Friday, April 30, 2004

Amusing ourselves to Death

Patrik has given up TV, Riina has given up TV and Maija and me have given up TV. It was not difficult We just have not bothered to get another TV since coming to Finland. We gave our old one away to Janet in Saffron Walden because it would not play over here in Finland. I don't know the reason for Patrik giving it up but it seems he has more time to burn down sheds and clip trees, smile with friends and play his favourite songs. Not having a TV gives you time for people.

How often do you go into sombodies home and the TV is on and everybodies attention is drawn to it and all conversation ceases. It used to drive Maija mad when she would want to talk to me and I wanted to concentrate on some particular programme I was watching, and you are not able to get each others attention. Watching TV seperates us.

Riina gave it up because it was consuming her life. It was always on and there was always soaps to follow, or reality TV shows like wife swapping, or Mr. Millionaire, or Big Brother, which are addictive.

When Maija was depressed she would watch TV for hours on end. Starting with old black and white movies in the afternoon, then on to quizz shows, and antiques programmes right through to the news and a late movie before collapsing into bed.

I have not had any withdrawal symtoms and I am reading books and laughing at words, which is lovely

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Border disputes

Yesterday I spent half an hour digging with a Kurd called Rekar who is eleven years old, and plays for EPS, Patrik's old football team. He wanted to speak english. He gets into troubles at school. I asked him why, and he said it was because he called the Finns "suomeen homot" and I asked why he had done that, and he said because they had called him "paskat Kurdit".

I said that I had seen that some of the tool boxes on the allotment had been thrown into the ditch, and he said it was the "Suomeen skinnerit" who had done it. He then proceeded to tell me there had been an argument between the previous owner of my plot, and the old grandmother who owned the adjacent plot.

It was a border dispute. Just imagine a border dispute over a 10meter square plot of land, and not between countries. He then said that the Arab on the other side of my plot had stolen my land and I should fight to get it back. I was not interested in fighting over a few weeds. If anybody wants them they can have them.

What chance does Israel and Palestine have in solving border disputes when you can have a conflict of interests, and an eruption of animosity over an allotment in Espoonlahti.

Land is more important than gardening. Ownership and rights are the things that matter most. If I have to engage in a battle over border disputes, then it will be the town council who decides who owns what. For Israel it is Jehovah who decides and for Palestine it is Allah, and old Karl Marx or was it the French anarchist Proudhon was of the opinion "all property is theft"

Perhaps we should listen to Douglas Adams who later pointed out in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the term property is in common usage as a term for what Proudhon calls possession. Taken out of context, it can be an excellent way to justify stealing: "Property is theft, right? Therefore theft is property, therefore this [insert stolen item here] is mine..."

The wrist

Maija broke her wrist about three months ago. Yesterday she had the pins removed. The wrist is still wrapped up and has stiches in it. She keeps her hand in an upright position, and does not use it very much. It is very difficult for her to work with just one hand. When cutting bread she places the elbow of her left arm on top of the bread to hold it down and cuts with her right hand. She is very careful not to move it.

She has been given another 4 weeks sick leave from the doctor, though that does not mean much since she does not work. She has troubles typing, or tying shoe laces, or buttoning jackets. She has been given some time with the physiotherapist to get her muscles working again. She can not rock her hand back and forth. Her thumb has limited movement. She cannot grip or hold things which makes it impossible for her to drive the car. She has a nasty scar on the underside of her arm where they cut her open to put in a metal plate to strength her wrist. For one month they left her without a cast but with these pins still in her flesh. You could see the points of them protruding agaist her skin. She was afraid to move her arm when the pins were like his in case she would bump her wrist and the pins would poke through the skin and she would get an infection.

