Watching The Apprentice (BBC1, Wednesday 13/11/19) I had to stop myself from screaming "BBQ huts" at the TV!
This week, the two teams were tasked with creating an advertising campaign to promote Finland as a summer holiday destination.
I'm Finnish, you see. I shared Lord Sugar's disappointment!
Team Unison, came up with a campaign to attract young backpackers to Finland and Team Empower, concentrated their efforts on Helsinki Pride. If I'd have been Project Manager, it would have been all about the Grillkota BBQ huts!
Grillkota (BBQ huts) are among my favourite childhood memories of growing up in Finnish Lapland, along with my grandmother's herd of 50 reindeer (which all had names by the way and would come for their food when called!). With twenty-four hours of daylight in the summer, we would stay up late to enjoy the light, and in long dark winters socialising somewhere cosy and warm was a must!
When I was a child, my family and I would venture into the forest and always, somewhere in a clearing, there would be a BBQ hut, just sat there, free for anyone to use. You haven't lived until you've eaten Grillimakkara (barbecued sausages) in a forest. Even when temperatures fall to -20 or -30° with deep snow on the ground, the huts kept the cold out and the warmth in.
Many of them have stood for over a hundred years, some maybe a hundred and fifty, and local elders would point to tall trees in the forest that were younger. The tradition of these Finnish huts goes back even further than that though. They have their origin in Arctic Lapland where nomadic herdsmen would have lived in them and, way back, covered them in reindeer hides for shelter from the elements. You can't get more traditional Finnish than a Grillkota BBQ hut!
Sometimes, when you turn up at a BBQ hut, you might find another family using it. In many countries, probably the UK included, at this point you might say 'sorry kids, we'll look for another' - but not in Finland. Back home, families, often total strangers, use a forest BBQ hut together and it's not uncommon to share each others food. The conversation flows and there's a lovely sense of communal space, literally in the middle of nowhere, right in the middle of a forest. Magical.
As well as the BBQ huts, a network of larger open huts, otherwise known as wilderness huts, also exists across much of Finland and Scandinavia, where you can stay overnight. Imagine how welcoming you would find a wooden hut if you were skiing through the wilderness as night starts to draw in (on those short days with little sunlight), as snow gathers in the tree crowns bending the trunks with its weight and temperatures drop to -32°! There are over 400 open cabins free to be used by any hiker just in Northern Finland alone and these wilderness huts give shelter from the elements. It can be blowing a blizzard outside but inside a hut you can feel like you're in paradise! There's a cosy fire, a place to rest your head and, the best bit, often you find yourself sharing a hut with strangers - new friends!
And this is the trick that Lord Sugar's candidates all missed. With all their clichés about saunas they failed to pick up on Finland’s values of community, of family, of being together. I don't just mean being in the same room together, I'm talking about being in the moment together. You've not truly experienced 'together' until you've shared another family's sausage!
I remember taking my English husband, Gareth, to see my beloved home country back in the 1990's and loving the look on his face as he took in the simple wonder of the random selection of huts, their longevity (in spite of some of the harshest conditions) and the fact that everyone in Finland just seemed to know they were there - almost as if knowing of their presence was part of our shared DNA!
My mother made a suggestion to Gareth that he should introduce BBQ huts to the UK. Of course! This is absolutely what people need in their gardens in the UK! The unreliable British weather, the love of barbequing and the desire for families to spend more quality time together. After seeing the communal BBQ huts in the deepest depths of woodland wilderness, and that every other home in Finland seemed to have one in their garden, Gareth knew the idea was perfect.
Arctic Cabins was born! Since 2002, we've installed thousands of BBQs huts in homes around the UK, and beyond.
Now families in the UK have the same opportunity to be together, really together, in the moment, just like we did when I was a child, sitting in the round, facing each other and listening to the stories of my elders. Throw caution to the wind, invite the neighbours around! Share a sausage (the traditional Finnish pork Grillimakkara sausage with mustard is to die for, by the way!).
Like the BBQ huts back home, they extend the summer by allowing you to enjoy barbequing and a unique dining experience - whatever the weather! Honestly, when the winter is as long as a Finnish winter, you hold on to any remnant of summer for as long as you can. Just like those traditional Finnish huts, they keep in the warmth and block out the cold and, best of all, when I breathe in the aroma of the slow grown spruce I am whisked away across the decades to the memories of my childhood - I can almost hear my grandmother calling those reindeer home for their tea!
So, that’s it really Lord Sugar, next time you want to market how wonderful Finland is in the summer, just be together with your family and friends in a traditional Finnish BBQ hut! Fire up the coals and breathe in the combined aromas of the forest and meat as it slowly cooks on the grill. Look into the eyes of the ones that you love and just be together in the moment. That’s Finland. And that is an Arctic Cabin BBQ Hut.
I bet, Lord Sugar, that Claude would share his sausage with you.
To find out more about Arctic Cabins BBQ Huts visit our Nottingham show-site just off junction 25 of the M1, our knowledgeable team will tell you all about them and if I’m around I can tell you more about Finland! When you call us on 0115 857 2248, we can answer any questions and you can find out more at arcticcabins.co.uk.