Wednesday, February 28, 2007

T-1.25 days

Piccadilly Line; Hyde Park Corner

I've had a thrilling few days packing for our Thursday departure, interrupted by an entertaining and informative weekend attending Words and Pix' travel writing course held at the King's College, Waterloo campus. My three tutors Ian, Sophie & Matt, distilled their professional experiences for a class of ~12 actual and would-be writers. Each day was followed-up by a great evening in a local pub, savouring the distillations of several vineyards and breweries.

Today Bondi and I were subjects of a 2hour photo shoot and interview in the vicinity of Hyde Park. I'll post details of appearances in any publications, as they come to me. One thing I learnt from my weekend course is that travel/lifestyle articles can rest in an editor's in-tray for many months.

Sometime over this period I also managed to read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, and Charles Stross' Glasshouse.
The new high-res "maps" of Sydney updated by Google recently show quite a bit of detail of those enjoying an afternoon on Bondi Beach.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

T-6 days

Preparations for our marathon journey are well under way for departure on March 1st. I'm not feeling rushed or particularly stressed by it, as the itinerary has grown quite organically.

In addition to the wonderful support I've been getting for the Norwegian & Swedish sections of the journey, I've had some great tips for Italy, Croatia and Poland. The latest itinerary is posted above. Anything after mid-Croatia is still pending, and the higher the numbered label is, the more conjectural regarding dates; our path through the bottom half of Sweden is particularly open to change.

After having the car serviced last week, I had the misfortune to get a puncture in one of the new tyres, Chris hearing the ominous sound just before we drove onto the M4.

Because sourcing an identical one was problematic, I ended up having to replace both on one axle, but at least I now have a better spare. I also trawled around for locking wheel nuts and a better wheel brace to handle emergencies. For other auto emergencies, I've just been told of the Aussie product below, but I doubt if it's available locally:

Start Ya Bastard

Bondi went in for a service as well today, to make sure that he's got his arthritis medication and some worm tablets for the trip. I managed to get him onto some scales and was surprised and gratified to see that he's down to about 65kg. Let's hope his hosts over the next few months don't spoil him too much. Packing a practical amount of dry food for him is one of the biggest space issues.

My International Driver's Permit arrived from Australia, which is probably an unnecessary piece of paperwork, but worth it for peace of mind. I hope no border bureaucrat is anal about my license being Australian and car registration being British. I could happily drive on my Australian registration plates over here except that I couldn't insure the vehicle. The UK re-registration allows the insurance cover which I don't get with my travel insurance.

Final steps involve distilling clothes, books, maps, paperwork down to manageable quantities. Everything is being examined for utility - how many Euro/UK power leads vs adaptors do I need etc.

The only thing that is still annoying is that I can't top up my O2 mobile pay-and-go account from Europe ( apart from a small number of places on my route ) since they won't accept non-UK credit cards for online use. Their suggestion of transferring money to a UK account is extremely expensive and impractical. More thought required here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sven fran Malmö

As a prelude to my next visit to Sweden (in May), I've been doing some more research on my great-great grandfather Sven Pearson, who, according to various Australian records was born near Malmö about 1857, with father Lars. His March 1880 marriage certificate to Annie Lyons in Adelaide, South Australia shows him to be 23yrs at that time.

