Sunday, 26 March 2006

Oslo the LONG Version - Day III

March 26th 2006

Up a little too early, about 6.30, but I figured that I may as well get going and then I wouldn’t need to panic about being late. I shoved all my stuff in my bag and arranged the things I may need near the top. Clearly still in my very sensible and organized traveler mode. I checked out the hotel with no effort and walked down to central Oslo with the intention of getting a bus from the centre to the bus station as I wasn’t convinced I would find it again.

One last walk through the park, trying to absorb as much of it as I could and stuff it into my head do that I would be able to recall all of the stillness and the ice and the beauty of it when I was home. I was also quite shattered and kept having to stop and rest.

I got back to the central square, one last look around it, one last stroke across all the memories that were formed here and around here. Then focus on getting home.

It was too early in the morning for the buses and trams to be running, and so I wouldn’t be able to catch one to the bus station. I was going to have to figure it out on my own. Sensibly I thought that my map may have something as touristy as the bus station marked on it, sadly however that was clearly far too obvious a thing to mark on there. Zen navigation it would have to be then!

Wander wander wander…ooo woolly jumpers…that green frog one is still winning the ‘most hideous’ competition…yeah it should be kind of this way… the pavements in Oslo are odd, they look all broken up, I wonder if that is the freeze thaw erosion, or if they are like that because the broken surface stops sheet ice forming… Ice and pavement management in the CBD wow that would be a fascinating project… ooo tram lines I bet if you stuck your tongue on the metal it would be cold enough to stick…yeah this way I suppose…wow look at all that water melting through the slush, it makes little sparkly cave structures, why little snow dragons and ice fairies could live there… ooo pretty blue tiles along the walls… they are familiar…oh wow that would be the bus station then woot! Go Toria!! And with half an hour to spare haha how good am I?!

I bought lots of water and some chocolate because the only other things they were selling were rather nasty plastic looking hotdogs. I sat munching hungrily as this was the first thing I’d eaten since the salad back in Stanstead airport. I was going to save the Snickers bar for later, but decided that was a silly idea and that I wanted to eat it now.

The silver bus pulled up and I got on, he didn’t say anything about putting my bag under the bus, so I just took it on with me. I sat at the back as that was where there was most room. There were too many people to be able to fit everyone on, so I was glad I’d got there early as I couldn’t really cope with finding an alternative route. I do hope those people managed to go on the train or something and get there in time for their flights, on the basis they didn’t seem too upset at the time I guess they had another plan.

I decided to listen to the gig from the night before, though had to spend nearly half an hour fast-forwarding through all the pre-gig chat. Not helped by the fact I kept slipping so it would go to the end of the ‘track’ and I’d have to start all over again! Argh! Way too tired to be patient enough for this!

We went to the airport a quick route as the bus was too full already for it to be worth going the long route via all the stops. The journey was noticeably shorter and I didn’t fall asleep this time. I did have to resist the urge to wave goodbye to Oslo as we left the last bits of the trailing docks behind us. I was so sad that I had to leave, I wanted to stay. I liked who I was here.

That sounds odd I know, but with everything that has happened surrounding me leaving Bryan it’s been a while since I felt entirely together and myself. But here a lot of the pieces had come together. There is this person that I see in myself and I strive to be like that always. It’s very hard to define in words but it is the person I regard myself to be at heart.

In short it’s the kind of person I am when I’m with Adam or Jonathon. The comfortable mix of serious, intelligent, thoughtful and observant laid alongside confident, funny, caring, sexy, strong and together all wrapped up in this sparkly excitable magical imaginative way of perceiving and understanding everything.

I’d achieved that here and it was nice to remember how it feels inside when I’m like that. It is a very comfortable and perfect way to feel. That is how I am meant to be, that is how I am when I’m happy.

I lay back in the seat of the coach and let the gig wash over me, it was a decent recording, not bad for a first attempt, and such a precious little thing to own. Going to gigs is almost always part of a whole big adventure, so they aren’t just music they are a soundtrack to the wider tapestry of life that surround them, I suppose that’s why I like going so much.

The bus got to the airport quite early, so I was sat there for quite a long time, I just sleepily sat listening to the disc and trying to keep awake. There was a group of American lads heading back to the UK. I followed a little of their conversation, they had been up in the mountains and were all going over their adventures that largely seemed to involve trying to snowboard and all the inevitable falling over that goes along with it. It was really sweet.

Then it was time to queue up, I sleepily stood there, there was a lady with a very big bright green bag in front of me and a girl with a set of skis taped up with brown parcel tape, though she also had a flowery strap round them, very pretty. All checked in I had a quick look at the little shop, I had thought about buying Alex a troll keyring as they were scary and hideous and he would probably love it! But then I got distracted by these amazing posters of Norway that they had. There was one of the northern lights green and rippling in the night sky, I had hoped I would have been far enough north to have seen them but I hadn’t been, so this made a good substitute!

Then over to the x-ray machine, it did make me laugh the comparison between the big fenced off section for this that there is as Stanstead, compared to here where you just kind of wandered up to a glass doorway and you were there. Remembering to shove my mobile in the box this time I wandered through the metal detector, and set it off! It was my belt that had tripped it. In retrospect it is quite worrying that my belt didn’t trigger the one in the UK, as it does actually have an awful lot of metal along it!

Then through into duty free, which it has to be said is a lot less nauseating when opposite is a massive wall of glass looking onto a forest draped in snow…add in Steve Hogarth beautifully and evocatively singing ‘I still dream, of Arganon’ and believe me you are sorted :o)

It suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t bought any ‘Smile’ pronounced smeel, very tempting to do that in a Gollum voice hehe! It is a type of chocolate that all the boys had told me I would have to try, along with brown cheese which is apparently traditional Norwegian food. Lucy Jordache (Marillion’s manager/ PR person/ I have no idea what!) got totally addicted to it last time she was over, the idea of that along with all the boys rolling their eyes at the cliché girl, made me want to try it! So I bought that and shoved it in my bag so I wouldn’t eat it till I got home, and so I could share it with everyone.

I then wandered up and sat on the floor by passport control waiting for it to open- hehe teeny tiny airport! When it did I queued with everyone, and then as I went through I asked the man if he could stamp my passport for me. Technically now we are in chummy border free Europe he didn’t need to, but I think that is incredibly boring, and that actually the whole point of a passport (aside from giving away your origin when you play the guess the nationality game) is to collect stamps from all the wonderful places you visit! This rather spiffing chap with sparkly blue eyes (who I think rather viewed me the way he probably does his grandchildren) seemed to agree and gleefully stamped my passport, still brandishing his stamper he asked if one was enough, giggling I said thank you one was just perfect! At the same time thinking I will get a second when I come back!

Then a little wait, more marveling of the gorgeous stylish clean airport, wistfully looking out on the dark heavy snow laden sky and wishing I didn’t have to go. Then boarding, I was glad there wasn’t a connecting bridge this time, it gave me a last few precious moments in the air. I stood at the foot of the steps up to the aircraft just letting the cold breeze run through my hair, and just breathing. I wanted to be able to take it home with me, somehow bottle this air so I could breathe it all the time.

Up the steps, stood at the top of them, the poetry of repetition drawing a suitable close to the adventure. I can’t leave this air, I want it to feel like this when I breathe all the time, its been too long since it was this easy to breathe, and since I felt like my lungs actually worked, and them having air in them was a pretty thing and not just hard. So so hard to tear myself away from it. One last breath, sharp and crystal in my lungs, pure cold oxygen in my blood. Wow. I will have back soon. I will come back.

Into the aircraft and down the cramped isle into a window seat! Definitely having a window seat this time! I stayed awake for take off, and kept my face pressed against the glass so that I could drink in every last second of Norway and all her snow. Then up and into the dark grey clouds which swirled misty around us. I fell asleep before we broke into the blue sky above.

My sleep was patchy and broken but distracted me from feeling rough in the nasty pressurized airless cabin. I finished the gig, and decided that because Steve had been talking about it I wanted to listen to ‘This Strange Engine’ but I fell asleep half way through it. Then I woke up again and we were over London and nearly home.

I felt really quite unwell when I got off the plane, and my bag was very heavy, and it was a long walk down to the terminal building. I did think that I may actually collapse which would have been rather annoying, but thankfully I didn’t. I got to passport control where there was a massive queue, this time I did decide to pull the sickly card on the basis I was quite sickly.

The people at the front were a bit miffed with me, but when I, rather breathlessly, explained I wasn’t well, they looked horribly guilty and apologized. I said it was OK they weren’t to know. They had been on holiday in Italy and had, had a lovely time, which thought was very sweet.

Then through nothing to declare, singing the obligatory ‘Nothing To Declare’ song in my head. I always find this bit a little odd, after all the checks, and gates and traveling you are suddenly through the last barrier and just left to your own devices in whichever country it is you have just entered. I always have the unpleasant sensation that I am miling like a sheep!

Down to the coach terminal. I walked outside into the February drizzle, and I could hardly breathe. It was really warm, over sixteen degrees, and the air was thick and muggy, it was like breathing treacle. Usually England isn’t quite this bad, and it was just an unfortunate coincidence that it was horrifically muggy and humid, but it did leave me with the overwhelming urge to just turn around and find my way back to Norway by the quickest possible route.

The bus wasn’t due in for nearly an hour, so I went to the little waiting to room. It was quite possibly the most dirty dingy little place I have ever seen, I was upset to think that on the frontier where people enter our country this is one of the first impressions they must get of us. Who ever manages that place should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

While I was waiting I called my mummy and told her what time the bus would get back to Luton and to ask if she would mind picking me up. I had meant to save my adventures till I got home, but I couldn’t wait so I told her then! Besides which I know it annoys my dad when I get excited and talk too loud, so if I told her now it would be out my system before I got home.

Eventually the bus came and I got on, I fell asleep quickly and didn’t wake up till we got to Luton. It was weird; I had got so used to going through airport procedure I felt like I should have to show someone my passport before I got off the bus.

Then after a little while Mummy and Alex arrived and took me home.

Mmm definitely want to go back – Norway beautiful magical place I’m in love :o)

Saturday, 25 March 2006

Oslo the VERY long Version - Day II

March 25th 2006

I was quite worried about waking up, when my brain was first starting to surface out of sleep it occurred to me I might have a hangover. And I assume they are quite bad nasty things as lots of people make a fuss about them. And I don’t really ever want one, and maybe if I stay asleep I wont get one because I will sleep through it. Oh pants I’m awake now.. oo tentative poking round the inside of my head.. all clear! Well not clear, decidedly blegh actually, but I think that’s due to the four hours of sleep really, whooo no hangover!!!

Terje and his girlie (who’s name I should remember but don’t, mostly because I couldn’t actually say it even at the time let alone now I’m trying to remember it all ages after!) were heading off out. They were needed off down at the venue to get stuff set up for h later. Oh yes h, I’d forgotten that’s why I was here! Not just some random trip to Oslo!

Æusmund and I crashed on the sofa playing with Terje’s insanely cool music centre thing! I have to explain this because it is just so wicked! First thing you need to bear in mind is the size of Terje’s CD collection. It is insanely big and cool! He had a bookcase floor to ceiling down pretty much the length of one wall of his flat and it was full! My god I thought my Daddy had lots of CD’s wow!! MUSIC!!! And as if that wasn’t good enough it was all awesome stuff like Marillion and stuff that Steve Wilson had somehow been involved in YAY!

