For a few reasons I made a promise to myself that I would try not to do anymore of those cute “Finland is like this, which is weird because England is like that” quirky cultural difference pieces that I began this column with, mainly because there is only so many times that you can write about how “crazy” saunas are but also because living here is now an established reality.
A continuing theme of how crazy living in Finland is would be as interesting as me writing about how crazy it is that my hair is thinning or that chocolate bars seem to be getting smaller the older I get.
I celebrated my three-year anniversary in Finland recently which is a very big thing, almost as big as my seven-year anniversary of watching the Bad Brains perform at London Astoria eight years ago but I digress.
Just over three years ago, I was sat in my bedroom in Brighton – which at that point was in an active Edwardian cemetery keeper’s house, complete with a mortuary where our washing machine was kept alongside those who had been relegated to the past-tense. I remember sitting in my room, looking out over the gravestones that surrounded the house wondering what the next steps in my life would bring as I prepared to move over 1000 miles away and wondering what my new surroundings would be like.
[alert type=white ]I remember sitting in my room, looking out over the gravestones that surrounded the house wondering what the next steps in my life would bring as I prepared to move over 1000 miles away and wondering what my new surroundings would be like.[/alert]
Thinking about my time in Finland now, actually realising that I have accumulated a past makes me feel like I have spent a lifetime here. Granted a lot has happened, I’ve had a lot of experiences and even co-designed and created a couple of little people. In fact, I have been here so long that when I was recently walking around Espoo with the kids, I was able to point at a brand new block of flats in Matinkylä and use that old timer adage “I remember when all this were nowt but fields”. Ah yes, the good old days back in Espoo when I talked like a character from Last of the Summer Wine.
Three years is a long time if for example you are on holiday, so I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not. My family and I could realistically end up anywhere in the world with our penchant for Vernian wagers. But I must learn to regard Finland as the puppy given to me at Christmas – I will not be putting Finland in a bin liner and making that journey to the river.
Really the amount of time I’ve been here is peanuts in relation to how long I wouldn’t mind residing on this mortal coil, the real celebration should come when as a 75-year-old I will be publishing a book of my memoirs which hopefully by then will allow me to recount my stint as the Finnish Poet Laureate, YLE talk show host and Eurovision song contest winner. I would’ve added winning the World Cup for Finland but alas my nationality prevents me (nothing to do with my bodily dilapidation and total inability to play any sport at all!).
I have definitely become more immersed in being here and only hope that I can further normalise my life as the years go by. I have become more perspicacious, especially regarding the news, which enables me a better perspective of the Finnish milieu. Admittedly I do still primarily read the British news which leads me to having confusing thoughts like hoping Jeremy Corbyn wins the next election so he can nationalise the Metro service and stop spending money on Finnish nuclear weapons. I also blame the Conservative regime for plunging us into darkness each year, although I’m sure there is some semblance in that thought.
[alert type=white ]I have definitely become more immersed in being here and only hope that I can further normalise my life as the years go by. I have become more perspicacious, especially regarding the news, which enables me a better perspective of the Finnish milieu.[/alert]
The years have flown by and it would be specious for me to describe my time so far here as “magical”, “wonderful” or any other annoyingly dispatched positive adjective because frankly a lot of my time here has been laborious, boring and annoying, just as I expect it would have been anywhere else in the world. That’s just life.
All that time ago living in a cemetery keeper’s house in Brighton wondering what the future might hold for me, I still remember the excitement and fear of what may be on the horizon once I had made a leap into the unknown and how different it would be to my normal life.
Now in hindsight I can say that the memories seem strange – my definition of normal life then, living in the grounds of a cemetery and washing my clothes in the mortuary, seems quite surreal now. How things change!