To Hel and Back :: Edit your Template To Hel and Back: August 2005

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Diary-like ramblings

Lyla and I are recovering from the worst hangover I have had for many many years. There are empty bottles of gin and champagne under the sink. Thankfully the furniture is back where it should be... don't ask. We tried to watch Piglet's Big Movie but found that it was slowly sucking the soul out of us with song. There should be warnings for that kind of thing.

Last night we had dinner at Lasipalatsi for typical Finnish food. One waiter was distinctly smiley but our waitress looked so miserable we felt bad for being there. Likewise at Zetor, our original dining venue, the waitress was so blunt that there was no enticement to wait for a free table. Finns have got a lot to learn about the subtleties of customer service.

Yesterday we pottered around the little shops of Porvoo and came back with a lot of chocolate and cake. There will be photos once my dexterity comes back.

Tomorrow Lyla and I are heading to Tallinn, for a day of sightseeing. The next morning, I fly into London for David's funeral.

Japan have finally organised some flights. It was a real mess and misunderstanding that has made me feel extremely undervalued at their event. Will be carefully considering before negotiations next year.

I've been partying like crazy in my last few days here. It's been fun, though the bank account is starting to dwindle. I really must put more effort into my business. Next year... Of course the budgetting around the Irishman doesn't help, but of course, his finances are more important than mine so I shall go without (oh yeah if you sense a bitter post on this to come, you're right!)

Now, it's more cups of tea and panadol to clear this head...


The Irishman has always been a quiet feature on this blog, mostly because he used to read it. I'm not sure if he does any more and "frankly my dear"... so here comes the venting.

Anyone knowing me in real life Helsinki time knew what it was like for me with the come here / go away attitude; the distinct reluctance to talk or confront issues and of course the lack of any shared responsibility for even something as small as getting off the train at the right train station!

So it would come as no surprise that it has been difficult to get him to talk about money owed either on messenger, email, in person or on the phone. Death made me change my attitude about the money until I looked at my bank account today.

Apparently I am "demanding because I am unwilling to meet him unless it's convenient to me". This made me laugh so much I nearly choked on my kebab. Countless times I have emailed and messaged my "schedule" which is naturally busy for anyone about to leave the country. I was also planning a dinner at the Yacht club in Espoo and a night on the town as a good spirited farewell until I got pushed back for a soccer game!

I am also apparently taking the moral high ground. Er yes, because I've been dumped and he owes me money. High ground is where I belong.

Additionally I have been bitchy. I called him immature. Bitchiness to me is when you won't say something to someone's face, but say it to everyone else. So I told him that I wasn't being bitchy; it's the truth - he's immature.

If I wasn't broke, I wouldn't care about the money, but I hope I've annoyed him enough to realise that one day, everyone has to grow up and face up to responsibilities.

Home is where the hearts are

I'm being nagged by people (wow I have readers!) to say where the final decision to live next year will be.

And the winner is...


I'm staying. Or more to the point, I shall return after working in Japan and Australia.

There are too many people too dear to me here and I can't leave. I worked hard to survive and make friends, to leave now would be before enjoying the fruits of my labour, so to speak.

I'll post more (and a lot of back posts) but right now I am enduring the world's worst hangover.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I've got a visitor

There's nothing like having a friend from overseas come to visit to remind you that your home is a "foreign land".

Lyla arrived on Friday and since then I have been steering her through Helsinki, including the eastern reaches of Vuosaari, helping her buy bus tickets and pronounce the letter o when it has an umlaut.

It's kind of cool to realise you know a little about a place, I find a wee bit of Finland smugness on the horizon. I get the biggest kick by leaving my belongings unattended in cafes and reassuring her it's not London.

Rowena and Lyla check out Kaunisaari: the beautiful island for beautiful people, dontcha know?!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Decidely indecisive

Following lunchtime, there was a lot of tears. I had worked very hard to make it work here. And Nina's words were ringing in my head, "if you're willing to stay here for one dodgy man, why wouldn't you stay here for decent friends?"

So now I am waiting for Nina to find her way to Maunula, so she can look at the house, see if she likes it, maybe rent it out, maybe convince the inept estate agent who can't even find the house key, maybe leave my things here, cancel all sales, etc etc.

It'll still be frantic. Possibly even more so.

But the thought has stopped me from crying.

Lunchtime update

Chaos reigns.

The basement has moved upstairs. There is a bin bag marked "for sale". There are two well stuffed plastic bags marked "S and S" which I am supposed to take to Sami and Sarita's tonight, balanced between a load of stuff I'd like to give them for them, and a pot of Mexican chilli.

In another corner, a pile marked "?" (yes I really am using post it notes to do this!), a pile of clothes that I can only wear at Crisis (Lyla to take back to London for me?), a huge pile about to fall off the chair of things to give back to me, or give them as "gifts". Some of which also has to be somehow transported to Pitajanmaki.

There is also a sports bag being loaded up for the September 1st ferry to London...

The computer has given up reading CDs but as I got through nine, I am quite happy and have about 5 meg free now. Smugmug is however having a fit at three people logging in and simultanenously uploading and has chucked the latest batch out.

I am desperatelty short of plastic bags, packing bags, transporting bags, and storage bags.

The chilli however is cooked.

And I have my eye on the mini Freixenet in the fridge for lunch...

Any one who would like to come round with plastic bags, or cars or better organisational skills very welcome.

Oh and Lyla arrives tonight, which I am very excited about. But I need to find the floor again before she gets here... Yes... Plenty of time in the day.

Deep breath.

Oh and the packing itself is easy. It's realising I'm packing things like business statements and invoices or my most special photos that shouldn't have to be moved because I was supposed to have a home here. And if anyone wants to know if I am upset, well only a little, but am I pissed off? Oh yeah... The next man who messes with me, is going to cop it, big time. But men don't care anyway do they... hmm pass the freixenet.

Out and About

(Summer chilling: espoo)

While I've been "quiet" on the blog front lately, I've still been getting out and about.
Here's a quick round up:

Organised by the Helsinki Festival people, this is a program of activities indoors and out for people to watch and participate, from dance, sculpture, photography and of course street drinking. Yes, no Helsinki activitiy would be complete without young people carrying slabs of beer, cider bottles in the gutter (quickly rescued by entrepeneurial old people for recycling) and urine in the streets.

It's really hard to watch fireworks once you have been to Sydney. It's really hard to watch fireworks when they're being let off all the way in Suomelinna. It's really hard to watch fireworks when you're hoping the crowd doesn't start urinating. Get the picture... ? No, really it was a nice specatcle but quite some distance away, being on an island off the city. All the residents came out to watch it and while not all of them did watch (beer to drink, walls to mark), they were on the public transport and streets, like an exodus; the Jews leaves leaving for the promised land, only beer on their shoulders instead of worldly goods, children. Yes, no Helsinki activitiy would be complete without young people carrying slabs of beer.. oh have I said this before? Sami's pics of the night.

Yes it's another city! Yes it has the word "poo" in the name! No, you don't say it like that. Yes, Espoo keskus is dog ugly and men burp in the streets. I wandered the shore line which was beautiful. I didn't get to the islands - and that's Sami's fault for mis-translating the timetable - but I got him back by telling him what a lovely day it was outside, how nice my lunch was, how cold the wine was, and how oppressive his office must be. Don't answer my text messages when you're at work and I'm on holiday! The WestEnd reminds me a lot of suburban river Perth so I felt right at home. Now I know where I want my next lot of Finnish real estate... Photos of Espoo shoreline.

Still bent on my mission to discover Helsinki's small islands, I took a boat to Sirpalesaari. The boat ride was over before I could get my camera out, but the captain of the boat was an old black labrador, which made me very happy. There wasn't a lot on this island, but that didn't stop me walking all over it, including anything marked "private property" before getting the Lab to take me back. Photos from Sirpalesaari.

