Neighbours

Here is a brand new pine cone on the tree in our garden. At least that’s what I think it is. I’ve never seen one before. I tried to get a photo of the old wooden ones too, but couldn’t coax the little camera into focussing twice…

Last weekend one of our neighbours wandered over as we were planting seeds in pots. Between our terrible Norwegian and her terrible English, we managed to work out that she is 75, she grew up in our house, and her mother lived here till she died. Her children knew our house as ‘the grandmother house’. Her father planted the big tree.

She told us what sort of tree is was and Michael understood because it’s also called that in German, but it didn’t mean anything to me. It’s a Siberian something-or-other.

I think she told us that the fruit trees in our garden are yellow plums.

She warned us that deer would try to eat our flowers and our herbs. She said they especially like roses. You cannot plant roses here. But she said she has lots of flowers in her garden every year, not yet but soon.

I told her that I come from Australia and I work in a kindergarten.

I realized yet again that my handy stack of Norwegian sentences: ‘Would you like some more?’; ‘Are you finished?’; ‘Come here!’; ‘Don’t do that!’; ‘Mummy’s coming soon’; ‘Can I change your nappy?’; ‘Have you done a poo?’; are not really adequate for social encounters with people older than two years old. I so wanted to talk to her that I lapsed into my dodgy German, which didn’t help anyone.

So. Once the teaching is finished, the Norwegian books are coming out. Really they are.

Tonight another neighbour came to visit but she didn’t stay and chat.

A haircut

I had a long overdue haircut today. I put off haircuts even in English speaking countries, and this was only the second time I’ve braved a haircut in Norway. I decided to go to a drop-in place, because I really couldn’t be bothered going there to make an appointment and then coming back in a fortnights time if I was lucky. (A curse on full-time work. And on Norway, which shuts up shop around four on weekdays, two on Saturday, and remains closed completely on Sundays. Also I can’t just make a phone call to book a haircut, because my Norwegian’s not good enough.) Anyway, the drop-in places are all run by immigrants, who speak Norwegian but not very much English. They are half the price of the places run by Norwegian Norwegians, but although Michael’s been going to one without incident for three years, until now I really didn’t like the idea of not being able to communicate verbally with my hairdresser!

So today I went to one on a tired side street near the harbour. It was a husband and wife team. A small boy played a hand-held computer game on the sofa. An old man sat on an armchair with an even smaller boy on his lap, speaking in some Arabic language with the owners.

‘Do you speak English?’ I asked hopefully.

‘A little’, said the man. ‘You want a haircut? You can just wait.’

So I sat on the sofa next to the boy while the woman finished up another client. She cut women’s hair; her husband cut the men’s hair. I was feeling a little sorry for myself, and a long way from home, and fed up with this slow Norwegian spring which refuses to warm up much beyond ten degrees, and tipped snow and hail all over us a couple of days ago.

‘Where are you from?’ the man asked.

‘Australia.’ I said. ‘A long way away.’

‘Do you like it here?’

‘Sometimes’, I said. ‘It’s a bit cold.’

He asked me how long I’d been here, and what I did, and why I was here. And then he asked how I’d managed to get my job, and he said it sounded like a very good thing. He asked if my family were here, or all far away. His English wasn’t very good, and his wife didn’t speak any English at all. But it was strangely comforting to be among foreigners.

‘Are you Norwegian?’ I said, ‘Or – where do you come from?’

‘I am Norwegian,’ he said, ‘I’ve been here fifteen years. But I am also from Iraq.’

‘Do you like it here?’

‘No,’ he said, ‘I don’t like it. I want to go home.’

A walk in the woods

We went for a walk in the forest today. You can open our front door, walk for ten minutes or so, and be deep in the woods. This is extremely cool. We walked for about an hour and half today, but if you felt like it, you could go for hours. Next time we’re taking a picnic.

There is something deeply fairytale about the pine forest. The criss-crossing paths. The darkness. The slanted light. I felt like someone in a George MacDonald story. The treetops wooshed in the wind like the sea.

In other news, I am always so deeply exhausted by Friday night that on Saturday I just want to curl in a ball. Planning my classes in the evening after working all day in the barnehage, and then traveling two hours up to the campus in Oslo is starting to take its toll. I am glad there are only three more weeks of teaching. It has gone quite well. It would have gone better if I had more time or lived closer to the university. But I’ve done my best whilst keeping myself relatively sane, so I’m not going to beat myself up about not doing more.

I keep meaning to write some sort of retrospective post. I was going to do it at the end of 2009, but didn’t. And then at the end of March it was a year since I handed in my thesis. And last week, it was three years since I started my blog. But it makes me tired just thinking about listing everything that’s happened in the last year. Actually, I just made a list, but it made me tired just to look at it, so I deleted it. A lot. A lot has happened. Good and bad.

I feel like I’m still walking in the woods, and I can’t see around the next corner. But the moss is nice. And there are little streams.

The beauty of mist

A patch of it weirdly fills with light.

It blurs horizons.

It thickens in the creases of the fields.

People have said: this weather is depressing. I haven’t noticed. The grey is quiet and enclosing. One day it will lift, but for now we don’t need to see very far. Two weeks ago, on the early morning train, when the snow still held the monochrome world, the bare trees in the misty fields stood out against the white in different shades of grey, like a design on expensive wrapping paper. Today the grey holds traces of green and straw and brown. I stare out the window and slowly wake up. It is just after seven. And I see, in a field, a grey wolf. It stands completely still, like a concentration of the mist itself.

Easter

Michael’s parents arrived yesterday for Easter. They seem to like our little house! Although it’s raining at the moment we saw a deer sauntering along our driveway this morning, so Norway is still doing its best to impress. Yesterday we spent the whole morning sorting things out – vacuuming and tidying, clearing the third bedroom which had remained a sort of dumping ground from our move, putting the back seats back into the car and cleaning that up a bit, and wandering around our driveway and garden picking up all the bits of rubbish and cigarette butts that had been hiding under the snow for three months (the previous tenants weren’t the tidiest folk). It all looks pretty good now. Then Michael went to pick up his folks and I put a banana cake in the oven.

It’s lovely to have them here. The weather’s looking up for tomorrow, but I don’t think anyone really minds just relaxing in the house for the moment. We had a lovely slow breakfast of coffee and jam and bread and cheese, and now Monica is getting stuck into our little pile of ironing. (She really really loves ironing and folding clothes. I used to feel a bit funny about that – in regards to our clothes – but I am totally over that now!)

Anyway, here’s the current status of Henry. I reckon I’ll finish Jane Seymour’s head this weekend. First there’s about fifteen essays left to mark, and a novel to read for my class next week. But it’s so, so excellent to have six days off!