1st July: Berlin to Helsinki

May 31st - Berlin and Helsinki 034

Full Flickr set here.

Monday 31st May, 2010. 2:28pm. Helsinki.

So we got into Helsinki around 1am last night. It was still light. I think it was still light all night, actually.

When I think of where I was this time last year... Jesus. This trip wasn't just not part of any sort of plan, it wasn't even remotely possible. Today I learned that (if what I'm hearing is right) ELR and PLR paid out six times what I was expecting. At the end of the day the actual dollar-figure isn't that huge, but it's enough to get me to Paris and Amsterdam if I want.

I'm sitting on a wooden deck outside a pub-thing on Haamentie (sp?) in Helsinki. Just had a breakfast of chicken-and-prawn pasta and filter coffee. It's cool, sunny and pleasant. Don't need a jacket. Got a Pepsi, this laptop, and Fateless. I remember part of the conversation I had with was about this manuscript, and how important it is to deal with an ms quickly because it's all about that first-stage burn of inspiration. I passed that point a long time ago with this thing, but I'm hoping that between input overload and reading the work of a very talented writer I'll have enough to deliver something really worthwhile to Howard on July 5th. Touch wood.

There are some very beautiful people here. I've never seen skin this flawless. It'd be creepy if it wasn't so mesmerising. At least three people on the bus from the airport could have given any face from Hollywood a run for their money. And yet they're probably cashiers or chemists or something. There is a national abundance of symmetry. By comparison I look like a mutant from the gene-sumps of Sub-Hive 7. "You've all been very kind... *rasp*...*urk*" I feel like I should be sleeping sitting up is what I'm saying. If I could sleep. What with it being light for 22 hours of the friggin' day. Which I have to say is actually kind-of beautiful. 10 hours of twilight or something like that. Band of aching fire hanging just above a midnight blue horizon. Gorgeous and dreamy.

You know what I'm loving about this thing the most so far? Eating cities. Chewing through prime content. London for a few days, Helsinki for 9 hours, Berlin for a week, back to Helsinki for a proper stretch, next stop New York. It's providing a sense I've longed for my entire life; a sense of understanding just how next-door everything and everyone is. On the other hand it means I feel like I should just be able to call Matt or Adrian or Karen or whoever and head down the pub - which most of the time I can't because I'm a thousand kilometres away. But it's really driving home how ridiculous and selfish some attitudes we hold about nationalism and culture are. Dunno if that makes sense. Don't feel like going into it right now.

Moved inside. Too bright outside to read the screen. Whitewashed walls, and at night the place is lit with twin-sun surgical lamps on articulated arms suspended from the ceiling. Friday night is "80's Radio" night, complete with Miami Vice style logo. White paint rubbed from wooden floorboards by the passage of feet. Vinyl chairs and couches in good nick. Red tiled bar. Coat stand with a teddy bear in a red scarf perched atop it. Customers in jeans and hoodies. The one girl in the place is a brunette in a black blouse and oversized camoflauge jacket.

I guess there's no avoiding it. Better get to work.


Refamiliarised myself a little and then went for a walk around the lake.

Beautiful to look at, but get too close and it smells like fish-mud. Which smells like mangroves. Which smells like hot afternoons with Dad in a superheated aluminium dinghy, headed upriver from the inlet to check the crab traps. Never did like that smell.

Walked the whole way around, photographed anything that took my interest.

May 31st - Berlin and Helsinki 057 How I pity the Finns and their crappy lives.

One quarter of the perimeter is used by this little culture of people repairing boats. Two old guys on one heavily lacquered little runabout, and a squad of younger men with beards and beer working on another, on another an old lady in a rain jacket watches her husband as he tootles around.

May 31st - Berlin and Helsinki 087 cropped

Walked back toward Hameentie. Aggressive young guy in a navy blue canvass jacket, shaved head, ill-looking but burly homes in on an empty vodka bottle, sweeps it up and has this expression that dares anyond to have a problem with him draining whatever drop or two is left in it. A minute later I cross the road. A car beeps. I look behind. The guy is right there, rounding on the driver, snarling with teeth just beginning to go bad, flipping a sideways finger.

May 31st - Berlin and Helsinki 118

I sit in a sloping park. Obelisk at the top, up two small sets of steps. On this tier a young couple sun themselves on a semi-submerged boulder, the only place catching the sun. Europeans know how to be in love. Sod the cliche it's true. They're easy together, doesn't look like they let anything worry them when they're together. Got to envy that.

May 31st - Berlin and Helsinki 119

Two female cops on bicycles look like they're looking for someone. Glocks on their hips. That never stops being weird: seeing anyone with a badge carrying a plastic peoplekiller. Issuing them over revolvers always seemed like a sign of a lack of faith; like the department doesn't trust their officers to be calm under pressure or shoot straight the first time. Spray and pray. Like suspect fatalities don't even factor into the equation.

May 31st - Berlin and Helsinki 127 cropped

It is a beautiful day though. And even here people just drink. I saw it more often in Germany: people walking around with beers or booze like it was no big deal. Which, clearly, it isn't. Never saw any aggro from it; just people with booze going from one point to another at 1 in the afternoon.

95 euros left in the budget for this month, to last me two weeks. Won't work, but that's ok. Making a game of controlled descent. Wont spend as much on clothes and accomodation this month. Probably.

I look at my feet. Lots of cigarette butts. More than other benches. Someone comes here a lot to smoke Pall Malls and Marlboros.