I've also been running around on roofs including Torni and Sokos, with drinks in hand; and capturing a lot of Helsinki street life before it disappears for winter.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Caffeine frenzy

I forget that here in Finland, even "herbal" tea has caffeine in it so I'm writing this to stop myself twitching in a frenzy at my inability to sleep /rest after a night on the tiles with the girls painting Helsinki red, black and white.

It's really hard to type when my hands are shaking and so perhaps blogging right now is not as good an idea as it seemed (mind you, didn't stop me drunk the other night, even if half of it had to be deleted it was so unreadable!)

I'm currently trying to back up about 6 gig of photos so I can take them off my poor aching laptop. This isn't working well as my cd drive is allergic to certain brands and spits them plain out. I'm also getting very confused. But with only 300mb of space left and my photo cards fast filling up, I'm getting really desperate.

Holding my arms still while typing is now completely unachieveable, so I'll leave some teasers to come back for...
  • what did three girls get up to in a hotel room last night?!
  • will I, won't I Japan..?
  • will I, won't I Finland, a decision has been reached... sort of...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Make mine a double

There's a time and a place for a good strong drink, and a bar tender that's your therapist. Last night wasn't exactly like that but it was close enough.

It only took two long island ice teas on an empty stomach for everything to come out in neatly ordered paragraphs. Maybe not that neat. And maybe long lines of sentences with bad punctutation rather than paragraphs, but I got stuff out. Cathartic.

I have been very affected by Dkw's death. He was a role model, a colleague, a friend. He personified everything I respected in a professional and a good bloke. He was a gentleman. And he is one of these rare people on earth that are quite simply, irreplaceable. That is a very powerful word to use, and it has been used numerous times since he died. It is the only word that is apt.

But I had been feeling "weird" about my grief. Like someone was invisibly assessing me and saying my grief was out of proportion to how he felt about me, that you needed to be on someone's Christmas card list to mourn them, or some perverse scoring schedule of intimacy. But I realise no one is going to do that. Because everyone who knows him, knows the kind of person he is, knows the way he works, knows the way that people can be affected. No one is going to turn around at his funeral and say "you shouldn't be here". They know him; they know why I am there.

I managed to get all of that out without crying. And I think it will help.

I also think I am ok to Blog again, so here's a mega post to make up for the last week:

We're joined in Helsinki by GroovyChick, fresh from Tokyo. She's Uma's new partner in crime, uber cool and quickly became part of the "we've known each other ten minutes but we're strangers in Helsinki so lets exchange life stories" posse. GroovyChick and I took Uma shopping - something she was very nervous about. Uma is stunning, she just doesn't realise it. She has model-like facial structure, a classic natural beauty and lips that could kill a man at 100 paces. So GroovyChick and I, in the absence of those features ourselves (of course we have our own beautiful features!!) are determined to dress her up for a night on the town to celebrate her birthday. Yesterday's shopping was exhausting. But it was mindless and fun, with people I care about and who gave me carte blanche to cry when I needed to (I arrived for shopping looking like one of those gargoyles above Oxford buildings). I didn't need to cry, I had loads of fun even though I hate shopping and my feet hurt. Shopping for others is great.

If I was sixteen, I'd have a diary and draw hearts in the margins. But I'm not, I'm "thirty.. ? lets leave it at that" (as someone put it!) and I blog for all the world to read. Lets just say I like someone. They like me. There's not a lot either of us can do, we're separated by oceans, mobile phone technology and a whole lot of other complicated stuff. But it's nice to know. And I recently reckoned that I am a tamagochi and just need a tamagochi lover, someone to send via SMS the right thoughts and words, to let me know that they are thinking of me, that I am special, and if I ever needed them, they'd be there. Glow.

One: When someone says "I am there for you", it means nothing. When they are simply there for you it means a lot.

I've had someone say those words an awful lot. But they are not. I've got friends like Benjamin and Caroline who've never really used that phrase, but they are. They let me come over amidst their Sunday morning laundry, I let their pets crawl on me, they cook me great food, I cook them stuff. I know they are there because they always have been, on line, on Blog, on SMS and in person. The Prophet's words on Friendship are for them, and before I leave I want to make sure they know that, other than by reading this Blog.

Two: Having children is no excuse.

I have a friend dating someone with a child. A lot more responsibility and communication is needed before the relationship starts, but it is of course doable.

I have friends with wives and children. They have said there is nothing they wouldn't do for a friend in need, even when with their wives and children.

Children are children. Through them you can show your responsibility. They are not ways to avoid other responsibilities.

Will they or won't they. There is much umming and ahhing over whether or not I am worth the overpriced airline ticket that is being charged by their travel agent. I leave in less than 2 weeks. Personally I could get there for 900 euro but they can only price it at three times that amount... I'll leave it up to fate if I stay here for an extra month...

I'm really quite happy here. As Terhi said last night, "you can't leave, you have all sorts of cups and kitchen things."

The Power of Song

When I came home, the radio was playing Bon Jovi's I Will Love You - Always. I was humming Walking on Sunshine. Somewhere, music's biggest mouth said Janie's Got a Gun.

And then I heard nothing but the Partridge Family.

How can I leave when I have met so many amazing people?

More on this when I stop dancing from today's wake up, today's girl power, and of course, today's lyrics from The Songmaster (do you know your new name?!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

New dawn

--- "Morning ought not to be complex

The sun is a seed cast at dawn into the long furrow of history." ---

The sun shone for a moment this morning, but better still I was woken up by the loveliest of messages from one half of Benjamin and Caroline. It's the equivalent of waking up with someone you love on a cold day, being warm inside and knowing you don't have to get up. Or waking in your old childhood room, to the sound of your mother making your favourite breakfast just for you.

I think I'll be alright today.

I'm going to have tea and famous Pitajanmaki brownies for breakfast...


"And a youth said, Speak to us of Friendship.
And he answered, saying:
Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay".
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know the flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed."

Extract from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Monday, August 22, 2005

No words

When Possum died, one of my colleagues confessed that it affected her profoundly. They were not particularly good friends, but she admired a lot about his attitude and spirit.

--- I don't have words for this. I've written a dozen lines and deleted them all and written a dozen more and soon the backspace key will fade. ---

When I came home tonight, and read that Dkw's website was ceasing, that today I emailed my manager in Japan to explain in hundreds of paragraphs why I could not suggest a replacement for him, all I could do was cry on my computer.

I had been out all day and all the emails popping into my inbox blurred with tears and lack of meaning. What does any of this matter? What do invites and movies and lunch and hotels matter? Who are the names on these emails? Who are the distant people in London answering me?

I can't find words for any of this, so I will just cry it out some more. As I wrote to his mother, "Ironic that words - the substance of David’s life – are what we struggle to hang on to in the void that he leaves behind."

Kid, you'll move mountains

From Oh the places you'll go.
Dr Seuss

"I'm afraid that some  times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are."

Philosophy salad

With apologies to Confucious, Hindu, Bhagwan and Zen philosophy- much urban story telling added:

A fish swims around looking for the sea. He asks all the other sea creatures, what is the sea? They all shake their heads. No one knows. One day, the fish is flipped by a big wave, out of the water and onto a rock. He struggles and flips on the rock, gasping, drying out, until, on the verge of death, a wave comes up and flips him back into the sea. As he swims away he thinks: Ah, this is the sea.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Final Time Control

I'm not religious, or spiritual, but when my first friend died, I felt a need to create some faith. I decided there had to be somewhere better to go. So, I made Rod a heaven of special stages that were a co-driver's dream, not so much paperwork, and good marshalls at each control.

