For Pterry

Years ago I picked up a book. It was in a library, or a bookstore or handed to me by a friend. It doesn’t matter which. The point is that within a few pages I was hooked, line and sinker.
The jokes played a part, and the reality I could see behind the fantastical scenes and plots which whipped merrily along. As with anything I find and delight in I wanted to share it with others, but how to describe a series that melded witches, wizzards, coppers, dragons, zombies, trolls, Nobbses and Death, and which held more of a mirror to humanity than many books that didn’t feature magic?

Fortunately and completely unsurprisingly, I’m not the only person to love the series so there were many over the years who shared a laugh about a particular line or clever references, and who companionably slid off their chairs in glee at the mention of ‘the trousers were better then!’
What I didn’t always mention was that underneath the jokes and wit I could see a deep river of understanding for people, hidden beneath layers of cynicism. Amid the unionizing zombies and teetotal vampires were real people, the people you meet on the street who are brave and cowardly, concerned about their own backyards and willing to lend a hand, stupid and intelligent. These on many occasions also included the zombies and vampires, among others. They were all just people, even when they weren’t. He taught me, through his books, to see them better and to understand the mob as a mass of daftness and potentiality, or in his words,

The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.

I saw the city as a process, endlessly consuming material and spitting out civilization and revolutions as things that always go around, back to where they started. Evil, headology, fanaticism, war, fairies, technology. I could have learnt these in pubs listening to folk yarning or reading books about failed revolutions. His way, however, lay by way of laughter and characters that I’ll never forget, and in many cases back to the source which could be plumbed for yet more treasure.

Night Watch

Night Watch

The reason I am writing this, rather than just enjoying the books, is that I read the last one recently. The very last. No more.
It was a fitting end, completing in part the journey of one character and the beginning of others. There was a sense of unfinished business as well, as it hadn’t quite reached the polished stage of the other books. If he’d had his way we wouldn’t have it at all. Despite this, it still contained the sensible, cynical, determined heart of the other books, even including a surprise Monty Python reference. I enjoyed every minute of it, partly because it was the last and always because it was genuinely good. I liked the goat boy, the cat, the battle and the continuing emergence of goblins into the light.

The last book

The last book

A wheel was turning, as it has for many of the books in the last few years, away from the medieval fantasy world into an early industrial land where everyone, regardless of species and gender can have a turn. Even the lowest and most hated can rise up (or descend if preferred) into the sunlight (or shade). I wonder where it would have turned next. In my head the world is now stuck in that last moment, preserved in the Century of the Anchovy forever.

Quanti Canicula Ille In Fenestra?

Quanti Canicula Ille In Fenestra?

I’m not going to tell you to read his books. If you want to you will. For those who have read them and who wear a sprig of lavender on May 25th or wonder about the lyrics of the Hedgehog Song, lets remember him as he’d have liked it, by being a bit more courageous, kind and by using our heads.

How do they rise up!

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On the lack of posts

Weekly readers may have noticed that my record of one post per week has tailed off recently. If you were concerned that I had gotten lost in the forest, lost the use of my fingers in a freak wildlife incident or was otherwise incapacitated, worry no longer. I’m fine. I am, if this is even a word, overcapacitated.

My hopes of getting more work and being busier were answered by whatever gods see to that and so for the last two weeks I’ve been rushing around teaching English all over the place. What began as a trickle of inquiries a month ago turned into a torrent, and though I don’t know why it all happened at once I hope whatever caused it continues.
Sadly this has meant my blogging has been pushed back, week after week, even though ideas for posts bubble away and hang around untyped. Typing an explanation for the lack of posts doesn’t seem to me to count as a topic, though I figured it was better to post something rather than nothing.

I hope that over the next few weeks work will even out and I’ll work out better ways to balance it all, and find time to sit down and put my thoughts to paper. Until that next post, with any luck next week, I’ll leave you with this photo that I took on the way home from a lesson out in the country. May it relax you as much as it relaxed me to be there.

Sunset over a lake

Sunset over a lake

Perfect moments and deserving them

A couple of weeks ago we were gifted with two splendid weeks of sun and fine weather, which culminated in a perfect day.

It coincided with a visit from a friend from Australia, who I suspect now thinks I exaggerate when I say that Swedish weather is terrible. She was after nature and relaxation, and so we took advantage of the fineness to bask. It was not entirely selfless of us, as we’d thus far missed our annual dip.

It seemed that the entire city of Gothenburg had the same idea, however, as the succession of bus and trams were packed with people with packed lunches, all equally confused about why all these others were spoiling their pleasant day out.

At the harbour we were borne along by the throng to the ferry, ice-cream in hand, and were then off across the sea. If we had wanted to reach the open sea, we would have had to navigate the maze of islands that make up the two archipelagos lying at the mouth of the Göta river. Plus Denmark. The profusion of islands and distance of the truly open ocean is a bit disorienting for someone who grew up on the edge of an ocean that unfolds all the way to Africa.
We disembarked at the first stop, a little island called Asperö. A small village occupies much of the island, hedges not quite concealing cottages, filigreed in wood, traditionally painted or with modern bare planks. Flowers bloomed, branches bent under the weight of wild apples, bees buzzed and cats watched sleepily from under hedges. It felt like walking through a photo of a timeless summer.

Swedish cottage

Swedish cottage

Behind the village a path lead us into a wood, and into what seemed a painting. Birches swayed, wild flowers were spread among the moss and heaths, and ducks floated on a Monet-esque lily pad strewn pond. It was a fairytale wood, which ended when we reached the little beach.

Monet's pond

Monet’s pond

It was sheltered, partly by a rocky outcrop and a jetty that was built out from that. Families were paddling in the dark water and sunbaking on the rocks and grass, the peace broken by the giggling of children and splashing of teens jumping off the diving boards. Into this idyllic setting we settled down, little the bbq and sipped wine as the food cooked. Behind the jetty and the occasional kayakers we could see the mouth of the Göta river and the harbour we had come from. Now and then a huge ferry or other ship would slowly pass through the scattered islands and disappear around the side of our island, to quiet and distant to be anything but a background.

A beach and the Göta

A beach and the Göta

For a few hours we ate, swam, splashed and dozed in the sun. The perfect moments passed by.

Swedish summer days

Swedish summer days

That night we shared dinner with various Swedes and Finns on a row of tables on a balcony, the tables covered in food and drinks. We scoffed Västerbotten pie, vegan sausages, halloumi, salad, bread and grapes, the food and talk going on well into the night, as our eyelids got heavier. At one point a few thousand joggers ran down the street outside and we cheered at they passed, some wearing costumes and most looking very focused indeed. More so than us with our glasses of wine and beer and full stomachs.
Then, as the night drew long and began to get chilly, we set off home and in time slept.

What I wonder now as I write this and read the news is how do we deserve this? Why do we get the beautiful summer days and long summer nights with friends, in peace and scenery worthy of paintings? Maybe no one ever deserves anything. Perhaps there is no scale deciding whose 3 year old boy dies in a dark sea and whose 28 year old daughter gets to doze in soft Swedish sunlight with loved ones around her.
There is no fairness, or luck. But we do have love.

*Photo credits to https://www.flickr.com/photos/jg31/