A very nice birthday

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Even my garden gave me a birthday present – all its flowers opened up over the past week, just in time. Michael got afternoon tea ready. Antonia learned how to sing happy birthday (she likes to sing it to me as long as I sing it to her too), and Felix reminded everyone that we needed to sing it, and insisted that I have the first piece of cake. My gorgeous friends threw a surprise picnic for me last weekend, no less. I’m feeling fortunate, and feeling loved.

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18/52

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My boy, bearing a gift. Felix loves flowers. A couple of weeks ago, when we were in Fredrikstad, he picked six different kinds of brand new spring flowers on the way from the park to the car, and was devastated that they had mostly died by the time we got home. Just under a year ago in Fredrikstad he managed to badly cut his finger on a rose thorn, and still talks about how some pink flowers are spiky.

We took his bike into town today and he rode around the harbour, like this time last year. After a cinnamon roll at our favourite cafe Felix rode around and around the harbour – it was a golden, expansive, perfect five minutes and he picked a flower for me. Then he realised the outing was not going to include a toy shop and suddenly he ran out of energy and the ride back to the car was not so relaxing. But you get to choose which five minutes to hold on to, right?

Dear Antonia. The photo I wish I took of her happened yesterday: Antonia sitting in a tiny island of space in the midst of a sea of ALL the wooden trains and train tracks strewn about her, grinning up at me, cheerfully chewing on the tail of a plastic stegosaurus. Felix had decided to tip all the trains out while we were busy packing a picnic lunch (and to visualise this properly, you probably need to be familiar with quite how many trains live here), but we couldn’t be annoyed – the two of them were so delightfully content, sifting through the trains and tracks together.

But the camera was not nearby. So here is my darling in the cafe at the harbour today, just before we went out there with Felix’s bike. Some of my friends have said all along she reminds them of my Mum, and in this photo I see it.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

And now I have to show you all the other photos I took of Felix, because they are just too adorable. The dandelion is now wilting in my bag, after I rescued it from being eaten by Antonia in the park. But who could resist?

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Happy Easter!

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We normally go away for Easter, and so, for that matter, do most of our friends. This time, we all stayed put, and it has been so nice. I’ve made hot cross buns (twice), done Easter crafts with Felix, lit candles, chilled out with the family, dressed Antonia up like a little bunny, and taken the kids on a walk to look for beavers. And today we went around to our friend’s house for an Easter egg hunt – four little boys careering round the garden collecting their sweets were a sight to behold. Happy Easter!

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A long way away

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Thinking of my cousin Hannah and her husband Lochie today, and the loss, too sad for words, of their daughter Chelsea Anne, who died mere days before she was meant to be born, for no good reason. As I go to bed in Norway, a new day starts in Australia, and it is her funeral. We wish it did not have to be. We wish we could all wake up into any other world.

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A lovely wedding

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My cousin Sam got married a couple of weeks ago to his beloved Tracey. It was an outdoor wedding and reception on an uncharacteristically rainy day in January. But beautiful nonetheless. I was worried about how Felix would cope with the crowds, but I needn’t have been. The day before the wedding he had a blast helping the wedding party pot hundreds of little alyssums for the place markers, spooning in soil with a teaspoon.

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And during the reception he had the time of his life dancing and chasing and racing with his ‘twin’ cousin Mala for hours on end. We got home around 10.30pm, and sat around the table drinking tea and milk before bed. ‘I had a lovely wedding’, said Felix.

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In the park

This is the little park in the centre of town. We walk through it to get to the main street. The windows of our favourite cafe face onto it. When I wrote this post, when Felix was a tiny babe, I was looking out onto the rotunda covered in snow.

We stopped in the park to let Felix run around a bit yesterday, after he’d been so good sitting in the stroller looking at all the boats.

Felix loves to climb up the steps to the rotunda and swing its gate open and shut.

But I think this picture of him riding the wooden pony with the wind in his hair is about as sweet as you can get.

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From the photos on this blog you’d be forgiven for thinking that May in Norway is sunshiny and beautiful. It’s a nice illusion.

When the sun does shine, however, you soak it up. Michael spent a fair amount of time in the garden a couple of weeks back chasing bees.

The angelic bees stick to the treetops but in the undergrowth the monsters lurk.

A little birthday party

Today some close friends came over and we had a little birthday party for Felix. Good friends are so precious. In this photo you can also see: Felix’s lion, which was a hand-me-down from a very lovely lady in Idaho Falls, who has a son a couple of years older than Felix (Felix adores this lion, so my cake was an attempt to approximate it); the curtains my Grandma gave us; the coffee cups and milk jug my Nanna gave us for our wedding; tulips which reminded me of the ones you can see here; a vase which was a birthday present from the barnehage; a delicious cheesecake made by my lovely Norwegian friend; a colourful bowl that my parents gave me when I moved to York; a candle holder that Michael acquired many many years ago, long before I met him; and the gorgeous cardigan that my Mum knitted for me while we were in Australia, shortly after these photos were taken. So although we are a long way away from our families, we were pretty much surrounded by love. And Felix seemed to like the cake.

