THE LAST RAYS OF THE SUN are closing in on the Soukka beach in Espoo, Finland at 15.18pm on December 2014. The sea is covered with a thin ice.
I hate the winter darkness. Not the winter but the darkness. Winters are no more like when I was a child-plenty with snow, the white pushing away the dull grey. That's why I prefer living more south. The grey of Nantes in France contains more light than the sun up north in December.
There is darkness and then there is November in Finland. The latter is far more mind-numbing. Darkness attacks first the mind, then enters the soul.
Far-away foreigners flicking through Lonely Planer assume the Nordics are living a life to die for. No crime, much space, wild nature next to the cities, a party with the health services...
But in October, the warm summer nights are long gone and forgotten-then darkness and frost arrives. Short, colourless grey days, and a chill that is felt to the bone ensure the mind won't be able to reach for much light either. And as if THAT wasn't enough, by November the dark brown sleet on the motorways and eternal lack of sunlight dispatches the most vulnerable and weak into the 'recharging department' at the country's numerous mental institutions. Many foreigners are little aware of the dull and mentally mediocre life in darkness people put up with most part of the year in Scandinavia. Uninterested faces, grunts as greetings, avoidance of physical contact at any price. The security and efficiency of a northern nation turns into an isolated and silent zombieland.
Then Spring. Suddenly Helsinki wakes up to a March morning - alive and with a promise of something new. Temperature is still below zero at 7.30am, but it doesn't matter because the sun is already high. The grumpy and silent inhabitants turn into smiling sociable companions. People looking past their feet, which is pretty much said of a Finnish person. After the dark, cold winter, the Finnish turn into open human beings, ready ro talk anytime and anywhere. Almost compassionate.
Relief of the returning light. The shrill cry of the seagull. The world is again open and full of opportunities. Chatter on the street. Feeling of a weight being removed. How do you explain this to somebody living in Brazil or in the Caribbean? You don't because anybody who hasn't been through a Nordic winter can't understand what it is.