Wednesday, November 18, 2015


There are many places on the net that offer artists and designers possibilities to create and sell their work. 
is a company in New York and the printshop in Shanghai, China. The design covers the entire garment. Here are some of my cat designs:







is another company, somewhat different with more products.
Here are some of my cat designs from this company:











Here are all my REDBUBBLE products.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Halloween came to Sweden only twenty years ago and the celebration has grown every year. This year, the amusement park LISEBERG in Gothenburg must have bought every pumpin in the land and arranged them very artistically all over the park. From having grown up without Halloween, this is certainly a change.

One of the  bronze sculptures and a scary Halloween scarecrow.

Liseberg was once a private estate owned by the English Nonnen family who moved to Gothenburg in 1809.

Carl Milles "Triton" with Halloween smoke

Fantastisc effect!

Liseberg will soon open for Christmas and then it will be transformed with all the lights. But it is wonderful in the summer too of course.

Friday, October 23, 2015


Sweden has an excellent reputation abroad as a very liberal country but is not so well known for its culture of ageism (the stereotyping of, and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age).

In Sweden your age is pretty much stamped on your forehead all through your life. The "Swedish Social Security number" ( personnummer) is constructed of your birthday and four more digits. Whatever you do in Sweden, like applying for a job, your age is immediately apparent in your "personnummer". In America it is not allowed to ask a person's age during a job interview. in Sweden it is always done. There it is inescapable. 

In the telephone directory, there it is, the telephone number and the birthdate, whether you requested it or not.  Newspapers and TV always refer to people as "the 42 year old victim" the age is always there. Age defines one in Sweden. 

In the Swedish parliament only 8 of the 349 members are over 65. Compare that to America where many in Congress are over 80. Hillary Clinton would never have a chance as a politician in Sweden at 68. In the Social Democratic party manifesto, they want 25 % of the candidates to be under 35, but there is no such wishful percentage for any other age group. In Sweden we worship the young, but if you are young in Sweden, best hurry up, after 35 you are no longer considered "young and promising". 

As I read a few articles and essays on age discrimination in Sweden, it appears that many of the writers have concluded that the optimal age for Swedish workers is between 21 and 35 (Maria Scherer). After that it is downhill. By 40-50 it seems definitely over for Swedes, writes a blogger with experience from both America and Sweden. 

Unlike the US, where people often work until they are 80 or more, Sweden, being heavily unionised, has strict rules about retirement age. People here usually retire at 65 but one can work until 67 (by law) but after that’s it pretty much the end for most. There is an attitude that old people should leave space for the young to enter the job market. With lowered pensions, people now need to work past 67. But it is not easy.

Everyone is not happy with this, including the handsome and vital TV anchorman Claes Elfsberg who has expressed the opinion that people should be allowed to work past 67. He was let go from his regular steady employment at 67 (silly he thinks) but he negotiated that he could continue work as freelancer with his own production company.
Stefan Sauk, a Swedish actor thinks that Swedes are far too much fixated on people’s age, to the point that he (during an interview with i NEWS 55 a new website for the elderly run by retired journalists) said “Sweden is one of the world’s most age-facistic countries.”  There is a lot to what he said. Politicians especially have a tendency to view old people as a costly burden to society.

This paralyzing age prejudice prevents employers in many cases from hiring anyone over 50. A 50 year old person is actually less likely to be absent from work than a younger person with children. With the generous paternity leave rules, a young employee can be absent for over a year with each child when a substitute would need to be hired. For many years, after the child is born, the parent can be absent whenever the child is ill, or has to go to the doctor, and so on. The work day might be interrupted with a call from the child care center telling the parent to fetch the ill child. All this is allowed by law and the parents get generous pay from the government for all these absences. Other employees must pitch in, of course. These are known facts, yet many employers still shun well qualified people because they are above 50. The age prejudice is so deep that the Swedish nation needs serious re-programming.

