I had a dream…

… which I had to give up two weeks ago!

Ever since I was 14, I have had a dream of owning a dollhouse. Not a Lundby house, like the one I grew up with, having modern furniture in it and no people to play with. No, when I was 14, I was utterly in to the Victorian era, loving everything from the literature, clothing to the morals of the day. (Not the morals of the future Edward VII that is!) Of course it helped that I had been running around to castles, palaces and bourgeoise homes converted to museums, seeing the style. Later on, I visited the Museum of Childhood in London and Windsor castle, seeing the gorgeous dollhouses there. I came as far as ordering a pattern to build a Victorian dollhouse, which was going to be my grandfather’s task, and buying a tiny porcelain doll, which I made clothing for.

But my grandfather went senile and passed away from a stroke. Life took over as I always say. Then, on a family outing to Egeskov (on Fyn in Denmark), one summer, visiting one of their castle gift shops, I was once again faced with a dollhouse. It was gorgeous and my heart so much wanted to go home with it and finally start creating a miniature home. It was way out of my budget at the time though, and it would have been an insane purchase, had I given in to the urge. These houses cost so much that you need to know what you are doing, when purchasing one. I went home with a Victorian stove, for a dollhouse. That was all! And a silly purchase at that, since it has a tendency to fall in to several pieces for some reason.

Years went by and then I visited the Imperial War Museum, the exhibition “Family at War” about the Allpress family, and saw the impressive replica house, one of the Allpress’ son-in-laws built, taking 30 years. Or was it 40? I was struck by awe. Took tons of photos. And decided that I must make a Blitz house in miniature!!! Because I love the time period, everything about WWII except the fact that people died and the battles. I left the Victorian era behind, ages ago. It’s lost its charm entirely.

From then on, during certain periods, I have been utterly obsessed with researching the time period and what is available out there. But you only get that far, without money and a dollhouse. Little by little, I have acquired small things for my future dollhouse, but eventually you lose interest, not having a house to put things in. So off and on, I have looked at houses and tried to persuade my husband to buy me a kit.

Very simple front, but a typical Victorian house from East End. Custom made by the seller's husband and was an exact copy of the house the seller grew up in.

The dream house was this one: A house sold on eBay, only for pick up in Britain. Broke my heart to not have this house, since it was no ordinary house from a kit. It was a one-off. The seller’s husband built it and it was an exact replica of the house the seller grew up in! What was fantastic about it, was not just that it was a replica, but the fact that it was untraditional and opened both in the front and on the side. (See an older post.)

When I realized that this house could not be mine, ever, I started looking at the houses built in the 1930s. And this dollhouse is a perfect example of those houses, that still stand out there today! The Doll House Emporium calls their rendition of this house style: imageThe Mountfield. I looked at all sorts of shops, to find the cheapest deal, I looked at how all owners have decorated their Mountfields on the outside, but… I just could not get myself to get this sort of house, even though it has openings on almost all sides of the house. Even though it is perfect in all aspects… EXCEPT TWO. It has an indoor loo, which only a very small minority had in those days. And to me,this house does not represent WWII. This is not how the majority of people lived! Certainly not the ones who had to live in an Anderson shelter every night. Not the Keep Calm and Carry On people. This is more safe suburb, to me. So, sadly I opted out of this second, almost perfect house.

I went to Miniatura in Birmingham’s NEC, to get ideas, 18 months ago. I talked to the experts. Barbara’s Mouldings, suggested that I get her Terraced imagehouse x two. That is, buy two of them, attach them to each other and pretend them to be a one-family house. I have a very vivid imagination, but it will not stretch that far, that a working class family would have two stair cases! The whole idea was just too bizarre. Why two houses? It only has two rooms and an attic room with sloping ceilings. Which rooms would one choose away from doing, in such a small house? A kitchen is a must but what would I have to sacrifice? That is why she suggested two houses.

image I had read on the home page of Margaretha’s Dockskåp, that the mistake all beginners make, is the one of buying a too small house the first time, so that they can not do what they want to do, with their dollhouses. THAT was not a mistake I could afford to make. Barbara also suggested something else, and that was getting a Georgian house. She showed the one she makes and I just could not get around it, not having a hallway nor stairs. Enough rooms yes, but I felt that hallways were essential, since I wanted a coat rack, like in “Foyle’s War”, an umbrella stand, because I love Phoenix Model Developments’ umbrella stand, and I wanted to place buckets, water pump and ARP helmet in the hallway, just like they did in the Imperial War Museum’s Allpress house! So, I said no to Barbara’s suggestion of dragging home a Georgian house kit on the airplane, as a carry on!

I felt that Miniatura was very enlightening, even if I did not come home with a clear view of what house to buy. I did have a clear view of what NOT to buy though. That must count for something, right?

I sat down and looked through all vendors from that fair, and stopped extra long at a place called Bromley Crafts, since I do want to get back to them, when it is time to cover my house in bricks. I did find two houses with them, which were interesting. First of all,image their own room-by-room kits. An excellent idea, since you add on as many levels on your house as you desire and buy the fronts for the boxes, that you wish for. It becomes a costly house if you add on say five floors, but you could buy and decorate one box at a time, and spread the cost over many years. Hoping that they keep the idea and the production going! But my problem was: No hallways and stairs! Barbara suggested that one put false doors on one wall of the house, and pretend that the hallway and stairs are outside the door, BUT that does not help when you want to decorate hallways does it?!

imageFinally, I settled on the Laurels. A Georgian house with all the rooms and the hallways and stairs that I wanted. Albeit a little bit too fancy looking for “my” WWII family, but I did find that kind of house in all parts of London, covered in either red or yellow bricks. Mostly red. And funny coloured doors like green, cornflower blue, red… I found the producer of the house, since I did object to the side windows. Windows steal decorating surfaces! The producer said that they would be happy to re-program their machine, to not cut out the windows on the sides, so I was very pleased and happy. All I needed now, was a lot of money, since the producers are the most expensive, all other shops selling the Laurels far cheaper.

I also had to get my husband on board, since he had promised to build it for me, having no skills for it what so ever, of course. But he got cold feet a year ago when I mentioned it would be a great Birthday present. He also backed out for Christmas and said we have no room for a dollhouse, even though I pointed out the perfect place for it.

Then I went to the miniature fair in Farum, Denmark on the 30th April, this year. And got to see a really cute little house put together by Gunnel at Minimani. She is not going to make any more houses and are getting rid of the ones she still has in her craft’s room. (See post on Farum’s Miniature Fair.) She sent me home with three sheets of paper, picturing the three kinds of houses she had at home. I showed them to my husband that evening and surprisingly he said “go for it”. He thought it was a “no brainer”. I was not as convinced as he was, but then I did not have cold feet about building a house from scratch, or kit scratch. We went there, two days  later, since the house I was mostly interested in, had a family interested in it, already. Friends of hers. I looked again at the two imagesmall French houses, with only three floors. T. was most impressed by them, since they were small and slightly cheaper than my favourite. Even though they had no back door, so everything inside would get dusty. But he is hopeless. I have spent hours on end researching. This is MY thing. MY dream. To just say to me “you don’t need more than three rooms, that is good enough”, was an insult and I wanted to throw him out the door. I just let him stand in a corner and rant on, making a fool of himself, when I got in to a more serious conversation with Gunnel.

I told her that, while the houses were not even close to my dream, maybe I would have to settle for less. What do you do, when postage and price is horrendous? And when your husband goes on strike as soon as you mention building something? She told me how long it takes to build a house, all the frustrations, and all the costs for decorating walls, roofs etc. I did agree with her that at this point, it is better with a dollhouse, than nothing at all. I have nowhere to put all the little items I have bought so far. When I go to fairs, I do not know what colour schemes to look at. I can’t see what I need as far as furniture go, how much will fit in to the rooms and so on. So what happened? I told her, that I would buy the house that she already had a possible buyer for. And she was happy to make a sale and get more room in her craft’s room. Saying that now it was going to a good home. We managed to get the house out to the car, she and I, while T. did his whining about me not settling for the little French house. And whining about my discussions on how to alter the floors etc. with Gunnel. She thought it was amusing that the house is going to be turned in to a WWII house, while T. just went on and on that it is fine the way it is. Even though the colours are all wrong.

I have had to leave my dream behind. Now it is up to my imagination to make this house in to something, which I will still enjoy and have fun with. It is not easy to re-think everything! To give up on the perfect set up. And it will cost to alter. BUT I have a dollhouse standing on my living room floor after all these years. It is physically there. “Gubby” was ecstatic when we got home with it and wanted us to put all furniture in to it. “Oh sweetheart! Mamma doesn’t have any furniture to put in to it yet!”. I showed him some of the small things I have and he said “you need to buy a table so we can put those things somewhere”. Cleverly put my son!!! That is ONE of the things needed.

imageAt the moment, all I am doing is trying to get used to not getting the hallway and stairs I so much wanted in my dollhouse. And to the fact that so many things need to be altered on and inside this house.

A yellow house from Denmark was not at all what I dreamed of. Something will have to be done about it. Some day. When I have figured out what to do with the white parts made out of plaster. They are fragile and can break. If I get to go to Miniatura again, I am walking straight to Bromley Craft’s stall and asking them if one still can use their templates and clay, to make the house covered in red brick. Usually this is done, before windows etc. are put in. Now everything is in place, and both door and windows are very fragile. I would have liked to have replaced all of them. One day, maybe I can?

The house was, should I say, cut out in Helsingör, Denmark, and was modelled on a Copenhagen house, from the year 1900. How on earth I am going to stretch my imagination, to see a British house here, is beyond me. But I am more and more telling myself, that it is the inside which counts, not what the stupid house looks like on the outside!

But the inside of this house has definite problems. Ever seen ready-made houses? Ever thought about how silly it looks when you
open the door to look inside, and you see all the curtains on the windows just hanging there, on the door that opens the dollhouse. Well, Gunnel hates that. So she has made the opening for the house in the back. I thought that was a great idea, till I got home and thought about it. Especially, since I want a corner copper to stand in the kitchen, this presents a problem. The copper will cover part of the window! Idiotic I know! But that is not the only problem. By opening up the dollhouse in the back, you only have two walls to decorate on, two walls to lean furniture against. So, I am not delighted by that aspect of the house anymore. But I will have to work around that problem as well…

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Like I said, my husband thought the house is just fine as it is. I do not agree. THIS does not look at all, the way a 1930s house looked in Wartime Britain. If we start with the kitchen:

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When I dreamed of my 1930s house, I envisioned black and white tiles on the floors. Like on the front of Jane Harrop’s book about the decade and the furniture one used, back then. But I actually always did like this kind of floor as well, so I had contemplated having the black and white tiles in the hallway, outside the kitchen, and this kind of tile in the kitchen itself. It is so well done, that I will actually not mess with it, but accept it as is. It does look lovely actually and it is not paper bricks, but real miniature ones, which I really do love. What I do not love is the ghastly wallpaper which will have to go. THAT I doubt existed even in 1900 Copenhagen kitchens! I will paint the walls creamy yellow, just like everybody did in the 1930s. I am going to have an authentic looking kitchen with everything in cream and green. Even though it turns out to be a nightmare, trying to find the right green colour paint, in Sweden. I was in town yesterday and my parking ran out, but Panduro, the Danish craft shop, might just have the answer. I need to go back with downloaded pictures on my mobile and compare them to their options.

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The living room is the one I detest the most. Had it been Lily’s room, I would have been delighted. But as it is, THIS does not work for a wartime living room! Completely the wrong colours. Blue wood floors and blue & white wallpapers is very much summer house Scandinavia 1900. This room will have to go through an entire transformation. I have ordered an Art Deco wallpaper from Jennifer of Walsall, but since the sheets were on sale and she only had four left, I have no idea if those four will be enough. Nor do I know if I will receive them, since after I ordered, the site still said she only has four left and I received no order confirmation. I guess I will just have to be surprised. Either they arrive or they do not, and then I will have to spend time finding something else. It is not easy to buy wallpaper over the internet, since you can’t really get a good feeling for what they will look like in real life. I just hope that I will love the ordered ones, IF they show up.

The dark wood flooring, which I am changing over to, has already showed up though, from jandasupplies.co.uk. Excellent company, very helpful, quick with delivery and I have seen several things I like in their shop. Best of all, they are going to start making a 1930s door! If I can’t change the outer door on the house, I might at least put in a false door here and there to get the right feeling.

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What can I say about the master bedroom? Depressing. The wallpaper is depressingly boring. Very modern really and not at all from decades past, in my view. And while the floor is lovely, it was a strange decision to make a master bedroom have a clearly livingroom-looking floor. But that could be helped with carpets, I guess. I do not think I will meddle with the floor, but the wallpaper will have to go. Since the sister staying in this room, is to be named Rose, I have been contemplating pink. But this room is far down on the priority list, not having anything for it at all, except a little book for a nightstand.

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This was supposed to be Rose’s sons’ room, but since there is just one more room, in the attic, it does not feel right to make another daughter of the house, sleep in the attic, when home on leave from the WAAF. It is a room which will probably go to the daughter Lily, whom I already own. I have imagined her room all in blue, so this is completely and utterly the wrong colour. Even if I take this room for Rose’s evacuated boys, I would not like to keep this wallpaper. It is not a wallpaper I am attracted to, and I feel that I must like how the house looks.

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The attic. Would it be right to make poor Lily live up in the attic? When bombs were dropping on London? The first place struck, would be the attic. A tougher place to get down from as well, when the air raid siren went off. I need to do a lot of thinking here. These rooms are very narrow so you can not do a lot with them. Besides, the attic was usually were children were placed, where they had their rooms. I am not even sure what I think about the wallpapers here. Lots of more research is needed!

So, was it right to give up my dream? Forego the dollhouse I had settled on? Just to be able to drive to town, buy the house and bring it straight home. To have a house finally, to do something with. I guess I just gave up, because I started to feel that my dreamhouse would never be mine. I no longer could see myself place the order and carry that box with an un-assembled dollhouse in it, in to our home. And I could NOT see my husband build the house at all! Sense had to rule over sensibility!

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A nice tiny fair in Farum

I won the fight over who was going to have our car on Walpurgis, Saturday 30 April 2016. But it was a long fight, lasting several weeks, where the family thought I could take the train to Farum and me insisting that it was easier for the family, to take the bus to Lomma, in order to celebrate Walpurgis, with church members. An event which takes place every year and is one I never take part in, since parties are not my thing.

I read about the Farum dollhouse festival, months ago, when I was studying Jane Harrop’s kits and realised SHE was coming to my neighbourhood. I missed her at Miniatura, in 2014 when she was at a wedding, and I was mighty disappointed. So this time I just had to go. The more I read about Farum’s fair, the more I wanted to go since it is quite a big one for Scandinavia, with 65 vendors. But I refused to sit on a train for 3 hours there and 3 hours back, not counting the ticket, which would have cost a fortune, while my husband and three of the five children travelled for free to the coastal community of Lomma.

