October 7, 2010

In Finland the country’s entry for next year’s Eurovision Song Contest will be decided by public vote during 3 televised heats in January 2011 and then a televised Grand Final in February. Twelve of the acts featured in the heats are pre-selected but 3 are “wildcards.” There are 15 wildcard entrants posted on YLE’s Eurovision page. The Finnish public (or anyone with a Finnish mobile number) can vote for their favourite by SMS and the three acts with the most votes get a slot in the TV finals.

Chorale are one of this year’s wildcard acts hoping to make it through to the TV finals and closer to representing Finland in front of a global audience of tens of millions with their Eurodance track “Share Your Life.” (listen here). After Finland’s disasterous performance last year (when they were represented by a Kajalan folk act) is a more accessible English-language pop song the way to win back Europe’s heart?

I have been to two Chorale gigs. One was in Iittala in July 2008, the other in Urjala in August of this year.  Both shows were fantastic, joyful, flamboyant and energetic. The absolute antithesis of the turgid death metal which Finland is famous for exporting. My love of Finland has a lot to do with this band.  I began trying to learn Finnish by listening to their songs. Their songwriter and front man Markus Ahola is a friend of mine and I have also spent time with the other members of Chorale: Tero (song writer, producer keyboards, synths), Santtu (guitar and backing vocals) and Susannah (vocals).

Markus (Maka) is a blonde bundle of up-beat energy who never stops smiling, joking or singing and is perhaps the world’s biggest fan of Eurodance. From the second he picked my sister and I up at Toijala station back in 2008 we knew we loved him! Tero is very intelligent and a really interesting guy to talk to. He is also a very talented photographer. Santtu is an absolute sweetie, the perfect gentleman. Susannah is happy and friendly and has a great stage presence. The boys all come from the tiny town of Toijala, Akaa near Tampere (Susannah is from Helsinki). All have day jobs as well as performing with the band. Maka is a personal trainer, Tero a freelance graphic designer, Santtu works in engineering and Susannah is a urologist. They have had some chart success in Finland but this is their shot at the big time.

I asked Tero his thoughts on the process of getting through to the finals: “I think it’s good that YLE decided to limit the entries only to 15 (last year 30). Overall quality is much better than last year and it’s easier for people to decide their favourite(s).” He also pointed out that Chorale seemed to be amogst the peoples’ favourites so far: “Chorale – Share Your Life is leading the official poll with 20% of votes.”

The comments posted under Chorale’s video on YLE’s site have not all been enthusiastic with some commenters bemoaning the standard of the Finnish entries but, as Tero points out, “Our song really wakes feelings in listeners. Not all of them are positive. But I think that song that creates so much feelings must be good and ready for bigger stages! Just think of Lordi just to name one: How much controversy they created among listeners.” All publicity is good publicity seems to be the mantra here and Chorale are certainly attracting attention with 91 comments and 349 Facebook recommendations at the time of writing some from as far afield as Spain and Hungary.

But attracting comments is one thing, getting people to vote is another. Tero has this message: “Chorale has lots of fans. Let’s hope they all vote! When (not if) we advance to finals, we’ve promised to make a show that will be remembered… Nothing can stop the dance!”

You can vote for Chorale by sending “viisu 10” by SMS to 17113. Voting closes 10:00 Helsinki time, 15.10.10. The result will be announced 18:45 16.10 on YLE TV2.


When Finland Went Back to the Forest

September 26, 2010

“Kun Suomi putos puusta oli kaunis kesäsunnuntai…Kun Suomi putos puusta kaikki kävi äkkiä”

(“When Finland fell out of the tree it was a lovely summer Sunday…When Finland fell out of the tree it all happened suddenly”)

-Ismo Alanko, Kun Suomi Putos Puusta (trans. Raitapaita, with thanks to @journalisti)

“The forest is visible in the aesthetic of Finnish Design, in the choice of materials and in the stories about it. The forest does more than provide resources. It is a state of mind.”

– Katja Lindroos (trans. Eva Berglund), HEL YES booklet.

Yesterday I visited HEL YES a pop up restaurant and design exhibition which is part of London Design Week. HEL YES was commissioned and produced by The Finnish Institute in London as part of the lead up to Helsinki being the European Capital of Culture in 2012.

