Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The walls kept tumbling down, in the city that we love

I really haven't read that much recently. And I feel bad about it. But in a lazy, uncaring sort of way. To put things in perspective, I'd read about a tenth the number of books in this last third of the year than the third before. So when the aforementioned trip to Gibraltar materialized, I figured I'd at least put the flying to some good use.

I started reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane as we lifted off and the fjords fell away from beneath me, unnoticed. I realized, not far into the book, that I'd made a huge mistake. I'd read this. I'd loved the article a couple of months or so back. I'd even started listening to a little Amanda Fucking Palmer, just 'cos.

Like I said, mistake. I kept reading, and had the flights been any longer, I'd have finished it all before touchdown. As it was, I ignored it for the duration of my stay, and picked it up again after I'd settled in once the rock was safely out of view. It didn't take long. We were barely even halfway across Spain.

And as I looked out over the subtly changing landscape I noticed the shapes. The squared off humanness of it all feeling a little out of place. The squareness of the plateaus that looked like a giant carpenter had started planing off wrinkles on the earth but had been distracted, that fit better. Anyway, I digress. I was really mostly thinking about what I'd just read.

I'm not given to spoilers much, but there might be some veiled ones further down, so tread on at your own peril. I quite like Gaiman's writing. I loved American Gods. I loved Neverwhere more. The few others I read were quite good fun too. But this was nothing like any of those. Oh there was madness! And darkness. And light in dark places, and shadows cast by light. But he was speaking in the first person! You'd think it wouldn't really matter, but to me it did.

It was harder to allow my imagination the same free reign while navigating this book as the others, mostly because I had this uncomfortable feeling that I knew too much of the protagonist. I'd read that bloody article, and try as I might, I couldn't ignore the fact that this was him. His childhood. No matter how heavily churned, mixed or blended.

How dare he?!! Now I can't get the imagined horror out of my head. What had actually happened to Lettie Hempstock? I can't help but imagine the worst. Thing is, the worst keeps getting worse. As I'm sure no one needs reminding, real life can be so much uglier than nightmares.

No one can ever blame Gaiman for putting sweet happy endings to his stories. But usually there's nothing anchoring even the slightest part of the narrative to any reality I can imagine. Not this time. This time he's gone and planted himself right in the middle of it. And to distract myself, I wonder about the other things we never find out. Whose funeral was it anyway?

But then it occurs to me, maybe, like A effing P, I didn't get it either! Maybe all of it makes sense. Like proper, real life sense. Wouldn't that be properly awful?! I like my fantasy fantastic, thankyouverymuch. And while this indeed is, quite fantastic, and I loved reading it, it will not be my favourite. When is he going to get done with that American Gods sequel, I wonder? I do hope he turns that art-blender back to a proper ten for that one.

Currently: ruminating
Listening to: Bastille - Pompeii

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The rock and the sea

It all happened in a bit of a hurry, my trip to Gibraltar. There was a distinct whiff of trips to the boat, with last minute plans and a rush to get things organized. But instead of a month, this was barely a couple of days.

While it wasn't the first time I was leaving the country since I'd arrived, it was the first time I was flying. Which made the last five months the longest break from airports since I'd started flying :). I can't say I'd missed it terribly, to be honest.

Over the years I'd had a couple of opportunities to visit the rock but somehow never managed it, so I was quite thrilled to see it come into view from the aircraft! For a slip of land that small, Gibraltar packs quite a lot of interesting sights.

The customary visit to the top of the rock itself provided spectacular views out over the Mediterranean, all the way across to the hills on the African side, blanketed in a haze. And of course, views of large expanses of Spain. It is almost baffling sometimes to think how something this size has managed to maintain its own identity for this many years.

The work part of the trip involved a boat, so that's where I spent the majority of the last few days. I was not particularly surprised to see the familiarity of all things seismic hadn't left me in the slightest. I wonder how long it will be before it does, maybe a little bit.

In between work I managed to walk around a little and soaked in a little of this sun drenched, largely lazy and laid back bit of the world with its unique mix of British and Spanish accents. Special mention must be made of Ocean Village.

