Archive for March, 2019


March 31, 2019
man pulling luggage walking near gray concrete road during sunset
Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on
Photo: from free photo library

Gotta Go, Getaway

So, the date was January 2019.  My elderly stepfather was seriously ill in hospital.  I needed to visit him urgently.  Problem is, he is 1,300 miles away.  I took a flight later in the week from Heathrow to Helsinki and changed for Turku.  One hour late departing from London.  Knock-on effect: flight to Turku put back an hour.  Add on the two hours ahead time scale, from having left for the airport at about seven a.m. and only arriving at the hospital – or more accurately, a geriatric ward in a health centre – at seven in the evening, it is quite a long trek.  In addition, because of work reasons, I could only stretch the visits, which ended up being three by mid-February, for a weekend at a time, one of them six days by taking annual leave.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I stayed at his temporary ‘Senior Housing’ apartment, some six minutes’ walk to the health centre.  January was bitterly cold.  There was a heavy blizzard.  The tabloid Ilta-Lehti reported 53 cms of snow fell in one day, the most for quite a few years (the record is >109cm somewhere further north).  The health centre had four power cuts during one of my five-hour visits.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Heavy snow fall in January 2019 almost obscures headstone.  Backdrop, a frozen Aurajoki

Despite the intemperate climate, I was struck by the sheer beauty.  The sky was cobalt blue.  The snow glistened prettily, making bright the pale winter sun.  As I looked out of the apartment window and stepped out onto the glazed balcony on the ground floor, with a view from either side, my eyes feasted on the ancient fifteenth century church not fifty metres away.  Mounted on a slight hill, one could see it was built there for its aspect of outstanding natural beauty and located at the point the flow of Turku’s Aura River  turns from east to west to south from north, from its source at Oripää.   Situated on the east bank, Lieto Church, or the Holy Church of St Peter (Pyhä Pietari)  lies in the arms of the Aura, where it bends like a mother’s elbow nestling its child,  some  seven miles as the crow flies (ten by road) from Turku Cathedral, also on the east bank downstream nearer the sea.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Turku Cathedral and Lieto Church on the east bank of the Aurajoki

Lieto Church has great emotional meaning for me, as generations of  my ancestors are buried there, including my mother, grandmother and grandfather, three uncles and various great-grandparents and distant cousins/uncles/aunts, including two buried in honour at the war memorial.

Climb every mountain

Walking back and forth through heavy snowfall and, later, sludge and slush as the snow melted, together with deep impassable puddles on the walk across the park (piha) to get to my stepfather in hospital, I began to discover new paths in the area.  My family had come from the surrounding countryside so I was not that familiar with the ‘town’ (which is more like a village).  I found a footpath leading along Keisvuori (Emperor’s Mountain) which led towards the water tower, a notable landmark, which I had often seen in the distance as I passed on the main road or looked down from the plane.

One morning, after church and visiting my family’s grave, I took a walk along this path.  It was a fine sunlit day.  The air was fresh and the day bright.  There is something about the quality of light in Lieto that makes it an area of great natural beauty.  The sky seems almost low enough to touch.  The clouds can be like fat fluffy pillows in summer and candy floss streaks across the azure blue of the skies in winter.  Here’s the thing.  Lieto has the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises.  The sky is often painted with pink or purple brush strokes.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Moody skies and harmonious architecture

This is a place perfect for artists.  My stepfather is one and has painted many a Finnish landscape, two of which hang on my wall and on those of various relatives and family friends.  I lit a candle for him, my mother and my cousin who died recently, sure that it was to be his end of days soon, too.

