To Hel and Back :: Edit your Template To Hel and Back: February 2006

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Footsteps on frozen seas

On Sunday, the weather would not let me be miserable. If I was three years old, or possibly fifty three years old, I would have sung "the sun is a very magic fellow" because it was so bright that the window sill got hot and it was a scorching plus three in the light (minus seven in the shade).

Jonna took me for a walk on the sea, something that I don't think I will ever get bored of, especially when the big Viking line ships go past. I even stopped scowling.

Pics of sea stroll here.

My karma ran over my dogma

As I have been walking the halls muttering about the end of dreams promised, it hasn't escaped me that this is what it was like for my husband when I left, and for A when I did the same. That what I feel now, and what I have been feeling in the trifecta of men who think I could be it but then re-neg, is that this is my just desserts.

Personally I prefer a white chocolate mousse.

I always say sorry, and I'll say it again - I'm sorry. But I guess apologies don't cut it with The Director of fate who thinks I need to learn a lesson I won't forget. I've learned. Really. You can give me the exam now.

Alternative Realities

I think sometimes I can see into two separate realities.

There is where I am, which is full of pain and words that sound like Arhhguughuwp, full of crappy sorrowful writing and Gothic songs from mis-spent youth, and even worse, the coping mechanisms that go with that.

And then there's one where the other half is, peacefully sleeping, undistracted working, able to go through the motions.

I think that I have had visiting postmen who have missed me more than this.

Post script

Catching up with The Finn the other day (if you can call heavily laden strategic conversation catching up) we talked, amongst other things, about mutual colleagues and friends who were no longer with us.

About the last five months of 2005, which the hacks are calling annus horribilis, he said that it seems that things don't just happen in isolation with me, but everything stacks on top at once, like falling dominos, he gestured.

It reminded me of something I couldn't quite place and then eerily, WaiterRant posts the quote from Hamlet: "When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions."

WaiterRant can be a little theological in philosophy, as he used to be a man of the cloth, but there's no time like death for a bit of religion.

And I have to admit, that every time I begin to cry, my head says "this is nothing compared to what Z or M feel" and I stop and remember something nice about them instead. Though it's starting to get a bit morbid...

There's rosemary, that's for rememberance, pray.

Someone tell me if I start to go mad like Ophelia.

Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny.

We've been here before

Look away now. There's nothing to see here. It's just that same girl from about this time last year using her blog as therapy and moaning (sometimes poetically, sometimes pathetically) about all in heart and mind.

I guess I have learned nothing and yet have learned so much. These same four walls hear the same cries. This laptop could write the words of pain themselves.

The only difference: I have two new guardian angels who watch over me; and one whose anonymous poetry and calming advice used to reduce me to happy tears has now begun the fade into history. I re-read my posts to watch the light forming at the end of last year's tunnel, to remind myself I'll find it again. But I found instead the words he wrote, that I know won't re-appear. And they break my heart.

God I'm beginning to bore myself.

Midnight determination

I've been married. I've been divorced. I've had four other adult relationships of around eighteen months and lived with two of those. Currently I am extremely single, which means that for various reasons, those relationships didn't work.

Am I scared of falling in love again? Am I scared of committment now? Am I scared of being hurt once more? No, no, no. Because no matter how many times I fall off the horse, I'll jump back on again. Because only a few people start a relationship being able to see its end, and so nearly everyone starts a relationship putting so much energy into it. Because, quite simply, the delicious pleasure of being in love is worth the risk of pain.

People think that because of this attitude, I am strong. That's not true. I am weak, emotional, impulsive, irresponsible and insecure. I am pathetically romantic and cuddly-toy like soft. I can be devastated, I can be destructive. I can be destroyed. But I am a believer, and a risk-taker. I believe in life and living it, not skirting around it, hoping it won't hurt me.

Even now, with my soul bruised and my self esteem in tatters, with the betrayal and lies ringing in my insecure ears that swallowed every in-love muttered half-truth, I will still swoon at the next man who offers me the same lines, the same path.

Because one day it might lead me somewhere.

"Come to the edge," He said.
They said, "We are afraid."
"Come to the edge," He said.
They came.
He pushed them... and they flew.

Guillaume Apollinaire

Monday, February 27, 2006

Tupla Ex

Tonight I saw two exes for the price of one.

Both who left for the same, almost unspoken reasons.

It was too hard, too much risk, too wrong - but right. "Everything I've ever wanted but..." and the voice trails off before admitting.

And I think, what kind of relationships are other people having? I thought that relationships are hard work, understanding, compromise, compassion. Not instant perfection - just add water.

No, I know that relationships are hard work, understanding, compromise, compassion.

It's not me. It's you. Stubborn isn't strong. Safe isn't secure. Controlled is not compassion.

Live your life of guaranteed security, no pain: no gain, a nice girl who'll never make you think it could end, but who'll never make you feel.

It's not me, it's you. It's not my problem, it's yours.

But it's me who chants this mantra while my pillow catches tears.


I am a train. My destination is clearly marked; a long distance journey with many stops.

I pull out of the station, heavy with luggage, but as long as I've got a destination I know I'll
keep on track
keep my rhythm
stoke the engine

I roll across the countryside. The scenery mesmerises me; I leave my heavy cargo.
Until -
the train loses a passenger. And my engine stutters.
But people depend on me when their trains derail, and I've still got a destination, so I
keep on track
keep my rhythm
stoke the engine

I change scenery; cross countries seamlessly. My load is awkward and I'm far from home. But I've got a destination and it
keeps me on track
keeps my rhythm
stokes the engine
makes me move.

I lose two passengers, and start to worry what is next.
The tracks start to shake, from unexpected sources and when I start the homeward journey - I lose another passenger. I am a shell of a train. I am cargoless. I am good for carrying nothing. But I still have a destination and although I can't see it, the thought of it
keeps me on track
keeps my rhythm
stokes the engine
makes me move.

