dream hunter

You wonder if you should take a step to the unknown. She leaped. You wonder if you knew how. She taught you. You wonder if you could. She did. A friend who's always there. A source of inspiration and admiration. Courageous, beautiful and full of amazing thoughts. She's someone so annoyingly perfect you'd want to hate her. But you can't help but love her. by iiris

Friday, November 28, 2008

one for the road

Sunday nights in a restaurant are dangerous. They are dangerous when you work there as you have Monday off and hence have no need to worry about bed times. They are dangerous when you used to work there as your old colleagues have Monday off and hence have no need to worry about bed times but you have to be in the office the following morning.

So this time, we decided to have just one for the road. Just one.

But that one needs to be accompanied with some serious tunes. But as it turned out this last tune turned out to be the start of a slippery slope.

Before we noticed we were rocking and singing to the oldies from 80’s and early 90’s – the songs from our youth. I can only remember Duran Duran from films I have seen later but they were on their way to the top when my friend was in his post hard rock state into the next phase.

Vanilla Ice? Who remembers Vanilla Ice and those horrific clothes and that hair. The hair. Seriously.

By the time we were singing to the Eye of the Tiger we had emptied more than one bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau that had come out the previous Thursday. The atmosphere was getting merrier by the second.

Guns N'Roses. T.Rex.

I had witnessed the first wave of Take That frenzy and been obsessed by NKOTB but managed to escape the Spice Girls mania, by a millimetre. My friend, two years younger than I, had been less lucky and was now telling us stories about how she, when they pretended to be the bunch of garnishes, was always Posh Spice. Just because of her hair. We didn’t believe her.

It was 2AM and I was supposed to get up at 5.30 in order to make the train that would take me across the canal and back into the city.

Just one for the road. Just one.

I now can’t recall what was the final tune. Maybe Elton John. No, couldn’t have been. Michael Jackson Maybe.

Whilst the others decided that a one last drink at the bar around the corner would be in order I made my way back to bed. Just to be rudely awaken by the alarm two hours later.

I velibed across the sleeping city and absorbed its charm to ensure it would take me through to my next visit.

I made my train with 1min to spare. Just enough.

But looking at the snoring passengers around me I figured that I was not the only one who had enjoyed that one last roata, only few hours earlier.


Paris is the city of dreamhunters.

I got of the train at Gare du Nord and looked for a velib. Not one in sight. I started walking and eventually found a well functioning form of transport.

On my way to the other side of the river, I had to pass my old apartment. I biked down the familiar route that used to take me to work and to school day after day. I felt like I was back home.

I have been told it takes three years before London feels like home. Three years is a long time and I can’t honestly say I will be hanging around for that long. The same process in Paris is supposed to be over in three months. Maybe that explains it.

My weekend in the French capital was filled with lunches, coffees, aperos, dinners, drinks and most importantly – epic conversations. Those talks that start from nothing and end elsewhere and last for hours.

Suddenly the answer to a question that had been lingering at the back of my mind struck me as obvious. Dreamhunters. These people were dreamhunters. It is not what they do that matters, but what they are trying to get to. They know where they want to be, they want what they want to do and they are doing all they can to get there. This might mean working in a restaurant to pay for a class in photography or literature, but these means to an end are a meaningless side note to the story. What counts is that you enjoy what you do and you do what you enjoy.
In London, life is all about achieving. It is about doing what you should be doing at that point in your life. It is about career. It is about a house. It is about the car and a membership in a restaurant. It is about longer hours in the office topped with binge drinking at the pub after hours as there is no time for a slow, enjoyable glass of wine. It is like people are going through the motions of life but not really living.

I left Paris when it was time to go, but I do hope that London is just a step in the ladder that is taking me all the way…somewhere.

Friday, November 21, 2008

a certain lecture at a certain school

Last night I went to an open lecture to one of the rather prestigious schools for economics in this town. The talk was given by Finland’s current minister of foreign affairs. I have heard him speak before and was very much looking forward to what he had to say.

When I arrived to the venue I was slightly taken back – all these students. For a moment I felt very much out of place, despite the fact that only few months ago I was still strolling the corridors of another institute for higher education. Obviously, because of the identity of the speaker, there were many of my countrymen present. I heard them speak their funny language – something that has become a rather rare treat nowadays. And they were all blond. Me included even if my colour is far from natural. I can now understand why people think all northerners are blonds with blue eyes.

