One Week Holiday in Finland: Putting The Podcast Into Practice

Similar to my summer 2016 post, in summer 2017 I had another opportunity to put what I learned in the podcast into practice. Whenever I have visitors staying with us, I always try to give them the ‘Finland Experience’, and it was no different when my parents came for a one-week holiday. It seemed that we had a different activity for each day, an ‘ideal week in Etelä-Pohjanmaa’.   I thought I’d share our week with you along with some photos, from a small sweet factory to live sport to a music festival.

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Exploring Finland: Putting The Podcast Into Practice

Podcast Into Practice

During summer 2016, I had the opportunity to visit the wilds of Eastern Finland, near to the town of Kitee.  I was invited to join Satu at her Grandparents’ old home, right on Finland’s border with Russia. During this trip, I found myself saying ‘yeah, I know about this, I covered it in the podcast’, for example; sauna with vihta, foraging in the woods, the eveacuation of Karelia and Finnish ice cream.

I thought I’d share with you some pictures of these activities, and the podcast episodes they came from. Read more

‘Regional Developer Prize 2015’ Award for the Explore Finland Radio Show

Mark looking suitably humble (for once!)

Mark looking suitably humble (for once!)

On Friday 13th May 2016, I was given an award by Etelä-Pohjanmaan aluekehittäjät ry EPAK (a Regional Development Association in Etelä-Pohjanmaa.  This was in recognition of the work I have done with the Explore Finland Radio Show and the Finnish Football Show. This is how EPAK announced the award:

Regional developer prize winner of the year 2015 is Mark Wiltshear

The regional development association of Southern Ostrobothnia EPAK has chosen Mark Wiltshear, the voice of the Explore Finland Radio Show and Finnish Football Radio Show, as the winner of the Regional development prize of the year 2015. Mark Wiltshear works as a Project Manager in the internationalization and export development company Xport. He is also the Co-founder of the company. Wiltshear has moved to Seinäjoki from London.

The board of the association was unanimous about the decision. ”Mark’s podcasts, notes and pictures represent South Ostrobothnia lifestyle and the characteristics of the region in an exceptionally the warm, creative and professional way. The genuine enthusiasm and fire in Mark’s work inspires respect and joy in all of us. The podcasts offer the listeners interesting and eye opening true-life experiences and perceptions that make us return to the show time after the time. Most of the podcast also have local people as visiting guest speakers. We warmly recommend the shows to everyone.”

The prize is being awarded now for the seventh time by regional development association of Southern Ostrobothnia. The prize is awarded annually. Previous award winners are:

– 2014 Researcher, Chairman of the Board, Jussi Rasku, Game Developers Association of Seinäjoki (Sepeli ry)

– 2013 Managing Director Sami Heinimäki, Härmä Transport Ltd

– 2012 SELMU, Live Music Association

– 2011 Development Planner Eira Hakola,Regional Counsil of South Ostrobothnia

– 2010 Executive Director Sinikka Koivumäki, The Development Association of Seinäjoki Region (Liiveri)

– 2009 Research Director Juha Alarinta, UCS (University Consortium of Seinäjoki)

Regional development association of Southern Ostrobothnia is registered association (2009) whose aim is to promote South Ostrobothnia’s independent and unbiased development and regional development at its various aspects and procedures. It’s aim is also give recognition to succesful regional development work by granting the regional developer prize annually.

Press Release / Lehdistötiedote

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Tytti Isokangas, Chair of the Board of EPAK, and everyone that was involved in this decision. The award came as a complete surprise and, needless to say, I am very proud and humbled to have been recognised by my peers; people who have similar opinions about raising the profile of Etelä-Pohjanmaa.

It was presented at the opening of the new office space that Bstr Advertising Agency shares with Xport in Seinäjoki (yes, the swing is part of the new office furniture!) The fact that I was in the company of so many friends, colleagues and business contacts made the moment that more special.

Brit Enjoys Nature. How the news was reported in Ilkka Newspaper

Brit Enjoys Nature. How the news was reported in Ilkka Newspaper

http://www.ilkka.fi/uutiset/maakunta/mark-wiltshear-on-vuoden-aluekehitt%C3%A4j%C3%A4-1.2048634

I hope now that this can be a springboard for starting to take some concrete action to benefit Seinäjoki, Etelä-Pohjanmaa and the neighbouring regions. I have a vision that I’ve started sharing with people and I’d love to start working to make this a reality. My company, Xport, is well-positioned to help local companies that want to become more international, and this can includes developing tourism ideas and preparing local businesses for receiving overseas visitors.

If you want to learn more about this vision, please make contact and I’d be happy to meet with you in person xport.fi/contact

Finally, I want to say thank you to YOU; for reading this and being interested in the podcast; for being one of the regular listeners to the show – there is no show without listeners; or if you have appeared in the podcast –there is no show without the people of Etelä-Pohjanmaa agreeing to be interviewed and generously giving me their time! Thank you all.

◊◊◊ Mark Wiltshear ◊◊◊

What on Earth is Mölkky? And how exactly do you say it?

IMG_0030

The Mölkky skittles at the start of the game

Summer 2015 barely deserves that name, but as August starts and the school holidays draw to a close, of course, the weather takes a turn for the better!

This is the perfect opportunity to try out our new garden game, Mölkky. To answer the 2nd question first, it is pronounced Meul-kuu. The first question needs only a little more explanation. Simply put, it is a bit like pub-skittles, where you use a wooden baton to knock over the skittles, numbered 1-12, scoring points as you go. Naturally, it’s the details that make it fun.

At the start of the game the skittles are arranged on a group, close together. The players take it in turns to throw the baton to try to knock the skittles over. If you knock over a single skittle, you score the value on that skittle, if you knock over more than one, you score a single point for each.

After the each turn the skittles are reset in the position they landed, so the game area soon starts to spread, isolating certain skittles, allowing them to be targeted more easily – but at the risk of missing all of them! The winner is the first player to reach the score of 50. Easy enough BUT if you go over, even by a single point, then your score is rest to 25 and you allow your opponents a chance to win.

Simple, fun and addictive. The other great aspect is that almost any number can play. I’ve played one vs.one and in a group of 15+, so it’s ideal for summer parties, barbecues etc.

As the official Mölkky website says ‘hard to say, easy to play.’