There are so many factors which make the search awkward:
  • the possible spellings of his surname: was it Pearson before he emigrated? Or was it Persson or Pehrsson? (Person and Perkins are other English derivatives.) At least genealogical search engines will often handle all these variations automatically.
  • was his father actually Lars Pe---son? Or did Sven simplify matters for Australian authorities by using the same surname rather than a possible patronymic - the same issue as I have with Welsh ancestors from 200 years ago.
  • what is his full name? His children's birth, marriage and death records variously list him as Sven, Carl Sven, Sven Olaf - not to mention various misspellings like Iven, Swen, Swene, Olafe. Since his children's names include Sven and Olaf/Olof, I'm thinking that Carl Sven Olaf Pe--son is his full name.
  • when did he arrive? He was a young man when he married, and the first child arrived 9 months after, so not a rush to the altar, and he had some time to court young Annie. One of his children's certificates list his profession (pre-Adelaide) as sailor, so perhaps he worked his passage
  • where did he come from exactly? Malmö is a major port, and it may have been simpler to nominate it as his birthplace, rather than a specific parish in that region. Again, I had this issue with one of my Scottish Borders ancestors. Someone has suggested he could actually have been Danish but on reflection he would probably have then nominated Copenhagen, and family lore would have noted this. Two of his five children were still alive when I was born, so the facts couldn't have been entirely lost. As an aside, my Saxon ancestors would have traced a similar ocean path, leaving from Bremerhaven en route to Adelaide.
  • did he come to Adelaide on the ship he left Sweden in? Did he go to the US or Canada first and then move on, perhaps based on word of the Australian gold rush? Did he land at another Australian port first, and then travel via land or sea to Adelaide? For now I am working on the supposition that as a young sailor, lack of time for a diversion most likely meant a fairly direct voyage.
I have not been able to find any records of how & when he arrived in South Australia. The online records list assisted passengers, but if he was a sailor then he may not be named in any of these. I've found other Svens and other Pearsons, but nothing pointing to him.

Other descendants may have access to additional information, but I haven't been able to locate any living ones born after about 1920. Useful information in their possession would be the exact date of his birth/christening, and the parish he came from. One could even hope for his Flyttningsbetyg or official exit permit from the parish, as issued by the pastor, or subsequent correspondence with his family.

When I have that information, I can profitably search the Swedish archives such as:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Discover what your granny smelt like in 1942!

Bade farewell to Alison & James this morning, to retrace our journey along the M4. We stopped briefly in Carmarthen, but it was just too drizzly to do more than huddle in shopfronts.

Lunched at Cardiff Bay; Plas Roald Dahl was similarly drizzle-swept so people were either confined to the Millennium Centre or eating in Mermaid Quay. Moved on to downtown Cardiff, but as we entered the main pedestrian street, a female terrier (probably in heat) set her eyes on Bondi and followed us up and down the road for a good half hour.

Despite her small stature, she was determined to offer herself to Bondi, and cavorted around and under him until he could tolerate it no more and tried to evade her or send her off with some rare bark-like vocalisations. We were quite the sight for midday shoppers in Cardiff that day, with some photographers following our mad procession. The bitch's owner was nowhere in sight, and I couldn't even leave Bondi for a moment outside a store in case the two became entangled in his leash, so we cut short our visit.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Her giddy granny's at the bottom of it all

This morning's exertions were even less than yesterday's beachside perambulations. After surfing the Sunday papers and reading aloud from J.R.Ackerley's autobiographical "My Father and Me", I had a brief session at the piano. Supplementing my own stash of sheet music with pickings from their family trove, I concluded with "Her mother's at the bottom of it all" a ditty from music hall legend Dan Leno.

I took Bondi on some short walks, once being around Pembroke Castle, which I was seeing properly in daylight for the first time. After a massive Sunday Roast, care of Alison, and interspersed with enough tea to send me into rehab behind Robbie Williams, I read Kurt Vonnegut's intended final opus A Man Without a Country, a set of very short essays mixing crankiness with humour. I returned to the Ackerley bio which was so irresistibly concocted with pithy descriptions of his strange relatives; it's almost like Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors, but 50 years earlier.

