Monday, 30 April 2018

Of penguins and pancakes

Facts can sometimes appear more prosaic than fiction, and by extension, books of non-fiction less appealing or entertaining than their more fanciful counterparts. And sometimes this is true. Say you've had a bit too much by way of 'real life' as portrayed by the news and/or social media and would really like nothing better than spending a bit of time away from the 'givens' of the world around us. A work of science fiction might be just the thing. Or not.

Sometimes the best thing is to read a story very much of this world, anchored in reality and all the more fascinating for it. I've read one such very recently, The Penguin Lessons. I suppose you could just click on the link there and find a much better/succinct overview of the story than I might be able to cook up at this moment. So I'd rather just stick to my impression of it :).

For one thing, I managed to finish reading it in just one afternoon. Practically. It was charmingly anachronistic almost, set a few decades ago in Argentina (and briefly in Uruguay). A part of the world of which I have hardly any first or even second hand knowledge or familiarity. But it's also so much more than just a story. More than a mere recounting of happenings.

The fact that the author effortlessly meanders between happenings and the feelings and emotions elicited by said happenings is what really drew me in I think. It reminded me somewhat of Gerald Durrell, although not quite. In the end I guess the point is just that stories are stories, real or otherwise, and sometimes, the more tangible reality there is woven into it, the easier it is to relate to.

So the other thing I had been up to these last couple of months was going to some Norwegian classes! Twice a week was quite enough to keep some sort of a pattern to the weeks, but then there was homework! I mean, I can't even remember when I had homework last :). It's been fun though! I feel less and less like a deer caught in headlights when required to converse in Norwegian :).

There was also the trip to The Netherlands at the beginning of the month. And at that point Norway was still well and truly in the grip of winter (more on that later). But Holland was incredible! Warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt and almost unfailingly sunny for most of the week that we were there! It had been a bit cold over the winter there too though, no tulips and the daffodils and magnolias only really started blossoming after the first couple of days of proper sunshine. 

The other entertaining thing was the electric bikes! Given an uneven mathematical situation between the number of people and the available seats in a car, we ended up borrowing a couple of bikes to get around during our week there. But these were no ordinary bikes! Electric bikes imported from France over a decade ago :).

But then after we got back from that trip, things started changing rather rapidly here in Norway too! Temperatures in the mid teens and suddenly the snow that had seemed like an inescapable shroud over the whole world for the last five months started disappearing fast! And at long last the crocus bulbs we had planted in the garden last November finally came out and gave us some lovely flowers :D. 

The last of the snow can now only be found in the deepest woods where it is really well protected from the sun :). But I think it is about time for spring. And unlike last summer, this shall hopefully bring about much cycling! We shall see.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Things I haven't missed these last couple of months: alarms, office hour traffic, meetings, canteen food, looking out into a bright and sunny world from behind an office window.

Things I have missed a little: chats over coffee and hot-chocolate, sunshine on the terrace with a view all the way out to the fjord. And possibly, a sense of knowing what I'm doing :). So nothing irreplaceable then :D.

It's been a pretty cool almost-two-months of being out of a job. In fact, I've been out cross-country skiing so much, I think not having a job was a distinct positive this winter! And what a winter! There were a few times we went over tracks we had been to earlier in January, and the volumes of snow had pretty much altered the terrain!

I managed to go cross-country skiing more times and for greater distances than in any other previous season, but still managed to make sure we went somewhere new every time! I loved it! But now it's probably time for some warmth. The snow's slowly been melting and there's some interesting skating rinks in places where there shouldn't be skating rinks. For instance right outside our front door. But the thickness of the ice means we'll just have to wait for it to melt and watch our steps in the mean time :).

It's not all been just cross country though! Managed a couple of more days of downhill. But again, there was just this feeling that in a winter like this, cross country is the way to go :). I'm getting quite a bit better at it too! I think the longest I went in a day was fourteen kilometers. So not quite a proper Norwegian distance then, but still :).

