Easter is a big deal in Norway. The first year we came, we were looking forward to the Easter break. The children were off school and work stopped right through from the Wednesday afternoon until the following Tuesday. Thursday morning dawned bright and sunny and I recall we headed into Stavanger, thinking we would go swimming in the outdoor swimming pool. We were disappointed to find it was closed. Who would close a swimming pool in the school holidays, we wondered, in our quaint British ignorance? Many swimming pools in Norway, we have discovered since, close during school holidays. That still seems bizarre to me as in the UK they are thought of as an entertainment and teaching venue and a useful and healthy one at that.
But the realisation that it wasn’t just the pools that were closed but also the shops was the real show stopper. While we probably had enough in the freezer to get by, we had assumed we could buy Easter eggs and all the celebratory food during the first day of our break. It wasn’t our finest hour.
Nowadays I am a little more prepared. I spent Monday out on a visit with Thomas and Tuesday at the abattoir. Charlie had originally been due to arrive on Wednesday, but due to coronavirus the planes continue to be erratic, so in fact he came on Tuesday evening. I had already planned for five days of dinners. Not for the Tuesday itself though, so Charlie bought us a meal from the local Chinese restaurant, which we ate at home due to lockdown regulations. Travel around Norway wasn’t recommended, but as Charlie hadn’t seen John or Anna for months, both our region and his have low infection rates and the planes were already booked, we had decided to go ahead, but take extra care to avoid contact outside the family while he was here.
Because he had arrived early, we were able to take a trip around Senja on Wednesday. We were lucky with the weather. It has been snowing on and off most of the time here, in between massive almost daily thaws, but there was an oasis of calm on the far side of Senja island and at one point, the sun even came out!
We made a stop at Steinfjord rest stop, a sandy bay at the end of a short fjord. The tiny village of Steinfjord nestles right at the base of the steep mountains. It’s a beautiful place.
Triar was, of course in his element, though he did have to wait patiently with his ball as Charlie spent some time taking drone footage of the surroundings.
The drive back was also beautiful, though as we rounded the north end of the island, the snow set in and after one final picture of another mountain range receding into clouds, I didn’t get any more worth sharing.
The end of Triars day was not so cheery. He had rolled in something or other back at the beach and so when he came home, he went straight into the shower and emerged, clean but not delighted.
And so for now, I will wish a very happy Easter to you all. See you again soon.
Saturday night was the Julebord (Christmas Party). It was held at GamleVærket in Sandnes, and happily Charlie and I were able to book a room to stay overnight, which made for a very relaxing evening.
For me this was a very special event as it was my first Norwegian Julebord and though there were some similarities to those I have been to in Scotland there were also some major differences. I have a suspicion that J.R.R. Tolkien must have been to a Norwegian Julebord just before writing the dwarf party scene in the Hobbit. Very early on, it became apparent that throughout proceedings, people would randomly burst into song for no obvious reason, prompting everyone else to join in. Each of these rousing choruses culminated in a toast, which certainly got the event going.
Unlike the often uninspiring turkey dinner that is generally served in the UK, there was a huge buffet of traditional Norwegian Christmas delicacies, including ribbe, pinnekjøtt and lutefisk. I have mentioned ribbe before because we usually have it on Christmas day and it is a roasted pork joint with delicious crackling. Pinnejøtt is a kind of dried, salted lamb. But for me, the lutefisk the most interesting offering. For the uninitiated, lutefisk is white fish which has been slowly dissolved in caustic sodium hydroxide until it becomes gelatinous. Yum! Actually, this was my first experience of lutefisk, and when combined with chunks of bacon, mushy peas, and a delicious cream and mustard flavoured sauce, it was quite delicious. I would definitely have it again.
Dagny’s husband Sondre had brought his guitar, and he was mostly in charge of the entertainment. Per Egil (Irene’s husband) was first up. He shared a very baaaaad sheep joke with us. Charlie also had to talk. Happily, he is almost always prepared for public speaking and was quickly ready with a joke.
Jan-Arne got up at this point to take Steinar to work as he was due to work the night-shift. For some reason, their departure was marked with a song, to the tune of God Save the Queen, which roughly translated as “The old people are going home now”. I’m not sure her majesty would approve.
After a rousing rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, some musicians very kindly came in and gave us their Jærsk version of King of the Road. Quite appropriately, this was all about a farmer and his enormous tractor. I couldn’t follow all of it, but if it was completely accurate, I am sure there must have been a mention of slurry in there somewhere.
For some reason, at this point all the women whose dresses had been bought by their husbands had to stand up and give a fashion parade. Irene, Dagny, Marita and me all had to give our version of the catwalk strut. Irene was definitely the most assured.
Then it was the turn of the husbands who bought the dresses to talk about the occasion. When asked the theme he had considered when buying Irene’s outfit, Per Egil stated he had been going for the ‘F****** Sexy Look. I was a bit worried about Charlie at this point, because I had a suspicion that he very likely had no memory of buying my dress. It was a couple of years ago, and just after Christmas in the sales. Still, he managed to hide his amnesia well by saying he just felt it was important that I did not outdo him for glamour. He then stated that unfortunately, as it was me he had to contend with, he had failed in his objective. In Glasgow, I fear this might have raised a chorus of gagging noises, but happily for me, Norwegians are far more romantically inclined and instead everyone said ‘Awwww……’
Christmas is a time for the giving of gifts, and so now it was time for us all to play the klinikk version of pass the parcel. Instead of music, the package started with Magne, who had to pass it to “a lady beside him,” who then had to pass it to “the person who was sitting furthest away.” The first few directions were innocuous, but gradually the theme descended towards more personal things. The final few were decidedly risqué. I really want to know how Kari Anna knew that Dagny’s husband was “owner of the biggest dick,” though not perhaps so much as Dagny wondered…
Of course, no Christmas party would be complete without some dancing, and so at this point everyone had to dance around the mulberry bush, or as they would have it here, the enebærbusk. I suppose that given the fact that one of Norway’s most popular Christmas songs states that the celebrations can’t begin until the floor has been washed, that a dance involving ironing the clothes and cleaning the windows would also be still all the rage.
Happily Jan-Arne returned in time for dessert. I particularly enjoyed the multer (cloud berries) with cream. Jan-Arne managed to pull one of the tiny Christmas crackers that was attached to the kransekake, and to my surprise, there was actually a hat and a joke inside. Jan-Arne seemed to enjoy the rice porridge with raspberry sauce best. Fortunately he didn’t get called out to any calvings with his crown on.
The evening was drawing to a close now, and people started to depart, but a few stout-hearted and dedicated partygoers continued down into the main bar area downstairs where a band were playing. Charlie, still swirling around in his kilt experienced some most enjoyable Norwegian sexism in action. Apparently not only was he accosted many times to be asked what he was wearing underneath, but he also had his bum felt a couple of times. I think it rounded off the evening well.
Anyway, for those who have reached this point, thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. And for anyone who is interested, I will attach a few more photos below. Maybe some of them will be a little more flattering…