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Fifteen times. That’s the number of times I’ve moved, including this one. Twice from one country to another. Soon I’m getting to live in the sixteenth place I’ve called home and I hope I will be able to stay there, happy and safe, for a long time.
I spent my morning packing things in the “kitchen” that won’t be used in the next week. I only saved two of each from the cutlery and plates out for us to use. The cupboards are very empty looking, which is a grand feat for such a tiny flat.
I’ve also packed most of my books. I put the heavy, pretty tomes in small cardboard boxes. Small, so they’re easy and light to carry. I put a few of my less sensitive paperbacks in my lovely four wheeled suitcase – Something I warmly recommend if you ever have to move and have a lot of books. Save your arms and back.

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Tomorrow will be a day to go through the closet. Sort out what to donate, throw, and take along. I hope there won’t be too many things damaged by the mould, that I noticed had attacked my winter coat in the closet, and I hope I have the sense to throw away the things that are broken beyond repair.

One week until we get the keys to the new place and I’m very excited and impatient to get there. The first place in France I get to live in that’s bigger than a shoebox. The first house since I moved away from my parents. The sixteenth place I get to call home.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Yule warm and bright
With good food and people you don’t have to fight
I wish you a good rest
I wish you a song
I wish you a heart where love sings strong 

I wish you a Happy New Year of health and good times
I wish so much more than can fit in these rhymes
I wish you adventure
I wish a full year
I wish you to spend time with those you hold dear

 I wish you all this
And all other good things too
So, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

To you

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I love re-reading good books. Every time I read them I notice something new or see something from a new perspective. Each time I read those words, new things have happened in my life, so each time is different. Each time I fool myself into thinking that I already know everything there is to know about the story, and after each time I feel that there’s a new detail that is clearer to me.

The past few weeks I have dedicated a lot of my reading time to poetry. I am determined to find poetry that speaks to me. I want to find a poet that I enjoy reading. It has not been easy but some day I will succeed.
After reading some of the dreariest and driest verses ever penned in the history of mankind, I was mentally beat. These poems I had just finished were written by an author whom I admire. He has written some of the most magnificent stories I’ve ever read. Who this person is, is not important at the moment, sufficient to say I was incredibly disappointed and thoroughly bored.

That’s when I decided to set up an award system. A way to compensate for the torture I was putting my brain through. I would reward myself with a re-reading of a book I love. To layer each poem I tried to digest, with a few pages of something really enjoyable.

So I started the next tome of poetry, a collection of W. B. Yeats, and I started my old-tried-and-true-re-read. First of all I want to say that I, to my surprise, honestly liked some of the poems I read. But the biggest surprise was that, in this book that I have read ( and re-read more than ten times,) there are references to a Yeats poem that I had just read.

My mind was blown and I kept having that poem turning and turning at the back of my mind during the rest of the book. There had been so many common symbols, even a quotation. There had been a recurring theme in both poem and book. It had been there all along and I had not known, had not seen what was hidden in there. 

Sometimes, the new experiences we have in life will show us things that were hidden to us. Things we never imagined possible. We get thrown into situations that will change the way we see everything around us, for the rest of our lives. Sometimes we wonder how we could have been so blind how we could have missed the signs. Other times we just marvel at the wonderful way it all turns out. Just like a good book, we can never tell what life will give us with just a quick glance. We have to give it time and attention, and maybe some day we can say that we are getting closer to knowing what is really going on.

I like playing in my mind with the thoughts around the proverb there are two sides to every story / two sides of the same coin. What seems like the right thing for me might not be the right thing for someone else. We are all the heroes of our own stories and those who oppose us are the bad guys. 

I have this analytical fancy with the fiction I read. I’ve always had a thing for the baddies, the villains. Both the morally difficult anti-hero and the straight up antagonist. It’s not an attraction to them, but definitely a fascination. I read, and watch, and since I can’t help myself, I find myself asking; What made them into the things they are? What kind of thinking lies behind the acts that are taken against their counterpart? What’s the underlying motivation, their reasoning, and excuses for behaving the way they do? 