I first came across Ackerley through a reprint of his memoir about life with an alsatian bitch: My Dog Tulip, where he wrote:
I realized clearly, perhaps for the first time, what strained and anxious lives dogs must lead, so emotionally involved in the world of men, whose affections they strive endlessly to secure, whose authority they are expected unquestioningly to obey, and whose mind they can never do more than imperfectly reach and comprehend. Stupidly loved, stupidly hated, acquired without thought, reared and ruled without understanding, passed on or "put to sleep" without care, did they, I wondered, these descendants of the creatures who, thousands of years ago in the primeval forests, laid siege to the heart of man, took him under their protection, tried to tame him, and failed – did they suffer from headaches?
The later memoir in my hands - published posthumously in 1968 - tells mostly of his relationship with his father (the "Banana King" of London), who didn't get around to marrying his mother (an actress) till about 25years after their first child was born. With much of the book dealing with his father's early life and later bigamous relationships (technically so only when he got around to a belated marriage), the younger Ackerley tosses off scarifying descriptions of:
  • his grandmother's sisters: as soon as [they] were old enough to comprehend the shame of their existence they resolved to hide it forever from the world and took the veil in the convent at Clifton
  • his Aunt Bunny, with her Saloon Bar laugh and inebriate husband, who was forced to witness the delayed marriage via a troublesome railway journey while touring in "Lord Richard in the Pantry"
  • his father's amusing himself with a certain Mrs Carlisle, who lived vaguely, but appropriately, 'in the North'.
  • his father's sisters: unfortunate creatures, kind though they were their appearance was so grotesque that it is difficult to supose they could ever have known romance or believed themselves destined for anything but the lifelong spinsterhood which was their lot
  • his mother - one of her last friends when she was losing her faculties, was a fly, which i never saw but which she talked about a good deal and also talked to. With large melancholy eyes and long lashes it inhabited the bathroom...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Barafundle & Saundersfoot

Yesterday I drove back down to Pembrokeshire, in Wales to revisit my newly claimed cousins.

James & Alison escorted me out to Barafundle Beach on Castlemartin. The day was turning out nicely, but I judged that we were obviously in the large eye of a gigantic hurricane. Alison to James: "He's getting the hang of it." It being Pembrokeshire weather, a subject so dire that even Stephen King hasn't gotten around to documenting it.

Barafundle is not far from Auntie Vi's Bosherston domain, but the name was known to me beforehand, either due to it being the inspiration for an album by the Welsh band Gorky's Zygotic Mynci (not to be confused with Geatchy: Lunatic Minkey) or just from seeing it on a listing of well-regarded beaches.

Bondi tore about the beach for a while as he is wont to do on sand or snow. I found a large piece of red driftwood, shaped like a staff for an oversized wizard. Despite Alison's protestations I lugged it back up to the top of the cliffs, where I fixed it to the end of Bondi's leash so that he could haul it back to the car. That lasted for all of about 20 feet, more due to A's protestations than Bondi's shock at actually being put to work.

Caldey Island


Alison and I continued onto Saundersfoot, a beachside resort town just to the east of Tenby, commended to me by Halley, a wandering Canadian, who has tied her kite to Ealing for the present time. After a short walk on the wide sandy beach Alison and I made a turn about the small commercial frontage, where I was shown, Kook-a-ba the local Aussie restaurant which offered "Flamin' Galahs", "Wagga-Waggas" and other "top tucker".

For lunch, we parked Bondi outside a corner butchery, where we going to get some gigantic roast pork baguettes. A little girl spied Bondi savouring the pork vapours, and was nearly reduced to tears: "He's eaten too many dinners!" she cried. Another little girl had more difficulty perceiving this: when her mother pointed the big dog out to her, she squinted over at us for a moment and then said "where?". One of the butchers provided a marrow bone for Bondi, which I unwrapped for him to chew on while we attempted our baguettes. Wise Bondi, knowing that there would be no contention over the bone, focussed all his energies in harvesting scraps of pork from us with his patented "I'm too pretty to starve" look.

That evening Alison showed me the video-tape of the Channel 4/Open University program exploring her family tree researches, which had suggested that her great grandmother had produced illegitimate offspring via a royal liaison in the early 1880s. We're still both trying to figure out the complete output of our ancestors from an early generation (sisters from Dolgellau, North Wales) who each produced children by at least 3 fathers. We may have to wait for another distant cousin to put up their hand to identify themselves on a genealogical website.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Planning Croatia

I finally have a booking reference number for our overnight voyage from Bari (Italy) to Dubrovnik (Croatia), so can make firmer plans for booking my accommodation. Thankfully the B&B owner in Dubrovnik has been helpful and patient in the 3 weeks it's taken to get this far.

