Spring is here! The beautiful Scandinavian lighter days have returned. Easter in Sweden is a big deal. People buy birch branches and decorate them with feathers and eggs. When I was growing up in the 80s my Mum would do this. I think my English friends must have found it a bit unusual. Today, I seem to see it everywhere in the UK.
Last week, Gothenburg and the surrounding towns started to decorate for Easter. There are feathers everywhere,
An unusual part of Easter in Sweden are the witches. Little girls will dress up as a witch, putting on old clothes with a head scarf, and then go door to door asking for treats. Very similar to Halloween. The tradition is said to come from the old belief that witches would fly to a German mountain the Thursday before Easter to cavort with Satan. On their way back, Swedes would light fires to scare them away. People still light bonfires and set off fireworks leading up to Sunday.
I have sent my mum a postcard wishing her a Glad Påsk (Happy Easter) that looks very similar to the one below.
Another little factoid for you, Easter eggs in Sweden are usually made of paper mache and are filled with all types of sweets. There are sweet shops in Gothenburg that remind me of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. They are a child's dream come true. Here is my local sweet shop.
I was at this sweet shop today filling my paper egg. I have already eaten quite a few. I should really hide my egg away until tomorrow.
On another note, the clocks go forward tonight, so my mornings will be even lighter. I am very much looking forward to the rest of spring and publishing the next Delilah Dusticle story.
One of the reasons I love living in Gothenburg is because of all the wonderful cafés that you will find on nearly every street in the city. Even though I am from England, I am much more at home in a café, slurping a caffeinated beverage than I am in a pub. Being English, I definitely drink more tea than coffee though.
However, I love the ritual of having a coffee in a café. I love the different beans you can choose from. I love the smell of freshly ground coffee. I love the squealing noise the milk frother makes. I love the patterns the barista makes with the hot, frothy milk.
Here is a picture of one of my favourite patterns. This was done by a very talented barista in café in Haga.
I also love people watching, and cafes in Gothenburg allow you to sit for hours with your laptop plugged in, writing. Perfect for when I need a change of scene from my kitchen table, where I usually write. Then there are the cakes! But that is for another post.
I have always been interested in café culture and I stumbled on this today. It is about the most expensive coffee and the importance of café culture in Vietnam. If you are a café, coffee lover too, then this is worth a watch!
Here is my favourite illustration from Eliza Bluebell. It is of Eliza with her best friend, her shadow. Eliza's shadow always wants to help, but usually just ends up getting into to mischief. They both play an important role in changing the lives of those who live in Blossom Brook.
To see the butterfly come to life, watch the book trailer!
Eliza Bluebell came from my love tearooms and café culture. Set in a small village in picturesque England, it is a heart-warming short story to warm your cockles. Enjoy!
I had a lot of fun writing Delilah Dusticle’s Transylvanian Adventure. I really let my imagination go wild and I often found myself laughing at what was spilling out onto the page.
One of my favourite scenes from the book is when the Dustbusters get in the elevator after meeting the flamboyant Count Dracula. Elevators are usually quite boring for adults, or even quite frightening. However, for small children they are fun ride with lots of buttons to press. I wanted to push this idea of a fun ride even more and make it just as appealing to adults.
Here is the illustration of the buttons found inside Count Dracula’s amazing Elevator Experience 3000.
Unlike an ordinary elevator, the buttons do not take you to a different floor. Instead, they actually transform the elevator into something else. While inside, the Dustbusters become curious and start to press the buttons. Each time they do, the elevator turns into a disco, or an amusement park and so on. Making their journey much more exciting, and it gives them a taste of all the magic and adventure yet to come.
Every time I get into an elevator now, I think of the Elevator Experience 3000 and I smile. What button would I press if I were in an Elevator Experience 3000? Definitely Disco. Which button would you press?
A few years ago I read a couple of self-help books. At the time, I was thinking negatively. I realised that my thoughts were restricting what I thought I could do and what I thought I should do. This was making me unhappy and when you think about the word ‘should’, it usually comes with a big dose of negative.
I didn’t know how to stop my negative thinking, so I searched on the internet about changing thought patterns. It was cognitive behaviour therapy that popped up first and I bought a book about it. What really stood out was a chapter on the word ‘should’ and to this day I remind myself of the dangers of this word. I even wrote a poem and called it The Exhausting Perils of Should.
Here is my poem.
If you think about it, when has the word ‘should’ ever served you? ‘Should’ is what you think you should be, ‘should’ is what you think others think you should be, ‘should’ is the what you think you should of said, ‘should’ is the things you think you should of done and ‘should’ is the thing that you think you should be doing. Exhausting, right?
The self-help book highlighted that instead of ‘should’ put ‘would like’ in its place. By doing this, you are more likely to see if it is something you actually want. Or is it something you think you should want. At the time, I had a thought that I should be married. When I switched ‘should’ with ‘would like’, I realised that it actually wasn’t that important. My relationship was good enough as it was, and I realised what joy it gave me. The realisation made me happier.
The moral of this post? Don’t let the ‘shoulds’ get you down!
I think it is important to reflect on the progress of women and the lack of progress women suffer from around the world. In June, the UK will hold a referendum on whether to stay in the EU. I will be voting. Each time I do vote, I remember those who can't. Tonight, I plan to watch Suffragette. A film about those who courageously fought so that I can vote. Here is the trailer!
