In our house, BBC Radio 4 is on almost constantly. One encounters little gems, like this one quoted below, on a daily basis. The programme is still available for five days on the iPlayer (works from abroad for radio, but not TV). The series is called Parting shots. It has been compiled from the very candid despatches that UK diplomats had to write when leaving their post, until the year 2006.
These very undiplomatic summaries by ambassadors were of course never intended to be broadcast on the radio, but the programme team has managed to unearth them by appealing to the Freedom of Information process.
Here’s a wonderfully indiscreet report by a diplomat who left Helsinki in 1972 (as transcribed by me):
It could plausibly be argued that it is a misfortune for anybody but a Finn to spend three years in Finland as I have just done. Even the Finns who can afford it are happy to make frequent escapes to sunnier climes. Finland is flat, freezing, and far from the pulsating centres of European life. Until yesterday the country was only inhabited by peasants, foresters, fishermen, and a small class of alien rulers who spend most of their money elsewhere. The rich cultural past of Europe has left fewer traces in Finland in the shape of public and private buildings of quality than anywhere else in the Western world, except perhaps Iceland.
Finnish cooking deserves a sentence for itself for its crude horror. Only the mushrooms and the crayfish merit attention.