To Hell sinki and back!!?

The seven of us wrecked women managed to get back from Finland on Saturday last arriving in Dublin airport at 2.30 Irish time, albeit a little more “weighty” around the waists and a little less “weighty” in our purses.  We were as proud as punch showing off, like peacocks, our scarves, our wool scarves made with our very own hands.  Wool and string hung out from our suitcases attached to oversized knitting needles and massive crochet hooks.  Shoes that didn’t make it into the suitcase, due to lack of space, teetered precariously on the edge of our hand luggage.  Aer Lingus must have been in a good mood that day as they failed to see the rucksacks, our illegal second piece of hand luggage, on our backs sort of hidden from view by shawls.  Who did we think we were fooling?  Were those humps going to be confused with hunchbacks?  No, the only explanation is that this wasn’t a Ryanair flight.

So there we were, the seven of us and the little one said,  “ok, you guys, I’m out of here.  Nice to have spent seven days with you old cronies but now I want to hang out with someone my own age”  So off she went, the button brassy Jane, the youngest and the strappiest of us all, to spend the night with her boyfriend in Dublin, leaving behind six distraught women looking for the coach park.  Some of us cast our minds back to her shenanigans with the bronze police man at the waterfront in Oulu.  There are photos to prove it.  She was a shameless hussy to be sure.   So off she went abandoning the other six to the bus journey homeward bound.

And once on the bus and heading back down the country to the midlands, as we peered out the window at the passing landscape we couldn’t  help but  feel a little twinge of sadness for the endless amount of trees, mainly birch, in all of Finland. Any inch of land that doesn’t have a house or factory or farm on it is densely covered with forest over there.  And the idea that in that dense forest lies an Elk or a moose or even a moomin (a little white troll found in the forests) fills one with anticipatory excitement.  So here we were, looking out at the charming Irish landscape, feeling that it was an eternity ago since we looked out at our beautiful green fields, and the smell of Finland still lingered on in our nostrils and our hearts.  And the day we had to strip off, because that’s what everyone does when in the sauna, came back to us because of the smell of the wood in those saunas and the creaking of the wood as it constantly got heated up and all the ladies stark naked, sitting there as if it were the most natural thing in the world, which it was of course, but we, being Irish and a little prudish, felt like ducks out of water or peas out of their pod and we couldn’t hide our nakedness no matter how hard we tried.  That was challenging alright.  Some of us, the more coward of us, refused to get butt naked and cowered in the jacuzzi in the swimming pool area.  By the way, any of you seven girls guilty of this are from here on found “innocent”, given your Irishness and modesty.

Our lovely Deirdre, the gentle one, left us in the Tesco carpark in Kinnegad.  We waited to make sure her car would start after a week standing there and it did.    I call her gentle because she was that;  gentle, kind and caring and a little shy at the same time but a brick nonetheless showing such strength of character, such resolve. Deirdre, my new friend.  In fact we were all friends, by the end of the trip.  It’s amazing how much respect we showed for each other and the camaraderie among us was second to none.  It had to be that way as we shared rooms, and small ones at that, especially in Oulu.  Living and letting live in a small space – it was truly remarkable. And those who snored their heads off are hereby forgiven because you were so sweet in every other way, so careful to keep to your side of the room, mindful that the other was tired and needed to go to sleep, aware that you were not the only one in need of a shower, in the early hours of the morning, in order to face the busy day ahead, a day full of threads and buttons and knitting needles and crochet hooks and felt and linen and silk transfers and whatnots.   The mind goes dizzy just thinking of the hectic schedule

So next to bail out from the gang was  Monica, that’s me.  Kilbeggan harkened her and her sweet Mauricio.  And despite the fact that she had eyes for the handsome potter somewhere in “the back of the beyonds” in Finland she longed for Mauricio’s embrace.  The potter with the ring on his finger was totally out of her league of course although that didn’t stop her admiring.  As she said herself, “there’s no harm in looking”, it took Deirdre, the astute Deirdre, to see the ring on his finger.  But Monica wasn’t looking at his finger but rather his handsome face, his strong tanned arms, his warm smile and his lovely manner as he went through all the processes ,in his very big workshop   just how to make a ceramic man blowing a big horn held with one hand and which, the potter explained, is given to a worker after 30 years of service in his company “Arabia” which also makes ceramics.  And we all shuddered when we saw the size of the kiln where the potter fires all his wares.  So enormous.  Some of us have kitchens smaller than it.

