Corona Diary – Day 45

Wednesday, 29 April

My desire for exercise was rapidly quashed yesterday by cold and rain. I retreated to my burrow and went back to sleep, doing my convincing imitation of an elderly person, which I’m getting good at.

I felt much better when I woke up an hour later and carried on work on Anglia’s finances.

It’s not easy as although the metrics are available through the income statement for the first quarter, these are aggregate amounts and not altogether helpful when deciding where to cut expenses.

To my surprise, the figures were better than for the same period in 2019. No need to do anything urgently but given the low volume of incoming translation work, I have to be careful and think about which darlings I most want to keep and which are marginal darlings. And above all, to get out of the habit of solving problems quickly by throwing money at them, as my time is no longer worth as much.

Tiring of figures, I worked on a glossary of bankruptcy terms, looking at how various terms have been translated in the Swedish Bankruptcy Act and the Company Reorganisation Act. My usual pleasure when working with legal texts was enhanced by the quality of the translation of the Company Reorganisation Act, which I found outstanding.  Working with the legal aspects of bankruptcy is not so cheerful in itself but as a legal translator, I’m going to need to know my way around this area.

After my work day, I carried on looking at what there is to see in the county of Uppsala.

It seems likely that foreign travel may be restricted for a good while and this will be a good time to get to know the local area. I’ve been familiar with central Uppsala for a long time but dismissed the passage from Stockholm to Uppsala as rather boring and had a very hazy grasp of Roslagen and across the border in the county of Uppsala. But now I realise that much of this area is fairly densely populated (by Swedish standards) agricultural countryside with villages and cultural artefacts of a type that appeals to me.

As an exile, I like it when some aspect of my host country’s culture deepens and I feel  enriched by putting down roots. Living abroad, it’s so easy to get stuck at a superficial level when you become familiar with your surroundings, a superficiality that you don’t really think about any more because you’re so used to it. And Sweden, because of its small population, requires a bit of work when exploring the language or the country. You are not spoon fed to the same extent as you are in England. There are fewer works of reference and these are often less easily available so that you often need a more academic approach to understand the many things of interest around you.

I didn’t get very far yesterday in my studies– reading about the village of Storvreta just a few kilometres up the road. Opening Wikipedia’s tab on notable people connected with the village, I’m fascinated by the story of Stefan Michnik, one-time judge in Poland in the early 1950s, who came to Sweden in 1956. He lived in Storvreta and, according to Wiki, worked as a librarian. The Polish authorities have wanted the Swedes to send him back to Poland to stand trial for his activities in the 1950s. To their chagrin, the Swedes have not granted this request as Michnik is now a Swedish citizen and the statute of limitations barred prosecution on the original accusations made (this was followed by a discussion on whether he can be deported for crimes against humanity where there is no statute bar – I’m not sure of the Swedish courts take on that but I believe they still refused to deport him not so long ago). He no longer lives in Storvreta.

I must read more, about what he actually did, the Swedish courts’ legal arguments and about the agenda of the Polish authorities and the veracity of Wiki’s sources. I knew nothing about this before despite it having been covered by the Swedish press – I must try and follow events in Sweden more carefully when I’m abroad, whenever that will be next time.

Corona Diary, Day 44

Tuesday, 28 April

I’ve more or less but not quite finished with Pierre Broué’s biography of Trotsky. I have only read one review and want to find more. And to reread some sections in the light of the issues raised in these reviews. It was an interesting book and I learnt a lot especially about the period from 1920 to 1929 in the Soviet Union, the ultimate failure of the various oppositions to Stalin and whether history could have taken a different course if these oppositions had not made mistakes. Or whether the current was flowing too strongly against the Left and other oppositions regardless of what they did after the failure of the revolution in Germany, the rise of the theory of socialism in one country and the exhaustion, dispersion and physical elimination of many of the prime actors in the layers of the working class that made the Russian revolution and their replacement by others in the state and party apparatus. But also Broué’s own motives in writing the book and how he treats, for example, Trotsky’s positions and action on the Kronstadt events, the discussion on the role of the trade unions during the war communist period and on possible use of the army against the Stalinists and the ever-present references to the French revolution among the old Bolsheviks and Trotsky’s fear of appearing to be a Bonaparte figure.

