Wednesday, January 28, 2004

January 2004 - Arja . . . and fire!!

I hadn't intended to return to Finland so soon after Christmas, but Arja Koriseva was appearing at the Vanhan Kellari. I had seen her four times at the Seinäjoki Tangomarkkinat, and many times on Finnish TV, but I wanted to see her in the more intimate surroundings of the Vanhan Kellari. Furthermore I had read in the gossip papers that she was hoping for another baby. If this is true, then at 39 she would need to make serious moves in that direction quite soon.
The Kellari was packed. Eine-Liisa was there and we danced together a few times. I asked if she would like a drink. She said cognac and a glass of water. I went to the bar to get them, and when I was waiting to be served a woman asked me to dance. This was embarrassing. It was impossible to turn down the woman's invitation, but I didn't want Eine-Liisa to die of thirst. But there was nothing for it - I had to go on the parquet with this new woman.
She was wearing a thick woollen sweater, much to thick for the Kellari, which is always warm. Her perfume appeared to be 50% Chanel, 50% armpit sweat. After the dance, when I belatedly went back to Eine-Liisa with the drinks, I surreptitiously sniffed myself to see if I smelled the same.
By 23:30, when Miss Koriseva was due to appear, there was no room to dance. Everybody was packed shoulder to shoulder in front of the stage to get a glimpse of their idol. I was in front. I was only three feet from her and could have reached out and touched her, but of course I didn't. She started with some songs from her latest CD, Nauran ja rakastan (I Laugh and Love), including Uudet tähdet (New Stars):
Kun kaapejani eilen siivosin When cleaning out my cupboard yesterday
niin löysein sieltä vanhan vinyylin . . . I came across an old vinyl LP . . . .
probably the only pop song about housework. She sang two waltzes and two humppas I had never heard before, and of course tangos. It was a wonderful, uplifting experience. I thought life couldn't get any better.
Afterwards I was able to speak to her. I admired her dress and asked if Eija had made it. I said I had all of her records except one, which I was diligently searching for. She gave me a signed photograph and also autographed the CD insert of Nauran ja rakastan which I had brought with me. I asked for another photo for Liisa. I think she assumed that Liisa was English, as she spelled her name with only one I. I didn't say anything.
I crawled exhausted out of the Kellari when Arja's spot finished at one in the morning. I had been there since five. People were still streaming in. I bought a Megadog from a street kiosk, ate it, and returned to my hotel.
I arrived back in Bristol at 1 in the morning on 2nd February. As I came out of the bus station I saw my two sons-in-law waving to me from their old Land Rover. I thought they had been out drinking all night and didn't really want to get into their car. But they said there had been a fire at my house.
This is a tango blog, so I'll be brief about the fire. There was no serious structural damage, but everything was severely smoke-damaged, the electricity and gas was burned out, and it was completely uninhabitable. For the first time, I was glad that my wife had died. It would have broken her heart to see what had happened to her beloved home. One of my cats was killed, the other had disappeared. The neighbour who was looking after the cats had suffered an angina attack (the same thing that carried off my wife) and was taken to hospital.
My neighbour was discharged from hospital with a clean bill of health. The missing cat turned up; hungry, black with smoke, and extremely frightened, but unharmed. I had to move into temporary accommodation.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Christmas 2003

Christmas 2003
I checked into the Eurohostel, and there was just time to shower and change to get to the Vanhan Kellari when it opened at four o'clock. Hilkka was there. She is tall, blonde, and very popular with all the men at the Kellari, including me. I like to dance with tall women. I am very much aware of their thighs.
I had often seen Eija Kantola on Finnish TV, and I have most of her records. She was appearing at the Vanhan Kellari and this was the first time I had seen her live. I was able to speak to her after her spot, and she gave me a signed photograph.
But who was booked to appear on 20th January? Arja Koriseva! Could I afford to come back to Finland to see her? No. Would I do it anyway? Probably.
Next day it snowed, and Helsinki was beautiful and white. I see why Finns cheer up in the winter. I met Garth and Ian in the Stockmanns department store. Ian is now 2½ . He speaks Finnish and can understand English, but doesn't say much in it.
There was an article in the paper about Anne Mattila, who has just released a new record. She has two sisters, Anneli and Anita. It seems that her parents have a lack of imagination, or perhaps a rich aunt Anna. Two important ladies celebrate their 60th birthdays about now: Finnish president Tarja Halonen and Queen Silvia of Sweden.
I went to the beach. The sea was frozen and people were ice-yachting. A chimney was giving out pink smoke (presumably due to the low sun rather than anything they were burning). I wondered if it was a Barbie factory.