Tag Archives: norway

International Relocation: A New Year Update

The last time that I talked about my unfolding plans for world domination, I identified what I considered to be the three most significant areas that I would need to focus on; language, money and work.

In terms of language, I feel like I am getting along well actually. I completed the first term of Grade 1 Norwegian Language at the University of Westminster, and despite thinking that I would not continue in that format (…partly due to the cost, and partly due to public transport making me want to FUCKING CRY) I have recently started on the second term. Each term consists of 10 weekly 2-hour sessions, on Tuesday evenings. I missed the last two sessions of last year because I was in America, but when I came back for the second term, I was pleased to note that the rest of the class hadn’t got as far through the content as the tutor had planned. I honestly don’t feel like I am any further behind than anyone else, despite the sessions that I have missed.

The fact they allowed me to use that picture shows the seriousness they have towards the classes...

The fact that they allowed me to use that picture for my ID shows the seriousness they have towards the classes…

I have never been one to praise myself, but genuinely I feel like my understanding, my ability to work things out and my general recall of vocabulary is better than most of my peers at this stage. Don’t get me wrong, I am not for a minute trying to suggest that I am in any way close to being able to actually speak Norwegian! While I have been struck by the simplicity of the language itself, I have been undone by the complexity of the pronunciation – my grasp of the vowels and mastery of tonal changes in the language are still nothing short of Fucking Atrocious. That said, I can now translate over half of my Norwegian friends’ Facebook status updates without having to resort to Google Translate. That at least is progress, and as simple as that is, I feel disproportionately pleased every time I can understand what someone has said.

Work is probably the element that has gone through the greatest thought-evolution in the last 4 months. I was struck by an idea a little while ago that studying in Norway might be an excellent way to kill three birds with one stone. It would mean that I could a) get to live in the place that I want to live, b) study for the level of education I would need to get a decent job there, and c) do a life-reset and train myself properly for something I actually want to do, as opposed to falling into job after job out of convenience.

Yeah, I have a self-congratulatory map, what of it?

Yeah, I have a self-congratulatory travel map, what of it?

It seemed like a perfect solution, since there are actually a significant number of courses delivered in English language in Norwegian universities. However…what proper research has uncovered is that the courses which are delivered in English are all for Masters degrees. Bachelors degrees are all taught in Norwegian, and since I have neither the grasp of the language to study in it, nor a pre-existing Bachelors degree which would allow me to leapfrog onto a Masters course, that whole idea is a complete non-starter.

The range of options I am left with is significantly narrower than I had perceived it to be two weeks ago. The thing is, I actually feel a lot more comfortable having the field stripped down like that. If I am honest, I have always been stronger fighting my way out of a corner I have backed myself into, than I will ever be at making a sensible choice in an open field in the first place.

The reality then is this; unless my Norwegian language skills improve exponentially in the next 9 or 21 months, I will not be studying in Norway. I certainly won’t be studying in the UK, so that means I will more than likely have zero qualifications, and cannot expect to be able to obtain any significant employment there, based on the lack of anything that isn’t frankly conjectural in my CV.

With my current lines of thinking and the information I have available to me, there are three ways I see this playing out at the moment. I will either 1) live like a student for the rest of my life and fall back onto work that is probably low-paid but doesn’t require qualifications, 2) move out there with enough money that I don’t have to worry while I am finding a solution, or 3) get a job with a UK based firm that has links into Norway and the opportunity to move.

Apparently, you can pretty much camp anywhere in Norway.

Apparently, you can pretty much camp anywhere in Norway…

I am not actually unhappy with any of those three ideas. In fact, I am so unambitious that I am really quite drawn to the idea of simply working bar jobs for the rest of my life and just getting by in a beautiful place. That said, I cannot be certain at this stage that you don’t need qualifications to tend bar…

Anyway! The pattern with every job I have ever been in is that I start at Dunce level, get quietly good at it in a reasonably short space of time, and then people start looking at me and going, “Woah, you’re actually pretty good at stuff!”. I honestly feel that if I could just get in somewhere, I would never be short of work. It’s the getting in that will be the difficult part, so perhaps the idea of finding a company with links in Norway might be the most sensible next line of enquiry…

(…because let’s be honest, idea 2) is not going to fly. I am more than likely never going to have enough money to buy me more than a handful of months in Norway – while I am this far away from an immediate need for the money, the temptation when I am sat at home to go “Fuck it! I am going to Sweden for a week!” will always override any good intentions that I have to save.)

And that really does cover off the money element. I would do myself a disservice at this stage by being anything less than honest with myself – long term planning is really not my forté. If I have the option of keeping £750 in my savings…or going the States, seeing my friends and getting tattoos, I already know what I am going to do in that situation and there is no point pretending otherwise.

Save money, you say? I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of awesome people.

Save money, you say? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of awesomeness.

International Relocation

Back in 2009, I was fairly confident that I wanted to move to Norway. I had visited, and accidentally fallen in love with, the country. I came home full of excitement…and precisely nothing happened. Life got in the way, and I was disappointed with my own complete inability to organise myself.

In retrospect, I was a broken person. At the time I was simply putting one foot in front of the other, and I was not capable of thinking any further into the future than finishing work that evening. As much as it was something I wanted, it felt very distant. It was something to dream about. The space it occupied in my head was the same space where I stored my ideas about what I would do with my lottery winnings, and how much money I would have left after I had paid off all of my friends’ mortgages.