The speech, focusing on the challenges facing IR in the current world was short and to the point. While I must say that I sometimes wonder if Mr minister confuses reality and utopia he underlined some fundamental issues including the need to reform major global institutions. However, while I agree with him on the main points I do not, unfortunately, see the UN turning into United Continents (UC for short) any time soon, maybe not even in my lifetime.

The closing line of his speech was mind-boggling and so very true – “Crisis we are facing now is a terrible thing to waste”.

As it is accustomed, especially when the auditorium is filled with student being taught to question and criticise everything and everyone, the speaker was bombarded with questions. This is where you can start seeing the change that has taken place in a bureaucrat turned into a politician. He dodged well all uncomfortable remarks to rogue states in Africa, giving well-rounded, well-founded answers that said absolutely nothing. Known for his firm views about a certain military alliance he kept his minister’s hat tightly on this time when answering the question whether this particular organisation should indeed also enlarge to the North-East. Apparently, while Finland does not have an attitude problem with this organisation it also does not have an appetite for membership for the moment. I remember hearing a slightly different answer few years ago in Brussels, but it could be just my mind playing tricks on me.

I left the lecture intrigued and curious. Many of the issues and people referred to in that room would definitely deserve further investigation. I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand better. After my original aversion to being surrounded by students I started feeling slight jealousy. Me too. I want to study more too.

Despite having sworn I will never ever ever go back to school, never again, I am now considering my options…maybe I should go back to school. If only part time.


Thursday, November 20, 2008


They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. But there is free coffee.

Today one of my colleagues stormed in to the office from her lunch break announcing that one of the banks close by was giving out free coffee. Or rather, vouchers for coffee that then allowed you to pick up your treat from the stall next to it.

It just so happens that my coffee boy works in this same stall. They have the best and the cheapest coffee in the area and with their loyalty card you get the 10th one for free. As I think it is outrageous that they make us work in an office that does not have a proper supply of coffee (only instant evil) I treat myself, on a rare occasion to a nice, steaming drink from this particular stall. Funnily enough my rare coffee moments are frequent enough for the boy to recognise me from far so usually by the time I get there my coffee is already made. Americano with a bit of skinny milk. Perfect.

I still had some of my break left, well technically all of it as I had, yet again, had my lunch at my desk so I picked up my coat and wandered over to the bank. In front of it someone handed me a “bag for life” and asked if I would like to have a massage. For free. Who was I to say no?

I went into the branch and after a few minute wait was treated with an amazing neck and back massage. During those few minutes I had to wait in line I was offered a free coffee voucher, which I put into my pocket for post-treatment treat.

Feeling loose and relaxed I walked over to the stall. The boy, this time buzzing and busy started smiling – “I was waiting to see you. The usual?” What else? Though this time I didn’t ask for a stamp for my card. That would have been just cheeky.

I strolled back to the office, with the hot cuppa in hand, enjoying the late autumn sun.

Needless to say that there was nothing that could ruin my day today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


As the festive season approaches people start thinking about gifts. The art of giving becomes fashionable again, while this year the gloomy outlook due to the economic slowdown condemns extravagant spending. It is all about donations – donating to charity, donating clothes, donating blood, donating your time, donating this, donating that. When you walk down the street you simply cannot avoid the obnoxious facers asking you to donate to yet another good cause. How much can one person give?

My flatmate, in her increasingly positive, generous, Christmas is coming spirit decided to start donating…men.

She had, quite recently met someone who could pass as a dream son in law in every possible respect. The boy was handsome, intelligent, kind, outgoing…the list was endless. The only problem was, that she thought he was a tad too young. Possibly. Maybe. For her. So she would have to give him up.

But as he was such a good catch, she had decided to donate the boy to a single friend of hers. The girl is pretty, funny, intelligent and the right age. A perfect match. Indeed those two would make a wonderful couple and the girl would not have to waste the time of figuring out if the boy had potential or not, after all my flatmate had done that job already.

Apparently it is a bit like giving sweets up for lent. I am not quite sure what the link was but I assume it has something to do with personal growth and the lot. The only difference was that while for lent you give up something all together, when you donate, the good, this time the boy, will remain in use and bring benefits to others. Makes perfect sense. I suppose.

So now, as Christmas is approaching I am hoping that someone just has one charming prince in muddy running shoes too much and will happily donate him to me.

Maybe we should start up a new charity…

Monday, November 17, 2008

rye bread

On Saturday we trekked down to IKEA again. My main motivation for the journey was the distant promise of goodies. A number of people had been raving about IKEA’s bread in the box and I could no longer resist the temptation of trying it out. And some blueberry soup would not be unwanted either.