As I walked a straight line from his apartment onto Pappilanpolku (the ‘vicarage way’), I chanced upon some very many wooden steps leading to the top of Keisvuori.  I had heard there was a small cave and a sacrificial boulder to be found up there, amongst several large rocks, rising some 80 metres above Lieto Church, which can be viewed from the top looking towards the southwest.   I discovered the steps had been constructed by the local council only a few months before.  An athletic type was carrying out her exercises running up and down them.  I didn’t climb up that first time but when the worst of the ice and snow had melted I, of course, climbed to the top and back down again.  At the zenith was a lot of snow and uneven terrain so I didn’t venture far.  Back at the bottom, my legs felt weak and wobbly.  I had never felt like this after my weekly gym in Archway.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Keisvuori steps approached from Pappilanpolku

Gimme, gimme shelter, oh I’m gonna fade away

Looking at Google later I noticed various flats for sale or for rent.  Lieto is a quietly affluent, smart-looking town with architecture that seems to blend in with nature:  minimalist white lines, elegant low rise blocks, with tastefully understated finesse.  Walking to and from the hospice I was gobsmacked by how the buildings appeared to change colour, depending on the time of day, the time of year or the weather.  It was uncanny, like a modernist man-made Ayers Rock.  A building made out of a red brick-like material seemed to glow bright crimson against the January snow in the evening twilight.  Buildings that were white in the midday sun glowed with pink tones on sunny days, grey or beige on dull ones.

With this in mind, I found myself perusing the homes for offer pages.  I fell in love with one, which was due for completion in July.  It had loft ceilings (40 metres high) with a built-in step ladder to reach your bed, and huge windows.  The only one I could afford without taking out a loan was a tiny (I discovered later) 24 square metre studio apartment which was still hugely expensive but promised a cheap government backed loan, at something like 1.2% interest for the balance.  I could just about afford the deposit immediately and it was on a plot nearby a road I had driven up many times from our country cottage (i.e., my grandparents’ old farm and newly built log cabin) to go shopping in town.  That hit my sentimental hot spot.  It was right on the edge of Pettinen, our manor.  So I made enquiries.

Meanwhile back in England, where I was born, grew up mostly, was educated and work, the whole Brexit thing was going on.  The drama, sturm und angst surrounding the shambolic process had me in a state of constant hypervigilance.  I was glued to the television late into the night absorbing the latest talking head analyses, hanging onto every Brexit word as though watching a burning inferno on a cinema screen.  Except this was real and no less gripping.

Be still my soul

Here in Finland I found peace and quiet.  My soul was still.   One day, the snow still deep on the ground, I went for a walk to visit the site of the loft apartment.  It seemed a long way from where I was staying.  Now it was my second visit, in late January.  The idea of moving out of the UK had begun to take hold of me.  When I arrived, to my surprise, the block, covered in protective sheeting, looked minuscule and distinctly uncharming, with no sign of any work in progress, apart from the obvious building site.  My enthusiasm for it began to dissolve like melting snow.

Idly looking through Google again, I went back to another apartment block I had previously dismissed as being too much on the edge of town.  Looking at the Google map, I realised it wasn’t far at all, and quite near to Keisvuori and the water tower, where I had enjoyed a pleasant walk earlier.  It was also bigger in size and the deposit lower.  It also had its own sauna.  That was the deal breaker for the loft apartment.  My daydreams turned to this one instead.  Not due to be ready until autumn, I decided to let fate choose my destiny.  I put in my offer and waited.

In the meantime, I took a walk across Pappilanpolku, passed the steps and Keisvuori, to visit my stepfather at the hospice the long way round.  For it went past the apartment block I now had my eye on.  Near Keisvuori.  Tick.  Near the water tower.  Tick.  Lots of landscape and nature.  Tick.  Near the town centre.  Tick.  Near the summer cottage.  Tick.  No masses of walls, streets and buildings as far as the eye could see, like London.  Tick.  No maddening crowds, no pushing, shoving, competing for space on roads, tubes, buses, shops and pavements.  Tick, tick tick.  No Brexit shenanigans.  Big √.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The development building and its environs

To be continued.  To be sure of reading the next instalment click ‘follow’.

All photos (except where stated) copyright © KrissyG1





%d bloggers like this: