Friday, 29 July 2011

Ja, vi elsker dette landet...

Mine kjære norske venner:  Jeg vi bare si at jeg tenker masse på dere i øyeblikket.  Det er nå ei uke etter de forferdelige hendelsene i Oslo og på Utøya, og dette er noe som har rystet hele verden.  Slik ting skjer ikke i fredelige Norge.  Jeg er i Australia med familien min nå, men dere er i tankene våre hele tiden.  Jeg gleder meg masse til å være tilbake med dere.

'Jeg holder fast ved troen på at friheten er sterkere enn frykten.
Jeg holder fast ved troen på et åpent norsk demokrati og samfunnsliv.
Jeg holder fast ved troen på våre muligheter til å leve fritt og trygt i vårt eget land.'

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Skiing, Bach, skiing, Beethoven, skiing...

I am in my second home at the moment, Oslo Gardermoen (airport), waiting for six hours for my connection to Amsterdam.  It is probably a good thing they don’t have more extensive dutyfree shopping, or they would get quite a bit of my money what with all the hours I wile away here…
me sporting my Norway hat and Dyøy buff
on one of my ski expeditions
It’s been a fantastic few weeks since I got back from Australia.  After a 40 hour door-to-door journey, Bach and Beethoven were a very good antidote to jetlag – just a pity they so often coincided with the World Nordic Ski Championships in Oslo, so I rarely managed to watch them live.  The atmosphere in Oslo was incredible, since all Norwegians are utter ski freaks, and the evening that I attempted to get to the square where the medal ceremonies were held, I didn’t manage to get closer than two blocks away, thanks to the enormous crowds!   I became so patriotic that I just had to invest in a beanie with the Norwegian flag on it :-) There was one moment which epitomized for me the element of idyll that still exists in Norwegian culture,  that makes it feel pleasantly far from the seemingly out of control security issues of much of the world:  When Therese Johaug won the 30km, she ran up to the King of Norway and gave him a big bear hug like he was her Dad!  Imagine this happening in England!  They would be convinced that she was a terrorist in disguise…
evening light
With the amount of travelling I do, it is amazing that these things don’t happen more often, but my bid to spend 20 hours at home after the Bach and Beethoven in Oslo was thwarted by a missed flight…It was essentially my fault, since I was convinced the flight left at 9.30am like it does every other day of the week, but actually, on Sundays, it leaves at 9.00am.  I don’t believe in wasting any more time at airports than strictly necessary, and this, combined with the fact that the taxi I had ordered failed to turn up, meant that I arrived at the airport at 8.55am.  It was an expensive mistake to make, but at least it a day when there is more than one flight to Bardufoss!  And my faithful servant Trygve could still pick me up…
BBB in Brøstadbotn!
So, after a brief 12 hours at home, it was time to take the fast boat to Harstad to baptize Brøstadbotn Barokk Band.  For me, there is often a bit of anxious anticipation coming up to the first half hour of the first rehearsal of a project – then you find out whether you are in for days of delight or days of torture!  I was pretty confident with BBB that it was going to be a great pleasure, both musically and socially, but this time, being ‘my own’ hometown ensemble, the stakes felt a bit higher.  However, only took a few minutes of playing together to know without doubt that this was a special combination of personalities and players.  And as the week progressed, it just got better J.  Ingrid, the wonderful harpsichordist from Bergen, had her extremely cute 7 month old with her, along with her hilariously funny husband (viola player of course!), and they are going to have to join us for every BBB project in the because things would not be complete without them as our groupies! 

NRK interview!