The Swedish age prejudice at the workplace is unfortunate, but it is even more unfortunate when politicians, ingrained with this prejudice, start trimming the budget and identify elderly Swedes as the perfect target group to save money. It started with the pensions. The pension system in Sweden was reformed several years ago. It was jointly decided and passed in parliament by all the political parties but the people never really understood. They were never told what the outcome would be, namely lowered pensions. Unlike the American Social Security system that has funds in government bonds, Sweden depends on revenue from the current year’s taxes. Depending on the economy, pensions can go up or down every year. So far they have gone down only, even during “good economy” years. American pensioners see their Social Security entitlements go up almost every year according to the cost-of-living index. Swedes are not nearly so lucky.

In many other areas, the savings, on the backs of the Swedish elderly, has been going on and continues. I wanted to set things straight and wrote this letter in September 2015, to explain matters to this British agency that every year grades the quality of life for the elderly. Life for the Swedish elderly is not as rosy as the government-prepared statistics portray.


HelpAge International
PO Box 70156

Dear HelpAge,
I refer to your GLOBAL AGE INDEX 2015 which is based on a variety of factors you have collected from various countries in order determine the quality of life in older age. On your website, you encourage input from individuals. I wish to do so from a purely personal perspective. Maybe the statistics you gather do not show the kind of reality I have to reveal.
I am 68 years old and not yet “old” per say but will soon be, and I have fresh experience how it is to be old in Sweden from having taken care of my elderly and sick mother and I am deeply concerned about the the attitude in Sweden to the elderly. It appears that the elderly all too often are regarded as a costly burden on society. The elderly are defenceless when politicians zero in on them as a group where money can be saved. Often with disastrous consequences. To be blunt, the elderly in my mind are far too often treated as third class citizens in Sweden.

Reduced housing for the elderly 
In Sweden there were once a great many homes for the elderly but they have been closed and used for other purposes, a process that has not yet ended. Instead old people are told that they should live at home and be taken care of by home service and healthcare in the home. Unfortunately home service and home health service are often targeted for budget cuts and many elderly do not wish to live at home especially as their health fails and they are getting increasingly unsure, frail and lonely.

But in Sweden people are not allowed the choice of moving to a home for the elderly. They are vetted by special personnel “assessing” the need of the elderly (biståndsbedömare) as though people themselves do not know what they need and want. Only in very extreme cases, like being severely handicapped after a stroke or suffering from advanced dementia, can one go to a home for the elderly. Many elderly that are frail, insecure and would feel secure in a home are not necessarily allowed to go to one. The reason is that it is cheaper to have the elderly live at home. Cost is all. The individual choice does not exist anymore.

In 2013, a woman aged 84 who lived in Stenungsund on the West coast of Sweden had asked for her and her husband to go to a home for the elderly. She was exhausted having cared for her sick husband besides managing her bad health and frailty. To her grandchildren she had earlier said, that the older you get, the less help you get. During a meeting with the local government care givers she must have decided that this was enough. She left the room where the meeting was taking place, walked out on the balcony and jumped off and killed herself. Politicians often say that Sweden is a good country to grow old in. This woman obviously did not agree.

No protection by the law
We have many national laws and guidelines from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen)  that speak of respect for the elderly and of quality care and free choice etc, a lot of admirable thoughts and words that one would expect in a civilised society. Those are national laws, but unfortunately, the local government (kommunen)  and the county government (landstinget) who actually deal with home care and health care for the elderly, do not always follow these laws. Their law appears to be their budget and budget cuts are routinely issued regardless of the actual situation and the national laws. 

Reprimands from the Health and Social Care inspectorate (IVO)  are largely ignored as the Inspectorate does not and apparently cannot levy any fines or sanctions. The elderly are in other words, not protected by the law when local and county governments let the elderly take the brunt of their reduced budgets. It is a state of lawlessness for the elderly.

