Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back in Korpo(o)

Alas, there is no snow here. Each night the frost has provided a white coat on the roads and a glinting sheen on the rest of the ground, but it is mostly gone by morning. In town there was some ice on the pavements I felt very much like a foreigner as I gingerly made my way across the paths. But I did go for an ice-clear ramble in the woods today feeling far more like a Finn again.

Who travels by car on an island at 2am? And where are they going? The curtain-twitcher in me was curious as I noticed some cars going past... I guess my idea of an island is still very much dominated by Iona. If I didn't know that we had taken two ferries to get here I'd forget that we're not just in the middle-of-nowhere. We drove out here on Christmas Day and the ferries were running on the Sunday schedule - so merely every half an hour rather than every fifteen to twenty minutes. This is truly incredible! Only last week I tried to get to Mumbles/Newton and found that there was only one (1!) bus an hour after 5pm. Utterly disgusted I abandoned that trip. I'll never be convinced, at this rate, that Swansea's public transport system is any good...

A few of my friends are obssessed with list making and ranking things in order. I tend to think this passtime is...well...silly, but perhaps it's a seasonal hazard for while I was musing over this habit I found myself with an urge to create a list too. (I've generally observed that you have to be careful when making fun of something as otherwise you'll end up doing it yourself!) I decided to write a list of 10 things I didn't know about Touaregs (not too sure why either), but when I found out that they've got a great festival each January near Timbuktu - Festival au Desert - it was a short step to be distracted further by the Forbidden Purple City (what a great name!) in Vietnam and WWOOFing in Mexico. So I never ended up with a list afterall. Although I now have another festival I'd really like to go to...

There may not be any snow but we have had stunning winter skies as the sun sets by 4pm. It is very, very dark here. It is Finland afterall.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Virtual fridge magnets!

While my fridge magnets languish in one box or another I've stumbled across a substitute... What fun!!

Here's a hasty poem of pure nonsense I wrote.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Dude abides

What an ace film... And a reminder of the cyclical nature of things. I watched for the first time 4 years ago in St Thomas, and then again yesterday - in St Thomas. This time it was my turn to introduce it to a friend!

After 15 hours of travel I have arrived in Finland to watch the sun go down at 3:30pm! Not much snow to report, though I faithfully carried th Christmas pudding here in one piece as requested. Now I wasn't allowed to bring a 500ml bottle of water (100ml would've been fine), but noone batted an eyelid at the pud. Where's the logic in that?!

Happy solstice folks! It only gets lighter from here - hurray:)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hats, bags, and badges

In the spirit of this consumer season I've rediscoved the joy of the above mentioned items. I recently saw a bag that got me drooling, but I did manage to tear myself away and walk out of the shop without shelling out £5. Now that may not sound like much, but when the sum total of your earnings is not even considered worth taxing by our lovely government £5 represents quite a huge chunk... Actually, I've been quite happy rediscovering my said hats, bags, and badges that I had packed away before going to Iona and it's been like an early Christmas pulling them out of boxes:)

Today I've gone a bit over board and am wearing not one but TWO badges... But one is tiny, so it can't really count, right?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Landed! (Said in a Welsh accent for full effect...)

I am now no longer homeless, but have taken up residency in St Thomas of Swansea. Plus I'm living with a friend (hooray) who knows I'm poor as a churchmouse and isn't charging me as much rent as he really ought to be (hooray). It's a "proper house" and everything too...

It's on the east side of Swansea which I'm finding stranger than I thought. I've spent all of my Swansea life on the west side so things really do seem different. It's great being this close to the town centre though as I can finally do my shopping on St Helen's Road and the market. I walked into town today along the river - again a totally new experience for me. And once I get my bike back I'll be able to cycle to Pontardawe and Neath all along the cyclepaths that are by a canal/river.

I've been frequenting the local corner shop to establish myself in the neighbourhood and I hear there is a good bellydancing class in the community hall... Our neighbour on the right keeps pidgeons that he races. One day when I'll get up early enough (like 8 or 9 am) I'll be able to see him "excercise" them. Apart from living up a huge hill 'tis all most exciting!

I'm doing my utmost to take advantage of the best bit of being unemployed: time. I did a lovely walk to Pwll Du via Caswell Bay and then through Bisphopston Valley and a foot of mud, and I've been reading lots again - what luxury! For those of you out there who have been fortunate enough to spend any time in Wales I HIGHLY recommend "Aberystwyth Mon Amour" by Malcom Pryce.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Walking the streets

My bike is still with a friend so I've been doing a lot of walking of these streets of Swansea. After being in foreign lands I do appreciate not having to constantly keep an eye on a map and the bliss of knowing real shortcuts and which bus to jump on. Local knowledge is great once you've earned it!

It all looks so familiar though, and there are many times when I feel like I'm retracing my steps. It is very surreal to be back. I am absolutely loving seeing all my friends again and catching up with what is going on (and things sure can change in 3 months!!), but despite that I'm still feeling very restless...

BeyondTV started on Monday with a great turnout at the Dylan Thomas Centre and a great bunch of films! A trend continued firmly into Tuesday and I'm sure will throughout this week. This is Undercurrents at its best: finding inspirational and empowering films, showcasing it's own latest productions, and passing on the knowledge. Last night we had 6-8 shorts from first time film makers from a Womanist Video Workshop that ran for only six weeks; and the quality really was brilliant! I was sitting with the audience part enjoying the show and part trying to figure out how to start filming again:)

My friend Hamish has a fold-away solar panel that he's hooked up to batteries that run a video camera/a computer for editing and has spent his time on beaches in the Canaries editing his latest film. How much fun does that sound!! And what a great excuse to head for the sun... Hooray for studios that fit in your backpack is what I say! (And where can I get one myself...?)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Life Afloat

On my travels I spent a day in Oxford with a friend. We spent most of it escaping the crowds as we had made the mistake of showing up on a Saturday! So after a breather in a huge bookshop we went for a walk along the canal where I was delighted to see residential narrow boats moored along the shore.

