Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Minature pleasure garden

In the winter the snow plough whacked the side of the shed and ripped off some panels. The bits of wood lay on the ground for weeks, and each time I passed I thought i could make something of that. I asked if I could have the wood and I carried them on to our balcony with the idea to build something. A box for flowers or something.

The planks then lay there for months and months and I never did anything. They were moved from corner to corner on the balcony and nothing ever happened to them. They were an eyesore.

During the time they lay there I visualised various constructions, tiered quarter pyrimids, steped terraces, all requiring mathematical calculations, exact measurements and infinate skill to bring them into existance. Everything should be worked out in my head and drawn on paper before any attempt could be made in making the mother of all flower boxes. I never got passed the thinking stage, and the planks remained stacked on the balcony.

You see there are only certain boxes that can be built with the amount of planks that I had. The thicker wood for the braces would only be enough for a box of a certain size and shape, so one day in Spring after a period of 9 months, just like a pregnancy. I gave birth to a box with two sections. A deep section for a rose and lavender, and a shallow section for a small desert and an oasis with rocks and birds.

How many people try to build a castle with 25 planks of wood? Efforts to do things are limited by resources and imagination. The box is not the best in the world and it would not win any prizes in box beauty competitions, but for now it is a miniture pleasure garden.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Boys in the barrow

Salem an Hassinen take a rest from carrying horse manure to their allotment. It seems that all the Kurdish boys work, and work very hard, digging the ground and improving it. I have loaned my tools to Salem and Behzad since they seem to like the action of the Finnish mattock.

There is definately a different work ethic with the Kurds. They are always busy. It is also strange that children on their own, are more than willing to work. I can not imagine Finnish children or British children spending all of their free time down the allotments. The disco calls. The weekend rave and dancing is all the exercise they get.

Maija made some rhubarb cake and we took it down there and gave some to Salem and Behzad. Salem wolfed it down but Behzad was a bit more cautions, whereas when Rasheed was offer some he took a bite then exclaimed it was tosi hyvä, and with every bite after that said it was tosi hyvä. I left a couple of bits for Ulla and Janne and they said they would have it with their afternoon coffee.

All of my allotment is now planted up mostly with potatoes and onions. Around two of the edges I have planted linen seeds cos they give nice blue flowers and along the third edge I have more "tirp" which I got from Rasheed, which no doubt was payment for the tosi hyvä rhubarb pie. I have two types of beetroot planted, and now that it is in I discover that beetroot does not like too much nitrogen and fresh manure, so that might not go so well. I tried once again Kohlrabi the red variety and panted half a bed of radishes. On the balcony there is gherkins and beans waiting to sprout and once they are up I will transplant them into their alloted space.

I water mornings and evenings and I am eagerly waiting for the first seeds to show their heads.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Gulam and his seeds

Gulam is from Afghanistan. He gardens in a nice shirt and stay-pressed tousers. He is unemployed like most of the people who work at the allotments. If he had money he would buy a plastic tunnel to bring on his seeds, but instead he builds his own cold frame with wood from the building site and a bit of plastic.

In it he has marrows, cucumbers, and different salads that he has grown from seed brought from Afghanistan. He has given me seeds wraped in little paper cones. He says it is "tirp" I have sown it and he promises that in a week the plants will have germinated and I should have a bed of green that is cut and come again. Sounds interesting. Some of the salads he has have got interesting tastes. One looks like clover but tastes like peas.

He is also of the opinion that cheap vegetables you buy from the supermarket and expensive ones you grow for yourself. He waxed lyrical about the number of varieties of grape that grew in his village, and told stories of some miraculous drink that once you drank it no matter how stuffed you were feeling it instantly made you feel hungry again. He told of seven men roasting and eating a whole sheep. He laughed at the memory of it. Something that belonged to home. Something that could never happen in Finland. There was a longing for the fire and the open air and the smell of roast lamb. He sucked the air in through his teeth and nodded his head, and there was a sadness in his eyes for times gone by.

Ulla and Janne at the allotments

The weather has warmed up, and there is alot of activity down at the allotments. The Chinese and the Cambodians are the most active, and the Kurds and Afghans a close second. The Finns and myself are late starters. I talked to a Finn who once had once owned a plot near to mine and I was complaining that the ground was so wet and heavy it was difficult to turn. Heavy clay which when it gets baked in the sun turns to concrete. He said he gave it up just becasue of those reason. The plots where I am gets lots of runoff water from the slope above the allotments.