09:20, I set out from home with the GPS, we have nick named Jane (Fairfax), since that is who she sounds like. Being nervous about everything. That the bridge would be  closed down because of too much wind. That Jane would have one of her moments, and lead me astray. Or that our unpredictable VW would break down in a foreign country.

Jane did have one of her moments on the motorway, when it split in two directions and she did not tell me where to go at all. Luckily I had snapped up from my husband that Farum is close to Hilleröd, so I followed those signs. And soon I was in Farum, Jane once again having a moment and not telling me where to go, but I kept my eyes open and parked the car by the bytorv, which houses a long shopping center. I had made it in an hour, which I thought was excellent and after finding a loo and a cash machine, I was ready to head to the Culture house. I had spotted the sign through a door, by a supermarket, so I headed out  that door and over to an entrance, where several other ladies entered.

Strange thing was that we entered straight in to the fair, without anyone selling tickets or 20160502_151813.jpgchecking us. I walked around a little and felt strange, since I had not paid entrance and I eventually walked up to a woman and asked her where she got her program from. She looked at me and answered in Swedish, “at the entrance”. I had to ask where that was and told her where I had got in. She told me that of course I could continue looking without paying, but I told her that if everyone did that, they would not be able to host these sort of events anymore. “Good thing I am Swedish, otherwise I would not have understood your reasoning”, she said and laughed and I walked out one door and joined a very long queue, to get my ticket and a stamp on my hand. Boy were there lots of people. I must say that I appreciated Miniatura better, with their limited tickets. It is not fun at an event like this, with too many people. The things you are to look at are tiny, and in order to see properly, you need to stand right by the table. And there were too many people to get to many of the tables. When I went back to the most crowded ones, the items I would have liked to have purchased, were sold out and most of the sellers do not have internet shops or updated such!

But my trip was by no  means wasted. I managed to spend almost every Danish krona I had taken out from the cash machine. My first stop had to be Jane Harrop of course. It was fun to talk to her and to see all her little things in real life, displayed on a shelf and thumb through all the 1:12th kits. It was funny because this elderly lady beside me, did not feel confident in speaking English to Jane, but she watched what I took and then took the same things. We had a tower of Babel moment when I had taken a WWII first aid kit and she did not understand what it was. She being Danish and me being Swedish, we had to overcome our natural shyness and I had to try to explain in as simple Swedish as possible,      so that she would understand: “The Second Big War. Bombs fell down. People got injured. They needed this to help them!”. She happily nodded and helped herself to that kit as well. So I guess I was standing beside a fellow WWII enthusiast making a Blitz house, or?

I was very, very excited about these three kits since I had not seen them before on Jane’s site. The revolving bookcase, is one I saw in the replica dollhouse, at the Imperial War Museum, so that one I am extra excited about. I have not taken it out of the bag yet, but I hope and pray that I will be able to see what I am doing and be able to put it together. Tweezers will be a must! While standing there, Jane told me that I would need sticky glue and that she had seen that in the big hall, so reluctantly I said farewell to her stall and walked over to the big hall, to see if I could find the necessary glue.

To enter, you had to show your stamped hand, so I avoided an embarrassing moment by having paid for my ticket! The big hall was a nasty place. A gym hall which was hotter than hot and too many people were in there, for comfort. I must mention Truus Kobes, the dutch seller, with his amazing assortment of yarns in the shades of all colours available on this planet. Unfortunately, he speaks no English and I could not understand his German. The only two sentences I understood was “Do you know how to knit?” and “It is good for your love life”. Doubt it. But I can only knit with Swedish patterns, so I had to forego all those lovely yarns that were to die for. Sometimes you see something tempting and lovely, but you really have to rain yourself in and ask yourself “What will I use it for?” I could not come up with an excuse for buying anything from him.

Stall 36, had wonderful suitcase kits, which open, BUT there were too  many people and when I later walked up to an empty stall, at the end of the day, they only had one left in peach. Why make a peach suitcase? Has such ever existed? Not in 1940, that I am dead certain of. The ladies thought I should buy the display case one in black, but I will not pay 175 DKK for a suitcase I could have put together myself for 100 DKK less! Sorry! Stella Que Passa from the Netherlands, did get my business though. She had all sorts of glues and kindly guided me to the right kind. Next to them stood Art of Mini, which was at Miniatura, and do not really have my kind of items. Nice shabby chic things and a well visited stall, but no.

But in a box, over by the Italian ladies selling gorgeous handbags etc., artofmini had put little fabric pieces and I got stuck there for quite a while and more women wanted to see what I had found of course. One of Jane Harrop’s kits, is an Edwardian arm-chair. She has a Utility chair as well, BUT do not make Utility furniture for a 1940 Blitz house. The only ones entitled to Utility furniture were newly weds and bombed out people and those furniture did not come on the market until the second end of the war. No such thing existed in 1940. So Edwardian it will have to be, since Art Deco is too fancy and too costly. Not that many people had Art Deco furniture either, since people were suspicious of this new style. If anything, they would get a lamp or a mirror or a clock. Nothing so costly as furniture, which they would be stuck with for years.

But Jane says on the kit, that fabric is not included. I have not dared to buy fabric since that is something which really has to be 1:12 size. You can’t have the wrong size patterns on the fabrics, but they must be true to scale. And looking at things on the internet is no big hit. But here I had the fabrics in front of me. But not owning a house yet, I was indecisive.  What colours should I buy? Which sort of pattern did exist 1940? I settled for three pieces of fabric from this stall and bought two more fabric pieces from Else Marie Foged, from a basket she had on the floor. Something of what I have bought, must be of some use. At least almost all of them are 1940 colours and patterns.

20160502_15164120160502_15165220160502_151608   As I walked out to get my ticket, I had walked by an amazing stall, which I now wanted to revisit properly. Victoria Fasken’s stall was well visited when I went to have a proper look at all her little metal items. One lady asked her if she ever makes the things in glass or porcelain and she said that she used to, but they broke too often so she went over to metal and I wanted to clap my hands, because I loooooove metal miniature things. Nothing feels so lasting and of good value. But of course everything is not suitable to be made in metal. The items I was most drawn to, were though. Alright, they look like they belong in a Jane Austen room or dollhouse, but on the other hand, now when I am back home and have been sitting looking in Jane Harrop’s book “Edwardian Era”, I have spotted exactly the same items I bought from Victoria. So Jane has placed them in an Edwardian setting and if those items were around in 1918, they could still have survived to sit in my 1940 house. In my WAAF girl Lily’s room, which I intend to decorate in blue. Are these items not the most exquisite?

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In the hall which normally is a cinema and theatre, I bought two cheap items from Lena Nobaek, Sweden. I don’t  really like cheap mass-produced things which look cheap, but these two items were  perfectly alright. Cutlery for my little family and a little trolley in the  Kockum look, used by the possibly evacuated  children of the family. Trolleys were used to walk around with and collect old paper and scrap metal, which was used to make spitfires and weapons. How could I resist such a detail?

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From Nestved Miniaturklub I bought a tiny little pillow to cross stitch this summer, for one of the arm chairs in the sitting room and from Daniela Nielsen, I bought the tiniest crochet needle and some  drole yarn that looked sooooo warlike. I could not even capture the colour properly on the photo I took, for this post, but it is a dark brown/olive-green with strands of black. I want to crochet a carpet from the yarn, since if there is something which is really expensive in the miniature world, it is bedding, quilts, carpets, pillows etc. Everything which has taken hours to make from yarn and fabric.

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I will never find exactly what I am looking for in a shop, so I hope I will be able to see and make these things myself. Maybe I will have to go and get new glasses after all, but I don’t  want to. Last time was such a fiasco, when after 6 months I finally had to return both the glasses I had purchased and this after having them back and forth to the shop more times, than I could count.

In the gallery, I did not buy a thing, even though there were plenty of pretty things. The most vexing thing was K.J. Design. They sell the gorgeous paints Vintage Paint Jeanne d’Arc. But of course the colours I need and wanted, had sold out right away. I took their information and I guess they are connected with a miniature museum, which would be fun to visit. But it is over on Fyn, which means two bridge fees! And I can’t order them on-line from them, since now I don’t remember the names of the colours. I have actually been sitting googling the paints all day, the paint and the colours, but I am none the wiser. It ended with me ordering the colour chart from an interior decorating shop here in Sweden, but they are sold out on it now, so it will not be shipped to me, until  they get it back in stock. No date for when that will happen though, so in a way I am back to square one. K.J. Design had some nice wood furniture as well, but to be honest, their entire stall was in such a mess that it was uninspiring looking at things. I think I would rather visit their real shop. To look at boxes where you can’t see what is inside and the quality of things, is not my thing.

Frustrated, I walked out of the gallery, only to discover that the cafeteria no longer had any sandwiches to sell nor anything else funny. I had  to leave the fair to go and buy myself an ice cream, since I was close to fainting from not having eaten anything. But I was soon back and ready to get my arm-chair kit from Jane Harrop’s stall, now when I had five different fabric pieces to use on them!

TWO-ARTS--CRAFTS-RECLINING-ARMCHAIRS-KIT This time I was served by the husband and he was very friendly and said he was convinced I would be able to put the chairs together, that they test the kits out on their students first. How does one become one of their students? That sounded fun! Well, here is hoping that I will do well. From there I walked in to the theatre again, to look at a doll house, which was on sale at Minimani’s stall. To my chock, Gunnel, was packing down everything. But we started to talk about that doll house, about doll houses in general, how difficult it is to put a kit together, how  much it cost to decorate one etc. She was taking the house home and not bringing anything for the Sunday fair, except what she could fit in a suit case, since she was going by train that day. I said that I could not buy the house without consulting my husband and she asked where I live. The world really is a small place! She lives in our council, in the town where my children go to school. Actually, just a throw away from where “Kitty” and “Cookie” go to school, but since the other two go to school out here in the countryside, in our neighbour villages, I don’t go in to town anymore except for meetings with habilitation (for autism), child psychiatric care (for ADHD) and the hospital (“Gubby’s” kidney).

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But she gave me a picture of the doll house to show T. and also of two others she has for sale at home. And I am welcome to go and look at them in her home! We stood and talked for 40 minutes and after that, I decided to go and use up my last coins, foolishly it turned out. I bought this pretty cauliflower and cabbage, instead of walking on to the last stall, which was now empty of people, so I could see all they had. I am so angry. I could not run and get more money, because the fair was closing. At the last stall, they had a beautiful little balloon whip with wood handle and a dish washing brush with wood handle. They said they have them in their internet shop but I looked and the latter is not there. So I have to be content with my vegetables:

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So some real nice finds, some frustration  over sold out items, and perhaps a foolish last buy! But they were so well made and the lady who had made them, was delighted to make a sale. Gunnel from Minimani was not so happy, when the organizer lady walked around collecting the stall fees, because she had not sold well at all.

When I got out, I headed for the three supermarkets that were all pathetic. But T. did not want me to go to Lomma and fetch them too  early. The Walpurgis thing started at 16:00 and I was done at 17:00. So I wasted 40 minutes in the supermarkets and then sat down in the car to drive back to Sweden, having nothing else to do. When I got over on the Swedish side, I phoned him and he ordered me to go to Macdonald’s to eat and kill time, so that is what I did and got upset of course, since I told the young man three times, that I don’t want cheese on my filet-o-fish and of course it came out with cheese on it! So tiresome! I hate orange cheese or whatever it is. It does not taste cheese, so I suspect that it is orange coloured glue!

At 19:10, I felt I had nothing else to do than to go and fetch the gaggle, and I guess they were pretty much ready to go when I arrived. “Gubby” had played “brännboll”, which is a game resembling I don’t know what? Baseball? Cricket? You take a bat, hit the ball and run around in a square to get a home run or you can stop and wait for the next batters’ shots, at one of the three out cones, and then run for it. The out team tries to catch your ball and burn everyone running, by throwing it to a “burner”, located by the batter. Poor “Gubby” was  allowed to hit with a tennis racket and then he just ran around flaxing in circles, since my autistic boy doesn’t really understand games like this. But I think he had fun anyway. People know he is autistic, so I hope they did not scream at him.

All in all, a good day for us all. I had a nice day, getting away from home but perhaps spending a little bit too much. And the family had fun celebrating Walpurgis and I guess they had a fun bus ride as well. “Gubby” just loves going on buses but rarely get to do so. And seeing him excited always make us all happy!

 

 

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My Friday Book: “Arons bok”/”The book of Aron” by Aron Neuman

imageA very thin memoir, which I picked up among the leftovers, at the religious book shop in Lund, one week after the hordes of sale shoppers, had raided the shop. They turned their noses up at this book, and I am sad to say, that I think I know why. I really, really should have taken my reading glasses out of my bag and looked the book up on google, or read a little bit here and there in it, before purchase. When it said on the back, that this 93-year-old man, had finally written his memoirs, I should have read this as a warning light.

When you are 93 years old, you might have a clear mind still, but what is important for you to record, might not be so interesting for the reader to take part in. Nor is your memory going to be totally reliable, sometimes 70-80 years after the events described. The years will have tainted the events. And that is the problem I have with this book.

Let me translate the back side of the book for you: ” For me personally, 1938, became a turning point in my life. During my 1000 days in the military, I learned how difficult it is to live like a Jew in Sweden. I was thrown from a protected environment, in to one of anti-Semitism, hatred and bitterness. But the propaganda of hate towards the Jews, also strengthened my Jewish identity. Aron Neuman was born in Lund 1919. In this book, he relates memories from his very long 93-year-old life, where the Jewish heritage and involvement in the Jewish community, has played a big part. Aron Neuman was educated at the Business school in Stockholm. During 30 years, he worked as an accountant and as a volunteer in several Jewish organisations. After retirement he studied art history and together with his wife Viola, he founded the Jewish Museum in Stockholm, 1987.”

To me, it sounded like an interesting book because 1. I live in the council of Lund 2. I thought he would bring to life, the Jewish community in Lund, that more or less, probably don’t exist anymore 3. I thought he would describe exactly how the Jews in Sweden felt in the 1930s and during the war, but also how they reacted to what they heard from Europe.

The book lacks all sorts of feelings. It is basically what I call a “shopping list”. I did this, I did this… I met this important person, I met this important person. I’m afraid I would classify the book as the worse kind of memoir, because afterwards you have not got to learn to know the person who wrote the book at all. You don’t know what Aron is about at all, except that the he moved in circles with celebrities. In many ways, Jewish celebrities, which I have never heard of. But even worse, I have learned nothing at all about what it is like to live in Sweden as a Jew, not now, not in the 1930s or during the war. Aron does not bring in any feelings in the book, but it is just a cold observation of his life.

