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

Friday, March 31, 2006

For a bit of blue paper

You might remember when the tax man was rearing his ugly head for lots of money from me... At the time, I was in the UK, and my documents were in Finland, meaning I needed to ask people to search out the mysterious blue paper which held the answers to my taxable income. I knew that the blue paper was in the basement but I felt too bad demanding that in the wilds of winter, someone went down there and dug it up. So I submitted the blue paper late.

The bad news. That late piece of paper cost me 1100 sterling pounds.

The good news. I am going to get that 1100 back.

I'm thrilled, even if without this all happening, I would have been able to stay in Finland.

Everything happens for a reason...

I'm so lonely

"I'm Missus Lonely
I have nobody
for my ownnnnnnn"

(it's okay, while I am doing the squeaky voice, I haven't got as far as rapping the next lines).

Tomorrow, I head out to London, which is a good thing as I've spent the last few days playing au pair! It's been very good for my English, but not so much for my social skills...

I'm going in for an interview for a language school that the Master has pointed out that I don't actually have the financial free space to do, even if it is fully subsidised... I thought I would check out my new flat and sniff around anyone looking Finnish or Turkish.

I'm sure I will come back from London overwhelmed after little Helsinki, and won't mumble anything about being lonely again.

But until then... "I'm so lonely..."

My 9300 won't synch! I have synched once a few months ago when I first set it up but now I get this error message "PC Sync has encountered a problem and has terminated the synchronisation. " The manual suggests helpfully that I check the phone is on. I am not even going to honour that with a response... All suggestions very much appreciated.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Honest advertising No 2

No point pretending we don't know what toilet paper is for. It's for your bum. Proudly proclaims this pack of English toilet roll.

If you work in customer care for this company, you even get to hear people comment on whether this product is good for their bum. Do we really want to encourage this kind of feedback?!

I don't think they have Velvet toilet paper in Sweden, but I am sure it would have got some complaints. In England, 323 people found issue with the accompanying TV ad showing, you guessed it, bums. And some complained about the word bum. Thankfully no one took them seriously...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Honest Advertising No 1

Helsinki recently was home to a wonderful advertising campaign: We love boobs. I didn't get a chance to see it, but some other quick snappers did.

The same series of ads also appeared in Sweden, but was cancelled by their local transport companies because of the slogan that accompanied it. It's okay to show the boobs but not to love them.


I guess if someone had to be insanely politically correct, it would be the Swedish. If the ad was French, they'd just have a man licking the nipples...

Stay tuned for the English equivalent "we do quite like breasts actually... "

Back in the mother country

I've said mita and miksi far too often
Marvelled at rain
Put jumpers on for inside the house
Missed instant hot water
Shuffled around in Marimekko slippers and realised it doesn't work the same on carpet
Got homesick listening to the DNA recorded message
Not eaten a single English speciality food
Admired daffodils that sprang up on my arrival
Smiled at the sight of soy milk
Eaten a lot more meat
Looked at my Finnish labelled toiletries with nostalgia
Wondered where all the lactose intolerant people are
Missed the sun
Loved the people who spent time with me on MSN or wrote me juicy emails
Cursed the people whose emails and texts are yet to come
Listened to Finnish radio while on hold
Told people I ate reindeer
Realised I can be very silent...

Up up and away

So I have left Finland and now with some space between me and “Finland, Finland the country where I quite want to be” I can think about it, and what it means to me or meant to be.

I have always wanted to live overseas. England doesn’t count. Neither does Malaysia. So Finland ticked a box for providing a home for more than 12 months.

I moved to Finland to settle down, with the man I love and be supportive in his relationship with his young daughter. I had the mindset that for the next 15 years, Finland would be home and the focus of my life. There would be some real estate, the boxes would get sent over and unpacked and there would be a creation of home. Additionally, it was to be a place where the struggle of the single person was to be shared and halved.

The mindset had to change. But these feelings didn’t evaporate and I could sense wisps of these emotions still lingering as I got on the plane at Tampere.

Finland is survival, survival needs guts. Succeeding or staying in Finland represented a big triumph over adversity. Leaving therefore felt like failure.

GIRL POWER YEAH! yeah yeah?
Finland introduced me to the company of women folk. They were great, my towers of strength, my raison d’etre. I started to question why I hadn’t had so many female friends before. Then we all started acting female and I remembered why I don’t have a lot of female friends… Paranoid, territorial, self-doubting and emotional; that was us on a good day.

So now I am in England, and I can distance myself from the emotion; tick my box, and thereby turn my “failure” into success; and settle down for a wee while to clear out my debt and wait for fate to throw another exciting plan into my imagination. Bring it on…

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Jet-lagged, fatigued, bus-lagged, highway-bored, cried-out, pastry stuffed, dehydrated, overcooked, packing-sore, emotional, confused, disoriented, dazed, dirty but safely delivered to the UK.

I tried to write a few sentences just then but my brain isn't working... and none of them made sense.

Here's proof that one of us travels better than others...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Au revoir...

