Friday, July 18, 2008

An interruption to the Norway business...

An interruption to the Norway business...

Just to say that - all being well - I am currently in a field in Suffolk non-stalking Carol Ann Duffy and Martha Wainwright. Hopefully my beautiful flowered tent has not collapsed and my eyes have not been blinded by the sight of Dean's yellow wellies.

I shall be back next week!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Norwegian Scenarios: Bergen, Part One

Norwegian Scenarios: Bergen, Part One

The unexpected is seeing a trail of colour in the distance and wandering towards it in the late evening sunshine (for it is never truly dark). And, when you get there, it is being told that this is an art installation, on steps in the middle of the town, where people are being encouraged to fill in a coloured square by completing the sentence 'If I created the world...'

Obviously I took about two hour and wrote an almost-novel ("Is there going to be a PTO?") because, with that kind of power, there's a lot that could be done. And, c'mon, I'm not exactly known for my brevity.

"We were supposed to take them down today" the woman on the makeshift information point tells us. "But so many people have asked us to keep them up that they're going to stay until it rains".

This being Bergen, which rains on average 275 days a year, this may well be sooner than we think but, for 24 hours at least, our words occupy a space in Bergen's fabric.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo - Bergen Train

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo - Bergen Train

Maybe the train ride between Oslo and Bergen isn't actually on the list of 'things you should do before you die' but, if I had my way, it would be.


Well, maybe because of this:

Or this:

Or, with 'Mr Brightside' filling your ears, this:

Given that the train ride was almost seven hours long and required us being at the station at 8.00am the journey was surprisingly incident free. I was given the job of removing American tourists who could not read carriage numbers from our seats (level of disdain, quiet high). More embarrassingly my selection of 'Mmmbop' proved to be, beyond the giddiness and the loudness and the in-jokes, the thing that caused the two Norwegians who were unlucky enough to have seats opposite two of our group (one of whom was reading a Norwegian language version of Wuthering Heights) to move elsewhere in the carriage. What can I say? They were obviously not fans of mid nineties nonsensical pop.

As we couldn't get out and play in the snow - or, indeed, stop off two hours or so from Bergen at Flam for some flan (as became the running joke, spoilt only by the fact that Flam is actually pronounced Flom) - I shall be adding at least part of the journey to 'things I should do twice before I die'.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Four

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Four

To continue the reasons for 'why Norway?' I am happy to present (Lovely) Tour Guide's discovery:

That would be eplekake. Which is apple cake to you and me. You can ignore the funky fanta as I suspect that ingesting it would cause you to glow in the dark. Given the fact that there are few things in life I like more than a pudding I was more than happy to indulge in the local delicacies. This particular eplekake was purchased in Frognerseteren, the last stop on the T-Bane line (and slightly higher up than the Ski Jump, fact fans) with views that made the eplekake even better.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Three

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Three

"Can you smell something?"

I breathe in deeply.

"What's cooking?" I ask as the smell of burning fills my nose.

"What's burning in a wooden building?" History Boy proffers, which is probably, all told, a more pertinent question.

Clearly there is only one way to find out. History Boy climbs into the hut and I follow. Not that I am sure what I will do should we find a proper fire given that, between the two of us, we have half a bottle of water and no grasp of the Norwegian language. Marshall an evacuation of the site, maybe.

"Ah..." I hear.

I walk into the main room of the hut, darkness and smoke clinging to my vision. I can see enough, however, to be able to tell that the fire is firmly under control and there for demonstration purposes. Ye Olde Norwegian had to cook when they weren't making up stories about trolls, after all.

"And you thought there was a proper fire" I say, dipping my words with as much mockery as I can muster and gently forgetting the fact that I had harboured similar ideas too.

History Boy takes a fool-proof approach to getting me to be quiet and picks up his camera. I immediately disappear out of shot.

When I arrive back, blinking, into the outside light it seems warmer than when I went in. At this rate I shall be slightly pinkish by the end of the holiday.