Ooo right yes the music thingy- well Terje has spent disgusting amounts of time loading this entire lot onto his computer, and has titled all of it up and found all of the artwork! Having just uploaded my very small CD collection onto my i-pod and knowing how long that took I cannot imagine how long it must have taken him, I’m impressed.

He then he has his computer wired into the very big sexy plasma tv, and get this has a wireless keyboard so you can sit the other side of the room and scroll through everything! ARGHHHH I want one!!! This is how all music collections should be!!! Oh yes and as if that wasn’t good enough he has all of his DVDs loaded on there too! How disgustingly big must his hard-drive be?! ARGHHH I WANT ONE!! Hehehe!!!

So we laid there for hours listening to tons of stuff, it was so cool! He played me Opeth and about 5 bars in I said ‘oh this sounds like the porcies’ he said I got a gold star because they were produced by Steve Wilson. That made me skip about in glee that I’m actually good enough to be able to recognize Mr Wilson’s work! And as if I didn’t know it already it just served to remind me exactly how dam talented that boy is!! Whoo I’m so lucky I love such amazing musicians!!! How do the hip-hop-pop brigade survive?!

I did keep saying I was going to go and do the tourist bit, and that I really should be off in a museum reading about harpoons, but every time I got close to leaving I would decide that actually laid here listening to No-man was better, largely because it involved so little effort!

But I did look out the window, it was a nice day with long patches of blue sky. I remember looking out over all the rooftops and thinking how different everything looked. Just the way the colours of the buildings were slightly different because the sky was a different blue to the blue it is at home, and then the fact they were painted colours at all. Lots of yellow buildings, I suppose it must be the fashion or tradition over here.

We live in such a homogenous and small global community where it is easy to slip into believing we are all the same that it is always odd to remember that we are in fact very different after all. I can see why we think like that, it is a good safe and constructive way to think, nice and equal, Christian democratic. The things that we share most easily, or register first are the things that are the same. The way we get the same jokes because we’ve both seen the same Hollywood film, or have eaten the same food because we have a Mac Donalds down the road. Empire building and colonization through the back door- Geography is everywhere.

So in a whole different culture in a whole different country, that has lots of snow and a very blue sky, wow!

Terje and his girl finally came back, and we realized that it was about three in the afternoon! About an hour of insisting I was ‘going’ I finally left, with some nice clear instructions about how to get to the tram stop.

It was nice to be outside again in the clear cold air surrounded by piles of glistening snow. I got on the tram which was driven by yet another utterly gorgeous person. He tolerated my bad Norwegian nobly and said he’d tell me when we got to central Oslo in perfect English. I think it must be some odd requirement of the Oslo transport agency that you have to be stunningly beautiful, really helpful and speak perfect English. I think it’s a policy we should most definitely introduce in the UK.

Back to the central square, delicately touching the memories of stars and singing that were still fresh in my mind. I think that square was built to be seen at night, it made it somehow glitter, and made its edges and its heart deeper.

I floated up the main street, looking at the people. I was on my own and didn’t understand what anyone was saying, it made me feel oddly like I was invisible, just a visitor to this planet. It was quite cool really, I felt utterly free like I could have just stood there forever watching the beautiful world go past.

I got to the park and walked up past the empty winter trees draped in their mantles of crystal snow. There were pretty sculptures around the place, full of angles and shapes. There was an outdoor ice-rink, I’ve always wanted to see one of those. In it was such a perfect little scene I sat down on the park bench and just watched for a while.

There were children playing on the ice, a little girl in a pink coat that shone against the white of the snow whizzing around with her Daddy. Twin girls with long blonde plaited hair, they wore the same blue coats, and had one pair of smart white ice-skates between them. One of the sisters had the skates on, she looked new and unsure, coltish even on the ice. The other twin was sure footed, and confidently pulled her sister by the hands round the rink. It made me think of my sister, and our childhood in the woods, when I was small and she would be better at things than me because she was bigger. There was a tiny boy, wearing a smart little coat that was navy blue with red trim. He wore mittens and wellies, his grandmother held one of his hands and his mother held the other and they tentatively trod on the edge of the rink, almost as if they were paddling on the ice.

I don’t see little children often, that may sound strange but I don’t have any reason to go near them. I don’t know anyone that has one, and I don’t live near a school or park. I forget the way they act, I forget how pretty they are to watch. It makes me sad that you can’t say or think that without sounding like a creepy nutcase because it’s not like that at all. It’s just nice to watch the little people having fun, and to know how this little moment will be a happy memory to a grown up person who has become something one day.

I would have brought Gabriel and Jessica here and held their little mittened hands on the ice. I know I shouldn’t think of them like that, they were never real, just a concept, but somehow letting myself have little moments where I can almost smell their soft hair against my face makes it easier to cope with the fact I will never get to meet them. It’s funny that sounds really sad, when actually it was just a gentle lovely day dream. Aw well in another universe I’m sure I don’t have CF and they never wrote EQ and me and Bryan work out and have our family and our marriage just how it was supposed to be.

Pretty floaty randomness… Look at all the trees and snow! I carried on my way up towards the palace, at the top of the steps which led up to the path that cuts diagonally across the park I stopped for a moment. I noticed there was a woolly hat on the ground. I’d lost mine the night before, it must have got caught up in the hood of tall Terje’s coat when he bundled it round me, and then just have dropped unnoticed to the ground. I decided right then that there is in fact a big unspoken communal sharing of hats in Oslo, and as I had donated mine, very kindly and clearly on purpose the night before, it was only right and true that I take this one!

Finally got ‘home’ at about 5pm! Hehe dirty stop out! I did my physio because I knew I really needed to, and then decided it would be nice to have a shower. It turned out that the supposed staff/utility cupboard thing was in fact a very nifty little bathroom! So I had a nice shower, well nice up to the point where I decided I would lean my arm against the wall right where the hot water pipe was! Managed to brand my arm- nice! (you can see the red line down my arm, in my artwork competition photo, if you were wondering where it came from now you know!)

I then had to sleep. I set an alarm to wake myself up in an hours time as I figured I really ought to eat before the gig on the basis I hadn’t eaten anything since my salad in the airport and that had been a long time ago. That alarm went off far too soon and I decided I needed to sleep a lot more than I needed to eat, so I just fell asleep again and trusted myself to wake up within an hour or so. Which may sound a little foolish but I know from experience that I have an amazing internal alarm clock and if I decide I need to wake up at a specific time, more often than not I will. However it’s not so amazing that it can automatically reset when I change time-zones!

I woke up to realize I had just half an hour to get down to the centre of Oslo! I got dressed decided I looked pretty ok, set my mini-disk recording so I didn’t have to panic and faff with it in the half dark of the gig and walked out my room.

Had a bit of a fright in the mirror! Paranoid about having wet hair in the cold air I had laid it out like a mermaids round me when I slept so it would dry. It had set like that, only instead of mermaid think CRAZY scientist, oh my goodness pouf just doesn’t cover it! Eeeek!

Five minutes later having managed to fight my scary hair into plaited bunches, which I thought was rather fitting as I was in the land of the Vikings, shoving on ‘some’ coats, and my new woolly hat who’s free ice crust had now been suitably melted off, I headed down into Oslo centre.

I went past the Hardrock again thinking of my Daddy, then on to the central square. Æusmund had put his number in my phone, and I’d said I’d call him and we could meet up and he’d show me the way to the gig. Only his number didn’t work because we hadn’t entered the dialing code properly! Argh I didn’t have time for this h was due on stage soon!

I had been doing so well at not being lost in Oslo, why I’d almost had bearings for a moment there! Oh well back to being a useless tourist after all…TAXI! In my very best Norwegian I asked if he could take me to the venue, he looked at me a little blankly, so I handed him the piece of paper I had it written on, whilst apologizing in a very English fashion for only having the name of the venue and not the whole address. Understanding what the hell this crazy girl was after he gave me that decidedly universal taxi driver grin and put the car in gear. While I watched the meter creep up at a very alarming speed!

My conversion skills are a little rough, but it was somewhere in the region of £10 to go about three streets, crikey expensive country! Aw well I didn’t care I was there safely! Whooo my utterly darling gorgeous Mr h, I was going to get to see him soon yay!

Terje and Karstein were manning the door, both grinning like naughty over excited pesty little school boys!! Yay almost gig time whoooo!!! They stamped my wrist and I wandered over to the bar, where I’d spotted the rest of the gang from the night before.

They had saved me a seat and were all really pleased I’d made it as they had been starting to worry. Æusmund asked if I was going to have a pint, but I declined as I was really thirsty as I hadn’t drunk anything since the beer I’d had at about 4am that morning! Mmm water, don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see it!

Everyone was really excited and there was a really warm cosy atmosphere. The room was kind of L shaped, and the stage was in the corner of the L. They had a baby grand sat there. For a very long time it has been a dream of mine to see h play a grand piano, he is just that beautiful it seems the most fitting thing he could play. Technically he played on one in Girona but that was such a weird place with no proper atmosphere I had decided that it didn’t count. I knew this time it certainly would! Wow how many dreams can come true in one trip?

I went Gazpacho hunting briefly and found some of them and gave them big cuddles as I hadn’t seen them since Paris on the ‘Not quite Christmas’ Marillion tour, yay so great to see them again!

Then back to my seat with all the guys! More people had arrived and were all stood in front of us, tall Terje asked them if they would mind sitting down, and very politely they all did on the edge of the stage, like good polite little school children!

Then a slight hush and intake of breath and h minced into the room and onto the stage wearing his skunk coat! Hehe that thing is SO hideous, but SO h you just have to love it!

He sat down at the piano, paused for a moment asked if we were ok to which there was a decidedly Norwegian cheer then he started playing. He just tinkled gently on the beautiful piano for a moment, not really playing anything in particular, and then started singing.

Here I was all this way from home, a big adventure on my own deciding important things about who I am going to be in this new life of mine, and he sung what has unquestionably been, since I first heard it twelve years before, one of the most important and utterly defining songs of my life- Brave. I got to hear it sung to me by one of the most beautiful people in my entire world, on a grand piano close enough to me that I could have just stepped forward and held him, in a country I’ve wanted to visit all my life surrounded by stars and ice. Wow. Very precious moment of my existence that. For all those people that don’t understand why I go so far to see the music that I love being played, that should give you some insight.

He rolled effortlessly into Ocean Cloud, I don’t know how he can play that without the rest of the band, it is such an immense song, in all ways. Yet there he was on his own, playing it so well that it sounded like there was an entire wild wide ocean swirling around him on the stage. I think the verb to be in awe is applicable at this point.

He then introduced himself and the point of the tour, namely paying off his tax bill to the audience, the atmosphere was warm and genial. I was glad he was not cutting this bit out just because he was in a foreign country. He then told the story of This Strange Engine in full. I know it well and have understood that it’s all true since it was first written, but it’s like any comfortable old story, it is always nice to hear it again. It was also very amusing to watch h demonstrating the geography of England and the location of the Lake district by holding his hand in the shape of our island and pointing to bits of it!

He then read ‘A Few Words For The Dead’ like a poem; I couldn’t help but hear the music that goes around it as he read the words. It made me smile to hear his storytelling voice, and I thought of Nile and Sophie and how they must have been when they were little curled up listening to their Daddy telling them stories in that voice. And thinking of them all grown up now, just like me. It also made me think of the starlit street the night before ‘they chanted his mantra together together together, they were happy’ I was indeed a very happy girl, out here living my way through this dream, wow.

