Searching For a Swim

I’m getting old, I thought. Coincidentally, it happened to be my birthday that day, but that had nothing to do with it.

A white-bearded man was flying a drone over a beach where people were in their bikinis and kids were running around naked. The drone, buzzing loudly, would periodically stop and I could only assume its camera was busy zooming in on something interesting.

Where was this footage being posted? I hoped he wasn’t there to film kids.

Why was no one else bothered? There was nudist beach a bit further away, and I wondered how they would’ve reacted.

Buzzzzzzzzzz – silence. The drone stopped right above me as I swam in the sea. I imagined the bearded man losing control of his drone and it dropping on my head, knocking me unconscious in the water. I have a vivid imagination… but I was sure that kind of thing had already happened to someone, somewhere. It wasn’t that far-fetched.

I sighed. Getting annoyed at things no one else seemed bothered about was surely part of aging, wasn’t it?

I had succumbed and gone swimming in the Baltic Sea, despite knowing it was polluted and toxic and blogging about how disgusting it was. And there I was, swimming in it, against my principles. The water was yellowish-green and I couldn’t see my toes.

There was a website which reported toxic algae levels on tested beaches, and this particular island had been cleared for the day. The algae floats moved around, so daily checking was necessary to plan which beach to head to. Usually only a couple of beaches a day got the green light, and people flocked to those places.

But, back on the shore there was some drama about to happen. A tiny, fluffy chick was running about, looking wingless, lost, and helpless. It was spotted and cute, and it took me a while to figure out it was a seagull chick, since it bore absolutely no resemblance to its mother.

Mama seagull was there too, calling to her baby frantically and, finally, the fluffy chick managed to wobble its way to its mother. A happy reunion. Until…

…a girl wearing floaties arrived. She had pigtails and was maybe 6 years old.

The floaties signalled to me that she couldn’t yet swim properly and so I assumed her parents would be keeping a close eye on her at all times – but as I watched the situation unfold, her parents were strikingly absent.

You see, the little girl started chasing the little chick, and the little chick quickly got flustered and ran in a different direction from its mom. Further and further away it kept going, like a blind mouse.

The girl chased and chased the chick, and the chick ran in circles, screaking a panicked screak. The seagull mom screaked a louder panicked screak, and started flying in circles above the child and chick.

I was in the water observing this, still swimming, and hubby was watching our kids further along the shoreline. All the while, I was waiting for the girl’s parents to intervene, or maybe for some other parents or grown-ups on the beach to tell the six-year-old to leave the poor bird alone. But nothing happened. The Finnish code “say nothing, mind your own business, don’t talk to strangers” was in full swing amongst the cool young hipster parents crowding the beach.

Maybe I should add, as a sort of footnote, that over here, it’s not culturally okay to say something in a scolding or educational tone to someone else’s child, but I thought this situation would’ve made a perfect exception. I was disappointed they all let the girl chase the poor chick, so confused and innocently fluffy.

The three disappeared behind a rock and I’m not sure what happened then. Maybe I should have swam back and told her myself.

Coming back home on the ferry, Covid seemed like yesterday’s news as the boat was crammed full, and loud groups of young drunk people skipped the line. No one confronted them, and I didn’t either.

Seeing how some people had managed to skip the long line seemed to give permission for total anarchy and even more people started emerging left and right, ignoring those who had politely awaited their turn. The line-skippers shoved their sweaty, cigarette-smelling bodies in through the narrow entrance to the boat, and the crew member clicked away on her passenger counter. 100, and all aboard, off we went.

After a long search for somewhere swimmable, I finally made it into the water. But it left me with mixed feelings.

