Mike in Finland

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

If Bach had been a mushroom...

This is a scene from the middle of my novel, The Finn´s Tale. The two central characters, Len and Päivi, are collecting chanterelles in the forest. Bach makes a surprising appearance:

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We followed a small path for some way, then left it and walked between the trees to where the land began to rise gently. ‘This is one place where we could find some,’ she said. ‘They are often half concealed under other plants and undergrowth. You have to look very carefully.’

There were plenty of mushrooms around, but we were interested only in chanterelles. We went side-by-side, a few feet apart and scanned the ground carefully. It was a real thrill to find them, nestling half-hidden amongst the grass or moss. They’re a brilliant, butter-yellow and the shape is so elegant, like a fluted trumpet. I felt a thrill every time I found one, like finding a nugget of gold, a gift from the forest gods.

‘They tend to grow in colonies,’ Päivi said, ‘so when you find one you will probably find others.’

‘There’s something quite baroque about them,’ I commented, when we’d just finished clearing one fairly large colony. I held one on my palm. It was almost weightless. ‘If Bach had been a mushroom, he would have been a chanterelle,’ I added.

Päivi giggled with delight. ‘That’s a lovely saying, Len. If Bach had been a mushroom. I must remember that.’

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Finn´s Tale comes to Finland

My copies of my new novel, The Finn´s Tale, arrived yesterday afternoon, just as I was about to leave home to meet Eevi in town for a meal. Good timing; dinner turned into a celebration. The production quality is extremely high, as I´ve come to expect from Ward Wood Publishing. The book is printed on good quality paper and the cover image is really striking, I think.

Bookshops in Tampere and Helsinki have got information about the publication but I´m still waiting for a response from them. And I will be doing a reading from The Finn´s Tale at Swiss Cottage library in London on Friday 13th May at 19.00. I´d love to meet any readers of my blog who are able to get there. Copies of the book will be on sale. It can also be purchased from the Ward Wood website:

or from The Book Depository:

Saturday, 2 April 2011

London Sights part 5

Not exactly sights in this number; I´m going to say a little about two well-known English institutions: pubs and fish and chips. But then again, I am going to point out two particular establishments, so maybe they count as sights.

Pub first. The last time we were in London we stopped for some liquid refreshment at The Cross Keys in Endell Street:

It´s a lovely little pub, very attractive from the outside, as you can see, and beautiful inside. The walls are covered with pictures, photos, posters and a huge selection of various objects. It´s like having a beer in an antique shop! The pub has a great atmosphere, very friendly service and there´s food, too.

But if you don´t choose to eat at The Cross Keys, you might want to walk just 50 or 60 metres up Endell Street to The Rock and Sole Plaice:

Fish and chips is quite a tradition in England, but it can vary a lot. When it´s not good, it can be pretty bad. Two key things to look out for: the batter coating the fish should be thin and crisp. If it´s thick and soggy, that´s a bad sign. Secondly, look for chips made from fresh potatoes, not frozen from a plastic bag. The meal should be cooked to order, not cooked in advance and then kept hot until somebody buys it.

How do you order your meal? Every fish and chip shop has a list of the fish on offer on the wall behind the counter. You select the type of fish you want. Some types of fish are well known to most foreign visitors: cod (turska in Finnish), sole (meriantura), haddock (very similar to cod), plaice (punakampela). But why not try something a bit different? We had rock salmon and skate. Skate is rausku in Finnish and rock salmon, or rock for short, is actually a kind of shark. Its real name is dogfish, which doesn´t sound very appetising, so they call it rock salmon, which sounds a lot more delicious. And it really was delicious. The flesh of rock salmon is very soft and white apart from some parts where there is more blood in the flesh and it´s a greyish brown colour. It has a large central backbone, but very few bones otherwise. Here it is:

As you can see, the chips are made from fresh potatoes. The fish was soft and succulent and really tasty and the batter was crisp and delicious. The Rock and Sole Plaice is highly recommended. And they have outdoor seating with heating.