “floating” on the air.

After I think three frustratingly short flights, the wind finally picked up, and I could fly back to Wijk aan Zee, land and pack up. It was time to go home. Waiting for the bus, a Dutch pilot, Peter, who I met both in the air and on the beach while packing up, kindly offered me a ride. Thanks!
This way, I got home a lot quicker, which was good because my dear Femke was hungry as a wolf but wanted to eat together and so waited for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Swedish neighbour

This summer, I heard someone speaking Swedish on our street, and of course stopped and said hello. It turned out to be Linda, who lives just a few houses down the street from us. We agreed to meet after the summer, which we did. Tonight I had the pleasure of being invited to her place for a glass of wine. It’s always fun to see other people’s home, and to get to know friends better.


Baking gingerbread (pepparkakor) is such a Christmassy thing. It fills the house with lovely scents, and the cookie box with start, hearts, christmas pigs, christmas trees and of course, the gingerbread man.

So that's what we did today. And Femke decorated are little christmas tree. Ta-da!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cocktails at Harry's

Maarten is an old student friend of Femke. Tonight we went out with him and his girlfriend Hanna to try the cocktails at Harry’s Bar in central Amsterdam. Nice!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wild boar on a bridge

Femke and me are doing our best to try out interesting restaurants in Amsterdam. The excuse is that I have to write several stories about the city.

Tonight we had a delicious dinner at Restaurant Open, in the harbour. The restaurant is built on top of a turning bridge, odd but nice. Both of us had a Bourgionne with wild boar, and then chocolate dessert

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Four lovely days in Brussels

Last four days, I have been in Brussels for work. The mission was to write four different stories for Expressen (first one is published in an Internet version without photos and map here). But also as a photographer for ST Press, following a Swedish civil servant during an EU meeting about agricultural issues. All very interesting.

At the same time, I hade the pleasure to meet old friends like Marianne, Sara and Teresa, not to mention acquaintances like Leonida and Orval ☺. Brussels is such a great city!

The photo is from the Council of Europe, the day before a big top meeting.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mörk materia

I svärtan uttyder man tryckets kvalitet, i svärtan finner man platt-tevens briljans.
I svärtan läser man nattens renhet, i svärtan anar man universums rand.
Men vad gömmer sig i livets svärta? Varför finns den?
Finns det en väg ut?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dutch Christmas traditions

The Dutch do things their own way, and so they should. When it comes to Christmas, the main player is Sinterklaas. I have yet to have the honour to meet this white-haired gentleman from Spain, dressed like a bishop but in red.

However, I have met his little helper, Swarte Piet. Actually, I met several of them.

Another thing that makes Christmas special for the Dutch is oliebollen (kind of a round donut), that are sold from colourful street stalls. Here, Femek is enjoying ibne. As you can see, they come with a generous helping of icing sugar.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Maiden voyage with the boat

Today, I maid the maiden voyage with my boat!
It was time to move it to a mooring closer to home, and to prepare it for the winter. So I walked to the Prinzengracht, where it has been moored so far. On the way, I passed a garage and asked for two old tyres. They were happy to give them away, and I now had some extra protection for the boat.

The engine started at once, and then I was off :-)! It was such a lovely feeling to glide through the wonderful canals of Amsterdam, despite the grey and cold weather. I am so much looking forward to spring, when we can enjoy it even more!

Here are two photos of the boat. They are from the ad of the former owner, but still give you and idea of how it looks. Very simple, but it sure does the job.

In the evening, Femke cooked andijvie stamppot for us, a traditional local dish. I am really getting Dutchified :-).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Never again eetcafe Fatiem

Femke is such a sweet girl – today she took me out for dinner. The choice fell on Fatiem, a North African restaurant in de Pip that came highly recommended from a Dutch newspapers food critic. The place was rather simple, which is fine by us. The service was very slow, which is not so nice, but if you are waiting for good food, you can take a lot.
Starters were OK, but not spectacular. A lot later, the mains came in. Feke had a couscous, which was fine, but not very special. I ordered a tajine, which is a slow-cooked clay pot-stew that I normally find delicious. But already at my first taste, I pushed it away. It was as if something was old in it, a very odd an unpleasant taste. I asked Femke to try it, and she had the same experience. So I went down to the kitchen (we hardly ever saw the waiter) and explained the situation. They couldn’t understand it, since they only used fresh ingrediences, but kindly offered me to take it of the bill, which I accepted. By now, I had lost my appetite, so I only had a little of Femke’s dish.

Later, when we went down to pay (still no sign of the waiter, nor the drink I ordered, despite asking for it twice), Femke got a serious verbal bashing from the girl in the kitchen! She said that we knew nothing about food, that they never had a dissatisfied customer before and that we were cheapskates trying to get away with only one dish. Unbelievable! Unfortunately, this was all in Dutch, so I didn’t understand the gravity of her accusations until Femke told me on the outside. Otherwise, I would have told the chef one or two things.
You wonder how they think when they attack customers like this, in front of all the other customers. On thing is for sure – we will never go there again, and we will discourage everyone we know not to go there. After all, you go to a restaurant to have good food and a nice time, and we had neither.