I borrowed a rotovator from Veski and I have broken up the ground as best I could, and then I have turned in loads of horse manure to lightern up the ground. Over the weekend I put in Timo potatoes and onions. Nobody grows potatoes except me and the Finns. Why is this? Well a Kurddish boy says you can get potatoes for 50 cents a kilo so it is not worth to grow potatoes. This opinions was reinforced by Gulam from Afghanistan who only grew things that were expensive in the shops, or things that would not be eaten by hares or rabbits.

I loaned the rotavator to Salem and Behzad, and in turn they dumped manure on my ground. Behzad also gave me some rhubarb cos he did not like it... too sour... I think he must have been eating it raw, and never thought about putting it a pie. Salem also sowed some "tartur" for me. It is a Kurddish salad which they sow and cut when it reaches 15cm, and then it grows again. It reminds me of some sort of cress, and Salem says it should be up is 3-4 days.

Now that I have got the ground into a reasonable condition Ulla and Janne tell me that the local council have plans to use the allotment area to build a library and a culture centre. So this may be the last year. Typical!!! you bust your gut getting the ground into condition only to discover that you won't reap any benifits next year. I walked around and looked at all the black current bushes, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, apple trees, and all the other perenials. If the development goes ahead then everything will be ripped up.

This is really ironic that the allotments are mostly worked by displaced peoples. People who have lost their homes and their land. The Kurd who works the plot next to mine once had 50 cows and a farm in Iraq. Now he has a plot of hard clay 10x10 meters and that will be taken away from him. No wonder people get the impression that they are continually being oppressed.

But that is the price of culture.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Reading by candle light

Red rose when plucked, my soaring heart did thrill,
Dried rose by candlelight, excites me still.
Locked heart yields not, the secrets of the soul,
By candle light, all secrets can unfold.
Skin feels the touch of frost, the chill of snow,
Bathed warm by candle light, healed by its glow.
Shadows fade, age no longer haunts the night,
Youth again returns in that wonderous light.
The flame, does dance, outside the air is cold,
wax melts, to hide the candlestick of gold.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Theology can wait until the last line of the poem

The ballad of Judas Iscariot by Robert Buchanan (1841-1901)

'Twas the body of Judas Iscariot
Lay in the Field of Blood;
'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Beside the body stood.

Black was the earth by night,
And black was the sky;
Black, black were the broken clouds,
Tho' the red Moon went by.

'Twas the body of Judas Iscariot
Strangled and dead lay there;
'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Look'd on it in despair.

The breath of the World came and went
Like a sick man's in rest;
Drop by drop on the World's eyes
The dews fell cool and blest.

Then the soul of Judas Iscariot
Did make a gentle moan --
'I will bury underneath the ground
My flesh and blood and bone.

'I will bury deep beneath the soil,
Lest mortals look thereon,
And when the wolf and raven come
The body will be gone!

'The stones of the field are sharp as steel,
And hard and cold, God wot;
And I must bear my body hence
Until I find a spot!'

'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot,
So grim, and gaunt, and gray,
Raised the body of Judas Iscariot,
And carried it away.

And as he bare it from the field
Its touch was cold as ice,
And the ivory teeth within the jaw
Rattled aloud, like dice.

As the soul of Judas Iscariot
Carried its load with pain,
The Eye of Heaven, like a lanthorn's eye,
Open'd and shut again.

Half he walk'd, and half he seemed
Lifted on the cold wind;
He did not turn, for chilly hands
Were pushing from behind.

The first place that he came unto
It was the open wold,
And underneath were prickly whins,
And a wind that blew so cold.

The next place that he came unto
It was a stagnant pool,
And when he threw the body in
It floated light as wool.

He drew the body on his back,
And it was dripping chill,
And the next place be came unto
Was a Cross upon a hill.

A Cross upon the windy hill,
And a Cross on either side,
Three skeletons that swing thereon,
Who had been crucified.

And on the middle cross-bar sat
A white Dove slumbering;
Dim it sat in the dim light,
With its head beneath its wing.

And underneath the middle Cross
A grave yawn'd wide and vast,
But the soul of Judas Iscariot
Shiver'd, and glided past.

The fourth place that he came unto
It was the Brig of Dread,
And the great torrents rushing down
Were deep, and swift, and red.

He dared not fling the body in
For fear of faces dim
And arms were waved in the wild water
To thrust it back to him.

'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Turned from the Brig of Dread,
And the dreadful foam of the wild water
Had splashed the body red.