When Clive died on route to Rod's funeral, I reasoned that every co-driver must have their driver. How else can your mind come to turns with a fate so cruel?

I heard the same story repeated when Possum eventually left to join Roger.

When Paul joined, I simply added new stages.

Now they are joined by the world's best rallying journalist.

When the boys come into service-in, Dkw will be there, pen poised, unintelligible scribbling, absorbing the details. Dkw, you won't have to compete against engineers in the media zone. The FIA will listen to you. And rallying will always be the full back page of the newspaper, while a column on football gets relegated to back of middle.

And in this heaven, even cricket will be exciting.

I will miss your words. Pen them in the sky for us to read.

The only certainty in life...

...has just happened to a friend / colleague of mine.

You realise they crossed the lines to friends when you get the news and cry, when you have to break it to other friends, when you don't want to work with anyone else.

He was someone I respected very much.

I don't know if I ever told him that, at least not sober.

I remember hesitating the last moment I saw him, wondering if I should ask him to lunch before he left, and then letting it go.

I remember him teasing because of the cricket score.

And he died alone.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

20 more days

It took me about seven attempts to write the title of this post because, once I had counted, my hands started to shake.

It's time to get brutal. Firstly, with myself. I need to motivate, discipline and do. Then have fun after. And with others. If I love ya, I'll see you, if not, you can see me.

20 more days.
20 more sleeps.

AHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

My to-do list is now typed. As if being organised about it will get it done... The list has a disturbing range of things in it. Some which really should be done already. Here's an annotated version:

  • Buy Nordic tickets - easy
  • Chase Japan tickets - that's right, I don't have tickets to Japan. And I leave when?!
  • Shelly: arrival details to make sure I get picked up from the airport and she knows my movements.
  • Lyla plans: travel etc. My friend is coming for a week long visit and I am bound to be a rubbish host and she'll hate me.
  • Lyla bedding: find her somewhere to sleep!
  • Post mail - easy ! It has been sitting in my bag for three days though and is now crumpled and has chocolate stuck to it.
  • Photocopy passport - easy!
  • Mail forwarding - where on earth to?!
  • Return date Australia - ohh very hard one. May require planning of life
  • Website for business? - ha ha that would be the website I was supposed to finish in Winter. ha ha. Not.
  • Nokia synch - involves reading large instruction manual. Don't like this one.
  • Use gym vouchers - involves hard work. Don't like this one either
  • Uk to do list - scary. Involves going through the boxes that should have been shipped to my new life here looking for things like my friend's wedding present.
  • Update blog and smugmug - like I need reminding?! Serves as a back up of the computer, see CD point below.
  • Note book clearance - this relates to the 20 notebooks I have for different events that I can't carry due to weight restrictions, but I need to at least pull out some vital information from.
  • John money - Do I even want to go here?
  • Flat end date and inspection / handover - Fairly important this one
  • Selling list on bulletin board - very boring and will involve clearing out the basement. Yuck.
  • Addresses - Yes need everyone's addresses to send postcards. You can save me this by emailing yours!
  • Finances: Finland - Another potentially hard one as I need to think about how I get my Finnish money from Australia / Japan to pay English bills.
  • Buy Yen - could do this from England if I order on the net.
  • Back up computer - Hard because the CD drive is not reading any CDs it burns itself. Ggrrr.
  • Check insurance
  • Pack, sort, sell and pack more. This is just scary and chaotic. I should be doing it at least by the time Lyla is here. Great planning, Rowena.
  • Sleep. Sami has just instructed me. Sleep.

There's so much more but I can't remember it...

I don't want to go.... Cue brilliant rich man to fall in love with me, pay for my rent while I am gone, thereby halving my to do list and allowing me to come home to Finland and find complete happiness. Oh that was the original plan anyway and it went wrong...!

Oh my god I am delirious now.

The bear necessities

Last night I ate a bear. Not a whole one.

I can see environmentalists, vegetarians and the like all up in arms. It was a little hard for me too. I love bears. I see great big grizzlies and think teddy. And no matter how a hunter tries to convience me, I think there are not as many out there as there should be.

I had dinner in Saaga, a Lappish restaurant in Helsinki, complete with a menu in Sami, and waiters who spoke enough of it to impress me.

From the menu: We started with the entree that included a bit of everything, so I could try smoked and dried reindeer, reindeer tongue (my favourite) and bear salami, amongst cep mushrooms (divine), Lappi potatoes and potato bread (mmmm). The dried meats were fairly salty, hence my preference for the tongue, the first time I had eaten this part of the body. It was surprisingly fibrous like normal meat and not as fleshy and well tongue-like as I thought it might be. The bear salami tasted like salami, though my dinner companion could taste juniper in it, I would have been lucky to taste the bear!

I felt like that was enough but main course was still to come. I had reindeer fillet as I wasn't sure if I could make my way through a mains of bear. When I was in Zetor, I was pushed to make it half way through my moose / elk and the food here seemed like it was going to be delicious so I wanted something I really could enjoy.

It was the right choice. When the bear meatballs arrived and were flambeed at our table, I was poised over them with a fork. But when I tried then, despite finding them being extraordinarily tender, the game taste was too strong to eat all the meatballs and the sausage. Probably a good thing, as it wasn't actually my dish anyway! My reindeer was excellent, as tender as lamb, which made me wonder at what age is reindeer at its best and what is the equivalent of lamb, veal etc in reindeer eating age.

The meatballs came with a literal pot of perunamussia and despite it not being my dish, I was in heaven, reaching across and grabbing spoonfuls of the creamy salty mash.

I had to skip dessert, that's how serious the eating was, and we could barely walk back to the station.

It's a lovely restaurant with great service and if you had to eat bear, it's relatively more affordable there than anywhere else I have seen (remembering that the can is 20 Euro in Stockmann), and worth it for the mash alone (though most foreigners would faint at the prices, I was privileged to find a man in Finland who paid!). There were a lot of foreigners there but we're more looked after than tolerated and it's still quite a classy place.

Now to do some exercise. Because who on earth starts their new diet with bear!?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Who's watching who?

If it's not enough that my blog has become a diary on line and that the bar staff at Outback have taken to reading it, I've now started watching the statistics.

Not so much as how many people read it, but who and how did they get there.

Some startling discoveries. If you google "nude Malay" - there I am. Not myself nude, but it chucks up my site. My hotels in Greece and Turkey; up pops the blog. Certain restaurants in London have landed people here too.

Of course if you search for my name - here I am. But if you search for - "rowena harding" + kebab - me again. First of all, who associates me that much with kebab?! Do I need to stop eating them?! There are only two me's on line so it's not hard to find us without the kebab association!!

I know that someone once read for hours. I can tell when the Kebab Mafia are online, when the Canadians are on, that my parents never.

I know I have readers in countries I've not been to, and places where I haven't been for years.

Freaky. But what is freakier? That people are reading, that the computer can tell us so much, or that I am interested in watching you too?!

Motivation vs realist

I am a realist. Some people call me cynical. I call them idealists. Get it?!

My father is an idealist. That's the only reason why I have a book on how to turn your failures into successes. The difference between us is that I don't call them failures, I call it life.

I brace myself for the worst, and am pleased when something better happens.

Anyway this demotivational website is right for my sense of humour. I might order dad a desk calendar and see if he gets the realism.

Reality checks

Last night, a big reality check.

I will not come back to Finland single. I know that sounds very weak and very needy, but I won't.

This is a nice enough place, and I love the friends I have made here, but this is not the place for someone who arrived here with the anticipation of settling down, station wagons, picket fences, kids, marriage, the works! If I am going to have to be single (which fate seems pretty damn keen on) then I want to be somewhere where men flirt, where dating is acceptable, where doors are opened, where France is a short distance away, where I can connect to hundreds of exotic locations at my local airport (Archangel does not count).