These boats were all individuals. Some had been nestled up along the bank for what looked like years. They had post boxes onshore, and little gardens with flowerpots and bushes, one had a gorgeous and sleek black and white cat curled up on a deck chair that came over to be admired when it saw us looking at it. Some were colourful, one had a pirate flag draped over the side, some had electrical hookups, many had beautiful artwork in the windows, and all of them looked intriguing. The idea of not having to live a life defined by four straight walls is often what keeps me going, so seeing these boats was a thrill! And something I had not expected to see in Oxford somehow. I'm glad unexpected things still exist to remind one to keep one's eyes open and hope up... As I saw the first boat a little part of my mind started to imagine what it'd be like to live afloat: huddling in the cold under piles of blankets in the damp winter, being rocked asleep, watching the world walk past from a deck chair on the roof of my boat...

It is an exciting thought!

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Looks like I will be returning to Swansea to sleep on peoples' floors as I search for a job and somewhere to live. So look out for me from some time next week as I really do want to be back for BEyONdTV Festival (see for more!). I'm looking forward to seeing you folk again and swapping tails... (I like long furry ones:)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Iona of my heart, Iona of my love ( - St Columba)

And so, yesterday (was it only yesterday??) morning I stepped onto that ferry that took me across the Sound of Iona and away from that beautiful place. Stepping on that ferry was one of the most difficult things I've had to do.

Last Sunday I made a phone call and now I am on the Isle of Skye, in Portree, taking the time to breath and regroup myself. Considering that Oban had more than one street and so many shops and people and cars and was already advertising Christmas - and how much that threw me and made me feel as if I was suffering from a culture shock - I'm glad I came up north rather than going to Glasgow or some place like that.

My head and heart and soul are full of Iona.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dear Kitchenettes...

This is how a note to us housekeepers began... So we're part of the furniture now?? Sorry for the lack of update. Life here is incredibly busy and full and asks you to be so engaged that I've found it hard to get to this computer. Or even string two thoughts together sometimes... Hospitality is a full on task. That is definately something I'm taking away with me. It is hard to convey the experience of hard work and huge blessings without sounding like you're complaining or that everything is idyllic! "Ora et labora." Pray AND work. It is a crazy combination, and so meaningful to me and something I'm working through so I probably can't make any sense right now!!

And thus onto other things: Last night we celebrated Diwali in the Abbey. Colourful cloths were spread on the stone slabs by the alter for those brave enough to ignore the cold, candles were lit, we were asked to take off our shoes, we sang a Punjab song, a couple of chants in Gutarati (sp?), and generally celebrated light. It was really beautiful and I treasured the chance to experience this ancient Abbey in such a fresh, new way - from the floor surrounded by sparkly things. The service was led by some residents who had spent time in India, and it was a lovely service. LAst Monday's peace and justice service was about Cambodia (again one of the residents has lived there for three years) and was truly powerful reminder of issues beyond our comfortable western precepts of the world. I've really appreciated the remiders and experiences of the wider world now that I'm on the edge of the world myself. That's what Iona feels like in so many ways. George MacLeod called Iona a "thin place" and I think that is a very apt phrase.

On the pilgrimage that the Community runs every Tuesday people are invited to choose two stones at Columba's Bay at the south of the island. One to keep as a reminder and one to throw into the sea as a symbol of something they wish to let go. One guest commented that the bay must be one of the most spiritually polluted bays in the world with all the things people want to get rid of... :)

I came to Iona unemployed and (mostly) homeless. I think I had an expectation within me that this time here would solve all my problems and I'd know what I'd be doing next. Yesterday morning I decided that that was not going to happen. I'm too busy to process what I'm absorbing. And I am absorbing a lot! This time is serving as a focus of what is important to me, of discovering what I value and what I've just tagged along with, it's provided so many opportunities to explore new things in a safe environment (eg I'll be leading service on Tuesday morning...), and my borders and boundaries are being pointed out to me. Do I sound like a self-help book?? :) Some of these phrases sound trite to me but they are the familiar ones that have come to mind. There has been a little group of us who have met the past two Friday evenings to have a chat and encourage each other about "life outside of Iona" (you wouldn't believe how difficult it is sometimes to remember about that!!). As far as I'm aware at the moment I'll be leaving Iona unemployed and (mostly) homeless, but since my decision yesterday I'm feeling less anxious about that than I have been.

This island has a golf course on it. It is on the common grazing ground so you share it with sheep and cows - but it is still a golf course!! Some vollies have gotten very excited about it and one day when I walked into the Abbey kitchen Jana the cook was lined up with two other vollies and they were have a lesson on how to swing a golf club - practising with spatulas... Housekeepers are currently very excited about a new washing machine that has arrived to replace a broken one and are hatching a plan to introduce the broken machine to another washing machine that has been left outside the Spar (still with some laundry in it) waiting for the "domestic uplift" off the island... And on Thursday I saw flock after flock of wild geese heading southward on their migration. I am so blessed to be here! Yesterday staff were treated to a boat trip around Iona and we had the best possible day for it. It was flat calm and going down the west coast of the isle we were travelling into the sunset! Oh this place is so beautiful...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Last Wednesday I had a day off and took off to Staffa Island to see Fingal's Cave. An hour's boat trip out with an hour onland. It was a beautiful day with big waves. The cave is really stunning and musical. Apparantly this cave inspired Mendhelson to write some classical music (Hebridean Overture, I think) while he was here - and I can see why. I'd do it if I could! On the way back we came upon a pod of dolphins (6-8) that were absolutely amasing. They swam and jumped and generally showed off all around us. It really was magical... It's the first time I've seen wild dolphins so I was very excited.

Yesterday I went to the North Shore to find some fairy rings (of mushrooms). And there they were! This island is constantly changing...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Autumn greetings...

Autumn must be here - there are massive pumpkins in the organic garden of the Columba Hotel.