You can read more about the game here http://www.tactic.net/molkky/

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

SJK Update: May 2015


You can find all previous articles about Seinäjoen Jalkapallokerho (Seinäjoki FC, SJK) here

The season gets underway

The league season is now near the 33% stage, so it’s a good time to have a look at how things have played out so far.

For SJK it has been an effective, if unspectacular start to the campaign. Defensively they have been very solid, conceding only 4 goals in 11 league games, and they have lost only 2 matches so far. Following an impressive season in 2014, and the fact that 3 of the 12 teams are new to the Veikkausliiga in 2015, it has been noticeable that many opponents have tried to frustrate SJK by sitting back and playing a defensive game. This is assisted by a narrower-than-average pitch at Seinäjoki’s Keskuskenttä ground. Only RoPS from Rovaniemi, though, turned this into a dark art; their anti-football tactic of fouling and over-acting any physical challenge spoiled the season opener in Seinäjoki.

This has led to many scrappy first-halves, which have required SJK to play with patience before finally breaking down their opponents. They have scored many of their 16 goals in the second half, including 3 against Ilves, 2 against HIFK and 4 against KuPS. These three were all in the past two weeks. Away games have proven trickier for SJK with two draws, one defeat and a solitary win in the four games on the road, so far.

Another factor must be the incredible schedule in recent weeks. This has seen SJK play seven league games in the past three weeks. In May, SJK’s routine reads like this; Sunday – Friday – Monday – Thursday – Sunday – Wednesday – Sunday. This includes five home  games, which is a strain on supporters’ budgets, as well as a physical strain on the players. This is made even more bizarre by the fact that there is not a single game scheduled for SJK on Saturday in 2015, the traditional match day in Finland, neither home nor away!

This probably works for the gambling business of  Veikkaus, but doesn’t do the players any good, and isn’t helping the attendances at Keskuskenttä, which average at 2,066 in 2015 down on the 2014 average of 2,297.

League Table 26.5.2015. Courtesy of Veikkausliiga.

League Table 26.5.2015. Courtesy of Veikkausliiga.

Richie Dorman – the Welsh Messi

04. Richie Dorman. Picture courtesy of SJK.

04. Richie Dorman. Picture courtesy of SJK.

With the signing of new players in the close season, there seemed to be direct competition for Richie Dorman. He’s been at the club for four years and is a vital component of the spirit and heart of the team. It has been a pleasant surprise, therefore, to see that manager Simo Valakari has found a new position for Richie in centre midfield. Whether that is a free, roaming role is not clear, but that’s how Richie has been playing! He’s been winning tackles, playing incisive passes to create goals and, against Ilves, went on a mazy run from the halfway line before firing past the goalkeeper. A goal that will live long in the memory of those that saw it, in a game in which he also hit the crossbar from inside the centre circle!

Here to see highlights of SJK vs KuPS including Richie hitting the bar and scoring ‘that goal’

Toni Lehtinen, record-breaker

It has also been pleasing to see the regular appearance of Toni Lehtinen in the starting line-up. Having made his SJK debut in 2012, and helping the club to climb into the Veikkauliiga, he is heading towards ‘veteran’ status. Toni has now scored 68 Veikkauliiga goals, making him the 14th top scorer overall in Veikkausliiga history. He is also SJK’s joint top goalscorer with 33 goals, alongside Mikael Muurimaki. Seeing that Mikki has retired and is playing for Apollo FC, it looks like Toni will soon overtake him too.

Europa League campaign

No real news yet, but the countdown to the draw is now on and SJK will learn their opponents on 22nd June, when the draw will be made  for the first two rounds. SJK’s first round fixtures will be on 2nd and 9th July and there is potential for a couple of large teams e.g. West Ham United or Everton. Of course, it will probably end up being somewhere Eastern and unpronounceable 🙂 I will look to get the next SJK Update published after that draw has been made, but before the two games take place.

You Want More?

Here are a couple more links if you still want to watch some Finnish football

  • See more videos on the SJK TV YouTube channel.
  • Watch Veikkausliiga highlights on the Ilta Sanomat website ISTV

 

Many thanks to Lari Paski, Supporters Liaison Officer at SJK for his help on this article, and his contribution to my podcast episode on the history of SJK. Many thanks also to Antti Huhtamäki and SJK for the use of the photos.

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Apollo FC and Finland’s ‘Pink Revolution’

Season 1 Episode 16 Mikael & Jarl Matti proclaim Finland’s
‘Pink Revolution’

Listen to this podcast episode here

Guests: Mikael Muurimäki and Jarl Matti Antilla, Apollo FC players

There is something in the air in Seinäjoki. What started as a small idea among a group of friends is blooming into something altogether more touching, caring and beautiful – not words that you usually associate with the game of Association Football. That ‘something’ is named Apollo FC. It is the rebirth of a team that existed in Seinäjoki back in the 1980’s. Now with a purpose, a cause that has caught the imagination of everyone that hears about it.

It began when a group of former players from Seinäjoen Jalkapallokerho (SJK), decided that they wanted to continue playing organised football with players of a similar standard. They cast around for team-mates, found that they had over 20 possible names, and so registered to play in the lower divisions of the football pyramid in Finland, securing a place in the 6th division.

This squad includes former fan favourites Mikael Muurimäki, SJK’s record goal scorer from it’s days in Kakkonen (Finland’s 3rd tier) and Luis Fernando, SJK’s oldest player who played in the 2014 Veikkausliiga aged 35. In fact, the age of the players in the squad ranges from 25 – 55 years.

Apollo FC club badge, resurrected from the 1980's and now in pink

Apollo FC club badge, resurrected from the 1980’s and now in pink

I spent some time discussing Apollo FC players Mikael Muurimäki and Jarl Matti Antilla.  Jarl Matti is also managing the team’s media work around his busy day job. The fact that a new team, playing in the Finnish 6th division needs a media manager says a lot. The first hint that they may have hit on something special was when they attracted 1000 Facebook ‘likes’ within the first week. No mean achievement.

Jarl Matti explained that Apollo FC ‘manifesto’ has now has two aims;

  1. to be a place for players of a certain standard (including some former professionals)  to continue competing alongside old friends.
  2. to use the interest in the team to raise money for charity.

