Oslo

How’s that for a library? All glass and pillars and light. Here it is front on.

Swoon. Inside, the desks all have individual lamps, transparent lily-pad green. And there’s a coffee shop; you can sit and look out at the skeletons of trees.

Here is the train I caught back to the city from the university. It was only about three stops.

And here are the Oslo Christmas lights.

It was getting dark, but I wandered around the streets for half an hour before jumping back on the train to Halden. It felt so good to be in a city. To hop on a metro, to wander up a street filled with people. The other night, at at the annual Ladies’ Christmas Party, I told a couple of the ladies how much I liked cities. I love the energy of them, how you are anonymous there, how they sweep you along. They didn’t get it. Cities are busy and inconvenient, they said. The Norwegians I’ve met seem pretty ambivalent about cities. Some of the parents of the children I work with are even dismissive of Fredrikstad (a town slightly larger than Halden about half an hour away) because it is a ‘little Oslo’. As happy as I am here right now, I am glad Oslo is only a train ride away.

Tuesday afternoon

I am in the humanities library at the University of Oslo. I am terribly excited. I just had a chat with the people who established the postcolonial literature subject I’m going to teach. They are so lovely! As soon as I stepped onto the campus it felt like coming home. A university campus!!! With courtyards and large square glass-fronted buildings and students in coats and scarves! The library smells like old books. There are high windows above the shelves and sunlight slants in through the blinds. I am sitting opposite The Riverside Chaucer, two shelves away from Peter Carey’s Collected Short Stories. (This is a small library; they have a larger one a few buildings down.) The musty book smell and the yellow sunlight make my heart skip. This is where I want to be.

Twilight

Twilight seems to happen a lot around here right now. It would be a good town for vampires. It’s completely dark by four, and when I drive to work at eight, they sky is still only thinking about waking up. I’ve hardly seen the sun in a month. One morning I watched it rise from the window of the barnehagen – bright and orange and clear – but it was raining again two hours later. One mercy is that the icy weather has receded for the moment, so no scraping frost off windscreens or skidding on the roads. (The boardwalk by the river, however, remains treacherous.)

In less than a month I will be in Australia for Christmas. I can’t wait, though sunshine and beaches seem mighty improbable right now. But I am not wishing the time away. There are many things to do before then in my twilight world.

A ridiculous amount of good news for one day

I got an email from Oslo University last night, asking if I wanted to teach a course on colonial and postcolonial literature in the spring. I emailed them ages and ages ago, and they said they didn’t have anything at the moment but they’d keep me in mind. I hadn’t expected to hear from them again. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. Much bouncing was involved.

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it, because I will be in Australia for a completely wonderful conference during the first week of teaching, so I’ll need to start a week late. But they emailed back today and said that’s fine. I got this second email at work, during my break. There was more bouncing, to the astonishment of my colleagues.

It’s just two hours a week, so I’ll keep working three days at the kindergarten. But I will teach the entire course by myself, and there will be a mix of BA and MA students. I can’t believe my good fortune.

 

Eeeeeeeee

We bought a house! It is very cute. And that yellow ‘sold’ sign? It doesn’t mean someone else snapped it up before we got our act together. That’s us. We did it.

It was nerve-wracking. We made the offer yesterday morning, then had to wait twenty-four hours to see if anyone would up the offer, and if the owners would accept it. (That’s the way they do things here – each house sale is potentially a twenty-four hour auction.) The wait ended at 9am, but I start work at 8. Today we had a planning day. I tried very hard to concentrate on a Norwegian discussion of which I understood, oh, about ten percent, while watching the imperceptible inching of the hands of the clock. I kept looking at the second hand to convince myself time was actually moving, but it wasn’t ticking as fast as my heart.

I was steeling myself to wait until 9.15, but Michael rang at 9 on the dot. Having apologized in advance for answering my phone in a meeting, I raced off to one of the empty kindergarten rooms.

‘So what do you think’, said Michael, ‘did we do it?’

‘JUST TELL ME!’

‘Yes.’

It’s walking distance to town; it has a garden and a deck and lots of lovely windows; the rooms are square and friendly and full of life. It’s an old house, but it was completely renovated four years ago. We can move in at the end of January.

We are very happy. Mostly about the house, but also about the fact that we can stop house-hunting now! Hurrah!

I still can’t quite believe that we really get to live there.

Some other excellent and totally unexpected news capped off the day, but I won’t tell you about it yet because it’s not set in stone and I don’t want to jinx it. But the waiting and the hoping aren’t over quite yet.

Postcards from the sky

I wasn’t there this year, but I haven’t forgotten

how, in the right wind, you soar up the slope

to join the jelly beans in the sky.

The launch site is a green and distant memory, mere patchwork

and the snowy mountains are all yours.

Afterward,

your feet on the ground as your wing falls slack,

you’ll never forget

the staircase of air

the aeons of sun.

* all credit to Michael for the amazing photos!

Birthday thoughts for Grandma

It’s snowing outside. It started this afternoon, so faintly I didn’t notice at first. But the babbies didn’t like it, it was far too cold, so I took them all in again. Now, under the streetlights, the night is broken by swirling white.

It’s my Grandma’s 80th birthday tomorrow, which is already today in Australia. Happy happy birthday!!!

I have thought of my Grandma often since I started working in the kindergarten. Being with all the little children has made me remember my own childhood. My Grandma was such a big part of it.

My brother, my cousins and I spent so much time at her house. I remember…

Sitting in her clothes basket in the garden. I’m not sure if this is a memory or a memory of a photograph.

Having very many dinners with my cousins around her kitchen table. Recently I’ve been re-imagining all these memories from and adult perspective. What must it have been like to have all those children around?

Sneaking down the long hallway on sleepovers because we ‘couldn’t sleep’, and knew if we poked our heads around the tv room door we’d get hot milk with honey in the cups with the birds on them, and half an hour of late night tennis watching.

Grandma showing me these incredibly long cloths embroidered by distant aunts a long long time ago.

Her kitchen. The texture of her bench-tops, the ABC news on the radio, the funny little secret drawers where the flour and the sugar were kept. The day we were making Christmas pudding and the mixer exploded and we got Christmas pudding all over us. The day I accidentally broke a china bowl and she wasn’t angry at me but I could see that she was sad because it had belonged to her mother. I felt terrible, and so did she. But she said – ‘it’s only a thing’.

Trips into town for afternoon tea.

Her garden. The big leaves out the back where we played at being tigers. The miniature violets I used to pick for my great grandma, who lived with my Grandma at the end of her life. She told me fairies lived there. Sometimes I pretended I saw them. The broad green lawn where my cousins and I build space ships out of garden furniture. The swings on the island. The jasmine growing on the bridge.

Her love of beauty – whether mountains or gum trees or autumn leaves or jacaranda blooms or Lalique glass.

Her stories of the wide wide world. Her joy in my chance to explore that world.

My Grandma taught me how to make bobbin lace, and how to make the perfect sponge roll. When I was doing my masters in York, Grandma and Granddad came to visit me, and took me to St Petersburg because I loved Dostoevsky.

So, yep, my Grandma is pretty special. She has always adored all of us, no matter what, and we’ve always known it. And these memories only scratch the surface. I’m so glad you had a wonderful birthday party last weekend, and I hope you have a brilliant day today. I’m sending thoughts of the last bright autumn leaves and the first whirling snow flakes into the beginning of your Adelaide summer. And I can’t wait to see you at Christmas. xxx