The first ever time in Finland. Of course, a motorsport campervan trip... August 2002

"We'll meet again... don't know where, don't know when...."

Oh no that's far too nostalgic for me... !

I am due to leave within twelve hours. I am frantically burning DVDs and CDs and making final to do lists, so I have not yet had time to articulate the emotions that come with leaving.

So far there have been a number of emotional goodbyes and today, four of the hardest yet to come...

I vacated the house the other day. It was pretty emotional, despite the presence of a couple of strange Turkish men looking at me like I was extraordinarily emotional and amusingly feisty.

I will write more on the plane, because while there has been lots of time for contemplation, the thoughts are all messed up in my head with to do lists and notes to self ... In the meantime, until I post, I have thrown a lot of photos up on Smugmug, so you can see if you can spot yourself, of if you're a stranger, see if you would fancy any of my friends!

Nakemin Suomi.

I'll be back...

The last photo in Finland. Helsinki sea. March 2006

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Packing panic

At 230 am I was throwing things into one suitcase (keep and take) and other things onto a pile that is precariously about to fall over (not keep).

At 630 I was struggling to wake up despite the blinding Finnish sunlight nudging my hangover.

At 730 I was wiping down my kitchen and bathroom wearing sunglasses.

At 1000 I realised it was 1100 and that Finnish summer time had robbed me of one hour (at precisely 3am on March 26th - catchy date) that I will not get back at the airport.

At 1200 or 1300 or was it 1100? I was being stuffed with waffles and Swedish breakfast (I folded my sandwich; faux pas!) This is handy because I need the extra kilos to sit on my bag and get some more clothes in. A 70 litre backpack is not really 70 litres when it comes to suits...

At 1600, I am contemplating in a non-relaxing, non-calm manner how to distribute four bags and two boxes, some for storage and some as freebie goodies, to various people throughout Helsinki. I'm wondering how I should get to the airport, if all my belongings will fit in the luggage I have, how I will pay for the excess, how I will pay to get to the airport, how i will get my rent deposit back, how long I can sneakily keep my Finnish phone and how to fit one very important Smurf in my luggage...

Emotions and motions include: hysteria, fatigue, guilt (at abandoning friends), annoyance (at feeling guilt), abandonment (for having to pack alone), guilt (for feeling abandonned), punished (for leaving so soon), etc etc etc. I would currently make a very good Catholic...

Gosh I forgot how much fun moving country was....

Friday, March 24, 2006

Move any mountain

There's this Irishman, an Australian-Brit-Malay and a Finnish-French-Aussie.. they walk into a bar and... Nah see we don't even make a good start to a joke let alone a good removal company...

Yesterday evening, I moved house. This was challenging for a number of reasons. All my things had to be separated into things I needed and things other people would generously receive or be generously given (depending on how they look at it!) It's quite tricky to get empty boxes from supermarkets here, probably because it's not environmentally friendly and things are delivered straight from market by horse or something. Anyway, it meant my possessions were scattered in an array of black plastic bags and kebab shop boxes. The furniture was somewhat anally labelled with the receipient's name and ready to load into the van that the Irishman had procurred for us. The van came without a back window, a lot of broken glass, a big shovel (I didn't ask if a crime was involved to get this van!) and a ladder that would slide in front of us when accelerating and drop the back door on our heads when unloading.

I had "brief sheets" that listed each person's address, phone number, map reference etc... so it was left to Uma to navigate because she was the only person who could pronounce the street names. We realised quickly that this wasn't appropriate as the Irishman understand why-lion-poosi-katso-poo-hacker better than ylionpuistopuuhääkaäääaa for example. Uma did very well but none of us was actually concentrating so even though she would say Lantene (like Pantene) the van didn't actually obey, and it took quite a few U-eys (Y turns for the Finns!) until we were actually on track. Uma is also the politest navigator - "I think it might be good if you move into the right lane and consider taking the next exit" quickly became "Lan-teeeen, lan-teeen now!"

At this point, things moved from funny to downright scary as the van possessed a mind of its own and sent us helter skelter and helpless beyond the wilds of Keha 3. If we thought the backstreets of Puistola were tricky, it was nothing compared to the eery silence and tree lined, peopleless horizon of beyond the ring roads. It's no exagerration that Uma's breathing become shorter and more shallow with every passing kilometre...

Back in the safety of Maunula and with juniper gin tucked into the front compartment, we headed towards Itis. The Irishman decided to make as many jokes as possible about two ex boyfriends being in the same room, about having things in common and who meant more to me. By the time I got to the shopping centre, I was pretty tense. Uma also had a lot on her mind, the evening would be a signficant one for her and we were both in stomach-flipping anticipation. Triggered by the bright lights, ugly buildings of Itä Keskus, Uma started to have flashbacks of buying an appartment with her ex-husband. Two traumatised women in a car and a bloke fast losing patience with the battle to keep humour makes for a great comedy sketch but not the best removal team. We didn't rebond until we hit the next drop off around the corner, failing to identify the house and Uma and myself running with goods into the snow and long scary-movie like basement corridors lined with old prisoners, and forgotten nuclear disaster refugees. Or so it seemed...