It looks like the rehabilitation process will be long and difficult.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


( Words : Joseph Bovshover / Music : Dick Gaughan )

I come like a comet new born
Like the sun that arises at morning
I come like the furious tempest
That follows a thundercloud's warning
I come like the fiery lava
From cloud-covered mountains volcanic
I come like a storm from the north
That the oceans awake to in panic

I come because tyranny planted
My seed in the hot desert sand
I come because masters have kindled
My fury with every command
I come because man cannot murder
The life-giving seed in his veins
I come because liberty cannot
Forever be fettered by chains

I come because tyrants imagine
That mankind is only their throne
I come because peace has been nourished
By bullets and cannon alone
I come because one world is two
And we face one another with rage
I come because guards have been posted
To keep out the hope of the age

From earliest times the oppressed
Have awaked me and called me to lead them
I guided them out of enslavement
And brought them to high roads of freedom
I marched at the head of their legions
And hailed a new world at its birth
And now I shall march with the peoples
Until they unfetter the earth

And you, all you sanctified moneybags
Bandits anointed and crowned
Your counterfeit towers of justice
And ethics will crash to the ground
I'll send my good sword through your hearts
That have drained the world's blood in their lust
Smash all your crowns and your sceptres
And trample them into the dust

I'll rip off your rich purple garments
And tear them to rags and to shreds
Never again will their glitter
Be able to turn people's heads
At last your cold world will be robbed of
It's proud hypocritical glow
For we shall dissolve it as surely
As sunlight dissolves the deep snow

I'll tear down your cobweb morality
Shatter the old chain of lies
Catch all your blackhooded preachers
And choke them as though they were flies
I'll put a quick end to your heavens
Your gods that are deaf to all prayer
Scatter your futile old spirits
And clean up the earth and the air

And though you may choke me and shoot me
And hang me your toil is in vain
No dungeon, no gallows can scare me
Nor will I be frightened by pain
Each time I'll arise from the earth
And break through all your weapons of doom
Until you are finished forever
Until you are dust in the tomb

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

People at the plots

Dug 2x10M last night. The good weather is bringing people out to their plots. In the neighboring plot there is a young Japanese couple. They were there with their baby who was sleeping in a pushchair with a linen cloth over the hood to shade her.

A dark skinned man with a grey beard said Moi. I replied with a Hello Hello, I somehow wanted to say I was not a Finn, but he just made a clicking noise with the side of his mouth and moved on.

The Khajastan lady who I met on the first day and was wearing a hat like a Peruvian woman passed with her husband she bowed her head down and ignored me ever though I smiled and said hello.

A man from Pakistan came carrying two chairs to take to his plot, and later he lingered by the gate looking at a wheelbarrow and looking around to see if anyone was watching. This was the wheelbarrow I had borrowed to move the manure onto my plot. With one quick movement he turned it upright and ran off up the road with it. I just hoped to God it was his own barrow and that he was not stealing it. I had visions of planting up a glorious garden and then robbers coming in the middle of the night and stealing everything.

Fifteen minutes later he returned with a table on the wheelbarrow and took it to his plot, as he passed I remarked in English that he would soon have a living room on his plot. He smiled and nodded but did not reply. I suspect he does not know English. He then dutifully returned the barrow to its position and left.

Maija came down to the plot with Tulikki we walked around, and when you have somebody with you, you realize that the place is in a bit of a state. So much rubbish in the ditches. Old bottles and plastic bags and of course the rusting supermarket trolley. I think the site has been visited by vandals since many of the water pipes have been broken and peoples tool boxes have been overthrown and tumbled into the ditches.

I just hope that it is not related to racial prejudice. I am beginning to feel like a refugee. I suppose that is how a ghetto attitude develops. You get persecuted and you then form a group that sticks together just for your own comfort and safety.

A boy arrived on a bike. He had short cropped black hair. He looked like an Iranian or a Pakistani he had brought some wood for the dark man with the grey beard. He took the wood and threw it in a hole and lit a fire. The smoke smelt good. He then burned the dried up stalks of last years sun flowers. He was a tidy man. I wish I had a hole to burn my rubbish in.

Monday, April 26, 2004

The man from Cambodia

Went to the allotment early in the morning on Sunday. Man drove up in a Berlingo. Stopped digging to talk to him. He was short and from Cambodia. He had been living in Finland for 15 years. He spoke Finnish and English. He had learnt English at church in Thailand. He said the Khmer had taught him english, this threw me abit since I thought the Khmer Rouge were all about communism and against anything western, but he explained that there were many different groups of Khmer and that Cambodia was made up of 90% Khmer tribes. Just shows you how ill informed you can be.

