Thursday, 2 November 2017

FEUILLES MORTES

Street lock on Hammarby Quay

Our brain sometimes can play peculiar tricks on us. The other day, when taking my usual 45 minutes' walk after breakfast, suddenly some phrases bubbled to the surface, as if trying to accompany the wind blowing around nose and ears from Hammarby Lake. Let's see if you can recognise them.

"Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle.
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié...
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi.
Et le vent du nord les emporte
Dans la nuit froide de l'oubli.
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié
La chanson que tu me chantais." 
(Jacques Prévert: "Les feuilles mortes").

"Feuilles mortes" at Luma Park

These melancholic words accompanied me on my continued walk, adding to my appreciation of the late autumn atmosphere all around me. Eventually I arrived at the mid-point of my venture, where two giant oaks welcomed me as usual, but, unusually, one was still full of leaves, the other completely bare. A third should have completed the scene, but only its trunk was left, the crown torn down by an earlier autumn storm. 

At mid-point of my daily walk

As I went on with my training round, the sun came out of the clouds and temperature rose appreciably. It was as if autumn yearned to turn into summer again. Even the mallards seemed to enjoy the mellow atmosphere, paddling contentedly among the reeds along Sickla Quay.

Ducks among the reeds along Sickla Quay

I hate to admit that I am a bit in arrear with my blogging. A series of engagements, the foremost a great wedding party in Austria, have kept me from my favourite pastime. This is a pity, since this autumn provided us with many interesting events, at least as concerns the weather. In early October it looked like we would have an early winter again, with temperatures early on tending down to zero degrees (Celsius). Then again, days were back to warming up. Then came a period, still with us, with every-second-day weather, bringing alternately warm and cold temperatures. 

As a result, there are still trees keeping their leaves, even if they have started withering with a vengeance lately. On the day when the above pictures were taken it felt like summer would come back any time. Compare this to last year, when there was a three days' blizzard, preventing me from leaving the apartment, since snow kept accumulating on the streets. 

A rather peculiar event occurred back in October, meriting a blog of its own, which I am sorry to have missed out on. I usually wake up when traffic starts getting heard, and it was already light when I got out of bed around 6.30. Since my breakfast haunt opens up first at 7.30, I could doddle around in the apartment for an hour before getting out into fresh air. Judge of my surprise: it had gotten dark again, as if day had decided to take a sudden turn into night. The sky was dark as soot and I could hardly see my feet moving on the sidewalk. "Götterdämmerung" is the appropriate word for this event. 

People around me were shaking their heads, barely discernible in the dark, and nobody could find a good explanation for this sudden somberness. Day after, the newspapers told the story. A strong southern jet stream had brought sand from the Sahara, mingled with soot from the many fires raging around the Mediterranean. A sign of Earth' future if any. 

But we are spared the travails of Earth warming up here in the North. After an hour or so, the sun managed to break through the massive wall of darkness. Rays of light, clean and polarised, as if from a search-light, brightened the scenery opposite my balcony. Whilst the continent will begin to suffer from climate warming, it will indeed become more agreeable up here!

Sofia Church after "Götterdämmerung"

Being eager to bring this blog to its well-deserved conclusion, I almost forget that there is another autumn day to remember. I sorely missed the 25 years' jubilee on 24 September, of the Great Crisis Nadir of 1992. For those not familiar with Swedish history, or those who have suppressed the sad event, let me freshen up your memory by citing myself from a report I once wrote about it.

"On a sunny day in late September 1992 (24 September) I arrived at the office early, to work on an article on capital adequacy in banking. I did not get a chance to do any work that day, however. The phone started ringing as soon as I entered my room (at 7 AM) and did not stop during the day. The calls came all from foreign bankers and financial experts/journalists and were all about the same theme: How solid is the position of the Swedish Banks, Mr. Ems, how long can they hold out in the onslaught of credit problems and exchange risks. Being a Central Banker I could do little else than utter vaguely encouraging mumblings. But the frequency and intensity of calls indicated that the end was near for interbank lending to Swedish Banks. Fair enough, the same afternoon, Government held an urgent press conference, telling the world that it felt obliged to guarantee all of Swedish Banks' liabilities and that it would undertake a general scheme for bank support to counter the on-going banking crisis. This was without comparison the most demanding and challenging day of my life – it was the nadir of the Swedish financial crisis."

The world has gone on since then, and even experienced a comparable crisis on a global scale 15 years later. We are still suffering from its aftermath. This brings me to the question, whether there could be a repeat of such a sad event in near future. The question is far from futile, since both the BIS and IMF both have recently been making noises about the great indebtedness of nations. Sweden is no slouch in this respect and asset prices have been rising steeply the past few years, a sure sign of a financial crisis being imminent. In my mind, I can see some similarity between the year of 1991 (the build-up year of the great crisis) and the present year.

Most notably, real estate prices have ceased rising and are on a downward trend. Minor building companies are already in difficulty and some even under receivership. So, keep your fingers crossed, lest we will be sliding into bad times. Let's all join in an incantation to be repeated over and over again: "This time is different! ... This time is different! ... This time is different! ... ... ..."

Best not to think about such sad things. Let's get back to where we started and invite a famous French singer to phrase the poem mentioned at the beginning of this blog!