Friday 29 June 2012

Gøteborg Sweden and the tale of two sons

Gothenburg in the 1790s

I have been revisiting  Gothenburg in Sweden.  I go several 
times a year and am always charmed by its wide boulevards, 
green-banked canals, busy river, lovely shops and 
relaxed pavement cafes.

On this occasion I was  struck by the tragic fate of two 
 sons who were born into wealthy Swedish families.

A short drive from the city, in Mølndal, lies Gunnebo.

While staying in Gothenburg  in the summer of 
1795, Mary Wollstonecraft was taken on a day-trip to visit 
the newly built country house of Gunnebo. It was the dream 
project of Scottish born John Hall who was, by the late 
18th century,  one of the richest merchants in Sweden.

Mary Wollstonecraft, however, failed to be impressed by 
Gunnebo. She disliked the pretentiousness of the French and 
Italian-styled wooden building and the 
classical formality of the grounds.     

Nevertheless, Gunnebo was very much admired by 
Gothenburg society and it became the jewel in the crown of 
John Hall's empire.

When John Hall died, in 1802 this empire, including 
Gunnebo, passed to his only son whose every whim had 
been indulged since childhood by a doting father.  
John Hall the younger had no head for business and 
only three years later the family firm was declared 

I first saw Gunnebo two hundred years after 
Mary Wollstonecraft's  visit and unlike her, I was 
enchanted by the house and the gardens.  Like a sleeping 
beauty, Gunnebo has been rescued from years of neglect 
and today it is possible to take a tour of the house; wander 
freely in the grounds and admire the immaculate kitchen 


Raoul Wallenberg was born into one of Sweden's 
wealthiest families.  While working in the Swedish 
Diplomatic Mission in Nazi occupied Budapest he issued 
protective Swedish passports to Jews,  saving thousands of 
Jewish lives.
However, in 1945, he was captured and  imprisoned by 
Soviet forces. 

This monument, in the grounds of Haga Church, 
Gothenburg is a photo-based work in bronze and graphic 
concrete by artist Charlotte Gyllenhammar.
It is a very moving memorial to the man and his 

2012 is the centenary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg. 
However, his fate still remains a mystery.

As for John Hall the younger: he died in 1830, a broken 
man. Having lost his fortune, his wife divorced him and
 he ended his days as a ragged tramp on the streets of 


Sunday 13 May 2012

"A Ghastly Parody of Spring"

May began with such promise but then came snow, wind, frost 
and rain.  So, we had returned to our winter woollies, but today, 
the wind has chased away the rainstorm clouds and we 
have dusted-off the garden furniture and taken it out of 
winter storage in the outbuilding. 

 We have been told that, during the war, a cow was kept here.  
The climbing hydrangea on the east wall is just coming into leaf and the magpies are foraging for those special finishing touches for the enormous nest they are building in the pear tree.

Torrential rains have made it impossible to mow the grass and the lawns have grown into wild meadows with drifts of tiny mauve, pinky flowers which, I'm sure, any cow would consider a delicacy.   I don't know what they are but these wild flowers, (some might call them weeds), are now prettily decorating the whole house.

My geraniums have survived a long, cold winter in the Doll House cellars and now deserve plenty of sunshine and heat.

However, the evenings are so cold that we still crave the warmth from the wood-burning stove in the chill of dusk.

I found this decanter in a second-hand shop: it beckoned me from a distant shelf where it stood, forlornly ignored by  the many "treasure seekers". It is stamped with the mark of the Bergdal Glass Studio and on closer examination, is etched with the signature of Mats Theselius who designed this for Swedish Glass in the 1990s. So, I decided it deserved this little silver Danish wine label.

The very spindly blue glass  candlestick was made by Wedgwood and considering the thinness of the stem, it is a miracle that it still survives.  It's twin, sadly didn't. 

So, while "rough winds do shake the darling buds of May" I sit toasting my toes in front of the fire,  reflecting on

May 2012 - "A ghastly parody of spring"


Tuesday 3 April 2012

Spring outside Spring inside

The exuberance of the birds in springtime is contagious.  I 
cannot remember  a March when the dawn chorus has 
heralded such sublime days.  

The woods are only a few steps from The Doll House.  Here,
it is possible to walk for miles, skirting the banks of the 
man-made dams and the small lakes that are strung together 
like a string of pearlsNow, in spring, shafts of  sunlight 
 illuminate the brown carpeted forest floor and beyond lies 
the glittering ice blue water.

In the garden, even while the last snow-pile melted away like 
the foam on a cappuccino,  the snow drops gathered with 
demurely bowed crowns.  Then, the crocuses brashly 
popped-up in both expected and unexpected places. 

Now, in April, Arctic air has chilled the euphoric feeling of 
spring  and even the birdsong has lost its rapture 
but the hardy snowdrops and crocuses are 
blooming valiantly in the 
wintery sunshine.

So, it seems that Easter promises evenings in front of the fire 
as we find comfort in chocolate.  

My thanks to Mariette
of Mariettes Back to Basics
for her Blog Award
 Thank you Mariette
I am truly honoured.

Happy Easter

Saturday 31 March 2012

 Gremlins have been tinkering with The Doll House, impishly moving things around.  Texts and pictures disappeared and just as mysteriously, reappeared in haphazard  places. When it no longer seemed possible to hold the nuts and bolts in place and a crash seemed inevitable I was ready to bail out.  However, patience has its rewards and I am back online.


