Scarlett goes to Moomin World

For summer retrospects, look no further. Instead of bemoaning the fact that autumn is already here (how did that happen?), now, as silent rain is falling on our new (unbelievably awesome) tile roof, is the time to cosy up in front of the fireplace with summer in mind.

Scarlett loves the trolls. She’s been brought up on a diet of white fluffy aliens. So, we (and half the Japanese population) went to town…

Grandma and Scarlett, posing in front of one of the more known buildings of the world. Hint – it is blue, round, and there is lots of jam in the basement…

Hugs aplenty. We hugged them all. I mean ALL. No one, particularly the white and soft and fat kind, escaped our hug-hungry arms. A great sport! Ah, imagine a world without the Moomins. Children would grow up with Teletubbies, horrible things would ensue.

Dad trying Moominpappa’s hat. It is a tad big. But superbly stylish.

Many adventure novels have been created on Moominpappa’s old writing machine. Here’s another one in the making. Keys were pounded in passion. Oh, this will be one of those you can’t put down.

Hat testing continued; the Moominmaiden classic was made for Scarlett.

Ahoy me Scallywags, rascals and people from Turku. Captain Scarlett at the rudder. Sadly the ship is anchored… or we’d be in the Caribbean by now.

Every girl and woman and bra-burning being is Lilla My. But I’ve got the real one.

nu york

Luxury got left behind in Palm Beach. To get to our hotel in… Brooklyn, we had to use primitive ways of transport such as bus and tube. Agh. And then the damn tube didn’t cooperate as expected due to repair and idiocy, so we had to go all the way to Coney Island to turn back. What a rude awakening. That never happened to Lou Reed. To push and pull on your suitcases for three hours in the NY subway system does not rank highly on my enjoy-o-meter.
Ah, they say Brooklyn is hipper than Manhattan. Bullshit. Only hippies could say that. It smells and is dirty and comes equipped with suspicious-looking people leaning against derelict walls (keep in mind we have just returned from Palm Beach where every straw of grass is watered with Acqua Di Parma).
However, when we finally had found our little hotell next to some oily car repair shop and a religious center for god knows what kind of sect, we crammed our suitcases into the little floorspace there was, jumped into the shower, escaped into town, grabbed a burger, and walked down Broadway, the city suddenly opened up.

First time in NY? Well, you go ooh and aah and holy shit, look at that and that and that. How to put it? Well, it is so unbelievable you can not believe it. There is not a more (magnificently) overdeveloped plot of land anywhere else on this planet. Skyscraper after skyscraper, raping the sky…

There is probably too much of everything in NY – particularly far too many people. And I used to live in London (maybe I was more tolerant back then). But then you gaze over that skyline from a great vantage point and too much of everything turns into just right. Here is testament to man’s strange drive to build. And build. And build.

They have certainly moved along – at least physically – since angry narrow-minded men in jumbo jets managed to topple over the twin towers. Hard hats are working around the clock here, Ground Zero is filling up fast.

Nice colors, busy bees. And for effect, just after being here soaking up all the We Will Never Forget, Bin Laden was gunned down in righteous glory. Justice moves in mysterious ways.
Speaking of NY-related justice, Strauss-Kahn, you must be the dumbest dick around. Rape a maid when running for president? Wow.

Ever heard the one about the guy who sold his soul on Wall Street, and turned into a bronze statue? Of course, the price of bronze would drop dramatically, considering how many that have and would, and certainly in the past decade, where greed passed all meters of acceptable. Don’t call me a commie – money is my guide to happiness, just as it is yours. Having said so, is it not painfully obvious that speculation is the root of all evil?

Luxury condominiums, downtown Manhattan. Ah. A dreamy dream. But I want more out of life than so. A little more breathing space, a green garden with berry bushes and apple trees, empty winding roads for a Ducati, a safe school for a daughter. They have a pretty nice view from out of there, mind.

Jockeys, jockeys.

The East River, the bridges, the cars, everything is brown.

We took a stroll out onto Brooklyn Bridge, the neo-Gothic landmark of New York. Excellent first-time tourist activity, another box ticked.