70 responses to “Searching For a Swim

  1. Hmm.. once again the idyllic Scandinavian image I have this busted wide open. Toxic algae – the occasions we have it here Snow, usually after a flood swimming is banned for months and you can’t even go on the beach. Be careful and don’t put your head under the water!
    We have just put laws in place regarding the flying of drones but it relies on people doing the right thing generally. I read someone here had a drone fly into their yard and hover outside their daughters window! Such a shame people don’t think of the next person.
    Just a well thet wasn’t a Scandi obsessed Aussie like me in that beach with you a she probably would have reprimanded in a gentle but firm way that girl with the pigtails. Finnish custom or no custom. Once upon a time I would never have spoken up but getting old gives one the gunption to say more and the leverage to mostly get away with it. A good thing about aging. If parents aren’t going to speak to their child, the community might have to step in. In this case, one hopes the chick was okay and eventually the little girl may be more caring as she grows . It is our responsibility to care for the animals who cross our paths.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’ve been writing about algae on my blog so many times I feel like a broken record, I’m sure this isn’t the first post you caught that mentioned it?! It’s an ongoing saga, unfortunately.
      The last time I approached a stranger with a polite reprimand was last summer at the local outdoors pool. A young man, maybe 18, swam right OVER me and someone else and I kindly asked him if he didn’t notice and think it was rude. But before he could answer, some other random stranger started telling me off, saying I was absolutely wrong and that he had every right to swim into and onto other people. It was mindblowing, depressing and traumatised me slightly. I avoid conflict and didn’t know how to stand up for myself. So saying something to a child risks facing her angry parents who gang up on you. Worth a second thought. Though honestly, the mother seagull looked like she was about to attack the child any minute.
      As for drones: perfect tool for potential burglars to scout out flats to rob, eh?! Just fly it near the windows and check out which flat has the best stuff! Also great for filming candid videos and posting them who knows where. I feel old, again, but this particular piece of new tech is not my cup of tea!
      Thanks for reading, Amanda! 😊

      Like

      • I do remember you mentioning the algal blooms, but didn’t think of it being such a problem and that folks swam in it after clearing. I suppose the lakes would be affected if the Baltic is. Here it is more the inland waterways, and the ocean is only affected if there has been a huge overflow of nutrients from the land – as in flooding and heavy rains, which as you know, happens rarely.
        I am a bit stunned they think it is okay to just clear the algae and that the water is still safe!
        I did think about the potential for an large angry Finnish man approaching you for reprimanding the child, so as a foreigner I would never have done that. In my own native country, yes. But it is the custom here and I guess we can thank the British for that. They are always saying sorry for bumping or intruding on others. When we had a Danish students living with us, she was astounded how we apologized if we accidentally bumped into other people and over the year she was with us, started to think her own Scandinavian brothers/sisters quite rude! Interesting how her opinions changed.
        As for the young man swimming over you, there are always dickheads around! Sometimes it is not worth complaining about, (only under your breath). The fact that people are apt to jump on someone standing up for themself is an interesting phenomenon. It is like there is a seething tension in the public and they use it as an opportunity to vent their own frustrations. I really dislike people sticking their nose in business that doesn’t concern them. What nobs! How would they react if you commented about them to another person, rather than confront them?

        Liked by 1 person

        • They don’t clear the algae, it floats away by itself from beach to beach and back again. It also grows and at the end of summer it’s everywhere. In addition to this, the Baltic Sea is the most polluted sea in the world so even without algae it’s still dirty. If algae water ends up in your mouth, you could get permanent liver damage. But Finns close their eyes to all this because a) they all have summer cabins by the lakes where thw water is cleaner and b) they are taught that Finland is so clean and pure. They have never experienced clear ocean water where you can see the bottom when you stand in rhe shallow waves.
          People here aren’t very polite in general. It’s the upbringing. I think politeness is interpretated as weakness (as well as posing questions or being super excited about something – better stay sombre and look like you know everything) and combine that with an introverted personality and they are just socially awkward in a way that is rude but that they themselves are blissfullt ignorant of…

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          • Introverted, sombre, You have just described two Finnish people I met!! Why is the Baltic more polluted than say the sea off the coast of China or a country of higher population density? Sorry for asking this again, but I don’t fully understand and I ‘d like to. Environmental issues are very important to me. I thought the water in Helsinki harbour looked clean but very dark and cold. But then thinking about Norway’s west coast, the water in the shallows was indeed clear.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Is that Pihlajasaari island Snow? The beach huts look familiar to me and you mentioned the ferry. I’m so pleased that Duolingo have now introduced Finnish so I’ve been spending an hour or so each day practising. Can’t wait to make a return visit! Take care, Marion

