Category Archives: Church

Lucia’s name is Lina

Back in 1991 I didn’t know I’d need it so much. After all, I’d been away from Sweden at Christmas, and Lucia, for years. And my nearest Swedish church was a seamen’s church, and what do those burly sailors know about beautiful singing in long white gowns? Well, we went anyway, and as the singing carried up the stairs in the church in Liverpool, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was so beautiful. And they weren’t sailors at all, of course. They were the children of Swedes in exile plus some students.

It was the same feeling I got yesterday as we sat around enjoying our morning coffee at CultureWitch Towers. Singing, coming from outside, possibly up the stairs. I don’t know. I’ve not been to the church in London. In a year when so much has had to be given up, here we were, with a real Lucia, filmed in an empty church, with all the necessary physical distancing in place. It was beautiful.

Lucia and her ten attendants sang most of the most beautiful, traditional songs, with only one unknown medley. For Oh, Holy Night they were joined by the church’s youth leader, who has a very good voice on him. There was a short greeting from the Ambassador and a blessing from the minister. And that was it. Short and sweet.

On a personal note, I was relieved to see that even this Lucia had a slightly lopsided crown of candles. I thought it was just Daughter, 15 years ago. But they are heavy things, those crowns. With live candles. The Resident IT Consultant asked where the people with the wet towels and the buckets of water were, and we decided they presumably hid behind the camera. He was on bucket guard more than once in the seamen’s church.

Later in the evening I watched Swedish television’s Lucia offering, filmed in Jukkasjärvi. It was beautiful too, in a different way. Very cold, judging by the breaths coming from Lucia and her many attendants. They were out of doors in the darkness of morning. There were reindeer. Behind the cellist sitting in the woods.

I had to look the place up. You can tell from the name that it’s in the far north, but how far? More or less next to Kiruna. Very beautiful, and very dark. And those teenagers sang so beautifully. They looked less slim than you’d expect, until you realise that they were wearing thick white coats, and mittens.

Both these Lucia events were wonderful. For the exile in me, the London one was better. I crave recognition, by which I mean I need to hear the same old songs again. The Jukkasjärvi selection consisted of mostly new [to me] songs.

Both the Lucias were called Lina.

And the cellist, with the reindeer behind him, looked very much like he was straight out of a Danish crime series. But with colder fingers.

We met by Picasso

It felt like something straight out of a Gyllene Tider song. I did wait by Picasso, and we were indeed in the same small town Per Gessle sings about in Småstad. That’s because singer Lena Andersson and I grew up in the same small town as Per, and my suggestion that Lena and I should meet by Picasso was more a matter of practicality, than me being clever. It’s a big statue, there are seats to sit on (I am old) and it’s across the street from the church café that I felt might be a good place for some ‘fika.’

And had it not been for my plumber who phoned me on my mobile to ask where to send his invoice, then the local radio station would have lost its star turn for the day. Lena is back in Sweden this summer to stage a come-back, and she has been interviewed by everyone, everywere. During two months she will have covered great parts of the country and she will have sung in lots of places and been interviewed in many more.

So while I was spelling my address out to the plumber, Lena got her phone out and looked at text messages – as you do – and discovered that she needed to get her skates on to get to an almost forgotten about live radio interview on time. In fact, she couldn’t make it to the original venue (her parents’ balcony), so quickly switched to a nearby park, as she’d cycled into town.

Luckily we had drunk our tea and coffee, and eaten.., well, never mind what we’d eaten, and chatted about being foreigners where we live and about coming ‘home’ and whether our husbands are tidy men when left on their own. (No comment.)

I had forgotten to ask Lena if she could bring a copy of her new CD Open Your Heart when we met, but luckily she did anyway, and I’m listening to it as I write this. (I’ll tell you more about that later.) Her voice hasn’t changed much from the days of gospel singing over the skipping rope in the late 1960s. Neither has she, which is nice.

Halmstad Library, Lena Andersson on the radio

Lena – how she lives now

You know how it is. The girl who lived down the road and who sang the most beautiful songs as you skipped rope together is discovered and becomes a star almost overnight. Your lives go in different directions, and forty years later one of you (that would be me) thinks it’d be good to interview the other one (Lena Andersson, or Lena Hubbard as she is today), to find out what she did after stardom.

Lena Hubbard

Lena always had a fantastic voice, so it was more circumstance – like the birth of ABBA – than any lack of talent that had her career fade away some years later. But I’m never sure if teen fame is a good thing, so it might have been for the best.