Five years later, and things feel very different. It’s no longer just a dream, it is a reality that actually exists, and I just need to do the right things and then I can be a part of it. Granted, I am still at the stage of working out what those ‘right things’ are in the first place, but it genuinely feels like it is happening.

Before I went out to Oslo, I had been looking around for language classes, and there was nothing remotely near to where I lived. I pouted and looked at what online courses were available. However, being out there again really impressed on me the importance of language in being a functioning part of society. I got home, and promptly booked myself onto a language course in London. Yes, it’s an hours’ train ride into the capital, but it’s something I need to do, and I am prepared to do whatever I have to do in order to make it happen.

The course starts next Tuesday and I am both excited and nervous. I HATE being bad at things that I want to be good at. I experience a real gut-deep rejection. Think of a red-zone 4 year old child, howling in the middle of a supermarket; “I don’t WANNA!” and you’re getting close to what’s happening inside me. This time I am just going to feel the fear, and do it anyway. I’ll be shit to start off with. So what? Suck it up Princess, the only person judging you is yourself. It is that important to me that I am just going to push through it, humiliating myself whenever necessary to get it right.

There will no doubt be 101 forms I need to fill in, boxes I need to tick, and assessments I need to complete. However, there are two other key points that I have focused on. They are money, and getting a job. The two things are intrinsically  linked, because they each facilitate and dictate the other, but they are two separate concerns in their own right. I’ll start with money.

The first thing I need to know is what exactly it is going to cost me to be in Norway, and from there I can work backwards to how I go about getting that money. Now, while I appreciate that Oslo is the most expensive place in Norway in terms of rent, I think that it’s going to present my best opportunity for getting a job. It would also be very easy to live there.

I have spoken to friends, used some community forums, and read up some blogs and websites who focus on moving to Oslo. From everything I have been able to work out and the advice I have been given, it is very much in line with London prices. I have worked out best- and worst-case scenarios in terms of rent. I have then factored in scaled-up ideas of utility bills. Before I even think about food and beer (which is clearly a massive priority), I have calculated that living there could potentially cost me pretty much all of what I am currently earning in the UK a month, for rent and utility bills alone. Yes, that’s being dramatic, but it could be realistic and so I am keeping it in mind.

What I would want to do is move out there with sufficient money for at least three months, to give me time to get my feet underneath me without having to worry. I read on one particular website that in terms of a rental deposit, most places ask for 3 months’ rent up front, as opposed to the usual 1 month that you get in the UK. So deposit, plus three months rent and utilities, plus food, and beer, and surprises; I want to have £10,000 in my back pocket before I move. It might be overkill, and might last me longer than 3 months, but I want to give myself every chance to succeed so I’m going to run with it. Still…crikey. Gives me a greater incentive to work harder for bonuses at work.

The telling thing is that I don’t feel intimidated by that. I will just find a way to make it happen.

I am going to divert slightly to talk about my house. I own a good-sized 3 bedroom house in reasonable order, and I have no intentions of selling it. There’s a couple of reasons for that;

  1. It’s in a fairly shitty area, so the amount of profit in selling it is vastly outweighed by it’s rental potential
  2. It’s a safety net – if everything goes tits up, I am a notice period away from coming back to the UK.
  3. I can store all of the possessions that I don’t want to take with me in the roof.

Due to it’s size and set up, I could rent my house for quite a lot of money per month. What I have decided to do however, is rent it to a friend for a reduced amount. I won’t make as much money, but I will trust that the person who is living there isn’t going to fill it with dogs and vagrants, and if anything goes wrong from either perspective we can have an open dialogue about it. I have already had one person around to look at it, and while nothing is decided, it is definitely the way I am going to go.

So, I will get a small monthly income from the rental of my house. It takes a slight edge off of the pressure of the other key point under consideration – WORK.

In terms of work, I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do. I need to find a compelling reason why any Norwegian firm would employ me over someone who can actually speak the language. The difficulty I am faced with is that while I know how capable I am, and how quickly I learn, that does not really present itself well on a C.V. From what I understand, in Norway there is quite a heavy focus on education and qualifications… and the qualifications that I have are all linked to Sports Physiotherapy, which is not something I have any interest in doing these days. In the UK, I am fairly confident that I could talk myself into any job that I really wanted, but I cannot rely on that in a place where I know I will not have the same command of language and confidence that I do here.

What would be ideal would be a company that was looking for someone to provide English language customer service/support; if there are two things I am good at, it’s fixing problems, and talking. Getting paid for writing would be absolutely amazing, but that is a serious pie-in-the-sky idea. At best, writing will join house rent as a supplementary income.

Everything is even more inter-linked than I thought; I am going to need to seriously improve my language skills to get a job, and I am going to need a job to get money, and I am going to need money to live in Norway, and I am going to need to live in Norway to seriously improve my language skills…

The difference between now and 5 years ago, like I said earlier, is that as big as it is, none of this feels intimidating. It is simply what I need to do to make the things that I want in my life a reality.

Unless anyone has £100,000 that they don’t want…?


Fair enough, back to Plan A!

