By Susie Mesure
In this FT Residential series, our writers take inspiration from fictional properties to imagine their fantasy home.
The urge to slip soundlessly into the sea, or some other watery world, is all consuming at the best of times, and these are far from those. With swimming pools locked and lakes and rivers inaccessible for many, I dream of a seaside sanctuary, far from my locked down life.
The thought of crowded beaches makes me anxious. Sea alone will not suffice and nor will a single horizon. I want solitude; silence to sit and read, and draw and write. Only an island will scratch my itch; a world I will not have to share and waves of my own.
I seek inspiration in my bookshelves, diving into the Greek waters around Hydra, where a young Leonard Cohen woos Marianne Ihlen on the pages of A Theatre for Dreamers, Polly Samson’s new novel. I could live in a whitewashed house with an upstairs studio and rooftop terrace, like Charmian Clift and George Johnston, Australia’s doomed literary greats, revived in Samson’s prose, knowing the sea would be waiting.
But Hydra hums with bodies and after months of living entwined with my family I need somewhere with fewer souls. I hunt instead the slim blue spine of an old favourite, The Summer Book, a seasonal masterpiece from one of Finland’s greatest creatives, Tove Jansson. The Baltic Sea glistens from the cover and I crave the sting of icy waves, the shock of water so cold your mind empties as it attempts to remember how to breathe.
In Jansson’s pages, an elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter spend a summer together on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland. Their cabin is modest and the island’s wooded footprint tiny, but the sea stretches forever. “They walked all the way out on to the little promontory, where the rock descended into the water in terraces that became fainter and fainter until there was total darkness. Each step down was edged with a light green seaweed fringe that shaped back and forth with the movement of the sea. ‘I want to go swimming,’ the child said. She waited for opposition, but none came.”
I also want to go swimming, making this intimate villa in the Finnish Porkkala archipelago, listed at €3.98m, an ideal bolt-hole. Through the glass seaside walls, I will watch the sun rise and set into the water at midsummer, looking forward and back on a day of dips from the pebbly beach. I might invite a lucky guest, but only if they pack plenty of books and promise not to talk until the schnapps comes out to toast the never-ending light.
Jansson, best known for her Moomin creations, had her own island — tiny Klovharu, in the Pellinki archipelago, near Porvoo. I will settle for Gåsharsskäret, a Skr13.9m ($1.43m) thumbprint affair just off the east coast of Sweden, in the Söderhamn archipelago. With five bedrooms at my disposal, I can choose to keep the separate studio for my own artistic dreams, or banish guests from the main house.
Space to land a helicopter will mean I can be in situ for swimming whenever I please. Just like Tove Jansson.
Photographs: © Moomin Characters