So, I sometimes find I bring interesting things back from a trip. This particular lot is a nicely eclectic collection, even more noteworthy because of the industrial action at Helsinki-Vantaa airport which forced me to take only carry-on luggage. And I'd paid extra to check it in. The original plan, as per normal for trips to Finland, was to fill another bag with sweets and stuff for the suomikoulu to sell from the school's shop. Frustrating. I threw a lot of things out in my room at Hotel Helka the day before the flight. On top of the nearly finished toothpaste, shaving gel and shampoo, out went a variety of oddments like nail clippers and assorted foodstuffs. Unimportant, but wasteful.

Here's the Finnish cultural loot from my March 2017 trip. You might want to click on the picture to embiggen it. Somehow, I gathered rather more than I'd expected. You'll quickly spot the biggest challenge as far as the cabin bag is concerned. That's right, an actual vinyl lp. Although I did get a new record deck a while ago, because I didn't want to get rid of my lp collection, I never imagined I'd ever actually buy a new lp. It's Adrian by The Hearing, which is Ringa out of Pintandwefall - that's her in the pic - who I saw singing Life On Mars at that David Bowie tribute concert last year. I have her first album, Dorian, a cd, so I thought, why not ask about the new one (the title is almost an anagram, isn't it? Makes one speculate what she'll call her next album, mixing up the letters...) ?  I was told at Record Shop X that it was only available as an lp, and there was a copy in their Hakaniemi branch. So the next morning I walked up there, which was pleasant anyway, and also I knew that the indoor market there is one of the better ones and I could have a nice simple lunch. The mission was duly accomplished, but then I had to face up to packing. Well, the disk did fit, barely. Would it survive the inevitable process of squashing, and then transport? Yes it would, it did, and I can tell you that while it might not be earth shattering the record is a very nice one and I will play it again a few times. Its saviour is visible in the picture, the Sillage BD (ask a French person)(yes - it's translated from French to Finnish) which I packed right next to it and kept it flat.

For what it's worth, even a Finnish person would find all of these things a bit obscure, except for the Sonata Arctica cd, their latest, The Ninth Hour. And while I like that band - I've seen them twice - and I don't mind the purchase, creatively it was the least interesting. It definitely has their 'sound' - you'd easily recognise them as the authors - there are no really strong new songs, it feels like they're just noodling, really. Mira Luoti I kinda like as previously the 'rockier' one from out of PMMP, and it's not a bad effort. And in Finnish, so it'll definitely get more play, in my car on the way to school. The CD-R is a Mokoma album, run off for me by Paul on this trip. They're one of his favourite bands so I was intrigued to sample them. I need to listen more - not my usual thing, but my impression was of proper quality metal. Last, and definitely not least, see Red and Blue Baby by the totally estimable Pintandwefall. I picked this up in Record Shop X in Kuopio, and the girl there turned out to be as familiar with them as I was, and she memorably said, 'This was certainly a surprise' regarding how long it's been since the band did anything much. My guess is that some of them have been having a 'family break', so to speak. The record's great. I will play it a lot.

The books! Ah, well I've been looking for the little red one for several trips now. I first wandered into the Akateeminen Kirjakauppa, the huge bookshop next to Stockmann, used to be part of it but no longer, and which has been a little disappointing since. Without much hope of finding Datura; but I did spot a new edition of Antoine de St. Exupéry's first book, Courrier Sud - that's roughly what Postilento etelään means. I think it dates back to the 1920's, and I can't think why it's suddenly been translated now, it seems so random. But I have a small collection of his books, in French as well as English, and it appeals to me to read this one - it's only short - in triplicate, in three languages all at once :) He's one of the greats by the way, his prose is very poetic at times. He's best known for The Little Prince. I latched on to him way back, when my aunt told me that he was my uncle's favourite writer. My uncle was in the Fleet Air Arm and died when the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious was sunk off Norway in 1940.

Datura is by the highly regarded writer Leena Krohn, whose thing is a kind of alternative realism or verging into fantasy... I'll get back to you on that. I have it in English, it's not too long, and I thought it would also be good to read in parallel with the original Finnish. But I could not find it anywhere, and I tried in bookshops in Helsinki and elsewhere, and online. This time, the penny dropped. It's out of print, and what I should have been doing is going into those second hand bookshops I've been walking by and ignoring all this time, and inquiring. I found it at the second time of asking, and it's in good condition. A very good score indeed, I felt a whole lot better from the cold I'd been suffering from after that.

Last but not least - Myydään 3h + k. Which is: For sale 3 rooms + kitchen. It's not the thing itself because it's only the programme, but definitely part of my cultural loot. I knew Maarit from the Liverpool School was in Helsinki visiting her sister the last weekend I was there; she got in touch and asked if I wanted to go to a play. It wouldn't have crossed my mind, by myself, but this was a good choice and worked out very well. It wasn't far away and I met them in front of the Aleksanterin teatteri, it was a very cold night... The play was something not unlike what you might see in standard rep theatre back home, a story of a couple clearing the female partner's mother's house, with all the memories, partly supplied by the mother who actually appears. I realised she wasn't a ghost, she's a memory, there for her daughter to talk to, and the others can't see her. There are various little twists as things are found, but it wasn't complicated. I'd be lying if I said I followed much of the Finnish, but I did roughly get the gist, and it was well performed, and there were some laughs, despite the rather ominous (knowing the Finns) title of 'tragicomedy'. It certainly helped to go with people who could fill in the gaps during breaks! I don't think theatre going in Finland will become a habit, but I'm glad I did it.

This was the first time I've had to push my carry on case into that sizing container they have at the airport. The case is an old one, and not as big as it could be in terms of volume, but unfortunately it does push out in one dimension even though it's short in others. And there are broken bearings in the trundling wheels, which makes me a noisy traveller at the airport. But I've come to the conclusion that an airport is the kind of place where it's a waste of time feeling shame about any aspect of your appearance.


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