The venue for HEL YES is a disused warehouse just off City Road in Islington. For non-Londoners like me: get off the tube at Ange. Come out of the tube station and turn to your right. Walk to the junction with City Road. Turn left. Walk down City Road and take the second left after Wharf Road walk up a little way and you should spot some black gates with a yellow painted path leading up to some doors with a giant black and white painting of a hare above them. Congrats, you’ve found HEL YES!


Photo (c)

 As you enter there is a film in black and white of silver birth trunks and snow being projected onto one wall.  I went in the early evening and the lights in the main room were turned down low with candles burning on each table. The lighting alone instantly transformed this cold grey-painted warehouse space into somewhere magical.  The tables had canopies of birch twigs bent over them and were set with a mis-match of distinctive Iitalla glassware and crockery which the designers had gathered from members of the public. Some of the seating was made from circles of birch trunk. Eco-friendly, quirky and a clever juxtaposition with the hard, barren warehouse surroundings.


Photo (c)

The bar and kitchen were towards the back of the room in a rectangle constructed from wooden crates and cardboard boxes which once contained bottles of Lapin Kulta. Again there was some sort of magic at work – I couldn’t imagine how they would be able to conjure up food for everyone from this tiny, basic looking makeshift ‘kitchen’

I perused the drinks menu whilst waiting at the bar. HEL YES has a brief but very original and inventive cocktail menu. All the cocktails (bar the Moi Bellini) had Koskenkorva vodka as their base mixed with spirits as varied, obscure (and very Finnish) as cloudberry liquor, ligonberry liquor and Miclo Sapin (fir tree bud liquor). I opted for the ‘Cocktail of the Day’ the Purple Lumi (Purple Snow): frozen Koskenkorva mixed forest berries, cinnamon, elderflower and apple juice. Disappointingly – as I had just seen the waiter whip up two exciting-looking Lingonberry Spice cocktails  – mine had been pre-prepared and came straight out of the freezer.  I stood at the bar with it for a while, as I wasn’t sure where to sit. All the cosy looking canopied sofas were occupied but in the end I was brave and just asked someone if I could sit with them, then someone else if I could steal their HEL YES guidebook.

I would love to have lingered in the candle light watching the diners arrive and the food being served, sampling some more cocktails and hoping to over hear some people speaking Finnish but sadly I had a bus to catch so, after finishing my cocktail (which tasted just like a fruit smoothie until I felt the delicious warmth of the Kossu in my chest), I departed back outside and into London.

Finland vs. The World

September 8, 2010

In an attempt to move away from maudlin ramblings about my missing Finland this week’s post is going to look at Finland’s place in the world…

When you ask most people what they know of Finland some may mention snow, santa, Lapland, Nightwish, Lordi. Some, however, would be hard pressed to point to Finland on a map, thinking that “Lapland” is a separate, permanently snow-bound country somewhere “in the North.” Some even seem to think that Finland is as Arab nation. In 102 Minutes that Changed America a shell-shocked New Yorker is heard to rant “Let’s go bomb Finland.”

But why should we care about or even notice this cold little nation of 5.3 million souls? Well today’s Metro might give you one reason. On the front page was the news that in Britain only 35% of people gain degrees “less than half the level of the world’s leading nation, Finland.” In Finland University matriculation stands at 80%.

There is also the fact that Finland is, empirically, the best country in the world. Well, according to Newsweek anyway. Last month they placed Finland top in a list judged on the following criteria: “health, economic dynamism (the openness of a country’s economy and the breadth of its corporate sector), education, political environment, and quality of life.”

Newsweek’s article does, however, commit a faux pas in its description of Finland. Whilst I’m not going to argue against it’s assertion that Finland is “a pretty great place to be—the best, actually” Newsweek calls Finland Scandinavian. It isn’t. OK, so you could be forgiven for thinking it was seeing as how it’s stuck there next to Sweden but the Finns are Finno-Ugrians, they share a common linguistic and racial heritage with the Hungarians, not the Swedes, Danes or Norwegians. The vlogger Penn tells here how he challenged the game show Cash Cab when the answer was ‘Finland’ but the question started “What Scandinavian country…” He gets a bit shouty about it but in all seriousness it can be insulting to a Finn to lump them in with their neighbours with whom they have a somewhat ambivalent relationship.