For days and nights he wandered on
Upon an open plain,
And the days went by like blinding mist,
And the nights like rushing rain.

For days and nights he wandered on,
All thro' the Wood of Woe;
And the nights went by like moaning wind,
And the days like drifting snow.

'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Came with a weary face --
Alone, alone, and all alone,
Alone in a lonely place!

He wandered east, he wandered west,
And heard no human sound;
For months and years, in grief and tears,
He wandered round and round,

For months and years, in grief and tears,
He walked the silent night;
Then the soul of Judas Iscariot
Perceived a far-off light.

A far-off light across the waste,
As dim as dim might be,
That came and went like the lighthouse gleam
On a black night at sea.

'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Crawl'd to the distant gleam;
And the rain came down, and the rain was blown
Against him with a scream.

For days and nights he wandered on,
Push'd on by hands behind;
And the days went by like black, black rain,
And the nights like rushing wind.

'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot,
Strange, and sad, and tall,
Stood all alone at dead of night
Before a lighted hall.

And the wold was white with snow,
And his foot-marks black and damp,
And the ghost of the silvern Moon arose,
Holding her yellow lamp.

And the icicles were on the eaves,
And the walls were deep with white,
And the shadows of the guests within
Pass'd on the window light.

The shadows of the wedding guests
Did strangely come and go,
And the body of Judas Iscariot
Lay stretch'd along the snow.

The body of Judas Iscariot
Lay stretched along the snow;
'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Ran swiftly to and fro.

To and fro, and up and down,
He ran so swiftly there,
As round and round the frozen Pole
Glideth the lean white bear.

'Twas the Bridegroom sat at the table-head,
And the lights burnt bright and clear --
'Oh, who is that,' the Bridegroom said,
'Whose weary feet I hear?'

'Twas one look'd from the lighted hall,
And answered soft and slow,
'It is a wolf runs up and down
With a black track in the snow.'

The Bridegroom in his robe of white
Sat at the table-head --
'Oh, who is that who moans without?'
The blessed Bridegroom said.

'Twas one looked from the lighted hall,
And answered fierce and low,
''Tis the soul of Judas Iscariot
Gliding to and fro.'

'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Did hush itself and stand,
And saw the Bridegroom at the door
With a light in his hand.

The Bridegroom stood in the open door,
And he was clad in white,
And far within the Lord's Supper
Was spread so broad and bright.

The Bridegroom shaded his eyes and look'd,
And his face was bright to see --
'What dost thou here at the Lord's Supper
With thy body's sins?' said he.

'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Stood black, and sad, and bare --
'I have wandered many nights and days;
There is no light elsewhere.'

'Twas the wedding guests cried out within,
And their eyes were fierce and bright --
'Scourge the soul of Judas Iscariot
Away into the night!'

The Bridegroom stood in the open door,
And he waved hands still and slow,
And the third time that he waved his hands
The air was thick with snow.

And of every flake of falling snow,
Before it touched the ground,
There came a dove, and a thousand doves
Made sweet sound.

'Twas the body of Judas Iscariot
Floated away full fleet,
And the wings of the doves that bare it off
Were like its winding-sheet.

'Twas the Bridegroom stood at the open door,
And beckon'd, smiling sweet;
'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Stole in, and fell at his feet.

'The Holy Supper is spread within,
And the many candles shine,
And I have waited long for thee
Before I poured the wine!'

The supper wine is poured at last,
The lights burn bright and fair,
Iscariot washes the Bridegroom's feet,
And dries them with his hair.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Poetry evening for the ladies

It is six o'clock and it is a wonderful spring evening, the buds on the birch trees are begining to break, the birds are singing they love melodies in the trees so what do you do? Well naturally you go down to the biggest graveyard in Helsinki and walk among the graves for an hour and a half an listen to readings of poems by female Finnish poets from the past century.

Poems by nurses, librarians, painters, housemaids, ordinary women writing about life, and even though more than a century has gone the same themes bring joy, the same injustices bring anger, the same hurts and pains are still being felt. The TV cameras were there. They were making a programme for mothers day and it will be broadcast this coming sunday on a YLE programme called KULT. If you see a bald headed man in a blue top always jumping in front of the camera that was me.

