I arrive in Helsinki on a cold November night, more than a little tipsy from my ritual abuse of airline hospitality. If there is free wine to be had, you bet your arse I'm going to have it, even if it means theft from the trolley, because I've been deemed a risk to serve any more alcohol to (we'll save this story for another time).
Once through airport security I make way by bus to the city, before catching a tram to the Eurohostel. After checking in, I head out into Helsinki to see what it's all about (nothing much, as it turns out). It's a dark, dreary Monday night, and it appears that the whole of Helsinki has decided to stay indoors (and I can't say I blame them). Upon finding a suitable eating establishment, I take a window seat, so that I can sit and watch the world go by, whilst stuffing my face with pizza, and keeping my wine buzz alive. Suitably fed and watered, I try in vain to find anything that stirs my excitement level.
An hour later, I've procured 4 more bottles of wine, and I'm back in the hostel's 16 bed dorm, trying to find someone to share a drink with.
Gunter, it turns out, is a German fella, who has been living in the 16 bed dorm room for the past 6 months. He came to Helsinki with the sole purpose of finding a Finnish girlfriend, and to enable him to do this he has immersed himself in learning the language. It only takes a short conversation with Gunter for me to detect that he is a little on the anal side. His possessions are fastidiously laid out around his bunk, and his little corner of the dorm is an oasis of organisation, in an otherwise jungle of chaos. To say that he is not somebody that I'd normally choose to get further inebriated with, is a vast understatement, but such is my desire to find a drinking partner, that even Mother Theresa would have sufficed.
At first Gunter does not seem overly enthralled to be drinking with me, but when he realises that I am offering free wine, the miserly bastard changes his tune. Within half an hour he has loosened up a bit, and is helping himself to my stash in a very liberal manner. The cheeky sod is even offering it to the others in the room. Once he opens up, there's no stopping him, his lips become looser than my own after 2 beers (and that's saying something). Within 2 hrs we are getting on like a house on fire, and I know his life story. I also know his future plans. Mainly that he is very happy in the Eurohostel, and he intends to stay there until he has mastered the Finnish language. The usually reserved Gunter, tells me all the great things that I should see in Helsinki, and offers his service as my tour guide the next day. I am now his new best mate, in fact we are so solid that he can't stop hugging me.
As often happens when I'm drinking wine, I wake up the next day without a clue how I got myself to bed. On the nights when I hit it particularly hard I just pass out where I sit. It's not been unknown for me to wake up sitting upright with the glass still in my hand. Being one of those annoying people that never gets a hangover, I can easily remove myself from the sofa and go about my normal daily routine, as though I hadn't consumed a month's worth of alcohol units in one night. This night is one of those nights, although I some how make it to my lower bunk bed.
A few hours into my drunken slumber I'm awoken in the most intolerable manner. My body is being used as a punch bag, by an extremely angry person, who I appear to have pissed off in my sleep. Not being a person who is accustomed to being woken up in this manner, it takes me a good few seconds to work out what is going on, and another few seconds to work out the identity of my sleep saboteur. To my surprise it is my new German friend, and ungrateful recipient of more than half of my red wine, that is beating the living shit out of me. Before I have any time to respond, Gunter presses his face right up to mine, and bellows the words "YOU'RE FUCKING SNORING MAN!!" right into my ear. He then regains a modicum of self control, whereby he refrains from bludgeoning me, and shamelessly returns to his own bunk. Wow! I mean, really! How badly must I have been snoring to prompt such a dramatic reaction? Poor Gunter must have reached his German tether. He must have literally been lying there stewing over it for hours, before launching an attack on the hand that had earlier fed him. Well, either that, or he's a complete prick, and battered me as soon as I started snoring. With my attacker safely tucked up in his bunk, I return to sleep.
When I wake up the next morning I'm reminded of my early morning battering by the tenderness of my beaten body. As I get out of bed and head for the toilet I note that Gunter's bed has been vacated. And by vacated I mean everything, his entire possessions have gone. I can only assume that Gunter has been wrapped in guilt for beating up his new best chum, and decided to scarper before I woke up. Either that, or he couldn't stand the thought of another night with a human elephant as a sleeping partner.
With all our lovely plans that we had together being washed away in one irate beating I decide to head out in Helsinki to make my own entertainment. And quite wonderful it is too! But this story would be boring if I were to tell you about all the lovely museums I visited, or how I sat in a coffee shop, staring at the harbour, whilst contemplating life. You don't need to know all of these boring details do you? No, we don't I hear you cry! We want to hear about your further misadventures, and about how you came to be sat in a sex shop at 3.15 am, off your face, watching premiership football with a bunch of leather clad transvestites. Yeah, of course that's what you want to hear, and that's what I'm going to tell you about.
Preliminary research on Helsinki means that I'm informed that the area of Kallio is the place to head for a night out. This area, which was originally a working class neighbourhood, has been transformed over the past 20 years, into a vibrant place for hip young people. Definitely a category I fit into, I would say (takes tongue out of cheek). I head to Kallio on tram number 9, and immediately find a cool looking bar to get the night started.
I sit at the bar chatting to anybody who'll listen to me, whilst drinking pint after pint of Karhu. By the 5th beer I'm half cut, and suitably lubricated to try and find a night club. Upon spotting a bunch of hip looking young people I head over to where they stand, and ask them where I should be heading in Helsinki. The group seem eager to chat, and happy to inform me of places that I should go, They also inform me that all the clubs in Helsinki close at 3 am on the dot (a piece of information that I refuse to believe). Recognising that one of the group appears to be off his head, I enquire if he's been taking drugs, and if so, what he's on. To be honest, a few seconds observation of the way his mouth contorts as he attempts to answer me, ensures that he needn't answer me at all. This kid's on ecstasy for sure! I wait for a few minutes whilst he manages to communicate this information to me (whilst I'm secretly urging him on). A further few minutes of slurred communication, and I believe that he's offering me one of his pharmaceuticals. An offer I can't refuse!
