Showing posts with label Tampere. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tampere. Show all posts

Friday, 6 December 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Today Finland celebrates its independence. I have written before about the history of my country of birth, and about what being in independent means to a Finn, here. But this year, today is even more special for me, because the main celebrations are being held in my home town of Tampere.

Finnish flags flying at Tampere Hall. Photo: Jukka Kuusinen/Yle
The highlight of the day, the Presidential Ball is taking place in Tampere Hall, a concert centre, because the Presidential Palace in Helsinki is undergoing major renovations. Big Sis who's in Tampere at the moment, tells me there's been a lot of hoo-ha in Finland about the lack of any dancing during the ball. It's a bit of a tradition in Finland to see how well the President, or the ministers, or various celebrities who've been honoured with an invite to the televised Ball fare on the crowded dance floor. 'This year it's going to be a different kind of Independence Day - a celebration the Tampere way,' my sister said to me over Skype and threw her head back and laughed.

Our home town is indeed a bit different - dubbed the Manchester of Finland, it has its roots in heavy industry and the working classes. Although nowadays the industry, instead of being heavy metal and cotton  mills, is information and communication technology and skilled engineering, so the town is more white collar than blue collar. To me, Tampere still feels different, more old-fashioned and traditional than, say Helsinki or Turku.

In any case, even if there's a departure from important traditions, such as dancing, I still hope the celebrations in Tampere go well and the organisers do the city proud. If you want to see what really goes on during the Independence Day in Finland, you can follow the celebrations from my home town on YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Corporation) here.

Hyvää Itsenäisyyspäivää kaikille suomalaiseille!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Feeling Homesick

I've recently come back from Tampere in Finland, from a surprise trip arranged at the last minute due to a family crisis. I won't go into what that was, but I ended up being in my hometown for a week, visiting areas of the city which I just haven't had the reason to go to for a long time. Each day of my visit I drove past my old primary school, the woods where we cross country skied in the winter, and the area where our family home was, before we moved to Stockholm. 

During this time in Tampere I also once again marveled at how the city has changed. The two main factories, Finlayson and Tampella no longer produce cotton or machinery, instead the areas have been developed into cultural centres and high quality residential areas. Many old apartment blocks are receiving facelifts; even the train station now has a set of escalators and some lifts. (I know, they've probably been there for a years, but it was the first time I'd noticed them).

When I got back London, after all was OK with family, I found myself thinking how I could arrange my life so that I could live in Tampere. This, from the girl who swore she'd never go back there, or who has for months now been considering applying for British passport (I'm coming clean - I haven't done it yet!).

It helped that the weather in Tampere was glorious. The sun was shining every day, transforming the colour of the lakes into the brightest blue. Each way I looked there was water. One morning I went for a jog and ran past beautiful houses, into the woods along the shores of Lake Näsijärvi, and thought how wonderful it would be to be able to do this every day. The place was so peaceful, so calm, yet it only took a few minutes to reach the city centre by (a regular and not crowded) bus service. To think that I’d be able to have a sauna every day, or that no-one would ask me if I was in bad mood if I didn’t smile all the time!

When I came back to London, on the first morning the tube was hot and packed. On my way home the very same day, our local station was closed due to overcrowding, so I ended up, together with hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of other people, taking the long way round, adding an extra hour to my journey home. Why do I live in a sardine tin of a city like London, I wondered, as I tried to keep my nose out of a particular smelly armpit in another full-to-bursting tube carriage.

At the weekend I went to Harris and Hoole in Crouch End for a coffee and the girl behind the desk asked, after mishearing my name as Elena, if I was Italian. ‘No,’ I said, ‘Are you?’ ‘Yes,’ the girl answered, adding with sad look in her eyes, ‘I’ve just come back.’ I looked at her and replied, ‘I’ve just come back from my home town in Finland and keep wondering what an earth I’m doing living in London.’ She laughed and nodded.

So many of us displaced people feel the same homesickness. Yet, here we stay.

Friday, 17 May 2013

On location in Tampere, Finland

Those of you who know about my books (or have read them), will have noticed that Tampere, my home town, features heavily in two of them. It wasn't something I exactly planned, but I think in my mind I'm often there, even if I was only ten years old when I moved away with my family.

Every time I visit Tampere, I’m reminded of the stories, and the lives of Kaisa (The Englishman) and Eeva (Coffee and Vodka). I take pictures upon pictures of all the locations featured in the two books.

So I thought I’d share with you some of pictures I took of the places I had in my mind when I wrote the two novels.