As I get closer to my destination, it is confusing, exciting, anxious and nauseous, curious and hopeful. Steam clouds around me, the noise is louder and louder, the speed out of control
I'm home.
My destination.

I'm not moving.
I have no rhythm.
I am not on track
I am
seeking movement
and my parts start to rust under salty droplets
and I realise I am tired,
the rails are buckled.

I am de-railed, the engine seizes and this train has lost its drive, lost its engine, has no destination.



Invisible; invincible.
Untraceable; untouchable.

If I spin the right way in the dark will I just vanish?
If I walk far into the horizon will it swallow me?
If I turn quickly and catch my shadow, will I become it?

Two dimensional, two faced, too much.

Can I go somewhere where I just am? Somewhere where I am everything, but not me?

Disappear, disappoint, disillusioned.

Just go away
Just away
Go away
Just go


I shut the door to your van and without thinking, leave my hand on the glass, long enough to mark it. It's a trademark I have long since forgotten and it takes me back to airport corridors, hotel rooms and taxi windows. I stare through the hand-shaped clear patch at you, familiar you, stranger you.

You take the corner slowly, so slowly. Is it the snow, or is it...? I can't turn away. I watch your tail lights fade. Slowly. I know you're watching too.

I think "who is this man?"

You're thinking "who is this girl?"

We both know, we have become nothing more than faded photographs, carefully folded love notes, restaurant business cards.

And it breaks my heart.

I am nothing to you but history. And you are my her-story.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

My 101

Things to do before I die...

  1. Admit I’m wrong
  2. Be happy in small things
  3. Be moved by music
  4. Be reunited with something from my past
  5. Be satisfied
  6. Be someone’s best friend
  7. Become debt free
  8. Change career
  9. Climb a mountain and a volcano
  10. Contest a classic rally
  11. Cook something new, successfully for someone I care about
  12. Cry in a movie
  13. Cycle through the Netherlands
  14. Dance in a piazza in Rome
  15. Dance when there is no music
  16. Discover a new Afghanistan
  17. Do aid work in a developing nation
  18. Drink spritz before 10am in Venice
  19. Eat at a restaurant with no prices on the menu
  20. Eat my way through Italy
  21. Explore former Yugoslavia
  22. Explore my Malaysian heritage
  23. Explore the Middle East and South America
  24. Fall and stay in love
  25. Find peace
  26. Find peace and understanding with my parents
  27. Fish in the ice
  28. Get a hair cut in a completely different style
  29. Get married
  30. Go out wearing no underwear
  31. Go to a concert and classic recital
  32. Go to Carnevale in Venice or Cadiz in dress
  33. Go to Petra
  34. Go to the opera in Verona
  35. Go to war and write about it
  36. Go up the Eiffel tower
  37. Grow my own successful business
  38. Have a cellar of vintage Veuve
  39. Have a crush on someone
  40. Have a huge dinner party with all my friends (flying in those overseas)
  41. Have a picnic somewhere isolated
  42. Have a place I call home
  43. Have no regrets
  44. Experience weightlessness
  45. Keep a diary
  46. Kiss in the rain
  47. Know myself and like myself
  48. Laugh at nothing special
  49. Learn something about my family
  50. Learn to drive
  51. Live in France
  52. Live in the world’s great cities: London, Paris, Istanbul.
  53. Live in Turkey
  54. Look at the stars from the desert
  55. Look for Noah's Ark
  56. Make love outdoors
  57. Make someone happy
  58. Morocco Hitch
  59. Not care if it's Christmas
  60. Own many cats
  61. Own my own humble house
  62. Own or run a guest house
  63. Own sexy underwear
  64. Play in the snow – build a snow man
  65. Publish or print my favourite photos
  66. Quit a job I don’t like
  67. Raise a child
  68. Raise goats
  69. Read more history and journalism
  70. Repay everyone for all their kindness and generosity
  71. Save a life - Give blood
  72. Say I’m sorry
  73. Seduce someone
  74. See the pyramids and Sphinx
  75. See world rallying become the sport it should be
  76. Send an anonymous valentine
  77. Swim in freezing sea
  78. Swim in the deep ocean
  79. Swim with sharks
  80. Tackle fears
  81. Take the "trans Siberian" train
  82. Talk to a stranger you like the look of
  83. Talk to someone “my West” has made suffer
  84. Teach people
  85. Explore my birth country
  86. Travel odd islands like the Falklands, the Hebrides and the Aland Archipelago
  87. Travel on impulse
  88. Treat my mum to a holiday
  89. Understand my faith
  90. Visit old Armenian churches
  91. Visit one country in all continents - including Antarctica
  92. Walk in a rainforest
  93. Walk on a frozen sea
  94. Watch a Grand Prix, preferably in Italy
  95. Watch the Palio di Siena
  96. Watch the sunrise over a desert
  97. Watch the sunset into the sea
  98. Work at Everest Base camp clearing rubbish
  99. Work with Australian aboriginals
  100. Write a book and write poetry
  101. Speak another language

Tonight, dinner for one.

Waiting for my pasta to cool I find myself undistracted, the computer unattended idling on its google searches, new software tips, music downloads. The CD player, which all night has skipped the happy dance tracks downloaded for friends, will only play baroque. I see movie soundtracks in every note.

Waiting for my pasta to cool I find myself burning my tongue, impatient to eat, to consume, to devour. To fill my stomach with something other than empty, to drive the pain from behind my eyes to my motionless mouth.

Waiting for my pasta to cool, I form words in my head that fall in graphite scribblings on a envelope back, literally. Words on paper soothe as if their appearance takes them out of my mind, and their meanings with them.

Waiting for my pasta to cool, steam clouds my glasses, blurs my vision. I could lose myself in clouds, I could cry tears no one will see.

My pasta sits untouched, until it's cold.

Too precious to hold

Sometimes in life, you come across something that is too precious to hold, to delicate to keep, too impossible to maintain. A perfect rose, the water from a turquoise sea, a sunset.

You have to let it go.

