And then it was time to go home. I can’t believe how quickly my week in Finland has flown by.
After all that waiting, all that anticipation, all the expectation, you could easily imagine that this past week with real live rally cars in Finland could easily have been a little bit of a letdown.
Actually, no you couldn’t. It wasn’t ever going to be anything other than the quite magnificently exhilarating experience that it turned out to be.
Kalle Rovanperä’s youthful exuberance and precocious abilities on Monday, Sébastien Ogier’s ruthless and precision masterclass on Tuesday, Elfyn Evans making increasingly rapid progress on Wednesday and the whole week topped off by a breathtaking display of low level flying by Ott Tänak through Ouninpohja on Thursday.
And what an absolute joy to be back working, bringing you guys all the news, all the action and interviews and a little bit of the flavor of test week here in the Jyväskylä countryside.
So today was the long journey home.
I’d dropped Once-Cool cameraman Heikki back at his place outside Helsinki yesterday evening and stayed the night in a hotel not too far from the airport.
It was the first night of the Midsummer holiday I told you about yesterday and as you can imagine there was plenty of celebrating going on. My room was adjacent to the terrace and the hotel had put on some special entertainment for the guests.
Sadly it wasn’t a big screen with rally cars on it, no, it was Helsinki’s very own version of Charles Aznavour. And boy, that guy sounded like Finnish crooning royalty. He warmed up with what I assumed were a couple of local folk staples. The crowd were riveted quite literally to their seats. The only action from those watching was the regular right hand motion guiding the glass of merry juice to the mouth.
Quite undeterred, the King of the Crooners ploughed on and as he hit top gear with a medley of Elvis songs, in Finnish obviously, I found myself out on my balcony, glass of wine in hand, humming along. I might even have been swaying to the rhythm, but I was definitely not dancing.
But then Crooninen changed gear again and I’m not sure if Charles Aznavour ever exhibited a diva side, but boy, a full on Finnish version of Adele’s Someone Like You and my new favourite Finn looked and sounded like he was auditioning for Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
I was actually singing along now – far too loudly. And getting more than the odd look from my neighbors on the next balcony. But still absolutely no reaction from the audience on the terrace. I was wondering where Croonimakki was getting the energy to keep going from. So I asked my neighbours, who strangely seemed a little wary of me: “Are they actually enjoying this?”
“Oh yes, they’re loving it,” came the reply. “This is the perfect music to drink to and not have to talk to your partner”
They’re a strange bunch the Finns, but I love them.
And you’ll be pleased to know I gave Finland’s King of the Crooners a hearty cheer and resounding round of applause as he left the stage and joined the almost comatose crowd in a celebratory Midsummer beverage.
So that was my last night in glorious Finland.
Back home today through a deserted Helsinki Airport to Heathrow and two weeks of quarantine. A very small price to pay for what has been the most memorable of weeks.
Night night rally friends, it’s been a joy.