Saturday, 31 December 2011


So another year. Well.

Because I absolutely abhor the way New Year's Eve is made into a huge shabang, I won't be making a retrospective post. I'll be drinking tea and lazing about. Huzzah for not noticing when the clock strikes twelve!

(But there's one tiny thing I might have to point out: 2011 was the first year when I sometimes felt like a bit of a grown-up. I take that as a plus.)

Now I'll roll back my shoulders and take a deep breath. And then just keep on breathing, straight into this new year. I wish you all the most glorious, sparkling and memorable year so far. Let 2012 treat us well.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

to the harbormaster

I wanted to be sure to reach you; 
though my ship was on the way it got caught 
in some moorings. I am always tying up 
and then deciding to depart. In storms and 
at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide 
around my fathomless arms, I am unable 
to understand the forms of my vanity 
or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder 
in my hand and the sun sinking. To 
you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage 
of my will. The terrible channels where 
the wind drives me against the brown lips 
of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet 
I trust the sanity of my vessel; and 
if it sinks, it may well be in answer 
to the reasoning of the eternal voices, 
the waves which have kept me from reaching you. 

To the Harbormaster by Frank O'Hara

Monday, 26 December 2011

never hurry, never worry

There's a hiccup in my swagger and worries in my way, although this Christmas has been simply divine.

I've been eating a truly indecent amount and reading almost constantly. (Books, after all, are the very best of presents. I was lucky enough to receive a glorious take on Austen by P.D. James, some Stephen Fry, some highly praised new Finnish novels and almost a thousand pages of brand spanking new Murakami. Oh yes.)

And maybe the most surprising and welcome present of all was a short trip to Amsterdam next week. (Thanks, Mum.) Van Gogh, Anne Frank, here I come.

(Also, if anyone feels like squeeing over the Christmas special of Downton Abbey with me, feel free to do so in the comments. My feelings over Matthew and Mary are full of flailing and smishing and clutching at my heart. Mary Crawley is my favourite character ever in the history of all things and Michelle Dockery is just stunning. Oh show, how I adore you.) 

Picture by the ever-delightful Nan Lawson

Saturday, 24 December 2011

a very merry

I'm non-religious to my bones, but there's something about this hymn (especially when it's sung by the glorious Sufjan Stevens and accompanied by a banjo) that makes me weak in the knees and strong in the heart.

May you all have the very best of Christmases.

Friday, 23 December 2011

the eve of the eve

I thought these pictures from Ezra Jack Keats's children's book (published in 1962) might bring holiday cheer to one and all.

The snow here melted as swiftly as it snowed down. But I've been making mince pies and playing Christmas songs, and I've hung my stocking already, and nothing will discourage me now.

I'm on holiday and there's finally no shortage of time. There are hours for sleep and for reading and cooking and simply being. I've banished all thoughts of revision and work out of my head, for just a while.

Today's Christmas song is called Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance! and it is beautiful. Because what's Christmas without Sufjan Stevens?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

oh the weather outside is frightful

Today I woke up and it was snowing. Actual stay-on-the-ground snow. I'd call it a Christmas miracle if it didn't sound so sappy. And also I think this blog is a bit too much of a weather blog as it is.

(Also you know the days when your heart just beats like crazy and you don't really know why.)

Monday, 19 December 2011

monday links (unspoken truths, last christmas, naming novels)

Only a few days to go till Christmas. Today I traipsed down to a Christmas market to get some aniseed and finger all the handmade decorations. It was crowded but calm and cheerful and oh goodness I love this time of year, despite the dark and the wet and the still-no-snow.

On with the links, not all of which are Christmas-y, I swear.

The late, great Christopher Hitchens on illness and voice. 

For those of you who need a pick-me-up for the final days of hurry and worry, and really don't feel like listening to Christmas songs anymore, something entirely different. For those of you who adore slightly corny Christmas songs, here's Florence Welch singing Last Christmas.

Why Finnish is cooler than English. Why, thank you. 

Olivia Cole on Frank O'Hara's glorious love poem To the Harbormaster. And writer Shalom Auslander on naming novels.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

tomorrow i'll be stronger

Oh really. No matter how many hours I sleep, how many times I roll back my shoulders and crack my spine, I can feel the tiredness and everything it entails pooling in my palms. 
(But I refuse to let my hands fall. There are things you can only hang on to with palms facing the sky.) 

I suppose this is one of those darker times but I'd so like it not to be. I want nothing more than to pull myself together. Instead I spend my days willing away schoolwork and thinking 
about the skeletons and lungs inside us all.

And listening to this song by Alex Turner, whom I've loved since the very first Arctic Monkeys album. 
Turns out, I adore him even more on his own. 
Tomorrow I'll be stronger, running colourful, no longer just in black and white.

Friday, 16 December 2011

i could see for miles miles miles

A tired Friday tinged with relief. Only another week to go till the holidays, until Christmas and sleep and books and friends and family. 

I've been studying history enough to have it bleed into my dreams. I dream of time travel and the impossible weight of a war and wake up with a beating heart, infinitely glad the sound of bombs is only in my head. 

(I won't write about how there's still no snow in Helsinki and only a week till Christmas. 

