Provencal and Rudolf Värnlund

Making hay while the sun shines means being indoors for me. It’s a fine warm spring day and I very much want to cycle in the countryside. But I had a legal text on patent law to do this morning and the final part of a company’s interim report to polish off now so maybe tomorrow.

My appetite for travel got whetted this morning by a discussion with one of my children about the origin of some place names in Provence. In the course of this, I discovered that one of the leading French/Provencal place name researchers was greatly influenced by a German, Hermann Gröhler (1862-1958), Gröhler’s special interests included pre-Celtic influences on place names. He was presumably on the verge of retirement before the “gleichschaltung” – I wonder what happened to research into French and English at German universities in this period.

The German influence on French place name research is an amusing parallel to Dorset´s place names where major research work took place at the Swedish universities of Lund and Uppsala in the years before and after the second world war, I’ll write about this time some time when I get around to it! (hopefully amusing anyway unless there were darker forces at work to show that the northern French were “really Germans”, bearing in mind the special treatment of parts of northern France in the war which were separately administered and not controlled by Vichy or administered together with the other German occupied areas of France).

I want to learn more about the way that Provencal differs from northern French, to see what words from the Franks “ took over” in northern French. The differing impact of German on the western European languages is fascinating. How the Anglo-Saxons largely obliterated the Celtic heritage from most of England (apart from the rivers, some places names and brock the badger), leaving Early English a very Germanic language. And then the Latin languages resurfaced, Latin itself through the church and Norman French through the Norman invasion with the English elite French-speaking for almost three centuries; the end result being that English is the most Latin of the Germanic languages.

The picture is different in France where I think there was more of a merger between the old Celtic language, Gallois and Latin. There was a heavy German input from the Franks, perhaps often disguised by French orthography, so that French became the most Germanic of the Latin languages.

The pre-breakfast dip into Provencal introduced me to a couple of writers whom I want to know about.

I’ve been dipping into Swedish literature too stimulated by the street names around my house. To the west all the names are from Nordic mythology, which is rather fine. While to the east and south, the streets are all named after Swedish authors both of the canon and of minor repute. On my way to my early Sunday morning pick up at my local post office, I passed Värnlundsgatan (Värnlund Rd), which I’d been meaning to look up for some time, I learnt that Rudolf Värnlund (1900-1945) was one of the proletarian writers (Wikipedia claims that he was the first to depict Stockholm from a proletarian perspective but I think this is open to dispute). He was anyway a worker intellectual whose writings were often published in the anarchist magazine Brand but who also active in the social democrats. He died prematurely in a fire, possibly caused by his habit of smoking in bed. I’ve ordered a couple of his books from our local second hand internet book market (which I hope that Amazon’s new Swedish outfit doesn’t crush).

I’ve now had the first of my two jabs against covid-19 and in about six weeks time, I’ll be able to travel. I’ll longing to be back in the UK again but will probably have to quarantine for at least five days. I’ve got so used to my restricted existence that it requires effort to “re-think” and work out how I need to prepare to be  out of Sweden for a while. One project that I’ve had in mind for some time is to make sure that I have access to my major translation aids in digital form to avoid lugging dictionaries around with me. For many years, I was spoilt by having a base in Islington where I had a bookshelf but I need alternative solutions now. It will be a project that will anyway quickly repay the time spent on it, not just for the UK but for my general mobility.

Wake up, lazy body, there’s a world to win

A very early night yesterday after starting the day at 04.00 am.

After a couple of pages of Wolfgang Streek’s How will capitalism end?”, it feels too earnest and I pick up my Uppsala project and think about how the name of the mounds changed from Aun, Egil and Adlis mound (barrow)  to the neutral East, West and Middle mound and the research that must have underlain this change. I dream that I am writing explanatory introductions to a number of short pieces I’ve lifted from the net and I drift through stages of sleep worrying about what creative commons means,  how much I am allowed to lift,  and checking sources. My sleep feels rather feverish and disturbed. Immediately after I’ve woken up at the impractical hour of 2.30 am. I am sure that I will be running a temperature and that the reaction to my jab has kicked in. But no, once I´m fully awake, I am completely OK and cool as a proverbial cucumber.

I’m disappointed that I have had no reaction to my jab. Perhaps it will come but it was a good few hours ago now and there is nothing, no soreness around the jab site, nothing. I don’t really want a splitting headache or to be running a temperature but I would like to feel that my body was starting to put up a fight, going on the offensive against the virus. But no, my body is like a lazy cat on a summer’s day, opening one eye to observe a passing mouse with a slight flick of the tail but no attempt to pounce. And while I admire this refusal to comply with the other’s expectations of appropriate cattiness, I would like my body to show a bit of the killer instinct and not just lie there inert thinking Oh gawd it’s one of those virus things again.

In fact, I just feel very relaxed. It’s been a long period where the future has been uncertain, where I have been intently focused on myself and my reactions, thinking about what human beings need and how I could fool the one I live in to think that it was getting what it needed in terms of human company and purposeful activity and keeping the focus on getting things done, laying the ground  for a better life post-covid (I feel a bit like I’m producing a London County Council housing report in 1943 as I write this…). I know that the danger is not over yet, that it will take a while and another dose and that I still have to take care. But the future is now clearer I know that all being well I will have completed the programme and be as protected as I can be a week or so into June. And that the cards in my hand are improving. I haven’t beaten the virus yet but I can feel that the fortunes of war are changing. And it’s a good feeling.

But, of course, I tinker with my sleeping habits at my peril. It’s 3 in the morning and instead of a gradual return to circadian normality, I’m another hour in the wrong direction. And I am dousing myself in blue light from the computer instead of doing crochet and making some wall hanging with “home is where the heart is”. But writing relaxes me. It feels good to shepherd the stray thoughts in my head into some kind of order. It usually changes my mood so perhaps I can manage another session in the arms of Morpheus before the day dawns in earnest.