Ghost Ships and Remembering Ways

Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
Trip End Jul 21, 2010

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Where I stayed
Maria's House

Flag of Sweden  , Stockholm,
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I wake early to plan the day, knowing I only have a few hours to get through the last few sights and needs. As I search I hear Esther scratch the lock on the bathroom corner door. The bathroom has two doors to it, both with hook locks and no working light. To leave my room I either head through the bathroom, through Esther's room or out into the back yard, knowing full well my shoes are upstairs. I wait until it’s free without making a sound, wondering if I will se Esther again

I bake again, as Kevin had heard about the biscuits and was a little devastated to find they were all gone upon his return. They turn out just right, and I try my very hardest to not eat them all. I have a lot of mail to post out, so first order of business is working out where the post office is, out into the daylight with arms full of parcels to leave. In the end it is not the map but the security guard in the shopping centre a while away that directs me to the post office. As he speaks his eyes slowly move from my mouth to my hair, first the top of my head and receding hairline, down the left to the facial hair, then up the other side. I’m not sure what he was assessing, but fear the answer so do not ask. Green packages aplenty are sent out of the country and the streets are rather warm as I leave the post office, thanking the guard for a second time as I pass.

Back out further past the Nordeske Museet this time. Located behind it is the Varsa Museum – a large and famous ship of the Swedish fleet that was brought back from the bottom of the ocean and had a museum built around it. The grounds of the museum are the "Galley yard", used by the Navy from 1723-1969. I’m told this by a plaque and model of the Yard in 1942, which has a strange use of the 'n’ dash in one case and ‘to’ in the other.

When launched in 1628 it was the biggest and finest ship of the fleet. Its maiden voyage Once out on the sea it lasted 1500m before hitting wind and waves which a remote control boat could survive (commonly referred to as a light squall), and sinking to the bottom of the ocean, killing all on board and bringing Sweden into the realm of the laughing stock of the sea. The detailing evidence shows the design was compromised on several occasions. Being the flagship piece of the fleet, the king had overall control of the makings, and no one says no to the king. It was also found that many assistants and builders were Polish, and because of their history of war and conquering parties it only made the struggle for dominance of the Baltic Sea worse.

The major lynchpin in the faults was the lack of space for ballast. The design of the ship had the gun ports very close to the waterline, restricting the amount of ballast, making it impossible to travel with high winds.

The preservation techniques used to keep the boat as it now stands are revolutionary, using new compounds and procedures to bring the ship as a whole out of the water and too have before us now. Along the bottom we see fences and areas with clean wooden planks attached to the ships. Because of the need of preservation and the level of difficulty and such new technology, the ship must be constantly tested and monitored to judge the changes in the timber. It reminds me of a mummy with all the bandages removed, decayed yet preserved. Devoid of colour, instead a sickening brown – a scale model beside shows the bright colours it once had, the statues of gods and kings adorning the sides and every available space. There must have been a statute for every member of the crew, thus doubling the number of people on board.

Along the bottom floor of the building shows a collection of the bodies found and reconstructed. Each body was given a name depending on when they were found, the first Adam, the second Bethany(?) and so on. Some have been reconstructed with muscles, skin tones and hair, based on the skeletons body structure, from which they determined general well-being and history of illness. The map detailing where the remains were found are a little discerning, one or two of them have the parts spread across the ship.

In one room they located the remains of several people all couched together. The small space was nearly full – there must have been several sneaking onboard and hiding.

On the way back I find a stall Esther had mentioned something about last night. Built like one of those more permanent hotdog stands, the food on offer comes in wrap form. The super super thing on offer, that a part of me cannot resist, is hotdog, salad and mash, all wrapped up and pressed and sealed to perfection. I look at it and feel a heart attack coming on. Heck balls yes. The walk home will not work of this kind of magic. I take new streets which in turn take a little longer to get where I’m going, but much of Stockholm now has YOTS stickers and I am content with a belly full of potato and hopefully meat. At Slussen I pick up some Donuts for afternoon tea, the jam inside only known buy the man in Swedish (it turns out to be Raspberry, and I think the Swedish word is terribly foreign. But it is Swedish after all.)I make it back up the street to find Maria vacuuming the car, happily washing winter out of the house. We take coffee and donuts on the back verandah as she tell me about her house. The father of three boys would work eight hours a day on the other side of the lake, further into Stockholm, then ride his bike out to here every night and work on the house, bringing parts piece by piece on his bicycle. Eventually the family moved into the smaller house they no use a s a shed until the house was finished. Upon the houses completion, the man planted a Chestnut tree in the garden, saying it would be the heart and soul of the house. While playing one snowy winter afternoon a son forgets how to ski and plows straight into the chestnut sapling, snapping it in two and fearing it was dead. The father expects it to die and mourns quietly to himself about it. When spring comes and the snow melts away, the family is surprised to find the chestnut tree still alive, there now spouting three trunks from the one place, one for each son. Now the father knows that this truly is the heart and soul of the house, of their family home.

Maria and Michael were very lucky to come across and eventually win the house. Then negotiation process was over the phone, and the end result was given to the couple based on Maria’s encounter with one of the sons during a house inspection. The three sons chose them to have it Maria fell in love with it and the boys chose them to have it, knowing she would be the most deserving and also treat it the best with her new family.

