I am writing this from Sweden on the eve of our return to Panama and Almazul. For the past 6 months we have been on land, and here follows a brief summary. Upon leaving Costa Rica we hot footed the 200 odd nautical miles back to Panama, rounding the notorious Punta Mala safely. An enduring thunderstorm accompanied us and we were pleased NOT to be struck by the lightning that hit the water some metres behind us. During the calm after the storm we saw a whale spouting in the near distance, and several glimpses of it moving through the water. Suitably gobsmacked, we spent the next hour in a state of child like rapture, excitedly squinting into the distance and pointing out any semblance of a whale like illusion to one another.
On arrival in Panama we hastily decommissioned the boat and there she stands, awaiting our return. Meanwhile, we travelled home. In Melbourne in the spring we welcomed Baby Beau and took great delight in little Nate as he mosied around home in his gumboots, “driving” the tractor, collecting wood in the wheelbarrow, feeding the horses, and pointing out diggers and buses when the oppourtunity arose. I relished every moment of being with my family. The weather was on the chilly side and the lazy days of cycling and long lunches were few and far between, but I guess I have to earn a living sometime! Working, visiting family, friends, and the farms kept us busy, Christmas came and went, and soon enough it was time to join Magnus in Sweden to prepare to return to Almazul. Magnus passed the autumn and winter pleasantly in Sweden after a stint in Oz; with Christmas spent cosily gathering with family and friends and doing traditional things like decorating the much loved Christmas tree, affectionately known as “Färgis”, doing jigsaw puzzles, cooking festive food, and making the most of winter activities. I came to the northern climes in January – my first winter here, and I very much enjoyed the winter sports and cosy evenings. Darkness at 3 is disorienting, but I’m getting used to the quirks of my second home! The biggest achievement during our time off the boat was Magnus teaching me to ski!! Well, a little bit, anyway. While both loving and loathing the challenges that learning new physical skills in middle age bring, I always appreciate the enthusiastic encouragement of others my age, for whom skiing is like walking.
- Being outside in -10 degrees! Jeepers creepers these Swedes are tough!
- Skating on the lake. An absolute delight. I think I enjoyed watching the rest of the town gliding effortlessly, elegantly past as much as I enjoyed taking my own jerky baby strides.
- Cross country skiing, after a fashion!
- Frisbee golf. Don’t laugh, it’s actually a thing, and really quite fun!
- Baby Beau being born. He is a happy, smiley 4 month old now…. I smile (and often get a lump in my throat) just thinking about him.
- Delighting in our gorgeous little dynamo Nate, and having lots of time with my daughters and the rest of the family. Nate is nearly 2, and when I am afar he talks non stop on video chat, carrying the phone around enthusiastically showing me things, almost giving me vertigo! But it makes me feel close in spirit, and gives me a chance to catch up on his ever expanding vocabulary.
- Visiting Bon in her new home in QLD. These daughters grow up!
- Normal working and family life, in Oz and Sweden. Being away makes one appreciate the day to day warmth and workings of life at home.
- Skating across the lake to take a fika. It still blows my mind.
- New Year’s Eve in Sweden. An absolutely delightful evening, curated by 3 talented men. Many thanks to Blomman, Hans, and Magnus) See “Food and Bevvy Highlights”
- A weekend in Röbäcksnäs in the middle of Sweden, staying in the beautiful mountain cottage of our neighbors Anna and Janne, enjoying a real winter. Some cross country skiing, cosy nights, sauna, and good food made for a magical weekend. Tusen tack to A and J.
- A wonderful tour of Sweden’s premier equestrian facility, where instructor education and the country’s largest equestrian events take place. We walked part of the cross country course among century old oaks; and were struck by the majesty of the Strömsholm Castle in the background all of the competition areas. Walking through large warm stable blocks dating back hundreds of years, and walking into a beautiful indoor arena from the 1800s was unforgettable. Stömsholm originally housed military horses and the exacting standards to which the facilities were built and maintained remain Our personal tour was planned and executed by the inimitable dynamic duo Anki and Janne – tusen tack till er. 😍
- Many dinners with entertaining companions, both family and friends, with plenty of good food, good spirits, learning and laughing. The “Tinder Swindler” was a new topic of dinner conversation for me!
- Visiting all of Magnus’ children at their homes.
