Sports Day ’95

It’s 1995. We are laying in a heap across a small airing cupboard and an elegant entrance hall. All we can do is pant and laugh and curse.

She is my best friend, someone who calls and then we talk hanging upside down from the bed, forever.

We are bang in the middle of the road from childhood to adulthood and can’t breathe! Because school sports day has just ended.

Their home is airy and bright. It seems even larger from floor level. It is also decidedly tidier than ours, which can also be distinguished upside down; and it’s all white inside! The only thing that doesn’t fit the sophisticated image is now us: a sweaty and foul-mouthed heap of two teenage girls on the doormat. I love her and I wipe my eyes.

It’s 1997. She is brave and she is confident, and so she is leaving for a whole school year. Now we are seventeen and things are moving so fast; I write her very long letters, dozens of pages I think, but she isn’t here. Others are, and we get ciders and sit on the hill in the afternoon while boats are swaying gently down in the harbour. I try, but cannot imagine her life over there.

It’s 2001. Everyone has left except for her, she missed a year. I have crashed into early adulthood like a drunk cyclist into a wall (just a metaphor for my part): it hurts everywhere!

My work friends party on Mondays. I have darker heartaches and well-deserved hangovers and suddenly I am feeling old, of all things! So I head out again.

It’s 2019. I sit at a restaurant by the bay, stunned. I listen and I do see her, so familiar, and behind her the water is shifting gently and calmly as ever.

This girl turned expatriate remembers whom I remember, days I remember – remembers me like even I don’t.

She brought this charming piece of evidence with her

Darnest life! We walk our bikes slowly homewards in the dark and it’s summer and the town sounds just the same.

We say see you soon and I hug her tight.

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Sitting and Knitting

Once upon a time, on a cold and clear Christmas night way up north, two sisters were sitting and knitting. It rhymes and that is a wonderful thing.

These two sisters had grown up in this house, then left it and braved embarrassments and breakups and other painful things, but now all was well and they were smiling and guffawing. For it was Christmas night and they had been drinking a bit, and to top it all off, there were two hunky men lounging by their side. One, the artist, was drawing and the other one, in elf slippers with jingle bells at the toes, was eating and tweeting.

Now, the sisters were confiding in each other about painful things that adult life had brought their way, things too raw to share with anyone else, and this is what they said:

‘I felt a pick-pocket’s hand in my backpack’, recounted the younger one. ‘Turned around and said in Spanish, ‘They call me the police!” She hung her head over her craft and continued, in a barely audible whisper: ‘He froze because my Spanish was so bad.’

The shared hurt of saying a ridiculous thing in a foreign language gripped the elder sister’s heart, for she too had blurted out outrageous stupidities in foreign tongues. (The hunky men at this point admitted nothing.)

The elder sister contemplated the gravity of what she was about to confess to, then began: ‘I was going to a procedure and was given a hospital gown to wear. I didn’t know if I should remove my underwear or not, why don’t they tell you? I didn’t remember the French word for bra. Instead I boomed through the curtain: Qu’est-ce que je fais avec la brasserie? What do I do with the restaurant?’

With this, the hunky artist ran out for an e-ciggie and the hunky tweeter ran for a long gin drink.

Upon the artist’s return, he surprised everyone with his own sad story. ‘I was out partying in Leeds’ he recounted gloomily, ‘and asked a guy, ‘Can I bum you for a cigarette?’

At this moment the hunk in the jingle bells elf slippers strode back into the room, which was good because all needed cheering up. En route from the kitchen he had heard this poor chap confess his spectacular cock-up and in a sudden surge of solidarity, he went for it, too:

‘I was hosting some Ukranian officials and some Cypriot ones, and thought I knew how to say cheers in Ukranian’, he wailed, ‘So I lead everyone to say that all evening – only to learn it means let’s f**k.’

At this, the sisters fainted and the artist ran for the bus station. The elf slippered hunk went back to tweeting, and the night was again peaceful and bright.

Sweet silence reigned over all lands where during daytime, so many people screw up so badly, and still live to tell the tale. And that, my dearly beloved, is also quite the Christmas miracle, innit?

I Love the Food!

Hi, I am an introvert.

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I don’t think out loud. (Except here!)

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At a Finnish family party, in the garden of a hundred-year-old fishing lodge

If you want to know how I am and I don’t know because I’m in the middle of something, like a move, I might tell you that. Or I might freeze, or I might wonder if you would perhaps like a very light and cheerful answer – and I can give that a little go.

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‘How do you feel about moving to Cyprus?’ everyone kindly enquires and I am grateful.

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But I don’t know.

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How could I when I don’t know what life there will be like this time? So many things I look forward to yet others are still so vague it’s hard to picture our everyday lives just yet.

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So it’s a fun raffle of ‘Great!’ and ‘I don’t know?’ and ‘It’s really hot there’, as answers to the question. They are all true, of course!

As is ‘I love the food.’

