17th June ‘09:
We're having a silly day today, bar-hopping. Getting tipsy is something of a national sport in Finland - that, and suicide - so we're simply embracing the culture. And, if you happened to read the last blog, there is a slim chance of meeting a straight-talking nymphomaniac in this country.
Think of Namibian and I as carrots on sticks; think of Finnish girls as donkeys. Oh hang on, that sounds dreadfully misogynistic. The sentiment couldn't be further from my mind; we are simply hanging out in bars, waiting to be approached - a social experiment, if you like. What a role reversal, eh? Well, perhaps the Helsinki womenfolk are intimidated by Namibian’s bulk, or my sunglasses, because very little in the way of skirt seems to be heading in our direction.
Still, the notion of being chatted up hovers, urging us to continue the pub crawl. Erm, when I say “us”, I mean me. Now, the alcohol limit is indeed zero for drivers in Scandinavia, but Namibian and I aren’t driving tonight. My pal “Wrecker” Jon has very kindly flown in - to pilot my truck back to the ferry. Goody, that means I
can treat myself to a little drinkypoo. Oh, the ports involved, for those following tour progress, are Naantali (Turku, Finland) to Kappelskar (Sweden). Incidentally, Jon is promising not to damage any of my wheels this time.
Talking of wheels, we start the crawl at “Zetor”, a famous bar in Helsinki, filled with tractors. The interior is poorly illuminated, but fun for a pint and a photo on one of the gleaming agricultural machines. But, at £6 a pint, eyebrows are raised; breath is sharply inhaled, and enthusiasm is somewhat dampened. On the plus side, however, tables are built around the tractors, so you can eat reindeer off a Massey Ferguson. Whoopee! Can you imagine a more exciting prospect? Yes, OK, point taken.
Drat, we haven't been approached yet - maybe 2pm isn’t the best time.
Our next port of call is across the road: the Ateljee bar, sitting squarely atop a 14-storey hotel. It is Helsinki’s first skyscraper, and the bar has interesting toilets. One-way mirrors, from floor to ceiling, offer a panoramic view of the city. Little Dick seems keen to visit, but Namibian, craning his neck, is reluctant. 'F**k that,' he says, before realising there
is a lift.
In fact it is a splendid, old-fashioned lift - the sort of lift, according to chivalrous Little Dick, ‘that you could shag a bird in.' Dick and I, however, opt for the stairs - we could do with the exercise. En route, we find a chair designed for a giant. Little Dick looks absurd in it, as you’ll note from the photograph.
Namibian is already sprawling on the rooftop terrace when we get there, authoritatively noting the whine of a DC10 overhead. In these sunglasses, doesn't he remind you of Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”? He wanted to be an aviator, you know, but failed on a couple of minor points like not being able to see properly. Yet he still worked in the Namibian Air Force. He loves planes.
He also loves fridge magnets and thimbles. Keeping an eye out, for these keepsakes in cities across Europe, has kept me on my toes. Oh, I'm such a good friend. But here, in Helsinki.. Ooh, hang on a minute, we're being approached. Things are finally hotting up. It's not quite the mirage I'd envisaged, however; it is a salesman from Oulu, in a tracksuit,
asking about the AC/DC show tonight.
Disappointed, we return to the topic of fridge magnets. At the rate he's going, Namibian is going to need another fridge just to store the magnets. Now, I’m tempted to end with a gag about bending his partner over the fridge - to keep her on HER toes - but that might sound a little crass. So I won’t..
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