Lately 

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.