scribbles tagged ‘Finland’

1949 Modernism in Minneapolis

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Eliel Saarinen Lutheran ChurchCoincidences in the suburbs.

Eliel Saarinen designed one of my favourite buildings, Helsinki central train station. One day I’ll ride the line from Helsinki to St Petersburg with a layover at Viipuri, my fathers birthplace. Eliel Saarinen also designed the Viipuri train station. Train stations are fabulous places, they are the door to adventures, they bring loved one’s home.

Eliel’s last building was a Lutheran church in Longfellow, a suburb of Minneapolis. One of the earliest examples of a modernist building in the USA and listed on their national register of historic places. It stands in very stark contrast to the surrounding classical wooden, suburban, homes. No more of a contrast than the pseudo-gothic, often Germanic, red stone churches in most other districts.

Eliel’s son Eero appears to have worked with Charles Eames, clearly knew both Ray and Charles. Eero also designed the educational annex on the church, added to the building in 1962.
minneapolis residential street
On the Saturday morning that I spontaneously  visited, all the doors to the church were locked. No sign of life inside, no opportunity to see the wonderful light streaming through the cleverly placed windows to fill the space for worship. The door design is simple and beautiful. Ashame that someone felt the need to add the instruction to “Pull” the door handle which already displays all the affordances of being ‘pull-able’ more than ‘push-able’.

Eliel Saarinen Lutheran ChurchThough far more beautiful, the outside design reminded me of the Danish church in Hull that the House family occasionally visited when staying with Hull branch.

I’ll be back, with some locally rounded-up fellow building-lovers on an official, docent-led tour day

1949 Modernism in Minneapolis
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Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

From a Goggle Translation in a Finnish discussion list:

  • 1.5 litres of fresh 3-4 cm long spruce tips (pitkiä kuusenkasvaimia)
  • 6 litres of water
  • a dab of champagne  yeast
  • 2 cups of honey

Crush the spruce. Pour the boiling water over them and allow to cool to lukewarm.  Add the yeast and honey. Let it ferment for 1-2 days, strain.  Spruce tips are rich in vitamin C and make a healthy and bright-flavoured mead.

SpruceBritish websites refer to this as “Spruce mead”

A fast-food version of this involves putting some fresh spruce tips in your Finlandia vodka.


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Finns aren’t chatty

Friday, April 12th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Home phonewendy: I talked to dad on the phone last night

mumzie: yes, I was here darling, I heard

wendy: that’s a first! we don’t normally actually talk to each other on the phone

mumzie: I know dear, he normally says “that’ll be wendy, you answer it” and hands me the phone


Luckily, I learnt in my teenage years that talking with dad is only warranted if there is valuable knowledge to be shared. Talking to me is not something high on his list of priorities – why would he want to do that?!

Today I called because mum’s brother-in-law has just died. Mumsie talks to move her feelings around, sometimes I wonder how on earth they ended up together, strangely, they fit together extremely well. Dads silence and mums chatter.

Finns aren’t chatty
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Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Vieno Tuulikki KolehmainenThis photograph of 2 boys and a girl was taken around 1910 give or take a decade in Viipuri, Finland

The relative lack of gender definition advertised by the childrens clothes is a pleasant suprise.  All 3 are wearing tunics that look like ‘dresses’ with dropped waistelines and high necklines, dark stockings, sturdy lace-up boots, large collars

These boots were probably purchased from the shoe store at 20 Torkkelinkatu, Viipuri, owned by the children’s father Alpo Kolehmainen or his later ‘factory’ at Mikkeli

The gender differences are also clear with the boys in larger white collars, and shorts below their tunics. The girl in paler coloured dress with elbow length sleeves and no obvious shorts

I suspect that this dress style is mainly specific to children, though drop waistlines became popular for adult female dresses in the 1920s

I wonder whether these dress style choices were specific to this family or part of a broader fashion?

