Finland – Lapland ~ 2013
You know in The Shining? When Jack Nicholson goes a little bit bonkers (to put it very gently), due to being cut off in the middle of nowhere? And you are left wondering whether the character was always a little bit crazy, or if the icy conditions turned him that way…well yeah, so I used to think that was an interesting story and great film (like the rest of the world!), but I didn’t rank it as a real life documentary study on mental health. That is…until I spent a few months in the wintry tundra of Finland last year…
Let me explain. You see this lodge really was in the middle of nowhere, with snow as far as the eye can see and only a few other buildings in the surrounding area. That means that employees were flown in to an airport in Sweden, and then drove to this log cabin to begin their toil…which was basically slaving away so that rich white people can enjoy a manufactured “get away from it all” experience. An obvious paradox, but that is not what this is about! Anyway, the food there was pretty uninspired, after all the kitchen staff had a limited stock of frozen items and were expected to whip up some kind of Parisian masterpiece three times a day, the guests always complained…I felt like telling them, “listen wrinkles! If you think YOURS is bad, then what slop do you think we get?!” But I refrained, over and over and over again…my fake smile becoming more and more strained as the days went on…
But there was light at the end of the tunnel! I heard that a new head chef was coming, and that he had all of these awards, and used to run a five star restaurant, and could fly, and make chocolate come out of the taps…basically people said this guy would revolutionize things, and we might get something more wholesome than reheated crispy spaghetti from four days ago. I wasn’t going to hold my breath. But you know what? He did! As soon as this cheeky Scottish chappie came bouncing through the door the food was markedly better, it had…it had…TASTE! I am not sure what he was doing, but it was working! By the end of his first dinner time he had already won over our taste-buds and our hearts! But unfortunately…the good times didn’t last forever, it was only a couple of weeks in to his tenure that he started falling apart, first he would scream at the other staff like a Gordon Ramsey wannabe, but then he became more extreme and odd in his behavior…one time he argued with me about the vegetarian option (which was fish?!?!) in ear shot of a customer who had requested it “HUUU IZ IT? THE FAT LESBIAN OUT THERE? SHE’S NOH A VEGETARIAN NEE WAY!” and another time I did a stock check of my bar and noticed two bottles of wine had vanished…I put two and two together when he was an hour late for cooking breakfast the next morning! Then there are the sexist comments, the racist comments, the…okay. There are a lot I could list, but suffice to say that he regularly made the waitresses cry and effectively made a shitty situation even shittier for just about everyone.
He was a prick, basically, but I certainly wasn’t expecting him to turn full scale mad. But one day his walls of sanity came crumbling down before our very eyes…he was late for breakfast as per usual, which is a bit of an issue when, errr…guests at the hotel expect to be fed in the morning…anyway, he started F’n this and F’n that – nothing unusual, sure. But then he decided to tell ANYONE who came in the kitchen to “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FUCKING KITCHEN, IT’S MINE”…well this was a slight issue, as what this Gollum-esque character had neglected to realize, is that waiters and waitresses needed to come in to fetch the food out…of course very quickly there were complaints from just about everyone sitting in the restaurant, both about the fact that they were not getting any form of service, but also about the manically loaded and profanity driven language that was coming out of the kitchen! I’m sure I saw an older couple hiding under a table…and a lady kneeling saying some holy Mary’s. Eventually the big boss was called. You seriously don’t mess with this bitch…I don’t use this term loosely; trust me she was the dictionary definition. She once asked me for water with ice, and when I gave it to her she said “what is this? Don’t you know I want three ice cubes, not four?” Basically, this was set to be an ultimate encounter of the most thrilling kind! “Errr, Chef – excuzzz-“ “GETTT THE FUCK OUTTA MY KITCHEN!”
Excited gasps from everyone. “What?! No, you don-“ “GETT THE FUCK OUT. THIS IS MINE. YOU STAY IN YOURS.” More excited gasps from everyone – possibly an “oooooh!” “I am the-“ “I RUN THIS, THIS IS MY AREEEEEEE-NAH!” And so it went on, until he stormed off in a red faced huff. Afterwards everyone looked very sheepish, and the guests still hadn’t been fed. So what happened? Well, the boss was forced to roll up her sleeves and whisk the eggs and fry the bacon herself! Of course the waiting staff had a fun morning, they shared “OOOOOHHMYGOD” glances at each other and whispered rumors when they had a spare second; it certainly broke the usual monotony of stacking sloppy plates, that’s for sure! But the story isn’t over my friends, not yet! Naturally this guy was fired immediately, I mean it was way overdue, but the bosses were forced to let a lot slide, as it is a pain to get a new chef all the way out to the Lapland wilds! Anyway, I guess this big kick off was the final straw, as they couldn’t not fire him. So as was routine in these situations he was asked to clear up his things and hop in the van with Kosta, who would drive him to Sweden where he would have to make his own flight arrangements…but, you see this wasn’t possible…he said he had literally no money, at all. So what did he do? Did he call someone to try and help him out? Did he apologise and attempt to win his job back somehow. Well, no. Obviously not. Instead, as they neared the small airport he took out his chef’s knife set, unrolled it, and held the largest blade to the driver’s neck… “I’M NOH FUCKIN’ GOIN ANYWHERRRR!”
(Dramatic pause) “I’M NOHH GOIN TILL YA BOOK ME A FLIGH AN GIV ME ME MONEY!” Well…of course he had went insane. Blame it on the weather, blame it on the situation, or errr, blame it on his brain…but either way, this guy had well and truly lost his marbles. But the driver, in a stroke of agility and genius, simply waited for a window of opportunity during one of his garbled ramblings, and slid out of the door – slammed it shut – and locked it from the outside with his keys. Phew, done. Feeling betrayed and even more furious than before, the now imprisoned chef unleashed a second knife, and started to slash violently at the dashboard, the steering wheel, the windows, everything…”RARRRRRRRR, I”LL KILLLLLLL YAHHHHHHH!” All while the Bulgarian driver (who spoke very little English, never mind anything with a thick Scottish accent) watched on, and finally opted to phone the police.
(He never did tell me what he said whilst on the phone to the authorities…I mean…where would you start?!) “Hi…yeah…I have a guy in my van here. Yeah – little worried, he is violently slashing and stabbing at my dashboard…a-ha…that’s right….okay, so now he is biting and wrestling with the air bag…errr…can you come quick? Please?” So anyway, there we have it people! The Shining is real. Jack Nicholson really should be more vocal about it…after all, it could happen to YOU!