Monday, 14 September 2009

The Arctic Circle

We are currently in Bardu, which is a little bit like Twin Peaks.

We all met yesterday at Oslo Gardermoen, and waited anxiously for David's arrival. He was on a very tight schedule, and it started to look like he wasn't going to make it. As soon as we found out he'd landed (with 40 minutes to go until our next flight), the Mobergs got into Action Hero mode. Iva ran off to check him in at the self-service machine, Kjell phoned him to tell him what was going on, and the rest of us went through security hoping for the best and denying a possible problem. As David came upstairs (from the downstairs arrivals area), Iva gave him his luggage tag and sent him off to the security check shouting: 'ONE MINUTE!' That was how much time he had to get on the plane.
So he made it and we all set off to Harstad.

When we arrived in Harstad it didn't really look very different from other places I'd been to in Norway, so I was a little bit disappointed. But only a little bit, as I was (and still am) ridiculously excited about being in the arctic circle. Even though I've travelled to a lot of places (with various degrees of bizarreness), going to places I've never been to before still thrills me.
So we got into our rental car (which had all of our set and our lighting equipment tightly packed inside it) and started driving. To Harstad city. We were booked into a hotel on the fjord, which was quite classy in a tacky way.

After dinner we went for a walk to look around the town. The thought on everyone's mind was that very soon winter will kick in here, which means a lot of snow and darkness. Right now it is still light until about 8.30pm. But days are getting shorter and for the people up here total darkness will set in a few months from now.
It must be hard to live here. I can't even begin to imagine how it would be, and I don't think I'd be tempted to find out.

But it is beautiful. Stunning.
Kjell, David and I saw something in the water. 4 somethings. It could have been porpoises, or seals, or whales maybe. But they swam off to fast and we didn't get a good look. We tried to make them come back; Kjell and David gave their best porpoise impressions to call them back, but it didn't work.

This morning was an early one. We set off at 7.30 to go to a school in Skanland. That's where not such good news awaited us.

We opened our flightcases and the first thing Kjell noticed was a rattle in our streetlight. It had never rattled before. We opened it up and the ballast had come loose. Clearly it had had a rough journey. Next thing was the accordion. So Dave started operating it and managed to fix it. The third thing though, was Alex' guitar. Broken. Cargo had snapped its neck.
How I wished the set had stayed with me. But there's not enough time for me to drive it back to the UK for the tour there, so that was not an option. Maybe one day someone will prove to me that there is solace in freight, and that it can be trusted, but right now freight and cargo are not my friends.
We found solutions to everything and got ready for the show. 80 teenagers from Skanland came to watch us. It was very different from playing in Edinburgh, but it was great fun.
Afterwards we were invited to have lunch with some of the students who had helped us set everything up. They'd been a great help and it was very nice talking to them. We asked them what it was like to live here, and when the snow would come. Soon, they said. And the darkness would follow soon after.
They uttered their surprise at the south (Oslo), where it was light on Christmas day, where they heard people even mowed their lawns on Christmas, that's how warm and light it was there.
You could contest this statement, but in all honesty, I've been in Oslo just before Christmas when the snow hadn't come yet, there was only relentless rain. Not ideal for lawn-mowing, but I'd argue that the Skanland students were only exaggerating a little bit.

We headed off, we had a two hour drive ahead of us. Direction north-east. We stopped along the way to admire the view, and to look at WWII sites of the Battle of Narvik. I did a 360.

This is our rental car. We called it Spanky. It was Alex' idea - he got it from a television programme he watched where a tour guide was called Spanky. The GPS is called Randy. That was Kjell's idea. There are two more GPS's in the company: one is called Judy, the other is called Emily. I spend most of my time with Emily.

This is where we are now: 1001km from Kirkenes. Kirkenes is the end of Norway.

After two hours of driving we entered proper army territory. With Bardu in the midst of it. Bardu is a small town that currently has a big hole as its main drag. Roadworks. There are soldiers in camouflage jackets, a few shops and a bowling alley.
So bowling is what we did. And I lost spectacularly. My pink ball did not bring me any luck. But I had a great time.

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