On the night of the election

Image via Neil Winton.

We woke up at three in the morning, the sky was an industrial orange, heavy clouds reflecting all of London’s lights. The sound of thunder seeped into our dreams and woke us up with a start, heavy rain, thunder claps loud enough to make the whole building shake, purple flashes lighting up the sky, a plane in the distance. It’s the second time this summer a thunder storm has sat right over our house, the second time I’ve seen a storm like this up close. The air held a hint of release.

We checked our phones. The first results were in, Scotland was voting no. The storm moved on, but the rumbling echoed around us. I worried about my computer being plugged in and data being wiped out. I wondered about Scotland. I fell asleep.

This morning it was clear. There will be no independence. A million and a half bright hopes, a million and a half people wanting a different future. Today they woke up to the grey same-old. Perhaps it’s for the best, because after the sparkling change, the parties, the energy would have fizzled out, like it always does when real life seeps back into idealism. There would have been disappointment, confusion, tension, polarisation.

Big, bright change almost always means that someone will suffer. Some are more revolutionary than I am. I just want as many people as possible to live a comfortable, happy life.

In Scotland 85 percent of those who can vote, voted. People cared. If they can keep caring that will be the most important outcome of this election.

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Five magical places to visit in the UK

Gerry’s in the Lake District where he’s camping, building fires and probably drinking quite a lot of his brother’s craftily brewed IPA (although I’m not supposed to know too much about that). It’s making me want to pick up my rucksack and set off on another journey through these isles.

Over the years I have travelled pretty extensively in the UK (some of those travels ended up in my book), but there are still plenty of places left to explore and discover. These are calling me at the moment

The Lake District

I’ve never been here! I’ve driven past it, looked longingly toward it, but I’ve never stayed there. It rains more here than in the rest of the UK, which might at first sound like a bad thing, but the rain makes everything lush and green. There are rolling hills and forests and small village pubs. It sounds like a place Tolkien could have dreamed up.

One day I’d like to walk from inn to inn, drinking in the scenery by day and drinking some local brews at night.

Whitby

Image via Dennis Bromage.

I have heard so much about this place it’s almost strange that I’ve not yet made it there. Partly I’m blaming transport links. It’s not that easy to get to Whitby from London on the train, you have to change trains at least once and even though that’s not the end of the world, it means that I would like stay there for at least a few days when I go. The right time hasn’t presented itself yet.

I remember watching a travel programme about the UK many years ago when I was still living in a small town in Finland. The presenter visited Whitby, talked about Dracula and walked around the abandoned Abbey looking out over the city. I watched this programme during a phase when I was particularly fond of wearing long black skirts and black lipstick. The message went straight to my heart and ever since I’ve thought Whitby would be a totally cool place to visit. These days I’m more interested in the cute harbour, the medieval-looking streets and the moor perched above the town than in the stories about vampires and goths. Although Whitby does host a goth weekend every year, which I would quite like to experience.

Lewis and Harris

The Outer Hebrides have fascinated me since I was able to locate them on a map. Just look at all those fascinating place names (Uist, Benbecula, Stornoway), they make the islands sound almost magical. Everything I’ve read and heard about these places since has made me want to visit. They’re isolated islands, battered by storms that have travelled all the way across the Atlantic. They’re home to seabirds, conservative christians and artists who’ve escaped the big cities.

Robert MacFarlane wrote about the Outer Hebrides in his book The Old Ways: Journeys on foot. He describes first sailing to Lewis and then finding and walking an ancient path across the island. He also visits an artist friend who seems to work mainly with bones and taxidermy. Do I need to jump up and down, clenching my fists, to show you how much I would love to visit this place?

Shetland

Another island off an island. Gerry and I travelled to Orkney for our honeymoon and about twice a month I become really nostalgic and want to go back. In my daydreams I also get the ferry to Shetland, preferably in January when they celebrate Up Helly Aa and set fire to a galley whilst dressed as vikings. I imagine it as total madness, flames flickering on a dark night, thousands of people trying to get a good view, lots of smartphones in the air, waves of heat from the fire, the wood crackling and spitting, a collective sigh of relief as the ship collapses in on itself. I would love to see this. And I would love to visit Shetland and to stay for a while. But first I’d like to pick up Ann Cleeves detective novels set on the island. Nothing like a good murder mystery to whet your apetite for travel.

Northern Ireland

Yes, I know this is quite a big place. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that after five years in the UK (many of those spent working as a freelance correspondent for Finnish and Swedish media), I’ve yet to visit Northern Ireland. I’ve been to Ireland and liked it. I’ve been wanting and planning to visit this part of the UK since I came here. I’d love to see Belfast and I’d like to see the northern coast. The country has a tragic and fascinating history. It’s a story I don’t know well enough, but one I would like to learn more about.

