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 European Forum Committee Meeting:

Helsinki: 3-5 November 2017

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The second Forum Committee meeting of my tenure as Forum Chair took place at the beginning of November in Vantaa, Helsinki, just a stone’s throw away from my last European journey to Tallinn, for the Regional Conference.

Once again, flighs were on time, clean and comfortable. Things began to go awry as soon as I landed. The passengers from my plane were sent to carousel number 6 to await the unloading of our suitcases; some twenty minutes later, the carousel had still not begun to move. Another passenger, facing her friend, and so looking in the opposite direction from the rest of us, suddenly announced: ‘Hey, that’s my suitcase!’. Behind us, another carousel was happily displaying our luggage – and had been for some time.

Having been unnecessarily delayed, I headed for a bus stop immediately outside the airport where, I had been informed, I could catch a ‘free’ shuttle bus to my hotel. As predicted the bus turned up and began to ferry passengers to their respective inns. It was a great opportunity to see Vantaa from the comfort of a coach; my concern began as the last occupant alighted, and the sky was beginning to darken. Conversation with the driver followed; yes - it was a shuttle bus, sadly not mine. He helpfully dropped me off, back at the airport, with full instructions. The correct bus arrived and deposited me at my hotel – a little later than scheduled.

We were due to meet later that evening at the home of Iida Hyvonen, the Finnish member of the Forum committee, for our meeting and dinner. Three of us met at six o’clock and decided to walk to Iida’s without a guide, using a map Iida had left at the hotel reception. With hindsight, and in view of the day’s previous events, waiting for someone to show us the way may have been a better option. But – what could go wrong? I have, in a previous report, confessed to having failed one exam during my life – Geography ‘O’ level; holding the map upside down as we left the hotel is probably an example my geographical skills, and our journey began badly. We did arrive – eventually – taking 75 minutes to complete a 15 minute walk. At least we were hungry when we arrived for dinner!

So – what of the purpose of the visit to Helsinki? I hear you ask. Well, we dealt with the agenda items efficiently, in particular making initial plans for the European Breakfast and Forum Meeting at the International Convention in Austin. Much work still needs to be done in this respect via email.

We discussed the issue of continuity with the Forum Committee, particularly in light of the failure of our proposal in Tallinn; several countries plan for their representative to remain for a second biennium, so the problem has been resolved, at least for another two

We rekindled friendships and welcomed a new member to the committee; due to pressure of work, the previous Estonian representative, Liilia Oberg, has had to hand over the role to one of our younger members, Terttu-Triin Tomusk. She has much to offer, and it was a pleasure to get to know her.

On Saturday evening, we rewarded ourselves by travelling into Helsinki and had dinner by the harbour at a beautiful restaurant - Kappeli’s – that has been in existence for one hundred years or more. The food was delicious, the company entertaining and the location was stunning.

Finally, on Sunday morning, three of us, whose flights were later in the day, travelled once again into Helsinki, and embarked on a coach tour. What a beautiful city it is – and we were lucky enough to be sitting on the top deck in the front seats, so the views were incredible. At the end of the tour, I was to return to the hotel before my two Norwegian friends, Bjorg Nakling and Anne Marie Solstad. Strangely, they insisted on walking me to the bus stop, and waiting until I was on the correct bus. I wonder why that was………

 

Kathrin Hodgson