Somehow we made it back to the centre of Helsinki, all still talking to each other and more than ready for a good drink. But that's another post.

Thank you to Uma and the Irishman who stole a van, helped move, put up with crap navigation to Maunula, carried up and down, and got bonked on the head by a ladder. You should go into business - you are the cutest mattress bearers I've seen but I love you both for more than that. Thanks also KebMaf for packing solidly for two days and dividing up light bulbs and rubbish bins...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Spring has spring

Two things:

One - I spent this morning sunbathing on my window sill in my sunglasses. Not only did I get too hot, but I tanned!

Two – I saw a squirrel run across the space below my flat. He was doing commando moves from tree to tree, obviously feeling very vulnerable against the snow because I have never seen them move so fast. Occasionally he would stop by a tree trunk, sniff (I could have told him not to!) or do that puzzled squirrel look (as if to say “Shit! Did I leave the stove on at home?”).

So spring is officially here, and I am going back to the window sill to sunbathe.

Reading ramblings

One of the things I’ve been doing as I pack is making sure that the information I am used to having around me is actually accessible when I am away. My box of CD backups and plethora of half crammed note books are not coming with me…

Going through old notebooks is interesting. I am a list maker and a doodler when bored. I have already found some sweet moments; memories of Uma when far away or the details of a first rendezvous with KebMaf.

Here’s some of the gems from my first travel journal on this sojourn:

Obviously deciding where to travel one day, I have a shortlist of countries and notes beside them, highlighting why I might want to go there and the rough price of flights… “Armenia – home of Christianity, holocaust, border disputes, 2 percent Yezidi, 396 pounds with Austrian Air on, 60 Euro 21 day visa – Turk – Azer border closed…”
And so my list goes out pointing out Georgia’s autonomous areas, border disputes, Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia, the presence of Zoroastrians, the dictator in Turkmenistan, Muslim border disputes in Kyrgyzstan, the mix of half Muslim and half Russian Orthodox population in Kazakhstan and that Tajikistan has finished a civil war…. Sometimes even I worry about myself. Whatever happened to “nice pool, good duty free”?!

I’ve scribbled my wish list for the perfect economy seat for airlines (bottle/cup holder, pen holder, a rubbish compartment, and directional lights being some of the things that would have kept me happy).

I listed hotels in Kaliningrad, hiking in Karelia and saunas in Helsinki amongst a list of addresses I’ve had for all my life (about 40ish by rough count), countries visited (39 at the time of count), an idea for a social firm called Grandma’s Kitchen that would reintegrate unemployed women into the workforce and sustain traditional cooking and recipes (what do I drink when I am traveling?!), a list of family snaps in Europe in 1983 that I would like to recreate in the future, my favorite restaurants in London, a list of Turkish words I’ve learned, train times from Banbury to London, cramped notes of things I did in Finland when backpacking, phonetic words in Finnish, a completed questionnaire on the bests and worsts of travel, a list of silly hats bought on travels (Viking, Fez, devil beanie, sombrero, straw bowling hat, Soviet military cap etc…), a detailed expense account for a trip to Australia, a list of postcards sent (I guess so I don’t double up?) Most usefully the DNS address for DNA’s GPRS service… I was looking for that!

I have realized from all of this that it is time that I need to start traveling with a companion!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A memory a day...

... keeps the sadness away?

Here's hoping. Some of my favourite memories as snapshots. Hope the people who were part of them have good memories too...

Going for a swim (yes it's me being hauled out because I can't lift myself!)

Falling asleep at Pihljasaari (this isn't me in the pic!):

Any time I got to walk on the sea or a lake!:

Enjoying one of the spectacular non-sunsets at Juhannus:

Being a Charlies Angel in Jyvaskala:

Driving nowhere fast in Kaunisaari:

Finding my convict home in Suomelinna:

and of course... all the creatures great and small.

The shoebox

Everyone has a shoebox, a collection of things they never use and rarely refer to. Bus tickets from foreign lands, movie tickets from a special date, a postcard of evocative memories.

I start to unpack my shoebox. At first it's easy, a lot of travel paraphanelia which I easily throw away. Photos of ex boyfriends; I take one with me. A one lira coin; a yeni lira - I pocket this to give away to a friend like a lucky dime. The order or service for one funeral, then another. The last newspaper article he ever wrote; a wry smile of rememberance. Letters from an ex who is naught but a memory, a letter from an ex who is always a friend - it's theme is "I hope you find what you're looking for."

I'm sitting on the floor amongst this emotional flotsam and jetsam thinking when will this moving end. When do I get to settle? What does it mean to settle? I smoothe the corners of holiday leaflets (Latvian concentration camps, cheery...), I pick up odd money with Arabic inscription, I stack notebooks holding the indecipherable answers to my heart and mind.

I leave the mess on the floor and finger the lucky lira wondering if the new owner will bring me the peace I'm looking for...

