maanantai 6. tammikuuta 2014

Pushing against boredom

Some wise (wo)man has said that the most hardest for a human being is to endure lack of purpose.

 I had inherited an old dressing table, chest and a few cupboards from the owners of the previous house on the site. In a women's magazine I discovered that they were from the 50:ies and now very much in again. I decided to break the antiques rules and not to respect their original looks in refurbishing them but simply fitted their colours into the colours of the bed rooms. After a lot of scraping and painting and repainting, the blue bed room got a dressing table. I must say, I was really proud of the result (at least if one does not look from very close!)

The hobby group used the technical works teaching facilities of one of the schools in the village center.
In the foreground one of the chests after scraping off the water and cold damaged varnish. The chest got a white body and nutbrown top and fitted perfectly into Mom's rosa bedroom, between the IKEA born wardrobes.

The cupboards are still waiting for inspiration in the attick.

This autumn I opted for porcelain painting and pottery.

It took me all the autumn to get first plate of the 24 pieces dinner service painted to some degree to my satisfaction! Wonder when I will set up a dining table with this service??

The pottery is less challenging and I hope to get a few flower pots for the terrace done before the spring. Note, this pot has not yet gone through the kiln. The colours get brighter in the heat.
Last winter, I mean in the beginning of the year, we had plenty of snowfall and still late in April, despite of the beautiful sunshine, heaps of snow were persisting on my terrace, not quite preventing the view to the lake but nevertheless . . .
After the heaviest snow storms it took me six hours of work to clear off the snow from the frontyard. Kept me well in shape, though. Nonetheless, for this winter I opted for a machine assisted work and bought a Stiga snow blower. Expensive as a hell - and now we are still waiting for the snow to fall, grounds are green!
Anyway, Roya (or Roja as my sister prefers to spell it; well, her dog) enjoyed the snow enormously. He spent with me all the Easter time whilst my sister & family were skiing in Lappland. We two were this time not taken along.

Jai Gawander from Fiji paid me a visit in April and of course we did the usual tourist rounds in Helsinki and surroundings. This picture was taken in the Church in the Rock (Temppeliaukion kirkko).

Jai was so jetlagged that he hardly remembers much of the sightseeing. He was just drowsing away on the bydriver's seat when I was dutyfully conducting the tourist guide activities.
This year it was my turn to host the season end lunch of our Monday evening volley ball group. It was windy on that mid-May day and by the time the barbeque was ready we all had to pull down jackets on. Anyway we persisted the weather conditions and had our lunch outside on the terrace.
Week after the volley ball ladies' lunch my annual nameday BB party was approching and my gipsy dance group had promissed to perform on that day. Of course we had to have a final 'rehearsal' before the D-day. It was still windy but the wind was not anymore as icy as it had been at the lunch.

Despite of the anxiousness and trembling knees all went well and we got a big applause from our audience. Even the music could be heard with the help of my nephew's CD-player in the car driven next to the terrace and doors left open.


Mum stayed with me for a couple of weeks in May. One day she had fallen asleep in the swing and got her face well tanned (read red). Even though the sunburn eased off quickly, the tan stayed and she did not like it at all. "It makes me look dark, gloomy and ugly" she was wailing for several weeks.
Wonder how she will manage in Spain in the coming March if the doctors allow her to travel with me.

 All through the spring evenings I was knitting baby cloths for the coming little girl scheduled to be born on 6th June. The first one of my nephew and of one of my four godchildren.

And there she was, dutyfully on schedule as could be expected from two engineers, here newly arrived from the hospital.

Summer came early last spring despite of the heaps of snow earlier. And it was a real summer, gathered from ordinary peoples' views, but not mine. I am a gardener in xyz'th generation and had been eagerly looking forward to get the garden plots ready after all the troubles in the construction of the house and landscpaing works. It was hot and no rain. I stayed hours each evening with the garden hoist to sprinkler the plots and carried tens of liters of water into the greenhouse to water the tomatos, cucumber and the like. Of course there had to be a disappointment also in my gardening. Only afterwards I discovered that the landscaping company which had brought the soil had taken it from somewhere where it had stayed heaped up for a lengthy time and lost all its fertilisers.
The potatos grew well and I harvested enough to take me through the winter.

I got the strawberries and currents (black and red) as well as rasberries from Mom. Newly planted, they did not give any berries yet this year.
It was too dry for onions and carlic but I harvested some and am still using them in my cookings.

I got plenty of carrots but they remained tiny ones despite of my relentless watering efforts and adding of fertilizer. Redbeet, turnips (swedes), root fennel and parsnip did not give any remarkable harvest.


 Some good results, though, to my great pleasure:

radish ...

tomatos ...

cucumber ...


Since I did not grow any outdoors cucumber my sister bought some and we made vineggar cucumber conserves. Good use for the many glass jars I had bought in Guyana to keep the insects out from sugar and flouers.

Last ones of my vineggar cucumbers were used for Christmas cookings.