I often feel restless and ill at ease when I come to the end of a book that’s been occupying my thoughts, probably because my reading is too unsystematic. After a while, I settle on a new book and trundle on contentedly once I’m rolling stably on the new rails. I’ve settled for another serendipitous find T.M. Charles-Edwards “Wales and the Britons 350-1064”, the first volume of a history of Wales.

This period interests me, not least in terms of language. I’ve always found it strange that the original Celtic British language, Brythonic, left so little trace in modern English. There’s “brock” an old word for badger, quite a few place names and river names but not a huge amount of vocabulary and very little grammatical influence, while the Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Normans have all left a much more substantial imprint. Traditionally, this has been explained by the picture of the Celtic Britons fleeing or being driven away to the West (and perhaps to little Britain, Brittany), physically eliminated or reduced to an inferior existence on the margins of Anglo-Saxon society. There are a few glimpses of light in the early Anglo-Saxon period but much that we don’t know. We know, however, that the Anglo-Saxons didn’t sweep across the Britain as quickly as the Normans did but that it was a slow process over up to 300 years. They became established in the south-east and only slowly moved westwards so that for a long time after the Anglo-Saxons had first arrived, there was still a continuous belt of Celtic Brythonic speaking people from the current Scottish border down through Cumbria to the West of England. The Anglo-Saxons didn’t reach the Bristol Channel until some time around AD 700 and it was not until after AD 800 that the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia (centred on present-day Devon) collapsed, leaving Cornwall separated from Celtic areas elsewhere and that there were still Celtic speakers in Exeter at least almost up to the time of the Norman invasion.

An interesting thought garnered from Charles-Edwards’ book is the language situation in the south and east of Britain when the Anglo-Saxons arrived. I had also thought in terms of a Brythonic-speaking community but as Britain had been under Roman rule for a number of centuries, and this area was a core area of Roman rule and close to Roman Gaul, then British Latin would have been widely spoken. How widely I don’t know but it’s reasonable to assume that the incoming Anglo-Saxons would not have met a solely Brythonic-speaking population (to the extent that they communicated with words rather than engaging in non-verbal activities) and that this would go some way towards explaining the lack of Celtic words in English.

The situation would have been different for the Anglo-Saxons penetrating western and northern England. British Latin was presumably much less widely used outside of the places where there were forts and Roman villas. There is also I believe DNA evidence that the original Celtic population was not physically removed but eventually integrated (I believe, for example, that inhabitants of Dorset have more mixed DNA, more Celtic ancestors than further east in England). By this time too, the Anglo-Saxons would have become Christian. There is evidence of contact between Celts and Anglo-Saxons in the north where the Bible nudged away the battle axe to some extent in interpersonal communication (although the battle axe probably still came in handy at times). I’d like to know more about what happened to the Anglo-Saxon language in these conditions – what was the influence of Brythonic and the Celtic environment? Are there, for example, more Celtic place names in the north? Is there any tangible influence of Brythonic over northern dialects of English?

I’m hoping Charles-Edward’s book on Wales will help me structure my confusion a bit better. “Wales” is actually an Anglo-Saxon concept (the word for “foreigners” in Anglo-Saxon). Wikipedia tells us that the Welsh call themselves Cymry with its etymology from the Brythonic Combrogi meaning “fellow countrymen” (thus also covering the Celtic inhabitants of present-day Cumbria and presumably all of the Brythonic-speaking inhabitants of Briton). Charles-Edwards deals with the process by which the terms Wales and Welsh as we now use them came into existence.

It seems a well-researched book, worthy of a slow read and I shall enjoy working my way through it

(and feel more harmonious for a while…).