You know, outside City Hall, they still have the old gas lights. You can see the flame flickering, you can smell the gas. Now, where did I park my horse?

We did not settle for the outside of things. We walked right into Waldorf Astoria – great lobby, by the by, heavy on history – and we just had to see what the Trump Tower looked like. Safe to say, Donald has more money than taste. Everything is goldplated, and there is an indoor waterfall…

Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton. We loved the ostrich.

We gambled until last minute before leaving for New York, confident to find a Manhattan four-star for bargain dollar. Well, the reason we ended up in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, was that the Tribeca Film Festival was about to kick off, leaving no cheap rooms to be found on good locations. We blame you, De Niro. We didn’t even see you, even tho we went looking everywhere in Tribeca. Had such an itch to “You talkin’ to me?” He probably doesn’t get that a lot…

Times Square. Here, everything, every slogan, every color, is screaming for your attention. We chilled by going cinemabound for the remake of Arthur. Hilarious, altho we ate too much popcorn and ruined our dinner plans.
For contrast, a bit of art and a few words about MoMa. As everywhere in NY, the queues are far too many blocks long and my ankles detest people. At the Museum of Modern Art, we did not take it anymore. In fact, we just walked past this unfathomably incomprehensibly long several kilometer line of flesh, asked for a wheelchair, and then spent the day in MoMa actually not suffering for art, but enjoying it. Madli was pushing, I was cruising, and we had the best of times pouring over Jackson Pollock’s finest.

Everybody goes up to Empire State. We went to the Top Of The Rock, Rockefeller Center. Crane your neck.

The view was so utterly mindblowing that a tiny picture like this one is embarrassing. I must have something better in my folder? But anyway, you got to walk around the Rockefeller Center 360 degrees, getting the bird’s eye of everything that counts. Breathtaking, glorious, fantastic and everything else. Ah, Central Park below, in full spring, magically beautiful, the pink azaleas, the white blooms of horse chestnut trees, the ridiculous mime artists, the Nuts for Nuts stands, kids yelling, horses crapping, oh I love parks and Central Park more than even Pumpviken in Karis…

Parking, NY style.

Somebody got lucky with a bold color scheme.

Chinatown. Like everything Chinese, growing by the hour, eating up Little Italy, then the whole of Manhattan, finally the world will be one big Chinatown. Full of personable junk and lethal-looking foods and people who have lived here for fifty years yet can not utter a word in English.
I have always wondered – and will continue to do so – about exactly what kind of a customer that goes into one of these so-called Chinatown jewelry shops and actually buys something? They are smockfull of cheap trinkets, but nothing is worth anything and nothing is nice. Even so, someone must buy their stuff all the time, because these shops are absolutely everywhere, full of little silver dragon ear rings and purple stones and horrible clutter. Highly perplexing, completely senseless. I guess that, when things do not add up in your mind, the culprit is usually this incredibly vast concept called culture.

Little Italy, streets of the Godfather. I’m not afraid to admit to this tourist pleasure – we had pizza here. Wasn’t bad at all, and a couple of Nastro Azzurros later the streets seemed a bit slower and more gentle.

NY in a nutshell. Lots of steel and limestone and concrete, but with some very delectable bits in between. We returned with full stock of Calvin Kleins from Century 21, and those stupid millions of boxes in your mind a little more ticked.

oh palm beach

Travelling is always nice. But this was Extraordinary.

Having endured black (darkness) and white (snow) for a winter as long as the law, we ached for sunshine and warm climates. Palms, beaches, and luxury without bounds is a good recipe for any ailment, but a particularly good cure for a Finnish winter. So, courtesy of Sealed Air, we stepped off our plane at West Palm Beach, where our personal chauffeur and a brand new Cadillac Escalade waited… sweeeeeet, I think I thought, and I might have said it out aloud. This is the life I was built for. Everything else is a lie. Woohaaaa!

Breakers Hotel, well, I’ve seen better. Just kidding. The pure opulence of this massive castle is, is, is… totally ambassadorial, for lack of a better description at the time of writing. After half an hour I was calling it home. Another half an hour later, and I could swear I was born here.