Once they realised that there was interest in the team from around Finland, they decided to divert that coverage and exposure elsewhere. Somewhere it could do good. The charity they will support in 2015 is Roosanauha (http://oma.syopasaatio.fi/roosa-nauha/5-2013) the breast cancer charity that is identified by a Pink Ribbon. The team will play in bright pink shirts and have the nickname Pinkitkoirat, the Pink Dogs. In 2015, Apollo will also use the slogan ‘For All Womankind’.

www.roosanauha.fi – The Pink Ribbon, 2015-style

http://www.roosanauha.fi – The Pink Ribbon, 2015-style

This is what has really grabbed the attention of people in the Etelä-Pohjanmaa region. Encouraged businesses to sponsor the team. Made people buy merchandise for a team that has hardly played a game.  Look forward to seeing them play in the Regions Cup – like the non-league, FA Trophy in the UK! It is because ‘there is no good reason not to support the cause’. Everyone has a Mum, a Wife, a Daughter, everyone can relate to this cause.

SJK has worked hard over the past few years to build a real football culture in the town and Matti feels some of this is now reflecting on Apollo. This, and the fact that the Apollo squad also includes people in regular jobs, who have some ability but never played in the pro-game. That the squad includes a local bank manager, for example, helps build a connection with potential fans.

At the start of the season, Apollo FC decided it would aim to raise 5,000€ for the Roosanauha charity. That is pretty ambitious for year one, but after just two practice games, it seems they might have to adjust their sights. By the middle of April, only two months since launching the club, Apollo has raised 3,700€ and it shows no sign of stopping. Jarl Matti and Mikael were, unsurprisingly, proud and humble at what had been achieved so quickly, but they still have a ‘hundred’ fundraising ideas. The only limit is the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.

SJK has been supportive of Apollo, but it doesn’t stop there. It has already been announced that there will be an event in summer 2015 involving Apollo, SJK and HJK Helsinki. That’s HJK who will be playing in Champions League qualifiers and SJK, who will be playing in Europa League qualifiers, taking the time to support the efforts of this new team from Seinäjoki.

That said, it is not just Apollo that is trying to redefine what a football club should be. Aki Riihilahti, the current CEO of HJK Helsinki, is one of the founder members and honourary ‘captains’ of Peace United. The former Crystal Palace and Finland player founded the club following a visit to the Za’atr refugee camp in Jordan, where he was inspired by the work of Finn Church Aid.

You can read more about Peace United here http://www.peaceunited.fi/en/, and the work of Finn Church Aid here http://www.kirkonulkomaanapu.fi/en/

Although Apollo FC and Peace United have different aims, they have a similar ethos, one of giving, one of doing things for others. A revolution? Well maybe not strictly speaking, but clearly there is something in the air, something rather refreshing in the era of £5 billion TV deals. You never know, there might even be a few good games of football as well.

If you want to learn more about Apollo FC or, better still, want to support the fund-raising efforts, you can contact them at any of the following places;

  • Facebook https://www.facebook.com/apollofi
  • Twitter https://twitter.com/pinkitkoirat   @pinkitkoirat
  • Instagram https://instagram.com/apolloseinajoki
  • Website http://www.apollofutis.fi/

You can find all of my previous content on SJK here https://explorefinlandpodcast.com/tag/sjk/

SJK Update: April 2015

Article number two in the series of articles about Seinäjoen Jalkapallokerho (Seinäjoki FC, SJK). You can find all the articles in this series here

Cup campaigns

Several eyewitness accounts suggest that SJK were unfortunate to exit the Suomen Cup (Finnish FA Cup)  to Kuopio Palloseura (KuPS) within weeks of being knocked out of the Liigacup. Popular consensus is that SJK dominated the game but, in failing to score more than one goal, they left themselves vulnerable, and KuPS took advantage with a penalty and a ‘worldie’ into the top corner, sending SJK out in the 6th round – SJK’s first game in this year’s competition.

This is a similar story to the Liigacup game against Rovaniemi Palloseura (RoPS), which RoPS won on penalties following a 2-2 draw. This is a habit that SJK will, clearly, be trying to get out of by the time the Veikkausliiga starts.

The video below shows highlights of the KuPS match, followed by an interview in English with Wayne Brown at 9mins 20.

Veikkausliiga season 2015

SJK’s new season kicks off  on Sunday 12th April with an away game in Turku against FC Inter, with a good crowd expected as Inter have marketed the game with lots of free tickets. 2014 was a challenging season for FC Inter, as they languished in the bottom half of the table before finishing 4th from bottom. That said, they fared better than some others. Of the 12 teams in the Veikkausliiga last year, three of them dropped out at the end of the season;

  • TPS (Turku Palloseura) finished 12th and dropped down into the 2nd tier, Ykkönen.
  • FC Honka, managed by Shefti Kuqi in 2014, finished 11th, amid legal disputes and financial problems. At the end of the season they decided to drop down two divisions, to where their reserve team plays, presumably to start over.’
  • Going one step better (worse?) was MyPa, they finished 8th but this wasn’t enough to stop them going bankrupt. There are two other teams from their area in Kakkonen, so they’ve decided not to continue. A sad demise for a the Veikkausliiga champions of 2005!

The three replacement teams in 2015 will be HIFK (Idrottsföreningen Kamraterna, Helsingfors) from Helsinki, who have a large, rowdy fan base which necessitates them playing home games at HJK’s Sonera Stadium – which will be busy this year with SJK also using this venue for Europa League games. HIFK won the Ykkönen division on the final game of last year and will be a useful addition to the Veikkausliiga. The two other sides are KTP from Kotka (runners-up to HIFK last season were) and Ilves from Tampere (Tampereen Ilves) who are managed in 2015 by Geordie, Keith Armstrong.

SJK, by contrast has bigger targets for 2015. The club has stated it’s aim of winning the Veikkausliiga and ending HJK’s (Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi) 6 year stranglehold on the trophy. In fact, the club inserted a clause in manager Simo Valakari’s contract that the team will play to win every competition it enters, something that fans of many mid-table teams would surely endorse! This is, clearly, a high ambition but after last year’s impressive 2nd place finish, this shows the board’s desire to continue pushing the club onwards and upwards.

SJK captain, Pavle Milosavljevic, modelling the new 2015 kit

SJK captain, Pavle Milosavljevic, modelling the new 2015 kit

The club will also make it’s debut in the Europa League at the beginning of July. While this always seems too early for British clubs, it fits right into the middle of the Finnish season, when they players should be at their peak. Unfortunately, SJK’s stadium is not able to host UEFA matches, so there will be a 4+ hours commute to Helsinki to play the match(es?) at HJK’s Sonera Stadium.

