Saturday 15 August 2015


Hammarby Sound at 4.45 am

Yesterday morning brought another "Early Birds"-event. This time it was not the sea gulls' shrieking that got me out of bed. "No!", it was something more subdued, but still annoying: an almost infrasonic, but at the same time persisting rumbling from a diesel engine, combined with diesel fumes mixing with the clean and healthy draft from the sea beneath my apartment.

When I got up to investigate, a marvelous golden view welcomed me outside. The sun was about to rise, but still too lazy to appear above the horizon; backlighting instead a sky full of clouds, with an unearthly, almost Martian timbre. Forgetting about the noise and the fumes, I just closed my bedroom window and got back to sleep.

As the morning went on, I thought nought more about this incident, since all kinds of noise from the seaway beneath me are reaching me throughout the day. But suddenly, around 10 am, a super loud radio channel opened up, surpassing all the usual sounds I have been getting used to. When I rushed out to the balcony to see what was going on, I discovered the view you can look at below.

Transport Authority Barge

The barge squatting smack below my balcony was of course known to me. I had seen it cruising off and on for two months now, but never before found it nestling at my place. We are looking at exploration activities connected with a planned new subway line. The barge is housing huge drilling machines, which sample the ground under the sea. But why just below my balcony?

The answer is obvious. Look at the map showing the planned lay-out. A new subway station will be hollowed out from the rocks just below my apartment and the trains will arrive through a tunnel under the canal!

The planned new subway line

Now back to the intrusive radio music: Looking closer at the people moving around the barge, I could discern a nice young lady, sitting in the white cabin yonder. Apparently a girlfriend, visiting one of the young muscular laborers on board. To keep her occupied and content, whilst having to concentrate on their drilling, the youngsters probably thought some entertainment was in order. No harm in that, if it weren't necessary to put the loudspeaker on full blast, in order to outperform the drilling noise!

I had had enough and rushed down to the quay to admonish the youngsters. It took me some screaming and waving to get their attention, since they had their hearing protectors on! Eventually they took notice of me and, to my satisfaction, had the good manners to shut down the radio. Thereafter, relative calm was again reigning over the canal, at least if you count shrill drilling noise as calm. But we have to accept this type of noise, in the name of progress! ;–)

Day after, on saturday, no barge noise to report about; working week was over. But that didn't mean all systems clear for this sedentary old man. After an eventless day, suddenly, Hammarby Sjöstad started to get agitated again. Just about the time when I took this romantic picture of the last sun rays caressing the roof tops in the distance (imagining myself as a latter day Caspar David Friedrich – our great Swedish painter – at his most pictorial), an enormous bass tone suddenly erupted over the calm waters, soon followed by a host of shrill overtones, coming from an oversized and maladjusted loudspeaker.

Sunset over Hammarby Sound à la Caspar David Friedrich

Ready to contact the police immediately, I rushed down to the quay again to investigate the source of this cacophony. A young couple was seen leaning on the guide rails over the water, admiring some goings-on at the opposite quay. I approached them and started to complain about the noise, soliciting support for civic action to come to grips with it. Instead, I was met be smiling faces, showing themselves to be quite content with the ruckus. It was time for the yearly "Midnight Run", they told me, which would start, not at midnight, but just 15 minutes onwards. 

And so it was to be. Just as the last rays of sun were bidding us "Goodbye!", the loudspeakers started to blast at even greater volume, a voice was trying to out-scream the ruckus, and a horde of motion-aficionados started to run along the quay. The noising and running went on for more than an hour, but this time there was no way of escaping it. Shutting all the windows and putting cotton in my ears did not do much to suppress the general uproar. I just had to content myself with the insight that it would all be over by midnight and, after all, that it was for the general good, if not for my own!

The Midnight Run has begun!

You may well ask what all this has to do with the title of this post? A lot, it turns out. The citation in the title comes from the play "Wilhelm Tell" by Friedrich von Schiller. It refers to the hollow way to Küssnacht, along which Wilhelm Tell awaits his oppressor Gessler, in order to kill him off with his cross-bow. In English translation:

Scene III.
A hollow way near Küssnacht, over which travelers are passing.– The whole scene is surrounded by rocks, one of which is seen jutting forwards, and covered with bushes. 
Enter Tell with his cross-bow

Thro' this deep hollow passage must he come,
There leads no other way to Küssnacht.

As soon as I realized that there is a plan to hollow out a tunnel underneath Hammarby Canal (passing smack under my apartment at that), this citation came to mind immediately. I have a sound grounding in German literature after all, how could I not think about Willhelm Tell in this context?

Wilhelm Tell, painting by Ferdinand Hodler
But there is more to it. There slumbers a wildman deep within all of us, does it not? I am peaceful myself, but I have to admit that unwarranted noise raises my hackles. Especially if there is nothing I can do about it. Whenever this happens, a vision keeps invading my mind: like a latter day Wilhelm Tell, I see myself as hugging a cross-bow, firing quarrel after quarrel to kill off the malfeasants. I am ashamed of this vision, but, at the same time, relieved to realize that it helps me to re-gain my inner equilibrium! Amazing, isn't it?