I did read Matthew Naylor going on about sauna in the last issue of FW [21.03.08]. Fascinating to see how a Brit reacted to a very normal Finnish activity. The way I read it - the culture shock was overwhelming.
Basically sauna is designed for cleansing and relaxation. It is ofter referred to with similar reverence as church - it cleanses both the body and the soul. It is one of the corner stones of a healthy society.
Finland is not a classless society - but it thrives on equality. One place to demonstrate this is in sauna. All arrive together with nothing else but what mother nature was willing to give us. No pomp of car, suit or expensive shoes. It puts a female on equal footing with a male, the road sweeper with the boss. All that counts is wit [in Finland the ability to express yourself with the least number of words possible] and tolerance to heat on the top shelf. People learn to appreciate each other for what they are, not what they earn.
Another healthy outcome is males mixing with females in a non sexual manner while naked. The recent survey in the UK showed that majority of people think a woman showing flesh in public is responsible if she is raped. In Finland showing a bit of leg and a bit of cleavage is just party clothes - invitation to share any more than a passing look is communicated with totally different means. It also means that girls and boys know what a naked person looks like - no need for experiments behind the bike shed. In statistics terms Finland has one of the lowest rates of teenage pregnancies in the world, while the UK is the leader of the pack, in the most negative way.
Finns gladly invite all guests to join sauna. We think it is one of the best joys of life and within healthy social boundaries. However, despite some gentle teasing it is perfectly OK to chicken out. Making sauna to a weird experience with sexual undertones is very bad sport indeed and will forever taint one's credibility as a balanced person in the Finnish society.
We have one too. At the moment it is still sitting on a pallet in the workshop but it will be going one of these days [i.e. the day we can agree where to put it]. Hisself likes sauna but is not comfortable about sharing with lots of people. He says so and is excused. As my mum says "These foreign men cannot help the weird upbringing they had."
What can one then say about sauna without offence? We women tend to moan about what it does to hair, many a column has been written about the pros and cons of heat treatments. Men tend to concentrate to the technical side; is a real wood oven better than the new electric models, where to get the best stove stones and where one can gain access to an old fashioned smoke sauna.....
I will return to the title later on but first of all I want to celebrate the fact that our family has returned to normal. We are relaxed, No5 is relaxed and even the dog sleeps with both eyes shut. We are so normal that I have even joined Hisself to a farm walk nearby.
That was on one of the rare days when snow had dusted the ground and the world was glittering in the spring sun. Temperature was around zero and felt positively arctic with a gale force wind whistling from the North Sea. We had no option but to take No5 with us. I have taken a lead from the native African customs and carry my youngest wrapped neatly in a five metre long piece of fabric. I feel positively an earth mother doing it, but wearing my extra large winter jacket I think the look is more like Uncle Fester from the Addams Family. This far people have been too kind to pass a comment.
The day itself was organised by SAC and turned out to be one of the best for a long time. When the information got too much into detail there was plenty of prime cattle to admire [No5 loves cattle] and it was all planned around shortish walks between interest points. I managed surprisingly well with my load, but truth to be told got left behind at the last half mile. It was up the hill and against the wind and after three hours I was not quite at my best.
Hisself is planning some building work this summer and got an invitation to visit a farm not too far away to see similar work being done. It was the first dry day after a wet spell, so too wet to get on with any real work. At 10 am I suggested it would be a good day for being away. No, Hisself was busy. By 11 he had changed his mind. 11.15 he decided to go after lunch. 11.30 he wanted a packed lunch. 11.45 he wanted to eat his lunch early before he went. So we had a picnic at the kitchen table. I am telling you, even my newly returned relaxed state of mind was getting slightly frazzled by now......
After being cooped up in the house for months it was a treat of a drive. On the drier ground the spring work was in the full swing, sun made an appearance and the roads were still quiet. There is something so sooting in the Scottish countryside with quiet roads and nothing but tractors in sight. That is before the Season begins and all is ruled by the speed of endless caravans fighting over the road with equally endless rows of motorbikes.
Back to my title. It has all to do with No2 [daughter] signing up to a months trekking in South America in 2009. It is through school and they are supposed to raise the necessary funds themselves. As the cost is on the wrong side of £3000, there is dozen of them going and all of them come from our little community of 5000 people I could spot a plea for money coming my way in near future.
Faced with the fact that I was going to be forced to part of large amount of money whether I wanted or not I employed my daughter as my cleaner. I must say, the house is sparkling and I no longer need an excuse to keep unexpected visitors outdoors. Finally I have joined the ladies who can say "I do not do dear, I have someone who does!"