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the way you write… polluted Baltic, that really gets me. I hate the thought of it. As an engineer myself, I just want to fix this. As for the kids and intervening… not sure what I would have done. I’m Canadian and also polite, but I feel like I would have been very tempted to do something.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a dilemma. I feel sorry for the chick, but it’s indeed difficult to interfere. If I were you, I would also feel uneased…
    Btw, nice photos. Love the colourful huts! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Linda! 😊 It’s one of those situations where afterwards you think you should’ve played it out differently! But anyway, there were plenty of people there, anyone could’ve interfered, even if it was just to teach their own kids not to harass animals!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The beach huts are private! I didn’t expect that. Although I’ve seen beach huts in pictures (mostly of UK) I’ve never seen similar in North America or Asia. Maybe this is a European thing? Certainly, I always thought that they were public changing rooms – open and available to anyone with a need.

    Ah drones On the one hand, drones enable gorgeous photography but in the wrong hands, they are horrible. I am amazed at how impolite and invasive operators can be. We have a lot of regulations on how and where drones can be operated. Somewhat hard to enforce. … unless you’re in the US where someone took out a rifle and shot it down 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • These kind of huts are very unusual in Finland and since they are photogenic, they feature in tourist operators’ material and websites all the time. I’m not sure what regulation we have of drones but I keep seeing them everywhere. Not a fan! Even the photography they produce gets old after a bit, in my opinion! 😆

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  6. Love the huts, so cute and colorful. I’m totally with you on the drones. They’re valuable for some purposes and as a photographer I see their appeal. Some of the overhead shots I’ve seen are amazing. But like anything in life, it depends on the person operating it. People fly them at airports and rescue scenes bringing everything to a grinding halt. Their use is forbidden in national parks here; people fly them in national parks here. And unfortunately, they’re another weapon in the arsenal of creepy individuals the world over.
    As for the girl chasing the chick, parents vary as much as drone operators. I’m not confrontational either, but I do force myself to say something, particularly if I think there’s a chance someone might be responsive. There have been occasions when the person or people have been genuinely unaware they were doing something wrong and what the consequences might be. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing ahead of time what the response will be. They could be angry if you intervene to stop the child chasing the chick, but they could also be angry that you didn’t intervene if the child runs into something and knocks herself out. No way of knowing.
    I’m curious as to how far the Finnish code extends. What if it wasn’t a child, but an adult involved? What if it wasn’t a chick being harassed, but a person? What if someone’s getting beaten up, robbed, or otherwise assaulted? Seems like, the world over, some people would intervene in all these circumstance, some would avoid them all, and many would be somewhere in between. Here in the states, the stakes are raised with the possibility that one or more of the parties might be armed and ready to fire off a few rounds at the drop of a 10-gallon hat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh gosh, drones flying over rescue sites, that’s just awful. I feel like they should require a permit and only be used by law enforcement and similar authorities as well as a controlled base of professional photographers – but that’s too limiting to our freedom (and all the creeps’ freedom) so that will never happen of course.
      As for the Finnish code, I have a couple of bad memories of when I was a teen and a group of other teens was harrassing me, they wven took my purse and emptied everything on the street. It was daytime downtown and completely random. So many adults walked by, looked at us and said nothing. I remember one passer-by, a man, even pointing and laughing. Welcome to Finland! All these experiences cumulated explain why I never liked it here or felt part of the crowd. Luckily I wasn’t physically assaulted so I was fine, but after that I knew never to trust Finns to help. Nowadays, I think Helsinki has evolved a bit: it’s more international now which means it’s not 100% introverted anymore and maybe today someone would intervene. But outside of Helsinki, I doubt things have changed that much.
      Is it true that in the States you could get sued for pretty much anything, maybe even helping? I also heard that in India (or some particular region there), having a car accident means people will come rob you, not help. Compared to that, this isn’t as bad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your experience would certainly give cause to wonder. I think responses would vary from place to place, person to person. One thing I like about Hawaii is that there’s still a fair bit of the aloha spirit so people do tend to stop and help.
        Yes, you can get sued for many things here, even helping if something happens while doing so. I will say that many of the most egregious examples that we tend to hear about are news of such suits being filed. Many are thrown out or fail in court, which, but it’s still worrisome and time consuming to get caught up in that kind of thing.
        The Indian story reminds me of Britain in older times, where people living on the coast would put out lights to make ships think there was safe anchorage or a harbor there. The ships would then wreck on shore and the locals would descend to loot the ship of everything aboard. Golden days!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yikes, I’d never heard of that kind of thing (your ship story!)!
          When we visited Hawaii, we took a local bus somewhere (probably a beach a bit further away) and on the way back, a teenager tried to get on. She wanted to buy a kid’s ticket but the driver was sure she was over the age limit and refused to accept her. She refused to pay more or didn’t have any more money on her, and so we were at a standstill. The driver called the police and it took them ages to arrive. Sorting out bus ticket payments probably wasn’t their priority!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah! This chick and child situation would made me antsy too. Probably all your country would, and I’d wish to intervene all the time. Or I’d just be rolling my eyes really loud. 😀