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Vieno Tuulikki Kolehmainen

Thursday, November 17th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Vieno Tuulikki KolehmainenI recently checked out a few details with my Dad, about his mother – Vieno Tuulikki (born) Kolehmainen. I met my her only once in 1968, when she visited our family in England for a couple of weeks. I was 4 years old. She was a quiet, affectionate, frail old lady

This is what I’ve found out about Vieno Tuulikki Kolehmainen:

  • Studied Medieval English (probably at the University of Helsinki)
  • First son, dad,  born when she was 24 in Viipuri – 1933
  • Arrived in England 1934 aged 25 when her Lutheran minister husband was posted to Hull
  • Daughter born in 1937, died less than a year later in 1938
  • Vieno’s home in Hull bombed in 1941
  • Russia attacked Finland in 1939
  • Finland attacked Russia in 1941. England was an ally to Russia. Russia declared war on Finland and Vieno was included in the exchange of diplomats. Pressumably returning to Helsinki
  • Dad evacuated to safety with a family in neutral Sweden – Linkoping
  • Helsinki home was bombed one month after the birth of her second son – 1944
  • Returned to England 1947 – suffered from clinical depression
  • Returned to Finland 1948 – without her children – divorced 1950
  • Visited England in 1968 – stayed with dad and met her grandchildren – but never met her second son who refused to visit out of loyalty to his father – Vieno’s ex-husband
  • Died from a heart attack following slipping on doorstep ice in 1969

I see so many unanswered questions in this storyine….

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little my

Monday, March 28th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

If you were at a Swedish speaking school you would swear in Finnish or German. Often the language at school was different from the language at home. At home you could have a conversation where one sentence would switch between languages, Finnish, Swedish German (Dad)

Dad had a multilingual upbringing in Finland, Sweden and  Hull (England). I had a monolingual upbringing, English was the only language spoken at home.

Dad did make sure we had many connections with his family history through music (Sibelius), decorations such as Dalacarlian horses, personal and published stories. Dad arranged the weekly trip to the Library to swap our story books. A big family event, such fun. Noggin the Nog and Tove Jannsen‘s Moomin’s (Muumi in original Finnish) were fond favourites of my early life. Like Dad, Tove was a Swedish speaking Finn. Little my is an occassional character in the Moomins, based on Tove.

The soundtrack for the TV series sounds almost Cajun….

Watch and listen to a Moomin episode in original musical Finnish

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Finnish flag

Saturday, February 26th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Wendy: I’d like a Finnish Flag decal for the roof of my Mini

Mini Salesboy: Sure, a checkered flag

Wendy: No, the country Finland, the country’s flag, a blue cross on a white background

We laughed and he gave me the name and phone number of the company the local Mini outlet uses for all their custom work. The staff at the local Mini outlet in Reading town always manage to make me feel good, even on the rare occassions they actually take some of my cash

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unregistered Finnish citizen

Friday, January 28th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

While wandering around the internets I stumbled upon the fabulous Finnish Immigration services website

As you do

Helsinki CathedralI am eligible for Finnish citizenship because my father is a Finnish citizen and was married to my mother at the time of my birth. It looks like the only formality is for Dad to register my birth with a Finnish registry office, at the moment Finland doesn’t officially know that I exist. Dad explained that he didn’t register any of his children in Finland because that made them eligible for Finnish military service and he didn’t want us to be obliged to go through that, despite his fond memories of being stationed on the Åland Islands during his own National service

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magic goats

Sunday, December 26th, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Mum and Dad’s house is full of all sorts of good looking Christmas decorations, candle holders, runners, baubles and tinsel.

Amongst the ever growing collection are a few things that I recall from my youth. In my youth Christmas decorations were stored in one, carefully packed, box. Opening the christmas decoration  box was a special time. Out came the red and the blue christmas goats. I always suspected them of being christmas elephants but dad assures me that they are goats. I would make up stories about the Christmas goats and move them around the house. They are magic goats.

Traditional candle holders

PS This is a 100 word post, before the PS

magic goats
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after some chafing Finland awakes

Monday, December 6th, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

During the BBC Proms the family House made a trip to see the Ulster Symphony Orchestra perform the Karelia suite in prom 68. It was very touching to see mum and dad, a Karelian, look so happy. Dad once again reminded me that he has a signed photograph of Colonel Mannerheim that was given to his mum.

