She looked like a grandmother. Not like either one of my grandmothers but a grandmother nonetheless. Her hair was white and her face tanned and wrinkled in a distinguished kind of way. The way that, should you have a face like that, you can just thank your lucky stars for it. There’s nothing you can do to make your face turn out that way.
I was startled to see the face, distinguished as it was, because it seemed to appear out of nowhere and it was very close to my less distinguished face. I had just been sitting there, next to Wife, and while I had noted that she had stood up, I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the world.
After all, we were on an airplane. I thought that maybe she just wanted to stretch her legs.
We moved to this house eight years ago, and while Stockholm isn’t in the Top 10 of the most expensive housing cities in the world, it was and is too expensive for us, so we happily relocated from the south side of town to the north side – and a little farther away from the Old Town.
I write this, like most things, in my home office which is one of four bedrooms in the house. It’s also the smallest one because, well – don’t mind me – I’m just writing here. How much space do I really need?
I’ve tried to make it an inspiring writer’s room by having photos and paintings on the wall, and on my desk, things that remind me of a trip or a place, or that I just think are sort of cool. They include a Donald Duck figurine that I’ve had since I was four or five, a Peanuts calendar holder I bought in Tokyo, a tiny bust of H.C. Andersen – my favourite fairytale author – I bought in Copenhagen, and a miniature DeLorean Son convinced me buy at the Universal Studios two years ago.
The latest addition to my desktop collection is a flower I bought last week.
Every time I take the commuter train in Helsinki, I make sure to get a window seat on the left side of the train, so that about seven minutes into the journey, I can press my nose against the window and see if my old neighborhood still looks the same.
From the train, I can see the ten-year-old me’s entire world, minus the skating rink and my school. I can see our balcony, the playground, my daycare, my two buddies’ houses, the small candy store, the pub that the local soccer team’s players were rumored to hang out in, the houses that replaced our small forest, and just after the train passes them, another friend’s home.
The last time I checked, it did look about the same. Of course, upon a closer examination, it’s not the same.
I know that because I have lived in the same apartment first as a pre-teen and then in my late 20s. I know things changed while I was gone.
Thanks to my return there, that neighborhood is where I’ve lived for the longest time in total and until a few months ago, it was where I had lived the longest without interruption. Now, at eight years and three months, that honor goes to Sollentuna, Sweden.
There I was, leaning against a construction site wall, looking out to Sergels Torg, the heart of Stockholm’s downtown. That’s the location of the main subway station and the commuter station hub, with a tunnel connecting it to the main train station. It’s also the place for markets and on most days, demonstrations of all sizes and for all causes.
Right behind me on the wall, there was a gigantic H&M logo and in front of me, a stage where a band was playing Swedish pop. All around me, there were blue-and-yellow flags, and faces and wigs, also blue-and-yellow, as Stockholmians got ready to celebrate the nation’s beloved hockey team, Tre Kronor, the national team that had won the world championship the night before.
For longer than I care to admit, I’ve known that “baby’s got blue eyes”. How blue? Well, like a “deep blue sea on a blue blue day”. I know this because somebody at Dad’s work had taped Elton John’s song ”Blue Eyes” on the same cassette tape as Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra” and while I was a much bigger fan of Steve’s gang than Mr. John, sometimes I wasn’t quick enough to press “stop” and listened to Sir Elton’s ballad, too.
By the time I was driving down the M1 between Leeds and Nottingham, I was pretty comfortable driving on the left side of the road, and passing others on their right. That’s exactly what I was doing – driving on the farthest lane to the right – as we approached Nottingham, and I saw a brown sign by the side of the road.
Often, when I see street artists, and every time I see artists that do things that completely surprise me, I try to think of how they get ready for another day’s work.
How the large man in Cologne gets up, checks his water bottles, fills them up with fresh, clean, pure water, and then takes the bus to the shopping street next to the cathedral and entertains people by drinking up all the water, a few liters at a time, only to then somehow get it all up and become a human water fountain.
Travel does broaden the mind, and if broadening your mind is something for you, nothing works better than a road trip. One day, you may wake up in a container in Cornwall, then walk through a rain forest biome in the Eden Project, take a left turn and find a wonderful inn, visit King Arthur’s Tintangel, and end the day at Grittleton. Or, maybe you wake up in Grittleton, drive to see the Stonehenge in the morning, and then have lunch at Bath, and dinner at Grittleton’s Neeld Arms.
I have made it. Or, this blog has hit the big time. I (It) now have (has) a parody account. It’s called Son. Whenever something unexpected occurs – for example, when he eats a spoonful of ketchup at an inn, thinking it’s special Cornish sauce – he asks me if I’m going to blog about it, and then launches into a parody narration: “When I was a kid back in Finland…” in a thick American accent.
The other day, as we were walking back from the Brighton Pier, he did that thing and then asked me if I was going to blog about it. When I said I might, he asked me what the blog would be about.
And I said, “Well, Son, it’d go something like this.”