Friday, April 30, 2010

The Bonfires of Valborg Eve

Kevin Hicks
Head Coach of Achei Crotone

Kevin is a former Rio Mesa H.S. quarterback who attended my seminar in February about coaching or playing American football in Europe. I had the pleasure of coaching his daughter, Randi, on the R.M.H.S. track team a few years ago.

Kevin was hired by Achei Crotone soon after the Seminar.

Crotone is an Ionian Seacoast town located in in the south of Italy near the arch of the "Italian boot". They are an Italian Division III team.

I got an e-mail from Kevin today stating that their six game season was finished and that he had re-signed to coach them again next season. Now it must be mentioned that Kevin took over the team after they had already lost their first two games.

They won two of the four games that he coached with an interesting asterisk.

Only in Italy . . .

On April 11th, Crotone had a home game vs. the Napoli 82ers. If they had won this game, they would have made the Division III playoffs.

Unfortunately, no ambulance was present at the game field as is required by Italian Football League regulations. The result was a forfeit 0-8 loss and no playoffs for Crotone.

More Swedish Mystery Writing

After finishing the Millennium Trilogy, I was still in the mood for more mystery reading with a Swedish twist. Uffe Palmbrink suggested that I start reading his favorite author in this genre, Henning Mankell.

Mankell has written a series of books with fictional Ystad police officer Kurt Wallander as their central character. What made this book even more fun is that it takes place in several towns around Ystad in our very own Skåne region, many of which I have already visited.

In America, I have read many mystery books by Patricia Cornwell and Jeffery Deaver. One of the problems I have had with them is reading their ongoing series books starring Kaye Scarpetta and Lincoln Rhyme in order. This is crucial to their work and the understanding of the development of their central re-occurring characters.

The Mankell series offers an easy solution, the book cover simply says "Kurt Wallander Mystery No. 1". What a concept!

Not as sensational or epic in length as the Stieg Larsson's Trilogy books, this book was a real page turner with interesting characters. As soon as I finished it I wanted to start reading "Kurt Wallander Mystery No. 2".

The book I was looking for was "The Dogs of Riga" but the library did not have any of Mankell's books in English. No problem, I went to Hässleholm's bookstore but they didn't have it either.

It was Jojo Card time! A quick train hop to Kristianstad which has TWO bookstores. The first one I entered had the book, LIFE IS GOOD!

Now lets make this clear in the Sicily vs. Sweden debate. Finding books in English in Catania was next to eeeeeempossible! Here in Skåne, each of these three bookstores I just mentioned were like the Library of Congress compared to Sicily.

Kristianstad's Spirit of Food Celebration

I am 100% in support of this great event.

The Bonfires of Valborg Eve

Today is a big day in the busy Swedish Social Calendar, Valborg Eve.

Valborg, which is pronounced something like "ball-boy", is a celebration of Spring's arrival on May 1st. According to the internet, this was originally a pagan feast that early Christians tried to turn into a special day of their own that they dubbed "Walpurgis Eve" after St. Walpurga who lived in the beginning of the 8th century.

Nobody I talked to here had ever heard of St. Walpurga, so Valborg Eve it is!

There are two traditions on the eve, the first is bonfires and the second is underage drinking.

I'll concentrate on the bonfires.

I was invited into the home of Rasmus, Ulrica and Noac Grip for dinner and a little arson.

Linna and Ludvig Palmbrink
were in the house

Noac and his friend Amanda

"Oh my God!"

Linna and Mira Palmbrink

After a very hearty and delicious meal, we put our shoes and jackets back on and took the five minute walk to a park to view the local bonfire.


There it was, a huge pile of branches and leaves just waiting for an arsonist.

Living all these years in Southern California, with our annual Fall brush fires, had me more than a little concerned. I was worried about the safety of the spectators, mostly me, as there was a good breeze blowing.

Five of Hässleholm's
best firemen were ready!

If anything did go wrong, I felt confident that these warriors could handle it. After all, they had already rolled out their . . .

. . . Fire Hose

It was unrolled and laying on the ground about 30 meters from where the conflagration would take place. I was very sure that our five firemen could handle this high pressure hose if the need arose.

Let the fun begin!

The fire grew quickly

Bright embers were indeed being carried by the wind.

The heat was getting intense but . . .

. . . I could take it!

Noac, Rasmus and Uffe

The Blaze was now Roaring

Carry me!

Kids all over the world love one of these rides after a big event like the Bonfires of Valborg Eve!

Noac, Rasmus and Ulrica


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lund University - British History Class

As I have mentioned before, Lund University has a very large number of classes taught in English and I really wanted to sit in on a lecture.

Vidar Onsberg

Vidar is a follower of the blog and knew of my wish to sit in on a class. He is a student at L.U. majoring in history with a desire to become a teacher some day. He invited me to join him today to sit in his "British History" class during a two hour lecture.

We met near the train station and talked for about an hour before the start of his class. It turns out that Vidar is also the right guard for the Limhamn Griffins who we play in our season opener a week from this Saturday!