The ‘world premiere’ concert in Brøstadbotn was something very special.  We had already been interviewed twice in the days before, both for the radio and the newspaper, and I knew that Brøstadbotn kommune was right behind us, but what an atmosphere it was!  It felt a bit I was getting married!!!!  All the anticipation, and then we processed into the hall, playing, and everyone rose as we came in: all those smiling faces turning to look at us!  It was a moment I will not forget.  Of a village of 500 people, 72 were at that concert.  As was NRK (TV) who sent out a snippet on us in the north Norwegian evening news!  And of course, we were live-streamed to the world J.  Let’s just not mention the minor detail about the speed of the streaming (or whatever the problem was that Avicom were apparently experiencing…) We spent quite a while musing over beers in the following days, wondering if the not incredibly enthusiastic response from Avicom in Tromsø during the sound check meant that the streaming was actually not really working at that stage, and if they assumed that that is what these strange baroque instruments are supposed to sound like!  It sure gave us something to laugh about!

Leverpostei jente!

Musikk I Nordland (MiN), who essentially funded this project, expressed interest in further collaboration with us, and we hope for one, if not two more projects before the end of the year.  During the project though, we did wonder if they were actually trying to kill us, since the hire van they had procured for us to move the harpsichord was one of the hugest, most unstable beasts I have ever met.  In addition, it had back-wheel drive, and the harpsichord is not exactly a heavy load to give a bit of stability, so every time we hit a bit of ice on the roads (and they were in horrific state at this point), Øivind had a fun time keeping us basically facing forwards and the right way up.  I was glad there was a master at the wheel, and not an inexperienced Aussie…

Extraordinary morning light from the hurtigbåten

After our four concert tour (Brøstadbotn, Finnsnes, Narvik and Harstad), an immensely satisfying musical experience and an awful lot of fun with the band, it was hard to come home.  We all agreed that a few days off would be nice, but that then we would be ready to get back on the road with BBB!
I should have been practicing like mad during my week at home, but after catching up on sleep and devouring the mountain of paperwork that awaited me after 6 weeks away (including a long document to fill in from the Dutch tax department basically wanting to know why on earth I had chosen to leave their country!), there was not much inspiration left for practicing.  Anyway, my calendar was too full with essential ski trips (priorities!!!), a visit to Trygve’s music class in the village school to show them all my oboes, and a wonderful International Evening organized by Karin through the church, aimed at foreigners in the community!

The famous oboe maker of Brøstadbotn trying
the oboe da 'Northug'!

The visit to the music class was hilarious – Trygve and I had spent several fun hours in the kitchen the evening before, armed with a saw, some old ski poles, straws, a drill, and some paper, making ‘oboes’!  Bente got a bit of a shock when she got home from choir practice to be greeted by the most awful racket imaginable going on in her kitchen!  (Not to mention the metal shavings on the breadboard!) Of course, the kids loved building their own oboes, and quite a few of them also came up to have a go on one of my instruments, with much success.  I just felt a bit sorry for whichever teacher had to take them for the following class, and wondered how much heed they took of Trygve’s admonishment to use their new instruments ‘with caution’…Brøstadbotn Obo Band next???? 
out on a ski trip behind my house
The International Evening was a wonderful chance for me to finally get to know some of my neighbours, and I met people (and food!) from Lithuania, Romania, Russia, England, The Philippines and Cameroon.  I think it is a very special gift that Karin is giving us in organizing these evenings  - exactly as Jesus asked his people to do, to look after the foreigners in one’s midst. 



And finally, on to the topic of skiing; this is perhaps my least successful project of the winter - although certainly one of the most enjoyable, in spite of its relative failure!  My first day home, I insisted in skiing the full length of the lysløiper, doggedly ignoring the fact that my heels were


It is worth destroying ones' rump for this!

actually in quite some pain.  By the time I limped home, I had 3cm wide blisters on both heels, and was most definitely out of skiing action for the next few days.  In any case, the temperatures became a bit tropical again, and the snow conditions were impossible, so my nagging urge to get out there again was stilled a bit.  By Friday, a bit of fresh snow had fallen, and in the absence of a car, I decided to climb the hill behind my house, and set out back country skiing from there.  It was a wonderful trip, except for the fact that my behind turned into minced meat due to the number of times I fell onto sharp shards of frozen snow that had been churned up by the scooters.  Not really surprising that my waterproof trousers did not survive the battering.  Time to invest in some ski pants with reinforced behind for beginners.  The evening following this trip was spent lying on the couch since the weight of my body proved to be a bit too much for actually sitting on my somewhat tender rump.