Ten years ago Lena married Tobe Hubbard and moved to America with him. And a couple of years ago we met up again, online, and I had my idea of interviewing her. She rarely travels to Sweden these days, and I travel to the US even more rarely, so an email interview was inevitable. But it’s OK; we have our shared skipping background.

This is mainly about her present life. We – some of us, anyway – know about her famous past. It’s interesting to find out what Lena does now.

(For good measure I interviewed Lena twice. Once for each language, so here are two interviews for the price of one! English. Swedish.)

Posh coffee?

Mrs Pendolino likes coffee at Harvey Nicks. Until very recently I’d never set foot in the place. I didn’t even feel tempted, because it doesn’t sound like my kind of place. But then, the last time she mentioned it I thought that maybe it was worth a try.

So Daughter and I braved the doorman (where was his tall hat?), who like many doormen these days was neither terribly polite nor terribly helpful. Maybe he could tell we weren’t Harvey Nicks material. We found the café without his assistance. Although it wasn’t terribly clear which bit we wanted, so I asked again. That member of staff wasn’t helpful either.

Consistency is always good.

We chose the first small café-like area and went in. Wooo..! I thought I’d fall down. That’s some view they have there, and that’s not a positive remark! Floor to ceiling windows with a close up view of Manchester Cathedral. The Cathedral is fine, especially if you want to be face-to-face with its clockface. It’s the drop down to street level I have an issue with.

As soon as we could we changed to a table as far away from the window as possible. It helped. Marginally.

It would have helped even more if they believed in chair legs that support you. You know those white flimsy plastic chairs you get in pavement cafés all over the world? Well, HN café had the posh designer equivalent of those. Hence the wobble. Maybe if you are Mrs Beckham the chair would feel really steady, but I doubt it.

Anyway, Mrs Pendolino likes the table service. OK, it is nice not having to carry one’s cup on a tray, but it wasn’t that special. The hot chocolate was apparently of the powder variety. Or it tasted as though it was. My Earl Grey was actually very nice indeed, and no sneering at my choice of milk with it. Plentiful milk, which was even better. Not a full two cups of tea out of the pot, however. And the cupcakes had seen better days.

We won’t be going back, and no doubt they wouldn’t be terribly keen to have us back either (if anyone reads this). But it was an experience.

My next tray at M&S will seem nicer than ever, so that’s good. I suppose.

And the news today…

Royal wedding

Royal wedding

Royal wedding

Royal wedding

Royal wedding

Royal wedding

Royal wedding

I’d be silly to avoid mentioning something I ended up sitting in front of the television for. As I was awake, it seemed to make sense to sit and rest and watch. It’s a Bank Holiday after all. Saw some of the foreign royals, but not Crown Princess Victoria, unfortunately. Was reminded of a good royal romance when I caught sight of Harald and Sonja of Norway.

Am glad I wasn’t invited. The apparent requirement for females to have something other than just hair on their heads is not for me. But whatever I’d have done, had I been there, it would have been more sensible, not to say more flattering, than what Beatrice and Eugenie got up to. You inherit certain things from your parents, and ‘dress sense’ seems to be the one for them.

The bridesmaids were cute. So were the two little nutcrackers. (That was Daughter’s term for the boys. And she’s right.) Philippa Middleton’s dress was to die for, always assuming you have the figure for it. Her sister Kate’s dress was also good… Men have it easy, with uniforms and top hats and stuff. Tails.

Less easy to fiddle with rings that stick on fingers and getting your gloves back on when outside again.

Not having been to many weddings, I’ve never been one for shedding tears, but it was quite a moment. I liked the music, too. Not stuffy as per normal. Angelic singing. From the choir, not so much the congregation.

Was a little worried that the carriage for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh would collapse under them. Not that they are heavy; more that the carriage looked delicate. And tilting dangerously.

The sight of Harry and bridesmaids and nutcracker in their carriage made me think of Doctor Who. I think Harry would be a good replacement, should Matt Smith want to retire.

Wonder what the Middletons and the Cornwalls found to chat about in their carriage? I can think of easier combinations of people. And speaking of the father of the groom, I think he forgot about the ‘forsaking all others’ which was mentioned early on in the proceedings.

It’s sweet that after eight years together, the new Duke of Cambridge blushes when kissing his wife in public. Must be something he’s not used to. Having a wife.

Royal wedding

(All photos borrowed from the BBC and the Guardian. Thank you.)

