Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Perfect sauna visit

An evening with friends by ‘their’ lake. A coffee break. A moment in the hammock staring up to the tree tops.

A short round with the rowing boat to check the quiet neighbourhood while waiting for the wood-burning sauna to heat up.

Sweating in the sauna, cooling in the lake. Sweating and cooling two, three, four times. Washing up and having a final dip in the lake. Getting dressed and taking a sip of beer for the fluid balance.

Enjoying the warmth of the last rays of sunshine and feeling contented. A perfect kind of summer evening, a rarity this late in our August.

If any of the foreign readers are wondering about the Finnish sauna bathing ways – we are the highest authority with our two million saunas for a people of 5.4 million – I can assure you I am as native as you can get and I have never been to a mixed sauna where everyone wouldn’t have had a swimsuit or trunks. Nakedness is by no means compulsory although it is common among same-sex bathers.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Night music

Last week, we went to listen to some baroque music performed in the Espoo Cathedral. Where I come from most of the old churches are wooden so it is always a thrill to visit one of the medieval stone churches, and even more so to attend a concert late in a summer evening.

Every Thursday from June to August, a classical concert of some sort is held in the Espoo Cathedral starting at 10 pm. This is an annual festival that began almost 30 years ago and has grown into a versatile and reputable series of events with quite a number of renowned performers. Last Thursday they were mezzo-soprano Monica Groop (his favourite) and the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra. The August evening was already quite dark but we are planning another visit next June to see whether the ambiance of a light summer night will add even something extra to the experience.

The Espoo Cathedral was built in the late 15th century. The bell tower is almost 300 years younger, from 1767. I took the daytime photos last summer when I was driving by and decided to have a stroll in the old churchyard.

The title of the festival is Urkuyö ja Aaria and translates Organ Night and Aria (sorry, their website is only in Finnish).

Saturday, 24 August 2013

HT 6: Embroidered book jacket

Summer has been keeping me occupied and it still is. Many plans and projects have been left at a standstill, sometimes deliberately, sometimes unintentionally, while something else has taken over. One of the forgotten thoughts is my Handmade treasures series. I am reviving it in this post hoping to get it going on a more regular basis now that we are heading towards autumn and even worse.

This treasure is my latest handmade flea market find, a book jacket of linen with a light cotton lining and embroidered rowan fruit on the cover. This is the kind of handicraft that could never pass unnoticed by me. Every time I discover something like this I am amazed someone would want to get rid of such a delightful item. All the better for us who cannot get enough of them.

The folds are deep enough to make the jacket suitable for both thicker and thinner books. Too bad I don’t seem to have any time for novels these days. Maybe there will be some use for the jacket in a few months when the season I don’t care to mention yet is again entangling us in a state of not that welcome blues.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Proud maiden

There is one more thing I have to tell you about our July visit to Savonlinna (my earlier posts on the trip here and here). On one of the afternoons we split up for a while. He used to sail the seas as a teenager and later did his whole career in marine industry so he went to inspect the museum ships on his own while I walked a bit further away with my camera. We agreed to meet by the Provincial Museum.

On the left, Football Coach by Wonder Luke.

Good Listener by Marian Nyanhongo.
There was a sales exhibition of stone sculptures on display on the Riihisaari rock plateau by the Museum. It was entitled Master Sculptors of Zimbabwe and organized by Friends Forever International. There were some abstract works plus a number of sculptures of both animal and human figures made of volcanic stone. I felt the animal ones had some resemblance to traditional African wood carvings but those representing humans were something new and unique to me. In many of them just part of the stone was polished and the rest had been worked on rather roughly. I was drawn to them, especially to a particular smaller one...

I Now Know by Marian Nyanhongo.

He had strolled through the exhibition on his way to the ships. Being rather thrilled about these works of art, I pointed to him several ones that I adored. Most of them were by Marian Nyanhongo, one of the few Zimbabwean female sculptors. I also mentioned casually that the small lady was the one I loved the most. To my surprise, he had set his eyes on that one, too. Within seconds we came to the conclusion we should buy the Proud Maiden of opal by Sebastian Chifamba.