what exactly is this????????
Of course, the next day, very likely being my last chance to ski for the season (since I am now away for so annoyingly long), simply had to be used, regardless of the less than ideal snow conditions and my less than ideal skiing skills.  I had a wonderful trip climbing up from the lysløiper in the direction of Femvatnet, and I don’t regret a second of it, in spite of the fact that Bente said it is possible that I do have a fractured rib.  I was pretty severely winded at the moment of impact, and the pain was quite intense (although I am still trying to work out what it was exactly that I impacted with!!!!)and at the moment, it certainly feels like it is fractured...But whether it is actually fractured or merely bruised is irrelevant, since there is nothing they can do anyway.  I wonder how it will be to play the oboe tomorrow…Should have taken out injury insurance then I could have had a nice 6 weeks at home – and perhaps had the time to take some skiing lessons!!  And if anyone is wondering about the ski tracks up there which do actually head directly into a tree, yes, I confess ownership…although that particular incident resulted only in a bruised toe.

In spite of all this, I have permission from Bente to pray for snow until 10th May (at the latest), so that I can get a bit of extra skiing in before the season closes, but priority number one next winter will be ski classes.  This state of affairs simply cannot continue if I wish to qualify as Auswegian, and the number of bizarre trails I have left behind me in the snow is becoming downright embarrassing...

Monday, 7 March 2011

Brøstadbotn Barokk Band is born!



I've just had the first reheasals with Brøstadbotn Barokk Band for our concerts this week, and I am so looking forward to Thursday's 'verdens premiere' (world premier!) in Brøstadbotn!  It did give me a bit of a shock to walk into the supermarket in the village and to see myself on the wall grinning at me in a silly pose with an oboe by the side of my head, but it was kind of exciting too!  It feels like the whole village is behind us and I am so touched by their pride!  The meeting I had last week with people who work for the kommune to organise the fine details of the event actually made me cry - both from happiness at the incredible interest and
support I felt, and from frustration as I thought back to the times I have tried to organise something similar in Australia and failed.  The balance is so wrong in Australia, everything is sport, sport, sport, and it almost like there is war between the two camps of culture and sport.  I could hardly believe my ears when Ragnvald said that he thinks of music and sport as being part of the same parcel - and so they should be!  They are very similar disciplines in many ways, and the benefits they bring to society are very compatible.  It is one of the great delights of my new Norwegian existance to discover that culture rates equally with sport. The events of the past week were further proof of this incredible 'marriage' - I played two VN (World Nordic Ski Championships) concerts in Oslo with Oslo Barokkorchester.  Imagine a sporting event in Australia that had a classical concert series attached to it!!!!!!!!!!  Sadly, utterly impossible, but then probably highly unlikely in most countries.

My latest 'Annart'
The one and only disappointment of finally arriving home last week after so long away, was the welcome the weather gave me in Brøstadbotn - PLUS 2 degrees, and the snow all a melted mess!  How dare it!  After Bente told me that very occasionally they do have winters where they get to this stage and don't get anymore snow, I became seriously concerned for my mental health if I would have to look out at that sad landscape without the magic of snow for the next two months!  However, when I arrived home yesterday (after a painfully long and expensive journey home from Olso when I missed my flight, partly due to the taxi which failed to show, partly due to my conviction that the flight was at 9.30am not at 9am...) I was ever so thankful that I had to plough through knee deep snow to get to the big snow shovel by my front door, so I could clear a path to get my suitcase to the door.  And I didn't mind at all when I kept getting woken up by snow falling off the roof in the night, and the snow plough driving past my door. 

But the snow was not the only one to gets its timing a bit off - apparently exactly one week before I got home from Australia, there were SIX elk in front of my house!  Well, nice to know they were thinking of me even if they did get their dates muddled.

