Friday, 30 October 2015

Estonia & Finland

Finally feel like being back and who would have thought it memory wears thin. 

Last Sunday I returned from a trip to Estonia and Finland, the Nordic lands. It was a great escape, the highlight being driving out to the country through the straight-laced woods; pin-prick after pin-prick made up of silver birch and pine, their stiff standing-to-attention silhouettes and trim waistlines flitted past my passenger-seat car window as we pelted across chilled tarmac to the western most tip of Estonia. 

By the Baltic Sea. 

The wind started to pick up and we had no fire to cook the meat on. The massive man in lumberjack wear with bounding Alsatian dog in tow told us the hob wasn’t meant for steaks only porridge, so, my friends seized the outdoor barbecue and lit it in a brewing storm for the dozen spare ribs we had bought for seven Euros. The fire lit and the wind picked up. We had arrived at a wooden bird watchtower a shade of emerald green, a two-story Scandinavian designed beauty with an outdoor spiral staircase that led to the upstairs where the three beds lay and the downstairs held a kitchenettete and sauna. The next day I appreciated the heat from the sauna rose to warm the top room - everything here is well designed.

The sauna was hot. The wood-burning stove was made of heavy black hunks of metal and burned soundly, the coals atop were charcoal and sizzled when any touch of moisture happened. Lifting out ladles of water and splashing the rocks made the hot little wooden room's temperature rise by ten degrees to reach 80. Sweat spilled like water. We took it in turns to jump outside from the sauna to the world, where there was now a mighty gale whipping round the edges. The rush of the sea wind through invisible dark trees made the whole experience bewildering and so did the vodka. There were dares to run out to the Baltic Sea, which were completed by others (some twice dunking his whole head under like what I can only imagine a drunken beluga whale) and we raced back to the heat of the sauna across grass and moss and nettles and guzzled more beer. It was something between a frolic and a frenzy and the next day we all paid for it, me especially, with a hangover that silenced. 

Photo credit: Aidan Clifford

Monday, 5 October 2015


I look down the corridor and it is still. I look out of the window and I see a formation of seven geese soar above the roof. I bought a chilli plant this morning and was given a white porcelain pot to place it in. The stolen clock now contains batteries and tocks above the bookshelf.


There is nothing profound in saying this: how times change. Everyone’s said it. And everyone’s felt it I bet. The return of seasons make progress seem familiar but times are never similar. Not that I’ve found anyway. I have always had a penchant for chilli plants and that began two years ago when I lived in an ex-council flat in Bethnal Green, which was a pub crawl away from Columbia Road Flower Market that opens every Sunday. The narrow street would fill to bursting with flowers; stalls and hawkers; coffee enthusiasts and fixed-gear bicyclists; expectant skinny mothers and babies in suede, it was a version of heaven - back then. And I would try and pick up the dregs of flowers that hadn’t been sold at the end of the day, because it was cheaper still and I would always be enticed by the chilli plants. The red and yellow bulbs that shone, and I knew you could eat them and the taste would be sweet or bitter and if you’re lucky, extremely hot.

Friends I cared about but no longer see stayed with me back then. In my rented apartment that I no longer live in nor share with the people I knew (the housemates have all scattered too.) The friends who stayed over had only just finished university with me and so there was real promise of visits and “no plans over the weekend” and such and such. And when I think of the daily trials and tribulations of two years ago it was different – I was drunk more, I couldn’t tell if I enjoyed my job at all, people who meant nothing meant everything, and the Winter seemed long. Maybe Winters always seem long and we forget because Summer stupefies us.

Today on the bus a woman thus spoke to a neighbour:

‘Make the most of the sunshine
You don't know when the breeze is coming
In this town
And the darkness'

In her Caribbean accent she had directed it at a neighbour who wasn't sat beside her. Oh, there was someone there certainly; it wasn’t a call of madness. It was sound advice. Later she fell asleep. I heeded it. I should be enjoying every minute of this.