You’ve got male voice choir

It’s the coincidence-ness of the iPod I like. As I began reading the article in G2 about the decline of Welsh male choirs (it’s not cool enough, and they expect you to come and practise twice a week…) my ear caught the song shuffling forward on the iPod next to me.

For the duration of the two pages I was accompanied by the Treorchy male choir, singing Unwaith Eto’n Nghymru Annwyl, which I’m not even going to begin trying to say. Pretty tune, though. Here it is, sung by Richard Griffith, all alone, because I couldn’t find a choir version on YouTube.

And then I went looking for a nice video clip with the Treorchy men themselves, and after a lot of them faffing about on television shows with Tom Jones and others, I decided that this one is much Welsher than the rest put together. And it’s Myfanwy, which I can almost pronounce.

I hope the Welsh choir tradition will be rejuvenated and that young boys will find a reason to turn up and sing. Maybe if I tell them the girls like it? (Girls do, don’t they?) It sends shivers up and down my spine, and it’s a fairly normal sort of spine.

Go on. Sing!

From Cutline to Coraline – no thanks

You know the Other Mother, the one with button eyes? Scary. You wouldn’t want to wake up and find your mother had changed like that. And you don’t really want to sit at your computer, blogging merrily away, totally awake, to find that you now have an Other Blog Theme. Nightmare stuff.

So were they thinking of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, those lovely people at WordPress, when they named the ‘other’ Cutline ‘lookalike’ theme? Sounds similar enough to Cutline, doesn’t it? And there is the clone idea from Coraline.

Without warning, too, or as near without warning as they could. One admin post on the homepage on Thursday to say that on Monday it would be all change. And one admin post on the day, when the switch had already been made. In other words, one weekend to make changes and to prepare. In prime holiday time. The very same weekend all the WordPress support staff went away, to make life a little more exciting for us bloggers.

I feel like Arthur Dent. How was I supposed to know it was going to happen? And like that? Even the bulldozers were gone when I went to look for something to lie down in front of.

Should really have seen this coming. There had been several witchy premonition types of comments made and chats with innocent bystanders, and I should have known that the world as I knew it was about to end.

It seems – as I have gleaned from other aghast bloggers – that Chris Pearson’s Cutline design (the best I’ve seen!) was pulled because of business politics. It’s not as if it was outdated, or anything. ‘Just’ hurt feelings in the design world. I especially loved the font and the numbers. Those numbers..!

At this point you are all peering like mad at the blog and wondering what’s got into me, because you, who are not this blog’s mother, can’t tell the difference. But it’s a cuckoo in the nest. It’s not my baby. Really it’s not. Just like the Other Mother wasn’t Coraline’s mother.

I didn’t sleep much on Monday night. There was too much haemorrhaging to go to bed. OK, if they’d ‘only’ changed themes, however inadvisedly. But they changed what you see, and hid things and published private facts from my dashboard. Reorganised some things alphabetically, except they didn’t even get that totally right.

I have four blogs. Luckily they didn’t all change simultaneously, so I could salvage some stuff from the other blogs. They also didn’t change the same things on the four blogs, so clearly it was not a planned thing at all. The church blog lost most of its sidebar information and then had an added feature of flickr photos. Except they weren’t mine. And they weren’t suitable for a church blog.

Photowitch – bless her – picked this very day to have a photo of Neil Gaiman. And simply writing my blog post here appears to have triggered some WordPress instinct to self destruct.

So, to get back to my earlier posts on Bookwitch about change. No, I don’t want change. If I do, I’ll change properly, by myself. None of this cloned cuckoo stuff.

Solstorm

We’ve been getting used to seeing Krister (Wallander) Henriksson and Jakob (Johan Falk) Eklund and Mikael (Beck and every other film) Persbrandt in almost everything recently.

Izabella Scorupco and Mikael Persbrandt

We’re not used to seeing Persbrandt as a religious fanatic. Nor Krister Henriksson, who always looks quite sweet. They were teamed up with James Bond-lady Izabella Scorupco and her far-too-serious solicitor boss Jakob Eklund, and then transported to Kiruna.

While watching Solstorm, the film based on Åsa Larsson’s crime novel, Daughter decided she might not move to Kiruna after all. The town looked nice enough, albeit small and too far from anywhere, but when you take the religious shenanigans and the murders into account, then it doesn’t matter that it’s also close to the European Space Agency.

