So…… What’s the recognised procedure when unexpectedly encountering a bear in the wild? “Oh some people say lie down and play dead, bears run real fast you know”. The winter wardrobe of burning orange and red birch leaves blur into the distance as Teitzi changes down a gear to overtake a logging truck. “I guess cycling round Finland might be quite treacherous, maybe I’ll stick with the car for this tour”. I’m in Finland heading north from Vaasa to Kokkola and then back down to Helsinki. Once again I’m in a foreign county trying to start a conversation that isn’t that uncomfortable and predictable Friday night cab style conversation………………”busy night!” I try and avoid conversational clichés, not because I want to sound clever, it’s more that I’m afraid of sounding stupid.
Comfortable small talk punctuated the journey past endless forests and farmland to the east while the jagged coastline slipped in and out of view to the west. The scattered wooden houses that edge towards the water line on the seven bridges road seem familiar; the landscape reminds me of John Irvine’s description of Maine in his book ‘ The Cider House Rules’. A bright kind of grey sky frames the striking trees as the onset of winter give the towns an empty playground look about them. Vacant swings shift nervously in the east wind.
This afternoon I’m running a workshop for song writing and slide guitar in the local music school. It’s a source of amazement to me that I might be set free in a ‘classroom’ given that I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing for most of the time. Better think of some ice breakers without trying to be too funny…..there’s nothing more tragic than a failing comedian.