My observations:

Aron’s father, was called Selman Neijman, who was born in Pikkale. He says the village was situated on the border of Lithuania and Latvia. But when I googled it, to see where the village is and what it looks like, google came up with nothing. On the other hand, he did say that it was very small, but still, no records of it at all? Selman, which I guess, is Eastern European for Solomon (but I could be wrong), was thrown out of his home, when his mother re-married. There is no mentioning of how many children were thrown out and Aron does not know anything about his uncles and aunts. But his father came to Sweden, to Lund, like many other Jews at the time. No mentioning of the date of his arrival, why he chose Sweden or anything else of the sort.  I suspect he moved in to Nöden, which was the slum back then, and a very posh place to live in, today. Gorgeous little streets and houses, but was hardly considered so, at the turn of the century 1900.

Reading the short paragraph about his father’s background, made my mind start wandering. My dad worked for a Nejman, in the town I grew up in. My dad had nothing good to say about the man, since my dad in his spare time, had worked on some sort of invention, and showing it to Nejman, was a big mistake. Nejman stole the idea as his own and my dad got nothing for it. It made my dad bitter and I do not think he ever tried to do anything like it again. I remember all the old drawings and measurements on papers my dad had at home. I was too young to know what the invention was, I just know that my dad was angry about the entire thing, and disappointed. He was forced to quit school early, because he came from a poor family, but he had the drive to learn new things, his entire life. Unfortunately, he was never able to do anything about his intelligent brain. He could not lift himself out of the working class. You stayed where you were born. Unless you were Jewish, I guess. My mum told me later on, that Nejman’s father started out as a peddler in metals, but the family ended up millionaires.

I started googling the family, to see if they are related to Aron Neuman, but I could not find out anything. Not about my dad’s employer nor about his sons. Amazing in this day and age. I went to school with the youngest son and my neighbour dated the older son, for years. I almost thought she was going to end up marrying him. I never knew they were Jewish, until my mum mentioned it one time, when I was a teenager, and my former classmate started to spread rumours about me. No, what he did was give the girl bullies in my high school, ammunition. Telling them things I did back when I was 6 years old, which to a teenager is very sensitive and not something one wants to be bullied for, 8 years after the fact. Like me wearing knitted pantaloons, under my snowsuit, as a 6-year-old, to prevent urinary tract infection. And those pantaloons being knitted in all the leftover yarns my mum could find, which made them look like Joseph’s multi-coloured coat in stripes of all colours and width! Why did Thomas have to do that to me? We had been friends back then, as 6 year-olds, but also in first and second grade, till I moved to the other part of town.

So, my research about Nejman, gave nothing. Perhaps Neijman was a very common name among Eastern European Jews? Aron’s father changed his name to Neuman, since it sounded more German and “less negative sounding”. This after he had married a Polish Jew from Raigrod. Eva Fridman and her family had left Poland because of pogroms. Why Selman left his country of origin, is unknown, but Aron thought it was to avoid the tsar’s military service, of 25-40 years. A thing the tsar created to get Jews to cut their strings with Judaism. To avoid getting stuck in the military, people chopped off fingers and Aron’s father lacked three fingers.

During his time in Lund, Selman tried all sorts of occupations, till he started a cap factory in Eslöv and a cinema. Funny, since my dad lived in Eslöv and worked there, when he met my mum at a dance. He actually met her at lots of dances, before he spoke to her. But the night when he first talked to her, he walked her home and then walked to Eslöv. Quite a walk! Anyway, it is fun when people in memoirs, mention places connected to yourself and your family, even if my family did not move in the same circles.

Like I said above, Nöden in Lund, was a place of poverty and 600 Jews lived there according to the book. Shocking Selman, since

Nöden in Lund

Nöden in Lund

they were orthodox, which he was not. The only thing Aron says about the group, is that it was very poor, religious and kept to itself. They mostly worked as peddlers, which you had to have a permit for, which hardly anyone of them had. Too expensive I’m sure. What they did not understand either, was that as they celebrated THEIR sabbath on Saturdays, the Swedish people celebrated its Sabbath on Sundays. The church was very strict on this in those days and Aron thinks this is one thing which created anti-Semitism. That the Jews dealt with money on Sundays, the Christian Sabbath day.

Things has changed a lot since I grew up. Nowadays, Swedish shops are open for business all days of the week, but when I grew up, Sunday was a really dead day, if you grew up in a non-religious family. No shops open and if you had forgotten to buy enough milk or something, then you had to go without till Monday. For us children it meant that there was no point in going anywhere, because the entire town was dead. You could not see a single person out, except now and then, someone walking their dogs. When I worked as an au-pair for the Lawrence family in London, a Jewish family owning a furniture shop, they actually kept their shop open on the Jewish Sabbath and kept it close on the Christian Sabbath. To be like everybody else no doubt. Easier to get people to work for them as well, I guess. And my day off was Sunday. I wonder if they still do that or if they have their shop open 7 days a week?

The 600 Jews in Lund, had large families and Aron’s mother gave birth to eleven children. Her firstborn, Isidor, wanted to become an officer, but as such he could not live like an orthodox Jew, so he gave up his dream. Most of his siblings actually went in to antiques or art. Except his brother Martin, who married a “Gentile” and became a doctor. At least his mother shunned him for this, but he did not seem to have regretted turning away from Judaism. He even asked to be cremated when he died. A thing Jews do not do!

1919, Aron was born and they moved to Stockholm. So, so much for learning more about Jewish Lund and what life was like for the orthodox there. Aron does not really say much about religion at all, except that his mother was deeply religious, so much so, that she did not really foster them, but let the siblings foster each other, while she prayed. To be honest, reading the book is like squeezing blood out of a stone. One is so desperate for any knowledge of value, any new learning and information. But there is SO little of it.

In the chapter about the between-the-war-years, there is precious little of worth. I found one thing interesting and that was the property market. How difficult it was for owners to let their flats, so they often had to let people rent three months for free. I do not know if this ever effected my grandparents, who did not move around like the Neuman family did. My grandparents lived in a flat among many, in a villa-looking house, outside Lund. They did not have indoor plumbing at all and my grandparents were always working while my mum and her sister basically had to raise themselves, during the days. A neighbour, they didn’t like at all, kept an eye on them. For the Neumans, who were Jewish, the moves had to do with religion, since the synagogue always have to be in walking distance, and also because of their money situation. When business was good, it was really good, and they could live in a fancy part of Stockholm and when business was bad, they had to move to more modest lodgings.

He does say that the radio was constantly on during the 1930s, so they could hear what was happening in Europe. On the other hand, what was reported? He doesn’t say. He does say that the children did military excercises in the courtyard and a classmate joined he nazi movement in Sweden. But when does not children play soldiers, especially at the threat of war? They did all over Britain, even during the Blitz! I would have liked to have found out more. He was after all a teenager at the time, so he must have paid attention! The only anti-Semitism he mentions, is the time when he went to a football match and someone screamed “Death to the bloody Jew”, when a Jewish player tackled another player. When he started Gymnasium he and other Jewish boys asked to not have to have a certain teacher, who was known to not like Jews. I am sure there was anti-Semitism in Sweden, like in all other countries at the time, but he does not really say anything about what it did to him and how he felt about it. Nor if his family discussed it between themselves and with others. He says that he did not like school because of the anti-Semitism in Europe and that he had a teacher who wanted to show off his knowledge about Judaism. But it really did not explain the situation to me or anyone else wanting to know what Sweden was like back then.

The political climate in Europe made Aron more and more aware of his Jewishness, so after Gymnasium, he spent most of his free time at Jewish clubs, when not studying at the business school. A Jewish restaurant opened with Kosher food and a third synagogue was founded during the 1930s. The entire interior decoration was smuggled out from Germany, from the Hamburg synagogue, being described to Gestapo, that it was old wood and furniture.

During the war, the climate was definitely pro-German. Of course, the newspapers did not dare to be anything but. It was that or be invaded, since everything was reported back to Germany. Only two newspapers dared to say what they thought and they were censored heavily. Since it was said in Europe, that Jews are cowards, greedy, stingy with money and lack patriotism, Aron signed up for the military a year early, in 1938. He started out in a machine gun company, till his poor eyesight became a problem. In the Army he met with anti-Semitism, like someone not wanting to sleep in the same room as a Jew and someone saying that the Germans had made Norway free of Jews and that they soon would be in Sweden doing the same thing. That is all Aron says about the Army! In the Navy, the commanding officer did not want alcohol served in the mess, if Aron was there, since he did not want to toast with a Jew. The only service totally free of anti-Semitism, was the Air Force, since it was brand new and not based on German principles, but looked to Great Britain instead.

The refugees arriving to Sweden, were mainly orthodox, according to Aron, which really surprised me. I would have thought it would have been easier for assimilated Jews, to get entrance visas. Aron told about the refugees his family took in, like a book shop owner from Denmark and a Norwegian relative. And a little girl who arrived on the white buses. In other words, when the war was basically over and the Germans letting women leave Ravensbrück. All in all, half a page. But he says nothing ABOUT them really, nor how the family dealt with what they told them and how they felt about it all. Instead he tells about the rivalry between the Jewish congregation and the volunteer organisation, of which Aron was president. The Jewish congregation had an entire program set up for receiving the refugees and did not like the amateurs. They were also very eager to do the politically correct thing and were petrified of too many Jews arriving so they would all get in to trouble.

Aron also got involved in the Jewish help organisation B’nai B’rith. I would have liked to have known more about it and not just that it helps Jews and fight anti-Semitism. Aron says that the Jewish leader of it, in Germany, was a man who saw no problems at all between the orthodox, conservative and liberals. That all three should be strengthened so they will survive, that it is only good with variety as long as there is also unity. Thing is, is there really? In a book I read about the ultra-orthodox in Israel, they count themselves as the only Jews in the world. That everyone else are gentiles and unrighteous. In their world, conservative, orthodox and liberal Jews are not Jews at all and they are absolutely not counted as righteous.

After the war, Aron spent most of his time, trying to help the fledgling Israel. Working as an accountant for organisations like the one planting trees in Israel, the one helping Polish Jews and many others. He doesn’t say anything about them and what they really did and why, only listed them. He never seriously thought about emigrating there though, even though he was bitter about how some people had treated him in the military, during the war, with snide remarks.

In 1987 he helped founding the Jewish museum in Stockholm, a museum I actually visited the year after that. I had no idea it was that new. And I am sure that it has grown a lot since then, with more items, but also with more high-tech, which seems to be the thing at most museums nowadays. Having studied museum science at the University, I do concur though. Noone is interested in watching ten combs, ten mugs… in glass stands anymore. It is plain boring. To make a museum worth visiting, there needs to be hands on experiences, films to watch, scenes showing how things were used etc. London in particular, is a master in this. That is why I avoid British Museum and love going to places like Imperial War Museum and others like it. British Museum is still stuck in the 1800s, except when they have a special exhibition.

In a way, that second to last chapter, was the most interesting, since it brought up books which have been published and exhibitions which have been shown at the museum. Exhibitions always mean books! And in other books, I might find the information which Aron’s book lacks. I have already created a modest wish list and am sending my husband to pick up two books in particular, when he goes to the capital for a conference. (On computers, not Judaism!) An exhibition I would have loved to have gone to, was the one called “Jesus the Jew”. THAT would have been SO interesting! And another one I would have loved to have attended, was the one about peddlers. Here Sweden met with a new kind of Jew, one who was orthodox, one who knew no Swedish, one who did not understand Swedish traditions and who desperately tried to eat kosher and teach their children to stay orthodox, by teaching them to read and write Hebrew. I doubt they succeeded particularly well, since we do not have any odd-looking Jews in Sweden anymore, with side curls and religious garments. The Ultra Orthodox as we call them today, are not present at all in Swedish society, like they are in other countries.

Selman Neijman & Eva Fridman, married in 1900

Selman Neijman & Eva Fridman, married in 1900

I would like to end this post with saying, that “Aron’s Bok” was not worth even the sale price I paid for it. It lacked everything I had anticipated and proved to me, that not everyone is a writer and not everyone should attempt to write their own memoirs but should leave it to a proper biographer, who can give people and dates, some meat on the bones.

At the same time, the book did something for me and that was strengthen the determination to continue my research. And also, to return to my own family and my genealogy. Even if it is more than frustrating at this point when the archives have less good opening times and ancestry.com/ancestry.se charges an arm and a leg, for you to look at “their” records, which should be open to the public for nothing, in my view. Those are public records and the micro films posted to the internet, were made by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and given to Sweden for free. So why is there a fee to look at them?

The photo of Selman Neijman and his beautiful young bride, makes me sad. Because according to Aron, they were poor immigrants who lived in the slum of Nöden in Lund,yet they could afford beautiful clothes, a big wedding and more over, to be photographed. My grandfather’s parents, married that same year, and there are no photos of that poor couple. The church where they married in 1900, in Hardeberga, outside Lund, doesn’t even look like it did back then. It seems like all Jews writing their memoirs, have a lot of photos, and that is something I have always felt saddened by. The lack of everything in my family. Photos, diaries… I guess they were too busy trying to stay alive?

So, I should say thank you to Aron, for showing me once again, how important our family history is. I have started trying to find out the truth about my mother’s mother’s father’s father’s parentage. Ancestry.se will not let me get in to the records even though I have signed up for a trial subscription, and the days keep ticking by, when it is for free. In 1987, a priest, said some awful things about this man’s mother’s morals, so that family name was sure talked of still, 134 years after the fact! Will I ever find out what the priest wrote in the records 1853? The priest who kept the records at home, in 1987, sure did not want to read them off to me. I need to know the truth, to get a peace of mind. I do not want to have the serious big gaps in my family history, which Aron has. Till I can fill them, I will never write a book on my family!

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Farmville 2: Country Escape or How to get really angry!

9th of May, to be precise, I had to sign up for a new mobile since D.’s mobile was dead to the world. I handed my beloved iPhone to him, while I myself had to learn the Samsung A5’s way of doing things. I decided that since Android phones offer free games, I was going to install something to have fun with, when bored. I had enjoyed “Tap the Frog” on the children’s tablet, hating it on this iPad, for the cost it entailed but also for its chewing gum reactions. I tried a lot of games on my Samsung but nothing was really funny. I want to play when I want to play, not when the game allows me to. This thing with so many minutes till you have another life, is not my thing.

Then I found Farmville 2: Country Escape and since it had so many stars and people liking it, I decided to give it a go. This was my sort of game, I thought. Getting to play when you want. Noone stressing you with so many seconds to think or act. Planning actions hours ahead, saving money to purchase things and adding to a farm, making it more and more complete looking. At least it was fun from the start. Till all the problems started to arise and I started to read the reviews, which told the backside of the game.

Many people complain that they hate the game, but can not leave, because they have invested too much money in it. No, you do not uninstall a game where you have spent real hard cash. But you play it less and less, when you encounter problems every time you play it.