Monday, March 20, 2006

I've got a new home...

I found a new home! E14, location of the freshly divorced designer studio and near to the Crisis main shelter stomping ground.

I can't fit a cat in my room, let alone swing one, but it's all I need. I will only be there week days. She says...

It's zone two, which cuts my commuting costs by about three pence and a bean and my travel time to work will be under half an hour, and not all underground. Egad! My snot will be only grey, not black.

Oh yes and I have two jobs I really really want and an offer from one already... stay tuned folks...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

From sun shine to snow dome

Yesterday, with the booking of the flight (March 27; Shelly tells me nine sleeps) it was dazzlingly sunny. I walked on the sea, only it melted with every step I took. Good thing I was wearing trousers. Yep, trousers - because it was so damn warm I could. And with nothing underneath (this got some looks from the boys; I meant thermals!)

I ate liha piiraka, bought a ridiculous Helsinki t-shirt (see pic) and took photos of snow melting in a hundred different positions.

I took tea with The KebMaf (realised that there is a real KM here and hope this hasn't made people think I have embarked on some interesting lesbian experiments)... We talked about how to spend the last days. For us, it was like being given a second chance to get it right. Knowing I was leaving took the pressure off, like when you have been caught fibbing and figure you might as well confess to a lifetime of lies. Last night we lay like lovers, spoke honestly, and made fun of each other. There were apologies aplently. And I think the friendship will survive. He is my longest dearest friend here, and the screw ups of a relationship shouldn't hinder that.

I felt thrilled yesterday to have the weight of the unknown lifted off me, to have a plan to move forward. Buoyed by the sun and the warm weather (plus three at one time!) I knew I had made the right decision. Of course, soon it will hit me that I am leaving, like saying goodbye to KM at the door signalled the first of nine days of farewells, and I will wonder if I have done the right thing. As if on cue, today the sky broke grey and snow fell wildly from all directions, covering the frozen snow melts. Back in the snow dome, I sit with my swirling thoughts...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sun shine on a rainy day

Sitting on the window sill with both the windows open and the sunlight is burning the back of my top, on the phone to the White Van Man, the first to learn and react to my news.

"This must seem like a smack in the teeth after all your optimism for returning here." Yeats is not the only Irishman to be poetic. It is, and it smarts.

But there is also a relief at leaving, at being employed, the memory of being affluent. As winter melts, so too has many of my reasons for being here, liking here, staying here. Beautiful friends, lovers and moments have dissolved and those that will withstand the seasons I will take with me forever. The world's a smaller place and there's not much room in it for sentiment...

So I'm off to bask in the sun and frolic in the snow, alone for now, but if anyone wants to join me, you have ten more days, and I'd love the company.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Just want to get on with it

I'm ready now. I'm ready to get on a plane and go. To spend my last days frantically packing and playing with the snow. To ignore phone calls and text messages, to make people do things for me ("Its my last days in Finland") or actually make them realise I am going. Soon, sooner, now.

It's a beautiful day for being selfish. I woke up this morning and decided I want to be selfish (or more selfish depending on your opinion of me).

Unfortunately my friend is sick today so I can't be that selfish, but as soon as I have visited her, then I will be selfish.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a beautiful day to be selfish as well.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Whirling dervish

This is going to the longest two weeks of my life if I believe this eclipse theory. My head won't stop spinning from the events that unfold every day, then fold, then crease and crumple around me.

Stop the phone calls, the three am ex, the ex from before I got married, the ex from beyond the alphabet. Back back - Nina stands on guard with a stake to drive through your hearts... if she can find them, as I am not sure I ever did.

Stop the wavering confidences and securities of my friends. Restore them to the safe strong people they always used to be. Stop the tears at roadsides, the calculating depths of their window falls, the fear of ghosts that died long ago and their fear of themselves.

Keep sending the signs: the job offers, that land in my in box as I deliberate an early move back to avoid check mate and insanity, the room for rent from mutual friends where friendly faces and good bone structure beckons invitingly. Please send a corresponding airfare to match the signs.

Should I buy cornflakes for one week or two... ?

A sound from the inbox, further job development... and the phone beeps with more drama. I whirl two ways, which one to read first...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Tonight... your friends rally round and take you to bars... you sleep well knowing someone loves you... you dream of your new love... you lay with your partner... you put your child to bed... you watch the TV and feel lazy contentment... you talk business into the small hours ... you sleep early to catch a plane to new adventures...

The digital clock blinks 1:18AM. I talk to strangers in America. I click at on-line snapshots. I pad the wood floors in my Marimekko slippers, a soft fleece wrapped around me, the window open to let in a little cold air, the moon full and high. The digital clock blinks 1:19AM. I regret the coffee. I regret more the reminiscing memory.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Last requests

As the sunsets rather spectacularly (electric blues, snow tinted gold) on my final days here, I've started making little lists of things I want to do before I go (or at least a seasonal selection).