Lots of beautiful songs washing over me, and lots of watching this exceptionally gorgeous young man sat just over from where I was. I debated going to say hello after the gig, but then remembered I was in Norway and I can’t, despite my valiant attempts, speak Norwegian, which was a terrible shame, because he was quite stunning, all enchanting blue eyes and yummyness!

Then as if Brave hadn’t been enough h sang ‘When I Meet God’ my favorite song off the Anoraknophobia album. That album came out about six years ago, and in all that time I have never heard this song live. I don’t know why they don’t play it, I happen to think it is one of the best songs ever written, to finally get to hear it, and sung here on this night, needless to say I cried my eyes out.

‘When I meet God I’m going to ask her, what makes her laugh? What makes her cry? Is she just stars and indigo gas? Does she know why love has no end? But its dark angel friend, tearing women and men, slowly apart’

If I’d had to cross the whole world to hear that, I would have done gladly. Easily one of the best songs ever written, thank you my darling Steve.

‘Better Dreams’ first song off of the ‘Ice Cream Genius’ album that I’ve heard all tour. One of those awesome songs that just utterly defines why I love this man’s beautiful soul so much. ‘Can we dream better dreams than these?’ hushed painful sigh from the audience, more tears from me, you can’t answer that question after the way the song asks it. Seriously moving stuff, Ice Cream Genius indeed; or maybe just plain genius.

‘Cloudbusting’ my favorite song of the moment since he sang it in Liverpool. Technically a Kate Bush cover, but wow does it make me smile, another one of those songs that for no reason whatsoever makes me think of Jonathan, I like songs that do that. The way he sang the opening line ‘I still dream’ wow he just made it sound like open sky, like that moment when you first look out the window onto mountains and woods in the sunlight in the morning dawn. Eeeeek! My darling Mr Hogarth I do love you very much, you are SO good at this singing malarky!

‘Afraid Of Sunlight’ a delicate and beautiful song, that always brings an audience to awed silence, tonight was no exception. The way the notes flowed out the piano, accompanied by the gentle ache of his voice, just stunning. It sounded like pain and sadness, and the first fingers of the days sunrise caressing the shores of the world. ‘I’m already dead it’s a matter of time’. Best rendition I’ve heard of it since the Walls.

‘Working Town’ an amazing song, and a personal favorite of the Norwegians. I have come to view it almost as an extension of ‘This Strange Engine’ and it was sad to think that I won’t get to hear it again for a long time. It is from h’s ‘How We Live’ album. I have since found said album and it has to be said is it is shockingly 80’s in style in places, which shouldn’t be so shocking considering that’s when it was written, but my goodness it made me glad music has developed since then. However even back then when synthesizers abounded this track stood out as special. Twenty years on, on a grand piano, with h’s voice at the best I’ve heard it for years this song was really quite stunning. It sounded like the rain and the north and the dark political cultural massacre of Thatcherism, with echoes of The Strange Engine across it awesome stuff.

The bouncy Beatle-esqu genius of ‘Three Minute Boy’ I wanted it to be like Liverpool, it wasn’t quite, but then Liverpool was something quite quite special, still brilliant with tons of joyfully atrociously bad audience singing all over it hehe!!

H ended the gig with the Bowie classic ‘Life on Mars’ such a brilliant song, and of course everyone loved it. It made me think back to Liverpool where my mum had been surprised I knew the words. Which I had been miffed about at the time, what kind of Crossland would I be if I didn’t?!

Oh no don’t be the end, don’t be the end!!! Argh SO good, why do they always have to have the stupid bit where they end?! He could just play forever, I really wouldn’t mind… oh well there will be a new Marillion album and tour soon, I will get to see him sing again then.

Post-gig mooching yay! I had such a great time! I stood talking with two new Norwegians who were friends with my lot; they had also been at the Misplaced Neighborhood gig the night before. They were a little disappointed that h hadn’t played any Fish era Marillion tracks. Diplomatically, in my best Web-esque-spokesperson- mode I said that yes it would have been nice for the audience if he had played something like ‘Sugar Mice’ but it wasn’t appropriate to the concept of the tour. The whole thing, quite aside from paying the tax bill, is quite specifically about Steve and all the songs that have meant most to him over the years. So the Marillion and solo songs as well as songs like ‘Wichita Line Man’ which was his Daddy’s favorite and ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ which he feels is one of the best songs ever written. To a large extent Fish era songs have no real place in the set.

They also wished he’d spoken more about how he came to join Marillion at all and how him and the band go about writing songs, and what his relationships with the other band members are like. I tried to explain how it was difficult for Steve to be able to talk about things like that because it is too political. Anything he says, no matter how well meant is too easily taken out of context especially on the clique-filled-small minded message boards that sadly seem to surround the band. People have this horrid way of twisting things till it would sound like the band were falling apart, or that h was trying to turn Marillion into his own personal backing band like some lead singers are given to doing. (ooo… breath in…retract claws…see…see… even I do it! Shocking stuff!)

Though I did know what they meant…how did h come to join Marillion? I am going to have to ask him some time, I really should know that by now! Clearly just not obsessive enough haha! Must just be my anorak phobia playing up again :oP

Then I had a very random conversation with Tomas from Gazpacho, who was a ‘little’ bit drunk hehe! He said he was really sorry that they had all been too busy to see me all weekend, and I of course told him not to be so silly! He said next time I came over I had to stay at his, and he’d give me a key and stuff, oh but was I allergic to cats (h is VERY allergic to cats) which I’m not, so he told me that I had to come and stay at his and he’d give me a key and stuff, but was I allergic to cats?!

Cat allergies aside we got talking about Gazpacho’s muzac :o) Last time I saw them all I’d heard of their work was the support acts they played for Marillion in Glasgow and Paris. Three albums and a certain long period of addictively having their three albums on loop it was great to be able to tell them how spiffing they are!

We talked a lot about ‘When Earth Lets Go’ possibly the most beautifully titled song ever, which also happens to be rather awesome, and possibly my favorite Gazpacho track, though that would involve having to choose just one which would be technically impossible!

I didn’t entirely follow what Tomas was saying as he was just a ‘little bit’ drunk, but from what I gathered the rest of the band aren’t that fond of it as a track, but it is one of his personal favorites and I think he quite liked getting the opportunity to talk to someone else who liked it. The point where I lost him was when he tried to explain what it was about, from what he was saying I think it is about his father’s funeral and what his father must have thought in that moment - Quite beautiful. More importantly however, am I allergic to cats?! Next time I come over I really have to stay over at his, but he does have a cat! Hehe cute little drunken Viking!

Then I had to go and there was some hovering about, and it turned out we weren’t going at all! In that very complicated way that things are when drunken people are trying to organize stuff and each other!

I ended up sat with Terje and his girlie and Æusmund all talking about the gig. Æusmund was still sparkling over the gorgeous ‘Afraid of Sunlight’. Terje, hehe oh this was so funny! You kind of have to know how Terje is in person to get this, but its fair to say he’s a proper big gruff passionate and serious Viking type but there he was raving about how h had sung ‘The Model’ and doing giggling impressions of the very awful plinky German pop original. Just to hear him even say the word ‘plinky’ was hilarious, let alone having him doing impression, he had me in complete hysterical fits of giggles till I nearly fell off the bench!

Then I was playing with Karstiens jacket for a while. He had spotted me ogling it in awe for it is a rather amazing jacket and he very cutely took it off and laid it on my lap like a blanket so I could look at it. It’s a leather jacket, standard biker length, but it’s the back that’s awesome. He’s had it painted, ‘Marillion’ is written across the top in the old text they used to use in the Fish era. Then covering the whole back is the ‘Seasons End’ snowflake wreathed in ‘Afraid Of Sunlight’ flames, if I had any hope in hell of being able to wear a biker jacket I would want one exactly like that! Topped off by the Porcupine Tree hoodie hehe this man is a dude!

And then for no reason at all we suddenly burst into a round of ‘If My Heart Was A Ball It Would Roll Uphill’ and Terje did his best scary monster faces while I harmonized over the top! Then I spotted h so I danced off to give him the letter I’d written to him.

‘You’re an awfully long way from home aren’t you?’- floaty, h like

‘Yep, and I’m here all on my own!’- smiling proudly

Big Cuddles! YAY!!! My gorgeous boy Steve has THE MOST lovely cuddles in the whole wide world!!! YAY!!! YAY!!!

I gave him his letter and said I would catch up with him soon, there were lots of people there who don’t get to see him much, and well he always knows where I am. More big cuddles that just said everything we ever really need to say, big kisses goodbye, and off he danced.

On my way back across the room I spotted Yan from Gazpacho, so said hello, he shoved people up and insisted I sat down, so I did. As I had with Tomas told him I’d finally got a chance to listen to the albums, and indeed my dear Daddy was right, once again, and that they are infact quite awesome, so big congratulations on all the bands hard work. He tried to do the humble wiggling out of it bit, so I just cuddled him till he stopped being silly hehe! He told me exciting rumors about certain Mr Hogarth shaped beings maybe doing some guest vocals on the new album eeek! And and and whooo they may be doing a slot at the next Marillion weekend!! ARGHHHH how cool!!!

He asked if I liked Norway, so I told him I thought it was alright hehe! But then spoilt my deadpan act by squeaking loudly and excitdely ‘IM TOTALLY IN LOVE AND MOVING OUT AS SOON AS I POSSIBLY CAN!!’ to which he also apologized for not getting to show me round more, and that next time I came over we’d organize it all better and I’d have to stay with one of them. So I told him about Tomas and the cat, and we both giggled over that.

Then it was about three in the morning again and everyone was wandering off to Terje’s. They invited me along, but I knew I’d never get back to Oslo centre via my hotel and to the bus station if I did, so I couldn’t really go.

Lots of big cuddles all round, I really didn’t want to go! Lots of promises to see each other and do this all again soon. Marill weekend 2007? Bring it on! Argh more cuddles, and tearing myself away. One last round.

Karstien did crack me up, as he clapped me round the shoulders he said in a very drunk-serious voice ‘Toria, I like you very much, but I am sorry I love your father more!’ I told him it was fine I’m used to it! I seem to spend half my life on tour explaining that ‘no sorry he’s not here, it’s just me!’ haha! Love!

I asked them if they could tell me a taxi number so I could get home. They all looked a bit shocked. So I explained about not wanting to walk home on my own at three in the morning through the park. They still didn’t see the problem! So I was like it’s not safe. And they were all ‘well why not?’ Wow! I now officially love Oslo more than I already did! Walk home I shall!!

Ok more cuddles…really have to go now…bye…byeeeeee!!!

I walked away, zen navigating myself back to the main street. I even used a cut through I’m that good at it! I walked through the theatre district which was full of big neon signs and lots of people in the street. An awful lot of people in fact for three in the morning in the very cold air, but then this is Norway and they do like outside, they also aren’t allowed to smoke inside, oo strange social phenomenon caused by indoor smoking bans how fascinating! I can’t see this being so jovial in the grumpy old UK, I wonder if the government has considered that? Haha ban it anyway, nasty smokey people belong in the streets!

Then up to the park, aww this is a big love of mine. I think it would be fair to say in the dark glittering quiet between trees and snow and stars at the foot of the Oslo palace I found one of the most amazing spaces of existence in the whole wide universe.