Croatia marks the beginning of the segment of the journey where the currency starts changing frequently. Croatia Traveller says that the local Kuna is pegged to the Euro, and it seems that it is very closer to the Swedish Kroner in numerical value (if not purchasing power).

1.00 HRK

= 0.077577 GBP

Pound Sterling
1.00 GBP

Pound Sterling
= 12.89046 HRK


I'll need to pay some more attention to my paper-based maps now, as in Eastern Europe there are big holes in the mapping software that essentially force you onto circuitous arterial routes, and thus exaggerate driving times. Our path from off the Dalmatian Coast towards Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Zagreb (Croatia) in the direction of Budapest definitely needs refinement.

Current Plan: Dubrovnik (3 nights) - Split/Trogir (? nights) - Zadar (2 nights) -Plitvice Lakes National Park (dogs allowed on a leash) - Ljubljana (2 nights) - Zagreb (? nights) - Bucharest.

The car has finally been picked up from Renault, the whole service experience being a comedy of errors.
I've uploaded some video of my dogsledding day here.

Bondi reser jorden runt

Following the Norwegian Dagbladet article, an article from the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. I wish I'd known about it before as I was in Stockholm on the day of publication (Sunday Feb 4).

There aren't Swedish/Norwegian translation facilities on Babelfish, so I tried InterTran's site, which yields the text below. I think Bondi must mean peasant in these tongues. I like the implication that Bondi has a 70kg tongue...

Peasant am leaving earth about

[caption] Ocean jycke Peasant had already remnant to among other Australia and Eire. Soon am awaiting a rundresa in Europe together with owner Mike Williams.

London He has attend thirteen countries and three allocations. Nothing queer with the. Formerly that Peasant is one hundred. Behind tens substitute in Microsofts headquarters in Seattle , America , tire Mike Williams. He would watch the world and destined themselves for travel.

Alaska malamute
But nots solitary. With followed his 70 kilos tongue Alaska malamute. – He is good travel with. Husband feels themselves never solitary. Cheers article him am meeting self folk self never should had met otherwise , says Mike at that Norwegian magazine Dagbladet.

Migrate in Scotland
Formerly Nordamerika s had dog attend husses dark Australia and a lng rank Europeans countries. Wonder autumn and winter have the fell lnga rambling p Eire , in north England and Scotland together.

Notion frn Steinbeck
Now am awaiting a three mnaders travel in Europe as imply fifteen nya countries p Peasant meritlista. Däribland Sweden , there Mike Williams had depart kin. – S white self vet find the none equal prepared dogs. Self stayed inspire of John Steinbecks book ”Travels joke Quack , says he.

Freely in EC
substitute 2000 before husdjurspass in Europe , which imply that Peasant able travel freely in EC / ACE omrdet s long all inoculation is neat.

Dupond et Dupont
Pictures in both articles taken outside Munsons coffee circus community in Ealing.

Waiting at home for word from London West Renault as to when my car will be ready. They've failed their "100%" assurance that it would be ready by midday and it has not occurred to any of them to call with a status update. So far today I've spent £7 in phone charges and drained my phone battery once, to listen to their phone service play me Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Mozart's Gminor Symphony (I think played on a kazoo, which I am quite sure is missing from Mozart's orchestration) without any progress or dropping me off after the 37th iteration of the minuet .

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The weight of attention

I dropped the car off at Renault to be serviced today, to make sure that it would be roadworthy for the coming months of touring, and then took Bondi into central London to pick up a CD and some other items I'd ordered. Above shows a typical scene, where Bondi is tethered outside a store in Carnaby Street for a moment. The store staff actually pointed out to me moments before that there were 3x as many people gathered around him. Through all of it, Bondi tends to keep his focus on me through the store's window.