Despite the apparent routine, housekeeping still manages to have some surprises left. Last Friday we "bed-bugged" the rooms, ie vacuumed all the matresses and the wooden slats of the bed (in which they are supposed to live). It was a lot of hard work, especially doing the top bunks (and as the youngest of the team I nobly offered to do most of the clambering), but accompanied by a lot of laughter too. There are some jobs where you have to laugh or else you'll cry - and this is one of them!!

There is a gentle rivalry between the cooks and the housekeepers in the Abbey as we gamely share the limited space. Catherine (a cook) and I have a contest on this week as to which of us can be the rudest... Those who know me will find that funny I'm sure!

In the past three days I've managed to get to all four compass points on this island as well as get up Dun-I, the highest point. The fascinating thing is the variety of landscapes and moods in the nooks and cranies of Iona. I'm convinced that Iona is bigger on the inside than on the outside (much like the Weasleys' tent) and I wonder how much of this the visitors can see as they walk around the village. I walked to the North Shore with some vollies this afternoon where we scrambled on rocks are boiled water on a stove for a cuppa - just perfect for an inbetween shift activity... The blue/green waters on the white sands were amazing as always.

Yesterday after my morning shift I helped Simon, our general assistant/gardener (married to the warden of the MacLeod centre), and some guests in the garden. It was a nice change from all the indoor work I've been doing. The Abbey has a little herb patch that gets used by the kitchen, even if things are winding down now. I did some digging and planting of fennel and clearing beds, which was all good for the soul:)

Sunday evening service is a quiet one with an extended period of silence in a candle-lit church. It can be a difficult one to be in after all the work where your head starts nodding off. But similarly it is one of the most touching ones as it is a blessing to really be still after all the work we do.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

News from Iona

There are one and a half Marias on this island from Finland and we both work in the housekeeping team in the Abbey. It gets confusing... It's fun to be able to speak some Finnish here (even if the other Maria's first language is Swedish) and she even knows the woman who used to be the pastor in my church in Turku. Incidently there are two Nellekes from The Netherlands working in the shop. Do you think they are doing this on purpose? :)

Last Sunday at the leaving party for two volunteers we had a sing-along to Sound of Music and Moulin Rouge which was a laugh. It soon carried on to singing songs that people could remember, or not, and ended up with watching a film. The rhythm on this island flows steadily between guests coming and leaving and new volunteers arriving and old ones leaving all on their separate days which does give a certain structure to the week. However, I think we are reaching the point when this will be the set of volunteers to see the season out and we won't have to say goodbye to anyonw until the very end. Saying goodbye all the time is hard work so I'll be glad of that. I can't imagine how people manage during the main part of the season when everyone is in transit!

This place seems to attract a lot of people who are in transition. Between countries or jobs or time of life or whatever reason (I'm including myself in this!). So there are a lot of people in my situation who don't know what they'll carry on to do which is quite comforting:) It also makes for interesting conversations. It's amasing how much of this is true for the guests too. Obviously there are those who come here twice a year, but many more are inbetween stuff too and taking time out.

Yesterday was my day off and I had hoped to go on a boat trip, either with the guests to Staffa to see Fingal's cave or on Freya on a sailing trip around the island with some of the staff. Sadly it was too windy. So plan B was going down to Columba Bay where Columba and his monks are said to have landed at when they came over on their coracle from Ireland. It was a long walk but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was wild and windy and had no paths and was very boggy and had a lack of other people... The south end of Iona is so different to this north end - so untamed and has a real wilderness feel about it. I made it without breaking ankles etc which is just as well. Apparently if and when that happens you get airlifted out on a helicopter. Now that bit sounds fun, but having to break an ankle first is quite a high price to pay...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Week 1

As Dr Seuss said: "It's wide open there in the wide open air." The space here is fantastic - all the various 'spaces'! And the starts are so close to me at night. On my first evening here I went for a walk and saw a full rainbow on my left and a beautiful sunset on my right. Isn't that such a lovely way to start?

I work in the Abbey in the housekeeping team and have got stuck in straight away. It was a great way of getting to know the Abbery and to feel a real part of this community. I've been cleaning, teaching guests their tasks, pouring teas, and generally trying to be helpful as possible. Everyone here works really hard but you do it all while singing shanty songs or in hysterics over conversations about choosing a saint for convents or laughing with the pirate chefs in the kitchen. We eat meals with the guests, wash the dishes alongside them, and worship with them in the Abbey, but they do have their own programme going on too.

I've been trying out loads of new things from attempting to build a go-cart with the warden's three girls to singing in the staff choir (we sang songs in six parts!), and went along to the Write Club. I've also been to a ceildh, a swim in the freezing sea, a pirate party, driving around Mull with some friends from Swansea, a little concert by one of the residents, seen cute highland cattle, made a cattle, had a stunning cream tea in the Argyll Hotel, and tried to remember people's names... No wonder I could do with a nap!

There are two services that frame each day. The liturgigal nature of the proceeding are an unfamiliar territory for me - but so far so good. I was asked to do the reading for the Sunday service which was slightly terrifying but I was also grateful for the chance to participate. The music has been mostly unfamiliar but very beautiful. The sacristan had to remove Lily, the local friendly black cat, from the morning service today. The other cat I've met is Tiger who is usually catching a ride on somebody's shoulders as they walk along. There's so much going on I hardly know where to begin...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Is it really five years?

What a change we've lived through, and are still living through. I still remember vividly hearing the news early in the morning on the west coast of the US about the towers, although not quite getting the magnitude of what had happened or what it meant for the next few days waiting to see what rolled forth... Along with all the flags that showed up overnight, "In God we trust" was also one of the more popular slogans that I saw around. I wish we/they did... Five years on we might have been in a different world than we are today.