I said recently that I could take the Finn back. That I hoped with time an explanation would be forthcoming and, as I don't have children yet, I would listen to him, as perhaps having children makes such a difference to you, that things happened that I can't understand. But then I thought, "bollocks to that". Having a child doesn't give you a license to hurt people, to have less responsibilities in the rest of your life, to only justify any actions with "I'm a father". Quite simply and bluntly, if being a dad isn't enough excuse to not have an affair in the first place, then it's not an acceptable excuse to walk out on people.

Besides, no explanation will ever be forthcoming. I shouted and screamed at the Finn the night he walked out, that I would move on, I would love, I would do, but ten years on, he would still have the look of a victim on his face, and he still wouldn't be taking control of his life. Nearly six months since he left me and I feel this statement could still hold.

So with yesterday's message from the Finn saying he would like to say goodbye but can't because he is too busy, I realise nothing had changed. He hadn't checked any dates with me, so there really wasn't an effort. If you're worth nothing to someone, not worth a goodbye, then it's time to let them go from your life, forever.

Thinking of explanations and reasons, I started wondering last night "why". Why have the last two men in my life walked out without explanation. I think the Irishman is trying to find one, for himself at least, but I've decided I want to know now too. Why would two people think it would be okay to leave someone alone, without explanation, knowing their vulnerability, leaving finances to shoulder, without discussion, without effort, without a chance? Why, I thought, is it okay to hurt me? My only answer is that they didn't respect me. And then I started the big chain of men who hadn't respected me from the dawn of time. This really isn't a good thing to start doing but before I had really got into that head-flipping montage, I realised I was at the bus stop, fleeing the house, amongst the polite drunks of Maunula (they speak English) and crying my eyes out. I think the drunks, bless them, respected me more.

I sent messages to Kebab Mafia asking for a male perspective on what I needed to do to get a man's respect. I am not sure if I understand the answers. I'd like to think it's a little more complex than 160 characters on an LCD screen can convey.

I guess respect would also justify why weird blokes come onto me in inappropriate ways which has happened a bit lately.

I don't dress too bad, I don't flirt too bad, but it seems like my recent desire to become an Italian nun might instill some respect gaining qualities that I obviously need.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Girls still got it

Kati took me through a stroll around the back of Helsinki, actually I have no idea where I was. But there were a few pretty flowers and the like and we were in a photographic mood, albeit a bit of a crazy one.

Our antics caught the eye of a blonde chiselled Nordic type trying to read nearby. Either his book wasn't very engaging, or the choice of dressing a little feminine was paying off because he kept looking our way.

"Kati, I keep looking at that guy," I say without any trace of cool. "And I think he's looking at me."

So of course we both look. And keep looking. We walk away. He looks. And so the ridiculous chain of "is he looking?", "he saw me looking!" begins.

Kati is urging me to go over and talk to him but I am frozen and for once a little speechless. Since when did she get all this confidence!?

But I don't need to move because he comes over. We are stunned by amazing blue eyes. For a moment. Because then I am wondering where the rest of him is. I mean I am a good few inches taller than him. But he's cute so we'll at least answer his questions, which he's asking in Finnish.

I pick up that Kati tells him I am Australian and he makes an attempt in English to ask if I am exchange student.

"Ahh the flattery," I think. "No I live and work here," my reply.

"Where?" he asks.

"I have my own business."

His eyes fall out of his head. They're pretty colours so we pick them up and pass them to him.

"How old are you?!"

I mock horror at this question and then start to hear the crack in this young man's voice, note the soft fuzz on his not shaved face.

"I'm thirty," I declare.

The guy looks like he needs smelling salts.

He reverts to talking to Kati and I see his hand gesturing high up in the air, which I take as a reference to Torni, where we're going next for cocktails, and out of politeness have invited him. Kati is also doing this upward hand gesture thing but then its meaning becomes clear.

"Thirty," he says, swallowing hard, "thirty is a long long way away for me," and the hand goes up in the air motioning it's up there in space as far as he's concerned.

Kati explains that my translation of his age being 20 is more exactly that he's not even twenty.

I give him a sweet smile, to show that despite my age, I still have all my own teeth and declare "menan".

Kati and I walk away shaking to control our laughter, leaving Little Boy Blue standing in shock at the close call. As we round the corner, the laughter is an uncontrollable cackle and I'm bent in old age posture, begging for someone to help an old lady across the road.

Well at least we can say these old girls have still got it.

Enough already

Excuses excuses

Really had enough of them.

There are a minority of people I know at the moment who use excuses as a way through life and I'm a little kick arse today, so I am going to have a rant about it.

A magic fairy does not come down part way through life and make it easier. Your job is to live the life you can with what you've got and if not, do something about it.

"I'm too busy." Get a schedule, time manage, prioritise and tell people when you're free.
"I've got no money." Do things that are free; there's plenty.
"I've got a child." Funny how all those other single parents cope.
and so on and so on.

Be more creative with excuses, or don't use them.

Walking around Lapinlahti, a man passed me cycling. He had no hands but had bought a bike with special higher handlebars so he could steer with his stumps. You didn't hear him saying "I've got no arms".

Rant over.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Lazy Sundays and discipline

It was delicious to wake up in my own bed and listen to the rain outside. I didn't want to do anything, so I didn't. I read the first pages of several books, ignored them, messed around half heartedly with things and then went to my usual hangouts to extend that sleepy Sunday comfort zone.

First stop, the kebab shop, but the Mafia had been moved to Hakaniemi. I faked hysteria at my "husband's" infidelity just to amuse some Finns who thought they might be in for some Middle Eastern mental wife action. I was shocked to see everything rebranded as Chillis; and was even more shocked when I realised that the new menu made me sick after eating.

Grabbed Uma from the airport and took her by Outback, hangout number two, so she too could taste Pete's Creamy Stuff. We knocked a couple of cocktails back effortlessly before heading back to hers with reindeer microwave meals which we ate out of the packet. Classy.

Next week and remaining, I have loads to do. So much rally work to start. I have decided I will be disclipined and get it done effeciently. And I will drink water, eat well, work hard, party hard and start exercising. There is a bridesmaid's dress I really need to fit into. And it helps to look good should I bump into the now growing list of exs I have in Finland. Uma and I are going to motivate and discipline each other into action.

Starting from Monday.


The real reason I am leaving

I guess it's about time I came clean about the reason I am leaving Finland.

My tiny place, with it's 3.3m of windows are often exposed, as I love the light. And the trees, while green and leafy now, afford me some privacy.

But soon the leaves will fall. And now I have a radio. And for some reason it's on station NRG.

And soon the neighbours will see just how crazily I dance when songs like JLo's Waiting for Tonight come on. And soon the authorities will be called.

That's why I must go away, until the leaves can cover my dirty secret again!

A really great day

Yesterday was a really great day. I think at the end of the day, while playing a game, there was a question about what you would change from today and I don't think I could think of anything.

The Irishman was so late, I didn't have time to get upset. And anyway he was more upset than I was, it appeared. It was probably just a hangover, but he also looked confused about, well, life in general. I don't mean this to sound patronising, but it's just one of those things that define you. You meet people, you leave them, they leave you. I'm a bit of a believer in suffering, the people I relate to the most are people who have suffered. Sure we might be normal drama queens, worry warts, stress nuts, or hypochondriacs by day like everyone else, but when it's really needed, we've got this stock reserve of strength and perspective that I like to call maturity. Take AussieGirl for example. She might be actually younger than the Irishman, but she's stared death in the face a couple of times. That sort of things shapes you and you get pretty good at making decisions - right or wrong - and sticking with them, because you know there are bigger fish to fry.

