Monthly Archives: June 2012

Old

When we arrived at the start of the holiday I found that my great grandparents had had a fall. Not as bad as it sounds. The only thing broken was the glass covering the photo. And perhaps a little at the corners of the frame.

Great grandparents' picture frame

But then, that frame must be in the region of 125 years old. Give or take. It has my permission to fall, and to break the glass and for the wood to look a bit iffy.

Great grandparents' picture frame, tape

Great grandparents' picture frame

It was only as Daughter set about giving it some first aid that she realised the tape she was pulling off the back was 19th century tape. As for me I was intrigued to note that the photographer’s studio was situated on the same street corner in Gothenburg where I used to work. (Not that I worked on the street corner..!)

Odd that they fell down just now. I’d mentioned them while discussing the family tree with Eldest Cousin. Maybe they heard me and were scandalised that I shared certain information with her. She, in turn, was more than surprised to find I knew which year our grandmother – their daughter – was born. I just know these things. (1880, since you didn’t ask.)

I got the staple gun out and while Daughter held tight, I shot modern staples through the ancient wood. We decided to make do without new glass, so Daughter assembled the the layers and put new string on (since it was the old string that broke and made them fall in the first place) and hung them back on the wall, above their son-in-law’s bureau.

Great grandparents' picture

They look as good as new, for such old people. (Their age is one fact I don’t know, but I’m guessing around 1850.)

NCIS beginnings and ends – Yankee White

I’m doing a beginning-to-end survey of NCIS. It’s a tough job, but someone has to sacrifice their summer for such a worthy project. One summer isn’t long enough to watch every single episode while we wait for season ten, and since I had some issues with the ending of season nine, it seemed like a good idea to go back to old endings and see how they connect with their subsequent beginnings.

But first we need to deal with Yankee White, the 40 minutes that began my new life as a nerd. OK, there were the JAG episodes, but they almost don’t count.

It is all down to Donald Bellisario, whose writing of the first seasons is second to none and which made NCIS what it is. There may have been problems later, and maybe things weren’t perfect, but you can’t fault the writing.

Gibbs

There is much that makes Yankee White stand out. Although looking back, you see the discrepancy of Fornell and Gibbs meeting for the first time. But that’s OK. Also, Gibbs is not as Gibbsy as he became soon after. Nor is Abby fully formed. But the then Director is great, and DiNozzo is likeable. And Ducky is more assertive.

You can’t help but love a plot set on Air Force One, with a pretty passable George W Bush. Perhaps someone really should have thrown themselves in front of the President’s diet. The Secret Service come across less well than you’d expect, although that could have been intentional, I suppose.

Some shows need a few episodes to prove themselves. NCIS was loveable from the word go.

Yankee White - Kate, Ducky and Gibbs

I’m still loving it, but they will need to pause and think about what they are doing. It doesn’t have to be Bellisario writing, but it does need to be someone else good. Changing backgrounds as happened with Gibbs and Fornell is also OK. But someone writing for season ten needs to know what happened in season five.

(Photos © CBS)

6th June 2012

That was the wrinkliest shirt I’ve ever seen a policeman wear. Not that I go round checking police shirts, you understand. But once I’d clocked the two police officers listening to the music in Varberg’s Societetspark along with the rest of us, I noticed the shirt which had surely been washed and left to dry all bundled up in the cupboard and then worn with no thought (?) for looks.

Varberg balloons

Varberg seems to do this 6th June celebrating properly. We only joined the feast towards the end, totally unintentionally. It was yours truly’s birthday, which will be why we were heading to GP Cousin’s home for his birthday party, four days early.

After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes made for me by Dodo and Son, we travelled north. We stopped en route for a late salmon lunch at Laxbutiken in Heberg. (Both we and the salmon were late, although not the same kind of late.) Offspring and Dodo decided to leave the 40 kinds of ice cream for some cold refreshments further north.

Blue dream car, Varberg

It was not easy parking in Varberg on this National Day, but we managed. How come the drivers of special vehicles always seem to get good parking spaces without trying? One pleasure of being in Varberg on a sunny summer’s day (and what a surprise that was!) is checking out all the American cars cruising town.

The biker flying a flag to celebrate my day was also appreciated.

Patriotic biker in Varberg

Societetsparken, Varberg

We walked round the castle, decided the ice cream queue was too long, and then sat in the park, enjoying the tail end of the festivities, listening to a girl band. They were good, but we have no name for them.

Girl band, Varberg 6th June

We had some extra fun getting lost in this small town I’ve visited every summer for 56 years. Trying to drive the wrong way in a one way street was part of the fun. But we eventually got to GP Cousin’s party, after testing the Resident IT Consultant’s talent for turning the car round in tight spaces.

Ate even more food and cake and chatted to relatives, including the rarely encountered cousin of cousin. Finished by driving home along the old coast road, seeing as it was still daylight. Great day, just the way a 6th of June should be.

The decline and fall of a smultronställe

As Son said, ‘what café owner in their right mind decides to close for the day at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, just as the customers are arriving in droves?’ We knew the answer to that, because it was the place where we were having tea and cake. Partly by cunning and partly by luck we had arrived at 3.30.

Smultronställe is the Swedish for that very special place, somewhere you love and keep returning to. The café mentioned above is not it. But it was.

