A break and an otter

Hi everyone, here is a cute picture of an otter. I hope you like it because it will be a bit quiet on the blog over the coming two weeks. On Monday Gerry, my dad and I start driving to Finland, where Gerry and I will spend about ten days inhaling the sweet scent of pine trees, swimming in the inlet close to my hometown, making fires and relaxing in the sauna.

It’s been a busy summer. Both my mind and my body are aching for some time off. I will try not to check my email, but it might be slightly difficult to not plot and plan a bit. The best time for me to plan ahead is when I’m away from my everyday routine. So hopefully we’ll both come back in early September with notebooks full of ideas.

If you want to follow our road trip through Europe, I’ll be posting pictures on instagram, with the hashtag #drivetofinland2014.

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How to move to and establish yourself in a new city

Image via kio-wa.

Hello,
I ran across you article about moving to London via Pinterest. I am facinated about your journey. I harbour a deep passion for photography and journalism, so it is easy to see why I was intrigued. I have always wanted to travel, and recently I have been considering trying out London life. However, I am from a small town in Kentucky, USA with no social circle. None of my family or friends have stayed abroad, or out of Kentucky for that matter. Unfortunately, I do not have a college degree either. That has not ruined my dreams of travel though! So I guess my question to you is: how were you able to successfully establish yourself in a new place?
Also, I was wondering how much money would be wise to save up before moving?

Good to hear from you! I’m from a small town as well and had no friends or family in London when I moved here. It was slightly easier for me to move to the UK than it will be for someone from the States though, because I didn’t have to go through the process of getting a visa. If that had been the case I’m not sure if I would be in the UK right now. In the past I’ve sometimes thought about moving to New York, but because I’ve felt more strongly about trying to make it as a freelance journalist and writer, I decided I didn’t want to start jumping through lots of hoops in order to try to get a visa.

I was able to establish myself as a freelance journalist in London because I had already worked as a journalist in Finland for about five years (on and off) and two years full time. This had allowed me to get a few contacts in the industry who trusted me and wanted to buy my stories. I knew the organisation I worked for in Finland didn’t have a stringer in London. When my contract with them ended I came here thinking I would try it out for a few months, seeing if I could make a living from freelancing.

It wasn’t easy then and it still isn’t easy. I’m constantly adapting in order to keep doing it. In some ways freelancing is becoming more and more difficult. Media organisations no longer have the money they had in the past and because a lot of journalists have been laid off as these organisations are trying to cut costs there is a constant stream of new people competing for freelance work.

Having said that there are also more opportunities out there. There is self-publishing, blogging, podcasting – getting an audience and finding ways to earn money online. I’m not just doing freelance journalism anymore, I blog (mainly because I like it, but also to build some kind of profile), I help my husband with his company doing everything from website coding to PR to selling direct to customers at markets and I also I write for a company who runs events for people in the tech and music industry. So even though I started out just doing freelance journalism, I’ve since had to diversify and I think that’s been the case for other freelancers.

What I’m trying to do now is to focus more on creative writing, which is taking a lot of time from my other projects. Because of that I’m not feeling totally established in London anymore… but I’m still here. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not easy, but if you have a clear goal and keep working towards it you will eventually get to where you want to be. If that goal is to, for example, move to a new city and start working in the media industry – write that goal down and then break the journey into several stages. What is the first step you need to take? And then the one after that? Slowly, step by step, you will get to where you want to be.

When it comes to how much money you’ll have to save before you move somewhere new, that totally depends on the place you move to and what kind of work you’ll be looking for. At least three or four months worth of rent + expenses would be a good start.

Good luck with your plans!
Lotta

Posted in Journalism, London, moving to the uk | 3 Comments

A short interlude about summer in London

The chervil is wilting on the balcony, a sign that summer has turned and London is tired. There have only been a few storms since June. It’s comforting to know you can’t have heat like this without the occasional release of thunder.

One storm woke us up in the middle of the night. A huge bang at five in the morning. It sounded exactly as if someone had slammed a giant hammer against a metal roof. The rumble reverberated between the council block, our apartment building and the train track below. It was so loud you could almost feel the house vibrating. The vikings must have known what they were talking about because the image of a giant bearded god hammering away above the clouds suddenly felt very real. There were flashes of lightning too and thunderclaps following almost immediately after. I don’t think I’ve ever heard thunder like that before and if I had been a child I would have put my fingers in my ears and cried.