So the Irishman, bless him, appeared deeply troubled with his decision but I assured him not to be. People just don't work sometimes. Make the decision, don't look back. Don't feel guilt etc. Learn from it, don't dwell in it.

Anyway, back to the great day. I have to say I felt kind of good being able to check my feelings when this all happened. I know you can get the impression reading this that I am an emotional nut but I can also have steely reserve. So I danced a little on the way to Outback where the Welshman was there to giggle with, and Will poured Pete's Creamy Stuff in a glass way too small so I had to drink it as fast as it was poured.

I spent the afternoon with Sami and Sarita, where we discovered Sami is just no fun when it comes to bowling (he too easily wins) and Sarita and I can be more competitive than we can be good bowlers!! I held one of their pets, Epsilon which was very weird. He is after all scaly and well reptilian... Sami made super dinner, Sarita tried to get me drunk on dessert and then shock of shocks, we invited my blind date for Tuesday over to play a game with us!! I mean my hair was everywhere, I was covered in spots so bad they looked contagious and the white light at the bowling had revealed invisible stains on my shirt! If ever an icebreaker was needed, we played a game that made you reveal quite a lot about yourself. I think BlindDate said it best on a difficult question when he turned to Sarita and said "you know, I hate you". But we all managed to laugh and maybe the date is still on for Tuesday despite me answering the question "what no longer interests you in life?" with the response "my family"... Good Rowena, reveal yourself slowly!!! Thank goodness the margueritas (super delicious) loosened my tongue even more. Not!

It really was a cool perfect day. Sorry to keep you up so late Sarita. And also my taxi driver who fell asleep in a tunnel!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Still waiting

"Only just woken up."


Did the words "responsibility issues" ever come from my mouth over the last few months...

In the meantime, I've been compiling a list of everything that needs to be sold before I go. Fortunately it' -----

A cocount angel just dropped again. The song given to me the other day (you know who you are!) just played on Finnish radio. I never listen to Finnish radio. But it was on by chance, and then it played. I sang the ------- reality interruption again, the giver of the song just got in contact as I wrote this. Okay too freaky ------ okay back to interruption 1 resumes: I sang the chorus and smiled and the only line that made me sad was "A
nd I don't think that I'll see her again" so let's change the only element we can control, SongMaster (you get a name for this post as everyone knows who you are otherwise!)

Back to original thread: Fortunately it's such a bloody boring and tedious list to make so it's proved sufficient distraction.

But the songmaster's distraction has proved even better. Even if you gave it to me drunk...

Watching, waiting

Ten minutes to midday.

My stomach is doing flip flops.

I finished the book I was reading, skimming with impatience as the pages in my right hand got fewer and fewer. I realise how disappointed I always am with endings.

At midday I will call to see how far away he is, so I can work out how many distractions to conjure.

Nine minutes fifteen seconds...

I am home

Today, the bloke who was renting out my flat for the Athletics went home at six am. So I, anxious to be back somewhere I could find toilet roll, met him at six am to come home.

As I dragged the last bag into the elevator and shut the door on that alcohol-urine smell that's so offensive to others but that I have grown immune to, I did a happy dance. A big happy dance. As big as the elevator would let me. I think I almost sang "no stinky boys", or something as grown up as that because I would have my space. Mine.

I spoke to Lyla last night, who was a bit worried I had gone off the rocker. We had a small but strong chat about how I have always been walking away with nothing, in every sense, and made plans to make sure this wasn't the case, this time, I would feel in control. She arrives in two weeks, BA strike notwithstanding. The itinerary has changed to add girl power elements and now that I can also fit her in the flat, she'll help with the packing, sorting and garage-saling.

Last night the Irishman told me he lost his job and potentially a lot of cash. I genuinely felt for him, however if I was going to be in a similar situation, I would hope to be in Finland, where one hopes contractual law is taken pretty seriously. Someone muttered it was karma but I don't think like that. In fact, if he was still here, it would be my problem too, and I'd be trying to help me back on his feet somehow. The hard thing about splitting up with someone is hearing bad news like this, but having the steely resolve to limit your sympathy at the appropriate point. So, to ensure this, my new financial advisor, who shall remain nameless as he is very very A Team, suggested that I don't allow my sympathies to prevent me from accepting money I am owed. I hate money for these sorts of reasons, but I guess there is no reason why one of us should be more broke than the other when it comes down to it.

On a lighter note, I am being set up with a plethora of blind dates. I said I was also happy to accept deaf ones, and hey, paraplegics even! In a bid to ensure my return to Finland, the single blokes are being paraded out at point so late in my being here that it won't be possible to find their faults before I get on the plane. At any rate it will be fun to meet new people and try out the list of restaurants that Sami has suggested (they look delicious Sami but will I find a Finnish guy who will pay?!)

Today the Irishman comes to the stuff swap thing, which is fairly unemotional as it's mostly the assorted flags we were trying to sell at the Athletics. That said, I am sure it will still seem deeply symbolic to me so expect some kind of pathetic post at midday. Sami and Sarita, bless them, are on standby, with a number of activites poised to prevent me slipping into day sucking melancholy. The last of the activities involves strawberry margueritas, and as I have a real cocktail thing at the moment, I am salivating in anticipation.

Last night at Outback, I tried Pete's Creamy Stuff. It's a name of a cocktail, well we named it that along with some very X rated facial expressions, side comments and the like. Delicious. Pete you better be able to repeat that.

The Bar has lately been full of tourist Aussies either on backpacking trails or for the Athletics. I love the righteousness you can assume when you meet them, even being here eight months. "Oh you're just a tourist are you?! " and you scoff at their ideas to come live here only for the women. If only there was a vaccination you can take for Hot Blonde Syndrome!

I love that bar very much, only for the people in it. I love how Byron Bay Boy's sympathy last for 24 hours and then he knows I need a laugh and gives sh1t fast and furious to keep a smile on my face. I love how The Swedish Finnish Aussies are propping up their Coronas with their Collingwood stubby holder and that surprise surprise, the lovely Welshman was there, before going to see someone about crabs.

I'm not there all that often but it's almost like the home away from home. Only this time with nice stinky boys.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Knock knock

This is something probably only Sojourning will relate to.

There was a knock at my door. Or not my door, but someone else's, where I am staying.

But you should not get knocks on doors, because there is a security door for the whole appartment. You can get a buzz, but not a knock. I walk to the door, trying to creep, but my feel stick to cheap lino. Standing by the door, the knock sounds close, so close like it's on the same door that I have my ear pressed up to.

But it shouldn't because in Finland, we have double doors. If they are knocking on the same door that I am on, then they are already inside the houe - they should be knocking on the front outer door. So in a way only people that have opened doors to weirdos can understand, I am poised at the door, noting my nearest weapons (umbrella above, curtain rod in hall) until I hear the elevator rise and take the person away.

When I am convinced they have left, and my muscles are starting to cramp I have an idea that I might be very stupid. But to be safe, I grab the curtain rod; it's spiked at one end. I open the door.

I have left the front door open, and closed the inner door instead. So anyone could have walked in, and I am scared of the good neighbour who was just letting me know that!

Entitled ramblings part 2

This is to everyone and no one in particular...

Those of you who know me personally, real flesh and blood know that people mean a lot to me, that even the smallest interactions, I treasure. That I try to give a lot to my friendships and relationships. Well actually those of you in Finland don't know that so much yet because I have been a bit "take take" and no "give".

So of course I am sad. I mark the ending of any friendship or relationship simply because I would have never started it if I didn't see merit in it. If I didn't pause for a moment's nostalgia it would make me pretty shallow and would reduce my feelings for people to nothing.

I don't want to hear:
- you were both leaving the country
- you both weren't 100 per cent happy anyway
- you weren't right for each other
- you were doing the bandaid slow removal process
- you knew it was coming
- you thought of doing it yourself
- you've only known each other so long
- I told you so
- I knew it wasn't going to work
and so on and on and on.

