Thursday, 28 February 2019

An early spring


I'm beginning to get that distinct feeling of time getting away from me again :). I mean, this month just went by so fast!! It really feels just like yesterday that we were driving through what felt like a blizzard to get to Hafjell at the beginning of the month :).


It's rapidly becoming something of a favourite of mine, Hafjell. Especially since this time we managed to get a cabin that allowed us to get on and off the slopes without having to drive! Not quite ski-in ski-out, but I'll not complain about a two minute walk! And the weather was gorgeous too! For at least two of the four day we were on the slopes.


So far that's been the only foray into downhill, but I'm not too disappointed really. It's strange, for the last couple of years I feel I've no longer got quite the same burning desire to clock up those vertical meters :). I'm extremely happy to have the chance to use my board, but quality, not quantity seems to be the thing...


Cross country skiing also did happen, right up until the beginning of February, and then for some reason we ended up in a big thaw :(. Temperatures in the high single digits during the day make for rather treacherous walking conditions! Ice everywhere, sometimes covered by the thinnest layer of fresh snow, which is even worse. Luckily things are getting better. Unfortunately, only because it's been warm enough for things to keep on melting. A bit more of a winter would be kinda nice, but I guess we shall see.


Last weekend though, was time to head back to the UK. This time to say a certain goodbye. What can I say? It is humbling to be in the presence of great emotion, I find. It is not always easy to climb out from under the weight of one's own, but if one is able, then sharing makes it all so much more bearable, joyful even. It was a lovely sunny day. More than just a hint of spring in the air.


Life moves on, and it takes us along with it. The trains, after being rather discombobulated by some heavy snow at the beginning of the month have, since, been more or less predictable. I had at least one day when the train I was hoping to catch got cancelled, because they couldn't get it defrosted enough to run! You've gotto smile, haven't you :).


It's taken me a bit over a month, but aided by a little bit of extra reading time on the flights over the weekend, I managed to get to the end of House of Chains this morning. The more I read, the more fascinating I find it. Not just the layers upon layers of the tales and histories. There's also such a variety to the telling. I don't think I've ever read a series where the canvas moves quite in such a way. The times and the places. To say nothing of the people. Well, when I say people, means all sorts of things. But then again, we are speaking of high fantasy here, so.


I have to say though, moving from one book the the next isn't an easy leap with the Malazan Book of the Fallen. It is almost as if the end of each book invites a certain introspection. A certain amount of space to gather one's thoughts. Before embarking upon a new journey. I must also say here that my first assessment of Steven Erikson vis-a-vis GRRM was probably a bit premature :).


I was also wrong, I have realized since, in thinking that I could read these books alternating with others! And since it would have been impossible to get my fellow book club members to read nothing but fantasy for the foreseeable future, I have taken a bit of a hiatus from it. For now.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Of sunrises, seen and unseen


An interesting month. Well, that was an understatement and a half :). Lots and lots of completely new things, people, routines. And some old habits found hiding in unexpected places.



I'm back at work, and so far, it has been going rather well. But the whole heading out in the morning and then coming back, leaving only a few hours at home, this is a rather odd thing to have to get used to all over again :). Don't remember this being an issue when I first started in Asker after the couple of months off in Kolkata! But then again, at that point, more or less everything about an office job was new. So I guess there's that.


One very new thing now is of course the hour long commute. But I've settled into it, more or less. Taking the train means at least about an hour of reading! Which means I'm making good headway through book four of the Malazan Book of the Fallen :).


And in the middle there was the whirlwind trip to London to catch up with some of the American family. Note to self, late Sunday flights make for a sleepy Monday morning commute to work :).



There's some unexpected positives of an office right on the edge of the fjord, of course. The photos, for instance. And now that it's gotten somewhat properly cold, it's also interesting to see the mist coming off the water as the sun rises to make things just a little bit warmer.


