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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.


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.


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