There were at least a dozen swimming pools to choose from, all lined with all sorts of lovely. We sauntered down to the ocean, because we felt the need to feel sand between our toes. James, our beach butler, kept topping up our drinks. If you gotta burn your pale skin, this is the way to do it.

Some days later, me and my new fellow Winning Performer friend Jan from Germany suited up for jet-ski action. Sadly, no pics, as we were ripping it up way out on the ocean. The waves were pretty choppy that day, but we went faster than squirrels up a tree, and had a blast skipping across the foam. Want a waverunner. Now.

Breakers courtyard being dressed up for a Sealed Air cocktail party. The big event was later in the week; the appreciation dinner and awards ceremony. I got a great opportunity to chat with our legendary CEO, who turned out to be a magnificent sport, smart as a whip and easy-going. To impress, I do believe I made some pretty big promises… well, you have to stand out if you want to be back.
After ballroom dinner, the excitement, the film cameras. They announce your name, you walk hand in hand with your girlfriend/wife on a red carpet up to the stage, shake hands with the big cats, and bask in glorious glory… I can’t downplay it; it really is quite special, a very proud moment.

When I jumped on the plane to my work interview in Gothenburg almost exactly three years ago I only expected a job as any other so I could feed my growing family. Now, despite a MA in International Relations and a reasonably strong curriculum vitae, I feel no urge to move on. I’m simply happy. I just never had a job before where I was not bored.

Bike touring in Palm Beach. The island has the population of Karis, but with 20 billionaires living here, it is the richest spot on the globe.

When in Florida, you will meet alligators. Had my CSI Miami moment on a fan boat on the Everglades. “Won’t get fooled again…

Don’t you look at me like that. I am not a ham sandwich.

Yo bubba. Look at them gators!

This picture is for Scarlett. Now she can tell her friends that her really really cool dad had an alligator in his lap. And then she will add, in ill-feigned humility, So, did your dad ever do that?

We went out on a yacht. Well, this is Palm Beach, after all. You would, wouldn’t you? Now pass me a cold Bud, captain.

House-spotting is a much nicer hobby than train-spotting. Besides, we’re far from Glasgow here. I amassed quite a collection of mansions along the shoreline. This white piece of architectural art depicted here was one of my favorites. Insider info: all floors inside are glass…

Well, wouldn’t say no.

Yah, if you insist.

Manicured to the millimeter. By CAD and laser. Probably.

Marilyn Monroe gave me a kiss. Could’ve been a drag queen, but why spoil the fantasy?

We had dinner at the Ragtops out on town. All fifties, boys got sunglasses, girls got scarves, there were hotdogs and icecream. The older Sealed Air guard, especially the Americans, loved it. I found it a bit crude. What a hateful European attitude… The Elvis replica man had an awesome voice, tho.

Heaven is a hard place to leave behind. I had lobster every day. But most of all I’ll miss the hundred-dollar breakfasts we had every morning, in a big dome decorated by someone with close ties to Michelangelo. I’m not sure how to function in the future without my perfect eggs benedict and freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice. I’ll just get cranky, I’ll guess. I’ll scream dammit, where are my strawberries!

And then I’ll wonder why no one rushes to my side, ready to meet my ridiculous and immediate demands with impeccable professionalism and a smile to boot.

Oh, Palm Beach. Wait up for us. I’ll just meet targets and increase sales by double digits every year for 3-5 years, and we’ll be right back… and the Breakers staff will say “How nice to see you again, Mr Pie…

breakers palm beach

I am on a roll…

Some of you know I work for the American/global packaging giant Sealed Air Corporation. However, did you know I love my job? I truly do. The splendid position I am in allows for a great amount of freedom and creativity – and, should you do it well, there are certain benefits to be had…

This is the big prize. As the 2010 Winning Performer of Sealed Air – tadaa – they are sending me and Madli on an all-inclusive (I mean ALL) ultraluxury holiday to Palm Beach. And not just to any old hotel, but to the finest in Florida and one of the best in the States, the legendary oceanfront landmark The Breakers Palm Beach (of Standard Oil legacy).

