Thursday, July 29, 2010


It’s cold in Melbourne but I confessed to a slightly incredulous friend today that I wished it was colder. Snowing in fact.

I was so enamored of Stockholm’s crisp, white winter this year that I wouldn’t mind donning a scarf, hat and gloves and turning up my collar against some drifting crystal flakes. Instead it’s a mild 9 degrees and there’s no snow in sight.

To brighten things up, I’ve been to the big blue and yellow store and stocked up on some Glimma for my Iittala votives. Whilst we don’t do winter darkness here with the same depth and duration as Sweden, the flickering of candles on my dining room table lifts my spirits. It wasn’t until my first visit to Sweden that I really understood the importance of candles in the winter-time. They provide light and movement and something indefinable that warms the psyche to inoculate against winter blues.

In Stockholm in midwinter, the sun rises and sets within about 6 hours. It hugs the horizon as if it doesn’t have the energy to push itself up any higher in the sky and it sinks leaving darkness to settle around 3.30 pm. Today we had 10 hours of daylight and patchy blue skies so we really can’t complain.

Even though it would be nice to have some snow.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Life at Sea

The Otello has just departed Port of Fremantle in Western Australia. I watched as the morning sun lit up the docks and the giraffe-like gantry cranes and this green and white monster slipped out to sea. She has a car carrying capacity of 6,700 and some happy Australians will probably be taking delivery of a new BMW soon. She has sailed off into an approaching storm and as I sit watching this massive vessel disappear over the horizon whilst the swell rolls in at Cottlesloe beach and ominous clouds darken the skies, I’m trying to imagine life at sea.

Daughter Number 2 lives in Fremantle and met our friend the sea captain who lives in Sweden and works for Wallenius Wilhelmsen when she visited Stockholm a few years ago.  She is chuffed to be able to tell her Aussie mates that she knows someone who has sailed these big ships into the port she can see from her window.  The sea captain is never short of a fascinating maritime story and opens a window of a different kind onto another world with his tales. I love listening to him talk about ports and people and about shipping technicalities and navigating the world’s oceans. It fires my curiosity and fills my head with images of rolling blue-green horizons and far-away destinations; visions and fantasies that have undoubtedly lured travellers to sea for millennia.

The Otello is a long way from home. The Wallenius Wilhelmsen online schedule says she left the German port of Bremherhaven on June 1st and arrived in Fremantle on July 7th. Vessels like the Otello count time in days and months whereas flight schedules count time in mere hours. We left Stockholm on June 19th and arrived in Melbourne on June 20th. Thirty hours door to door. The Otello’s voyage has taken thirty-seven days so far. And she’s not even on her way home yet.

So as my mind follows the Otello and her crew over the horizon and across the Great Australian Bite on their way to Melbourne, I’m thinking that sailors are made of stoic stuff. Despite my romantic imaginings, long periods of time at sea must be incredibly tedious and boring and loved ones must feel a very long way away.

Bon Voyage!