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