The following morning, after breakfast I got ready for the baking experience. It is fairly simple and straightforward – you open the dough carton. It is like milk carton but instead of milk it has all the dry ingredients of proper, dark, rye bread. Then you add 6dl of water and shake hard.

When your arms start getting tired you pour the dough into an oven pan. Or so the instructions tell you.

Instead of thick dough I had coloured water with some lumps. And the dry dough material was at the bottom of the carton. Fabulous. I cut the carton open, emptied the rest of the ingredients into the pan and mixed the whole thing up with a spoon and my hands. What a mess. Luckily I was still in my pyjamas so at least my clothes didn’t get dirty.

Let it stand for 45min. Easy.

Bake for 60min. Not too difficult. If you remember when you put the thing into the oven.

I thought that letting the bread cool down a bit would make sense. Which was a wise decision as the whole blob was firmly stuck in the pan. It had never crossed my mind that the dough, once baked, would attach itself tightly into the glass pan. Great.

I cut trough the hard surface and pulled a knife around the edges. And a second time.


I took my red IKEA spatula and tried with that. It worked.

I turned the pan upside down and hoped that by shaking hard I could get the bread fall out. I got crumbs all over the place.

I cut a nice slice and fished it out with the help of a spoon. Now I had a piece of bread (in little chunks) to taste and in addition I was able to use the spatula to remove the bread from the bottom of the pan. I edged the tool slightly under the bread, turned the whole thing around and shook.

Crumbs all over. And a big, fresh, rye bread on the table.

And I must say, the bread was very good. But I still don’t understand why everybody told me it is so simple, easy and quick to make. Funny.

Friday, November 14, 2008

sewing machine and cheap 'new' clothes

I grew up with access to a sewing machine. I never had the patience to sit down and learn to sew properly but I am able to master the simplest things, such as taking trousers in slightly or ensuring that they are more or less the right length. And while I had never really appreciated the presence of this magical machine I quickly learned its usefulness after I had left home.

Last Saturday I took the tube and a buss and walked to a sewing machine shop. Finally I would join the league of happy tailors. I was slightly less happy carrying the heavy box back to the tube replacing bus service and the tube and then home but as soon as the red box was down on the floor in our entrance, I felt good.

Yesterday, after work and training I finally had the opportunity to open the enchanting box and take out the shining white machine. I have a birthday dinner to go to tonight and was, hence, determined to finish transforming my long, wide, white trousers to purple calf length ones. As if there was nothing else I could possibly wear for the occasion.

Sewing machines tend to function in more or less the same way. However, there are minor differences that can end up being crucial for the outcome of the operation. It is usually the bobbin winding that gets me. Every time. Obviously had I once opened the instruction manual I would have saved myself from the embarrassing moment of getting it wrong, yet again, but I belong to the group of people who thinks that manuals are the most useful as tinder. So I threw out the wasted thread and was pleased by the fact that my mother was thousands of kilometres away – could not deal with THE look and that sigh. You knew the one saying “How many times have I told you…?”

Before midnight my trousers had finally adopted their new look and I was ready to go to bed. I tossed and turned as my mind was troubled by an endless list of projects. I could see my new purchase to turn into a heavy workload. But a pleasurable one.

banking and a bit about the economy

Euro-zone has now officially entered into recession and the countries that are still floating above their sinking counterparts are facing significant downward pressures. While the Anglophones are not to be blamed for gloomy global atmosphere it is impossible to argue that the financial crisis that has now spread like a plague had nothing to do with it.

When I came to London few months back, I, amongst many other things, wanted to open a bank account. This rather simple process turned out to be more difficult that I could ever have imagined. As I had prepared myself mentally for another month without a salary, as it seemed unlikely that my account would be up and running before my first pay cheque was to arrive (if ever), they managed to sort things out and the rather preposterous line of events was brought to an end.

Or so I thought.

I got home last night from work and there was an envelope waiting behind the front door. From my bank. I was rather confused about this unexpected remembrance, as I had opted to do all my banking online, paper free.

It was a bankcard. It was an almost identical copy of the one I had already received weeks earlier and had been happily using since, except that the account number printed to it was slightly different.


I picked up the phone right away and contacted my bank. After a long list of security questions they finally believed it was me at the other end of the line and we could proceed with my feeble attempt to sort out this latest problem.

It appeared that my application to the bank had been processed twice, which meant that they had opened two identical accounts for me, but the processing of the second one had just taken (a bit) longer. If I didn’t want to have more than one account I would have to go to one of their branches to close the second account that had not yet been activated.