Make no mistake, I deserve this break. I’ve worked hard, and I’ve done it right. The beach and the yachts are beckoning. Palm Beach, here we come!

Oh. We’re stretching our stay on the East coast with a second week in New York. S-h-o-p-p-i-n-g!

bye bye winter goodbye

It now seems as though spring has finally broken out of winter’s belly. There are still huge mountains of white junk everywhere, but the tulips are beginning to peek out, and the roads are dry enough to thumb the start button on the Ducati. Chugga chugga chuuuu!

This winter lasted for half a year. Half a bleeding year! What the muck? Just to twitch the blade in my mind, it was colder, and snowed more than ever. Vicious torture. I hate winter. I hate cold and snow.

Yet, when I look back, we all seemed not only to survive, but to blossom;

Mr. Snowman, the biggest baddest dude in town.

Scarlett celebrated her second birthday with a bag full of foodies. It was an intro to her considerably bigger christmas gift to come.

Illustration of concentration. We all baked gingerbread cookies…

A lot of gingerbread cookies.

We ate christmas porridge at grandpa’s.

Scarlett and grandpa, they go together like a horse and carriage.

All wrapped up and ready to be whipped off…

Scarlett’s Kitchen, the best cooking in town. I eat here at least twice a day! You should taste her omelette. Divine!

Eventually, there was so much snow that it was actually hard to find places to dump it. Big hills and snow bridges started to appear all across the garden. Scarlett loved it – what a playground it became! Yeah, that little red dot in the middle, there she is.

I love seeing it melt, on the other hand. Bye bye winter goodbye. Don’t you come knocking on our door again. Or at least not until December. Maybe by then we are already looking up towards the sky, how we wonder where you are?

the regenerator 2

If you thought it was bad enough that the house had wet feet, it has a soft head too…

I really tried to preserve the old thick steel roof for as long as I could – only five years ago, with major ado, I sanded it down and painted it painstakingly with three layers. It has not helped. The fucker still leaks like a showerhead.

Problem is, I have discovered, in the old days the steel sheets were not full length, but jointed/spliced together. In the winter, when you have half a meter of snow on the roof, and the water rails act as snowstoppers, and the isolation underneath is simple sawdust, you get heat from underneat the roof warming up the snow, during the same time the weight of the snow is pushing down on the joints, water slowly manages to trickle down into yep, obviously the worst case scenario, the walls. Naturally, a hundred years ago they did not use underlay to stop/steer the water away in case of leakage. Just steel on wood, then sawdust.

[Interlude: Work on a new roof scheduled to begin 2nd May 2011. We’re chopping the head off, out with the sick crap, in with new isolation (Ekovilla), new wood, best underlay money can buy, and black Monier tiles with glassed surface. Will look like a million bucks, and last forever.]

Of course, I thought, hey whatever, I’ll get a good price on the house (by now, I figured it would be practically for free!). Sarcastical chuckle. Again, I hope you read some previous posts…

I started here last fall;

By now, I’m so god damn used to opening up walls that I don’t really get a full-size heart attack when I see the damage. But still, it is a bit hard to take, when you discover how your dear house has rotted away for decades. I know my parents must have known about this, because there has been evidence of some improv work here. I don’t cast blame; I just wonder why they did not fix it properly?

Water runs down, creating havoc along the way. So does my chainsaw. Let the sparks fly. I ain’t stopping ’til I hit fresh wood.

After cutting out a great big gaping wound in the wall of the house, it is time to tailor. No standard pieces here. Everything must fit. It takes forever. Layer after layer.

Even the window frame was mush. I made a new one, and re-used the old metal parts.

Progress. There is nothing quite like it. As you are cutting away the rot, you feel like you’re just digging yourself deeper into a hole, but when you get into the rebuild, your mood improves, and soon you are itching for your real workday to end, so you can begin playing. Eventually, it turns into something you call “hobby”.

New beams. Sweeeeeeeeeeet.

Getting cosy with a bit of fur.

