Thanks to the amazing Ben Romoila, my GUFF trip introduced me to Finnish fandom. Now the boot is on the other foot, with Jukka Halme standing for the north-south GUFF journey. In honour of this reversal, here are select extracts from my GUFF report.
If you want the whole thing, it’s available for a donation to future GUFF voyages. And to not forget to vote in the current GUFF race! Voting closes September 30!
8 September, at Manchester Airport
The free wifi here tells me that I am part of “le cool” in Tampere this week. I bought a Doctor Who magazine for the TARDIS, but I think the TARDIS faded at security.
Turku was amazing. In fact, all of Finland was amazing. I spent my time with teachers and translators and writers and a whole bunch of people who shared my fannish interests and had interesting lives, to boot. Because Finland was last, however, I didn’t write things down. I didn’t write down, for instance, the long bookish conversations I had in the Finnish countryside, or that Ben Roimola picked me up at an unholy hour and drove me there. I learned about the Finnish translation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and about saunas and about politics and about … so many things. Of all the stages of my journey, the Finnish one is the least well described. It was full of wonderment: museums, a school fair, food, and friends. The Northern Lights (I’ve now seen both southern and northern auroras) and medieval castles. There was no convention in Finland, because my timing was not good, so fans had meetings in each city I visited and my evenings were spent talking. It was perfect.
I’m down to my final days abroad. … I’m on the train between Tampere and Helsinki (we are surrounded by morning mist, for it is autumn and the trees and fields are slowly emerging – there will be a castle on my right in ten minutes, my ticket says, for my ticket was annotated with important information last night at the pub) and halfway through my Finnish sojourn. It’s a wonderful sojourn. The Finns are tremendous hosts and it would take a total grouch to not enjoy every moment. My inner grouch has been frightened and has gone into hiding. I didn’t realise this until yesterday, though, when a small group of us visited the Moomin Museum in Tampere. …
After the Moomins … we went to a museum that showed the homes of factory workers over nearly 100 years. It was like Susannah Place House in Sydney, with different rooms for different families over time and covering different situations. Australian factory workers had a lot more space (at least three times the amount) and a lot more privacy and, generally, better quality lives. Finnish factory workers, on the other hand, had saunas and a really strong community set-up. One room for six people, though, for everything except cooking and washing (and these were done using shared facilities) can’t have been easy. I can see why Australia looked tempting to people, with its separate bedrooms and private kitchens.
We had an early dinner yesterday, and an amazing one. There’s a place called Harald, a small Finnish restaurant chain. It claims to be Viking, but that’s the gimmick to get people in. It’s really rather fine food using local ingredients. I ate Muscovy duck cooked three ways, for instead (“Be careful of the bullets” said the waitress, for it was wild duck) and three flavours of icecream (sweetgrass, cardamom and lingonberry/heather) served with an apple and sea-buckthorn sauce.
… I met the Tampere mafia. Such a nice bunch of people! They gave me warnings about the Helsinki group, which I am meeting tonight. The Turku mob also gave me warnings about the Helsinki group (who apparently really know how to live). In preparation, I drank only water last night. I didn’t drink only water the night before. We met in an old schoolhouse that has been turned into a brewery, and I tried the cranberry cider and then a blackcurrant cider and then Tero persuaded me to try a drink that is very trendy (basically gin and grapefruit – initially it tasted suspiciously like Alka Selzer, but it improved upon acquaintance and made me feel healthier and less drunk each sip) and ate a ‘snack’ for dinner. It was a generous plate of fried onion rings and chips and a pickled cucumber, served with a good mayo (which was flavoured with capsicum, which I’m writing in order to remember, as it was yummy and easy to make).
I’ve run out of time, for the sun is making the mist lift and I’ve just got a picture of the castle by the lake at Hameenlinna and this means I have scenery to watch for the next fifty minutes.