Walking and talking

Walking is one of life’s simple pleasures when you are able to do it without external pressures like a heavy rucksack full of groceries, icy pavements or wind-driven heavy rain/snow making you feel like you are the only one in the world mad enough to be out.
Here in Ylöjärvi we have excellent opportunities for indulging in this exercise, particularly when you live in Vuorentausta because the rest of Ylöjärvi is on the other side of the ridge, as the name suggests.
It has become a matter of honour for us to use the bus only in exceptional circumstances and then we have to study the timetable to see if the buses fit in with our need to be somewhere.
The style of walking has so many descriptions in all languages, some of my favourites being “sauntering”, “ambling along” and “perambulating”, none of which sound very energetic and probably all the more attractive because of it.
Walking on the ridge along the paths created by the locals walking dogs or just wanting to make a shortcut somewhere can be quite a challenge due to the roots, rocks and tree stumps.
It amazes me how, after even heavy snowfalls, the paths appear in the same places within hours.
How do the people remember so exactly where the path runs?
Those paths are very popular with the cyclists as well, and seeing them rushing over the rocks and stumps, up and down steep slopes that I take very carefully on foot, takes my breath away.
I like cycling but prefer smoother routes where I can see where I’m going.
Lately this winter has given us a reminder of how winters used to be: we’ve had to do some serious snow clearing and to search backs of drawers for thicker gloves, scarves and hats which have not been needed during the past couple of winters, and the skiers are getting proper exercise as well.
I’m not a driver so don’t meet with the challenges these conditions create for the traffic and the road maintenance crews, and offer my sympathy to them while tramping my way to the shops “on the other side of the mountain”.
We spent a weekend in Jyväskylä recently, looking at the city, attending an evening function and meeting relatives. That was still the time of slippery pavements and freezing rain/sleet making everything look miserable.
We visited the Alvar Aalto Museum and the Art Museum for the necessary cultural content you have to fit in when visiting another place.
The function was a dinner in memory of Scotland’s national poet, Robert (Rabbie) Burns.
This gentleman lived in the 1700s, was a prolific poet who, like most poets and songwriters, enjoyed whisky and women.
He died at the age of 37 but left behind a large collection of very long poems, several children and lots of friends who, a few years after his death, decided to meet to reminisce, read and sing his poems and have his favourite dinner with the appropriate whisky.
They had such a good time that decided to do it again the following year. Over the years this custom has spread so that now everywhere in the world his memory is celebrated around 26th January, including Jyväskylä, where the local branch of an association, now called Anglo-Finnish Guild ry, have arranged a dinner for many years for the members and their friends.
The atmosphere is as authentic as it can be made, including an excellent bagpiper, poetry reading and toasts to the Lassies (ladies) and the Lads (men).
After dinner the diners form a circle, join hands and sing the traditional farewell song “Auld Lang Syne”.
The main course of the dinner is haggis, a Scottish speciality which is as controversial as mustamakkara: some people cannot bring themselves to eat it whilst others cannot get enough of it.
I leave you to research it on the internet, suffice it to say that I am neutral whereas my wife loves it and is already looking forward to the Burns Night next year when we hope to hear the “piper’s call” again.
One of the guests at the event was an official from the British Embassy, talking about the Brexit and how it will affect the British citizens living in the EU and vice versa.
She couldn’t really give any useful information because the negotiations are still in confusion, but she learned a lot about our individual concerns which at this stage nobody has probably even thought about because the overall framework of the separation has not been worked out.
The No-campaigners made the separation sound so easy but must have been aware of the complications all along, judging by the leaders leaving the stage as soon as the voting result became known.
I have always been interested in other countries and continents: as a schoolboy I tried to learn to recognize flags and wondered what the countries with the most exotic ones would be like.
Maybe it was a premonition that the simple design and the fresh colours of the Finnish flag attracted me very much.

Paul Dockree

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