I was asked the other day how Delilah is. I replied she is not very happy, she has been stuck on my desktop for almost a year and is desperate to break free. Delilah is the main character in a series that I am writing. So far, I have published two stories. There is the unpublished one I mentioned and two other stories that swirl through my head intermittently, waiting to be written.
It is Delilah Dusticle and the Cursed Tempest that is impatiently sitting on my computer. The story is done and has even been sent to a beta reader. But for some reason the project stalled. Holidays, illness, work, you name it all happened, along with some self-induced procrastination. I have now tried to kick start the process of publishing again, by sending it to Bridget Gevaux at ABC Proofreading for a proper grammar health check. Also, six out sixteen illustrations are done, so I am hoping for an April or May release. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I am now pushing myself to write something new. I have been lulled into not writing stories, which worries me. I think writing is like a muscle, if you stop writing, your muscle begins to weaken. But what should I write about? My ideas in the past have come from everyday things. Delilah Dusticle came from a puff of dust, Eliza Bluebell from my love cafes and tearooms and A Fairy Extraordinary Christmas Story came from helping my Mum bring the decorations from the attic.
There is one idea I have. A few years ago I bought a little hedgehog soft toy. I am not a cuddly toy type of person, so this was unusual behaviour for me. It was just so sweet. Like a child, I have even given him a name. I have called him Igelkott (sounds like eaglekott), which is hedgehog in Swedish.
Here is Igelkott.
I have been considering writing a story about him for a while and a beautiful snowfall in January has given me a plot idea.
Here is that snowfall from January.
There, in my mind, Igelkott’s tale swirls around along with Delilah’s new adventure in London. I really need to sit down and write and get these ideas out. I need to stop procrastinating. I will just have to make myself do it. Off I go then. Or perhaps I will rearrange my sock draw?
I logged into Facebook earlier and saw lots of photo's of my friend's kids dressed up as their favourite book character. Of course! It is World Book Day! For me, if I were to dress up today it would have to be Pippi Longstocking. To find out why, please take a look at my earlier post, 'I am an Astrid Lindgren wannabe'. I guess the question is, who would you dress up as today? Until next time, have a great World Book Day! Love from all of Delilah Dusticle's spiders!
I went back to England recently to help my Mum prepare to move house. My job was to empty the attic, with the help of my sister and my partner Gavin we emptied 30 years worth of stuff. I was amazed to find what my Mum had been harbouring in her attic. All my school work, art books and even my written work from Brighton University. Some of it was a joy to look at and the rest was just a reminder of how I struggled with writing at school. In one exercise book it said ‘this is awful’. I doubt a teacher would get away with making this comment today.
My experience of English class was either being told I was rubbish or being told I was a really good creative writer. It all depended on the teacher. I remember in one school year being moved from a bottom set to a top set. My poems were great, my stories were fun to read, but my essay structure was lacking. A degree, a Master’s and a PGCE later means my essay structure now stands up.
With only a suitcase with me on that trip, I knew I had to throw away a lot of what I found in the attic. So I did. I chucked the lot. Good riddance to old struggles and hello new found love of writing.
I admit, I did keep one thing. A poem that I had written, which inspired my degree show at Brighton University. At the time, I was really interested in the idea of forbidden performances. I researched how in Poland, before the Iron Curtain came down, people would go to each other’s house posing as dinner guests. When really they were there for a secret performance. These were usually plays that had been banned. The performances would happen in front rooms, behind closed curtains. No stage, no theatre lights, no large set, minimal props and just good old fashioned story-telling. This to me was amazing and I started out to create my own secret performance.
I sourced an old arch on Brighton seafront, which smelt of fish and damp. No-one would suspect a performance in there. The owner removed all the fish nets, so I could run rehearsals and eventually perform there. Today, those arches are filled with kitsch shops and cafes. I doubt I would be able to find such a secret venue in Brighton now.
I invited the audience by giving them strict instructions to meet their guide at a certain place. Their guide would have a red rose and a newspaper for identification purposes. The audience were then led to the seafront, where they found a message in bottle buried in the stony beach. The message told them they would need a password to get into the performance. Guided to the arch they banged on the door. “I hear you sell the freshest fish” the audience would say. If they didn’t, the door simply closed refusing their admittance.
Inside were benches by the walls for the audience to sit on. Four girls wondered the space, whispering their innermost thoughts as the audience found their seats. I projected onto the girls bodies’ maps of their past, lit them with torches and had them sew their dreams onto a blanket. Sound a bit strange? Darling! It was performance art and a site specific installation! And I loved it. Here is the poem that was also sewn onto the blanket.
Somewhere inside of me is a fishing net catching my emotions before they surface above the water. Always such a calm that occasionally ripples, compared to the volcanic structure beneath that boils and breaths a dangerous heat. Rocks walk over dead objects and music plays to cover exposed holes that may erupt at any moment. The sound never surfaces as bright coloured fish cast webs blocking the inside out, but like spirits of another seep through and live there too.
Here is a picture of the original. It looks a bit like the swirl of a finger print.
A.J. York is a middle grade and children's writer. Author of Delilah Dusticle, Eliza Bluebell and A Fairy Extraordinary Christmas Story. A.J York has a Swedish and British background and currently lives in Gothenburg, Sweden.