Tuesday, May 21, 2013

21 May, Oulu

Oulu is the fifth biggest city in Finland and one of the largest northern cities in the world, I gather. From wikipedia, sorry, and even then I quite possibly got that wrong. It seems nice. It is all green and tech-y, with full on gradation of waste/recycling so you have about seven bins to choose from when you throw things out, and so on. Public art everywhere, mainly sculptures. I got in about three hours ago and have ridden around town once, thinking mainly about this new video I'm making (sorry) but also stuff like, where can I get a map of this place. And I possibly can't, except online.

May 20: only boring people get bored

Look, I haven't been bored, but I do feel a bit moribund. Today was to be a visit to the Finnish Museum of Culture, but guess what, Monday is a holy day in Finland so no go. Instead I went to an amazing antiquarian bookshop, and took a random train to a not very interesting part of Helsinki (not going to name it lest I have readers there). I think I have beaten jetlag but I still feel a bit seedy from time to time which is probably its legacy, and today has been a bit of a slump after yesterday's frenetic activity. Now I am in a restaurant called Ristorante Dennis ('since 1975') which served me the largest pizza that probably has ever been served to one person (there were no size options). It was pretty good and I wasn't hungry but I ate it anyway. Here is the view outside the window of Ristorante Dennis.

Monday, May 20, 2013

19 May pt 3 I think

Last night I was at a loose end so I took a random bus to I don't know where - somewhere beginning with M. I had a 24 hour bus ticket that would take me anywhere - seemed the cheapest option when I was making those Tapiola forays earlier in the day - and, having fallen asleep in the late afternoon for a few hours, I wanted to stay awake as long as possible to at least wake up at a reasonable time in the morning. Terrified of jetlag.

So, it was about 10:30 at night (still not quite dark) and I just took this random ride north. At a certain point I thought, well, I didn't want to have to explain to the driver when we got to the end that I just wanted to go back, he might want to have a conversation, so I got off at some point seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Forest on one side of the road, blocks of flats and a recreation reserve on the other. The next bus back wasn't for an hour but what was nice was there was a whole lot of birds still chirping in the trees. So I made a soundtrack for my Tapiola video with layered noises of birds, cars and a babbing brook (though once it was all layered, all you could really hear was the birds). I also did a bit of walking in the forest. There were quite a few people around. If it was urban Australia you'd assume they were out for trouble or something immoral generally but these people seemed to be just walking - with dogs or by themselves. I think it was fine.

Pics taken with the laptop 'photobooth':

(I think I just missed coming face to face with Edvard Munch's Scream on the bridge there. Long way from Oslo, Screamy.)

19 May 2013: pt 2

I know Tapiola is Finland’s garden suburb, or perhaps even in some respect its garden city, but I am having a hell of a time finding it. I spent some time looking at sites in a portion of Espoo tagged Pohjus-Tapiola, but really failed to grab its essence, unless its essence was so all-encompassing that it was ungraspably omnipresent (I have since come to realise that ‘pohjus’ means ‘north’). Now I am waiting at a bus stop to get the bus (which runs every hour on a Sunday) to another part of the same area – I can’t figure out how to ride between places as so much of the route is expressways – to meander there for a while. Then I might give it away for the day, having made a sort of boring but important little film about schools and houses and green space in a part of Tapiola, an ungraspable part.

I think I might have got a bit sunburnt.

I am also craving tinned peaches – is this something that happens before you have a heart attack?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

18/19 May 2013

I am pretty sure this aeroplane is flying above tundra. For a while I thought perhaps it was water [later: also, could have been clouds], and I also thought for a period there were colossal skyscrapers all across the horizon, but not I think that was most likely dirty streaks on the window as the sun was coming up.

To call a half way round the world flight hell is to not have in any sense known hell. But there are a lot of aspects to it that hurt in little ways. I am not entirely sure but I think it is 2:30 in the morning Finland time and that I am going to be awake for most of the day, well, with any luck so I can beat jetlag effectively. But I could be beating it even more effectively if I was sleeping right now like most of the people on the plane.

All the lights went off in the plane and also the movie screens, so I wanted to finish this Ruth Rendell book I picked up at Glenroy salvos for $2, which has being keeping me going for some time, but it’s not quite light enough to see the words on the page, only that there are words on the page. [Later: I figured I could use my laptop for something constructive rather than this pallid diarizing, and read the rest of Ruth Rendell by laptop light].