Or learn to capture it in creative ways, and risk compromising the perfection of it.

The beauty of it will stay with you always.

Above: the Star of Jerusalem, which only flowers in the dark, is best seen at midnight, and shuts its petals by sunrise...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Reality Bites

The loss of another client, and the instability of a couple of others was a bit of a reality check yesterday.

This morning, I wrote to the landlords and handed in notice. You're probably thinking it was a pretty hard thing to do but actually, this morning (after the 2am tear session) it was pretty easy. I've worked too hard and am to smart to live hand-to-mouth over here. Three months in the UK as a contractor would get my savings topped up, allow me to poke my head annoyingly in front of my old clients and get back on square one. I musn't lose sight that when I left the UK for Finland I was offered a "poorly paid job" of 150 sterling a day. I don't need to endure this for no matter how short a time. (Wow that sounded really feisty on a re-read).

Anyway I'm feeling relieved about it all so really lets make the most of it until I start crying again. I haven't booked a plane ticket. I might not leave, I just need to get rid of the overheads.


Okay here's something far less serious but that still bites... Because Pupu are better actors.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Independent Woman

I've got a friend in Australia who's met a new love. Well actually not a love as such, someone she likes. I guess it's like a crush or an interest. She's resisting a little, because she doesn't want a relationship at the moment - not that it's even heading that way, but she figures she won't even look in that direction. When drunk, I emailed her (poor girl) lines of Bette Midler's The Rose:

It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance It's the dream afraid of wakingthat never takes the chance It's the one who won't be taken who cannot seem to give and the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live

(BTW: There's a story here about my mother and karaoke that only therapy will coax out of me) In other less sickly words: no pain, no gain.

I reckon she should just go for it. Often the new brand of divas (class that as any woman I woudn't mind being stuck in an elevator with) are a bit wary of getting into relationships because we want to be independent. I know a few of my friends had some sort of strange intestinal feeling when I became formal with The SO because they thought my independent days are over. Far from it. True independence is being able to have a range of different relationships with people and still be true to yourself and what you want to do.

It's an easy concept to write down, but harder in practice. Take me and the SO for example (see this post really is about me and not my poor friend Downunder who's reading this and cringing!) I love having The SO around. I have re-discovered the joy of cooking (especially as he loves eating it!) and the whole nurture part of me is coming out. But I also love my space. I was probably really horrible this morning, shoving him out the door with a kiss and muttering "this isn't a hotel you know", sending him off with a container of soup under his arm and telling him he's in my space, all in the same breath.

It takes a while to get the balance right, but I am looking forward to the challenge.

On a far less grown up note, Independent Woman, as sung by northern kittens - something only those who had spent some time Oop North in England will get. I love it... Make sure your volume is up, get yer clogs and flat cap out and dance round 'ouse.

"Gel I didn't know yer could yer could get doown layke that..."

PS Googling for the pic for this entry, I can't believe how many scantily clad photos of a cartoon character there are out there. Computer graphics people, go out and get a real flesh date!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Alone in Australia

"They were five lonely deaths and only discovered because of the stench of decomposing bodies, but the realization that someone can die in their Sydney home unnoticed for months has shocked Australia's biggest city." Read more...

(See Nina, that's why I get you to check on me first thing in the morning!)

More were-puppy than were-wolf...

I am were-puppy, hear me roar? Doesn't quite have the same ring does it?

Last night I was a little ill. I don't know if it was the medication (because it's all in Finnish!) or something else but I went from laughy happy normal to a temperature pushing 40C in a matter of minutes.

Nurse Nina was on hand to scribe my will and make very caring noises as well as make me laugh. Shelly took calls from the UK at midnight when all I could do was cry. I'm not sure what I have done to deserve such wonderful friends. And the SO turned up after work and picked me up from the floor, where I had landed, with head spins and dehydration just like Turkey all over again. I even hallucinated a little to dream of someone bringing me corba (soup) and I heard the wheely bin again.

Sadly, by the time SO got here, I was well on the mend (temperature down to 37C - I still have fun with that thing... !) I felt a little bad for making such pathetic noises earlier in the night, and then being ok when rescue came. But he was very sweet and said he should have spent the day with me. We girls know this kind of thing is impossible but we like the romantic gesture anyway.

Anyway, this puppy is off to her water bowl to make sure she doesn't fall over and faint again. More to the point, I feel like a Cafe Esplanade pastry... Now there's a thought.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I'm a were wolf

It's official. I am becoming beast as the moon rises. At least I think that's what my doctor said. He kept gesturing and saying "I don't know the word in English". But as I have already made the werewolf joke once, and as two google searches have thrown lupus up at me, I've decided I am one. I am werewolf, here me roar.

Apparently I have issues with my hair follicles. It's not known what has caused this, but it is worth looking at the lunar calendar. And in case anyone who hasn't seen my for a while thinks I've become dead hairy, I haven't. Really.

I am on anti-biotics for at least 20 days, with a view to continue for another ten. That means no booze. My friends went into shock when I told them.

Also, I have to avoid dairy for one hour every side of my medication, which at four times a day, makes it easier to go soy. A whole new world opens up to me. Thank god I gorged on ice cream the other day.

Also I'm supposed to have an empty stomach an hour either side of taking medication, four times a day. When am I supposed to eat? Is that even do-able?! My maths isn't so good... Or maybe the pharmacist's translation wasn't so good... If he's right, I'm going to have to work out a schedule for eating. Argh!

I've also got a cream that's so tricky to open that the lovely pharmacist, when doing a demonstration, struggled to open it. Looks like a right wrist work out is going to be a positive side effect.

Who would have thought being a werewolf was so high maintenance?

If you've made it down this far, you must be curious... so here's a photo to show how I used to look, taken literally moments before I started saying "hey my face feels funny"...

and here's the moment where it all changed, the moon rose, and I became a little less human... You can almost see the animal in me... Awwwwooooolllll.

The first grumbles

I have been back in Finland for a few weeks now so it's time that I have my first grumble, especially as I have been all sweetness and light since I got back.

