Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Setting birthday bar sky-high

Happy birthday, Finland! We hope you like your mountain. Photo / AP
Happy birthday, Finland! We hope you like your mountain. Photo / AP

It has been so widely reported Norway is planning to give Finland a mountain for its 100th birthday you have to wonder how they will keep it a surprise.

Whatever else you think of the idea, there's no denying it raises the bar for imaginative gift-giving.

It will be a special morning on December 6 next year, 100 years to the day since Finland gained independence from Russia. Imagine the scene: "Where are you taking me?"

"All in good time. It's a surprise. Okay we're nearly there. Close your eyes. Okay, now over to the window. All right. Open."

"Oh my God! It's a mountain! It's a mountain! It's a mountain!"

Halti is actually one of twin peaks. Finland already owns the other, so Norway is just helping it complete the set.

The gifting will be accomplished by drawing a line on a map so both peaks are in one country. It's not a done deal.

"There are a few formal difficulties," acknowledges Norway's Prime Minister, Arne Sol berg.

She doesn't mean how to wrap it.

And she doesn't seem to take account of the difficulties this will create for husbands all round the world: "Yes, of course I like the pearls, darling. They're lovely. It's just, well, Finland got a mountain."

My own present-buying capacity is pitifully below par to the point that on most occasions my wife will tell me what I have got her.

This year was no exception to a scenario I'm sure is played out in many homes as couples get older together.

First I was asked to get a complete set of Karl Ove Knausgaard's literary barnstorming memoir My Struggle.

His struggle filled five volumes, mine was just beginning.

I got the first four, mistakenly believing she had the fifth. Fortunately, it turned out I could redeem myself by getting a perfume she'd listed at the sort of shop that lets people list perfumes for their partners to buy.

I remembered that two hours into the drive to the destination where we would be on her birthday.

She was philosophically quiet for a couple of days before announcing "Don't bother about the perfume. I've just asked someone on Instagram to crochet a shawl for you to give me for my birthday."

With the possible exception of a few of the South Island's older station-owning dynasties, most of us are unlikely ever to be in a position to give anyone a mountain.

So what relevance does Norway's largesse have for the rest of us?

It reminds us that boundaries over which so much blood has been spilt and so many conflicts still continue aren't real.

They are at one and the same time imaginary and lethal. But there's no need to die in a ditch over them.

They can be changed in an instant with a rubber and a pencil. Also, the idea appears to have all been the idea of one cranky old man, Bjorn Geirr Harsson, 76.

In the age of Donald Trump, 70, it's good to know old men can do more than spread hate and fear.

Nations getting on to this extent is inspiring. It shows the power of gratuitous gestures.

Norway doesn't have to do this. There's nothing in it for Norway. It's just a nice idea.

Imagine a world of nations and people doing things just because they're a nice idea.

- Herald on Sunday

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