Back in rainy London

London. It’s eight days since we landed at Heathrow. The day after we left Finland the temperature in my hometown dropped to minus 27. Cold enough to make your hair turn white with frost and your nostrils stick together when you inhale. London hovers around 7 plus. Drizzle-gray. Sunshine and showers. Mostly showers.

Today I walked past the big house and the deer at Clissold Park. The sun was out. Orange light in the puddles. Bright and early joggers rushing past. I stopped to say hello to the deer. Then I met up with Madicken and we spent the morning writing together in a café. All the other customers had brought their laptops too. Madicken spotted an actor sitting behind us. It’s very north London. I wrote some words and I was pretty happy with them. Then I came home and read about the publishing industry and suddenly everything felt impossible. I did my taxes. I downloaded Spotify again and created a radio station based on Sia. I’m clicking thumbs down on anything that isn’t Sia.

This month is one of small tasks. It’s too early for a big picture. There is one thing and then the next and maybe soon the year will start taking shape. I took me a week to shake the post-Christmas fog. I went home to Finland and didn’t turn on my phone for the first five days. A sweet, disconnected rebellion. Gerry and I went for long walks when it was light. The inlet near the house thawed and then froze over again. The ice was washed up by a storm and looked like panes of broken glass, crushed and squeezed together. I’ve never seen it like that before. I ate well and often. I spent some time in the sauna. My muscles unwound themselves. I relaxed and stopped thinking about work, the future, everything. It takes a while to resurface from that. So here I am, tensing up again, telling myself I should do more yoga, writing lists and trying to get a sense of where this year will take me.

Image by David Marcu.

The place where I belong

Back from the summer house where the sun doesn’t set at midsummer. Where the mosquitoes are almost as big as butterflies. Where there is a drawer full of photographs and postcards from Liverpool and New York and California. Hundreds of frozen faces, the relatives and friends of relatives who emigrated two generations ago.

When my grandmother was young they used to pack down their whole house in the spring and move out to the summerhouse. I think they even moved the piano, but I might have made that up. When my dad was young my grandparents crammed their children, cats and dog into a small car in June and drove for three hours to get to there, stopping occasionally to allow the children to vomit from car sickness. They stayed at the summerhouse until autumn came and it was time to go back to work and school. During one of these summers they picked up a tame crow. Another summer my grandmother adopted two aggressive turkeys that nipped at the feet of those who went out for a nightly pee.

The place is heavy with memories and stories. Every summer the house calls us back and we retell some and add some more.

There is a rowan tree by the shore. An ant hill next to the car park and another one near the wood shed. There is a big pine against which my brother and I practiced throwing knives one summer when we couldn’t come up with anything else to do. If I close my eyes I can see the path running from the house to the shore, the one going behind the small red hut which is rotting away and needs a new roof. I can see the rose bushes, the blueberries, the trees and the paper mill on the other side of the bay. I know the place and it knows me. There are roots from the soles of my feet that go deep into the ground. At the summerhouse I’m part of something bigger. I’m part of a past and a story.

We went to the summerhouse for a week and now we’re back. I’m raging against London sounds and pollution. But I’m here, back home. Missing home.

Back in London town

We’re back in London after a strange jet-lagging day of travelling. Even though the time difference between Finland and the UK is only two hours, getting up at 2:30 in the morning (UK time) to catch a flight will mess with your head a little bit. We arrived yesterday and couldn’t have had two more different taxi journeys, the one in the morning past green fields in the Malax countryside, where we had stayed with friends, and one on the motorway from Heathrow all the way to North London. Two completely different places only two short plane journeys apart.

Yesterday afternoon was spent eating snacky food and watching the almost too exciting Wimbledon women’s semi-final. Something I remember us doing last year as well after we came back from Finland, perhaps it’s turning into a tradition.

Also, coming back to real life and a fast internet connection I noticed that Google reader has finally stopped working. I’m switching to Bloglovin where you can follow me as well – follow my blog with Bloglovin.

At the summerhouse

We’re in Finland, at the summerhouse. Thunder is rumbling in the distance, the second weather front to roll across the country and move over us today. This morning we had breakfast on the veranda, heavy rain beating on the roof, lightning zig-zagging across the sky in the distance. We keep the sauna fire going. We’re eating Finnish rye-bread and drinking strong black coffee. I’m walking barefoot and the ants crawl over my feet. I’m happy.

Finland, Finland, Finland…

I feel good after my trip to Finland. I have more energy, I feel happier, more like myself. I feel better and it makes me realise how important it is to go back and recharge my Finnish batteries. How important it is to be able to see my family and to speak my language.

Speaking a foreign language for 80 percent of the time gets to you after a while. Some thoughts are more difficult to think, some feelings come up in different ways, some things get muddled and some things stay on the surface because English will always be the second language.

There has been some research done into the emotional impact of speaking a foreign language. Apparently it makes the speaker more rational (which will only be a good thing for me) and making financial decisions is supposedly easier. Also…

For many multilinguals, swearing in a foreign language doesn’t evoke the same anxiety (or bring the same emotional release) as using a native language. Decreased emotionality in a foreign language spans the gamut of emotions, from saying “I love you,” to hearing childhood reprimands, to uttering morally grave lies, or being influenced by persuasive messages in advertising, writes the Smithsonian.

I find it a lot easier to swear in English than in Swedish. I actually tend to swear in English when I speak Swedish, I find it equally difficult to lie in both languages though. According to the research quoted in the blog, people answer surveys differently depending on language.

Chinese international students studying in North America agreed with traditional Chinese values more when answering a survey in Chinese; they had higher self-esteem scores when completing a self-esteem questionnaire in English. The full extent of these effects of languages on responses are still being investigated.

Talking Swedish for a while, with my family who speak Swedish in the same way I do, means I get to relax, there are no barriers. It means recharging, properly. I wonder if everyone who has moved abroad feels the same way.

I spent most of my teenage years and early 20s dreaming about leaving Finland and going abroad. Now that I’m here, in a foreign country I can never fully understand or integrate into, I find myself missing home. It’s natural, but I didn’t expect it to be such a physical thing.

London is a very accepting place and there are many people like me here, but I still find myself needing my own culture every now and then. It’s not about idolising the home country, what I miss doesn’t even necessarily have anything to do with the actual place. And I don’t miss many specific things, only my family, friends, the summerhouse and, of course, the rye bread. I still don’t know if I want to move back, I love living in the UK, this is where my home is and where work is, but I need to go back.

I wonder how the people who emigrated from Finland in the 1800s and early 1900s felt. How did they manage to hold on to their sense of identity, knowing that they would probably never go home again? How did they deal with the homesickness, waking up on a muggy winter morning and missing real cold. Did their bodies ache for long summer nights when the sun never sets? It’s funny how some things just seem to be programmed into you from a young age, this is your language, this is what weather is supposed to be like, this is how the air is supposed to smell. You don’t really realise it’s there until you start missing it.

Image via Visit Finland.