Swellboy on… Helsinki Airport

Our man has a magical encounter with Finnish fauna at baggage reclaim

Image: Brijesh Patel

I have seen many things in my 50 years, but I am delighted that the world still has the capacity to surprise me. I had landed at Helsinki Airport and was sauntering through baggage reclaim when my eye was caught and then forcibly held by the luggage carousels. It would simply depress me to calculate how many hours of my life I have spent waiting in front of a parade of almost identical dark nylon wheeled duffel bags beset by the slight anxiety that my luggage might have been sent elsewhere. However, Helsinki offers a baggage-reclaim experience that should be copied the world over. It features the sort of decoration that would not look out of place in a Victorian museum of curiosities or a gallery of contemporary art… depending on your viewpoint.

The central island of each luggage belt was crowned with a display of flora and fauna. I like taxidermy, but had rather given up on seeing it become a feature of air travel. Yet here it was. The large white rabbit looked as though it had been stuffed mid-leap; the beaver was standing on its hind legs with all the anthropomorphic inquisitiveness that one might see in a character from the oeuvre of Beatrix Potter; and a rather fearsome animal that I later learnt was called a raccoon dog seemed so lifelike as to appear to want to escape from the transparent plastic case in which it was displayed. The only slight letdown was the fish, which had, so I recall, an overly varnished quality to it.

Given that I was in an airport in a Scandinavian country, I tried to imagine how Tyler Brûlé would react to such a sight. But, alas, such an envisagement proved beyond my meagre mental capacities, so instead I reacted as I would and immediately thought of ways that this promising start could be improved upon.


Among other things, I was in Finland to prepare for my moose-shooting exam, which so far as I could tell involved shooting at a paper outline of a two-headed moose – a sort of bicephalous Scandi-style Cerberus. As it presents a fairly large target, even I managed to locate it and – thanks to the impressively light carbon-fibre-stocked Sako rifle – was (mirabile dictu) actually able to hit it. Apparently the exam has got a bit easier, as one no longer has to shoot at a moving moose. However, just for good form I had a go at the moving target and found that by aiming at its beard and moving the gun at roughly the same speed I could occasionally score a hit.

All of which bodes well for a return visit to Finland during the moose-hunting season and my triumphant journey back to Helsinki Airport dragging one felled moose behind me for mounting in the baggage-reclaim hall.

For more outlandish taxidermy, see our man’s account of the ultimate diorama, complete with predators clashing over a walrus.


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