As you can tell, I am in need of expanding my barn but for two weeks now, I have waited for another nail. Soon need for throwing away things. Champagne takes 8 hours to make, but perhaps it will have to go. Noone buying my Ocean things in road shop.

As you can tell, I am in need of expanding my barn but for two weeks now, I have waited for another nail. Soon I will need to throw away things. Champagne takes 8 hours to make, but perhaps it will have to go. Noone buying my Ocean things in road shop lika anchors, canvas etc.

I decided on an early stage that I was not going to spend any cash. But one day, when I went in to look at how many more items I needed in order to expand my barn, “Gubby” sitting breathing down my neck, wanting to push something and anything on the screen, I did a thing which brought me to tears. To expand one’s barn takes months or weeks of work. You have to have so and so many nails, so and so many locks and so and so many shovels to do so. You can pay game money every day and make a shovel in your tool shed. Takes a day. But locks and nails are pure luck acquisitions. Those you get only now and then, when you fish in the pond, work in the mine, go to grandmother’s glen, fish in the ocean or go to mallard mill,  but with a reservation. You have to buy yourself in to the mine, mallard mill and the ocean first, by buying all the surrounding land at set levels.By mistake, because I was distracted by “Gubby”, I accidentally expanded the silo instead of the barn. Gone were all my nails and locks.

Why do you need to expand your barn or silo? Well, the more production things you get on your farm, in the shape of animals, planting fields and buildings/work stations, the more items you will produce. And you will have to put them somewhere. To feed your cow, you have to harvest a field of wheat and there has to be room in the silo, for it to go in there first, before you give it to the cow. Well, what is the point of producing things, you might ask. Just for the fun of it? Hardly! First of all there is the farm order board. There will come in orders, for all sorts of things. The problem is that, the higher you get up in the levels, the less you imagecan use the board, for dumping your items. Look at me for example. I am on level 44 and one order can be for 6 peach yoghurts. The only problem is that I only have four peach trees. So make four first and then two more, you will tell yourself. Not that easy. First of all, I would not mind having six peach trees, because they ripen so slowly, in other words, hours and hours of wait, but the peaches also sell expensively. The fruit themselves but also when you have made them in to peach yoghurts. But you can only buy so many trees with game money. Same goes for the planting fields and the animals. Then you have to start using your keys. But back to the barn problem. It is always full. At all levels. Because you produce more and more. I can never store four peach yoghurts for hours till I can produce two more, when the new peaches have ripened.

I who had sworn to never ever spend real cash in a game, sat there and wept like a baby, because I had wasted all my hard to get items, and now could under no condition expand that barn. And it meant not being able to play anymore. So what did I do? I spent real cash and bought the keys needed to expand my barn, but my hatred for the game started, since it was too easy to press the button to use the keys. It should have asked, are you sure, like in the shop.

This is a major problem with the game. The keys. Early on in the game, I read the reviews and lots of people complained about

It is like this with everything, you have to buy with keys, keys I do not have.

It is like this with everything, you have to buy with keys, keys I do not have. I am not getting rid of my 247 ones lightly!

not being able to purchase things for their farms, unless they did so with keys. Keys are hard to get, unless you buy them with real cash. And yet, you need them for everything. To buy more plots to cultivate, to add extra animals and even worse, at every event, they try to make you spend a fortune in keys, on getting temporary animals or farm hands, who are supposed to help you find rare items. After the event, they leave your farm for good, and your keys/cash is gone.

I have told my children that I am a multi millionaire.  Which is true. I own over 9 million game coins. (Actually I was just allowed to purchase a plot on the other side of the river. Nothing to put there though!) But there is nothing to spend it on. At certain levels, you can buy plots of land, but when that is done, you have nothing more to use the money on. You can’t buy any machines, animals, cultivating plots, trees etc. beyond a certain low level. This makes the game really, really boring at level 44. You are not motivated to play at all. You have nothing to gain from playing.

Yes, you can sell things you produce, at the road side shop, but mine never works when an event is taking place. Which makes it impossible to play, because the barn gets full and when you can’t sell items, you have to throw them away. So why create the items in the first place? Also, when you put up items you have made in that road side shop, they can sit there for days till the game finally buys them. Because people are not really that interested in buying certain things. If you have grapes, throw them away. If you have blackberries, throw them away. Right now, there is an event on, where you get coffee beans every time you harvest wheat. Throw them away. Noone wants coffee beans. Throw away pears, noone wants them. Actually, do not water your pear tree at all, unless a quest asks for pear products, which almost never happens. Do not try to sell peppers, noone wants them. I could go on like this forever. There are more things people do not want to buy, than they want to buy.

So, what can you use your money on? Well, you can buy things from other people around the globe. But the good things, they have reserved for their co-ops. Which is another thing which does not really have any function. There is no communication between members. There is no way to see which co-ops are active. To me, its been pointless to belong to a co-op. The only purpose being that you sell items exclusively to members.

The crime scene where yo mostly get just eggs or points.

The crime scene where you mostly get just eggs or points.

The worse thing of the entire game, I think, is the events. There is only a couple of days between events. What is an event? How about I tell you about the ongoing event. It is a mystery event. In the corner of your farm, a crime scene has been set up. You are supposed to send anything from 1-4 farm hands in to this place, to get special event items. In phase 3, you are supposed to receive a two  tea-cups. To go in to the crime scene, you have to create a special item on the stovetop. A strange strawberry drink. I have received items in the crime scene area, at this phase. Believe it or not! (I did not in phase 1 and 2.) Pink tea cups. In the previous phases, all I got, every single time, were points or points and eggs. If this does not make you angry, what will? When you have your tea-cup, you are supposed to make coffee. You get the coffee beans every time you harvest the wheat, but too many beans! And you make the coffee. But then you are stumped. I sit with ten cups of coffee, presently, because I can not go on to the next item you are supposed to make. With the coffee and sugar and two special items, donut dough, you are supposed to make a detective’s breakfast. I sent farm hands in to grandmother’s glen ten times, and never received any dough. I sent them to the mill, the mine, the pond and the ocean, but only now and then have I received the dough. So far I have been able to make five breakfasts and what happens when you have made that? Well, most of us think that after all that frustrating “hard work”, you would automatically get the detective item, which is the goal to get in this phase. Like spy camera, disguise etc. But I have received money, money and money or rolling fog boosts, which is useless since it does not make you find the dough. You do not FIND anything, the game gives you, and it does not give me a diddly squat. Except frustrated feelings. But you got up to phase 3 girl, says someone out there. So something must be working. Not so. I BOUGHT the items needed, from people selling them off, who had just left the phase I am on. And that happens about once a day, if you’re lucky.

During the wedding event months ago, I made so many red dresses that I could have puked, and I never left the phase. Other players accused Zynga for cheating, that they do not want people to reach the goal and I totally agree. Zynga is a terrible game group, who are out to do only one thing. Earn real money on their games. When you complain to them, like I have done all summer, about my road shop not working during events, they just answer me “you have to sell what people want”. Well, I was selling things I knew people were dying to have, like event items and things which it takes hours to make. I had learned by then what items sell, but if noone sees what you have, then it doesn’t  matter what you sell.

This game is over when you have bought all your production machines. There is no more pleasure in the game after that. The only reason why I play it now and then, is to kill time when I am waiting for things to get done on Hay Day. My children saw my frustration with Farmville and told me to come over to Hay Day instead. And I did, in August 2015. First I wanted to catch up to

Part of my HayDay farm which is huge.

Part of my HayDay farm which is huge.

them and now I am a level 55 farmer. Every week there is the challenge to win the Derby with our neighbourhood. Boats arrive daily that ask for lots of items to be made. And when you can’t make them yourself, you can ask for help. And there is ALWAYS someone out there helping you! You can go in to look at the helper’s farm, buy things from the farmer, follow that farmer, help them with their boats or liven up their trees and bushes. When you help, you get rewards in the way of plants, decorations, diamonds, saws and axes. Plus the money and the points of course. In other words, there is interaction with not just your neighbourhood friends but also with other players. In the town, visitors arrive all the time, and want items. Visitors arrive to your farm and want items as well as the farm board asking for things. There is no way to get bored with this game. At every other level or so, you can buy animals, decorations and production buildings, with money, tickets or diamonds. And you can expand your farm as soon as you have the required items. But best of all, you can sell everything in your road shop. It always works! And your things usually sells within the hour if not at once. Set the right price on items not so very popular, like wheat and corn, and that get sold as well. You are never stuck but can always play.

The only complaints I have about Hay Day, are the long production times that are unreasonable, like making pop corn taking 30 minutes, chocolate bar taking 20 hours etc. A second complaint is that trees and bushes die after four harvests and then they have

Bad image from internet but I would quit the game if I had this many dead trees. It is ghastly looking!

Bad image from internet but I would quit the game if I had this many dead trees. It is ghastly looking!

to be sawed or chopped down. Only problem being, that if you do not have any more axes or saws, you get stuck with ugly dead trees and bushes on your farm, which you have tried to make pretty. The OCD in me, can not live with dead things on my farm, so I keep as few trees and bushes, as I can, in order to keep up with the supply of destruction tools. You getting the tools sporadically as rewards when feeding pets, harvesting and when you have fully served people in the town. My third complaint is about the so-called randomness of items given to you and also who gets to watch commercials for free diamonds and tools. I NEVER get to watch commercials, which I find unfair. So when I have used up my diamonds by accident, I have had to buy new ones with real cash. THAT is not fair. I play my “Boo’s” farm during the week, so we get more points in the derby, and he gets to see up to five commercials a day. Same goes with E. and F. who also play the game, so I am the only one in the family who do not get to earn free things like this. And things are not given as random as the owners of the game think. To expand your barn, you need bolts, planks and duct tape. I have to buy planks off “Boo” and E., since I do not receive them. And E. has to buy bolts from me since she does not get them. To expand the silo you need nails, screws and wood panel. I do not get screws, but “Boo” and E. do, so they have to supply me with them. This is not right and a major complaint from ALL players. I do not get maps in town, to expand my town. And for the most part, “Boo’s” newspaper has better things for sale, than mine, which usually just have wheat, eggs and corn. So I buy things to his farm and sell them on to myself. But what about people who can not do this? They feel very frustrated with the game!

All in all, I doubt any game is perfect and without major complaints. But if you want an honest opinion, do  not bother with Farmville. It is not even funny to kill time with, when you wait your 20 minutes on Hay Day to fetch eggs or the hour it takes for the cows to produce milk. The game should be closed down because it could lead to insanity. You don’t want to spend an entire day creating one event item, only to get 5000 game coins out of it! Personally I am going to sit down and work on my points on Hay Day. On Hay Day you get points when you buy things, you get points when you harvest things, you get points when you have produced things and when you sell it to anyone but the road shop. There are so many ways of earning points that you are never stuck on one level for long, like in Farmville, where you hardly ever get any points to bring you to a new level. Next level on  Hay Day,  I can buy a little Calico kitten, which gives 40 points at every feed and I can buy a Sushi bar, grow rice and make Sushi rolls. That will be fun! And FUN is what a phone/computer game is supposed to be!!!

Just had to show off my town. Simple but cute!

Just had to show off my town. Simple but cute!

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My finds at the “big Swedish book sale” 2016

I think I could start each year’s post with: “I did not intend to buy any books at this year’s sale…” but as usual, it is too tempting to go to the actual sale and it is way too tempting,  to check out the online shops. Just to see what they are selling this year? Just to see if there are some real bargains to be had? And of course, this year was not different from any other year. There were lots of bargains on-line as well as in the physical shops. And I managed to find things which I like, and the family will enjoy.

Usually I feel ashamed about writing this post, because I would rather not people know exactly how many books I have and what a book fanatic I am. But on the other hand, it is fun to share what finds one has bought, with perhaps fellow book lovers. So, fearing criticism from my enemies, I am giving away the secret, that I have added to my library with plenty of books.

This year, I will include books I selected long before the sale. Yes, if you order on-line, from the bookshops Bokus and Adlibris, you for one, assure yourself, of getting exactly what you want. If you act the same day, the newsletter arrives in your inbox, that is. And of course, the books are about 20:- cheaper on an average, to what they are in the physical shops. These were posted to me on the 23rd and arrived here a day after the sale started, since I chose the free shipping option. Cheap as I am. And to my joy, this year they did not mess up my order, like last year, when they had forgotten two books. That time, I had a difficult time with customer service not believing me, when I phoned them and told them, that I had paid for so many books and two were missing. There was no way to prove that the books were not there and when they finally gave in and decided to trust me, they had no more in stock to sell me. So I had to receive a refund and wait for the books to get in to stock again. But when they did, they were full price, so I never did purchase them and they were not in this year’s sale!

I found nothing worth spending my money on, at Adlibris, strangely enough, since I prefer that on-line shop. What did I buy from Bokus? First of all, I bought the book I knew everyone else would be buying:

This Day, A life

“This Day, A life”

Astrid Lindgren, was and still is, an integral part of growing up in Sweden. I was lucky, since when I grew up, all the films, based on the books, were made and showed in the cinemas and later on TV. So not only did I read all of her books about “Emil in Lönneberga”, “Pippi Longstocking”, “Ronja” etc. I also got faces to all the characters. And like everyone else of my generation, I grew up with the songs from the films, knowing them by heart, to this day. When I had children of my own, I made sure to invest in the books and little by little, in the films on DVD. So, my children have grown up with the same things, as I did. And this is basically what goes on in every Swedish home.

But what children do not know, is that Astrid was so much more than the old lady in gigantic owl glasses, who read her stories in a way that noone else can. Last year, a much talked about documentary, about her life, was shown on TV. There was three parts to it and for me it was an eye opener. The entire documentary was built on her newly published war diaries and the biography, sold at the book sale this year. I can not say that the documentary put Astrid in the best of lights, but I guess it depends on how you feel about things. I for one, have a very difficult time with how she carried on an affair with an older married man, without ever feeling any remorse about it. She was basically about 20 years old, so she very much knew what she was doing and I wonder if she did it, to further her career? She came from a good family, so I don’t understand this aspect of her character.

During the war, she worked for the censorship department and censured soldier’s letters as well as private people’s. It was during the war, that she decided to keep a diary to record the world events. I received the diary for my Birthday last year, from friends, but have not yet read it, and of course have not read this biography. But it is something I am looking forward to, with a little bit of hesitation. This biography has been said to be biased. We will have to see! One thing which will be interesting, is how all her children’s books were inspired by world events. And when she said that she had no more books in her, which I thought was a horrible thing, back in the 1980s, she really did not. She had protested against everything she felt was wrong in the world!

