Okay, so, again I find myself feeling the need to apologise for my inability to maintain a constant stream of posts, as was originally intended.

You see, the problem is, I’ve just been having an awfully good time. This circumstance has both surprised me and inspired me, and it’s for these reasons I’ve had a terrible time trying to think about anything much at all, let alone blogging.

It’s also, probably, because I’ve not been doing much that would be otherwise touristy or blog-worthy. I’ve been spending my days, for the most part, in the company of others. Extended periods of time, in the company of others, who also, for some reason, want to be in my company. It’s extraordinary, I know!

Last week I pondered sex, sex education, relationships and advising on such with Sarah, who I hadn’t seen in 14 years; talked photography, videography and innovative approaches to those with Peter; watched bacon fry in its own delicious fat at a street market and chatted international moves with Eliza and Pete; discussed evolutionary opportunities for Hopscotch while eating tasty morsels with Dr Matt, before being enamoured by his ordering of churros in Español; had flashbacks to sitting in the Life Education Van while wandering through the dusty exhibits of the Natural History Museum, all the while chatting design with Boyd; and finally discovered that I don’t really know what polenta is with Dana.

In that spread, I also passed through sections of the city I hadn’t seen before, and others with which I am quite familiar. But rarely did I have my camera. As a large lens tends to get in the way of conversation. And it’s the conversation I was here for.

Also, I bought amazing boots.

Tonight is my last night in London, and I will be spending time with Colette, doing something somewhere.

Anyway, here’s some hideously inadequate photo reportage. [If you want more, check out my instagram]

This is meDinosaurSnake X-RayAt the Natural History MuseumLoads of graffitiLoads of graffitiLoads of graffitiLoads of graffitiLoads of graffiti

For most of the time I spent in Stockholm, I explored Södermalm – the southern island – on recommendation of a Finnish friend who previously lived here. She told me that during her time here she rarely left it, and I can well see why – but possibly more on that later.

On one day I did leave the island, making my way to Gamla Stan – the old town. That one day being a public holiday here in Sweden, which meant a load of shops were closed. Perfect! Who needs custom and trade to compete with when all you’re really interested in is wandering and photographing.

I did manage to find a couple of busloads of tourists, though. Mainly in the areas surrounding the palace, which I only took a cursory peek at, to be honest.

I pondered the thought that I was taking the same photograph as the person next to me, behind me, and in front of me. Probably of similar quality – being super lazy I wasn’t in full manual, so letting the camera finish the equations for me – and using relatively advanced equipment – I don’t think I saw a point-and-shoot amongst them.

Boring, I thought.

Then I considered something else as I wandered the historic streets – paved with cobblestones, and often only a few feet wide. Here we are, tourists touristing, in the streets below and beside what must be residences. Ordinary residences, resided in by ordinary Swedish residents just going about their business.

How very obnoxious.

So, I began photographing the windows of the old town, specifically ones that looked as though they were a portal into homes.

The Windows of Gamla Stan The Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla StanThe Windows of Gamla Stan

Last week, I went to the place where scissors come from.

You know those orange handled scissors? If you don’t have a pair yourself, your Mum probably had some. Or your nan. In the kitchen drawer, or sewing box. You know the ones.

Well, these come from Fiskars. Which is both a town and a company. Because the company was founded at the town, or the town was founded around the company, or something like that.

Under then Swedish rule, the company was founded in 1646 in that particular location, and charged with   making cast iron and forged items from iron ore imported from outer Stockholm. Later, the company moved into copper products, but by the early 1800s, the blast furnace closed due to the lack of incoming metals.

A whole lot of stuff happened, but you can Wiki that yourself. And eventually – scissors! Suffice to say, the factory is no longer functional with the town becoming a centre for arts and crafts, and, of course, tourists. Like us!

About halfway between Turku and Helsinki, but well off the main connecting highway, the drive alone thats you through some classic southern Finnish landscapes of alternating forests, fields and lakes. The town itself has a river running through it, with the various old factory buildings functioning as guesthouses, restaurants and function hosts.

The day we were there was glorious. But no one was there, barring a handful of tourists and a tour group of ladies.

Perfect!

Fiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern FinlandCuppa in Fiskars in Southern FinlandChocolate in Fiskars in Southern FinlandFiskars in Southern Finland

There’s a boy sitting across from me. He clocked me as soon as he walked through the door. Went to the bar. Got a drink. Sat.

He’s working up to talking to me.

I’m keeping an eye on him. Can’t help it. But he’s probably going to take it the wrong way.

I have to admit, he is stunning. The epitome of what you’d expect from a Swedish boy. Dark blonde hair pulled back into a low man bun. A closely cropped beard hugging chiselled features. Pale blue eyes. And importantly, perfect eyebrows. He’s around my height, but a little on the skinny side for me.

Impeccably dressed.

He can’t be more than twenty-two, twenty-three. But Nordic folk look deceptively young.

He’s up.

Walks to me.

Are you lost? He asks, with a slight North American twinge in his otherwise Swedish accent.

No.

Why do you have the map?

Just checking I’m where I’m supposed to be.

Are you?

Yes.

In truth, I’ve no idea where I am, or how I got here. I know I’m not far from where I want to be, but I’ve had a tendency to turn around on myself.

Are you waiting for someone?

No.

My friend is late. Can I sit with you?

