that which travels through the wastelands
is a bubble
for want of a word better suited to describe it's form, or rather openness of form. What I mean is that the form changes, and may also be angular. It is not necessarily transparent, nor is the surface necessary smooth. A queer bubble. It may be textured and pleated like a cloth of linen, it may also be smooth. In short, a bubble.
I knew I had to spend a night in Hamburg in order to streamline my connections between Helsinki and Glasgow. I could've stayed in Copenhagen until the Swedish night-train from Malmö to Hamburg on a day that it runs, but yesterday it didn't.
I had contacted an old uni friend who settled in Hamburg, with whom I have stayed with previously, and who's company always cheers us both up – but she was away on a trip.
Remembering a Finnish friend who is doing an Erasmus in Hamburg, I queried after a place to stay and they suggested trying the Finnish Seamen's Mission.
Now this brought back some unusual memories I wasn't sure I had had.
Growing up in Belgium since 1989, my parent's took the principle of avoiding the tendency to remain in the Fenno-Scandinavian bubble, a path that many Nordic families took in the 1990's in Belgium. Me and my younger sibling went to a Belgian French-speaking school, and later joined a youth orchestra of the French speaking community in Brussels. My sibling was also involved in the local fencing community. I preferred solitary sports.
In short, the Finnish bubble wasn't really the scene for us. The least we did, was to allow for our phone numbers to be printed in the phone book of the Belgium-dwelling Finns. And this mostly for convenience revolving around the occasional birthday party logistics.
I think we went to play community baseball at Midsummer once. Maybe gave us all the shivers and we never returned.
But we did sometimes go and buy Finnish candy and rye bred at the said Finnish Seaman's Mission, at their Brussels office. Later we also gave concerts there.
Hamburg has one of the biggest offices, complete with a chapel, a sauna – and very conveniently for me: accommodation for passing travelers at a very reasonable price.
The dorm I stayed in had no-one else. The atmosphere of the place felt like I had been stranded in Hamburg perhaps because my ship had been suddenly quarantined, or delayed because of a storm on the North Sea. Like a friendly night-storage for a weary body.
Perhaps I had lost the keys to my house and my partner didn't answer the phone.
Where do you go?
Here of course. The dorm of the Finnish Seamen's Mission. Even the sauna was still warm.
The host mentioned the word 'jälkilöylyt' without explanation.
I had entered the bubble.
Next to the Finnish, was the Norwegian and the Danish Seamen's Missions. And down the street next to the conveniently places S-bahn station the Swedish Mission.
A chain of bubbles.
After the sauna I walked over to a birthday party my Finnish friend was playing records at. A very friendly atmosphere, and a drink on the house.
We ended up catching-up with my friend for over an hour, talking only Finnish amongst ourselves, and exchanging occasional friendly looks with other guests at the party. We did have a lot to talk about. I wanted to learn of the scene in Hamburg, and they were happy to share their experiences of a scene they seem to have integrated in at impressive speed. I had just come from a festival where one of their teachers presented an immersive multimedia work, so they gave it some local context and insight which was interesting to hear.
We talked about how diligence in composers looks different to the observer than performers diligence.
I'd like to think that I can sometimes work also lying down.
When leaving the bar to get a decent night's sleep before catching an early train in the morning, I waved a friendly goodbye to the guests at the bar that I hadn't exchanged almost a single word with. I was stuck in visions of a wasteland.
I walked back to stay with the sleeping Finns.
I started wondering whether I had just forgotten to board that train and that ferry the day before, and that I was in fact still where I had started.
The bells at midnight around the gigantic statue of Bismarck surrounded by barbed wire.