I might add, that the biography was also in many people’s baskets, at 06:00 Wednesday the 24th! As a MedMera customer, I got this book really cheap at Bokus though, way cheaper than in a physical shop. It was a book I expected to be in at least next year’s sale, but they decided to not wait that long. A book I also expected to be in this year’s sale, was the second part to Bengt Liljegren’simage biography about Winston Churchill. The first part was on sale, last year, so it was only reasonable for them to put this part on sale this year. I do not have too high expectations about the book, because can a Swedish high school teacher make Sir Winston justice? I don’t know, and I strongly  doubt it, but I do want to find out. Because I am one of Churchill’s most avid fans. I doubt that one can write a good book about a person, when all records and physical evidence is in another country, from where one lives oneself and one has a day job which does not include writing! But we will see.

The second book will be very, very interesting. A book devoted to the soldier at the front, 1939-1945. Yes, there are people who have written memoirs about their experiences, but sometimes, that is too close. Selective memory being the main problem, when the memoirs are written 50-60 years after the fact. Which might be this book’s problem as well. But what this book wants to do, is answer specific questions, which a memoir does not do. Women’s memoirs from the war, tend to talk less about what they actually did for work and more about all the dances they went to and the romances they had, which led to marriage. Nothing irritates me more! The men’s often describe battles in detail, which leave me clueless, since I can’t see what they see in their minds. They have the picture, I do not. This book will touch topics like casualties, diseases, battle morale, discipline, attitudes, lots of interesting aspects about war, in other words.

imageFor a clearly anti-semitic country like Sweden, it is always nice to see that there always are a couple of books about Jews, in the book sale. So also this year! For new readers: No, I am not a Jewess but have a deep interest in their history, religion and right to exist!

Finally, a book I have been wanting for years, was at the sale: “Jewish Life in Europe 1786-1933 A prevented integration process”. The book covers why the Jewish emancipation failed in lots of countries. And why Jews remained Jews in the eyes of society, as well as in their own eyes,even though they often tried so hard to assimilate, that they almost extinguished themselves. They fought for the right to be socially and politically equal, with their fellow citizens, at the same time as countries grew more and more nationalistic and autocratic. At the same time, they left cultural stamps all over European cultures, which of course those same countries today, deny. Cant wait to read this book.

Nor can I wait to read Joseph Roth’s book “The Wandering Jews” which is a book full of essays, written in 1927, describing a world which no longer exists. The travelling merchants, the piety, the dreams, the poverty, the pogroms and the ones who left for America. Joseph Roth died in Paris, 1939. This will be a good book, I just know it. It is also part of the World Literature.

Did I not get anything for my poor children? Sure I did. But there was only one single book which held my attention at Bokus. It is a book I like, but I am not sure how much “Gubby” liked it, when I borrowed it from the library.

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How could one even translate the book’s name? “A small pink & and other rowdy variegated”. I know, the title make no sense in English, but to be honest, it makes no sense in Swedish either. Some pictures are a little bit scary, but these little characters are funny and there is a book on how to sew your own “variegated”. I asked “Gubby” last year if he wanted one, and he said “NO”. He might have thought them too scary. Why does the librarians and bookshop sellers love it so much? I don’t know. I don’t know why I like it, except it has funny text in it.

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Things rhyme in the book, which is something autistic children really love. I guess it is because they can guess the word coming? (My three youngest sons, “Kitty”, “Boo” and “Gubby” are all autistic.) The first chapter, is a story about a candy thief at a Birthday party. The second chapter is about numbers. Like here “4 Four brunettes baking baguettes”. Hello, that worked in English too. Then comes shapes.

 

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This one works less well in English, “Eating Food in a Square”.  Then comes letters, moods, can you do this (“Of course you can if you want to!”), opposites, scary variegated, Little Pink is in love, more moods, magic tricks and prepositions.

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“Above a vase, between two glasses”. Not rhyming in English. It’s a funny book, except the chapter on little Pink is in love. I guess the authors are lesbian, because little pink is a girl being in love with a girl. I am not a homophobe,  but I believe in God’s plan and why he created man and woman, which means I am never going to teach my children that homosexuality is an option or alright. So I read he when it says she, and there is no problem, since the girl in question looks like a boy with a tie on.

Now, what about the physical shops’ book sales? Since I am a member of Akademibokhandeln, I was invited to be there already at 06:00, when the regular sale did not start until 07:00. It was nice, because there were not that many VIPs there, and one could easily walk around looking at everything. I was not too impressed with the selection of children’s books. I guess it is because my children tire of a book pretty quickly. They want variation and then you might ask yourself, if it is not better to borrow at the library. At the same time, if there is a book they really do like, and you have to borrow it all the time, it might be worth it, to purchase it for keeps. Especially since, I have had to experience the loss of a library book, which could not be replaced and I ended up having to pay 350:- for it! F. “cleaned it away” and refused to even help, trying to locate it. Unfortunately, it was counted as an adult book, even though it was a book about ADHD, trying to explain it to children! Silly pictures and only one sentence on each page. Even the librarian wondered at it being classified as an adult book!

But I have strayed from the topic. I only bought three children’s books at Akademibokhandeln and two youth ones. The oneimage children’s book, I just had to buy. It being “Five ants are more than four elephants The Song Book”. I grew up with that children’s program and sat there singing along with the songs, all the time. My sister received the songs on cassette tape, one year for Christmas, from our nan. Then I grew up and thought it so sad that my children would not get to see this program, which teaches counting, letters, prepositions and all sorts of things. One has to have been there to see it, to understand how good it was. They were a trio of actors, who did the program, and they had a marvellous chemistry between them. Pretty Eva Remaus, who died only 42 years old from a brain tumour, comedian Magnus Härenstam, who died last year in cancer and

From left to right, Brasse, Ewa, Magnus

From left to right, Brasse, Eva and Magnus

comedian Brasse Brännström, who died suddenly in 2014, of not published reasons. They created history and culture! Good thing, that my husband’s workplace had a DVD library, so my children could grow up with the program too. The DVDs being too expensive for me to buy myself. And through the years, books have come out with the well-known illustrations, games, clothing… Lately, they have tried to recreate the idea with other actors, but it is really, really bad! When I saw this book on the shelf, I grabbed it at once, and did not notice until I got home, that it comes with a CD. I was overjoyed. We will sing the songs, when the children get over their stomach flu!

The second children’s book, has all sorts of fairy tales in it, and I thought that perhaps “Boo” could struggle through them? (Theyimage suspect he has dyslexia with his autism.) Or that they would not be too long for “Gubby” to listen to? I just thought it had pretty illustrations and nice stories: Sleeping Beauty, The Nightingale, The Beauty and the Beast, The Dragon Painter, The Frog King, The Helping Gnomes, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The Wild Swans, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

It is difficult to get “Kitty” to sit down and read. His ADHD has no patience for it, nor his autism. But, I did find a book which was funny for him. My husband did not agree. He came with me at 06:00 and looked at books himself and then left at 06:30 to take the train to work. He minded the next book, since it demands a LOT of Lego, if one wants to make imagethe items described in the book. Personally, I know that “Kitty” enjoys looking at pictures of how things are made, as much as making them himself. And for every wonder, there is a page of facts. So, a little bit of reading is required, but it is the sort of reading he doesn’t mind. As a matter of fact, I am starting to suspect that autistic children, at least at that age, prefers books about facts, more than stories. This book, is all about the wonders of the world, made in Lego.

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If one wants to build, there are descriptions for some things, like this little mini sphinx. But not for everything. He liked it when I came home with it, so daddy was wrong.

For the teenagers in the house, I had to buy something as well, of course. Or should I say, E. F. does not speak to me anymore, so I have no idea what and if she was interested in anything. But the two books I bought for E., were the ones she had marked out in the catalogue. I am not going to say anything about them, since I have no idea what they are all about. It is not my kind of books!

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The two books before “Allegiant”, were bought at previous years’ book sales. But over to what I bought, which of course can be read by anyone in my family, but the only one who probably would have had an interest, is serving a mission in England for the next two years, so I will be the sole reader of them.

In the catalogue, there were two pages with limited books. So limited that only a couple of book shops in Sweden, were going toimage have them. Lund was one of them. And there was one I absolutely wanted of them, which is why I got up at the unchristian hour of 05:00, to be at the shop in time for the opening at 06:00. The biography on Goebbels, really belongs in a historian’s library on WWII. I have biographies of everyone else of the monsters, so why not him? This book is a real brick stone, so I guess there was a lot to tell about this man, who made Hitler’s plans possible to carry out, by carefully preparing the minds of the German people. While I was at it, I also bought the book about the monster women, who happily served in concentrations camps and other places in the East, making the holocaust possible. They very much had active roles, and no doubt you will later be able to read an entire post about that book. It promises on the backside, to be entirely shocking. Not that I love to read shocking things, but I do want to know the truth about things.

imageShocking as well, is the effect propaganda has. Especially during war-time. Some people I guess, feel that it can turn the tidal wave. I guess, it depends on how critical a person is to whatever comes from “above”. If one uses one’s own brain to think with or let others do the thinking for one. Journalists today, are in many ways, the propagandists. I have little faith in what is reported and see how Swedish reporters break the first law of journalism, daily, by not staying objective nor reporting on events in an objective manner. Even of the selection of news is subjective. Propaganda is interesting though, which is why I invested in this book. Most people might shy away from it, because for the money you have to pay for it, you only get a very small and skinny book. But sometimes that is all that is needed, to explain a topic and show examples of what has been discussed. This book talks about all sorts of things. Like the propaganda that made eligible young men flood to the recruiting offices in England, when war broke out in 1914, and how young men rarely could escape being made to enlist. It also talks about Goebbels of course, the master of all times, as pertaining to propaganda. How it was used to change people’s opinions and worse of all, target one scapegoat in society, the Jews. The book also covers Japanese propaganda and even a little bit about Sweden’s WWII one, Stalin’s and the Gulf War’s. A really good little book, from the looks of it.

Propaganda pictures like these, made the German people ready to kill all Jews without qualms

Propaganda pictures like these, made the German people ready to kill all Jews without qualms.

 

One of the most famous propaganda posters from WWI, Lord Kitchener always wanting more men for cannon fodder.

One of the most famous propaganda posters from WWI, Lord Kitchener always wanting more men for cannon fodder.

A book, I was not certain about, was this journalist’s book about his mother, who survived Auschwitz against all odds. “Why have you drawn numbers on your arm, nan?” It is not veryimage common, that survivors, who settled in Sweden after the war, write books about their lives before, during and after the holocaust. It is dangerous to show that you are a Jew, in today’s Sweden. Most of them have not dared to tell their stories, even to their own families. The author of this book, is the son of a survivor, and he was 33 when she finally told him her story. A story about France and living under the Vichy government, in other words, basically under Nazi rule. But it also tells the shameful story of relatives living in Sweden, pleading with politicians and authorities, trying to help the family to safety. I say shameful, because Sweden could not have cared less and did not let people in. We made sure that a J was stamped in all passports in Europe, to indicate the holder being a Jew. So we more easily could turn them away at the border and deny them entrance papers at the different embassies. I bought the book, even though I probably have read one hundred books like it, in order to read about yet one more fate, and to encourage more surviving Jews to tell their story, before it is too late. It is the only way to prevent the holocaust from being denied.

When I looked in other people’s baskets though, I did not really see the sort of books that I bought. For most people this is a feast, when you can get novels cheaply. I am divided when it comes to this. You can borrow a novel at the library, since you are not likely to re-read it ever. And why have your book cases full of books, which you will never read again? With books like the ones mentioned above, I highlight everything important and I go back to them. So, what to do with the tempting novels, which everyone else put in their baskets? I did succumb to TWO.

imageOne, I thought I could get E. to read. And it is not “Wolf among wolves”. I thought that “Longbourn” might be a fun read and a little bit of pure escapism. It says that every true Janeite should read it, and since that I am, I must read it of course. The servants view of Mr. Darcy and the Bennet family. Or a world so far apart from Pride and Prejudice, as it can be. It could be nice and it could be really, really bad.

The Swedish publishing house of Lind&Co continues their publication of Hans Fallada’s novels. One each year, for the sale (?), and how can I stop now, when I have bought them previous years? This book, E. will not touch. I can assure you. It has 979 pages!!!!  Some say this Fallada novel was his best. He stayed in Hitler Germany and protested best he could, against the Nazis. This book, about the returned soldier Wolf, with his gambling habits, and the ex-prostitute Petra, might be very depressing. But the backside promises a rich gallery of characters, from all layers of society, a society full of fanatics on both the left side and the right, a crumbling Weimar and the Nazis on the rise, corruption, decadence, inflation and unemployment. The sort of book you start on the first day of the summer holidays!

On the way home, I stopped at the local supermarket. Usually I do not get to their sale until later in the day, when hardly imageanything is left. But today I got there at 08:15, so there were still a couple of books left. Like the first in the “Mazerunner” series. They had the second book in the series, at the book sale in town, but I felt, why get that one when we do not have the first one? Now, we have the first one, but it would have been cheaper to have ordered it from Bokus, with the  other books, since ICA unfortunately sold it for 30:- more. But you have to pay shipping if you order under 99:-, so a new order would have come out at the same price as ICA. No, what I did find at ICA were these three books about “Greg”, and I have high hopes for getting “Kitty” to read them. E. and I looked through the do-it-yourself book and it is really funny. Should “speak to” “Kitty”. And the other two must be as funny as that one, albeit they are novels. They are easy reads, so he just can’t object. Can he? I have heard from other mothers that their children love these, so here is hoping. And these, were actually 30:- cheaper, than at Akademibokhandeln, which meant 90:- imagesaved! We love that! I also found  a cute book about space for 29:-, all explained by my favourite bear, “Bamse”. I read it to “Gubby” though, and it was far too difficult. True, he is 7 years old, but he has autism and severe language problems. So, that book might have to wait, or I will have to put my own words to everything pictured. Leaving out boring details and explain simply, because this was not really that simple of a book, despite its look.

All in all, I thought it was a good book sale because I did not spend too much money. I opted out on a couple of books and feel fine about that decision. And I do not feel that I made any stupid rash decisions, but got books which I will truly enjoy. Hopefully this post has been helpful, if you were undecided on some books or undecided whether to bother with the sale this year. Good luck shopping, I am sure they still have a lot of good books left in stock!

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A WWII dollhouse: My woes about an umbrella stand

The last couple of weeks, I have once again tried to move forward to have a WWII dollhouse, or should I say a dollhouse with the theme of a WWII house in London, during the Blitz. To create such, is no laughing matter. It demands oodles of money, which I do not have. So the first step is to realize, that this will have to be done in steps, tiny steps, over years and years to come. My daughter E. says I am an idiot, that I have talked about it now for years, and yet, I do not have a physical house even. Mmmm. To be called an idiot is not fun at all, and what she doesn’t understand is, that part of the fun, is the careful planning.

