Berlin

This pretty much sums up our weekend. Oh, and this.

There was a bit of this

and some more of this

and then we moved onto the green stuff.

Michael’s parents joined in for pizza, icecream, and a float down the river in the sun.

We found a park bench that makes tall people small.

And then, sadly, we said goodbye to Berlin and to my brother, whose birthday it is today, whom this city fits like a glove.

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Status report

Michael says this blog is dying a slow death. I say no, it’s just a quiet patch! It’s been a very nice week, really. Our lackluster summer has finally given way to a most gorgeous autumn. The mornings are cool and misty, but the afternoons are warm and shiny-bright. And I’m rather grateful to be spending many of them playing in the sunshine. We went for a ride yesterday afternoon and it felt amazing.

I’m just about over the sniffy lingering cold, and I’m starting to feel on top of things. The fancy newsletter I’ve been pulling together for M’s work is almost done and we’re really proud of it! Today I spent a couple of hours preparing my ‘English sammlings’ for the toddlers. I think sammling roughly translates as ‘gathering’, but maybe in this context it has the added connotation of ‘class’. The difference between preparing lessons for nineteen year olds and two year olds is, well, striking, but the two year olds definitely require preparation too! It’s all about props, I think. I need to improve my props.

I also spent a couple of hours studying for an ethnography exam. I’ve been taking a part time distance subject for the past few months (part back-up plan, part reinforcement of my research arsenal). The assignments are all done (I improved spectacularly from 45% on my first assignment, the worst mark I have received in my entire life, ever, to 90% on the last one). Needless to say, I haven’t felt terribly much like studying over the past few weeks, but it is nice to have made a dent in it. The exam’s in mid October. After that I’ll be able to properly get stuck into the book proposal…

Next weekend we’re off to Berlin to visit my brother! Hurrah hurrah. Berlin is my absolute favourite city. And the other day I baked an utterly stunning apple cake. All is well.

Extreme kindergartening

Last week I picked up my new raincoat, waterproof¬† trousers, ‘warm dress’ and a pair of gumboots. The ‘warm dress’ is pretty much a ski suit. I nearly died of heat stroke when I tried it on. The sales assistant told me I looked like an astronaut. They tell me I’ll be glad of it soon. In Norwegian kindergartens, you play outside every day. Rain, sleet or snow.

When I first started, one of the other assistants asked where the children’s sleeping room was. ‘Oh no, we don’t need one of them’, said the boss, ‘Norwegian babies like to sleep outside’. ‘What, even in winter?’ ‘Until it gets to minus 10.’

They’ve certainly been pretty happy sleeping outside in their ‘wagons’ so far. (The Norwegians call prams wagons, which I think is pretty cute.) Last week we took them out to the forest to pick mushrooms and blueberries. They bobbed around in the bracken with their little hats on. But they were most excited about the lorry we passed on the road. ‘LASTEBIL!!!!’ they cried with glee. The driver beeped and waved.

Michael can’t believe I get paid for this.

Speaking of stone

I have been thinking about stone. Partly because of some lovely posts by Jeffrey Cohen which include extracts from an article he is writing, and partly because, in the past few weeks, I have seen many strange and beautiful stones. I don’t have a theory to share. But I have three images. Jeffrey, they are for you.

There is this stone, the stone of the Norwegian mountains. Michael once commented that in Norway you can see directly into the mountains themselves, into their core, whereas in Austria they’re still decked out in topsoil. The mountains in Norway feel old. Their bare, curved forms are clad only in lichen. Their stone walls drop abruptly, nakedly, down into the fjords. You think of the inching of glaciers. You think of those who farmed the valleys hundreds of years ago and trekked over the mountains and the ice to trade.

And there is this stone. The stone bodies of the Vigeland park. My brother said how strange it is, the bronze sculptures and the stone sculptures are all in exactly the same style, although it would have taken him decades to complete them. How strange to build such an edifice, so many similar statues. And I said – but it makes you think about your body, your physical existence, in a way that few things do.

I have been thinking about life. Its softness, its weakness, its slipperiness, its vitality. Because of my friend who died, and because of the babbies I play with most days. And, yes, stone seems something other than that. To see movement, and flesh, and babies, and old people smoothed from the stone itself… I don’t know. The sculptor himself is dead now. The sculptures speak of the human life-cycle, from birth to death. But each sculpture does not age, save slowly, minutely, by the rain and the sun and ice and the wind. The sculptures outlive the bodies they depict. But the sculptures will not last forever.

Stone speaks to us and we make stone speak.

And there is this stone, the stone ship. The strangest of them all.

The mountains are shaped by time and by ice.  We blast tunnels and build roads to make them accessible, but they are bigger and harder and older than us. They do not make concessions.

The Vigeland statues have been chiseled painstakingly until they resemble us. People. Bodies. The curve of an arm and the curve of a cheek; the softness or the fierceness of a gaze. They are stuffed and molded with life. But they are stone.

The stones of the stone ship are somewhere in between. More human than the mountains, more natural than the statues. The standing stones are solid things. They mark a burial site. They mark the space between. The space between earth and sky, between life and death, between earth and ocean. The stones form a skeleton ship, sailing the heavy earth.

bleh

I caught a cold from the babbies which is making me very grumpy. The same kind of grumpy I felt last time I flew to Australia and I was exhausted and I noticed that the people at the back of the plane had four seats to themselves and could lie down but I had no space and had to sit up. Yep.

Today the sun is shining for the first time in just about forever, and it is gleamy and bright and cool in the most magical autumn way, and the leaves outside our window are already going gold. Most of the leaves about town are still green, mind, but it won’t be long.

Michael’s gone out for a ride but I’m not well enough. Might wander down to the harbour later though.

Apart from that, things have been slotting into a new routine quite nicely. At the moment I’m working three days a week at the kindergarten and two days at Michael’s work – proof reading and working on a newsletter and a website. The proof reading has been fascinating in some ways – it’s funny seeing which parts of the language slip for non-native speakers. The biggest problems for Norwegians writing in English, it seems, are conjugating verbs (you don’t have to do it so much in Nowegian), and using words which sound the same in Nowegian and English. ‘Start’, for example. It means basically the same thing, but when writing in English the Norwegians use it far too freqently, and in a much broader context than it can be used in English, for example when they mean ‘initiate’. Anyway…¬† I realise that their English is far far better than my Norwegian or my German!

Sorry the blog’s been rather neglected of late. I’m feeling my way into a new space, which to start with didn’t leave me much time for musings. That’s changing, though, as I get the hang of it.