It was around mid-afternoon, once we’d completed the 750km drive from Colin and Merja’s cabin in the forest, to Rovaniemi. I was happy to be heading North a few more degrees – in latitude and in temperature, on route we saw temperatures of -30. We parked right in the centre of town, in a small apartment block carpark and yet again, the Fins were totally cool with it.
It was Saturday night in Laplands’ capital… you know what that means! I had a shower and reluctantly washed my hair. Just as I’d lathered shampoo into my dreads I noticed the shower water collecting at my feet. That means it wasn’t draining. That means the waste pipe is frozen. During our few days in Lapland, we had a whole host of issues and challenges with the vehicle. But I’m going to talk about all of that in the next post because it’s long, complex and all we really wanted to do in that moment was go partying in Lapland… So, we did. I continued showering and held my wee until I got into a restaurant.
There is currently a rally going on in Finland, and this evening in Rovaniemi was the finish line of one of the races. We stood (for not very long) in -23 degrees watching these crazy men driving their rally cars over the finish line. We ducked into a local restaurant and ordered dinner. Mac had reindeer and beer, I had white fish and gin. It cost us far too much but, we were in Finland’s tourist capital of the North. After dinner we went downstairs to the bar and got chatted up by an old man keen to buy us drinks! Zero complaints from me.
We asked around for the place to be on Saturday nights in Rovaniemi, they told us about an Irish Bar we had passed earlier that evening so, we headed there. There was a live band playing downstairs! Oh yay! I bought Mac and myself a Jack Daniels and coke each and for the next four hours we saw very little of each other. I positioned myself in front of the band and danced to their Finish songs alone all night… We’ve both found that the Finish locals are a tough community to infiltrate… Even the drunk student community! Not that I wasn’t perfectly content twirling myself around on that dancefloor!
I stumbled back at the Mog around 0330, to find Mac having just arrived back himself.
The next morning, I turned on a tap to wash the hangover off my face and found there to be no water coming out. I checked the control panel, everything was as it should be. I was very confused! It’s a Mac problem. Instantly he knew what it was. We have frozen fresh water pipes now, as well as waste water. So, we had no water coming in or out of the cabin. We spent the day as planned, trying desperately to put this potentially trip altering issue out of our minds. Again, I’m going to explain all of this in the next post.
Today was the day we go back to Santa’s Village. Yes, go back to…
When I was six years old, we went on holiday to visit Santa in Finland. It turned out to be an incredible special holiday as it was the last one we would spend together as a family of six. My parents, Helen and Alastair (Mac), my elder sister Hanna (seven) my younger brother Scott (four) and Bunny, my little sister at three years old.
We stayed in a wooden cabin by a frozen lake, outside of Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland – Northern Finland. We spent many days of our holiday in Santa’s Village, on the boundary line of the Arctic Circle, 2km North of Rovaniemi.
I have vague memories of this holiday. Or, maybe I don’t have any. Maybe my subconscious has used the photographs my parents took, to create memories to fill the blanks in my mind. Whether it’s a memory, or a creation of my subconscious, I’ll never know. A tall plastic box of dummies, on it a sign reading, “Is it time to donate your dummies, for an extra present from Santa?” Next to the box, a little girl, my sister Bunny, who is now in the skies, in the snow, in the rivers, in the flowers I grow in the garden at home.
Instead of donating the dummy she had in her mouth, and the four she had in her pockets. She had her hand inside of the dummy box, trying to reach more to take home for herself…
Returning to Lapland this week, nineteen years later, has been both very joyful, and very reflective. I stared at the places I know I went to all those years ago, willing the memories to flicker in front of my eyes, like images on old film reel. But nothing came. Nothing, until. A tall plastic box of dummies in the corner of Santa’s Post Office. The power of a memory. I stood there trying to piece together fragments of memory from this place back in December 2000, and the events that came shortly after. I could almost see her standing beside it. A little girl with pigtails, her hand in the dummy box. Bunny.
Mac and I walked through the entirety of Santa’s Village, we even went to say hello to the sledding dogs we took a trip on all those years ago. Unfortunately though, they weren’t the genuine Siberian or Alaskan Huskies that were bred by the indigenous people for purposes of transport. They were mixed breads of all kinds, now bred purely for the benefit of tourists.
There is no doubt Santa’s Village has undergone huge changes in the last nineteen years, as we all have. It was just special to be there once more.
Having managed to ignore our fairly serious predicament for the majority of the day. We ate out again, as cooking and cleaning up with no water or waste didn’t sound overly appealing; and made a plan for the following day.
Having learnt how it feels to do spanner work lying on your back in the snow in -16 outside Colin and Merja’s house, we thought better of doing that again. So Monday morning came and we scoured an industrial street searching for a garage that would have a little compassion for two poor frozen travellers, allowing us to work on the Mog inside their shed.