Vikings and Nazis in Oslo – 31st August 2014 (Day 4/5)

Sunday commenced with a conversation about Norse mythology and a decision to go and see some Viking ships. We took the number 30 bus from Nationaltheatret towards Bygdøy, jumping off at Vikingskipene.

There is located a museum, Vikingskipshuset, that contains three Viking burial ships that were uncovered from different burial mounds between 1867 and 1903. There is the Oseberg ship, the Gokstad ship and the Tune ship. The three ships were built between 820AD and 900AD, and standing in their presence was awe-inspiring. They were all initially built as sea-faring vessels, which were later decommisioned and drawn out of the water to serve as burial ships for the important folks whose remains were placed inside, along with a number of different things that they would need to see them through in the afterlife.

My photos are complete gash, so you’d be better off Googling the ships quite frankly.


These ships SAILED. They actually sailed the seas around Norway, and quite possibly abroad. My brain took off and ran with that. Did one of these ships carry Viking warriors across the North Sea to the shores of England?

The hulls of the ships were shallow and broad, with graceful sweeping curves that drew my eye across them, and immediately had me imagining the prows slicing their way through turbulent waters. The bulk of the ships was imposing and majestic, and utterly beautiful. The detail and the intricacy imparted the sense that these weren’t just functional vehicles for transporting people and goods from one place to another. These ships were statements. Each boat gave me the feeling that it was designed and built by craftsmen with love in their hearts for what they were creating.


The museum had little staircases built into the corners of each room that allowed you to look at the ships from an elevated position.


This ship is the best part of 1200 years old

They had cases at one end of the museum that contained the remains of the people who had been found in the boats, and a list of all of the things that had been buried with them. One case contained the bones of two tiny women who were discovered in the Oseberg ship, and the other case was for the warrior who was buried in the Gokstad ship. He was somewhere between 181-183cm (that’s between 5’11” and 6′,  to those of us who count properly). His legs had been hacked and cut in his final battle, and the sheer amount of horses and dogs and spare boats and shields buried with him were testament to his regard. The two women were buried with similar riches, and my brain was completely caught up with filling in the gaps about who these three people were, what they looked like, what roles they played in the world around them…

In another section of the museum there were loads of glass cases which contained the things that had been found inside the ships alongside the people. There were scraps of silk cloth, tools, weapons, game pieces, sledges, a wagon, and lots of carved animal heads. I think it’s fair to say that I was besotted.

20140831_154303 20140831_154351 20140831_154618 20140831_154900 20140831_155415 20140831_155540 20140831_155608

The detail and the craftsmanship that went into each and every piece was astonishing. Granted, when it came to the animal heads, I am not sure that the person carving them had actually seen the creature that was being represented, but that’s beside the point.

I left the Vikingskipshuset with a head full of wonder, and a heart full of wanting to run around being a Viking. That was very soon to be brought crashing down around me.

Since we were already there, we also visited Holocaustsenteret, The Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities in Norway. It was brutal, and mindblowing. It was an exhibition about the Nazi party in Norway, the persecution of Norwegian Jews and other minorities, and the gradual proliferation of exclusion and hatred. I had no idea before I went in there the part that Norway played in the holocaust, but I most certainly will never forget about it.

While you might not think it to look at me, and while I choose to ignore it a lot of the time, I have quite a decent amount of empathy, and I feel things that really have nothing to do with me very deeply. This exhibition was incredibly grueling for me and it will stay with me for a very long time. The writing and information was 99% in Norwegian, and while I can read basic sentences and get the jist of what is being talked about, I mostly couldn’t understand the text. That is something I am quite grateful for, because I was only just holding it together over the pictures.

The whole of the way around the exhibition, my heart felt too big for my chest, and grief and frustration were clawing at my throat. I kept finding myself standing there, staring into the sepia tinted eyes of men and women who knew their fate, and could do nothing about it. Men and women who had been judged as less than human, by men with no fucking authority beyond that which they claimed.

Propaganda is an astonishing tool. It was unbelievable looking at the hate-filled, arse-backwards leaflets and pictures that were drip-fed into the population to sow the seeds of disgust, mistrust and superiority. You think that the police in the States are bad for racial profiling? Not even close. There were written guidelines, pictures and measurements for people’s facial features, to establish which were the ‘correct’ characteristics. It was exactly the same way the American Kennel Club issued guidelines about different breeds of dog in a book I had as a child. They had charts indicating the threat levels posed by different groups of people, and how much damage these people could inflict on decent society.

It was genuinely chilling. There were texts and studies and papers outlining the calm and reasoned arguments for why Jews were evil. Madness and mania masqueraded as science and fact. It was truly dark, and it was so frustrating being there and knowing that people honestly believed this shit. Some people kept saying a thing until they had said it so often that it came to be accepted amongst others as the truth. Many people died, many people committed atrocious acts, and all in the name of something that was never real. A fabrication. A lie. IT WAS NEVER REAL.

What finally broke me was the room with the names, and the dates of birth and death of all of the Norwegian Jews who were killed.

Do you want to know the thing that struck me the most about the whole thing? Although all these events happened in the past, they aren’t History. This propagation of hatred and dehumanisation and victimisation and humiliation and murder is still happening now, every day.

I left what I now know to be the old home of Norwegian collaborator and Nazi-leader, Vidkun Quisling, feeling raw, wrung out, frustrated and impotent.