Corona Diary, Day 42

Sunday, 26 April

The first thing to do next time there is a virus warning is to go to the barber. I didn’t do it this time and when I eventually emerge from my hermitage, I will blend in well with all the other eccentrics and lonely polesitters with my silver locks in wanton disarray. I can even manage a sufficiently wild expression after my asteroid belt brain has been left to its own devices for weeks and weeks with small ideas whizzing around on eccentric orbits unimpeded. Only the stone for breast beating and the self-flagellation kit will be missing to mark me off from the crowd of shuffling sufferers. And I can’t order anything like that from Amazon as I’d have to pick it up from the pretend post office at the crowded local shop, which is surely an infection hotspot.

The last couple of days, I’ve mainly spent on reorganising the storage cupboard in my flat as it was becoming so densely packed as to be close to the threshold for becoming a black hole. And I have enough problems with space and time as it is without them combining and distorting half the flat and having to reach my bedroom through a wormhole.

But I’m pleased with the result and that I’ve got rid of my self-storage facility. And I’ve thrown out tons of paper (yottagrams anyway) that has dogged my footsteps for about 15-20 years without good reason. I also purged my wardrobe of everything too big and too small and odd items only suitable to wear if playing a peasant in a Brecht play.

I’ve been reading “Uppsalavandringar”, a number of walks looking at Uppsala’s architecture. I like the book very much as it’s for the lay person but doesn’t talk down to its readers while at the same time doesn’t get lost in technicalities. The built environment is important for all of us but as architecture is not a school subject, we tend to be poorly educated and discussion on new buildings is often at a low level. At the same time, city planners and architects with insufficient education on the social and psychological impact of and responses to architecture need feedback expressed in a way that is comprehensible to them and which broadens the way they think.

My plan was to study the buildings of Gunnar Leche, who was Uppsala’s city architect from 1920 to 1954. His career spanned the period from the end of the national romantic era through neo-classicism (Swedish grace) to functionalism. With the aid of my book, I planned to visit his buildings in chronological order in an area called Fålhagen to see the imprint of the older styles on the new, the national romantic remnant in the neo-classical building and later moves towards functionalism (but not all the way). I scrapped my original plan to cycle to the relevant locations but am now going to see how much I can get out of looking at the buildings on Google street view. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try very early next weekend (the days are getting seriously long now in these parts) or postpone it to post-Corona when I can get the bus down to town again with lungs intact.

Otherwise, I had a long telephone conversation with a friend in London. And visited the recycling point twice to at least bring me up to 7,500 steps and part company with a yottagram or two of old paper.

Corona Diary, Day 40

Friday, 24 April

Reading on Facebook about a walk that I used to do when I lived in the Somerset village of Templecombe, which described walking with a dog on the lead and the problems when there were cattle around, I realised that my command of terminology relating to cattle was inadequate. Heifer I know but steer I was vague about. I now know that a steer is what the Americans use for a castrated bull (bullock is more common in the UK). But I also learnt that cattle is related to the word chattel, which also once meant livestock as well as property, both words like “capital” deriving from the Latin “capitalis”. I also learnt that a maverick in the US means (also) an unbranded bovine and that it obtained this name from a Samuel Maverick (1803-1870) who was apparently very lax about branding his cattle. And also that “maverick” according to one source means “shining” or “brilliant” in Hebrew but I couldn’t check whether that was true or whether Samuel Maverick’s surname was related to that. And I picked up “freemartin” which is the female twin of a bull.


Corona Diary, Day 38

Wednesday, 22 April

St George’s Day today, the presumed day of the saint’s death and the closest that England has to a national day. When I lived in England, you didn’t notice it much apart from the church flying England’s flag, St George’s Cross. And this year, it will presumably be rather muted if Morris dancers are threatened with on-the-spot fines for tinkling and jigging in the streets. And St George’s Day in the church calendar has in any case been postponed a week (because of the date of Easter this year). It’s a movable feast as one church dignitary said (probably with an avuncular (or materterical?) twinkle in hisher eye).

I decided to postpone my planned architectural bicycle ride until post-Corona. I was planning to look at residential buildings from the 1920s and 1930s by Gunnar Leche, city architect in the near suburbs of the city. It would be interesting to look at the architectural details and see how one period shades into the next (from National Romantic to Classicism (Swedish Grace) and then Funkis architecture.

