Norway & (a bit of) Sweden, Easter 2012

Norway & (a bit of) Sweden, Easter 2012

5th April, Thursday

On the plane I had to challenge a Dublin arsehole pushing for extra elbow room while playing a DS.

“Have you got enough room there?”
“Yeah, I’m grand.”
“So, don’t push me.”
“No, we’re grand. We’re grand.”

He didn’t want to go toe to toe on it.

6th April, Friday

We went into Oslo and visited the Nobel Peace prize centre and the waterfront. I usually feel tired in galleries and museums. Like Alan Bennett, I’m always looking for a seat or glad to find one. Why is that? A mixture of slow walking and poor ventilation? The first time I was here (August 1998) involved a morning trip to the Munch museum with K. There I was tempted to lie down on Munch’s bed in the basement. We were laughing at the captions e.g. Dead Mother with Child (the ‘pallid’ corpse in the bed, fronted by a child visibly mad from shock and grief). I bought one poster and two cards. The poster was of a painting called Weeping Nude.



7th April, Saturday

We went over the border to Sweden. We headed down the west coast a short bit of the way towards Gothenburg.


The combination of the clear sky and the waterfront in Strömstad was lovely and I didn’t feel the cold the others said they felt. Fantastically crunchy chips (fries) were dished out at a restaurant on a low hill next to the harbour.



8th April, Easter Sunday

Drøbak: today’s filming was done in brighter conditions than November. The sights included an outdoor service at the town’s Lutheran church and what looked like a bullet hole in a window of a BMW, abandoned, without number plates, by the waterfront.


Drøbak is at the narrowest point of the Oslo fjord. In November, T. pointed over at the island in the murk where the fort with big guns sank the Blücher in 1940 and held up the invasion long enough for the king, government and gold to escape to England.

Kieran decides to give life another go

I only felt the cold on the street stroll back to the car. When groups of people pass and talk, it seems they softly sing in Norway. We had a lovely lunch for three in a familiar café in Son, even though it cost the equivalent of ninety euro.

Norway 2011 036

9th April, Monday

K. and I walked from The Farm – a model farm folly in the woods, where in November I was getting my shoes dirty – to the village called Hvitsten, which lies farther down the fjord than Drøbak.

Norway 2011 030



We had coffee in Drøbak on the way back. The murk was back. Like on the streets of Oslo in November 2011.

Soaked in Slovakia – 24h in Bratislava

Soaked in Slovakia – 24h in Bratislava



19th June, Sunday

Bratislava near nine, Sunday night. I’m in a café, the Papillon, off Hlavné námestie, the main square in the old town, with a pot of tea. The kitchen’s closed but there’s a terrific downpour outside and I’ll have to wait until it stops, to find food, which will most likely be of the fast variety. The Earl Grey (“Early Grey” on the menu) is nice, actually, and I wasn’t that hungry to begin with but must eat something before bed. Up early, I’ll go around the Staré mesto (old town) again and maybe get into some churches.

At the Hotel Tatra I managed to sleep a couple of hours in a big room. It’s a four-star and makes a change from the box room at the Strasser in Graz. The Schlossberg hill is a genuine attraction in Graz and I’m glad I checked the city out but there is something in the tone of the passage in the Rough Guide, just before the reference to the UNESCO status of the centre, which itself is almost dutiful, that suggests the writer wasn’t impressed either. There are no quays there, despite any such street names, as both banks of the river are thick with trees, in an unkempt way. There are no lamp posts either. The street lights hang from criss-crossing wires that turn up in every photograph.

Smooth Criminal has come on the Michael Jackson CD here. I can move on. That song always puts a pep in the step.




11pm bed. I headed back around ten, through the rain which had eased a bit at best. It’s unlikely to be a whole lot drier in the morning. I got some novädzi gúlaš at a place near the Papillon where a young-ish American with long hair slicked back behind his ears was wearing sunglasses. On a rainy night. At an unlit table. He ignored both waiters who thanked him as he departed.


I passed an English stag party near Michael’s Gate. A couple of them were shirtless on a rainy night, outside a pub. Some of the trams made an eerie, whistling sound in the wet. The wheels were whining.


20th June, Monday

On the plane, a baby has just stopped crying. Now it’s off again. I got f*cking soaked this morning, trying to get some more Staré mesto photos. Vytáte do Bratislave. Welcome to Bratislava. It started so well, when I was peering through tall railings at the presidents of Switzerland and Slovakia inspecting a guard of honour at the palace.


On the far side of this row I can also hear a young American couple. As soon as I got aboard I could hear the fella tell the wan that French contained a lot of German. Non. The breakfast room at the Tatra was a large hall that could take any large wedding reception. In a break in the rain then I headed off in the short blue plastic mac but it was no use in the next deluge. I had no time to take shelter.


I had to get back to the hotel to check out at eleven. I decided not to change any clothes and I got a taxi to the airport. My Polish pal from the flight out was standing outside the terminal, with his Slovak relation (M.). He called me over. As I stood talking to them I knew I’d have to change something. The t-shirt had to go but I decided against putting on the pair of shorts because who knows what Dublin will be like? By the time we got on the plane my pants had dried, anyway. The row in front is all fat gypsies – the American girl even tapped a gypsy kid who appeared from somewhere behind, with a camera, to tell him they didn’t want their pictures taken, even by accident (girl, get over yourself) – but the row in front of the gypsies is a young family of Dubs who quizzed an unenthusiastic steward about chicken nuggets (“No”) and food allergies (“Just cheese then”).

Passing through security earlier I found a young Slovak beard wasn’t happy with my little toiletries bag. The elastic band wasn’t good enough for him. He said he wanted a re-sealable bag, which my one was, originally, but I just told him to dump it if it meant hassle (for me). Then he told me to take off my shoes. I was only carrying wet socks. Then he asked about my pockets. No one had ever told me to put my little credit card holder in the tray but this f*cker did. When we got through, my Polish pal told me they were bad in Slovakia for hassle like that and added he always got quizzed, going in and out.