The steps of the church (Tampere Cathedral)
Kaisa and The Englishman were married.
The Tampere Cathedral basking in sunshine.
A few pictures from Kalevankankaa cemetery where Eeva and her sister Anja  (in Coffee and Vodka) played when they were growing up in Tampere.

Here is the magnificent rapids which Kaisa in The Englishman feared when she was little.

Monday, 25 February 2013

What's in a cover - receive a free book!

I know some of you are patiently waiting the publication of my next novel. Something which I promised would happen very soon after The Englishman came out.

Alas, there have been some complications (aren't there always?).

Firstly, this next novel is very dear to my heart because it tells the story of a Finnish family who in the early 1970's emigrate to Stockholm. So when it comes out, I want it to look and feel absolutely right.

The heroine of the book is Eeva, who after a long day teaching Swedish to foreign students, receives a phone call from her father. Eeva hasn't spoken with Pappa for 30 years, not since her parents' dramatic break-up. Now Pappa tells Eeva that her beloved grandmother is dying and Eeva makes a snap decision to take the next overnight ferry across from Stockholm to Finland, to her home-town of Tampere. During the course of the journey Eeva remembers the first time she took the same crossing, in the opposite direction, as an excited 11-year-old together with her parents and older sister. Memories which she'd rather forget, flood back. While desperate to be with her grandmother, she doesn't think she can cope with seeing Pappa again. But on the ferry, and in Tampere, several surprises await her.

Initially when I wrote this book I called it Pappa's Girl. When it came to the cover design, I thought I knew exactly how I wanted the novel to look: a black and white image of a young girl, with the title in very similar letterings to that of The Englishman cover. I was even given a fantastic picture to use. With these tools, my wonderful cover designer, Simon, went to work and produced something beautiful (as he always does!). We whittled the options down to one cover (you'd be surprised how hard this is - the colouring, the font, the text, it goes on….). The most difficult item turned out to be the caption. I just could not decide on the wording and asked for help from my fellow Independent Writers.

The result of this unofficial poll was surprising. While many loved the cover, and the captions, almost as a 'by-the-way', it was revealed that all my peers thought Pappa's Girl was a book about child abuse. This is definitely not the case. While the novel deals with issues of displacement and family break-up, it's also funny (I hope!), and ultimately a book about love. It's definitely not a 'misery lit memoir'.

So back to the drawing board. A new name as well as a new cover were needed!

And since you've all been waiting patiently for so long, I decided to give you a sneak-a-peak of what covers we are working on now.

I'd also love your opinion on these three proposed covers for my next novel with the new name - drumroll please -  Coffee and Vodka.

What's more, the first ten voters will receive a free copy of Coffee and Vodka when it's published in March. 

All you have to do is to say which of the three covers below you prefer. Give your name and your favourite of A, B or C in the message section below, and I will contact you to get your details for the free copy of Coffee and Vodka.

Cover A

Cover B

Cover C
I cannot wait to see which cover gets the most votes!

Friday, 14 December 2012

I love this!

I adore old adverts and this one for Finnish coffee from the sixties (or fifties?) takes me right back to my childhood in Tampere. It evokes the smell of the coffee beans my grandmother used to prepare in her wooden grinder. She held the light pine contraption in her ample lap and with a concentrated look on her face turned the handle, and soon the coffee would be ready to be mixed with water and cooked in a copper pan on the stove.  

Childhood in a poster!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Tampere in the summer

During my holiday I made a quick visit to my hometown, Tampere, with the Englishman, Daughter and Sister, to mark a significant birthday. The weather was absolutely stunning - hot and sunny - making this old industrial town appear frivolous and fun.

We stayed in a hotel as there were so many of us. I chose a place close to the centre, the Sokos Ilves Hotel which was also recommended in the Conde Nast article I wrote about here. It's a multistory building, ugly to look at, but the views across Kehräsaari and the two new bridges across Pyhäjärvi from the (pleasant enough) rooms were stunning.

The view from our 18th floor rooms
I've written before about the incredible light in Finland in June. Because I'm so used to living in the UK where even in the summer it gets dark at a reasonable hour, on holiday I found it really difficult to sleep past the three am sunrise. Equally in the evenings it seemed strange to go to bed when it was still light.

In Tampere we decided to live according to the sun, and sleep as little as possible, so off we went in the evening to find a watering hole. Surprise, surprise, there were quite a few like-minded people out on the town...(OK, two....)

A pigeon had settled on the head of one of the imposing statues on Hämeensilta bridge
This is how light it was twenty past eleven at night. It's no wonder us the Finns drink so much; in the summer it's too light not to celebrate with a glass or two and in the winter it's too depressing not to have a drink...ok that's one of the most contrived excuses I've made up for our behaviour ever.

