Fancy a cuppa?

05Apr12

I have now been here two months and I’m only slowly starting to get used to the fact that everyone is SO POLITE here. In the beginning it was freaking me out! Being friendly and enjoying small talk is completely unimaginable for a Finnish person who doesn’t even have a word for “please” in her language.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned in politeness.

1. Make tea, lots of tea.

Every morning and every afternoon people just seem to be going around the office offering to make tea for everyone.  “Tea or coffee?” must be the most used phrase in English language and not just among flight attendants. I find this a very nice custom but a total nightmare for people with bad memories. “Yes, I’ll have mine with one sugar and no milk and Sarah will have hers with herbal tea and no sugar and NJ doesn’t want any milk but make hers really strong…” AAAARGH!

2. How is everyone?!

When in England you must start every conversation with an inquiry into someone’s personal life.  Mind you, in my opinion it is a vicious cycle. “Hi, how are you?” -> “I’m fine, how are you?”-> “I’m great, how are you?” -> “I’m ok…” and off we go again!

A coworker of mine did explain that people are really not that interested in you, so starting to explain how your boyfriend just dumped you or how you have no money is not an acceptable reply to this greeting.

3. Talk about the weather

The weather is a good conversation topic and the Brits love to talk about it almost as much as us Finns. It’s also great that it keeps changing quicker than you can say global warming. “It’s such a nice, warm summer..but god look at all that snow.”

4. Bless you!

You sneeze and ten people shout “bless you!” Once I thought I’d be nice and replied “thank you” but they all looked at me like I’d grown another head. You’re apparently not suppose to thank people after they have blessed you.

5. Please please me

Must remember to put the word please in the middle of every sentence. As simple as that.

6. How to end an email

You’d think switching to a totally different language at work would be difficult, but the only problems I’ve had with communication in English have been with: How the hell are you supposed to end your emails?

Most people seem to end their with Thanks. Ok fine, but doesn’t work in every situation and might be considered quite sarcastic (You sent me the wrong files. Thanks, Leena).

I’ve considered using “Love”, but that just makes me sound like a stalker (Could I please have an updated quote for this title? Love, Leena) and XOXO sounds like i’m a character in Gossip Girl.

“Best regards” is what I’ve settled for, but that sounds very official in personal emails (Want to go to the pub? Best regards, Leena) Yeah, no. So from now on I might just have to end mails with just my name. No very polite, but there you go.

7. Buy alcohol

If you are poor or cheap, going to the pub is a nightmare. People keep falling over each other to buy everyone drinks which in Finland is unheard of! Just make sure you’re not the one always having drinks and never getting them.

8. Have a sense of humor!

I think the best way to get along with the Brits is to have a decent sense of humor. And I don’t mean decent as proper, politically correct or even nice. Nope! This is one of the reasons I love living in this country and working for this company. At least my lovely coworkers seems to find humor in everything and make me laugh simply by chatting about paper engineering.

Yes, that has been my introduction into the British (work)culture and I will miss it when I go home. Not the talking about weather part though. That’ll be waiting for me in Finland.

Advertisement

Templar is celebrating today, since the picture book The Pirates Next Door won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize last night. Yay! Pirates seem to be the new trend in children’s books and animation at the moment.

The author Jonny Duddle and Templar have been featured in many newspapers and online sites this morning. I wonder if there’s going to be cake 🙂

Pirate tale from Aardman artist wins Waterstones children’s prizeThe Guardian

Jonny Duddle wins Waterstones Children’s Book Prize –  BBC News

Duddle wins Waterstones Children’s Book PrizeThe Bookseller

Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2012 – winnerWaterstones

Jonny Duddle Scoops Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2012BookTrade info

The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle


Sorry for the lack of updates, but I’m just going to blame the interference of  life, internet connection problems and my own laziness.

People have been asking me what do I actually do here at Templar and I wanted to tell you a little bit about this great company (no, they are not forcing me to say that).

Templar Publishing is a leading UK children’s publisher and has been part of Bonnier Group since 2008.  Known for its picture books, novelty books, fiction titles and now also e-books, the publishing house employs 38 people (according to the website, haven’t counted them myself) who have created the popular titles as The Pirates Next Door, Calm down Boris, the Ology Series and the Amazing Baby brand. The most famous illustrators include Maurice Pledger, Alison Jay, Emma Dodd, Grahame Baker-Smith and Clare Henley.

What I find very interesting is that some of UK’s most famous children’s books are created right here in Dorking in a small farmhouse called The Granary. This office houses not only editors, but also illustrators, paper engineers, sales and marketing teams, research and development as well as the production department. Every now and then we see well known artists walking in for meeting. It’s all happening right here!

Having sat in publishing meetings it is inspiring to see how the creative team comes up with big, wonderful book plans which are sometimes quite imaginative and elaborate. I didn’t even realize it was possible to make a book that folds into an amusement park with flashing lights and music. Then R&D and Production (that’s us!) turns their ideas into reality.

This is a great place to work for someone who loves books. There seems to be a wonderful spirit here: even though a project might take a lot of developing and even compromising before it turns into a final book, it is mostly a labor of love.