He showed me some special seeds that a friend had sent him from Cambodia. They were small and black about the size of a pea. He was wearing a padded jacket with a T-shirt under it. On his neck there were tattoos. I looked at his plot of land. It was neat and tidy. The beds were lovingly raised up and the earth was fine and well tilled, almost as though he had put it through a sieve. He went off into the forst and came back carrying some willow saplings to erects some structure. I wondered if it was for his magic seeds.

I decided to dig until I had a couple of beds that were 10x1.5 M. It was early in the morning so nobody else was about so I borrowed a barrow and dumped some manure on the ground as well and worked it in with a fork. The fork and spade I bought from Biltma were too short for me. But I thought that they would have been perfect for the man from Cambodia. Too much bending over puts an ache in the lower back. It would have been good if I still had my navies shovel with the long handle. It would have made the work easier.

We were the only two people working the plots. It may still be too early to do anything with the soil. It has not awoken from its winter rest. The dead stalks of sunflowers stand neglected. While digging I unearthed a few onions that had not been lifted from last year. I also found a yellow plastic marker with the word Sipuli written on it. It had been buried in the ground. The ground I have has obviously been abandoned. I bet it broke somebody's heart.

I wonder if the little man from Cambodia had magic beans and they would grow a vine into the heavens, and we could all climb it and never come back. I think not.

The seeds that he will plant will be an attempt to capture a memory, and bring back to him the taste of home. A green leaf to cook in butter and spinkle with salt and pepper. A leaf to be eaten with a laugh. A leaf to be shared with you family.

The doctor says to me that to lower your cholesterol levels then you need to exercise and you need to eat the right food. That is what the garden is for. But don't tell anybody

Monday, April 19, 2004

Digging the dirt

Maija went off to Hanko and I decided to try and get an allotment. I had received a letter from Espoo town council saying the plots were up for grabs and if I wanted one I should be in the parking lot behind Ulapatori at 9:00.

When I arrived there was already one man there. He did not look Finnish. He was small and dark and it turned out that he was from Kazakhstan... that is somewhere down by the Caspian Sea and on the borders with Russia and China. He was very friendly. We spoke to each other in Finnish since he did not speak any English.

He has applied for Finnish citizenship and once he has that he is free to move withing he EU and he plans to take his family to the UK. The reason being that it is very difficult to find work in Finland and he feels that there are more job opportunities in the UK. His 13 year old daughter refuses to learn Finnish, but is extremely interested in Learning English because she desperately wants to go to the UK.

The man from the council arrived and by that time there were about 15 people wanting a plot. It was a case of first come first server, and the little man from Kazakhstan got the chance to pick his plot. Some Finns had arrived when the plots were being given out and were digging up Rhubarb from their plot, they were giving it up. Since the plot had lots of berry bushes on it the little man decided he would have it if it was for free. He got it. I was next in line and I choose plot 20 and went to sign the papers, however just as I was about to sign the man from the council said there had been a mistake and I should choose another plot. I chose plot 9 which was near the gate and was overgrown with weeds. It will need alot of work to get it in shape.

But I want it for the exercise and to get a tan from working outside. Potatoes, onions, and lettuce are about all I want to grow. Things I can eat straight way.

There were quite a few people from Kazakhstan who had plots, and I felt a sort of kindred spirit with them. I only hope that they do not need to grow things to eat, that they are so poor that they need to put food on their table. Anyway I look forward to meeting them again and finding out about their lives and customs.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Kimmo Pohjonen revisited

In February I went to a Kimmo Pohjonen concert.. called Animator It was quite amazing. He has been referred to as a Finnish techno accordion terrorist, who indulges in an extended passage of glossolalia which sounds like a group of mad monks doing Gregorian chants, while smacking their lips and undergoing electric shock treatment.

He came out dressed like a tibetan monk and danced weird dances while playing the accordion. Very wild stuff, with strange lightshows projecting images onto his body or accordion. The accordion when it was fully extended formed a miniature film screen onto which the images were projected, and at other times he extended the skirt of his monks robe so images could be displayed on it.

