Monthly Archives: May 2014

Waxing Fail

For those of you who have never indulged in intimate waxing, allow me to set the scene for you. Imagine if you will your scrotum, if you have one of those, or your labia if you don’t. Now imagine that someone has taken a lollypop stick, and is using it to smear hot glue across the previously established genital area. We’re not talking hot like the volcanic temperatures inside a cheese toastie, but warm enough to be faintly uncomfortable. Then imagine that same person laying a strip of thick paper or fabric over the hot glue, smoothing it out with the heel of their hand, and then ripping it off in the same way that liars tell you is the best way to remove a plaster.

Good. Now we’re all on the same page.

It HURTS. You’ve all seen the videos of men getting their legs waxed for charity and howling like injured animals. That’s a fair representation of the level of pain that waxing brings. Except when you are in a salon getting your parts defuzzed, due to the fact that you have chosen to be there, and you’re dealing with professionals, all you can allow yourself is a wince, and a sharp intake of breath if you absolutely must.

Some people choose not to depilate their private parts because FUCK THAT. It’s an admirable stance, and frankly way more sensible. Choosing to leave everything as nature intended frees you from a) pain, b) expense and c) ongoing maintenance concerns.

If you do go down the waxing route, that shit has to be PRISTINE. You don’t want flaps that look like a teenage boy’s top lip. This normally means a spell in the bathroom with the tweezers afterwards, to catch the last of the stragglers.

Personally, I favour the Shearer’s Island of pubic hair, waxing from arse crack right the way through, leaving a tuft at the front to remind yourself of your adulthood.

Image

Which brings us to last night. It’s been a while since I last went, partly because I have been single for so long that it brings into question why on earth you would even bother, and partly because the lady that I normally go to has been off on maternity leave (once you have let someone loose around your lady parts with waxing strips, you develop a certain bond of trust that makes you less likely to stray towards another beautician). Of course it was painful and inelegant, but less painful than I was expecting and mercifully brief.

When I got home, I realised why it was so brief. It had obviously been so long since I’d been that she had forgotten what I normally have done. She’d done a good job, but a good job on just the bikini line. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the terminology, that’s basically removing everything that would otherwise hang outside your swimming costume.

Not only was I left with a bit more ground coverage than expected, but there was a lot of residual beautician’s wax caught up. If you have never tried to remove beautician’s wax, let me assure you, that shit is tenacious. It’s bad enough trying to wash it off of your skin, let alone anything else. The only option was to cut it out. Thinking about it now, peanut butter might have worked…they advocate it for removing chewing gum from hair… I digress.

I hadn’t really had cause to consider exactly how evil beautician’s wax is, until the point that I was in the bathroom with gluey tufts stuck to my scissors which were in turn stuck to me. The wax was everywhere. I tried to text my sister for sympathy and got the phone stuck to my hand.

You’re not supposed to get into a hot bath immediately after waxing, but it really was the only option I could see. I would like to add an extra ouch in at this stage. Hot water and soap was not having any discernible impact, so I made a decision. I was going to shave down to a reasonable length and then epilate to match the rest of my gleaming crevice.

Yes that’s right I said epilate. If you don’t know what an epilator is, it looks like an electric shaver, but instead of blades, it has loads of pairs of tiny metal plates that open and close to trap hairs between them, all on a rotating barrel that spins around to rip the trapped hair out. If that sounds a bit like the sewer clearing machine from Labyrinth to you, you wouldn’t be a million miles off – it’s brutal but effective.

Image

I am sure that over the course of my life I have done plenty of things less dignified than epilating my crack, but none really spring to mind right now.

Leaving Bergen – 11th May 2014 (Day 4/4)

Sunday broke over Bergen, and I was not having a lot of fun. It was the day that I was due to go home, and I really didn’t want to.

I was actually surprised by the strength of my feelings. I was perfectly familiar with that Sunday discomfort, the one when it’s too late in the evening to really do anything else, but too early to go to bed, and the gathering doom of an incoming Monday makes you want to run around and throw things. This was different. I could feel a pressure in my chest and throat, which meant I had either been violated by a Facehugger overnight, or I was experiencing some genuine grief at the prospect of leaving Bergen.

I had to face up to reality though, and unless I was going to start generating kidneys to sell on the black market at the same rate that sharks grow teeth, I was going to have to go home.

I dumped all of my rubbish in the vast array of recycling bins available (I needed more hands in order to give the appropriate number of thumbs up for the focus on recycling), gathered my stuff together and checked out. Since I still hadn’t realised where my Skyss bus card was, I again started on the walk back into town.

Bergen was really upping its game that day; the sun was pouring over the hills and mountains like honey, but the breeze was cool and crisp, and somehow added a sharpness to focus that was completely at odds with my late night and the previous day’s alcohol consumption.

Image

 

Image

Due to the fact that I was once again not shooting past everything on a bus, I was able to take in so much more and actually capture it. I followed the standard bus route in this time, and spotted something that I had previously missed, on the side of an apartment block. For those of you who have ever played Portal, you will really appreciate this;

Image

I was absolutely delighted by this in particular, and I had a lot of fun on the rest of the walk trying to work out what the actual fuck it was trying to convey;

ImageEverything was doing its best to be as beautiful and as inviting as it could be – including a massive graveyard. I had the sneaking suspicion that someone somewhere was genuinely trying to wind me up.

I sat down on a bench by the lake, with the warmth of the sun soaking into my bones and the beauty of the surroundings making me feel all fuzzy.

Image

There isn’t really a way to adequately express in pictures how I felt about my upcoming departure, but this is as close as I could get;

Image

I eventually headed back to the main street where the shops are – of course they were all closed, but since I don’t like shopping anyway, that was no hardship for me. I was suddenly really excited to find something that I had been keeping my eyes open for since I had arrived – a crow. The crows in Norway are ace, they look like they are all wearing little sleeveless jackets.