This single moment was something of a pinnacle of the whole trip. All the memories of it all, the last gorgeous moment that I enjoyed before I began disconnecting and preparing my mind for coming home.

The air like shimmering diamonds in my blood, so many stars, they felt so close to the earth and I could feel them shinning on me. The trees black and achingly exquisite all photogenic and full of shadows and angles and power. And me, little me this brave brave girl. All the memories of my lifetime flicking through my head, all the things that had led me to this single point. And here I was.

I cannot convey the gravity of this moment and everything that it meant to me that I was even there. I spend so much time fighting to be alive, and still never feeling well, and being scared of what is coming, and pushing myself to become everything that I am capable of and worrying that I will run out of time before I get there. Being strong enough to face what is coming, I worry when it comes I wont be strong enough to take it.

Yet just for a moment I stopped. My entire soul stopped. And I realized I’m already there. That I am strong enough to be enough of myself to come this far from home alone, and to see as much beauty in the world around me as I had seen in the last few days. That’s all I’m ever going to need. I can take it. Capable of anything. All on my own, which is exactly how its going to be. Here I am proving utterly to myself that I’m going to be able to take it, all on my own I’m going to be able to stand there and face the darkest hardest bit all on my own, and I’m not going to break.

Tears falling into the ice and snow of Oslo’s hallowed ground. I looked at my wrist, the stamp from the gig was on it. An unintelligible scribble at first glance. Then I realized it was an H and an N, for Hier Nilsson the venues name. Smiling I thought it also stood for h in Norway, gravely I thought that it symbolized this moment utterly and I should have it tattooed into my skin so I never forget this moment. Because I lost this belief in myself, inside the horrid aching broken mess of loving Bryan too much, I lost this strength, and right here right now under all these stars I got it back.

I don’t really remember much after that, just walking up the hill, gently stroking my wrist and reveling in the tacit sensation of strength that was renewed and wrapped filigree around my magical purple core. Brave Brave girl…Capable of anything.

Friday, 24 March 2006

Oslo the VERY long version - Day I

March 24th 2006

Woke up early about 5.30am, felt a bit groggy, my well meaning plans to get an early night had gone a bit askew. I had tried to get everything packed, and sort out all my paperwork for the mediation session on Monday so that I didn’t have to do it Sunday night. I also wanted my room tidy so it would be nice when I got back. But all of that had taken time and it got late before I even started on my phyiso and nebs, which I felt I REALLY ought to do because of the flight, with my O2 levels being so crappy I was pretty paranoid about passing out or something on the plane, especially as I was on my own.

But of course as I was doing my treatment had MSN on and got chatting to Nick. Bless he almost sounded like he cared, swore that if I dared die he would have me resurrected just so he could kill me himself! And then it got to the point I was just so tired and so overexcited and basically panicking that the stuff I was still trying to sort out and pack just wasn’t happening and I was just faffing ineffectively.

So back to today. Up early. There is something about flying you are supposed to get up really early in the morning, and have a mad rush about in the half dark or it’s just not the same. I know when we flew to Barcelona during the afternoon the other week it just didn’t feel right. So there I was chucking the last of my jumpers in my bag. Working through the checklist of i-pod, mini-disk, chargers, camera, passport, passport, and passport! Went and woke Mummy up as she was taking me over to Luton. Snuggled myself into my three tops, fought my way into three layers of trousers (not that I was paranoid about being cold or anything!) and tried to get myself into my walking boots with woolly socks on. But my walking boots are so well fitted that you can only really wear thin technical socks or normal socks, not ‘paranoid I’m going to loose toes to frostbite’ socks. Of course overran a little, but I had planned everything out on the basis we would end up running late, because we always do!

Tried not to think about stuff too much in the car, but was pretty excited. Then when we got to Luton and it came to me having to say goodbye, it was pretty scary. I looked at mummy really hard and could tell she was trying not to cry. The thought in my head this could be the last time I see her if something goes really wrong. But it was a nice image, full of love and joint excitement and understanding of how brave a thing this was for me to go and do.

It was cold and raining a bit. That sort of nasty wet rain that is almost sleet and that you don’t entirely notice coming down, but you end up getting utterly soaked in. I was a bit unsure of where exactly the bus would stop so I just floated about keeping my eyes peeled. Getting paranoid as it got closer to, and then a little bit past, when they bus was due.

But sure enough it drew up, and in I hopped. Got my disabled fare period return (hurrah for being disabled!), and put it in the neat little envelope I’d put together of all my paperwork. I was quite determined I should do things properly and be responsible, and I didn’t want the standard panic of ‘oh shit where’s the flight number, where’s the tickets?!’ Finally sat on the bus, i-pod on my gorgeous Gazpacho boys playing (seemed fitting as I was off to Norway) it finally hit me what I was doing.

I was sat there and practically jumping in my seat. A few times I did even have to fidget I was just so excited I couldn’t quite contain it!

I kept getting this climbing clutching feeling in my chest, like how you do when you first fall in love, and the thought of the persons’ name makes your pulse race. I couldn’t remember being so excited since my wedding day. That level of excitement, and knowledge about how much this event and this day could change you. All full of trepidation and anticipation, and wanting it all to be perfect and go right. Then trying to be stern with myself and not get over-excited and remind myself that if I put too much pressure on and expect too much I will just be disappointed.

It was a long drive though, and I was tired so eventually I fell asleep, which I figured probably wasn’t a bad thing as this was likely to be a very long day.

Got to Stanstead. (Dear god why is it in SUCH a stupid place?!) I was there really early. The buses between there and Luton are pretty limited so this was how it had to be. Basically I had an hour to kill till they started check in. I sat reading my guide-book that I’d bought on Norway. Theoretically I’d read a lot of it the other weekend at Jon’s, (the pole dancing weekend) but actually as I started again I realised I’d only managed about a page. Clearly all those years of distracting me in philosophy have formed bad habits in that boy!

So I read lots about Norway, until I decided that if I read too much more I’d be sick of the place before I got there. And fascinating as the various Viking conquests were, it was still only about 8am, and it was a bit more than I needed!

As I sat there looking at the map of Oslo trying to work out the city a bit in my head I suddenly realised I’d forgotten to write down my hotel’s address. And useful as my booking number was going to be, it wouldn’t hugely help me get there in the first place. So mooched about in search of an internet café, figuring such things should exist in an airport. After asking some not hugely helpful desk clerks, I managed to find some computers.

They weren’t in a café, there was just a little slightly fenced off corner with computers all set up. You had to put money in through a slot, like in those old fashioned telephones they used to have before mobiles :-P

So feeling highly twenty-first century I put in my £2 coin, they didn’t have them when I was young either you know- inflation!! And logged into hotmail. I had been sensible enough to organise all my Norway related emails into one folder in my inbox, so it was pretty easy to find the hotel information. I copied that down onto my envelope. I also thought it would be a pretty sensible idea to write down where the hell I was supposed to be meeting up with everyone that night. Whilst on this sensible theme I also wrote down the venue where h would be playing. Mind you didn’t get quite as far as putting the address of that in too, because that would have just been far too useful.

I still had a few pennies left, though they were ticking away quite quickly. I e-mailed Terje to let him know I was at the airport, and utterly over-excited and that I would see him soon. The e-mailed Jon and Nick just to remind them I was about to leave the country and that if they hadn’t already guessed I was totally hyper and that they had better miss me while I was gone!

The bottom of the screen started flashing red as I typed in the last of my e-mail and I hit send just as it got to 2p. It’s funny you so rarely see 2p written down once you get past about five years old, back in those great maths lessons where you used to have those pages and pages of work with stamped coins in little rows that you had to add up.

Then a bit more reading about Norway. This time the actual ‘Oslo’ section, and then I read a bit about the food as well. I figured it would be rather standard eastern European stuff, but probably with the same multi-cultural influences that we have over here, so curry and things. Sure enough root vegetables, dumplings, meat cakes and fish! It’s so weird; we just don’t eat that in the UK much any more. We have so many chefs like Jamie dancing about with coriander we have lost this ‘wholesome’ old-fashioned food from our diets. In my mind, much as I dislike that sort of stuff, it does have a certain ‘hearty’ feel to it; like it’s the sort of thing you really should be filling yourself with by a warm hearth before you go out into the ice and snow.

Finally got to about 9am, when the check in desk was due to be opened. It wasn’t on the isle that I had expected it to be, it was on the next one over, so by the time I figured that out there was already a huge queue. I debated pulling the disabled card and skipping the queue but decided in the end not to be lazy but to stand here and people watch. Admittedly half hoping to see another Noah Whye-esqu (ie. Carter from ER) dishy boy like I did on the way to Barcelona the other week. No such luck!

There was a group of young people, I guess about my age, probably younger, there. I think they had been on some sort of school trip. It was nice to just watch them all chatting and messing around, clearly having a good time. And they all, quite bizarrely, had gorgeous haircuts, even the boys! All kind of choppy and messy, very stylish.

I then tried to play ‘guess the nationality’, which is one of my favourite air-port- queue games. Undid my ‘all Norwegians are six foot tall’ theory, but a lot of them were definitely Scandinavian looking. It was annoying though because they had red passports too. I never thought I’d say this on the basis I hate the new UK passports and wish we still had the nice big blue ones, but I still think our passports were nicer than theirs. Ours are a less garish shade of red, but when you are trying to glance at it in someone’s hand it’s pretty hard to tell the difference.

Eventually I got to the front. (Mummy was right about Ryanair being slooooow at check-in) As instructed by the website I informed the woman I was disabled. She seemed to be a bit surprised, in that way people always are. You know because ALL disabled people must sit in wheelchairs and actually look disabled. And then she was just a bit confused about why I had bothered to tell her, even though I explained I was just doing what the website instructed. In a rather hostile fashion she said that I couldn’t have a wheelchair as I hadn’t booked one twenty-four hours in advance. I told her I’d be fine. Thinking that hell if I really couldn’t walk off the flight then they’d have to get me one anyway, and that they were hardly going to leave me collapsed on the tarmac.

Then off to security, boarding pass half stuck out my passport. Thinking excitedly to myself ‘ooh I must keep that in my memory box’. Though in retrospect it seems wrong that I actually plan to horde useless things!

I love this bit; it’s my favourite part of flying! I stood staring at the big Perspex box of sharp things, ogling the Swiss army knives sadly as they languished at the bottom, imagining how upset the people who had given them up must have been at the time. And then wondering if airports now made hundreds of pounds selling all these dangerous things like forks and nail-files on eBay. Then the best bit!! Hehehe!! Handbag and mobile (which I had to be reminded about) into the tray, coat and bag on the conveyer belt, and then that tense wander through the scanner, always half wondering in you head if it may suddenly alarm!

It did once, when I went to America when I was little. It was very exciting! Back in those days I didn’t have my tube, so I had to have tons and tons of these high calorie drinks everyday. And because the cartons were all foil lined they looked like plastic explosives on the x-ray. You can imagine the airports reaction to that as an entire bag of them passed through! Lots of sirens and big scary people with guns and angry questions. We had managed to explain it at the time, but god knows what they would do now what with the wonderful war on terror and obsessive shoe checking and penknife confiscating culture abounding. I know it’s for my own safety but sometimes it does just get a bit silly. Especially the shoe checking, I didn’t actually have the pleasure of that this time, but I did in the US a few years ago, I guess I just look dangerous!

