On 22 October the Society held the customary Pea Soup and Pancakes evening.
This year we met at Söderberg’s cafe at the Quartermile in Edinburgh where Åsa had arranged a lovely and traditional meal in the very pleasant surroundings of the Pavilion.
When we had enjoyed our food and a good chat, we listened to a talk by our longstanding member, Birgitta Sugden. Her talk was called “My Jämtland”. She described how, around 20 years ago, she and David, her husband, had bought an old farm deep in the hill country. They had done it up with great skill and taste, and visit it in both summer and winter. Britta showed beautiful pictures of the farm, the landscape and the life they lived there, a sample of which are shown below.
A couple of years ago a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in sailing across the Atlantic. He is an experienced sailor and I had previously been on his boat, so he knew my distinct lack of sailing capabilities.
I said “yesssss” and in February 2017 went on a weekend keel boat sailing course on the Forth. “What is a keelboat?” I hear you ask. “It is a yacht without a kettle” or indeed any cons, whether mod or not.
That soaking experience did not put me off, though I heard nothing more about it until much later, last year, when he said that his plans had changed and he was now aiming for New Zealand.
His brother had died from an allergic reaction to mammalian blood from a tick bite on Mull and his fiancée, unbeknown to both, was pregnant and she returned home to New Zealand, hence this final goal.
Richard sensed my reluctance and said there would be shorter passages, so I signed up for the West of Scotland and Shetland with an option to go to Norway and then down to see my sister in Sweden.
Richard’s father had been a renowned Viking scholar and lived in Sweden and Richard’s son currently live there as well, so lots of Swedish roots.
The sailing was astounding! Great weather, tremendous crew and lovely food – in addition to skippering, Richard was also the chef. There were also lots of wildlife including otters, sea eagles, seals, dolphins and porpoises and even a minke whale that swam under and around the boat!
Under Richard’s watchful eye I skippered ‘Equinox’ past Ardnamurchan Point and got her up to her highest speed until then! This entitles me to pop a sprig of heather on any boat I now go on!
Eventually we got to Stornoway and once there, I had to go and ask the coast guard a question. Their office was abuzz about the sole Swedish female sailor who had had to be towed into harbour earlier that day.
Coincidentally we were berthed opposite ‘Caprice’ and her sailor/owner Emma from Gothenburg. Emma tells her story far better than I can in her blog: SAILING ALONE ON S/Y CAPRICE, press the link to read it in her own words.
In short, Emma sailed from Gothenburg across the Atlantic on to Brazil. She had intended to go further south to the Falklands, though her boyfriend suggested she possibly return as her engine broke down.
The engine could not be fixed in St Helena, so she then set sail all the way up and round St Kilda, until she almost ran aground on the Butt of Lewis.
Caprice was towed in and astonishingly two of her parent’s friends were berthed in Stornoway and they fed Emma up. She had been living on pulses for weeks and was down to virtually no food.
Richard suggested she would pop on board Equinox and I was tasked with making that most English of teatime foods – cucumber sandwiches! I’ve never made them before but they passed the test.
The following day we caught the evening tide and towed Caprice out of Stornoway into, what is usually, the windy waters of the Minch. Not quite flat calm, although close to, but just enough wind for Emma to be underway under her own. Still, I think it took 12 days to get back to Sweden thanks to the very unusual weather patterns.
Many members of the Society came to vote in person at the Edinburgh polling station on the first or second of September. They will have seen some familiar faces behind the desk as the Society’s committee had been asked to help with the arrangements. How did this all come about?
We were first approached several months ago with a request for volunteers as the Edinburgh pollingstation was not going to be managed by the Consulate. We were pleased to help out, and it was not difficult to find people glad to work alongside Anna Brodin who came up from the Embassy as their
official representative. We then had to study an extensive manual and work through a demanding on-line training system. At the end of it we emerged knowing more than we had imagined there was to know about the operation of the Swedish electoral system, the forms to be filled in and the reference numbers to check. Not to mention the detail of who can vote in which of the three levels of election taking place. One or two voters came up with problems we had still not foreseen, but we managed, with expert help from Anna, and we hope people felt their encounter was as it should be.
This note is being written before the outcome of the election is known – the voting in Edinburgh took place a week ahead of the election day in Sweden to allow time to get voting papers back to the right place. A few points struck us very strongly. The sheer number of voters coming along was much higher than we had expected, so it was just as well we had plenty of voting slips. In the last election around 85 people voted in person in Edinburgh. This time it was nearer 250, nearly three times as many. Many electors said they felt it was a particularly important election and they had to make the effort to cast their vote. Some had travelled a long way to do so, including one woman whose train had been delayed and phoned to say she was anxious she might be too late. She just managed it!
We also noticed how many young people were among the voters and quite a number said they were voting for the first time. We imagine that many of the longer-established Scottish Swedes vote by post, but the numbers of young voters was nevertheless very heartening.
For those more accustomed to the British voting system, it was also notable how the Swedish system makes great efforts to ensure that everyone who is theoretically eligible to vote is indeed able to do so. That requires quite a complicated system behind the scenes, but it seems to work with admirable efficiency.
Helping at the polling station was an interesting and rewarding way to spend the weekend. However the election turns out, it was something to which we were all pleased to contribute. For the Society, it was good that we were able to demonstrate our role as a focal point for the Swedish community in this new way.
One of the more recent additions to the Swedish calendar is the “Cinnamon Bun Day ” which is celebrated on 4th October. The theme day is the brain-child of Kaeth Gardestedt (seen in the picture below to the right with Carina on the left) to bring attention to Sweden’s long tradition of baking sticky cinnamon buns.
Kaeth loves baking and has written a wonderful children’s book called: “Kalle Bagare får en ide” about the man that “invented” the kanelbulle. The book is published by SOLEKA förlag, Malmö.
This article was originally published in the Scottish Swedish Society’s Newletter Autumn 2015.