FOR several months we had been inundated with statistics about how well the True Finns were going to do at this year’s parliamentary elections. Each survey’s findings seemed to reinforce the previous one’s to such an extent that the election felt like it would be a forgone conclusion. At the same time, “anti-True Finns” were all hoping that the growth in the party’s support would simply turn out to be one big mirage – the result of flawed polling techniques and an overestimation of the likelihood supporters of the party would actually make the trip to their local polling station. Consequently, no one was really prepared for what happened.
DURING THE endless, and at times deeply passionate, recent debate about Romanian beggars on the streets of Helsinki, little has been heard from the Romanians themselves. Other than a single fascinating story in Helsingin Sanomat, the debate has largely involved Finns talking with each other about a silent and exterior Other. Many people have asked what might be best for the Romanians themselves; few have gone as far as asking a Romanian.
IN SHORT, the Romanian beggars have become an object, and I realised the other day with no small sense of shock that they have become objects for me too. I do not see a human being sitting on a street corner, and barely register even their gender or age, but see only an object in human form.
YOU might have noticed that plans are afoot to privatise Finland’s railways. Should a decision be reached to push ahead with such a project, deregulation is likely to start sometime around 2018, with Helsinki’s commuter train traffic followed by the rest of the national train services currently run by state operator VR.
SUCH a move would be fantastic news for two groups of people: firstly, the shareholders in whatever private company or consortium would be chosen to run the project; secondly, municipalities which have rail services in their boroughs might receive a small windfall. For everyone else, the move would be disastrous.
Midsummer, or juhannus, is the most enthusiastically celebrated holiday in Finland, and is also the most democratic. Whereas the other big annual party day, May Day, is primarily worthy of observation only to a social anthropologist studying the effects of excessive alcohol consumption and municipal open-air toilets in public spaces, and is beloved primarily by teenagers who get shitfaced in the centre of towns, juhannus is notable mainly for the mass exodus of city-dwellers into the countryside to do pretty much exactly the same thing, except this time everyone gets drunk, not only irresponsible adolescents.
PASSENGERS appealing against fines issued by travel inspectors seem to have no rights at all. Back in December, I made the mistake of letting my bus ticket expire. It seemed a good idea at the time – I hardly use the buses over Christmas, so I’d decided to load 20 euros onto my card at Pasila and save myself the monthly fee.
I GOT on my train, went to put my absurdly heavy daypack down on a seat, and made my way back to the vestibule to use the ticket scanner. “You’re too late,” I was told by a ticket inspector, who was coming in the other direction. This seemed a bit rich to me, given I had been on the train for all of 30 seconds, and that I had my card in my hand and was approaching the ticket scanner when she first saw me.