My doctor. I paid him. Per ten minute consultation. And he let someone interrupt us. Then he rushed me out the door when I wasn't finished, because the next patient was waiting. I've endured hours of waiting at that surgery before, and not interrupted anyone. It's hard not to get a chip on one's shoulder and think "that wouldn't happen if I was Finnish." Anyway, he couldn't help me, muttered the names of lots of scary diseases and has sent me to a specialist...

I get home, my freezer falls apart (stupid European fridge; we love American fridges).

I winter-dress just to find out if there is a laundry slot and there isn't There has to be a better system; can't we have an appartment intranet?!

There are drunk men, sitting on the floor in the lobby of my appartment, drinking and blocking the door. Why don't I know Finnish for "Please get out of my appartment or get on the 3T tram with the rest of your kind."?

Then a drunk man, from the bus at Sornainen (who got off some stops after Sornainen) turns up on Suursuon. Not just in my area, but right outside my house. He's walking worse than before but not shouting so much anymore.

And I start to think "does everyone have to be drunk in this country?!". I think I have seen more drunk people in Maunula today than sober people.

I am starting to get a feel for who is a bad drunk, and who is a good drunk (see right). The other day, I passed a man in a wheelchair. And I thought "bad drunk". I felt a bit bad because he was a wheelchair user clearly because he was an amputee and I am literally walking in the road to avoid him. You know you have moments of alternative realities? Well I saw this guy (in my alternative reality) take a knife and stab someone. In great detail. So it came as no surprise (though some relief to my conscience) when I pass the Ostoskeskus later and see two policeman bundling this same man into the back of a van, wheelchair and all. I didn't stick around to see if he had stabbed anyone. I guess a bit of paranoia in my alternative reality is not such a bad thing in Maunula.

Today's report card: must try harder Finland.

An apple a day...

I'd like this post to be about how effective the Finnish healthcare system is.

But I'm writing this with a sulky bottom lip, so it's not going to be.

The woman at the Terveyasema turned me away again. This time, her excuse was that it was too much information to input into the computer. She took half my details before she came to this conclusion. I waved my passport at her and my right to healthcare EU leaflet at her. She didn't budge. I cried and pointed out that I lived, literally next door. She didn't budge. I swore that her children, should she ever copulate, would have skin the colour of her fake red hair and matching lipliner tattoo. She didn't understand me. I left with a huff and quite the biggest bottom lip ever. A nice man followed me out and gave me my hat and gloves and a look of immense sympathy, which for a Finn is quite remarkable.

So now I have to go to town to see a private doctor. I had to pay at the Terveyasema as well so it's not a cost thing. It's an issue of immediacy. And how much the copper headed demon gets paid to reduce unwell people to nothing. "What's wrong with you anyway?" was her line in the end...

Things you shouldn't do when unwell, is google your symptoms. You should, as a general rule, never google the word "lump". You should also never ever accidentally hit google images when googling your symptom. Even "sore throat" will bring up feet with sores the size of craters and swollen genitalia with elephantisis. Quite scary. The symptom sorters come up with very dramatic explanations: "do you have protuding red sacks fill with pus? Then you have adolescent acne." A bit harsh; I can't see anyone with a pimple describing it in quite that way. I also like that a cause for a red face could be guilt and sex. Combine those for two red cheeks.

So I'll see a doctor in a few hours. Meanwhile it's minus eight outside, and my face actually feels better in the cold, even if the air is cracking it and my hair is frozen because blow drying is too painful. And while I wait, I'm going to scoff as many apples as possible.

Ow ow ow ow ow

I want to sleep but I can't; my face is a mound of pain. I've eaten a hypersensitive fish with a gluten intolerance, wearing a wool jumper and with scaly fins or something because I am just one big rash from neck to forehead. It doesn't look as bad as I am going to make it out but it hurts like feck. I've got my hair tied up and a round neck t-shirt on to keep my face and neck clear but it still burns. I've tried cammomile, aloe vera, plantolin and swearing. Nada nada nada. It hurts more than when I got chicken pox and shingles combined. Really. (Maybe because that was just off the pain-richter scale).

So I've taken anti-histamines and now a bunch of pain killers and I am grinding my teeth. I tried to work. Couldn't. Tried to read. Couldn't. Tried to do nice things to distract myself. Couldn't. So now the only relief is whingeing to the world.

It really hurts and I want my mum... Waaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh

In other mindless news, to focus on typing rather than the overwhelming desire to scrape my face off with a knife (I kid you not):

Today it was above zero celcius, in fact I saw the neon blink out +1. Exciting. But leave a little ice and snow for sea walking, fishing and cross country skiing please. My neighbouring street has become impossible to walk on, I just glide down it now.

I tried my third unsuccessful attempt to download music and stuff tonight. It's just not as fun and easy as I thought. I'll stick to cassette tapes and walkmen with auto reverse.

David Irving re-wrote his own history today. This was interesting for me because I wrote about him when I was a young lass journalist covering freedom of speech and civil liberties.

The Irish Evil airline that we feel compelled to fly has re-started flights to Brest, meaning I can visit Les Marins far more easily now. I guess they made an arrangement with the airport which didn't contravene EU law to bring back that route. Le Conquet and Ouessant (where I left my heart one winter weekend) now moves one step closer. Irish Evil have also introduced a charge for cargo luggage too - a flat fare of 3.50 Euro for one bag under 20 kg. We knew that was coming. They've managed to do this amidst the airing of the Dispatches undercover documentary exposing Ryanair staff as disgruntled and airline safety procedures are a sham. Given that most UK customer care staff are disgruntled and we all know we're going to die if the plane crashes regardless of what brace position we assume, it hasn't really affected the cheap and nasty company. (Hmm note to self: is O'Leary going to sue me for writing this. Even better note to self: would Stelios give me a free flight if I wrote more... ?)

The SO is working night shifts at the moment, so at least I can email him and whinge a little. I almost feel the pain subsiding with every complaint... Though I am sure your pain grows from reading this boring post...

