Who put the "No" In Nokia?

I just realised that the first part of this diary could be exactly the same as the one I wrote for Joe & Sue!

Up at 3am ... etc ... because I am taking the same flights to get to Helsinki. But I feel better this time. Monica and I sat on the terrace and finished a bottle of red wine last night and, not only was this very nice, but it put paid to my silly plans to try and get some sleep! I think I tried too hard last time.

Miguel Angel, Monica´s younger brother was ready at 4am to drive me to the airport and, at that time of the morning, there is no traffic so it only took us 25 minutes. This meant I had loads of time. It is a real pleasure (and I should also say, a privilege) to fly in Business Class.

It really makes life easier from both a personal and practical point of view but I never again want to feel as I once did .... that it´s an entitlement!

Flying as much as I do with Iberia and other airline members of the One World Alliance, I always try to make the most of the air miles, points and other perks. These partnerships are not perfect but the loyalty programs help frequent travellers like myself a lot. There is generally a fast track lane for security for example and it makes life simpler when trying to board with one of my guitars. And there are other useful advantages ....

My Iberia card helps in many ways but I remain convinced that it´s your attitude that is most persuasive. And, as I have mentioned before, a smile goes a long way too. I suppose it´s all part of being considerate and compassionate towards others, an important quality and one that needs to be worked on continuously, at least in my case.

The departure area at Alicante airport was its usual, colorful self. I watched with mixed feelings as I saw two large English gentlemen swig down their cans of beer at 05:30. Maybe that´s all they drink but my feelings were mixed as I remembered how, in my former life, I might be doing something similar (or worse) in order to satisfy my addiction!

And I know that most of the people there are returning home from their holidays. I haven´t had a holiday in a very long time but I seem to remember that the day it ends is a sad moment. So they try to match outfits and they wear silly hats and the new "me" says God bless them as they prepare to return to reality.

They push each other around in luggage carts as if no-one ever did it before and their Mickey Mouse ears serve some purpose known only to themselves.
Some of them wear clothes that are a few sizes too small but ... live and let live I suppose.

Anyway, my bags are (hopefully) on their way to Helsinki and I am sitting here in seat 2A on the short hop to Madrid. There I will try to be more considerate (and maybe even generous!) towards the people in the Business Class lounge than I have before! I did it!! I was nice and they were too, well, except for the one guy who is probably not happy in his job and, anyway, I was nice to him too!

Now I am in the lounge where all the food and drink is complimentary and I had to jump in here and tell you what I just saw ... there is a young couple in here and they just went to the buffet area and filled a backpack with water, chocolate milk and snacks. Not one of each mind you, as much as they could cram into that big backpack!! Now, I know you pay a premium for a business-class ticket (unless you are a flight attendant flying on a pass) but this was ridiculous and I am happy to say that I couldn´t do it!

Come to think of it, the girl´s nose was bigger than mine!

Anyway, now I am on the Finnair Airbus A321 en route to Helsinki where, (did I happen to mention?), it is 17°C!!

I have lots of space, the flight attendants are professional and pleasant, lunch was decent and the lady in 2A had obviously had a "lip job". I honestly don´t know why people do this stuff! I was discussing it with Monica the other night while she was colouring my hair ... why can´t people just settle for how they look naturally?

And she had big .... nah, they´re probably fake too!

I didn´t bother with the usual step of "identifying" my food before I ate it! I just went for it ... I was hungry. Mystery meat, some sliced potatoes, mystery fish on a not-so-lavish lettuce and cucumber salad, topped off with chocolate cake with lime filling and covered in a chocolate sauce that was so thick and sticky that you couldn´t leave your fork in it for fear of it becoming mummified!

Throughout all of this the flight attendant kept bringing me water and white wine. I am sure he liked me ... much more than I liked him!

Oooh .. now the captain is speaking over the PA in Finnish. Funny thing is he sounds exactly the same when he tries to speak in Spanish and English. I still don´t understand a word he is saying .... maybe he likes me too!