Kiruna

Izabella Scorupco returns ‘home’ to help her best friend whose brother, and her own former boyfriend, has been murdered. It gets pretty nasty, as it all centres on the small but powerful church where the victim was a minister. And which just about everyone else has ties to, in some way or other.

As Daughter kept pointing out; why didn’t they just ask the children? They knew.

Interestingly different, and very pregnant, police detective. And scary Persbrandt. For a change.

The morning after the film we just happened across a copy of the book in the charity shop in town. Didn’t buy it.

A Serious Man

‘No Jews were harmed in the making of this motion picture’ it says on the penultimate page of the 38 page press release. Are they quite sure? There was an awful lot of quietly dreadful stuff happening in A Serious Man, the latest film by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Apart from the ‘quietly dreadful’ it’s a rather sweet and lovely film, albeit somewhat weird. Although neither Jewish nor American, I felt strangely at home anyway. I feel 38 pages of information about a film is slightly on the long side, but it did help explain how they came by a residential area looking as new as it should have done in 1967, when the film is set. Storm damage, apparently. I’d been worried they’d cut down all the mature trees.

A Serious Man 2

The setting is almost too perfect and ‘authentic’, says I who have never set foot in the US. That’s the thing, really, with period pieces. They are too clean and too period. And it had better not have been the CCR Cosmo’s Factory they referred to.

What’s refreshing is using actors who are more or less unknown. We may feel we know them, but we don’t, really. It goes to show that we don’t need to be constantly forcefed Hollywood stars.

So, it’s about this poor middle aged man, who thinks life is fine and normal, and suddenly it’s anything but. Physics professor Larry Gopnik has a wife who wants to divorce him – as long as it’s a ‘gett’ kind of divorce – and a brother who’s a nuisance, a pot-smoking son just pre-Bar Mitzvah, and a daughter who washes her hair rather frequently. There is also his superior who will decide on giving Larry tenure. Or not. A blackmailing student, who gets the Physics, but not the Maths. Television aerials.

A Serious Man 1

More rabbis than you can shake a stick at, and who can’t advise poor Larry very well, and a surprisingly kind divorce lawyer. One sexy neighbour and one gun wielding one, who mows the lawn in a worrying manner. And, a beginning to the film which makes almost no sense whatsoever, except it’s quite fun and enjoyable. Let that be a warning.

On at Cornerhouse from Friday.

(Photos © Focus Features)

Fog follows fireworks?

Once I’d convinced myself that it was a squirrel pecking on my bedroom window, I got up and drew the curtains, to find fog, but no squirrel. (It was a bird in the attic, so I was close.) ‘Fog’, I thought. ‘Yes, of course, it’s the 6th of November. Has to be foggy.’

The Resident IT Consultant was banging and chasing the poor bird, which meant he obviously wasn’t out buying the morning paper, so I settled down with a magazine and my Weetabix. The first page I turned to had the whole story of the fog at Lützen on November 6th, 1632, when King Gustav Adolf of Sweden died on the battlefields in the Thirty Years War. Witchy, or what?

So, maybe fog is formed in the aftermath of lots of gunpowder? We certainly had a surplus of gunpowder in the air the night before the morning of the non-squirrel. Bet Lützen had lots of gunpowder, too.

The magazine went on to show a picture of the Gustav Adolf pastry which Gothenburgers eat on November 6th. The people of neighbouring Borås also eat pastries, as both towns were founded by good old Gustav Adolf. He wasn’t that old, actually. Only 38 when he died in the fog. And he was the father of Greta Garbo, so to speak, since she played his daughter Queen Kristina in the film.

Gustav Adolf church Liverpool, by Kristoffer Morén

This brings us neatly to church. My church, the Gustav Adolf church in Liverpool. In a few weeks’ time we will celebrate 125 years of worship at Gustav Adolf, which could soon come to an end. I’ve blogged about this before, but it seems that things are suddenly worse than we thought. Again. The ‘powers’ in Uppsala still believe they have the right to sell the church and kick us out.

That’s despite Liverpool City Council telling them that they can’t. And even if they are allowed to, who would buy a church in the current climate? It must remain a church, because it’s listed. Before, it seemed as if all that Uppsala wanted was to make money. Now they can’t possibly expect to make anything much from a sale, so I’ll have to assume they simply want us out. We are a thorn in their Christian sides.

Fittingly, the church has just started a blog to cover the story of our possible future. Let’s hope we have one.

(Photo by Kristoffer Morén)