Finally, if you want to watch BBB's first ever concert online, it will be live streamed to the whole wide world on Thursday 10th March at 7pm Norwegian time at: http://webtv.easymeeting.net/mediasite/Viewer/?peid=3ecb44174d0f44a99e621d2349b8dbd81d

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Welcome 2011




I’m going to stop commenting on the infrequency of my blogging…I do my best, but it is hard to keep up with the pace of events in my exciting new life!
Venison crossing!
Having spent Christmas in Holland, I eagerly returned to the far north for Romjulen, that wonderful week between Christmas and New Year (is it not about time we invented a word for this in English??!)  I was greeted by several elk and a herd of reindeer crossing the road on my first day.  I stopped to photograph the reindeer and whilst I watched them standing by the side of the road, another car passed, giving a warning toot as he approached.  Apparently this is a signal in reindeer language to race out in front of the car.  Either they are confident of the humans’ reluctance to write off his car for some free venison, daringly brave, or just plain stupid.  I have my suspicions…
It wasn’t only the animals who greeted my return – a wonderful Christmas tree awaited me in my garage – a Christmas present from the world’s best landlord!
Christmas lights


Georg out on an expedition


Gilles joined me on December 28th, my first brave visitor, armed with French cheese, ingredients for his famous Indian aruyvedic cuisine, Christmas cookies made by his mother, and lots of fresh herbs – just to ensure we didn’t starve to death or develop scurvy during our adventures in the wilderness!  His bath duck, Georg, who has joined us on several of our wilderness adventures, also accompanied him, and so fell in love with Norway that he expressed a wish to stay on in order to live on my kitchen window sill and admire the view.

Georg admires the view
Breakfast on the beach!
Gilles and I began our week with breakfast on the beach (Finnlandstranda) in -7 C in order to watch the stunning colours of the sun attempting to rise.  We had seen that this was likely to be our only clear day, but armed with headlamps and thermal underwear, resolved to get out into the wilderness everyday regardless of the conditions (and anyway, there is no such thing as bad weather in Norway, just wrong clothes, right??!)  What a wonderful start to one of the best weeks of my life!  It was so great to finally have time and company to get out into the wilds and explore those amazing mountains I have been looking at for the past few months!  Our first trip was up to Femvatnet, getting


The view from Finnlandstranda at 9.30am

Femvatnet
geographically embarrassed on the way down due to my confidence in the snow scooter tracks which I was so sure would lead back to Finnefjellet…Actually, they took us all the way over to Øvre Espenes where we followed the lysløyper back to Trygve and Bente’s house and employed Trygve as our knight in shining armour to drive us back up to retrieve the car from Finnefjellet!!!  After a warm shower, we were treated to Pinnekjøtt at their house – yum!  It seems to me that the Norwegians have many simply prepared dishes which are exploding with the flavours of good, simple ingredients.  Pinnekjøtt is salted lamb which is soaked overnight in water prior to being cooked by slow steaming over birch sticks.  It is absolutely delicious, and even better the next day over a campfire in the middle of a skiing trip!

Speaking of fires, there is a bit of a technique to building a fire on snow, since it will have a tendency to melt itself into a hole in the snow, thus starving itself of oxygen.  I’m learning...
An old hut which served as a lunch shelter for us.
Several days were spent out in snow storms (not to mention the -25C temperatures!) and again, the friendliness of the north Norwegians struck us.  Anyone who saw us preparing to go out commented on our ‘bravery’ (or perhaps, our insanity – the locals don’t even bother to try to go out until January as it becomes lighter and - maybe - warmer) and we noted how people look out for each other.  One day, up at Sandvika on Skøvatnet, a farmer saw us heading off, and came out to warn us that it was too dangerous.  Having explained that we were not going far and were not planning on heading UP the mountain, he conceded that this plan was ok, advising us to follow the frozen river in the middle of the valley so that we were as far as possible from danger of avalanche.  (Gilles was not so keen on the walking on the river plan since he had lost a snowshoe in the myre – bog – when he went through the ice the day before!  We had spent a good 15 minutes fishing


