tradition

Butterfly summer

Well if all the experts are to be believed, this summer in Sweden is going to be a scorcher!

Yep, according to the butterflies it is going to be hot, hot, hot.   Folk-lore reckons that the very first butterfly you see in the year can predict the weather.

Not literally, obviously; but apparently if the butterfly you spot first is light-coloured, then the summer will be good:  if you set eyes on a dark-coloured butterfly, then the prospect is gloomy and a bad summer is on the cards.

So, if Swedish butterfly intuition is to be believed, things are looking good; as the first two butterflies I saw yesterday, busy checking out my newly planted pansies, were creamy white. http://wp.me/p4kEQ0-9F

Like most predictions, the butterflies and I have a 50/50 chance of accuracy.   Though I am a bit inclined to hedge my bets, as there is another piece of Swedish folk-lore regarding the Rowan (or Mountain Ash) which is not exactly foolproof.  Tradition has it that, if the Rowan tree is full of red berries in the autumn,  the ensuing winter will be hard.  Last October, the Rowan here were heaving with berries; so much so that bird-lovers were busy picking and freezing them as winter bird food (great idea if you can be bothered).

By that reckoning, we should have had an awful winter: it was, however, one of the mildest on record.

Still, ever the optimist, I’m busy digging out my sun cream, mosquito repellent and sunglasses in the hope that we get a butterfly summer.

 

 

 

 

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Of Birch twigs and feathers

Birch twigs, feathers and eggs

Birch twigs, feathers and eggs

So, it’s Birch bashing time in Sweden!  Bundles of innocent-looking birch twigs, known in Swedish as Påskris, are now on sale in markets ready for the Easter ritual.

Not unsurprisingly, most if not all people nowadays refrain from what was once the tradition of  bashing one another on the legs with Birch twigs; an activity geared to cause pain and act as a reminder of Christ’s suffering on the cross. In fact,  the symbolic, religious significance seems over the centuries to have been completely lost in a bizarre haze of fluffy feathers.

Instead of flagellation, the Swedes now prefer to whack their birch twigs into a jug; which then takes pride of place amongst the Easter decorations.  The Birch, picked just as they have come into bud, are then decorated with garish, brightly coloured feathers.  Packs of these feathers are sold everywhere, and in every possible colour of the rainbow.   Initially only available in hues of egg (cream, white, orange and yellow), the feathers now tend to reflect the latest interior decorating trends; the fashionable among us this year opting, apparently, for a simple palette rather than a riot of colours.

Many Swedes, in fact, don’t stop there and feel the need to adorn their twigs with mini hollow, painted eggs, ribbons, tiny chicks, cockerels and other Easter-related paraphernalia.  Really it’s become a sort of Swedish version of a Christmas tree, but for Easter.

For those of us who live in the country, we have the added options of either:-

a) installing our feathered twigs outside so that the world and his wife can see them

or

b) decorating our bushes with feathers instead.

Somehow, I feel spoilt for choice.

 

Birch twigs, Påskris

Birch twigs, Påskris

Note to Selfie:  Birch trees here I come – it’s PYI (pick-your-own) time in the forest!

 

 

 

Potting the pansies

Pansy fever

Pansy fever

Ready, steady – plant!  The annual race is now on to see who in the village will be the first to pot their pansies and put them out on the porch.

Every year, it’s the same:  As soon as mid-March arrives, so do the pansies: loads of them.  The shops, garages, DIY stores and markets all have racks of these uninspiring little plants jostling for our attention.

Pansies had never, until I moved to Sweden, entered my world; I knew they existed, but that’s as far it went.  Pansies over here, though,  seem to have taken on a bit of a minor celebrity status and you’d be hard pushed to find a garden without them.  You’ll find them growing in window boxes, pots, planters, old wheelbarrows and  hanging baskets.  And really any other ingenious container that the ingenious Swede can think of. This year the knack is, apparently, to colour co-ordinate pansy and pot; and colour co-ordinate pot and porch.

From a purely practical perspective, I can see their appeal;  small, tough plants, pansies are hardy enough to survive the few minus degrees and any light touch of frost that an early Swedish spring might throw at them.  So if you do buy some, they’re almost guaranteed to survive.

But what I really don’t share is this zealous pansy-purchasing, and the need to demonstrate every year that Spring has most definitely arrived on my porch – way before any of my neighbours’.

The pansy derives its name from the French word pensée which means thought (in Sweden pansies are called penseér).  And it is said that the plant represents ‘free thought’ as its flowers are reminiscent of small faces bobbing in agreement.  If that’s the case,  I guess that I’d better join the scramble to pot up, put out my pansies and pave the path to spring – after all I am also a free-thinker!?

 

Note to Selfie: Time to dig out my gardening gloves ….

 

Pansies

Potting the pansies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post code envy?

Dancing Cranes

Dancing Cranes

So I´ve been busy rifling through my sock drawer in preparation for my next diary date.  It’s been looming fast and I still can’t decide what would be best: sports, bed or over the knee.  What would they prefer?

In just under 2 weeks, I’m expecting one or two rather special guests, and I want to get everything just right.

It appears that I seem to live in an area of post code envy.  No, really.  Well at least as far as my visiters – the Cranes – are concerned.  (I did say right at the beginning of this blog that I led a very hum drum life).  Never mind that it’s MILES away from town, or that I spend most of my time communing with the trees and going stir crazy.  This is a Des Res.  It’s all location, location, location to these fickle birds as they  restrict their Home Visits to only a very few areas in the South East of this region – visiting here, not there and definitely nowhere else.  You see my guests are arriving for the annual Crane Day on 25th March.

Which is all fine, I’ve hosted parties before..  But, how do you welcome a visiting crane?   Following a tip from a friend, I’m currently on the look out for drawings of Cranes to put in all the bedroom windows.  Not quite sure what that’s all about.  Maybe it’s the nearest a crane gets to a selfie?  Or just a little something to make them feel at home.   They’ll also be expecting a window left ajar, just to let them know that I’m around.  And then there’s the problem of the socks.  They’ll apparently be expecting to find a sock at the end of my bed.  Or alternatively on a bush in the garden, which from the point of ease of access I can understand as they’re not the smallest and nimblest of birds.

But it’s the sock etiquette that’s got me in a bit of a flap.  If I’ve been good, the cranes are supposed to leave some sweets in my socks.  And, choosing the right pair showing just the right amount of restraint and modesty is a nightmare.  The last thing I want to do is to appear greedy, and somehow roomy boot socks seem a bit optimistic…..   Just HOW good have I really been for the past year??   The approaching Crane Day is turning into a bit of a moral dilemma.

Still, it’s kind of nice to feel like one of the chosen few.  I, for one, will be tucked up in bed on 24th,  in hopeful anticipation that the Cranes will pop by.  According to tradition, they’ve been doing so since the 1500’s and I can see no reason why they should stop now, do you.

And no, it’s not a flight of fancy.

NOTE TO SELFIE:   For those feeling excluded from this pretty select event, check out The Crane Dance at Lake Hornboga in South west Sweden, early April.  No invite needed.