So through into the glamorous world of duty free, that for some reason I find decidedly nauseating. However I had planned to get an i-pod case, as I don’t like the one I have, and I want a pink one! Sure enough there was a Dixons, and they did have pink ones. I bought it and gleefully went to put it on. Only then realising I’d bought the wrong one. I figured I’d try and shove it on anyway and I may get away with it; there can’t be that much difference between a 30gig and a 60gig right? Wrong. It wasn’t out by much, but enough that it looked stupid and was basically useless. But I was too shy to take it back, thinking they would refuse on the basis of my own stupidity, and I REALLY wanted a pink one! And I knew they didn’t have 60 gig pink ones. So I decided I would leave it on for the weekend and see if it stretched out a bit, and then if it didn’t I could just take it back to Dixons after.

I have this very clear memory of being so excited at this point. Had probably just squeaked ‘I’m going to Oslo on my own!!’ in my head for the fifty-millionth time in my head! I had The Killers: Hot Fuss playing on my i-pod it’s an album I played a lot last summer when I first started disconnecting from Bryan and is so ‘up’ and happy, reflected perfectly how I felt. ‘Mr Brightside’, second track on the album, is a song that Adam (on of my best friends) says he feels is about him and how he’s changed in the last few years. I have to say in that moment I adopted it for myself for that exact reason ‘Coming out of my cage, and I’ve been doing just fine, gotta gotta be down because I want it all’. Yep out of my cage, and I want it all and here I am getting it! Threw my bag over my shoulder in a very ‘hurrah look at me all out here on my own’ kind of fashion and stalked across the airport. I felt so cool and so free, like the whole world was mine.

I had written a letter to h the day before; I had it in my bag ready to give to him. It was on my mind. It was just to explain why Bryan and I had broken up. I had wanted to explain it better to him in Girona but it wasn’t really the right time or place. It had been about ten pages long, saying everything from the surgery that Bryan failed to get there in time for, through to the annual review where it became clear to me how little time I may have left. Which was all pretty depressing. But then I’d told him how I was the happiest and freest I’d been in ages. And how excited I now felt about the world, and like she was all mine, and I was now free to run about exploring all her beautiful secrets. So much to learn and be excited about. I don’t think I was ever made for one person and one life, I want it all. Gotta gotta be down…here I go!

Back on planet earth it occurred to me I really ought to eat something. This was going to be a long day and I should be sensible. I looked about past all the nasty processed places, and overpriced service station type places that spend an awful lot more on how their store looks than on making sure their food isn’t processed out of pig intestines. The most promising place was Pret, as ever, I know it’s probably all false and a just a marketing gimmick but it does ease my social conscience that they at least pretend to be organic and fair-trade.

So my standard salad that I used to eat all the time at Blacks. Crayfish (i.e. prawns we want to make sound pretentious) and avocado, bits and nice dressing, a bottle of water and a love bar. If you don’t know Pret food and have never had a love bar you are missing out! They are the most nutty, caramelly, disgustingly yummy things ever!

I went off and sat on a chair overlooking the runway and…. Erm I don’t know what you call the place where the planes stand and load people up……giant plane parkark I guess. Well I watched that. I think Stanstead has nice architecture. All glass and clean curved lines, just the sort of modern design that suits airports. It had these strange bowed square panels in the ceiling, though some of them had deflated old metallic balloons caught on their edges. I couldn’t help wondering how long they must have been there.

Then it got near the time to wander up to the concourse. So up I went. My excessive earlier enthusiasm and getting up early starting to catch up with me. As it got closer and closer to the expected take off time it became clear it wasn’t going to happen. And sure enough they finally got around to announcing there was going to be a forty-five minute or so delay.

I had been pretending to be good and to listen to all the stuff that is on my i-pod that I never actually listen to. But at that point I decided ‘nope I need something that will send me to sleep!’ So scrolly-scrolly down to the Foos disc 2 of ‘In Your Honour’. Don’t know why, because there is no real world connection at all, but the first track always makes me think SO much of my gorgeous boy Jonathon. I think we must have lain out on the grass, probably under stars, listening to it in a parallel universe. So daydreaming and half sleeping.

Finally boarding. They kept saying about disabled people queuing at the front, but I didn’t really see the point, I would just end up having to stand in the line while they debated opening the boarding gate for another 10/15 minutes. So I just watched everyone moving from laid about on the floor, to being in the queue and getting excited, to getting bored and laying on the floor again, and all the general shifting about that people do when they are expectant and tired.

Then the moment came and I was about to go through the boarding gate. I remember thinking ‘this is it’ and that I would remember this moment for ages. But I can’t really. I can’t picture what the man or the gate looked like. I have a brief image in my mind of the stairway down to the tarmac. It was a bit grotty, and there was this nasty shallow invisible step I nearly tripped down right on the doorway to the outside. I was disappointed it wasn’t one of those doorways that links out to the aircraft, I always find them really exciting for some obscure reason; I think they just better fit my cliché view of how an airport adventure should go.

Across the tarmac, one last footprint on English soil, half wondering if it would be my last. I don’t know why I was having such melodramatic thoughts. I had been cleared by the hospital to go, even if only just. Nothing horrific was likely to happen, and I had been really good and done all my physio and drugs all week so I should be fine. But I was on my own for the first time, and scared, and because I’d thought I may not come back with such clarity I couldn’t quite shake it off.

Then onto the plane. I wanted a window seat, I love watching everything go small, till the cars look like toys and the fields like a patchwork blanket, its one of the best things about flying. But no such luck they were all taken. Downside to my lazy ‘stand at the back’ plan. There was another guy on my row, I recognised him from the check-in queue. I asked him if he’d been to Norway before. He hadn’t, but weirdly gave the distinct impression he wasn’t that excited. I was amazed, how could you not be excited about going to a whole new country on your own?! Norway of all places! I mean maybe if it was somewhere a bit standard like France or Belgium but wow this place has fjords and everything, how could you not be skipping about in your seat?! I was a bit miffed he had got the window seat then, because I decided I would appreciate it more!

However it was so cloudy that it wasn’t the most exciting take off, we were in the heavy grey clouds before we really got the chance to see all the funny tiny things! Then break through into the clear blue sunny sky above them. I couldn’t help wondering if the novelty of clear blue skies wore off it you were a pilot and you spent most of your days looking at them. And how they must have to invest in really good sunglasses, and wondering if in-fact the windscreens of planes were tinted, and thinking they must be to protect the pilots’ eyes.

Then having learnt my lesson from the Girona flight (i.e. be busy or be asleep, so you don’t notice feeling like crap) I set about trying to sleep. I was tired anyway, and conscious this was a long day and I had to be sensible and pace myself.

There were three boys in-front of me being silly and all trying to kill each other for the whole flight. I think if I’d been old I would have got annoyed. But I could see they weren’t purposefully being rude, they were just having a good time. And the last thing they wanted was some grumpy old cow behind them spoiling their fun, and I would have really annoyed them. So I left them too it, but it was a little trying, especially as I wanted to lean forward and lean my head on the back of the seat in-front, but I would have got knocked out I think if I’d done that!

So scrunched up uncomfortable position adopted, and probably snoring and dribbling I managed to catch some snoozle time. Gave up eventually, but it turned out we were only about half an hour from touchdown. The cloud cover was broken up over here so I got to stare out the window, past my unenthusiastic row companion. First view of Norway. The obscure thought in my head this was cheating, like shaking your Christmas presents before you open them, I was sneaking a peek at this gorgeous country before I’d landed. But I had one single very good reason…

New paragraph. This moment deserves it. Moment I’ve waited for, for a long time…… I saw my fjords!! Been on my list of things for so long I’ve lost track of when I first decided this would be something I would find a way to see in my life. And here I was, all on my own, at some hundred thousand feet, ogling past a half sleeping Australian, out a tiny window, I saw my fjords. Ok not the super glamorous gorgeous moment it should have been. But I saw them. Cutting down into the sea, banks steeped in pine trees, blanketed in spring snow. Too far away to even see properly. But perfect. Just wow. One of those moments where dreams blur with the real world. I want to put it into words better, but I don’t know how to. They were just there, finally in-front of me, I’d done it! I’d got here and I’d seen them. Even if everything else from here on in was crap, that single couple of minutes staring at a dream of mine laid out like a glittering upside-down heaven-scape at my feet. Just wow.

So touchdown, taxiing to a standstill. He seemed to go really fast, I half thought we were about to just swing round and come straight back, which was silly I know, but in the UK they taxi about 0.000001 miles and hour, where as here he was doing it at a half sensible speed, so it threw me! Marvelling at the huge piles of snow everywhere, and slush, we just don’t have slush like that here! Then doors open, bag and coat out the overhead locker. And down and off the plane.

You know all the cliché things they say about Scandinavian air. Well it’s true! As something of a connoisseur of good quality air this hit me as the ‘good stuff’ nice and pure! It’s kind of like the difference between drinking ice cold Evian water instead of lukewarm Bedford tap water! I could almost feel it flowing through my blood like champagne. I was feeling very cold and deoxygenated from the flight, it’s hard to describe it without sounding melodramatic, but I feel like I’d look blue. My lips and fingers feel slightly numb and tight. So to suddenly be hit with this diamond clear air and have it singing through me. I felt like I was in the Land from the Chronicles of Thomas Convenant. Like there was enough life, and health and purity in this air it would somehow heal me if I could breathe enough of it in. As if it could wake up everything inside me that has fallen asleep and forgotten how to be well. As much as I’d been excited about coming here, and all my previous expectations setting this up to be good. That single moment stood on the railing staircase of the aircraft just breathing, was about the most definable single point I fell in love with Norway.

Then through check in. I didn’t pay too much attention to this; I was faffing about with my i-pod. I regretted that a bit after, I thought I should be paying more attention to such critical ‘Norway entering’ moments! But then I was through, officially in the country. I’m too used to someone telling me where I have to go next, and collating the various people I’m travelling with, but this time I was on my own. So through the gorgeous archetypal Scandinavian airport, all pristine slate floors and curved beech seating. Out to the main lobby. I had read on a website there was a train station in the basement where I could get a train to Oslo from, as I had landed up in Sandefjord. Everything was very helpfully written in English as well as Norwegian. I know it’s lazy but I’m so eternally grateful that pretty much wherever you go there is always nice English signage! However in this instance, rather worryingly, no sign pointing me in the direction of this delightful subterranean train station. I like travelling on trains; I find them quite glamorous, well the nice Virgin type ones anyway. They are kind of like planes. It was one of my favourite things about going to see Nick and Dan back home, the long journey on the nice train staring at the pretty countryside, and some ancient nostalgia that is lost on the box car life of the M25.

Panicking slightly I went to the Ryanair check in desk, hoping it would be someone English so I wouldn’t feel rude for not being able to ask for help in the right language. She was Norwegian and looked like a very pretty, if slightly scary, hockey teacher, and spoke perfect English! She told me the train station was 10 kilometres away, I’m eternally rubbish at knowing how far away distances mean, but that sounded like a long way! Seeing my face of horror she told me there was a bus leaving outside and if I hurried I might catch it.

So feeling like a bit of a plebeian tourist I ran across the lobby and outside again. God that air! Wow! It seems all the sharper and clearer when there’s open blue sky above, and piles of glistening snow either side of it, just god, I want to live here! There was indeed a silver bus with Torp to Oslo emblazoned in orange LEDs across its front panel, which I took to be mine! So I queued up like a good little English person, and looked about. Snow!! BIG enormous piles of snow!! Yes I know I’ve seen it before, heck I’ve been skiing twice, but that was ten years ago, I haven’t seen this much snow for a long time. And for goodness sake what kind of boring old poo doesn’t find huge piles of snow exciting?! (Other than those who live with it all the time, and for who the novelty has utterly worn off of course.)