The excellent Escape To Suomi blog has a good overview of each Veikkausliiga team in it’s 2015 Season Preview

Which leads us nicely to…

A New Stadium in Seinäjoki

“Seinäjoki Council has unanimously approved the contract for the  construction of the football stadium with SJK.”

And so it was announced, by the Mayor of Seinäjoki, Jorma Rasinmäki, on 23rd April that SJK and the town of Seinäjoki had reached an agreement over the plans for a new football stadium. It is in a, slightly different location to the original plan, which would have been on the hillside near the Wallsport Areena, a tricky and more costly plan due to the need for explosives to make space for the stadium and building planning zones.

The new plan will see the stadium positioned closer to Wallsport and the Ice Hockey rinks, also closer to existing infrastructure. The area outside the main stand will be slightly lower than the level of the pitch, which should give the effect of the stand looming high above you when approaching the stadium. The stadium will be an all-enclosed design, with a capacity of 6-6,500 to fit in with UEFA requirements, at least for the qualifying rounds, and possibly the Europa group games (depending on the draw). The Champions League group games are have different requirements, and we shouldn’t try to run before we can crawl 🙂 It should, however,  prove to be a great venue for all those future European matches (especially if the teams does succeed in winning the Veikkausliiga this season!)

Freddy Adu

When I heard that Freddy Adu, the former child prodigy of football from the USA, had been released from his team in Bosnia, I thought ‘why not the Veikkausliiga?’ SJK manager Simo Valakari, having steadily built his squad through the winter, clearly had other ideas and passed up the opportunity. Adu was signed, however, by the aforementioned KuPS, not in time to make his debut against SJK, but he did have an immediate impact on the club’s online following, adding over 300,000 Twitter followers to KuPS.

Whether things work out for him remains to be seen but, surely, most football fans wish him well, and will look forward to seeing him in actions in 2015. You can see an interview with Freddy, in English, on the YLE Areena website here

Escape To Suomi also has some more detailed musings on Freddy Adu

Coaching in English and English Training

Something that Fredy Adu mentioned in his interview was something I’d also noticed on some recent SJK videos, which is that the training sessions are held in English. Apparently, this is another sign that English is becoming the language of international communication. So many overseas players coming to Finland already speak English, that it’s the easier for everyone to speak in this second (or third) language they have in common. No, it’s not because Finnish is too difficult for the average footballer to learn – I’ve heard SJK’s first-team coach Chris Cleaver give interviews in excellent Finnish – it just allows the team to focus on football rather than trying to overcome language barriers.

SJK feels this is an important life skill for young, Finnish players coming through the ranks at SJK. That learning English will prepare them for a future career overseas and it’s the duty of the club to help them develop as people, not just as players. That said, it does sound strange to hear that SJK has arranged for at least one overseas player to have English lessons, rather than Finnish, since they arrived in Seinäjoki, so as to better understand the training, tactics and match day instructions!

You Want More?

Here are a couple more links if you still want to learn more about Finnish football

  • The new, online magazine Ostrobothnia in English delves a little deeper down in the Finnish league, introducing teams for the Ostrobothnia region
  • You can see more videos on the SJK TV YouTube channel.

 

Many thanks to Lari Paski, Supporters Liaison Officer at SJK for his help on this article, and his contribution to my podcast episode on the history of SJK. Many thanks also to Antti Huhtamäki and SJK for the use of the photos.

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Easter in Finland: The Season of the (white) Witch

Easter traditions in Finland

Easter in Finalnd involves as much chocolate as my Easters growing up in the UK, but here they work a lot harder for it! My experiences below are based on my observations living in Western Finland, these differ from Eastern Finland.

Growing Grass

Approximately one week before Easter, the children plant grass seeds in dishes and excitedly watch them grow throughout the week. This is symbolic of the reawakening of the lad after Winter and, sometimes, is the first time grass has been spotted during the year!

Easter grass

Easter grass

Decorating Pajunkissa

This work starts in the week leading up to Easter, when the children go out to collect Pussy Willow twigs (Pajunkissa) which are just starting to sprout small, fluffy buds. These are then painstaking decorated with coloured pipe-cleaners, feathers, ribbons and small chicks. These will become vital ‘currency’ at the end of the week.

Decorated pajunkissa

Decorated pajunkissa

Practising the Virvonta Rhyme

During the week, the children will also practice the all-important Virvonta rhyme, which will be oft-repeated on Easter Saturday;

“Virvon varvon, tuoreeks terveeks tulevaks vuodeks. Vitsa sulle, palkka mulle!”

Which translates as;

“I wave a twig for a fresh and healthy year ahead: A twig for you, a treat for me!”

(Thanks to Fran Weaver on This Is Finland for the translation.)

 

Dressing-up as Witches

Traditionally, the Finnish Easter-witches, or Trulli, look more like wise, old women or maybe white witches, brightly dressed in head scarves and apron with freckles painted on their faces. That said,  the influence of Halloween has been evident in recent years with an increase in the number of witches dressed in black – in fact, this year we were also visited by a skeleton!

Virvonta

Easter Saturday finally arrives and all of the preceding preparations come together for the tradition of Virvonta. The children gather together their decorated pajunkissa, they dress-up as witches and take a basket or bag for collecting treats; usually chocolate eggs, small chocolate bars, sweets etc.

They then hit the street, similar to Halloween traditions, they go knocking on doors, reciting their rhyme while waving a twig (in our case, driving Boris the Dog crazy at the same time!). The homeowner will then offer a treat and take the twig form the children. Meaning that the kids accumulate sweets, while the homeowners accumulate decorated twigs!

Boris the Dog, keeping a lookout for witches!

Boris the Dog, keeping a lookout for witches!

Bonfires

In the evening, many people will gather around large, communal bonfires. These are designed to ward of evil spirits… or maybe to burn excess wood left over from winter.

Hyvää pääsiäistä! / Happy Easter!

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

SJK Update: March 2015

This is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of articles on happenings at Seinäjoen Jalkapallokerho (Seinäjoki FC, or SJK to it’s friends).

