Our guest blogger this week is James Thompson, an American from eastern Kentucky, who's lived in
Before becoming a full-time writer, Jim studied Swedish and Finnish at The University of Helsinki and worked as a bartender, bouncer, construction worker, photographer, rare coin dealer, and soldier.
Jim and his wife live in Helsinki, from where he contributed this article.
Lucifer's Tears, a sequel to Snow Angels will only be released in the United States in January of 2011, but it's already up for pre-sale on Amazon.
You think the Irish hold the record for public inebriation? Or the Germans? Or the English? Maybe you'll think differently after reading Jim's contribution.
So, without further ado, here he is, Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. James Thompson:
Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, wrote in his book,
Spandau, something to the effect that if the Third Reich didn’t prevail, it was because it had drowned in a sea of alcohol. Here in , we’re not drowning yet, but our noses are just above the water line. Helsinki
Alcohol consumption has soared in
Finland over the past few years and is now Finland's top killer; the leading cause of death in for men and a close second for women. Alcohol now kills more people aged fifteen to sixty-four than cardiovascular disease or cancer. Almost as many women die of alcohol-related causes as breast cancer. Per capita, Finns drank 10.2 liters of 100% alcohol last year. Alcohol is a contributory factor in Finland ’s astoundingly high suicide rate, and intoxication is involved in nearly one in four deaths caused by accidents or violence. The Finnish government is taking the matter into hand by beginning sales of alcoholic beverages at 9:00 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m (yes, that was sarcasm). Finland
In Finnish, the word for both a bar and restaurant that serves food is ravintola. There are around five hundred ravintolat in
, population approx. 600,000.The majority of Ravintolat serve only alcohol, not food, so that’s one gin joint for almost every one hundred inhabitants. This sounds like a lot of bars, but consider this: as inflation has driven up the price of booze in bars, people drink more at home. Only something like 10% of alcohol is consumed in bars. These days, in Helsinki , the trend is for people to hang out with their friends and drink for most of the evening in someone’s house. They get plastered first, then go to a bar. It’s a far more economical drunk that way. Helsinki
Every holiday revolves around alcohol.
Vappu, or May Day, or Walpurgis Night, whatever you want to call it, was originally a Northern European pagan carnival. In
, it once had strong political connotations, but now the politics are largely forgotten. It’s about drinking, beginning on Vappu Eve and carrying on until the next day people have to work. The years when May Day Eve falls on a Thursday are the worst, as it becomes a four day drunken free-for-all. On Vappu, Finland becomes a sea of broken glass and vomit. Children as young as ten or twelve passed out on the streets of downtown. Helsinki
We just had another major drinking holiday, Juhannus, or Mid-summer. The tactics are different from Vappu, but the drunken result is the same.
becomes a nearly deserted city, as residents leave to spend Juhannus at summer cottages and get shitfaced while they commune with nature and enjoy the white nights. Usually, a bonfire is lit at midnight in deference to ancient pagan tradition. Most of these cottages are simple affairs without indoor plumbing. Often, these cottages are on islands, on the edges of lakes, and only accessible by boat. A rather morbid national sport is counting the Juhannus death toll. Quite a few people either fall out of their boats, often because they try to stand up to take a piss and lose their balance, or try to go for a swim to cool off after sauna and never make it back out of the water. This year, Juhannus festivities resulted in more than twenty fatalities. Fun in the sun. Helsinki
Leighton for Jim - Saturday