Corona Diary – Day 74

Friday, 29 May

I notice that life is not normal when I feel disproportionate pleasure about fixing something now rather than post-Corona; the joy of receiving a humble roll of blue cotton thread to mend an Indian shirt, which the seller managed to send me in a small letter-box friendly consignment and not in some grossly oversized container that had to be picked up elsewhere. And a copy of Mats Walberg’s Uppsala Gatunamn, the first book I’ve bought in hundreds of years.

Walberg’s book, almost four hundred pages not just of explanations of Uppsala’s street names but dealing with the history of the city, the academic feuds about the origin of its name and more.

Uppsala has many street names referring to Nordic mythology, especially where I live close to Gamla Uppsala. I know a bit but I’d like to know more and, if I’m in Sweden this summer as is likely, it seems a good time. I’ve lived in Sweden for almost half a century so a knowledge of the Icelandic sagas and some idea of Old Norse is a minimum requirement for a civilised person. It would be amusing to sit close to the old kings’ grave mounds and read about Old Norse (although the prospect of conversation practice seems unlikely even in the mystic twilight of a midsummer night).

Today, I took another bike ride to look at buildings, this time the older area around the cathedral with the aid of Dan Thunman’s “Uppsala vandringar” published by the municipality (see pictures on my Facebook page). I discover a street behind the cathedral, which I hadn’t seen before, a kind of cathedral close with three or four rather lovely buildings. It would be pleasant to live in such a place although perhaps not now when extensive renovation work is taking place at the cathedral.  There are not many really old secular buildings in Uppsala although there are some with origins in the middle ages with the older parts encased in later refurbishment. There was a fire in 1702 that destroyed much of the town leading to new building in the eighteenth century. The name Carl Hårleman (1700-1753) often crops up as the architect of new or refurbished buildings, restoring the fire-damaged castle and parts of the cathedral. He was also active in Stockholm and other places in Sweden, went to France a number of times and is referred to as the architect who introduced the Rococo style to Sweden. The buildings I looked at today – the Old Senate House (Gamla konsistoriehuset) and the Cathedral Chapter House (Domkapitelhuset) didn’t fit in with my concept of the rococo. But I wouldn’t challenge anyone to a duel to defend my ideas about the rococo so I should probably get hold of Göran Alm’s (1993) Carl Hårleman och den svenska rokokon and tidy up. The other book I want to read, which I already own is Frederic Bedoire’s two-volume Den svenska arkitekturens historia. I want to draw up reading lists in a number of areas that interest me. While I can’t tackle them all at once, it would be good to have such lists for a structured approach as too much of my reading is spontaneous – I catch sight of something that takes my fancy, often serendipitously but some structure wouldn’t be bad – at least I could attempt to keep my brain in some kind of order.

I left one major building, Holmgren’s nineteenth-century main University building, for another day. I’d like to do a tour focusing on the nineteenth century and will probably include it then. I also want to go to the old cemetery and the English Park, which I haven’t visited yet.

It’s very pleasant that I have been able to devote time to my surroundings, which are becoming much denser and richer in associations, enhancing my feeling that I actually live in Uppsala, not just using it as a base or hub/extension of my usual semi-nomadic existence (a place in its own right in my life rather than a kind of London E350…).

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