Home care, sometimes a sorry state of affairs
Home Care in Sweden is like a lottery. It depends on where you live. It is run by the local government (kommunen) and it  can be very good if you live in a city like Sundsvall in Northern Sweden or any other place where it is properly run, but so often it is not.
In Gothenburg, the second city in Sweden, the home care has been repeatedly criticised by The National Board of Health and Welfare and other agencies. Instead of having small teams (like Sundsvall) that get to know their elderly and the elderly get to know the team, the city has in effect developed a culture of anonymity. The people working with the elderly do not know from one day to the other where they will be working the next day. The older person might ask: “Will you come tomorrow?” The answer: “Sorry, I will not know until next morning”. The way this is achieved is by using computer software that chops up the schedule and gives assignments in the morning , all to save money. The human factor has been thrown out the window.

The one thing that the elderly appreciate is continuity which gives them a sense of security. This is often  ignored by the local government in Gothenburg where it is common for the elderly to meet up to 30-40 different people each month, many total strangers, sometimes more. People who work this way often feel unsatisfied and call in sick which brings in more unknown people (substitutes) to visit the elderly. 
Many of the elderly have complex illnesses and conditions that need care takers who know the particulars. Some cannot speak. Nurses have delegated the giving of medicine to home care workers, and it is disastrous that  elderly patients have a stream of different home care workers (up to 40 a month). How can they possibly manage this intricate work? Just because a person is old and is receiving help from society, does not give politicians the right to turn the private homes of the dependent elderly into some sort of Grand Central Station where up to 40 people, some of them strangers, come and go.

Health care at home often dysfunctional 
My ninety-two-year-old mother died at home from undiagnosed, untreated double  pneumonia (the diagnosis came through autopsy). The doctor’s office was a ten minute car ride away, but the doctor refused to come. The family sent a steady stream of emails to the clinic, and a home nurse pleaded with the doctor to come. We heard the nurse plead to him on the telephone: “If you do not come for the sake of the patient, or for the sake of the relatives, please come for my sake”. 

The doctor ordained a blood test to be taken by the nurse and morphine, but he refused to visit his deathly ill patient. It was scandalous and tragic and hard on my mother and also hard on us family members to see her so utterly ignored. 
I think that this kind of behaviour by a doctor would be unthinkable in other countries. But it can happen here in Sweden where people cannot sue their doctor and the Inspectorate (IVO) does not and apparently cannot levy any fines or sanctions. The local and county government politicians have very little to fear. 

In this case the National Inspectorate, West (IVO) whose judgements cannot be appealed, very strangely, freed the doctor completely, having found that he had done nothing wrong under the circumstances. Since this verdict cannot be appealed  (unusual with no appeal process in civilised society) they in effect cleared the way for Swedish doctors to abandon their patients at will.

The reason for this tragic event when my mother was abandoned by her doctor, was most likely due to the county government (Vastra Götalands Regionen) wanting to save money for the health care of the elderly. My mother had previously had a wonderful doctor who came home to her, spent enough time and was very caring. It was too good to believe. The politicians intervened and the wonderful doctor disappeared. Instead, the local clinic where doctors normally received booked patients all day long, were now somehow also to visit the elderly, an impossible task. But it saved money for the local government. And left my mother to die without a doctor. This was one of the many ill-advised organisational flops of the county health organisation (Västra Götalandsregionen). There are more.

The price of saving money on the elderly
Most people in Sweden live with the idea that their doctor (county government) and the hospitals (local government) can read each others medical journals. But this is not the case and it can put the patient at risk when leaving the hospital. My mother had been treated a couple of months in a hospital for the after-effects of shingles in the forehead and eye, one of the most painful conditions imaginable. She was too frail to go home so she went to a short term rehab hospital (korttidsboende). 