I would highly recommend that anyone who can, go.

An increasing language issue in Oslo – 30th August 2014 (Day 3/5)

You would think that since I had a limited amount of time in Oslo that I would be up and at ’em early, in order to maximise the experience.

Yeaahhh…not so much. I got up around lunch time, and found a drinks machine in reception which dispensed what could generously be described as coffee. It tasted…RED. Like it had been brewed and left in the pot too long, slightly sour, perhaps a little bit burned, and nowhere close to strong enough for me. However, I am not uppity or picky about most things, and I of course drank lots of it because caffeine.

Organised chaos

Organised chaos

I had the little desk in my room set up as a home-from-home work station, and I was struck again by my ability to turn any space into a tidy person’s nightmare. I am well aware how untidy I am capable of being, but the speed with which it can happen is really quite something.

After catching up on emails and doing a bit of writing, I headed back into the centre of Oslo. There was a large group of people gathered in front of a stage that had appeared in Eidsvolls Plass.

What do we want?! Better language skills, for a start.

“What do we want?!” “A Babel fish, actually.”

It became painfully obvious how badly I need to improve my Norwegian, because while I stood at the back, enjoying the spectacle and the passion that the speaker was projecting, I became uncomfortably aware that I might well have just wandered into a right wing rally and would have no fucking idea until they started burning effigies [later investigation proved that this gathering was in fact the complete opposite].

The event was called Frihet 14, and while a sketchy 3G signal meant I couldn’t do my usual Google translate trick, I made the assumption that it meant something like Freedom, based on some quotes and posters I had seen the day before. While I had assured myself that I wasn’t unintentionally lending my support to some awful cause, I was still getting nothing out of it, so I took myself off to go and get some pictures of the city itself.


It’s the simple things in life that I like

The following photos are pretty much taken while turning in a circle. Perhaps a small exaggeration, but you get the point about the immediacy of the awesome architecture.


Stortinget – Norwegian Parliament building


Olav Thon Building


Grand Hotel


Best Western Karl John Hotell

I took a slightly different route through the city centre that afternoon, and almost immediately ended out down by the sea again.


Questionable fading on the panoramic shot again. Need. Better. Camera.

Looking out across the expanse of water, I’d have given anything to be able to fly, to be able to go straight up in the air and get a better view.



Right up on this hill is an old fortress, Akershus Festning. It looked awesome from the outside, and apparently there is a medieval castle in there as well. I really wanted to go in and have a look.

…but I didn’t. While I have balls of steel in most situations and places, I have a terrible fear of getting things wrong, and I am frequently plagued by self-doubt if I am not sure what the rules are. I stood looking at this fortress, couldn’t really work out which way was supposed to be the way in, didn’t want to ask, so I just carried on walking. Yes, yes, I know. Away with you and your logic.


..an’ a ting.


This place was MASSIVE.


Even the seemingly nondescript buildings are imposing.


There definitely needs to be more red, and more faces, on buildings.


I think I would like to live here.

The Palace

The Palace

As the afternoon crept on, it started raining, so I made a the most obvious choice in the circumstances; I went to the pub. They had the football on a big screen, Everton v Chelsea, and with a pint on the table in front of me and a game that I wasn’t invested in the result of, all was right with the world. Incidentally, Chelsea won 6-3, and it was a cracking game.

Later on in the evening, I went to a bar called Dr Jekyll’s Pub. It was nice, but seemed primarily dedicated to serving whiskey. This meant that I was stood at the bar for 5 minutes behind one guy who was trying a load of different blends in a less-than-hurried fashion, and when I eventually got to the bar, I felt slightly self conscious just ordering “Two Stella’s please.”

I learned that Hen nights, and large gatherings of women in pubs in general, are the same the world over; loud, pitched perfectly to make my head vibrate, and like being assaulted by the perfume counter in Boots.

I also learned that I was wrong about an observation I made on my previous visit to Norway – you CAN buy beer after 8pm, but only Lettøl – light beer, normally around 2%…which is my way of saying that I left the pub and bought some light beer.

While I had been sat watching the football earlier, I had been considering my day. Foremost in my mind was the fucking great insect bite on my left shin that I had picked up while gadding about in the forest the day before. It was a constant tug on my awareness, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I caved and scratched it, and would end out with a welt the size of my fist. Alongside that immediate physical concern was the increasingly obvious language barrier.

It’s not a barrier to existing in Norway; everyone had been perfectly happy to speak to me in English. I had actually engaged one of the barmaids in conversation about it a few days previously, after I overheard her talking to another British customer. I asked her if it annoyed her that we ignorant oiks turn up and expect her to speak to us in our own language. She explained that it is so common here to have tourists who don’t speak Norwegian, and everyone is taught English from a really young age, that it is perfectly normal and doesn’t bother them at all.

That is really not the case in a lot of European countries, where unless you either have a go in the native tongue, or are immediately apologetic and grovelling about not being able to speak it, you are treated with quite often very open disdain (…yes, I am looking at you, France).

Where I have found that it IS a problem is with being a functioning part of the world around me. Don’t get me wrong, at home I choose to exist in an isolated bubble a lot of the time, and would be perfectly happy to live in my little cave-like house, not physically speaking to anyone for months on end.  However, this situation is different, because I don’t have a choice in the matter. I can’t understand the conversation going on around me enough to be able to ignore it (it’s only really when the ability to do so is taken away that I realise how much of the world I actively decide not to pay attention to).

