Part 21 - 29.6.09

I don't know whether to be grateful or disgusted that Oulu chose last week to begin a heatwave. At least, perhaps, it gave some preparation for arriving here in London to temperatures in the 30s. On the other hand, I now feel like I've been in an oven for ages already and we've only just arrived. I know (as I think I have probably said before) that I am in a minority, but I really cannot tolerate this sort of heat. I feel like it might be a foretaste of what hell is like. My skin feels hot and clammy, my head is pounding to the extent that I think it will soon explode and I feel alternately sick and dizzy.

Before I talk about stuff that we're doing here, I must tell you a little about the journey. Our neighbour, Topi, dropped us at the station in Oulu where we took the train to Tampere. We've only been there a few months so I was deeply touched by all the hugs and assurances that we would be missed. The train journey was quite pleasant. I'm guessing it was cooler on the train than off but I still had a stinking headache for most of it. Still, I managed to sleep a little and when we arrived in Tampere, it was much cooler. We easily located the Ryanair bus but did that British 'looking lost' thing when we couldn't find the driver anywhere. He materialised in the station cafe where he was having his dinner. When he re-emerged, he asked if he could turn the bus around before loading our cases. We agreed and watched as he drove off. Obviously the verb 'to turn around' means something different to Finns (he had told us this in English) as he didn't turn around at all but drove off to the bus stop, leaving us to drag our cases. Once on the bus, I got talking to a couple from Leeds who were just going home after a week's holiday in Finland. It was their umpteenth visit and they too had been once and fallen in love with Finland. So we're not the only ones to think it's a great holiday destination - come on folks, get those flights booked!

Tampere airport is an experience that everybody should have at some point in their lives... a bit like visiting a 3rd world country! I'll be generous and describe it as a cattle shed. There are two terminals - one for Ryanair and one for ??? something else? We entered the terminal building expecting to find the usual things like check-in desks, cafes, etc. Hmmmmm! No! There were plenty of suitcase weighing devices and signs forecasting the end of the world if you go just one ounce over the 15kg limit. I have never seen so many people weighing their luggage prior to checking it in. They were even double checking that it weighed the same, whichever way up you put it. Well ours were all a couple of kg under the limit, so the world didn't end. It's sort of DIY baggage drop. You get it weighed and tagged and then take it to the conveyor yourself. The entrance to said conveyor had a little doorway that only admitted cases that were laying down. This all proved too much for the lady with the large bright pink case. Neil helped her out. Then we went through security and headed for the cafe. This sold the worst, most expensive food that Finland has to offer! For over 30 euros, we all managed a sandwich and some water (from the warm refridgerator). I was thankful that we had spent the extra on priority boarding, so we were amongst the first to board the plane.

We landed early at Stansted and I was conned for a few moments into believing that we'd completed our journey successfully. Alas! No! The baggage curse is clearly still upon us! We waited for over two hours for the baggage to be unloaded, by which time it was gone 2 a.m. UK time, which to us was 4 a.m. Unbelievably the boys were still reasonably awake and we flopped down on the hard floor and looked with pity on those with really young children who had clearly had enough! Neil's dad eventually reunited with us on the other side and we went to pay for parking. As he had waited so patiently for us, I thought it only kind to offer to go to the pay machine (except that I had no UK dosh, so he paid). Unfortunately though, the machine wouldn't accept one of his 2 coins. Now I'd had enough - I pressed the help button and was rather curt with the imbecile on the other end who asked whether I had inserted it more than once. Eventually he let me off the 2 and sent me a new ticket.

Okay... onto brighter things. On Sunday morning, after virtually no sleep, the boys and I dragged ourselves out to church where we were greeted by several old friends who dashed over with big hugs. The service was wonderful - familiar worship music which just made me realise how much I've missed that. The pastor apologised in advance for his preach as he'd been up all night with his newborn daughter. I was a bit disappointed as he usually has some good stuff to say. Well God must've decided that speaking to his people isn't dependent upon the amount of sleep that the pastor has had and it was great! He spoke about the effectiveness of prayer and really encouraged me to pray more about the forthcoming English services that we are trying to organise when we get back to Oulu.

I'll hopefully write quite frequently whilst we are away. Well I have to - Daisy, my neighbour, left me with strict instructions to keep updating it so they could read about what we are doing here. If you're reading this from Finland, I'm missing you already! If you're in London, it's great to meet up again but sorry guys, I'm praying for rain... if not snow! If you're in Yorkshire, I can't wait to get up there and see you all!!! But for now, byee

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