But thinking about it – controlling my bike, looking out for other traffic, avoiding people, checking my architecture book and finding good spots to take photographs, I decided that it was probably a disaster waiting to happen and that I would neglect at least one if not more of these aspects from time to time with more or less chaotic results..

My attempt to structure the day went well. I had a list of things I wanted to do in my working day with the key focus on continuing to weed out the company’s files, which had swollen rather haphazardly for the past 15 if not 20 years, and to make the distinction between the different files clearer.

I stopped working when I cooked my evening meal. I’d planned to spend the evening doing some Bengali but I got tempted to reorganise my books as I’ve decided to try to avoid buying another bookshelf (hard to position it without blocking the light from the window, which is already partly obscured).

Some work came in today so tomorrow and Friday will be real work days.

Just checked the date and thought that my computer had got it wrong but it’s in fact 00.35 on Thursday, 23 April, which I don’t understand as it was 20.00 about half an hour ago…. That means that it wasn’t St George’s Day when I wrote the above as it was the 22nd then. I somehow doubt whether there will be any tinkling or jigging today either..

Corona Diary, Day 37

Tuesday, 21 April

A low key day today but still satisfactory. I decide to work more or less a normal working day on translation-related matters to structure the day. I’ve no translation work waiting to be done but have a couple of requests for tender/a price that I need to attend to. I decide to tackle Anglia’s files, where paper has accumulated over a 20-year period (or more). It takes most of the day (together with a couple of trips to recycle paper) but feels good to part company with some documents that have accompanied me through the years without good reason. There’s more to be done but I’ve made a good start.

A satisfying infrastructure job, which takes a while but where you usually get the time back quite quickly in the form of increased efficiency.

I am planning to take my cycle in the direction of the city tomorrow, not the centre as there are too many people there but to look at some buildings in suburban areas. I have a book with about eight architectural walks which I’d like to do – the central one with the historic buildings will have to wait until post-Corona unless I do it early in the morning. But I also want to read more about what there is to see in the surrounding countryside in the event of Sweden reopening in the summer but there still being problems travelling abroad.

I read today that Norwegian Air is bankrupt, at least in Denmark and Sweden. I used to use them quite a lot and much preferred them to Ryanair. Losing them is not so difficult for me as I travel mostly by land, at least in Europe (and I suspect that Deutsche Bahn won’t go bankrupt). But it feels like one more sign that life post-corona might not be quite the same and that perhaps the years of cheap air travel may come to an end.

Apart from that, my daily Bangla lesson. I hope to be able to master the alphabet before I’m in Bengal next time.

Corona Diary, Day 36

Monday, 20 April

I realised just in time that my annoyance at a customer calling me to discuss a translation on a Sunday was somewhat flawed as it is in fact Monday today. I must get into the habit of having a recalibration session with Alexa at the start of the day… It confirms my feeling that I have to work harder on creating a time structure for the day now that I have few external reminders. I felt out of sorts yesterday, hard to concentrate, hopping from Dorset to Uppsala and back again without being able to be absorbed in what I was doing. And this was perhaps a result of over-lengthy sessions.

It wasn’t in any case a prelude to being ill as I feel refreshed and fit for fight today. After my chronic bemusement, I write to a friend in London, which has been on list for some time and then decide to go on an excursion to Valgärde, a couple of kilometres away from Gamla Uppsala, another old burial ground that I’ve read about. Fortunately I decide to use my bike; it would otherwise have been quite a hike but I accomplish it swiftly, safely and comfortably on the dedicated cycle track. It’s a fine day with the softness of spring in the air.

The burial ground is a kilometre or so off the road, peaceful and deserted with the River Fyris flowing past. No problem with social distancing here. It was in use from the sixth to the eleventh century, from the Vendel period through the Viking period, and contains both graves where the body has been burnt and graves of the rich and powerful where the body has been buried intact, with various objects for use in the after world, in ship burials and (presumably) later Christian burials.

