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.