When I was in the selection process for a top-secret job at GCHQ, somewhere back in the early 90s, one of the things they tested me on was my ability to learn a new language at speed. They'd gone to the lengths of inventing a completely fictitious language that bore no resemblance to any existing language, so that no one would have an unfair advantage.
I didn't get selected in the end (though it was a close-run thing; it was only my total and utter ignorance of macrogeopolitical affairs that let me down), which was fortunate, because if I had, my entire life would have been subject to the Official Secrets Act and I would never have been able to have this blog.
But I keep being reminded of their fictitious language every time I see anything written in Finnish, which given that I'm currently in Helsinki, is quite often. I'm treating the Finnish language (which, as any fule kno, bears no resemblance to any other language apart from Estonian and Hungarian) as a giant crossword puzzle that I have to solve in its entirety before I leave on Saturday.
It's quite difficult, but there are helpful Rosetta Stones everywhere, as almost everything in Helsinki is written in Swedish as well as Finnish, and Swedish is practically German, which is practically English*, so that's OK. This is how I came to realise that keskus in Finnish means 'centre', and that keskiviikko, which means 'Wednesday', is literally 'centre of the week'. I got almost as much pleasure from linking these two words as I did from idly reading the signs in the hotel lift and suddenly realising that avain means 'key' and avoinnen** means 'open'. By my reckoning this means I've done 2,138 across and 25,876 down, and now I've only got 48 hours left to finish the whole thing!
Oh, the inside of my mind is a terribly interesting place, I can tell you. Luckily it's balanced out by the inside of James's mind, which is constantly inventing fantasy subterranean zoos and enumerating the physical attributes of the manticore***.
Meanwhile, in the real world, we had a top international blogmeet with the lovely Taiga, who gave us Moomin fridge magnets and Superlon photos, and showed us around her gallery, where there was a fantastic red painting by a person called Janne Kaitala, and a slowly revolving brass and mahogany Victorian-style globe that was also a music box and played the music created by the outlines of the countries. So you can see we haven't been putting our time by idly, oh no.
* Pace BiB, I know it's not really.
** Or avoinna. Oh I don't know, I'm confused now.
*** Apparently 'the body of a lion, the face of a man, the wings of a bat and the tail of a scorpion'. But it wouldn't bite you.
How does Spotify work? I'm glad you asked
8 hours ago