 

ImageI then remembered that I had been given strict instructions by a friend at work that I needed to bring her back something troll related. I headed back towards Bryggen, and found the one and only shop that was open – the place selling abject tat to tourists.

There was a troll grotto, with this dude hanging out by the entrance;

ImageI was very tempted – just to see her expression when I wandered into work with it – but in the end I settled on an excessively hairy fridge magnet, and I bought my sister a teddybear moose as well. I might as well have bought a “Yes, I’m a Tourist” t-shirt while I was at it.

The pressure in my throat wasn’t easing, if anything it was getting worse the closer I got to actually leaving. There was only one thing for it – time to employ the tried and tested copying strategy of Distracting Oneself With Alcohol.

As I was walking back towards the centre, a place that had big painted boards up – advertising that they were showing football – was just opening. I took this as a Sign and went in. As it happens, there were some people who managed to get in there before me – two Scots and two guys from Newcastle. I was delighted.

ImageI sat for a while reading, whilst being regaled with Alice in Chains, Metallica and Korn. I couldn’t have been much happier…or much less keen to leave. Eventually, the barman put the TV on and I moved inside to watch the pre-match shows. Man City were playing West Ham (2-0, btw. If you care and don’t know by now, you deserve the spoiler) and everyone was really excited in the build up. I knew that Premiership football translated really well outside of the UK, and that Manchester United had a ridiculously big following across the world, but I had no real idea of the actual scope – it was precisely like watching Football Focus at home. Except with Norwegian accents. Which is horny.

They had dispatched Norwegian commentators to the UK to go and interview local fans, and I split my attention equally between watching English knobends bawling at the camera, reading about Ciaphas Cain, and trying to translate the tweets being flashed up on screen with a disappointing lack of success.

The barman agreed to let me plug my phone in to charge at a point under the bar while I was drinking, which tells me that they are awesome people who deserve more custom… shame I can’t remember the name of the place.

Eventually I had to abandon what had unfolded as a perfect Sunday afternoon, and head off to the bus station to catch the Flybuss to the airport. On the way to the station, I noticed that despite everything else being closed, they were still running buses up to the Ulriksbanen, so I could have gone after all. Tits.

While I was still at the hostel that morning, I had checked in for my flight, and had been about to go and beg the reception staff to borrow a printer, until I noticed that it seemed to suggest you could check in using your mobile phone… I had screen-printed the checking-in QR code to be on the safe side (not trusting the 3G signal one iota, based on previous experience) and when I got to the security checkpoint, I simply gave the nice man my phone, which he waved at a scanner, and I was straight through. Fucking brilliant.

Image

I wasted no time in getting myself some pizza and another beer. The dreadful weight of leaving was beginning to dissipate, in direct proportion to the amount of alcohol I drank. I then remembered that I had also been set a challenge to find the most mind-numbingly boring postcard I could, so I went off on a hunt. Unfortunately, all of the postcards were of gorgeous scenery around Bergen, which blew that plan out of the water. I did however find a travel accessory that caused me to raise an eyebrow.

ImageI am not sure what precisely people were carting about that was uncivilised before the creation of this product, but it amused me to think about what it might be.

As had happened with the flight out to Bergen, I got a text from Norwegian airline to say hello, and to tell me which gate I was departing from. I then got another text to advise it had been changed. LOVING that airline. I am travelling to Denmark in two weeks, and Easyjet have a really hard act to follow.

I boarded the plane, and had TWO spare seats this time. Splendid. While I do enjoy the company of people sometimes, I am largely a misanthropist at heart. I racked up another couple of Carlsbergs and settled in for the flight home.

After the flight landed, I was straight back through Gatwick (I cannot advocate highly enough travelling with hand luggage only; you will not believe that you ever packed a suitcase once you have). The train that I had taken from Bedford to get to the airport in the first place wasn’t available, so I had to get the tube to Euston, and then the overground train back to Northampton. Straightforward enough, but what I hadn’t factored in was the queue to get a ticket. It had genuinely not occurred to me that it might be THAT busy on a Sunday night.

No matter, ticket was bought and I was on the final leg home. Due to the extra time delay buying in the ticket at Gatwick, I had just missed a train home…so clearly I had to go and kill some time in time in the bar at Euston. Clearly.

When I did eventually get on the train – as is usually the case during evening journeys back from London – there were no seats and I ended out sitting on the floor by the doors until we got to Leighton Buzzard. Some very drunk guy left his phone on the seat at Hemel Hempstead, so I did my Good-Citizen-Please-Remember-Me-Kharma-The-Next-Time-I-Am-THAT-Drunk piece and took it with me to hand in at the station.

Both of my phones were utterly dead 20 minutes outside of Northampton, but thankfully my sister had already agreed to pick me up hours beforehand, with a fair idea of when I was going to arrive. They are currently remodelling the train station at Northampton, which lead to a lot of head-scratching before I finally figured out where she had parked the car. Then, very quickly, I was home, slightly drunk, and despite really wishing I was somewhere else, intensely pleased to have access to my own bed again. There are some things that truly can always be relied on.

On balance, actually better than a bunk bed

On balance, actually better than a bunk bed

Traversing Bergen, au pied – 10th May 2014 (Day 3/4)

So, it’s Saturday morning, I’m suddenly awake, and really confused as to why. Then I remember. Oh yeah, I’m on a sofa, which I need to get off of, and I have had way less sleep than is required to function as a normal human being.

I managed to drag myself into the vertical plane, and sincerely hoped my hair was going to behave itself, because I was having no influence on it – partly due to the lack of a mirror and partly due to the lack of giving a fuck.