Also factoring in my natural reticence to get involved in something if I can’t figure out what’s going on, not being able to read simple instructions puts me at a major disadvantage.

While I still enjoy just sitting around listening to people speaking Norwegian, I really have got to step my game up. I will definitely be booking myself in for lessons as soon as I get home. It will probably involve a bit of travel since there’s nowhere local to me that does it; there are many weird and wonderful adult learning courses available in Northampton, but Norwegian is not one of them;

WTF Northampton

Still not entirely convinced how and why these made the cut…

Oslo is made of Win – 29th August 2014 (Day 2/5)

I woke up on Friday morning in Oslo, and felt very pleased about it. Granted, any time I wake up a) on a weekday when I don’t have to work or b) anywhere that isn’t home, I am pretty happy regardless, but that is beside the point.

It was another glorious day, weather wise. Back at home, it was grey, and windy, and wet and I was unutterably smug about waking up to this;

Just look at it.

Just look at it.

As a rule, I tend to avoid sunshine wherever possible, with the net result being that I have the same approximate skin tone as the creepy cave-dwellers in The Descent.

A fairly accurate representation of me, before the application of makeup and copious amounts of coffee.

A fairly accurate representation of me, before the application of makeup and copious amounts of coffee.

Contrary to what many may believe, I don’t avoid the sun because I am a massive goth, but simply because I am really sensitive to increases in temperature. My internal radiator is permanently jammed onto the highest setting; I live in shorts pretty much year-round, I hate wearing coats and shunned shoes and socks as a child, and even relatively light activity on my part makes me sweat. While people in the office complain about how cold it is and wrap themselves up in blankets, I have a fan on and stare longingly at the window, trying to use my Jedi powers to open it without anyone noticing.

Every time I have been to Norway – and quite possibly one of the reasons why I like it so much – it has been bright and sunny, but it’s either been Winter and knee-deep in snow, or Summer with a cool breeze, keeping the temperature down within a tolerable range. It’s really nice to be able to go out in the sunshine and not melt.

Morten suggested taking a mini BBQ tray into the woods with a couple of beers and cooking up some food. What a perfectly splendid idea! In fact, it’s something I definitely need to more often. I am sure that there has to be a nice bit of woodland somewhere around Northampton that isn’t full of chavs, doggers, shopping trollies or burned out cars…

First things first, food shopping. I am always fascinated by going shopping in different countries and seeing how things are done differently. Simple things like 330ml cans of beer will entertain and amuse me for an inordinate amount of time. Also, what is the deal with all the sausages, Norway? Don’t get me wrong, the resulting ‘meat’ and ‘sausage’ jokes are totally worth it, but that’s seriously a lot of wieners. Snigger.

With food and fire-making implements purchased, we made our way to Eiksmarka T-bane station and headed off into the woods. I love trees and forests, even fake forests like the ones in World of Warcraft. Bugs and wildlife are fun too…which in this instance included the high number of crazy-arse dogs running around off leash. I was secretly hoping for a moose, but given the circumstances I was happy to settle for an overexcited spaniel. I don’t scare easily, but at one point on the way back later on, a dog burst out of the undergrowth on the bank just off my shoulder, and I fairly near shat myself. My brain was of course trying to tell me that it was Gmork from the Neverending Story.



Anyway, eventually we climbed up a slope and onto a concrete walkway along one side of one the most beautiful places I have been in a long time. I have retraced the journey on Google maps and this place is marked up as Østernvann, though what it is actually called I cannot be sure.

Fuck me, that place was stunning. It was so gorgeous that I lost the ability to speak at points. I curse my poxy camera-phone…and the fact that in my complete ineptness, I forgot my actual camera. Noob. Anyway, crappy quality aside, check this out place out.

Seriously. Just sit and look at this for a bit.

Seriously. Just sit and look at this for a bit.

Although I am utterly frustrated at how badly these pictures came out, I am going to share them anyway because I think you will still get the point.


The trees around the edge of the water were growing on top of the rocks, with the roots spidering away around them. SWEET.


Dodgy fading on the panoramic picture, but still amazing.


The sun playing across the top of the trees as the clouds swept by was beautiful. Salcey Forest, you need to sort your shit out.

I could have stayed there forever. The only way that it could have been more perfect is if there had been a few extra beers, and if the ricocheting sounds of heavy gun fire were absent. Yes, I said gunfire. Although, even that added something to the experience. You could track the sound echoing in a loop around the surrounding hills and it gave you a real sense of the space you were in.

We were beset by ducks pretty much as soon as we sat down, being all cute and hungry. I didn’t quite manage to get one to eat out of my hand, although there was a point where I thought she was just about to…until one of the sausages popped and hissed on the barbeque tray and scared the crap out of her.


Incoming wildfowl; actually a little bit sinister.

We ate the sausages wrapped up in lomper, which is a round flat bread made of potatoes and it is really tasty. Add on top of that the fact that the ketchup bottle kept making farty noises, and I was in heaven.

I cannot remember how long we were sat there for, but it wasn’t long enough. Any and all reservations I had had the previous day about Oslo being a contender for where I would like to live were knocked right out of the park by this one place alone.