Let me tell you about Göstas. As long as I can remember, this seaside café with a marvellous view of the beach and the rocks and the water, had been run by the man we called Gösta. Not his real name. He’s a bit of a charmer, rather in the style of a good British pub landlord, perhaps. But the kind of charmer who bakes all his own bread and cakes, serving it with a smile, and still has time to hand out vinegar for children who have been stung by a wasp, or to tell a mildly funny story.

Originally the place consisted of old garden furniture in the grounds of a former glassworks, with a small covered corner, in case of rain. But you can always eat ice cream or drink coffee in the rain, can’t you? We never sat indoors. Gradually Gösta improved on the buildings and bought new furniture and opened a sweetshop on the side, but he still had time for the jokes and his herb garden.

The homemade cake and the made to order sandwiches and the waffles with cream were joined by a couple of ‘proper’ lunch dishes. If the weather was fine, or it was summer, he was open for business. He employed staff to help in high season, but on a sunny weekend in spring or autumn he’d be there looking after things by himself, in case someone turned up.

And of course people turned up. Who wouldn’t want good food, friendly service and a great view? People travelling past would stop, and ‘gangs’ of bikers regularly called in. You’d go for a swim in the sea, and then warm up with coffee, or reward yourself with ice cream. Village troubadour Alf Hambe used it as his local ‘pub.’ You could recognise half the customers at any given time. When we’d arrive in late May, he’d greet us, saying the English had come, so summer must be on its way.

It was really hard not to call in every other day. It was lovely. If it was busy Offspring would help by putting trays away. Gösta ran music evenings in the summer. Sometimes with pretty big names. Sometimes he sang himself. You get the picture.

Then, something happened. We weren’t there, but I believe he got carried away and broke Swedish restaurant rules by selling wine from an outside table, or something, not using a proper cash till. Something like that. Nothing dreadful. Just not following strict rules.

And that was it, in this orderly country. It took about a season to break him. The next summer his family tried to run it as best they could. But they had other things to do, and they weren’t him. And they couldn’t bake.

The summer after that, someone else was renting the premises. It wasn’t the same. Each year it got a little posher and less café-like. Cake nowhere near as good, or generous, and costing a lot more. Staff who were polite, but distant.

I forget how many years it’s been now. Maybe six or seven. The name changed. Two years ago I went for a recce on my own, and worked out you could still have the waffles, and  if the sun was out, it could be ‘quite nice’ still. Last year there were no waffles on the menu, so I asked if that meant they had none. ‘Yes it does!’ the woman replied happily, hammering another nail or two into the coffin of this wonderful café.

Now the old name is back, and the website suggests this is the same lovely establishment it always was. It is now primarily a restaurant with coffee and cake, where before it was a café with a few hot meals. Expensive dinners and plasticky cake. Tea made with lukewarm water and coffee served from a flask.

From a design point of view it’s perfect in almost every way. (Not the ice cream bench covered in nettles, however.) Beautiful furniture, inside and out, pretty plates and candles in the toilets. Well turned out staff.

The icecream bench

We went yesterday, thinking it could be nice to sit out with tea and look at the view. The view was still good, but there wasn’t a soul sitting outside (might be because they have blocked the convenient door going out?) until we stepped out. The customers (including a dozen bikers with long memories) who arrived with barely any time to spare before closing, joined us outside. Those who were too late had to turn round and leave. And it was only four on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

We did enjoy the view, but that was all. Maybe we’ll be back next year. For the view and for the memories. Not for the culinary experience. And we will have no difficulty not going every other day.

In retrospect I’m glad we went far too frequently while we still could. At least we have the memories. Gösta’s tosca cake was to die for. But it’s probably the man himself we miss the most.

NCIS – Enemy on the Hill

DNA isn’t everything, as Gibbs says in episode four of season nine. He’s right. It’s a lot of things, but not all. (For instance, I watched this episode again during an evening when I had actively chosen not to go to a DNA-related weekend with people I don’t know so well, despite sharing their DNA. It doesn’t prove anything, but it’s worth thinking about what matters.)

Seven months ago I had opinions on this episode. Now that I’m equipped with hindsight, or at least the knowledge of what happened (or rather, didn’t happen) in the rest of season nine, I know I was right. We needed more on Abby and her unknown brother. And this past winter was when we needed it.

Abby with puppy

Pauley Perrette did a very good job of the shaken Abby and all the strange thoughts that go with the discovery on who she is, or had hitherto thought she was. It looked like a thread that might be continued later. Maybe it was intended as such. Why go to such lengths to find a well matched actor for the brother if not?

They were wrong if they decided to leave it, and they were wrong even if they are intending to get back to it in season ten. It can continue, but needed feeding once more this season.

It’s not very likely that Abby was adopted, if we are to believe the back story she has been given up till now. I really don’t believe deaf parents would have been allowed to adopt in those days. But assuming it happened, there is a lot the scriptwriters could do with this story. In fact, it might even have prevented them from going crazy with Dr Ryan.

This was a typical example of their meaningless ‘capers’ which is coupled with important stuff happening to the little NCIS family. I just don’t understand why they thought it up in the first place, only to ignore it immediately after. Compare this with when Agent Lee died. Gibbs wore a plaster in the next episode, even if they didn’t keep alluding to Lee. You could tell something had happened, and it was remembered in the details for a week or two.

Abby and Gibbs

The ending of Enemy on the Hill is a strong one. And they wasted it.

(Photos © CBS)