So yes much excitement! And wow some seriously funky knit-wear. Just like good food such as dumplings, we little English have lost our appreciation of truly awful chunky knitwear, but thank the lord that the good old Norwegians haven’t!! There was one chap in the queue who had a really fab navy blue woolly with big green frogs all over it, I was overcome with a distinct jealousy that I don’t really have a grandma to knit for me anymore, because I want one of those! They are just so awful they are great, just like Eurovision! Brilliant country!

Looked in my Norway book, and tried to figure out how to ask for a disabled period return to Oslo. And poked in a very foreign and awed fashion at the currency I had acquired at the bureau de change. They have such pretty notes, especially the 50 kroner, it’s green and sort of flowery, and they are all nice and small, not stupid and tearable like English notes. Almost at the front of the queue and starting to worry. Funnily enough in the one page of basic tourist words that my splendiferous guide book contained ‘period’ and ‘disabled’ weren’t covered. So I hoped the good old fashioned waving of things (such as disabled parking badges), and saying Sunday would work! Of course he spoke English, and was probably peeing himself over my pathetic attempts, but it was the principle I tried. They didn’t do disabled fair, but he of course did do period returns. He told me to put my bag under the bus on the other side. I went round and shoved it in, then got on the bus. I suddenly realised I forgot my camera and that I’d best have it, just in case I went past anything truly exciting like a fjord or a wild reindeer! Got back on the bus and someone had pilfered my seat, determined not to miss a window spot this time I walked quite far up the bus and took my glass walled seat.

I did well, I managed to stay awake for about half an hour. But funnily enough it turns out that not every single road in Norway is a picturesque nature trip, and that they too have pretty boring pretty standard motorways too. Mostly I was just in awe of the snow, and having a big ‘Geography is everywhere’ fest! It’s something my old tutor used to say to me at college, and she warned me at the time her saying it would be in my head for the rest of my life wherever I went. And sure enough it was. Corr look at that freeze thaw erosion!!!

There is a joke among Norwegians that they are all born with skis on their feet, rucksacks on their backs, and a whale harpoon in hand! Looking out across the vast tracks of snow I had to agree that it seemed true. In the few places where there were sings of life there was almost inevitably a line of ski marks with foot prints down the middle. I had this amusing vision of these odd four footed Norwegian creatures plodding about the place leaving these tracks, and someone like Aragorn hunting them down across the wilderness! Maybe actually that’s what the trolls look like?!

And there were all these beautiful wooden houses everywhere, they were just how they were supposed to be! As in that’s how I’d pictured them to be from the autobiography of Roald Dhal. They were all sorts of different colours. I liked the red ones because you could see them from so far away in the snow. But I saw a few really lovely egg-shell blue, and egg-shell green ones. I wouldn’t mind painting my bedroom one of those colours. I think the most popular colour was yellow though.

Pretty coloured houses and abundant snow aside it was still a long journey on a coach and they always send me to sleep! I didn’t wake up till we were coming close to Oslo, I think I missed about an hour. I had got a text from Alex just as I had touched down asking me how Oslo was. Well now I was here I could tell him.

Fiercely I fought down the rose-tinted touristico vision and tried to make a proper assessment of this fair city. And if I set aside my gushy ‘WOW I’m in Norway she is so pretty’ mentality for a moment I can try and give you a description of how she looks. And to be fair, pretty much like any other city, just Scandiavian in style, and with snow!

We came in by the docks, which are technically on the Oslo fjord. (note the vain attempt to claim I’ve seen a proper fjord!) It’s always easy to glamourise ports, they are full of water and ships, which are always poetic. And yes this one lived up to that, especially given all the stereotypes of Norwegians eating lots of fish, you expect big ports and ships with fishing gear strewn about. But I suppose technically if I’d seen the same thing in Liverpool in the rain I’d have probably decided it looked a bit scrotty! Hurrah for tourist vision and crystal blue skies!

The sun sparkled off the water, and the cold iron of the ships sides rose out the water whispering deep sea secrets of the adventures they had been on. Full of fierce Vikings with beards and harpoons! God I love the word harpoon, it makes me giggle, they are just such ridiculous weapons, so big and horrific, yet with just such a stupidly-great name! Bright fishing nets and bouys littered the decks and alleys like forgotten sun-toys. And blue crates stacked neatly everywhere. You could almost see ugly dead fish, that actually you had to appreciate for being great specimens, dangling out of them in crushed ice at a market stall, probably with Jamie dancing about again coriander at the ready pronouncing some scary monster from the forgotten depths as ‘fantastic’ before paying obscene amounts of money for it!

Then across the railway tracks, my brain trying to register them as a landmark, and a way to get bearings, we pulled over and into the bus station. The bus driver who had been chirpy and informative throughout the journey (but not annoyingly so) told us how to get to central Oslo from the bus station. Panicking about receiving directions I tried to make my brain absorb what he was saying, as I assumed I would need all the help I could get. I got off the bus retrieved my bag and stood in Oslo bus station. Moment of self-congratulation for making it this far and then onward!

‘Go as far as you can to the end of the bus terminal’ Followed this worthwhile piece of advice, so far so good, got to end of said bus terminal and then holy crap what next?! Something about a bridge?! Oh crap!! That bridge doesn’t look like the sort you can cross it’s all full of cars. Wow look at all this ice and snow! So glad I’ve got walking boots on, lots of ice! Oh crap! Meh I’ll go this way, this looks like a handy cut through. And so barely five minutes in I’m officially lost in Oslo!! Hahahaha! GO Toria!!

Bizzare thing you may have never known about Oslo, lots and lots of fabric shops everywhere! Maybe I was just in the pattern cutting quarter or something wild, but seriously about half the shops seemed to sell fabric. They probably do something really worthwhile and old-fashioned over here like make their own clothes. I wish we did, I love all those bolts of fabric and sparkly bits, so much potential for hideousness!!

So wander wander, lots of thinking holy fuck it’s cold, mm not convinced this is the nicest bit of town. A lot of the shops had ‘Sult’ (I think) across their windows in big dayglow letters. I took it to mean Sale in Norwegian. But being English, and well me, I kept reading it as ‘Slut’ and found it highly amusing! I wished Nick could have been here to see it, he’d have loved it too! Hehehe! And rather spiffingly it distracted from the fast building panic that I was totally lost. I just kept telling myself I was still near the bus station, which must be pretty central, and that if I just headed in the ‘busy’ looking direction I would find my way. I also kept looking at my map. Ah my glorious, i.e. completely FUCKING usless map of doom!! In the vain hope that suddenly it would magically become instantly better, and my exact gps location would be clear upon it. But no, so it was back to relying on Toria zen navigation.

I got to a river. My Daddy’s lecturing ex-RAF/ Ray Mears’ voice in my head telling me to look out for identifiable features such as train lines and rivers! So now I was out from my great looking shortcut and back on the main street I headed towards the bridge I suspected (cars or not) I should have crossed. Yay a river!! I could follow that to the centre of town maybe? I think Yan had said something about a tree lined avenue and maybe a river near the park where my hotel was. So perhaps this was the way. And if not it would be pretty to wander down.

Or not! As scary people accosted me trying to ask me things in Norwegian. I think they were trying to sell CD’s or something. (Hehehe!! “Would you like to buy some porn?!” Hehehhe!!) But I just said ‘No thank you’ in my best English accent and thankfully they left me alone! I walked down here a bit. It was very pretty. But I was starting to worry about it getting dark and cold, and being lost, and now I’d got down the river a bit it was becoming clear it wasn’t heading where I wanted it too. So I had to go back. I didn’t want to go via the scary people again. I know I shouldn’t be such an obvious victim and so clearly scared, but heck I’m 21 barely over 5ft’ and couldn’t so much as crush a paper cup (yes feel free to do excessive Mr Burns impressions at this point) so there was no way in hell I was going to walk past them again. So I walked the other side of the strange kiosk/ tube station thing they were by, and then walked past them on the main street.

This looked better. And I kept on heading down into town. More shops bearing the word sult across the windows hehe! And then all these cute cafés with blankets on the chairs outside. I thought that was so great. If it had been the UK they would have got nicked, but here they could leave them out. I also thought that was so sensible. You could still enjoy sitting on the street and people watching in a healthy outdoors kind of way, and at the same time avoid hypothermia. These dudes have seriously got this whole sub-zero temperature life worked out, funnily enough!

They like being outside! It’s so nice, all us stupid English have developed this ridiculous germ fear, like somehow if we dare step more than 5ft from a TV screen we may all suddenly die from mud and fresh air induced diseases or be kidnapped by a rapist or an illegal immigrant gang, or whatever other ridiculous thing the media has decided we are at terminal risk from this week!! God dam it no!! Look, turn round from your computer screen right now and just look at the sky!! Is she heavy with rain all dark and wrapped over the horizon, or is she clear so you can see the day stars glittering in the blue? Either way fuck she’s so beautiful!!! See wasn’t so hard now was it? Didn’t catch any germies did you?! Dear god I’m moving to Norway!! Nice sensible people, harpoons, skis and all!!

Much berating of English Daily Mail mentality aside I managed some seriously awesome Zen navigation and got my dear self to the centre of Oslo! Hurrah for me! No thanks to the dam map, which didn’t really even have this square well marked on it! There were trams here though. Helpfully on my envelope I had written which tram I needed, and promptly got on a number 18.

Feeble embarrassing attempt two at the Norwegian language and ticket ordering. Lucky the absolutely stunning (think natural ice blonde member of a band like abba who is acuatlly genuinely pretty, and not just pretty because she’s in a band and there is always meant to be a pretty person in a band) helped me out! My broken, well meant, stumbling was cut short as she asked me what I wanted in English. I told her where I was trying to get to, as I had the street written down. She helped me with the weird pretty money, and told me she would give a shout when we got to the right place. So off we went.

Me making random check lists in my head of all the forms of transport I’d managed to use so far. (Car, Coach, Plane, Tram- if you were wondering) Lots of internal debating how likely it was for me to somehow commandeer a boat at some point, and if I would make it out the city to the mountains on the train tomorrow as we purred across the city. Ooo and maybe a balloon, I could have harpooned skiing trolls from the sky! That would be so wicked! Maybe when I go and live there! And a spruce-moose I could fly-sail round the skerries and fjords whale spotting, then up to the mountains landing on the plateaus, mincing about in the upland heather!! ARGH this place has adventure stamped across its very heart!! I mean come on upland plateaus, that’s just totally out of Fionovar, kind of happening places you may bump into dragons and fey and wolves and all sorts of wonderful things like that! Hehehe!!

My lovely tram driver informed me I was in the right place and that I should get off here. Smiling I thanked her. And somehow magically convinced myself the map of doom would suddenly be working. She looked a little unsure about dumping this crazy English girl on the streets, but wished me well all the same. I looked at my map, all confident of working out my position as I knew where my hotel was on the map. Street name. not on it. Next street name. Also not on it. Oh shit!

