Northern Lights never fail to Amaze

Known as The Northern Lights,or officially, The Aurora Borealis.They are a magical light show in the skies.I was first overwhelmed by this sight in January 2000 in Kemi,Northern Finland.The first time I saw this night time show I was literally left bewildered and Breathless.The sun gives off high-energy charged particles (also called ions) that travel out into space at speeds of 300 to 1200 kilometres per second. A cloud of such particles is called a plasma. The stream of plasma coming from the sun is known as the solar wind. As the solar wind interacts with the edge of the earth’s magnetic field, some of the particles are trapped by it and they follow the lines of magnetic force down into the ionosphere, the section of the earth’s atmosphere that extends from about 60 to 600 kilometres above the earth’s surface. When the particles collide with the gases in the ionosphere they start to glow, producing the spectacle that we know as the auroras, northern and southern. The array of colours consists of red, green, blue and violet.

The Northern Lights are constantly in motion because of the changing interaction between the solar wind and the earth’s magnetic field. The solar wind commonly generates up to 100,000 megawatts of electricity in an auroral display and this can cause interference with power lines, radio and television broadcasts and satellite communications. By studying the auroras, scientists can learn more about the solar wind, how it affects the earth’s atmosphere and how the energy of the auroras might be exploited for useful purposes.

Aurora Borealis can be seen from the beginning of September until April (but not every night). It isn’t possible to see Aurora Borealis in the summer (May-August) because there is too much light then (April may even be too late). We have the midnight sun in the summer.Should you yourself decide you wish to see this Spectacular show,I rcommend travelling to the more Northern parts of Finland.Though saying that, I have actually seen them just outside Helsinki.Inner city areas are not such a good veiwing platform due to the City Lights.Should you wish to make a visit I can Recommend a Great place in The Northern part of Finland.……OH,The time has flown by.Its Vappu in 40 minutes and I should be on a boat to a small Island approx 40Km.I shall be away until Sunday,However I may take the laptop?

British Diet lacks Finnish Healthy Eating

One of the first experiences I remember as a British Expatriate when I came to Finland was the difference in food on offer.The simple things like bread were very different in taste,so much so that I refused to eat it.Most finns eat Rye bread,which is black and at times hard,I know it may sound being being fussy,but to me it was a daily contention
As a Brit I was missing things such as fish and chips,wrapped in newspaper,steak and kidney pies,pork pies,and many British sandwich spreads.Marmite and mint sauce being the main ones.I was to go through a period of time where I would only eat the minimum to keep my hunger at bay;I would visit Indian take aways as I have an intense liking for their food.i found out shortly though the I ndian Restaraunts are infact Nepalese,so I found and still find them far to hot to eat(spicy hot)I mean

So what did the Finnish eat I thought

It turned out they eat very healthy food,a lot of fish,the best being Graavi,which is actually Rainbow Trout or Salmon cured with salt and Dill for 3 days or so.This is then usually served on the black bread I mentioned earlier,with either fish eggs or egg slices or both.I must say they are delicious and very low in fat.During the summertime people eat alot of salad dishes and smoked fish.On October 7th there is the Baltic Herring Festival,where the herrings are either pickled or smoked.You will see alot of people walking around the southern harbour eating them from paper plates or paper wrappers

Finnish meat consumption

I found the big choice in meat for Finnish people is Pork,this I believe is to do with there being less fat content,however Reindeer and Moose or elk are popular and very tasty when eaten.Both meats are served with berries or wild Forrest mushrooms.Finland has an abundant supply of mushrooms,so much so that theyn export large amounts abroad,the same with Berries.One only has to walk out to a forrested area and it seems there are so many mushrooms you could fall over them,and they are free for personnel use.

So did I get to like the Finnish diet

The answer is definitely yes.My british Expatriate ways have nearly all but disappeared.I have now adopted a healthier way of eating,less fatty meats and fresh vegetable s,accompanied with wild Forrest mushrooms and berries.In fact I rarely if ever miss the old style English food,looking back it was not so good anyway,even though I know there are now many restaurants in the UK that are reviving the old English cuisine……………..I shall wait and see until I visit Britain again!Thereis a related post on Good Finnish Restaraunts serving this kind of wholesome food

Finnish Health Care,A Beacon of Efficiency

The Finnish Health Care system proved to be both efficient and caring too me.In the Spring of 2004 My wife noticed that I was suffering with severe calf cramps in my sleep.Whilst at the time I did not notice;I did feel tired through the days.My wife suggested that I pay a visit too my local Doctor.This I did and explained that when going to bed my feet ached causing me to have to tense them and release the tension after a minute or so,this I would do until I fell asleep.

