Ode to Bicycles

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I see you there, bicycle

Leaning on the wall

Waiting for your rider

As in a shop  they call

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You are a swift and silent steed

As you canter through the streets

Your tires are pumped

Your saddle plumped

No need for bribes or treats

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You have your own marked laneway

That no one would dare cross

Without a quick glance left and right

Unless they’re up for loss

A police outline of a flattened mother & child and the bicycle they suspect did it

Police outline of a flattened mother & child and the bicycle they suspect did it

No helmet for your rider

In Helsinki it’s not needed

Road rules apply, no cars defy

And safety’s always heeded

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So there you wait, outside cafes

Ready to get rollin’

I can’t believe that you’re still there

In Sydney you’d be stolen.

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The positive side-effects of moving overseas

I was laughing with my friend Adam about why we felt we needed to move somewhere else before we made a start on our ‘A Better Me’ to do list. For example, I just ‘knew’ that once we moved to Finland I would cook my way through Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook, despite only using it twice in NZ. I also ‘know’ that in winter I will read all the novels I have on my bedside table and use my time wisely, doing craft and baking rather than lying around eating cheese toasties like I do at home. And Adam ‘knew’ that once he moved into his new house he was going to do yoga on the balcony each and every morning. I must check in with how that’s going….

Artist's impression of me baking this winter

Artist’s impression of me baking this winter

…because I’m making some headway on my list! Although its all by circumstance, rather than self-discipline. Which makes me think perhaps I wasn’t really identifying enough with why I thought I should do some of these things in the first place and therefore never did them. Here’s what I’ve managed so far:

I’m walking everyday

Original reason: I love to exercise and make it a part of my daily life

Real reason: We don’t own a car here

I no longer watch TV

Original reason: My time is valuable and I use it wisely

Real reason: Everything I’ve seen so far is in Finnish or Swedish except for McCleod’s Daughters or Emmerdale. Having said that I did watch a bit of Miss Finland and a doco on Abba but am not tuning in to tune out every night.

I’m not reading the news

Original reason: I don’t need to fill my head with the bad things that happen in the world

Real reason: I don’t really feel too attached to the world of news here or overseas at the moment

I don’t drink wine every night (despite it being good for your heart)

Original reason: My body is a temple and not one that takes communion every day in large glasses*

Real reason: They don’t sell wine at the supermarket and the Alko store is a fair walk away (more on that later)

We eat simple meals each night together at the table

Original reason: We eat mindfully and value our together time

Real reason: We don’t have a fridge full of food accumulated over time and we are also trying to buy conservatively as we are still spending NZ dollars. Jonny now finishes work at 6pm at the latest and not Miko’s bedtime like he did in NZ. (Also see item above about not watching TV).

We live minimally and are not tied to our possessions

Original reason: Something about not needing ‘stuff’ to feel good

Real reason: It’s all in shipping containers and isn’t here yet!

* I realise this is a mixed religious metaphor but nobody says ‘my body is a Catholic church’

Kuppi ja Muffini Cafe

Today I had coffee with a lovely Finnish girl, Katri. We had never met before but a mutual friend in the UK put us in touch. I was really touched that Katri took the time to meet with me as she is about to move overseas and has a few goodbyes to make. I was missing home today and it was good to have someone to meet for coffee. She suggested we meet at Kuppi ja Muffini Cafe, just around the corner from our apartment.

Miko and Teddy Baby

Miko and Teddy Baby

Kuppi ja Muffini (Cup & Muffin) is run by two friends who believe in quality baking with only natural ingredients. The cake counter was full of delicious looking cupcakes and treats. Miko had a small Rocky Road cupcake and I had a delicious banana and berry muffin. It had great texture and walnuts and sugar baked on the top. We shared a freshly squeezed carrot and ginger juice (90% to Miko, 10% to me).

Cakes are baked daily and according to the season

Cakes are baked daily and according to the season

The decor reminded me of a New Zealand cafe. There were some cool retro features inside a cool, clean interior. A bookshelf in the back room had books for patrons to read. There was a wooden rocking chair in the corner that would be great for reading in, complete with crochet rug. It would have been a great day to settle in there as we had a brief snow-shower come down while we sat inside.

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Although frosty outside, the staff were really warm and one lady brought out a basket of toys for Miko. A woman behind us was comfortably ensconced with her Suomi (Finnish) textbooks and the cafe filled up as lunchtime drew near. You’d have to look for Kuppi & Muffini as its signage is quite subtle, but if fresh baked treats and delicious drinks are your thing, its definitely worth a look.

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Kuppi & Muffini

Kalevankatu 17, Helsinki

www.kuppijamuffini.fi

Upside-down world

I'm doing a load of valko kirjopyykki - who wants in?

I’m washing a load of valko kirjopyykki                                      – who wants in?


Setting foot in a new country can be disorientating after a long flight (or two). Finding where to put your feet is another task altogether.

New Zealand, with Australia, is known as the Antipodes by those in the Northern Hemisphere. From the Greek anti (opposite) and podus (foot) we are the people living with our feet on the opposite side of the globe. In fact Plato used the term to refer to an upside-down world on the other side of the planet.

Any New Zealander heading to Europe has to quickly relearn the ‘right’ way of doing things. We’re used to the embarrassment of realising we’ve hopped into the driver’s seat of the taxi or stopped the flow of traffic on the escalator by standing on the left, not the right.

But I was horrified to see a bus coming towards us on our first day in Helsinki with the driver totally distracted. Until Jonny pointed out it wasn’t the driver I was looking at but a passenger, standing in the front of the bus searching for their wallet.

Although everyone speaks English here, all the signs are in Finnish or Swedish. To my untrained eye they look like all the leftover letters from a game of hang-man. No amount of squinting will tell me if vetää means push or pull as I fumble with the door while people wait behind me.

Instructions in the rubbish room clearly laid out in Suomi

Instructions in the rubbish room clearly laid out in Suomi

This disorientation is a good feeling though as it reminds me we are in a different place; that things that seem so strange now one day become second nature.

We’ll just know to weigh and price our fruit before getting to the supermarket counter and not to wander onto a cycle path without looking.

We may have come from the other side of the planet but it won’t be long before we have our feet the right way up in our new home.