Life in Finland

Image via Tom Häkkinen
Rowboat waiting to be used.
Happily, I am now in Finland. I am staying at my uncle’s house in the country, in central Finland, not far from a small and mostly concrete town called Jyväskylä and quite far from the decidedly more exciting cities of Helsinki and Tampere. But these things don’t really matter because it’s the countryside, the lake and the woods that I’m really here for.

I rise in the morning, generally around 9 because I since the end of the school term I’ve had a voracious appetite for sleep (about 10 hours a night!). I have a typical Finnish breakfast, porridge, cold meats, bread and coffee. Back home in Letchworth my morning shower routine was forever plagued by the twin scourges of English plumbing hard water and piddly water pressure, if only I had the luxury of a shower head now. Although the water is soft enough here in Finland, due to this summer being so particularly warm the well in this old house is running low, so I’ve been encouraged to use the sauna and a bucket of water from the lake to wash myself in every morning. Nevertheless, the smell of old pine and birch leaves is still a pleasant start to the morning.

Image via Tom Häkkinen
Picking Gooseberries
It’s great here. Various family members warned me before I came that there’s not much to do here in this old house, but I bought a pay-as-you-go mobile broadband “dongle” from the Finnish telco “Elisa”, so I have the internet, I can keep writing my blog and in reality it’s like a little piece of paradise here.

The house is by a lake, (or should I say “lakes”, Finland is just about all waterfront, there is a network of 187,000 odd lakes in Finland, 10% of the surface area of the entire country, and they almost all drain into the sea eventually). I spend my days rowing, fishing, picking berries, going for walks in the woods and swimming, I’ve even been cutting firewood for the winter. I’ve grabbed fish from the end of a line and felt the sting of slimey lake-water on the open blisters of hands unaccustomed to rowing all day - this is the kind of living that satisfies all the needs of the body, and gets the endorphins flowing. The days are long, the weather is sunny and warm, with balmy summer evenings and with a few exceptions like Finnish sausages and oats for porridge which are store bought, we eat the food that we gather and catch ourselves. Ok maybe you could add coffee and chocolate to the exceptions and come to think of it milk and orange juice and maybe ...

Image via Tom Häkkinen
Aren't boats fantastic?
But you get the idea - between the vegetables and berries grown in the garden and the fish caught in the lake it feels like we’re just “living off the fat of the land” to borrow an expression from Steinbeck. Even Esther has been won over by the magic of this place, notwithstanding the presence of leeches, spiders and ants, and having to bath in the sauna with a bucket of water and no shower. Which is saying something for someone who’s almost as city-girl as Carrie Bradshaw.

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