The car dealership called to suggest additional work-items with quotes, and I approved some and rejected others. An hour or so later, they called again with changes in prices (waaaay upwards: tyres being more than twice the cost as on the continent) and to go over the same list of work-items. I went back out to wait for it all to be collected, and then two hours later one of their service managers came to o over the list of items for a 4th time, and to tell me that they didn't in fact have all the parts they had urged me to have 4hrs earlier. So, with the car unfinished I had to leave without it, with his "100%" assurance it would be ready by middle of next day.
Finished most of Simon Ings' mostly* very readable The Weight of Numbers while travelling to-and-fro and waiting in the service lounge. *I'd made a start on it while in Sweden, but found that picking it up again was a bit of an effort: the prose flowed at the page level, but the character/time jumps were awkward to reassemble.
While browsing books in windows on Charing Cross Road, I was bemused to see this 1950 title by Enid Blyton, which must have been high on the list for being removed from libraries back in the 1970s.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Booking ahead

Picked up Bondi this morning from his boarding kennel. Apparently he had a great time when six inches of snow fell last week. I don't feel so guilty now about leaving him while I went dogsledding in the Arctic white.

Now it's back to planning Bondi's European Vacation Spring 2007 tour. I look at my spreadsheet with about 114 days of accommodation to be sorted. The first 44 are more-or-less sorted, which takes us up to Vienna in mid-April, just after a week in Budapest.

There are still holes to be plugged for the Sorrento (I have a few candidates) and Sicily. The rate of progress for booking the ferry to Croatia is very very slow. I mailed the ferry line directly last week as the UK agents hadn't responded. No response from them either. I also emailed the UK agents and said that their website wasn't working properly, so they eventually emailed me back and said to use their website to book the trip . Nearly a week later, and I still don't have a booking. I can't afford to leave it because pet-friendly accommodation in Croatia doesn't seem to be common, and I have to book waaay in advance. No ferry -> No accommodation -> No Croatia. If that's the case then we'll shoot back up the east coast of Italy and maybe have some more time in Central Europe.

On the up side, I've had a lot of nice email from folks in Norway and Sweden following the Dagbladet article, offering accommodation and coffee (not to be dismissed!). But as I won't be hitting Sweden till about Day 68, and Norway shortly thereafter - catching Sweden again on the return leg - I can only put those on the back-burner for now.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Last day in Stockholm

Didn't do much today except wander over to the island of Kungsholmen, where Stockholm's City Hall is situated (shown below). Chris was more intent on finding something warm, but I doubted that we could walk that far south prior to our plane's departure late afternoon. In the end, we doubled back to the main shopping area and into a labyrinthine shopping mall for lunch and warmth.

As usual I had jitters prior to re-entering the UK. There's almost nothing one can do to adequately prepare for the passport-control interview, which seems designed to make you feel bad rather than to assess whether you're a risk. Before leaving London I printed off the usual selection of bank statements, itineraries, insurance documents - all the things that border officers never want to see ... they just keep flicking through the passport looking for the UK exit stamps that they have not been issued in a decade.

I chatted with a Finnish guy in the queue for non UK/EU residents, who said that London is the *only* place in Europe where he gets a hard time. Within the rest of Europe, no one cares. I don't have a single stamp in my passport for (sometimes multi-month) visits to the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Spain.

I spent what seemed like 15-20 minutes at the desk, serving up various documents (again, they're not interested in those, only what I haven't brought) and ended up booting up my laptop to show the thread of an email about a job interview process in Australia. They can't even conceive that someone might have earned enough to not work for a couple of years.

The fact that I still had my thermal underwear on from Sweden didn't help me as I sweated through the procedure. I got the usual round of comments that contradicted what every other UK border officer (at Heathrow, Gatwick, Calais or Portsmouth) has said, but finally got through. In the end, despite the fact that you're only giving them true and detailed information, you still feel dirty, and in my case, like throwing up. Welcome to travel in 21st century Britain.