I've also managed to read some books in the mean time. But Dead Lions, the follow up to the very entertaining Slow Horses was somehow a bit of a let down. I''m hoping the next one, Real Tigers will get back to some more entertaining plots. On the other hand there has been The Chess Men.

So, I don't think I've written anything at all about my experience of reading the previous two Lewis trilogy books, The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man. I decided to read all of them before doing that. In someways it's good that I did. Even though you could in theory read each book on its own and enjoy it, I definitely feel reading all three does add something to the experience.

Each book has it's distinct character if you will, anchored to the Isle of Lewis in different ways, but exploring different aspects of it, physically and otherwise. I particularly liked the way the secondary threads that spun off in the first book finally seemed to be tied up in the third. Not always to my liking, but then that's bound to happen with a book written by someone else :).

The other rather big thing this last month has been the saga of getting myself  a new laptop. Bit mundane and boring to go into too much detail, but the punchline is that after a couple of weeks of going back and forth with the shop to get odd things fixed, I've now got myself a fully working and very fast MSi job with programmable keyboard backlighting amongst other things :D. And in a case of upside down causality, ended up started gaming again on a PC for the first time in many years! Hopefully that will wear off soon :P.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The end of an era!

Everything that has a beginning, has an end.

Ok, so how many of you thought, that seemed awfully familiar, and then how many managed to trace it to the Oracle in The Matrix? :D As usual, I digress. But the fact of the matter is, that after twelve and a half years, I've parted ways with WesternGeco. I know that for a lot of my friends moving on from a job is no big deal. But having never done this before, I was a bit more circumspect. I can categorically say after almost three weeks, I'm beginning to like this more each day :).

For one thing, the weather's been fantastic! It's been cold! Like really cold, but that also means more snow! And every now and then sunshine and bright blue skies appear, making everything look like a dream world. And, seeing how I'm quite free most days from nine to five, we've been making use of it! I've already been cross-country skiing this year more times than ever before :). And guess what? Nice fresh powdery snow, especially when there's been enough or it to alter the entire landscape, is the best possible thing for a relative newbie like me :).

What with all this snow on the ground, you'd imagine I'd have managed a zillion trips snowboarding on some ski slope or other. Funnily enough, not so. I keep thinking, it's such a beautiful season for cross-country, might as well just go do that while we can! Ski slopes are open every season, cross-country tracks aren't!

We did have a four day trip to Hafjell a couple of weeks ago though! Again, brilliant conditions, and a place I'd never been to before, but absolutely loved! Unlike a few other places I've been to, it's large, but not spread out in a way that makes it difficult to find your way around. Trysil for instance, can be a nightmare! And even though the slopes there are pretty great and I've been there more times than I've been to any other ski resort, I still get lost! Hafjell on the other hand, is super easy. Stacked as the slopes are one above the other, you can pick and choose, but all slopes lead to the same  place at the bottom :).


There's that thing with change, you never know how things are going to work out. But in many ways, that's what makes life exciting I suppose :). I started writing this blog within a month or so of starting with WG. I looked back on some of my early posts recently with a mix of fondness and cringing :D. Much has changed in a dozen years.

For one thing, I would never have thought I'd settle down in Norway! I mean, I was here, almost right at the beginning, back in October 2005. With not a clue as to how life would lead me to here and now :). And I'm glad I didn't know! I'd probably have messed it up :P. So yes, I'm looking forward to how the next year, or ten, turn out. In the meantime, there's much snow and sunshine to enjoy!

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Theatrics and drama, real and otherwise

What can I say, just because the calendar rolls over from one year to the next doesn't mean life's about to let up on the pace front, is it? :) A new year brings new excitements and challenges! And this one's starting strong!

First things first though, the things I really ought to write about, because, after all, a big part of this blog is being a space for my thoughts on books and such. I don't think I can call them reviews, the bits I write about things I've read or watched. They're more impressions, I think. Anyway, firstly, the play!

Yes!! I went to watch a play! For the first time in I can't even remember how long!! I used to love plays! I used to even act and help direct plays! But that's more than a decade ago now, even before I started with this blog :). But yes, very excited about the opportunity to watch a play. Should definitely do that again.

