Monday, June 01, 2009

A Runaway Bag and a Russian River

You wouldn't think it could happen twice, could you? Should have known that I was asking for trouble, taking Little Yellow Suitcase right back to Helsinki where it occurred last time. But I felt that as we were heading out, not home, and that there was no new stash loot, just WIPs in the checked bag, all would be well. Ha!

At least I'd been working on the Evelyn Clark Flower Basket Shawl on the flight, so had that to keep me occupied.

In the event, it just meant that we had to spend the night in Ivalo, northern Finland, instead of driving into Norway straight away, but that was OK, since it meant reindeer stew with lingonberries for me, and a happy encounter for DH before breakfast next morning:

The next flight up from Helsinki didn't get in until noon, so we went wandering on a nearby moor, and my lovely pink Talia's Wings socks, designed by YarnYenta for this year's Sock Madness, had their first look at a frozen lake.

Since these were the only socks I had with me, pending the arrival of Little Yellow Suitcase, they'd already had a quick overnight wash and dry, courtesy of competent Finnish hotel bathroom heating, but took to the busy life with great aplomb and kept the Celtic Memory feet cosy and warm throughout the morning. Lovely design, Heatherley, one of my favourites!

Wandered back to the sleepy little airport at noon, and saw the plane touch down amid the fir trees. Nice to be at a small country airstrip with no hassle, security, pressure or crowds whatever, just the wind blowing through the birches and the sun warming your back pleasantly while you waited.

Can you see a flash of defiant yellow on that unloading trolley?

I tell you, I gave it a good scolding. I see it all now. That first time of getting lost in Helsinki, it met up with a hunky travel bag - probably from Germany - and plans were laid to meet again the very next opportunity they got. What do I do? Change bags? Revert to cabin baggage only? (If I but could - you just try travelling with a professional photographer!)

It was high time to get going, since it's a long way, not only to Tipperary, but to Varangerfjord. Stopped for coffee just south of the Finnish/Norwegian border, and what did we find?

I'd actually seen this truck parked by our hotel in Ivalo the night before, and it had set off early, but here it was, open for business in the car park by the coffee shop. You'll never guess -

It was a mobile LYS!

It also had rolls of fabric, needles, thread, everything the competent housewife could desire. Isn't that the most marvellous idea? I want to fit out a little green van right this minute and set off around Ireland with it, taking thread to Thurles, wool to Wexford, needles to Newbridge, sock yarn to Sligo, quilting fabric to - where else - Quilty (yes, it does exist, honestly) and generally spreading joy and happiness around the land. Wouldn't even mind if much didn't get sold - it would be the spirit of the thing.

The Sunday, as it happened, was Norway National Day, and every little town and village was en fete, with people in the most beautiful traditional costumes.

Look at these gorgeous girls hurrying to shelter through an icy wind in Vardo. The embroidery on those woollen bodices and skirts was exquisite. And on that point, I found some wonderful pattern books in local shops, giving knitted designs for all kinds of Norwegian traditional dress. They were for children, but you could easily adapt those waistcoats and skirts and socks and caps for adult use. I'll put up some pictures when I get a chance. Oh hang on, I'll go try to take a shot or two now. Wait there.

Done it. Not a very good shot, took it quickly, but you get the idea? Why oh why don't we have lovely books available like this in our shops? Norway has a great pride in its traditional crafts.

The Flower Basket Shawl, made in some silk I'd hand-dyed, worked out quite well. I think it's the first lace piece I've completed, and again thanks to efficient hotel heating, managed to block and dry on a towel before taking it, with all due ceremony to that wonderful stone circle out on Varangerfjord for its christening.

I can tell you it was well cold enough to tuck that shawl inside the neck of my jacket. Had about fifteen layers on, and the wind singing through every one of them without a care.

The lichens on the ancient rock were most obliging about holding the shawl in position for a close up. Felt it was a bit of an imposition, but maybe they were austerely amused at the frivolity.

Speaking of the cold (and by 'eck was it cold up there, you genuinely didn't dare even to smile too widely for a picture because the bitter chill immediately attacked your teeth), I was fascinated by this simple image in Vardo:

I saw it more than once, with different groups. Here in Ireland, children would tuck dolly in with her face showing. Up there, the kids carefully covered the doll's pram right over with a blanket, against the cold.

Here is something else nice. Little wooden shoreline huts for storing fishing tackle, oars and nets. Can you see how carefully the rotten wood has been cut out, and the new wood fitted in? The gaps were caulked with moss. The huts are on sturdy runners, so they can be moved as need be.

It was sunny there near Vadso, but out on the Hamningberg Peninsula, it was grim and black.

