Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Of rivers and ruins

August in Norway is a bit of a wildcard month. It could be one of the better months of the summer, with the long days still lasting past 9 pm and the warmth of the sunshine a practical rather than theoretical matter :). Or it could be well and truly into autumn. This year, as with the previous two seasons, it can't seem to make up its mind. There's been a bit of warm sunshine, a bit of cold winds and quite a lot of rain!

After a few months of lots of driving, there was a bit more of lazing about locally. Although there was the brief weekend trip to Fredrikstad. I'd never been there, but a friend was visiting Norway and flying in through Rygge, so it seemed prudent to explore that side of the fjord for a change. And it was totally worth it! The AirBnB flat we had for the weekend, though suspiciously low on lighting, was otherwise very nice and in a really nice location!

The weather was split, one day of overcast skies and rain, and another of bright blue skies and dazzling sunshine :). Definitely better than both days being rained out! We took the opportunity to explore the older parts of the city, especially the old fort surrounded by a real, proper moat! And many many cannons, that in some places looked like they were quite enjoying their retirement :).

I also finally managed to make use of my rather recently acquired UK visa with another trip to Bath, this time a short one just for a long weekend. And again, the weather was split :). We did manage a nice picnic, despite the overcast skies, and some amount of city exploration was done.

I find Bath quite amazing in its ability to confuse a casual acquaintance with its many alleys, lanes, bridges and tunnels! The trick, I think, is to use as many different paths as possible between the same two locations :). I did quite well on that front this time around, and there is a small part of the city where I'd be quite comfortable to walk around without being led by someone who actually knows their way around :D.

The thing is though, it's also one of those places where I'd probably be quite happy to be lost for a few hours. (Given decent weather!) The architecture is classically interesting and the streets and lanes busy and thrillingly twisty and disorganised. This isn't unusual for most European cities, but still makes me quite happy :).

There was also a new kitten in the house, which not only managed to drive the more senior feline lodger up the wall, but also thoroughly endeared herself to all who met her :). Except for the bit when she put massive scratches down my leg with her un-retracted claws.

Other than the travelling the month seems to have flown by in rather a tearing hurry. As a lot of this year seems to have done. I did finally manage to finish Shantaram! An exercise in perseverance that I wouldn't have believed myself capable of, except that about a third of the way through, the story finally got me interested enough to want to know quite what happens in the end.

I was not impressed. I mean, I will grant that the author does have a flair for the language and a remarkable eye for details that bring a lot of the places to life (or maybe it was just that I've spent time in Bombay myself), but near enough as makes no difference a thousand pages of listening to a protagonist who is just so full of himself can get trying. The sequel came out earlier this year. I believe I will pass on that one. 

As for the rest of it, I do feel I've let the sunnier days get away from me a bit. Not a lot by way of cycling to show for the summer. I suppose you can't have everything :). Have started running a bit earlier than usual. Normally I wait till the cold of September to get started. I guess I am a lot less bothered with the weather when running. If it rains, well, so be it :).

I guess, it would be nice to have a dry September, even though the days are beginning to shorten dramatically and the evening temperatures regularly dropping into single digits. It is still some way to winter :).

Sunday, 31 July 2016

A warmer sun!

Since I've moved to Norway the one summer road trip has pretty much been a thing. But three in three months is somewhat new :). Yup, after the western fjords in May and then the southern coast in June, it was time for a proper change of scenery and for July it was the middle of France!

Another thousand odd kilometres, a week, this time, of fantastic weather and much bigger vistas of plains, hills, valleys and distant mountains. But it all started in Terminal 1 of Paris Charles DeGaulle airport with me getting handed the keys to a black Panda. Yeah, not the most fantastic of cars, however, one of the more entertaining ones I've ever driven :P.

The plan was to drive down to Limoges through Melun, Fontainebleau, Orleon and Vierzon, keeping off the big roads to enjoy the scenery along smaller windier roads. Armed with road maps instead of a GPS, that part of the plan worked out really well. Then, meaning to get to the airport at Limoges on time, we thought to take the fast motorway from Vierzon, only to realise that while the speed limit was 130 kmph and cars were going faster, the little Panda was magnificently unhappy at anything above 110. In fact 90 was the most you could reasonably expect it to do, especially heading uphill :).

We did make it to Cisternes (a village in the middle of the Millevaches natural park area that I'm sure not many people have ever heard of :D) eventually and so began a week of perfect holidaying! There was no wi-fi internet, no consistent phone coverage, (to be fair, who wants phone coverage on holiday anyway) no TV and basically no interruptions to the enjoyment of the weather, food and the surrounding nature :).

A succession of bright sunny days drove up the mercury all the way to 37 degrees Centigrade and there being many brilliant lakes within close driving distance, we made the most of the temperatures with frequent trips to go swimming! There was even a day when as I waded into the water I didn't even feel the slightest bit of cold! Not something I ever expect to happen in Norway :D.

There were walks in the woods to pick myrtles, early morning drives down into the town of Meymac to grab some fresh baked croissants and bread, trips to farmers markets for fresh fruits and vegetables as well as a mind blowing assortment of meats and cheeses. There was a rather lovely concert at a nunnery nearby on one of the evenings and even a wedding in the village, with trains of honking cars following the newlyweds.

All too soon however, it was time to head back, and knowing the Panda's aversion to high speeds and big motorways, we devised a route consisting entirely of smaller roads. A few stops on the way at small towns made it quite the ideal way of rounding off the whole trip. Although once we did get back home and I got to drive my own car, I was greatly relieved :).