With the obscure thought I would give anything to have Mavis the Ravis or Little Miss French knickers (of Sat nav fame in previous tales) with me, no such luck! So the old fashioned way it was. Mobile out. (well almost old fashioned) and called the hotel. I didn’t even bother with trying to speak Norwegian, I was getting worried, it was late and dark and I had to get there, and I’d been wandering about for a while and was pretty tired. They knew exactly where I was, which was nice, as I still didn’t, and they gave me some directions. I tried to follow them, went the wrong way and had to ask a chap, who looked an awful lot like Roahl Dhal the way. Which was kind of cool! I’d wanted to see someone who looked like him, and I did and he was very nice and gave me nice SLOW simple directions. Which I followed, and about ten minutes later I was walking up to a park that look suspiciously like the one I’d been trying to find since I got to Oslo! Hurrah!!

And there is was my hotel, super big hurrah!! It was now pretty much dark, and most definitely bloody cold! It may be pretty, it may make it easy to breathe, but after a few hours of wandering about in it the cold gets less appealing. So in through the quite normal, if small looking glass and brass doors. (oo that rhymes) Into a hallway that was oddly out of a Victorian mansion! Oak panelled with stairs so old that the wood was actually worn and curvy. Utterly gorgeous. I felt very at home, it reminded me of the mansion at the hospital I used to go to in Tadworth, so I figured it couldn’t be a bad place at all.

At the top of the stairs it turned back into normal looking hotel-ness. With a smart reception desk where I checked in. The lad there explained in a cheerful fashion how to lock my door, with a tone that suggested many people hadn’t listened to him, and he found it amusing, though at the same time admitting it was stupidly complicated! Slightly befuddled and quite shattered I then wandered down the hall to my room. All the adrenaline of worry finally fading out as I was safely here.

So key card in, of course it didn’t work, the bastard things never do the first time, always put them in too fast or too slow (hehe disgusting thoughts girl! Stop it!) Yes so in, to what turned out to be a seriously cool room! There was like an antechamber which had a big mirrored built in double wardrobe on one side, and what looked like a staff/utility storage cupboard door on the other side. Then directly opposite were two doors, 118 and 119. I was in 118. Of course I wanted it to be something groovy like 42 or 34 but meh I’d been hoping for those numbers to crop up all day somewhere and they hadn’t, you’d have thought I’d have got bored of hoping by now!

In out, in out with the old key card, and I was in! It was such a cute little room, it was painted duck-egg blue and had a really high ceiling with coving, and wood laminate floor. A cute little single bed, and a desk with a silver tv and perhaps the smallest kettle I’ve ever seen. Then a window at the far end looking down onto the street. It had a lovely wide windowsill and I sat on there for a while just looking down on the street. I have a very Jane Eyre type romantic love of wide windowsills, it instills great desires in me to wear big elegant dresses and sit reading or doing cross-stitch!

But no time for that now! I had crazy Norwegian boys to meet and I had no idea how long it was going to take me to find the pub, and I wasn’t doing to well at finding stuff!

Just to do a time check on matters, as it suddenly seems to have got to night I shall give a run down. I got up at 5.30, got to Stanstead at about 8am, flew at about 12.30, arrived in Norway about 2pm, two hour coach journey from the airport which takes us up to 5pm, then the best part of two hours floating about Oslo takes us up to 7pm and I was supposed to meet them at 8!

So quick shove around of stuff, to make it feel like I’d settled in. Quite how you can settle when all you have brought with you is a bag full of jumpers is a bit beyond me, but clearly I satisfied myself. (No not like that, thank you!) So doors most definitely locked I headed out back into Oslo.

I had got my bearings better now. My plan for navigating round Oslo had always consisted of navigating everything off its relation to the park where the palace is. That may sound a little naïve, but it is dead in the centre, and if my map hadn’t been quite so appalling it may have worked. But meh turns out I have kick-ass zen navigation anyway so hahaha who needs Mavis or a map!

I wandered down the side of the park, it was pretty dark, but the streets were wide, clean and well lit, so I figured I’d be ok. But I realised I needed to cut across the park to get to the central road. There were plenty of people around, so I figured should I suddenly get jumped and raped against a tree my screams would be heard and I would be rescued! So I ‘chanced’ a very dangerous walk across the broad beautiful path. You could see the stars you know, when did the centre of London last see stars? We mustn’t let her know she’d be so jealous and upset. Avenues of winter trees feet deep in snow under cold glittering starlight at the foot of a place in the heart of their capital! Oh my god I love Norway, God she’s so pretty!!

(Yes I do know London has trees and parks and a palace, but Im in touristico mode, and therefore belittling and criticising all things England! SO meh!)

Onto the main street. There was a Hard Rock Café! I wanted to go in, just out of principle that I want to go to all of them. And so I could tell my Daddy I’d been there, and maybe get him a guitar pin. But I was worried about time, and decided I would feel like a bit of a twit if I just wandered in there on my own. Though in fairness I was getting more used to that! The ‘own’ bit, clearly I’ve had lots of practise at the ‘twit’ part!

So wandered down the street. Soaking in all the atmosphere of all the people. It was Friday night after all! In all my long winded planning and journeying to this fair country I’d lost track of the days. But Friday nights are Friday nights whichever city you are in and still something I have not seen a lot of over the years. I still find loud pubs with people spilling out onto the streets quite interesting. All that noise and colour, sound and collected excitement; it’s pretty to watch.

Terje had sent me a map of where this pub was in an e-mail so I knew it was directly off the main street, I figured I’d just wander past it at some point if I kept my eyes peeled. I kept going, finding there was a large amount of English around the place, though it was just plain surreal to see a H&M and a TGI’s! I expect these things to be confined to the UK and USA.

Eventually found the street, and there it was ‘The Underdog’. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see a particular pub in my whole life. Great as this ‘independent on my own hurrah for me’ riff is, sometimes its just comforting to know that at some point in your journey you are going to fall across people you actually know, and who are going to make sure you are alright!

I pushed open the door. It was kind of rough and had shatter proof glass, and through it the inside looked pretty dingy and dodgy. Biting my courage I pushed it open and did that familiar scan for Marillion t-shirts. And there they were!! HURRAH!!! How relieved was I?! First people I’d seen who I knew in over 12 hours of travelling and uncertainty. They hailed me over, and so I went, gave huge hugs to the ones I knew and got introduced to the ones I didn’t!

The inside of the place wasn’t too bad. It was painted black and was pretty gothy, which was fine, after my grand pole dancing expedition I feel decidedly cocky in such environments. It had strange narrow tables that stuck out the walls and we were crammed round one of those. And was no smoking, as if I didn’t have enough reasons to love Norway already, inside smoking is banned everywhere hurrah!!

They shoved up to fit me in, were all really friendly and spoke in English mostly so I knew what they were saying, and included me in their conversations, which were largely Marillion orientated funnily enough.

Which may sound pretty standard, but a lot of people can’t be bothered to make the effort, and I wasn’t sure at all if I was going to spend a lot of time on the edge like a lemon. I doubted it would happen, but I had prepared myself for it. After all in fairness I’ve only really spoken to these chaps a few times really they know my parents a lot better than they know me. I’ve been out of Marillion circles largely for years and I was never on any of the freaks lists (i.e. Marillion online message boards) My dad however was very into it all, especially back in the mid to late 90’s and has something of a reputation around the world.

It’s something I try to uphold as a Crossland. This pilgrimage of being a dedicated Marillion fan who does their up most to include everyone in the love of the band and the music, particularly if they have travelled hundreds or thousands of miles to see them. Something certain people could do with remembering once in a while, and should they ever stumble across this I bloody hope they realise exactly who it is I’m talking about.

If you haven’t already gathered from the fact that a large number of these guys made it over to the UK leg of the h tour, then I now formally make it clear that they are the dudes who form the hardcore dedicated fan club running backbone of Norwegian Marillion adoring!! Seriously cool bunch of guys! Hell they listen to Marillion that is sign enough they are cool. If you rate ‘cool’ in a decidedly Toria sense that is. All seriousness, genuine and nice people.

Æusmund my new chum, kept me company the most. He was telling me how many moons ago he’d actually started the Web Norway/ Scandinavia, which I thought was pretty cool, though he had dropped out of it largely a few years ago. I could relate to that given the nasty bitching political shit that seems sadly to be intrinsic to anything web related. Well actually that’s not true. The other webs are fine. It’s just the UK one I am repeatedly ashamed of. Ok so they do a lot and they aren’t totally evil, I just know that it can be done better, and I think Marillion deserve better people around them. But then I’m a Crossland would you ever expect any less of me?

They were all asking if I wanted anything to drink. I didn’t really. I was still pretty hyped up and nervous and I knew if I tried to drink it would just get stuck, and I’d probably be sick, or my stomach would start spasaming and all sorts of nasty things like that. Plus I was still trying to work out whether I was going to drink at all. Though they all told me I was in Norway now and I had to. I said I would in a bit, squeaked high and fast in English trying to explain I was still a bit frazzed, and basically put the issue off for a while.

The bar played some Marillion tracks which was rather cool! You never get that in England, well apart from when they play in Aylesbury, we’ve rather got into the habit of taking over that trendy hogshead pub for some hours before the gig starts and blasting everyone to death with our own ‘uncool as f*@k’ CDs! Mwhahaha!!

I was telling Æusmund about it and he said that Terje and Karstien (sorry about the appalling spelling of your names guys) had told him about it before, and he wished he could come over one time and be part of it.

After a bit they got bored of the pub we were in and said we were moving on. This is something I’m still getting used to, this idea of moving between places that are largely the same, but I understand it’s part of the going out drinking culture, and was hardly about to protest. I think a search party had already been out and found one, because we all suddenly seemed to have a specific destination that we were heading too, and we were off!

A few doors down and an even more non-descript entrance, down some stairs and we were in a rather funky, if pretty empty bar. Before we’d even crossed the room, the two Terje’s who were ahead of us had commandeered the stereo and filled the room with Marillion at an agreeably loud volume! Hurrah! I know this must sound so marlliony and obsessive, and to be fair it was a tad, but just look at it this way, it wouldn’t be weird for you to go out and want whatever band and songs you liked to be played. And chances are you don’t have stupid weird taste like me and can find a place that plays Metallica or Pussycat dolls or whatever! But no where ever plays Marillion so when we get the chance to take over, yes funnily enough it goes to our heads! HURRAH!!! Much skipping across the room singing…. IF MY HEART WAS A BALL IT WOULD ROLL UPHILL!!!!!!

So this is the point I gave in. And ordered my first pint ever in my life hehe! And I didn’t even get to ask for a pint, and it wasn’t really a pint, it was a Norwegian equivalent, (i.e. twice the price and half the size- dear god did I just mention a downside to Norway, yes be warned Viking lovers the places is dammed expensive for us non-residents!) Æusmund helped me poke the right amount of pretty money in the direction of the barmaid and I wandered away from the bar. Fighting the irresistible urge to say in my best hobbit voice ‘It comes in pints!!’

I then had to drink it, which was rather nerve wracking. It’s pretty hard to explain concisely and un-embarrassingly how the hell you make it to 21 years of age having never drunk more than a sip of beer, and I wasn’t entirely sure I’d finish it. Really I’d have rather had vodka and juice, but it was too complicated to ask for that, so here I went!

