January 30, 2008


Yesterday, I had a short encounter with my elderly neighbour. She's very short and uses a Russian scarf to cover her hair. I don't think she can see very well, because when she talks to me, she doesn't seem to know whether to look at my eyes or at my hands. I've tried to concentrate and see if I detect a whiff of alcohol on her breath, but I don't. She told me her back was giving her a hard time and she had just come from the doctor's. When I asked her whether everything was okay, she looked absolutely terrified and told me "Well.. you know.. the doctor... it's never nice to go to the doctor" and I was sure she was going to cry. She fumbled with my coat-sleeve and wished me a nice day and I stayed alone in the elevator staring at my empty expression on the mirror and I wanted to scream, press the stop button, sound the alarm, whatever, to break the silence in that small ugly space.

At the school hall last week, a sleepy-looking girl I've chatted with only once before asked me how I was doing. This happens quite rarely, so I was a bit taken aback and stuttered something very vague and uncertain about having felt better. She froze in her steps, looked deep into my eyes, and said "Yes..... yes, I think I know what you mean... that's exactly how I feel, too" and disappeared down the staircase. This morning, I was talking with someone who's having a hard time right now, and at the end, when I pushed back my chair and got up, she smiled and said "I already feel much better after talking to you". Sometimes, I wonder about how little people actually talk to each other, especially at times when talking is the only thing that can make you feel better.

We are six billion people here, and even though some of us hide it pretty well, everyone has feelings, broken hearts, bad days, life-changing crises, empty bank accounts, whatever - so let's stop thinking we don't have anyone to talk to. Whether it's your teacher, some random guy who sat opposite your seat in the metro or the expressionless person at the cashier, everybody wants somebody to listen to their worries and give them some solution, even if it's something as unoriginal as "well, time helps". Everybody understands how you feel. Especially up here at this time of year, when we are all walking with wet snow in our hair, our heads still in bed and our feelings in a heavy knot at the bottom of our stomach.

I'm just asking myself: how long are we going to be stuck in this November blues, weather and attitude? What happened to December and January? Did I sleep through them? I've become so disoriented in time that today I actually promised someone at work that I'd take care of something before Christmas, only to receive a dry reply: "Yes, well Christmas is quite far off, isn't it". I started laughing at my own stupidity, but only got worried glances as a reply.

By the way, there's been something that feels like hair stuck at the back of my throat the whole time I've been writing this. How's that for a mood-killer. I've drunk so much water to make it go away I'll probably spend the night in the bathroom. I've tried rinsing and even gargling (I don't know how to gargle but I made a quick pathetic attempt and it sounded more or less adequate). I've stood in front of the mirror with my jaw on the floor to visually pinpoint where it is. It's like someone stuck a piece of duct tape there. It's not going away. Great. I'll probably never fall asleep.

January 23, 2008


Aaaaaah, the orchestral Intermezzo from Mascagni's opera "Cavalleria Rusticana". What a perfect piece to remind oneself that the best music is the music which makes you smile, even when you are hurrying down the escalator at the metro station during the morning rush hour. It takes only that first grand melodic phrase - the violins over the lush harp accompaniment - to sweep you off your feet. Suddenly everything smells good, the colours you see look richer, and everyone at the platform - the sharp office workers, the irritating schoolchildren, the Somali immigrants (on the opposite platform), the smelly drunkards and the phlegmatic cleaning lady start singing their heart out along with you. What better piece to play on an endless loop of repeats when you are in love - - which I'm not, but preparing is half the fun!

It's been a great day. The sun showed itself for some moments, and at sunset (16:09), when I was coming home for a short breather, the sky turned violet above my house. I seem to have found some supernatural telepathic channel to people's minds and they kept telling me just the things I wanted to hear and agreed with everything I said.

Ruoholahti just after sunrise.

At work in the evening, I don't know what magical button I pressed, but suddenly, everyone sang cleaner and sounder than ever before. And with what emotion! While rehearsing one of the prettiest Finnish folk songs I know, the choir just let it all out, and suddenly we were surrounded by thick green birches, a cuckoo called in the distance, the lake was a shimmering blue, it was spring in Karelia, and everything outside our room, the trams rumbling by on the other side of the windows and the people playing ice hockey on the sports field, was like something from a different planet.

