IT’S THAT TIME of year again when the press begin to roll out a round-up of the annual top stories. No doubt they’ll touch upon the ongoing financial crisis and the purported recent turn around, the escalating wars, the swine flu pandemic, and here in Finland, the political party financing scandals, to name but a few. But my vote for the story of the year goes out to the strange and ongoing saga of the MV Arctic Sea. The Arctic Sea tale is not just odd by any standards, it represents a whole new kind of story – one in which reality imitates fiction.

There is a clear divide between the East and West of Finland: a cultural line which runs coast to coast from approximately the middle of Northern Ostrobothnia to the middle of Kainuu and east of Uusimaa. In creating a strong culture of their own, the Finns have welcomed and incorporated elements from two neighbouring ones. You can see it in the way they stack their wood piles, how they prepare their evening meal and whether they serve tea or coffee.

FEW of us would imagine that any of the men in our lives could be capable of psychotic behaviour, but chances are at least one or two of them quite possibly are. This would have seemed unlikely to me had I not decided to ask many of my female friends whether they had ever been the victim of male stalking or obsession.

TO my surprise, around a third of the women I asked had been. One friend recently had her mobile phone stolen by her ex-husband, who then texted abuse to the hundred people in her address book. Another came home to find her phone smashed by the boyfriend enraged by her refusal to answer his 10th call of the evening, ...

Humans have used statues for millennia as material manifestations of our love of ideals and other people. We build them and tear them down according to the love/hate switch of public opinion. They all decay over time due to the elements and neglect, but also from losing meaning, purpose, in the public’s mind.

We have statues that are attended once per year in fading memory of The Fallen, so statues to entire groups are not novel. I propose a plethora of statues to a single group, to be placed all through Europe to act as a reminder to future generations of the incredible work achieved by this group. Enduring expressions of artistic applause that show our eternal gratitude to one single generation: The War Baby Generation.

The media is constantly bombarding us with activity options, promptings to overindulge, and stuff to aspire to. I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest an alternative: go boring. There are plenty of advantages to downshifting one’s lifestyle. Putting on the brakes may not be easy, but it’s sure to be more adventurous than it sounds.

Boring has gotten a bad rap over the last half-century or so. There was a time when staying home with a good book was the thing to do. In fact, the book doesn’t even have to be that good. An acquaintance of mine recently sought a suggestion online for a “boring book.” Who really needs to go out to an overpriced restaurant in the first place? And last year’s threads are perfectly fine. Besides, there is not much new under the sun anyway – not much to miss.