Thirty minutes later, and I'm floating through the streets of Kallio, making my way back to Helsinki to find a night club. I forgot to mention that it's snowing, and it's not exactly a sprinkling - I'm in the middle of a fucking blizzard. Such is the pleasure that I'm experiencing that I couldn't give a monkeys about the adverse weather conditions. The driving snow enhances my pleasure if anything, making my senses feel alive. The walk back to the city probably takes me around 30 minutes, but in my head I've teleported there. And before me I see the neon sign of a nightclub, glimmering, beckoning me to come in, tempting me with the pleasure of loud music, and the possibility of female flesh. I'm sold! Lady Moon here I come!
Everything about the interior of Lady Moon resembles an 80s disco in England, from the billowing smoke machines, to the chrome plated bar, and full length mirrors that litter the place. The mirrors are so plentiful that it takes me a while to realise that the other 20 bald men in the club are in fact my own reflection. Such is my state of mind that I'm on the dance floor in a flash, and busting some moves to the pounding beat of 80s cheese. I'm raving, lips pursed and arms aloft making the T sign to all around me (Tuuunnnnneeeeeee), only it's not a T- une at all, it's Madonna's, Papa Don't Preach. But I don't care, I'm having it large on a Helsinki dance floor, whilst the snow swirls in the streets outside. This is living!! Before the song is up I notice a chick on the other side of the dance floor giving me the eye - or at least I think she is. Adapting my moves to a manner that enables me sidle through the crowd whilst maintaining an air of cool (absolute twat to anyone but myself), I edge towards her. Our eyes meet, or at least I think they do, but by the time I get to her she's embracing the real object of her desire. A Finnish hunk that's at least 15 years my junior. Oh well, never mind! The DJ is pumping out The Locomotion, it's time to raise my hands in the air again, in an act of worship. I'm full on raving to The Locomotion, and it feels wonderful.
The clock turns to 3 am, and is if by magic the place empties. Surely this can't be the end of the night I think to myself, there has to be somewhere else open! I'm surrounded by thousands of people that are so drunk that they can barely stand up, and they all seem to be heading through the snow in the same direction. I manage to find a slightly less drunktard that I can communicate with, and he tells me that the only place open till 5 am is a sex shop, which sells beer. Once again I'm sold! I head off in the direction he points me.
Just as I'm beginning to have doubts that I'm going in the right direction, I see a flashing red neon sign in the distance. I've never been so excited to see a sex shop, since, well since the last sex shop I saw actually. But this one is different, this one is going to offer me alcohol, as well as sex contraptions, and paraphernalia. My aims are to prolong my evening, enhance my buzz, and to talk the ear off anybody that will listen. As I enter the door to this seedy den of inequity I'm convinced that my targets will be met. I am not to be disappointed!
The first thing that strikes me as I enter the shop, is that I'm the only non-transvestite in the place. The room is only about 10 meters by 10 meters, but within its close confines lies a plethora of sin. I notice that a group of 4 people occupy a table, which is located beneath a large television. The table appears to double up as a make-shift bar, with a cool box full of beers underneath it, and a box full of cash lying on its surface. A blond wigged transvestite, with ridiculously oversized botoxed lips notices me staring, and beckons me over. He thrusts a beer into my hands, and shouts something at me in a language that I don't understand, but I assume is Finnish. When he realises that I haven't got a clue what he's talking about, he repeats in English "This one's on the house darling, the rest'll cost you 4 euros each!" The other occupants of the table urge me to sit down with them.
My appearance at the table arouses the interest of all the transvestites in the shop, who crowd around to converse with the new flesh in town. I'm surrounded by a crowd of around 8 full on trannies, who inundate me with questions. Where are you from? How old are you? What brings you to Helsinki? What football team do you support? This last question takes me by surprise. I'm not going to lie, I wasn't expecting to be talking football with a bunch of transvestites in a sex shop in Helsinki. The adverse weather conditions in the street outside, and the fact that I'm off my tits only adds to the weirdness of the whole situation. And as if this situation could not get any stranger, above me the TV (that's television, not transvestite) is blaring hardcore porn. It's not even gay porn, it's full on heterosexual porn. As I chat to them about my divided support for Manchester City, and Burnley FC, all I can see is a pair of testicles slamming into swollen labium. The sound effects that go along with this, do not lend themselves to a conversation on premiership football. The conversation goes as follows; "Hi, I'm Frans, I support Chelsea", "Hi I'm Aleksi, I support Arsenal" - but all that I can hear is some bird squealing in orgasmic pleasure, whilst the owner of the soon to explode bollocks, groans his way to the money shot.
These guys know their stuff. They seem quite unperturbed by the scenes of carnal destruction that's going on above our heads, as they talk seriously about David Beckham's halfway line wonder goal for Manchester Utd, in the 1996 season, or Wimbledon's unbelievable FA defeat of Liverpool in the 1988 FA cup final. By the time the sex shops calls last orders at the cooler box, I've become quite accustomed to my surroundings, and a little saddened to bid my new friends farewell. As I make my way through shelves full of plastic phalluses, and skin mags of every description, I'm followed by a legion of my new transvestite friends, who take it in turns to shake my hand and wish me well. I reach the corner of the street, and turn around to wave a final goodbye to my football loving transvestite chums. Aleksi, who is clad in a tight leather mini-skirt, fishnet stockings, red high heels and a revealing top, steps forward from the pack, raises his arms in the air and bellows at the top of his voice "AR - SE -NAL". My evening is complete.