As a lot of my "wot I dun" list has been done solo, then this list wants, nay demands, that some of it be done socially. Any takers, please shout.
  • Build a snow man! Really the right kind of snow must exist somewhere.
  • Try cross country skiiing. I live right next to the place but I need someone to laugh at me.
  • Sled down a hill, maybe even take someone's kitchen tray.
  • Walk out near Pirkkola (this I can do on my own)
  • Winter coffee at Korjaamo (going tomorrow, might also try scurrying around the ice rink too!)
  • See the Northern Lights. Hmm a bit demanding this one.
  • Have my cleavage immortalised at the Outback bar.
  • Have a grown up responsible, medically trained person supervise me jumping into the frozen sea (I really am chicken on this one!)
  • Leave with peace for all the ex-es! Oh really who am I kidding.
  • Try cow pat aka Mammi
  • Have a cake crawl or cake binge.
Anything I have missed?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Something in the air

If I had a dollar for every time some one had said "they're acting so out of character" or "something weird is about" or had seen an act of weirdness or someone act out of character in the last few weeks, then I could afford quite a few cakes at Strindberg cafe.

The phone and email have been running hot with odd things happening to friends, or in fact to me. People not acting themselves, not acting how you thought they would, falling outs just happening... all sorts of drama - real and melo-.

One of my clients Downunder commented that there was an eclipse and lots of odd things were happening to people because the stars and planets were misaligned. Normally, I think that's a lot of baloney, but it's nice to have a flippant explanation for the odd stuff happening at present. It also gives me the chance to say "don't worry there's something wrong with Uranus" and then smirk.

So a quick Google tells me that there is indeed a lunar Eclipse due on March 14 (also known as International Steak and Blow Job Day, a day for feminist vegetarian girlfriends everywhere!)

As cited on the website Planet Waves, "
If you look up eclipses in the Dictionary of Astrology by Alan Leo, it's a little like reading the Book of Revelations. They are associated with pestilences, earthquakes, toil on the king, hard times for animals, earthquakes, floods, running out of coffee on a Monday morning and everything else gone wrong. One gets the impression that eclipses are a good time to be away from the Solar System."

Another site states that, while an eclipse might be as bad as the Book of Revelations might have us believe the eclipse due on Tuesday will create "
mental and intellectual stress. Flattery or emotional display is likely to cause upsets, as religious expression and criticism of other faiths will see conflict. [time for re-publishing the Mohammed cartoons then?!] Selfishness, narrow-mindedness, trouble in employment or with employees is also problematic. Emotional demands can be surprisingly unrealistic. Sorrow in relationships arises due to a lack of passion, fear of financial support or lack of money."

Scary stuff. So what to do? Call up 1800-Astrology for you and find out what decisions to make? Apparently not,"the resolution is to trust the process of life and realize that you will be taken care of." So not only do we have to believe in it but trust in it too!

This does mean though that I get to skate alongside whatever shit might be happening in my life right now, or indeed other's, and simply watch it happen, which is often a good solution when you can't be proactive in rectifying the situation.

So until March 29th, the full solar eclipse, I'm going to sit back, relax and watch what's happening in Aries and Saturn, with only scant concern for Uranus...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Summer rocks!!!

It's 1243 in the afternoon in suburban Maunula. The sun is shining, I can't see a cloud, and because it's so bright, the sky is reduced to a blue haze. The thick (six inches) of snow outside my window intesifies the light. I've got my windows open and the air is cooling the flat, which is warm and dare I say it, sticky.

Ministry of Sound is pumping, very loud - sorry neighbours.

The flat is littered with wine glasses, bruschetta crumbs and the memories of last summer.

I'm dancing around wearing summer clothes.

Not even the Helsinki weather site can convince me it's really minus 6.9 celcius.

It's summer. And I love it. Even if only for four more hours...

Friday, March 10, 2006


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Vacant vacancies

I just submitted my first job application for the first time in years. Ok I lie, just before I came to Finland, I went to an agency but that's different, they don't even let you in the door if you're not invited...

Anyway it was weird because, I haven't had to write a job application for years. And I haven't been declined a job after interview. Ever. And I applied through the Christmas Elves. Very weird. Part-time, in London, three months on an event, of course... Sounds just like me. I hope they think so. I'd have enough time to work on my "own things" namely getting the business back up. Of course, it's event work, so I'd be lucky if I get time to actually think, but at least it does offer the opportunity for freelancing.

It's hard to leave, true, but yesterday left me so drained I think I could easily slip on a plane right now. I'm also excited at the prospects of picking and choosing jobs (you don't get this luxury being freelance). Not that one, no management; that one's just working with people, that's too much strategy, that's not enough. Oh to be spoilt for choice. Like a child in a candy store. Or me, finally faced with satellite television...

No Ordinary Morning

If there was nothing that I could say
This time it’s goodbye
Turned your back and you just walked away
The song lyrics echo in my head
Leaves me numb inside I think of you
as if they were written for us, for me
Together is all I knew
But it’s always like that after a break up, every song is for you.