I did actually make an effort last Christmas and wished for the house of my dreams. No, not the house of my dreams. That can not be had, since it would demand custom carpentry. Who knows where that bill would land? No, that dream house was sold on eBay years ago, was custom-made and was pick up only, in Britain, for the sum of £300. I just have to show it right here, because it WAS perfect!

dreamhouse

Very simple front, but a typical Victorian house from the East End. Custom made by the seller’s husband and was an exact copy of the house the seller grew up in.

dreamhouseentry

Entering the house, the typical narrow stairwell and sitting room on the side. Master bedroom on the first floor.

kitchenofdrreamhouse

The unique part of this wonderful dollhouse was, that it was not made in the usual square way, but was built-in the way houses really looked and look. Rooms behind other rooms. Like this angle of the dollhouse, which shows the beautiful 30s kitchen with tiled floor and the smaller bedroom behind the master bedroom, on the first floor. And check out the garden with the outdoor loo door open and the Anderson shelter. Can it get more perfect than this?

sideofdreamhouse

The final view shown on eBay was this, where you once again see the kitchen door, tiny window and the open door to the outdoor loo. How I wish dollhouses were always built this way or that I had a handy father alive still, who could have built one for me. Or my grandfather, another true artisan.

No, I have had to lower my dreams to a pre-fabricated Georgian house, which will house the rooms I desire, but which might or might not be totally historically correct, for my Blitz”family”. But I will return to houses, in a later post. Especially since my husband was not at all interested in getting me a dollhouse for Christmas, saying we have no room for one. Like most women, I will have to go behind his back instead, one day, and buy it by myself, when I have got the money together. Sad, but when your husband do not agree with your plans, then you have to fulfill them yourself. Reality after 28 years of marriage!

No, this post is about something else. While I do not recommend panic buys or spur of the moment buys, there is something called waiting too long to act. And I have become the victim of this twice now, in a most disappointing way.

It is about two years or more now, since I decided that I finally want to fulfill this life long dream of mine. I started to research as much as I could. And that is an ongoing thing. Because if you say you are making a Blitz house, you can’t put the wrong items in to your house. You can’t put in things which were not invented yet, 1940. You can’t put in designs and materials not existing then. A Blitz house can’t have a cupcake on a table, nor any cake at all really, since sugar was rationed. It can’t have a wash machine or a modern looking closet or modern patterned wallpapers. You have to find out how things were done and look for the items used. Like how washing was done, cooking, etc. What was used to accomplish what we today do in a fast and maybe not so painstakingly difficult way. But, there are not that many things out there, which will  suit a Blitz house in particular.

What I have discovered during these two years, is the fact that Europe seems besotted with Shabby Chic. Cute houses in pink and scratched off paint, is all over Etsy, for instance. And while I love it, that is not the look you are trying to create in a Blitz house. Another thing I have discovered, is that the market, otherwise, pretty much gears towards “Downton Abbey” houses. You see it in houses available, everything from almost Downton itself, if not Mr. Darcy’s “Pemberley”, to smaller mansions. And the separate items are disproportionally Victorian. While I do not object to having Victorian items in my Blitz house, an ordinary family would not have had the same items as the “Earl of Grantham” and his descendents! There is a hopeless lack of ordinary people’s items, needed for a Blitz house.

How can I say that I do not mind Victorian items, in a Blitz house,  when Victoria died in 1901? Because when I grew up, I saw items in my grandmother’s house from previous generations. If the items still had a function and worked, they survived and were passed down from generation to generation. Why throw away something which works? The 1939-1945 house would have contained things from both the Victorian era, Edwardian era and Art Deco, which came after that. They mixed and matched, if they were ordinary people. And that is what I want to create, a pretty typical house in 1940-1941, which has not been bombed.

Art Deco is a wonderful period in my opinion. But from everything I have read, only the most brave in Britain went for it. And they usually had money. And money, is what you must have today, if you want to buy Art Deco things for your dollhouse. The items available are rare and hard to find. And they cost an arm and a leg. I would suggest perhaps a picture frame and a clock for your house, but I would not stretch much further than that. Most people did purchase little things like that, for their homes back then, but they did not go for any big things. It was too risky for a fad! They liked the old and traditional things!

But this brings me over to the real topic of this post. While looking for the perfect items for your period house, you need to be aware of that the item that you put in your note-book for future purchase, might not be there forever. Big shops like Doll House Emporium, will have mass produced items from China, which can be had for years no doubt. But the little perfect gems for your house, which will make all the difference, are not from China. They are handmade by artisans. And they might stop making the items that you are in love with.

Come to the point woman, is probably your thoughts by now. I will, soon…

Alongside, my historical research, I started to drool over things available on the internet. I got myself a big notebook, hardcover, and started writing down shops I am interested in. And I spent hours and hours going through all their categories and items. Painstakingly I wrote up all items I fell in love with, could imagine in my dollhouse, and their prices. Because it only took two-three shops, before I realized that there is a price war going on, when it comes to in particular houses, but also on other items like WWII packages of food etc. Did I buy a single thing? No! Because the sad fact is, that wherever you shop, you can’t just buy a small thing here and a small thing there. You have to make a large order with EVERYTHING you want out of a particular shop, at one time. Or most of your money will be eaten up by postage. Now, it might be easier if you live in Britain and shop from British shops, but the fact is that I, who live in Sweden, will be robbed every time I shop, thanks to hideous postage. Etsy sellers ask for the most outrageous postage of all. You have to remember that these items weigh absolutely nothing, so it is ridiculous to charge an arm and a leg for the items to be shipped. They certainly loose business from me, for sure, because of it.

But the same goes for British and Swedish internet shops. They make postage so expensive, that you are forced to make large orders. So most of the items I want, are written in those long wish lists, page after page, shop after shop. Waiting for me to have the extra cash, to buy some dollhouse items for a non-existing dollhouse.

All this said, two items in particular have been on my mind for the past year. The first one, is a Victorian umbrella stand. About a year and a half ago, I went to Miniatura. The dollhouse fair in Birmingham’s NEC, in Britain. I felt that before I made silly mistakes, I needed to go to a fair and see what is available out there. I wanted to HOLD the items seen on the internet and see what they looked like. To look at quality from different places but also get inspiration. I did spend money on little knickknacks, learned a little bit what to stay away from and what to aim for. It was a marvellous day which ended way too quickly. I learned that miniature people are a certain breed and most sellers were very talkative and very sweet. But not all!

My greatest disappointment was with a man hosting the stall for Phoenix and Warwick Pewter items. I LOVE those. The problem is, that they come unpainted. And paint is hard to locate in Sweden, as well as expensive. Add to that, my poor eyesight and you have a real problem. All the same, I was excited to go there and buy items. Only, they had hardly brought anything I was interested in. And the man was cold and rude, contrary to most other sellers.  I did not dare to walk up to the stall, to be honest, till he had walked off on an errand and his wife had taken his place. I managed to get hold of two of my most beloved wish list items, an ARP helmet and stirrup pump. But they are still to this day, unpainted, since I am petrified of ruining them with painting wrong/ugly.

umbrellastandphoenix

In another stall, I found their umbrella stand, beautifully painted, I thought, in petrol colour (see above). But of course, that seller wanted more than what Phoenix themselves charges. And I did not consider, in my amateurishness, that if you count all the work and paint required, and left over paint, good for nothing else perhaps, it might actually have been a tolerable price. It did not help that the lady selling, was also a rude person, sitting looking angry. I fled her table. Eight months ago, I could still not forget that umbrella stand. I got the floor plan out, for the shops at the fair, trying to figure out, what shop it was which had sold the ready painted umbrella stand. But to no avail. I could not find it on the internet.

So I started searching all shops for umbrella stands and nothing measured up. And the ones who sold painted Phoenix model developments’ umbrella stands, had all painted them black. Well, I can paint black thank you, perfectly, myself. And save half the price. Finally I contacted Phoenix themselves and had my heart-broken. While they had had a picture on the internet (the one above), which I long ago put on pinterest, as a thing I want for my dollhouse, with the petrol colour, they had taken it away. And the reason was, that they no longer have the painted version. And it was not paint but a manufacturing process, that created the colour I love so much. How angry did I get at myself, for not having bought the umbrella stand when I stood with it in my hand at Miniatura? Can’t describe it.

So I searched for similarly coloured paints, with no luck. And then I searched for a seller, I had seen on Etsy, which I thought I had seen selling that same colour umbrella stand, over two years ago. But I could not even find the seller again. Till about a month ago. Through some old tabs and I don’t know how, I finally found her again. A woman from Malta who paints a LOT of Phoenix things. And when you think about the added price, do consider the hassle, all the things you have to buy in order to paint, and with poor eyes, you might create nothing but a mess. That is how I ended up thinking. Unfortunately, she no longer had that petrol umbrella stand, if she ever did. I might have remembered wrong. I did contact her and ask her about it, and she just returned an answer that it was the factory which had created that look, not paint. After a lot of correspondence, back and forth, I have now made a special order from Rebecca, to have a Phoenix umbrella stand painted as closely to the original as possible. I am sure that she will be able to do a much, much better job than I ever could. And she sits with ALL colours at home. Add to that, all the experience of having painted these items for years, having mixed colours and so forth, to get the right effect. I totally trust her. I had to, since it was pre-payment only.  But this is just a sad example that one can wait too long to act.

My second example, is from dealings with a wonderful shop called Small Wonders Miniatures. Amazing shop with even a separate category of items, called Wartime. Two years ago, I found the site via a dollhouse magazine and my wishlist soon became endless. I fell in love and when I say in love, I mean it VERY strongly, with some items in particular. Like a gasmask and box for it. Now you must realize that I have scoured all internet shops for wartime things and NOONE sells a gasmask, only an empty box. No problem finding that! But I never ordered the gasmask, the waste bin for food disposal meant for pigs in the country, the black out curtain kit for a sewing corner, the Kodak camera, dried eggs can… Because it all cost a fortune together and shipping starts at £6 for items up to £20, even if they weigh absolutely nothing. The next £10 you spend, will make the postage to £10 all in all. And however I did my math, I was always forced to take things out of the shopping bag, to end up below £20 and I still thought the £6 shipping bad.

After I paid for my umbrella stand, which will not be with me for a long time, first having to be made and then shipped from Malta, I felt that it was time to buy one more thing. The gasmask and box. Happily I found the shop, even without my misplaced notebook, and to my horror I went over the five wartime pages over and over again, without finding the gasmask and box. Gone was also the Kodak camera and the waste bin is sold out. I contacted the owner and she had nothing but sad news. There was a lady, who made the gasmasks and other quality items. But before Christmas she announced that she was quitting making dollhouse items. The owner of Small Wonders…, bought all her items, but the gasmasks sold out right away. Now I almost hit the roof. I wanted to rip out my hair because this item is a MUST in a Blitz house. In my mind I have the perfect  picture of my hallway. You go in through the doors, and on the wall is a coat rack. On that one hangs an ARP helmet and the gasmask!!! No way I can go without that!

So, I swallowed my pride. And wrote back. I asked if I could have the lady’s address because if a lonely Swedish mum writes and says what her plans are, well, can one really be that callous and say no to making ONE more gasmask? I did not put it quite like that though, but the answer would not have changed. No name, no address. Just a message saying that the owner of the shop had asked the lady if she would be willing to make just for her, a couple of items for her personal use. And the lady had answered that she was getting rid of all her supplies. So end of story. But not so for me. My daughter, who claims that I am an idiot, said “just make one yourself”. I told her that I do not have the eye sight for it, nor do I know where one could find the proper supplies for it. I also informed her, that years ago, I bought a Jane Harrop book about the 1930s and 1940s, and sure, she shows how to do things, but I have no way of getting the supplies at all. So nice book to drool over, but it can’t help me practically.

The first thing I did, after buying that book, was going to her page to see what it was about. She had kits, but more for furniture than things like a GASMASK! Now, in my sorrow about the gasmask and box being gone forever, I headed over to Jane Harrop’s site, just to drool over pretty things available to make, for the handy person. And lo and behold: SHE HAS MADE A GASMASK imageKIT! Yes, yes, yes. I could almost have kissed her. I was jumping for joy and ordered it right away. I have never seen Jane Harrop’s kits, but I love her book and I love the fact that she has reasonable postage, contrary to all the other shops, so I will recommend her any day, even if I can never assemble the gasmask kit. But, we are plenty of hands here at home. If I can not do it, maybe someone else can? If nothing else, I guess I have to send it over to my missionary son in England, and have him do it, since he used to paint Warhammer figurines from Lord of the Rings.

So, if I can say one thing today, it is: Hurry slowly when it comes to dollhouse things and having a themed house. You need to do a lot of research to create the real thing. BUT when you see things which are evidently scarce, go for it. If nothing else, sell it on eBay or Etsy, if it does not fit in to your scene. There will always be other happy recipients of the items.

 

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My Friday Book: “The Fourth Reich” by Maria Nygren

imageHave you ever heard of a book, which you just know that you ought to read, but you drag your heels because you know it is not going to be a pleasant read? Yes? No? Sometimes, it is a film, which makes you feel the same way. The book “Fjärde Riket” or “The Fourth Reich” in my own translation, is such a book. I waited purchasing it, till I found it dirt cheap in a shop remodeling, and I still put off reading it. Then, three weeks ago, I felt, time to bite the bullet and started. But it took me over two weeks to read this book, which is bad when you are a fast reader like myself. And why did it take so long? Because it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It gives you nightmares, if you read it before going to bed and it leaves you angry. Some of you will say, wow, then it is a good book, because the author has accomplished what she probably set out to do. Shake the reader around. But yet, I can not agree with this, since there is only one lesson to be learned in this book, and I do not think that the author intended that one. But more about that towards the end of the post.

Because as usual, I have no idea, if this book will ever be translated? It is so clearly Swedish and yet, does not bullying and being an outsider, exist in every country, one way or another? There are so many books translated out there, less worthy of being so, which makes me wonder why this one should not become so. But till then, for all my English readers, here follows a summary. And for you who can battle Swedish, I will tell you when to skip some paragraphs, in order to not spoil the “pleasure”. Like I always do. “Enjoy”:

Blenda Warg’s parents, have just gone through a messy divorce. It has forced Blenda to move to a new town with her mum and 9-year-old brother Bastian, while her father has moved to London, where he has found a new woman. A woman whom has caused his interest in his children, to become lukewarm to say the least. Going to school for the first time in the new town is scary, for Blenda, since her old school only had 100 pupils while this one has 400. Not having unpacked her things yet, Blenda grabs an old unfashionable anorak of her mother’s and heads to school, where she very soon notices that things are not particularly “healthy”. The headmaster is sleazy and weak. He assigns her a big locker, on the most popular row of lockers, in the school, and walks her to class. It is French.