Except there's this pull in my chest, in my rib cage, a desperate longing for the crackling crumpling 
sound of footsteps in frost. Stars reflecting on a smooth surface of snow. 

I'm also listening to Bon Iver more than ever. 
This song and video suits this final melancholy wait before Christmas perfectly.) 

(Also,  Sandra Dieckmann's illustrations are pure magic.) 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

let it snow x3

Again, no snow. It's so dark in the mornings I like to imagine it's actually midnight and we've all been tricked to go to school for an impromptu Christmas party or a huge sleepover. (I've yet to be correct in my guesses.)

Fortunately it is dark and damp and cold enough anyway (and viciously windy and endlessly rainy) for enormous scarves and baking.

Nan Lawson is one of my absolute favourite illustrators. 
(Art inspired by Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Sufjan Stevens, 
Pride and Prejudice, Franny and Zooey and Where the Wild Things Are
How could I not be arse over tea kettle in love?) 

Monday, 12 December 2011


Miles to go before I sleep, or so it feels. Six hours of daylight is all we get, so there's plenty of dark hours to be spent awake and alert. It's not natural and yet of course one should be used to it after fifteen years of living at these unnatural latitudes.

Today I read about writing gratitude lists. First thing in the morning, penning down five things to be grateful for. Of course it's just the kind of ridiculous self-help thing I'd normally despise but lately I've been brimming with hopelessness so maybe I should give it a whirl.

I've been foolishly reading my old diaries and blogs. It's upsetting to realise how happy and how wise I've been in the past and how little I've progressed in terms of happiness or wisdom. (Or maybe I'm just blue tonight and should crawl into bed and trust the tomorrow-me to be kinder.)

Which doesn't mean everything is hopeless. Almost two years ago I wrote I think I'm beginning to learn how to be happy in a way that's not self-destructive. And I'm pretty sure I've learnt at least a bit more.

Also I know this is a quote that makes the rounds regularly enough to ring empty, but it's been stuck in my head and I have to get it out: Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on. (Jonathan Safran Foer)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

star star

(There's a storm raging outside but I'll be having friends over and I'm listening to this.)

comfort poems (in sickness and in health)

I'm suffering of a clogged nose, a raspy throat and a hacking cough. And an undue amount of worrying over everything I should have done and should be doing. So here I am, sneezing, coughing and blowing my nose all at the same time, and reading poetry.

Here's one by Laura Kasischke, called Love Poem.

The water glass. The rain. The scale
waiting for the weight. The car.
The key. The rag. The dust. Once 

I was a much younger woman
in a hallway, and I saw you: 

I said to myself
Here he comes.
My future's husband. 

And even before that. I was the pink
throbbing of the swim bladder
inside a fish in the River Styx. I was
the needle's eye. I was the air
around the wing of a fly, and you 

had no idea you were even alive. 

(found here)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

at last

So today I woke up to the smell on gingerbread and sunlight reflected by the snow-covered ground. Not a bad way to start a day.

Somehow snow makes everything a thousandfold easier.

Monday, 5 December 2011

monday links (christmas gifts, poetry, darkrooms, nostalgia)

Another Monday, another set of links. And what a cavalcade!

Things You're Left With After a Break Up by Ryan O'Connell of Thought Catalog
(He is somewhat brilliant, incidentally.) 

Some glamour for your Monday: Vanity Fair on the Barbizon Hotel's absurd history, including anecdotes about Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford and Sylvia Plath.

There's also Avi Steinberg's piece on airline safety cards. (The Pan Am safety card told passengers, in emergency landings, to "loosen your tie... but keep all your clothes on." Oh, the 60's.)

The latest from the dangerously spectacular and eerily insightful Sarah Kay.

The Guardian's gift guide this Christmas is stellar, with gift ideas for fans of Downton Abbey or the royal wedding, or gifts for anyone who wants to be more like Ryan Gosling

And finally, Ryan McGinley's photographs are beautiful and awe-inspiring and extremely very not safe for work.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

smoke and mirrors, etc.

Yes, I am still alive and kicking but weeks pass by too quickly for me to notice and certainly too fast for words. Sometimes I catch myself in the mirror and barely recognise myself, almost like I've forgotten my own features. Or maybe I'm growing up too fast to keep up.

I don't really know what it is I want to say, except maybe this: I feel younger and sillier than before and yet it feels as though there's something emerging in me, breaking to the surface, some half-baked form of a grown-up. And it's everything I never thought it would be.

It's not calm or all-powerful, it's not offering me answers as much as questions and it's certainly not as organised or capable as I'd have hoped. In fact, I feel more like I'm reliving a sort of childhood. The childhood of my adulthood, maybe.

I'm curiouser by the day and feeling things in the deep, rooted way children do, in my belly and my spine. I'm overpowered by chords and words and the everyday, every day. I'm breaking out of my self-imposed limitations. I'm maybe trying to accept my ignorance when it comes to certain things, I'm asking questions, breathing the world in and exhaling it in tiny bits, leaving something always to be dissected within my lungs.

I'm not looking back, this is not the nostalgia of leaving childhood behind. 
This is something to do with looking into my own eyes like into a stranger's.