Cloudberry or Wintersun or Cloudberry jam and sauna smoked ham or Searching for the Finnish spirt
I am in Helsinki, speeding from the airport by Audi, making friends with the usual pleasantries. We’re talking about happiness. In a recent survey Finland came out as the happiest nation on the planet. The Fins challenged the findings, saying that perhaps the survey may have been a little biassed in their favour. Now that’s confidence. Being found to be the happiest nation, but looking at the findings and deciding that maybe you’re not. And we’re talking about capitalism and how fewer and fewer people have more and more of the money and how another survey found that when you start earning more than 70,000 euros you don’t get any happier than you were when you were earning 70,000 euros. Somehow I feel at home already. Maybe it’s the company, maybe it’s the country, maybe it’s the realistic and friendly, slightly arch and knowing but still rather upbeat outlook. Maybe I’m thinking too much but it feels like a place where it’s OK to think too much. My idea of happiness is not about wealth or how much stuff you’ve got. My idea of happiness is this. Sitting in the Audi, speeding into the city, talking about these things, debating, learning, sharing.
More driving, it’s snowing now, or raining ice crystals, or something cold. Ice on ice, snow on snow.
Then it’s summer, or it feels like summer, or somewhere tropical where it’s always summer. We’re barefoot, sweating in winter jeans, taking a tour of the pools and slides and saunas and showers of Pacifique Maupiti at Serena Espoo. I wish I had board shorts and flip flops, because, though it’s dark, it’s so hot, so very, very hot. And through the window you can see the ski slope and the piles of snow. Because we’re still here, the snowmelt slow melt March end of another long northern European winter. We’re still here, somewhere outside Helsinki, at a party in a water park. Soon I must play music that sounds like summer but it feels like summer so that feels just fine. And now I remember what it’s like, to be hot, with hardly any clothes, to be summer-me. To be free and crazy and breezy, to be jasmine in my mind fresh and floaty, to be bouncy and Balearic, not cool and critical. And it’s so lovely and liberating, and it doesn’t matter that the music I am playing is slightly cheesy, it sort of has to be, for a party in a water park in the summer in the winter in Helsinki.
And it makes me want to be on tour again. To be here. Then somewhere else. Always moving. Exploring. Forever.
Now it’s Saturday and we’re walking on water. All Fins can do this. We’re walking on water into the sunshine.
Air and water. There is only air and water. It says so on the the sign on the door in the snow. The door that leads to somewhere else.
And some people run through the air and step into the water though the water is mostly frozen solid, good for walking on, not so good for immersing yourself in, but they do it. These people, sauna to snow to water to snow to sauna.
And here there is so much whiteness and brightness and spring is in the air, the feeling of things moving and getting less heavy, less dark, though it’s still winter and water walking weather, the change is coming.
Then bang, summer again, same as yesterday, like a movie on loop, like a dream on repeat. But this time there’s a different energy, more everything, more atmosphere, more air and water, more bodies splashing and tumbling, and it’s hard to shoot because it’s dark and the bodies keep moving, just bodies on bodies like some medieval vision of heaven or hell, but in this case it’s closer to heaven. And if you stand right you can still see the ski slope outside in the dark, and the piles of snow and you can laugh at the beautiful absurdity of it all. This place. This glorious party. This wonderful life. And I spin, with new found confidence, the party tunes, the jumping and pumping the air with outstretched arms, each hand clutching an air horn, ready to press, yes. Just wearing trunks and that’s all, for the first time, water dripping from the ceiling onto the CDJs. And I finish with Van She and Song 2 like it’s like the old days.
Then we’re twisting and circling, going with the flow, we are a human shoal, salmon on the way back down from spawning, over the rapids, downstream, falling under, gasping for breath, holding on for dear life, from the very top to the very bottom where the bodies are, writhing and splashing and churning in the water, and the DJs play and jump and sweat and push the buttons on the air horns that we bought from Clas Ollson back in the city, back in the winter. And I’m thinking – again, again, again, again with the rush and the bubbles, like a child, and we run round and go again, sliding with more purpose and a little poise this time, diving head first into the flow, eyes wide open, streaming, screaming yes, yes, this is living. This really is living.
Then boom, we’re in a cabin in the woods in the wintersnow. The bodies have gone, just a memory haze like the summer sun. The summer is done and it’s just us, the ones from the booth and around and about, in the cabin, at the most civilised after party, with drinks and food and smiley balloons and the good, good music and it all blurs a little and I know there was a human pyramid for a moment on the dance floor and there was some talk of Tom of Finland. And I know that the air outside was the freshest air I ever tasted and I know the woods were dark and the snow was white and everything felt so right.
And the journey home was a dream of trees and snow and I got back in time for breakfast and felt a little frayed at the edges and slept like there was no time. And I know I kept thinking yes, yes, it’s just like the old days, and I know I kept thinking, yes, yes, this really is living.