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Things on my mind – quantum physics and Scottish independence

Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about recently.

1. What will happen in Scotland next Thursday? This is taking up quite a lot of mindspace. There have been many good and many bad things written about the election. Irvine Welsh wrote something good.

2. Did you know that in a certain experiment the way light behaves changes when we measure it. Light itself adapts to how we expect it to behave! This has blown my mind.

When a camera observed the electrons, they acted as particles. However, when the no equipment was used to observe the electrons, they acted as waves and particles simultaneously.

For more check out the Double-slit experiment.

3. Do we store memories in our bodies, can we access them through become more aware of how we feel physically? I went to a tech networking event in Shoreditch and ended up speaking to an interesting Danish-South African dancer about how we can reach memories and feelings stored in our bodies by laying down, relaxing and jotting down our feelings (squiggles) on a piece of paper next to us on the floor as we scan our body. This I found pretty inspirational.

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On London, money – my disappearing city

I took the bus from Liverpool street to Angel, going past the new developments around Old Street. Skeletons of steel and concrete going up so fast only the people who live and work in the area will notice the progress, for everyone else a hole in the ground has suddenly turned into a skyscraper full of luxury flats.

Another new building going up. Glossy black signs, computer generated pictures of swimming pools, balconies with candles looking out over a night dark city, the glow of thousands of windows in the distance. They were selling an image, selling luxury, penthouse flats, views, comfort. And I was wondering – whose London is this? It’s not the city I fell in love with, not the city I moved to – yet this is the city I see everywhere around me now. My own city is disappearing.

Where did my London come from? Did it ever exist? There were decades when no one wanted to move here. When London was synonymous with men in suits and bowler hats, going to work in a black and white movie, pushing around paper. It was the city of stiff upper lips, of apartments so cold the whole of Europe made fun of the English, of bland food, of people who toed the line.

But there were other Londons as well. The swinging sixties, drugs and furs, short skirts, flowers, Notting Hill, Carnaby street, punks and mods, art, Soho, music, immigrants and Eastenders. Anger, fighting the system, ambition, creativity. This built the foundation for the London I fell in love with.

The modern equivalent of the men in bowler hats, are creating a new city. Numbers are taking over. Money has become more important than anything else. What does it all mean? What happens when you receive hundreds of thousands of pounds as a bonus every year, on top of an already high salary? What does that do to you, to your expectations, how does that make you look at money, at life?

What will happen to my London when all the flats will be penthouses and the only way to afford them will be to earn more than a 100 000 pounds a year? What will happen to the dreamers, the artists, the teachers, the cleaners, those of us who aren’t rich and who aren’t dreaming of earning a lot of money?

When I lived in Finland it never crossed my mind that people could earn different amounts of money, it didn’t matter. We all went to the same school and we all had access to good healthcare. It didn’t matter if someone drove a more expensive car than someone else. Before I moved here I couldn’t read the language of wealth. I had no idea one handbag meant something else than another. Of course I was aware of brands, but I couldn’t read the language of status, the clues that tell you this person has access to a different kind of life. This kind of knowledge never felt relevant in Finland. I regret having learned it. I regret sometimes considering what other people are earning and what they can afford. Why can’t enough just be enough?

The new London confuses me, it tells me my dreams aren’t adequate if I want to stay in this city. My dreams (and my income as a freelancer and writer) won’t stretch to cover a mortgage or even the rent for a flat that could house a family, it won’t cover fees to good schools or medical insurance (which we’ll probably be needed at some point).

The door is closing on the London that represented freedom and opportunities for creatives, for ambitious drop-outs, for risk-takers, seekers, dreamers. This city welcomes those who want and can earn a lot of money. The rest of us keep moving further out. But the questions keep buzzing around my head. What do I do if I still love this place? What do I do if I can’t see myself leaving London anytime soon?

What do all of us do who didn’t take the elevator ride to the top? Who are watching prices going up all around us? Where do we go next?

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What ten days without much internet will do to your head

Woooooo. I’m trying to re-connect with London life. I’m Swinging wildly between excitedly writing to-do-lists and wanting to get on the next plane back to Nordic wilderness. We’re back in London after ten quiet days at my family’s summer house half way up the Finnish coast. I’ve not checked my email. I’ve not brushed my hair. I’ve taken dips in the cold sea, I’ve eaten way too much Fazer chocolate and Finnish cheese and I’ve been bingeing on Anais Nin’s journals, which is something I’ve not indulged in since I was a moody seventeen-year-old.

My thoughts are floating around in my head. I feel relaxed and calm. This is a good way to start the autumn.

I need to come up with a writing and freelancing plan.
I need to cut my hair.
I need to enjoy the warm late summer days before autumn catches up with us here.
I need to go back to the forest, the lakes, my family before Christmas.

These are the most important things right now. I’m de-cluttering my to-do-lists.

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