Thursday 5 January 2017


"Winter Blues" at 8 am.

I was greeted by a rather surprising view at 8 am today. After several weeks of warm weather, almost autumn-like, winter cold came back with a vengeance and, suddenly, Hammarby Sound had begun to freeze over at night. For 36 hours already, snow had been falling intermittently and I was quite unprepared for this clarified view. Alas, I shouldn't be surprised. Standing on the balcony in my pajamas I suddenly started to shake. I had to rush back in and put on a dressing gown before taking the mandatory picture of the event. It does not pay off taking pictures with cold shaken fingers! It turned out that it was more (or should it be less) than minus 10°C outside.

Speaking of snow; another surprise: when I left the apartment building later on, to trudge stoically uphills towards my favourite breakfast haunt, the snow had been cleared away from my porch, and all the way up to Luma Square! And this only after 36 hours of snowfall! Yesterday morning still, after more than 12 hours of downpour, I had to wade my way uphills through decimeters of the white powder; today, going was much easier!

Clearing the paths only after 36 hours is still quite unsatisfactory, you say? I tend to agree, but have to point out that it is still better than not clearing at all; which happened last time around (see Decline and Fall of a Great Country).

In my favourite breakfast haunt.

The question still remains: why does it take such an awful amount of time to clear the sidewalks around my apartment building? I have only two alternative answers to this against the background of snow clearing being contracted out to private enterprises. Either, the contracts permit such delays in order to save money; or, the contracts are badly written. Both could of course be true.

The first named cause of delay should be acceptable to me. After all, saving money leads to lower municipal taxes. Who am I, a privileged member of the Baby Boomers generation, to deny such bonus to those who come after us. What is a little hip damage or broken knee, compared to younger people being able to spend more money after tax?

But I am much less forgiving when it comes to writing bad contracts, leading to bad service for good money. It is in the essence of private enterprise to look after itself rather than society at large. In consequence, there is a a need and responsibility for the municipal contractor to write approptriate contracts, which lead to the result we expect and pay for.

Have we not recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics to Dr. Bengt Holmström, the famous Finlander and Professor who explained to us how such contracts should be written and enforced? The Award Ceremony took place just a few weeks ago (and I saw the King handing over the prize to him, since I attended the ceremony), but regrettably, no one asked him for advice on how Stockholm's contracts with their snow cleaning entrepreneurs should have been written.

Be that as it may. When coming back from breakfast, and whilst I am writing these lines, flakes are again starting to tumble down. And the weather report is promising us intermittent freezing colds and heavy snow falls over the weekend. Time to prepare for a prolonged weekend in bed!

Heavy snowing again, at 10 am!

Looking back at what I have written just now, it appears a bit morose. Time to lighten up the text a bit, don't you agree? Why not revisit the Nobel Prize Ceremony for a moment. Attending it was a first for me, very engaging for a septuagenarian, I can assure you. I witnessed the ceremony with wide open eyes and the childish admiration even an oldtimer can show for an event not experienced hitherto. In that context I couldn't help noticing the dignified respect paid by the audience and participants to the proceedings.

Even a life-long performer of the arts was so aw struck by the surroundings that she got stuck in the middle of her recital of a Bob Dylan song. She was able to continue first after uttering the by now winged words "I'm sorry, I am so nervous".

                                         Patti "The Nervous" Smith singing "A hard rain's a-gonna fall"