Ow ow ow ow.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Yllas! Yllas! Uks-Kyks-Kol ja Pumpa!

I have no idea what I have spelled in the title, but if the words mean nothing to you, then they mean little more to me, especially when they are shouted by a slim little aerobics instructor to an eccletic bunch of Finnish women, and two Australians, one struggling to keep up, and one struggling to keep her pants up.

GaijinGirl and I did a Stockmann's Motivus work out class. It was supposed to be good for beginners, with easy choreography. It turned out to be fairly active, quite crowded and pretty difficult for someone who's not sure of their left and right in English, let alone Finnish, and even more so when asked to grapevine in that direction.

We were a little daunted before we got to the class. Opening the door to the change rooms, you're immediately met by a lot of naked women (male readers can stop fantasising now as nearly all of them were over 45) hanging around the change room door and the door to the exercise class itself.

Then the class started promptly on time (like Finnish trains) so that we scurried in like naughty school girls while everyone was silently marching (very Finnish military) and then had to be scrounge around for our tickets (like Finnish deli counters).

The music was great and GaijinGirl wiggled dance moves in between each set which might be why she was so exhausted afterwards. Or it might be because she's not as fit as her hot body might indicate! When we had enough breath we Roy and HG commenated over the instructor, as everything was in Finnish. No need to eloborate on the comments we made when the whole class got down on all fours...

We had a great time, worked out stomach muscles out more than the others by laughing at each other and celebrated the whole ordeal with some kebab meals, we worked up such an appetite. Whether we will get any fitter remains to be seen, but GaijinGirl tells me it's all in the attitude.

You like to watch don't you...

I confess to being a bit of a voyeur when it comes to this blog. I am intrigued to know who reads, who gets here...

My search engine report made me smile and raise eyebrows.

I can't quite work out how the person wanting to know how the Heinz brand moved into the soup market landed at this site, but I suspect it might be something to do with my craving for Heinz spaghetti.

I hope that the person trying to get from Abergavany from London worked out to use the AA's route finder, that the person looking for a restaurant in Oxford serving chilli peppers knows to try out the Oxford City Life reviews and that the person in Australia who also mis-spelt katsu curry now knows its correct spelling and how to make it, or at least where to buy a decent one.

And to all the people landing here for smurf photos, welcome to Smurfland. If however, you're looking for the number one search result for Womble porn, then please visit Random Acts of Reality...

I'll be watching that you come back though...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Underground underworld

A typical Time Out review of Helsinki winter night life would urge vistors to the tunnel between the train station and the metro for a "fascinating insight into youth culture of this dark wintry city. Punk meets goth, metal clashes with death and anything goes as long as it's black, black, black. Piercings punctate the skin of Helsinki's sub-terranean folk, as 'vitu' punctuates the air amongst the last of the shoppers making use of the late night (10pm) opening grocery store, the aptly named KKK. But don't try this Finnish phrase amongst new friends, it's actually a swear word, though you would almost think it's a form of greeting from its prolific use. High leather boots, capped or trimmed with (you guessed it) metal are the derigeur footwear, while long black coats keep out the winter wind. Hair is teased and backcombed for girls, long and lank for the boys. Hair is about the only place where colour is seen; blue, black red, all are acceptable though only the most Marilyn Manson lookalike could bravely sport a peroxide do - it's just too close to the norm for anyone else. Socks to match your hair are of course an added bonus."

"For visitors seeking a more ethnic feel to this most homogenous of cities, try the central railway station. No it's not a hub of passengers en route to exotic destinations, but a convenient and warm place for huddling masses. Kids from global immigrant parents chat up local girls, while groups of single Somali men congregate at the door closest to the Rautatientori. Eastern Europeans aren't alone; take the escalators down to the left luggage and if you're lucky you'll catch an ol' Rusky taking his home brew out of a locker late at night. Real travellers with bags beware, you'll be hard pushed to find an available locker at this rate but if you're lucky you might get a swig of station-fermented vodka for your 3 Euro instead."

"For a truly authentic night out, take the 67 bus late at night to downtown Maunula, in the suburbs out near Keha 1, the notorious ring road that keeps Helsinki in, and the reindeers out. The ride itself is never a dull one. Occasionally the bus driver speaks Finnish so speak your stop clearly or have the correct change available. Activities on the 67 include unsolicited massage, urination, singing and vocal exercises and language workshops on the conjugation of the verb 'vitu'. Those who work in mental health will find the ride a fascinating experience. Get off the bus at the popular Suursuon stop, noticeable for the faded neon Ostoskeskus sign. DikiDiks and Bart's Ravintola are the main attractions here, with karaoke, fights, and beer spillage on offer at both places. Shell suits are suitable for day visits but come sunset, it's a strictly boots, jeans and flannel environment."

"But if the suburban nightlife is too quiet for you then nothing beats a night cruising the subway of Sornainen. Night or day, this metro station always houses some of the cities most eloquent and active drunks. Almost athletic in their ability to remaining standing, they totter between the ticket gates and the lolly shop. Usually found in groups, drinking out of bags, they would readily welcome tourists to join them if you bring a drink stronger than the local pear cider. When you're done with standing up, just move onto the Metro; it's warm, has plenty of seats and lots of people who will give you room once you start talking to yourself. Even when it's crowded, you're guarenteed to get a seat, not least because you smell like wee."

Time Out Helsinki indeed.

Koti, Sweet Koti

I love being home.

I love having a home.

I don't want to go out because I love basking in my own posessions, which is good really because I don't have the money to go out in Helsinki!

I might have to rename my blog "at home being boring" because I really have no desire to get back on a plane. I put my Samsonite in the basement. I am tempted to put my backpack there. I have lent out my day pack. This is really akin to hanging up one's boots.

I've started stockpiling Ikea catalogues, circling items I like. Most of them are non-essential. I've planned rearranging the furniture. I have reorganised "the office". It's worth pointing out that I have something like 17.5 square metres of studio to organise in the first place.