My grandmother had her business on the top floor of Tempon Talo (Tempo House). Isn't it a beautiful building?

The bar was by the water's edge.
Next morning was another stunning day, and as we headed out of the hotel I couldn't resist taking the classic shot of Tampere: of the rapids which used to power the two large factories in town, Tampella and Finlayson.

We walked along the water, past the men fishing (in the centre of a Tampere!) to the Cathedral where I, more than 25 years ago now, married the Englishman. That day was a similarly hot and sunny one.

This church means so much to me I have to go and visit it every time I'm in Tampere. It has wonderful frescos painted by Hugo Simberg, a pupil of Akseli Gallen-Kallela. 

'Interesting medium,' said the Daughter and peered at one of the pictures depicting skulls and dead gardens. I thought how fleeting life is when one's youngest can say such grown-up things. (The other day she started a sentence 'I remember when I was a teenager...' What the????)

When I was a child we'd come to Tampere Cathedral every Christmas Eve. Sitting on the balcony next to my sister, full of anticipation of the imminent visit of Father Christmas, I'd look at the haunting images and wonder what kind of awful lives these children must have had. I wrote a short story about one of the images, the Wounded Angel, during my MA in Creative Writing a few years ago. Unfortunately during various moves and changes in computers, I've lost it. The image still haunts me, though, as does this city.

The balcony was closed for renovations (I presume) so I could only photograph the painting of the Wounded Angel from afar.
Here is my favourite fresco in all its glory.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Pappa's Girl: Jävla Finnar

It was exactly four weeks after our move to Rinkeby in Sweden in the autumn of 1971, when Pappa took me to Stockholm Stadium to see Finland play Sweden. I’d not been to an ice-hockey match since Ilves played Tappara in the Jäähalli in Tampere the previous winter. My team lost to their local rivals. The boys at school who wore the black and orange Tappara scarves laughed at me. But I didn’t give up my green and blue Ilves scarf just because of one game.

In Sweden nobody knew of the Finnish league, but this annual tournament was a question of pride for the two countries. Pappa had been given the tickets by his boss in the factory because he couldn’t go himself.

‘You have no idea how expensive these seats are,’ he said. ‘And how difficult to get hold of,’ he continued. He was talking to Anja. ‘And I’m not going to waste them on a person who ruins beautiful new sofas.’

My sister Anja just shrugged her shoulders. ‘It wasn’t me,’ she said, and looked down at her feet. A few days ago Pappa had found a cigarette burn on one of the velour cushions. I looked at Anja and wondered how she could be so brave. If Pappa found out about the party she had in the flat he’d hit the roof.

‘What did you say?’ Pappa said, taking hold of Anja’s arm.
‘Ouch, you’re hurting me!’ Anja freed herself and ran out of the hall.
‘Hadn’t you better be leaving?’ Mamma said.

I was very proud to be taken by Pappa to the match instead of Anja. In Tampere I went to ice-hockey matches with my friend, Kaija. We both played on the ice-rink two blocks from our flat with the boys from our school. To be allowed to play, we had to wait till there weren’t enough boys to make up a team. One boy, Jussi, who was in my class and had curly brown hair and short stumpy legs, shouted, ‘Do your figure skating in the corner, girlies!’ He had all the latest gear, fancy leather gloves much too large for his hands, pads for his knees and a shiny new stick, which he rolled around with one gloved hand often dropping it with a bang on the ice. Kaija sat next to Jussi in class and said he was really sweet, but she only said that because she had a crush on him, had had for ages. They lived close to each other too, and often walked home together. She’d told me that if there were no other boys around Jussi would hold her hand. Kaija was a short girl with round face and straight thin hair. Pappa called us ‘Pitkä ja Pätkä’ after a Finnish version of Laurel and Hardy. Getting ready for the match I decided to write to Kaija about it later that evening. I wondered who her new best friend might now be. I’d received one letter from her but she said nothing about school in it. It was already October so she must have found someone by now. I wished Kaija would be coming to see Finland play Sweden with me.

The match was played in the evening in the large stadium in the centre of Stockholm. We wore our warm coats and I put on my Ilves scarf and hat.
‘There’ll be lots of people but very few Finns, so best keep together, OK?’ Pappa said as we parked the new Volvo. Pappa had washed it earlier that morning and its bonnet gleamed under the streetlights. I turned to look at the dark, round building in front of me. There were people hurrying towards it. We were late. Pappa took my hand and we started running. He looked at the tickets and then up at the signs on doors. I held tightly onto Pappa’s hand when we walked up steps and saw the vast ice rink in front of us.  People had to stand up to let us in, we were right in the middle of the row.
Tack, tack,’ Pappa said and I smiled. But nobody looked directly at us. They just stared at the rink in front of them.

