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Helsinki 2021: Part 4


Ugh...OK. I’ll write more once I’m in Stockholm. I need to finish this before the end of the day. Luckily, I only have three and a half days to catch up on.


OK, so...OK, OK. Lexi had brought a lot of goodies with her from Estonia, including run and chocolate wafers, and moose sausages. Moose? Deer? I’ll check once I arrive. There were also snacks that looked like meringues, but were softer and tasted nothing like meringues; more like a fruit. I wasn’t as keen on those, but it was an excellent night.

Tuesday! Ilona had to go to work in the morning, so Lexi and I spent most of the day together. We could afford a slow start, so we had some tea and coffee – or rather, I had tea, and Lexi didn’t want the instant coffee – whilst we decided what to do. What we decided to do was walk around Töölö Bay nearby. The wind made for a chilly day, and I crossed my arms over my jacket to stay warmer as we walked. The trees ran the spectrum from green to red, adding some much needed colour to a cloudy day. As we walked around the lake, we caught up with each other. Lexi is currently being given the run-around by several magazines that decided to steal her pitch without giving her credit, or even contact her to ask. How soon her fortune would change! Other than that, her book on Soviet-era fashion is progressing well; she’s up to three chapters now. I promised I’d have a look at it if she ever needs second pair of eyes, which she was happy to hear. She wants to move back to London, but rent prices are so high that that there’s no chance of that at the moment. She’s sad about how dispersed everyone has become after university, even though it’s been five years now since we finished our undergraduate degrees. I feel the same way; why do you think I had to go all the way to Finland to see one of my friends that I used to see every day? Lexi asked about me next, which precipitated a hearty, deep, sad, sarcastic laugh. Things are not very clear for me at the moment, I said, and as I have said here before. Yet she was nothing if not supportive. She loves my writing, and is excited to see how this travel journal turns out. It’s funny how you can be so positive for someone else, and yet neglect sharing that positivity with yourself.

After we’d finished our loop, we stopped at the Art Café Taideterassi, which sold tea and cakes. It’s clearly been there for a while, as it has been converted from a country house; you know, the ones with a white balcony and crisscrossed beams on the outside? Pastel blue colouring? Like that. I’ve been travelling around for a little while by now. I’ve seen cats as replacement scavengers from pigeons plenty of times. They were bordering aggressive in Antalya. But in Helsinki? Tiny birds. I don’t know the species, but they are everywhere, like a prettier, more endearing city pigeon. In fact, it’s as if they’ve filled the power vacuum after the pigeons were evicted, or otherwise removed. They. Are. Relentless. They don’t care if you are still eating your food. If you take a break for a second, you'll be swarmed by them. I resigned my carrot cake crumbs to them whilst I waited for Lexi to come back from the bathroom so we could go.

We carried on into the city, talking the whole way. The Gossip came up. What is the Gossip, you ask? You’ll never know, but it was great to bitch about people and indulge the divas in us. But as were standing in the queue for lunch, and the Wi-Fi connected to her phone, Lexi saw she had an email from about an hour ago. It was from one of the magazines that originally dropped contact with her; they were now offering her a job to start next month! Just like that, her fortunes had changed, and now she could stress about where to live, how to get to her job, and all the rest of that. I’m still waiting on around 250 replies from increasingly irrelevant job advertisements. At least it’s given me time to travel.

So that I don’t run out of time, I’m going to skip ahead a little bit. I managed to pick my parcel up which had been stuck in customs because it included my medication. Dad had stuffed the box with lots of things from home. I was expecting the jumper, and a few shirts, but not the can of beans! I had them for dinner immediately. Also included were Digestives, Reece’s Pieces (enjoyed mostly by Ilona and Lexi), flapjacks, truffles, two cakes (Victoria Sponge and Carrot) plus a full size can of deodorant that I wouldn’t be able to take on the flight with me (nor would I be able to take on the smaller can I’d bought previously). The package also included big, embarrassing ‘Happy Birthday!’ badge, with a birthday message written on paper in lieu of a proper card. Dad’s so sweet. I’m happy for all the support he’s giving me on this trip. Some of his shirt choices are getting a little questionable, however. Later, the girls died at my impression of Elvis Presley during a party game we played. Those are the key points of that night.

Fortunately for me, the next day was one spent tidying up some administrative tasks. Not every day can be an adventure; need to plan for flights and accommodation some of the time! Lexi left after Ilona in the morning, promising we’d see each other again sooner this time. No idea how or when, though. I won’t even have a bed when I return home. Good job I’ve planned around staying with friends and family on this trip. It gives me good practice for once I’m back in the UK.

So, the plan as it stands is to check in on Uncle Martyn in Germany, before heading to the Netherlands/Belgium, before heading back home in time for bankruptcy. The fun thing about travelling through Europe is that someone can, with a completely straight face, offer to pick you up from a different country, because “it’s closer.” In that case, I suppose I’ll be letting you know what Luxembourg is like soon too.

Once Ilona had arrived home from work, I once again triggered her over Nevernight when I ask for the title for reference. This led to another fun, furious discussion about bad writing, which this time included reading selected extracts from the offending text. There was a section where the main character ranted about the use of ‘cunt’ as an expletive which sounded awful. Most criminal of all was the liberal use of footnotes. They were a kilometre long! In a fictitious book! And all of the information was so unnecessary to understanding the scene!

The conversation somehow then led onto Finnish regional stereotypes, which I will quote Ilona on here:

  • Ostrobothnia and Pohjanmaa: the “Deep South” of Finland. South Ostrobothnia is the ‘real’ Ostrobothnia and is where Ilona’s dad is from. Everyone in his family has had heart attacks from too much lard and spirits.

  • You can never get a straight answer from a Savonian.

  • Karelians are cheerful by Finnish standards.

  • Häme are considered slow and honest.

  • The South and West coast of Finland are Finnish-Swedish, as evidenced by all the crab/crayfish parties and schnapps.

  • “Beer is not for drinking; it’s what you have with a meal. It’s also a snack.”

This brings up to date! Finland (Helsinki really) was lovely, and it was great to see Ilona again, but I’m sure she’s very happy to have her shoebox home to herself again. God knows what I’m going to do with all this moose sausage.

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