It looked like a hospital, with hospital beds, nurses and other care givers. But lo and behold when my mother who could hardly speak and was heavily sedated was told (through us relatives) that the “hospital” had no medicine there. We had to go to the drugstore and get her medicine and give it to them to dispense. As to a doctor, we were supposed to contact her clinic where “the doctor of her choice” was. Was there really no doctor for all these patients? No. The doctor that previously had been stationed in this “hospital” (korttidsboende), helping the patients in this building had been phased out by the county government (to save money of course). Now all the patients in the various beds had to “contact their doctor” in clinics all over the city. If they themselves could not do that, the nurses, already hard up, had to spend hours on the phone calling clinics and trying to get recalcitrant doctors to come and see their patients. The nurses told me that they rarely could get a doctor to come. They found this process time-consuming and stressful.

A Kafka world
This Kafka world was quite a shock to us. There were not sufficient prescriptions issued by the hospital doctor so that had to be arranged by us by calling the hospital she came from. My brother in law spent several hours to drive to various drugstores to find the many drugs my mother needed. 
I took it upon myself to call the clinic and ask for mother’s doctor to help her with some stronger pain medicine since mother was not coping well with her intense pain. The doctor who had not seen mother for month was totally surprised. He had no idea what had happened to her during her hospital visit, the hospital had forgotten to carry out the manual procedure to fax (sending via computer and email violates the patient’s privacy according to the way they see it) her journal to the doctor. I had to chase the hospital to send her medical journal which further delayed everything. But what about a visit? No, the doctor did not intend to come. He never came to see mother during the two months she was there. The county certainly was saving money — but at what cost! All this kept us relatives very busy and upset to say the least. The county might be saving money but they made our lives a living hell.

Costly mismanagent
There is always a cost to inhumane cuts in home care and home health care. When things are not done right, when home care nurses and doctors do not do what they are supposed to do, when the home care people do not give the right medicine or forget to give it, or do not know how to give it, the neglected elderly patients can get sicker, die or end up (unnecessarily) in the emergency ward. I was twice  there with my 90 year old mother and the wait was around nine hours, nothing unusual. It can be much more sometimes. No consideration is taken to old age. I spoke to a nurse who works in a geriatric ward that receives older people who have come to the hospital via the emergency ward. She said it was sad to see them arrive, dried out, hungry and often dirty in their own feces.

Swedish politicians
I think that Swedish politicians have a serious problem.They are able to show empathy for a variety of weak groups in and outside of Sweden, but they have a problem with their own elderly about whom they seem to be emotionally dysfunctional, displaying a worrying and chilling lack of empathy. They have to stop seeing the elderly only as a costly burden. They must avoid the temptation to use heavy handed tactics to save money. The elderly are human beings too who deserve love and respect and the freedom to chose how they wish to live. And  it must be remembered that these elderly are the same people who, all their lives have paid heavy taxes for the reasonable services they are now denied. 

Leif  Södergren, Gothenburg SWEDEN

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CALIFORNIA DROUGHT -- Some planting suggestions from Gothenburg in Sweden?

When people in California read my new book A GARDEN IN GOTHENBURG they all commented on the succulents and cacti in some of my photos. Of course we bring them in for the winter, but they might still useful planting suggestions for Californians who dig up their lawns in order to plants drought-resistent plants.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Göteborgs Remfabrik (Gothenburg Belting Works) is a small weaving mill equipped wit specialised looms for the production of heavy woven belting for industrial purposes such as power transmission and conveyance.The mill was established in 1891, but the present three-storey building dates from 1900  The texts come from here,
There are 35 looms, almost all of which were supplied by Robert Hall & Sons, Bury, England.

In 1914 electricity displaced steam power, and since then the whole environment remains largely unchanged. This is what makes the mill so interesting.

Today Göteborgs Remfabrik is a designated national building monument. The preservation order even includes all the machinery. It is owned by the City authorities but the technical operation of the mill and visits are in the hands of a voluntary preservation society (Föreningen Göteborgs Remfabrik).