Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A thousand words

Wow! I never actually got to those photos from the US I was planning to post! In fact, I don't think I've even managed to sort them all out and even get them pointing the right way up or stitched together where that might be possible. Yup, it has been that busy!

Best thing though! Snow!!! Yes! Snow in November! That's like the whole miserable pre-winterness slashed to bits :). In case you were wondering, snow in winter in Norway is a good thing! The darkness doesn't seem quite as dark any more and skiing plans can start getting made! To be fair, snow that comes this early is hardly usable. Ordinarily this would be true, but this time around we actually managed to get a couple of pretty decent days of cross-country skiing!

One of those was actually in the night. Without the lights switched on by the kommune, no doubt highly sceptical of the possibilities of anyone deciding to go cross country skiing on a Friday evening :). As it turned out though, the moon was out and the clouds were not! So we had quite the fantastic time in the surreal bright snow covered landscape :).

Then of course it all melted, or nearly all of it. There was enough cold to keep some of the local lakes well enough iced over to allow a particularly adventurous fisherman to walk on, drilling holes into said ice looking for fish. Yeah, people can be weird like that here :P.

The other thing worth mentioning would be the travelling I suppose. My first visit to the Netherlands! It was quite nice! Despite the slight wetness and windiness. It was like winding the season clock backwards for one long weekend! Suddenly trees had leaves, and leaves had colour! And then of course there were stroopwaffels, pancakes with bacon and ginger, cumin flavoured cheese and other such awesome things :). Well worth the flatness shock for one used to Norway! Although the train ride from Schipol did remind me a lot of train rides in West Bengal. Lots and lots of flat green fields.

My first trip to Cambridge (the English version, not the American) was, in contrast, spent mostly at the mercy of a 4 month old :). Although I should add that lately I'm not quite so terrified around human beings that are too little to actually speak!

And finally there was Funny Girl. I hadn't actually read Nick Hornby in some time! Even one of the older ones I love. (I don't think I even re-read A Long Way Down before going to watch the film when that came out, what was it? Last year? Or maybe it was the year before. Time really has been getting away from me lately!) So it was quite interesting to see that I'd almost forgotten what it was like to read him. But I suspect some significant part of it may just have been that the author himself is a rather different person now than say when he wrote Fever Pitch!

It was a more relaxed read I found. I wouldn't rate it higher than the current holders of my personal top-rated-Nick-Hornby-novel award (which currently is a toss up between Fever Pitch and A Long Way Down with About A Boy a not too distant third) but it was definitely a solid middle-of-the-pack :). I particularly enjoyed the very end, having been rather let down on my second or third read of A Long Way Down when I though my copy must be missing a few chapters only to realize that my head had written in quite a bit of story after the actual ending in the book!

So there we have it. Autumn has firmly turned into winter and this year seems to be, if anything, hurtling even faster towards the end! But what a happening year it has been :). I'm not even going to pretend this time that the photos that should go with this post will appear within any reasonable sort of time-frame :D.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Wanderings and wonderings

This month I've actually been meaning to post before the month runs out :). Several blog-worthy things seem to have been happening, books, travels, weather weirdness. Nonetheless it's been a nice and busy month, and here I am posting a recap. Better late than never though!

I guess the biggest thing would be the snow! Yup! It actually snowed in October. Yes, it was also 'snow' only as long as it stayed in the air and hit the ground with the splat of raindrops :). But still! Snow! And just in time, as I'd switched to winter tyres that very day! But this was a week ago and since then it's gone slightly warmer, although not so much that you forget that winter is very close :).

Then there was the trip to the US of A. A first in almost two years, and spent in its entirety at my aunt's in Asheville. We had hoped to catch some of the famed fall colours, but as it turned out, we had showed up just a week or so too soon. Nonetheless, there were quite a few trees changing from green to yellow or red, and the weather was practically like the summer in Norway :).

