Monthly Archives: September 2010
AUTUMN EVENING(with bits borrowed from A. A. Milne – and from W. Shakespeare, who was borrowed from in turn)
Where are we going? We don’t quite know.
Down to the lake where the pike swim slow –
Up to the hill where the birch-leaves blow,
What does it matter where people go?
I know a place where the wild lingons grow,
Bright red berries like jewelled orbs a-glow;
Quite overgrown with pale chanterelles,
With sweet-smelling pine and nodding harebells.
If you were a star, and twinkled up there,
You’d rise with the moon in the purest air,
And you’d see us down in the meadow and say:
“Wasn’t life awfully fun today?”
Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
But I’ll dream of the woods where the moose roam slow,
In the crisp, cold north where the white swans go,
Of Floda – är toppen – awaiting the snow.
The joys of living simply are espoused often these days, from cookery shows created by people who seem to find far more time in their lives than you, to the annuls of The Idler and the slightly irritating tales of pop stars now living off the land (and possibly a healthy savings account).
Time (and money) might be in shorter supply for most of us that for such preachers of the good life, but it’s hard to argue with their message. Since arriving at Floda 31 I’ve spend a considerable part of my day either shopping or foraging for food, and/or preparing it, and I’ve rarely felt more relaxed or smugly satisfied.
Baking bread at Floda is currently a lengthy process. First, the old stove must be lit to raise the room temperature to the comfortable coziness that the people who write instructions on the packets of instant yeast were imaging when they used the word “rumstemp” – not that of an uninsulated summer house in northern Sweden in late September. And this being a stove with a little furnace, it must be replenished with scraps of wood on a regular basis – though on a building site in the middle of a forest, there’s no need to look far.
After the kitchen has warmed up, water must be boiled and added to the (very) cold water from the tap; there is still no hot water on tap here. Soon come. Then the usual steps – add water to the yeast, then the Ekologiskt Trekornsbrödmix. No need to faffing about with weights and measures when the bread mixes here are so good. Knead the bread, leave it to rise. Add a bit more flour because it seems a little runny – and leave it to rise. Knead it some more, shape it into loaves, and balance it precariously on baking trays on top of the electric stove, because, sitting next to the wood-fired stove as it does, it happens to be in the warmest spot of the room, where it needs to be to rise some more. Keep remembering to stoke the other stove, and do the dishes as they get used; cold water doesn’t work so well once dirty pots dry out.
Just around the time when the loaves are ready to go into the electric oven (the old stove doesn’t seem to get hot enough; nobody can figure out how to get the dial past “2”, or even what “2” signifies in temperature terms), the power goes. We were forewarned; some maintenance job by the power company. But we had forgotten. So the stove-top coffee goes on the old stove; milk for the coffee gets heated on the old stove; and soup is decided on for lunch, as it can be made on the old stove. Time to start chopping vegetables.
In the end, the power comes back on before the soup is finished, the bread goes in the oven and comes out all warm and wonderful, and by three the builders and the designers are all sitting around the table for a late lunch, with the chef – moi – feeling that glow of smug satisfaction.
Soon – hopefully very soon, since the snow will be here in six weeks or so – Floda 31 will have a snug, insulated kitchen, with hot water on tap and a stove that you switch on with the flick of a switch. Being a housewife on holiday is one thing; it’s easy to imagine that spending the better part of every day cooking would get tedious fairly fast. But even with all modcons, Floda will provide that old-fashioned something which is so hard to find at home – time. When was the last time you spent enough hours at home to knead, and let rise, and knead, and let rise, and knead, and let rise? Or had more than half an hour to prepare lunch?
I’m no Nigella. Being a housewife at home doesn’t appeal, at least not on a regular basis. But at Floda, where I have the time, it becomes a relaxing activity, not a chore. And besides, it’s not like I’m tied to the kitchen by my second-hand apron strings. After lunch, there’s plastering to be done.
Here is one way (*) of getting to Floda 31:
- take the tube to the airport;
- fly to Stockholm Arlanda, and talk to an earnest young financier about global risk insurance;
- get the night train from Arlanda C, right in Sky City (which is disappointingly just the airport eating hub and neither filled with eagle-winged men nor hoverships). Maybe there will be teenage boys in vests playing cards into the small hours on your train, too;
- at 4.09 in the am, get out under the stars at Sundvall, and sit in the waiting room for one hour and eleven minutes, in the company of three girls, two giggling and one stroking her shaved head;
- get the bus to Umeå. Try to sleep, but get distracted by the mists rolling over the harbour, the mills belching out smoke, the spindly firs reflected black in the water, all lit by the first flames of sunrise streaking across the Baltic;
- meet Marije in Umeå, and go to pick up: some rice milk; a second-hand sweater; a spool of electric cable and six double plug sockets; and a new toilet. Fit it all the back of one very tiny car;
- drive for approximately one hour, stopping only to pick up a cup of black coffee and a kanelbullar enroute.
- Congratulations! approximately 23 hours after leaving home, you’ll have made it to the promised land.
(*) note: there is airport in Umeå. And the high-speed Botniabanan, or Bothnia Line, will be operational from summer 2011, resulting in a transfer time of 5:40 between Umeå and Stockholm.
Check out the Cape Farewell 2010 expedition to the Arctic, yesterday they spotted some blue whales!
Rune shot an Älg, smoked it and gave us the best bit. Cut in thin slices, serve on some knackebrod: delicious. Thanks Rune!