An Interesting Find, Norwegian history, and Introducing Harold Fairhair…

Finding something thought provoking in an unexpected place…..

One of my favourite pastimes is wandering around antique markets and junk shops. Recently I persuaded himself to come with me and whilst I was off rummaging around the various stalls he went off and looked around the book stall. I was very pleased with my purchases: a tiny silver picture frame with its original photograph of a (possibly) Edwardian lady wearing a very large hat,  a set of retro weighing scales with a bowl large enough for a Cornish cook to put to good use, and a vintage Manchester United Football top, among other things.

Later over coffee,  we discussed our purchases and himself showed me the book he had bought, entitled ‘Nazis in Norway’ by Ake Fen: a small book, rather tatty around the edges but he seemed pleased with it. On closer inspection, we found it had been given out to the British Forces during the second world war; a forces book club had been formed to provide ‘a ration of good reading’ to those members of ‘all units of the British, Dominion and Allied fighting services and the Merchant Navy throughout the world.

As my husband (himself) has Norwegian heritage he soon began reading and before long, became engrossed in this short but fascinating book. Soon he was urging me to read it too.

This book focuses on the war and is very descriptive of the history of the times – and covers the period from the outbreak of WW2 up until 1942.

Before the spring of 1940,  Norwegians had ceased to believe in war as a means of solving international problems as they had not known war for a century. They themselves had felt that ‘nothing in life was worth killing people for, even though they knew of things worth dying for’. It is not that they were indifferent, indeed they felt it too frightful to take in the real meaning. They got on well with all nations, and were dependent on none. They were a free country, and desired to be nothing else.

With great wit and courage, the author describes how his country had to adapt to the conditions of war; how they faced up to the horrors of it, yet retained their dignity and their utter inner disdain for the Nazis and their leader.

But this book is so much more than a history of that time. It is a book about backbone and resilience. It is about courage and standing up for beliefs. It is about a race of people who were ‘born of the sea and not used to softness’, but who had, and still have, an inherent individualism, are fiercely protective of their families and are immensely kind and hospitable  when you get to know them.

The Norwegian people have grounded their views on the philosophy of the individual and Norway’s history shows that this trait in her people has had an influence on her political development. The land was made up of many areas but unified into one kingdom in the ninth century under Harold Fairhair (I just love that name!), but many of those who thereby found their freedom hampered decided to leave rather than kneel to an overlord. And this is something that seems to recur throughout their history; they may have preferred exile to oppression. It did not mean they didn’t love their country, they did; with a love that was an integral part of themselves.

I love my country too, and I am glad that I have taken the time to read this book for it has set an example and reinforced my belief that if we all work together for the common good and stand up to bullying politics we can be united.

This wasn’t really meant to be a blog about war or politics or international relations; it is more to illustrate how something we come across by chance can take us back to the beginning of things; another time or place. It is about that moment when you stumble upon something and you realise you were meant to read it. I love the fact I see some of my families’ traits hidden in those descriptions of their ancestors which were written long ago.

So next time you go to an antiques fair you never know what you might find!

A Little Bit of Hygge…

I’ve read quite a bit about ‘hygge’ lately. I’m not sure exactly how you pronounce the word…or even spell it , but I think it’s pronounced  ‘hue-gah’. However, to quote my favourite philosopher Winnie-the -Pooh,  when asked how to spell a certain emotion, ‘You don’t spell it, you feel it.’

Spelling and pronouncing hygge is probably the easy part. Explaining what it is is perhaps a bit more tricky! I think the easiest way to explain it is by suggesting you think about all the cosy, ‘feel good’ things in life – the small but important things we crave, especially this time of year. I have heard it described as ‘cosiness of the soul’ ‘soothing times’ or ‘hot chocolate by candlelight.’ Whatever it is, I like it!

The word ‘hygge’ originates in Norway, and means ‘well-being’.

To elaborate a bit, hygge is a sense of coming together with loved ones, revelling in simple pleasures and sharing comfort food in front of the fire. Hygge isn’t about buying stuff, whatever the retailers want us to think. You don’t need to spend money to create a sense of hygge. Wrapping up in a warm, snuggly jumper and going for a walk can be hygge, as can catching up with a friend over coffee. It’s about feelings, not possessions. It’s about being kind to yourself and others.

You could:

Curl up in PJ’s and a warm blanket and read a book

Light a scented candle

Stop trying to multi-task – turn off the phone and focus on the moment

Bake some gooey brownies

Send a loved one a letter

Soak in a bath with some scented oils

Explore the outdoors

Walk someone’s dog, (or yours!)

Turn on some fairy lights in the fading afternoon light….

We don’t need an excuse for hygge either, and we can even use it at work. Create a little space on your desk for a candle, for a photo or a plant that is pleasing to the eye, or invest in a Himalayan salt lamp (if the boss allows obviously!).

There is a lot of hygge in Denmark, said to be one of the happiest countries in the world. I guess they have their problems and issues like every other country, but they seem to have a positive outlook, and even have a Happiness Research Institute. It is worth noting that Danish people are the ones who meet up with their families and friends the most often, and feel the most calmest and the most peaceful.

Ok, Ok I know I have gone over the top a bit but I think you get my drift. This time of year, especially on a grey, misty and murky day like today, we all need a bit of hygge. While fashions come and go, hygge is one trend that I think is very much worth indulging in.

Here was my bit of hygge today. If in doubt….bake!

Hygge blessings!

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