Sunday, February 13, 2011


The results are in: Paradise Oskar will be representing Finland: he is prettier than Marko Maunuksela and has a lot more hair, but I still think his tune isn't so good; and he hasn't got tango queens in his backing group:

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Lumitango 2011

The forecast was continuing snow, the webcam showed the streets covered in the white stuff - it was time to book a Ryanair flight to Tampere. The times have changed yet again and now the flight gets in at 20.30. Plenty of time to book into the Omena hotel and over the road to the Hämeensilta. There was a big male surplus, but nevertheless I got a few nice dances. I caught sight of Kati, dancing very close to a man I didn't know. I thought it more tactful not to say anything to her. Next day (Thursday) I wandered round the town. The Tanssitalo, where they held the Tango Thursdays and Daytime Fun, seems to be closed (even though its website still exists). In its place is the Loco restaurant and even that is closed Thursdays. I had a look at the records in Stockmanns. There was a reissue of Arja Saijonmaa and Mikis Theodorakis's old recordings, featuring a very young and very earnest Arja. A big rack of Kari Tapio records. He has probably sold more records in the few months since he died than in the last ten years of his life.

Then I went to the Museum of Espionage. We are wandering away from the subject of tango, but what the hell. Most of the exhibits date from the Cold War, quite a lot from WW2, and a bit earlier and later. Finland was a hotbed of espionage during the Cold War as it is on the boundary between east and west and has a border with Russia. There is no Enigma machine, but there is the Swedish equivalent, the Hagel C-38F. It looks remarkably like the Swedish mechanical calculators which used to be common in offices in the sixties. The Minox camera was designed by Walter Zapp (good name for a spy inventor, don't you think) in 1936 and was patented in Finland. More recent is the "spy rock". The Russians claimed that foreign agents had encoded stolen data in a lump of stone. This sounds like something out of Nigel Kneale, but it happened in 2006. The very lump is in the museum. It looks like any other lump of rock. Entrance to the museum is 8 euros, and a permit to take photographs is 5 euros. I don't know what happens if you try to take photos without a permit. Perhaps they give a free demonstration of their electric shock torture device. I might go back next year with my old Minox. Can you still get film for it, I wonder?

When I came out of the museum it was snowing again. I sent a text to Kati, saying that I hadn't spoken to her because of the boyfriend, and I hoped she was happy. She immediately replied that the man wasn't her boyfriend, she hadn't noticed me, and could we meet for lunch tomorrow? Naturally I said we could.

That evening I went to the Seurahuone. I was first in but it soon filled up. I had lots of nice partners including Pirtta, a bubbly blonde probably in her 60s; Helena, dark and cuddly; and Niina, who looked very much like Marita Taavitsainen. She was extremely popular and hardly sat down all night. There was a male surplus again, but I was able to dance most of the time; eventually returning to the hotel at about 1:30. I noticed that Kaija Lustila will be at the Seurahuone on 17th March.

Next morning I went for a coffee and pulla in the Stockmann's cafe, watching Tampere high society go by. According to the local paper, Eija Kantola will be in Nokia on the 6th. Blast! I will be on my way home then. I made my way through the snow to the Steam Museum. Some young girls, looking very pretty and rosy-cheeked in the snow, were giving out free pots of yoghurt in the square. I have described the steam museum before, so I won't again, but I will say that I bought a CD of Arja Saijonmaa singing patriotic and revolutionary songs. One of them is called Sodan Hinta or The Price of War, and in spite of the words it is a jolly jenkka.

The girls were still in the square when I went to meet Kati for lunch. I got another pot of yoghurt. We had lunch in the fourth-floor cafe in the Sokos department store. I mean me and Kati, not me and the yoghurt girl. Kati said she had been shopping for shoes all morning and not found anything suitable: would I like to accompany her when she continued the quest that afternoon. The truthful answer was of course "not really" but what I said was "of course dear". We went to shop behind the station - I can't say now what it was called. Kati bought some rather sexy knee length boots with lots of lacing. I approved the choice. I asked if she would be going dancing that night and she said no, she was too tired, and would have a sauna instead. She didn't invite me to come along.