We moved too fast but I had no sign
Friendship would just be a motion I would go through
I would try to turn the hands of time
In the same way that if you stayed, love would be just a motion
Then look to you for the reason why
Just empty words, I’ve already heard – you said them so well.
The love we had passed me by
Who could blame me for believing them

And as the sun would set you would rise

This morning there was sunshine, so bright, you could be tricked into thinking it was warm
Fall from the sky into paradise
I played the song, let the words fall around me onto the snow
Is there no light in your heart for me?
And thought – no more…
You've closed your eyes, you no longer see

There were no lies between me and you
I’ll write you emails of carefully chosen words
You said nothing of what you knew
To let you know I am well
But there was still something in your eyes
And before I leave, we will have one more awkward moment
Left me helpless and paralyzed
One final goodbye.

And I’ll walk away with the lyrics echoing in my head
You could give a million reasons,
change the world and change the times,
Could not give me the secrets of your heart
and of your mind
In the darkness that surrounds me now
there is no peace of mind
Your careless words undo me,
leave the thought of us behind

Chicane: No Ordinary Morning

Woman, what a day!

International Women's Day yesterday.

As women in Finland can already vote, it seems appropriate that my sistas (as opposed to sisters) and I celebrated be being as dysfunctional as possible, crying, pushing the boundaries of friendship, re-drawing the lines impossibly close to the bone, being hung up on men, being driven by men, being in love with men, being pre-menstrual, post-menstrual and hormonal, drinking, laughing, hating, loving, being openly paranoid when confident inside, being confident outside when inside scared, and so on . Which goes to prove my theory that if women were in charge of more countries, we would never have war, only intense negotiations every 21 days...

It's left me all a bit bewildered, close female company being a bit of a novelty to me since er... um. Ever. All my friends were always boys (my mother had to make phone calls to anxious parents of boys I was always inviting over to slumber parties with I being the only girl to convince them that it was just the way I was).

Last night, close to female breaking point, I went to watch the last of the football. It was a crap twenty minutes but it made up for it for the occasional glimpses of Thierry Henry (I am still female at heart). I stood in silence with a watery cider in hand, and a nice man in an England shirt (god I have stooped low) put his hand on mine. We said nothing and just were. It was lovely. Why can't life always be that simple?!

Tonight I am staying in to watching a load of motorsport DVDs, eat from a can and scratch...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Happy Anniversary

Above: The first night...

The plane lands, late afternoon, when the sky is greying. I remember little of the arrival. A well presented Finnish man smiles at me at baggage collect. I remember blushing. On the other side, it's terse and tense.

We go straight to the flat. It's tidy, small and perfectly formed. I take a quick look, and notice he has stacked the kitchen with basics as well as thoughtful gestures, sambal olek and rice. A postcard; two rabbits, male and female, hold hands over a house. Lets make this house a home, is written on the reverse.

Downstairs, I read the noticeboard. I can't understand a single word. A single word. Like reading: iufb uihf ug kifj lg midf sdngn isbjin smishfgo over and over and over again. I walk twenty steps towards the van and kdjf ijf djfhiohhl isfj mdnf isjfgSDVnusv sdfdmv hits me. This is the language of my new home. My brain does this: jdhf ;lokifm ero euh eru faef and I am motionless there, until my eyes dry out from not blinking, until he moves me gently but firmly to the van. All I can say is "I live in Finland."

Upon arrival at Ikea, we head straight to the cafeteria. Tervetuola Suomi. Lihapulla ja viini. It's the viini I need, and I pour it straight down my throat. I'll make a good Finn...

I spend several hundred Euro on the essentials - there's not even a mattress to sleep on tonight.
That night, on that mattress, so much I can't remember. Is it that night he says he doesn't want any more children? I cry into the wall grieving for what won't be, such is my committment.

Tervetuola Suomi.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Coulda, shoulda, won't do

For someone who spent the good part of the Christmas period motivating tens of unlikely and disparate people to deliver tailored learning and social activities to some of London's most socially excluded people, I now find myself having a hard time finding the will or interest to get out of bed in the morning.

I'm hoping this is some sort of post-Mexico time zone malaise but it's taken fairly desperate proportions. For example, when I can be bothered to make toast (the first meal of the day, around about 4pm), I do, but can't be bothered to put the margarine back in the fridge. It's a conscious protest against doing.

I can't be bothered to finish designing a book cover I'm doing, even though it would result in financial gains, and I can't be bothered invoicing for Mexico. This from a girl who barely has enough money to renew her bus card.

I could be bothered going back to bed with the Sunday papers that a lovely chap brought back from England for me.

This apathy could be for any number of reasons. I could use the excuse that I am burnt out from freelancing and event work but that's wearing fairly lame. I could feel hostage to the situation around me so I don't feel the need to work against it but merely bob along in the direction the murky river of life is taking me. I could also claim to feeling directionless and without purpose or motivation since arriving back here, having had very clear goals for the last five months of event work. I could also pay heed to having lost that shining light we humans like to fall back on, the SO, for a path to follow when we're tired of forging our own.

