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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Blue and White

I had an aunt who wasn’t related to me at all. She lived a couple of floors below us when I was a baby. Her son slept over at ours sometimes, drew cartoons and built houses in the woods with my brother.

After they left town, this aunt never slipped out of touch for long. Not with my parents. And not with me, either.

Come to think of it, she was the only person outside my own family who knew me my whole life.

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I grew up, moved cities. Felt restless, toured the continent. She was interested in where I was and how I was. I calmed down, got married, babtised my kids; she booked plane tickets and brought presents.

This talented and spirited woman, this wonderful Finnish aunt as a young restless one herself had toured Cyprus, singing in tavernas. She was really pleased with my choice of a husband. So she painted us a picture of two Greek lovers and carefully wrote wedding verse in Greek. Blue and white. White and blue.

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In my childish entitlement, it never crossed my mind that she might one day die.

That day arrived last week.

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I now have a new brother. A brother from another mother! Not related but dear in any case.

I so wish his sadness lets light in one day.

White and blue.

Blue and light.

These are for him, from his childhood and ours:

 

 

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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?

32 Degrees

I packed so wrong for Finland! I  packed for the lovely 18 degrees I was promised and am now regretting it in a scandalous 32.

It’s too hot to do anything before sunset. But that’s okay. I’m not looking to do anything  anyway. My husband on the other hand is very busy. He braved the elements to go to the library to fax something. Can only marvel!

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And wonder if he’ll find his way back.

Our neighbourhood has been called a maze by many a dismayed friend and relative trying in vain to find us. Many young suitors of Pietola natives have been lost forever in these two  streets.

Hopefully not he! I find I care a lot.

If he’s not back by then will go out in the garden swing as soon as the sun sets to call out his name.

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Normally I don’t do selfies but because the heat keeps me from going out to take any pictures of anything, here goes!

 

What’s in Your Dreams?

It’s hard to fall asleep, I know. But you made it!

I’d love to high-five you but won’t.

Instead I just look at you and listen to you and wonder what’s in your dreams.

Ladybirds, cousins, balloons? Or my tense, stressed-out voice from last week?

The images of your room perhaps? The only one you ever had, now empty and echoing, sterile and strange…

Whatever it is, I’m here. For you. Always.

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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