The view from Femvatnet


around for it and were beginning to imagine how on earth we would get home with a pair of skis and ONE snowshoe between us…)  Some hours later when we returned, our farmer friend again came out to greet us, saying that if we had not arrived back soon, he would have gone out on his scooter to look for us.  He then proceeded to dig our car out with his tractor, since someone with a snow plough and a healthy sense of humour had pretty much parked us in by depositing a large quantity of snow directly in front of the car!  (Mind you, if my job was clearing the roads of snow for 6 months a year, I’d look out for opportunities to get up to a bit of mischief as well!)
 
There's a car in there!

Minus 27 degrees is quite interesting by the way.  In correct clothing it is really no problem provided one does  not stand around for too long, and the sensation of the inside of your nose freezing is quite funny.  Lunch at that temperature consists of a hastily downed soup and sandwich eaten whilst stamping one’s feet.  We also learned that it is wise to fill water bottles with warm water, since cold water will have frozen by the time one wants to drink it…

No doubt the Dyrøy population is wondering which strange animal has been leaving all those tracks in the snow – Gilles was on snowshoes whilst I was on (well, sort of ‘on’) skis.  No one uses snowshoes in Norway – skis are quicker (if it is not me on them!) and don’t sink so deeply into the snow.  Anyway, Norwegians are born with skis on their feet, so why waste money on buying snowshoes?!
Aurora borealis!
Thankfully my poor skiing skills meant that Gilles and I were quite an equal team – added to which I provided Gilles with light entertainment on the descents as I skied ahead of him into the darkness, only to fall down in a cloud of snow every few hundred metres, giving him a chance to catch up…

 Dyrøy folk continue to supply my every need – a request for a spark (a kind of sledge) to borrow resulted in not one but two offers, and Lil Sigrid at the Coop continues to save their throw away salad greens for the spoilt guinea pigs!  My second week at home in January was spent socializing with my new friends who are so kind, so open and so welcoming.  I will never get slim in Brøstadbotn when everyone keeps feeding me like this!   And I really can’t believe that some of them have signed up to this blah blah of a blog…I am slightly amused and slightly irritated that 5 months after opening my Norwegian bank account, my internet banking still poses a host of mystery problems which confound the friendly bank staff...

Brøstadbotn Barokkband is about to have its premiere.  Thanks to the incredible government support of the arts in Norway, coupled with my colleagues’ initiative and enthusiasm, we have a 6 concert tour at the start of March – Harstad, Narvik, Brøstadbotn (of course!), Bardu, Finnsnes and Tromsø.  I am still flabbergasted how quickly and efficiently this has come about, and impressed and grateful for all the support and interest from colleagues and locals.

I am presently visiting the southern paradise in my life, Australia, seeing family and playing a recording and concert project.  We have just had the hottest week on record and I have no hesitation in saying that I most definitely prefer minus 25C to plus 42C.  This week it has cooled down and I feel very much like a stupid tourist, having managed to fry myself fluorescent red yesterday during a walk in full cloud cover and mild temperatures…

I think poor Australia is wondering what on earth she has done wrong at the moment, as she battles mad weather from all directions – flood, fire, heat waves and cyclone follow in quick succession, and some people have been flooded 3 times in 6 months.  Then of course there is the crazy wildlife – we had a tree snake crawling over our feet as we sat down to lunch on the verandah the other day!  The theory is that the vibrations from Dad’s choice of ‘Dire Straits’ at high volume frightened it out of its hiding place.