Finland has had it’s moments of importance in Western history too. Not least during the winter of 1939 when the Finns held off the Russians during the 105 day long Winter War or talvisota. The eyes of the world watched “brave little Finland” square up the mighty bear of Stalin’s Russia and Churchill was moved to declare on the 20th Jan 1940 (in response to Chamberlain’s inaction in the matter of sending aid to Finland) “Only Finland-superb, nay, sublime-in the jaws of peril-Finland shows what free men can do. The service rendered by Finland to mankind is magnificent. They have exposed, for all the world to see, the military incapacity of the Red Army and of the Red Air Force. Many illusions about Soviet Russia have been dispelled in these few fierce weeks of fighting in the Arctic Circle.” O.K so the Arctic Circle part is wrong – the fighting mainly took place on the Karelian Isthmus – but the sentiment is correct.

Where would we be without Finland and the Finns? Leaving aside the ‘what-ifs’ of WWII without Finland the world would be without Sibelius, Linux, Nokia, The Moomins, Benecol, Kone, Fiskars, Alvar Alto, Marimekko. Without Finland the (motor) sporting world would be without Mika Häkkinen, Kimi Raikkonen, Keke Rosberg, Mikko Hirvonen, Jari Matti Latvala and Juha Salminen the most successful sportsmen ever in his chosen discipline (Enduro). If you want to win…hire a Finn!

The ‘Rock Finland’ Tour 2010

September 2, 2010

So, before it all begins to blur in my mind here’s a list of the ‘Chloe and Georgia Rock Finland Tour 2010‘ locations (i.e. what we did, breifly, on each day of our trip). I’ve provided some links to the websites so you can be jealous of the awesome places we went 😉

To 29.07: Flew into Finland. Stepped off the plane grinning, breathing in the lovely Finnish air. Grin remained for rest of trip.Vantaa.

Pe 30.07: playpark, Vantaa; Toijala; Omena II, Tampere; Rodeo Bar, Urjala; Toijala

La 31.07: WRC Rally Finland, Jyväskylä

Su 1.08: Valkeakoski; Tampere

Ma 2.08: (journey Tampere- Pieksamaki- Varkaus) Varkaus; kesämoikki, near Varkaus

Ti 3.08: (journey Varkaus – Heinavesi – Joensuu) Joensuu; super sisu Karjalan sauna, Joensuu

Ke 4.08: Jokiasema, Joensuu; “Punkkeri” Museo, nr. Joensuu; Linnunlahti, Joensuu, Hotelli Jokela, Joensuu; Bepop, Joensuu

To 5.08:  a beach somewhere nearish Joensuu; sauna, Joensuu; Hotelli Jokela, Joensuu (again!)

Pe 06.08: (epic 6 hour train and bus journey Joensuu-Imatra-Helsinki and some other stop off I’ve forgotten!) Helsinkin keskus; Heitsu beach, Helsinki

La 07.08:  Mannerheim Museo, Helsinki (my mind is blown!); Kiasma, Helsinki; house party, Helsinki,  Teatteri Klubbi, Helsinki

Su 08.08: Helsinki Motorsport Weekend, Kalasatama; Praha Bar, Helsinki, house party, Helsinki

Ma 09.08: (journey Helsinki-Tampere) Camping Härmälä, Tampere; Pyynikki beach, Tampere

Ti 10.08: Tampereen keskus; Pyynikki tower, Tampere; Kesämokki, se on mysteeri 😉

Ke 11.08:  Särkänniemi Adventure Park, Tampere

To 12.08: Tampereen keskus ( journey Tampere- Helsinki-Vantaa Lentoasema); Helsinki-Vantaa Lentoasema. Flew home. Heart breaks.

Out of time again! I promise one day I’ll write a decently detailed post!

PS  It’s depressing me so much that most of these amazing hapenings are already 4 weeks ago 😦 They seem like a lifetime ago. I’d give anything to be back there re-living those two weeks over and over 😦


August 24, 2010

  OK, “no sorri” (well, sorry) for taking nearly 2 weeks to post about the trip but it’s taken this long for it to sink in and to get over the shock of being back in the UK.

