Mission To Halden

This morning I was tired, more than I have been in a considerable time. This fatigue is not due to partying, for which I am glad, though it is due to a certain lack of sleep. Mostly, however, a journey to Norway is to blame.

Our friend Nina went to the vegetarian fare in Halden, to show her vegan shoes, and our family decided to follow, knowing from previous experience that it would be a sterling weekend. Normally on these occasions, Jo helps out behind the counter and I, along with Nina’s husband, Daniel, look after the children and generally have a good time. And so it was to be this time, too.

We set off after work at four o’clock on Friday afternoon; Our hired van was a new Mercedes Vito, spacious and rather pleasant; Our destination was Halden, a tourist town in the south west of Norway, just over the border from Sweden.

Our journey went well, with the exception of Freya gaining a companion in the form of a tick. How she noticed, I do not know, since the tick had found its home in her armpit, and had not long resided there. We soon put an end to its free ride by stopping at a roadside petrol station and borrowing a pair of tweezers. One tick free armpit later, we were once again bound to Norway, arriving at our hotel a little before midnight.

I did not sleep well. I don’t know how much the stuffiness and temperature of the room played a part, but I missed a few hours of sleep that would have given me the rest I wanted. Saying that, it did not affect me, and our early morning, fuelled by a hotel breakfast, began well. Nina and Jo took the van to the festival, whilst we walked the reasonably short distance through town and up, up, up to the fort where the event was to take place. The town itself is quite charming, especially viewed from the fortifications.

The fort was not what I had imagined it to be. It was much, much bigger and covered a huge area. The various views that were offered from the many vantage points were incredible, and kept us entertained for a good portion of the day, whilst Nina and Jo were busy selling there wares inside a badly lit dungeon cell. When I first saw the position they had, I was quite angry: outside, the weather was showing no signs of being near the end of summer, and the many food stalls surely benefited, whilst I thought only a minority of tourists were going inside. Despite my negativity, many of those were spending time looking and buying shoes.

The overall event as quite well put together. It was difficult to guage how many visitors to the fort were there solely because of the festival, and I am inclined to think that a positive thing. Veggie fares held indoors attract the already converted, whilst this one blended into a well visited tourist attraction. Regardless the event attendance, Nina’s sales were not far behind a veggie fare in Oslo last year. I cannot speak for Nina, but she must have considered the day a success.

We left the fare in the early evening. The children, as we adults, had a fantastic day out, even if it took twelve hours plus travelling time there and back. We are hoping that the organisers share our opinion of the day, and a trip to Halden is on the cards next year.

Fried Beans

Stockholm has recently started giving out a number of two year licenses to twenty food trucks. Until this decision came about, the people of the city had to put up with a dirge of hot dog vendors, causing some discussion amongst carnivores about the state of fast food, and causing dismay amongst the vegan community about a similar (if not in different terms) thing.

Since Stockholm Council has issued the golden tickets, we have tried a couple of them, the most recent being El Taco Truck. We sampled the refried beans in mini tortillas, which turned out very nice, if not a little expensive for what was offered. It was enough for me to come home and dig out a recipe for fried beans that I saved.

2 x 190g cans kidney beans
½ dl neutral oil
1 silver onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ red chilli, finely chopped
2 tbs creme fraiche
1 sprig coriander
salt and black peppar

Fry onion, garlic and chilli on a low heat until onions are soft. Add beans and creme fraiche, heating up whilst stirring. Mash bean mixture, adding lime, coriander and seasoning to taste.

The recipe is exceptionally simple to make, giving a wonderfully mild taste. Definitely worth while doing again, maybe next time with pinto beans.

House Stompin’

As the last days of our summer holidays become shadowed by our impending return to work, we leave our house in a state of repair that we had not imagined. For the better.

A few weeks ago, Jo said without warning that she would like to begin renovation of what is to become the living room. Looking at what needed to be done, I told her to go for it.

At the same time as Jo was scraping, sanding and preparing, we decided to go to Ikea and buy a number of simple kitchen units. Our idea had originally been to find something second hand, but we soon gave in to Ikea, wishing to save time. The kitchen has been an empty shell for many years; It felt like it was time to get something done, so the family could start to spend more time there, instaed of relying on Mormor’s for cooking our meals and watching television.

Jo’s hard work in the living room has taken us a huge step nearer a completed room. My attempt at installing the kitchen units went, for the most part, well. And thanks to a carpenter friend of Jo’s brother, it looks like we may have a bathroom before Christmas.

Considering the situation just twenty days ago, our house is coming along very nicely. Providing the local workers can fulfill their end of the bargain, we could have hot water and electricity where it is most needed.

Inspired By A Book

For the last few days I have been strumming my current favourite song on the uke: It’s A Long Way To Tipperary. My usual method of gaining new songs is via the various ukulele song sites or, because of the instrument’s popularity, searching guitar tab and chord sites. This time, however, my initial interest came from reading a book.

The First Casualty is the tenth novel by famous writer and one time stand up comedian, Ben Elton. The book is a World War 1 historical drama played out during trench warfare in Flanders. I read the book for a second time recently and, despite the very different style of writing Ben Elton uses compared to his nine previous novels, I really enjoyed it. Probably more than the plot, I was moved by the vivid description of trench life at that time. So much so, that it gave me a very different feeling for the conscripts that were forced to give their lives in the most tragic and macabre ways.

Anyway, one of the popular songs of the war amongst the soldiers was It’s A Long Way To Tippereary. I had to transpose the key to F in order to be able to sing the higher notes without straining the voice. I have also only concentrated on the chorus thus far, and probably won’t learn too many, if any, of the verses. Favourite part musically? The chord change in the line “Farewell Leicester Square”.

There are some choice songs to be found if one spends the time looking for them. Especially so if one concentrates one’s search on the 1920’s – 1940’s. My first gem came from that era, the wonderful I like Bananas (Because They Have No Bones) from the Hoosier Hotshots.

To The Cinema – Country Style

Today the local cinema was screening the latest Pixar film, Monsters University. Unlike any town-situated cinemas that screen films several times daily over a period of a few months, this cinema screens blockbusters just the once. An odd setup, to be sure, and just as odd in many ways as the cinema itself.

The cinema cum theatre seems to be part of the local school, situated at the far end of a corridor, complete with lobby and box office. From the exterior, the only signs that the brick building was, in fact, a cinema, were the two small posters advertising the day’s and next week’s films, along with a sad plastic sign adorning the windowless white wall next to the postered double doors, stating “Nordens Bio”.

Whilst in the lobby, waiting for Freya and Zelda to return from the toilet, I could not help but laugh at the laid back unprofessionalism that permeated the lobby. The person in the box office looked very young, not helped by the fact that he was sitting down, the shop was a couple of tables put together displaying a few sweets and tray of cheap fizzy drinks, the ticket taker a teenager casually dressed in red shorts and t-shirt.

Considering the film’s release date just five days ago, the cinema was lacking customers. We had no trouble turning up fifteen minutes before the start of the film without having reserved tickets, and still find plenty of good seats for us and six others who had joined us (including Malin, Simon and Jocke). An added bonus was the price of tickets, being seventy crowns each (Jo and I would pay one hundred crowns plus in Stockholm). And the quality of the film was definitely more than acceptable, thanks to the recently purchased projector. In fact, the only thing I personally would have changed would have been to hear the film in its original language, though in fairness the dubbed Swedish was not that bad. Come to think of it, the film on Tuesday is going to be Wolverine. I wouldn’t mind seeing that while I am here, and I’m sure Jo would be up for it.