Posted by: Gary Klaukka | June 5, 2012

Mango & Jack Show


Welcome to the Mango and Jack Show


A jackfruit farmer.

During a weekend trip to Bangalore, my wife and I were ambling around Lalbagh Gardens when we came across a very large stall claimed to be the centre of the Mango and Jack Show. As we walked in, we were greeted by a giant revolving mango. I was quickly approached by Professor Ramakrishna who was in charge of the show. After establishing that I was from London, Professor Ramakrishna proceeded to introduce me to every variety of mango and jackfruit that was on show.

Perhaps this would be a good juncture at which to explain the importance of mangoes here. During the mango season (approximately from March until the start of the monsoon in June) the fruit are everywhere. At the start
of the season, boxes of the famous Maharashtra alphonso mangoes start popping up at fruit stalls. As the season progresses, the prices go down and the boxes start popping up everywhere, even at traffic lights where hawkers try selling them to mango-hungry motorists. The New York Times recently wrote an informed article about the mango phenomenon in Mumbai.

At the mango show, my personal favourite was the mallika, which is a hybrid between a neelum and a dasheri. It had an orange soda flavour to it and it was pleasantly sweet. I expected to find a ball-shaped pit inside, but very curiously it was very long, wide and thin – almost wedge-shaped.

I noticed that as the professor took us from stall to stall, he would introduce me as being from London, which implied that I had flown in just to attend the mango show!

The most interesting discovery for me was the jackfruit. The fruit themselves are huge, and within them are scores of pods which have the edible parts in them. Having tried out three varieties, the taste ranged from pineapple to banana.

All in all, it was a very charming and curious Indian experience.

Posted by: Gary Klaukka | December 2, 2010


As a sprinkling of snow landed upon London, I thought it to be a good day to go and explore the part of the city with a distinctly Nordic background. Rotherhithe is a part of South-East London that used to be busy with sea trade, particularly with the Baltic and Nordic countries. As the ports moved to other places in England, Rotherhithe itself began to gentrify. My walk through Rotherhithe today follows section seven of the Jubilee Greenway. I took the DLR to Cutty Sark and started proceeding east and then north from there.

Jubilee Walkway

Canary Wharf from the walkway

The Jubilee Walkway was helpfully signposted with mounted plastic signs on the pavement. I walked through the leafy streets of Deptford and started heading closer to Rotherhithe. The walkway did not follow the river at all times, which led me to some architectural discoveries.

Eddystone Tower

Located near the junction of Grove Street and Oxestalls Road is the striking modernist Eddystone Tower. Completed in 1966, it comprises 26 storeys and is 78 metres tall. It is the tallest element of the Pepys Estate (if the nearby privately-owned Aragon Tower is not considered to be a part of the estate). The estate had long been a troubled one: it was known for racial tension and a general feeling of insecurity. Many housing estates designed in this era featured long (and possibly badly-lit) corridors, which at times have resulted in crime. Similar problems existed with Trellick Tower, leading to it being dubbed the “tower of terror”. The Hyde Housing Association took over the Pepys Estate in 2001 and started addressing the problems by regenerating the area. The security problem was addressed by removing some bridges between blocks and increasing the number of staircases and lifts.

The Curlicue by William Pye

Walking further along the pathway, I arrived at Greenland Dock, where my attention was drawn to a reflective and fluid maritime-themed sculpture by William Pye – the Curlicue. Confusingly, a website associated with William Pye calls the sculpture the Quillion and indicates it was made in 1970 – 19 years before being installed in Rotherhithe. Pye later on started using water and stone – more natural elements – but the fluidity of the Curlicue has a natural complexity to it. It has found its ideal location with the maritime background of the area.

Finland Street

Helsinki Square

Some street names near Greenland Dock are particularly Nordic. Pictured above are Finland Street and Helsinki Square. Perhaps the neighbourhood is meant to reflect Nordic architecture to a degree. Without the obvious hints in the street names, I fear that I would not have seen the connection. The names do, of course, pay homage to the history of the area.

Posted by: Gary Klaukka | November 29, 2009

A tale of two dysfunctional conversations

Conversation 1

I was on a train in Brighton, waiting for it to leave for London Victoria. I was looking through my RSS feeds on my iPhone as I noticed a man sit down on the seats on the other side of the aisle from me.

Man: What’s the time?
Gary: It’s a quarter to.
Man: When does the train leave?
Gary: At 7.49 pm.

As I’d exchanged a few bits of information with the man, I had noticed that he was not wearing any socks and was bare-footed. I thought this to be slightly unusual, considering it was a cold, rainy November evening. He started muttering something about finding socks, and I feared that he would ask me if I had any spare ones (which, very strangely enough, I would have had). Thankfully he managed to find a pair and proceeded to put them on.

