Time to prepare for winter
The Finnish writer Veikko Huovinen draws a delightful picture of the natural instinct to prepare for winter running wild in his humorous novel Hamster.A gullible urban couple, Rurik and Tellu, decide to taste the pleasures of country life. Their neighbour, the character called Hamster, soon sniff s the opportunity to put into practice on a large scale his
treasured daydreams of stockpiling for the winter.
“Half a bushel of cloudberries,” Hamster mumbles biting his lips. “Better bushels than buckets ... gallon... gallon? How the heck much of lamb might they consume? Three hundred pounds from October to April? More than one hundred kilos? But the blood we’ll keep and make blood pancakes with it, must remember at the slaughter time!”
“Wonder whether Tellu bakes her own bread or buys shop bread? It would be best to bring the flour with
a truck in September, or perhaps bring it in several installments with a horse and a sleigh when the first
snow has fallen. Must ask Tellu. Of sugar they’ll eat about... about two or three kilos per person a month and during the winter ... October ... November ... April, one hundred and twenty kilos. And that makes, let’s look it up in the book... nearly three hundred pounds, no need to get it more accurately ... rough estimates. Well, it came to that much after all! I wish they’d buy at least part of it in sugarloafs, such nice lumps.”
“Ropes, lead? No, not them! Yes, some clothing line ... but that is such a small amount. Sauna soap? Bother,
they’re not ... in a real wilderness ...what can I think up for them. Soap feels so insignificant. Well, tins of
food at any rate. Fish and game birds have already been written down.”
“Wonder whether they might down the occasional drink?” Hamster whispers, and pearls of sweat nearly
break out on his forehead. His eyes are shining with excitement.
“Could Rurik be drinking on the sly? It’s by no means impossible. Did he have a red nose? But if he drinks...
he complained about his problems, but is he in fact a drinker. Those drink half a litre ... quart a day ... November... December ... two hundred days, what do you know, one hundred litres. We’ll
have the cooper make three barrels and empty the bottles into them. We’ll lay the barrels on stout racks.”
Hamster sees the barrels in his mind’s eye. But what kind of a larder does the cottage have? A broad smile
spreads across his face and his eyes are glowing with pleasure.
EXTRACTS FROM HAMSTERI BY VEIKKO HUOVINEN. TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH BY RISTO PITKÄNEN.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY FLEUR WILSON