It's such a dramatic coastline - you feel awestruck just driving it, and very small indeed in the immensity of it all.

We saw dozens of sea eagles, and in one very fortunate moment, several otters squeaking excitedly to each other as they fished offshore.

The road up to Batsfjord lies over high open moorland, where the snow lay thickly and the spring was still a long way away.

When you drop down to the sea at this lively fishing port, though, it's much milder and the reindeer were everywhere, taking advantage of the gentler climate.

A local fisherman told me the reindeer come down to the shore to give birth each spring. 'It is better for them here, safer too, I think.'

I have a dear friend in Batsfjord who I was hoping to see again, if I could discover her whereabouts. Dropped into the local LYS first (as you do), and who should I find coming to meet me but Else herself!

I had no idea that she was working here! She's finished her studies in Lillehammer for the summer, and what more convenient than that she should find opportunity for stash enhancement gainful employment in her LYS? It was lovely to meet again and hug and exchange news. Good luck with the final exam tomorrow, Else!

Had hoped to see Marianne in Vadso too, but unfortunately she was returning from a trip as we were leaving, so it wasn't to be. Next time, next time. Else, I know I promised to show you how to do a short-row heel, and Marianne, I had every intention of getting you to show me how to make those lovely felted pieces. We'll meet again...

There was a final leg to the trip to be made - out to Kirkenes, where the Hurtigruten boat calls in each day on its voyage around the endless Norwegian coastline, delivering mail and packages, and then on, up an increasingly narrow road, petering out into a rough track, to the very edge of Europe and the Russian border at Grense Jacobselv.

It was strange to drive along a track at one side of a small river, in Norway, and see the green and red painted post on the opposite bank showing that it was Russia. I grew up during the Cold War when the mystique and fear of Russia was very real, as were the tales of borders and daring escapes and tragic endings. To be there now, albeit in somewhat more relaxed times, and to see those implacable Russian mountains rising high behind the river, was quite an experience, especially as it was late in the evening and there was nobody else on that road.

There was still a solitary watchtower on the Russian side, but it didn't seem to be occupied. A merciful release for some soldier who would formerly have been doomed to a long lonely day in freezing conditions up there, watching, always watching.

The watchtower is rather nicely balanced by the King Oskar II chapel on the Norwegian bank. When relationships were very chilly after WWII, it was proposed to moor a gunboat at the mouth of the river, but an inspired soldier suggested that a chapel would be a much more effective icon, and so it was. So it is.

Knitting continued of course throughout the trip.

Here is the complex Celtic crop cardi photographed by a frozen Finnish lake. By now everything is up to the armhole stage, and it will be necessary to put frightening numbers of stitches on to one long circular to work the raglan shaping up to the neck, while at the same time (don't you love that phrase, especially if you read it too late) continuing the cabling on each individual piece. Wish me luck.

I love this felted picture in its window frame, don't y0u? Saw it at Ivalo Airport.

And when we got back, to the green and gold of early summer in West Cork, of course yarns had to be dyed and hung to dry in the breeze.

These are the new laceweights. Can't seem to do justice to their rather nice colours, no matter how hard I try with the camera. Sugar Maple, Connemara Twilight, and Magical Forest.

And these are the semisolids in merino/tencel sockweight which I have christened the Goneril & Reagan yarns after that really rather gorgeous pattern by Liz Abinante. Designed for strong-minded women who like creating a sensation, not for your wilting lilies at all. Turquoise Temptress, Predatory In Pink, Venomous Violet, and Emerald Empress. Took an age to get those listed on eBay last night. Does your PC immediately go into a slowdown when you try to get things listed? Mine takes so long that I now keep some simple knitting next to the keyboard and work a few rows while waiting for the page to refresh.

Now I know what you're sighing. Too much, and after too long a break, you're complaining. You're right of course. I'm exhausted myself and I haven't shown you half the pictures I meant to. Look, I promise, yet again, to try harder. It would be easier on both of us after all if I posted a little and often. Maybe - no, not tomorrow. Maybe three days time? I will try. I'll put a reminder to myself on my cellphone right now. Want to tell you about a day in the Black Valley and the Gap of Dunloe.

Must tell you right now though - the sun is shining in West Cork! And it's a Bank Holiday weekend! This is nothing short of a major miracle. People are out and about, smiling, laughing, talking. Beaches are crowded. Shoulders are being bared. Never mind that the temperature, at about 24 deg, would be considered a chilly spring day in Texas. It's summer in Ireland - all three days of it!


Mrs. Homesteader said...

Your trip sounds fabulous! And a portable LYS is to die for. All the knitting is lovely, and those lace weights you dyed are stunning.

pacalaga said...

