kuva
A COTTAGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION


Although Tove had dreamed of her own lighthouse, the cottage she built on Klovharu was a small, low-rise structure. It was built quite high up, but slightly below the cliff top. The cottage boasts a surprising subterranean feature – a vast cellar, larger than the building above.


‘Our cellar is the largest cellar that’s ever been dug, at least in this area, the floor area measures 25 square metres and it’s two metres deep.’


The island was (and still is) part of the Pellinki island community. Permission to build had, therefore, to be requested from the islanders.


‘But Pellinki, just like many other self-governing island communities, had its own patriarch who would give advice on delicate issues concerning the islands. This man cautioned us not to expect too much and, above all, not to have faith in legal papers, which would sooner or later become the bane of our lives – so, no rental agreement, just a friendly donation to the local fishing association. Take it easy, he said, put yourselves on the Söderbyhy yes-or-no list. If I write yes, then the others are sure to follow my example. ‘We stuck the list on the shop’s veranda door, and got a string of nothing but yeses.’


Tove and Tooti sent their ‘yes list’ to the rural municipality of Porvoo’s authorities, and then camped out in the rain on Klovharu, waiting for a building permit. One evening, a man came ashore and introduced himself as Brunström from Kråkö. Brunström, who had been fishing for salmon, had intended to sleep in his boat, but had decided to come ashore when he spotted lights on the island.


‘Brunström had heard about our yes-or-no list and told us that it would never go through, not even in Porvoo where they take a broader view on such things, that is, they take it easy. You’ll never get a building permit. The only thing you can do is to start building right now. The authorities will take ages to decide what they want, and that’s when you have to take the initiative. The law says that a building cannot be torn down if the logs are in place up to the roof ridge. “Believe me,” Brunström said. “I know about these things.”’


Tove and Tooti believed him and started building immediately. Sven Brunström also brought Nisse Sjöblom into the construction project. Occasionally, other Pellinki neighbours brought fish soup to the workers.


The only suitable place for a cottage was occupied by the Great Rock, which weighed an estimated fifty tons. Blasting the Great Rock out of the way was their first task. The explosions scattered rock debris across the island, which presented Tove with another way of letting off steam. Rolling rocks was a way of cooling off and freeing herself of the bothers brought about by writing and illustrating.


18 October 1964, Brunström notes the following:


‘To Porvoo:
Dust covers
Solignum no 2, 40 litres
Roofing nails 10 kg 2 ½, 10 kg 4 ½
50 m2 tar board
30 m2 oil-treated x 30 4 x sealing paper
Nasty rumours are flying around: someone from the fishing association has reported us to the Porvoo Construction Office for illegal building activities, saying that we’re disturbing the whitefish. So we have to get a move on.’


Construction work went on well into November 1964 and continued in the spring of 1965. By July 1965, the cottage was finished and it was time for Brunström to leave, which is why he noted that:


11 July (1965)
Not much to write about now that the place is almost finished. Just some issues with wind and rain. Oh yes, two doors arrived today, one internal door and one to the cellar, as well as a table made from an old hatchway. It’s 10 p.m., and I’m putting down my nets for the last time.

12 July
Lots of cod, otherwise just catfish. It’s time to leave. I wrote a verse:

For the past is now the past
and all is ready at last.
The ladies will rule and stay,
but their gent must go away.
The wind’s farewell song haunts our ears
and our cheeks are salty with tears.’


– Extracts from Anteckningar från en ö (Notes From an Island, 1996).