Alli Nissinen who founded the "Martta" women's movement wrote of a drunken man who abused his horse, and then for one day the tables were turned and the horse was given the chance to rule his master. The horse was not merciful and he made his old drunken master pay dearly. You are left with the impression of how can such a noble horse behave so badly, then you realise that the horse was only doing to the master what had been done to him. A sort of sly way of saying "love your neighbour as yourself"

An exception was made and there was one poem by Jorma Etto (a man) was read at the grave of Helle Kannila (a librarian). It was called "The Librarian" and the reader had everyone in stiches with the reading of this poem which was a dialogue of a conversation between a rather officious librarian who was ever so willing to offer solutions to the problems of his bewildered customers. It is very fine to hear over one hundred people laugh out loud in the open air. I managed to talk to the reader of the poem and got a copy of it. Here is my translation

The librarian by Jorma Etto

What do you want to know, just ask me
I have answers to everything.
A moment please!
I'll look through my index cards.
How to live
How to read the Bible
How to achieve happiness
(even you Miss Finland)
Excuse me can you say
how to get rid of stupid worries,
how can I live joyfully,
how should I decorate my appartmentl,
what day of the week is it,
You see I just want to know
where should I go on my summer holidays.

(how is your soul today
Professor Sutinen is it a problem
how to tell about the Prophets to your children
and is Christ being confessed in Helsinki)

Good evening Mrs Kataja
raining again.
(like it always is when you come here)
You want to know how it is going with Europe
You tire yourself too much dear woman
It can't be true that your husband
doesn't know how to catch a pike
(your questions are really all the same
how to search for truth)

Wait a moment, wait a moment.
I'll look it up in my index.
Good night, see you again.
Good night now, good night
You wonderful ladies.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Banana phone

Thought I would give Big Al Davies a blow on the banana phone. He might not be able to pick up the signal cos he has got one of those new staple gun phones... hard black plastic... brittle, and if you are not careful you could staple your ear to the side of your head. Besides that the spring at the flexi-joint has a nasty habit of catching the flesh on the palm of your hand and giving it a nasty nip.

Now a banana phone on the other hand has got a certain class. You know that russians never take the labels off their Ray Bann or DG sun-glasses. They just have to let you know that they have Ray Bann or DG sunglasses, cos you wouldn't recognise them otherwise. (note to self: Investigate the possibility of printing up a few thousand Ray Bann or DG labels to attach to cheap sunglasses to be sold at an outrageous profit)

Well as I was saying I left my "fair trade" sticker on my banana phone just so folks would know I am politically conscious. I wouldn't be seen dead with a Delmonte banana phone, and those Chiquita banana phones are rubbish, made with cheap labour down in Mexico. Buy a bunch of those and you are inviting a tarantula into your ear.

You see I have been trying to get in touch with Big Al for sometime, but can't get through. Over a thousand of his photos disapeared overnight. Not a fez in sight. Mandolins and copy-cat stratocasters all gone. Punk gigs from the eighties, beer and more beer, beer mats, pub signs, collages with course fish, Laurel and Hardy, chronicle of life in a welsh vilage, punks on the wall, leather studded jackets, Dr martins bovver boots, stones and stone circles, weddings, Geoff's paintings of old blues men with spidery fingers, and pork pie hats on the back of their heads. sheep on the moors, church doors, cottages in remote cornwall, the british seaside resort. ice-cream and sunshine, sunflowers in his lapel.

You see all of this is from memory because none of this exists any more. Consider the nights that went into scanning old photos, the selection process, the steady stream of photos spotlighting the past. The work and the endevour, the obvious joy and fun, the twinkle in the eye, the allusions to old songs, the playing with words, the laughter, the fellowship, the record of a life time condensed into a few months and then deleted with the press of a key on the computer.

It is strange when people disappear. Remember Lord Lucan of course you do. Became more famous for disappearing than for living. THe singer with the Manic street preachers disappeared, and at one time Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac threw it all in to become a grave digger in Cornwall. Disappearing is not so bad if it gives you mystic. Then you have those people like Lennon who believed music should have the permenancy of newspapers. Cut the disk get it out and let posterity decided if it was good or not. And what of those famous people who burn all their love letters and corrispondence, as if to obliterate their tracks. If there is no evidence of a life lived then it might never have been lived. And then you have people like efatima and Big Al who document their lives and then in one fell swoop, erase it as if it never existed.

Oh yes I forgot about the banana phone how did that really come about. Well I discovered that Big Al and all of his photos had gone over the blue event horizon and I had a banana in my hand, and I remembered his photo where he is using a stapler as a phone, so I stuck the banana in my ear and said "If you are on the line somewhere Al pick up"

But of course he hasn't. The idea that he could is just plain bananas. I was just hoping to say let's take it from the top one more time.