The press has this to say about him

"The dude on stage is twitching, eyes clenched shut. His head's full of bugs, full of tumbling ideas, full of God knows what. In his hands an accordion writhes and shudders. He lunges into it and shark-like, it snaps back at him as spotlights skitter and flash. He stumbles forward and trips off his pedestal, a drunk electrocuted in a hailstorm of noise. Eardrums are bombarded as one man, his squeezebox, his percussionist and a few pads 'n' pedals become a torrent of mantric sonic wizardry, at once avant-garde, ancient and electro-punk." (Musik magazine, England, July 2002)

It was not all a wall of noise. At times the music was soft and angelic and he would lower himself into a sitting position with his back to the audience and then very slowly lean back with tremendous stomach muscle control and lower the upper part of his body onto the floor, all the while playing the accordion. It was like somebody falling into deep water and being dragged down by a heavy weight. He would then spread his legs and his skirt would open up and images would be projected on it. He made slow undulating movements with his accordian while lying on his back and it was if he were a woman giving birth.

At one point he lurched about the stage like a drunk man or behaved like his arms and legs were being pulled about by a drunk puppet-master, and at this point the music had its roots in primative shamanic sounds from Lapland. His face was projected on a screen. A tattooed face, but he shook his finger at the audience as if to say that the image was not the real him. A new image appeared with matrix digital letters running down it, and again he insisted that this was not him.

This sequence was repeated with a few other images and when he did not appear to be getting through to the audience that the images we were seeing were not really him, he became frenetic and violent, The images of his head changed in rapid succession on the screen behind him, and they became like a flickering fire, dark and volcanic, hellish, and the playing became demonic and at one point he strode to the front of the stage and a spotlight shot up from under his robes and gave his face a gruesome tortured expression, and at the same time a spotlight was focused directly on someone in the audience, and he unleashed this barrage of sounds from his mouth that were not any recognisable language, but were quite frightening in their intensity. It was speaking in tongues. It was harsh and unpleasant. It sounded like a curse.

I sat there thinking I am so glad I am not under that spotlight. He then moved to centre stage the spotlight shone on him again and a fresh torrent of mutalated words spewed from his mouth, and again some poor soul had the auditorium spotlight directed full in his face. Performance, that is what it was. How do you get the audience on the edge of their seats, how do you raise the tension in the auditorium. How do you get people into a state of agitation and fear. You shine a spotlight on them and curse them with demonic words.

I thought that blessing is so much better than cursing. I thought prayer is better than oaths.

He moved to the left of the stage and the spotlight shone up through his skirts once again. What would I do if the light fell on me. I would stand up. I would shout back. "Give me a break Kimmo". I would shake my head and laugh. I would tell him to be quite, and take off that silly dress, and could he please take that spotlight out of my eyes. I think that is what he would have wanted... some audience participation, but as it was the spotlight fell on a Finn and he sat quietly and let Pohjonen cover him in blood curdeling screams. Frozen in the spotlight. That is the Finnish way.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

House warming party

The house warming party was at the weekend. We had

* Two big cakes from Ripa
* Bottles od champagne
* A couple of wine boxes
* Blue cheese, Pepper cheese, Camenbert, Sheeps cheese
* Karjalan Pirikka
* Sima and Pommac
* A big box of Fazer chocolates
* Coffee and Tea
* A yellow submarine

We received flowers and house plants, cutting boards, glass bowls , a tea maker, baskets and lots of welcoming cards.

We invited lots of people from our past. I must have been like mixing oil and water but somehow we managed it. Maija and Riina stayed up until midnight the day before maing a submarine out of cardboard boxes. They painted it yellow. I designed the periscope. The kids enjoyed it, but half way through they began to jump on it and got pretty wrecked. At the end of the evening Christopher and me jumped on it together and we threw it out into the rubbish bins. It had served its purpose.

It went better than I had expected, since our bathroom is still not working. I had to gather everything up from the hall and dump it in the bathroom and then tape the door shut so noone could get in. If anybody wanted to go to the toilet then then had to go downstairs.