On a different note: I head off to Glasgow tomorrow and to Iona the day after. Last time I was in Scotland I did not understand the locals at all, which I'm slightly concerned about. Although if I remember correctly we still played pool and got hugged at random moment - so perhaps I'll be alright afterall! Anyway... I won't be spending hours at a computer (this is advanced warning) but I shall still endeavor to post something on here to let you know how I'm doing and what Iona is like. Till later! xx

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ever feel like this?

I fought the war, I fought the war
but the war won't stop for the love of God
I fought the war

but the war won.

lyrics from Metric: Monster Hospital (MSTKRFT remix is the one I've heard)

Monday, September 04, 2006

All roads lead to the library...

I went out for a walk today and ended up in the library. Thankfully I know myself quite well and had slipped my library card into my pocket before setting out and so I wandered home with four books. I'm so pleased my library card still works even if I haven't lived here for five years and I've even had to relinquish my benefits and tell social security I no longer live in Finland. I'm extremely grateful the library is not in the habit of bounding after wayward Finns demanding they return little bits of plastic...

Two of the books I borrowed were bird books. As I have keen bird-watchers as friends I was given strict instructions to report back on the birds I've seen. However, as my skills are roughly on the level of distinguishing between a big bird and a little bird I needed to do something drastic to see if I can identify anything! So far I've identified pied wagtails and a goshawk. The last excursion into the wood I took I ended up with a multitude of horrible little spiders in my hair (even writing about it is making me writhe again) so that has put a slight dampener on my enthusiasm... But nonetheless I'm hoping to go forth and boldly identify birds without ending up with too many birds which are only seen in Lapland or rare ones on the brink of extinction!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Some pictures from Finland

This is a picture of one of the ferries we drive onto on our way to Korpoo.

And this is a view of Korpoo. Plenty of trees which ever way you look...

And then the yellow house we now live in.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Battered Mars bars and other delights of travelling

Having wept a little weep and packed my bags I staggered out of Swansea and found myself in Bromsgrove for a few days before flying out from nearby Birmingham. When I first heard the west midland accent on the train I was struck with a strong sensation of having left home and arrived in a foreign country! In Bromsgrove I was introduced to battered Mars bars (very sweet and gooey) and lovely locals who all vied to tell me what a horrible place their town was. What do you say to that? I haven't either lived there or met these people before so insulting someone's hometown - whether or not they are doing it themselves - can backfire on you. And in all honesty, as regards judging places purely on first impressions I have seen worse...

Birmingham International Airport is a lot less hectic than Heathrow and the police I saw were not carrying huge weapons either. I was asked to take off my shoes and they went through that machine along with my jumper and bag, but other than that getting through security was a breeze. I only had to wait until the boarding queue before hearing some Finnish too. It came in the form of a teenage girl who looked like she was from Sri Lanka and spoke perfect Finnish and broken English.

This is when all the unexpected things started to happen... Our plane got redirected to Billund - the opposite side of Denmark - due to a thunderstorm in Copenhagen and faulty weather radar/monitor/or some crucial equipment. It was a full three hour bus journey to the capital which meant I missed my connecting flight. I spent the bus journey sleeping, reading Catch-22, and counting windmills everytime I lifted my head to have a look outside.

At the airport I was booked into the next outbound flight to Turku, but 20 minutes before I was going to board it got cancelled. After much queuing and waiting (again) I was told I'd be staying the night in a nearby hotel and leave Copenhagen 2pm the next day. By that time I was quite looking forward to a meal and a bed so I wasn't too upset. And by this time a sort of comradeship had been struck up between other passangers in the same situation... I made friends with a German guy who was on his way to Turku for a term to study nordic languages at Åbo Akademi (the University my mother is doing her PhD at) and he was to live in Varissuo (which is where my family lived up until a few weeks ago). Monday morning the two of us went exploring in Copenhagen and saw impressive buildings, the Tivoli from the outside, and lots and lots of bikes. The cycle paths are amazing! And they were everywhere... We also managed to find a statue of Hans Christian Andersson with lots of tourists having their picture taken with him. I think it's brilliant that the Danish have a storyteller as their national hero!

As interesting as all that may have been I'm pleased to be back home. I feel like I'm on holiday (with the requisite lounging around and reading loads:)and I'll be splitting my time here between the flat in the centre of town and our house in the islands. Korpoo has a winter population of 800 people and a summer population of 10000 people, but as the schools have started back I'm hoping it won't be too busy... An open mind is the best travelling companion (I read somewhere). It definately helps when unexpected things turn up.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Yep. Suomessa ollaan...

Ohikulkijoilta tuli yhdentoista aikaan aamupäivällä ilmoitus joessa kelluvasta vedestä. Iltalehti 4.8.2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Only two weeks left

I have made the very surprising discovery that I'll be leaving Swansea in two weeks time. Of course I knew it was coming at some point, but I hadn't realised I was going quite this soon. I can't even begin to catalogue or even contain most of the feelings running through me. I've made my home here over the last four years and this is a very dear place to me and the thought of leaving is actually quite upsetting. Moreso than I thought it might be. However it's also raging against my huge delight in being on the move again. A curse/blessing of having grown up in several places is the very strong feeling that fours years in one place is really a lifetime...

So, I'm packing, running errands, and working full-time at the moment. Is it even realistic to think I'll be ready? Current thinking is "no", but stranger things have happened before... (Including knowing full well that I'll be homeless and jobless come November!!:) Very selfishly, my biggest concern this very minute is will they lift the "no hand luggage on the plane" rule. For years stuffing heavy items in my hand luggage has been my method of packing to get everything along with me. If that is still in place on the 27th of August I'm screwed.

Packing problems aside, I'm really excited about my two weeks in Finland. This is the first time in two years that I'll be in Finland for the summer and won't have to suffer the cold and dark conditions of Finland in December. Can't wait!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Yesterday my (female) collegues and I had a very stimulating conversation about women and modesty. This was promted by a Guardian article in Friday's G2 called "Chastity is chic" (by Jessica Valenti) and it was about the growing (?) chastity/modesty movement in the US.