The finalisation of the stone terrace had to be left for this summer because of the heavy and cold autumn rains last year. It seems that the stone works in the landscaping will continue for ever. The lanscaping works have already cost me more than the house as such!

Because the slope to the shore is so steep, rain waters eat into the paths deep grooves. This year we have to install stone drains and sides to the paths to direct the rainwaters into the ditches.

Silly me, I had seen a picture in a building magazine of a stone terrace which had been decorated with slates. Of course I had to have the same decoration - did not think how an expensive thing it is to do! The men did not manage to complete the wall before the frost fell. Means more work and expenditure in the coming spring.

I'll fall into poverty with this building project!

The flower boxes at least fitted nicely against the upper terrace and hid behind them the unwalled staircase underneath.

It takes patience but the outcome gives me a great joy and pleasure.

The husband of my sister became 55 in July and I gave him a BB set as birthday present. Of course you get it in bits and pieces from the shop. Here the family is tightly focusing on the assembly puzzle . . .

... and surprise, surprise, we did not need to go to the nearest pizzeria for dinner!

This action was also an achievement of the year. It took two years to get a new flag pole raised up at the summer house in the central Finland. The humidity had damaged the support structures of the pole but the pole itself was still steady firm wood. Dad had done good work in finding it in the forest.

I had bought new iron supports in my village and driven them up to the summer house. A close-by farmer, son of my class mate, had promissed to dig a new hole for the pole and cast the iron support into the concrete. All went wrong in the first effort and then autumn rains came and the shore got too soft for heavy machines.
Early in the spring I started reminding him of the unfinnished work and finally with a lot of pushing he got it done just before the mid-summer feast in June and we could raise the flag as it is the custom.

The village festival in my village takes place in mid-August and I tend to be asked to be present there for the lake association. It is not a big festival but brings the people in the village together, mainly to bring their children to ride a pony, see sheep - and eat BB'ed saugages. In that respect it is good for me to be there and to get to know people, helps in the integration which is not an easy thing in the Western part of Finland where the people tend to be a bit distanced unlike in the Eastern regions.

The neigbours discovered dead small fish in the lake towards end of July - beginning of August. Of course the lake association was contacted and asked whether we knew the reason for the deaths. We did not and had to find out.

The association contracted a water laboratory to take water samples for analyse. Since my sister is a laboratory assitant I invited her to join in to the expedition. Here we are loading up the equipment to my rowing boat ...

 ... and here the samples are taken.

There was enough oxigen in the water but the pH levels had risen too high for the small fish to endure.

 Beginning of September when the People's Institute's courses restarted I noticed that I'm losing the little of my French language I know and decided to go yet again to Millefeuille Provence to prevent it from happening. It was the seventh week I tortured myself in the intensive classes of the teachers - of whom many I still knew from my time in Brussels. There isn't a minute of peace from the flow of French, the teachers follow you to the breaks, to lunch, to dinner. Any other language is forbidden.

Last evening guest was a director from the French Nuclear Research Center and that gave me an opportunity to critical questions to counter the otherwise glorious presentation on the wisdom of the French Nuclear Research and knowledge. Areva is building the 3rd reactor in the Western part of Finland and has slipped from the time schedule several times. To my knowledge the reactor is seven years late now and no end is to be seen to the resiprocal cost claims.

I also had a dinner in Avignon with my former secretary from Brussels DG Regio, Marie-Hélène Charmont. She still continues to participate in some projects in Madagaskar and tries to keep up her Turkish. She used to work in an EU office in Turkey years back and learned Turkish.

Marie-Hélène has promissed to pay me a visit in the summer. I'm really looking forward to it. More French, more good company and hearty discussions.

And so it became autumn again. As sad as it is - getting cold and dark, less and shorter day light, heading towards winter - the autumn colours can be most beautiful.

On 30th October we searched with some experts for a suitable location for wetlands. Wetlands are a good means to capture fertilizer remains and soil and prevent them from flowing into the lakes.
At the time when additional farming land was needed rivers were rerouted and lakes dried up. That has caused a lot of problems to the lakes and their 'inhabitants' resulting in growth of algae. This river has been straightened, it's former route lingered in the background. Our intention is to negotiate with the farmers to build a wetland where the river used to flow.
 On the Independence Day 6th December we had a bit of snow and the lake was frozen as well. All gone by now!
Little Stella is now six months old and she came to visit me on the Independence Day. The babies grow so fast - and all the knittings I did hardly got ready before they were too small.

Christmas came knocking on the doors. Mom and my sister's family stayed with me all through the Christmas time.

Anne, my niece was of the opinion that our Christmas tree was naked. I had decided  for only lights and a few golden balls and bells and simple dry hay decorations.

