10/30/14

The girl with the butterfly hair - part 2: A lonely wine glass

Before you read this blogspot, I suggest you read part 1, that you can find here.

She took another sip from the wine he had given her. It was probably a very nice wine, considering she was in Spain and considering how rich his family must be, living in a presumably big house behind the high stone wall she was leaning towards. When he had given her the glass of wine, he had asked her to wait just a little while, so he could prepare his family for another guest.  
So here she was, outside of the garden where the party was taking place, sipping on a glass of wine all alone. She was starting to feel silly. What was she doing here, standing outside of a house where there was a party going on, a party to which she did not seem to be welcome?

They had had fun tonight, she and the boy with the longest, darkest eye lashes she had ever seen. Much more pronounced than hers, even when she used "super volumizing mascara". It was not just the eye lashes of course. It was his shy smile, the jet black hair and the wonderful paintings he had done in art class. All of them illustrating animals of one kind or another. They had had so much fun together that it had seemed like a good idea to come along to this party. But now she had her doubts. He had asked her to wait just a few minutes. 
Now, she had been in Madrid long enough to know that "a few minutes" in Spain meant something different than a few minutes in Sweden, but still. She had waited quite some time already. If he would not come back within ten minutes she would leave.

"Have you gone insane? Do you want to ruin your big brother's graduation party?"
They are in the kitchen, he and his mother. She holds her slim arm across the chest, the other hand holding a wine glass. 
"You know how difficult this is for him. All these people. It only works because he knows them all very well and everyone knows how to treat him. And you want to bring in a new person, some foreign girl we have never seen?"
He looks at his mother, searching for words to say even though he knows he will not find the right ones.
"There are already more than twenty guests here. One more or less is not going to make a difference", he says weakly, Too weakly.
His mother puts down her wine glass on the counter.
"Don't pretend you do not know your brother, you know how strangers can upset him!"
He knows very well. He knows his brother's condition is the reason they live like they do, now that they can afford it. Away from the busy part of Madrid, behind a high wall, with access to a garden where the family has a lot of space just for themselves. No unexpected noises, no strangers coming in unannounced. A predictable world for his intelligent but socially handicapped brother. His very own Rainman. He was about to agree with his mother when she said something that really hurt.
"That you even think about this only shows that you do not really care about your brother."
His wounded look makes her step back.
"I love my brother more than you will ever understand! I know him a lot better than you and father do. But you, you only care about him, about his condition. That you have a healthy son that also has needs is something you don't care at all about!"

He grabs a wine bottle from the kitchen counter and storms out of the kitchen, out of the house, into the garden where groups of people are sitting around the pool, eating the tapas the catering firm has brought. All talking loudly while drinking wine and other drinks. 

His big brother stands on the other side of the pool, in a suit that is tailor-made for him but still looks like it belongs to someone else. When he spots his kid brother his eyes light up and he walks towards him, smiling. When he gets closer he slows down. Wants to show his affection and happiness, but wants to avoid physical touches. Not that he needs to worry, his kid brother knows very well. He just lifts his hand in their brother to brother -type of wave they have used since they were both little. 

When he has congratulated his big brother he rushes to the gate, while he wonders how he will explain to his queen of light that he really wants to be with her, but that he cannot invite her in. With the wine bottle still in his hand he nods to the guard who unlocks the gate. When he looks out his heart falls down to his stomach. 

The only thing waiting for him is an almost empty wine glass standing next to the wall.



Background:
I was inspired to this story when I encountered this wine glass outside a big garden with a stone wall during one of my morning dog walks.
The real story about this lonely wine glass? I don't know, so I made up my own.

What story would you make up?

Read part three of this story here.

10/23/14

#SwedeInMadrid: Dog poo density in different cities

"Watch out, dog poo!"


When walking in the streets of Madrid where we live now (or actually, we live in a town next to Madrid, but Madrid and that town has grown together, there is no clear limit between the two) this is a common warning that we give each other.

It is a bit strange that there is so much dog poo in the streets here. There are waste bins everywhere, so there is no need to carry around the filled poo bags for more than a few meters.

A year or two ago it was even easier - the waste bins were equipped with dog poo bags that dog owners could use. Unfortunately this seems to have been forgotten or considered too expensive. We have lived here for more than three months now and so far the bag holders have always been empty.


I have lived in a town with even higher dog poo density though - I have lived in Den Haag in the Netherlands. The amount of dog poo there astounded me. On the other hand, the dog poo there was often in "de goot" meaning the dog owners taught the dogs to poo in the gutter, so the risk of people stepping in it is smaller.

I am not saying that the dog poo density in Den Haag was terribly high - it was just a lot more than what I was used to from Göteborg in Sweden. (And yes, you Swedes out there who complain about the amount of dog poo - it is a lot worse in many other places...)

Below I illustrate the difference in the dog poo density (as I perceive it) in the  three cities:



I wonder why there is such a difference.


  • Is it simply a matter of amount of dogs? 
    • (There are of course a lot more dogs in Den Haag and Madrid than in Göteborg. )
  • Or are people more likely to pick up after their dogs in Sweden?
  • Or is this just a reflection of how much each city wants to spend on cleaning?