"This way!" History Boy says.

I know immediately what is going to happen. He is going to make me climb a hill.

I take a deep breath and prepare myself for the inevitable indignity. I am wearing a white skirt, after all.

I fumble my way up the path that isn't really a path.

"If I die..."

It is only mildly melodramatic given the likelihood of my tripping on one of the many exposed roots and plummeting down the slight incline.

"I'll continue to the Church".

It is nice to know that I shall be mourned.

This continues for a couple of minutes, my stopping the melodrama only because I need to concentrate on not losing my footing. Eventually, when this off-roading malarkey has almost passed its sell-by-date, the trees clear.

The Stave Church rises in front of me and it is as if we have suddenly been hurtled backwards.

I open my mouth to say something, but, somehow, the words fall away.

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Two

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Two

Bob Dylan's voice drifts down the corridor as we step into the 1960's.

Having almost gotten caught up in a faux-village wedding, complete with traditional dress, History Boy and I are now in the upstairs of a large house that seeks to transport you through Oslo in various decades of the past century. My biggest excitement has been reserved for the Ibsen-esque 'Doll's House' section, which, even without the literary connections, is clearly screaming out for a bit of dressing up. Whether my current companion would have indulged such tendencies is another matter entirely.

I poke my head into the main bedroom. There's a dressing table exactly like the one my Grandmother used to have which is odd if only for the fact I would not have thought of encountering it in Oslo.

Distracted, I hear History Boy's voice from the doorway of the next room.

"There aren't many museums where you'd get a recreation of a teenage boy's bedroom complete with a pin-up magazine".

I poke my head in the doorway. There, half tucked under the bed, is a vintage copy of Playboy. Educational, I'm sure.

We exchange a look.

"You've got to love Scandinavia".

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part One

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part One

We scramble up to the top of the hill, Oslo to our left, the harbour to our right, crowding around the first available hole.

"Beer! They have beer!" I hear Bourbon say.

I look up. It is true. At the other side of the fence there is a truck filled with beer. Normally this would be of little consequence to me but I have overly developed empathy and am feeling the pain of certain members of our group.

"There must be some way of getting in".

For we may have stumbled upon a music festival in Oslo but Glastonbury security it certainly isn't.

Sadly, after some wandering, it becomes clear that the only possible means of getting under the barrier is at the one patch of ground that is water-logged. Whilst I may have already climbed into a fountain today I do not intend to lay down in a puddle.

None of us have shown enough inclination to go through the hassle of climbing either under or over the barriers, we go back down the hill, the sound of Sebastien Tellier in our ears.

In our over-excited absence History Boy has used his time for something other than taking embarrassing photos of us and found a bar on a boat. I approach the matter with something resembling mild apprehension. The notion of anything on a boat is always appealing. The reality that almost always results in my feeling sick isn't.

Regardless, I climb on.

Immediately I wish I hadn't. My stomach tells me that I have about ten minutes before I get to cement my reputation for being sick whilst on outings. Beer or no beer I shall not be drinking.

Thankfully, it quickly emerges that I am not the only one who is having problems with the boat, and the decision is made to leave Traveller and History Boy to beer and motion sickness whilst we buy ice cream (which are positively cheap in Oslo, thus making them my drug of choice for the next few days) and wander to the end of the pier.

Sebastien Tellier, oblivious to us, is still singing, a mixture of French, English and Italian drifting through the air, complete with some rather disturbing noises than provide us all with a little bit too much information. There is being caught up in the music and then there is this.

Though it is almost 11.00pm there is still no need for cardigans, coats or even my pashmina. Looking out across the water it is undeniable - Oslo is beautiful. So beautiful that if I could press pause and stay here forever I would.

"Why Norway?" Bourbon says, the question that we have all heard, and joked about, without ever having come up with a concrete answer.

I wave my ice cream, a nonchalant shrug to the world.