As we walked back into town later, I was struck by two somewhat linked observations; the freshly turned soil in the fields was a different colour to back home… and the horseshit on the paths was a different colour too. It’s important to note environmental differences…leave me alone…

Also, I noticed this thought-provoking piece of graffiti.



Later that evening, I went to one other place that solidified the idea that Oslo was a desirable place to be. The actual over-arching reason for coming – besides scoping the city – was to see a gig; Catharsis were playing a venue called Blitz. The band had split up many years before, and you could feel the buzz of excitement from all the people who were finally getting the chance to see a group of musicians who they never thought they would ever get to see (or see again for those lucky enough to caught them in the past). Here’s a link to the whole of the Passion album, which I think formed the large part of their set that night;

Catharsis were great; the energy and the passion (for want of a better word) that fizzed out of – in particular – Brian D. the frontman was electric and infectious, and the response from the audience was explosive. For such a small venue, the pit and sheer number of crowd surfers was impressive.

That wasn’t what truly got me though. It was the venue. As soon as we walked in the front door and up the stairs, my heart did a little skip in my chest. The walls were painted black and covered in posters and stickers. The volume and variety of facial hair on display was breathtaking. There was a little stage in the front room and a bigger one in the back. There was graffiti on the ceiling, and the toilets looked like an absolute last resort. It was dark, and dirty, and HOME.

Back in the 90’s, I used to work in a club called Macbeths. It was a weird shaped little place on the end of a row of shops, at the conjunction of two streets in the centre of Northampton. It was obviously many things before I got there, but it was Macbeths first and foremost to me.

Lil bit of history

Lil’ bit of history

It became known as the Cookie Club, the Black Sheep and latterly the Black Cat Jazz Bar. It used to be dark and smelly and LOUD. I loved it. Of course, it closed, along with the Soundhaus and pretty much everywhere else I used to enjoy going to in Northampton. There is still a venue called the Roadmender, but that had a makeover many years ago that stripped the soul out of the place. I even miss the fact the purple ceilings were so low, when people started sweating and breathing heavily, the moist air would hit the roof, condense, and drip back down on your head. Blitz took me straight back to those days and it made me feel so happy. It made me nostalgic for the days when Northampton was a place that I actually enjoyed living in.

I didn’t get any photos of the inside, partly because I was too busy enjoying myself and partly because there was a fuck off great sign saying “No photos”. I am not entirely sure what was going on that wasn’t above board, so I will add the disclaimer that this was definitely not a beer that was either bought, or drunk, in the venue.

Hur hur. Slots.

Hur hur. Slots.

We finished off the evening by going to the bar where TrollfesT shot the video for Trinkentroll, except now it’s called Maksitaksi. It’s not as dark, but it’s dead comfy and they were playing a lot of wubby bass tracks (which is another fondness of mine). Even better, it was pretty much falling distance away from the Smarthotel.

There was not a Single Thing Wrong with the whole day.

Oslo 28th August 2014 (Day 1/5)

Allow me to paint a picture for you.

It’s 3:37am. It is dark, and it is raining. Not proper rain, of course; just that horrid grey drizzle, the kind that sits innocently in a layer on top of your clothes for ten minutes…before reaching critical mass and soaking in, drenching you more thoroughly than if you had run around in a proper storm. I am stood in the garish purple glow of the lights outside the Premier Inn, Gatwick A23. I am wearing – as usual – camouflage combat shorts and skate trainers, and for the first time since March, I am actually feeling like I may have misjudged my wardrobe.

I was waiting for a taxi, which was getting progressively later. I was due to fly out to Oslo that morning at 5:55am, and while my logical self had looked at the timescales and was doing its best to reassure me that everything was going to be fine, my risk-assessing self was remembering the horrendous queue to get through security on the way to Copenhagen, and the fuck up with the boarding passes on the way to Montpelier. The background whine of anxiousness was getting louder and louder.

After a disproportionately polite telephone call to remind the taxi company that I was waiting, a car arrived and whisked me off to the South terminal. The driver complimented me on travelling light, which instantly soothed my ruffled feathers, since it’s a bit of a point of pride with me; if it doesn’t fit in one rucksack, it’s not going.

I trotted through the terminal to security…where there was one person in front of me. Despite the fact that I forgot to take the liquids out of my backpack (because, you know, I don’t travel enough to remember…) meaning that the security staff had to go through my bag – very nicely, and almost apologetically – I was through in 4 minutes.

So much for worrying about not getting through in time. Fuck you, risk-assessing brain.

I took a slow amble around the departure lounge, and fuck was it hot in there. I’m not sure if they try to deliberately encourage germs to breed or what, but it was quite unpleasant. Most of the shops weren’t open at that stage, but there was a Costa Coffee and there was the bar, with the warm shiny lights and sports news. I decided that I wasn’t going to have a beer, which would have been traditional, and was very pleased with myself. Granted, it was only 4:10am, and that’s probably a little bit early, even for me.