Monday 16 January 2012

Back on the white track

If I were to colour the month of January, 
it would have to be white,

even though some of you might argue that 
white is not a colour at all. 

I do not, however, spend January striving for the ascetic
life.  On the contrary, I cultivate life's little pleasures to
celebrate the whiteness of this, most melancholy of months.  
 A snow-like sprinkling of powdered sugar, a snowdrift
of tiramisu or the winter-white chocolate on the 
Ferrero mountainside.

Sometimes, the relentlessness of the white
January sky might feel oppressive.
Then, a certain slant of light
pierces the chandelier crystals projecting
ghost-like rainbows on the walls.

Or, a special visitor drops by.  This deer came 
to my garden on a cold, cold day and for a few
moments, out eyes met.

Now and again, there are some real surprises too.

Photo; Trine Sirnes

For instance, finding Trinny and Susannah, unexpectedly,
here in The Old Town.


Tuesday 20 December 2011

Scents of the Season

Advent: a time of waiting, and in The Doll House 
a time of watching and waiting for the 
hyacinth and amaryllis 
bulbs to grow.

 Then, to wake one morning and find the whole house 
perfumed with the sweet and slightly spicy scent of 
hyacinth is one of  December's greatest pleasures. 

So, for me, the perfect Advent flowers are  
the very red, attention-seeking amaryllis and 
the glossy, starry-white hyacinth.

The dark, sweet and rich aroma of 
baking gingerbread biscuits wafts out of the kitchen.  
Pepper is included in the Norwegian version and 
they are actually called pepperkaker.  
They taste their best with a glass of wonderfully
aromatic gløgg which is hot, spiced wine.

Indeed, I cannot think of a more appropriate 
way to toast the season and send my best
wishes: here's hoping you have a
magical time. 

Special thanks to 
Rose H (Uk) at secondhandrose 
for nominating The Doll House for Liebster Blog award
and to
Annie at Moving on
for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award
I am truly honoured.

God Jul

Wednesday 2 November 2011

"Rage, rage against the dying light"

The close of October plunges us into a darker season of the year and already now, as November dawns, the darkness creeps up on us in the afternoons.  Many of the trees and bushes in the garden softly succumb to the autumn and slowly, almost imperceptibly,  the foliage disperses,  reducing them to mere skeletal forms.  Not so, the hedge that borders our garden.

It does not go gently,
but rages against the failing season.  
The leaves blaze with a short, furious intensity until suddenly they have gone: dropped to the ground where they lie like embers after the inferno is extinguished.

I was just in time to gather some leaves, then,

 pressed them to use as decorations and to sprinkle on  the autumn table

where angelic white chocolate cherubs rest atop voluptuous   chocolate cup cakes.


Monday 12 September 2011

Shortening days

Little by little 
the hanging basket and flowerpot displays outside 
have drowned or are giving-up on the lost summer.

So, once again, the indoors beckons
with flowers and candles.

A little rose made of concrete 
reminds me of  June roses.
I love these Scandinavian minimalist candle holders 
called Kivi,
designed by Heikki Orvola  
and made at the Finnish glass works Iittala.  

Crowns give me a fairytale feeling:
there's almost something 
theatrical about them.

I haven't decided what to do with this heavy, iron
so, it is just resting a while here.


Friday 2 September 2011

Some September blues and whites

"Feeling Blue" is what we might say when we are in low spirits, sad or feeling melancholic: the blue devils, as George Coleman called them in his farce of 1798.

The colour blue, on the other hand, is cool and calm and often associated with inspiration and purity.  It is my favourite colour to have around the house.

 So, when I found this sweet little sauce tureen at a market last week, I had to have it.

It is complete with saucer and cover and has no chips or cracks, although, I suspect that it may have started life with a small matching ladle.
It has the look of Victorian transfer-printed wares but I think it is less than 50 years old.

It will give the gravy a little more distinction on the dinner table.


Tuesday 16 August 2011

Droplets of ruby red

We love strawberries, raspberries and even blueberries but there are no fanfares for the black and redcurrant season which   slips by very quietly.  So, today, I hope to make a case in defence of the redcurrant.

The redcurrant bush is very willing and fairly undemanding and in return for a modest-sized place to grow it will deliver a huge crop of ruby red berries at this time of year.

Little strings of glowing red berries hang in cascades beneath the leaves: ornaments ripe to be gathered.

The fruit is not naturally sweet like the strawberry or raspberry, so, it's a good idea to sprinkle with sugar and leave for a while before serving.  This sharp, slightly crunchy fruit is a  perfect summer dessert served with a cold, pouring vanilla custard. 

with panacotta or a custard cream

Redcurrant Juice 

Sweetened redcurrant juice makes a wonderful summer cordial.

It's so light and fruity and really refreshing, served ice-cold.

with something sweet:

just a mouthful of meringue;
why not melt gelatine leaves into warm, sweetened juice.  Set it aside in the fridge and wait for a perfect wobbly jelly.

Make redcurrant jelly preserve.

It is luminous and luscious: 

 tangy and sweet at the same time. 
It adds a zing to breakfast on the terrace.

Happy redcurrant days