Books and films are full of them; villains, baddies, bad guys, black hats, evil agencies, antagonist, arch enemies and the nemesis. 
I love flawed characters with rich back stories, even if it’s not told completely you can hint it, like a vague scent of childhood trauma or the death of their loved ones. I enjoy any type of well written character but give me a good villain and I’m sold.

Fantastic minor and major antagonists, and characters of doubtful allegiance can be found in many places. We have Darth Vader, Gollum, Voldemort, The Joker… Just to mention a few.

The word villain comes from an old anglo-french word that meant farmhand. Not that farmhands are cruel or evil but it was used as an opposing term for a knight. So a vilain was an unchivalrous character, someone capable of doing things that a knight, being noble and honorable, would never do. It started out as a derogatory term and became more and more the word we use today. More a general bad person than a farmhand.

Sometimes your story’s protagonist is the villain and you find yourself, at least partially,  cheering for what you know is the evil side. Like when we follow Michael Corleone from The Godfather and we find ourselves rooting for the Corleones despite all the shady maffia dealings they get up to.

“There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.” – Mr. Wednesday in American Gods, written by Neil Gaiman.

I like flaws. Flaws complete a character, they make them feel realistic. We all have flaws. However in the literary aspect flaws can range all from saying inappropriate things, to some more extreme flaws like Hannibal Lecter’s interest in digesting his victims. Flaws like that are harder to swallow, if you pardon my pun. 

I think that my biggest interest in villains is my need for reason and understanding. I always want to know why people do the things they do. In real life as well as in stories. I need to understand why people sometimes do bad things. Characters on a page are easier, and probably safer, to study than visiting a psychiatric institution or a prison. I have seen some cruel people in my life and I have taken a long, hard look at them to picture their side of things. Some made me question my responsibility in the situation and others I could not comprehend at all. But I will keep trying to understand and find compassion, even if they do me wrong. I will look at the other side of the coin to see the story they see. Because I hope that if I do someone wrong, they would find it in their hearts to see my side, to do the same for me.

Me and my friend, San, decided we should challenge each other to do something fun and new to us. The rules are that it should be free, safe, and we naturally have the rights to veto what the other person comes up with. Within a week, from Thursday to Thursday, we shall have completed our challenges.

I have sent San on a hunt to:

– Find a trumpet and pose in a picture with said trumpet.
– If at all possible, he shall try to play it.

He had mentioned once that he had never held a trumpet or even seen one up-close. I thought it was a good starter challenge for him, considering the other craziness I have thought up for the upcoming weeks. Let’s see how many crazy things we can get him to do.

Then, it was my turn to receive a challenge. I sort of feel sorry for San since I’m a chicken when it comes to certain things. He probably noticed this after giving about a billion different suggestions for me and I declined to do them. But then he came up with this.

– Draw a comic strip. It has to be six frames minimum. It has to contain a minimum of three characters.

So, here I declare my challenge completed. I call it “In Hardship”

(Click on the picture to see the entire image)

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It has been a long time now since I last received a letter. My latest correspondence (that wasn’t from the bank or the temping agency) was on a handful of post-its, lovingly tucked into a parcel with two purses and some sweets. It was a wonderful bunch of yellow sticky notes and they had many nice words on them.

It was over two years, since the last time I received a real letter, page up and down with handwritten squiggles and lines.

I read a lot of classics nowadays, as I might have said here a hundred times already, and in them it is evident how much our letter writing habits have changed throughout the years. Postal service and messengers were sent across the country, to loved ones, to family and to invite and to seek advice. Hours were spent at their writing desks and they never let the inkwells run dry. They had to wait for days until a reply came and sometimes the replies gave them more questions than answers.

And here I sit, two years since someone last sent me a proper letter, smiling over a handful of post-its. Times have changed.