No sooner has she sat down to listen, when Hedvig walks in. She displays her power by interrupting  the French lesson, walking up to her boyfriend Noa, who sits in the very back, and French kissing him, like there is not an entire class and teacher present. Penny, her minion in tow, is asked what is for lunch, by her,  and this starts a chain reaction. Yvonne, the poor teacher, tells Hedvig that she needs to speak in French and that she is trying to hold a lesson. Whereupon Hedvig walks out, Penny next, Noa soon in suit and then the rest of the class. Finally there is only Blenda left and a typically bullied girl, who walks up to comfort the distraught teacher. Blenda is amazed and impressed by Hedvig’s power. But telling Hedvig so, is a big mistake. Now she is on the outside, just like LSD, the bullied girl Lena-Stina Dahl.

In the school canteen, Blenda notices the queen in the middle, right away, and would have loved to have sat down opposite her. But to her surprise, LSD (Lena-Stina Dahl) is invited instead, so that Hedvig can sit and copy off homework, right in front of the teachers who are sitting at the next table. Blenda can not make any sense out of her new school. And why does Noa look at LSD with tenderness in his eyes, but gives Blenda an ice-cold look, as he holds his nose?

Who is LSD? A smart, studious girl, with parents who have no time for her, and with strange ideas that one should not have doors inside the house. LSD has two big secrets. That the family is Jewish and that her grandmother survived the holocaust but the rest of the family did not. And the fact that she constantly thinks about suicide and writes notes every day, which she ends up washing in the wash machine, to get rid of the evidence. What is not a secret, is that she cares about everyone.

Like all bullies, Hedvig has her problems. She is smart, which she does everything to hide. But most of all, her main fight is with blemishes. Big spots all over her face with yellow heads and she spends ALL her time, covering them over with expensive concealer, so noone will ever find out. The concealer is her constant companion and she applies it several times a day, even before leaving her room in the morning, to take a shower.  She is convinced that Noa will throw her over, if he sees one of the spots. Beauty is everything to this girl. But as many overly clever people, she is bored to tears and can’t wait to leave Sweden behind for the exciting world, where things happen. The author gives this as an excuse for everything bad she does.

Her minion Penny, with a Spanish father, has been unhappily in love with Noa, almost since she met him, years earlier. But Hedvig barged in and snapped him away from her.  The one thing she can’t understand about her “friend’s” relationship, is why Hedvig pushes him away, every time he strokes her face. Not even Penny knows that Hedvig is petrified of the concealer coming off and revealing the truth. And then Penny has  been Hedvig’s friend since fifth grade and now they are in their final year, grade nine.

This is almost where the book starts, after giving background information. After  school, Penny and the others hang out at Noa’s band rehearsal. Everyone is drinking, even though it is a Monday and when Noa sits down beside the drunk Penny, she kisses him. Hedvig walking in right at that moment, after checking her concealer, does like all divas do, discards Penny as a friend, on the spot.

Second day of school, starts with history.  But not until Blenda has discovered that Hedvig has stolen her big locker, assigned to her the day before, by the headmaster. Fruitlessly, she tries to take it back. But things get worse. During the history lesson, the religion teacher enters the classroom and wants to know why Hedvig’s and LSD’s papers  are identical. LSD is accused of plagiarism by a so-called witness and noone stands up to her defense, not even herself. No teacher or student dare to stand up to Hedvig. Who gets off of course.

The history teacher has decided that it is going to be a day about democracy and all the students are to divide in to groups and work on a topic, pertaining to either democracy or dictatorship.  At the end of the day, they will present their findings and the winning group, will receive a prize. A copy of the Swedish Law book. Everyone form groups, except Penny, LSD and Blenda. The teacher tells them to be a group and to study how Hitler came to power, the only subjct left. While LSD and Blenda do all the work, Penny sits and watches how all her friends disappear, one by one, from Facebook and Instagram, thanks to her having kissed Noa and Hedvig having decided to dump her as a friend. Her entire world is coming apart.

Their group is the first to present the material they have found. They do alright, but there are two groups who really stand out. Hedvig’s group, which does an appalling job, presenting the US constitution, by reading straight from their papers and the text they have copied verbatim. And Kalle’s group, which puts on a fantastic performance with a guillotine and blood splattering all over, presenting the French Revolution in a theatrical way, with the help of Kalle’s theater group’s props. Blenda is smitten with both Kalle and the group’s presentation. So when Ulf, the teacher asks them all to vote for which group did the best job, Blenda votes for Kalle’s group, thinking everyone else will too. But they all vote for Hedvig’s group, except for three people. A perfect example of democracy not working, when people are afraid!

Hedvig could not care less about the prize though or having won. She feels that noone else deserved it, either. In her opinion, they are all stupid, even Noa. She cares about nothing. She is SO bored. On a computer test posted by Mensa, she tested IQ 133 and was invited to join their group. But she did not bother. In her mobile, she carries the phone number to a heroin dealer. Just in case she feels like using some, one day. The reason she copies all of LSD’s homework, is for the thrill of perhaps getting caught, or not. But when the impressed headmaster announces over the speaker system, that two candidates from their school, will be sent to Brussels, to see how real democracy works, she gets excited. New clothes, new people, in another country than boring Sweden. She must win! But she must show that she is for democracy. But is she really? Everyone, including the headmaster know that it will be Hedvig and Noa going. Because they rule the school. And the next morning they have put up posters all over the school, saying that they must be elected for the trip.

Blenda is in shock. How could people not have voted for Kalle’s group? She goes home, only to find that her mum is not there and Bastian has little boys over, screaming and running around with his beloved airplanes. Her only refuge is the bathroom, and in there she starts reading the books on Hitler, having nothing else to do. By the morning, she has decided that they must get rid of Hedvig, make the queen fall. She walks up to LSD and Penny in school, asking them, if they were the ones voting for Kalle too. Which they of course did. She tells them, what they must do to stop Hedvig’s dictatorship. She asks why Penny should not get to have a single thought of her own? Dress like she wants? And why Hedvig should get to cheat and LSD always getting the blame?

Blenda explains that Hitler was also a  nerd and then he got everyone to follow him. How? He spoke and made everyone want to belong to what he talked about. Now they only need to copy him. LSD, whose family after all died in the concentration camps, is not too eager. But after Blenda assures her that they are not copying his ideas, only the way he said things, LSD is in.

Their first action, is to record a speech about Hedvig cheating, from notes LSD has put together, detailing every time Hedvig has copied off her homework and how when LSD started to say no, Hedvig threatened  with telling everyone that LSD charges for the help. Penny and Blenda manage to sneak in to the custodian’s room and broadcast the speech, recorded on Penny’s mobile,  over the loud-speaker system. But LSD, who sits in the classroom, sees that it has no effect. First Hedvig starts laughing hysterically and then all the classmates are laughing so hard, that they don’t hear a word of the speech. And the headmaster catches Penny and Blenda, on their way back to their classroom. Not only are they scolded  for telling lies and being unfair towards Hedvig, LSD who is the real victim of Hedvig’s cheating, is also brought in and scolded. Like all frightened teachers, the headmaster tells them that it was not alright what they did and if they have problems with their classmates, they should talk to their head teacher. But what is the point? The teachers are afraid of Hedvig, so nothing will happen and all the pupils know that. Which is what they tell the headmaster, in vain.

Discouraged, Blenda goes back to the book on Hitler and reads that he failed his coup as well, since he thought everyone was with him and spoke too strong about things. It led to a prison sentence. He then decided to be part of the game, not go against the rules. After a while he was not regarded as dangerous anymore and was  allowed to speak. Blenda realizes that the recorded message was a mistake. She has to find a new strategy and get her two companions back, who are angry at her for the failure. She spends weeks on studying their every move, to find a way to get them back.

Penny is now being secretly bullied. Hedvig has a boy shove her in the food queue, so she gets sticky yellow pea soup on a white blouse, the next day her bus card goes missing and after gym class, her knickers are gone. LSD on the other hand, is totally ignored. Noone talks to her and they turn away their heads when she walks down the corridor. Blenda can feel the girls’ vexation grow and knows that they will soon belong to her again.

After two weeks, Blenda sticks notes in their lockers, notes which say that she is sorry and that they should meet that evening. Both Penny and LSD initially decide not to go, but over two hours late, they both arrive to hear what Blenda has to say for herself.

She starts working on Penny, saying that she could have been the queen and that is why Hedvig made Penny in to her friend, to pacify her and make her a Hedvig-copy. Blenda has studied Penny closely and knows that she is insecure and wants to be seen, but also wants someone to tell her, who she is. Blenda flatters her and says that Hedvig knows that Penny can take Noa away from her at any time, and that is why she now hates Penny. She says everything Penny has dreamt of hearing. Blenda knows that one must not flatter LSD though, only tell the truth, so she wins her over by telling her the truth, that it is obvious that LSD cares about the world and can change it. Penny backs Blenda up and this makes LSD believe them.

Blenda’s  new plan is to make sure that Hedvig and Noa do not get any votes for going to Brussels and that Kalle from the French Revolution group will be elected instead, with Anja who helped him, in the “play”. But first they need to do, what the Nazis did. Decide on a plan of action, that is, write a party program. Blenda has copied off everything “good” from the text books, she has read about Hitler. LSD, still a little bit uncomfortable about the entire thing, says she is in, if they work against intolerance and Penny says she is in, if they make everyone stop listening to Hedvig. This time the three will not split up, but stand together, no matter what.

We have to find something, which everyone hates, Penny says in an SMS, which all can unite behind. Hitler made the Jews the scapegoat. But what does everyone hate in their school? Orientation! Noone in school wants to go out running in the cold and mud, trying to read a map  they do not understand and finding the check points, that some ill-willed person has removed. Penny suddenly knows what will unite the students and tells everyone in school that there will be no orientation that Friday. But how to stop it? When Blenda gets home, her little brother tells her, how two girls in his class ran in to a flasher, in the forest. Blenda acts right away, phones her mum, who in turn reports it to the police. LSD’s mum is a judge and she contacts the headmaster and the next morning the headmaster announces on the speaker system,  that there will  be no orientation. Everyone look at  Penny, Blenda and LSD in surprise. They did what they promised, while Hedvig does not believe in a flasher at all.

Next step is to give everyone a dream. Penny gets her cousin, who is in advertising, to design a poster of Kalle and Anja, in Andy Warhol style and with a Flash going through their names, like the lock which Blenda has on her locker. Their new symbol. They print out the posters and put them up all over the school. Hedvig is not pleased, not at all, and Kalle and Anja, are embarrassed and perhaps a little bit scared. Their French teacher announces that the replacement activity for the cancelled orientation, is a speech forum. All candidates must tell why they deserve to go to Brussels. She, who is also bullied by Hedvig, is excited that someone else has also entered the competition.

Blenda announces to the others, that they are going to make the school love team Anja-Kalle, without the two having to give a speech. LSD and Penny are not excited at all about it, since they do not want to give a speech, so Blenda offers to do it on her own. She will speak, and this was her plan from the beginning. She studies Hitler on YouTube, when he speaks to youths, saying that they are the future, that there is no difference between them, that noone is better than the next. She sees how he pauses after each sentence, to let the audience think about what he has just said. Blenda tries to do the same thing even though it feels unnatural.

When the day arrives, Blenda is ready. She stands with Penny and LSD beside her and points out that they are at a good school since the pupils have high grades, but it is only good, because other schools are worse. With words not directly attacking Hedvig, she tells the audience that they have to dare to do their own thing, each and everyone,  without seeking approval. That their value does not sit in the clothes nor what friends or others think about them. She tells them that they have to get rid of racism, bullying,  hard words and everything which is ruining the school and that they are only strong, together. “We have to stop those who believe they are better and who think they can decide over the rest of us. We are all worth the same and our differences can make the school better”.  Then she moves over to another tactic, pointing out individual people, like the girl Rania, who is all for environment and Greenpeace, and Ebba who is an artist, and who also happens to be Hedvigs new minion. And at the end of the speech, she says that Kalle and Anja were the first who gave the idea, by their way of being and doing things. “Why?”, asks the school clown Ernesto. Blenda’s reply is quick. “Because Kalle dares to be just who he is, because he knows he is special. He wears ill-fitting trousers today, hand me downs, but noone dares to say anything to him about it, because they know he would not care.” Teachers applaud and the headmaster is delighted, at her speech. A new wind is blowing.

But Hedvig is not delighted. She is trying to fight back and her first port of call, is the headmaster. She must find dirt on Blenda. She tells him that Blenda is bullying her, by having taken her best friend away from her. The headmaster does not listen to her like he usually does, but tells her that they are in a sensitive age, that friends come and go, and that he has been there like everybody else have. She wants him to contact Blenda’s old school, to dig up dirt on her, since Blenda is creating chaos according to Hedvig, but he just answers that this is not possible and that chaos usually creates change, which can be for the better. Angry, she leaves the school and decides to hurt Penny via Noa.

The next day, is wonderful for all three girls. They get congratulations from teachers and pupils alike. Till it is time for Penny to go to her locker, in another corridor, than the other girls’, and the boys who always brag about who has the worse grades among them and who drink beer during recess, attacks Penny by said locker. Hedvig has spread around the school, that Penny made a pass at her, that she is lesbian, and now is sleeping with Blenda. That this is why Penny, no longer is her friend. When Blenda comes to her rescue, the boys attack Blenda and two of them, Ozzy and Robin, start dragging her towards the boys’ toilets, to rape her, cheered by all the others. The headmaster suddenly appears out of the blue and while Blenda could have turned the boys in, she tells him, that they just told her how much they appreciated the speech. The headmaster declares to the boys, that so did he. Guess where Hedvig was, during all this? Secretly watching all of it!

LSD takes the girls with her home and there they discuss what Hedvig’s weaknesses are. Penny and LSD say that she has none, and that is why people worship her. But on closer look, LSD has noticed that she is obsessed with concealer, that she applies layers of it on her face, several times a day. What they do not know of course, is that Hedvig is covered in spots with yellow heads and is convinced that Noa would throw her over if he knew. He is not allowed to ever touch her face, not even when they have sex. But they start discussing that one uses concealer to conceal something!

The next day, after gym class, Penny steals Hedvig’s make up bag, while the latter is showering. She finds two bottles of Clinique Advanced Concealer, and hides the entire bag, above the toilet ceiling. Blenda on the other hand, is showering opposite Hedvig and puts an entire shampoo bottle’s content in her own hair, while she notices that Hedvig showers very carefully, so the water will not touch her face. Suddenly Blenda screams that she has shampoo in her eyes, which is true, and she increases the water pressure, so that the water gets all over Hedvig’s face. All the concealer runs off and Hedvig runs out with her hands covering her face. Ebba is there though to help her, but when Blenda screams that she can’t see and Ebba sees her flaming red eyes, she helps Blenda instead of Hedvig, rinsing the red eyes.