Working in Production I daily hear (and now use) words like pop-ups, glue spots, embossing, foiling, varnish, spacer… which probably sounds like a foreign language to people who don’t work in publishing. It did to me in the beginning (well, it IS a foreign language for me). It has taken me awhile to get used to the lingo.

When on my first day I heard a colleague ask someone to “find the dummy” I thought she was looking for a coworker and thought “That’s a bit rude.”

I have later learned that this is a dummy.

And this is what it looks like when it turns into a real book.

At the moment it is very peaceful here at the office, because everyone is at the Bologna Book Fair. Next week though we are hoping they’ll come back with some very positive feedback on the new titles!


London calling!

19Feb12

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while. Was busy being sick and getting my tooth fixed. Yes, I broke my tooth. No, I  wasn’t in a fight.

For the two previous weekends it’s been LONDON CALLING! I’ve spend both Saturdays enjoying the same routine: exploring London, walking around, taking in the sights, sounds and atmosphere. It really is the greatest city in the world!

The train ride from Dorking to Victoria or Waterloo Station takes only 50 minutes and there’s some lovely scenery to look at, not to mention the interesting passangers (yesterday  I heard the history of archeology from a very excited 7-year-old boy).

This Saturday I went to Westminster and walked around in pouring rain (very English!). But it’s pretty damn hard to care about getting soaked when you’re standing at the feet of Big Ben. Last Saturday I barely got out of the tube when… bam! St Paul’s Cathedral in my face. Nice.

I also went to the Museum of London to see the Charles Dickens exhibition (now I can prove to my mother that I actually visit museums and not just pubs, as she seems to think). The exhibition was very interesting: saw the original manuscripts for Great Expectations and Bleak House – with corrections. It’s nice to know that even the greatest literary genius wasn’t the master of spelling.

Unfortunately I only had 20 minutes to see the rest of the museum, so I sprinted through the entire history of London in lightning speed, getting fairly angry glances from other visitors. What I could gather, while running past stuff, is that it’s a place worth visiting!

My favorite place in London at the moment is Piccadilly Circus and it’s surroundings. There’s so much excitement and amazing things around every corner. People, shops, lights, restaurants, theatre, love it!

And it is also the place where we stalked Ralph Fiennes last summer. Ah memories…

This was kind of a bummer…

Trafalgar Square was quite impressive. It has a huge digital clock counting down the days to the London Olympics. This city is probably going crazy over this summer. I wish I was here to see it all happening!

After wondering around for the whole day I took my coworker’s advice and went to a bar. And this was one of the nicest things I saw in London that evening:

I also did some sightseeing with another tourist I met while enjoying the local beverages. We admired this thing of art for some time:

The photographs don’t do them justice, but if you’re ever in London, go and see these:

I have to say my first weeks in London and Dorking have been better than expected. In the words of Michael Crawford: “There have  been so many wonderful things that have happened to me. I know by the law of averages, I must be due to be knocked down by a truck any moment now.”

Truer words never spoken! Still haven’t gotten hit by a truck or a buss, but last Sunday karma caught up with me…


At first glance Dorking doesn’t look all that complicated. There are three train stations, a church and a main street with lots of cute little shops around it. You stare at the map of town thinking “what the hell do you need a map for?”  It’s like the Finnish metro: there’s only one way there and one way back.

I live on the edge of town, but it only takes me 15 minutes to walk to work (which is nothing compared to the tedious hour the trip would take at home during winter). The walk to the office couldn’t be easier.

So naturally I got lost on my first day!

It’s not that I’m stupid or didn’t have good directions. It’s just that Dorking seems to consist of teeny tiny houses and alleyways that are scattered around randomly. When you stray away from the main street, you’d need a map and a group of navigators to get you where’s you’re going.

On the first day I didn’t realize this and got lost in the labyrinth of narrow lanes and houses that all seem to be called The Cottage.

I started walking down the Hight street….

…past the White Horse pub…

….then turned down an alley where I was supposed to find the office…

….and this is what I saw.

My reaction: “That can’t possibly be it! There are no office buildings here!”

So I turned back. Which was a mistake. After running around like a headless chicken for ten minutes I did the unthinkable (for a Finnish person) and asked for directions. A nice man told me to walk down the a very suspicious looking pathway, past houses that looked like something out of Grimms’ Fairytales and there it was!

The office.

It’s very British, isn’t it 🙂


Stop the presses! We’ve got some snow, people!

Dorking finally has a white coating just like my coworkers have been promising for days. Everyone at work keep joking around saying “Thanks for bringing the snow with you”. Then they stop laughing and stare at me “No seriously, make it stop!”

The Brits seem to both love and hate the winter with equal passion. They enjoy playing in the snow and making snow cats. Yeah, there is a white, melting cat with whiskers in front of every house. It’s pretty creepy.

It also makes for good small talk. This is the conversation I’ve been having five times a day.

“My god that’s a lot of snow!”

“Sure is.”

“I mean, look at all that snow!”