There is something touching about letters and handwritten notes. There’s something emotional and personal about it. When you get a letter today, it is not for the same reasons as there used to be. Today a letter will not be sent as the only way of communication or enquiry. We have faster ways of finding out things now. If you’re lucky, you get a postcard from someone who is on vacation.

However, there is one form of letter that doesn’t seem to go out of style. It gets revived every so often when a couple gets temporarily separated, the love letter.

What is it about love that turn so many of us into poets and old fashioned romantics? What is it about love that makes us take the pen and compose? Was infatuation and romantic feelings something that was easier to express before?

The art of writing by hand is slowly diminishing. Doctors are no longer the only ones that get accused of bad handwriting. We spend hours in front of computers instead of shaping the curves of the letters, and our hands forget how to make things legible.

The way in which we are all so accessible makes the act of actually taking the time to craft something, trace the words by hand and send it, so much more important. It’s the reason we stand in line for hours to get the author to sign what he/she has written. Not only to see the person behind the words, in person. We go because we want something tangible to remind us of that person. We want them to take the time to make our copy special. So we get them to sign their work, we can see them, leaving a visible, personal mark on our lives.

In a day when so many things are mass-produced and copied and repeated, we like to find those things that stand out. That meal someone makes from scratch not only tastes better and is healthier, it makes the meal special. The jumper your grandmother spent hours knitting, pouring her love for you into every stitch, even if it’s itchy as hell and two sizes too big, it’s special.  The letter someone wrote, just because they wanted to say “I love you,” it is priceless.

Time is something people never seem to have enough of and when you find yourself, trying to decipher the blotchy ink squiggles on a paper, you are filled with gratitude and emotion that someone took the time to write it to you, put it in an envelope and post it. That piece of paper has traveled for miles, from their hand to yours.

It’s not only letters that do this, we just have to make sure to take time for each other because it is in those meetings that life is special.

Sometimes things don’t feel as easy as they should. The weather is grey and there is no one to talk to and I start feeling down and blue. We’ve slowly inched our way closer to summer without even having had temperatures that were warm enough for spring.
Yesterday we finally had some sun and I felt the energy surge back to my body.
Björn once said that I was like a flower, I wilt when the sun goes in hiding, and I think he’s right. Lack of sun affects me, suddenly and deeply. And just as violently, it returns with the first rays of warm, yellow light.

I have for the past few years had the odd ideas here and there for a fantasy story. In it, there are many different kinds of people with different cultures and religions and ideas about the world and its purpose. I have no idea if I will ever seriously finish that story. It has become such a large, organic thing that to just write about a part of it would not be fair to the rest of the world that spins and lives at the back of my mind. In the story is a large group of people that worship the sun. I will not share details and characters or anything but I remember that my idea of these sun worshipping people arrived during a several-day-long rain squall like the one we recently had.

Sun worship can be found throughout human history, all over the planet. Not often with the sun as a deity on its own, but a proof of the power of the creator/creators of this place we inhabit.
Stonehenge is believed to have been built after the march of the sun, marking particular places at different times of the year. An indicator or compass to read the signs of the sun.
The pyramids in Mexico and Egypt have strong associations and alignments to the sun.
Machu Picchu, the Inca site in Peru, is believed to have been built with astronomical purpose and for the worship of their sun god and greatest deity, Inti.
So, Ancient Egyptians, Mayas, Aztecs, Incas, druids, various tribes… All of these people, all over the globe, worshipped the sun as a great god.

Nowadays we know that the sun is a star. We know that every star in the night sky is a sun, somewhere, far away. The religions and beliefs of today are more about the soul and interaction than a visible force of nature. Still, some of us have celebrations at summer solstice. The earthly orbit around the sun is celebrated by most of us, as a happy new year. We set the way we think about date and times after it. Some bake themselves brown and freckly, year after year. The sun is connected to Vitamin D as something neccessary, the sun is dangerous and can give cancer. The sun is vital for plants, that make oxygen, that we need. No matter what we think of it, it is there.

The sun is important.

I’m not about to start praying to the skies on sunny days. The sun does something that my body can not do on its own. It lets me borrow some light. It helps me shine.

