Friday, 29 June 2018

Of palm beaches, bunkers and wind

Haha! What can I say. Even without a job and with loads happening that I could probably post about, I'm still back to almost the last day of the month before a post :). But for those (unlikely as this is :P) waiting with bated breath about the outcome of the wedding cake we were trying to make when I last posted, ta-daaaaaa:

Impressive huh?! Well, we certainly thought so! :D Especially when the cake fitted with barely an inch to spare in the car we did most of the transporting in :). Crazy stuff. Held up traffic (yeah, like all of three cars, most of whom recognized what was going on anyway [Aside in an aside. It's kinda cool living in a really small place. Much nosiness, but also much joy and happy celebrating.]). And except for the heat melting some of the butter icing, everything survived just fine for the cake cutting! 

At which point the caterers took it away and did an impressive job of deconstruction :).

So that was England. Except it wasn't! We then went off on a roadtrip up North. Yes, there is much capitalization of road signs. In some cases even the full shouty all caps! People take north and south pretty seriously in small countries :D. But yes, finally had a petrol rental car in the UK, which was much appreciated indeed :).

Then as soon as we'd come back, we were off again! This time on a brief free-ferry-tickets-induced trip to Frederikshavn! And what a fantastic trip that was! We decided to take the bikes with us on the overnight ferry there, spent the whole day basically cycling around, eating baked goodness, and then finally caught the overnight ferry back and spent practically the whole of the next day exploring bits of the coastline near Oslo on the way back home :).

Oh! One of the highlights of the day in Frederikshavn was definitely the fantastic lunch being swung around at the top of  the Cloos Tower while hiding from the wind. There was also the bunker museum with properly done up bunkers from WWII. And finally a proper white sand beach complete with palm trees. Yes, at the top of Denmark!

Since then the temparature had calmed down a little here in Norway, tame mid teens, no less. But seems this last week or so it's decided to climb back up to high 20's. So we've made some use of it and been out swimming in the lakes a couple of times :). After the awesome winter, it's turning into quite the brilliant summer, this!

But now the travelling starts a bit more in earnest. Today we're off to England, with a week in the Lake district. And when we're back, assuming the car's happy, we'll be off on a two week trip around Vestlandet! Then there's France, Bangladesh... when there is free time, why not make the most of it eh? :D

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Of flowers, real and otherwise

Well, summer is well and truly here! As if to punctuate this, Norway is experiencing it's hottest May on record. So, good thing that we're not in Norway then? That depends on how much you love cloudy weather :-). It is actually a fair bit cooler here than the temperatures is reporting for Asker on my weather app, so I'm not exactly complaining.

But let us rewind just a little bit. As the weather started warming up, I finally managed to get on the bike and get some trips in! Nothing spectacular, just the usual bits around Asker and the fjords. But seeing that I had done a sum total of one trip all of last summer, this is good news :-).

On the down side, this was the first year since moving to Norway that I didn't end up participating in the Holmenkollstafetten. One wonders if circumstances will conspire to make this an aberration or otherwise.

But I'm having too much fun to notice to be entirely honest :-). Managed to finish reading the InterWorld series. Which has an interesting authorship situation, it would appear. The first one was co-written by Neil Gaiman, hence my interest. The next two seem to not be. Now whether I felt this way because I noticed the complexity of separate 'written by' and 'story by' bits on the covers or just noticed it in the writing, the first book definitely feels a lot more distinctively Gaiman.

Which is not to say the other books are not worth a read. It's just that with Gaiman, you could pick up any of his books, regardless of target audience and find a certain level of thoughtfulness. This is present and accounted for in InterWorld, but seems to fade out and get rather overwhelmed by an excess of happenings in rather quick succession in the next two instalments.

Happily, the other book I finished in the mean time, Real Tigers by Mick Herron, gave me no such issues whatsoever :D. Having thoroughly enjoyed the first book of his Jackson Lamb series, I had felt a little bit let down by the second. This third one however, completely restores my faith in Herron as a writer capable of proper intrigue! It's a fast read this book, and kept me engaged without going even a little 'oh come on! really?!!' So enthralled was I with Real Tigers that I started immediately after with Spook Street... and came to a crashing halt a few pages in when my favourite character ended up with his head blown off...

I guess these things happen. But somehow, I've still not mastered the art of properly enjoying a book without getting at least somewhat sentimentally invested in the characters. So when, every so often, authors decide to just kill their fictional creations off, I am left with the burden of not quite fictional sorrow. Oh well.

Fortunately, with a wedding coming up in two days, and all the preparations for it, there have been other things on my mind! For one thing, there is the cake!! We've practically been baking for a week, with other preparations having gone on even longer (I present the 17th of May cake from earlier this month). 

(As an aside for anyone confused, it's not like I got married and transformed overnight into a master baker. It's just that my better half enjoys letting me help :-). Oh and also, the 17th of May! This year we decided to celebrate the Norwegian national day right at home in Asker with some friends. One of their daughters was participating in the kids parade for the first time, so it was definitely a bit of a special occasion.) 

So back to this wedding cake then. In this particular instance seven different flavours will be stacked up into one single cake. Preferably into ten tiers, but we shall see. People are losing sleep over how to get this mega-structure from here to where the reception is. Hopefully all shall be well.

So yes, life is happening and while we've lost one of the cats in this house, the other one seems friendlier than ever before. I guess you win some, you lose some.

PS. Go-karting is awesome!!! I can't believe I haven't written more about that! But oh well.

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!