He also let it be known that he is proud to be a Green Bay Packers fan.

Besides his goal to teach history, he wants to continue as an American football coach once his playing days are over.

Ms. Kiki Lindell
Professor of British History
Lund University

We covered a lot of ground in two hours starting with King James I, Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot, the Peace Treaty of Utrecht, the Georgian Period, the Cabinet System, the American colonies and the American Revolutionary War.

It was of great interest as I had hoped, THANK YOU VIDAR!

Practice tonight was well attended and competitive, a good sign as the start of league play approaches.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Skåneleden Trail

The weekend in Oslo finally caught up to me today as I slept in until noon . . . SCANDALOUS!!!

After a fine grilled chicken lunch at Chicco's, I set off for my first nature walk in a long while as I took the Skåneleden Trail. This particular trail takes you through farmlands, wetlands and woodlands.

I walked for about three hours round trip which got me near the village of Tormestorp.


The Pasture's Big Boy

Why is it that humans who go vegetarian are usually thin while these animals get so big as vegetarians.

Grazing in the Grass

Spot - Ever Vigilant!

Lots of horses on this walk as well

If Robert Redford was a horse . . .


If there are horses, then there must be riders

You don't see much moss in Camarillo

I tried but no water today

A good spot to sit and read for a while

American football is catching on in Sweden

These people are even building a goal post in their backyard!

Mas moss

The IFK Hässleholm Fields

Dozens of youngsters were at practice trying to improve their fotboll skills.

It felt very good to take a long country walk after touring so many city streets in Copenhagen, Oslo and the Skåne region the past few weeks.

Sports Updates

Over the weekend, the Catania Elephants defeated the Ancona Dolphins 54-36.

The Elephants 3-1 IFL record places them in sole possession of second place behind the 4-0 Parma Panthers.

Catania has its fourth week off in the first eight weeks of the IFL season this weekend.

Up next for the Elephants is a trip to Reggio Emilia to take on the 3-2 Hogs. The Hogs game will be the first of four straight weekends of play for the Elephants to finish their regular season.

In Allsvenskan fotboll news, Mjällby AIF lost a 1-0 heartbreaker at home to Helsingborg IF.

That puts Mjällby in fourth place at 4-2-2 while HIF continues atop the table at 7=1-0.

Next up for Mjållby is a trip to Stockholm to play 2-2-4 Djurgårdens IF.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Laundry Day Yet Again

Tuesday was Laundry Day at last! I have not been able to wash my laundry for ten days due to the trip to Oslo and the fact that other tenants had taken all the openings that would have fit into my busy social calendar.

Usually I get into the basement laundry every seven days. No problem today really, just about 50% more laundry to do than normal.

Or so I thought . . .

Six shirts and one Starter jacket
hanging in the hallway.

The reason for this is that someone forgot to replace the key to the drying room. As a result many things had to drip-dry while hanging on door handles.

Hey, that's our poster on the
Library bulletin board

Hässleholm's Rotary Club meets here

This building is only about 100 meters from Icelandia Slott.

Johan Hammarqvist, a Rotarian himself, has invited me to do a 30 minute talk about American football in Sweden to the club in June.

Johan, you mat recall, is the Political Editor for our local paper, NorreSkåne and a blog follower.

I think that my father-in-law, Bill Gardner who was long time Rotarian and former president of the Crescenta-Cañada chapter, would be pleased by this turn of events.

On the walk to practice, Spring is blooming

Good turnout tonight!

We had a very solid workout with a heavy stress on our defense. Only three more practices until our May 8th season opener at home vs. the Limhamn Griffins.

Book Review

Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor dynamite, is better known today for the annual awards given in his name for achievements in the areas of Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Economics.

He once wrote that "a recluse without books and ink is already a dead man." I must be doing well then as I keep reading interesting books and use my 21st century ink, this blog, to keep my almost 63 year old flame alive.

Thanks to Roger Kelly, the man behind, for calling to give me an"Atta Boy!" about the blog yesterday.

One compliment can give you energy for weeks.

David P.Lassen introduced me to the writings of British author and Arsenal Gunner fan Nick Hornby two years ago when he suggested that I read Hornby's book "Fever Pitch" about growing up as a Gunners fan.

In America this would be akin to being a Chicago Cubs fan but with a bit of hooliganism always looming in the distance. It was a fun read so when I saw the following book in the English language section of the Hässleholm Library I decided to give it a go.

The plot is simple enough, on New Year's Eve four strangers randomly all show up on the roof top of Toppers House, North London's most popular suicide jump spot. They each want to end it all but mutually talk each other out of it and then form a new support group/bond to help themselves through the next few months.

It was not an easy read because of the subject matter.

I put the book down several times vowing not to finish it but then the characters kept creeping back into my head and I would wonder where they were headed. I finished the book on the bus to Göteborg from Oslo yesterday and I was glad I stuck with it in the end.