What an interesting topic! And there are so many views just amongst us women we didn't really get round to asking the men around us (who were possibly quite relieved...). The modesty issue was not only about sexual behaviour but also about the clothes women wear. As someone who only fairly recently has discovered the liberation of wearing what I wish to wear and learning not to care what others think of my choices/style, I found the discussion on boundaries an interesting one. I freely admit to deploring the (lack of) clothing of women on the Kingsway/Wind Street in winter, but i still think that trying to dictate someone's wardrobe is a tricky situation to put yourself in. I resent the implication that men can't control themselves and the responsibility of their behaviour rests with us. It seems a bit much. I'd love to see the article about men dressing modestly...

Another interesting point in the article was the movement's idea that a woman's goal in life should be marriage. We sadly didn't get round totalking about this issue as we were caught up in comparing what we'd wear in various places, and feelings on make-up (I think it has been a good 6 or 7 years since I last wore any).

During my first year at Uni a girl who lived on the same floor as I did was almost solely at University to find a husband. She even considered moving to a different University because she didn't think there were enough suitable men around. So I'm not quite so quick to dismiss the marriage goal as I once was - it obviously can be an important one to some people. Personally, though, I cannot imagine basing my life around such a goal. I've got other things to do with my time/life, thank you very much!

I guess chastity is a fairly 'revolutionary' idea at the moment, and if this movement can offer support to women than all the better. I think I'm reacting more to the marketing strategies and the black-and-white view they, like so many advertisers, present. It did make a couple of hours go past quite quickly inbetween (and during) serving customers...

Friday, July 28, 2006

This is what I'm up to at the moment

This is what is currently keeping me busy. It is fun to see it working after 7 weeks of planning, although I can't quite shake off the feeling that I'm only "playing" cafe... If you are in the Mumbles, do come down and say hi!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

You can never have too many cables...

I've spent a lovely weekend at this delightful little festival nestled among the hills in mid-Wales, despite the rain. Undercurrents were there so we ran the cinema on both Friday and Saturday night 10pm - 2am. Last year I was a mere punter at Small Nations so it was a very different experience working it. I saw/heard far less music this year but I did enjoy my role as roadie/techie/projectionist/stall holder. We were an all women group this weekend which was a laugh, and quite nice to see amongst all the other male technicians. Borrowing cables is a great way to make friends, bizarrely enough. And there was no shortage of tall young men to balance precariously on a chair on top of a table to get our screen up and down from the top of the marquee, or move the heavy stage around...

Saturday night I got to run the show as Helen went to have a dance. Typically as soon as she disappeared and D had gone to get something from the van the power went! Much to my surprise I managed to sort it all out (amidst the heckling from the crowd - I'm rather proud of that!) and soon was comfortably back into screening more stuff. Mark Thomas (the comedian) was a great pull and we got crowds of 50+ which I was so excited about:) He has got his head screwed on the right way, and is genuinely funny poking fun at the activist scene and making some serious points that keep you thinking even if you are laughing.

Monday, July 03, 2006


It was exciting finding a labyrinth in London. I find them intriguing, possibly because I don't know that much about them. The fact that they are not mazes, you don't get lost, I find very comforting.
Walking towards the centre means leaving our ordinary tasks, letting go of our preoccupations, quieting of our hearts and minds, and opening ourselves to God's presence.
Reaching the centre creates space for focusing on Jesus Christ, the centre of our lives.
Leaving the labyrith means retracing the path that brought us in. During this time we carry with us whatever we received at the centre.
The adoption of the labyrith by the Christian faith began during the Roman period. The first known pavement labyrinth with obvious Christian context is found in a basilica in Algeria. At first the labyrinth appeared mainly in manuscripts, but during the 12th century they began to appear in cathedrals and churches in Italy. During the 13th century they spread to France where many fine example were constructed. They soon became popular across Europe, but many were destroyed from the 17th century onwards as tastes changed.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Travelling again

This time I went down to London to meet my mum who had flown in from Finland. We hardly make conventional tourists: my mum's top places to visit are Paperchase, Boots, and the National Art Gallery; and we walked passed the London Eye after briefly toying with the idea of going up because the queues were far too long. However, I think we both got what we really wanted - time in the London Mennonite Centre and Highgate, a chance to join the service in the UK's only Mennonite church, and talk in Finnish which neither of us do on a regular basis it would seem.

LMC is my favourite place in London! As I took my pilgrimage down the bottom of the garden to visit the swing I discovered a labyrinth in the grass next to the prayer hut which was unexpected and delightful. Walking it was a lovely ten minutes of my life even as I was dodging fallen prickly holly leaves... I have visited that swing as long as I can remember, and it is an integral part of my image of LMC. However, I must have shrunk - I'm sure the swing is up higher than it used to be!!

I watched the Portugal and Holland match at the house we were staying at. It started off as a social activity with Daniel (mostly to be polite on my behalf) but how can you not get interested in a match where 16 yellow cards are handed out!!!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Hmmmm...but what does it mean?

I don't know what to think of my theological worldview now!:) [This is from What's your theological worldview?]

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan 82%
Emergent/Postmodern 68%
Neo orthodox 64%
Roman Catholic 36%
Classical Liberal 32%
Charismatic/Pentecostal 25%
Modern Liberal 25%
Reformed Evangelical 14%
Fundamentalist 4%


What a place!! A carload of us arrived at 3am and walked down to the stones as light streaks were appearing and the moon and stars were starting to come out from behind the clouds. The 'Battle of the Beanfields' playing in my head I was actually surprised to be allowed to go right up and, dodging the dozy reveller, touch the giant stones. "This is so amasing!!" was repeated more times than I care to remember...

In the minutes before sunrise I was standing outside the circle by the Heel Stone alternatively looking at the sky in the east and also turning around to look at the lightning storm contained within the circle from all the camera flashes. There was an insane strobe effect going on. We had to wait until about 5am to see the sun come out from behind the clouds - but the field did errupt into whoops and cheers. What a way to see a day in!

