Skip to main content

Notes from Finland - Moving in

It's amazing how much stuff people have and how much they are ready to lend you, even without asking. I didn't really expect it as Helsinki people have made a virtue out of necessity and live in small spaces, like so many who want to live in city centres.

As a result, and with many thanks, we've furnished a one-bedroom flat with minimum stuff, cost and hassle. Also very much thanks to mum, sister, brother-in-law and friends for lugging said stuff around.

Early February

I'm writing this on a passenger ferry to Suomenlinna, an 18th century army base, fortress and now UNESCO world heritage site. Tonight one of its halls will host a party of Scots and their Finnish friends and family. A Burn's supper with poetry and haggis. Really looking forward to it, and not just because I'm starving.

We're rumbling along in the ice that covers Helsinki shorelines. My sister has just mused over a cup of coffee that this would be a good time to go walking on sea ice.

Later...

The Finnish Scottish Society event was just perfect; good company, excellent home cooked haggis, and whisky flowing freely. All under vaulted ceilings in a building that used to house the garrison's horse mill - which is not a mill for horses but millstones that are pulled around by horses, I learned.

Favourite magical winter places: Tapanila and Suomenlinna on a winter's evening with a sprinkling of fairy lights and a thick covering of snow. Tapanila has alleys and narrow streets lined with big trees and old wooden villas. I've spotted at least two turrets. In Suomenlinna, there were no tourists, and I really understood that people live there when I saw the lights shining from the windows.

So we're starting to find our way around.

This is my diary bit. During some work training, historian Laura Kolbe told us it's a good idea to keep a diary of our time working for the government. Diary is quite different from a blog though. Then again, if you're ready to commit words to page, does it really matter that they are published for all to see. Since anybody who's ever written a diary knows that someone might read it, however secret. Tying your thoughts to a physical form rather than having them ping-ponging in your head immediately changes them anyway.

Kolbe also said something I had not heard before: when Alexander I established the new administration in Finland he thought of it as a force for change.

Favourite radio show: Small scenes, Radio 4. Trying to escape the National Trust is a noble death. As I'm no longer a member I'm worried. Maybe we should join again since they are spreading to our area in the North. Along with Skype and WhatsApp, Radio 4 keeps me connected to England, and I'd really miss it if it wasn't there. Like salmiakki from Finland.

Early March

Winter continues with vengeance, though outside new snow is slowly turning to mushy slush. The half-term holiday is a distant memory of cross-country skiing, sledging in dense woods and open vistas on Lake Pielinen, which has the longest public ice road in Europe. If you don't fancy driving, you can also run a race on it.

It's light at 6pm now, hurrah! and I heard a bird - possibly a blackbird but I leave that to more experienced tweeters - joyfully singing a spring song while thick wet snowflakes were falling down from the sky. In fact, I recorded an audio clip but don't know how to post it here.
Sledging in Paateri

Paateri Cafe, and someone is just about to set off!

On the ice in Laajasalo on a foggy day, by Helsingin Latukahvila pop-up cafe

Helsinki Pipes and Drums in Myllysali, Suomenlinna. Impressive.

Wind made shapes in the snow.

It was a dull day weatherwise but the sledging was great!
A local landowner keeps this track in the woods open
just for sledging, plus there is a laavu shelter and
a campfire site.



Mum and dad's greenhouse waiting for the summer.

The start of a favourite cross-country skiing route of about 5 km
by two small lakes, Vuonisjärvi and Majalampi.

On the ice road across Lake Pielinen.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Notes from Finland - Height of summer

There went the April showers and darling buds of May. I can't get over the fact how similar the plant life, and the seasons, are in Helsinki and in Sheffield. It just shows how 'Finland' for me has meant ' North Karelia ' or possibly 'Lapland' at a stretch. I roll my eyes when immigrants and visitors make assumptions about Britain; how they take one area or group of people to represent such a diverse country. And now I find myself doing just that about the place where I was born. Ilosaarirock 2019 Saturday about 24,000 people. We're on the train, on our way to spend a weekend in mummola,  aka my parents. And I get to go to Ilosaarirock . I don't want to make jokes about early onset dementia but for the life of me I can't remember whether I've been before. Only recently I insisted that I'd seen ZZ Top in Puistoblues but when I checked the dates I realised there was no way I could have been there. At least I'll keep some memorie

Notes from Finland: Spring 2020

28 May 2020 at 10.30pm I hadn't been out tonight so I decided to go for a quick ten minute walk in the evening sun. It's the lightest time of the year and after an overcast day we got a gorgeous, bright evening. The bird cherry is in bloom and I've just seen the first strawberry flowers in the woods, probably some garden escapees because they were too big for wild plants. Lily-of the-valley covers the forest floor, with the last of the wood anemones peaking through the leaves. Nearby woods on 27 May, favourite part of the day About life in Helsinki this spring I seriously thought about writing something that did not even mention, you know, the virus. But that would have been dishonest since it has affected our lives in so many ways. I've been getting this nagging feeling that I should be recording the current events but it's been alleviated a great deal since I realised that everybody is doing it. Photographers taking snapshots of daily life, a loc

Notes from Finland - Contrasts

Change of seasons is one of those times when you get a crick in your neck trying to look back and ahead at the same time. Was it really three months ago we moved here and found ourselves shivering in the fenced-off area outside the residents' sauna, wrapped in our towels and looking up at the night sky lit in orange glow. Now it's daylight until 9pm and I've just bought two chairs for the balcony, and I even sat there this morning with a cup of coffee to keep me warm. About spring Compared with the suddenly vanishing snows and the green leaves that seem to appear overnight in eastern Finland, in England spring is a proper, long season. First I was really frustrated with it. There is no snow but nothing big seems to happen for ages, before the first crocuses come up. It took time to learn to enjoy the slow change, rather than the aggressive glare of spring sun reflecting off snow and the transformation that takes place in front of your eyes. Now I'm finding spring