I'll be off to the continent on my trip in less than 3 weeks, but even as I got onto the Piccadilly line train from Heathrow, my mind was chewing on the expected entry interview for June... I'll have gone through 20 countries in the meantime, and it won't mean a thing...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Safe harbour: cruising and conversation

Took a 75 minute cruise of the inner archipelago that Sweden is built on. IIRC that's 14 islands and over 50 bridges. A cold snap last night caused some of these waterways to freeze over, which made my choice of an ice-breaker boat even more fun. The ice in many places has been broken up and refrozen, giving the effect of slabs of shattered glass floating in many parts of the harbour. At the conclusion of the cruise, the skipper hunted down some fresh ice to crunch through.

The statue above is "God our Father on the Rainbow" by Carl Milles, based on his 1946 design, which has an angel at the base of the structure tossing up stars for God to place in the heavens. I believe it was originally intended for the UN building in New York.

Dined at Kenneth's place. He invited some friends over so we had a lively party of 6 conversing for 5 hours under K's stewardship. Despite the excellent English skills of the 3/6 Swedes, it was sometimes amusing when an innocent slip occurred, such as "swimming with shawls [sharks]". There were frequent digressions on items of Swedish-Finnish culture such as Linnaeus, ABBA and Tove Jansson's Moomins. Apparently the Swedish press is often surprised or bemused by overseas attention for these local entities.

2007 is the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus' birth. He's the Swedish botanist who introduced the modern system of taxonomy: the division of living things into kingdoms, then classes, orders, genera, and species. The Ice Hotel had some markers to commemorate this event.

Yesterday I succumbed to nostalgic pressure, buying a set of bowls depicting characters from the Moomin books, which I first encountered some 35 years ago while living in the small seaside village of Urunga. In this evening's conversation turned on Moomins, the Hemulan and Hattifatteners (Hattifnatt in Swedish/Finnish). Kenneth produced Moomin mugs for after-dinner coffee, so there was some competition for those with favourite characters.

A lot of the evening's conversation turned on similarities of language: English, Swedish and the related Norwegian and Danish, as well as the dialects of Skåne, Dutch, French, German and Gaelic. Coming from a monolingual Anglophone culture, I feel like a tongue-tied barbarian in such company, despite recent attempts to boost my language quotient.

I reflected later that Australia's small corner of the English language - 20 million speakers in a global pool of say a half-billion speakers of it as a first language (and all bets are off for English as a 2nd,3rd,4th,... language) may be one reason for a cultural cringe. It's hard to stake out space in a territory so broad and vigorously competed for. In comparison, those from smaller language communities (Scandinavian and Dutch languages being a case in point) have a manageable horizon for their first tongue, which I think gives confidence: ideas get a new sheen in a different language.

What am I like?

Today Google's "robots" mis-identified this blog as a "spam blog" so I've been unable to publish anything until a humanoid Google robot looks at it and judges otherwise. The fact that you're reading this now means that it's been unlocked and I've been able to publish several days' worth of material. I've tied up everything for my Swedish exploits here, and taken the time to rebuild the blogger template so that blog keywords are indexed in the right hand margin.

While trawling around Google's site trying to find out how to do something about ithe lockdown, I found some search syntax to find sites "related" to mine. These are not sites linked to El Loco & El Lobo.

I was heartened to find that it is most like:

Barbapapa Official Web Site

Présente toute la famille de Barbapapa et permet de jouer avec eux : coloriage, memory, quiz et jeu musical.


Russell Davies comments on restaurants.

Sniglet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Jump to: navigation, search. A sniglet is defined as a "word that should be in the dictionary, but isn't". ...

Gamla Stan

Slept in this morning - badly needed after a week of early starts for various vigorous icy excursions around Jukkasjärvi.