I was having a discussion with a friend about a book we’re both reading. It was written around 1860 by Wilkie Collins and is one of my favourites. The classic: The Woman in White. It’s my second time reading it and I’m enjoying the wonderful Wilkie-isms that I have noticed in a few of his other novels.

My friend commented on the ways that the characters were spending their evenings and, as I interpreted from his words, how it felt strange that they were so restricted in their activities and society.
I replied that people actually knew how to socialise back then and did not have to rely on television, internet and the other modernities we use to entertain ourselves today.
The discussion moved on to other details but that part stayed in my mind after we had finished. I didn’t feel satisfied with my own reply. It felt hasty and I had to think it all over again so I could explain myself better.

I live in the firm belief that humans are all very similar, deep down. At least as long as we live in a somewhat civilised society and stand on the moral ground of people in times of peace (as an opposite to wartime.) We function in basically the same way.
We love.
We hate.
We try to achieve something that’s worthy of admiration, from ourselves and others.
We give meaning to our lives through religion or something else.

Now, if you took: two sisters, a former teacher, and an artist and let them spend every evening for three months, in nothing but the company of each other, how would that go? They have a piano, some books, embroidery, and a deck of cards but apart from that they only have dim candle light and the people they reside with. How long would it take before one or all of them got sick of the arrangement?
So, what makes people today different from back then?

I have a theory.

Has it ever struck you as strange how seemingly stuffy and polite people seem back-in-the-days compared to now? How there always seems to be a few hundred rules of etiquette and directions for proper conduct? I’m not saying I’m right in my theory, but would it not seem like it could have been constructed from necessity?

So many times in classical literature you can read about the importance for women to be accomplished and for men to behave like gentlemen and how good breeding is essential. The great conversationalists are being showered in praise and the women who have (as an example) musical talent are greatly admired. I’m not saying that people with a gift for music are not getting praised today but it was so much more important for everyone to have these talents. They were the only way to alleviate boredom during the many dark evenings for those of the higher society. They had to take such care to not offend because otherwise the manors would be (pardon the image) strewn with corpses. It was important to be polite when all you had was those close to you.

The way we spend time together now is so different from then. If we want to talk to someone we pick up the phone. Distance means nothing. If the person on the other end of the line has nothing more to say, if the person is boring, if the person is rude, all we have to do is hang up. We log off. We go home and do not need to wait for the horses to be ready.

During the days of Wilkie Collins, you visited your friends and family for weeks at the time. The only people you met during short visits were people who lived nearby. If you wanted to talk to someone who lived in a different town you had to write a letter, a far cry from the instant messaging that was going on between me and my friend on the other side of the planet.

If my theory was correct, which I would like to think, it would be so much easier to understand a little part of that seemingly needless obsession that some of the characters in classical literature. It is not an all-compassing explanation. There’s so much more to the way we behave towards each other, then and now.

The rudification (it is a word now, because I say so) that we have gone through has brought us a way to be more direct and honest in our dealings with our fellow man. We still have a long way to go and many completely unnecessary taboos left to break. I’m not saying it’s good to be disrespectful. Far from it. Honesty is good but should be dished out with diplomacy and empathy.

It’s good to be able to tell my friends I love them, no matter if they are male of female. It is good that we can reach the people that are far away from us, just by lifting the receiver and speak and listen to that voice we long to hear. I don’t watch television but I would miss my internet connection and wouldn’t trade this blog post for Miss Fairlie’s renditions of Mozart, even though I’m certain they were lovely.

I would not object to having more people work on being accomplished than updating their social media profiles, but it seems we can not both eat the cake and keep it. The advances of technology changes how we interact so we change our manners while interacting. We do not know anymore how to entertain ourselves for a longer period of time without this technology. So how could we entertain other people?

Is there some tiny morsel of sense in my theory? It is difficult to put this idea into words but I hope it felt reasonable to someone other than myself. The book is great, I should add that before I leave. But more about that, some other time.