The information board mentions the similarities with Sutton Hoo in England. Some of the excavations were led by Greta Arwidsson, Sweden’s first female professor of Scandinavian and Comparative Archaeology (results published in 1942, 1954 and 1977). There are picture of helmets that I’d like to see and I shall have to see what I can find in Uppsala’s museums post-Corona  (I’m getting such a list of things that I can’t do now but want to do post-Corona that I’d better create a post-Corona reconstruction file).

Pasque flowers in bloom on the mounds, pulsatille vulgaris (which I think means “common quiverer”). Its name in Swedish is backsippa, anémone pulsatille in French

To understand the area better, I’d like to get hold of a map showing where the water was in the period that the burial ground was in use. The land has been gradually rising and there was much more water around then that there is now. The Fyris river was perhaps broader and deeper. The river also passes close to Gamla Uppsala on its passage down to Lake Mälaren and it seems reasonable to think that there was a connection between these places and that much transport took place by boat. According to the information board, there are many places further up the river with ancient remains. A journey following the river upstream would be fun but maybe too ambitious for me to do by bike.

Modern Uppsala was in any case at the very southern end of this area, then referred to as Östra Aros, which, according to one source meant the Eastern Estuary (vis a vis Västerås as the Western Estuary); I haven’t checked how reliable this attribution is. Large areas of what is now modern Uppsala were either under water or at least waterlogged during this early period. This is a problem for theories that Adam of Bremen’s temple (or hall) was located in central Uppsala (described in Magnus Altorp’s  “Bilden av det förflutna” in “Uppsala, då, nu och i framtiden”).

There’s a lot to be interested in and I feel more and more contented with my move to Uppsala.

Corona Diary, Day 34

Saturday, 18 April

My elder daughter and granddaughter empty the rest of my self-storage facility and bring the boxes here. Everything fits in reasonably well and my flat still looks like a library and not a somewhat chaotic warehouse (in the eyes of this beholder…).

I have some translation work but the market is quiet just now. It seems sensible to prune unnecessary costs and make one’s money work harder.

By early evening, it’s done on that front, at least for the day. I start work on Dorset churches with the Norman period. There’s more available than the few Anglo-Saxon remnants, including the very fine Studland church, one of the most complete Norman village churches in England according to Pevsner.

Aesthetically it’s very pleasing with churches in a harmonious style although I also enjoy “patchwork” churches.

Wimborne Minster has a lot of Norman work and I grapple with the meaning of minster and collegiate churches and realise that I need to know more about how churches organised their finances to understand this.

There were a lot of monasteries (and probably nunneries) in Dorset during the Norman period but the visible remains are very partial and scattered.

And once you get into this period, the neat model for allocating features to a particular period gets more complicated with mixtures of early and late features that don’t fit the model. It would be interesting to know more about how thinking about church architecture developed – the history of the categorisation into Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular. I don’t know how that pattern plays out in other countries – I think there is an equivalent in France and Germany but maybe this kind of periodisation is not so important everywhere.

I realise when I get into the Norman period that I need to know more about the specific features of the period. Round heavy arches and zig-zag decoration I’m familiar with and I know what a tympanum is but large scallops, multi-scalloped capitals, trumpet scallops, waterleafed, moulded, crocketed and stiff-leaf capitals induce a feeling of panic, threshing around, drowning in architectural details.

I want to study the development of architectural and building knowledge ability in England but also in Normandy and the rest of Europe. The various names of periods reflect the development of this knowledge and are an abstraction from the actual buildings. It will be less confusing to focus on the spread of knowledge, to understand what was achieved in the buildings and to look at what information is available from the patterns of development. And then there’s the stone the churches were built from and other more slender threads to the past, which contain information.

My interest in Dorset churches is beginning to become like a mediaeval cathedral – potentially spread over a few centuries, except that the cathedral builders were better at maintaining the focus on what they wanted to achieve (probably not “blessed” with my asteroid-belt brain full of ideas whizzing about in eccentric orbits).