The little guy had a good time playing with his birthday presents and his new friend Pearce.

In the background in this one you can see the walker that we spied in a shop in Adelaide, but Michael’s parents bought for Felix in Germany. It was a happy day. Surrounded by love, indeed.

Bluegrass

I feel I was a bit harsh on poor old Idaho Falls in the last post. We’ve been here a month now, and wandering around the Downtown/Greenbelt areas today, I felt myself becoming fond of the place. I stumbled across a bluegrass festival on the river. It was awesome.

Sitting on the lawn listening to the music reminded me of the happiest weekends of my adolescence – our annual pilgrimage to the Port Fairy Folk Festival. (The Port Fairy Folk Festival was like an alternative universe – the smell of incense, the gypsy clothing, the heavenly music. I used to dream of running away with my penny-whistle to join a folk band, and I would spend days choosing the dangly beaded earrings I would buy each year.) Felix liked it too.

Well, ok, he was smiling at me there. But he didn’t mind hanging out on the grass and listening to music for an hour or so.

We also did a long walk along the river and saw ducklings,

the Mormon temple,

and the last vestiges of spring. The day was cloudy but warm, and only a little windy. I am getting used to the wind, anyway.

A wedding in the snow

Yep. Got married today.

I didn’t really mean to wear black to my own wedding, but it was the only maternity dress I could find. I like it. And at least it’s got lace on it, right? Michael insisted on buying me a proper bridal bouquet of red roses. I wore the sparkly green jewellery Michael bought me within two weeks of our first kiss, six and a half years ago. (I did think about wearing the little casket of uncut emeralds Mum wore to her own wedding, but I decided I needed the extra sparkle.)

We decided to tie the knot now rather than later not because of bubs (I really don’t think he’ll mind much either way), but more out of visa considerations for next year. All that aside, it felt like a good time to do it. It felt special. The script for the ceremony was perfect. Here’s a link to it in Norwegian. If you copy and paste it into google translate you’ll get an idea of it, allowing for some amusing translation errors. We alternated between listening seriously and glancing across at one another and smiling shyly.

Then there were the rings, and the signing, and it was done! We bought the rings in October, from Robert Feather, who has a workshop in a little town near York. That was special too, because we met in York, and lived together for two years there, and the gold of our rings was like the gold of the leaves on the trees.

The wedding was a more solemn and more joyful experience than I had expected. It was very small – just us and our two witnesses – and was over very very quickly. But we were so happy!

The courthouse was right on the harbour so we trundled out there to get a couple of shots in the snow (thanks to Michael’s best man who was our impromptu photographer).

Then we all had pizza at our favourite restaurant, Spisekroken. These guys make the best pizza I have ever tasted. Nowegians love pizza, but mostly it is barely edible. The owners know us, and were very happy for us, and brought out sparkling wine on the house.

We know our families would have loved to be there, and we would have loved that too. But I hope I can share the moment with you this way! And I hope we can eat cake together at a later date. After eating all that pizza, there was no room for cake anyway!

It was a perfect mini wedding. We even got presents. Kylie came back for a cup of tea and we cracked open the Swiss Glory chocolates my Mum had sent for Christmas while the snow filled the windows and the kittens snoozed.

As I write, there was a knock on the door and more roses arrived, from my parents! They are beautiful, but I will take a photo tomorrow because now I think it’s time for some snoozing of our own.

Lots to catch up on

1. Kittens being cute

2. The best house guests ever

Some very old family friends came to visit me in Halden. They pretty much feel like family, actually. I lived with them for a year and a half when I started University. It was so fun to see them! They turned up with Australian wine, Belgium chocolate, timtams and the most amazing flowers. They helped me empty out the basement for some work we need done there, and Loris even donated her mobile phone charger to me because my kittens wrecked my old one!

3. Sunshine, skies and holidays (ongoing).

Why you should all go to Austria

Update: This post is frequently in my top posts and has received more traffic than anything else I’ve written (a bit embarrassing for a bunch of holiday snaps), because a certain spammer keeps trying to leave links to his Austrian holiday apartment. Note to spammer: I have deleted your comment each time you have left it, and will continue to do so. There are thousands of cheap and comfortable holiday apartments in Austria, and I’m sure my readers can find their own if they ever intend to go… Oh, and if you want the real reason to visit Austria, go here.

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I haven’t been much fun to be around lately. Irritable, panicky, emotional, distracted. Luckily the one person who has to put up with me is doing an okay job. So anyway, instead of complaining about how stressful this writing up business is or composing posts about how I can’t concentrate (er, didn’t actually write that post, just thought about it), I thought I’d inflict more photos of Austria on you. And explain why it really is one of the most relaxing and affordable places to go on holiday.

