Today we’re on a ferry travelling between Finland and Sweden. It didn’t look so huge a journey on the map but it’s scheduled to take around eleven hours, I guess because, for much of the journey, we’re travelling through frozen sea. We boarded at Turku docks around 7.30am this morning, a ramshackle, sorry bunch, like wordless vagrants, Andy with his pillow under his arm. Between us there’d been little sleep, some less than others, so we all shuffled dark-eyed past the ticket collectors and disappeared into our cabins for more sleep. I awoke from strange dreams and lay tuning into a different kind of movement as this enormous vessel toiled through icy water. From time to time I’d feel an impact, hearing a kind of rumble as we hit a larger block of ice and wondered at the vast, unwelcoming expanse of our terrain.
Helsinki was a quiet but welcoming audience. I think, to be honest, we’d built ourselves up so much to that gig that anything might have been a little below our artificially heightened expectations. It was evident that few had seen Lamb play before and so didn’t know what to expect but, after a few songs and, particularly after “Gabriel” which seems to win hearts wherever we go, they started to show their enthusiasm a little more. It was cool playing a smaller club too; at some points Andy was talking to the crowd from behind his desk without a mic, shouting little asides and generally having fun.
I found myself, as I often do, distracted by a girl and her man right in front of me. She was crying when we first came onto the stage and then, as we played, a smile bloomed across her face. I think they were the most beautiful couple I’d ever seen and I couldn’t stop watching them, especially the girl, whose face constantly went from joy to sorrow and back again, her man gently watching and guarding her. Times like this I find I’m drawn into my own projected stories of these peoples’ lives. There I am singing, moving, playing and all the while I’m weaving scenarios around the expressions of people in the crowd. There might be a sea of smiling faces and then one troubled one will detain me in thought and concern to the extent that, for a moment, I forget what I’m doing there at all.
Of course, as it was Jonny’s birthday, we brought him a cake on-stage and sang him “Happy Birthday” in English and Finnish and, by the end of the show, it felt like we’d made a whole room-full of new friends. Meeting people after the show a woman came up to me and, in impeccable English, told me “don’t be offended when Finnish people are quiet, we’re just a little overwhelmed that’s all and it takes us a while to warm up”. That was the impression I got; people with deep and genuine hearts that just take a little time to shake off the cold. I think somehow we’ll be back soon and next time they’ll be with us all the way.
In this endless ferry journey I think I must have walked the decks countless times, tried every L’Occitaine and REN creme and potion in the duty free shop and, of course written this blog. There’s been some interesting entertainment including a Celine Dion impersonator from Reno who apparently (I missed her show) and quite inadvisedly, considering we’re on a boat cruising through ice, did a version of the song from Titanic. Just now though, I think Andy and I found the surreal highlight of the trip: gazing at the vast icy sea from the front of the boat with the sun setting on the distant horizon and the discordant voices of the Karaoke Tea Dance, sounding like a twisted, Finnish Twin Peaks soundtrack, ringing in our ears.