Jo, darling, don't you live in the land of the Blarney Stone? You have the eloquence and brilliant storytelling that I always associate with the Irish. Truly, it's like a little holiday when you post, so keep them long! It just means I get a longer vacation. :-)

LaurieM said...

It's always good to hear from you Jo.

Although I found it hard to muster enthusiasm for reading about frozen lakes and icy winds now that June is here!

Can we get a close up of your flower basket shawl? Your long-distance shots were a merely tantalizing.

Anonymous said...

How lovely, to live in Ireland and travel (without TOO much trouble and expense) in Scandinavia! Two places to which I hope to return and where I'm glad to roam vicariously with you. Thanks again, Gretchen

Phebe said...

Jo, your posts are such joys I don't mind waiting until you have time to write them. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Brrr, what took you to the frozen NE at this time of the year? The pictures of snow and icy lakes almost made me recoil on this bright, warm spring day.

Especially love those vibrant colors!

Kathleen C. said...

But of course there is a Quilty!.. in County Clare, source of some of Ireland's most wonderful, moving and talented traditional musicians;
Paddy Canny, P.J. and Martin Hayes, Willie Clancy, Micho Russell, Noel Hill... I could go on and on... Tony Linnane, Elizabeth Crotty, the Tulla and the Kilfenora Ceili Bands...

Okay. I'll stop now. But only because I need to go put a CD on!

(Oh, and no insult meant to the rest of Ireland... I could name many great players and singers from the North and elsewhere too!)

punkin said...

Places and things you share resonate within me.

Unknown said...

Wow a mobile LYS, I'd really be in trouble if my place was on it's route. Seems like something out of Canada's past, interesting to see it in what we'd term the Old Country in modern times.

Holly said...

spring has arrived here as well west of London. Three days so far - or it might be summer.

Thank you for reminding me that some locations are still having early spring.

And as for the luggage, well, when you are bright and cheerful, you are invited to stop in for a Cuppa - not your problem that your keeper wants to meet a time line....

Angeluna said...

Thanks for taking us along. Your descriptions of the cold you encountered helped cool me off a bit here in Texas, at least as long as I was reading.

That was one cute little critter Richard snapped. Ermine?

Roggey said...

A mobile LYS?! Bloody fantastic!

And as usual, just gorgeous photos that make me smile all the way down in Iowa...

Anonymous said...

hello Jo - just curious as to what type of cute little animal is that your DH photographed? also love the photo of the chruch it looks like a painting.

heidi said...

what a wonderful trip! and a portable lys! how wonderful:)

marit said...

So happy you had a great trip to Norway! It's always fun to read what other people think of my country! (I live 5 hours north of Bergen, Hurtigruta stops in the next village to us)
I'd love to have a mobile LYS like that, what a great idea!

Thanks for sharing your travelstories!
And the shawl is beautiful!

Johanne Ländin said...

So glad to hear you had a good time in Finland and Norway.
Next time I hope you will visit Sweden, too. We´d love to have you!

There is some yarn to be had here also – I promise ;-)

tmjackson said...

Gorgeous, wonderful, a delight to read as always. Thank you for sharing.

I truly envy you your ability to find wool, yarn, and LYS's everywhere you go. You must have some astonishing internal radar.

Tan said...

Beautiful as always. Thanks for sharing.

Ruth said...

Happy summer! I, of course, would freeze in your summer.

Love the pics.

Nancy said...

I just love your blog, the photos, the writing it is always a treat to drop in and to read the latest adventure. Thank you for sharing!

Lindy in Brisbane said...

Wow!Don't mind the long wait between posts at all when they are so full of fascinating things. I'm so glad you take us on your adventures. Great photos, great prose. It's so interesting to me to see other parts of the world, especially ones that are so climatically different to where I live in the Australian subtropics.

Else said...

Hi Jo, How wonderful it was to meet you again. What a surprise it was to see you standing in the shop. I was smiling the rest of the day. :) I`m sure there will be a time for you to teach me how to make the short-row heel.
My exam went just great. I did very well and is very proud of myself. :)

Have a nice night.

SunshineDreams said...

Thanks for taking us with you once again (so to speak). Such lovely places you do go. And that mobile LYS? Oh, my...

Lindy said...

Hi Jo, Lovely post - so glad you're back. Please tell - is the adorable little critter a ferret? mink? He must have been right near your hotel?

Would love to see a close-up of that beautiful shawl.

Frozen lakes, freezing weather?

Lindy in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona - pushing for 95 degrees (F) today. :-D

Hi to Lindy in Australia. I seldom ever meet or hear about another "Lindy".