(I’m actually feeling quite a lot better now. I’ve made some steady writing progress over the weekend, and more is planned for this afternoon. And the weather has allowed cycling both days, which always cheers me up and calms me down. What’s not quite so cheering are the first yellow leaves on the birch trees. It’s not that time yet, is it? Anyway… )

Reasons to visit Austria.

1. Extremely cute cows.

With mohawks, and real cowbells, that jingle and jangle.

This one longed for a paraglider.

2. Flowers.

Overflowing all the balconies. These were at our guest-house. Which is another reason to visit, because the villages are stuffed full of bed and breakfasts and apartments for rent, at about 13 euros per person per night. Bit different to Norway…

3. Cakes and ice cream.

Yum yum yum yum yum. What can I say. The German and Italian tourists love it here. They do their walks in the morning, and then sit in the cafes all afternoon, indulging. Everybody is so happy you can’t help but smile. And if it rains, there’s always the indoor swimming pools and saunas. If Austrian food isn’t your thing, there’s seriously good pizza available. And cheap beer. And did I mention cake?

Daffodil Hunting

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I had the nicest dream this morning, just before I woke up. I dreamed that someone wanted to publish my novel. In fact – they had already published it, and I held it in my hands. I have actually dreamed this before, more than once. But never before was the dream accompanied by such a feeling of bright sweetness, which did not fade with the day. One day, maybe.

It was probably because I have been reading blog posts about other people’s books being published. And also because last night, for the first time, I piled up all the sections of my thesis, and held the wad of paper in my hands. And hugged it. It is scruffy and covered in notes. But it is a hellova lot of paper! This is exciting but also slightly daunting – all that will need checking, and some of it needs rewriting. But mostly it is exciting. It seems faintly ridiculous – I can’t believe that I have come this far and am actually going to achieve this thing! I will try to keep this feeling of sweet wonder alive, and tap into it when I need encouraging.

Today in my class we discussed Breton lais. The students seemed to like them. I didn’t ride my bike in due to the wind (70kph, says the weatherpixie). Walking home, through swirling eddies of rubbish and the frizzled remains of autumn leaves, I was glad. The wind roared like a low aeroplane. The trees staggered like drunks. I’ll be catching the bus to my dance class.

Daffodils and teapots

Spring?

You’ve been wooing me for days,
invisibly, with the most delicate of whispers.
With a fragrant smell despite the clouds,
with sunlight on my bathroom floor,
with snowdrops crowding the tombstones
of the old church.
I’m pretending not to notice,
knowing (rightly) that winter will crush me again,
hammer me with black weight,
and I am so tired.

How can I trust what weighs less than my breathing
and vanishes when I turn around?

But look, winter’s worn himself out with gravity
and there’s nothing to do
but breathe again, and float upwards.
I had read of the lightness of spring
but never felt it –
this quiet buoyancy – how strange!
O fickle lover, I know you won’t stay.
Now it’s birdcalls in the mornings,
and minute gifts of extra daylight,
and everything will rise again without trying,
impossibly.

I won’t speak of you yet, too loudly –
I might scare you away.

Yes, cold may come again,
with the wind and the hail,
but maybe I like you,
maybe I trust you,
maybe I’ll walk with you, now.

Our newest toy

The very clever lovie has found these beauties. They pump up in five minutes, and then you’re away! They’re called dive-yaks, and are made so that you can paddle out to a spot and then go diving, something we won’t be trying. But they work just fine for paddling around.

This lake is a popular bathing spot for Halden residents – there were lots of kiddies paddling around. We saw ducklings, and a baby seagull chick on a rocky island. Its parents weren’t too pleased when we tried to take a closer look. And we saw waterlillies, up close.

Roses and Stars

Tonight there were wild roses tangled in the long grass on the fortress. Every time I go there something has changed. Flowers have bloomed, or died, the grass is longer, the leaves thicker. Tonight the light was milky – a thin sheen of cloud covered the sun. Below the fortress, the river gleamed and the town waited, grey and quiet. The roses made me think of Klee, who confuses flowers and stars.

Today I have been writing – rewriting. Drawing out the strands of my chapter, testing, pulling. I remember once saying that editing is safe compared to the dangerous brightness of writing something new. But it’s not. Editing is scary too. It’s all about choices – making connections, moving paragraphs, extending this, chopping that. And before I find my structure I must dive into the raging mass of it, see what can be done, work blind, sometimes. Try things.

I remember that I have the best job in the world. Well, it’s not really a job, but I get paid. I get to write about poems I love. And it’s flexible – I can write and read in Norway as well as I can in England. And it’s exciting, because in all this reading and writing and endless rewriting, I am reaching towards something new. And if sometimes there are roses and sometimes stars, and sometimes there’s just darkness, waiting, that’s okay too.

By the way, the stars are metaphorical. And the darkness. In Norway, at the moment, the sky stays as blue as this painting.