May 14, 2011

The Pigduck

There is a giant Pigduck in the centre of Turku, I don’t know why.  Everyone casually refers to it as “The Pigduck”, but without ever really acknowledging that it is, really, a giant Pigduck in the middle of the town.


Finnish (your) food.

April 21, 2011

My first Finnish meal. I currently have no cutlery, curtains, or lights.


April 21, 2011


I had my first Finnish Sauna, and I was naked a lot of the time.

this is how I look after a sauna, once I have put on my clothes.


April 21, 2011



The land where dreams really do come true.  Unless those dreams involve having either a lamp or a mattress, because those things are not available to me as I write this from my quite barren room in Turku, by headlamp, on pillows stolen from the common room and put on a bare slat frame bed.

After a brief stopover in Riga, which seems like the thin end of the crazy stick, I was met by Toni the supervisor, who will be supervising my counting sparrows in the forest.  Bought small cigarettes from a bar across the street/road to nowhere after he’d left, as I didn’t really know what else to do, and that is generally what I do in that sort of situation.

The supermarket was closed, and the sun was going down.

As we flew in here (Turku being a short stop on a plane flying on to Oulou in the North), I noticed that the sea was still frozen in most places between the islands.  According to the in flight magazine, May 1st is a big deal here.


I am enjoying padding around the place at night.  The flat is very empty, and the floors make no noise. Not having lights is nice.  It’s like living in a cave.

Went to the supermarket this evening, they had a powercut.  I heard this explained at length to me in Finnish, and pretended to understand until eventually I noticed a question slip into the tone.

Most of the day was spent wandering about Turku, went to the TYS housing place to sign my lease.  I brought up the fact that there were no lights in my room (there is a plug in the ceiling, next to a hook).  “That does not belong there”, said the lady.  I did not subsequently buy one.

I went to see the swimming pool.  It was closed and had no water in it.   I went to the ‘Capital of Culture’ (which Turku is for 2011) information  headquarters and got a map.  Everyone has since told me that this map is inadequate, but it – actually thinking about it, the only thing I used it for was to find the swimming pool.  The highlight of the day was going into the woods behind the TYS apartment where I live, as the sun was about to slowly set.  That was nice.  Then I went and bought some socks at the supermarket.  Also some nuts, bananas, apples, milk, and reduced price bread.  Everything has to be edible by hand, because I have no plates and no forks.  The socks had holes in them, but upon discovering this I tore up the receipt so that I would not later put myself in the mad position of trying to return socks in a language I don’t understand.

Toni suggested I go to Helsinki tomorrow, as we will be very busy counting birds later on, but having discovered the return fare to Helsinki is 60 euros, I decided I will just walk to the ocean tomorrow instead.  Which is what I wanted to do anyway.

Somehow today I became sunburned.


Either no bicycles get stolen in Finland, or they all do, all the time, because no one locks them up.  They are everywhere, parked in little rows that make you think there’s second-hand bike shops everywhere.  There aren’t.  I know this because I went looking for a bike today, but only found one shop, by way of a jail at the top of a hill with a hole in the fence.  I walked quickly away.  The bikes were pricey.  I went to buy a towel instead, as Wednesday is “Sauna time for joggers” in my residence, which apparantly translates as the free sauna day.

There is handily one convenient price for things you buy here in Finland, which is ‘very fucking expensive’.  I am not prepared to pay 50 euros for a towel, regardless of it’s dimensions, unless that towel can fly.  I would buy it then, as it would solve my bicycle problem.  I did eventually find a cheap (12 euros) towel, which I bought in white.  I then immediately regretted not having bought the more memorable stripy blue towel, which I pictured pulling out of a dusty chest in the attic, and putting my ear to it to recall my youth.  I have to keep reminding myself these things don’t matter.

I tried most of the intermittent time to find something to eat that was not Hesburger, but everywhere in the city center seems to be either Hesburger, or else a kebab.  Are kebabs Finnish?  Perhaps it’s a Finnish version of a kebab.  Either way, I would have been better off going for that, because the alternative was embarrassing.

I saw a picture of what I have an idea in my head is Scandinavian food, on a changing TV screen in a sort of cafe.  the TV showed 3 or 4 dishes, and I dedicated my short term memory to remembering the name of it.  Confidently, I strolled up to the counter.

“Klippypoos”, I said, forgetting the word for please.  The lady looked at me blankly.  So far I had had pretty good luck with being served entirely by people who lived in Manchester for 5 years or with similar stories, but this was behind me now.  I looked at the TV for reassurance, but it was now cycling through a variety of cakes.

“Klippypoos?” I asked. “Klippypoos… hat..a …moo…”

She called over her manager.

I tried to indicate that I was waiting for the TV to cycle back to my selection, by doing the ‘roll-over waiting’ hand finger gesture.  Precious minutes went by, the passing of each making me look more and more like a lonely, lost foreigner who was also not right.

“Klippypoos…”, I stammered disheartenedly, the words falling like so many stricken birds, tumbling from the sky into a meadow of cats.  “Klippypoos”.

The lady held up a take-away salad in a plastic box with shrimp on it.  I took one last forlorn glance at the television and sighed.  That salad cost me eight euros, and it was not that great.

I then went to what I thought was the student union bar, where ‘the bends’ was playing.  I couldn’t hear it though, because the table I sat at had tennis playing very loudly from the TV behind me.  I hate tennis. but at least I don’t need the TV to help me order beer.