Jesus was here, with his magical Makita tools, healed the sick house. Again, you can’t beat the feeling of closing up with fresh new panel. Of course, this being an auld house, the panels are a strange size they do not make anymore. But throw a bit of cash around, and everything is possible. These puppies are custom made.

Primer, baby. One wall done, many to go. But for god’s sake, have a beer and hug. Rome was not built in a day.

the regenerator

One or two of you might have wondered, why the slow blogging the past years. Well, please join me for a tour of the reason. Personally, I think it’s a pretty good excuse for my not cluttering cyberspace, but… you’ll be the judge and jury.
In my previous post, the bitter rambling about Dostoyevskian wrongdoing, I mentioned that the flaws of the house are quite well-documented. This is true – wherever I lay my hammer, my camera goes too.

To regenerate means:

1. To reform spiritually or morally.
2. To form, construct, or create anew, especially in an improved state.
3. To give new life or energy to; revitalize.
4. [Biology]. To replace (a lost or damaged organ or part) by formation of new tissue.

On sunrise Centralgatan, I am the regenerator, and my house is the object of revitalization. Whether this is also spiritual reform, I dare not quite say. But I swear I hear the old house whispering “thank you” to me…

When the house was re-assembled (another story) in Karis in 1933, it was built for two families; ie lower floor appartment, and upper floor appartment. This meant two entrances, or two concrete staircases. When my parents bought this house in 1984, they closed one of these, and has not been used since. During these past decades, it has moistened up the adjacent wall to murderous effect. As I opened up the panels, I was all but able to put my fist through the lower logs. Johnny Rotten, man. The concrete brute had to go. So I rented a big fucking pneumatic drill, and went medieval…

Ka-ka-ka-ka-ka! After unleashing unlimited fury for a few hours, I had reduced the old steeled-up tough-as-nails concrete staircase to a trembling pile of pebbles. Truly enjoyable day, I’ll say.

Whaddya know. Everything was rotten and contaminated with poisonous fungus. All out! As you can see, the floor is isolated by half a meter of turf, sand, sawdust. From a historical point of view, very interesting. From a personal angle, very depressing. At this point, I felt like it was just too much for one man. This was just the tip of the iceberg, after all. Perhaps I didn’t possess the skill and heart to save this house after all…? Oh, I was down. I think that what kept me going was that at least I’ll get the house cheaply now… (if you read the previous post, you will now be able to have a nice chuckle!)

Since I am crap at giving up, I continued. First, I covered the upper stone plinth/base with a layer of mortar, smoothing out the craters that collect water. Then, a moisture barrier on top of that. Of course, new wooden parts inside the wall and below the floor.

True old-school woodworkers who wield big axes like windmills, with real experience to rebuild old log timber houses, are today rare and hard to find. This is sad, because houses built on log timber are treasures from the past that need to be preserved.

Well, I neither had the skill nor the wallet to travel hundreds of years back in time. Instead, I got the advice to improvise. The house is now partially on 2×6 stilts (L-irons up and down, big stainless steel screws). Just as good as gold, and better isolated.

Warm and cosy. No more wet feet.

And if you thought it was all over now baby blue – well, that was just the first 3 metres. As I turned the corner, and cut open the front, and was met by what I want to call creepy white toxic shit, I knew I had to go all around the whole house. The. Whole. House.

It wasn’t pretty. Frankly, I was angry that I was stuck (I had already been renovating for far too many years to turn back) with a rotting house that some would have burned to the ground to make room for something new and plasticky. But above all, my family deserves a wonderful charming healthy house, and that is what they are going to get, even if die trying.

As I mentioned previously, the house was re-assembled here in 1933. When you strip down the layers, you see that it is wrapped in newspapers from -33. Here, announcing the gathering of a raittiusliike, or in English, a prohibition (of alcohol) movement.
Funny – when I cleaned up underneath the house last spring, I found so many empty bottles of booze, it took four full trailers to ferry the junk away… gawd, what a disgusting and downright scary place the crawl space underneath the house used to be. Despite half-expecting it, I did not come across any human bones down there – altho I found practically everything else. The mess explains how the house fell into neglect due to lousy bums living in it – but I’m more than a bit embarrassed that my parents never cleaned up the crawl space after we moved in in the 1980s… hmm. Well, done and dusted. Now it is so nice and airy down there, you could rent it out!

