Friday, 15 May
This morning I woke up before 5.00 which is not uncommon. But it’s very often the case that I don’t get started on the day’s work before 10.00 or even 11.00. I’m rather curious how I manage to take five or six hours to get going. I reckon that I have about 20 morning routines. I won’t list them but it’s nothing remarkable – more or less the things I’ve always done. I’m not consciously aware of having slowed down but I must have done so and somehow transformed my matinal rituals into a northern version of the Japanese tea ceremony.
The explanation was easier today. I felt I needed to move on from Linnaeus as many of the logical next steps involve visits to currently closed indoor environments. And as the weather is improving, my thoughts have turned to the river Fyris, previously an important communication route with many ancient sites along its banks.
To begin with its name. It has ancient roots but not as a river name. I read in Wikipedia (source Nordisk Familjebok 1908) that Olof Rudbeck (not sure which one…) was responsible for the change of name from Salaån (River Sala) in the latter half of the seventeenth century.
The change of name was intended to associate the river more closely to the Battle of the Fyrisvellir in 980 between Eric the Victorious and his nephew Styrbjörn the strong which was thought to have taken place at Fyrisvellir, a marshy plain south of Gamla Uppsala “where travellers had to leave their ships to walk to the Temple of Uppsala at Gamla Uppsala. According to the sagas, Styrbjörn had sacrificed to Thor while Eric had enlisted the aid of Oden who sent a shower of arrows to kill Styrbjörn’s troops, the Joms Vikings. The battle being considered a Swedish victory only needed Olof Rudbeck to make it part of the glorious history of great power Sweden.
Early on in my Swedish life, I read through a multi-volume history of Sweden. I’ve thought for some time that I should do it again as the original reading, valuable as it was then, has faded in my memory and it would in any case, after almost 50 years of exposure to Sweden, be a different David Kendall who read it today. And I’d also like to read the sagas which describe the battle and make a journey of my own upriver from Flottsund where the Fyris pours into Lake Mälaren up towards the source at Dannemora or at least as far as my shoes will take me before they fall apart (the County of Uppsala is large – much bigger than Dorset – more like Somerset and Dorset combined).
I thought about that and about the expression “kith and kin” which I came across recently and wondered about the etymology of “kith”. From the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, I learn that there were originally three meanings of kith, knowledge or information, one’s native land or region, one’s friends and neighbours (presumably in the sense of the “known people”. Only the third meaning has survived in modern English and then only enshrined in the expression “kith and kin” with its somewhat dubious connotations. But “kith” itself is a fine old word which has reached us through Anglo-Saxon and Old German. It is also connected with the word “uncouth” which meant unknown or uncertain before being filled with associations of fellow train passengers eating hamburger with their mouths open and asking if they might borrow your comb.
I wonder whether there is a dictionary or list of such words that have only survived in special expressions like “kith”. I shall write “kith” on a piece of paper and put it in a file and start collecting them.
And after Fyrisvillir and Kith, I got started on the day’s work and wondered why so much time had elapsed since I woke.