Wordless, Oslo provides the answer.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Don't Even Get Me Started On How Much A Glass of Wine Set Me Back In Norway

Don't Even Get Me Started On How Much A Glass of Wine Set Me Back In Norway

We are seated around a small table in Sela, all the nicer as it is some months since we have ventured here, getting caught up as we have in 6.00am finishes at Reform and '90's nights at Fab. It is just under 24 hours since we arrived back in Leeds and, propelled by the intimacy of the last week, we have decreed it impossible not to spend another night together. For reasons that none of us can quite work out (my inability to eat adult sized portions has been something of a running joke) I am so hungry that I have just purchased a curly wurly.

Bar Boy sits down at the end of the table and places his drink down. He looks proud.

"Do you know how much this cost?"

We shake our heads; History Boy aside, our group's knowledge of beer pricing is not exactly first rate.

"£2.80". It is accompanied by a satisfied smirk and a sort of glow fills our table.

It is clear in all our faces (I alone have drinks three and four lined up in front of me) that life may not get better than this.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Once Upon A Time In Norway

Once Upon A Time In Norway

So this is the blog you were supposed to read last Thursday:

Hopefully as you read this I am in Oslo, basking in the sunshine and not getting drunk because of the price of alcohol (£5 for a beer! If I drank the stuff it would be enough to make me teetotal). How I have ended up in Norway is really testament to the power of getting tipsy on your birthday, saying you'd like to do something and then people actually going through with it several months later when entirely sober and faced with the aforementioned bar prices. Obviously I love them all for running with my ramblings, something I shall say now whilst I still can as, after six days together, the chances are we shall be arguing about more than just whether Oasis count as an example of the sublime. Undoubtedly I shall come back with motion-sickness stories and, possibly more informatively, something about the seven hour train ride from Oslo to Bergen which I am sure is one of the train rides that you should take before you die. Or at least that's what the Norwegian tourist board will have you believe.

Only I got busy with packing and no one wanting to sell me motion-sickness tablets and having to fill in some forms and tick boxes and some how the choice ended up being whether I stuck that blog up or whether I actually got to Norway. And, as much as I love you all, Norway won.

I am back now, though, with a new Norway pen, sunburnt feet (it was 30 degrees for almost the entire time we were there, as a result I have a slight pink tinge as opposed to my normal translucent colouring) and a sore side because I laughed so much it hurt a little. As you may have guessed there are blogs to come but for now I have a suitcase of dirty washing, a lot of facebook photos to go through (where I, undoubtedly, will be talking with my hands) and some memories to quietly smile about.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

These Streets

These Streets

Thirty minutes to occupy, I start to walk.

It is not that I am going anywhere or looking for anything in particular, more that I wish to add my footsteps to the path and see if they stick. Metaphorically that is, because sticking feet in literal life can never be regarded as being a good thing.

The road winds, filled with cars and noise and inner city bustle. There are numerous shops, all rusted shutters and peeling paint; other than the Sainsburys with its starkly bright signage, I have yet to see any which are part of a recognised chain. As the road forks I see a large club proclaiming the acts which will grace its stage in the coming weeks. I think it safe to conclude that it is a faux-Green Day who will be appearing.

As the shops start to thin out I glance backwards and realise that, hardly noticed, I've been walking up a hill. Looking where I know the river must be I can see London rising. The Gherkin, the only building I can positively identify, glistens. To my untrained eyes the view is so incongruous that I almost have to blink. To be within touching distance of all that, a green light at the end of a dock, whilst remaining here amongst the cracking tarmac and ageing light.

The first splashes of rain fall on my head and I start to re-trace my steps, emptying my head of the city and the streets and pouring in instead words and names, catalogued for my own pleasure. I wonder if I should be more nervous, more preoccupied with the hoops I may have to jump, than the streets I have just walked. Maybe there is just a little bit of arrogance in my stance, testing this place not for whether it wants me but for whether I want it.

I do not need a love affair, I have Oxford for that. Maybe this place suits this desire.

Five minutes early, I press the buzzer. The door opens and, careful to wipe my feet, I step through.