Fresh snow has also meant a bit of cross country skiing. And the downhill season is expected to open in (hopefully) grand style with a long weekend at Hafjell! If last year is anything to go by, that should be an entertaining experience indeed :).

Monday, 31 December 2018

Reflections on still water


At no point of time in the last twelve odd years did I think that I would be happy to take a year off work, without any specific plans, just have a bit of a long break. That just wasn't my style! Not my way of thinking. I liked breaks, enjoyed travelling, meeting people, seeing places, doing things and all that. But at the back of my mind there was always the thought that such a thing couldn't really go on forever. Or even for a limited but unknown period of time.


Having spent the best part of this past year doing just that, though, I've found myself enjoying the experience immensely!! Who would have thought, right, eleven months of relaxing and travelling and visiting family and learning a language and reading and re-discovering my love for PC gaming could be so much fun? :-)


I jest of course, though only in part. Having no clue about what's about to happen in life can be a disconcerting experience. And even believing in God, as I do, trusting Him to know what he's doing and just enjoying each day as it comes can be difficult. As human beings, I feel, we aren't best pleased when feeling completely put of control of our future. But managing to get my eyes away from focusing too much on the future has rather helped me get more involved with the present!

--

It has indeed been a fantastic year! Weddings, successfully attended and otherwise, and a funeral. Trips to places known and unknown. Finding a sense of home that only time can build. Getting to know Norway a little better through the language. It has all been a slow accumulation, along with the occasional clusters of real high point! :-)


I even got a little closer to writing more. I know, I never really finished that series of posts I'd planned about our road trip around Vestlandet, but who knows, that might yet happen :-). But I feel, after a gap of some years, I am back to expressing my thoughts more clearly through written words rather than resorting to just a succession of recountings.


All this takes time. And over time different things competing over those never-changing twenty-four hours leads to some being muscled out by others. Some obviously and/or noticeably, others less so. There's also the issue of too much happening, that stirs up the general state of life. Reflecting is best done over calm waters, as is evidenced by many hundreds of photos I have taken at sea. The same can be said of the mind I think. A bit of time can go a long way :-). The trick of course is finding a way to it regularly enough.


The end of this year has been somewhat representative of the rest. Periods of time spent busily, others leisurely. Time spent with family. Time spent travelling and experiencing new things. The last couple of weeks in England with family for Christmas has been simultaneously eventful and yet relaxing. A sort of a holiday to end the holiday :-).


With one major exception. I knew in December that January means a return to the 5-day work week. What that means is of course yet to be seen, but I'm extremely optimistic:-). And that is a feeling I hope is one that dominates the coming year!

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Forgotten flavours

Swirls rising, driven by forces unseen, yet seemingly of their own accord. What are these puppeteers' strings that pull this way and that? Where do they come from, where do they go? Whether the swirls be of dust, snow or thoughts, these are questions without answers. Or so it seems.


One might believe that close observation or introspection would provide answers. But is that merely egotism? Then again, do we really gain much from answers to such queries? :) Let's follow one of these swirls then, and ignore for the moment where it has come from, or why.


Visiting old places, by which I mean places I used to be familiar with at one time but am no longer, has over the last few years given me the strongest feelings of melancholy. Memories from the past overshadowing the happenings of the present and thus making the latter feel poorer by comparison.


Last week, however, I had something of an epiphany. Today's happenings are tomorrow's memories. Knowing this, why would I tinge my future memories with sadness when the alternative exists?! Now the harder question. Is realisation of a choice enough to be able to exercise it? I guess at least it's a step in the right direction. :)


It's been a good trip this! Despite the realisation that I've now become more used to the climate in Asker than Kolkata. Granted, the heightened levels of particulates and smoke in the city this winter, thanks to less than usual monsoon rains, had something to do with that. Still. Acceptance demands humility. But acceptance in turn provides peace.


