How d’you do, I…
…see you’ve met my faithful Chez Nous N°21 blog.
Coucou – hope you keeping well and safe. My furlough continues, so I have been busy holidaying at home. A couple of social distancing picnics aside, this has meant mostly getting horridly sunburnt on my early morning runs and extra attention (treats) given to the dog. You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks, but he’s not far off from bringing me my slippers. My last attempt in training him to fetch footwear ended up with him mauling a pair of Moroccan babouches, but I remain optimistic. One for the money, two for the show, right?
Anyway, we are not here to stir up past trauma. However, if that happens to be your game, head over to my art blog to read about the seductiveness of nostalgia. I don’t usually like to flog my other work here, but I am particularly proud about this personal essay on the attractiveness of an idealised past. As the blog you are about to read is about my Finnishness too, you might want to start with the artsy-fartsy one touching on my formative years during the early 90’s recession.
So, Tervetuloa, and enjoy:
The regular readers might know that I was born and raised in the semi-rural South West of Finland, in an old textile town of Forssa. Although I have been living overseas for ten years now, every once in a while my thoughts return home: to the familiar faces and places, the clatter of my native tongue and our vast forests & lakes. Naturally, each time I visit, I try to bring back a small piece of Finland with me, whether it is food, homeware or a cracking Instagram pic. Little bits and bobs to remind me of home. When I first moved to Edinburgh back in 2010, I had a suitcase full of essentials and another for my childhood toy owls, with a load of Finnish glassware and textiles. You can take a wild guess which one Ryanair charged me an oversized baggage fee for.
As I’ve grown and set up a permanent home for myself, in Chez Nous N°21 – our house by the foot of the Montagne Noire, in a way, it became less important to throw my Finnishness around. When you are renting, especially if you are renting a shoddy student pad, it can be difficult to feel truly at home where you live. Throughout my studies, home was on speed dial whenever I used a Finlayson towel for example or put on a Marimekko shirt. When I bought my first house with James, a whole-ass derelict Maison de Ville with an overgrown patch of a garden to match, none of that mattered. Every spider infested crevice of the place was ours. I would still adore my pretty Finnish crockery and prioritise Finnish brands (Fiskars, anyone), but these objects no longer served to bridge an abstract distance between where I was and what used to be home.
My mum though, known as the most cunning thrifter on Northern hemisphere, has continued to fill my life with Suomi-awesomeness and I do thank her for it. It is the thrill of the chase she loves, hunting down the best bargains in second hand shops and on Facebook recycling groups. Kalevala jewellery, design glass or vintage factory off cuts… if my mum can’t find it, it does not exist. Her latest treasure: an old Schoolhouse map of Finland big enough to use as a bedspread, haggled down to 20 euros. I mean, I know her, but that one was pretty impressive.
For a while now, James and I have been living in England again – our beloved home in France is ready for the big, pricey renovations, so we go where the work is. It is not half bad: I have filled our rented cottage with houseplants that remind me of my mum and she has in turn filled it with Finnish things to remind me of her also. Those toy owls are still with me, currently sitting on top of an ornamental fireplace with Basil Brush and a little Moomin, a crochet masterpiece made for me by James’ sister in law, who makes magic with a small hook.
Before the global pandemic, lockdown and social distancing, I was too busy to dream of my beloved land of a thousand lakes. With plenty of time to worry, however, I find myself feeling quite homesick. And it is not all corona-related. Perhaps Brexit started it, but being an outsider in England is a bit weird just now. So whenever I feel down, I go and pick one of my Arabia mugs, make myself a brew and try not to think of it. We have all needed to get used to being comfortable in our homes lately and my way of achieving this is by cocooning myself in Finnishness, again, as well as getting plenty of cuddles from the dog and the husband.
And just like that, I feel at home.
I would like to keep exploring the idea of national identity through objects we surround ourselves with (or what your mother surrounds you with), so I have been planning a post on few of the brands casually namedropped here. Inspired by an incident regarding an eagle-eyed little lad who outed me as a Finn based purely on my slippers, I thought that what we trendy Finnish folk fill our houses with might make interesting reading. I have my personal preferences for sure, but some of them are formed in the womb, alongside our hatred for carpeting and low-grade insulation.
See you soon with an update,