• Adrian likes doing things together with me. Some things, at least. When I started solving crossword puzzles, he also rediscovered crosswords. When I go out to work in the garden, he puts on his rubber boots and climbs around in the trenches and heaps of earth.
  • Household chores such as cooking and laundry, on the other hand, are not among those activities.
  • He is seriously learning English. During our week in Cornwall he read all kinds of signs, with sort of random Swenglish pronunciation, and made sense of many of them. Texts that come up in iPad games are no longer random gibberish to him. He used to say no to watching movies in English, because he couldn’t understand anything, but now doesn’t mind because it seems he understands more and more.
  • Adrian now eats eggs, which until recently he wouldn’t do. Boiled or scrambled or fried, any kind goes.
  • He likes adventurous climbing. The rope bridge at the Lost Gardens of Heligan was truly disappointing. It barely swayed. He’s suggested that we plant more trees so that he can climb from one tree to another, and then we can hang up rope bridges between them, too.
  • He is looking forward to the start of swim school, and to our winter skiing trip.
  • He can stay up much later in the evening than he used to. Bedtime now happens some time around eight, or even half past. He used to get cranky and hyperactive when he stayed up too late. Now he just sits quietly in the reading nook and reads one Bamse after another, until someone tells him to go to bed. Which we sometimes forget. The only effect is that he’s a bit tired the morning after.
  • He likes to play all kinds of role-playing games on the iPad. Anything with fighters, goblins and wizards, equipment and special attacks and power-ups and so on. But Kingdom Rush remains his favourite.

  • The centrepiece and highlight of this month was scout camp. And it wasn’t just any old camp this time – this year’s camp was a giant week-long jamboree with scouts from all across the country, and even many groups from abroad. Eleven thousand scouts in total! Ingrid was, from what I can understand, totally unfazed by the crowds and the scale of the event.
  • She has a knife permit and was therefore allowed to take a knife to camp. She last used her knife in Cornwall to pry off seashells from a rock, and forgot to dry and clean it afterwards. So when she took it out after the Cornwall trip, the blade had dark marks from corrosion. That was unacceptable for Ingrid, so she hurried to do all kinds of chores to earn enough money for a new knife before leaving for camp.
  • Ingrid is enjoying Pokemon Go. She isn’t pokemon-obsessed like Adrian: she doesn’t walk around talking about what evolves to what and which one has which attack, but she does enjoy catching new ones and perfecting her throwing technique.
  • She is still reading and enjoying the Warriors books. It’s the first time in a long while that she has found books to really, really enjoy, books that she devours and can’t get enough of.
  • Last month’s Harry Potter posters are out; white walls and clutter-free surfaces are in. And a new charcoal carpet. Ingrid spent almost two full days sorting through all her stuff and packing away things and toys she no longer uses, so we could put them down in the basement.
  • She still eats like a little bird. It’s hard to believe that she can survive on the portions she’s eating. They’re like a third or a fourth of what the rest of us eat. In restaurants she is now occasionally more interested in the adult menu than the kids’ one, but whatever she orders from it, she’ll eat no more than half of it, and then feel bad about throwing so much food away.
  • This summer’s must-have clothing item is super short sorts.
  • During our very windy Cornwall stay she put up her hair in plaits or a ponytail every day, with my help. Back at home, it’s back to loose and lank. She likes the way she looks in plaits but probably just doesn’t remember to ask me. Or maybe it’s just not important enough for her.
  • She’s quite looking forward to going back to school and meeting all her friends again.

“The Night Circus” is the story of two young magicians, Marco and Celia, and their magical contest. The contest has no apparent end and its goals and rules are unclear. The contestants are both bound to it for life: they cannot give up, nor apparently win or lose. They just keep competing. The tragedy of it all only dawns on us slowly.

The arena for the contest is the circus from the book’s title. It has mostly non-magic performers, but Celia and Marco start adding magical elements to it. Not just the obvious illusionist’s show that is truly magical, but all sorts of other acts that are magical in the sense of being weird and wonderful. A garden of ice; a carousel where the animals are partly alive; a hall of mirrors where the reflections are not quite the mirror image of that which they reflect.

Marco’s and Celia’s powers complement each other. They build the circus together, while still always being aware that they are competing.

As a reader, you can see the love affair between the two from miles away, but they themselves don’t, and it takes years for them to cover those miles. (What a romantic, sentimental concept of love, to have the lovers kept apart and longing forever.)

The circus is beautiful and mysterious, and makes you wish you could live in that world only so I could visit it. In the book, the circus gains fans whose whole life revolves around visits to the travelling circus. But I never feel that I can really picture it – it remains just a little bit vague, like a dream.

The world is apparently flawless, full of lovable, charming characters. They have parties with excellent food; they perform in beautiful circus acts. Magic appears to always succeed. There are no failures and no mistakes. Nobody is ever in a bad mood, everyone at the circus always gets along. All is dreamlike perfection.

We experience all of this through short glimpses and the occasional set piece. The story jumps back and forth in time, which is occasionally confusing, but in keeping with the dreaminess of it all, the slight confusion didn’t bother me much because I found that the exact order of events mostly didn’t matter much.

It takes a patient reader to savour the wonders of the circus and the book. The pacing is slow all the way, which goes with the dreaminess but has its downsides. While I enjoyed every page I read, I never got that feeling that I can’t put the book down and just have to read one more page, so it took me a while to finish. It could have done with more variation in tone and pace.