Within 5 weeks I was asked to visit The Neurological Polyclinic,Meihilahti,Helsinki, for tests and to see a specialist.To tell the truth I did not believe there was a problem and thought it would just go away given time!Next was seen by a young looking female neutologist/Licentiate.She performed a physical check and asked if I would be willing to stay 1 night in hospital for a sleep analysis.Now I do not like hospitals at the best of times,however I agreed to her request.Some nights later I was in a hospital bed aand at 2400 I was given the oportunity to take my last cigarette.Then I was connected to a machine by way of sensors placed on my legs.Slowly I got too sleep.

The following morning I was disconnected from the apparatus and given breakfast,and told I could leave whenever I was ready.Within 1 hour I was at home thinking:NO PROBLEM.

Approximately 6 weeks later I was summoned back to see the Doctor and given a description of the report from my stay in Hospital.She confirmed that I was suffering from Restless Legs,and that a drug actually for Parkinson’s Disease may be of help.She then went on to say that she would like to carry out further examinations.Again I agreed believing she new more than me.

For the  following 3 months I was tested.Tests included SEP/WEP,MRI and finally a lumber puncture/spinal tap.She had informed me throughout these tests that I my be suffering from Lyme’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis.Through continued talking with the Neurologist I became aware of my situation.Things like my worsening balance,vision and urinary problems now seemed to have a name causing them.Something I had lived with and put up with for some 5 years.

Spring 2005 came and I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.Was it a shock?NO.At least now I had some sort of expanation for the changes that I was noticing within myself.I can even say that at the time of being diagnosed I was in Denial.This could not happen to me!Why have I got it and where did it come from!

It turns out that Doctors have no idea where it originates from?Some suggestions include Genes,Geographical location,Diet or even from a Virus.It is however an auto-immune disease,causing my white blood cells to attack the Myelin coating the central nervous system.Suffice to say that I have got it and I am going to go on living.I liken it to opening a new chapter in a book.Im have always been a positive person,rather seeing the glass half full opposed to half empty.

I know this is a short post on such a topic;however,if  it was not for the expertise,new technology,efficiency and most of all the very special attention I recieved from the Neurologists at Helsinki University Hospital,I would just be a frustrated individual,staggering around as if Drunk.

Thankyou to all at Meihilahti Hospital,Helsinki,the Finnish Health Care System and the team of Neurological Depatment Neurologists that Guided me over.

Vappu,The sparkling facts

Well its that time again,1 May.This has got to be the biggest party day through out Finland.Every one has a reason to celebrate this day,from workers who celebrate it as Workers Day,to Students who take it as Students Day.

Basically it is a day or two of drinking and partying,every one and everything goes sort of pear shaped.The police get together when ever they do,and do presumably what police do.When I said its about drinking,I really mean drinking!Traditionally students will gather in vast crowds around the  The Harvis Amanda statue at the bottom of Esplanade to place a students white cap on her head.The statue was  sculpted by Ville Vallgren (1855-1940)in 1906.

Paris and this year marks the 100th birthday of the statue,a big occasion for celebrating crowds.

So what does all this mean:-Collectively this is about the most boisterous and carnival like atmosphere to settle over and through Finland.Persons who have earned their white caps(high school/A levels)don them at 1800 and pretty much wear them till the end of the next day.

People will be found drinking sparkling wines and various other liquids.As the evening progresses innocents will either fall and sleep where they are,straggle home or just plain simply go from one party to the next.

The next day friends and families head for the parks.The biggest and most popular is Kaivopuisto Park in southern Helsinki ,where traditional delicacies such as tippaleipä,fritters are usually served with mead or sima;this drink is made from water,brown sugar or honey,lemons and yeast.Other people will add their own spirits too this.

I believe this May Day the City of Helsinki and The Helsingin Sanomat newspaper are  organising an empty bottles for cinema tickets campaign.This speaks for itself as most parks are littered with empty bottles after the two day celebration.Over the years I have joined in,and rambled around the city of Helsinki,but this year I may stay away from the evening before and just aim to get too the parks on May1.Hell,at least I will not have a cräpylä(hangover)and maybe,just maybe I shall remember some of it………………….I shall keep you informed as it is still 3 weeks away;however friends are inquiring as to what I am doing that weekend already.


Finnish fitness,key to life

One of the very first things I was encouraged to do when arriving in Helsinki,was to join the fitness gym where Tuija regularly attended.At first I thought what the hell!.Not for me.The next day I was outside the Gym at 0800,I must admit that it was a very wise decision.

Not only was it improving my general health but allowed me to meet and speak to Finnish citizens.The reason it was so early is that Tuija finished night shifts as a nurse at 0745.We would complete our work out and then visit the Sauna.This was to be the first time I had visited a Finnish Sauna,and believe me when I say,that finns are fiercely proud of it.They today say that they discovered it and go to great lengths to let every one know this.It is a well known fact that early finns,some thousands of years ago dug holes in the ground,covered it with a tarpaulin and sat round rocks that were heated to high temperatures.