Moving on, 3 metres at a time. As long as you replace the rotting shit with hard wood, a log timber house is a structural marvel, a living breathing thing, flexible and earthquake-proof.

I must admit I had a bit of a “moment” at this stage; the whole floor was about to collapse when I trimmed away the lower log… there was just a few centimeters of fresh wood left, but it had been enough to carry up the cross beams. By a stroke of luck, I had put a tiny wooden bloc underneath, and that kept it up long enough for me to prop it up properly.

This just goes to show that the floor could have dropped out at any time in the future… amazing. You know, I thought, ok, whatever, I’ll get a good price on the house……………

Now, every single cross beam, lifted by my trusty 3-ton jack, has strong supports below the house. It took awhile to install them, and it was freakishly “uncomfortable” to be down there, knowing a mountain of floor construction is resting on a small piece of wood. Die trying, I said. You probably thought I was exaggerating.

Around the next bend. Here you see the layer of mortar on the stone, to prevent puddles to form.

Jigsaw puzzle. To quote the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Wahey! Original dry log, a couple of meters. Thank you, house.

See that yellow electrical chainsaw? Dad’s old Partner, from early 1980s. I’ve been taking good care of it, still cuts like a razorblade. (This regenerator project has chewed through four chains already. Who the hell has time to sharpen them, when you can go to K-Rauta and buy a new one for 10 bucks?). I did acquire a new Makita chainsaw, too, but my Partner handles all dirty deeds, like cutting close to stone or nails.

This is a good side shot of the problem. Rain water has gotten in along the white-painted horizontal lower flanks, and caused the lower logs to rotten away. As you see, there is just a few centimeter of fresh stuff left. What a fucking ballet. Makes you wonder, has the old house been standing on will-power alone?

This extension to the house was built in 1933. As you can see, normal vertical beams, not the log timber frame of the main of the house, which is much older. You have to be a bit more careful here, when you cut away the lower part.

This wall was in extra-terrible condition, had to go far up to find fresh wood.

Here I went out on a limb and ripped out the whole lower log timber, because I did not want to split the new one into two. Luckily, the house stayed upright. Hehe.

Andy was here/spare parts by Rafael Pyton.

Well, I’ll let Leevi & The Leavings take this one;

Likipitäen jo kolme vuotta tätä taloa nyt tehty on
pelkkä ajatuskin tuskaa tuottaa
jos tää rakentaminen ei tähän päätykään

joskus tahtoo mennä sormi suuhun
vaikka yritys on armoton
läpi kiven perse edellä puuhun kun
yötä myöten kiivetään

se ei oo mies eikä mikään,
jos ei valmistu talo omin hartiavoimin
voitan kaiki vaikeudet ja viivytykset

vasara ja nauloja koko rahalla…

The song is a poetic masterpiece. Ask me, do I feel like it perfectly illustrates my struggles? Why, to the T!

Brand new shoes for you, my friend.

I suspect you can’t relate, but: Imagine how good it feels to put new panel on?

Like you have the healing hands of Jesus!!!

There. Now you know what I did last summer. Of course, that was only half-way. Yep, it means the other half of the house awaits…

bought a house burned a bridge

Hey. I got a story here. It has a happy end… Ever try to buy a house within family? Advice: don’t. Just don’t.

In a very thin walnutshell; my father died in 1999. We sorted the estate in the fading hours of 2010. I bought out the childhood house of my dreams February 2011. Papers bear my mark, bottle of Taittinger. Yippiekayee, without exclamation mark.