Downed it!!! Hahahaha! No I’m kidding, I sipped it very slowly. Much to the disapproval of my Norwegians. I think technically it is a crime in that country to nurse a pint with quite such snail-like mannerisms, but meh I made it through and felt I was doing pretty well! We had quite a big discussion over how much of a pint it was, and I think we settled on 4/5ths- so from now on when I boast that I managed to drink another pint and not fall over bear in mind they are only 4/5ths of an English pint. I had to pace myself it was still only about 9.30 and the band we were going to see weren’t likely to come on stage till 11. Yes you did read that right, bloody nocturnal Norse, that’s past my bedtime!

Mostly we talked about Marillion and their fans. Generally saying what a great bunch we all are. And comparing love stories of, yes you guessed it, the Marillion variety. It’s funny this band just go so deeply into people all over the world. You just have to ask them when they first got into the band, and this rosy glow spreads across their face and they gladly tell you the story, in exactly the same way that people tell the story of how they fell in love with a person. For all of you people outside of this Marillion bubble I feel a bit sorry for you, that you’ve never known what this is, it’s so precious and special. I know we all sound crazy and obsessed (and yes some of them are seriously weird anoraky obsessive types, which can be a bit scary) but it’s so pure. This is just love. No other way to describe it. Pure unfaltering love.

Talked about him (Æusmund that is) and what he was up to at uni, and about Norway as a country. Talked about me, and how the hell I’d ended up there, all that kind of stuff. I finally finished my pint, and danced over to the bar to get another with Æusmund helping me. I wasn’t going to brave it on my own.

I got a text from my mum saying she was debating coming over. I was kind of pleased, kind of annoyed. I wanted to do this on my own, but then actually wanted her here because we always have such a giggle together and I knew how much she’d love it.

Then after some time the only point I remember being properly wobbly drunk. I’d gone to the loo and had come back out and was stood in this red corridor near the loo, trying to text mummy telling her I was ok, with my Norwegian’s and generally getting a bit drunk! I knew it would be the kind of thing my mum would be oddly proud to hear. She’s very much into my going and finding myself and growing up phase. Æusmund caught me half falling down a step and seemed to be rather amused I was finally wobbling, I think it bolstered his national pride that he’d managed to lead me astray, or maybe just his male pride, gleefully I suspected either was just as bad news for me.

Everything went a bit louder and brighter for a bit, which I didn’t really like, I don’t like being drunk in any way. I try to convince myself I’m just being immature and at some point I will ‘get’ why everyone thinks its so great, but Im afraid its still a bit lost on me. I think because I’m perfectly happy to anything I want sober, being drunk doesn’t open up the big treasure trove of silliness that it does in others. But as a novel experience this was ok. I slowed down deciding I’d probably just finished the last one a bit fast, and sure enough it settled back down to just slightly warm and fuzzy round the edges.

I have no doubt in my mind at some point I will get so utterly trashed that I do something that even I would never do sober, but on the basis that its unlikely to be a good thing I’m in no massive rush to get to that point. And I was most certainly not going to do it in a foreign country with a bunch of people I didn’t know that well. Not that I didn’t trust them, I just didn’t think it was the ‘right’ thing to do. It was nice enough of them as it was to let me tag along without me ending up paralytic, and the idea of paralytic and CF never sits comfortably with me, especially not when there is a big long flight and lots of water between me and home.

I found Æusmund quite fascinating, he asked questions that no one in the UK would ever ask, and was shockingly observant. Like why was I breathing so fast. So the mass CF explanation came out. I’m still a bit unsure of how to go about doing this with new people. I know that sounds odd, but I mean in this kind of ‘going out’ environment I find it hard to know what to say. I can explain it to teachers, and employers and student doctors, but new random people, mm it’s just kind of hard to know how to put it without it sounding scary, but at the same time conveying accurately what it is. I always feel it’s my duty to undo the stupid notions of ‘it’s a bit like asthma isn’t it?’ and ‘So can you catch it?’ To be honest I think I freaked him out a bit. Clearly in need of practice over this one.

There just isn’t a nice way to go about saying, my lungs are permanently infected with a bug that’s resistant to pretty much every drug you can throw at it leaving me with a lung function that’s barely above 40%. And oh yeah my pancreas is shot and wont digest anything and is slowly deciding to go diabetic on me. And yeah funnily enough it’s screwed up pretty much everything emotionally in my life from start to finish, and I’m here right here right now because I don’t know how much longer its going to be before I’m stuck on oxygen permanently and can’t leave my own bed let alone my country. However in fairness to myself I was less blunt than that at the time.

Soon enough, much sooner than I’d expected to be honest, and after about two pints, we had to leave this pub and make our way to the gig. Still standing, and walking in a straight if slightly exaggerated line we all bundled out of the pub and onto the street. Crikey it was cold! Having previously decided the next venue wasn’t too far away and it wasn’t worth the hassle of putting my gloves on I pretty much instantly changed my mind. I have no idea how cold it was, but it was a fair few degrees below zero, and too cold to not have gloves on.

We walked back up the street and across the square, then round a wiggly bit to the venue. Terje’s girlie and I walked through the door at pretty much the same time as each other, so I paid for her ticket and she gave me some money, it’s an odd moment to remember but I do because it was such a normal and friendly gesture to fall into, it was nice.

Then another pint. I think this is number three in the evening. Bit of pre-gig mooching and trying to second guess what they would play. And then the shout went up and the band pootled onto the stage.

I found the concept of this quite odd. If I want to see Marillion, I go and see Marillion, this idea of seeing a cover band of a band that are still going seems a bit strange. But I guess they hardly ever tour Norway, so this has to be the next best thing. And in reality, because the singer sang Fish era material mostly it was like seeing a band that doesn’t really exist anymore.

For those who are not obsessed with Marillion, it is important to understand that they used to have a lead-singer called Fish who left about seventeen years ago. But there are large sections of the Marillion community (particularly in Europe and Scandinavia) who have never got over him. Hence the Fish era/ h era divide. Though technically it’s all still Marillion the style changed quite a lot between the two singers and not all fans like both. And there has never been any question over which type of fan I am! Hehe h-girl right through to the magical purple core.

It was a really good gig, I was really impressed by the guys in the band. They could really play, and their lead singer was as charismatic as Fish, which is quite something to pull off! I just have these brilliant memories of being in a long line of giant Norwegians with us all having our arms linked across each others shoulders and jumping up and down and singing very loud.

I must admit I’m not massively keen on seeing bands who’s music I don’t know, and shockingly given how long I’ve loved Marillion I’ve never listened to much of the Fish era stuff, and so a lot of the songs they played I didn’t know. That said I had a brilliant time. I found it oddly fulfilling that I enjoyed it so much. It’s always bothered me that I couldn’t rise above who was singing and appreciate the music as a whole. But they are a band and it turns out I do actually love Marillion and not just their current lead singer- though I do love him rather a lot!

All too soon of course the gig was over. We all floated about after and I got introduced to more people which was cool. And I went and said thank you to the band and that I thought they were really amazingly good, and that if they ever played in the UK either in Misplaced Neighborhood or in any other bands I would do my best to get along to see them.

Then we all wandered outside and debated where we were going to go next. They were all very keen that I come along, which I was well up for as we were having such a good time! So off we walked back up to the main square where I had caught the tram from earlier.

This has to be one of my favorite moments of the whole adventure! Æusmund was saying it was very cold, and I was agreeing with him, and the two Terje’s started boasting that it wasn’t cold, it was like spring! And then proceeded to take their coats off and bundle them round me, and we were all just laughing and dancing across this square in the starlight singing ‘Market Square Heroes’ at the tops of our voices, it was so cool!

Then they decided that actually it was really cold and they took their coats back, and I gave them both huge cuddles and told them they were my cute little Vikings and we were all giggling and singing snippets of Marillion and Porcupine Tree songs and there was snow and ice and stars- wow little perfect moment of life that.

Then we went to another bar that was very trendy, it was painted black, and there was a pool table and a painting of a red sports car down one side. We sat at the back on this slightly raised bit. We were all chatting about the gig and music in general. And it got a bit confused as to who was still with us because we’d lost some people!

Æusmund and I sat there drinking our pints hehe, still not got over the novelty of that! And then after some time and as it was about 3am we decided we really ought to call it a night soon. Æusmund said they were going to have a bit of a narshville (spelling?!) back at Terje’s and I was welcome along.

We’d talked about narshville’s earlier in the night. Basically it’s just the Norwegian word for ‘going back to mine, having a few beers and chilling out’ I think it’s rather sensible to have a word for it that encompasses the entire concept and expectations of such a gathering.

There is probably some whole thing about this being the point where if you’ve kind of been flirting all night you finally get it together, but in my typical naïve way of assuming such things don’t apply to me that kind of went over my head. Hehe I’m going to get myself in so much trouble one of these days!

So we got a taxi out to near Terje’s but he wanted a kebab so we stopped to get that. I guess some things never change no matter what country you are in! Then we walked the rest of the way back to his. It seemed to have got a lot colder and the air felt like it was crystallizing in my throat which was quite weird, kinda cool though! It made me think of what it must be like when you go proper hardcore arctic exploring, and of big men with ice encrusted beards.

We were singing again, it was like being in Middle Earth the way we would all just say lines from a songs like poetry in casual reference to something in conversation, and the other person would pick up on it and carry it on. It was so nice to finally be among people who actually noticed the references and who knew them.

All these empty winter trees…And the way space feels…Such a brave brave girl… I would take you and run…I would hide you in the folds of my heart… three hundred miles an hour on water… in your purpose built machine… no one dared to call a boat… Russia on Ice is burning a hole…The creator has a master tape… but he left it in a cab…Stars like cream in your blood… he carried the stars in his pocket…he drunk the sunrise till he was drunk…embraced the angels who swam like minnows in his blood… they chanted his mantra together… together… together….or you could love… or you could love… or you could love!

YAY!!!! Marillion, Porcupine Tree and Gazpacho sung with friends drunkenly in the streets! Most people get to do this all the time because they listen to middle of the road bands. But this is rare and that makes it more precious so I will keep my weird bands, and just make sure every once in a while I trip to Norway and sing them loudly with other people who love them lots!! YAY!!

Much singing, avoiding black pools of ice and rather fast walking later we got to Terje’s. I had to stop at the bottom of the stairs with Æusmund for a few minutes because I was really out of breath from the walk in the very cold air. Then up to Terje’s very funky little apartment. He and his girlie were already comfy on the sofa with beers, so we each picked a chair and settled down.

I must admit I really can’t remember entirely what we were talking about at this point, though in fairness I had now been awake for nearly twenty-four hours and it had been a rather long and exciting day! I’m pretty sure we talked about Porcupine Tree and Gazpacho for at least a little while though!

Then Terje and his girlie went off to bed. Æusmund and I took over the sofa and were all snuggled and talking for a while. I think technically with it being the 21st century and if we did things the way the media suggests we should this would be the point where we ripped off each clothes or something, but contrary to popular belief (*cough*NICK!) I’m not that kind of girl and Æusmund is not that kind of guy. So heaven and our beloved media forbid it was just a nice comfy moment between friends. I told him he should just crash on the other end of the sofa, but being a gentleman he insisted on sleeping on the floor. Which I felt quite bad about because technically I wasn’t supposed to be here I was meant to be in my hotel the other side of the city- WOW I never made it home!!! Officially the first time I’ve ever done the whole drinking beer and staying out so late you crash at a random new persons house… How cool is that!? I’m in Oslo, I’m in Oslo! Free… this is how my life is meant to be… Breaking rule 8… Capable of anything… Free…Free… Free… mmm sleep.