Making Sensible Choices

Making Sensible Choices

I spent the next hour sat with my massive coffee, charging my phone, and quietly judging people. A mid-30’s couple with a pushchair sat down by one of the departure boards. She was very pale and tired looking, with her blond hair pulled back into an “It’s-4am-who-gives-a-fuck” ponytail. She was staring vacantly into the pushchair, looking largely incapable of thought, let alone conversation. He on the other hand looked positively relaxed. He was wearing a neatly pressed pair of bootcut jeans, with pointy slip-on brown shoes, a snappy polo shirt with a pair of wrap-around sunglasses hanging backwards off of his neck, and a hat that he had clearly stolen from the Man from Del Monte. He slid his arse forward as far as he could on the seat, sprawling his legs out far enough to be a trip hazard, casually leaning back with his hands clasped behind his head, taking a nap while his partner sat motionless, staring at the baby.

I bet he’s a prick.

Ooh, on a side note, in the hotel room last night, I had discovered a Gideon’s bible. I didn’t realise they still did that these days, but I casually tossed a challenge out to my friends via the medium of Facebook.

Gauntlet thrown.

Gauntlet thrown.

The response was fairly overwhelming, with some excellent ideas, but in my sleep- and coffee-deprived state, I settled on writing a new Foreword and Disclaimer.


I feel like I could have done better, but never mind. I will be more prepared next time.

Anyway, departure gate 51 was called and I headed off on a completely uneventful mooch. Flight boarding and takeoff was absolutely by the numbers, with the only unpleasantness being the woman sat on the other side of the aisle. She was really small and quite old, with exceptionally short hair. She looked like a Squirrel Monkey in sandals, and she was cheerfully picking at the skin on her feet throughout the safety demonstration.

Speaking of safety, apparently there are no calm and orderly departures from Norwegian airline planes…



No fuss, no trauma, no turbulence, no screaming children, and even the old lady stopped picking herself. It was all to the good, because my brain – being its usual assclown self – had woken me up at 0:50am and there was no way I could have coped with any level of stress whatsoever.

Scumbag Brain

Scumbag Brain

We touched down in Oslo Gardermoen in absolutely glorious sunshine. It was warm and bright, with a cool breeze, the sky was a crystal clear azure blue, and the drizzly misery of that morning was rapidly burned away. I bounced through the airport, grinning my tits off… and did in fact laugh loudly as an escalator slowly swept me down past a massive poster which appeared to show a load of statues in a veritable orgy of oral pleasure. I am perfectly prepared to accept that it might just be my mind interpreting it that way, of course.

I had pre-booked tickets for a bus to and from Oslo bus station, and I stood around the place where the timetable had suggested the bus would be going from. There was a large group of staff from one Finnish company all gathered around in the same place, although they weren’t waiting for the same bus I was. After the best part of 20 minutes had passed, risk-assessment brain was clearing its throat and saying “…are you sure you know what you’re doing?”.

Of course, the bus turned up on the dot of when it was due, the ticket I had downloaded onto my phone was absolutely fine, the bus was relatively empty and comfortable, and also had free Wi-Fi.

It was never going to go wrong, idiot.

It was never going to go wrong, idiot.

Fuck you, risk-assessment brain. I really need to learn to trust my own judgement more. Unless I’m very drunk. Then I shouldn’t do that at all.

I was struck by how much the outskirts of Oslo – where there was a load of construction work taking place on what looked like it might be some funky new office complex – looked really like the outskirts of Bergen. There is obviously a very specific style of building that is popular at the moment, all clever and full of shapes.

My ticket was supposed to be to the bussterminalen. I pressed the stop button (which didn’t light up, but I didn’t want to press it again, because I am a fool) and picked up my bag, shuffling to the edge of my seat in anticipation of the bus stopping. Which it didn’t. The bus driver slowed to a crawl, ready to stop, as I was poised to get up. Both the driver and I were waiting for SOMEONE to commit to an action. In any case, he drove straight past, and I ended out getting off at the next stop like that was what I meant all along. As it happened, it was way closer to my hotel, so I am taking that as a Win.

I was staying at the Smarthotel on St Olav’s Gate. I took a walk up to see if there was any chance I could check in early. There wasn’t. I guess I should have paid more attention to the “Want to check-in early?” option when booking…

Anyway, I went off to go and familiarise myself with the local geography. Oslo centre is remarkably easy to navigate, and once you know a few street names, it’s almost impossible to get lost. I sat for a little while in the sunshine by the fountain in Eidsvolls Plass, feeling utterly at peace with the world.

I am given to understand it was still raining at home. BAHAHAHAHAH.

I am given to understand it was still raining at home. BAHAHAHAHAH.

Utterly at peace, but for one statue, which was challenging my British sensibilities to their utter limits. The statue was of a satyr. With his knob out. Not just OUT, but also really happy to see everyone. There were streams and streams of tourists taking photos and posing with it, but I was way too busy politely ignoring it. I have therefore resorting to stealing someone else’s picture.

I… well, ahh… ahem… I still don’t know exactly what I am supposed to think about this. What is the correct response? Am I supposed to be aroused, intimidated, amused, admiring? I am too British to deal with this, damnit.

Something else that really struck me was the sheer volume of people begging for money. There were genuinely loads of them, you couldn’t walk 25m in any direction without seeing someone begging or trying to entertain for cash. They fell into two very distinct groups; 1) guys dressed as clowns and 2) the wives of Papa Lazarou.