If you have any thoughts on the matter, please add your comment!



10/16/14

The girl with the butterfly hair - Part 1

Her hair was soft as silk as it lay on the arm he had carefully placed on her shoulders. Every time she said something she turned her head towards him and the hair, so blond that it was almost white, brushed softly over his tanned skin.

The first time he had seen her, that evening when they both started an art course in a small studio in the center of Madrid, he had been blinded by that unusual beauty. The art teacher had talked about colors; basic colors, how to mix colors and how they would experiment with colors throughout the course, but all he could think about was the absence of color, that sun-like whiteness of her hair and skin. He thought about how he wanted to draw a painting of her, with butterflies scattered all over that blond, silky hair.




He was amazed about how much they had talked tonight, him and her. He who had barely talked to her at all during the eight weeks they had had their weekly art class. He knew his English was good enough to talk to this foreign girl and normally he had no problem talking to anyone, neither boys nor girls, but as soon as this girl turned her unusually light blue eyes towards him the words would get stuck and he would end up smiling sheepishly at her. She would always smile back but it was not until tonight that they had actually talked. So much that they had not noticed when the rest of the group had left the bar where they had gathered to celebrate that they had concluded the art classes.

And now they were here, where the taxi had left them, just in front of his parents' house.  He had told her about the big party that was going on there to celebrate his brother's graduation and how his family had complained when he had chosen to go out with the art class group instead of being at home this special day. That's when she had suggested it. That they would join the party - to both celebrate the conclusion of their art classes and his brother's graduation.

He had been so thrilled at the prospect of being with her a bit longer, being in her light, that he had agreed without thinking, stopped a taxi outside of the bar where they had had a few drinks and some tapas and told the taxi driver the address.

He kept his arm around her shoulder as they both looked at the high fence that surrounded the estate. He noticed her surprised look. This place was very different from where they had just been, in the busy narrow streets around Sol in Madrid. Now they were in La Moraleja, and on top of it in the calm and posh part of it where his family had lived ever since his parents had made a fortune in the IT security business, making the whole family depending on firms specializing in personal ditto.

The girl with the butterfly hair, he still had not made the painting he had imagined when he first saw her but he knew that one day he would, stood next to him, the blue eyes wide open. Even though he was still ridiculously happy that she was here next to him, he started feeling uncomfortable. This was a bad idea. He had acted on impulse, he had not thought about this brother. His very special brother. What had he been thinking? Bringing his queen of light here was really a very bad idea.

Part 2 of this story is here.



10/9/14

#SwedeInMadrid: How I protect my dogs in different countries

As a matte (the Swedish word for female dog owner) my aim is to provide Love, Care and Leadership.

I have now lived with dogs in three different countries and the everyday care has been different in each of these. 

In Sweden (especially on the west cost near Kungälv) it is important to use this:



There are many ticks there and they can carry nasty diseases like Borrelia and TBE. Even though we use a spot-on preparation there is still a need to check our dog regularly and remove ticks from his skin with a tick-picker.

While living in the Netherlands I never encountered a tick. On the other hand I encountered lots and lots and lots of fleas so my lovely Lotti (on the picture together with our cat Vlekje) needed to use flea collars.




Now that we live in Spain, we expected lots of fleas, given the warm weather. We have not had a single one! We have also learned why - they need a humidity of  more than 50% and so far it has been very, very dry here in Madrid.

On the other hand there is a risk for a chronic disease called Leischmaniosis. It is transmitted through the bites of the phlebotomine sand flies. This is what we use to protect our dog from that fly: 




Another less dangerous but still annoying phenomenon are these thorny little things that now and then end up in my dog's paws during the walk.


Our care seems to have worked out fine so far - Jaspis is doing just fine in Spain!






10/2/14

"Someday I want to live where palm trees grow in the streets"

...my Dutch husband said some years ago.

At the time we lived in Sweden. Needless to say, Sweden is not a place where palm trees grow just like that. We had no desire to move at the time, we were very happy about our home and life in Sweden, so we let the dream be just a dream.

This year an opportunity came our way and we now live in a country where palm trees grow in the street:



Actually, they do not only grow in the streets, they grow on roofs too!


As you have probably already guessed - this blogspot is not really about palm trees.

It is about dreams.

There are people who never dream. They do not dream since they think the lives they have are the only ones they can have.

I know people who do not dare to dream, because they think they will be dispappointed if the dream does not come true.
Not that it works. As I have written in an earlier blogspot - you cannot avoid disappointment by not hoping.

I also know that there are many who do not express their dreams, not even to themselves. If they do, they feel that they have to act on them. Set up goals, do actions and follow-up.

Sure for some dreams that may apply - if you know exactly what you want you can "Dream it, plan it and do it" and you will need to put in the necessary effort as I wrote in this blogspot.

But other dreams should just be dreams. Dreams that inspire you and make you happy.

And then maybe one day, the dream will come true. Not because you followed a certain plan, but because your dream guided you in  your everyday decisions and kept your eyes open for the opportunities that came your way. Maybe even without you noticing it.

When it comes to my husband's dream -  he has now planted  a palm tree in our front garden.





Keep on dreaming!