As bedtime reading, I picked up “Sällsamheter i Uppsala” (Curiosities in Uppsala, more or less). It’s not in dispute that Gamla (Old) Uppsala was a centre for Christians in Sweden and had been important in pagan times as the burial place of the Kings. It also seems reasonable that the Christians would have wanted to cancel out the power of the pagan site by making it a centre for Christianity. But, according to the book I’m reading, which is a few years old (1993), the exact location of the site of the sacrificial rites and the golden temple described by Adam of Bremen in 1070 is disputed. “Sällsamheter” provides an interesting account of the various theories on the location of the temple (placing it more centrally in what is now Uppsala at Odinsburg or close to Trefaldighets (Holy Trinity) church and how this became entwined with the ideological underpinnings of Sweden’s period as a great power (Rudbeck among others).

I also find a description of another pagan burial site a couple of kilometres from my flat and once I have worked my way through my morning rituals, I will peer out of Fortress Kendall (through the venetian blinds not arrow slits) and decide whether to give my puce-coloured bicycle an airing or to walk to this place (or to forget about it for a while if spring looks like a weakly-based theoretical construct).

Corona Diary, Day 33

Friday, 17 April 2020

Feeling somewhat unsettled yesterday and today, wheels spinning around but not moving forward. I have finished my biography of Trotsky, all 800+ pages of it and read one review. I often dither when I’m between books. I skimmed through what the Bank of England had written about the financial state of the UK but as it all feels abstract now that Corona has pretty well turned everything upside down. I eventually settle for a Wikipedia article on the European Research Group, “a research support group for those of the UK’s Conservative MPs who choose to subscribe”. According to the Wiki article, the ERG “was criticised for its lack of transparency regarding its use of public funds to carry out research”. It hasn’t previously published details of membership but was obliged in 2019 by the Information Commissioner’s Office to reveal some information. Wikipedia has a list of 52 names, which presumably were made public when an e-mail from Steve Baker to the group was revealed. These 52 names were all or had recently been Conservative MPs at this time, presumably all or nearly all of them pro-Brexit. Googling through the list, I found that it was surprisingly meritocratic. There were relatively few members who had come from traditional upper layers of the bourgeoisie (perhaps such people don’t become MPs these days); there were only three old Etonians among the 52 and a couple of others who had attended prestigious public schools such as Marlborough and Dulwich. 14 out of the 52 had attended state schools (the actual figure was probably a bit higher as a number had attended voluntary-added schools or schools that later became academies and which were in or had a close relationship to the state sector). The remainder had attended a wide range of private schools. It was a relatively well educated group, almost all of whom had had some form of tertiary education. Eight of the group had attended Cambridge University either at undergraduate or postgraduate level and five Oxford, two had studied at St Andrews in Scotland. The rest had attended a broad range of higher education institutions red bricks, new universities and ex-polytechnics. Most of them were MPs for southern or south midland constituencies with the South-East and East Anglia well represented (reflecting the seats the Tories held at this time). There was a scattering of MPs from northern constituencies and a somewhat larger group of people from the north who represented southern constituencies. Interesting as far as it went but it didn’t throw much light on the possible financial and economic interests for supporting Brexit (the preponderance of MPs, especially from Essex and East Anglia did reflect the areas where support for Brexit was high, however).

I also managed to get started on the third language I had planned to work with during the Corona period, Anglo-Saxon (Old English). I’m not intending to become a fluent reader of Anglo-Saxon but want to know how the language is constructed and be aware of it for etymology. I’ve enjoyed exploring the common roots of English and Swedish (the older Scandinavians and the Anglo-Saxons could probably understand one another to some extent, even if this did lead to making a dog’s breakfast of “shall” and “will”, which we suffer from to this day). It enabled me to understand English much better. And the coming together of Anglo-Saxon, Norman and Danish to make English is fascinating. And that was about it for today.

Corona Diary, Day 31

Wednesday, 15 April I decide to combine my need for exercise with something useful and make for my self-storage facility. It’s not rational to try to empty it under current conditions but it is costing me SEK 1,500 a month and there’s not much left in it. I also want to get rid of it as it reminds me of a rather turbulent period in my life when I moved from Stockholm and was leading an even more peripatetic life than my normal orbiting around Sweden. The store was a useful base then but winding it up would make me feel that I had really settled in Uppsala, that the moving period was over. I’ve also learnt to compromise with the less rational aspects of my character (a synonym of compromise in this context is “give way to”).

