Sunday, September 24, 2006

A country where I quite want to be.

Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Helsinki, city where the roads look like pavements, the pavements look like roads, and hungry trams patrol the borderlands, desperate to smear the unwary into a thin but nutritious paste. I quickly decided the only way to survive was to run towards a flashing green man the moment I saw it, which could well prove my downfall if there's ever an alien invasion, but I'm willing to take the chance.

Not much open on Sundays, although there is a large shopping centre directly underneath Helsinki's main rail station. The huge blast doors and solidity of its construction make me wonder if it wasn't designed to house various newsagents and fast food outlets so much as a refuge against nuclear war with the Soviet Pact. Or America. Not that much was open early on a Sunday morning, and by the time I had travelled down two escalators, the Dawn of the Dead-ness of the place had started to spook me.

At which point, and I kid you not, a hunched figure rounded the end of the corridor of closed shops ahead of me, moaning heavily and dragging one foot.

Fortunately her husband rounded the corner about two seconds later, and the two Korean tourists continued on their way without noticing me staring at them in horror. I hope her foot gets better soon. Or possibly they were deliberately winding me up, I don't speak Korean.

Helsinki zoo was open on a Sunday however. It's on an island a couple of miles away from the city itself, and neither Patroclus nor I were put off by the boat returning from the zoo seeming much fewer in numbers than the amount of people getting onto it, if that makes sense.

Anyway, it was a good zoo. Favourite animals were an actual wolverine, some snow-goats and a spiky lizard. Not sure about the axolotls* though, and towards the end I was quite tired and consequently became confused by a cut-out silhouette of a gazelle.

* A small voice from behind me calling out 'Ooh look, their ears go in and out!'. Further tactful investigation has confirmed patch did know these were gills, she was just winding me up, and I am almost entirely convinced this is true.


StacieFunkee said...

Trying to cross a road in New York City is also quite scary business

Anonymous said...

I'm glad it wasn't a shit zoo. They only have one dog apparantly.

*Scuttles away in shame

Anonymous said...

OMG are you effing kidding me?! I'm from Finland and I'm a very big fan of your blog:D this is freaky.. becouse i live in helsinki and now i'm just rambling on and on. the city shuts down every sunday,i'm sorry that you had to witness that:(:D so how did you like our country?


Anonymous said...

Hold on a minute, you trying to tell us there really is such a thing as a wolverine? I thought they came into the same category as unicorns and other fictitious animals possibly made up of several real animals spot-welded together. Are you sure it wasn't all done with mirrors and these Helsinki zoo fellows weren't just having you on? I wouldn't put it past them.

This a damn fine blog you have here by the way James Henry. Very funny and engaging writing!

bob said...

Yup, wolverines aren't just Hugh Jackman characters or U. of Michigan fans.

Anonymous said...

It is a well known fact that wolverines are like wolves but smaller and easier to peel.
See what I did there?

James Henry said...

Nanga has been waiting six years to make that joke - and may I say it was well worth the wait.

M - Finland is lovely. I've only been to the northern bit before, but the soft southern city of Helsinki is also lovely, with great food and zoos and stuff (I'm not a very good travel writer).

I did take a picture of the wolverine, which I will post later if you all behave yourselves.

Anonymous said...

We always behave ourselves!

London zoo is disappointing, it pales in comparison to the mighty chester zoo.

Is anyone else excited by the times free vintage movie posters this week?

Anonymous said...

Helsinki is a lovely city, it has character, although better for sightseeing than shopping. I remember very tasty reindeer and a cocktail with a cloudberry at the bottom...but not much after that.

Anonymous said...

Do you call Patch "Patch" in real life too?

If so, this surely means William Gibson and the rest of them were right, and the real and virtual worlds are indistinguishable and interchangeable.

In which case my high score on Horace Goes Skiing surely entitles me to riches beyond measure, which I shall now go and claim. Thank you, James.

Taiga the Fox said...

James, you would realise the essential beauty of the pedestrian tunnel network in November, when the sun is hibernating and it's raining large pieces of ice.

(Facts about Finland:
A wolferine is ahma in Finnish. Our fellow neighbours, Estonians, call Finns either reindeers or "Team Ahma". I kind of like the Team Wolferine one...)

Anonymous said...

Most interesting. Do please inform Patroclus that, several fjords to the west, the Norwegians don't allow zoos, so me and monkey boy have created a zoo of our own. But no charismatic mega fauna for us. Instead, we have decided to open a true 'shit zoo' complete with fecal ferrets, scum giraffes, scat baboons and the urban decay ocelot. Form an orderly queue, please.

Rose said...

Just me or does Urban Decay Ocelot sound like some hip London DJ?

I like zoos. The tigers in Rome were particularly fine.

LoRi~fLoWer said...

How much more express can a McDonald's be?

Anonymous said...

I need to go to Helsinki. I also want to find the coldest time so I can stand outdoors and have the experience of what it's like to be an abominable snowman. Or snowgirl. Or Human Popsicle.