Man: So why are you going to London?
Gary: I live in London – I’m going home.
Man: You don’t sound like you’re from London.
(I wanted to ask him where I sounded like I was from, expecting him to say Hull, Newcastle or some other unlikely place)
Gary: I’m Finnish.
Man: Why do you speak English so well?
Gary: I learnt it at a very young age – I would be quite stuck if I only spoke Finnish.

The man nodded and looked puzzled. At that point I fixed my eyes on my iPhone and continued reading the blog entries I had been reading earlier. The man starts muttering to himself and mentions being in possession of two condoms and some lubricant. I would like to think that I can usually control my reactions, but I admit that I raised my eyebrows at this point.

Man: I hope you weren’t offended!
Gary: No, no, it’s alright.

I fixed my gaze even more intently on my phone, and the man left within a couple of minutes.

Conversation 2

Arriving at Victoria station, I had realised that I would need to buy something for dinner, so I proceeded to go to the Marks & Spencers at the station. I picked up some food and queued up. As I went to the till, I was served by a man who was a few years younger than I was, and sounded vaguely American. To make the story make sense, I was carrying a tote bag I had received at the annual American Civil Liberties Union conference a couple of years ago. The bag had the name of the conference on it as well as a picture of the Statue of Liberty.

Man: How are you doing?
Gary: I’m fine; how are you?
Man: [inaudible] just come back from New York
Gary: Oh, did you?
Man: No, did you?
Gary: No, no! What makes you say that?
Man: Your bag.
Gary: Oh, right. I got it at an ACLU conference I attended in Washington, DC, a few years ago.
Man: Okay.
(The man scans my item)
Man: Why carry it then?
Gary: It’s just my tote bag – I tend to carry it at weekends.
Man: Oh.

An exchange of money and goods followed, and, for some reason, the man seemed genuinely miffed. I thanked him and went off home.

Posted by: Gary Klaukka | November 14, 2009

Dress code: lounge suti

Unfortunately this was withdrawn a little while ago, but it adorned a shop front in Victoria Street for a staggering two months. I went past it by bus every morning and finally decided to record it for posterity.


Wool sutis

Posted by: Gary Klaukka | August 29, 2009

It’s a standardised world

It turns out that the Busan underground and the Paris Métro have used the same supplier for their tickets. The ticket barriers are not quite the same, but they both have turnstiles. This is one of those little things you notice when you travel around the place!

Front of ticketsBack of tickets

Posted by: Gary Klaukka | August 19, 2009

The Jolt of Korea

Last week I made a brief urban excursion to Busan in South Korea. The city is roughly half the size of London and has a busy feeling to it. Below are a few selected photographs from my journey.

Posted by: Gary Klaukka | August 2, 2009


Some time ago I visited Trellick Tower, which is one of Ernő Goldfinger’s more prominent modernist creations. A couple of weeks ago one of my friends and I made an urban excursion to East London. We took the 15 from Charing Cross and travelled all the way to Poplar where another one of Goldfinger’s towers is located. This one is called Balfron Tower, and it was completed in 1971. In order to promote the idea of living in tower blocks, Mr Goldfinger himself lived in a flat on the 26th floor for a couple of months (and then returned to his cottage in Hampstead). While Balfron is almost as tall as Trellick (28 and 31 storeys, respectively), the latter was a more massive project. Trellick Tower has 217 flats, whereas Balfron only has 146.

When comparing Trellick and Balfron, it seems that Balfron is in a less hospitable area. Trellick Tower is within a five-minute walk from Portobello Road, whereas Balfron does not boast such famous places in its proximity. Both are located next to very busy roads: Trellick next to the Westway (A40) and Balfron next to the Blackwall Tunnel Approach (A12), and both were constructed as part of a larger housing complex.

Some days after I had visited Poplar, I spoke to someone who is heavily involved in regenerating East London around Poplar, Bromley and Stratford. By chance, he was quite familiar with Balfron. He told me that there are changes in store for the building. In the past one of the problems has been that mothers with prams have lived on the top floors and the lift has tended not to work. The plan appears to be to ensure that people with prams and such would live on the lower floors and young professionals and similar people would inhabit the top floors. Rejuvenating Balfron is part of a broader government agenda to regenerate the Lea Valley area.

The photographs were taken by Veikko Eranti in July 2009.

Posted by: Gary Klaukka | June 29, 2009

On the buses, cont.

I had previously talked about my frustration at London buses terminating before their intended destination, causing delays to passengers. I was travelling on the 390 from Notting Hill Gate to King’s Cross station to catch a train to Cambridge on Saturday. As the bus reached a stop at Oxford Circus, it remained stationary. An automated announcement came on.

“This bus is being held here for a short while in order to regulate the service.”