I have to confess that I was absolutely blown away by Bergen in the morning. It is a beautiful place at the best of times, but with the sun striking off of the rising mist, I was gobsmacked.

Image

I managed to get my hands on a coffee from the train station, which is still very much a morning essential; I have cut my caffeine intake by 90% in the last 6 months, but I am still very much aware that I need it to kick start my day, and I am also still really not prepared to take the chance of a migraine if I don’t drink any at all. Beer, I can go days without if absolutely necessary, but coffee is quite simply a Must Have.

I headed off towards the bus station, and it was at this point that I realised I couldn’t find my Skyss bus card. The really annoying thing about that was that I had put it in a little plastic holder along with my Oyster card (London tube travel card) and also my London-Midland Railcard (30% off rail fares between where I live and London). I stood for a little while patting down all of my pockets, in the same vaguely hopeful sense in which I keep looking at the same lottery scratch card multiple times after I have established that I haven’t won anything – perhaps I missed it 1st time…and 2nd time…

There was nothing for it; I simply didn’t have the bus ticket, and I was just going to have to deal with it. I was however left in a bit of a quandary. If I wanted to buy a new travel card, I would need to get into the customer services bit at the bus station and that didn’t open until 9am, which was over an hour away. If I wanted to have a highly embarrassing conversation with a bus driver about trying to buy a ticket at that time in the morning, then I would still have to sit and wait because the next bus was another 30 minutes away anyway.

The only viable option I could see was to walk back to the hostel, which was straightforward enough if I followed the bus route.

[As it turned out, the Skyss bus pass, my Oyster card, and my Rail Card were all still safely in their holder, but in a tiny little middle pocket on the left leg of my combat shorts – I had obviously thought that I needed to tuck them all away safely the night before so that they didn’t get lost in the middle of jumping around like an idiot. So safely in fact, I didn’t find them until I went to put my shorts in the wash the day after I got home *sigh*]

The walk back to the hostel was in fact really refreshing. The air was clear and sharp, the sky was a beautiful shade of blue, and the mist lying about made everything look almost ethereal at times.

Image

Image

I also got the opportunity to take photos of a load of things that I had seen over the last couple of days, but because I had been going past way too fast on the bus, I hadn’t had a good chance to capture. This is one of my favourites;

Image

I eventually made it back to the hostel for about 9am, which is frankly not unreasonable, and left me plenty of time to grab some breakfast. I am not going to revisit the breakfast, because it was precisely the same as what was there the day before, with nothing exciting to make it in any way remarkable.

I shuffled back to my room, divested myself of my clothes and crawled into bed. I was so tired, but I have a major problem with sleeping. If I could have crashed immediately, I probably could have been up and at ’em in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, I lay awake, looking at the ceiling, wondered how the fuck some of the stains got up there but then deciding not to consider too closely. I was aware that I was wasting daylight but I was too knackered to do anything about it.

I eventually decided around 2pm that there really was no way I was going to sleep, and I should just get up, get on it again and fight through. I showered, dressed…and proceeded to walk back into town. I had decided by this point that I wasn’t spending any more money on bus fare, it was my own fault I’d lost my pass, I knew where I was going, it wasn’t that far, blah blah blah, happy days.

I thought that I would get a little bit clever on the way in, and see if I could find a quicker way. I have a reasonably reliable internal GPRS system, which only seems to be foiled when I am inside shopping centres (I managed to get lost in a Debenhams store in the Milton Keynes shopping centre about a year ago. It was terrifying.) I took a little bit of a punt and took a slightly different route towards town, going around a lake instead of through an industrial section.

The lake itself was really pretty, boats moored here and there, a couple of railway tracks running down one side… and an inordinate number of people jogging about. Either jogging about, or cycling in one-piece Lycra bodysuits and streamlined helmets.  I began to wonder what exactly I had wandered into, but I managed to get out of the way before the sweat and endorphins started to upset me too much.

I ended out roughly where I expected to be, fairly close to the bus station. Buoyed by my success, I again decided to take a different route through the town itself. There was a whole section where the buildings looked really Meditteranean, and I am sure there is some interesting history to be told there. As I meandered through the backstreets of Bergen, I made a few minor adjustments according to what felt familiar and correct…and ended out right back at the front door of the Garage bar, approaching from the opposite side of town.

I am either instinctively drawn to beer-vending establishments, or I had taken in a lot more subconsciously over the previous couple of days than I had thought. Whichever was correct, I took it as a positive endorsement of writing off the rest of the day and getting back on the Brooklyn again.

I had originally made plans the previous evening that I was going to visit the Ulriksbanen on Saturday, since it had been highly recommended, but I had abandoned that idea due the time of day. I’d also missed out on seeing the castle, but I took both these things firmly as an excuse to come back again in the future.

I had noticed there was a guy somehow linked to the bar who looked like Socrates from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and I spent a disproportionate amount of time trying to get a photo of him. He was quick on his toes and didn’t sit down very much, but I did eventually manage to snap this.

20140510_202239

It was around this point in proceedings that I remembered seeing a message on the Garage’s facebook page the previous day, inviting everyone to come down and watch the Eurovision Song contest. Now, being from the UK, I am automatically slightly dismissive and condescending about Eurovision, mixed in with a teensy little bit uncomfortable and embarrassed. It’s like being a pubescent teenager at a wedding disco; a bit uncomfortable watching your Mum grooving away in a circle with the rest of your elderly female relatives, at the same time faintly envious of everyone enjoying themselves dancing to Diana Ross, but way too self-conscious to get up and join them, until they finally play “Jump Around” 5 minutes before all the lights get switched on.

I was completely under-prepared for the sheer enthusiasm rippling through the pub as the Eurovision coverage started. I couldn’t quite believe how excited everyone was, and it wasn’t until later in the evening that someone explained that Carl Espen who was representing Norway was actually from Bergen.

