Hei from Helsinki! Today’s extract is from…
Minna Lindgren, Death in Sunset Grove (trans. from Finnish by Lola Rogers; Pan, 2016 ), 128-130.
Siiri sat in her usual seat on the tram and tried to see behind Eira hospital. That was where Villa Johanna was, a whimsical work by her favourite architect, Selim A. Lindquist, which you could see from the number 3 as it turned onto Tehtaankatu. She had a habit of concentrating on one building and trying to think of as many other buildings in Helsinki by the same architect as she could. Selim A. Lindqvist was easy: there were two buildings of his, side by side, on Aleksanterinkatu – numbers 11 and 13.
The number 3B tram changed to the number 3T at Olympia Terminal, and Siiri decided to take it as far as the new opera house. Then she could get on the number 4 to get back to Sunset Grove. She had already ridden around for more than two hours, using any favourite tram route or building she could think of as an excuse to put off going back home, because the mere thought of Sunset Grove gave her a very unpleasant feeling. She didn’t want to see Virpi Hiukkanen, she didn’t want to think about Irma’s confusion and growing suspiciousness, and she didn’t know how to bring up all these worries with Anna-Liisa […]
A talkative little girl was sitting with her mother next to the ticket dispenser, wearing a funny looking hat with bear ears on it. […]
‘Mama, why doesn’t everyone have kids? Why doesn’t grandma have kids? Why, Mama?’
‘Your grandma does have kids. Otherwise she couldn’t be your grandma,’ said a wino across the aisle. The little girl took an interest in this new acquaintance and got up to stand in the aisle, but her mother continued to stare at the rain hitting the window.
‘My grandma is Grandpa’s girlfriend and she’s much younger than my mother, so she could have kids any time she wanted, but Mama wouldn’t want her to. What are your children’s names? Do you have a job? Why not? What do you do, then?’
‘I sit in the park and ride on the tram.’
‘Fun! I want to do that when I’m big!’
The tram made Siiri’s beloved curve at Kamppi and the passengers pricked up their ears to hear the wino’s reaction to the little girl’s future plans.
‘What park do you go to?’ the girl asked. ‘I usually go to the one on Lapinlahdenkatu, but it’s pretty small.’
‘Me too, it’s a nice park.’
‘And Väiski, but only in the winter.’
‘I sometimes go and sit on the rocks at Temppeliaukio. There’s a nice view from there.’
I’m cheating a little, as this is the entrance to Turku station (designed by Väinö Vähäkallio and Martti Välikangas). We caught the train to Helsinki from here after a lovely breakfast in the city’s market place. Finland has some amazing railway architecture…
This is the ticket hall in Helsinki Central station (designed by Eliel Saarinen). It’s a wonderfully beautiful, tranquil space.
Here’s Senaatintori (Senate Square) in the centre of town…
…and one of Siiri’s trams. We’ve been hopping on and off these with our travel cards – a fantastic way to see the city. And I swear I saw Siiri on the 3T…
Twice (in Stockholm and now in Helsinki), we’ve had the most delicious fish stew from indoor food markets for about 10 Euros. They’re hugely generous with the fish, mussels and prawns, and the rich, heady base has a hint of aniseed. The yellow blob is aioli. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Oh, and there’s unlimited bread.
Muumin (moomintroll) notebooks from my favourite bookshop in Helsinki.
Sunflowers are sold at all the outdoor markets at the moment. These were bought in Turku and travelled safely to our Helsinki base, where they sit in a beautiful Iittala vase.
Cinnamon and cardamom buns – divine!