Sunday, 23 August 2015

'Deep in the Green Lilac Park' (Leonard Cohen, Marianne Ihlen and the story of So Long, Marianne)

'We met when we were almost young
Deep in the green lilac park
You held onto me like I was a crucifix
As we went kneeling through the dark'

So long, Marianne
Leonard Cohen

Marianne is my blogging name.  I borrowed it from the beautiful Leonard Cohen Song 'So Long Marianne' when I started writing this blog quite a few years ago now when I was putting my life back together again following the devastating breakdown of my marriage, which left me a single mother of three young boys. Not an easy time.  It seemed appropriate.

I had never really considered that the song might be based on a real Marianne until my new husband, who is inured to my lifelong love affair with Leonard Cohen and his music, bought me a copy of  Kari Hesthamar's eponymous book recently.  The book is based on interviews with Marianne about her life and particularly about her long relationship with Leonard with whom she lived off and on for the best part of a decade and which took place mostly on the beautiful Greek island of Hydra, and which I found quite fascinating.  A more contemporary version of the Bloomsbury Group as it turns out! 

Marianne was only 23 years old when she left her native Oslo to live on Hydra with her then boyfriend, the Norwegian writer Axel Jensen, and they joined an artists' and writers' community there. She married Axel and gave birth to his son back in Norway but on her return to Hydra she was abandoned by him and left to raise her son alone.  Leonard introduced himself to her at the local cafe and she became his muse and the inspiration for some of his earlier poems and songs.  

My musical tastes were formed in the late 60's and early 70's when North American and Canadian Folk/Rock were part of the sound track of my life.  Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan were constantly being played in my student house in Leeds and I was lucky enough to see some of these talented artists, including Leonard Cohen, live in the early 70s.   

Leonard Cohen wrote some stunningly beautiful and thoughtful contemporary poetry and prose but did not achieve recognition until he turned his poetry into songs and developed his talents as a singer/songwriter and became the voice of a generation.  He has continued to write and record music and to perform his music live all around the world.  His style has matured and somehow both lightened and deepened, and some of his lines are exquisite.  As a performer, he is mesmerising.  I still enjoy listening to his music which I find timeless and evocative.  His is the one voice that has stayed with me through the decades.

I found this unusual version of 'So Long Marianne' on YouTube recently and wanted to share it. 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A Taste of Sweden - Churches & Chandeliers













 When we are not on the water, we enjoy the usual tourist occupations of exploring new places, sampling the local food (and drink) and visiting the beautiful Lutheran churches that are found in every town in Sweden.  

The interiors are gorgeous with elaborate decorations and vivid religious paintings.  I was particularly drawn to the exquisite chandeliers.  My favourite is the one with the deep blue crystal at its centre.  The atmosphere is very different to English churches and they are a very useful source of Swedish history.

Friday, 7 August 2015

A Taste of Sweden - Simple Swedish Style

A simple vase of flowers at Grassagarden



There is much to enjoy and explore in Sweden.  On a sunny day, the water sparkles in the strong, clear, clean light, the days are endless, the sunsets memorable.  

But what I also love is the Swedish sense of style which perfectly suits the Swedish climate and the strong light.  So simple but so beautiful.  




We arrived on the small island of Rastaholm on Lake Malaren to find that it was barbecue night at the Rastaholm Inn.  The freshly-caught barbecued sea bream was quite simply one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten, served with a selection of freshly prepared salads, a cold glass of white wine and finished off with a delicious coffee served with a glass of warmed rum and chocolate truffles and fresh berries.  There was live music and later we took to the dance floor...


Table Decorations, Rastaholm Inn, Lake Malaren
The morning after the storm that brought us to the town of Strangnas on the shores of Lake Malaren was my husband's birthday and luckily the day was fine and clear, so we spent the morning exploring the town.  We came across the pretty Cafe Grassagarden which dates from the 17th century and used to be an inn. 





 The interior was just as charming and I loved the windows.  I have a big love affair with Swedish windows.








Another favourite spot on the mainland is the KutterKonfect, a lovely shop and cafe in the town of Trosa not far from Stockholm.  The speciality is chocolate-covered marzipan, the presentation is amazing and the temptation is huge!