New players

As mentioned in my previous post about the Liigacup, SJK has signed several new players, in the closed season, to strengthen the squad;

  • Mehmet Hetemaj midfield – Mehmet is well known to some of his new team-mates already, having played at FC Honka with Jussi Vasara. He’s a strong, intelligent central midfielder who is both an aggressive, strong tackler and has an eye for an intricate pass. He has experience of playing in Italy, and should prove a valuable presence in the Europa League campaign, while also bringing extra quality for the Veikkausliiga.
  • Ariel Ngueukam forward – Known as ‘Tuco’ to his team-mates and fans, this is another player that will make a difference to the team, adding quality to the existing squad. Having seen him play, he has a style similar to Diego Costa, maybe not so aggressive (and b****y annoying!) but he is a real nuisance to the opposition, always battling for the ball and never letting his opponent settle. You will see him dropping deeper to collect the ball, switching wings, as well as pushing further forward. He’s a clever player who reads what his team mates are doing and adapts his play to them.
  • Bahrudin Atajic forward – Firstly the pronunciation, which I’m advised is ‘Aa-ta-chik’, Bahrudin was signed from Glasgow Celtic, having been based in Scotland from age 16-21. He is Bosnian but was born and raised in Sweden, so should ease into into both Finnish football and the Finnish lifestyle. A skilful, creative player he offer speedy combinations of passes to bring others into a game. Initially joining on trial, a tally of 3 goals and 2 assists in 4 Liigacup games led to him being offered a 1+1 year contract. Despite this recent scoring record, Atajic is not first choice as a striker and is more likely to play wide or as a number 10.
  • Jussi Vasara midfield –  Vasara = Hammer! Jussi is the former captain of FC Honka, a battling, utility midfielder, effective both in a holding position, or up-front playing off of the centre forward. He is known to pick off chances that fall from rebounds or loose balls at the box, and has scored two of goals during the Liigacup campaign.

Stop press!

  • As I’m writing this, it has been announced that SJK has signed Henri Aalto, vice captain of FC Honka. Aalto plays either at full-back (right or left) or centre-back. This gives SJK two good players in each position, and will provide competition and cover across the back four. He also managed to sign in time for the pre-season trip to Marbella – hopefully his tackles are as well timed as his signing!

Photo gallery (click on an image to enter slideshow)

Simo Valakari

As a player, Simo Valakari was an intelligent midfielder who spent several seasons overseas playing in Scotland for Motherwell, and in England for Derby County. As a coach, he displays similar intelligence and attention to detail.

Pre-match preparations include close analysis of the opposition using the InStat Scout programme, which allows his coaching team to focus on a particular opposition player, or passages of play from previous games. Simo will present video clips of the opponents and can select all the corner kicks of the opposition, or every key incident involving a certain player. Although he doesn’t tailor his tactics to the other team, he researches them and holds practice sessions with one team playing in the style of the opponents. During these sessions, he will regularly stop the game to discuss what certain players do during the game, and how SJK can counter this.

This is a feature of Simo’s sessions, he positions himself in the centre of the pitch (where he spent his time as a player) so he can see the whole game, and ‘conduct’ proceedings. He will regularly stop the session, getting the players to stop, close their eyes and point out where their team-mates are on the pitch. This helps the players understand, instinctively, where they should be and where their team-mates will be, Simo wants his players to be intelligent and adaptable in their thinking during different phases of the game.

Clearly, a manager on his way up in the football world, let’s just hope he’ll be in Seinäjoki for a few seasons yet.

Liigacup

Although it started with a set of impressive results in the group stage, SJK’s defence of their Liigacup title ended in the first knock-out round. A 2-2 draw at home to Rovaniemen Palloseura (Rovaniemi FC or RoPS) was decided with a penalty shoot-out, which RoPS won 4-3. Although they avoided a potential clash of dates for the next round match, which may have coincided with SJK’s trip to Marbella and would have made defending the title an even greater challenge. So all planning and training is now focused on the Veikkausliiga campaign which starts on Sunday 12th April.

Here are SJK’s stats from the five Liigacup games this season;

  • Played 5, Won 4, Drew 1 (lost on penalties)
  • Goals scored 14, goals conceded 5
  • Goalscorers:
    • Akseli Pelvas 6
    • Ariel ‘Tuco’ Ngueukam 2
    • Bahrudin Atajic 3
    • Jussi Vasara 2
    • Marco Matrone 1

You can read my previous article about the Finnish Liigacup here.

Pre-season training in Marbella

SJK’s Liigacup disappointment will be soothed by their pre-season training camp in Marbella, a week of warm weather training, on grass(!), which includes two friendlies, against Icelandic team FH on Monday 16.3  and then against Spanish third tier team, Marbella FC. After several months of indoor training, during the dark Finnish winter, this will be a welcome change of scenery and climate for the squad – the chance to warm the bones after the winter freeze sounds good to me.

This is a short video of day one of the training

You can see more videos on the SJK TV YouTube channel.

Many thanks to Lari Paski, Supporters Liaison Officer at SJK for his help on this article, and his contribution to my podcast episode on the history of SJK. Many thanks also to Antti Huhtamäki and SJK for the use of the photos.

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Introducing: Ostrobothnia In English magazine

I just wanted to take a moment to introduce the Ostrobothnia In English e-magazine, something of a kindred spirit to the Explore Finland Radio Show; both take a similar premise, taking Ostrobothnia to a global audience, but via very different mediums.

I’m delighted that Teija Tynkkinen, the Editor of OIE, has included a ‘few words’ from me for the first edition of her magazine. I hope that this will be something on which we can cooperate over the coming months and years, so if you’re more of a reader of, than a listener to, the Explore Finland Radio Show, then you should probably check it out.

And if you are a regular listener (bless you!) you should probably follow the link below and have a read as well. Let me know in the comments what you think.

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

The Finnish Liigacup is Underway

Find my podcast on the history of SJK here

The League Cup in Finland is a curious competition. Played as a competitive series of games, it serves as a pre-season competition for the 12 teams in the Veikkausliiga (Finland’s Premier League) but, as it kicks off in mid-February and Finland is mostly under a metre or two of snow, it is played indoors.

Th structure of the Liigacup is also unusual. The first round sees the teams divided into four groups each consisting of three teams, who all play each other twice in the group stage. At the end of this stage the top two from each group progress, providing eight teams for the quarter finals. From here it is a straight knock-out competition through to the final.

There’s one more quirk to this competition, though, as progression through the rounds of the Liigacup, also gains a better seeding in the Suomencup (Finland’s FA Cup), whereby those that get knocked out in the group stage of the Liigacup, start the Suomencup in the 3rd round, and those progressing to the Semi-final of the Liigacup, join the Suomencup in the 6th round – so there is an incentive to treat this as more than a pre-season warm-up series.

