Corona Diary – Day 83

Sunday, 7 June

I’ve finished reading “The Global Gamble” by my old friend, Peter Gowan. I have had a bad conscience for never having tackled it but now, twenty years after its publication, I’ve done so, thanks to Corem-19. But otherwise, I’ve mostly been occupied by the less worldly of my interests, and then too in a rather scattered, unconcentrated way; perhaps due to my long period of self-isolation or maybe a physical reaction from spending too much time in my dust-laden flat.

I’ve been working through a local guide “Hitta Uppland – Guiden till Naturen och Kulturen” with a view to travelling around the county in the summer. There’s a lot to see – I’m attracted by the coast and the old metal-working and Walloon areas in the north of the county.

Another place that interests me is Balingsta to the west of Uppsala. Here a new neo-gothic brick church was built in 1872 and the decayed mediaeval church abandoned. I was somewhat puzzled when googling on the church to find pictures of a romanesque church, which was neither brick nor neo-gothic, the explanation being that in 1917 it was decided to restore the old church and Adrian Crispin Peterson’s nineteenth century creation was demolished in 1934 (There are over 30 other of his churches so I suppose the loss of one is bearable). The abandonment of the old church seems to have been a matter of dispute for the parish. I read originally that the new church was disliked because it was considered alien, not in the spirit of the prevailing national romantic style. And I suppose discussions in the parish could have been in that direction although a key player in the restoration of the old church was not profoundly a Swede but a new priest, an Englishman by origin, Edward Holliday-Owen, born in Chester, who had spent many years in Sikkim as a missionary. Nathan Söderblom, the archbishop approved of this project and the restoration project was financed by Alfred Berg. the banker and owner of nearby Wiks slott. Why and how Holliday-Owen came to Sweden and how he learnt Swedish and was able to serve as a priest here, I don’t know but I shall dig in the Uppsala newspaper archive when it’s safe to do so to find out more about him and what happened to the church.

I want to read more about neo-gothic churches in Sweden. I know that, just as in England, there was subsequently criticism of some of the more ardent proponents of the style such as Helgo Zetterwall. The turn back to the gothic style was accompanied in England by a fascination with the mediaeval period. I don’t know if there was any equivalent to this in Sweden or how the neo-Gothic related to the later national romantic style with its more muscular references to the past.

I’d like to read some Swedish writers who wrote fiction about Uppland and have so far come across Jan Fridegård, according to Wikipedia “a Swedish writer of the proletarian school”, although he has also written a trilogy about Viking times as well as novels based on his own upbringing. It’s perhaps a bit like Ivar Lo-Johansson and I’ll begin by reading his trilogy about his own life – “Jag Lars Hård”, “Här är min hand” and “Lars Hård går vidare”. I suspect I may own some of this works among those I have at Kungshatt rescued from various library purges.

And for bedtime reading, I’ve been reading Chaucer’s “The Franklin’s Tale”, which has been on my bookshelf for some time. It’s pleasurable to read Middle English but, to enjoy it to the full, I need to get a better annotated Chaucer than the cheapy version I acquired in some charity bookshop.

I feel I’m making good progress with some of my aims and have played a bad hand reasonably well. It always strikes me that “defeat management” is a neglected skill; there’s something attractive about the expression “plucking victory from the jaws of defeat”. Weeping over the absence of aces is anyway a waste of time.

But after more than 80 days isolation, it is beginning to feel irksome and I’m unsure about the next step. I don’t think I can stay in isolation until a vaccine is available in perhaps nine months time or more. I guess I will proceed cautiously, with slightly more social contact but taking great care to avoid crowded situations. It’s more complicated than avoiding everyone, however.

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