I don't want to hear it because I know it. And it doesn't make me feel less sad, less stupid, less anything. And don't say:
- don't feel sad
- don't feel stupid
because I do anyway.

Ironically, outside of England, it's only the Irishman and The Finn, the very two who left, who actually understand...

Rant over.

Someone pass me a panadol and turn off the sun.

Getting positive

In a bid to be positive, because really there are worse things to be upset about in life... I need suggestions on what I have not yet seen and done in Helsinki and I have added some things I want to come back and do as well.

Here's a list I have come up with. Some of these things I will do in late August when my friend comes to visit:

Visit Kaunisaari
Walk around Meilahti
Eat more Finnish food (I've been to Suomi Kahvila and 3 Kruunna), maybe buy a lot of stuff from the Kaupatori
Go to the Church at Senate Square, the rock church, and the Russian Church
Visit the rock and roll McDonalds
Swim in a lake again (hmm weather)
Swim in the outdoor pool (weather again)
Sauna one last time even if alone
Pick berries
Have breakfast at Care Ekberg
Have a big leaving party
See a wolverine
Walk the bear or wolverine trail in Kuusamo
Seen the midnight sun with no clouds
Seen the northern lights
Tried ice skating, skiing and ice fishing
Built a big snowman
Do hole in the ice
Rent a cottage again
Cycle the Aland Archipelago
Visit Karelia, or what's left of it
Learn more about Finnish modern history
Learn some of the Finnish language
Drink my Salmiakki makkara

Entitled ramblings

I slept badly, it goes without saying. I am looking forward to the closest thing I have to call home, and possibly a good night's sleep.

That familiar waking, "was last night real?" Feeling the puffiness of face, eyes, heart.

This morning, striding towards town, angry even, hearing the Violent Femmes in my head, a marching tune.

My feelings are a mess.

I don't like to give up. This was giving up. I may not do things right, but I give my all, and I gave my all. I have nothing left to give. I think, "what could I have done better?" I think "what was the message I sent, the words that were wrong, to make it change in just one day?". I wonder where Juhannus and that honesty went? It's draining to give someone so much. They should not be allowed to take it and not give it back.

In my head, I know the answers. So that makes me stupid for going along with the charade. It makes me insecure and weak and unable to take control.

I believe in trust. I believe in love. Tell me a lie, any lie, and I will believe you.

On request, I gave a map to the sorest weakest parts of me, and it was used against me. I gave my dreams. They dissolve in the puddles of last night's rain.

It has been more then ten years since I have a relationship that doesn't intertwine lives. There is nothing to move out, move in, nothing to share and split. The Irishman can slip out as easily as he slipped in. There are no collected movie tickets, photos, cards, letters, nothing that proves it was ever real.

Was it ever?

You win some, you lose some. Part 2

Today I woke with those nice feelings. "I love you." Warmth. Sincerity that hasn't yet been faded in the morning light.

A happy day passed, cheeks red from cycling, curly wispy windswept hair frames a genuine smile. And then, those most meaningless of words, "I think we should still be friends."

The Irishman has left me.

I am for once speechless, wordless, and incoherent. I lie, I have been that many times on this Blog before. But this is different.

It is the Finn all over again. It is easy to leave me. One slap. I trusted you. The second slap. And so it goes on all night. I slap myself into sleep.

Three more weeks and every painful memory of my own stupidity can be transferred to another city.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

48 hours to eat

I will be in the Uk 48 hours. Will I be able to eat and drink at all these places...?

Gastro at Clapham Common for real French food without leaving the country or paying a fortune.

Buona Sera at the Jam. The best Italian, best value, best service combination especially for Sloane Square. Features bunk bed style tables with your own lighting controls. You only want to be on top, to make people eat at your feet and the waitress climb up the ladders.

Happy Hour cocktails at the Langley. Several White Russians, some Yeah Baby's, Kir Royals, Bellinis, Pink Panthers accompanied by fish finger sandwiches and hot dogs, while you sit on leather suites.

Alberto by day serving English breakfast by the number and greasy cups of tea, spaghetti and roasts as comfort food lunches and as the restaurant Pernella, fabulous Italian food by night. Alberto dances and kisses you as you dine regardless of the hour.

Sausage rolls and sauce at the West Cornwall Pasty Co. I defy anyone to walk past and not stop.

Millies Cookies. However many you buy, they will convince you of an upgrade to buy more. Soft, warm and addictive.

Yellow curry at the Pepper Tree, Earlsfield. It's quick and easy Thai on the way home.

Hearty breakfast at Smiths of Smithfields amongst the meat market bustle. Even Jamie Oliver eats here.

The apricots filled with cream and pistachio from Gallipoli in Angel.

Elbow to elbow scoffing mutton and potatoes in the Afghan Kitchen, Islington.

Moro. Okay a little pricey but a taste sensation.

Toasted goats cheese while playing Baby Foot in Cafe Kick, Clerkenwell.

A tapas frenzy over the barrels at Meson los Barriles, Spitalfields. I'll leave intoxicated on wine and stuffed on the dried hams hanging from the ceilings.

I have been craving chicken katso curry for so long. Straight to Wagamamas.

Tartuf in Islington so I can roll up the Alsatian pizza and lick the oil from my wrists as it drips. So many options, such little time. Apparently it's now closed though... Has a new one opened up?

I'll exercise in Australia.

Bad at maths...?

Have you ever felt that something doesn't add up?

That the story you get isn't the true one. That the gaps are just not right. That something is missing from the picture.

Perhaps the words are too vague, too much time is unexplained, things just don't come out relaxed.

And you go through paranoia first...and then because you are questioning everything, you pull yourself into line, and so stop caring... but are still intrigued. Because curiousity is an instinct in many animals.

And while you've stopped caring, you are always more and more curious every day. What is the full story? What is the truth? Why doesn't this add up with what you said and why does the story change? Why is there an answer for everything, except when there is no answer?

Of course the next lot of questions is, if I don't know the full story, then why? Why not just say. It saves me the guessing. It saves you the hiding.

New and scary things

I am staying in someone's flat, which is quite nice as far as mass housing goes. But it's older than it looks.

The laundry is in a basement from a Steven King film. At night, it's more like Silence of the Lambs. There is a long corridor and a light switch at the end of it, with lots of locked doors with Finnish words written on them. I tried a few before I remembered the name for laundry room (as opposed to drying room, airing room, carpet scrubbing room).

I also found a bunker down there, with a solid door and nail marks scratched against the inside and broken yellowed teeth in the corner. Okay I exaggerate a tiny bit, but this makes boring enough reading without the truth interfering, right?

It made washing laundry a whole new experience. Adrenalin on spin cycle. Terror with the rinse.

I have learned to use my own washing machine but I was faced with a much older contraption and it was like my first days in Finland all over again. What was delicate cycle? Did I need to turn the water on in this laundry? And so many other options.

I took some lucky guesses, pressed the wool cycle, felt for water coming through the taps, threw detergent in all of the four trays, and scampered out pretty quickly before someone locked me in the bunker, or worse, came out of it...

You win some you lose some

The World Athletics Championship is in town. You wouldn't know it, unless you were directly on top of it in Toolo, the area where the main stadium is. And even then you would only know it if you had an umbrella and were not wearing glasses so you could make out the shape of some unusual activities amongst the falling rain.

It's raining pretty badly which doesn't help any crowd gathering but it chucked it down in Manchester's Commonwealth Games, especially the closing ceremony, and the atmosphere was electric for want of a better cliche. I don't know if it's Finland's calming effect but it all seems a bit of a damp squib.