This is not Karelia, but Graz's Schlossberg, my own lost paradise :)

I want my singers to feel proud of their hobby and be happy that, in addition to sitting in an office all day (or whatever it is they do), their week includes three hours where they can leave their everyday worries, pressures and careers outside together with their coats, and become artists. Music is the best form of escapism. Who could do without it. Listening to Mascagni's wonderful Intermezzo is easier, cheaper and has a faster effect on the mind than booking a flight to Mexico City to "revive oneself far from home at these low prices and watch the world awake from winter" (I'm still getting these "Spring Moment" emails from Lufthansa).

And this is me flying to Frankfurt just over a year ago!

Oh God, what is this Danish pop which suddenly started playing on my iTunes library - Anne Linnet? Seriously, it sounds like someone having a go at a minority language from the remote mountains of Bhutan with a local plucked instrument from the middle ages for accompaniment. Now I remember, my fellow blogger friend from Århus sent me this piece. Well, I just nominated her as most likely to have the best taste in music on Facebook, so maybe I'll get to like this eventually :)

Music is great. Sleeping, too. Good night!

January 16, 2008

"Spring moments"

Darkness affects us all in this city. Sometimes I think it's only a matter of time before those Finnish design head lamps hit the market. I'm thinking big: just picture for yourself lamps with built-in umbrellas, or even better, a super-glass shield to protect from that wind and all the nasty things it brings with it. People would really look fab in those (not that anyone would be able to see them)! My mother was recently looking for her glasses (like always) when she exclaimed "I can't see a thing! It's too dark in this country!". My neighbour in Graz was telling me about his visit here when he said "If it would be situated on the Mediterranean coast, Helsinki would be the perfect place to live".

Anyway, I was brooding on these thoughts when Lufthansa's latest newsletter hit my inbox. Dear Mr Juris, it started. It may be winter outside, but in our hearts there is spring. (in our hearts there is spring? who wrote this?). Yes, winter will still be here for a while but that doesn't stop us from dreaming of the spring. (How about some synonyms for variety?) To make you long for it even more, we now present our Spring Moments campaign. In other words it's time to start thinking about where you would like to meet the spring this year. (Where I would like to meet spring? Meet spring?? Well, at least not in Almaty from 1074€ nor Nanjing from 859€ - Nanjing??? Where is that?)

I've been thinking about how, the older we get, the more we are expected to be able to see into our future. As if it's not enough to know where we are going to be five months from now at 11:53, it's now becoming almost obligatory to have schedules for October 2011 ready at hand. I already have something scheduled for March 2009, and a friend from London called me today to panic about something called a "Three-year-plan" she is supposed to come up with. It's not uncommon to read things like "The project is expected to be completed in 2015" or "2054 (MMLIV) will be a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar".

Okay, I'm really stretching this far, I know. But it's still always worth remembering that life is what's happening now, when you are in bed realising you're not going to fall asleep just yet but you don't mind just thinking about stuff for a while, or when you stop to help someone who almost blacks out at the subway escalators. Who cares about 2009. Who cares about 2008? Such big numbers. Can I go back to 0?

In my work, I meet many people. I see them for perhaps three hours a week and I think I can tell you many things about them when they are at their precious hobby. I can tell you who feels more comfortable sitting next to whom, who prefers singing in foreign languages and who can't bring himself to pronounce English adequately. I know who feels especially happy but also who has had a bad day. I know who is afraid of loud sounds and who can't stop talking. But I don't know who these people are when they go home. Sometimes though, it's nice to think that somebody is cooking a dinner for her family, beaming because she finally started singing in a choir again for the first time since elementary school. But how do I know? The same person might be lying awake in bed alone, wondering how she will survive another dark day tomorrow.

I hope not, but if that's the case, she'll be happy to know Lufthansa's prices to Vancouver are now as low as 908€.