Or not, as it turned out. On a recent work trip, Sweden felt like... Sweden, rather than a foreign country.There was the pleasure of recognition, but not the shock of the new, even though it's about 20 years since I was last there. Before that, we visited quite frequently (my husband speaks Swedish), but this was a first winter visit. Although I was pretty much inside during daylight hours, I tried to take some photos which would remind me of the Swedish-ness of Gothenburg. So in the shots above and below, city centre skylines that are European rather than Scottish.
And trams, of course. I had lots of practice in tram-dodging in preparation for that glorious day when trams will run in Edinburgh (getting closer now).
Illuminated ships at the harbour.
At last - a bit of de-countryfication: a 'no roller skates' sign at the entrance to Gothenburg University's Business School.
It was very agreeable being abroad but not being de-countrified. And it made me long to visit more of Scandinavia in winter. I've been to Norway several times in winter, but never Sweden until now. Finland I've only visited once, in September, when the season was slipping into autumn.
For other recent de-countryfication, see the label on the right.
Well timed as we go down into the darkest part of the year, a black dog has appeared on Princes Street. This is a difficult time. Getting up in the morning is a struggle. The sun rose today at 8.23 a.m., but on many days it's hard to tell that it has risen, muffled as we are under low grey clouds. Sunset today was apparently at 3.45 p.m. Since I was in the office, all I noticed was a gradual slide outside from grey to black. Unless you make an effort to get outside at lunchtime - and I normally work right through - daylight only returns at weekends. This particular black dog looks more benign than threatening - although perhaps with a certain mournful set of its head? Judging by the muddy information plaque at its feet, children have been clambering up to cuddle and pat it. A multi purpose dog, then.
Christmas is being set up in Princes Street Gardens. The first arrival in the week after Remembrance Day is always the big wheel, seen above half completed. In the middle of the shot, if you can see it for the raindrops and what I now realise is a very grubby camera lens, is the dark bulk of the Scott Monument. The gardens themselves and the monument form a dark oasis in the centre of the city. I like it that the monument isn't illuminated, contrary to the fashion for lighting up trees, buildings and, in some places in Scotland, random bits of rock face.
The glow of the moon and the construction lights in the shot above is added to by the illluminated facade of the Lloyds Banking Group headquarters. Money v. Art?
Below, by Saturday the little cabins are being fixed to the wheel. Every Princes Street photo now has the new feature of overhead tram cables. No trams yet, but we have the cables and the rails.
We are temporarily up on Speyside, as my father is in hospital and quite seriously ill. This is where our attention is concentrated at the moment, but at the end of a weekend of hospital visiting we headed for the coast to breathe deeply of the sea air.
Looking north, above, as the waves crash onto the shingle. Below, the coast curves east towards Buckie.
Looking west now, to where the River Spey meets the sea.
And south-west, back up the course of the river and into the sunset.
Oystercatchers were calling, a curlew piped, and all the while the waves broke on the shore. It was what we needed.
One of the things I miss in Edinburgh is the sea. That may sound strange, as Edinburgh lies on a wide estuary, the Firth of Forth, and a short walk from our house brings us within sight and sound of its tidal reaches. But for all its whitecaps and wheeling seabirds it's a tame sea. The fields and hills of Fife lie just across the water.
By contrast from Stonehaven, to the south of Aberdeen, there is only the wide horizon of the North Sea.
Below, Stonehaven's setting on a sheltered bay.
Even in the town centre, the 'real' sea is always present. In the gap between the buildings below, a working ships of the North Seais a counterpoint to land-based traffic.
Can you detect that I'm feeling homesick for the North?