Glass and Bears and Chocolate Cake
Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
141Trip End Jul 21, 2010
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Where I stayed
As I work Herman comes around the back looking for the PA. His wife Elna is having an exhibition of her work, with food and bands and prospective buyers
Maria is back and the three of us have an early lunch, while I cut up stickers. Tilde can’t keep her eyes off them, and we both cut through nearly all of them when Esther arrives with Petter. Esther stayed with Maria over Christmas, so has had a lot of mail build up, and as she is playing at Esther’s later today has dropped by to pick it all up
By the time I’m back in the house, feeling lovely and fresh and smelling better than I have in four days Tilde is back for lunch. Apparently the party got a little boring so she walked back. This makes me feel better about the distance, as Maria had mentioned I could walk home if I stayed longer, and the thought of being out on the street on a Swedish night, however romantic, was a little unnerving.
Anne2 arrives to drive us, as she and Maria plan to head out to another gig later on. As Maria gets ready she tells me about the book she is writing of her life. In the last few years Anne has begun to hone her spiritual skills, acting as medium and reading tarot cards for people. The book is on her experiences since beginning, and how she has always felt it but only begun use it recently.
The rain has started again as we head out to Elna’s. The drive way is as bad as Herman said. I cannot see any gravel, and the tire marks left by preceding cars get deeper and deeper. Anne’s car makes it a third of the way up the drive before it threatens to bog, so we leave it here. I’m not in the right shoes to get another car out, I’d rather not
There are two parts to the exhibition, but I’m aware of one for about half an hour. The important one; the one with the food. Petter and Esther are at a table with others near the stage, an acoustic guitarist by the name of Fredrick Blomquist is gracing the wonderfully ad hock stage. At the other end of the room is Elna at work. Two furnaces on full heat, an array of metal poles, glass beads, tools, assistants and a small audience are surrounded by the most amazing building I have ever seen. Recently renovated, I’m told that only the roof is original. There was a new year’s party here, where all the helpers were invited. People from all around came and pitched in to help put up the walls, set the windows and concrete the floor. The resulting space is amazing, with a small second story room opening to the side, completed with lounge, chairs and television.
After firsties (from the snack foods which are mind-blowing!) and watching a glass demo I’m out in the car park watching people come in and out, sharing cigarettes and heading for the shop/exhibition. Here I meet Bjearn (I don’t know how to spell his name) who scares the kids by telling them his name means Bear in Swedish and roaring at them, much to their delight.
The gallery/shop is freaking amazing! Inside is Megan and Alna, manning the front desk with a few others while people view and shop. Megan is from Sydney, and with Larry (Harry?) also in the room we have the largest population of Australians in a room for two months. Megan moved to Sweden for love a few years ago, and is currently studying in Simshiram with several others here. It sounds a lot like the Brighton Bay program I did in Melbourne, where students take a year to immerse themselves in several art mediums – photography, painting, sculpture – then spend the next on larger projects and applying for universities throughout Europe. Freja, who I met at Tilde’s disco, also completed the course. Much like a gallery the glass works are atop white pedestals at eye height (for some I suppose). Many have been lit from different angles, shining the amazing colours on the wall behind or the pedestal itself
Back for food, I drop the most amazing chocolate cake down my front. Holy shit fuck balls it’s like magic. Any excuse to go back for more - it’s two layers of gooey soft chocolate cake with an inner sandwich of caramel. I cannot get enough. The percussionist of the band earlier can’t either, and as we stuff our faces he talks more of the snow, showing me photos of his parents house up north. Like a Christmas card, every house is topped with white icing and people have to wade through at waist deep festivities. One has a wheelbarrow on it’s end, the snow building up so much it begins to bend away from the wall, giving the barrow curled handles that make me think of the new Alice in Wonderland movie. Amazing!
