Monday 11 June 2007



had just arrived in Kemi, Finland, and the first thing they were talking about was getting me into a steam bath. Absolutely the very last thing I want to do is get in a steam bath. I LIVE in one. I have this little character to remind me of one of my most pleasant trips abroad. This is Lempi; she's an award. She is 13 inches tall, is made of solid plaster and weighs around five pounds. She's a character from a successful daily strip, I think. She's an old lady, which you can deduce from the handbag, though why her head is not attached to her neck as yours and mine are, I cannot say. It's difficult to find English language information on the subject, and Google doesn't translate Finnish. But the author is one Jope, and here's a profile of him. And since it occurred to me at the time I lugged Lempi up to my hotel room that I may need to explain it all one day, I picked up a little collection of the strips and here is an example. I haven't a clue what's going on here, I'm afraid, though I daresay someone will explain it before the day is over.

The lovely folks who made the statue and awarded it to me may have already noticed that there are a few chunks knocked out of it. And herein lies my tale. In our house Lempi has come to be associated with amorous attentions, which is not entirely inappropriate as the name apparently means 'love' in Finnish.

The statue has always been kept on top of my bookshelf in our living room. Right in the middle of the top, except I would from time to time need to move it back from the far end. I always presumed that this was because our house must be on a slant, but it turned out that on those special occasions when I and the wife of my bosom would take ourselves off to the bedroom of an evening, with a bottle of Riccadonna and a cd of Billie Holiday, Lempi would become somewhat animated, rocking backwards and forwards and go on a march along the top of the cabinet. Our young 'uns would look up from their televisual entertainments, shake their heads in disapproval and turn up the volume.

Recently Lempi came a cropper alas. The wife of my bosom had purchased a huge big Settee, and the guys who brought it into the house must have learned their trade from 'Charlie and me'.
"Right," said Fred, " Have to take the wall down,
That there wall is gonna have to go."
Took the wall down, even with it all down
We was getting nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea.

The nitwits rammed the sofa into the bookshelf and down came Lempi. I made light of it of course, but I was broken hearted to see the pieces lying around. I managed to put it mostly back together, but this object carries a lot of symbolism in our house. The sound of Lempi plunging around came to be regarded as a good thing. It meant plentiful crops and a prosperous year, or at the very least a few days less of parental aggravation.

And I think Lempi brought herself to mind because the wife of my bosom is hundreds of miles far away tonight, helping her father move house.

All about Finnish Comics, in English.

Helvetista from Finnish publisher LIKE was our first foreign edition of the mighty work, appearing in five volumes from 1994-'97. I presume that's what the award was for.

And a big hi! to Ilpo who brought me out for that show in Finland way back in 2001. I have a fond recollection of singing Fred Astaire songs with the mayor in the middle of the main street at two in the morning. It was just starting to get dark. Funny place, Finland.



Blogger spacedlaw said...

Lovely story. It's yet a little early here to get a good nationality spread but if nobody has yet deciphered the Finish toon for you later in the day, I'll grab one of the Finns from the office to have them translate it...

11 June 2007 at 00:50:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

So got the translation (just admit it: you all held your breath for it, didn't you ?) from a colleague who, living in Italy for such a long time, had troubles putting it together for us (Thanks Ulla!):

Lempi:"hey ! Who do I see there? Why it's my first communion minister..."
Priest: "Lempi !"
Devil: "My angel!"
(snake tag reads "More rap in Heavens")

Lempi: "How come you're out making merry in Heavens ?"
Priest: "Loads of reasons, like...
1 - I'm paying for the bubbly (wine)
2 - Karaoke (singing)
3 - AIDS (women)
4 - God's mistake (mercy)

Looking at the beard on Lempi's face we wondered it that was indeed a woman's name but we checked and it wasn't in the men's list of names she had, so...

Right... I suppose all this excitement means that I should go back to work.

11 June 2007 at 03:42:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not forget one of the greatest of all Finnish creations, Tove Jansson's Moomins. A series of novels and a comic strip:

11 June 2007 at 05:37:00 GMT-5  
Blogger mrjslack said...

And as youtube seems to be where I live these days...
A Moomin link.


11 June 2007 at 06:11:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

Spoken like a true Pagan. May the Twelve Gods watch over you.

I've heard that Finnish is one of the world's most difficult laguages to learn. If you're not born into it, you'd best be one of those folk for whom learning languages comes easy. The lady who cuts my hair is Finnish--she speaks with that Nordic lilt that one associates with folk from Sweden. But I'd heard that there was no similarities between the two languages.

The American horror novelist, Rick Hautala, is second-generation Finnish. His last name means "graveyard".

11 June 2007 at 08:35:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

er..."were" no similarities.

(I should proofread before posting.)

11 June 2007 at 08:36:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

thanks for the translation.
i'm wondering what kind of paper the strip must have appeared in (still?). Obviously not the regular family Sunday paper. The cartoonist is the same age as the first generation of underground cartoonists, and that seems to be the spirit of the strip as a whole, from looking at the rest of the book. in fact, Lempi is naked on the cover, but not in the strips (which I should have mentioned in the first palce to head off the discussion as to her sex.
thanks again.

11 June 2007 at 16:48:00 GMT-5  
Blogger drjon said...

Looks interesting.

I'm a bit of a Moomin fan myself, but I imagine, if I was a Finnish cartoonist, I'd be pretty pissed off with people saying "Oh, you're a Finnish cartoonist? I just *love* the Moomins!"


11 June 2007 at 21:56:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finland! Went there twice and still can't get over it after all these years.
The Stripdagen Haarlem 2006 presented Finnish comics as well, so I went there and got to buy an graphic anthology, Glömp6. It's really a nice one :)

12 June 2007 at 05:49:00 GMT-5  

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