Gunnar Leche and Trollope

08.30 on a Sunday morning and, to my surprise, it’s getting light as I try to get to our local Post Office/Shop before Corona does. My cautious purge of my wallet, taking only my ID and one credit card, is a step too far as nothing sinister emerges from the shadows on my kilometre walk.

The post office is almost empty and yesterday’s aerosol virus will now be reclining on the floor like Chatterton although, unlike Chatterton, shrouded in colourful paper offering discounts on broccoli.

My packet contains a book on Gunnar Leche, Uppsala’s city architect from 1920 to 1954. Collecting it is against my principles for self-isolation according to which any contact with the outside world should be strictly necessary. But it’s too frustrating if every consoling project of the mind is blocked until after covid so I allow myself an exemption on grounds of mental hygiene, masked and with disinfected hands nowhere near my face (and avoiding using plosives when talking with dogs).

Gunnar Leche was responsible for a large number of buildings in Uppsala, especially in (what are now) the inner suburbs of Fålhagen, Kvarngärdet and Luthagen. His production extends from the last days of the National Romantic period through the classicism of the 1920s to functionalist architecture, although, according to Carl-Erik Bergold (‘Gunnar Leche – en stadens och folkets arkitekt’ in Uppsalas arkitekter och arkitekturens Uppsala, 2002), ‘Leche blev aldrig renlårig’ (literally “never became orthodox” in the sense I take it of clearly and exclusively adopting a particular architectural style).

It was perhaps this lack of orthodoxy that led to the criticisms made of two of his later projects Tuna Backe and Sala Backe. He is, however, now appreciated in architectural writings on Uppsala. I would like to know more about this but this will have to wait until covid has abated and I can spend time at the local history and newspaper library.

My explorations of my new home environment have been subdued with the onset of winter.  I find it most rewarding if I can read and explore in the real world at the same time, one without the other not feeling satisfactory. Probably the best use of time is to identify what interests me and what access I need to pursue these interests, to avoid becoming a jumble of unsorted poorly sourced anecdotes.

Otherwise, as far as the life of the mind is concerned, I have now read the six novels of the Barchester Chronicles. I’m pleased to have done so although my planned relaxation reading before sleeping has at times spread beyond its allotted slot and taken up time during the day. After six novels, I am weary of the woman meets man, spark of liking, the course of true love never runs smooth, problems eventually overcome, marriage and the happy ever after. Trollope, however, is much more than this, a greater writer than just a purveyor of romantic tales. I’m wondering whether Trollope wasn’t also tired of the commercial requirements for a happy romantic ending as he rebels in the Last Chronicle of Barset and Lily Dale remains single. Trollope rose another notch in my respect for avoiding a tired, stereotyped ending although I was already impressed by the range of well-drawn characters struggling with many life situations unrelated to romance. The swirl of ideologies also fascinates me, mid-nineteenth century conservatism and liberalism (whig) against the background of the fractured British ruling class, which still casts a long shadow over the UK. I don’t think I would have enjoyed going on a long train journey with Trollope, however (probably not with Hardy either in fact, although I would have found it easier to talk to Hardy, preferring chatting about the Dorset dialect to small talk about hunting).

Trollope was an unplanned diversion but I don’t regret it and I have become more adept at using my Kindle (for five of the six novels)!

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