I crave plants, and candles and other homely objects. I keep smiling at the walls. I haven't found this much bliss in a building for years. What am I saying? I don't think I have ever found bliss in a dwelling full stop, except for the Sheraton Hotel, Perth.

I visited a friend tonight who has bought her first home. It's so stylish and homely that I wanted to roll around in a happy-cat like state and purr. Only it's a Finnish home so there's no carpet, and rolling on wood floors is not very comfortable. Normally, I only ever get this way about a decent hotel.

I really think I could get used to this non-travelling lifestyle. But that would mean I had no need for a blog. Unless I told you about the drunken winter antics of the night bus... which would be a blog in itself. Coming up: massage on the 67, swearing Finns on the 63 and the best way to avoid urine on the 66... No wonder I want to stay at home.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I know what you come here for...

Oh alright then. I give in. I know most of you don't read this website for the nice photos of fluffy snow. Or the less than fascinating insight into Finnish daily life. You're here because I air my laundry (clean and dirty) in ways that you find embarrassing yet addictive. So I'll give you a dose of goss.

The appearance of an S.O.
I've got an SO. A male one. Can I make it any clearer? A man. Not just any SO. One on this blog, one that you know. Yep, a cyber- and real- time Significant Other. One who has seen me through eight months of friendship, hating Finland, loving Finland, liking boys, hating boys, breaking hearts, having them broken, feeling sorry, grieving, griping and generally needing to calm down. Someone who through all that, can love me. Quite a catch, so I'm keeping my eye on him with interest!

The possibility of IT
Now this might seem a bit sudden, but the SO has been a platonic SO for eight months so I like to think that's enough time to be speaking of such things. Well, it's been enough time for us. Forced to decide half my year in advance by the WRC calendar, the SO and I have been making plans. Beyond Tuesday. Seeing as the last men I dated can't confirm a casual coffee catch up, that's pretty impressive. We've been making plans, because we think this could be IT. He could be The One. I could be His One. I can't begin to explain just how nice that is...

The Farewell of Past
Coupled with this wonderful news and the perspective of last year's grim death toll, comes a wonderful sense of calm and perspective. All past is past now. There are people gone who I couldn't care if I could see them again or not. That's a breath of fresh air.

Life's all fine and dandy now really. If only I could get off my arse and do some work... But I'm sure you'd much prefer I blog gossip.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Hyvaa Ystavan Paiva

It's not Valentine's Day in Finland, it's Friend's Day. I've always hated Valentine's Day (even more so when it was my ex-husband's birthday) so I am more than pleased with the Finnish alternative.

Here's a few reasons why I love my friends:
  • They help me find my way round foreign supermarkets to find toilet roll (and I in turn help others find condensed milk)
  • They send me links to language schools at midnight so I have somewhere to send my CV and not go back to London and can stop panicking in the middle of the night
  • They forgive me for not writing all the time
  • They read my blog to compensate for me not writing all the time
  • We tell each other we are beautiful, and we mean it
  • They tell me I am a bitch like they mean it
  • They meet me for coffee on top of classy hotels and bad doughnut joints when I am sad
  • They cook for me, I cook for them, we all get fat
  • They let me visit them in exotic locations and sometimes visit me in my less than exotic location, Maunula included
  • We look at each other's photos of people we don't know, and places we will never be, with real interest
  • We laugh at the same jokes, and each other
  • They tell me to calm down, we all tell each other to get perspective
  • They let me see their laundry, hold their pets, cuddle their toys
  • They stock the fridge and pantry with my favourites when I come home or come for a visit
  • We take phone calls and text messages from each other at odd times, odd places, odd situations
  • They put up with me, make life more interesting and make me feel normal... !
I hope everyone has a tosi hyvaa day.

1000 Euro and counting...

The taxman has left me with not much.
The UK account has dried out.
I lost a client, gained a client, but there are no invoices on the horizon.
I am down to my last thousand.
All socialising other than free meals, free museums, walks and talks, will now cease.

It's up to me to start earning or I am back on the plane to London.

Of course all I can do now is stare at my computer scream in terror, blinking only when Google throws something interesting at me. Can I sue Google for destroying my productivity in the same way smokers sue cigarette companies?

I'd really like to get a ticker on my blog that counts down how many cents are left and calculates how long that will let me live in Helsinki for. I wonder if Google would find me such a thing...

Peeking through heaven

Kati took me for a walk on the ice after Sunday lounas buffet. I was ecstatic, if not a little scared. It helped to have a local pointing out the weak spots under the bridge, but generally it was fine. I don't think I will ever get over the novelty of walking on water.

Weather: Then, a balmy minus five. Today, fresh soft snow. Ah.

Footsteps on ice pics.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

When even shopping is a challenge

I went for a big grocery shop today.

Weather: Warm, minus five and a half. Skies: snowy. Precipitation: Snowing intermittently.

Road surface: Icy with fresh snow.

Clothing: Tights, thick socks. Jeans (long leg ones, bad move), vest, long sleeve top, wool jumper, ski jacket, light hat, light gloves, snow boots.

Mission: To restock the house with fresh fruit and vegetables, canned goods and healthy foods. Low salt, low sugar and no E additives.

Problems: Having learned the words for salt and how much is low and how much is high, am faced with the word Nadium. No idea. Sugar is in everything including wrap breads, I can't find sheep cheese and a lot of canned vegetables are stored in salt water. All the tomatoes contain a E additive to make them look red. Shopping at this rate (translating from both the Swedish and the Finnish) takes some 45 minutes.

I remember to weigh every item but get stuck with the leeks. I am not sure which of the haphazard signs around it are actually for the leeks. That they are French leeks only confuse me more. I also make the mistake of thinking cauliflower is sold by item not by weight but thankfully KM calls me while I am the checkout so everyone knows I am a stupid foreigner by the time the rogue cauliflower makes its appearance.