If you can sense a degree of bitterness in my words, that is because there is a degree of bitterness in my words. As always, I was naive. Blue-eyed like a baby. Fool in silly hat, with even sillier shoes, the kind with jinglebells. I just am, can’t do anything about it. Naivety is my force. While it does not yield light sabres, naivety has treated me well over the years. It makes me, no it forces me to think everyone is good, which makes me treat everyone with kindness. In turn, I am almost always treated well in return. Mutual benefits, win-win. But once in a while, there is always someone who does not return the favor. Reasons for such completely illogical behaviour are often multifaceted but always related to how they were treated as children… why, I would put a smiley here, were it not too far beneath me to use such simple ways of communicating mischievousness.
In any case, I was naive, that’s what I was. I thought this would be a piece of fruitcake, a walk in the park, an E-street shuffle. Ha!

It should have been a walk in the park. For all I know, it could have, and it most certainly would have. I come from a family of exemplary human beings. What could possibly go wrong? And then the King of Libya decided that he was in charge of selling me a house that he did not own.

Wow. That is good. And I wish I could explain that last sentence. Frankly, I can’t. Partly because I actually don’t know how to, and partly because I am afraid to get sued down to my bellybutton if the identity of this monkey is exposed. So, in order to protect me from the law, I hereby state that “all characters mentioned in this work are figments of my fiction, particularly the one I like to call the King of Libya. He’s so fucking fictional, you can’t get any more fictional than that“.

If you thought I am only writing this because I must get if off my chest, you are right. It’s too heavy to carry. I need peace. I need to shit this shit to be able to move on.

Well, to start at the beginning in the middle, the house was valued at, say, 2 Million euros before I started to work on it. This was a value that did not include the many MANY and by now WELL-documented flaws of the house. For fuck’s sake, forgive me for believing it was possible to work on a house you did not own. I really really thought this was fine, since the house was an estate on death in the family, I was taking care of it and the bills of the house, and I had expressed my sincerest wishes to acquire it as soon as life permitted. So, I began working on this house some five years ago. By now, about EVERY surface inside and out has been face-lifted. It is no longer the house it was – and it was a house chewed on by the jaw of time, with an interior from 1983.
So you can imagine my surprise when the King of Libya marches in one day with a real estate agent – and still, so fucking naive was I, that I thought this was just an exercise of curiousity. I accurately pointed out the many flaws of the house. The only thing that was deducted was the roof. As it said in the evaluation, deeper investigation is needed to correctly evaluate the value of the flaws (the house is rotten from top to toe). This was never done. But it was just A-OK to ask 2.2 Million euros for the house. Do you know what it means? It means that I was going to have to pay for my five years of hard work and hard material twice over (for example, the whole long driveway is now in stone). Like a fish on land, I was gasping for air.

And when I said are you kidding me, I was insulted, I was threatened, I was accused of ripping off my mother. The King of Libya said that he would take over the house and sell it for a profit. Now, maybe it is hard to see yourself in my position, but pretend that you have invested your heart and soul in a house, and you build it by your own hand and wallet for five years, for your own family, for your princess and queen. Then, when you can buy it, some ridiculous oaf comes in and threatens to steal everything away from you. This is something you really lose sleep over, trust me.

Naturally, in a normal scenario, you’d just boot the intruder out, and piss a long yellow rainbow all over his facist body. But in this utterly complicated and, remember, completely fictitious story, the King of Libya is linked to the family, so there was really nothing I could do.
I dearly wish I could spill all the beans – oh there are many beans to spill – but please understand that I can not go into detail. All I can do for now is just shine a little light on things that thrive in the dark.

The whole affair lasted for more than a year. The King of Libya was unable to come to terms with the fact that perhaps he is a loser because he is not a winner. Once this man makes up his mind, he is as flexible as glass. It is sort of funny – sort of – that the King of Libya always pointed out that you need to remove your emotions from this kind of business. This is the same guy who insulted and threatened me. Very interesting. You know, the King of Libya has lots of self-help books at his villa. He has read them many times, he says. Personally, I’m not quite sure he can read, but I’m pretty sure he has problems in the area of understanding text. More advice: avoid people who read self-help books. It just means that they have a problem. Steer well clear! At least the King of Libya acknowledges that he has a problem. I’m glad to discover that we agree on something.