Now it is finally on to Swedish mystery writer Henning Mankell's first Inspector Wallandeer book, "Faceless Killers" set in Ystad and the local Skåne region!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Last Hectic/Expensive Morning in Oslo

My last morning in Oslo was to be a busy one but not for the last opportunity to sightsee as I had planned.

Before I left California, I had signed a Power of Attorney (POA) form so that Laurie could finish working with the Bank of America on our home refinancing in my absence. It sounded simple and today would be the day the loan closed and all of our financial worries would be over!

Maybe not.

At the eleventh hour, we hit a snag. It seems that one of the departments involved in the process did not like the POA's wording and wanted me to sign a new POA and get it to the Bank of America's Scottsdale, Arizona offices by 8:00 p.m. Pacific time today.

After using the Thon Hotel Slottsparken's printer last night to get a hard copy of the revised POA, it was off to the United States of America's Oslo Embassy to sign it in front of a Notary Public.

There are several Embassies located near the Royal Palace and I would have to walk past some of them like . . .

The Canadian Embassy

Apparently the Canadians just have some low-key floor space in this office building.

That's my Hotel on the far right.

The Japanese Embassy

Next to the Canadian Embassy, the building is 100% dedicated to Japanese affairs.

At this point I decided to take a short cut through the Slottsparken where I met many unifomed people scurrying about. Something was up, but what?

So I asked the Palace Guard

Simple really, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was due to arrive at noon to visit Norwegian King Harald V, Queen Sonja and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.


I've got to get back to Sweden ASAP!

President Medvedev

He was scheduled to discuss business cooperation and border issues on the Barents Sea.

But I digress, back to the hunt for the Notary Public at the U.S.A. embassy which took me past . . .

The Estonian Embassy


The United States of America Embassy

Secure, heavily guarded and begging for simpler times.

I got in line at the security check point and got through the metal detector without a problem although they did hold on to my St. Christopher medal during my visit.

Ruled a WMD I suppose.

It went quickly but I choked when they said that the cost would be $30 USD, normally this service would cost $5 or $10 back home.

At least I did my part to whittle away at the National Debt.

The Henrik Ibsen Museum

No time for this today, I now had to get back to the Hotel and FAX the notarized POA to the Bank of America immediately.

Mission accomplished.

It was now down to the bus station to store all my baggage in a locker so that I could not have to lug it all over Oslo trying to find my next stop.

I had to find the local Mail Boxes Etc. store to FedEx the notarized hard copy to Arizona. I found an address and got a general idea of where it was but I could not find it since the street it is on is too small to be named on my handy tourist map.

I need to find a "Person of Interest" STAT!

Ragna Marie
Person of Interest

Ragna runs the Oslo DiamantSenter AS.

Ragna Marie may sell diamonds and jewelry but she has a heart of gold. She got on her computer, the world's slowest one I must add, and she found Ploensgate #4 for me.

TACK SÅ MYCKET Ragna Marie!!!

Finally at the Mail Boxes Etc., I turned in the one page notarized hard copy and they said they could get it to Arizona by Wednesday, perfect!

It only cost 664 Norwegian Krona which equals $112.22!!!

Buy stock in FedEx today!

I now had about two hours until my bus left for Göteborg, so I did get a chance to rummage about a little more.

That reminds me, I'm dying to go to Dubai!

No 16th century explorer could find it


Moods of Norway

Be sure to click on this image to fully appreciate the latest Spring Fashions.

Who would wear something like this?

My goal was to go back to the Rådhuset to see those pesky murals that were not available to me during Saturday and Sunday's Confirmation Ceremonies.

One large socially conscious mural covers an entire huge wall. Its theme is the Nazi occupation of Norway. It was too big to capture in one picture so I have broken it down into four manageable parts.

All was peaceful until the Luftwaffe arrived

The Gestapo knocking

Resistance Planning and Prison Camps

FREEDOM! The war is over!

It was a very impressive mural in sheer size as well as content.

Another Mural

This has nothing to do with the other mural but hey, it got a naked woman into Oslo's City Hall.

Another reminder, call Andy and Jenn

Military Brass walking towards the Parliament Building

A Military Parade

The Royal Palace is in the background. President Medvedev must be close.

This is the same street that divided Oslo last Saturday during the 10K Race. Today I was on the Allied side of the barriers and free to move about.

I'm a quick study in a crunch.

The Norwegian Military in Dress Blacks

The Weapons are Impressive

Do you think he has ever had to shave?

Time for some good Marching Music!

Nice Sombrero

Norwegians love their Trolls

Moods of Norway II

O.K., this guy would wear the wild clothes we saw earlier.

7-11 sorely tempted me but I was strong today.

Guys, Meet the . . .

. . . Girls

The Red Pants are ready to party again, all we need is a few cases of beer!

In the Göteborg Bus/Train Station

I wonder if Göteborg students have a Red Hair tradition akin to Oslo's Red Pants?

Again, I had a GREAT time in Oslo, a wonderful city indeed!

That being said, I was happy to be back home in Hässleholm's Icelandia Slott!

Practice Tuesday night with only four more practices until our season opener on May 8th against the Limhamn Griffins.