I buy something that looks like cottage cheese and is. I buy something that I am convinced is organic strawberry yogurt and I later find out is marjat. It's fairly foul, whatever marjat is. It looks like some insipid kids dessert and tastes like one too. It makes my tongue recoil with its sugary sharpness..

I successfully calculated the number of recycled bags to bring with me to get it all home without buying extra bags but I miscalculate how heavy everything will be to actually carry. By the time I've reached my flat, I am heaving and panting, and dying to rip off all the layers of clothes and sink into the sofa with a nice creamy, organic strawberry yoghurt...

You have to be organised

I put on: trousers, thick socks, slip-on zip-up Goretex boots, a long sleeved top, a polar-fleece lined jacket, and a light wool hat only because I am only going about 60 metres, and while it's snowing (and with snowy skies) today it's only minus eight.

I walk the 60 metres, hands shoved in pockets, cold air rushing up trousers legs that are more accustomed to being swathed in thermal leggings.

The man in front of me, bent in similar posture, similar purpose but carrying his awkward load aready. We try not to slip on the old smooth ice.

We shuffle to find our keys with cold fingers, to turn it in the lock, to get it out of the lock even harder. We step inside. I am engulfed in warm air, my glasses mist over. I can't see for a few moments and he takes advanatge to empty his load. When my glasses have cleared, I book a laundry slot, the first available is the next day at ten am.

Expedition over. The shuffle home begins, grumbling to self about having a washing machine somewhere inside the house...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Year in Year out

Working on events means that your year (or life) is a continual countdown. Someone once remarked that we don't use the typical calendar (Spring, Fall, Christmas, or month names even) but events and countries ("after Autosport, before Mexico, during Wales). The year is over before it has begun, because you have a calendar that you are working to, and very little flexibility.

By Monaco (that's January to the rest of the world) I had agreed by committments in Australia (September and October), started my negotiations for Japan (September). I still have Finland to figure out (August) and the rest of the year on standby (Greece - June).

To add to this, last night I met the owner of this flat. Last year I gave them a completely unreasonable 3 days notice that I was going to keep the flat with Nina in it. This time, they'd like two months. Given that I never received an airline ticket or itinerary for Japan until I got to London, then some real planning will be needed this year, especially considering that I want to up end with VSO to a developing nation, meaning it's a complete clean out of Finland if I plan to vacate.

And let's not forget that I would like to do Crisis (December). The position vacant should be advertised around March so my possible attendance could be three weeks or three months at the end of the year, depending on the outcome of the above.

Most people are only just planning new year's resolutions and my head is spinning with plans for August through to December.

Oh and if it doesn't get complicated enough, remember that the minute I hand in my VSO application or get a placement I will meet the man of my dreams. Murphy's law.


Who really wants to go out when it's actually snowing (-10C, 78% humidity, wind 5m/s) with their laundry???

Who wants to get dressed just to put the washing on?

Who wants to go to all that effort to find out if there is a free slot in the laundry roster?

Not this little black duck.

Currently looking around the flat for suitable places to squeeze in world's tiniest washing machine for four months of the year !

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Such good things are happening to me at the moment that I dare not even whisper them to myself in the dark under the bedsheets.

I am so deliriously happy to be home.

Insert smug, satisfied and very content smiley here.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Easily amused

Shopping in a foreign country is so much fun... if you're as juvenile as I am.

Silly brands in Finland

Above pic from Sweden, below available worldwide, seen in Czech Republic.

Back in Finland moments

Watching friends take their frozen goods out from the balcony and put them back in the freezer as they've taken advantage of the weather and defrosted the freezer.

Thinking it was a brisk minus eight and then being told that the thermometer was in the sun, and it's really minus 21.

That I can walk about in this weather without my arms falling off.

Stepping over frozen vomit, then frozen beer, then frozen urine at the train station Sunday morning.

A man pissing inside the No 67 night bus.

I can reach outside my window and make a snow ball from what's on the window ledge.

Owning a hat with fluffy ears. And not being ashamed to wear it.

Packing my balaclava if I think it's going to be a late night out.

That I was born and raised a good part in a tropical climate and now I wake up to dazzling snow, sunlight and blue skies and think it's glorious.

Groovin' while it's freezin'

The week was a casual attempt at unpacking, getting resettled, learning to walk on white stuff, making sure friends are okay and remember who I am. And then Saturday struck.

Nina and I went to Ikea. It was minus twenty one. Needless to say we took as many buses and trains as it would take to get us as close as possible. The walk from the bus stop down to the entrance was treacherous enough. We exited with a lot of flatpack boxes, as the sunset, and waited for a taxi. Nina swears a lot when it's cold. She got so cold, she couldn't say the name of her new street properly. Or because she's only lived there three days, and it has several more vowels than an ordinary scrabble set. It also didn't help that I found this hysterically funny. At least we got there using some simple words like "here" and "there", "no here".

Nina has only been here half a year, but it's enough for her to think it's normal to go out when it's minus 18. I don't mean out to the shops, bank or post office, but out dancing and grooving and shaking. So much so that I found myself with a lot of layers on, checking my Ikea bag into the train station lockers and heading to the Outback Bar.

It's really lovely to be remembered and warmly received. It's even better when that is demonstrated by the provision of free drinks. We slurped the night away, particularly enjoying the recently renamed cocktail special, Mike's Creamy Stuff.

It was an awesome night and while I did take three of my tops off, I did keep my leggings on all night. The bus trip home was a bit arduous as Nina lives near Vantaa (note that stalkers) and it was cold enough for us to keep our hats on inside. This made for some interesting conversation when discussing getting home, having a drink and then having leftover pasta bake. It wasn't till after I asked "what in front of each other?"that we learned how much pastabake and masturbate sound alike through wool and fur...

We stopped shaking our thing at about 530am (temperature, only minus 16) and I got home at midday. Welcome home indeed!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Contentment vs Craving

When I was away, there were things I missed. And things I missed so bad it hurt. So bad, that some mornings I could feel dull salt pain beating on the back of eyelids when I just couldn't contain the cravings and longing anymore.