And so this weekend I found myself in Seinäjoki’s Wallsport Areena to watch the second of Seinäjoen Jalkapallokerho’s Liigacup games. After a close victory against local rivals VPS Vaasa (1-0 on Wed 11.2), today’s match ws against the other team from the Pohjanmaa region, FF Jaro from Pietersaari.

A crowd of 504 saw a close first-half, Jaro played neat, passing football but lacked a creative spark to make any chances for their strikers. SJK looked more dangerous, with Richie Dorman & Akseli Pelvas creating chances down both wings, although it wasn’t until the 41st minute that the first goal was scored, with Pelvas rounding the Jaro goalkeeper, having latched onto a through ball from new striker Ariel ‘Tuco’ Ngueukam.

The second-half  was not easy for SJK, although the scoreline suggests differently. The second goal early on, Sarajärvi feeding Tuco, allowed us (the supporters) to relax, but it wasn’t until the final 10 minutes that the scoreline became overwhelming for Jaro. Firstly, a long, mazy run from fans’ favourite, Cedric Gogoua, saw the ball fall to Bahrudin Atajic, a former Celtic youth player, currently on trial at SJK). FF Jaro went down to 10 men after a sending off for a lunging challenge on SJK’s Wayne Brown, before the final goal was scored by captain Marco Matrone in the 88th minute.

An impressive final score, which is only enhanced when you consider that the SJK team was without regular goalkeeper Mikhel Aksalu, recent Finnish national team selection Johnny Laaksonen, & star striker Toni Lehtinen plus new signings Jussi Vasara and Mehmet Hetemaj. Next up are the away games against the same two teams, VPS on 18.2 and then FF Jaro on 28.2.

It looks like SJK are in for another good season!

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Softengine, Luritus Choir & Alvar Aalto. In concert.

Many of you outside of Europe may not fully understand the Eurovision Song Contest, not everyone inside Europe takes it that seriously, and the recent balkanisation of European counties has led to countries ‘voting for their neighbours hasn’t helped that, but the viewing figures are huge and many a star has been born at Eurovision.

In 2014, Finland was represented by Softengine, a rock band consisting of five young guys from Seinäjoki and their debut tune Something Better. They managed an impressive 11th place and, in the process, amassed Finland’s second best-ever score of 72 points (heavy metal monsters Lordi actually won  the competition in 2006 with 292 points) Following this performance, Softengine’s profile in Finland has risen pretty high and late last year they released their debut album, We Created the World; Caleb Followill’s roaring vocals, the melodies of Coldplay and fashionable, rave-synths are pretty good signposts to the album’s sound.

There was a story in Ilkka, the regional, daily newspaper, on Sunday 11.1.2015 about a slightly different gig for Softengine, one that covers a few local touchstones; rock music, choir-singing and Alvar Aalto!

On 15th March 2015, Softengine will be playing a concert in Seinäjoki at the iconic Lakeuden Risti church, which was designed by the iconic Alvar Aalto. At this show, the band will be backed by a local youth choir, Luritus, with whom Softengine have a longstanding connection.

Luritus is not a traditional, church choir, they describe themselves on Facebook as a choir for ‘…both boys and girls – children and teenagers. Luritus isn’t a traditional choir. Besides singing, the performances include varied instruments, body percussion, drama, poetry and dance.’ The YouTube video below gives a good idea of what that invloves.

Full disclosure, my son Olli is a member of Luritus, and the Choir Leader, Hanne Orrenmaa, really has them well-drilled both with their singing and their movement. Every performance is different and well worth your time. I have my ticket, and I’m already counting the days. See you there?

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

The Veikkausliiga season gets started…

Well, in a manner of speaking.

Seinäjoen Jalkapallokerho (SJK) have a had a busy week, that culminated with the (now traditional) match between the first team and the supporters club (Klopit), who hold the honourary position of 12th man at SJK.

The match was played in a friendly, light-hearted atmosphere, indoors at the excellent Wallsport Areena in Seinäjoki, and although SJK are clearly the stronger team, the inclusion of a few SJK ‘old boys’ playing for Klopit evened things up and added a little frisson. The match ended 5-4 which was suspiciously close, and on investigation, it was discovered that the Klopit ended the game with 15 players on the pitch, a tactical innovation that Klopit ‘head coach’ Lari Paski should be proud of 🙂

This kind of activity only helps to cement the strong bond between the club and the supporters, so a big thank you from the Klopit to everyone at SJK.

Finland new-boy Johnny Laaksonen (right) and Mikael Muurimäki, SJKs record goalscorer Picture: Antti Huhtamäki

In other news, earlier this week SJK announced a partnership agreement with FC Jazz from Pori, which will involve structured loaning of players between the clubs from the youth development through to first team squads. This will give players at both clubs the opportunity to progress and find their level as SJK are in the Veikkausliiga (Premier), FC Jazz are in Ykkonen (1st Division) and SJK ’07, the reserve team, play in Kakkonen )2nd Division.) This will support SJK’s future policy to develop more Finnish players.

It was also announced that Johnny Laaksonen, SJK’s midfield playmaker has been selected to join the Finnish National sqaud that is travelling to the UAE next week to play Sweden in Abu Dhabi and Sudan in Dubai. This is a well deserved reward for Johnny who was voted the Players Player of the Year in the Veikkauliiga 2014.

SJK have also been busy in the transfer market signing Jussi Vasara​, attacking midfielder and former captain at FC Honka​​ in the Veikkausliiga, Cameroonian ​goalscorer ​Ariel “Tuco” Ngueukam​ and​, announced today that, subject to a couple of contractual matters, Mehmet Hetemaj who is returining to Finland after ​several years playing in ​the ​Ital​ian lower leagues for ​AlbinoLeffe, ​Reggina​ & Monza, he is a tough-tackling, ​defensive ​midfielder who ​has play​ed for the Finnish National team and should fit in nicely alongside Laaksonen ​at SJK.

If you want to do some homework on the new players, then what better way than a YouTube highlights video;

The club has promised there will be additional, strong signings later in January, and based on the​i​r actions so far this winter, who would doubt them. SJK aims to offer a real challenge to HJK Helsinki in 2015 and give a decent account of themselves in their first Europa League campaign, in which SJK will play their home games in Helsinki, at HJK’s Sonera Stadium – a return trip of 710km, 8 hours, from Keskuskenttä, SJK’s home ground!