Except for that theatrical night London has been suffering with a slow-burning fever. It’s been dry and hot, but never hot enough to be truly uncomfortable. On windless days the exhaust fumes and city dust turn the air syrupy with pollution. This is when I give up and want to lie down like a tired dog, my tongue hanging out, my head heavy on my paws. Those are days when it’s worth shrugging and giving in to the fact that you will probably not get much work done and your head will feel like it’s been jammed full of cotton wool.

There are other days, better days, when white clouds race each other east and planes zoom high above. Those are the days when the heat is bearable, when the sunlight feels pleasant on my skin and I smugly imagine my body soaking up all that media-hyped vitamin D. Those are days worth collecting, a little star next to each in my calender. Days when the streets hum with happy summer thoughts, busy Londoners hold open doors and bus drivers smile at you.

Each summer in the city seems to pass quicker than the one before. I want to remember this one. With its dust-filled hot days and blue skies. I want to remember the thunder storm and the herbs on the balcony that have gone to seed.

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Four days in Berlin

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Last week Gerry and I left London for a pretty spontaneous trip to Berlin. We had been planning on going for a long time, but never really managed to fit it in. In June we decided to just book the tickets and go. Our main goal was to take enough photos for Gerry to do his next series of prints from Berlin. We’ve come back with a couple of thousand pictures so I think we did pretty well.

I didn’t have high expectations. I had visited once before, in 2004, when I travelled over with my university to look at media organisations in the city. It was early spring and all I can remember is everything being grey, grey and more grey. This time was completely different. I was quite gobsmacked by how much I liked the place. It took me about a night to warm to it and after that I was in full on Berlin-crush-mode. Everything about the city was great.

Berlin felt a bit like London’s bohemian little brother. This is what London must have been like ten/twenty years ago when the city was still cheap and full of artists. We visited some really cool neighbourhoods with graffiti covered walls and chilled out cafés. The pace was slower, the people seemed more relaxed and it was all so (oh so) cheap compared to London. It was difficult not to fall a little bit in love with the place. Both of us left feeling we would like to go back and perhaps stay a little bit longer next time.

Day 1 Kreuzberg

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We were staying pretty close to Kreuzberg and as I’d heard good things about the area that was one of the first places we started exploring. It didn’t take me long to start snapping away at pretty buildings, graffiti and cool tiles.

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We were pretty exhausted after our flight (6am from Stansted) and didn’t do too much else than some gentle exploring, eating and drinking.

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Day 2 Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg

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Day 2 was when the fun really started. We hadn’t realised that Berlin is a pretty big place so we (foolishly) decided to walk almost everywhere. We started in Mitte where Gerry had been in 2008. He remembered the area being full of squats and artists, today it felt like walking around Notting Hill, expensive boutiques and trendy cafés everywhere.

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Some left over graffiti from the olden days.

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The quite strange Karl Marx Allee.

We were slightly disappointed but continued on, walking up to Prenzlauer Berg and then back south continuing east along the spooky Karl Marx Allee.

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This is my it’s hot and I’m hungry face.

I’m not sure if London comparisons really work with Berlin but Prenzlauer Berg felt a bit like Islington and Mitte was more like Clerkenwell/Notting Hill.

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We had to stop to refuel and hydrate pretty often. Yes that is a tomato not a strawberry in my lemonade.

We got back to our hotel and later that evening we realised the lampshade was making an interesting pattern on the wall paper.

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We stayed in Ostel a DDR design hotel, where every room is seemingly inspired by the 70s in East Germany. It was quite cheap and we didn’t spend much time there.

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Day 3 Neukölln

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Oh my god did we fall in love with this area!

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First we visited the closed down Tempelhof airport, which was pretty spooky. The wind was howling through the empty building (once one of the largest in Europe). It was very strange standing on the tarmac, knowing this place had once been filled with planes and people.

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It was a really hot day and in order to avoid heatstroke we hurried to get some shade. Being from Finland I tend to struggle if it gets any warmer than 25 degrees. A friendly lady in a gallery in Mitte had told us Neukölln was the best place to find artistic people so we headed there not really knowing where we were going.

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We stopped in a café so Gerry could sketch some ideas for his prints and I could cool down and drink coffee (not mutually exclusive).

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A helpful guy in the café told us about Weserstrasse, which we walked up and down for a while, admiring all the small bars and independent shops. We were also told to check out the Klunkerkranich roof top bar, which was exactly what we needed after three days of non-stop walking.

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We spent the rest of the day there plotting our return to the city. Then we went looking for food and ended up in Das Gift, a Scottish bar with excellent music and a Twin Peaks-vibe. We had some haggis and whisky and didn’t want to leave.

