Free & Pirate, circa 1980s

In Memory Of Free, From A Pirate

a young pirate took to the seas
With a compatriot
a guy whose name really was ‘Free’
except he didn’t make it…
captured, as he was, by the ocean
and the young Pirate was me…
that’s why the name stays
in honour of a friend, taken by a storm
a long
long time ago
in those darks days
of splintering, crashing wood
water gushing in
a friend stretching out a hand
then water sweeping him away
…water sweeping him away
and if you ask me if it feels like yesterday
‘yes,’ I’ll say
and I will smile wistfully
for the seas we shared
and the nautical miles
…and the nautical memories
they run deep

Free & Pirate, circa 1980s

Free & Pirate, cigar in mouth, circa 1980s

I miss ye, Free, ye bastard, even if you’d cuss me out for saying I do.

Latvian Līgo! ~ Nudity, Fertility, Lucky Jāņi and Morning Dew

Despite the best enticing efforts of my Light from Latvia, I have become reticent to attend one of the initially most appealing of world festivities. There are a few, scattered here and there on this globe that we should all see once, or twice: The Rio carnival in Brazil, Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Novruz in Tehran, the Octoberfest in Munich, San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain, with the running of the bulls, Dia de los Muertos in Mexico City, the Holi festival in Mumbai, Festival of the Sun, Lima, Peru,  St Patrick’s in Dublin, the water festival in Bangkok, to say nothing about the quite intriguing penis festival of Kawasaki, Japan, and therein lies my worry:

- she did try to tempt me with tales of young maidens running through meadows nude to paint their nakedness with morning dew as part of the Līgo!, the Latvian Summer Solstice celebration, lasting 3 days long, {from 23rd June to 25 June} and as careful bait added that men called Jāņi (Iain is my 2nd name, a Scottish ‘Jāņi’) received special treatment on that day, getting to wear a thick crown of oak leaves and receiving particular attention, during this festival of fertility, from Latvia’s nubile finest.

a ”Jāņi” and nubile bystander

So basically I was imagening this in the build-up to 23rd-25th June:

Collecting fresh morning dew

But, when  went to Latvian websites to search more about the Latvian Līgo! summer celebration, again and again I got details about men swimming together naked in lakes and rivers during the Līgo!, and got this:

Hey! Where’s Jāņi?

Suddenly, my enthusiasm started waning, slipping away from me…positively dropping…I mean, meadows have flowers. Lakes and rivers…well…mud.

One day I will celebrate the Līgo! though. When I’ve plucked up the courage – as apparently it doesn’t quite end there, according to the online brochures, as women sometimes sit and watch as the men take their communal dip.

The Līgo! is a somewhat mystical celebration, with according to ancient traditions couples search for a legendary fern blossom, with magical powers of fertility, as well as apparently washing faces in the grass`s morning dew, and gathering herbal plants which are said to have a special attributes during midsummer.

The festival is not modern, and the Līgo! Summer Solstice or Jāņi celebrations date back to Pagan times. Bonfires and other rituals were not only part of annual traditional celebrations, but also manifested the unity of cosmic and earth order. Jāņi is specifically the celebration of the longest day and shortest night of the year, as well as the name of a few particularly happy Latvian men.

Back from the meadow

Jāņi is also closely connected to the countryside – everybody tries to at least spend the day and/or night outside a residential area, drink home made beer, and hopefully tea, and search for that fern blossom in forests – a handy excuse if I ever heard one.

Expert Fern Blossom Searchers

Towns have the parades, dancing and specially-prepared foods, and as evening draws near, people are drawn to large bonfires, warming themselves around the fire, playing games, dancing and importantly, observing traditional rituals such as jumping through the fire to guarantee prosperity and fertility, as well as other activities until the sunrise. Hopefully fertility is still not on the agenda as I have a sneaky feeling I can’t keep up with that pace!

Dancing continues throughout the day…

”Where’s your Jāņi?”
”He’s swimming nude again, with friends!”

”Still swimming?”
”Yep!”

Young Jāņi

Not tea
For a taste of Latvian singing, in a beautiful atmosphere, please do click on this video – its a therapeutical sight and sound!
Click on Ligo Haibun Challenge on the list above, at the top of the page

My First Nude Sauna

“First we get naked but not for sex, and we drink beer, but not to get drunk.”

Silence.

Here I was, giving safety training to Gulf Air pilot and cabin crew trainers.

I had them each give a presentation in the first couple of days to let them show how they got a message across to a group of people. They chose their topics. The air stewardess from Finland was next. Her presentation on that great Finnish institution, the sauna, was met by rapt attention.

b_sauna

Fly Finnair

When I met her again in Oulu, in Finland last year, it seemed natural to finally have that sauna……so through thorough lack of popular demand, here are more details from my first nude sauna.

I say first nude because my first sauna was not nude and in fact was, according to the red-bearded companion who specialised in this particular form of torture; an Irish sauna. The key difference lay within the bottle of Irish whiskey, which was used to pour onto the hot coals. Instant drunkedness – hot whiskey fumes breathed in, followed by relatively quick sobering up as the alcohol was sweated out.

Only once was enough. Not once a week, as my Irish friend did. Just once.

However, for reasons of  general education, I must inform all that the nude sauna done Lappland style has a fair quota of embarrassing stages, as itemised below.

1. As illustrated in our picture. Say no more.

Obviously not a version of the Highland Games..no kilts, and no cabers to toss..

2. Back in the sauna again, after a freezing dip in the snow, and at -18C, it is freezing. But unfortunately I cannot confirm the nude sauna is a good place to go to feel at ease, when sitting opposite a svelte Finnish air stewardess, after prancing around in the snow at goodness knows what freezing temperature. It just isn’t. Can’t quite place why, but when sitting opposite a person of the opposite gender of such appeal, one does want to look at their best, not frozen second best. Or third, either, for that matter.

3. And may I add that men running out of a sauna naked, diving into snow has limited sex appeal. I can just feel it. There is something the gals don’t find attractive about shrieking men…

4. Sitting naked with a beautiful nude air stewardess does have certain benefits for your health. Being flanked by two large local lads, elbows and shoulders touching, also quite naked, doesn’t.

5. Being red, gasping, sweaty and hot when the locals suffer calmly shows a certain lack of style. Getting up to get fresh air for the aforementioned reasons, tripping a bit and sliding a touch against the aforementioned elbow-touching gentleman, so that my private parts grace his knee cap somewhat caps the embarrassment scales.

6. Having a gorgeous nude Finnish air stewardess giggle at you in the sauna for the aforementioned somewhat doubles the embarrassment level.

So if you are to embark on such an odyssey as the nude sauna, choose your companions carefully.

She was nice though.