Michael’s work has him staying away some nights, working with a theatre company in the next city. He has stirred a few things up at work, giving people a lot more freedom and choice in the decision making process. Te shoes he is filling were once quite a controlling pair, with those around them simply nodding approval and aware of their absence of control. At first Michael’s actions were seen as strange, but now things seem to be working really well, the company having continued to receive the accolades it had in the past. The delegation techniques lead to studies of human interactions, those that I’ve seen through time at Youth Work (Mister Dean coming and saying how excited he was that the body language skills he learnt he could actually put into practice, directing a young person without touching them) and Maria has witnessed through acting classes and conferences.

Maria gets back to the car and I head downstairs to finish packing and play a little more. I draw a little of the garden as a going away present for Maria. I cannot believe how lucky I have been with those around me. She takes me upstairs to show some of her paintings – amazing watercolours and sketches of her family and holiday snapshots. She gives me one of the smaller ones for my book, saying it’s only fair we trade.

Heading to the train station for a fourth time in three days and it feels like I finally have the route down pat. Good thing I’m leaving, I’d hate to understand where I’m going or anything. Where’s the adventure? (some sarcasm present, but the adventure bit is real). The intercity train station appears to be in the same place as the other on the map, much like one can get around Spencer Street Station in Melbourne (I don’t care how old it makes me seem, it will never by Southern Cross station). But this is not the case, I’m in two queues for longer than required only to be told this is not the place. The last one has me seated next to a guy heading home from the cold. I tell him about my romantic connections with snow and he laughs. “You think this romantic? It’s fucken cold. But not like three years ago. That, that was so fucken cold…” and so on. I do finally find my ticket, and we’re out onto the platform that opens up like a large steel shed made for keeping planes, the high ceiling dark above us.

Our cabin of eight available seats is filled an American man who seems to talk to himself, a quiet lady who loves her crossword puzzles, and two female friends and their dog. The animal enters and straight away begins to chew the table, the seat, heading for the man’s leg until a muzzle is put on. He is tied up behind the two, still able to lick their faces through the face cage. They smile and look sheepishly around, eventually taking out a pre-made meal that appears to have leaked in their bag.

The train ride is a long on, and the scenery slowly changes from Stockholm city to outer forests and plains to forests full of snow. I peel my eyes away from the white to blog, and when I look back it has gone. Then back again, then gone again. A new dog boards the train, exciting the present guest to no end with howling and barking and a-threatening to snap his lead and pounce. The lady keeps the small one in her handbag, its nose wiggling and shaking and whimpering. She moves after two stops, off the train, the dog may have done some business in her handbag.

The sky above Orebro station has opened up and is pouring when I get out. I’ve spent the last two stops of the ride attempting to memorise the street names to the hostel (Bang, Nova, Kosta or something similar. As you can tell, it sunk in well). Thankfully I don’t get lost, but I spend the first few steps unsure if this is right direction. The pictures from the web do help a little, but appear to be several years old. The police station doesn’t look like it’s there on the Internet.

The dorm of a possible eight is housed by three of us. When I arrive I see only the belongings of another two, and hear the water running and the sound of shaving. Karin comes in to own the bed closest to mine, I’ve taken a corner from which I can see out the window of the glorious car park. The Bible doesn’t look like it’s ever been opened.

Karin is here as her husband in hospital, not twenty metres from here. He and she have driven from their slightly more country town for his operation. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few months ago, and Karin tells me he is very scared about the operation, neither of them a fan of hospitals in general. She even packed him a dinner and will go into serve him breakfast, as she simply cannot stand the food they serve there. This hostel sleeping is very new to her, and she shows me her woolen underlay she brought to help her feel more like home. It reminds me of the healing quality magnet blankets I used to see on Good Morning Australia, the one’s you purchased with a credit card and if you do so in the next ten minutes you got another one free. She swears by it and I’m not about to tell her otherwise. We talk at length about death and family - those we may have lost or fear we will lose before too long - something rather deep and personal for such a new introduction. I wish her all the best, make half my bed and sort out a few things before heading out to find the kitchen area. The quiet man, once shaving now clean, unwittingly leads the way and lets me in, I’ve misplaced my swipe card into the place already, perhaps I shouldn’t leave until check out, a whole six hours away.

I spend a good hour in the kitchen area, as the Italian couple Karen spoke of enjoy their dinner of all manner of bits and bobs, coffee and red wine included. Robert’s jacket is in dire need of some patchwork, the synthetic coming away on one arm and tearing at the pocket openings. My MacGyver skills strike again and in no time I have white stitching outlining every patch and tear, hopefully holding for another few months at least. Thank you again Mr. Robert. I make myself a coffee as the women pack up, and sit in an eventually empty kitchen watching the street, looking to the hospital just up the road and the people rushing about in the now softening rain. I get back to my room, having found my swipe card thankfully, to find my bed made and Karin snoring softly to herself. The wonderful lady has done me a favour, I hope her husband is ok.

I lie awake working on Maria’s CD cover as the music plays next door. First Coldplay, Elvis Costello, Bowie, Clash and eventually songs I don’t know. The man sits quietly next to his laptop listening, eyes closed and head against the ladder to his top bunk.

Sleep is eventual, and amongst the pieces I could not be bothered putting away – uke at my feet, laptop to one side against the wall under blanket and books near head. The bed is too warm to leave, and my mind replays the last few days. This morning I was in Stockholm. Four ago I was in Brosarp. Three weeks I was Netherlands. January I was home.
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