So, there I am, trying to buy my childhood home from the owner, my mother, and the King of Libya is selling. It is quite the comedy, were you not acting for your life.
To make a long story short, in the end the King of Libya agreed on 2 Million. In my mind, the fair price would have been 2 Million plus index adjustment minus the price for fixing the huge number of categorically serious flaws this house has (more on these some other time). To put in perspective, just the roof goes at 10% of the actual price of the house. Work to begin in May.

Well, I paid 2 Million because I was so sick of this man (a man who I previously counted as a great friend). In fact, I would gladly have paid 5 million to never see him again. Again, I wish I could tell you. It just is too complicated. Besides, the money goes to a good cause – my mother.

The tension had been so thick, for such a long period of time, that when I signed the papers, I was sick for two days. I was shaking, and my whole body hurt. Muscles, head, stomach. Guess I was not used to the feeling of relief… *sound of peace, joy and happiness*

Money makes people funny. Ain’t that the fucking truth.

my new hobby

After my motorcycle accident, I thought I was forced to give up all sports forever. Bah. That clearly wouldn’t do it for me! If you have the ability to bite your teeth together, you will come up with alternative solutions. So I did.

Now, with my pride and a heavy prejudice against boring sports, I was never going to start bowling. Instead, you find me walking on water…

To make a short story even shorter, I got bit by the windsurfing bullet the previous summer, when I stepped up, fell off, and noticed that a) this is difficult and b) I must must must master it!

So, once this summer came around, I was sort of prepared. First of all, a business friend of mine had the old classic Windsurfing International by Ten Cate lying about, not in use. The topic happened to come up at a meeting. He thought I should have it. I was overwhelmed by the generosity.

Soon, I was riding the waves on my own free windsurfer. Did I mention it was for free? It was for free.

Yeah, I still suck. My everhurting wooden ankles do not help. But I have a great time pulling up the sail! And once in awhile I catch the wind and go so faaaast I must scream.

During those last days of summer I did get something of a hang of it, if I dare say so myself. Maybe not. As fall fell right into summer – or perhaps the cold stone of Paavo – I was still testing my fancy new Rip Curl wetsuit all the time.

Äh. When you fall, you get up. And repeat. Off you go. Gently now.

Woo! Look at that guy down there, hanging way back and looking all Miami…

Fun’s over. Mark my words – next summer there shall be no mocking! I’m serious about this sport. I’m stubborn like a donkey and I never give anything up. Come the end of next season, I intend to surf like Robbie Naish on speed.

And then I’ll send a postcard to the doctors who didn’t know if I was ever going to walk again…

it goes by the name of superb

Quiz: Do you know what renowned auto mobile connoisseur Andy myself chose for his new company car?

A Skoda. Yes. Really. No one held a gun to my head. No, there is no need to adjust the picture.

And do you know what? It’s an automatic…

Before you think I’ve gone old and soft and sold my country, this is actually a pretty fancy car. For one, it’s a Skoda Superb – and it is rather swell, if not supersuperb. Did you know – of course you did – that the Superb is the flagship Skoda? Hmm. I felt funny using “flagship” in the same sentence as “Skoda”… man, it sure is a brave new world out there.
Flagship starship, this cruiser is the biggest of them all, in fact, when I have Scarlett riding in the back, I have to use a megaphone to get her attention. It’s a little house in there. The Superb is made for chilling in the huge back, command someone something. “Jeffrey, take me to the airport“.

The automatic issue. Well, this is no old man’s shuffle-o-matic. It’s got seven speeds and two clutches. DSG, look it up on the web. It’s magic. Shifts like a velvet carpet, and faster than a blink. Frankly, I now feel stupid for resisting slushboxes for so long… why shift yourself when you can have it taken care of? It’s not like a go around Mugello every day – and besides, I have two red vehicles in the garage that see to my darker urges. So there. Happy as a clam, smug as a bug.

Skoda. I like Skoda. Suck on that bonbon, you. I did treat myself a little, tho; my Superb is rolling on 18in wheels, lowered suspension, and motivated by turbo supercharger power…

… and suited in platinum grey;

The real shocker is, I could have plumped for an Alfa Romeo 159. But this one is better. And as an added bonus, no one can call me a badge snob anymore. Ha!