    As for the drone man, first of all, I’d take many pictures of the drone and him. Then I’d ask him to get to his bikini, so that I could take more photos of him. I would think that there are serious no-drone laws above all kinds of beaches, or at least they should be.

    Ohh, and drunk people. 😦 This makes me extra sad. It’s been ages since I saw any, and I know how many there are in Slovenia, and how few in Italy. For some (set of complicated) reasons, Italians don’t need alcohol to live a little, express their emotions, and be loud (and sometimes obnoxious).

    I felt you throughout the post. Excellently done. So sorry for your sea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahah, I wish you were here to roll your eyes with me! Most Finns love this place and believe it’s the best place there is! (Even weatherwise: we just had two weeks of non-rain in June and people are going on and on about what a lovely summer we’ve had, even though now it’s been cold/rainy/windy again for a whole week. I wish I could settle for as little. They don’t even realise sunny weather is a norm in many regions. I mean even those who travel don’t realise it. They just think they were lucky if it was sunny when they visited Greece 🤣)
      I like your idea of handling the drone man. Next time, maybe I’ll just video call you, and you can handle the drone people for me!!!! 🤗🤗🤗🤗 Yes, great idea! 👏

      Liked by 1 person

  8. most cities have introduced very strict rules about using drones exactly for the invasion of privacy… but I have no idea how things are regulated in your part of the world… I’d very very much annoyed too to be honest if someone is flying a drone over my kids on the beach…
    “innocently fluffy” sounds so cute despite the circumstances lol 😀
    love the colorful cabins and no people in sight 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I googled it and flying drones in Finland is only forbidden if it’s near the President or government’s headquarters, the central hospital, a nuclear plant or army facilities. The website said there are plenty of restrictions but those don’t sound like enough to me! No regulations to protect my privacy as a regular citizen (ie not a politian, for example). Then again, there’s always Instagram, I find it also invasive to my privacy that people snap so many photos everywhere all the time, with strangers in the frame, and post them without thinking. I’m hoping that fad will die out soon.
      Thanks for reading, Alex! 🤗

      Liked by 1 person

      • Instagram is old news, have you seen Tik Tok lol 😀 it’s cray cray… no wonder more and more people are turning away from social media in general, privacy has become such luxury…
        stay positive and keep smiling, for the boys 🙂 … hugs… 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I would have thought the same about the drone falling onto my head. If I knew who was flying it, I might have gone and had a chat. Kids these days… I swear… no one saying anything and minding their own business is a bit of a problem. The main problem though are this girl’s parents. They should know better.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I guess I’m getting old(er) too because I felt very cranky with all these people – the drone dude, the line breakers, the little girl, the too-cool-to-intervene others! Hope your day got better after that outing!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mixed feelings you say… Hum, I would think so…
    Although I may understand the tacit rule of minding your own business, it still is disturbing when you witness something that shouldn’t be (i.e. someone who throws their trash or cigarette butts on the ground, someone yelling a little too agressively to another person or a child mindlessly disturbing nature’s way..) and wonder if you should intervene or not, how your intervention will be accepted or rejected and how badly…
    At the same time, if nobody ever intervenes, how are we supposed to learn? If nobody tells me my behavior is not adapted to the situation, how am I supposed to act better next time I’m in a similar situation? (I may be one of the very few who are willing to accept a stranger’s intervention, hoping it will always be done nicely, politely and respectfully, as I would like to do with others if found in the same situation).

