Archive for January, 2016


January 9, 2016

Been experiencing a spot of intemperate weather here. The sort of weather that would make everything grind to a halt in the UK and send journalists out into blizzards and clambering for shots of cars trapped on motorways and long distance shots of lone walkers walking along deserted and snowy lanes.

Here, it’s a bit different. Snow falls every winter as a matter of course and they have the equipment to take care of it, or at least push it off to the side of the roads so it isn’t in the way. Of course, there are lots of roads so they can’t do them all at once, but they start with the major thoroughfares and work their way down the ploughing order.

You could tell the first big dump of snow was coming because the day after Christmas, there were all sorts of vehicles out and about and scattering debris onto the roads and pavements. Monster tractors with big bouncy tyres for the big roads, and cute little Bob the Builder style munchkin tractors for the pavements and smaller roads. After the first really big dump of snow after Christmas, all the major passes to Bergen were closed and cars were tumbling off into ditches so that was the first priority. But at the same time, municipal workers were back outin the tractors and tractorlettes and ploughing or brushing the streets clean.

When we get a snow fall in the UK, its generally a few days of chaos, followed by thawing and flooding, then everything returns to normal, until the next storm. Here, we had a brief (unseasonal) respite after the first fall, when the temperatures crept up above freezing, it rained a lot and the snow was washed away. But it was a brief reprieve, a quick reboot and we were ready for some more. It snowed on Monday, and then again on Tuesday, the sun came out on Wednesday, and it’s been snowing on and off since.

As I left work yesterday evening on foot, negotiating the mounds of snow that divided pavement and road, it was cold and dark and I realized this was how it was going to be until April. In 2015, in the last week of April, we drove up to Oslo from Denmark in a high sided van packed with our belongings, and missed the last major storm by 24 hours. This was just as well since, coming from Denmark, the rental wasn’t fitted with winter tyres, so snow driving would have been a challenge.

Already, after a week of snow-covered streets, it feels like the norm. Now, even my bike is fitted with snow tyres, which add an extra three or four kilogrammes to an already overweight bicycle. There is none of the mystical magic alluded to in the intro to Raymond Briggs Snowman flick “ the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness..”

For one thing, it gets dark early this far north, and the sun doesn’t come up until I’ve been installed in my office for a couple of hours and on my second cup of coffee. So, unless you happen to working shift hours, the Norwegian version would be more along the lines of “ the morning I woke in a room that was filled with darkness and silence, the heating was off and whole world was seemed to be held in an extremely cold stillness. I looked out of the window, fuck, it was snowing again


deserted snowy lane, without solitary walker.

New Year Oslo

January 2, 2016

So, my first New Year’s Eve in Norway under the belt. Viewed from inside the flat, it initially seemed pretty much like any other New Year celebrations I’ve viewed from within the comfort of my home, although this time there were more boats. The difference in the nautical perspective is primarily due to having previously lived in places that are solidly landlocked. The exception would be Denmark, but if you are living outside Copenhagen, Zealand feels so sparsely populated it seems you’d be hard pushed to get enough people together to muster up a posse, let alone have a whip round for a box of fireworks.

But it turned out that Oslo was quite different. Even a brief excursion out on to the balcony at 11:59 into the subzero temperatures revealed the presence of more than a boxworth of revelers on the streets below, before they were drowned out by the coordinated firework displays. I say coordinated, but it seems there were two independent factions competing for the attentions of the shitfaced revelers gathered in the harbour area in the city. One display seemed to be coming directly from the harbour by the old fort, while the remaining fireworks appeared to be launched a little further away, probably from somewhere close to the opera house. On top of this, all the ferries starting firing off their foghorns, including the 12 deck Oslo-Kiev overnight ferry that is docked just down the road and which has the mother of all “parps”.

These days, New Years Eve firework displays are more of a marketing opportunity, with each city around the globe trying to outdo everyone else, planning complex and coordinated efforts that emphasize a particular international landmark (think Sydney Bloody Opera house or the Eiffel Tower) or geographical feature (synchronized firings along the banks of the Thames) accompanied by gushing commentaries from the media. It’s unlikely the whole affair did do much to attract the international business community, or boost winter tourism in Oslo. The city´s chaotic combination of assaults on the visual and auditory senses reminded more me of the back garden Bonfire Night displays of my youth. A firework pulled out of the box at random, a cursory glance by failing flashlight at the instructions on the side. Placing, lighting and relighting the touchpaper and realizing too late that you have nailed a rocket to the fence.