After this debacle, we had a beer at the old-style bar Hoppe (with a history that goes back to 1670). Now, this is my kind of place – good beer, friendly staff and sand on the floor.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Long flight at the coast

Today was one of those surprising days. Despite it being late November, with low temperatures and a grey sky., I decided to go paragliding at the coast. For once, the wind seemed to be right, both in direction and strength.
Going to Wijk aan Zee was not that easy, though. There was a problem with the tracks close to my station, so it ended up taking one hour longer than normal. When I arrived to the coast, I met three pilots that were packing up. Two had not done any flying, they found the wind too strong, while one had a tiny glider that he flew with.
The wind was rather strong, but not too strong I found. It’s tricky to launch here because you need to pull up your glider on the beach, then kite it backwards up onto the dunes until you get into the lift and can fly. And when the wind is strong, the wing is very lively. I’m not very good at this, but after a few tries, I was airborne. Wonderful!

Now, the full length of dunes were all mine – I was alone in the sky, save for some seagulls. I had this idea that I should try and fly all the way to Castricum or Egmond aan Zee. I have been told this summer that it is possible, but I never tried it myself. Today was the day for that. So I started to fly North. Everything worked fine and the few tricky parts, where the dune has collapsed or where the there is a small dune in front of the bigger one, they went fine. Unfortunately, a light rain came in from the sea further North, but it is not a big problem when soaring the very soft and smooth air from the sea.

I past the beach-cafés on the road to Castricum and then a huge mast on the beach. It was a jubilant feeling to reach Egmond aan Zee, after 13 kilometers of flying, it felt great!
Here, I turned around and flew back to Wijk aan Zee. Now, I was flying slightly into the wind, so the speed was much lower. But I did reach Wijk aan Zee and turned around again. Maybe I could fly all the way back to Egmond and take a bus there?
I tried, but it didn’t happen. Just south of the beach-cafés West of Castricum, I landed. I tried to take off again, but only managed a short flight. Now, my wing was wet and sandy, and so was I. I decided to call it a day. After all, I flew 33 kilometers in 1,5 hours ☺.

I packed up and walked to the cafés and started to hitchhike. And after only 10-15 minutes, I was picked up by a very friendly window-cleaner, who drove me all the way to Uitgeest. Here, I could catch a train home to Amsterdam.
Not a bad day, to be in late November.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter-visit in Sweden

The last week was fun but busy. Tuesday morning, I flew to Sweden to combine some business with pleasure. First, the proof print of the next issue of Hypoxia had to be approved at the print shop in Lund. It looked good, so now it is being printed and should reach the readers in time, somewhere around 7 December.

In the evening, I had dinner with my mother, my sister and her husband. It’s nice to meet them again, and so much easier now, when we live in Europe.
As always, I stayed at Bonen’s place in Limhamn. Together with Kimmo, we went out for fika and then some fun on Wednesday evening, doing Malmö as if we were in Copenhagen. That meant going to odd, scruffy bars that we do not normally frequent. Fun!

Thursday morning saw me taking the train to Stockholm, where I had three meetings with different clients, then dinner at Soldaten Svejk (this marvellous place!) together with Lotta and Susann, both friends that we got to know in Jerusalem.

Friday was slower, with an early morning meeting, lunch with old friends Krister and Dag and then dinner at Lotta’s and Per’s place, with sound effects ©Sigvard, five weeks old. He is a little cutie, but sleeps even less than his energetic mother.
Waking up Saturday, Stockholm was dressed in white, and it was still snowing. I ventured out in the winter climate, walking to the old city to try out my new little back up-camera. At lunch, I had a fika with another freelance journalist (or, rather a former freelance, she works with copy now), then went for a museum visit. The evening came with another appointment at Svejk together with another Lotta, also a friend from Jerusalem and a journalist. We ended up spending many hours at Svejk, chatting away, enjoying the excellent beer and food and getting to know other people there.

Sunday was my last day in Sweden, and started with a relaxed brunch together with Anne, a friend from the peace-keeping missions in Kosovo. She reminded me of an idea about a childbook that I had, so now I have written a synopsis and contacted my illustrator-friend Micke. Who knows, we might even publish it.

On the way out to the airport, I stopped for a fika in a wintry Sollentuna, visiting Lena, Ulrik and their children Alexander and Carolina. This was my first meeting with Carolina, being only five months. A happy and smiley little girl!

Continuing to the airport, my train was delayed. Then my flight. The snow storm covered all the runways with snow, and they could only keep one open. That one quickly became to slippery and had to be treated again. In the end, I came to Amsterdam, to discover that the train didn’t go all the way home. Well, after almost seven hours of travelling, I did come home. My sweet Femke had some warm tea and a sandwich ready to cheer me up. She had spent the last five days in Paris on a conference, and came home just a few hours earlier.

Now, I am busy writing. Just about to finish a text about Belgian beer. Tomorrow, I might go flying at Wijk aan Zee, the forecast looks perfect. We’ll see how the weather develops.