If you want to learn more about SJK, listen to my podcast episode 3 where Lari tells me about the history of the club and Finnish football culture.

5 Steps to ensure you see what you want on Social Media

How to take control of what content you see using Google+

We all take time to decide who to follow, now you can take control over what you actually see! I’ve recently learned a little more about Google+, which allows you to prioritise what you see and notifies you when new content is available. The following steps are not difficult or time-consuming, but not everyone knows how Google+ works, even those that already have a G+ profile!

1. Click here to find Explore Finland Radio Show on Google+.

2. Click ‘Follow’ to add to a circle. On the pop-up box, you have two options;

  • Click on ‘Following’ to my page to the others that you follow, or
  • Click  ‘Create new circle’. Give it a name, e.g ‘Explore Finland’ (I’ll also add you to my circle ‘Explore Finland Followers’)
Add to a Circle. Name this Circle.

Add to a Circle.

3. Click on the drop-down menu on the left hand side. Select ‘Home’ this will take you to your home page or ‘stream’.

Select 'Home' from the drop-down menu.

Select ‘Home’ from the drop-down menu.

4. On the options bar (of your Home stream) click on ‘More’ then click ‘Explore Finland’ this will show you the content posted by anyone in this circle. Tip – if you find the G+ stream looks confusing, you can also change the layout of your stream here.

Select the 'Explore Finland' stream

Select the ‘Explore Finland’ stream

5. Above any posts, there is a box called ‘In this Circle’ where you will find a grey bell icon. Click on this so it becomes red.

In This Circle

In This Circle

Notifictaions off.

Notifictaions off.

Notifications ON!

Notifications ON!

That’s it! You will now receive notifications when Explore Finland posts new content on Google+.

Let me know how you get on by adding me to a Circle and keeping up-to-date on Google+.

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

What I Learned at #slush14

Although I risk ‘crossing the streams’ with this post – brining my day job into the Explore Finland world – this article is about an event in Finland, so it’s not completely off-topic.

Slush is a fast-growing ‘trade show’ in Helsinki for Investors and Companies to meet, talk business and party a little. Below is a post that I recently shared on LinkedIn…

SLUSH_Logo

2014 was my first time at the Slush event. I’d been to several trade shows in the past and this couldn’t be so different, could it? Below are a few observations and lessons-learned at Slush 2014.

Arrange investor meetings in advance

Even if you only want a brief catch-up meeting or conversation. There were over 10,000 tickets sold, the chances of bumping into the right person are small, and the chance of them having time to see you at the last minute, smaller still. I tried for two days to meet with a friend, we both wanted to, we tried, but it just didn’t happen. I’m sure we’ll get-together someday soon Berit!

Don’t expect to close a deal

Slush is a dark, noisy event. a brilliant atmosphere but maybe not the place to discuss the minutiae of your business, so probably not the place to seal a deal. Use it as an opportunity to initiate a new business relationship, or to nurture an existing one.

Prepare your pitch

Whether you are in the competition, meeting a potential investor or exhibiting on a booth, make time in advance to prepare your presentation, so you’re ready to answer the question ‘Tell me about your company.’ Also, ensure everyone in your company is telling the same story, you don’t need a rigid script more like a structure, so that everyone tells the same story. Visit www.xport.fi to learn more about our new service, in partnership with PNP Crossing Borders, which will help you develop your performance at all types of exhibition & trade shows

Be clear about the amount you want to raise and how you will use it.

Or don’t.

Contrary advice and contrary examples were in effect at Slush. One investor said he wanted to know what the money would be used for, someone else said they’d been advised ‘Ask for help and you will get money, ask for money and you will get advice.’ Many of the early Slush100 pitches didn’t mention how much they wanted raise, some of those in the later rounds did.

So that’s clear then!

Minimalist booths

There is less structure to the booths than a traditional show. As befits an event that attracts a great number of start-ups, they were mostly simple roll-up signs and a table. There are a few different ‘exhibition areas’ where the booths are located, and they are positioned side-by-side, close together. This created a real buzz around these areas, but it’s not always easy to get close to the booth although it does ensure no-one hides behind a table – there is nowhere TO hide!

Make the most of the Keynote speakers and product presentations

Take the opportunity to watch some of the different presentations. Learn, be inspired, be entertained;

  • Slush 100 competition: see how they are structured, learn from the mistakes you see
  • Guest speakers: covering every possible industry as well as investors explaining what they want/expect to hear in a pitch
  • Product/service launches: Nokia N1, Jolla tablet

Remember the #Hashtag

The idea of using #hashtags to promote your live event (see my previous article) was in full effect at Slush. We were encouraged to use the hashtag #slush14 before the event started and there were signs all over Messukeskus reminding you. If you search #slush14 on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ you’ll find that it was well-used.

Xport & Jakamo in action at #slush14

Xport & Jakamo in action at #slush14

What an atmosphere!

Slush is unlike any event you’ve ever been to, darkly lit, dry ice and energy drinks – and that’s during the day. At night they simply replace the speakers with live music! Oh yeah, and the evening party included beer for the duration of the night.

Many thanks to the organisers at http://www.slush.org/ see you next year.

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Christmas 2014, Finnish-style

I don’t know how Christmas is celebrated in your country, but in Finland it is a peaceful, reflective time. People send greetings like “Rentoa ja Rauhallista Joulua ihan kaikille!” (A Relaxing and Peaceful Christmas to everyone!), or “Levollista joulua teille” (A Restful Christmas to you all”). This attitude is reflected throughout the festive period. Also, Christmas is celebrated on 24th December in the Nordic region, which is presumably to fit in with Santa’s busy schedule; he starts with the closest countries on the 24th and finishes on the 6th January in Spain 🙂

This is how we celebrated Xmas 2014 in Seinäjoki…

The family were all awake by 9:00 and had a quick breakfast. It was a chilly minus 12 degrees outside when we took Boris the Dog out for a walk in the nearby woods, while the sauna was warming-up for our return. The Xmas Eve sauna is not compulsory but many families do it and I wasn’t going to miss out. I couldn’t convince everyone to get involved but Evie joined me.

