Yes, we’re travelling, our first proper trip since we got the pups over a year ago, only three nights in Oslo (hence the flag), modest by past standards but grand in recent times. In my last blog I wrote about routines and how I missed them when they weren’t there. So even when we travel there should be routines and this trip was no different. Every morning Mrs Summerhouse sets her alarm for 5.30. She likes to get up early to do her yoga and latterly to feed the pups. No, I don’t understand either, I get up at 6.30, quite early enough, I reckon. Anyway this Saturday morning the alarm went off as usual bang on 5.30. It seemed louder than usual but then travel will disorient a person, but bloody hell it is loud, It’s woken up the other guests, they’re running in the corridors outside our door. When we stopped to consider we realised that it was, in fact, the hotel fire alarm that had gone off and guests were leaving the building. Saving our valuables, pulling overcoats over pyjamas, we joined them. We were on the fourth floor, surprisingly long way down when you have rickety knees and even further back up when you have a rickety rest of body. This of course after having been given the all clear. We’re not stupid you know. I ruminated that I would be of little use to the much fitter Mrs SH in such an emergency. Leave me, save yourself, say goodbye to the pups for me, I might say. More likely – that’s right run, you bitch, after all I’ve done for you.
And so our first proper day in Oslo began. You might think it improbable but it continues in this bizarre fashion. Maybe it’s the trolls. The ferry trip to Bygdoy, the ‘museum island’ was sensible enough. You need to take a ferry to the island. It was raining and you could see very little which made us wonder why people would take the two hour boat trip around the fiords, but at least you didn’t have to scramble for a seat. After the museums, we walked to the Opera House, a grand and imaginatively designed building on the water front, as you may get some sense of from my photos. The one on the left is people on the ‘roof’ of the ‘mountain’ it’s supposed to represent. The view below is from the water.
The main materials of construction are Italian marble and German Oak. I’ve even included a photo of these just to prove it’s true. Call me a pedant but I would have thought the one thing Norway had in shed loads was rock and wood. The fact the building was designed by a Norwegian architectural firm but used predominantly ‘foreign’ materials caused some consternation in Norway. And they’re not even in the EU, got their own money and everything.
Still we’re not complaining because the music was probably the best deal in Norway, financially speaking that is. For 50 kroner each we got to hear Marina (see below) play a varied repertoire. This in the land where a pint and a half of lager cost us £12, i.e. 120 Kroner. Some bloke introduced her and talked for five minutes about the various pieces of music, we couldn’t understand a bloody word he said but he was obviously hilarious because the audience twice sort of grunted and his already narrow eyes narrowed a shade more as he delivered, what we assume was, a witticism. Not what you might call a warm man. Ascetic, is that the word? Admittedly, the performance wasn’t quite as I’d hoped. Marina played the piano from a sitting position not as in her photo below. So she walked in, sat down at the piano which was in a sort of corridor, rather than in an actual hall, hence probably the cheapness.
Her hands hovered over the piano and a mellifluous sound filled the room / corridor, unfortunately it was from the phone of the dickhead sitting next to us. Much Norwegian tutting, he turned it off, and Marina began. What he did throughout the rest of the performance, first half anyway, was even more annoying, he squeaked his shoes, he rubbed the leather uppers together. ALL THE WAY through the first half. In the scherzos it didn’t matter, in the quiet sections it was excruciating. Can I have been the only person who heard his performance? I don’t recall the programme notes saying Marina accompanied by the twat in the squeaky shoes but maybe that was in the Norwegian bit. Confusingly Marina did not stand up for applause at the end of every piece but did for some, making it impossible to know how far through the whole performance she had got unless you knew the pieces really well, which she did but we didn’t. So it was hard to know when she had finished. Some people in the audience left and others remained. The two old ladies at the side of me insisted there was another piece the Scriabin to come. No, I’d never heard of him? either. It wasn’t until they started clearing the chairs from around us that they, and we, left. Despite the squeaking and the children, much too young in my view, the Norwegians seem to love their little children, well, bless, still good value anywhere and for Norway exceptional value. As if to reinforce this our final act of the day was to buy two Irish coffees, in what looked like a cheap little bar. Cost? A mere £21 for two. Is it me or is that ridiculously, bloody expensive, criminally expensive. We went to bed, me in high dudgeon, Mrs SH saying relax, we’re on holiday. I hate being told to relax.
Sunday started normally. A free breakfast and a walk to the flea market where I bought a bust of that well-known Norwegian composer, Beethoven. Well, it was only 50 kroner, you can’t say no to a bargain like that. Not in Norway you can’t. My other souvenirs of which I am very proud were two what we used to call LPs in the old days of jazz guitarists and two CDs. I’ve even included photos. Those who read this blog regularly will immediately spot the connection to my jazz workshops. Then we took the fiord tour, did I mention it was a beautiful day, how smug I felt.
God doesn’t like smug people. I had given very careful instructions to Mrs SH to sit on the right hand side of the boat having studied the route and clearly all the points of interest were on the right. We got there early to ensure we got a good seat. Then the fucking boat went to other way round the roughly circular route. Our guide picked up her microphone and said on our left, she said this just about every time. I was quite cross – again. This was a typical view of the bloke’s head in front.
A rare fiord view from our side of the boat
All my crossness was dissipated when we got back and went to a recently built modern art gallery that we had passed by on the tour, you could even see it from the wrong side of the boat.
It was fabulous, the building itself, the art inside it and the fact that we got in as senior citizens, I think you have to be 67, which we aren’t, only slightly was my pleasure reduced by the realisation that the young lady at the till thought we looked 67, still never mind. The art works were in our view fabulous. If you ever wondered where Damien Hirst’s cows ended up, wonder no more, there were more of his works than I have ever seen in the UK and we went to the same art college, irrelevant but I just had to get it in. There were several Jeff Koons and they don’t come cheap, Francis Bacon’s triptych, ditto and a staggering, Anselm Kieffer, you get the idea. A bargain at 80 kroner each. I’ve put three examples at the end of the blog. To round off the day, a beer and a curry. We could have had a free dinner back at the hotel, we had done for the previous two nights, but decided to lash out and spend our remaining kroner, there were not many remaining, so it wasn’t difficult.
And that is how we spent our first proper trip abroad since we had the dogs. For those of you who have read my financial blog, you will be surprised that we chose what must be a contender for most expensive city in the world (can you be jet-lagged from spending too much money?)but there is a story behind it, tied to air miles but that’s for another time. For now, that’s retirement and travel. Given how much we’ve missed the pups I’m very afraid it may be quite a while before we take off without them again.
Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Anselm Kieffer