“Yeah, it’s really something.”

I also heard stories of how people have been without heating for days and had to move in with their mother-in-law. Oh, the horror! Some of my coworkers don’t get hot water (so it’s not just me) and some couldn’t even get the pub (life isn’t worth living anymore)!! All because of the horrible horrible weather and temperature… of -1 degrees.

People kept talking about the coming winter and asking me if I had enough warm clothes with such dread in their voices that I expected half of the sky to fall on our heads. Now the snow is here.

All five centimetres of it.

Okay, so it’s not the winter wonderland from hell that Finland seems to be at the moment, but I have to admid that it is pretty hazardous when no one has heard of winter tires. Tonight BBC reports that hundreds of flights have been cancelled and highways are turning into death traps. They keep using words like:  Chaos remains! Freezing fog! Huge prolems with ice! Unbelievable frost!

I don’t want to make fun of Britain’s distress, but let’s make a comparison.

Snow in Dorking:

Snow in Helsinki:

A car in Dorking:

A car in Helsinki:

I sure know where I want to be at the moment. Good luck with the snow, all you suffering friends in Finland!

p.s. The temperature in my apartment is now 19 degrees. And going down. Tried to use a portable heater. Set off  the fire alarm.


Before coming to Dorking people kept telling me to pack lots and lots of warm socks since the houses here are freezing. I heard the warning so many times I started believing I would be living in someting similar to a tent with no roof. Thankfully this was not the case…

This is my apartment. Isn’t it lovely?

It’s huge and wonderful…

…and as cold as Siperia!!

The only thing  I don’t like about my new home is this. My new nemesis.

The thermostat.

For the life in me I cannot understand how this thing works. Does one set the temperature for each day separately? Or just one for the whole week? Can you make changes manually or do you have to time it?

I have tried everything, but I swear the thing has a mind of it’s own! Yesterday the apartment suddenly turned cold as ice and the thermostat had decided to turn the heat to 16 degrees. This morning brougth a lovely surprised when there was no warm water. The wicked little box just keeps taunting me by randomly switching between 16 and 24 degrees… So if anyone had experience with this kind of equiptment, please help!

How do you work?! Why so many buttons? Why won’t you make my apartment warm?! Whyyy?!


One giant cock

05Feb12

Yay, I finally managed to start this blog about my GROW exchange. I’m writing in English so all my friends abroad (both of them) can read this as well.

Wondering about the headline? Well, it’s nothing dirty, just the first thing I ever saw in Dorking… but more about that later…

Words of warning: If you ever need to travel to Dorking, make sure you’re flying to the right airport. At home my journey didn’t seem that complicated.  Just fly to Heathrow, take the express train to Paddinton, switch to Victoria and then hop on a train to Dorking.

Heathrow – Paddington -Victoria – Dorking. Sounds simple enough. Right?

Wrong.

Now imagine you are dragging along luggage the size of a Volkswagen in small underground tunnels with five million staircases and no lifts. Also imagine you’re wearing every piece of clothing you own.  Thank god for all the friendly people who saw the desperation and sweat on my face and decided to help me with my burden. (That probably wouldn’t have happened in Finland.) The good thing is, I don’t need to go to the gym ever again. The bad thing is, now I can’t use my hands.

After cursing my way through the London underground, I did make it to Victoria station by the  time the train to Dorking was about to leave. I ran to the information desk and frantically asked where the platform was. The other side of the station. Naturally.  I also asked if I could buy the ticket on the train and the helpful man said something I took for “sure, you can.” Turns out that’s not what he said.


I made it to the platform in time and was quite proud of myself.  Everything was going as planned. Then I was stopped by a smiling man:

“Ticket, please.”

“But… they told me… I could buy it on the train.”

“Nope.”

So I missed the train. Back to the station I went, only to find the longest queue in the history of queues. I stood in line imaging how my coworkers would stand at Dorking station waiting for me, questioning my intelligence.  “The stupid Finn isn’t on the train! How hard can it be to catch the right train?!”

Well I did manage to catch one an hour later. It was a local train which meant that the trip took twice as long as it stopped at every single weirdly named station on the way – but then finally Dorking!

I hopped off the train and realized It. Was. Freezing. It was snowing.  Wait, didn’t I just leave this behind? Wasn’t it suppose to be nice and sunny with 10 degrees?! Wasn’t that the reason I hadn’t packed any winter clothes!

The station was so small I barely fit in the waiting area, but thankfully I didn’t have to wait long until a nice woman ran up to me. It probably wasn’t too difficult to spot me with my huge ass suitcase and panic face. Well, I wasn’t the only one who had paniced. Karen and NJ from Templar were extremely happy to find me safe and sound. They had feared that I had gotten lost and ended up in Dorkington.

I have to say: British people are very nice, relaxed  and extremely funny. I realized at once that it would be the best three months of my life 🙂

The drive to town only took two minutes.  And the first thing  I saw was this:

Yep. One gigantic rooster. In a aroundabout. Why? Don’t know. Also weirdly no one else in town seems to know either, but there it is saying:

Welcome to Dorking!