Anyway... Having lived in SW19 for some of my London time, I decided to make a little money on the athletics. Rented out the flat for one. Nearly two month's rent made in a week. Sweet. Only the estate agents have told me that I need to pay rent for all of September, and I am only there one week. Apparently all of Finland moves out on the same day. They had negotiated a lower starting rent, when I took mid week rent, but apparently moving out is different. The owner even agreed to it, but she can't break Finnish law. Of course not.

Also I decided to buy a few hundred flags and tattoos. They sell like hot cakes in the Wimbledwn queue. So far we have had only a handful of dry hours, and sold one Finnish flag. So today I had to sell my stock at a loss to another business just to get them off my hands.

I won't give up my day job...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


It was recently written to me that we too often assume that people know how much they mean to us so we don't take the time out to tell them.

I am feeling quite a bit sentimental today, so I am going to publicly humiliate everyone dear to me in Finland at least while I am in this soft and fuzzy mood and because it's a few weeks until I will be drunk and face to face with you, and really it's not Finnish to do so!

The Kebab Mafia. It must start from you. Hobbit-like monitor carrier, you have never asked for anything in return. You always listen, and I will even miss you telling me to calm down. Without you I could not laugh about the water incident and everything else that has happened since we met. Thank god I got you off that message board.

The Bean: You were supposed to be my boss but I think of you as a dear friend. Bonded by bastard men and boys. We shall reminisce in Italy, where the blokes will get it all right. Ciao bella.

The Kebab Maffiete. A short time knowing but you make me laugh so much, and keep the Kebab Mafia in line. I'll send you a hundred mementoes of Japan and we can live together in Paris one day, I truly hope. Look out les garcons!

Uma. I'm going to be truly lost without you. We should have never taken so long after the first Outback meeting! Thankfully I am going to convince you to come to Australia earlier. Winter will be hell for you and I will just be boringly alone in a mass of Aussie chicks with no one to bitch with. Your laugh is priceless. We'll hit Berlin as soon as one of us speaks German.

Benjamin and Caroline. The kindest people I know. On Saturday, if enough marguerita is consumed I might even tell you a story about when I first met you! Finland would not be navigable without you, especially toilet roll issues. You will hate me for sending Australian property magazines, but it's a risk I am willing to take! I will come back to visit you alone. Er yes that's a threat.

AussieGirls' Finn: a token nod in your direction. My age mate and fellow lone ranger, I think there is a lot you understand. One day we will both come home to a house that has someone waiting for us inside.

AussieGirl: Embar is not Embar without seeing you chain smoking that first day for four hours solid. As you said yourself; people are there for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I wonder if you are okay without me doing your internet searching!?

The Outback Boys: You never cease to make me laugh, you pick up the things I leave behind, you make sure the sandgroper gets home in one piece, even if she doesn't remember how she got there. You are dream bar blokes and make a good double long island ice tea, even if you are rip off merchants!

The Welshman: because you were unbelievably drunk on the day I needed you to be and in pisstaking and marketing we unite.

JP: The first date, who also makes sure I get home, and is engimatic at the best of times. You are as sound as anyone can be who has lived here for eight years, but go home, mate, and go home soon!

Deojuvame, for the girl power and sitting through the Anti American abuse and my whingey whiney stories on days when it's better to be silent in the sun.

Faussie: Not only did you find me the perfect shoes but you convinced me that a man who doesn't like us, has the problem and not vice versa. We'll get you home soon.

The exchange student: I will never forget you picking me up off the floor on Vappu and staying with me until the tears stopped. I owe you forever for that one. I think AussieGirl said it best with "and look this girl is with you because you're lovely, when I am sure she would rather be having sex against the toilet wall!"

RacingGirl. I don't know where you are now, you don't show on the radar. But the first weeks would not have been possible without internet connection, and someone who thought England was alien, and knew that Finland would also seem like outer space.

The Irishman: Juhannus and a night of champagne in Helsinki - a memory to treasure. Dating was fun. Lets do it again one day.

Last but not least, The Finn: thank you for being enough reason for me to move here. Without that I would not have met these wonderful people.

And as only a drunk can say (and I am sure I will post again drunk and sentimental) "lovesyersall".

This list is dedicated to Paul and Rod, snatched from all of us before we could tell you how much you mean to us. It's a lesson I will never forget. x

Dazed and confused

Back in Helsinki.

I truly do not know if it is Wednesday or Tuesday.

I have slept in three different beds in three nights.

The weather starts off hot and humid and ends with thunder that rumbles through you like the worst hunger and synchronises with over dramatic lightening. I go "home" soaked to the skin and not knowing where people keep their towels.

My flat is in the hands of an Englishman for the athletics. I am sofa surfing.

People don't seem right, like an out of focus photo. All of AKK have spinning heads post-rally. The Finn has offered makkara keito, or was that a dream? The Irishman seems lovely, and then I realise that I don't even scratch the surface of his life. AussieGirl's Finn takes bizarre to a new level. Uma is in Madrid. Thankfully the Kebab Mafia are solid and Sami is promising strawberry margueritas whatever the weather.

The storm howls outside and I expect to see the witch cycle past as the wind rises above the Haaga tree line. But it's me trying to cycle in this wind, to pick up wet weather clothes from Maunula, to blow the cobwebs from my head.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Holy Grail

I have found him. The perfect man.

And he is French. He speaks English, but he doesn't say a lot.

He loves motorsport. He knows food very well.

He is a bit chubby, but well formed.

And you can see in this photo, that he loves me too...

More photos of Neste Rally Finland here.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A little pocket of France

Last night, on the way home, we stopped in at the Citroen service park where our French translator had to pick up something. It was like stepping into a tiny pocket of France in the middle of Finland.

They were all sitting together, none of this each mechanic grabs some food stuff for the Citroen team. It's a proper family occasion. I walked in front of the dining area and suddenly 24 sets of eyes were on me. These are French men lets not forget. I felt more naked than nude.

Dessert was proferred and accepted. How do you decline a man who whispers suggestively "vous desirez un petit dessert?" Profiteroles filled with alcohol infused cream, ice cream squares set amongst blackberry coulis, a mini creme brulee. Exquisite. I was not in Finland any more Toto.

I tried to remaining charmante while I scoffed, aware of the stares of the kitchen team, the big eyelashes of one, the handlebar moustache and Michelin starred-belly of the chef.

The air was rich with please and thank you, good nights and bon soirees. If there were doors around their service area, I am sure they would have been opened for me.

We have been invited back for lunch. A pleasure for both my stomach and my femininity.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Neste Rally Finland in Calorific Statistics

Number of Norwegian soft jelly men rolled in sugar consumed: All the red ones
Number of Mars Bars consumed: At least 7
Number of fun size Mars Bars that constitute one whole mars Bar 3.6
Bottles of water drunk: 7
Alcohol consumption: 2
Sitrunna Muffinisi consumption: 14
Number of dishes unidentifiable in staff canteen: 2
Number of sandwiches and pastries on my desk going stale: 4
Potential items in a makkara casserole; 16
How many were recognisable: 6
Most hours gone without eating: 36
Most pitiful excuse for a meal: Rye read with butter
Location of left over pizza from Monday: Unknown
Foreign chocolate imported: Turkish delight, UK, 4
Price of small chips at all night grilli: 3,70 Euro!
Amount of horsemeat consumed: 2 makkara
Cereal products on my desk: 2 Cocopops, 1 Rice krispy
Status of jam in the pancake kiosk at the end of the special stage: Missing
Cups of tea drunk: 2
Meals had outside headquarters: 3
Number of stairs climbed this week: 475
Number of trolleys pushed: 4
Number of times I've had to run somewhere: 48
Meal I would most like to have: Pasta with pine nuts. Seasonal vegetables. Evans and Tate Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pictures of Neste Rally Finland

Odd folk

Whilst in Riga I met another Aussie. We were both travelling alone and were grateful for some company, so went out one afternoon for a beer. All completely above board and innocent. The next day we went on a boat trip together, more beer and lunch. We swapped email addresses as you do and dropped a couple of lines as he was heading towards the Nordic region.

