Some of the things that I adore probably make me deeply uncool, but in an odd way, that just adds to the appeal.
I can be taken in by nostalgia. It seduces me with its texture and make-believe of How Things Used To Be. One of my favourite nostalgia universes to inhabit is the late 1950s/early 1960s. Something about that time speaks to me. I have a feeling it's a combination of what was on TV at my grandparents' house, how Helsinki looked when I was a little girl and how browsing through the old family albums always seemed almost tangible; like I could climb in and be a part of that black and white scene.
And something else. There is something else.
I've always been a bookworm. More so when I was younger (sadly, the demands on my time in adulthood have been so numerous that books have become a little sprinkling of flavour rather than the main course. I plan to remedy this. So I should if I really am serious about writing).
My maternal grandparents represented security and family in the absence of those attributes from my real home life. I spent most of the school holidays at their flat in the small ex-military railway town of Kouvola, in Eastern Finland. Both of my maternal grandparents were originally from Karelia, an area of Finland that was lost to the Soviets during the 1940s.
Back then, as a child, I didn't really discriminate when reading. It was a case of "what seems to grab me" versus "what I am supposed to read" and so I read children's books, young adults' books, adults' books, everything. Science fiction drew me in, as did adventure, as did young adults' detective stories (the latter of which I remember as being overly hammy and pre-digested, but fun to read as a child).
At my Finnish-Russian language school, I was forced to memorise Tolstoy and Pushkin and Dostoyevski in the original language and got my fingers rapped, or left to stand in front of the class with the words choking inside my throat if I didn't get the lesson right, so an escape to Mars where blue-skinned alien vixens tempted a weary war veteran, or to be an observer of a hilariously absurd logical argument between two absentminded scientists, or to laugh at the fat Gaul who fell into the magic potion was an illicit escape into pulp and I loved every minute of it.
When I steadily worked my way through the shelves of Kouvola library, I digested Vonnegut, Heinlein, Burroughs, Clarke, Asimov, Lem... Asterix, Tintin, Lucky Luke...
... but I didn't discover the Inspector Susikoski novels by Mauri Sariola until my teens were over and twenties just starting. It was a time of big changes and perhaps I needed something solid to cling to; perhaps I just chanced upon a dog-eared copy in a second hand book shop; I actually don't remember the first encounter, but I know this - from the moment I set eyes on Inspector Susikoski, I fell in love.
The character's charicature-esque monosyllabic representation of a Finnish male stereotype, but without the over-indulgence, with an air of refinement that no real person could attain. An introverted investigative genius whose methods of crime solving seem (and are) formulaic, thus predictable, thus comforting in their own delicious way. The old tempo of the Finnish language - these stories were written in that golden era when people didn't speak in books the way they did in real life and vica versa.
The golden era when Helsinki looked sleek and sophisticated, barely out from under its Swedish and Russian shadows, but growing an identity of its own. There weren't too many people yet, there weren't all that many good services yet either, but under the stone facades hid excellent restaurants and cultural treasures. Everyone took much more care over their appearance then in the society of today and hair, clothing and footwear were much more carefully thought through and proper, somehow.
The reality was most likely quite grim in comparison.
Nevertheless, I've since collected Inspector Susikoski originals and reprints and have read and re-read my copies many times over. Apparently there's been a new reprint of collected works (four out of print novels in one book) out this year. I wish I'd checked the status of Susikoski reprints when I was in Finland recently. I'll have to get it when I next go over.
Later, in my mid-twenties when already in England, I caught my first episode of Columbo (Peter Falk). I'm sure the show must have aired in Finland too, but I'd never seen it before coming to UK. Columbo was like an American Susikoski! Well, a little more fatherly, a little less monosyllabic, a little more neurotic, but the core character seemed so familiar and attractive that I was sold, hook, line and sinker from the first "...just one more thing...". I try to catch every re-run on TV and once all of the series are available on DVD, I will definitely snap up the entire package. Inspector Columbo has kept me company for many days and I love him dearly.
Much later, it occurred to me that there was one last Inspector in whose company I could satisfy my urge to visit Nostalgia land. I'd almost forgotten about him. Inspector Palmu, depicted in the novels by Mika Waltari, had become a kind of crime fans' cult classic in Finland and the film adaptations of the novels were now available on DVD. By now I'd spent so many years away from Finland that the Nostalgia land seemed almost more real than the one I'd actually left behind. Through the Palmu DVDs I'd have a window to an aesthetically appealing, comforting place and I wasn't about to miss that chance.
When I realised that I'd quite like to get hold of an Inspector Palmu DVD, I was in no position to aquire one myself because such things didn't seem to be available on mail order from Finland and I was not able to, or planning to go there for a while myself. Enter a fortunate sequence of events, and my (now) fiance Timo brought one back from a trip to his cousin's wedding.
I've now collected almost all of the Palmu films, having just brought back one more from the recent Finnish trip.
So, as always, I'm tempted to analyse. Do the three inspectors represent nostalgia for a way of life that never really existed anyway, aesthetic appeal for design, architecture and dress sense, not to mention the attraction of an entertaining crime story - or do these central characters have something in common besides the obvious? Could they represent the father I wish I'd had instead of the drop-out from art academy, turned alcohol abusing police officer?
Who can say.