Carl-Espen

As with anything that involves any minor element of competition and being able to root for an underdog, I found myself getting caught up in Eurovision fever. I really quite liked the Icelandic song, and of course was blown away by Conchita – I don’t care what anyone else says, I totally would; pretty dress AND a beard?? Winner! And frankly, anyone who pisses off Russia is a friend of mine.

On the few occasions that I have watched Eurovision in the past, I have ended out developing a vested interest in a couple of countries – normally not the UK (last year, it was a bit of Hungary but mostly Greece, with a cracking tune called Alcohol Is Free that I still really like…) – and then I end out getting overly stroppy about the political voting that goes on, and finish the evening in a disappointed huff.

As the competition unfolded and I was making my judgements and drawing my affiliations for the evening, an extremely attractive young man bought me a drink over and drew my attention away from the cheese-fest. It is really not very often that people I don’t know actually come over to talk to me. At least, not people who aren’t crazy…or trying to talk me into joining a group who play Indian Dhol drums…or convince me to come and smoke weed with them because I’m reading a book… Especially not people who are fit and come bearing beer. In response to this unusual and delightful situation, I decided in my infinite wisdom that what I really needed to do was get some pizza and go home. Fucking idiot.

One thing I learned on the way back to the hostel is that Bergen gets really quite dark at night…

It's a fountain. Honest.

It’s a fountain. Honest.

I ended out missing a turning and going the wrong way, resulting in an hour’s detour through a housing estate and some rather pleasant hospital grounds – or they would have been pleasant under different circumstances. I couldn’t check where I was because the fucking 3G disappeared AGAIN. To say I was not amused would be somewhat of an understatement.

I did however remember there was some kind of mast on the mountain behind Montana. I managed to pick it out by the big red light they conveniently stuck on the top of of it, and used it to orientate myself and get back to the hostel without any further incident.

…in retrospect, I probably should have gotten a taxi.

TrollfesT, shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

TrollfesT are:

Manskow (Accordian/Bouzouki)
Trollmannen (vocals)
Lodd Bolt (Bass)
Dr.Leif Kjønnsfleis (Guitar)
Drekka Dag (Saxophone)
TrollBANK (drums)
Mr.Seidel (Guitar)

Image

Where do I start explaining how amazing TrollfesT are? I know! The same place as I always start – on a slight tangent.

First things first, if you have never seen an 80’s film called The Dark Crystal, you need to go and stand in the corner and think very hard about your life. Then go and watch it.

There is a scene in the film where the main character has to choose between three very similar crystal shards to determine which one is the missing piece of the original, and which he will need in order to make the Dark Crystal whole again. He plays a chord on a set of pipes, and the resonance of that chord causes the real shard to glow and hum in response. That is precisely what happens to me when I listen to TrollfesT. Their music produces the same resonance inside me, and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and happy.

As for why it appeals to me so much, it’s the gathering together of so many different elements that I love all together in one place, in one band.

In the 2002 film Queen of the Damned, there is a scene where the vampire Lestat joins a young gypsy girl in playing violin on the beach, and as soon as I heard it, I was utterly enchanted by the sound. I was fascinated how an instrument that I was really familiar with could sound so very alien. Ever since then I have been really interested in the sound of foreign musical scales and instruments, and how the WAY something is played can sound like a different PLACE.

I have a bit of an odd taste in music at times, but in my heart I am all about the metal, and the louder and harder the better. Drums will always be the best part of metal for me; double bass drum purring is one of my favourite sounds, and makes me go a little bit weak at the knees. Add on top of that some hard and heavy guitars and bass, and I am sold.

TrollfesT have taken these two elements and blended them together into True Norwegian Balkan Metal. The very first time I heard them, I instantly knew that this was something special and I knew that I had to hear more.

One of the things that I very quickly found with this band – and something else that is massively important in my life – is that they are absolutely hilarious, and never fail to make me laugh. Manskow has a Youtube channel that is jammed full of music videos and tour diaries and I can happily spend a whole evening watching their exploits and laughing my arse off. There is a genuine sense of fun and camaraderie that comes across in everything they do.

The first thing you see when you open the booklet that accompanies the Brumlebassen album

The first thing you see when you open the booklet that accompanies the Brumlebassen album

One of my personal favourite moments is the triumphant solo in ‘Hevlette’ from the Brumlebassen album, which makes me giggle like an idiot every single time I hear it.

All of the TrollfesT albums are stories, featuring the exploits of different recurring troll characters, and each album has a different theme. Even without immediately understanding the words, the music always paints the scene, and then what normally happens for me is that I start looking into the lyrics – and end out falling about laughing. Although the overall style has varied slightly from album to album, I have yet to hear a track that I do not like across the 6 albums that I have.

I had their latest album Kaptein Kaos on pre-order, and it arrived on 27th March…and it has not been out of my car stereo since. This is now two months later, and I have not become bored of listening to it. I still grin whenever certain tracks start up because of the rush I get, and if I happen to arrive at my destination with one of two particular tracks playing, I still cannot get out of my car before they have finished. I am aware that I do get very caught up in music sometimes, but TrollfesT seem to have a special way of enveloping you with sound.

As someone who has the same level of musical ability as your average garden shed, I am constantly blown away by the sheer diversity and volume of musical talent that is ploughed into every album. It wasn’t until I sat and watched the behind the scenes videos on the making of a couple of the albums that I truly began to appreciate exactly how many different elements they build into their music. Not only are the band themselves massively talented, they have a huge pool of other musicians that they draw from, both in the studio and on tour.

(In both of the shows that I have been to, they had the amazingly talented Sareeta playing violin for them, who just so happens to be the sister of Lodd Bolt.)