With every other establishment caught up in the English Premier League excitement, the gorgeous yachts tied or anchored in the marina and the occasional aircraft thundering off the runway not very far away as the sun set over the Spanish horizon, I was left thinking, this is not bad at all, hey!

Currently: ready to head back home
Listening to: John Newman - Love me again

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Another day, another road to explore

No sooner had I wished for cycling weather than the skies almost magically cleared up! It was actually really perfect too, terrible weather for the mornings and early afternoons spent in the office and then come 4pm, the clouds would part :).

It was time to go exploring again, and I did! Getting lost is par for the course when you head off the tarmac, but finding out for yourself quite how closely the real world resembles (or does not resemble) Google Earth is its own reward :). Alone or otherwise, I had a great time on a couple of the afternoons, exploring a mix of trails and roads, some known, some not.

On some of those stretches I had travelled before, I was surprised by the difference, in a few months some areas had become almost unrecognisable! And then it struck me, I've been here almost half a year, and while my cycling explorations had started just as summer was beginning, it is now on it's way out. Clearly, it's not just the grass on my lawn that has been growing wildly :).

Norway is famous for its spectacular fjords, but the weather here is no less spectacular. Despite regularly proving itself accurate, I was rather sceptical of this weekend's forecast. Friday and Sunday were predicted to be all doom and gloom, but in the middle, Saturday was going to be perfectly sunny and dry, we were told. And they were right!!

Asker is at the top of a little peninsula that sticks out into the fjord. It's a little out of the way for anyone going anywhere really, most of the time. But I'd been wanting to explore the coastline around this little spit of land for a while. So when it turned out Saturday was indeed all brilliant sunshine and freshly washed, bright and colourful, it seemed like the best time to go about the rather longish trip.

The views might not be quite as spectacular as those along Rallarveggen, but they really were quite something! It was a bit windy too, but the sun stayed out to keep things from getting too chilly. For a trip just over 90km, we passed very little by way of towns. Which is not to say there weren't people living all along the coast.

We ended up finding a nice quiet little restaurant on the water's edge complete with its little pebble beach with a water-break, a little south of Sætre, the last biggish town before things got properly quiet. It was a very relaxed sort of a ride, all things considered, what with one or more of the group feeling compelled to stop and enjoy the breathtaking view for a little bit longer.

Well, that was till we had to climb our way up and down a few hills to cross over from the Oslofjord side to the Drammensfjord side. Thereafter there was a little more of the grim single minded focus on just getting back home that one might expect of people beginning to feel a little tired. That is not to say the views were any less spectacular, we just chose to enjoy them from our seats while pedalling furiously :).

It was only after I'd made it home that I realized this was the longest distance I've ever cycled in a single day! Fittingly, that also meant I'd gone past the first thousand kilometres since I'd got this bike back in May :). I know I'm being a little cocky with that 'first thousand' bit, but with roads like these, there's that extra feeling that, weather permitting, I absolutely have to get out there!

Currently: optimistic
Listening to: Emilie Nicolas - Pstereo

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Changing seasons

I've been lazy again, I see. Well, not really, there's just less time to sit down and reflect on things, it seems. So since the awesome Flåm cycling trip, we tried one more, this time around Lillehammer. Unfortunately, by then summer seemed to have left these parts, or at least the nice dry weather had.

We got drenched more than I'd have thought possible in a place without an official monsoon. At least it was reasonably warm otherwise things would have been rather more uncomfortable, I think :). Since then it's been rather more mundane stuff. Lawn-mowing and hedge-trimming, for instance. And a lot of rainy days :(.

Watched a lot of films at the kino, out of which Pacific Rim was terrific, The Wolverine was, well, cool, Now You See Me was thoroughly entertaining and Red 2 was properly hilarious! I have to say though, that last one was a little bit of a let-down when compared to Red.

The one thing I did manage to get done last week was get that elusive driver's license! It took long enough, with three months of classes, training, practice and tests! Now maybe if the weather decides to clear up a bit, I could use a few miles on the bike.

Currently: waiting for week 42!
Listening to: Handsome Boy Modeling School - The truth