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Day 4 Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg again

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On our final day we revisited some areas, taking a couple of photos of things we had missed. We also met up with Kugge and then Amie, who was unexpectedly in town.

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Berlin ♥

  • The food – so much lovely sushi, which you just don’t get here in London.
  • The buildings – the architecture reminded me of Helsinki, but a sort of post-apocalyptic Helsinki where kids with spray cans have been allowed to run wild.
  • The bars – relaxed and funky without trying too hard, cheap booze. What’s not to like.
  • Public transport – easy to use and not always underground. Definite plus.
  • Independence – lots of independent shops, cafes and restaurants. Nowhere near as many big brands and chains as in London. Fewer people wearing overtly branded clothing. Refreshing.
  • Safety – I felt safe enough to walk around dark parks at night. Not sure if this is advisable. It did feel like one of the safer cities I have ever visited, but this probably depends on the areas you stick to.
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What Twin Peaks can teach us about creativity

I watched Twin Peaks at a very susceptible age. I was about fourteen when a rerun of the series popped up on Finnish TV. I had already read about it online, realising that this was a world I had to get to know. When I travelled to the UK for the first time as a fifteen-year-old and manage to pick up a box-set at HMV it was almost like a religious experience. I was able to watch the whole series from scratch! And then re-watch it again and again.

I still love Twin Peaks. The first guitar strokes of the intro send happy shivers down my spine. There is something admirable about Agent Cooper and his love of coffee and good cake, his strange buddhist crime solving methods and his insistence on buying himself a present every day (a motto I wish I could live by).

The whole cast is full of brilliant characters. The log lady, Audrey Horne, the Palmer family, Sheriff Truman, Lucy the receptionist… I could go on. And then there is the setting, the dark forests, odd taxidermy stag heads hanging in random places, tables full of donuts, spooky log cabins and the owls (not what they seem). The whole first season is brimful of awesome.

Some of the things I love the most and I’ve wanted to bring into my own work are:

Quirky characters

Twin Peaks is all about its characters. Some of them are offbeat, some of them are stereotypes, some of them aren’t even human, but even so they are all believable and to a certain extent relatable. Don’t be afraid to go to make your characters strange or extreme. Take them wherever it is they want to go, even if it doesn’t make sense at first.

It’s all about the atmosphere

The setting and the music are very important in most of Lynch’s work. Setting a story in a well realised and atmospheric world is definitely important, but Twin Peaks wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without Angelo Badalamenti’s dream-like score. The atmosphere is as much down to his music as it is to the actual stage setup. It’s difficult to translate this into writing, but texts also have a rhythm and a tone.

Don’t be afraid to be different

Lynch doesn’t seem to compromise much. He stays true to his own vision even when it doesn’t make much sense to anyone else. He’s able to do what he does because he believes in his own work. So go with your instincts, live a little bit dangerously in your creative life, let the random in.

It’s now 25 years since the show was aired and David Lynch is re-releasing a box-set with the TV series, Fire Walk With Me (a film about Laura Palmer’s last week), extras and scenes that originally ended up on the cutting room floor. Part of me wonders if Lynch is milking a cash cow he stopped caring about after the first season. I’m sure he also has some warm feelings for the show, but he is also clearly a man who has moved on to other things like painting, selling coffee and helping launch a brand of meditation wear ($150 t-shirt anyone?).

I’ll try not to be too cynical here because I basically think David Lynch is great. I’m still so enamoured with his style that I tend to sometimes judge things on a Lynchian scale of awesome. Does this forest remind me of Twin Peaks, I sometimes ask myself… if the answer is yes then the forest is clearly awesome. I do the same every time I see a cherry pie.

Lynch famously meditates every day and meditation is an important part of his creativity. He describes getting ideas as catching fish (via Brainpickings).

We don’t do anything without an idea. So they’re beautiful gifts. And I always say, you desiring an idea is like a bait on a hook — you can pull them in. And if you catch an idea that you love, that’s a beautiful, beautiful day. And you write that idea down so you won’t forget it. And that idea that you caught might just be a fragment of the whole — whatever it is you’re working on — but now you have even more bait. Thinking about that small fragment — that little fish — will bring in more, and they’ll come in and they’ll hook on. And more and more come in, and pretty soon you might have a script — or a chair, or a painting, or an idea for a painting.

[They come], more often than not, in small fragments.

I love this description. In today’s controlled, high maintenance world the subconscious should be allowed to roam a little more freely. I’d like to allow more randomness into my own creative process.

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