Only at the very end does the intricate magical balancing act of the circus start to teeter. I was almost hoping for it to come crashing down in fire and flames, but it doesn’t. Ending such a story is hard, but Morgenstern manages it well – although again she doesn’t quite succeed in getting the pacing right, making it dreamy instead of dramatic.

I got this book as a Christmas gift from Ingrid. It was a great choice. I do wonder how she picked it.

Section 11 passes through a fascinating area of pine forest west of Järna, with dozens and dozens of old mining holes.

In my mind I had never connected the name Järna to järn (“iron”). It’s always just been a name to me. Now I know better.

Some holes were just vague indentations in the ground, partly filled with earth. Others were filled with water instead, and looked pitch black because of the depth and the dark rock bottom. Some were actual roofless tunnels that you could walk in. There were also ruins of utility buildings from the mining era.

Today I actually saw other hikers on the trail. (There were also people in Järna but they don’t really count.) I ran across a few campers near a spring, and two French hikers. The French couple walked at roughly the same pace as I did but we timed our breaks differently, so we kept passing each other whenever one of our parties had stopped. I think I passed them three times and they passed me twice, until I left the main trail and turned onto the connecting trail to Mölnbo.

Section 12:1 goes along the shore of a lake for quite a while, and had some nice views to offer. The path was dusty and the day was hot, and I had a pleasant break at the lake and bathed my feet.

There were plenty of bilberries in the woods – enough for me to eat my fill and tire of them. Luckily there were also bog bilberries (which I haven’t previously found much of in Sörmland) and raspberries, to provide some variety.

Snake skin

Day 1 of a two-day hike along Sörmlandsleden.

Section 9 goes through central Södertälje and is unlikely to go down in history as anyone’s favourite, least of all mine. I understand why it exists, and it was my own choice to walk it, and if I had to make the decision again then I’d probably make the same choice. But it was rather dull.

Section 10 was pretty typical Sörmland. Some open fields in the beginning, and then rocky pine forests with bilberry bushes. I notice here that all my photos are of the open areas – the whole section definitely didn’t look like this. The fields with their ripening heads of grain just felt so much like late summer.

This was my first solo overnight hike. I had a heavier pack than I normally walk with (sleeping bag and stove and all that, and more food of course) so I was slower than usual. I didn’t know exactly how much the pack would slow me down, so I was a bit worried that I would arrive very late at my planned camping spot. I needed to find the spring which was supposed to be there, so I’d have water for cooking dinner, and I didn’t want to have to look for it in the dark. So my walking was at times less relaxed than usual, and my breaks shorter. (I am a worrier, though I make an effort to avoid it.) In the end I got to the campsite shortly after seven in the evening, which still left me enough time before dark.

I cooked myself an excellent dinner – a hearty stew with carrot and tomato and lentils and wheat grain. Then spent some time reading while there was still enough light from my campfire and the setting sun. Then applied one last layer of mosquito repellent, and went to bed. The mosquitoes were repelled enough to not bite me, but they kept buzzing so close to my face that I had to use earplugs in order to be able to sleep.

After dinner, Adrian wanted to go out cycling, to some place where he could just cycle and cycle and not worry about roads or pedestrians or anything else. I’m not one to say no when a child wants to go outside. So we cycled to Spånga sports field, where there is a bandy field in the winter and just a wide field of asphalt in the summer. Perfect for cycling.

The shadow border that I planted two years ago, in September 2015. Most of it is coming along decently, and the whole thing is quite nice to look at. It would probably be doing better and looking lusher if it had gotten more water… but we were away during the driest period. The plants in the bottom end are all looking especially puny. I hope they will catch up next year. If they die because of one dry summer then I don’t want them here anyway. And all the Lamiums are all still looking near death, just like last summer. Perhaps this is not the right place for them.

That secret project that Ingrid was working on was indeed a birthday present for me. It was a kitchen tray.

During summer we like to eat outside on the deck, which means we’re often carrying things back and forth between the deck and the kitchen. The trays we have for this job are the usual slippery plastic things. Definitely better than nothing, but not ideal.

This new one is a dream to use. It’s solid and robust, with square feet and tough rope handles and an edge all around. The surface is just rough enough so the plates don’t slide around, and the edge adds extra security. The handles are thick and stiff enough that I can really load the tray full with heavy bowls of food and stacks of plates, and still have full control when carrying it all. I like the feel of it so much that I use it even when I only have a few things to carry, just because I can. It’s perfect.

We went shopping at Bromma Blocks – a scout knife for Ingrid, and part 3 in the Warriors series of books.

There’s this rubber hill outside the mall there, and it’s just the right size for a bit of climbing before the drive home. Even for Ingrid, apparently.

I’m forty years old.

Much of me feels just like I did when I was 25. Other parts feel better.

I sometimes think about ageing. I see my mother age and realize that my own old age is no longer distant enough to be invisible and unreal. I’ve noticed wrinkles appearing around my eyes, and my hair is gray. But I’m comfortable in my body. It’s healthy and strong, still. I am probably stronger than I’ve been for years.

I am frustrated with my job, which is now all stress and no joy. But that reached such a peak in June that clarity struck like lightning and dissolved all doubts. It’s time for me to leave that job and move on.

I am somewhat tired of being a mom. Perhaps I’ve let mothering dominate my life too much for too long. Or maybe not – maybe now is just the right time to pull back a bit. There is room for me to be more selfish again, to think about what’s good for me and what makes me happy.