Druids with mobile phones, hippies, tourists, party-goers, children...they were all there. Spending a lazy morning at Stonehenge provided ample opportunity for people watching. That is one of my favourite bits of festivals (and boring train journeys etc) so it was fun to have everyone in such a small concentrated place. People were generally happy/weird/funny/enjoying themselves and I do think that was the best possible way to visit Stonehenge - when there's a big party going on!

Traipsing back along fields of barley and gorgeous red poppies, driving through English countryside (with signs for tank crossings!) and by thatched cottages, stopping off for lunch in a pub with a scratchy CD to entertain us, and dashing round Swansea to find a banana rounded off the trip nicely. And then I went to the Red Cafe and managed to stay awake for another four hours before collapsing in my bed for a blessed 11 hour sleep.

The stones themselves were more than impressive, and definately had a presence. I like the fact we don't quite know for sure everything about them as it means we can bring our own celebration to it all. It was a special moment seeing the stone circle for the first time in the pre-dawn darkness. And I'm glad to celebrate the light. I am alive.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's solstice...again!

Tomorrow is the longest day of the year! Somehow that just feels wrong as summer has only just started. A few of us are taking a roadtrip to Stonehenge tonight. We leave in a couple of hours and are going to be there to see the sunrise (weather permitting) and then we'll drive back... Sounds like fun - and a great excuse to visit the place.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Mobile phones

I recently lost mine... It was right before a trip to Lake Windermere so I spent the whole weekend out of contact. Once I had reconciled myself to the loss of my possession like a good Buddhist I quite enjoyed it all. When I returned to Swansea I found out that my phone had returned from its travels and had come through the letterbox! Clever phone! I then spent 40 minutes writing down all the phone numbers stored on my phone into my address book...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Plants are friends

Gardening is addictive... It all started off admiring my friends' hard work in their garden. Then we got excited about their allotment. Then Fred and I bought fusias and lined the pots up the stairs in our little bit of concrete. And now our landlord has given us a bit of his garden so Abi planted lots of seeds and this morning I planted in a courgette, some lettuce, two tomato plants and three mystery ones (I've forgotten what they are...). It was a brilliant way to start the day: digging around in the soil and planting things!! I have no real confindence in my ability to grow anything/keep anything alive but I am willing to have a go. Also it does seem less threatening than trying to look after a whole garden/allotment.

I've got until the end of August in this particular house and garden so that should be enough time to harvest some of the food providing it doesn't get desimated by slugs. And having compared notes with my grandparents over this weekend (they live on the east of England in the drought zone) I'm quite glad we're allowed to water our garden... Ooo. Listen to me!! Soon I'll be speaking about the differences in composts and gardening methods like a proper enthusiast! Like any interest area it does have it's very incomprehensible (to outsiders) language which I am slowly starting to understand - I think. I wonder if there is a dictionary around that does garderner-speak into English?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Eurovision Contest

I heard rumours of this... A heavy metal band in the Eurovision song contest... And guess who they are representing? That's right: Finland!!

Our entry is Lordi and the song is called Hard Rock Hallelujah. Actually I am now quite intrigued by it and looking forward to seeing it on Saturday. My friend booked time off work to watch the Eurovision contest so the rest of us decided she couldn't possibly do it by herself and we've invited ourselves along to a European cultural evening of critising and laughing at bad music.

Be Nice To Nettles

17th-28th of May is Be Nice To Nettles Week the Independent informs me. Fair enough, I agree that nettles are quite cool and you can do a lot of interesting things with them. It is a versatile plant: we've got nettle tea in the house, my friends have made some nettle soup recently from nettles they collected themselves, and if I could make a nettle cloth I'd be very happy!! At least we can be greatful that we don't have species of nettle on this island that could potentially kill us as they do in Java or Timor.

Do I want this job? I've filled in my side of the paperwork for a job with the Youth Service as a detached youth worker and in this period of waiting realise I feel rather ambigious about the job. Or perhaps that's not quite true. For the large part I think it's an amasing opportunity and would love to get it, but there are a few niggling doubts that keep cropping up. Whilst I know I'd be jumping up and down if it was offered to me there is a tiny voice that recognises that things might be easier if I didn't get it...

1a) The job is in Clydach - I was bowled over by the leafy beauty of the place, it felt absolutely gorgeous, and the new centre has so much potential in it for all kinds of exciting work. 1b) Clydach is about the furthest point away from Mumbles I could find while still being in Swansea. The commute is going to be an interesting challenge for a non-driver like myself. 2a) It's a part-time job with very flexible hours that they are willing to fit around me and were quite sympathetic to my existing schedule of events. 2b) Have I bitten off more than I can chew? I'm already committed to doing one part-time job which I'll have to learn as I go along (co-ordinating a summer cafe), do I really want to learn another job as well (...umm...yes...)?

That's just a little sample of some of the questions whizzing around my head. A bit of advice I received last Tuesday was to write down what I wished for and put it under my pillow. In theory I was well up for that - I just couldn't decide what it was I wished for...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Gloriously unemployed!!

I finished work today, having handed in the notice last Monday, and so I am now a lady of leisure! Excellent! With the ovens baking away it was a relief to slip away, and extremely exciting that I don't have to go back. I've been looking forward to this moment since, well...pretty much since I started in the first place.

My future plans include: reading some books, getting out onto the Gower and some of it's beautiful beaches, cooking a meal (I'm sure I can manage that in a couple of weeks...), volunteering down in the marina with Undercurrents for a change, and general stuff like that... And then beyond that I'll be starting a little part time job down in the Red Cafe in June. Looks like something did fall out of the sky after all. Even if I did have to wait a year!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I forgot to bring a book along today to work to read during my 10 minute break and was thus forced into reading OK Magazine. I approached it with a certain amount of curiosity as I'm not familiar with this rag - only to find it full of people I'd never heard of. Hurray! I'm more out of touch than I thought I was... I also learned that "beautiful women have no character", or at least that's what Craig David thinks. He failed to mention anything about beautiful/handsome men. Though perhaps the two lines of text underneath a HUGE photo didn't allow him justice to express himself fully?