The players were already out warming up. They smashed the bucks against the solid white edges, snapping their sticks fast and hard.
‘There’s Harri Linnonmaa, look, number 75!’ Pappa said pointing at a player in blue and white with a picture of a lion on his chest. ‘The Finnish Lions will beat the Swedish wimpy white-bread men,’ he whispered into my ear when the players skated up to the side and disappeared underneath us. Soon after they all came out again in a line and stopped dead when the Swedish national anthem was played over the Tannoy. Everybody stood up. Pappa and I were the only people not singing. After the Swedish anthem I felt awkward knowing the words to ‘Our Land’, but Pappa sang loudly, clearly pronouncing each Finnish word.

When the Finnish national anthem was over, the game started with the two attackers fighting for the puck in the middle of the rink. Pappa rubbed his hands together and muttered, ‘C’mon Finnish Lions!’

The Swedish players wore their blue and yellow shirts with an emblem of three crowns on them. They all had very blonde, long hair which escaped from underneath their helmets. Pappa had told me the crowns represented the three monarchies Sweden had once ruled.
‘Now they don’t even dare take part in wars, let alone win them, the cowards!’ he’d said. He told me Finns had earned their emblem through having to fight for their independence. ‘Like lions we are fearless and proud,’ he said.

‘I think we’ll win, Lissu, because the Swedes are scared,’ Pappa now said. ‘Finland won the first leg of the tournament in Helsinki. If only they can hold until half time, they’ll win.’ He smiled and nudged me with his elbow.

The whole of the stadium exploded when the first goal came. But Pappa and I sat still. By the end of the second period, Finland was 9 goals down and Pappa had an Elefanten beer in the dark, cold hall downstairs. People around us were standing in groups laughing and smoking. They were mostly Swedish men, like my father drinking beer.
‘Can I have a tunnbrödsrulle Pappa?’ I said. He looked at me and without saying a word gave me the money. I ran to a food stall and back again as quickly as I could. Thankfully Pappa was still there when I came back. He’d finished his beer and the bell was sounding for the start of the third period.

‘Never mind,’ Pappa said when we sat down again, ‘We have time to come back.’

But it got worse. Time after time Finnish players were sent to the sin bin, leaving the Swedish blondes free to score more goals. Three more times the buck ended up in the Finnish net. The Swedish players hugged each other and the crowd cheered. Pappa said nothing. The Finnish goalkeeper hung his head, while his teammates got angry with the Swedish players. Yet another Finn was sent to the sin bin. At one time there were two Lions sitting there, holding their sticks between their knees, staring ahead at the terrible result on the board opposite them.

‘Let’s go,’ Pappa said suddenly. The game wasn’t finished yet and people looked angrily at us when they had to move up from their seats. One man with a huge belly and a round face said, ‘Jävla Finnar’ when I passed. I didn’t look at him.

The dark streets outside were completely empty. We heard another loud cheer rise up from the vast stadium. Pappa walked fast to the car and quickly started the engine. He was quiet all the way home. When we pulled into the car park outside our block of flats I said, ‘Can we go again?’

Pappa looked at me and said, ‘No.’

This is an excerpt from my novel Pappa's Girl. If you liked the story, you can find more here.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Finland are ice hockey world champions!

The silveware. Picture YLE
Growing up in Tampere I was an avid follower of ice hockey. My team, Ilves, were Finnish champions and I saw many matches in the newly built jäähalli. 

Since moving here, I've lost touch with the game, but could not miss the wonderful news that Finland, after first beating Russia in the semi-finals were going to play Sweden - their old arch rivals - in the world championship finals.

It didn't start well; Sweden took the lead in the 28th minute. Here we go, I thought. In the days when I used to follow the game, Finns were famed for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Especially when playing against Sweden, or The Three Crowns, the players never failed to disappoint. I had to witness one crucial match with my father in Stockholm where we lost 13-0 to the Three Crowns.

But last night The Lions, as Finns call themselves, fought on. They have a lucky break when a Swede misses our goal by a whisker in the 39th minute. They go on to equalise just seconds before the end of the 2nd period.

Finland wins the face-off at the start of the 3rd period and take control of the game. Second and third goals come in quick succession. At 3-1 the commentators start to talk about winning the championships. Sweden crumbles. Three minutes from the end the Lions score again, making the it 4-1, and just a minute later there's another goal for Finland. The match ends at 6-1 when the Lions steal another goal just under a minute before full-time.

Picture Tomi Hänninen

Picture Tomi Hänninen

What a match - what champions!

Picture Tomi Hänninen