So that evening I went alone to the Hämeensilta. The Finlanders were playing. The place was absolutely packed out, and I was in my element with a plethora of wonderful partners: Sari was all in red with red shoes, and very friendly; Kirsti was blonde and chatty; Euli dark and sultry; Johanna was a very enthusiastic dancer and bore a startling resemblance to Sarah Palin; and many more. Eventually, at about 1, I danced a really wonderful jive with Johanna/Sarah - we only had about 2 square feet of space, she smiled happily at me - and I thought that this was the high point of the evening. I thanked her effusively and left, bought a sausage from the late-night kiosk and returned exhausted to the Omena Hotel.

All this of course is really the preliminary to the Lumitango, the real reason I was in Tampere. On the Saturday morning I was up bright and early, had my usual coffee and pulla in Stockmanns, and made my way to the square, were preparations were being made for the Lumitango. A light snow was falling to add to the atmosphere. I introduced myself to the organiser Sari Hekkälä and said I was a devoted follower of Finnish tango. She said she had been going to the Tangomarkkinat for 20 years. I said she must have been a small child when she first started going. We had a dance in the snow before the event started. It is not too difficult to dance in snow - you have to pick your feet up slightly, as you do when dancing on tarmac at the Tangomarkkinat. Efforts had been made to level out the snow somewhat. I asked some of the ladies present if they would like to partner me for the competition, but they said they had only come to watch. I recognised quite a few of the competitors from the Tangomarkkinat. One was "Outi" whom I have mentioned before. A digression about her follows: when I first met her in 2007 and asked her name she said something that sounded like "Oskari". When I got home and talked about it, my Finnish teacher said I must have misheard, as Oskari is a boy's name. So when I wrote it up in this blog, I renamed her Outi. When I met her again in 2008, I asked her name again and it still sounded like Oskari. But now in Tampere in 2011, the MC announced her name perfectly clearly: Oskari.

To return to the Lumitango: dancing was to records, and of a very high standard. A young chap was taking pictures with an ancient Rolleicord. As is usual at competitions, there was public dancing between the rounds. Johanna Debreczeni put in an appearance during the interval and sang two tangos. See her here:
At this point Kati and her friend turned up. They said that the Lumitango was not well publicised in Tampere with hardly a mention in the local papers. Kati immediately suggested we dance. I noticed Johanna Debreczeni dancing with a fan. I was able to speak to Johanna, who said she remembered me from the Tangomarkkinat. Someone took a picture of us. She stayed to watch the next round, then left. During one of the breaks, a jive was played. Oskari fell on her arse, her legs in the air. She laughed and seemed unhurt. Kati preferred the twist to the jive. More stable. See the grand final here:


3. Raine and Sari Ristola
2. Lasse Lindström and Oskari
1. Matti Tuominen and Armi Tanskanen

The prize for all three placings was a week's pass for the 2011 Tangomarkkinat. Kati left at this point and said see you in the evening at the Hämeensilta. I spoke to Sari again and said perhaps I will see you at the Tangomarkkinat, or the 2012 Lumitango. I then went to the nearest bar and warmed myself up with some Brooklyn Winter Ale (6.2%) before returning to the hotel.

In the evening I went to the Hämeensilta. It was packed, with a younger crowd than at the rest of the week. Kati was there, very sexy in black leather and the new boots. Suvi Teräsniska, whose name translates as Summer Steelneck, was singing. Kati and I danced for about an hour, then she said she had to dance with a friend, and rushed off. I was not left without partners though: there was Sinikka, a nice slim blonde who asked me to dance, and we had 5 dances instead of the usual 2; Euli, a sensuous plump redhead; Anna, a big dark lady; and many others. Then as I was approaching the bar, I caught sight of a beautiful woman in her early 40's. Our eyes met, and we stepped wordlessly onto the parquet into one another's arms. She was of course completely unsuitable as a partner, being over 20 years my junior, but we shared many wonderful dances together over the rest of the evening.