Yet another thing I love about TrollfesT – which I understand equally makes them inaccessible for some people – is that the lyrics are largely written in Trollspråk, which is a mixture of Norwegian and German. For me, part of the joy is sitting down with the lyrics sheet and translating what I am hearing. It’s like reading a book at the same time, with the story unfolding as I work my way through it. Songs written in your own language can just kind of HAPPEN to you without you really having to get involved. For me, investing the time and energy into understanding what I’m hearing makes for a deeper and more engaging experience.

Their live show is something else as well. I’ve seen them twice in the last 6 weeks, and they have been two of the best gigs I have ever been to (bearing in mind that I have been going to festivals and concerts for the last 28 years, that really is saying something). The sheer chaotic [kaotisk?] energy, the enthusiasm, the music, the costume changes, the humour; they really do have it all.

TrollfesT, The Garage, Bergen, 9th May 2014

TrollfesT, The Garage, Bergen, 9th May 2014

TrollfesT stole my heart, and I don’t think I can ever do enough to properly thank them for the sheer joy and happiness they have added, and continue to add, to my life ❤

Image

Exploring Bergen – 9th May 2014 (Day 2/4)

I woke up on Friday morning, in a bunk bed, in Norway. This was such an exciting thing for me that it made my belly fizzy again. I have mentioned in a previous blog that I really really like Norway, and waking up there made me giddy.

I very nearly had a nasty accident retrieving my phone; I had left it on charge on the desk overnight, and the distance from the desk to the top bunk was just slightly more than the distance from my neck to the tips of my fingers. I can imagine that the precarious scene of me dangling at full stretch down to get my phone was fractionally less entertaining than me getting up to the bunk in the first place. There was a very delicate balancing act between reaching far enough, and keeping enough weight on my arse end to stop me pitching head first onto the floor. You may have already come to appreciate what a graceful creature I am…

It turned out that I had managed to sleep solidly through until 6am. That is pretty much unheard of for me. The slightest noise, light, change in temperature, and I am awake. I like to think that it’s a primal thing, and I am really predator-aware… In no way linked to excessive consumption of alcohol. Nah-uh.

I think now would be an opportune moment to share with you what I could see from my window. The view is slightly obscured by trees surrounding the hostel car park, but nonetheless, it’s stunning.

Image

I chilled out on the surprisingly comfortable single bunk for an hour or so, before scraping myself into some semblance of order and heading off to find breakfast. I have always found European breakfast to be just a little bit odd, and this was no exception. The beverages represented pretty standard fare, coffee and orange juice, but the food itself was what we would probably look at in the UK at least as lunch. Garlic sausage and potato salad for breakfast…? There was also some fish dish that looked like the result of a road traffic accident. I am sure it was perfectly nice, but I left it well alone.

I ended out settling on bread, cheese, ham, and coffee. Pretty much what I found myself living on the whole time I was there, if I am honest. I was just finishing off my first of many coffees when I happened to look out of the window

 Image

The hostel I was staying in was a way up in the hills with a breathtaking view over Bergen. My room was on completely the opposite side of the building, and I had not appreciated until that moment exactly what kind of views I had.

Needless to say, I scarfed my breakfast and ran off back to my room to get my camera, and then spent the next 20 minutes clambering about on rocks taking photos with an imbecilic grin on my face. I very nearly fell arse over tit down the side a couple of times; 1) Skate trainers are not renowned for their grip on damp rocky surfaces and 2) whenever I have my hair down, it encroaches on my peripheral vision and gets in my face, impeding my 3D perception as well. All in all, I am not the person you want in any place where gravity would bring me back in your direction.

Health & Safety issues aside, I was feeling exceptionally pleased with myself. There was something about the view and the surroundings that made me feel peaceful, and content, and to able breath a little deeper. I appreciate that the environment is probably a lot cleaner, and being both right by the sea and also up in the hills, the air quality is going to be different… but I think it is more than that. There is definitely something inside me that responds really positively to that kind of setting, where other people might really gravitate towards a bright sunny beach.

Where the hostel is in Montana, it is right in the middle of a residential area, so I marched off around the streets with my camera. The houses are really beautiful, with lots of bright colours, amazing tiled roofs, all of them really quite grand looking. I don’t know whether Montana is an affluent area, or whether that is just the way houses are built there. It might simply be the case that because there isn’t the same population pressure we experience in the UK, they have the freedom to take up more space and build on a grander scale.

Image

Image

Image

I am a big fan of lines, angles and stairs and this place had it all. In fact, the only thing it was missing was some Escher-esque fucking with physics and I don’t think I would ever have left. Against the backdrop of the mountains and the swathes of fir trees, it was astounding to behold.

After I had been out long enough for residents to perhaps start getting suspicious and think about calling the Police, I headed back to the hostel to pick up some spare batteries for my camera and make sure my phones were topped up. The buses ran into town at 10 and 40 minutes past the hour, and I found myself with a little bit of time to kill. Conveniently while I was waiting, I found a can of beer leftover from the vending machine visit the night before, and decided that it would be rude to leave it there all day to get warm.

So, I finished my beer, gathered my stuff together and headed off into town. The previous day, I had pretty much hit Christies Gate and stayed there, because that was all I needed to see that night. On Friday, I headed directly over that road and into the town centre – or at least the bit with all of the shops.

The centre was clean, and bright, and busy without being clogged with people. The buildings themselves were all huge and impressively built. I got accosted by a few people asking for money, and I found that my usual “Sorry, I’m English!” didn’t get me out of it quite as easily here, because frankly everyone speaks better English than I do.

I pressed on down to the waterside and it just kept getting more and more beautiful.

Bryggen Street, Bergen, 9th May 2014

Bryggen Street, Bergen, 9th May 2014

Image

I did a loop down as far as I could see anything interesting. At one point I wandered around a bend and came face to face with the Statsraad Lehmkuhl, which in my non-nautical terms is a Fucking Big Boat. If boats are your thing, it’s worth looking into further, because I was mightily impressed.