 I. LOVED.EVERY. SECOND. Not exaggerating. Being in Finland was beautiful, magical, exciting, relaxing, refreshing, life-affirming and HOT! I’m trying to focus on the wonderful memories and experiences but really being back in UK and back at work is pretty damn depressing (also life seems to have gone a bit wrong since I’ve been back but that’s another story). I miss Finland so much already! TRying to get over it by listening to the amazing Elastinen – nothing like a good bit of Finnish rap to lift the spirits! I think Sisko feels the same way about being ‘home’ as we are already plotting a weekend trip to Tampere in October (to go see another Chorale gig)

 So, despite the best laid plans (see prev. posts) our schedule got ignored a bit. We left Tampere a day early and had a day in Varkaus (half way between) which included loads of amazing food, savusauna, skinny dipping and gun toting! We also only went to the Helsinki Motorsport Weekend for 1 day instead of 2 as we used the Saturday to go sight seeing in Helsinki. Went to the Mannerheim Museum which blew my mind! We made it to Särkaneimi despite only getting about 4 hours sleep the night before and having to do the ‘train of shame’ back to Tampere that morning! So many adventures! We made loads of new friends this trip and there are lots of people I need to thank for making it amazing.

Photos and more tales coming soon, out of time for now!

Oh and before I forget found this blog: – right up my (r)alley 😉

Houmio! Muuttaminen!

July 27, 2010

I realised yesterday that we were planning to go to Jyväskylä to watch the WRC (World Rally Championship) on Sunday 1st Aug and that is is, erm, the day after it finishes… hylätty! (FAIL!) . So, therefore we are now going to  Jyväskylä on the Saturday and staying late for the closing ceremony (and hoping we can get back afterwards!!). We will then go to Valkeakoski on the Sunday and although this means we’ll miss most of the Työväen Musiikkitapahtuma (Workers’ Festival) we still get to see Hevisaurus 😉

2 more sleeps until Finland!

Yksi Viikko

July 22, 2010

Can’t believe that it’s now only one little week until olen Suomessa! Can. Not. Wait! I can almost taste it! Despite the fact I’m keeping busy doing lots of fun things with my friends time is really dragging.  I’m passing the dull moments by using Google Street View to ‘walk’ from Helsinki Central Station to our hotel (Omena Eerinkatu) so that when I’m there for real I don’t have to look like a turisti with my map book out!

Also can’t believe my quiz show / talvisota ‘ordeal’ is now over. It’s a bit of an anti-climax but I guess I can look forward to it being on TV (of course I’ll post it on here when I know the transmission date!) Now toying with the idea of going back to uni to do a Masters in Modern European History and specialising in Finland / Finland vs. Russia.

I saw my Finnish friend Marika on Tuesday. She’s recently come back from Finland (she had an amazing time of course including sauna and lake swimming on Juhannus – jealous!) and brought me back a new Tupla Red bar and a king sized Tupla which was very nice of her. Tupla Red is well yummy – I’ll def be stocking up! She also showed me her latest Marimekko purchase which made me excited to check out their summer 2010 range (hopefully it’ll all be in the sales and the autumn  2010 range will also be available!)  

I’m going shopping on Saturday to get my supplies for Finland but I’ve also done a little bit of online shopping…

View 1 of Ladies Boyfriend Season T Shirt by House of Mental

Not exactly subtle, is it? Can’t really say I’m going to Finland with no agenda!

I probably won’t be posting whilst I’m in Finland (so no post next week, week after or week after that!) but I look forward to telling you all about my adventures when I get back! To protect the innocent some names and places will be changed (sisko and I have already got random  nicknames sorted for some of our favourite Finns 😉 )

See y’all later xxx

Pian olen Suomessa!