Tired to sell me a magazine in the centre of Oslo

Tried to sell me a magazine in the centre of Oslo

The first time a guy walked past me going “Beep beep!” I was delighted. I thought that I had finally found a place were people were free to wander around and be clowns if they wanted. I figured out what was going on as soon as I laughed…and he immediately homed in on me like a magpie after Shiny Things. I gave him a £2 coin. Good luck with that, son.

I wandered through the town and down to the waterfront and the Opera house. You could actually SMELL the sea, and it’s funny how you realise that you missed something like that once you have it again.



Oslo itself reminded me a lot of Copenhagen in terms of the architecture, and little details like the pedestrian crossings, but it was really very different in the atmosphere and the way it felt. Copenhagen gives off the impression that is has been designed, like some kind of model village. Oslo has a much more organic feel to it, like it has grown up around the people and evolved into the space, much more like the slightly cramped and alive feeling you get from London.

Except Olso is clean.

In Biology lessons, we would occasionally use a piece of equipment called a quadrat. The idea was that you take it outside, lob it around, and wherever it lands you count all the insects, plants and animals you find inside as a measure of bio-diversity.

Never did I think that THIS would be the thing that I took out of Biology A Levels...

Never did I think that THIS would be the thing that I took out of Biology A Levels…

If you chucked a quadrat around in a town in the UK, inside it you would expect to find;

1 brown and greasy McDonalds bag
4 cigarette ends
1 crisp packet
24 pieces chewing gum, crushed
1 discarded lottery scratch card
12 pieces of broken glass
1 shattered soul

In Oslo – nothing. I genuinely looked, and all I could find were some cigarette ends, and that was seriously only a few, and all around benches where people would naturally be sitting. I even looked up at one point and the fucking PIGEONS were taking a bath.

Not even joking, this little dude is drying out after taking a bath in the fountain.

Not even joking, this little dude is drying out after taking a bath in the fountain.

There was a bit of military parade, with uniforms, horses and a marching band. I simply cannot hear a band like that without expecting them to break into the music used on the Monty Python TV series. I am fairly sure that marks me as one of a slowly dying group. Nevertheless, I was delighted that they had obviously chosen to honour my arrival with such a magnificent spectacle.

Floating hippies. Of course.

Floating hippies. Of course.

During my wanderings around the town, I spotted a pub called The Scotsman. Well, it would be rude not to!

Brings back terrifying reminders of my wedding day.

Brings back terrifying reminders of my wedding day.

I actually really liked it in The Scotsman. It was nice, and dark, and the beer was good. There were a couple of kilts up on the wall, and I am sorry to say I think I recognised the tartan. It might even be the McDonald tartan, but I don’t want to investigate that any closer. This pub really reminded me of a local pub in Northampton called the Racehorse…or at least how the Racehorse used to be many years ago, before it smelled overwhelmingly of piss.

The menu made me smile. Bangers and…potato salad? We’re not in Kansas any more, Toto.


To be fair, it all looked pretty tasty.

While I was sat there, I saw two different kinds of uniformed personnel ride past the front door on horses. It was a bit surreal actually. I am sure it’s more common in London, but in Northampton you only ever really see horses when they are being ridden down country roads – literally and figuratively – shitting themselves as cars have to pass them on tiny bends, which make you question the riders’ 1) judgement, and 2) will to live.

I was due to meet up with a friend in the evening, but I successfully managed to squeeze in another pint before going and checking in to the hotel. I did have an interesting conversation with one of the barstaff about language before I left, which made me challenge my own perceptions a little bit, but I will go into that in more detail at another point.

My room at the Smarthotel was small but perfectly formed. I, of course, utterly filled it with crap at the first opportunity. I had a bed, a desk, a shower, toilet and TV. It was clean and comfortable and cheap, plus the hotel was really conveniently located close to shops and public transport, and I would highly recommend it to anyone planning on going to Oslo.

I magically transform every environment I am in into a shit-tip

I magically transform every environment I am in into a shit-tip

All things considered, it had been an odd little day. Not least of which was probably due to having been awake for about 7 hours longer than normal. Ignoring that though, Oslo quite unexpectedly didn’t feel all that very different from home. Yes, of course there were differences in the details; the weather was brighter, the city was cleaner, the buildings were EPIC, and the beggars were just skating on the sinister-comedy side of reality. Also, I will genuinely never get used to cars actually stopping at pedestrian crossings. Freaks me the hell out, just wandering into the road and trusting that no-one is going to take your legs out.

It was easy to navigate, comfortable, and familiar. Part of my agenda for the trip to Oslo was to see if it was a place that I could live, and I could certainly easily do that. However, I hadn’t fallen in love with it in the same way that I had Bergen. I suppose that is obvious thinking about it, since Bergen is a) so very different to anything you can experience in the UK, and b) utterly, chest-squeezingly, fucking beautiful. I wasn’t going to jump to any conclusions though; I had another four days to spend in the city and see how I got on with it.

Anyway, later that evening, I had my first experience of the T-Bane, which is the Oslo metro system. It smelled just like the London Underground and I LOVED it. The hot, greasy, mechanical, recycled air smell… it’s just…phwoarr… excuse me for a few minutes…

Hur hur.... foreskin...

Hur hur…. foreskin…

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.


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.



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;


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.


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.


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.

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…


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 ❤


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.


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.


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.


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.



“Norway, 10 points”


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.


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.


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