But I think more than likely it's because I have become a lazy git.


"There's one thing I find really amazing about you Tom...Well... It's your total confidence that you will get married. I mean, what if you never find the right girl?"


"Surely, if that service shows anything, it shows that there is such a thing as a perfect match. If we can't be like Gareth and Matthew, then maybe we should just let it go. Some of us are not gonna get married.”

"Well, I don't know, Charlie. The truth is, unlike you, I never expected the thunderbolt. I always just hoped that I'd meet some nice, friendly girl, like the look of her, hope the look of me didn't make her physically sick, then pop the question and settle down and be happy. It worked for my parents. Well, apart from the divorce...”

"I'll give you six months at the outside, Tom.”

"Yeah, maybe you're right.”

"Maybe all this waiting for one true love stuff gets you nowhere.”

I can't decide which theory I like anymore.

From Four Weddings and a Funeral

Monday, March 06, 2006

Can’t sleep

Can only breathe the sheets, which I press up against my face and smell the faint smell of musk, you, mingled with cigarette smoke. I inhale so deep that it becomes all I can smell. In the dark, it overwhelms.

The other night, I suffocated. The dark pressing against me, the roof seeming lower and lower. All I could feel was what was not there. All I could see was the word that makes me recoil: "loss" in huge Arial font, white on black and all I could hear was your voice saying "that's life, Rowena, you lose people." Like I, of anyone, needed to be reminded of that.

I tried to embrace the emptiness, instead squeezed my pillow tighter and tighter, trying to reduce the air in between molecules, trying to absorb the space.

In the dark, my mouth contorted like a child, wailing until you send a message in the middle of the morning - our night time - and it comforts me. Again like a child, placated by the harsh backlight of a mobile phone, staring at the black characters, reading false comfort in every word, I sleep.

Annual cycles

Feb 2005: Text message stored on my phone saying home is where I am.
Feb 2006: Text message stored on my phone saying home is where I am.

Feb 2005: Text message stored on my phone that says “I love you” in another language.
Feb 2006: Text message stored on my phone that says “I love you” in another language.

March 2005: Single
March 2006: Single

I’ve got to start reading my horoscope … !

Friday, March 03, 2006

Kahvila musings

I'm in Wanha Maunulan Kahvila, sipping on Europe's most consumed and most awful coffee and nibbling on a very very sweet omena something pastry.

The end date of the flat is negotiated. I'll book a ticket out in a few days. I'm asking friends for a sofa to sleep on in the days before I leave. It's feeling very final.

It's a weird feeling. KM once said to me that I can make any place my home. That's a point but it's missing the point. Success in Finland symbolises something. No one I've met, who came for either love or Nokia, have ever been desserted in so quick a time after arriving. And I stayed. And I kind of made it. Or at least made it such that I wanted to come back, without love or Nokia. It's a big point score for independent women. I look at everything from the friends I made, to the furniture I own and feel every effort I made to survive here. Sure I cheated, I never got a Kela kortti, I rarely work for a Finnish company and I never went to language school. But a girl can only do so much.

So leaving feels a little bit like a failure (though it's the UK tax man that killed me more than anything) and the end of an era.

There's a part of my heart that will stay here no matter what...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Lehtitaikinalevyja vs Voitaikinalevyja

The Finnish Dinner party. Or at least my version of it.

It's always exciting to have people over to dinner. But even more so when they are infrequent visitors so you really want to be nice to them.

So I got some Marimekko napkins, made my Malaysian chicken curry the night before (still not sure if it was chicken as turkey is branded Chicky and the label said something about suik which I thought meant pork as well as broiler which meant chicken... Anyway...) tidied up and then decided to bake.

Bake. Me. Until Martha Stewart went to jail, we had nothing in common. But because Finnish dinner means come over at 5.30 I never know if people eat at that time, or it's just a national myth, so I wanted to have something for people to snack on.

Inspired by Nina's snotty winter hankies, I wanted to make an Asian style pastry. I had the filler in mind (kidney beans fried in sesame oil and mashed with spiced spinach for those culinary minded) but the pastry was proving a little harder. Lehtitaikinalevyja or Voitaikinalevyja? I could only understand a small section of that word and I thought it meant China. They were too long to text it to a translating friend and too hard to say without laughing. The S Market woman in the freezer aisle didn't want to disturb her stacking to answer questions about a pastry I couldn't ask ("excuse me which one might be like a winter hankie and which is better for something Asian"). Nina helpfully told me that filo is filo in Finnish. I looked at the drawings on the packet and bought one of each.

And so a pastry was born, and generally scoffed, and the curry bowls were cleaned and a good time was had by all, particularly when I opened the dessert they had brought and stared, long hard and puzzled, at the brick of ice cream in a box and wondered not so much how to get it all out, but rather how to get it back in...

The ice cream and pastry boxes are not sitting in my windowsill to keep frozen...

Below: Jatta and Papu with the aforementioned leftover pastries. "Smile, smile like you like to eat them."

