Touko’s letter to Hely, 25 April 1976

Sunday 25 April ‘76

Hello,

And thanks for your letter. You’ll never guess where I read it: on the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. I was returning from a business trip from Småland. I managed to persuade Nipa, who is free again, to travel to Stockholm on Friday. He brought your letter over but he forgot to hand it over to me until we were on our way back home. I haven’t been on this ferry for about 20 years even though I’ve been tempted. The idea of having to share a cabin with a complete stranger, possibly a drunkard, has always made me take the plane. That’s why I persuaded Nipa to come over, even though he was only in Stockholm from Friday to Saturday night. The return trip aboard the big new ferry was worth it. It just so happened that the weather improved as we left Stockholm, and we were able to admire a beautiful sunset. The ferry was almost full but there weren’t as many drunk people as I had expected from the stories that I’d heard.

I spent most of Easter working as I had to travel to Sweden with finished materials right after the weekend. The spring had not properly arrived there either. There wasn’t any snow on the ground, and spring crops sprouted green, but sleet covered them white at times. I happened to be there for the company owner’s birthday, and we went to the only restaurant in the area to mark the occasion. His mother had come all the way from Gothenburg to celebrate with his son. She’s about 70, an uptight old lady, who saw to it that the event didn’t become too merry. I felt sorry for the birthday boy, who tried his best to make his mother happy and enjoy herself. Luckily she went home the following morning, and someone told me afterwards, chuckling, that two days is the maximum they can stand each other’s company. Yet I felt a little sorry for both of them.

Everything is going well with the job, except that I’ve accumulated too many jobs for the late spring and the summer, despite my best efforts to say no. The company seems to be doing well, and it keeps growing. They have trouble finding qualified staff, and they tried to persuade me to move over and work for them. It would be nice and carefree in many ways, as I’d have paid holidays and everything. I’ve been itching to get involved in their ‘arts’ affairs because I think this side has room for improvement. But most of the jobs would be modest routine tasks, and I think I’d have to refuse job offers from anywhere else. That would put an end to the freedom of choice that I like so much. Besides, the place is in the back of beyond, a very long and awkward journey from any bigger towns. I’d be afraid of turning into a hermit if I lived there. It would be different if the job were in the lush Scania, but Småland is very barren, and the people are not especially open or cheerful. I promised to keep the offer in mind, though, and to do jobs for them that I can handle from a distance. Anyway, it’s nice to know that I’m wanted.

We went to the opera in Stockholm as there happened to be a ballet on the Friday evening. Several Finnish dancers had roles in it, and they did a great job. Better than the Swedes (naturally), in our opinion. There must have been a draught on the ferry as I feel a head cold coming on.

Kaija probably already wrote to you with her news, at least she said she would when I saw her. They are busy planning a holiday in Greece, where they’ll travel to with Kaija’s partner Mikko. It’s nice for them to have like-minded travel companions, they are such arts and sight-seeing enthusiasts. She probably has her hands full, being at Mikko’s beck and call at all times, but I think that is what she wanted: to feel that she is useful to someone else. It’s that feeling that is probably one of the tough things for people like us, who have no family. 

But I wouldn’t go near those package holiday resorts, no matter how easy and cheap those packages are. Occasional business trips, combined with a few days off, offer recreation and variety if you organise them well.

Nipa left his job in March. It was certainly for the best because it seemed to go against his nature. He doesn’t seem to have a permanent job lined up at the moment, but I’m sure he’ll find something. Mrs. Hildén was about to buy a restaurant last winter, but fortunately she didn’t sign the papers as the place is not very profitable. Salaries and other expenses are enormous now, so it’s not a good idea to take risks.

I think that’s all for now. Friday is Mirjami’s name day, so congratulations and lots of love. 

Touko