Sibelius wrote Finlandia

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foundation garment shortage

Monday, July 5th, 2010 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

In Reading town its Jacksons

In Tiverton town its Banbury’s

A family run store, named after the family.  Selling everything in tiny departments on split-level floors arranged with a maze-like series of turns and staircases. These stores are Tardis-like, seeming small from the outside then corridor after staircase after turn they get larger and larger.  The staff are normally experienced people with well structured hairstyles or quirky youngters. All are personable.  When leaving the Wendy house this morning I was in the middle of scat-fest.  Things I forgot to bring with my included, pants, watch,  tops to wear.  Banbury’s was just the place to temporarily solve my foundation garment shortage

While searching for the cleverly hidden underware department I stumbles across a Linen top with a print reminiscent of the fabulous Finnish Marimekko Unnikko print.  Yummy.

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ingenjör wendy

Sunday, November 1st, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |

Norwegian man in Reading pub: there’s not many girls that know about assessing political risk

Wendy: I’m an ingenjör

Norwegian: what type of engineer?

Wendy: Social ingenjör

Norweigian: I find the English girls are very…..         errrrr….       how do you say ……’old fashioned’

Wendy:   Yeah,  I find the English girls are very old fashioned too,   that’s why my Finnish dad wanted to marry an English girl.                  But  look at these boots!      I’m not an old fashioned girl. I’m an ingenjör with SENSIBLE footwear.   Functionally well engineered,   good experience, easthetically funky    footwear   I blame Dad.

Norweigian: I’m sorry?.

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precision time memories

Saturday, October 31st, 2009 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Bros 1957: Wendy, do you remember what we were doing at this time on September 11th 1979?

Wendy: Errr……   …not really,   what were we doing Bros 1957?

Bros 1957:   Oh!   You don’t remember!

Bros can produce an ‘Oh’ packed with emotional messages.   It’s a family trait.   He was genuinely very suprised that I didn’t remember what we were doing at a specific time on a specific day nearly 10 years earlier

Wendy: Nope.   I can guess but it would be based on probablities that things I remeber happened at that time.   What were we doing then?

Bros 1957:  We were having a family sauna  at a ski resort in Inari, Finland  

Wendy:   I remember the Sauna.   How do you remember the exact date and time?

Bros 1957: because it  was exactly 10,000* days ago (huge smile)

Helsinki's Sibelius monumentBros 1957 has a fantastic ability to remember time and events together,  he’s published an eponymous  moon-based calendar.

* dates have been changed because I can’t remember them
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bread winner

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Shopping For DadMumzie drives to another town to pick-up the only Rye crisp-bread that Dad considers to be like real Finnish Rye bread.

The myriad of  quirky little things my parents do for each other shows they are still in love, 52 years after getting married.

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Monday, November 17th, 2008 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

HittavainenHittavainen, the Karelian god of hares has turned up in the Wendy House garden.

According to the BBC Hares crop up in Mythology all over the place and are associated with the Moon, the celestial skies and the Sun, with fertility, the dawn, cunning and bravery.

This one is associated with pebbles purloined from beaches all over the world.

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Helsinki family fun

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

1977.     In  Helsinki mum, dad, and  both brothers were  visiting dad’s family.

Dad took us all into  the Kalnuun Puukko shop and we spent the afternoon each choosing a Puukko.   After Puukko’s were purchased we went off into the woods around Helsinki to find fallen wood to wittle.   We wittled together.   All good family fun.   Result?   Lots of pointy small sticks left in the woods.   My psyche was forever scarred by this experience and I’m now totally undatable.

When asked for some clarifying points on this ”knife’ aquiring experience  Dad described the social-cultural significance of a Puukko beyond my constrained concept of a ‘knife’:

Knife in Finnish is veitsi – You should never call a puukko a knife – it is much more than that – it is the basic survival tool that you should have when you venture into the forest or into nature at wintertime or summertime. Its very name is associated with its prime use puu is tree or wood and kko implies a thing associated with the former – a woodworking tool. With it you can build a shelter in the forest, make a spear for spearing fish, use as an ice pick to drag yourself out of broken ice and much more. It does not weigh you down – it is essential in hunting and fishing. The original puukko had handle made of tightly woven young birch bark which often had a spell written on it before it was applied. This had to be replaced regularly – the modern puukko often has a solid handle often simulating the old type. Taken into cities and suburbia it becomes a weapon rather than a tool and it loses its basic character. In the Finnish – English dictionary the puukko is described as a sheath-knife as English does not have a separate word for a woodworking knife . It can and is used for stabbing by roughs and the verb puukottaa means stab with a puukko and the stab (noun) is puukonisku. The blade of the puukko is puukonterä. The man who makes it is a puukonseppä ( a smith) A true puukko should be bought from the man who makes it and you should visit him so that he can choose the right blade for you – However mass production does not allow for these old niceties and a tourist shops in the city is the source nowadays.

I wonder what equivalent stories with socio-cultural significance will be handed down to our next generations…

Helsinki family fun
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1970’s chic… …table?

Friday, June 9th, 2006 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Pathetic Person Advisory (PPA):   look away now if you can’t bare soppiness  (1)  

When I get home-sick (2) I take a trip to ScanDesign and look at the furniture.   The wood is mainly an orange shade with simple lines.   My parents home is packed with co-ordinated Scandinavian teak furniture.   In the 1990’s, when I had no furniture,  I begged them to leave thier front room to a Museum as an intact example of 1970’s Chic.   It still is 1970’s Chic.  Only now it’s really cool and I’d rather they left it to me,   not that I could afford to ship it to the US.    

Now,   my front  room looks frighteningly similar to theirs.   I am becoming my parents. I have exactly the same dining table.  When buying it  I didn’t think,   ‘oh my parents will like that I must buy it’,   I thought wow that’s beautiful, cheap and I need a  round table.   The English cultural icon King Arthur made the need and value of a round table quite clear.    My current table was oblong and identical to my parents’ table.   Buying a round table marked my  independence.   Later,   when I visited the biddies,  I discovered  they had  replaced their oblong table with one identical to mine.   The good news is that my parents will feel very ‘at home’ next time they visit.          

furniture with that 1970s Chic scandinavian theme

Notice the blue glass grail-like challice on the shelf?   It’s Marimekko,   I have grown into  a scandinavian design adict.  I’m not looking for a cure.   It just is.   I’ll live with it.  On a related note,   I’ve noticed some Ikea products sneaking into my bothers home.   Nothing sinister,   just a chair and a bed….

  1. I gather from this Times Online article that soppiness may well be a British trait
  2. In this case, home = living with my parents.   I have way too many ‘homes’,   different cities,   houses,   countries….  
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pillage pending

Thursday, June 8th, 2006 | tags: , ,  |

Overheard in the US:

  • I’m Swedish” says a rotund lady with an American accent that reveals no hint of Scandinavian rythm.    She demonstrated  no sign of the stylish dress sense  I’d witnessed on my trips to Stockholm and Linköping.   I didn’t ask ‘how’ she was Swedish.  I was only evesdropping on the conversation.   The American she spoke to accepted moved the conversation to another topic.
  • I’m Finnish” a slender girl in an American accent told me.   “How?”  two of her grandparents were born in Sweden before becoming naturalised American citizens.   She had met her grandparents though  never visited Europe.      She knew very little about the country.   I didn’t mentioned my lineage.   She didn’t ask. She appeared to be enjoying telling me about hers.   I was enjoying being an  attentive audience.

The US authorities do not legally recognize dual citizenship.     It seems you can be a US citizen and declare yourself ‘as if’ native of another county.   To be a native of another country doesn’t require  having the benenfit of parents born in that country,   speaking the language, or having visited that country.

My father was born in the Karelia isthmus when it belonged to  Finland.   He holds a Finnish passport and emmigrated to England aged 19.   I was born after he became a British citizen.   My parents were both British citizens.   I know a bit about Finland by virtue of visits to relations, holidays in Scandinavia, stories from Dad, and cultural objects around my parents home.   But that hardly qualifies me to say ‘I’m Finnish’.      I am English.   I only lived one year in Scotland and spent numerous vacations in Wales and Ireland.    I suspect there were probably some Vikings in my mothers family tree.   By American conversational convetions I can probably  say ‘I’m  Viking’.   Watch out for the pillaging,   its overdue….

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