Since then it has been a mixed week of rain and sun. Sadly not much cycling. Although I did manage a fair bit of cycling in the weeks leading up to the France trip. One hopes there will be some more sunny days before the days start shortening too much. I guess we shall see.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

All the instants between heartbeats

Another month, another road trip :). This summer is shaping up nicely for racking up the miles! Only this time it was with the parents and down along the coast south from here down to Kristiansand and past. And I took a whole two weeks off. Getting back to work this morning was, well, difficult :). A thoroughly enjoyable break was had.

And as I drove back from Gardermoen having dropped the parents off, I decided to actually go in and order the bike I've been planning to buy for about a month now :P. As it happens, they had the right size one in stock, so I ended up walking out of the Storesenter with a fantastically bright orange bike and then spent the next few minutes hoping and praying that it would fit in the car :P. (Given that this was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, I didn't have my bike rack mounted on the car.) Well, with no one else in the car and using every inch of space available, it did fit!! Barely :). After three years and over 3700 km, the good old Union 40 was getting a bit iffy on the gears.... But I'll still feel bad stripping all the bits off of it and moving them to the Range 50. Oh well, such is life :). First new bike since first year of uni though :).

Right, back to that road trip then :). The weather was appropriately mixed up this time! The day we went to Lindesnes Fyr, the southernmost point on mainland Norway, was so cloudy that we could barely see the water 20m from the lighthouse! But then the very next day when we drove along the small coastal roads down to Arendal, the skies were the bright bright blue of Norway in all it's summer splendour!

We stayed at a little rental apartment in Lillesand and made the most of the kitchen (and the supermarket practically next door :D) and had some fun cooking up. In fact, I think the last couple of weeks was the most cooking I've done in any shortish period of time :). The idea was to keep the parental units happy and simultaneously away from the cooking :D. It worked, mostly!

There are times when different parts of your life come together. They could collide, crash and burn in the aftermath. Or they could flow into each other like streams of bright colours. Mixing, strands curling around each other. Making patterns of such beauty that take your breath away. This was like that :). It's been a good couple of weeks. Scratch that. It's been an awesome couple of weeks! :)

Listening to: Feint & Veela - The Journey

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Space has a sense of warping itself around feelings, I find. Sometimes. The dark yet not completely lacking in colour midnight sky of Norway in summer. It seems to wind itself around a sense of timelessness I have, memories from different summer nights meshing together into something that's no longer quite a memory. But is in so many ways more.

It has been a lovely month of sunshine and almost unexpected warmth. Interspersed with rain, of course. You can't have it getting too awesome now can you? :-)

We continued the now almost traditional May road trip to the fjordlands. (Yes, I live practically a stones throw away from fjords, but these are tame and wide, almost benign fjords, here in the south east. Further west and northwards, they have those of the more wild and untamed variety.)

What weather! :-) Blazing sunshine every day! Perfect for a road trip along twisty narrow roads alongside the water, through valleys that kept switching between spring greens and winter whites. Fjords and lakes of such a variety of shapes and sizes as to constantly amaze!

There's also been a bit of cycling. And I've been feeling the off season. Not in a good way. But it seems the weather wants to cooperate somewhat, and lately I've been finding my pedalling legs again. :-) Since I managed to rather ruin my gears a bit over the last 3500 plus kilometres, I've even been considering a new bike. We shall see.

Time passes in the now familiar high-speed-slow-motion. Another month gone, the year almost half over. But the days seem full of... happenings? Not necessarily outside my head. But there we have it. :-) I mean this as a good thing in fact!

Life is beginning to feel more like itself rather than merely something like it.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

A rather hasty catch-up

This has been an odd winter. The reason I say it like that (and not something like "it had been") is because it's been snowing this week. Let me just let that sink in a little bit. Snow. At the end of April! This is officially the weather gone mad! And for everyone that's going, oh but you live in Norway, that still means we're well into spring this close to May!

And to think we were so close to having a proper spring! The sun was shining for a week or so, the grass in my garden had finally emerged from under all the white and leaves had started showing themselves on the hedgerows all over the neighbourhood. And then it all sort of stopped and had a re-think. Reset the clock to early March, let's have some more wet snow, why don't we!

Yes, much head-shaking has been in evidence. Most people (myself included) have even switched to summer tyres. And while the snow doesn't last long enough to cause any real concerns, it's still rather disconcerting!

One thing I'm hoping for is that the snow is an aberration and it all goes back to normal spring/early summer service by next weekend, as that's the annual Holmenkollstafetten relay race! And I've signed up again! In fact this is the first time in 3 years that we've actually got a 'fun' team, so it would be really nice to have good weather for the run!

I've been reading a bit more lately. After struggling through two-thirds of A Casual Vacancy, I was rather relieved to sink into the windswept world of The Coffin Road set in the Isle of Skye in Scotland. And then followed that up with the swift and mostly interesting follow up to Stieg Larsson's Salander trilogy The Girl in the Spider's Web. And finally a very entertainingly different State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. 

The last book in particular was quite the intriguing one! The style of writing was one that was particularly mesmerizing in its manner of doling out detail. Lots of it for a while, and then barely anything for a bit. Switching between the world within the protagonist's mind and that outside in a particularly bewitching sort of way. I should really find some more books by the author :).

Having made a few forays out on the bike, I've decided that it's still way too cold for such things. And through a combination of things I managed to get myself rather Norway bound this last month and thus lost out on an awesome opportunity to visit the Philippines for a week.I guess the upside is that I'm now officially a permanent Norwegian resident :). Not entirely sure what that means yet...

Right, so there we are then, a rather quick and haphazard summary of the last month or more. I should really be taking more photos!!!

Currently: sleepy :)
Listening to: Jack Johnson - Breakdown