ImageAfter having wandered around for a while, being a proper tourist and smiling like I had something automated in my pants, I spotted the obligatory Irish bar, Scruffy Murphy’s, and decided that it would be rude not to drop in.

ImageI was delighted to discover that they served Newcastle Brown Ale on tap (I have only ever seen it in bottles before). ImageI was less delighted at the price, 96NOK (roughly £9.60, or close enough not to really be bothered about the difference). The previous night, I had been drinking smaller measures of stronger beer, so somehow the price comparison escaped me, until I was drinking a usual measure of a usual beer. Ouch. Looked like I’d be selling whatever I had left of my kidneys when I get home to pay for the bar bill.

On a side note, am I the only person who is confused by dual flush systems on toilets? I understand the principle; you have a lighter piss flush and a heavier dump flush, but I have never been in a toilet where there is a noticeable difference between the two, and I just assume that I’ve missed the point somewhere along the line…

By this point in the day, I was starting to get really excited about seeing TrollfesT that night at the Garage. They are an amazing band, with an amazing live show. I saw them at the end of April in London and had been looking forward to seeing them live again ever since. I will talk about TrollfesT in another blog, because they deserve more than a passing mention. They posted an update on Facebook, and where I would normally copy and paste into Google translate, because of the abject failure of the 3G signal, it just wasn’t working. I ended out apologetically approaching the locals at the bar and asking them for help to translate. I am truly fucking embarrassed to be English sometimes. Left to my own devices, I know enough Spanish, German and French to work my way around a lot of places, and enough common sense to figure everywhere else out, but the EASE with which every fucker else in the world can turn around and talk to me in MY language in THEIR country is humiliating.

Since I left the hostel that morning, I had been relying on 3G since I couldn’t find any open Wifi networks. By the time I had my third pint, both of my phones were virtually dead (Incidentally, the 3G coverage is what can best be described as Fucking Awful). Despite being in town, 10 minutes walk from where I needed to be, I had to take the bus back to the hostel to charge both batteries up – again. This did not stop being an issue for me the entire time I was travelling, and it has made me re-evaluate a) what I am looking for in a phone and b) what kind of gadgets I will be asking for next Christmas.

While I was back at the hostel, I took advantage of the opportunity to eat some more bread and cheese, because frankly once I hit the pub later, I wasn’t going to be leaving again.

I got the bus back into town, and by now I had done this route so many times that it was starting to become ingrained in my memory – which ended out being really lucky, but more of that in the next blog. I got back the to Garage, where the barstaff ended out being more pleasing than the previous evening, and I tucked back into the Brooklyn lager in a nice little darkened corner.

From the fliers, it looked like doors for the gig would be 8pm – which made me regret leaving my book at the hostel, since it was only 6pm when I got there. Nevertheless, the barstaff displayed their good taste, and helped pass the time by regaling me with such classics as Sir Psycho Sexy, One Armed Scissor and Fear of the Dark.

The TrollfesT gig was downstairs in what was virtually a cavern. I like drinking in caverns; my favourite beer-cavern to date is downstairs in the Pit & Pendulum in Nottingham, but this was pretty damn close. The gig was awesome, better than in Camden, but I was still slightly disappointed by the number of people there. I decided at that point that when I got home, I was going on a MISSION to spread the word. Myself and the other girl on the England street team, Harriet, had already agreed after the Camden gig that we were going to combine our powers to drive a greater TrollfesT following, but this convinced me that I had to do something special.

The Garage, Bergen, 9th May 2014

The Garage, Bergen, 9th May 2014

I got to hang out with the band afterwards, and finally managed to buy them all beer, which made me feel like I was able to give back a little bit for all of the joy their music has brought to my life. I learned how to open a bottle of beer using leverage and another implement, which I feel is an essential life skill and has made me a better a human being.

I then ended out crashing on a sofa somewhere and losing my Skyss bus card. Brilliant.

En Route to Bergen – 8th May 2014 (Day 1/4)

After the nightmare experience I had travelling to Montpelier, I wasn’t taking any chances with time, and the running out of it. I was flying from Gatwick, and I had found that there was a train that ran directly from Bedford, all the way to the airport – happy days. My flight was at 10:50am, so I made sure that I bought a ticket for the train that would get me there two hours before departure, leaving the train station at 6:54am. Bedford itself is only 20 minutes away, but I was still refusing to take any chances. I really don’t like lots of standing around, but it is way better than the alternative.

I set my alarm for 5:30am, but being me, I was of course awake at 4am. My sister had kindly offered to drive me over, and we left just before 6am. Half an hour and lots of excited squeaks later, I was at the train station, buying the largest black coffee I could find. I have developed a certain travel paranoia, at least on the leg out of the UK, and spent the next 20 minutes or so with a constant watch on the information board in case of delay/cancellation/apocalypse.

Nothing went wrong, the train arrived at the platform ten minutes early and I got myself comfortable in the corner. Image

Not long after I got on, the train started filling up with grey, unhappy looking people brandishing laptops and Blackberries. It then clicked that this train was going through the middle of London, so I was going to be jammed shoulder to shoulder with the general public on their way to various office cubicles. I counted myself lucky that at least most of them were likely to have bothered washing that morning.

Normally on public transport in the UK, you are pretty much guaranteed that no-one is going to make deliberate eye contact or try to interact with you in any way, in case you try to steal their wallet. However, that morning, two gents on either side of the walkway started a loud and merry conversation between them. Not only was this shocking and unusual, but also incredibly irritating. It wasn’t even 7am and these two were gabbing away like they were friendly human beings. The nerve.