Behind the Proud Maiden, Dino Head by Square Chikwanda.
While he was retrieving the required amount from the cash machine, the Danish Friends Forever lady on site told me that this art form had started in Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia as it was then called, when lots of people were left unemployed from tobacco fields in the 1960s. This happened because of an international ban to import tobacco from the racist white minority government. As many men were skilled in wood carving and as there were plenty of beautiful colourful stones to use an idea emerged to educate the best talents to become sculptors. Some of them are now internationally renowned artists having their works included in the collections of major museums such as the MoMA in New York.

Blind Chief by Wonder Luke.
I Want To Be A Mother by Marian Nyanhongo, and Thinking Man by Enos Gunja.
There are several organizations devoted to promoting Zimbabwean stone sculpture through sales exhibitions. The organizer of this show Friends Forever International, for example, arranges several exhibitions around Europe annually. They have already been to Helsinki several times in recent years. I understood they will be exhibiting again next July in Savonlinna in connection with the Opera Festival. They also have a permanent show in Berlin.

Caring Mother by Marian Nyanhongo.
Charming Lady by Square Chikwanda.
I wish every success to all the talents engaged in this art form. Let’s hope the sad situation in their country will soon be resolved so that a proper kind of democracy could finally start evolving there.

PS. Should you see something like the below Lovers by Marian Nyanhongo in our garden one day you will know I must have won some cash on a lottery of some sort. Meanwhile, as soon as we have figured out the ideal place for our modest-sized (42cm and 6kg) Proud Maiden I will let you know.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A credit to his species

Last week, I thought I saw something worrying in Jack’s mouth. I rushed to call the vet and managed to get an appointment right away. She didn’t find anything out of the ordinary there but proposed it would be time not only to remove tartar, a nuisance built up in every cat’s mouth over time, but also to put Jack under a complete dental examination including X-rays. This would confirm whether the reddish spots in a couple of his gums were indicative of tooth erosion, in which case the damaged tooth would have to be removed. These operations would be performed under anaesthesia.

Moreover, as Jack is a senior – 11 years old which is considered roughly the equivalent of 60 years in humans – the vet suggested, in addition to general blood tests, a set of tests to check the condition of his liver, kidneys and thyroid gland.

Knowing that dental infections are a major risk factor for the overall health of a cat, the other day I took Jack to these examinations. I left him under the care of the professionals expecting to be called to fetch him in three to four hours when he would have recovered enough to be taken home. It took much less than they had anticipated: in two hours I was back at the vet’s examination room witnessing the dizzy Jack wheeling around in his transport box silently pushing and rubbing his head against the sides and bars in total confusion.

I'm not sure I like you shooting these barbered spots on by legs and neck.

His teeth were fine. Not even the X-rays revealed any eroded spots. His liver, kidneys and thyroid were perfectly normal. The only test showing a slightly elevated level was that of his blood glucose, which was most likely explained by stress the vet told me.

Okay, okay, I'll look up for a while so you can see the neck better.
I guess I overreacted last week but now we know our dear Jack is in perfectly good condition for his age. Never mind it cost us several hundred euros. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for our role model, a champion of his species.

I just love these broadleaf plantains growing in our yard. They are so good for my teeth.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Dinner with friends

We had been waiting for this annual rendezvous for weeks, practically since the previous get-together last August. The exact date was marked on my calendar months ago. It was last Sunday, as far as we are concerned the big day in our summer season, an Event interrupting the more or less monotonous existence in our little corner of the world.

As we live so conveniently close to the southern ferry ports of the country, our place has become the traditional ‘assembly point’ for our friends living a bit further away to meet their friends returning from their lengthy summer holiday in northern Finland. The appointment always takes place on the last night before their departure back home to Germany. My friends took care of the catering so, in addition to providing B&B for six or actually not even that as we drove with the overnighters to have brunch at yet other friends the next morning, what I had to do was to set the table for 12.

In my attempt to adopt a new kind of philosophy – that is not to save all the best things for a rainy day or a more eligible occasion (that would probably never come) – I finally took my dedicated ‘B&B china’ into use. He never noticed the Rosenthal set, the fabulous flea market find I made several years ago, on the top self of the cupboard. On Sunday, it certainly got the attention it deserves.

Instead of rainbows, we might have seen a Perseid meteor shower this time had we remembered to observe the night sky. Everyone was too busy enjoying the great company, the great Riojan meal, the great wines the German connaisseur pampered us with, and the great movie we settled down to relish in the end. I just couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend the August evening. We are looking forward to a repeat again next year.