Spent an hour or so in the Nobel Museum, a few blocks from our Gamla Stan hotel. There is currently an exhibition on Winston Churchill, focussing on his painting and writing as Nobel Literature laureate 1953:
"for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values".
It was very interesting to see some of the typed manuscript versions of his famous speeches, arranged on the page like poetry, so he could give rhetorical force to his words on the radio. The exhibition program speaks of the significance for painting to Churchill, this being an activity that he pursued for many years, and even writing Painting as a Pastime in 1948.
"Nothing will make one observe more quickly or more thoroughly than having to face the difficulty of representing the thing observed."
We spent the remainder of the afternoon drifting in and out of interesting stores -Antikvariats, children's toy stores alive with music-boxes, Modern Dogg and the like. The pictures above show restaurant "Den Gyldene Freden", founded in 1722 and frequented by the Swedish Academy who determine the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Thomson and ThompsonAstroJax illuminationsThe light-trace above is a sample of Chris trying out an AstroJax toy I bought for him at the Nobel Museum shop. I turned the lights off in the hotel room to get a clearer image.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Return from the Arctic

Our last day in Jukkasjärvi but even with our plane scheduled after lunch I had plenty to do. I'm still working ahead planning my car trip through Europe with Bondi. Croatia has been a sticking point as I've been unable to confirm accommodation until I can confirm the ferry trip from Bari in Italy to Dubrovnik. Unfortunately all my attempts at booking through the Jadolinija Ferry service agents have fallen on deaf ears for a week or more. Ho hum.

Before breakfast I returned my overalls, boots, balaclava and mittens to the Luggage Room. Ice Hotel is perhaps remarkable in that its guests are the ones that wear uniforms and decorations (ice sculptures sitting on the railing outside reception).

Before crossing airport security at Arlanda airport last week I forgot about restrictions on liquids, and so had to chug down two bottles of liquid yoghurt I'd bought only minutes before. Today we had some leftover prawn paste (or "squeezy prawn" as Chris prefers) from our homemade sandwiches.We wondered if pumping the squeezy prawns between two slices of bread meant that it still counted as liquid for airport security purposes. Regardless, we probably couldn't take it on the plane, so Chris sucked half the leftovers out of the tube. I filmed a mini-documentary of his report on the experience - one of many experiences from this week I hope he'll load to YouTube and publish on his blog. (My record of his abseiling descent yesterday was particularly delightful.)

Another interesting semantic issue comes up with BA's announcement that you will have to pay £120 for each additional bag checked in on a long-haul flight (lower rates apply for shorter hauls). My friend Scott asked if you could just duct-tape several bags together. After all, as a mathematician or computer scientist would say, this is logically equivalent to those bags that unzip into multiple smaller bags.

We got to Kiruna airport with plenty of time to spare and then some. The SAS flight was delayed quite some time, and then we walked out onto the ice/snow-covered tarmac marvelling that we would be travelling anywhere.

Photos here show Kiruna from the air - I guess incorporating some of the workings of its famous iron mine. The 80 minute flight to Stockholm passed uneventfully. While picking up our luggage at Arlanda airport, Chris commented on the baggage carousel being out in the lobby next to the street where anyone could come in and grab them.

When we arrived last Friday I elected to take a taxi into town as it's a fixed fare of about 425SEK ( £31/USD$60/AUD$78) into town compared to 200SEK each for the express train to Central Station. The trade-off for 2 people is essentially based on time, the train being 20 minutes, and the taxi quite a bit longer.

The express train leaves from a platform below the airport, and while it is deliciously quick into town, the maps and guides tend to skim over how one gets onto the commuter network from it. I don't even think I've seen a transport map that connects the two. In the end it seemed faster for us to drag our bags towards Gamla Stan rather than decode directions towards the correct metro entrance.

St. George and the Dragon

We arrived at our hotel to find a note from Kenneth, a local contact referred by my Canadian friend David: "I hope you haven't frozen your bums off" and inviting us around for drinks. Finding him in his lovely apartment a short distance away we chatted for ages and then he took us out on a quick tour of the area, knowledgeably highlighting the historical and cultural ornamentation of Gamla Stan.