The studio is so warm from the furnaces and the company, Esther has already played a few times before we got their so we talk about travel, Sweden, work missing home. By day she works in Stockholm in a primary school, where the main focus is education by play and experience, which sounds freaking amazing. She really loves it, and by night is a talented singer songwriter. Maria and I were listening to her EP a few days ago, and I really wanted to hear how different she is live vs. recorded. Kris, one of Elna’s assistants and fellow student at Megan’s school is from Norway and joins in with her tales of family and life. She traveled into Sweden for glass; apparently this is the place to be. Two of Elna’s friends are from Småland where they have are assistants to the largest, most famous and oldest glass blowers in Sweden. One speaks English with a slightly Canadian accent and they both went to glass blowing school with Kris in Norway. The other, also from Norway writes their name in a glass in front of a crowd. Every time I see the glowing mass come out of the furnace I want to touch it - looks like caramel or honey. Yes, I know I would die. Eventually Esther plays again, and I really like her live sound better than her CD. Kids stop running around into each other like crazy wild things and sit down to listen.
Back in the gallery space and they’re about to close as more people show up. I’m exposed to the concept of Snuz, which doesn’t look like my cup of tea at all. A small tin is full of what could easily by miniature teabags, each filled with tobacco. This is inserted between the lip and teeth and absorbed into the gum, thus removing the problem of smoking indoors and the dangers of passive smoking. One guy even talks of his friend who has a Snuz before he goes to sleep and waking in the middle of the night to spit it out (and my mind plays with the idea of Snuz/Snooze). Some of the tins have a waste compartment in the top. I don’t think I want to look or try. Adam, the English local far from home, doesn’t like it, but says it is part of Sweden and I am a tourist. He has a place nearby with his girlfriend, and has a collection of projects under his belt to keep afloat, including landscaping, bike hire and soon to be disco for hire. From the sounds of it people do more than one thing to keep afloat, especially being a tourist town where population needs fluctuate. The fact they own a house sounds exciting, he says either they rent a one-bedroom apartment in London they can’t afford, or the buy a house in Sweden. I know which I’d rather choose. He and some other crazy girl talk about street fighting an self defense, something you should most likely not be demonstrating when surrounded by glassware. Megan and Anna’s traditional dancing shakes the more organic plantlike structures – it may be time to close up.
Back in the studio for more food(!) there is a big speech which I do not understand, followed by the most intimidating hip, hip hooray I have ever heard. It’s even better that the Swedish 'Cheers!’ is ‘Skol!’ which Adam had me believe originated from Viking times when all the warriors sit around their banquet, surround by their takings of the pillaged village, drinking from the skulls of their enemies. Food is amazing casseroles and curries and bits, all with rice and home made bread. I see discarded Tilde’s plate after a while, choosing to only eat the rice. We talk more about the snow and travel, and I’m taught the appropriate response to conversation in Swdish – to nod and say ‘Ya’ followed by a quick breath in. It’s the breathing that makes authentic apparently. there is another heartfelt speech to Elna and Herman to congratulate them on their work and on being wonderful people – I had someone translate for me – before the band starts up again. Those who can play are invited to stage, where we bust out some Tom Waits with guit (amazing guitarist), uke, drums (Herman), percussion (crazy percussionist) and piano accordion (accordion!!!) along with Fredrick doing his best Tom Waits vocal impression. The band really starts to get going when I get a tap on my shoulder. It’s Fredrick, Freja’s husband, who has found Tilde sad and crying with Esther, and suggests it may be time for her to go home. Maria and Anne left for the other gig well before dinner, meeting Anne1 on the way, so may still not be back for some time. When I find her she’s with Freja and her kids, looking a little drawn and tired and sad and watery eyed. She and Esther are talking a lot; as Tilde is upset she will never see Esther again. In the morning Esther leaves for Stockholm, where she currently lives and works. We both explain to her that this goodbye doesn’t have to be forever, and you can see how much love this poor girl has to give. I think the last time Esther left Maria’s it was very abrupt and she didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, so Tilde may be finally dealing with this hurt. The drive back thanks to Petter is as slow as possible for Tilde and Esther to talk and reassure. When we get out the house is dark, so I get us some chocolate milk and we put on a Mamma Mia, making an attempt to warm up the house until Maria gets home. Tilde says sorry for crying, which is not something she should be sorry for, and I suggest if she feels so sad about it maybe we do something write a song to Esther or something to show how much she will miss her, at least to let out everything that’s hurting. She starts to feel better, and Maria is back about half an hour later, where thoughts of the song are dropped as the movie plays. Maria says I’m more than welcome to return to the party now, but I don’t really feel up to it anymore. Seeing Tilde like this has made me more than a little homesick, so I spend a few hours in my house writing and keeping to myself, thankful I turned the heater on just a little before I left.