Transport for London defend this policy in this press release, but I do not find it convincing. The key paragraph in their argument is the following:

“However, there are some situations that make this necessary, such as road works and major incidents, which can lead to large delays and as a result some buses have to be curtailed. Otherwise, all the buses would be delayed in reaching the end of the route and there would be large gaps in the service travelling in the opposite direction.”

Please correct me if my logic is flawed, but: why not hold the buses at their respective termini? As a London bus passenger, I find it far more frustrating if my bus is held in the middle of its route, especially if I have to be at work at a certain time or catch a certain train. I would not be inconvenienced if the service of the 390 were regulated at Notting Hill Gate or Archway (its termini).

Surely the purpose of running London buses is to get passengers from A to B as swiftly as possible, and not to run as technically regular a service as possible!

Blue screen of death on the 390(Photograph obtained from

Posted by: Gary Klaukka | June 28, 2009

Airports and Cities; Airports as Cities

I recently starting watching a documentary series on BBC Four entitled “The Secret Life of the Airport.” Quite possibly done by the same team that was behind “The Secret Life of the Motorway,” it explores how airports have developed over time and how they have effectively altered British society. The documentary has a particular focus on Heathrow, which is portrayed as the most important piece of aviation history in Britain. In the beginning, airports linked cities and countries together. In the second part of the documentary series, the airport is shown as having developed into a city of its own. I found the documentary’s somewhat poetic description of Heathrow quite inspiring:

“The control tower is the cathedral spire; the departure lounge is the main street; the shopping complex is Regent Street or Oxford Street; there are the baggage halls, which are the industrial zones; it’s all there.”

I fell in love with Heathrow at the age of 16. It was the first time I had flown alone. I flew from Helsinki to Heathrow (a voyage I have done countless times since) so that I could connect to a British Airways flight to Seattle. I remember being mesmerised by the speed and force of the crowds as I sat in the departure lounge during my layover.

Having a boarding pass in my pocket gives me a feeling of calm. It makes me breathe in deeply and smile. In the end, the amount of time I spend at airports is quite small, but all the more important. Over the years, I have learned the layout of each of the terminals at Heathrow; have got to know the shortcuts and the places about which the everyday passenger knows nothing (and quite possibly could not care less). It almost feels as though Heathrow is one of the few constants in my life. No matter where I might end up living, I will know that it is possible to return there; and to travel anywhere from there. And it will still be there.

Posted by: Gary Klaukka | May 24, 2009

My father

Dad and I

Dad and I

Professor Timo Klaukka, 2 September 1945 – 21 May 2009.

Timo Klaukka was born in Nurmijärvi, Finland in September 1945 as Timo Koskinen. When he was a couple of years old, the family moved to run a family farm house in Klaukkala, where his mother’s family was from. The name of the farm house was of course Klaukka; a surname Timo adopted in 1968 when he was a medical student. Medicine interested Timo already when he was young and teachers at school encouraged him to become a doctor.

– We had a chance to study Latin as a foreign language, which I did, because my teachers said that a future doctor would need Latin in his work. That wasn’t true at all! I had to study English entirely on my own later.

Getting into higher education was a self-evident choice for the baby-boomer generation. Despite the rising number of young people, teachers also had time to pay attention to individuals and to guide their pupils according to their abilities. In Timo Klaukka’s life, the professors at the University of Helsinki proved to be of great influence. Klaukka thought that the most interesting were the scientists and pedagogues at the Pharmacology department.

An interest in pharmaceuticals, the willingness to enlighten people and the ease of writing led to the Bachelor’s student to get his own column in the Finnish Journal of Medicine, which he wrote for 40 years.

– These things were still possible back then, Klaukka says and smiles.

Klaukka did not serve as a general practitioner for long. As soon as he graduated, he was hired as the director of the Finnish Centre for Health Promotion, and in 1974 he moved to the research unit at Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.

– I wanted to act as an interpreter between pharmaceutical research, the pharmaceutical industry and doctors. I have always had as my guideline that if I myself understand what I write, then it is already quite simple.

Timo Klaukka was diagnosed with melanoma a few years ago. He, like so many other people his age, got severely sunburnt as a child on a July wheat field on many occasions. That may explain why a non-smoking and healthy-living man becomes ill.

– Melanoma is a tricky fellow whose next move no one knows. The illness has made me think that I could do something else than work in the life that remains.

What have been the best moments during Klaukka’s career?

– When I have been poring over an endless amount of statistics at work and found a new phenomenon. When looking at its background, I have happened to find changes in treatment practices, an increase in disease prevalence or some other aspect that has gone previously unnoticed.

Adapted from an article in the Finnish Medical Journal, published on 30 April 2009.

The son of the forest I want to be,
a hero of the awesome woods
On the plains of the Kingdom of the Forest, I frolic with bears
and the world shall go into oblivion.

– Aleksis Kivi
(translated by Gary Klaukka)

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