And then there were four, well actually five including the mini bus driver.  He was nothing compared to our finnish mini bus drivers and especially the last one who chewed the ear off our “boss”.  The word “boss” here is loosely applied because Aileen didn’t have a bossy bone in her body.  As we headed to Helsinki airport, from the Holiday Inn, where we had spent our last day and evening, Aileen offered to sit in front with the driver.  Sometimes, she felt like taking the wheel from him while he wrote out his invoice for the taxi fare while driving, or, another time, he looked up his schedule to organise another trip over the mobile phone.  You would think, that in Finland, it is perfectly legal to read while driving or to be on your phone while driving.  Anyway it was like a mini office in the front of that taxi and poor Aileen, who felt like falling asleep because she was so bored with this bore of a man, but couldn’t because she felt she had to be the eyes and ears for him while he conducted his office work while trying to get us “safely” to the airport.  Aileen, our non bossy “boss”, at one stage confessed how while she was in the bathroom of her hotel room in Oulu ………….. and I won’t continue this sentence out of a sense of loyalty because as a group we made a pact and that pact is “What happened in Finland stays in Finland”  Right Girls?

So there was the rest of the girls, the four of them, to be precise, and I can only imagine the rest of their journey (as I was already gone out of the mini bus at Kilbeggan, remember?)  They were all headed for Core in Ballinahown the last pick up point in the last leg of this incredible journey.  I imagine that Anne Marie, the only true knitter among us, would have been the first out of the bus as she was the nearest to the door.  She will not want to see another stitch, be it knitting or crochet for a while.  Her attention will have to turn to the chores around the house and farm that will have mounted up while she was away and will keep her busy for the next week or two.  But no doubt, she’ll put to work all those new stitches she learned in Finland and will be showing off her new wares up at the RDS Christmas Craft Fair, her wares that were “inspired by Finland”.  There will be one or two Finnish knitters all the wiser having spent a little time with Anne Marie too as she didn’t hesitate to show off her knowledge of some far out stitches that they had never come across in Finland, thus making it a two way sharing of knowledge.  Good on you Anne Marie!

And then there were three, but really two after Aileen got out with her recently purchased, rather expensive shoes in one hand and her extremely heavy rucksack in the other.  I sincerely hope she didn’t leave any parcel behind as she was inclined to do so on a couple of occasions.  So who’s left?  Oh yes, I imagine Hazel getting out next, with that smile, that permanent smile of self assuredness on her face.  And she had a lot to smile about because she knew then that she would not have to cook dinner that night because she had phoned ahead of the imminent arrival at Core to the upstairs restaurant for a takeaway Lamb stew.  No, the lucky divil, no cooking for her later on!!   And she can smile because in Finland she got a lot of inspiration and a lot of ideas for her new range of products which will come out in time for the RDS at Christmas?  With a little sigh from time to time, she reminded us all of how good it was to be in Finland; a little sigh of pleasure, a little sigh of feeling totally satiated with stimulation.  So we all look forward to what she has in mind and “up her sleeve” (excuse the pun Hazel) for her new product line which also will be “inspired by Finland”.  Many of those women will have come back from Finland with ideas galore and their heads reeling.  Whether they put these ideas into practice remains to be seen.

There were seven in the bed and the little one said move over and this little one was the last out of the bus and her name was/is  Helen, Helen, the Soft Spoken.   She must have been wrecked the most, she never stopped looking and examining and questioning and buying.  She was so laden down with all her purchases she had to send a big box home by courier.  There wasn’t one shop that she didn’t buy something from.  And her politeness was awe inspiring, Helen the Soft Spoken.   The amount of ideas swimming around in that lady’s head and the possible possibilities are endless.  Well I can only say Helen, I do hope that you can make head and tail of these ideas and can file them neatly away and take them out when need be and you’re a better woman than I if you can manage all that.  And what’s weird is I’d say you can and will.

So all the seven women by now are back in their own homes, well and truly settled back into their domestic lives or non domestic lives,  but none of them will ever forget their delightful experience in Finland and I’d say, given half a chance, would be back there next year in a flash.   Many thanks to the Westmeath and Offaly local Development Companies for making this all possible and to our Non Bossy “Boss” for not being bossy and so helpful, and to all the other six women I take off my hat to your wonderful company during the Finnish stay and look forward to sharing other experiences with you in the future.