Fuck it, what have I got to lose? It’s a public place. I’m intrigued. And maybe a little bored.

I gesture – sure.

Can I buy you another? He nods at my drink.

The glass is still three quarters full.

I take a sip. Just the one for me today. Thanks.

He takes the seat. Removes his jacket and hangs it over the arm.

What’s your name?

Stevie, I say.

Funny. He laughs. My name’s Steve.

It’s not.

Really? You don’t look like a Steve.

He’s not.

His name is Sven. But that’s too Swedish, he tells me. Steve is better.

Where are you from?

Melbourne.

Oh. That’s quite far.

It is, I say over the top of my glass.

He points to my ring.

You’re engaged? He asks.

Married.

Where’s your husband?

I’ve been told of the curious nature of some Swedes. Potentially a little too curious at times. And their interest in bettering their English. Seems I’m practice.

Melbourne.

Wow.

Wow?

You’re here, and he’s there?

Yes.

He loves you?

I’m not sure where he’s going with this line of conversation…

I’d say so.

I don’t know that I’d let my wife travel so far without me.

Back’s up. The L word. My husband doesn’t let me anything. But I give him the benefit of the doubt. English being his second language, maybe it’s a poor choice of words.

Nope.

Ha! A challenge. I’ve had a drink, and am in the mood for, let’s call it, a ‘discussion’, or, better yet, a ‘lesson’.

This is where he stumbles. Sven, sorry, Steve, clearly has very particular views on the world, relationships, marriage. However, when it comes to his own pants, their contents and their removal, it’s another story – at least for the time being.

Right now, Sven is waiting for his girlfriend, but it turns out he also has a boyfriend.

Which is fine, if that’s his arrangement.

All the while he’s flirting with me, despite not being impressed that I’m here without my husband in tow, or, more correctly, my husband keeping me in tow.

Married lady, a turn on?

Married lady who doesn’t ask permission, a challenge?

We talk for forty minutes or there abouts. I’m both amused and bemused. He is exactly the puppy he seems.

Young. Full of ideas. Full of knowledge. Absent experience.

She arrives. Scans the room. Comes to our table.

He stands. Kisses her. Passionately.

Clearly for my benefit.

She’s cute, sure. But quickly comes across as having fuck all in the way of self confidence. And she looks  as though she just walked out of an Urban Outfitters window display.

This is my new friend Stevie, he says.

Hey. She gestures as she places a hand firmly on his shoulder.

Don’t worry, Love. I’ve no interest in breaking in the un-housebroken.

Hey, I say.

Do you want to join us? He asks me.

I down the dregs of my drink. Put on my jacket. Get up from my chair.

He goes to stand.

Don’t get up, I gesture.

It was lovely meeting you, I say. To her.

I leave.

Stockholm

Naantali, in the south west of Finland, is one of the country’s oldest towns. And last week I went there on a day trip. Day trips are on my agenda for when I get back home, so why not start the ball rolling somewhere completely different.

Apparently, it’s nicknamed ‘the sunshine town’. On the day I was there, I could definitely see why. But I can’t imagine it’s always sunny in Naantali. Although, if the number of people hanging around during the colder and greyer winter months is similar to those around on this beautiful spring – but not yet summer tourist time – day, then no one would know that sometimes it’s not sunny in Naantali.

Basically, that’s a long way of me telling you that on this day there were bugger all people in town. Some oldies, and a bus group (also oldies), but that’s about it. Which was actually awesome, but for the lacking food options. No one around meant great opportunity to take photos for me, and to walk around relatively undisturbed. Downside was that most of the restaurants weren’t open.

Never mind.

Also not open was Muumimaailma (Moominworld). Although initially disappointed, I soon got over it, as I’d saved myself 26 yoyos in the process. I later spent those yoyos on Muumin paraphernalia,  which you’ll know, if you’ve been to Finland, is fricken everywhere, and on everything.

I’m told there’s been some controversy about Muumipappa having a drink and gambling in their new flick, which takes the Muumin to the Riviera. I am reliably informed that back in the day, Muumipappa might have been partial to the odd spliff or two – at least he’s given that up, for all intents and purposes, although who knows what’s really in his pipe!

Anyway, Naantali. It was founded around the convent, which has been there since the 1400s. The convent was closed in the 1600s, which badly affected the town. In the 1800s it was revitalised by a customs chamber, which improved the economic situation. A little away from the old town there’s a spa, which has bee there since the mid 1800s, and in 1922 the Kultaranta estate, which you can see from the old town, became the Finnish President’s official summer home.

At times there’s an odd smell around Naantali. This is because there’s an oil refinery nearby, I’m told. So there you go.

Park in Naantali, Finland.Boardwalk in Naantali, FinlandAcross the water in Naantali, FinlandOn the water, Naantali, FinlandThe convent in Naantali, FinlandThe convent in Naantali, FinlandThe convent in Naantali, FinlandThe convent in Naantali, FinlandThe convent in Naantali, FinlandOn the water, Naantali, FinlandBy the water, Naantali, FinlandThe streets of Naantali, Finland.Old houses, Naantali, Finland.Old houses, Naantali, Finland.Old houses, Naantali, Finland.Old houses, Naantali, Finland.Old houses, Naantali, Finland.Old houses, Naantali, Finland.Old houses, Naantali, Finland.Old houses, Naantali, Finland.By the water, Naantali, FinlandSign points the way, Naantali, Finland

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