Then I get an email telling me to F off, and that he "knew what I did". A little strange and actually quite shocking. I don't like being spoken to like this by someone I don't know, and have had little interaction with.

I wrote back that I would like to know why he had said that and hoped he was okay, for example had not been robbed and had thought I was part of it. He apologised and said that obviously I was not "one of those people".

No I am not one of those people, as in I am not one of those people who has any idea why you would tell someone to F off and not justify it even if it was a case of mis-attribution. He's now gone back to emailing me normally as if nothing has happned. I've gone and blocked his email.

There's too many nice people in the world without worrying about a few odd folk.

Friday, August 05, 2005

What'cha doing?

Today I am with five others squeezed into a windowless over-airconditioned room. We are typing and receiving phone calls, talking to manufacturers, listening to radio reports and our own reporters at the end of the stages and watching split and stage times on the computers.

Then we make up stuff like this to make you feel like we have some idea of what's going on.

But in reality we don't know if it's raining or sunny or even what day it is. We can't even work out what the unidentifiable meat like stuff was we had for lunch.

Photos of Neste Rally Finland.

News flash

Double Tragedy Stuns Rally World

For immediate release Friday, August 05, 2005

Rally volunteers made a gruesome discovery at Neste Rally Finland this morning when two media officials were found in a near death state in the rally's accreditation center yesterday morning (Thursday, all day).

Press Officer ‘Bean’ Koivukari and ‘Bena’ Harding were found at seven am, with massive asphyxiation resulting from entanglement with corded devices.

Koivokari, 32 or 24, depending on who's asking, from Rauma, was attached to a lanyard with one end round her neck and the other in a high locker.

Harding, 30 but doing 24, from Australia, had managed to entangle herself in her laptop lock, the chain of which was attached to a large sofa.

Both women lacked the common sense and energy to remove themselves from the situation and chose instead to dangle off their respective cords, laughing hysterically and finally confessing to each other "It's more than a rally... but my pulse is not racing."

It's yet to be determined whether the women will suffer permanent damage as a result of the accidents, though doctors have reported that the hysterical laughter and idiotic mistakes have not stopped since. Medical reports also confirm that they are suspicious of medical staff and keep demanding firemen instead.

Police are not treating the incidents as suspicious, simply because the two media professionals are not as interested in police men.

For more information:

Notes for Editors:
1. Women in Need of a Gin and Tonic is a charitable organization that seeks to provide both moral and alcoholic support to females in the media profession.
2. Donations are accepted.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Addictive accreditation

Last night hurt. It was ten pm by the time my "official" duties were done and having opened acreditation at 7am after 4 hours sleep, run several kms pushing trolleys laden with media kits, and having no time to eat all day, the walk home felt all too much. I am getting too old for this. Or at least I have done this too many times to want to do it too many times more.

On a good note, I have done the meet and greet with Rally Ireland, Rally South Africa and Rally Norway, the first two didn't appear to have press officers at this stage. I did shake hands with his royal something very regal and long titled Prince of Jordan but I couldn't get through the body guards to tell him what a good PR I'd be. Anyway I don't think I meet the personal glamour requisite for a PR job in the Middle East... !

Which shows a slight contradiction really... not wanting to do this again, unless I am doing it for the first time.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A year on

This time last year, in the only week of summer, the heat turned the recent rains into a humidity that shocked me.

You placed the necklace round my neck but careful to ask permission first that you could even give me a gift. And I thought you were going to ask something so bad of me, my hand shot to my mouth, my eyes watered. Jewellery to adorn me, to compensate that it would not be you as my decoration.

I had flown direct from Italy. Already we had lost days, a night. I cursed how time could be taken from us. We had so little. If only I knew how little we would really have.

We kissed on a pier, our trademark. An edge fell under our weight and lake water washed our feet. "Each pier gets less stable" you joked. If only we knew that in the future they would snap from the weight of both of us, force us to stand at the water's edge alone or risk sinking.

I turned my head at every green van and last year it was always yours. Now, I still turn, did again today so sharply and then fell because I didn't get to see the registration number.

Last year you were faced with the choice: to let go or stop. And I sat fidgetting on the edge of the bed waiting as you stumbled to find words, my stomach flip flopped in anticipation of the outcome and alcohol that accompanies bad news.

Instead, you said "I love you" and the surprise sent me in a happy arc.

This year I hope only to see you across, away, a long depth of field, a wide shot.

This year I hope to sneak a smile meant for someone else and take it as my own as a final souvenir.

I conjure, feel, know, the bluest of eyes, messy hair, too busy-stubble, sun touched forearms, the fades in your tshirt, the details of dimples, the inflects in your voice. I am your seventh sense.

I wear the necklace. You know the message I send you.

Monday, August 01, 2005

It's a waiting game

I'm in Jyvasakala, the lake district. Beautiful, if one could see it. Because it's covered in low cloud and high mist that is all blending into one.

Headquarters has an air of effeciency. And for me it's waiting waiting and doing as much as can be done when it can be done. And waiting.

Tomorrow the packing, long into the night. We are down on experienced staff but will compensate by preparing everything the night before. The long night before.

Mornings like this will keep for the week

Sun filters golden dawn onto the walls, a novelty after midnight sun.

Your breath is the soundtrack to the color. Your head at its unnatural angle, your chest, rising, falling. I catch it on a fall and lay my head on it to rise.

I love the way hair tickles my nose. You clutch me in your sleep.

My hand across your stomach.

It's time to wake you. I choose a kiss on lips that are parting in protest of waking up.

You are beautiful in grumpy disorientation.

The air is moist from sleeping and the sky is yet to colour.

We should be at a station together to take a train to Hanoi, Guatemala City, or emerging from a stuffy night bus into the quiet of a goodtime night time town.

Instead you climb the roofs above our city and I take the sterile commuter train.

Your morning kiss lingers.

Fine Land Part 3

It’s a joy to me after three years living in London to be able to leave my bag on a chair when I get my coffee, to have my wallet or phone on the table when I drink it, and to not have to hold my bag while I do so.

I find it hilarious that not everyone shares this sense of safety. Aussie Girl’s Finn once told me “this country has more crime than anywhere in Europe.” I raised an eyebrow incredulously. Bugger any statistical way that statement can be proven, I’m quite content to feel safe or unsafe depending on who you listen to in the Finnish bad lands.

People still talk about crime that happened years ago (the man with the axe on the metro to cite but one). Car crashes regularly get double spreads and front pages of the yellow topped tabloids.

I once left my mobile phone in a car park, reckoned on where I had left it, casually made my way back and found it still there. I have been chased by those who have picked up things I have accidentally dropped on the street.

Guns? Guns are for moose not for people. Fatal train accidents? The words don’t go together with the super efficient modern system on which I am currently riding as I write this.

On a recent walk I visited a park which had an area sectioned off for allotments. Being summer, the allotments were decked out with accessories; proper barbecues, garden furniture, umbrellas and the like. People were not around. There were no fences, no CCTV. And people were very happy to leave their belongings out in the open. The yoof had not even thought to come round and vandalise.

There’s an opinion I have heard hear that if you provide people with everything they need they won’t commit crime for it. It’s a debatable theory but one which in practice seems to be working here.

For now I walk the streets safe in Finland. Sure it won’t always be like this but I am happy to have experienced a place like this while it still exists, so I can bore my children with stories like “once we could walk around without fear of being shot on the metro.”

Finnish crime statistics