    These post quarantine behaviors feel exagerated and more bothersome than before, don’t they? I wish we were more mindful of others and nature around us, careful, respectful…

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It adds to my own reflexion.
    Have as lovely a day as possible.
    Take care and be the best person you can be.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hiya! How have you been?

    It is eye-opening for me – the fact that the Baltic Sea is polluted to the extent that you have to think twice about a swim.
    It would be mighty stressful to watch a possible disaster involving a child and a gull and not be able to intervene. You had an eventful day in the sea for sure!
    Has the lockdown lifted at your end? x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey! Over here in Helsinki, the situation is stable and calm. We never went into complete lockdown – though events and offices were closed, we were allowed and even encouraged to go out daily for some fresh air. I laid low but now am starting to do some ”normal” things. And you guys?
      As for the seagull, I honestly thought she would attact the child. I’ve seen them attack people many times – well, mostly for snacks 😄Just last week, one bit into hubby’s ice cream.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is reassuring to hear. We were not on absolute house arrest too. Kept popping out for runs and walks, which has been a lifesaver. We are still laying low, thanks to the second wave sweeping through the States though NYC and the tri-state area seems okay so far. But who knows. This is such an unknown beast. We did cancel all our travel plans and have made some for Hawaii in Nov. But I have my doubts we will end up there.
        Thanks for asking. 🙂

        Yeah, seagulls can be challenging customers. We have had them for company often enough when we used to go for our coastal holidays in the UK. Here I notice people feed them, which is daft (in my books), but like you had to hold back, I do for the most part. x

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Argh! Onko Pihliksessä meno nykyisin tuollaista? Ei varmaankaan tarvitse haaveilla sinne menosta. Noita dronejahan ei saisi lennättää väkijoukkojen päällä, ja uimarannalle sellaisen tuominen on nyt kertakaikkiaan ihan no-no. Tosi ärsyttävä ääni niistä lähtee myös, se on sanottava, vaikka meilläkin sellainen on.

    Mulla on kyllä ihan nollatoleranssi ihmisiin jotka eivät kunnioita luontoa ja eläimiä. Kotimetsässä huomautan ihan jokaiselle, joka pitää koiraa vapaana nyt metsässä saati kuntopolulla – tai vielä pahempaa – kiinnipitoaikana vapaana luonnonsuojelualueella. Vaikka koiranomistaja olenkin, itsekäs ja vastuuton käyttäytyminen toisilta ärsyttää. Koira – miten kiltti ja pieni tahansa – on luonnoneläimille aina peto, ja pelkkä emon karkuunjuoksu voi aiheuttaa poikasten menehtymisen.

    Ihmisten itsekkyys pahoittaa mielen aina!

    Kivaa viikkoa kaikesta huolimatta 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Usko tai älä, mutta Pihliksessä oli silti ihan kivaa 😁 Olin positiivisesti yllättynyt että hanhet ei olleet vielä valloittaneet hiekkaa ja vettä vessakseen kuten aiempina vuosina. Hanhia on muutenkin ollut vähemmän tänä vuonna täällä, ihme kyllä. Mullekin luonto ja eläimet on tärkeitä mutta noi hanhet on kyllä sellanen pet peeve! (Kun ne ei ole aina olleet täällä vaan ilmestyivät silloin yksi vuosi ja valtasivat kaikki puistot ja viheriköt.)
      Kiva viikkoa sullekin! 😊 Kiitos kun luit!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 🙂 I think we’re going to have to get used to drones as yet another invasion to our privacy… I just went to the local pool the other day, and they at least had signs saying any kind of photography in the area was forbidden! ❤

      Like

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