Time for a nap!!

Everything in life is temporary!!!

One hour later and we are starting our descent into Helsinki!!

Finland, the land of a thousand lakes and 5 million mostly nice people with very beautiful hearts. Steve was there when I arrived and so was the camera crew who will be filming most aspects of this weekend from which we will prepare a documentary film.

Paul, Lee and myself only get together once or twice a year to do this so I wanted to get it on film and have it for historical (hysterical?) purposes.

We spent the first night at the airport hotel where we had a nice dinner and a relaxed evening.

Day 2:

Grateful for a good night´s sleep. I know this will be a gruelling weekend and I want to be ready! After breakfast we hauled our stuff downstairs and waited for the cars to arrive, one of which contained Lee. Seppi was already there and Tuija, Matti and Lee pulled in at the speed of light! I later found out that Tuija always drives like that.

Anyway, we were soon on the road for our short trip to Salo where the "Easy Livin" event was to take place. It is organised by fans of ours for fans and I have to say that Juhani did a good job, considering he had to pretty much go it alone after the Carballo people pulled out. It´s really too much for one person though and we all had to pull together to fix the small things that matter so much. Well, there were some big things too, but he persevered and hung in there when it might have been easier for him to bail out so he has to get credit for that.

We checked in and went for some lunch and met the fans who had already arrived by bus, car, train and plane, some from as far away as Moscow which is 1,500 kms!! Nadia, Anastasia and Katrin had come from St. Petersburg and even some of the Finnish people had travelled 9 hours by bus. They deserve the best we can give them!

My dear brother Trevor arrived and our team was almost complete.

After my siesta we all strolled together over the bridge to the fairgrounds next to the river, where we received the keys to the city of Salo from Ante, the mayor. This was very nice and very special and I was almost lost for words ... but of course not totally!

Salo has taken quite a hit recently with the collapse of Nokia which employed just about everyone there. A sad tale of a company "resting on its laurels" actually, while the rest of the tech´ world passed them by and quickly left them behind. Now everyone in "Nokia-Land" has an iphone!

So we played them Lady in Black, they all joined in and then we headed back to the hotel for dinner. The weather was fine and our spirits were high. The restaurant had a nice outside dining area and it was pretty packed already. Lots of hugs, lots of photos, lots of stuff to sign and lots of people wanting lots of time to chat ..... a sign of things to come.

The festivities began in earnest as the drinks flowed freely but I knew I had to watch it and hoped the other guys would too. So I said my goodnights and went to Wonderworld!

Day 3:

Today I have to teach my songwriting class so, as I sit here in my little room (with an ash tray!), I am thankful for a good night´s sleep. I had prepared a worksheet to act as a guideline and some other support documents that I thought would make the class time fun and productive, so I headed down to breakfast and enjoyed a giggle with Trevor and Steve.

We had around 30 people in the class-room and I did get my apple! Two of them actually. We followed the program, took a lunch break and then worked on creating some music based on Liisa´s lyrics. Her lyrics were more prosaic than poetic so we had to do some structural work first and that meant extracting parts that could be used to create a song, or at least part of a song.

I really challenged the class to do this because I wanted them to experience it all and they came very, very close. As we were running a bit close to time though, I decided to sit at the piano and try to finish it. It actually worked and we ended up having created a beautiful chorus, as follows ...

"I will always remember you
With a tear and a smile
(´cause) Here in my lonely room
You will always be mine"

Lisa wrote her lyric in memory of a painful, personal experience and it is to her great credit that she was willing to share it with us and allow us to work on it. One day I will record it and give it to her. That´s a promise!

It worked well and it ended well. We took the class photo (thank you Esa) and returned to the eating area where the spirits were flowing freely ... again.

Eric was here now so he, Phil, Lee, Paul and myself headed to Minna´s Blue Moon studio (thank you Susanna) for "rehearsal". We needed to clean up some intros, outros and harmonies, problems that we had identified at Joensuu. We accomplished this and fine-tuned the set list so we headed off for dinner.