Thankfully I’d had the foresight to pack my headphones. I spent the next 90 minutes grinning like an idiot listening to Trollfest – Brakebein (cracking album – check it out; https://play.spotify.com/album/7IfCzUaJipeWPXlrdwJTp6 )

It greatly amused me to be enjoying myself so thoroughly while everyone else was commuting to work. Schadenfreude; a German word that sums up a large part of what it is to be British. Except I realised after two rotations through the album that what I was in fact doing, was caning my phone battery in the early stages of travel, with no guarantee that I would be able to charge it before I actually got to the hostel in Bergen. By that stage though, the source of the earlier irritation had left the train, so there was no pressing urgency to have an aural distraction.

I arrived at Gatwick Airport, straight into the South terminal, and immediately headed for departures, no messing. I only ever travel with hand luggage – it’s a point of personal pride – so once I was through the doors with two hours before departure, there was nothing left to do except get some breakfast…

 Image

I got a text from the airline – http://www.norwegian.com/en/ who are ace, by the way – to say hi, and tell me what departure gate I needed. I will repeat, they really are ace – if Easyjet did the same thing, half the trouble I had on my last international flight wouldn’t have happened *shakes fist*.  I wandered through the departure lounge and into my gate, taking full advantage of all the available power points on the way to try and squeeze some more life into my phone. When I got to my seat on the plane, not only was I by the window, but I had a spare seat next to me, and there was free Wifi. Just when I thought it wasn’t possible to be any more impressed with a flying experience, they started playing Pingu cartoons on the overhead video screens ❤

Image

I topped up with some Carlsberg and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The flight itself was an hour and 50 minutes – as someone who has flown to Australia, European air travel barely even registers.

As the plane started approaching Bergen, I had my face pressed right up against the glass, trying to take in as much of the Norwegian coastline passing underneath me as I could. It was already so gorgeous, it was making my belly fizzy.

The plane landed without incident, and then it was straight out, right into the awaiting Flybuss and off to Bergen. Not the slightest hint of any of the issues I had experienced in France, for which I was infinitely grateful. I did very shortly run into a problem which is a deeply personal issue for me, but which most people probably wouldn’t give two shits about.

3G. Oh my god the 3G, or lack of it. I had actually planned ahead and got myself a Norwegian pay-as-you-go SIM card in my spare phone, so I could keep tight control over how much I was spending. I have had absolutely horrific bills on my contract phone after travelling abroad in the past, and wasn’t prepared to do that again. Could I find a 3G signal?? Could I, bollocks.

So, sat in the middle of Bergen – which is astoundingly beautiful – slowly losing my rag with my phone/s. There was a complete absence of 3G signal, so I knew that it was due to a setting somewhere but without an internet connection to search for how to fix it, I was stuck. Eventually I just utterly lost my temper and went for a walk.

Image

As it happened, I started to recognise street names from having looked at the map before I flew out. I was able to negotiate my way to the pub where Trollfest would be playing the next day, Garage on Christies Gate. Luckily, Bergen is incredibly easy to navigate.

I walked back to the bus station, and picked up my Skyss bus travel card, and then hopped onto the bus to Montana where I was staying in the hostel. Again, extremely straightforward to find my way around; I recognised the street names and within 2 minutes I was checking in.

The hostel was basic but clean, had free Wifi and I got to stay in MOTHERFUCKING BUNKBEDS. I love bunk beds. They appeal directly to the part of my head that is and always will be 8 years old.

I spent the next hour charging both phones, and learning a lot about Access Point Name (APN) settings on mobile phones, and with a considerable amount of guesswork, effort, swearing and eventual delight, I got both phones hooked up to 3G networks.

I was ready to face the world; phones charged and ready to deliver unto me the Internet, wallet full of cash, travel card in my pocket, and a firm idea of where the pub was. The simple things in life make me feel happy and alive.

The Garage in Bergen ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Garage-Bergen/122901644434721?fref=ts ) is quite simply home from home.

 Image

It’s dark and pleasant, plays good music and serves good beer. The bar staff are friendly, forgiving of my inability to speak Norwegian, and quite easy on the eye. I also discovered Brooklyn lager, which is amazing.

 Image

I sat and drank Brooklyn happily for about 4 hours, taking advantage of the again free Wifi and good atmosphere. I decided about 8pm that I was tired and should probably go home before I got too drunk to be able to leave with any sort of dignity.

I stopped in at a supermarket on the way back to the hostel to pick up some bread, cheese and what my limited Norwegian told me was chicken slices. I also picked up some beer, but was advised when I got to the checkout that they couldn’t serve alcohol after 8pm. For real. I was later informed by hostel staff that it’s 6pm on a Saturday. My brain is still struggling to cope with that as an idea.

Balance was restored to the universe though by having a vending machine with beer in at the hostel.

I retired to my room with my bread and cheese and beer, and started charging my phones again. I was really beginning to understand the toll that was being taken on the smartphone batteries. I was incredibly glad that I had bought two phones with me, if only for the fact that one did not have enough power to last for a couple of hours.

Then came perhaps the funniest and most ridiculous moment of the trip. Trying to get into the bunk bed. The ladder (which looked at first glances like a solid part of the bed’s construction) was tucked away down the side of a desk. “Pfah!” I thought, “I don’t need a LADDER to get up there!”.

So there’s me, in the pitch dark, half drunk, butt naked, trying to climb over an adult sized wooden fronted top bunk. I was going to boost myself up using my arms, but couldn’t remember how much headroom I had and didn’t feel much like braining myself. I ended out standing the bottom bunk, throwing my leg over the edge of the top bunk and doing some kind of combat roll into bed. I laughed my arse off at how much of a twat I was… and then proceeded to tell everyone else on Facebook too.

Image

 

“Norway, 10 points”

Image

I really really like Norway. I have never truly understood why I would like it any better than any other cool place I have been to, but I just do. It started back in around 2008, and like a lot of elements of my life, it has its roots in a game called World of Warcraft.