Marvelous things happen beneath the skin in the heat of the sauna. The capillaries dilate permitting increased flow of blood to the skin in an attempt to draw heat from the surface and disperse it inside the body. The bather’s skin becomes cherry red. The heart is pressed into a faster pace to keep up with the additional demands for blood. Impurities in the liver, kidneys, stomach, muscles, brain, and most other organs are flushed out by the faster flow of juices. The skin and kidneys filter the wastes, excreting them in sweat and urine.

Suffice to say it leaves you feeling extremely clean and reinvigorated.The sauna is truly a sanctuary of peace.As I said the history goes back along way,it was a place where mothers gave birth even.In the country it is a good idea to come out of the sauna and immediately jump into the snow,lie on your back and sweep your arms through the snow.Stand up and the image that confronts you is of an angel.Hence the name Angels in the snow.

So that was my first warm welcome to Finland and to this day We go as often as possible,whether in Helsinki or the countryside.

Leaving England for Love

Leaving my home country,England,was not a big thing or traumatic for me

I had become disenchanted with the British way of life.Not settling down any where.I believed London , Soho and Leicester square in particular to offer me at least a more vivid life and the opportunity to meet foreigners on the move so to say.I knew the area quite well,as a 16 year old I had run away from home to that very same area.Of course then all I did was live in the McDonalds off Leicester square and run up a huge bill on my Visa card.Anyway, London  soho it was and I found a live-in pub job at the Glassblowers in Brewer Street.

The money was not fantastic but it allowed me to meet people I otherwise would never have met in Plymouth,Devon.W e would receive our weekly pay every Friday and by Monday morning after a good meal out in a restaurant and beer,I would be lucky to have £20 left to last me the week;for cigarettes and toiletries.I loved the work.There was a constant stream of new faces and characters ,an almost endless supply of stories from around the world.It was as if being sat directly in front of horses mouth as they say.

My work and life continued, until one day, Friday to be exact, a  lady with dark hair came into the bar and asked for a beer.I could hear that she was foreign,possibly American.I gave her a description of all the beers that we sold on drauht and she ordered pints.That threw me off balance as women in England at that time only drank half pints.All through the evening she sat at the end of the bar catching my eye when she wished for a refill.Through the conversation that we had,we agreed to meet the next day,this was my only day off,so who better to spend it with than a mysterious,beautiful  foreign lady.

The next day came and I waited at the pre-arranged place,The Glassblower pub in Brewer street,London Soho.We had set the time to meet at 1300.The time passed and this lady had not turned up,I went to the bar across the road and genuinely believed that she was not coming.However after downing  a couple of real ales I crossed the road,back to the Glassblower`s.I walked through the doors and there she was, sat in the same place at the bar as from the previous night .We quickly made haste and moved on.I showed her some of the London sites and conversation was  both refreshing and brisk.Suffice to say we ended up in a bar off Bond Street at 0200.

I had learned that she came from Helsinki,Finland;the American dialect was due to her having lived in San Diego some years previously.She only had 3 days remaining of her holiday.The bar closed and as things happen she asked if I would like to accompany her back to her hotel,in the Bays water area.We laugh about it now but those  3 days we spent together were to change my life significantly.We wrote to each other for the next 3 weeks and within 6 I was  on a ship sailing too Scandinavia.

The trip took from Harwich too Gothenburg,This trip brought back deep memories of being in the Merchant Navy.I watched the seamen intensely,and wished I had never left.where after some few hours I boarded a train too Stockholm.I then found I had a day to wait for the onward ship passage  .The journey was both exciting and beautiful.Fot one I had never seen so much forest whilst travelling across Sweden.The people were friendly and helpful and the food though different to what I had been used to for the last 25 years,was tasty.

The ship from Stockholm too Helsinki left dead on time 1800.The cruise ship,Silja line was like nothing I had been on before.It was like a floating 5 star Hotel with countless shops,restaurants and several nightclubs.Later that evening I met a Finnish businessman who was returning too Helsinki.With a couple of girls from New Zealand who were traveling around Europe,he took us all for a really very nice meal and insisted on footing the bill.

After getting some sleep we arrived in Helsinki Harbour.The views approaching Finland and Helsinki are outstanding.I have never seen so many small islands before.I found out there were hundreds of thousands of these islands,named The Finnish Archipelago.I shall come back to these islands in a later post.

I said my farewells to my traveling companions I had met on the ship and went out in search of Tuija`s home.She knew that I was coming as I had phoned her from all phone boxes between London Soho and Stockholm.I arrived;bearing in mind I had left everything I owned except for a holdall of personal possessions and my passport.I was both nervous of the future ahead and the reception I would receive.I was also excited at the prospect of seeing her again.

The welcome was everything I dreamed of,we were both in some shock that I had actually turned up.The next 20 years forced me to look at myself,and re-evaluate as to what was and what was not important.At that very moment though my only thought was,I AM HERE