At the end, no harm done, if you don’t count the time I will be wasting by again to the bank, again, and sorting out this mess. However, the latest developments in my administrative saga have made me lose the little bit of confidence I had in the banking system of this country. I have, because of this, come to the conclusion that my money will not be safe in the hands of inept bankers. Unfortunately, with the number of burglaries taking place in this city being sky-high, I am uncomfortable with the idea of having my savings under my mattress. I am left with one option – shopping.

But surely, this will boost the flagging economy, so that in the near future the bankers have something they can bring back down – yet again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

speed dating

Speed dating is apparently a good way for busy single people to meet new people in a short period of time. To my understanding you talk to another person every certain number of minutes and then at the end you decided whom you would like to meet again. This form of dating has become very popular all over the world and its inventors have surely increased their bank balance significantly along the way.

Yesterday, my training programme said I should jog around for two hours. This is a long time to go alone, along the gloomy streets of London. But luckily I got company. I had met the boy only once before, at training, but he promised to keep me company, for the best part of my run.

Two hours with someone is quite a long time. The slow(ish) pace gives you the opportunity to talk, but slow climbs or few too many tourists serve as a logical explanation for what could otherwise be an uncomfortable silence.

Running along the Thames, through the Borough. Up the Nancy’s steps (these are the steps that used to lead down to the river and consistes of three flights. Just below the end of the second, going down, the stone wall on the left terminates in an ornamental pilaster facing towards the Thames. At this point the lower steps widen so that a person turning the angle of the wall is necessarily unseen by any others on the stairs who chance to be above him, if only a step. In Oliver Twist, Nancy has her fateful conversation with Mr Brownlow at these stairs and it is because of the way the stairs are built that Noah Claypole is able to conceal himself, while listening to what was being said) – a good point to turn the conversation into literature and the types of books the other person likes to read.

A bad street musician. Do you play any instrument?

And those annoying tourists, that force you to stay a step behind your running partner give you the opportunity to check out in what kind of package all that internal beauty comes in. (Do not try to tell me that looks do not matter. We all know they do.)

When I was jogging alone, the last bit home, I realised that I should start marketing my new “speed” dating concept to the wider audience. Not only do you get an excellent workout (indeed something desperately needed by the increasingly sizeable bunch of office workers) but you also get a rather through picture of the person you are with. If they ask you out again, you know that it is not only because of your looks (the red, sweaty face just is not your usual synonym to beauty) but because of something you said or didn’t say during the run. And in the worse case, you just pick up the pace and leave him behind. Too much of hurt ego for a man to call you again after that.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Our office is on the second floor. Two flights of stairs are faster than the elevator so normally I just hop up the fire escape rather than wait in line for the lift. Or maybe it is just because the idea that using elevators is a sign of laziness and the first step on the road to a coach potato. But irrespective of the underlying reason and motivation – I always use the stairs.

This morning the door to the stairs was blocked by someone fixing the lights. Excellent. I turned around and made my way to the elevator.

Bling! The door opened and I stepped into the small cubicle.

“Third floor, going up.”

I had not pushed the button and due to this lack of communication between the elevator and I, the people holder failed to stop at my level.

We reached the fourth floor.

“Did you miss your stop?” A guy in a dark suit asked me.

I had better luck the second time around.

“Second floor, going down.”

Well I wasn’t, I was getting out.

Stupid machine.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

back on track

I left the office last night and it was dark. The sky was clear and I could see the moon. There was hardly any wind. The week before it had been sleeting and despite my determination and dedication I could not get myself out the front door to go to training. Yesterday was different.

I raced to the track. Late as usual. Lost as usual.

I had a minute or two to catch my breath before the first sprint started. Heavy. 1km. 2.5 laps around the track. And 5minutes before the start of the second one. My muscles were in shocked by the rapid change from one activity to another.

The second one.

Third. I started feel like I was running. Lap times dropped back to low 80’s and my stride was lighter.

A group of sprinters was training next to us. They flew past us. Making everybody else look like a hippopotamus in the sun. Slow. So very slow.

Only the fourth!? “Do NOT think about it.” How could I not?

Another two and I started loosing close to six second in a kilometre. Too slow. Way too slow. Go. Go.

It was over. Over. Slow jog around the track. There was an excruciating pain going through my right knee. I tried to shake it off but it was persistent. Not what I needed.

By the time I locked my bike in front of our building the pain was gone and all that was left was general numbness.

Shower. Bed.

And next Tuesday - back on track