If you can't beat them...

If you can't beat them, get drunk in the market sqaure watching them.

The Finland v Sweden Olympic Ice Hockey Final was such an event, that there was actually a minimal amount of drunks in the town centre during the game. Really.

There was a lot of hype in town that weekend, with a alleged ticker tape parade in Helsinki for the returning athletes (well did anyone actually stay awake till three am to see it?!).

But the world's media (ie America!) didn't see the event as exciting:

"Peter Forsberg, who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers, will represent Sweden in the Winter Games. He’ll be one of the players to watch during the ice hockey competition, but not that many people will be viewing it besides those in the U.S. and French Canada." From NBC.

Er how about the people of Sweden for a start?

And apparently the host country didn't even show interest:
To the average Italian, Olympic hockey is barely an after-ski talking point.

Fortunately one Australian, spurred by her Finnish friends ("you must learn to hate Sweden") watched the last twenty minutes in the market square with much tension. I've never seen such organised inhalation, foot stamping (it was minus ten and we were in the shade) and co-ordinated proclamations of Vittu...

And I even felt Finnish; it hurt to lose:

"TORINO, Italy - Finland completed the Olympic hockey tournament with a 7-1 record, the top two point-getters, a goalie who was named most valuable player and all they got for their incredible and memorable effort was a silver medal that looks like a compact disc.

For all of Finland's efforts, they got the medal that no one in hockey wants. Their 3-2 loss in the gold medal game put a devastating end to a seven-game winning streak, incredible team play and goaltending, leaving them with an empty feeling.

To be the runner up in the gold medal is to beg the question: Is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Either way, it hurts more for the Finns than the teams that didn't even make it to the quarterfinals.

"It's a proud moment, but also a tough one," Finnish captain Saku Koivu said. "There's moments like this in sport, in hockey, where it's tough to see the positive at the moment.

This silver medal feels like a tragedy. As the Swedes celebrated on the ice, television cameras here in Torino caught a glimpse of a Finnish fan, head down, weeping uncontrollably.

Was the fan weeping for his country, himself, or the fact that players like Selanne and Koivu may not get another shot at gold at Vancouver in 2010?

"We lost the game, that's it," Lehtinen said. "We played a great tournament, but today we took one more goal than we had to. It's a pity, losing the final after such a tournament we played. We always won, at the end we only got a silver medal."

The medal nobody considers a "win".

Ice hockey spectator photos here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


In case you hadn't realised, I had been dumped by the SO. Hence the melodramatic postings.

Today we met and did the stuff-swap and had the de-brief. I'm glad we did because one of the things that tormented me about The Finn was that I never knew why.

I feel quite good now. Not necessarily because I know why but because I know that there is someone more dysfunctional than me. This is not just the words of a woman scorned, it's a simple fact. The SO was not the man for me. In fact, I'm not sure he makes a good friend. It's a little odd.

Of course it's startling to discover this about someone who is first and foremost a friend. But there are things he said to me that make me think "I don't value those qualities in a person."

Committment phobia is one thing, and it's inherent on male chromosome. But laziness and inability to accept any responsibility are not great qualities. Being able to say outloud that you want an easy route, even if it's with someone you don't care about, that's not a nice trait.

I personally feel that by giving a lot of myself I get great feelings back. Sure there's a risk of pain, but it's a risk I am willing to take. What is life if it's not lived to the fullest? Or at least to a good extent. Being afraid to risk, feel or exert is not living. It's existing. It's not the life I want.

By the end of it all, I felt more sorry for him in the long term.

Later that night, I went out with a mutual friend and it helped to speak to someone who knew him and could imagine the whole thing happening. I'm going to sleep a little easier tonight knowing it's not just me. I think I'll be able to play something other than Baroque and Gothic tonight...

Photo above from park behind train station. First time I had seen the carving was today.

Snow? In the UK?! Unthinkable!

You'd think that the UK has only just realised that in winter, it gets cold. After years of being in the northern hemisphere, this tiny island, battered by winds and oceans has only just realised that if snow falls, things might not work.

I laughed so much when Google threw this headline past me: Snow gives pupils school holiday. At first I thought reporter Jon Snow was campaigning for a day off!

"Snow falls across many parts of
Wales overnight have meant an unexpected
St David's Day holiday for schoolchildren."
reports the BBC

Imagine how little school Finnish kids would get if this was the case here...

Sisters are doing it blah blah blah

It must be international women's day soon because I am getting lots of junk emails from random women saying they love me (but not enough to remove all the >>>> symbols in an email that has been forwarded a million times!).

I've been spending a lot of time with the girls since I got back. It's pretty novel because I've never had girl friends that I actually hung out with. There are days when I get a bit startled and think that I need a testosterone fix, but then I read about motorsport. It's weird to think that the dearest people to me right now are K and N, and until 9 months ago, that was a brand of really good airfilter for me... (it's a car thing).

Here's a little pictorial tribute because I can't write anything happy and nice at the moment (like you haven't noticed!)