So bad, that in my last few days, all I could imagine was being back and finding that very thing I missed and knowing that that was all there was, and possibly all I needed.

So now I am back, and the longing was immediately addressed, and after some sleepless nights, the addiction faded and was satisfied.

So now I am content.

But I have this habit of upsetting contentment, being a girl who has lived long and wide on challenge, disruption, upheaval and the unexpected. Contentment is lovely, but will I find it interesting? And if I don't learn to live with contentment one day, will I ever realise how good I have things?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Learning to be social, or at least snow-cial

Tonight I went out with the original Divas. You know it's like Charlies Angels with Farah Fawcett. There were other women there, but for a moment, I felt uncool, unknowledgable and out of the loop. Also I find it hard to feel confident when my hair is frozen, I'm wearing frumpy clothes, a hat with floppy ears and big snow stomping boots. The other girls seemed at ease with layers, accessorising, music and culture. I was able to talk about er, nothing really, I just made crude jokes...

The snow has continued and I've continued to play in it. I found Nina's diamonds in the snow, I drew shapes in people's cars, I threw more snowballs and ran my mittens through lots of clean lines. My friends are hoping I'll be over it in a week.

The leafless trees of winter means I am also reunited with my friend, Kissa. I could stare out the window forever. KebMaf and I think it's better than a TV screen. This morning we watched the poor birds (the ones who can't afford to go South for the winter) flit from tree to tree. I expected them to drop with a frozen clunk at any moment. Hardy little critters. I guess they're also one of the things Kissa is watching so intently.

I've learned to network my computers, tomorrow you might even get photos. In the meantime, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

There are moments, you know, where I think "I can't believe a Malaysian-Australian is walking around in all this snow like it's normal?!" Give it a week?!

Walking on Snowshine

You'll be pleased to know that I made it out in the snow and back again. I did slip on the fourth step I took. And the eighth step. Small steps, I must remember, take small steps. I didn't actually hit the ground, which doesn't mean that slipping is any less humiliating or painful. You can cover a lot of ground with a slip, and you can wave your arms about in a really stupid way trying to remain upright. You can also pull a lot of stomach muscle trying to counter balance the direction in which you are slipping.

I walked about with The Hat on. Unfortunatley I don't have a photo of me in The Hat, but other people do, so for those of you not in Snowy Suomi, I'll endeavour to post it as soon as possible so you can appreciate just how comical I look.

Nina and I met for coffee and I was purely idiotic in only the way you can be when reunited with a friend. It's like being twelve again. Only when I was twelve I didn't have nice friends. In fact, I didn't have friends, just mean girls who picked on me, but that's a story for the therapist.

Kebab Mafia came over for dinner, a working dinner. He ended up doing little work on his thesis and has become an employee of To the Point, my rather defunct business. We kept working, distracted by Turkish pop music and dammed Kurdish villages until 2 am which meant I was a bit dazed when I woke this morning to fresh snow to play in.

Ahh it's a winter wonderland...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Isn't it supposed to stop snowing?

It's been snowing all morning. It's now 1245 Helsinki time... It hasn't stopped once, not for a deep breath or a break for the toilet... It's just snowed... Naturally everything is white. And fluffy. Not a yellow stain in sight.

In fifteen minutes I will be out in it. I will think it's cute at first, then I will try to cross the road, look the wrong way, skid on some ice, etc etc.

I promise to take some photos from the bitumen as the truck comes towards me...

PS the view from my window is from last year (above), I haven't actually put the camera software on the new laptop yet but I have finally unpacked somewhat messily, so that everything is in its place. I've also picked up a few objects and thought "are they mine?" (old ladies coat made of labradors, crutches, guitar case, camp cap) and wondered when I ever wore so many clothes...

But this is really a photo of me trying to make breakfast sausages in my kitchen. Really. That's what Finland is like...

Reunited at last

Nothing stands in the way of true love.... Rowena and Smurf. Sorry Ahmet, who got cut out of the photo! Note Smurf is actually waving!

PS IT'S SNOWING IT'S SNOWING!!!! Snowflakes, snow angels, everything clean and white, snow men, catching flakes on tongues, staring dreamily out the window. Yeah - except I have to go out in this because I have friends in crisis. Damn.

Resettlement jetlag

As anyone who has spent a lot of time not living anywhere in particular will have found, when you get "home" you're at a loose end. You don't know where things are in your house, sometimes you don't know where your house is. You forget codes and pin numbers and instructions for every day items.

Your house doesn't feel right or look right. You feel compelled to do all those odd jobs you once wanted to do, but didn't (like painting the kitchen cupboards and finding bathroom storage to fit). You unpack and re-pack, storage and luggage. You find things, lose things, remember things, forget others. Did I really own that? But where is my... ?

You don't sleep at the right times, even if you only cross a small time zone. You don't change your phone times immediately which confuses you further. You hesitate to leave the house, or you leave it immediately to spend time at local watering holes.

You are awake at 2455h (what is that time, 0055?) by your watch, 2252h by the laptop (UK time) and 2354h by the phone (Swedish time) on a blog posting at Pacific Standard Time (what is that anyway?) conscious of having a phone conference with a client at 1600h (Western) Australian time.

You start browswing the Ikea catalogue and find ridiculous pieces of furniture in the children's section (see pictured) which you think will work in your bathroom (of course, I think they will work, it's one am). You get hungry for ridiculous food and walk around with a tape measure round your neck and piles of unfinished things to unpack and unsort that you should have left in the storage boxes and bags.

Then you quite dramatically go to bed leaving everything unfinished, half your food lying around and debris everywhere. I have moved house more than 46 times, and I never went to sleep until everything was unpacked or opened and in it's right room. Now I only have 17.5 sqm to sort out, it's a organisational nightmare, and I am content to leave it a week, so that it sorts itself out as I sort out my head.

Now what day is it, what time is it, and what country are we in... ?