LSD who arrives at this moment, is there to witness how Hedvig stands wiping her face and to see all the new spots filled with puss, as well as all the scars from the old ones. Hedvig searches for her make up bag and LSD realizes what has happened and is angry, that once again, Blenda and Penny excluded her from their plans. The first one being, when they saw to that she did not come with them to the custodian’s room, for the broadcast. They knew both times, that she would not approve of their plans, because she is a good person. When Penny appears in front of Hedvig and snaps one photo after the next with her mobile, LSD realizes why she was excluded. This is truly horrible, in her opinion. Penny disappears while the rest of the girls sees the queen fall. Hedvig runs out and while LSD feels sorry for her, she also knows that this was necessary. When Hedvig has left, laughter breaks out, laughter which has been held back out of fear, for years. When they see Blenda, they ask what has happened to her, and she says that she got shampoo in her eyes and accidentally got water on Hedvig. It dawns on them all, that this was a deliberate thing and that they now have a new leader, to be scared of, who will stop at nothing.

Blenda walks in to the school canteen that day and sits down at Hedvig’s table, on the queen’s chair. And Penny, who has posted Hedvig’s photos to be seen by all of cyber space, sits down on Noa’s chair. After lunch they go to the headmaster to talk to him about ordering paint for the lockers and are surprised to learn that not only has he already done so, but he has also talked to the art teachers. Hedvig’s minion Ebba, will be in charge of the project, where everyone paints their own lockers, just like Blenda suggested in her speech. On her way to Penny’s, after school, Blenda encounters Ernesto, the school clown, who objected to Kalle being sent to Brussels. He asks her if she is the leader now. Blenda informs him that they are all to decide from now on, but he feels lost, just like the people in Russia did after the communist fall. Blenda suggests that he thinks of something he likes to do and then he must go and suggest it to the teachers. He does not believe they will listen, but she assures him that they will.

Everyone in school is feeling well actually. They know that Blenda will back them up, if they come with own initiatives. The paint project is started and the teachers are amazed, since noone abuses anything, but let their imagination loose. Rania gets to start a compost, after the police arrests the flasher, and Kalle and Anja happily get involved building it. Penny’s parents fight and are getting a divorce, which is something that has to be kept a secret, from her Spanish Catholic grandparents coming for a visit. But she is happy anyway, because Hedvig has not been back to school. The seventh graders have started to dress the way they want to, in Manga clothes, in baggy clothes, in anything they have always dreamt of wearing in school. Some have even have put on anoraks, like the one Blenda wears, and little by little, Penny is becoming a Blenda copy, unbeknownst to herself.

Ozzy, the bad boy, comes to talk to Blenda. He tells her that everything about Penny’s accused homosexuality etc. was Hedvig’s orders and he says that he knows he is an idiot. She tells him that if he behaves like an idiot, then only idiots want to be around him. That maybe he should try to be something else. That she has been just like him, but that she decided to change. She knows that she has a bond with him now, he is an ally, because she said just what he wanted her to say. And from now on, he and his friend Robin, become her body guards. They have taken it upon themselves to keep an eye out for bullying and then reporting to her.

But things are going to turn from good to bad. One day in the canteen, Blenda goes to stand behind Kalle in the food queue, just to be close to him. In the canteen, Nettan works with serving the food, but she has a problem. She stinks. Really, really bad body odour, especially from under the arms. The two of them make fun over how bad she smells, while waiting for food. Out of the blue she asks Kalle out to the cinema, and he says that he will think about it. But Blenda knows that he will not, unless she does something which will make him like her. So she decides to have students sign a petition, that Nettan in the canteen, has to do something about her hygiene. She takes it to the headmaster, together with Penny, and after reading the law to him, he promises to do something about it. He confronts Nettan, who reacts in a bad way and storms in to the classroom of Blenda and her classmates’, having political science. When none of them defend her, she hands in her notice.

After school the headmaster wants to talk to Hedvig. He feels that things have gone too far and is willing to work with her. He has contacted Blenda’s previous school and found out that she has a difficult time adjusting to school rules. Hedvig feels that he must talk to the other teachers, but he does not tell her what they have already told him. That they were sick and tired of Hedvig ruling the school, that they are impressed with the new atmosphere at the school, where everyone is being nice to each other, and that they despise him running Hedvig’s errands. Hedvig suggests that he contact her parents. She does not tell him, that she knows everything about Blenda, that she is obsessed with her.

Ernst phones Blenda’s home and leaves a message on the answering machine. Bastian, her little brother, has listened to it when she gets home from school and is upset. But she distracts him and asks him why his friend Olle has not been to visit for weeks on end. He starts crying, because he had loaned a much-loved toy plane to Olle, and now Olle says that he gave it to him, refusing to give it back. Blenda wants to erase the message from the headmaster, but Bastian will not let her. She has promised to get his plane back, but now she says she will only do so, if he lets her erase the message. He lets her, but his trust in her is gone, she has hurt his feelings and the bond between sister and brother. Not something which she planned at all, but she must cover her back.  That evening, Ozzy delivers the plane to her. She sent him a message, he contacted Olle’s older brother and frightened him in to getting the plane for him. As a thank you, Ozzy and Robin want permission from Blenda, to do something, which she wants no further knowledge of. In other words, it is out of her control and she has no clue what this something is.

The next day in school, Hedvig has decided to find out what Blenda’s next move is. She goes in to the library and when the librarian leaves her desk, she goes up to see what Blenda has been reading, where she is getting her inspiration. On the way out, she decides to vote on herself and put the voting slip in the voting box, which the headmaster has hung on the wall. But before she gets that far, Ozzy and Robin drag her off to the boys’ toilets. Robin stands outside guarding, while Ozzy cuts off parts of Hedvig’s long beautiful hair with a shaver. He reminds her of them being in first grade together and when he asked if he could play with her. She answered him that why would she want to play with someone like him. She had made sure that he did not get any friends for eight years. In the middle of the shaving, Kalle bursts in to the scene and rescues her, but all she has to say, is that Blenda was behind all of it. She does not accept that she has built up all sorts of resentment in people for years, and that Blenda has just given everyone permission to stand up to her.

If you are Swedish and wants to read the book, this might be a good place to stop reading and jump to the sixth paragraph from the end!

Hedvig has been defeated, the compost is built, the lockers painted, and a nice smelling young woman has taken Nettan’s place in the canteen. But in the empty room that is left, now when all improvements have been made, people have started to feel fear. They do not want to anger Blenda, LSD or Penny, nor do they want to get in to trouble with Ozzy and Robin. Blenda is shocked at what Ozzy did. He had told her that he was going to get a little revenge, but Blenda feels that this went too far. She feels that she must come up with some new great idea, before more bad things start happening. Hitler got in to power, but when he had achieved all the “good” things, he started a war and killing Jews. This is sort of where Blenda and Hitler have to part ways, because while Blenda loves the limelight, she really does not want things to turn bad.

Penny also knows that things are going wrong. She feels guilty over what happened to Hedvig and she is horrified to see that she herself, has become a copy of Blenda. The evening when she does this discovery, she tries to find herself, her own movements, her own way of talking. While doing this, her dream comes true. Noa rings her door bell, enters and tells her that he and Hedvig has broken up, it being a mutual decision. But when he caresses Penny, she knows that he does this, because he is scared that he will be the next person, who will get hurt. When he tries to kiss her, she pushes him away and promises him that nothing bad will happen to him. He asks her to not say anything to LSD and finally she realizes, that he is in love with the girl who spreads love to everyone around her, love and care. Why did she not understand his looks before? He confesses that he has been in love with LSD for a while.

The next day in school Kalle tears down the posters of him and Anja and tells Blenda that he blames her for what happened to Hedvig, that he will never ever go out with Blenda and that he refuses to go to Brussels, if he wins the election. LSD feels uncomfortable about everything which has happened and looses it, when Ebba drags a screaming girl, named Bella, up to her, to report a thing which Bella has done. She has written with a magic marker on someone else’s locker. And it is a suicide message. LSD who always writes suicide notes and then puts them in the washing machine, but has not done so, since they started their campaign against Hedvig, screams at Bella and wonders why she did not just write on a paper instead and tells her to clean the locker. LSD is shocked though, at herself having changed. And is upset how she treated Bella. She goes to a meeting, where Penny questions Blenda being the leader, instead of listening to how Blenda thinks that Kalle should still be their candidate, it being the day before the election. Blenda gets angry and threatens Penny with telling Penny’s grandmother, that her parents are getting a divorce after adultery. LSD refuses to take sides, but Penny has decided to get away from Blenda, as soon as she can, and tells LSD in secret, that she has never really liked Blenda.

LSD gets back to her locker, where she finds a suicide note from Bella. Bella who got Borrelia the year before, during the orientation day in the forest. The medication she was put on, killed all good bacteria in her mouth, so that she got really bad stench coming out of her mouth. She got terribly bullied for it. LSD searches all over for Bella and finds her behind a locked toilet door, that she forces open. Bella has cut herself but confesses that she does this all the time and LSD tells her to not do that anymore, that both of them must stop having suicide thoughts. She then goes to talk to Penny. They must stop Blenda with the help of Hedvig, Noa and Kalle. She also shows Penny a photo her mother has shown her since she was a little girl:

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The girls have decided that they must not become cold heartless people like Blenda is, who cares for noone. That they have to be like the man in the photo, stand up and say no the her.

But the book takes another ugly twist here. Hedvig has spent all her time doing research, on the White Rose and resistance in Hitler Germany. She tells Noa, Kalle, LSD and Penny,  that Blenda has got sucked in to her own power and will try to get rid of everyone she sees as her enemy. Penny and everyone else seems to forget, that if they get rid of Blenda, they will have Hedvig back, full force. She is now in charge of everything, when it comes to the revenge. Penny tells her that Blenda wanted a picture made with Ernst and Hedvig in a compromising situation. Hedvig tells Penny to phone her cousin, who made the election posters, and have it done, because Blenda will use the photo for sure. Hedvig is not yet 15, so the headmaster can go down for pedophilia.

When Blenda has put up all the torn down posters again at school, she returns home to write a speech for the election day. One which will say what she wants to do next. But when she arrives home, the headmaster is there and her mother crying in the bathroom. He leaves, saying that it is for the best. ? Right then, the arranged photo of Ernst in bed with Hedvig, arrives on her phone and she shows it to her mother, telling her that the headmaster is in love with Hedvig.

When LSD arrives home, her parents are in her room, holding the information papers Blenda gave her, when she wanted to explain what they had to do, to make the queen disappear. Her mother is livid, since her family was gassed in the Holocaust. But she tells LSD that the parents have been on the phones all evening and they are taking over from now on. And taking over they do. All of them standing outside the school building in the morning, when Blenda arrives. They hound her down like bloodthirsty dogs. That is when Penny steps in and speaks to all the parents. She says that it is easy to blame Blenda for everything, but that the school is equally to blame, which looks through its fingers and do not see everything that is wrong. How it is all about being accepted or not. And that this was going on long before Blenda arrived. All the parents leave, after their children has gone in to their classes. There will be no public hanging that day nor will there be any election results.

How does the book end? Blenda is being packed off to London and a new school. Even though her dad does not want her there.  Kalle and Hedvig become a couple, since he was in love with her all along and LSD and Noa, also become a couple. But Hedvig has not learned any lesson. She offers LSD to copy off all her assignments and when LSD declines, she says that she can help her with her homework at least.

Good book? No. Not really. It feels like a cheap copy of something which has already been done one way or another, in Hollywood. My daughter thinks it sounds like “Mean Girls”. Perhaps not, but in the same way, yes. That and “The Wave” experiment.

One of my major complaints about the book, is that a lot does not make sense. Part of the reason it took me so long to get through it, was that I had a difficult time to follow the reasoning. How Hitler’s ideas would work at a Swedish high school and how his way of doing things, could be done in that school. It was very far-fetched.

The main characters fell pretty flat as well. After reading the book, you still do not understand who they were and why they did what they did. Was Noa brainless? Did he have Hedvig for a girlfriend because he was scared that she otherwise would hurt him? What does that say about the most handsome boy in the school? And since when does the handsome popular boy fall for the scholar? It does not happen in real life! Sorry, been there, seen that! That is just one example. Another thing which does not make any sense is the spot problem and concealer which is such a BIG part of the book and the reason why Hedvig falls from her throne. Being a woman, who has dealt with spots, black heads and puss all my teenage years and beyond, I do know there is no way to hide them. If nothing else, all the bumps would have been seen in Hedvig’s face, because you can’t hide volcanoes. Concealer does not make a bumpy surface level and the heads of spots work themselves through it via their grease.

What really disgust me with the book and the end, is the fact that Blenda really becomes the scapegoat for everything. She gets punished, while all the rest get off. Even though they created Blenda. Because she was new to the school, she dared to do what noone else had dared to do for years. Stand up to Hedvig. And is it strange that she grabbed a method, which had proven successful, to get rid of Hedvig? As they say, power corrupts. And it corrupted Blenda, but in the same way, she had no control over what happened after all the good things came about. She and the others were only 15 years old and you are not ready for hero-worship at that age. Like Penny said, the school had for so long been corrupt, that when release came about, noone knew how to handle it. People moved their hero-worship over to Blenda, from Hedvig, because that was the only thing they knew how to do. Follow a leader. But all the injured parties, the ones who had really suffered by Hedvig’s atrocious rule, could not tame their thirst for revenge. Hedvig really asked for her secret to be revealed and she really asked for her hair to be shaved. She had hurt Penny and Ozzy terribly, but they were not the only ones.

The thing which makes this book so “horrible”, is the fact that this sort of thing can happen at most schools in Sweden. And probably in other countries too. As soon as you have a scared headmaster, who is a poor leader, things will happen straight under his nose and nothing will be done about it. The teachers who might  have been able to stand up and stop things, get their hands tied behind their backs, when working for such a person. Because he does not want the boat rocked. He will surround himself with teachers who will be like himself, scared. And when grown ups do not take charge, then people like Hedvig will do so and make school a hell for all students. Not just for the bullied ones. No child or teenager wants to be forced to dress in a certain way, to fear disapproval from the in crowd, noone wants to become the bullied one and noone wants to think about every word passing their lips being judged, to see if it is a correct one.

After reading this book, I only have one question for the author. Does she want to say with her book, that Hedvig’s methods were better than Blenda’s, just because they were not based on Hitler’s way of doing things? Because that is the only way I can interpret the book, at the end. I do not see that Hedvig has learned any lesson at all. Her minions came back to her, asking for her help, not trusting in themselves at all. She is no better than Blenda at all. She was fully prepared to play the same kind of game as Blenda was. And that should be a lesson to be learned. That all teachers must be on the lookout for things like this in their schools. That you can not have any student thinking she or he is better than the others. Because then everyone has to be protected against that person. If grown ups are not brave enough to stand up and do the right thing, like during the Nazi era, children for sure are not. When a child and a teenager, all that matters are friends and not being left out. You don’t want to stand out as being different because then you will be bullied. And there is nothing worse than being bullied. It breaks you down totally and you never truly heal from it. NEVER.

 

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