Yesterday I had my 3rd picnic in Clyne Gardens on May the 1st. And I've only been here four years:) I'm glad I've got some nice traditions going - and this one is particularly nice. Clyne Gardens are so gorgeous this time of year. I can't believe I have been lucky enough to live right on the edge of the Gardens for a year and that I got to go through them every single day and watch everything grow and change. Apart from the fact that I was living in a 19th Century castle... And the day was nicely rounded off with sitting around a fire with friends. Bank holidays rule!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


On Sunday I met somebody.

Brookie. She is 83. Lives on the Gower at the end of a disintegrating dirt track we got to by riding in the back of a pickup truck. Was wearing a cool hat, her trousers inside out ("it often happens"), and had a cane but was still agile enough to bend down and crawl into the guinea pig enclosure to pick them up and show us. Wherever she went she was surrounded by her four rescue dogs who obeyed her. She yelled at the hens, talked to her goats, ducks, horses, and cats. Showed us into her house and gave us some Pimms in the living room where we listened to some great jazz and talked ("Speak up girl, stop mumbling. I'm deaf as well as daft.") The hour was so vibrant and full of life.

I sat in awe of a real presence. I now have something to aspire to for when I am 83.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Palm Sunday (ish)

Here is an astonishing thing! On Palm Sunday, as we turn toward the cross, we are invited to welcom the King who comes as a humble monarch riding on a donkey. With believing hearts, we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and shout "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!"

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tales from work...

Even my co-worker is now telling me she can't understand why I'm in that job, what with all my qualifications and everything. This is so depressing! It put a real damper on the morning. Somehow it seems very hard to communicate that I quite like being able to pay the rent and the bills... Though I must agree it would be lovelier to do that through a nicer job. Only a few days ago we spent the whole hysterical day with the giggles, dancing around, and Karen threatening to sing... As we explained to a customer: you have to laugh, otherwise you do cry (today almost being a case in point).

My bucket-racketeering empire is one of the few good things about this job of mine. Loads of things come in nice big buckets which used to be chucked before I opened my doors as a half-way house for unwanted buckets. At the moment they carry on to become compost buckets for about five urban households. The compost then gets collected and placed in my friends' allotment - an excellent project for those of us without a garden and hate throwing food away. A few other buckets have been turned into flower pots or storage containers for flour so the mice/rats don't get in.

And customers... I seriously do not understand how they manage to survive as a species... Again, you have to laugh. Not particularly at them but at the whole weird situation. It's surprising how many people will barely acknowledge your existence, so I've made it my mission when I'm behind the counter to make them notice me and recognise that there is a human behind that counter of glass. So far, smiling and looking into their eyes seems to have worked well. It is lovely when someone snaps out of wherever they were to smile back at you.

Monday, April 03, 2006


It is 11:30 PM and I am in the university library. This is terrible!! I never did this as an undergraduate... (mostly because the library would close at 10pm, but that's beside the point). I do think this is a shocking state of affairs and not fair! Whinge, moan... Writing/analysisng/thinking about teenagers is rubbing off making me act like one too. I know that technically I'm a young person untill the age of 25, but you know what I mean.

The silly thing about all this work [I'm trying to finish off coursework for the foundation in youth work thing I'm doing] is that it is so soul-numbingly boring that it is making me forget how much I do actually enjoy all the youth work that I do do. I never read that being one of the aims of the course.

Ok. Whinge over. I'm off to bed. Though you'll probably find me in here tomorrow again...

Lent week 5

Here is an astonishing thing! We are called to abandon the parched valley of the dry bones of death and are invited to be restored to life through the breath of God's Spirit. With renewed hearts, we wait in hope for our full redemption.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


That's a great new game I was introduced to on our long drive down, around, and back from Cornwall. It involves spotting horses, among other things, and collecting points... A nice little red Micra is a very tiny car for five people on such a long journey, even the old classic 'I Spy' got an airing when we were stuck in traffic, but I have to say it was worth it.

And the Eden I was blown away by it, by the sheer amount of plants. Being there is the midst of them exploring all the different colours and shapes was fantastic. The biodomes are so huge. (I wonder how much food could be produced in them:) Only trouble is that I now want to go and visit them all in their natural habitats... It is a fantastic use of an old quarry at any rate. Do you reckon they could do a similar thing with old coal mines?? Well, happy 5th birthday, Eden Project, and may you have many more succesful years to come.

It's hard to decide what was the best bit of the holiday: whether having a bath in the cottage, the amasing sea, spending quality time with my friends, seals and otters... But it has made coming back to work twice as miserable. I didn't touch a cornish pasty whilst there as I'm that sick and tired of seeing them at work!! Possibly having a holiday was the best bit of the holiday, if you know what I mean:) Cornwall is absolutely beautiful and full of so many things to see and do that we are already planning our next trip down!
And look out for nuns on bikes as that wins you the game of 'horse' for ever and ever...

