Do you ever think about what your specialist skill on Mastermind would be? Well, for me the choice is obvious: The release dates of Pop and Rock songs from 1988 to date.
As you can imagine this lifeskill has opened many a gilded door for me. Once, when visiting my friends Hanne and Roque in Dubai we even landed a second prize in a pub quiz on the back of my correctly having identified the release year of Alanis Morrissette’s Hand in My Pocket as 1995. There may have been only four teams, but we got the free chips, so.
I often struggle to remember what I did the night before (though somewhat less these days), so I feel immense admiration for my brain synapses that on this morning’s dog walk accurately placed Roxette’s Fading like a Flower (blasting out of what could only have been a Swede’s Volvo) in the year 1991.
So, just how did this incredible talent come about?
It was when my childhood friend Kristel decided to play Kylie Minogue’s I should be so Lucky to me on her red cassette player that music suddenly started to play a huge part in my life. I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that it was Kylie (and the whole Stock Aitken & Waterman posse) that got me tapping my fingers and attempting the sideways shuffle, but it was from that moment on that I through historical association curated this verging on a superpower like skill. It was 1988.
The historical association to Fading like a Flower was attending my very first concert with my then best friend Sofia at the most magical venue that I could imagine at the time: Helsinki Icehockey Stadium.
We got special permission to leave school an hour early in order to make it on time to the concert which was a two hour train ride away, but in fact that extra hour was spent French kissing my new boyfriend Tobias on the railings outside the stadium. Tobias lived in Helsinki which meant we only got to see each other on the weekends, so this extra kissy kissy time was quite the treat. The concert itself was mind-blowing for that 15 year old girl, and it spawned a love for live music that has taken me to concerts with many of the greats all around the world.
Fast forward to 1992 and I was living in a student apartment in Helsinki and had made a whole new set of friends. Together we navigated our way through a demanding first year of high school, but also through our first bottle of Liefbraumilch (the cheapest wine in the National liquor store, ‘Alko’), then Blue Nun (at one Finnish Mark more), and, if we really wanted to be fancy, a flat shaped bottle of the sweetest rosé known to man, Matéus, at an additional three Finnish Marks.
At 16 we were all too young to buy booze; one had to be 18 to buy alcohol and then only 21% proof or below. Only at 21 could liquors over 21% proof be purchased, which meant that there were a number of 21% proof sweet concoctions made to appeal to the younger market on the shelves of these shrines to all things boozy.
I am not sure whether it was my loud mouth or the fact that I was the only individual who owned a suit, but I was quickly nominated to be the person to try their luck at our closest ALKO, conveniently located in the same block as our high school. In I went, wearing my shocking pink suit from Benetton (because surely only people over 18 would own a shocking pink suit), pretending to wave car keys in my hand, a black patent leather document bag nonchalantly hanging off my other arm, walking straight to the shelf with the Liefbraumilch. Which I could only imagine was the sophisticated choice of a young executive wearing pink lipstick and smudged eyeliner. But, low and behold: my first mission was a success.
Word soon spread that I had a high hit rate at ALKO, and so, more often than not I donned my shocking pink suit to high school to conduct my work as a booze mule for the underaged masses.
Being underage we couldn’t be seen swigging bottles of alcohol, which meant we had to disguise our drinks by pouring them in to large 1.5 litre containers that had previously held a Ribena type cordial called ‘Mehukatti’ (The Juice Cat). These cat adorning plastic bottles were carried with such pride by the teenagers at any and all high school parties that you would have thought they were Oscar statues. They were passed around with such fervour that if one person at the party had mono, then surely the rest of the attendees would leave with it.
I cannot remember what I thought of the taste of alcohol when I first started drinking it, but I can only imagine that it must have been an acquired taste.
We certainly drank to fit in with the pack. We taught each other to drink. We taught each other to be part of a drinking culture where we drank to get drunk as fast as possible. We held each other’s hair when we threw up because we’d wanted to get drunk as fast as possible. We filled in the gaps for each other when black-out occurred. Unless it occurred for all of us.
It is just what we all did.
And I guess we found it fun.
But I didn’t know of an alternative. Drinking was what adults did, and being 16 I felt like it was my turn to be an adult.
I look back fondly on those days. Those three years spent with my boyfriend and new gang in the capital played out to a soundtrack of Bon Jovi, Tom Petty, Guns n’ Roses, and, yes, Roxette. And they were some of the happiest of my life.
But, will I teach my son that drinking is just what adults do?
No. I will tell him my story, tell him about the fun times and the terrible times. Tell him about the damaging effects of alcohol to both physical and mental health. The stuff that I knew nothing about when I was waving my ‘Juice Cat’ canister in the air.
But, above all, I will show him just how fabulous alcohol-free life can be.
And whilst doing so I may just play a bit of Roxette.