Touko’s letter to Hely, 2 February 1986

2 February ‘86

Dear Hely,

I’ve some time to spare so it’s the perfect time to start a letter to congratulate you on your name day. It’s Sunday afternoon; Durk is having a psychotherapy session downstairs. He’s a specialist in that field. He invited me to come along, but I don’t feel comfortable with it; I’d rather stay here in my attic room. It’s a group therapy session, in which people who are mainly strangers to each other sit in a circle. They take it in turns to talk about their problems and then the others together try to solve them. Durk is excited about it, and as he’s an understanding person, he is probably quite qualified to find solutions to other people’s problems and offer advice. Many people say they’ve found themselves with his help. I think I’m too reserved, like a typical Finn, and I believe that I have to find solutions to my problems myself. I could be wrong, but I decided to stay away anyway. Besides, I’m expecting a good friend of mine from Stockholm to come over. He told me on the phone that he didn’t want to attend the session either.

It’s cloudy and quite chilly here. It’s a pity because it would otherwise be nice to sit outdoors in the garden. Almost the whole of January was unusually warm. They say that it hasn’t been so hot at this time of year for more than sixty years. I’m not surprised, as the temperatures have climbed to over 30 degrees day after day. I skived off all the time and my afternoon break lasted a couple of hours as I just sat outside in my shorts. Then I felt guilty when I thought of you, in the winter darkness in Finland. The lemon tree burst into full bloom, and the birds fluttered excitedly when they thought that the spring had arrived. A couple of days ago the weather finally changed, and we had the first rain of the year. It poured down for two days and nights, and the people were delighted by such a rarity. It’s not so bad now, just the odd shower. The sun peeks out every so often, but the temperature has dropped to about 12-15 degrees.

I found Turunmaa cheese in the supermarket, would you believe. I had to buy it, of course, although it was more than double the price of the local cheeses. Well, this is the case with all imported food products. It wasn’t about the money, I’ve made a few bucks here. So I had a Finnish evening, which I spent eating Finnish cheese and watching TV.

There’s usually very little of interest on the telly here, but it so happened that they showed some ancient films about Africa, which were filmed by Mr and Mrs Johnsson, who else. I thought it was really funny as I remembered old Mrs Harvanen from the natural history classes at the secondary school.

Another thing that made me smile and reminded me of the old days was an ice cream van that drives around the residential streets here every day and attracts all the kids in the neighbourhood. The seller has a kind of chime that plays a tune to draw the customers’ attention. The van was playing a new tune, which was an old song I’d completely forgotten about: Camptown Races: Doo-dah! Doo-dah! I laughed out loud, and my assistant Normand in the next room turned to see what that odd Finn was laughing about in the middle of a drawing job. I didn’t bother explaining, he wouldn’t have understood.

I finished a big drawing project yesterday morning. 31 pictures, which I’ve been working on since December. It didn’t turn out to be my best, and it was a routine job, anyway, but I’m happy that it’s done. I’m starting a new project tomorrow. I’ve plenty to do until I return home in May, and I’ve quite a lot of work confirmed for the summer. So I won’t be retiring as long as I can draw. I’m in quite good health, which is probably due to this clement climate. I admit that I get out of breath walking up the steep hill when I come back from the shop, but I can manage if I walk slowly enough. I just have to accept that I can’t run around at my age in the same way that I did back in my schooldays.

3 February. I had to interrupt my writing yesterday when a friend from Stockholm arrived. He told me the latest news from Scandinavia and brought me the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, which he had taken from the plane. We spoke in a mixture of Swedish and English. When the session downstairs was over and the guests had left, we went out for dinner with everyone in the house. I was a little embarrassed as I had promised my Swedish friend that we’d have a lovely dinner, yet we ended up in a greasy spoon, where the food wasn’t that great and the service was half-hearted.

The weather improved and it was warmer this morning so I can keep the window open again. It’s important for getting rid of the cigarette smoke; there’s very little room here in the attic.

I need to get back to work, so good luck and greetings to everyone.


PS Have a great name day. I think I’m congratulating you a little too early, but just in case this letter takes two weeks to arrive, though they said on TV that the US Post Office is supposed to be the best in the world. That’s pure rubbish. Bye now.