Because I really, really do love everything to do with Cyprus cuisine. Perhaps I should refrain from overthinking for once in my life, just announce ‘I love the food!!!’ and get on with my social life?

Worth ruminating for hours about, definitely!

My Midsummer Night’s Dream

To the Swiss, midsummer doesn’t mean much. That’s because over here, summer is warm and long and not urgent and panicky and brief. Like back home in the north.

The height of the international Nordic panic is at midsummer when all Finns, Swedes and Norwegians simultaneously realise that summer is actually half way gone and they kinda did nothing to live it to the fullest. So they cancel their Netflix in a regretful haze, rush off to their seaside cottages and lakeside cottages and start posting about living summer to the fullest.

The ultimate Scandi Noir tragedy nobody posts about of course is, that when you try to go outside to enjoy the fleeting summer to the fullest, you barge straight back in again terrified, chased by a fierce regiment of organised mosquitos. No pictures of that on Instagram that I’ve seen!

And I’m not saying this because I’m jealous of all my social media buddies posting pictures from seaside cottages. Nope! No jetties, barbecues or rowboats for me please. Ditto birch branches tied together on the doorsteps of old saunas. Yucks. Brrr.

If anyone asks, I am NOT interested in drinking cider on the cliffs by the shore, thanks very much. Watching the sun set into the island opposite while quietly dipping into the lake would be my definition of a wasted evening. Same goes for sleeping in old boats gently rocked by the lovely little waves of the white night while water birds coo.

Aye.

That would be most undesirable indeed!

I much prefer to go to my storage room and cry looking at all the things I have to sort and haven’t!

So, happy midsummer, Switzerland.

I’m so excited to be living my summer here to the fullest!

Ps. It turns out I am going to a brunch tomorrow to mark the occasion. Not that I would want to! No, it’s solely for representational purposes. And I’ll be back in my storage room midsummer night’s dream before you can say ‘Hyvää juhannusta!’

May Day

Back home tonight, my people are getting drunk on spring. They wrap themselves head to toe in streamers, then roam the streets looking for misplaced Prosecco glasses. Missing joke wigs, soap bubbles, study buddies and such. It’s the custom. The law, one could say!

Some carnival goers will be struck by the divine inspiration to splash around in neo-classical fountains. Without exception, they will badly freeze. A lucky dripping person can perhaps warm up with someone cute who lives downtown and was (what a coincidence!) similarly inspired in the same fountain at the same time..!

Some will end up necking other people’s boyfriends and girlfriends and undefined friends in the dark of the morning hours. Then crying bitter gin tears into tomorrow’s picnic basket.

Others will no doubt meet the love of their life. They won’t be able to get out of their student associations’ worker’s overalls fast enough. Try undoing two (or more? it’s 2018!) sets of painter’s overalls quickly in the dark while tipsy, and secretly looking for something serious!

Elsewhere, the kids are finally in bed. The grown-ups can toast to a day off work tomorrow. Sure, it will be more work than actually going to work. But at least, at last, summer is coming!

That Old House

In Cyprus, old houses aren’t really in fashion.

In my old town they are. And that’s good because there are about four hundred of them.

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There are cafés, restaurants, shops and homes in these beauties.

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For your average Cypriot, entertaining guests in my current unattainable dream home might be a sweatily embarrassing affair.

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It’s this one here:

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It’s at least a hundred years old. It’s on a dirt road.

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Certainly drafty, it’s not really standing straight.

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But so pretty it is! And it’s for sale!

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Apparently though, our budget for drafty, crooked old houses on dirt roads is regrettably small.DSCN2014-edit DSCN2026About 12 euro.DSCN2050 DSCN2003-editBut so pretty.DSCN2025

Dozing in 2018

After weeks of coughing, my littlest and I evacuated to Finland.

We flew over countries, rivers and villages colouring things on the way. We coloured in a plane gliding over some thousand places with a million stories we would never know. Just to get to that one little place in this world where every corner is a chapter in my story!

The next day, coughing still continued at home.

We put on some skis and slid across the frozen sea. The sunshine was blinding, the sky high and enormous.

The islands around looked so contented dozing under their fluffy snow duvets.

My chirpy one didn’t mind the distance. There were skis to master! Rocks to climb! And a sledge with which one could slide down an island far, far on to the sea.

At night, he and I sleep in the small corner room. There are photos of islands and lighthouses, gardening books and poetry books and old drawings of plants. And my piano. From on top of the piano, a past version of myself smiles at herself and her kid bickering a bit, 18 years into the future. How odd. How very amusing and odd!

This one by Mum

At bedtime, a certain star appears over the southern horizon.

It’s my son’s favourite in the entire night sky. It’s hard for him to go to sleep knowing it’s up there. Such an exciting star!

So that’s why we find ourselves bickering a bit. But eventually the star goes down. Then we can finally sleep.

This one by Dad

We are in a little dream called Easter weekend in Uusikaupunki!

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