I haven’t the foggiest about what was supposed to be in this picture – the lone flower in the middle was probably not it. Why do I like this nonetheless? The texture of the background (or possibly foreground). Those swirling out-of-focus branches breaking the yellow of the background into something almost resembling a stained glass window.
I love these budding leaves, sweet, sticky and full of promise. Soon, soon! the summer will be here.
The first cow parsley of the spring, spotted in my secret place in Jericho.
For a long time, I thought that the spring is not coming at all – but it did, it did! My favourite spring place is Magdalen College park; the sunny banks of the Fellows’ Garden are a sea of flowers in March/April. I have developed an allergy for daffodils and cannot buy them for my flat anymore, but I do love seeing the vast stretches of them in the spring, and feel a bit sad when they wilt away in April.
This is the last week of Easter holidays – usually the most unremarkable holiday of the year for me. This time I decided to up my game and visit friends in Helsinki. I have rarely spent more than couple of days there, and not for many years, and was interested to see how perceptions change. After London has been my big city for nearly a decade, Helsinki seems small, quiet, almost parochial. Great architecture, lots of coffee shops and bakeries, wide streets, continental feel. I was surprised by the lack of ticket barriers in the tube or in the tram, startled to see men sitting outside drinking vodka from plastic bottles in the morning, surprised by how often I’d pass local celebrities just walking down the street. It was a lovely place, but not necessarily one where I’d love to live.
Coming from the blossoming England, I was surprised to find out that despite global warming, in March the bay is still frozen.
The old, public sauna in Kallio was always going to be the highlight of my trip. I suspect the fittings are original, and the atmosphere was certainly nostalgic. If there was a place like this here, I’d go every week, and not even care that it cost €12.
Another staple of every and any visit to Finland – fika, or coffee and pulla. The British are great bakers, but they don’t do pulla.
Near Johanneksen Kirkko (St John’s, below) I found a used books’ shop that was the properest thing I have ever seen. Books stacked everywhere, an authentic smell of slightly acidic paper, lots of rare things for not much money. This magazine cover is one of my all time favourite illustrations – I have used it for cards and glued it in every art journal I have ever had. I was beyond excited to pick an original copy of the magazine it was painted for.
The murals by Akseli Gallen-Kallela in the National Museum – a small, but exquisitely curated and displayed collection in a rather nice, Jugend/gothic romantic building.
With my friend.
Some of Helsinki’s architecture really is exquisite. These turn of the century buildings don’t just have great detail, but they have presence.
The compulsory shot of the sea.
Before I went to Helsinki, I got around to unpacking the bag of yarn I had bought at Christmas, and found this pair of mittens. These are Norwegian, and the pattern imitates the northern lights. I have had these literally always – I must have been given them as a very small child (thought they are adult size), even though I have no memory of receiving them. My mother deemed them too precious to be worn, and so they are still in immaculate condition. I look at them and wonder if I should wear them now, or continue to keep them for posterity, as a souvenir from my childhood. I have few toys left, and somehow the most memorable object for me anyway are the knickknacks that I wasn’t suppose to touch as a child.
I came back, and the spring had come.
The little white clouds are racing over the sky,
And the fields are strewn with the gold of the flower of March,
The daffodil breaks under foot, and the tasselled larch
Sways and swings as the thrush goes hurrying by.
A delicate odour is borne on the wings of the morning breeze,
The odour of deep wet grass, and of brown new-furrowed earth,
The birds are singing for joy of the Spring’s glad birth,
Hopping from branch to branch on the rocking trees.
And all the woods are alive with the murmur and sound of Spring,
And the rose-bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar,
And the crocus-bed is a quivering moon of fire
Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring.
And the plane to the pine-tree is whispering some tale of love
Till it rustles with laughter and tosses its mantle of green,
And the gloom of the wych-elm’s hollow is lit with the iris sheen
Of the burnished rainbow throat and the silver breast of a dove.
See! the lark starts up from his bed in the meadow there,
Breaking the gossamer threads and the nets of dew,
And flashing adown the river, a flame of blue!
The kingfisher flies like an arrow, and wounds the air.
Easter holiday, long awaited. Spring, even longer. The Easter Monday dawned warm and sunny, such a relief after weeks of indifferently cloudy skies and chilly mornings. The long, gloomy winter has knocked the life out of me, and the recovery is slow. The last days before the Hilary term (life in Oxford is paced by the turn of the academic year, always) were exhausting and exhilarating, full of great things and no time to rest. Optimistically, on my last day at work I chose a set of books to read over the couple weeks I’ve off – I used to be a great reader, and feel embarrassed by how rarely I pick up a book these days, how long it takes me to finish even a simple detective story. I dream of healthy food, of fresh vegetables and nice bread and waking up with a clear head, able to read and think and paint and feel light and alive – as opposed to waking up with a head full of wool.