On to the actual thing then, it was a fantastic production called Teddy at The Watermill Theater in Newbury. (Which is, well, somewhere in England, let's not get too distracted.) And the reason why it felt so awesome was in part the pace of the production, but also, and I think to a much greater extent, our proximity to and unique angle of view of the stage! We were on these balcony type seats practically on top of the stage on one side :).

There's something about plays, the sense that you are watching something unique, which may have been performed and practiced and honed again and again for days on end, yet each particular performance is not quite like any other. Especially this one as it entertained a fair bit of audience interaction. And rather cleverly played with the boundaries that lie between the audience, the narrator and the players.

The story itself seemed to be of much greater interest to those who have had some experience with (or understanding of) the post war years in the UK, but seeing how I'm about as far as you can get from that, I can confidently say that it was pretty nice even without any background, simply as an interesting story being presented very cleverly. And of course there was the choreography and music!

So there we have it. Why did we end up in England watching a play, well, all I can say is that birthday cakes were involved and a loooot of chocolate :D.

Might get easier to plan 'weekend trips' in a few days though! Looking forward to a reasonably long break. The first this size since before I moved to Norway!! Don't feel like I can say more about that just yet, but watch this space. Maybe, after all, my update rate will spike :D.

In the mean time, the snow continues!! Although there has been some injection of unwelcome rain and brief patches of above freezing weather that turns the white into ice. But thus far those stretches have been brief and more often than not quickly followed by more of the good stuff! Looking forward to pulling down the snowboard off the top of the cupboard some time soon.

Ha. I realize I had thought about writing something about the last book I read too. But seeing how it's a trilogy, and I didn't go completely ga-ga over the first book, maybe we give it another book or two before spending more keystrokes on it :).

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The year like none other

This has been some year :). Appropriately bookended by trips with/visiting the families in January and December! Somehow though, January feels like a very long time ago! Even more so than most years I'd say.

I suppose getting married is a pretty big deal in one's life, as such, that has rather overshadowed much else that has happened this year :). But there's been plenty of other stuff too!! Through one wedding or another, I've managed to meet up with more friends and family than in many years! And I've thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to catch up that those meetings presented, some more than others (the opportunities for catching up, I mean, not the enjoyment in said catching up :D).

One thing that was rather lacking was travelling just to travel, not to visit family :). Although there was that one fabulous trip to Croatia!

It's a shame really, in some ways, that I no longer seem to feel the compulsion to write down all the little details I so enjoy on trips like that. Maybe I should start again. We shall see :). Of course that would require some interesting travels, which incidentally is very much on the cards for 2018!

I probably didn't take as many photos as usual. Almost without realising it, I've succumbed to the phone camera pandemic... Then again, change is the name of the game that is life, so I try not to look at things through too much of a rose tint these days, with mixed success :).

Is accepting change a mark of growing up? Or growing old? I guess I'll settle for the in-between of  simply growing older :).

Another thing that I gave an almost total miss this year was cycling.. which is kinda sad. Something I'm looking forward to most definitely rectifying next year :). Although there was a reasonable amount of running. And this winter seems to have started off better than any I can remember since I moved here! The snow has been around more often than not all the way since November, and since we got back from England last Wednesday there has been so much snow!!!

We decided to celebrate by going cross country skiing for the last two days of the year :). And I'm happy to say that one winter of relatively less time spent on skis doesn't seem to have done much harm.

The trips to India and England went wonderfully, starting with a weather delay induced all inclusive holiday in Dubai :). Which is some ways was quite a good interlude before a very packed five days in Kolkata. The week in Harwell was rather more relaxed. I spent what seemed like most of my waking time eating awesome food or keeping watch over the fabulous wood fire :D. Can't think of many better ways of enjoying the end of the year.

Much has changed in the last year, and the feeling in my gut says more changes are coming :). But what a fabulous thing it is to discover new things in life :). So here's hoping for more joyful surprises and chance encounters making for an awesome new year!