Winter is Definitely Here

After a grey November, and dry December, we’d been hoping for a wee bit of snow for when my sister and family arrive on New Year’s Day.

Well, looks like Santa was listening and we’ve been on the Good list, as that’s what happened over Christmas. It’s been below -5C since Christmas Day, and we’ve had frost and snow since the 19th.

Julafton at Skansen

One of the joys of Stockholm is that it is full of water and green space. Combining both is the island of Djurgården, which contains (as its name would suggest) Stockholm’s zoo.

Ah, but it’s so much more than a zoo.

Yes, it contains small but pretty naturalistic enclosures for many native species, including Wolves, Brown Bears, Moose, Reindeer and European Bison. But it also contains many typical historic buildings, either specially constructed in reproduction or disassembled, transported and rebuilt on-site. UK visitors may be getting the sense of Ironbridge or Beamish, and that’s about right, but going back to pre-industrial times too.

The peak season for this is summer, but on Christmas Eve, it’s open for free, which makes for quite a lovely family afternoon out and as it’s on a hill, it wears out the little legs and ensures a good night’s sleep awaiting Santa.

Continue reading Julafton at Skansen

St Lucy’s Day

So how did Protestant (at most, Atheist in closer reality) Sweden get obsessed with an Italian Catholic saint? I don’t know the history, but I’m sure it’s related to the closeness between Lucia and the Swedish for light: ljus, making it a perfect excuse to celebrate light in the darkest time of the year.

Either way, it’s a set of traditions that is almost impossible to escape. Everywhere are groups of white-clad, singing young women with candles. Everywhere you go, you are force-fed lusekätter: saffron buns shaped like cats tails. By the end of Friday, I was quite lightheaded from Saffron overdose, having had them pushed on me:

  • On arrival at the office
  • At Fika time
  • At a customer meeting

In addition, processional choirs of young women with candles are prevalent. I had one in reception at the office, and Lucy (revelling in the day as you can imagine) had one at SFI. And there was an internal school one before classes on Friday – apparently to be repeated for parents next Friday

You even get them in Shopping Centres:

And almost every window in the city has an arch of lights shining out. All we need now is some snow for them to glitter off.
Continue reading St Lucy’s Day

Geoff the Gävle Get

Our family has been obsessively following the situation of the Gävle Goat (‘Goat’ is ‘Get’ in Swedish, and like all Gs followed by soft vowels like E, is roughly pronounced “Yevle Yet”).

It’s a thing both pitiful and hilarious: a huge straw goat erected every Advent in the major town square, but for many years has been torched, presumably as a witty student jape. Some cities have statues to add traffic cones to as their major drunken student temptation, Gävle has a huge flammable goat.

The history is truly awful, reading like an extended version of Swamp Castle.

1969
 Burnt on New Year’s Eve
1970
 Burnt, only six hours after it was assembled.
1972
 Sabotaged & collapsed
1974
 Burnt.
1976
 Hit by a car.
1978
 Kicked to pieces.
1979
 Burnt even before it was erected. A new one was built and fireproofed. It was destroyed and broken into pieces.
1980
 Burnt on Christmas Eve.
1983
 The legs were destroyed.
1984
 Burnt down on 12 December
1985
 Enclosed by a 2 metres high metal fence, guarded by Securitas and soldiers from the Gävle I 14 Infantry Regiment. Burnt down in January.
1986
 Two goats were built, the Southern Merchants’ and the School of Vasa’s. The bigger goat burnt down the night before Christmas Eve.
1987
 A heavily fireproofed goat was built. Burnt down a week before Christmas.
1989
 Again, the goat burnt down before it was assembled. Financial contributions from the public were raised to rebuild a goat that was burnt down in January.
1991
 Burnt down on Christmas Eve.
1992
 The goat was burnt down eight days after it was built. Rebuilt, but burned down on 20 December.
1995
 A Norwegian was arrested for attempting to burn down the goat. Burnt down on the morning of Christmas Day.
1997
 Damaged by fireworks.
1998
 Burnt down on 11 December, even though there was a major blizzard.
1999
 Burnt down only a couple of hours after it was erected.
2000
 Burnt down a couple of days before New Year’s Eve.
2001
 Set on fire on 23 December
2003
 Burnt down on 12 December.
2004
 Burnt 21 December
2005
 Burnt by unknown vandals reportedly dressed as Santa and the gingerbread man, by shooting a flaming arrow at the goat at 21:00 on 3 December.
2006
 On the night of 15 December at 03:00, someone tried to set fire to the goat by dousing the right front leg in petrol.
2008
 On 26 December there was an attempt to burn down the Goat but patriotic passers-by managed to extinguish the fire. The following day the goat finally succumbed to the flames ignited by an unknown assailant at 03:50 CET.
2009
 A person attempted to set the goat on fire the night of 7 December. On the night of 23 December before 04:00 the goat was set on fire and was burned to the frame, even though it had a thick layer of snow on its back. The goat had two online webcams which were put out of service by a DoS attack, instigated by computer hackers just before the burning.
2010
 One of the guards tasked with protecting the goat offered payment to leave his post so that the goat could be stolen via helicopter
2011
Burnt down in the early morning of 2 December.
2012
 Burnt in the hours before midnight of 12 December
2013
 Burned down.

(source: Wikipedia)

This year, the town was determined that it should survive. So they moved it to be right next to the taxi rank, put a webcam on it (despite  2009’s experience) and set up a Twitter account to proclaim its ongoing survival, greeting the dawn of each new day of life.

In our house, we’re getting really quite obsessed. Lucy has the webcam open in a constant browser tab and checks many times a day. And we do a daily report at breakfast.

We decided it needed a name, rather than just being “The Gävle Goat”.  And I did my usual Eddie Izzard thing and plumped for “Geoff”. Because “Geoff the Gävle Goat” or “Yeff the Yevle Yet” is just funny.

And then this happened:


and then Geoff responded:

Year. Made.

Continue reading Geoff the Gävle Get