July 8, 2010

Only 3 weeks to go. Can’t quite believe it. My upcoming TV show filming (only 1 week until that!) has taken over things somewhat with my every spare minute consumed by studying the  talvisota so planning for the trip of a lifetime 😉 has sort of taken a back seat. However, sisko and I have now booked our flights (FINNAIR landing in HEL: 21.05, 29/07/10, leaving HEL 19.40 12/08/10) and have a sort of almost final itinery planned out:

to 29/07: arrive HEL, stay with friends in Vantaa (hopefully!)

pe 30/07:  travel Helsinki -> Tampere. Stay at Omena Hoteli II. Go to Urjala to watch Chorale gig = adventure trying to get there as it’s a piddling little place and not on the train line.

la 02/08: Visit Valkeakoski. Check out Työväen Musiikkitapahtuma (Workers’ Festival)

su 01/08: Visit Jyväskylä. Check out WRC Service Park / closing cermony.

ma 02/08: Hang out in Tampere

ti 03/08: Travel Tampere -> Joensuu. Stay at Kesähotteli Elli

ke 04/08: In Joensuu

to 05/08: In Joensuu

pe 06/08:  Travel Joensuu-Helsinki. Stay at Omena Hotel Eerinkatu, nr Kamppi.

la 07/08: In Helsinki. Attend Helsinki Motorsport Show

su 08/08: In Helsinki. Attend Helsinki Motorsport Show.

ma 09/08: Travel Helsinki – Tampere. Stay at Camping Harmala (best campsite ever!)

ti 10/08: In Tampere

ke 11/08: In Tampere, go to Särkänniemi and ride the Moto Gee x lots!

to 12/08: Travel Tampere – Helsinki -Vantaa Airport, get on plane, cry.

I won’t be able to post next week as will be travelling to Manchester and filming TV show… Wish me luck!

Kuusi Viikkoa

June 18, 2010

It’s now only 6 weeks until Finland (well 5 weeks, 6 days to be exact!) Sorry for not posting last week – I’ve been devoting myself to studying the talvisota in preparation for making a fool of myself on national TV. I  wasn’t going to post this week either but was encouraged by the fact I’ve actually had some views so I’ve decided to write something.

So, less than 6 weeks to go until our trip are we booked and ready? Nope! Well, we are accidentally booked for our cabin in Tampere as we emailled the campsite to enquire if  ‘our’ cabin was available and they emailled back to confirm our booking! We are still shopping around for flights – they seem so expensive: the best price we’ve found is £217 each rtn.

We’ve re-jigged our initinery so we can have longer on the campsite so our trip now looks like this:

Thurs 29th July:  fly London- Helsinki, stay with friend in Vantaa

Friday 30th July: Travel Vantaa to Tampere. Stay at Omena, Tampere and go to Urjala to watch Chorale (our friend’s band) perform.

Sun 1st Aug: travel to Jyväskylä to watch the WRC closing ceremony

Mon 2nd Aug: move from Omena, Tampere to Camping Härmälä

Friday 6th Aug: travel Tampere – Helsinki to attend Helsinki motor show

Mon 9th Aug: travel Helsinki – Joensuu

Thurs 12th Aug travel Joensuu – Helsinki Vantaa airport. Fly home.

This re-jig means less time in Joensuu and more in Tampere.

So, my life has become all about the talvisota as it’s now only 4 weeks until they film the show!! Very scared!! I’ve re-watched Talvisota and marvelled again at the how atmospheric, tragic and yet blackly comic and very Finnish it is.  I’ve also been reading up on the subject and trying to get my girlie head around military tactics and terminology… Wish me luck!!

Raitapaitan Talvisota

June 4, 2010

7 weeks, 6 days until Finland!

But before I go off for my long-awaited kesäloma I’ll be doing something quite exciting. I found out yesterday that I’m going to be appearing on a TV quiz and they would like me to do the talvisota (Winter War) as my specialist subject! Filiming is in mid July so I’ve only got 6 weeks to go from zero to hero. I have managed to borrow “A Concise History of Finland” by David Kirby from Cardiff Central Library (very impressed they had it!) but I feel an Amazon spree coming on as I need to give the question setters a list of the books I’ve read… and so far I’ve read precisely no books on the subject! I’ve only seen the movie! Wish me luck!

I’m a big lover of Marimekko designs /products (though I mostly just lust after them as can’t afford most of the stuff!) so I was amused to see that Whittards (whom I also love) have brought a range of china very clearly inspired by / ripped off from Marimekko’s unikko design.