I found the decoration simple and stylish. Admittedly I had a bit of own interest hidden in the agenda. I knew that dressing down of the tree and taking it out will be left on me.
 And so after all the preparations, bakings and cookings, games and laughter, the house was empty again. A bit of hollow feeling for a few days but then life takes its routine course again.
The ice has melted away and the lake is still free. This year the end of the year has been really depressing without snow and with continuous rains. It is like two nights on the opposite sides of the day would greet each others. I even checked in the internet for the length of the day light. On 21st December, the turn of the sun, it counted only 5 hours and 49 minutes. Today it is only 15 minutes more.
Best greetings to all of you my friends in all corners of the globe. Hope hearing from you often, and perhaps meeting up with you one day.

torstai 31. tammikuuta 2013

Getting settled down in Finland

The return back to Finland in July 2011 was chaotic. Timbermen were still working in the attick, terrace had not been done and we had to walk into the house over preliminary bridge-like structure. Mentally I was battling with the sentiment of being retired - I strongly resisted the fact and was all the time hoping that I would be needed back to Fiji for an assignment. None was forthcoming. I spent at the house only the time which was necessary to push the construction works forward. Mostly I stayed at Mum's place 300 km north of my place.

Electrician finalising his work in the attick.

Beginning of the construction of the terrace around the house

It was also a challenge to get my furniture from Brussels. The units at the Commission took their time to agree on which Directorate was to pay for the removal cost - EEAS, Commission, PMO or which ever unit. Finally the removals section of the Commission in charge of Delegations decided to move ahead and late August I got my two containers over to Finland


To get my belongings from Fiji to start sailing home was an even bigger battle. When the stuff finally arrived late September, it was all damaged - wet and moulded.
My car went through three ozone treatments and still today when I leave it stay outdoors during wet wheather it starts stinking.
All my cloths I took to a special laundry to be treated from mold. Bed linen, towles and the like I washed myself. Same for dishes. Five days long the laundry machine and the dish washer were on continuous use.
It would have been all too expensive to have leather wear treated so I simply cleaned them, placed into sauna and put the heating on.
A lot of stuff I had to take to waste depot.
Luckily I had paid only half of the freight bill in advance and could deduct from the remaining balance all the expenses I incurred into.

Things into the sauna and heating on to kill the mold.

Direction waste depot!

Damaged car tires.

Just a week before the disastrous removal from Fiji arrived, Mum got a serious infection attack which caused her to lose memory, orientation and physical balance. I had just returned from her place a day or two before when my brother phoned me late in the evening on Thursday. I jumped into the car and drove back through the night, took her to the medical center the following morning and from there we were sent to the central hospital. It was in the night to Saturday when I was back to my place and on Monday I had to drive back Jyväskylä (300 km up North) to collect Mum from the hospital and to take her down to my place.
Just in that very moment the removal from Fiji was cleared through customs and taken over to my house. There I was - constructions works going on and requiring decisions, Mum needing continous supervision and care and the moulded stuff all over the house!

I have survived, wonder how. Mum stayed with me until Christmas and recovered surprisingly well. She can't remember anything from Dad's funeral in May 2010 nor from her journey to Fiji in April 2011, but the earlier life is rather well back to her memory, her sense of time is still a bit unsure, but otherwise she is in good shape and can live on her own in her house. We three children visit her every weekend on tours.

On Boxing Day in 2011we had a huge storm which broke the electricity wires and took them down to earth - that is, we had to leave the house. We moved over to my sister's but came back for the New Year's Eve. On Monday after New Year the electricity company ordered us to leave the house immediately - it was dangerous. It was snowing heavily when we drove with Mum the 300 km up to north to her place. The journey took us six hours!

In February I thought I had earned a break, booked the first flight to Hua Hin in Thailand, took my golf clubs with me and did not do anything else than eat, sleep and play my daily golf tours.

Well, the snow melted away and the summer was there again. It was time to start the landscaping works at the house. Since the house is on top of the hill, I wanted the slope down to the lake to be shaped nicely and in such a way that I could easily, also in my fragile years, get down to the summer sauna on shore. I had hired a landscaping architect and she had made preliminary plans for the slope - but then she married an American and left Finland. I was on my own again.

Earth was digged out to build support walls around the sauna building on shore.

In the entrance yard soil had to be changed to get proper soil structure for the tiling. Of course also there had to be challenges. The gravel contractor delivered wrong material. That was discovered only in the middle of laying of the tiles, and so the caterpillar had to be called back to the site to dig out the wrong gravel and to replace it with the correct grade.

The base rock came out where it should not, it could not be exploded anymore - too close to the house, so it simply had to be broken with a big hammer fixed to the caterpillar.

On the lake side of the house we had to build support structures as well to straighten out the slope. It  was done in three step layers. Levelled off paths snake down the slope to the shore.

And of course I wanted a greenhouse as well! Here the concrete is pumped to lay the foundation for it.

It was a rainy autumn and we had to stop the lanscaping works because the ground became too wet. The story will continue in the summer 2013.

In October I participated in the municipal elections. I got elected as last one to a reserve seat to the municipal council. That does not matter, the campaign was great fun. And I got nominated into three boards - I will be chairing the Central Elections Board in Vihti, and will be member in two others, most important being the technical and land use board.

I also learned that my post in Guyana was vacant again. For a while I fancied of candidating as an interim for the post but realised then that I couldn't be away from Finland anyway. Mum needs me here.