We had a pretty active time actually! Seeing how there were loads of hills in the vicinity, we went climbing some of them. Mostly it was a case of driving up to within an inch of the top and then walking up some steps the rest of the way ;). Chimney rock, for instance, was a wonderful maze of wooden staircases build up the rock faces. And the views from the top were amazing!

The hurricane had left in its wake a week of brilliant sunshine and clear skies, so we made the most of it :). We even went for a more traditional hike, walking up to the top of Mount Mitchell (the tallest peak in America east of the Mississippi) all the way from the Black Mountain camping area! Another lovely day, and unlike on a similar day in Norway out in the woods, we practically had the whole trail to ourselves! The same couldn't be said of the summit though, seeing how there was a car park within a few steps of it :D.

One of the things I should of course mention was meandering along the Blue Ridge Parkway! On our first trip down from Boston to Asheville, my cousin and I had taken the northern part of the Parkway and enjoyed the slow winding road very much! So it was quite nice to see that the southern end of it is no less picturesque!

Another thing that's worth talking about is the return to Gaiman, but with new books :). I managed to get a copy of The View from the Cheap Seats a little while ago, and decided that would be a nice book to take along on the trip. It's a series of articles etc, some of which I had read previously. It is an amazing thing to read one of your favourite authors describing his feelings about books that you know rather well (and feel strongly about!!)!

So of course, the next logical thing to do was to go find a few of the Gaiman books that I didn't have, or hadn't read before. I decided The Graveyard Book would be first to read :). And it was perfect! What better way to end a holiday!

I realise that I should acquire a book case. The table in my living room that the TV sits on is beginning to look rather overgrown...

Friday, 30 September 2016

A preview of winter


It has been an amazingly warm September I must say! Till about the last week :). I've had this before, where the weather seems to flip a switch, and summer turns to full blown autumn in a couple of days. But let's look back at the sunnier days to start with!


The very first weekend, we decided to go for a hike! Not just any hike though, the hike to the top of the tallest mountain in Norway, Galdhøpiggen! And boy was I out of shape :(. It had taken a 6 hour drive on Friday evening to get us up to the pretty fantastic DNT lodge at the start of the hike. The last half hour being on gravel roads that seemed to go on forever, twisting in the dark through what felt like a deep forest :). More on that later.


The morning of the hike brought a bit of mixed weather, a few drops mixed with bits of sunshine. Having made short work of a sizeable breakfast, we set off! Up we went, and up and up and up! The hike isn't a particularly tricky one, it's just relentlessly uphill :). And starting from about 1000 m altitude, climbing up to the summit at 2469 m is a pretty long way!


I would have felt worse holding up my companions as I did with my frequent stops to let the pounding heart rate settle somewhat, but I was too busy feeling sorry for myself :P. And being entertained by the changing landscape! Where we started the hike, it was all green and summer flowers. As we climbed though, the trees then bushes disappeared and the rocks started getting a bit white. It was actually snowing! In September!


Once we made about half way up, there was proper snow on the ground and then finally, for the last few hundred metres of climb, it was as if we were back in winter! This was the land of permanent snow, a mountain surrounded by glaciers! To be fair, on the way up, the most awesome thing about getting to the top was gaining access to the covered hut :).


An hour or so later, having warmed up and recovered somewhat after a lunch consisting of injudicious amounts of Nutella, we emerged from the hut to find more swirling snow! Not long into the descent though, the sky started clearing up a bit around us! And then the views were truly majestic!

Eventually we did make it all the way back, and were extremely grateful that we had decided to spend another night at the lodge before heading back to Asker the next day. When we did finally drive back, the 'deep forest' turned out to be no more than a few trees here and there next to the deep gorge of a river :). Fantastic drive in the daylight though!


Since then I've been a bit more active, a bit of cycling, a bit of running. Some walking in the sunshine. But eventually a week or so back the trees finally started to change colour. A last hurrah for the summer before the evenings get too long :).

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.