Lent Week 4

Here is an astonishing thing! We are called to turn from the unfruitful works of darkness and are invited to see Jesus, the light of the world. With open hearts, we become receptive to what is good and right and true.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lent Week 3

Here is an astonishing thing! We are called to turn from the dry, barren wilderness where our hearts have become hardened and are invited to quench our thirst at the living stream. With overflowing hearts, we receive the gift of God's love.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fairtrade Fortnight

Hmm... My contributions this fortnight haven't been very astounding. I've bought chocolate at the Co-op (it's 20% off during fairtrade fortnight!!) and that's about it. I love it when buying chocolate is for a good cause:) It's a far cry, though, from my gung-ho University campaigning days filled with fairtrade chocolate hunts... Well, I'm off to film the fairtrade fashion show this evening so perhaps that kind of makes up for it!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Lent Week 2

Here is an astonishing thing! We are called to turn from the bondage of the law and our own futile efforts and are invited to be born anew. With grateful hearts, we receive the promised blessing of salvation.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Post #2 for today

That previous post is taken from a lenten series, called an astonishing thing!, in the Church I attended in America in 2002. I loved the experience of it and have missed it ever since. We do advent fairly well, but lent seems to get left behind... I don't like surprises very much. I prefer the build up of anticipation, the eagerly waiting for something and enjoying and preparing for it. Easter is such a beautiful and big event that I feel I really do need the 40 days of focus and preparation to enjoy and appreciate it properly. So I plan to keep posting the little reminders here as a focus for myself. (And things like two of my housemates giving up speaking English together for Lent are also helpful reminders:)

Lent Week 1

As Lent begins, we enter the wilderness where we are called to turn from the serpent's deception and are invited to walk in faithul obedience. In th freedom of obedience, we discover an astonishing thing! God's abundant gift of grace through Jesus Christ offers new life to all.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Great news...

I'm off to Iona!! And soooooo excited about it. I can't believe it, I had almost given up hope... I'll be off to Scotland for eight weeks starting on the 13th of September and staying till the 7th of November. I'm going. I am actually going. Amazing!!

Good news on a different front: The Welsh Assembly are giving £2.7m to boost the number of British Sign Language Interpreters adding another 34 people to the (shocking) 12 that currently work in Wales. That is such good news!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I've started to watch the Olympics this year, much to my surprise. Sports, me? Though I guess watching some every four years isn't toooo worrying. (And it is about every four years as I've yet to get as excited about the summer equivalent.) There is the added excitement too that Finland has a better chance in actually getting some medals in the Winter Olympics... At the last count it is one silver and two bronze medals! Go Finland!

The main attraction for me is, as always, the figure skating. I love watching it!! To my everlasting joy I found out that Evgeny Plushenko is still involved in the competition and after the short programme is in the lead with a resounding 11 point lead!! He is my hero so it's great to see him do so well. It is a bit odd not to have Alexei Yagudin there, and the competition wasn't quite as nerve-wracking (but that's probably better for my nails:). Watching the few crumbs that BBC sport deign to throw us have reminded me of many happy hours I used to spend watching figure skating, even to the detriment of my mock finals at school if I remember correctly! The beauty and excitment keep me enthralled - now all I need is to find someone with digital tv who's not going to mind me living on their sofa for the next week or so...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Highfalutin book clubs

I had to look that word up in the dictionary!!! And I don't think it can be taken as a compliment either... (however, in the process I did find another great word: sesquipedalian so it wasn't all to waste:) Its hard enough understanding Lesslie Newbigin without being insulted by the Linden newsletter... or trying not to be daunted by the fact I am the only female in a room of six intelligent men and a cute hampster.

Whinging aside, I really enjoyed it. It is a good book that we read, and the motivation of having somewhere to talk about it afterwards was useful. It meant I took more time to understand it and think about it too. Although there was so much in that book I think we could have easily spent more than one evening on it! I do prefer the option of bouncing ideas and thoughts off people as then hopefully my misunderstandings can get cleared and I do generally get new insights from people. That fantastic phrase "plausibility structures" is a real joy! And it is good to know that using one's brain isn't (always) a cardinal sin...

Can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Being back, and all that

It's been a fortnight since my last post - one can definately tell I'm back in Swansea!! It's great though, and this past week has been so much fun meeting up with people and getting started with all things that belong to a Maria's Swansea life. (Apart from the work, of course, and being yelled at for not making thirty sandwiches per hour. However, I'm not going there...I'm grateful for being able to pay the rent.) Drumming, children and young people, buying a rat, being told I "speak ironic English with an accent"... And that beautiful word: etc.

And it is a new year too. Something is definately different, the air is thick with new plans. Mainly other people's, but I'm open to suggestions... Last summer I admitted to myself that I was up against a wall faithwise, and while I like that wall for it's familiarity and am slightly worried what is on the other side, I've also decided I can't stay there. Since then amasing things have happened. Interesting people have been put in my way, helpful books, new ideas and thoughts, and a whole exciting drive to make this faith mine in all areas of life. The recent death of somebody I know has also prompted a lot of reflection. Not in particularly morbid way, but I think I'd quite like to know what I am doing and why. "In Christ there is hope, peace and joy". That's what I'm aiming for. (And life is too short not to believe in fairies as I've often said...:) Besides, spring is coming! What is there not to be excited about!

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Aikaa on laskettu jo 2006 vuotta, mutta uudellekin vuodelle jäi lukuisia kysymyksiä, joihin ei ole saatu uskottovaa vastausta:
Mitä Luoja teki maailman luomista edeltävällä viikolla?
Mikä oli ensin: kana, muna, broileri vai kukko?
Miksi hevosella on isompi pää kuin ihmisellä?
Mistä otettiin se sekunti, joka lisättiin atomikelloihin vuodenvaihteessa? Onko ylimääräisiä sekunteja vielä paljonkin varastossa? Jos evoluutioteoria pitää paikkansa, mikä on ihmistä seuraava kehitysaste ja milloin se toteutuu?
Minne joutuvat kaikki laihdutettaessa häviävät läskit? Montako on paljon? Missä on kunne? Milloin on konsanaan? Kuka on Agnes?
Mistä tiedetään, että ihovoide vähentää ryppyjä 17,1 prosenttia? Minkä nimisiä ovat taulutelevision 16,7 miljoonaa väriä? Sininen, punainen, keltainen, violetti, oranssi...entäs sitten?
Jos tänään on nollakeli ja huomenna kaksi kertaa kylmempää, paljonko mittari silloin näyttää? Miksei hissi mene kahdeksanteen kerrokseen, vaikka painaa nelosta kahdesti? Jos ajaa autolla ajovalot päällä valon nopeutta, näkeekö mitään eteensä?
Kuka keksi kysymysmerkin ja miksi?

Kiitos Jukka Ukkola!!!