I started playing WoW in 2005 because – quite frankly – if I ever wanted to interact with my friends again, I had to. If you have never played, it was an intensely engaging, funny, and challenging game, and had a lot of room for social interaction. Every player you saw running around was an actual, real life person, and you could form together into larger formal groups, or guilds. Our guild was called <Fearsome War Engine> and was an awesome place to be…most of the time. A lot of the friends that I still interact with the most today are people I met in <FWE>, which speaks volumes about the power of the game for drawing like-minded people together. We had a massive representation of European nations in the guild and it made for a really diverse and interesting experience.

There are two opposing factions within World of Warcraft; Alliance (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes – you know, the clean cut, ‘good guys’) and Horde (Orcs, Undead, Taurens [cow people] and Trolls; the ostensible bad guys). In actuality, every race is pretty much as bad as each other; it all depends what flag you end out waving based on which character looked coolest when you were creating them. The two factions started out as being sworn enemies, and most players had a kill on sight policy. However, we (Horde) did things a little differently in <FWE>. During our journeys, we came across an Alliance guild called <Might and Magic> and while I was never there at the start to understand precisely how this was negotiated, we had a non-aggression pact with them. It would have been easy enough to kill each other out of hand, but (most of us) chose not to, out of respect. It was a small but intensely important thing to me; I cannot roleplay. I cannot be anyone other than me, I cannot make choices other than those I would ordinarily make. The policy of NOT killing someone when you reasonably could, just because you don’t want to be an utter cunt, really spoke volumes to me.

One of the nicest people in <Might and Magic> was a lady hunter called Arya. She was a truly nice and honourable player and I liked her a lot.

After a couple of years I got a little bored with my Horde characters, so I picked up a second account off of a friend who no longer played, and started a character in the Alliance faction. [Initially, you could have numerous different characters on your account, but they all had to be either one faction or the other. Eventually, the creators changed the rules so that frankly you could do whatever the fuck you liked]. One of the first things I did when I created my little dwarf Rogue was send Arya a message to say that I had snuck in. She actively encouraged me to join the guild she was in at the time, <The Garrison>. I was a little intimidated because they had a reputation for being a bit hardcore and professional, and I was quite frankly neither.

That said, they were impressed with my application and I was allowed to join. In its own way, <The Garrison> was as good as my own guild. Arya was Norwegian and there were quite a few other Norwegians in the guild too. I got on with them all really well, which I suppose in itself wasn’t unusual because I tend to get on with most people… You know, the whole trying not to be an arsehole thing frequently works in my favour during interactions with other human beings.

I went out to visit them in 2009, and I was totally smitten by everything I experienced. Norway is an astoundingly beautiful country, and the people I met were great. There seems to be a lot of commonality with the British in terms of sense of humour, outlook and general alcoholism… given that they are the three most important things in my life, it might explain why they appeal so much. I even liked the weather; when I went out first time, it was cold and snowy, but not cold in a way that I had ever experienced before. It was a NICE cold if there is even such a thing; more clean and crisp than uncomfortable, whereas if it’s cold in England, it soaks into your bones and makes you hate everything and everyone.

Image

I went out to Norway again a week ago, this time to Bergen, and I fell in love with the place. It was more beautiful than I remembered the country being, and I felt genuine grief when I had to leave after a mere 4 days.

One of the things that I like the most about travelling around the world is observing which things are different, and which things are the same. In Bergen, I was watching their equivalent of our Premiership Football commentary show, and it was the precise same programme, just with a different accent, and it was brilliant. There are however a few significant things that I have observed about Norway, and while they might not strike you quite as much as they did me, I still think they are worthy of note;

  • The 3G signal in Norway sucks utter balls. As someone who has a closer and more intimate relationship with the Internet than I have with most of my family, this is a bit of an issue for me.
  • Conversely, nearly everywhere I went – including on the aeroplane – had free Wifi, which almost makes up for it.
  • Beer is largely 3 times as expensive as in the UK…and you can’t buy it from a shop after 8pm. This involves a level of planning ahead that often escapes me.
  • There are no neck-tattooed, Staffordshire bull terrier-wielding youths on the streets. It makes for a far less soul-destroying experience when you need to go anywhere.
  • There is an impressive array of beards, all featuring somewhere on the ginger spectrum, and who doesn’t approve of that?
  • Everywhere is CLEAN. Coming from a place where McDonalds packaging tends to drift around like tumbleweed in a Spaghetti Western, it’s delightful.
  • There aren’t many people…by comparison to the frothing tide of sullen humanity that you have to fight against in most parts of England, at least.
  • Public transport is pleasant, well designed and efficient. Where I live, buses tend to smell like feet, unwashed crotch and Beef & Onion crisps, and they may or may not turn up when they’re supposed to.
  • The few people that there actually are in Norway all seem to be incredibly pleasant and have always been very forgiving of my abject lack of Norwegian language skills. Except the ones that laugh when I try to pronounce their names. But I call them Dave, and it’s all good.
  • The hills, the mountains, the fjords, the architecture; everything is so beautiful, it will give you a scenery-boner.
  • The water tastes sweet. Not that I drink much water, mind, since the ABV% is too low.
  • Cars actually stop at pedestrian crossings, even when there are no traffic lights.
  • The Norwegian accent is proper horny. There is something about the way it dances about that makes me a bit squiffy, and I apologise for nothing.
  • Despite being way closer to the Arctic than the UK, the weather is lovely – for those of us that don’t wish everywhere was Benidorm, at any rate.
  • The crows all look like they are wearing tank tops/sweater vests, and I love them.

Image

On balance, if I had an in any way obviously employable skillset, I’d have been off years ago *sigh*

Excited