Days of yore

Track maintenance but the replacement bus comes, whisking me to Lund unlike my earlier experience in Padborg. A long wait – I couldn’t resist cheapy Snälltåget. But it’s a pleasure to sit quietly in Lund pondering my first year in Sweden. I’ve mostly just flashed through Lund of late. It was a Sunday; I couldn’t go to the cathedral crypt to look at the Danish writing on the tombs. I know no one there now. It’s strangely familiar or familiarly strange. I was in my 20s then, my English life was close at hand. Unlocked doors, tea, toast and marmalade, peaceful courtyards, scuttling across Skåne in orange and yellow diesel cars when I wasn’t madly driving from coast to coast with my Raleigh moped, which no one east of the North Sea knew how to mend. Pretty coloured stamps in my savings book at the post office where you paid your bills and a monthly wage of 1,600 after tax. 25 öre phone calls and rent of 500. And cradle to grave social democracy, the feeling of shame when shopping at ICA and not Domus; though it didn’t really matter as ICA wouldn’t be around much longer.  And all those small Scanian towns with their newspapers.

Kastrup an occasional experience, England far away, not like flipping backward and forth  from Stockholm (London E250) before planes disappeared in the greenery. Clogs and a silly brown fur (ish) hat with ear flaps, promoting my inner image of the hero of Petrograd in 1917 but in fact looking as if my name was Bertil.

And not understanding the language, occasional nowtime flashbacks in Denmark as to how it felt, those first two years when communication was like holding a wine glass with gloves on before I started to massacre Swedish in earnest. At least, I learnt to say Peugeot and Kristianstad like a Skåning to my Stockholmsk mother-in-law’s discomfort.

Back in Uppsala, it’s taken me a while to find my rhythm. I’ve finished Middlemarch, I thought I’d read it but there’s no laborious memory reconstruction, no remembered character trait, no distant resonance. It’s a fine novel. I like books that are great works of literature but integrated with a historical period, in the case of Middlemarch, the great reform bill in 1832 and the class relationships between old and new money. The latter is par for the course for the Victorian novel but George Eliot does it so well.

And I’m getting to grips with my Bengali which I’ve neglected. I’m slowly moving on from the parrot phase.

And started to read William  Darymple’s “The Anarchy” about the East India Company. I didn’t realise  how tenuous the East India Company’s grip  was until quite late in the eighteenth century. Plassey was the turning point but there was later resistance to the English. Darymple describes the horrific process where the East India Company  took advantage of the collapsing Mughal Empire and sucked Bengal dry, taking its wealth to England leaving the Bengalis with famine.  A lot of Clive’s loot ended up at the family’s home Powys Castle, which has a very large collection of Indian artefacts.

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