Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Finland Has It All

When travelling to Europe's Most Northerly Mainland Capital, don't forget to do the following:

1. Ensure your alarm clock is set for the same unearthly hour as the taxi that's due to take you to the airport is due to arrive. This will ensure that you have approximately three minutes in which to get up, clean yourself and pack for the trip. This in turn will ensure that you spend the duration of the trip looking like a dishevelled bag lady. They like that in Finland. (No, actually, they do).

2. Ensure that your travelling companion has been out clubbing the night before and has failed to set any sort of alarm at all, thus ensuring that when your taxi stops by his house, he is neither awake nor in any way prepared for the trip. This will ensure that he spends the duration of the trip looking like a dishevelled, erm, bag bloke, thus ensuring he will not show you up. Excellent.

3. Fly business class. It's worth it for a one-night stay, and you get to share a cabin with a bling-ridden transvestite DJ and some world-famous athletics stars, none of whom you can recognise or put a name to. Plus you get free champagne and pickled herring, which is exactly what you need at 7.30am.

4. Upon arrival in Helsinki, note with glee that the temperature is edging towards zero and it is pissing down with rain.

5. Pick a taxi driver whose appetite for sarcasm, beer and existential angst is unparalleled anywhere in Europe.

6. Make sure you've booked into the same hotel as the entire press contingent for the 2005 International Athletics Federation Championship. This will lend a commendable Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-like ambience to your weekend.

7. Spend the entire afternoon trudging about a bleak industrial wasteland in search of tickets for the obscure electronica festival you've read about on the internet. In vain. Observe butterflies hurling themselves into the greasy grey waters of the world's most blighted marina. Remember that Finland has the highest suicide rate in Europe. Realise why.

8. Head back into town, only to find your path blocked by crowds of Finns politely applauding the front runner in the men's marathon. Get caught up in the (polite, understated) excitement. Cheer wildly as the two GBR runners hove into view. Realise you don't know their names. Cheer wildly anyway. Go Great Britain! Feel huge surge of national pride.

9. Spend vast sums of cash on Moomin merchandise and patterned stuff from Marimekko.

10. Stuff yourself with the finest exemplars of Finnish cuisine, from reindeer carpaccio to, erm, fish. No, actually, the cuisine was very fine indeed. Amazing for a country whose top chef admits his all-time favourite ingredient is the gooseberry.

11. Arrive at obscure electronica festival - held in fantastic, giant industrial factory complex - to discover that tickets are available on the door in abundance. Marvel at how well behaved, quiet and polite the assembled crowd are. Dance like a nutter (in relation to the Finns, who don't seem to enjoy dancing as much as standing around being quiet and polite) to Mouse on Mars, who sound like the bastard offspring of Laibach and Daft Punk.

12. Halfway through her set, realise you're not very keen on Roisin Murphy's nu-jazz solo stuff. Wander off to the chill-out room instead. Notice that the only people making any noise at all are a small contingent of Brits.

13. Observe some Finns handing around something from a small plastic bag. "Aha!", you think. "Drugs!" It turns out to be ear plugs.

I love this country.

8 comments:

Wyndham said...

I once tried to chat up a Finnish lady. It was a very melancholic experience and I was kind of relieved to get home, to be honest. I left her in the rain staring at a puddle. As I rounded the corner in my cab she was still staring at it.

patroclus said...

I played a game of Grand Theft Auto like that once.

Pashmina said...

Ah, Moomins and Marimekko. My very favourite Scandinavian exports beginning with the letter M. Am wildly jealous.

I hope you also sampled great quantities of delicious cloudberry liqeur? I've never found any instances of cloudberry use outside Finland, but by god they employ it well.

patroclus said...

Cloudberry liqueur! I had no idea such a thing existed. Clearly I'm going to have to go again, maybe for Helsinki Design Week in September...

james henry said...

Cloudberry icecream very good too, although it does sound like something made up by elves.

I'm going to click on the Helsinki design week thing now, where I fully expect to gape, and possibly go 'ooooooh' as well.

patroclus said...

You should maybe include Helsinki Design Week in your Scandinavian Electronica Holiday, James. The mighty Husky Rescue are playing at it on the 22 and 23 Sep.

But then they *are* playing several UK dates before that, so it might be just a bit pretentious to go all the way to Helsinki to see them (she tells herself, sternly).

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