Leena then made sure she watches the ‘Declaration of Christmas Peace’ at midday. This traditional announcement dates back to medieval times, 1320, and is made from Turku the former capital of Finland. It is read in Finnish and Swedish and is considered the beginning of Christmas;

“Huomenna, jos Jumala, suo, on meidän Herramme ja Vapahtajamme armorikas syntymäjuhla.”

“I morgon, vill Gud, innefaller vår Herres och Frälsares nåderika födelsefest.”

(Tomorrow, God willing, is the grace-filled celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour.)

You can read more on the YLE News site here

Leena was also preparing the first of the traditional meals of the day; Riisipuuro (rice porridge, or rice pudding) is a traditional way to start Xmas, with an almond or two dropped in to bestow good luck on the person who finds it in their bowl (similar to the British tradition of sixpence in the Xmas pudding). We ate this at midday rather than for breakfast, and I was lucky enough to get two almonds in my bowl – the kids complained bitterly, then declined to eat those found in their bowls! After eating and getting dressed we set off on the trip to Mummilla (Grandma’s home).

Xmas dinner is something of a feast in many countries and Finland is no different. What IS different is the food that is served. The most ‘Finnish’ part of the menu are the various ‘laatikko’ dishes – literally ‘box’ dishes, these consist of various mashed or pureed vegetables baked in trays in the oven – we had carrot, potato and swede, along with a liver & rice combination, all of which are quite sweet and very more-ish! The main meat served is a roasted ham, plus boiled potatoes, green salad, pickled herrings, coleslaw, and a seasonal, spiced bread ‘Joululimppu’.

Dessert was served two hours later allowing everyone to make a little room for various cakes, biscuits and chocolates as well as the mince pies and Xmas pudding from the UK. In the meantime, we all took a short walk to the nearby cemetery for the tradition of lighting candles in honour of our ancestors. The sight is quite something to behold, with hundreds, thousands(?) of lit candles, the photos really don’t do them justice! It allows you a time-out from all the feasting to think a little about previous generations, and maybe what they would have thought about the concept of a blog or a podcast.

When we returned home the kids found out that ‘Joulupukki’ (Santa Claus) had been. Evie wasted no time putting her ‘tonttu’ hat on, a red elf-hat with a bell on the end, and attacking the pile under the tree. Many Finnish families arrange for someone to visit dressed as ‘pukki to give out the presents, with the children singing songs for ‘pukki. This could be a family friend or someone raising money for their sports club (you can see the photo from our Xmas in 2013) – that said the younger children often find this a little scary and Leena has bad childhood memories of Santa being a little too merry at the end of a long day delivering gifts! We didn’t have anyone come this year, but that didn’t dampen the excitement – those presents didn’t stand a chance!

After the presents came dessert, after dessert came wine and board games. Neither were compulsory, but we tried a couple of the new games that Olli & Evie received, Splendor (Olli) The Magic Tower (Evie). Sadly though, it was soon time to head home and light the fire, the kids promptly fell asleep in bed, and Leena and I promptly fell asleep in front of the TV – well some things never change…

Hyvää joulua / Merry Xmas

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Magic mushrooms

Well, maybe not ‘magic’ mushrooms, but the way these sprang up almost overnight was quite something to see. There’s a small trail through the woods near our house, a loop of about 400 metres – perfect for early morning walks with Boris. One morning in late-August, we entered the woods and I was struck by the sheer variety of mushrooms that had appeared.

These were snapped on my phone, as I don’t often take the SLR out with me for the morning walk! I have absolutely no idea what they are, or which might be edible, but I intend to cover that on one of my podcast episodes, so watch this space. In the meantime, if you know what any of these mushrooms are called, why not let everyone know in the comments?

 

Welcome to Hell

Located just south of Etelä-Pohjanmaa, Helvetinjärvi couldn’t be named less appropriately. It’s name translates as Hell’s Lake and comes from an old story containing a warlock, an argument and cursed fish supplies, naturally! We came to visit on a Saturday in late-September and brought the kids’ cousin Siiri along for a walk through the woods to the lake and the gorge. Boris was able to come with us, so long as we kept him on a (flexi-) leash.

We parked near the Helvetin portti restaurant at Kankimäki, had a quick picnic in the car and then headed off to follow the 4km track. It was immediately clear that the terrain here was different to Seinäjoki. On the first part, the gravel trail wound through a wooded area, where the moss covering the rocks was so thick that the kids bounced on it like a trampoline, and the narrowest stream I’ve ever seen – you could hear the babbling, with no sight of the brook.

After a consistent incline, we came to a significant structure of wooden walkways and steps, the former taking us safely across the rocky cliff top with lovely views of the lake, to Helvetinkolu, a natural gorge in the rock that leads down to the lakeside. The stairs taking a slightly easier route down to the same area, with a toilet and wood-hut and not much else. Perfect, it seemed, for the group of Scouts to cook their lunch over open-fires.

After negotiating both the stairs and the gorge we, again, followed the path away from the cliff top through the woods with many fallen trees, unable to take root on the rocky ground. Suddenly, the forest environment ended and gave way to the breathtaking sight of long, golden grass swaying in the swampland. The sturdy duckboards weaving their way through the swamp helped us negotiate our way through, although a couple of mis-steps showed the benefit of wearing waterproof shoes 🙂

We we soon on the home straight, heading towards the car, the restaurant, hot coffee and ice cream – rewards for everyone!

Although we only walked a small fraction of Helvetinjärvi National Park, the 4km trail was perfect for these kids (ages 11, 8 and 6) although it would be difficult for baby strollers or wheelchairs. Challenging enough to be interesting, tiring enough that we all (except Leena) slept on the journey home, but short enough that no-one was bored. I’ll finish by quoting Olli who said “I never knew this trip would be this much fun!”

Helvetinjärvi in pictures (courtesy of Leena Wiltshear)

 

Picking Lingonberries

There’s an interesting law in Finland called Everyman’s Rights, which basically allows anyone to pick any flowers, berries, mushrooms etc. that are growing in the wild. You even have free access to angling and ice-fishing in many places. Unlike back in the UK, you have rights even if you’re not the landowner and if you’re just in Finland to visit.

I’ve only started taking advantage of this in the past year and I still don’t trust myself with mushrooms – I was brought up fear the poisonous varieties e.g. anything that doesn’t come in a plastic box from the supermarket – but berries are a bit easier, so here are a few pictures from when Evie, Boris and I went out recently…