C3: normal/not normal (vanligt/ inte vanligt)
Onto the blog:
The sun set yesterday after a gorgeous day in Stockholm... cold but clear and sunny. Amazing to wake up at 8:30 AM to buckets of sunshine outside (we've had a lot of gray). It's Sunday now and again fairly sunny- cold and windy. It's a good day to hang out, listen to music, read books, blog or whatever.
Friday the 13th was Chris' 45th birthday. We celebrated with a nice dinner (poached halibut with mango, avocado and cilantro; salad with green apple and fennel; toasted bread with pear, goat cheese, thyme and honey) and a lovely chocolate cake from Vette Katten, one of Stockholm's best bakeries. Fresh raspberries to top it off.
Stadium, the sports store, had quite a few people. One lady in trying on downhill ski boots, others looking at the winter sales. I was trying to buy an extra long ski bag and duffel bags. Our current ski bag is looking a bit ratty and our acquisition of extra cross country skis means we needed more capacity to get home. No luck, but I did find two good size and inexpensive duffel bags.
Stockholm's shopping street, Drottninggatan (Queen Street), was fairly busy- coffee shops had plenty of people in them as I walked by. Normal. Ducked into an apotek (apothecary) to look for hand sanitizer. Packed. Section for fever medicines completely empty. Quickly ducked back out. No need to be in crowded places.
Vette Katten, a fantastic and very traditional Swedish bakery and cakery, is normally packed. The "take away" line was longish; the buy it and eat in line had no one in it. I've never seen so many tables open. Not normal.
I quickly ducked into the Hötorget saluhallen. Hötorget is pronounced her-tor-yet and is the site of Stockholm's original hay market. If you visit Stockholm, the saluhallens are worth finding; they are "taste halls", or a market where there are lots of small food shops, much like Faneuil Hall in Boston or the Chelsea Market in NYC. I had briefly been in this saluhallen a while ago and realized that if I wanted to get really good fish, this was the place to come. Halibut acquired from the very bored looking fishmonger, I found some good pears from the very bored looking green grocer. He said that no one had been coming that day-- business was slow. Not normal. The fish chowder cafe looked busy. Normal but a bit slow.
The outside fruit & flower market at Hötorget was weirdly quiet... the vendors are normally a bit pushy but on Friday, were quite insistent on trying to get my attention. I didn't see anyone buying anything, or even stopping. What do you do with flats of fresh raspberries and no one purchasing? Not normal. Looked about like this random photo (not mine) of the market... no people.
Biked home, dropped off the first load of groceries. Washed my hands.
Went to the grocery store to get a few more supplies. We live about 100 meters from a grocery store (a chain called Hemköp, pronounced Hem-shop. Forget the "k" sound... it's an "sh" sound in Swedish. I digress into vulgarity for a second: köttbullar= meat balls, pronounced "shit-bullar". This pronunciation has resulted in much hilarity in our house).
Back to my story about the grocery store. Upon walking in, you enter the produce department. Fairly well stocked so far- I'm a bit surprised.
Looked left, just past the flower display. The normally overflowing racks of potatoes- completely empty. Potatoes?! I'm reminded that this was and is a very traditional food for Swedes, and a mainstay of their diet through the 1990s (potatoes, herring and not too much more). I didn't feel like pulling out my phone to take pictures so you'll just have to imagine.
My quick trip through the store for coffee, goat cheese, and more yogurt revealed a run on pasta, rice, beans, and of course toilet paper. I'd been wondering when the Swedes would start to notice what was happening elsewhere-- the signal had apparently finally gone out. At the checkout stand, every single person checking out had loads of food and toilet paper. It was 2 pm on Friday and our normally fairly quiet store had 5 check out agents working (we usually have 1, maybe 2 when it's busy). Not normal.
Came home, washed hands. Unloaded groceries. Washed hands. My hands are starting to rash out from being so dry. Bathed them in lotion.
On Friday in particular, it was helpful to go away from the news. I'd spent the later part of the week unwinding work-related plans: a trip to Denmark and Norway in late March/early April, a visit of a European colleague to Penn State during the same time period. We also conferred with our friends Jamie and Hans and pulled the plug on a trip to Italy and Greece this spring (even if one is on a sailboat, one has to get there). Kept reminding myself that it was okay not to be otherwise productive by diving into a research paper, and that my inability to stay focused was quite likely very normal.
The news around here is bleak and getting bleaker, but the countries are responding.
- Norway has shut everything but the bare necessities down.
- Denmark closed its borders and is actively turning people away (Denmark's Ministry of Foreign Affairs changed its travel advisory so that the entire world is classed as 'orange'. This means it now recommends against unnecessary travel to any other country.)
- Russia closed its land borders with Norway.
The kids are doing well- asking a few questions, reading the news. They've decided my habit of looking at the news and twitter was/is detrimental to my health- they've volunteered to provide the "It's Not All Bad" daily news update: a summary of the news by them so I don't have to look at it. Cute, and much appreciated (as was breakfast in bed this morning while I join the family in reading Horatio Hornblower- seems like a good time to start an 11 book series).
We've been spending a lot of time in local parks. A bite to eat high on the parkour course below (gloves on in public, off to eat).
The local city sportshall-- busy with handball players last week-- was shut down this week.
I imagine many of you around the world are, like me, facing quarantine, isolation or “social distancing” measures as a result of COVID-19. I wanted to take this opportunity to say I hope you will feel free to use this platform as a continuing way to connect at this time. As women and often primary carers for children and older family members I would think many of us are dealing with new challenges at this time, whether that is working from home, facing restrictions on travel, upskilling rapidly on online education or health risks to yourself or your loved ones. I hope all stay safe and well and I look forward to connecting with you in the future online or in person as surely this present crisis must pass with time. With warm wishes...
The speed and evolution of information sharing and creative ideas for implementing practices is heartening as well (and the subject of dismay at times, of course). My new hero is an epidemiologist from Seattle, Trevor Bedford (on twitter). He's been tweeting very real time results and modeling work looking at potential spread (in between helping get U. of Washington's testing ramped up as fast as possible). Another great statement and compilation of resources comes from the Seattle Chapter of 500 Women Scientists. I had to laugh at this article- a man figured out how to create social distance in public by walking around in a large cutout cardboard circle.