Now the screens are coming back on. I was watching This is 40 and got probably about 2/3 of the way through when the screen froze. I switched to watching sitcoms and managed to grab a full but totally uncontextualised episode of The New Girl but none of the other shows would play. Ditto The Mindy Project. These were the only shows I wanted to see. I was kind of bothered by the fact that Finnair shows absolutely no Finnish programming on its inflight entertainment (I am also a little perplexed as to why all the instructions are in Chinese). Anyway I’ll cope. Looking forward to my second visit to Helsinki in 18 months.

Oh, and Singapore was pretty amazing, would love to go back sometime for more than just a few hours of exhausted meandering.

(Later then I watched four episodes of Suburgatory which has Cheryl from Curb Your Enthusiasm in it, then the pilot of The Mindy Project).*

Helsinki Sunday morning

The Hotel Anna, god bless it, let me check in at 8 am i.e. six hours before official check in time. This was probably a public service as much as anything as even fragrant me, after 30 plus hours in a range of climate conditions (inc. humid Singapore) without a shower was not the best thing for the environment. The taxi driver talked mainly about the weather, and the 2 months of end-of-year darkness, and how strange the Finns are as a result. I let my natural obsequiousness proffer a hand of friendship between two great nations and said the Finns’ reputation was of friendliness and helpfulness, which he seemed mildly surprised by. ‘Perhaps to tourist’, he said.

He had shown me a number of places along the way that would be open soon, of particular interest were a good coffee place and a market. I set out on the Brompton shortly afterwards (only a brief interlude to panic I’d left my jacket in the cab, but no, I’d left it on the windowsill just before I drew the curtains) and got magnificently lost. I am now in a café called Sis. Deli+Café in Korkeavuorenkatu. I don’t know where it is really but whatevs, allow me a little time to celebrate that, although I didn’t really want to undertake this journey, I have, and here I am in a city and country I have enormous fondness for. (To add to the wonderfulness a man has just entered the cafe with a large dog, possibly an Airedale. This is a civillised society).

** By the way, Suburgatory had been bothering me in some random adjunct aspect of my consciousness for some time because I felt that the pilot relegated all the explanation of the show (city people in very, very affluent suburbia) to the rather vague opening credits. I finally got around to looking it up on Wikipedia and now appreciate that what Finnair thought was the first four episodes of the show were actually the first four episodes of the second season. It's reasonably funny, though it is one of those shows - I suppose I don't mind them - where almost everyone's completely crazy except the main characters, and they have to be kind of crazy because they interact with the craziness of the supporting cast. So they're walking a tightrope between the real world and the crazy world. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Who was it who invented the term 'first world problem'? I admire their clarity, vision and perspective. The last few weeks have been incredibly stressful to me, work issues mainly, responsibilities, things that have to be negotiated for other people's benefit, in the workplace. I know it's nothing compared to the living misery of most people and other creatures for that matter all around the world every moment. In fact, in most cases I can rationalise that I'm not making terrible decisions - just taking too long to make them. Which is probably just being cautious. It's worrying though that I keep waking up with a start sometime just before 5 am. Except this morning, when I woke up with the alarm and Bela meowing to have his breakfast, which he often does. If he's the cat who threw up on the doorstep yesterday that probz explains his hunger. Last night was a late one as I was moderator at a marvellously curated film night at the Boyd House where four excellent films (one from Oslo Davis, two explorations of Aust modernist architecture from Traces Films and the classic 1954 Your House and Mine from Peter McIntyre) were shown and the films' directors spoke about each one. Then Mia and I went to Noodle Kingdom and got huge plates of food. Noodle Kingdom is good. It is such a chain that there are two round the corner from each other Russell St - Bourke St. I liked the mixed tofu/vegetables I had because it had celery - classic old fashioned Chinese Australian food ingredient - but also some very good fungi. We didn't get back till 12:20 though and I was up at 6 to restock the vomiter. Two more days till I go to Finland. That's a metaphor - look it up.

in the long term, not great

She has been diagnosed with lymphoma - well, 'diagnosed' is perhaps not entirely the right word. Let's say they're pretty sure that's what it is. We had a choice between chemo and steroids and chose steroids as the least worst of the choices. She has responded really well to the initial pills (the whites) and is about to go onto the daily blues, whatever they are. She has been happier in the last week than the whole previous month. So, that's apparently a positive. The chemo was almost certain to be more life extending but who wants to make a highly-strung, nervous little dog spend days in a clinic at the end of an IV drip? Either way it's apparently incurable.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

update on charlie's health

... it's not looking good, she has an intestinal growth of some sort. But it could be lymphoma. Or it could be some other kind of inflammation. We'll know in a day or two.