Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Arty Places #7 2012

A funny thing happened on the way to the laundromat   I discovered another arty place  - BSW OY ( Birch Sewer) in Helsinki, Finland. .
from a magazine article 
On 5 June, it was a wet, fairly cold and grey Tuesday and we had lots of dirty clothes and the unthinkable prospect of another week of  wearing "smelly" clothes before we reached our friend’s home in Oulu.  Determined to locate a laundromat (about a 25 minute walk from our hotel)  we started off with a map, and found some wonderful little streets with quaint shops, formidable buildings and a Swedish designed Gothic revival  Church!
One of the shops I spotted was worth further investigation, once I saw the sewing symbols and the beautiful cheerful orange pansies in the window boxes. I boldly entered and then realised that I couldn’t even pretend to be a customer, as this was a dressmaker’s studio for custom made clothing. But not just any dressmaker! The delightful , talented and exuberant Annu Koivumaki, the owner of the BSW, made me feel very welcome and in a moment, it felt as if we had been friends for years!
Annu is the creative genius of BSW, and has a reputation for making anything wearable that a client wants – from the traditional to the absurd, theatrical to commercial,  babies to adults…There were beautiful and exotic evening dresses, a silver merman's outfit, a little Snow White dress,  Western (cowboy) wedding outfits for a bride and groom.... 
I felt very privileged to be invited into the work rooms at the back of the shop front reception to see Annu’s valued button collection and to meet her also talented and friendly staff. We had a wonderful time sharing photos of our textile art. 
This was one of the highlights of our short stay in Helsinki – thank you Annu for sharing your special “arty” place with me. Please check out more photos at the BSW website. When you are next in Helsinki, please drop in and say hello to Annu. at BSW, Ratakatu 5, 00120 Helsinki.

 (By the way, St John's Church nearby is also worth a visit.  In Ullanlinna, St John's  is  the largest Finnish Lutheran Church with a seating capacity of 2,600, built  in Gothic revival style in the late 1800s with 74 metre twin spires. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John's_Church,_Helsinki

Monday, June 18, 2012

Legend in her own Lifetime : Family History 1

Background:  Jim, my husband and I  have just returned from a 6 week  holiday to visit family and friends in England, Germany, Finland and Hong Kong.  I have enough material for my blog for the rest of the year, but I have decided to start with a few weeks of  family history. While great contacts were made re: the Simmons/Jones family in England, I have decided to start this blog series "Family History" with a profile of Lily Lee. 
I met Lily Lee for the first time in Hong Kong, last Friday 15 June 2012. Why did we make contact? Aunty Lily's father, Philip Lee Chun sponsored my grandfather, Thomas Lee Fong to live in Australia, adopted him as a son, and  ensured he was educated in Sydney at Newington College.

Lily was born in Sydney in 1910 and that makes her a "young" 101, and 102 next October.  She was the third youngest of eight children, three girls and five boys ( excluding my grandfather).   Aunty Lily moved  to Hong Kong in 1933 with her parents returned to Hong Kong for a retirement holiday trip. They liked it so much they stayed on. When Lily left Sydney she was studying accountancy but never returned to complete her course.She began working in Hong Kong  for Mobil Oil and rose to become Executive Secretary. Mobil Oil built the first large housing complex in Hong Kong - Mei Foo Sun Chuen. Lily was recalled from retirement to be the personal assistant to the executives in charge of the complex. One of her two barrister brothers was Professor of English at the Hong Kong Chinese University in Shatin when it was first opened. One other practised in Sydney. Another brother, an accountant, took over the family import/export firm in Sydney which operated from their own large three storey building in Haymarket, Sydney 
    Lily was in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation in the 1940's. To most of us this would be difficult to comprehend but Lily spent her time working for the Red Cross and knitting for a living."We just got on with it," she said.  After the war Lily returned to Australia for a while via an aircraft carrier, which she says, was a lot of fun, although it took 12 days to get there! Over the years, Lily worked tirelessly for the Australian Association In Hong Kong as their secretary for a time and remained active with the social events after she handed over her official'duties'. In addition to the activities of the Association, Lily has been a lifelong fan of horse racing -
although she is reluctant to share the secrets of her success in the betting ring! (This information comes from Fifty Years of Memories, Australian Association in Hong Kong, of which Lily is a founding member and honorary life member.) 
The first thing that struck me when I met Aunty Lily in her room at an English Speaking Aged Care Centre in Kowloon was  that she certainly looked much younger and healthier than I had imagined  - beautifully groomed, dignified and elegant. She has never lost her Australian accent (Aunty Lily used to travel and stay in Sydney to visit relatives in Sydney for a couple of months every year until 2009). Using a print out of one of our email messages as her reference,  she proceeded to answer our questions confidently and clearly as we sought more information about my grandfather. Aunty Lily very proudly showed us messages from the Queen and the Governor General on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2010 and remarked at how beautiful Quentin Bryce is, adding that she had met her on the Governor General's recent visit to Hong Kong. Around the room were photographs of the famous charity sedan chair race in Hong Kong - Aunty Lily was the passenger in a winning team from the Australian Association! It is clear that Lily Lee is still mentally very very sharp,  in spite of a recent addition of a hearing aid  which she is still adjusting . With a wry smile, Aunty Lily admitted that she still  follows the races with enthusiasm and trades in stocks and shares.
Aunty Lily is known to enjoy taking out friends and family to lunch, and this was no exception. Chrys, her great niece, drove us all to Pak Loh Chiu Chow Restaurant in Kowloon where Aunty Lily encouraged us all to eat well , and then cheerfully paid the bill after checking the addition!  She expressed concern about us getting to the airport, and having assured her we had plenty of time, we chatted for a little while longer before farewelling happily, and going off in different directions. Lily Lee is a remarkably inspirational quiet yet strong  woman, and has made a  very positive and  memorable impression on me.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Coffee and Pulla in Finland

It's been 11 years since I've been in Finland. Coffee and pulla ( something like a brioche, but better - either plain, with cardamom, fruit filling....) is still one of my favourite memories! This was at a little outdoor cafe set up for the summer months in a small market place in Helsinki. I was attracted by the decor - rough hewn tables, assorted chairs, candelabra ( in the daylight) and vintage props - typewriters, motor scooter helmets, Singer sewing machines.... I was just filling in time here waiting for my washing to be done at a nearby laundromat where the owner gave instructions "go and have coffee and pulla and come back for the laundry in an hour" .

Monday, June 4, 2012

Three rivers

Three rivers by empresswu designs
Three rivers, a photo by empresswu designs on Flickr.

Today, we were in Passau, Bavaria (Germany) where the Inn, Danube and Ilz Rivers meet - the three different colours of the waters are easily seen. The lightest - Inn, the darker blue - Danube and the darkest (just visible in the lower right hand corner)- Ilz. Just across the river is the Austrian border. This photo was taken about 6pm after a day walking amongst the tree tops in the Bavarian National Park - what a beautiful part of Germany!