Outside the traditional centre, Uppsala’s layout feels a bit American. There is the major out-of-city mall, the not particularly mellifluous Gränbystaden. And then lots and lots of retail outlets spread over a large area. Unlike many places in the US, Uppsala does have a good bus network so that pedestrians can get from Gränbystaden to IKEA, for example, but life gets more complicated if you try to avoid public transport. My store is less than a kilometre away from the recycling point at IKEA. I plan my route, look at the map and keep my eyes open. But somehow there is always a road with fast-moving traffic in the way and the paths don’t go in the right direction. So instead of the dignified silver-haired intellectual of my dreams, I morph into a frightened rabbit and scuttle across the road. The other side offers a trackless route to my destination, a faint green gleam in the distance. I try not to think about snakes in the grass and let my thoughts wander to medical staff applauding as some centenarian is discharged from hospital after having successfully resisted Corona. This gets mixed up with Wind in the Willows which I have been reading with my grandson and I imagine the shy animals of the wild, weasels, badgers, hedgehogs, rats and rabbits applauding my progress as I pass by. The going gets rougher as I approach my destination and the shy animals of the wild fade to be replaced by Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow as I trundle onward with my trolley, filled to the brim with waste paper. I manage two return journeys – the second with cardboard and empty files, some of which manage to escape en route. I just hope that I haven’t written my address on any of them as the thought of some happy gleamer knocking on my door to restore my file to me and expecting gratitude is not uplifting. It’s anyway a satisfactory day’s work and reduces the chances of my having to go to some rent-a-hulk outfit and paying perhaps SEK 5-7,000 to move what’s left. I think that the chances of someone saying “Oh my God” when opening the store door are a bit less. After 16,000 steps, I have exceeded my daily ration by a broad margin but I don’t get much done, apart from wallowing in hot water and finishing my 800+ page biography of Trotsky. I’m impatient to read something else but want to work through a review or two of the book before I let it go.

I spend a while thinking about Uppsala högarna, which is usually translated as mound and whether “hög” has left any trace in English. My Yorkshire dictionary has “how” meaning “hill, especially round”. The Concise Oxford has “haugh” also northern but this is “a piece of flat alluvial land, former part of the floor of a river valley”. I draw a blank in my yellowing Dictionary of Geography from 1954 and am too lazy to heave Webster up from the bottom shelf so I think we’ll have to stick with “mound”. It sounds a rather dull word but there’s a quote from Shelley in the Shorter Oxford which makes it a bit jollier “Let hell unlock its mounded oceans of tempestuous fire” (preferably not, Percy, we’ve got enough on our hands just now”). Wiktionary goes even further with “From earlier meaning “hedge, fence”, from Middle English mound, mund (“protection, boundary, raised earthen rampart”), from Old English mund (“hand, hand of protection, protector, guardianship”), from Proto-Germanic *mundō (“hand”), *munduz (“protection, patron”), from Proto-Indo-European *mh₂-nt-éh₂ (“the beckoning one”), from *men-, *man-, *mar- (“hand”). Cognate with Old Frisian mund (“guardianship”), Old High German munt (“hand, protection”) (German Mündel (“ward”), Vormund (“a guardian”)), Old Norse mund (“hand”) (Icelandic mund), Middle Dutch mond (“protection”), Latin manus (“hand”), Ancient Greek μάρη (márē, “hand”)” Quite a collection with what appear to be some fascinating links towards the Swedish “myndare” and “myndighet”. I can’t find any sources, however, which rather reduces the value of this impressive collection (some examples of the use of mound such as “he mounded up his mashed potatoes” but no sources). I must look more closely at Wiktionary some time and see whether I’ve missed something.

It’s also the Bengali new year now. (14 April) so I wish all Bengali friends and relatives Subho Noboborsho and all the best for 1427, I don’t know much about the Bengali calendar except its luni-solar but I aim to learn more before 1428.