Monday, January 09, 2012

at a boot sale

I bought a Penguin omnibus of Jane Austen's seven novels (Seven? Yes, they included Lady Susan), because the guy only wanted 25p for it. I'd read them all, some quite recently, and re-visiting Austen-land isn't especially high on my agenda, but it just seemed a nice thing to have. Also, for 50p I bought Andrea Bocelli's album Sacred Arias, because I thought it would introduce me to a hitherto unexplored bit of popular culture, which it has.

Then there was Ivanhoe, in the hardback Regent's Classics format that I owned as a child, though I think I never managed to get much beyond chapter 1, and what I mostly remember about it is Gurth and Wamba. But I did gaze at the illustration on the cover a lot, and I marvelled at the name Brian de Bois-Gilbert. The memory of that book must have had a lot to do with my subsequent devotion to Scott. The stallholder wanted a quid for it, which by now seemed far too much.

Finally, I got a Teach Yourself language course "Complete Finnish", with book and 2 CDs (£3 for this one). The girl asked me, did I ever go to Finland. I said no, then corrected myself, I had been there for about two hours once.

This was in 1998, when we crossed the Swedish border at Karesuando, more or less at the top of Sweden, and then drove westwards along the Finnish side of that border until we dropped into Norway. My memories of Finland are of a lively trucker's cafe and of endless flat bog and stunted trees, making me feel like I was truly getting close to the tundra. It was a dark afternoon up on this slowly rising plateau and I took no photos, hence Finland escaped being memorialized in F O T O. It would have been between nos. 24 and 25.

I confess, my practical ambition so far as Finnish is concerned was to be able to pronounce names and titles with reasonable accuracy. But now that I'm listening to the CDs, I think, why stop there? Why haven't I ever been to Porvoo, or lived the Year of the Hare? Truly, I've wasted my life.

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