Case in point, I can no longer drive through Kolkata traffic as quickly as I used to. On the other hand, I enjoy driving here a great deal more... Fair trade. :)


It is, however, now time to head back. Speaking of which, it appears snow has made it's way to Asker already, and this time seems to be sticking around. Hopefully long enough to give the cross country skis a bit of an outing in the week that we're in Norway!


In a year that has been liberally punctuated with travel, the end seems to be happily chuntering along to an appropriate finale. :)

Friday, 30 November 2018

Echoes of eternity

Winter in Kolkata. It's a rather odd, albeit fully expected, time travel back half a year into the Norwegian summer :). With one very important difference: ceiling fans :D. It's probably actually a bit warmer here in the middle of the day than the warmest days last summer back in Asker, but doesn't feel nearly as hot with the good old fan blades making happy localised breezes.


To be fair I'm also quickly getting used to the temperature, the first day feeling the warmest, the transition from -5 to +25 a bit of a shock that's worn off since. I wonder what it'll feel like the other way though... I seem to have in general gotten quite used to living in relatively stable weather for longer periods of time. Not that Norway is anyone's idea of stable weather :). What I mean is that gone are the days of regularly experiencing 20 or more degrees Centigrade differences in temperature in a day as I travelled around the world every few weeks. Can't say I miss it :D.


On other fronts, the UK visa arrived, and we made prompt use of it to go travelling :). I forget how Oslo isn't really a big city. I mean, London, now that is a big city. I was almost overwhelmed by the number of people on the streets! I must really be getting used to life in Norway :). So it's a good thing then that all signs point to us staying put for the foreseeable future.


Seems like the nice long holiday is going to be over before too long. There still another month before that though, so figured we'd make the most of the free time. I've gotten quite used to being able to just plan holidays :). No asking for holidays, checking if there's enough days left and all that. On the other hand, a day job is kinda handy :).


I suppose a downside of a full time job would be the amount of time one has to read books :D. I managed to race through the Sin City series pretty quickly, all seven books! I think in the end the first one, The Hard Goodbye, remained my favourite. Then there was Stephen Fry's Mythos. The reason I got on to that was because someone at book club thought it would be a nice follow up to Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology that we'd read earlier in the year. I have to say the experience was interesting, but very different.


I've watched Fry host QI quite a bit over the years and I couldn't help but read most of the book with his voice playing in my head :). I've never read anything else by him before, so I can't say if it's a usual thing in all his books, but I had a distinct feeling that reading the book was pretty much like having a conversation with him. A rather one-sided one, but still :).


I am definitely a fan of myths, Indian, Green, Viking, Middle Earth, Westeros, you name it :). But if I were to compare Gaiman's Norse tales with Fry's Greek ones, the latter has the author much more front and centre in the narrative. There are also a lot more asides and thoughts and questions that interject between the stories themselves. I'm still not quite certain how I feel about that. 


On the one hand, it's quite nice to have a bit of a think about things. But in general I like to do that at my own pace rather than be prompted (too) often. I think maybe that's the thing that put me off just a little bit. Each story teller has his or her own style and it's wrong to say any one is better than another. I suppose I can only say that I'd rather be left to stop and think about things as and when I'd like to :). Regardless, I think I'll definitely try and find a copy of Heroes some time soon.


In the mean time, there's Deadhouse Gates. The more I read the Malazan books the more hooked I get! Having started reading a day or so before travelling here, I'm already more that half way through the 800 plus pages! And as I read, a new mythology is slowly taking shape. One of vast expanses of time and sharp, sometimes gracious, sometimes bitter tastes of mortality. Luckily, I did bring along the next book in the series, just in case :D.


It's been a nice quite couple of days here so far :). Good food, lots of sleep, reading and chatting. Adda as the Bengalis would call it. It's good to be back. But in a case of strangely reversed logic, happy and comfortable as I feel being here, home feels like in the cold white winter of Norway :). Reminds me of something from Garden State. Such is life I suppose, echoes of memories that whisper through thoughts and feelings, and in doing so make new memories. Thus it continues...