Friday, February 17, 2012

I posted this on a train. Isn't that cool?

Days like today I swear I can almost see the Helsinki-dwellers who have already gone. I don’t only mean the ones who have died – although obviously, I mean them, too; I also mean us who are still here, but the way we were before, in our past, the past that is as gone as – theirs.

February is particularly good for this, for it needs to be so the snow is wee needles in the wind, and daylight is needed, too. Somehow, the effect is never the same in the dark hours, but by February, the days have suddenly returned, and I can see them – almost see them, their shapes forming in the spaces between the needles of snow the wind is full of.

I can feel them too, of course, which is probably why I can almost see them. I see those of long ago, long skirts or dresses, heavy overcoats, scarves and shawls, dark bundled figures. I see myself, at twelve or so, my existential awakening of a kind coinciding and somehow becoming forever connected with the snow piling up everywhere – on the branches of our city trees, making drifts along the streets, creating sculptures of lampposts, walls, window ledges, adding their bit to statues. I see myself a few years later, at fifteen, yes fifteen, life and the future rushing at me, my future, the future, The Future, as if a miracle, the world, The World, all the excitement of realising there is a life larger than oneself and a world to be discovered and -. Found? Owned? Belonged in?

I want to wave to myself, I want to say, be brave, be brave, be braver. Don’t lose yourself in the business of life.

It’s so strange that I am there too, with the old Helsinki folks, the by-gonners, the bundled-up ghosts. Is anyone else there?


Reading the Signs said...

I think they are all there, these folk that you feel and almost see. I was just about to say something that might have sounded like the young lad in the "I see dead people" film. But I do kind of feel that the dead are with us, in so many ways, and that there is a thin skin between me and the past. I experienced it yesterday in London, walking along a Bethnal Green Road of thirty years ago. Or that the road of then was superimposed on the one that exists now - or even the other way round.

Yes, very cool to post on a train. Smart phone or iPad?

Anna MR said...

Nope neither. Trying hard not to look smug whilst typing this, but it was the Airbook plus free wireless internet provided by the rail services. For some reason, although this said service is quite often flabbergastingly weak and unreliable (this time, it has to be said, it worked beautifully all the way to Jyväskylä, where my cousin lives. In case you're wondering, I visited them this weekend, my cousin and his family), it is one of these things that makes me be a little bit in love with Modern Times. I know, I know. I am pathetic. Whoever claimed otherwise? Nobody. Exactly.

My great auntie lived in this tiny and beautiful ground floor flat on Castréninkatu here in Helsinki (don't worry, it's a perfectly good street name) until her death in early 1991. I took the tram past her street today and I could feel her flat superimposed upon the whole street as I passed - her beautiful and interesting stuff (the stained-glass thing in blue she had in her window, the silvery lizard climbing up the wall, the Grecian head on the other wall, the mirror kaleidoscope she brought back from Greenwich Village on her trip there in 1968, the way her lamp looked like when viewed through it, the alcove she slept in just big enough to house her brass-knobbed bed and the bookcase I inherited from her, the light curtains she always kept drawn because she was on ground level, blah, blah…blah…) - well, yes, anyway, it was all there, superimposed on the snowy street.

I wish I could remember what exactly it is I remember about Bethnal Green Road...because I remember the road and know there is something there that I should remember, too, but buggered if I can remember what that thing to remember is (trying to win the "how many "remembers" in one sentence" competition here). Or maybe it is that your Bethnal Green Road memory is superimposing itself upon my memory, so that I almost have it too?


(And PS, please don't worry - "Jyväskylä" is a perfectly good name for a smallish city, okay? Just in case you fancy a visit, I have enclosed a Wikitravel link for you.)

Reading the Signs said...

Bethnal Green Road is very long. I was at the Shoreditch end, near Brick Lane, which has completely changed. Mr. Signs and I went there when we were courting - it was rockanroll cheap then. I lived near the other end, off the Roman Road, where there was a lovely corner shop called Grocer Jack (remember that?) - and Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. Us melancholics (by which I don't necessarily mean you, but feel free to be included if the cap fits) do tend to live with one foot and a half in the past.

Robot-screening applies here too, it seems.

Failed the first one - will try again.

Montag said...

I was gaping out of a window in the Eliel and I could have sworn I saw you. You vanished in a cloud of cigarette smoke. Strange.

Anna MR said...

Montag - hei.

Oh Eliel, and what they have done to it. It is a crying shame, whilst I full-well know I'm not in any way original in saying this.

But what-what? You were there? You must have seen me before I entered, for verily I wrote the post in the Eliel and then posted it on the train - and once I'd left the Eliel (in a cloud of red-wine vapour), I could no longer smoke - because they don't allow it inside the railway station. But wait. Maybe I in fact did nip outside for a quick ciggie, before boarding my train? That sounds very like me, and consequently, I see how all this is possible.

The next time you see me from a bar window - or indeed, any window - make sure to jump up and down and wave. I promise to act likewise in return.