By now the hotel was really crazy with bands preparing to play and people arriving all the time so it was noisy and it was fun. But I was really concerned about being in good shape for tomorrow night so I didn´t linger too long.

They tell me it was loud and very late and they tell me it was noisy, but I am thankful I didn´t hear a thing!!

Day 4:

Show day! We had to sound check first because we were playing last, so the day shaped up perfectly. Breakfast, to the venue for sound check, lunch, siesta and ..... the big show!

We dealt with some challenges (the acoustics of an empty sports hall was one) and got to a point where we felt things were basically okay and went back to the hotel. To be honest, we didn´t do a very good job of remembering what we had rehearsed yesterday and for me that was a bit disappointing. And I also think we could have been a bit better prepared personally but hey, maybe I take things too seriously.

I enjoyed a long siesta that included a really weird dream, but I had plenty of time to shower and get ready, say my prayers and be downstairs in plenty of time. Everything was ready at the gig and I guess we were as ready as could be expected.

The show started well enough but, well, let´s say that it could have been much better! It ended up as a "compromise" in many ways and that´s not something I do well at all. But the crowd loved it and the job was done. Next time (if indeed there is a next time) I want to give them so much more because they deserve it!

Back to the hotel for what was the highlight for me. Playing with my brother Trevor!! He did a couple of his songs alone, I joined him for one then we stumbled through some more until we decided to quit while we were ahead! This was so much fun for me and I can´t explain the emotions I felt just being there on stage with my brother. Now he has a lot of fans he didn´t have before and that makes me happy.

I didn´t hang around, I went to my room to enjoy the moment in peace and I am glad I did.

Day 6:

No pressure today. Just have some breakfast, film an interview with Trevor, say goodbye to a lot of good people and head for Helsinki airport, where I would spend the night and rest for my flight tomorrow. I am tired now. It was a tough but delightful weekend and I know I will be even more tired tomorrow, so dinner and a glass of wine and then off to bed.

Day 7:

After an early breakfast I went back to bed, got up again and finished packing. Mika Jarvinen was on his way over to chat about the book he is writing and we covered a lot of ground in the two hours we spent together. But it was soon time for me to catch the shuttle to the airport and start my journey home Helsinki airport is not very big and it always surprises me how many varieties and types of people there are there, especially a lot of people from Asia.

And of course they all wander around with no particular sense of direction or purpose so they just get in the way and it frustrates me to the max that people can be so totally inconsiderate. But I found the lounge and the smoking area and did my best to focus on other things.

Speaking of lounges ... There are several airlines in the so-called One World partnership and they are supposed to co-operate for the general good of their customers. Finnair and Iberia are members of this alliance. I was flying to Madrid on Finnair but my flight had an Iberia code and, according the girl at reception, this meant I couldn´t use the Finnair lounge! I am certain that she was mistaken but I will have to check because, after all, it is called ONE world!!

The Finnair people were great, but their Business Class is really rubbish! It is nothing more than coach with a blocked centre seat. I need to take all this in and work with my travel agent friend Roland to try and avoid it in the future. I don´t pay for my plane tickets but, in terms of value for money, this is not good.

I am in 2F, a window seat. 2D is home to an apprentice Sumo wrestler who is reading a book about how to pick up girls in other countries. I am not lying! I couldn´t make this up. He obviously comes from a family with money but that has not taught him anything about basic manners, courtesy or politeness. He sits there in his bare feet, just being ... obnoxious. That´s the only way I can describe it.

(I am happy I grew up the way I did and that I had parents who taught me solid, basic behavioral skills, even if I forget them occasionally!)

So I will go to Madrid, wait a couple of hours and fly to Alicante where Monica will be waiting for me. I have some days off and I need to re-charge my batteries. I hope I can but my birthday is on Friday so I may have to wait until I get to Bulgaria!

Thank you Salo and a big hug to everyone who was there!

God bless,