- A fun 60th Birthday celebration. Ander’s family really know how to throw a party! With a theme of “What am I doing here/How did I get here…?” it was fun even before we arrived! Many people were dressed as if they should be somewhere else, (afterski, work, etc) and Magnus and I were in the wrong era; me from the stone age, and Magnus a little more up to date in a toga. (Which incidentally was left at the party- hard to understand but true!)
- Not breaking any bones during the initiation to snow sports. Tick.
- The dreaded but necessary LDR, for many months. Obligatory but still not fun.
- Leaving families. Ditto.
- Learning to ski and skate. Learning any brand new physical skill in middle age requires a healthy dose of getting over oneself, and absolutely zero pride or embarrassment about being a certified wobbly, scared, uncoordinated beginner – far worse than any nearby three year old. (Who, by the way, zoom past at breakneck speed, displaying a finesse unbefitting for their age!) When dear Anna, a wonderful woman of my age, knelt down in the snow to help me get my ski boots clipped into the skis, I felt an unfamiliar discomfort, being completely helpless and extremely grateful at the same time.
I would like to make a SPECIAL SHOUT OUT to thank Sten and Marianne, who hosted us generously; including serving us lunch on our last day of mad packing, and driving us to catch the airport bus. Thanks for your kindness and thoughtfulness. 😊
FOOD AND BEVVY HIGHLIGHTS (AND LOWLIGHTS…😒)
- NYE Dinner, prepared by three very clever men in our kitchen. We started with beetroot with blue cheese, baked and topped with walnuts, followed by a main course of eye fillet with green pepper sauce, potato wedges and asparagus, followed by home made apple pies and vanilla sauce. The evening was perfect, with incredible food, nice wine, sparkling company, and plenty of laughs, especially when Magnus brought out the odd liqueurs he has collected over time, including a Chinese spirit that smelled like dirty feet, and tasted worse! Again, special thanks must go to Blomman, Hans, and Magnus for planning the menu and preparing a fine dinner.
- Homemade Swedish meatballs with a creamy mushroom sauce.
- A really tasty vegetarian Chillie con Carne (Chillie sin Carne) prepared by Anna.
- A traditional meal including a particularly fine ox filet with parsley sauce, in a historic little restaurant in the snow, in a warm setting of candles, wood, and sheepskin.
- WAFFLES! Eaten in a building from the 1700s, in the snow, after skiing 7 km, with 4 ahead of us. The dim but cosy candle lit interior of this sturdy log cabin was heated by a combustion stove, with long tables with sheepskin on the bench seats to save one’s bottom from freezing. Fellow skiers spoke quietly, busy with refuelling.
- A traditional Jägermeister and beer combo, apparently popular amongst snow lovers. This was presented to us by our host Janne, and followed by a sauna. It felt far from home for me, but when in Rome…
- Magnus’ lasagne. An oldie but a goodie.
- LOWLIGHT – my Negroni Trifle. It was a new recipe I tried a couple of times at home at Christmas, with reasonable success. I assumed that the more often I made it, the better it would be. But this was not the case, in fact it got worse each time I prepared it and served it to guests. I had to give up in the end, after really mucking up with gelatine. Who would imagine that at 54, one would be really wishing for a packet of good old orange aeroplane jelly!?
- A most enjoyable “husmanskost” meal prepared by Alex and Annika. It began with a spice crusted roast pork, potatoes,and salad, followed by homemade salted caramel apple pie and sweet whiskey cream. Mmmm!
- Boat work has comprised of ordering many, many, boat parts and accessories. These included a sewing machine, an oar, a drill and accessories, to mention a few. Now to get them into the luggage…
THE SWEDISH STUDENT
This is a small new section, helpfully suggested by Magnus’ daughter Cecilia as a little challenge to help develop my Swedish vocabulary somewhat. I hope to write a couple of sentences each month. So here goes nothing.
“Livet var inte menat att vara lätt.” Det är ett citat från en australisk premiärminister – och det stämmer med att jag lär mig svenska språket. För några år sedan tänkte jag “det här måste göra ont nu eller för alltid” när jag inte kunde förstå eller säga vad jag menade. Tyvärr gör det fortfarande ont! Så i år kommer jag att försöka hårdare att lära mig, och det här är en liten del av min studie.
Så…. hejdå för nu. 😊