 
My Australian paradise

I will sign off with a query about Norwegian wildlife which urgently needs answering – feel free to register your theory!!!  So: What is the difference between a moose and an elk?!  I am extremely confused and feel that I cannot consider myself Auswegian until I know the difference!  Some of my Norwegian friends claim that elk live in Scandinavia and that moose are the bigger species living in north America.  However, why do the tins of meat sold in tourist shops in Norway claim that they are ‘moose’???!  Can you solve the riddle for me?  The moose/elk by the way, are faithful friends, and came to farewell me on my last evening before my travels in a 10pm rendezvous on the lysløiper - I had also seen evidence of them in my garden.  Hopefully they have my return date marked in their diaries too.




Saturday, 18 December 2010

Mørketid, ice-skating, and 'Brøstadbotn barokk'

The Senja fjell feel their last rays of sun before it returns at the end of January.
Again, it has been too long since the last post, and I struggle to remember all of the billion wonderful and exciting things that have happened in the last month.

I had two weeks at home in November/early December, punctuated by weekend trips away to work in north Norway and for the first time, home felt very much like home,and I actually had time to do and think about things other than ordering my life.

The tone was set when I arrived in Bardufoss airport and we touched down on a nice layer of snow (so I now fail to understand why Schiphol is now pretty much in a state of shut down with 10cm of snow..) It is always so nice to get off the plane and to be met by wonderful friends - I quite like having to be picked up;  it is such a contrast to the lonely homecomings in Holland - public transport to Haarlem and an empty house! Now the journey home from the airport always goes so fast as we chat ten to the dozen, catching up on all the news of the weeks away! 
11am, the view from my house
 Home was a snowy and wonderfully cold minus 10, and the first thing I did was to go to the little village supermarket to invest in some good quality Helly Hansen thermal underwear and an indoor-outdoor thermometer!  I am still amused by the fact that I have to drive 50km to buy an aubergine, but can buy such essential items such as thermals and thermometers in the Coop! (By the way, aubergines don't freeze well - I tried it!)

15.30pm

The next thing I did was to build a compost bin outside in minus 10 degrees, and discovered that, at this temperature, not only does it get very difficult to hold the nails, but also, that if you hit your finger with the hammer, you won't feel the full pain of the blow.  Kind of a good thing because you can continue with getting the job done, but be warned:  when you come inside and jump under a hot shower, the feeling will come back with a vengance and you will practically pass out from the pain...It is a good thing the hot water system is effective though, because it is regularly 4 degrees in the bathroom, and there is often ice on the inside of the windows in there ;-) My wonderful landlord, Sverre, did ask me if I wanted him to put an extra heater in there, but how could I possibly accept when his aged father survived without???!

 However, the decent insulation and lovely wood-burning stove in the kitchen continue to be super effective, and when we had a few tropical days of 4 degrees, I didn't even need to light the fire or use the electric heating.  (Ironically, this was during an extreme cold spell down in Europe and southern Scandinavia - our
6pm
snow was melting whilst Europe was grinding to a weather-induced halt...)  As luck would have it, this was the moment that I actually managed to succeed in buying ski boots which were then rendered useless by the thaw.  My first attempt at buying ski boots failed miserably as I arrived in Sjøvegan at 4.10pm, thinking I had at least 50 minutes to make my purchase, not realising that pretty much everything shuts down at 4pm in this country!  However, I did manage to find a shop run by a Dutch couple who believe in Dutch opening hours, so I was able to buy some extremely expensive (but good...) coffee from them, as well as enjoy comparing foreigners' impressions and speaking some kind of confused Neder-norsk with them!

The thaw showed me how lethal it can get out there - the melted snow then re-freezes overnight and becomes one massive ice rink.  I fell over 8 times trying to get the 6 metres from the house to the garage.  I have now invested in a nifty pair of spikes that fit onto the bottom of my shoes...

A frozen waterfall
Mørketid (the dark, sunless days) have officially begun, and we have said goodbye to the sun until late January.  So far it has not bothered me at all - in fact, quite the contrary!  Wanting to get out and enjoy the beauty and winter sports, and knowing that there are only a few hours of daylight induces me to get out of bed in the mornings, and the light is so incredibly beautiful, as you can see from the numerous photos I couldn't resist adding to this post!

A nicely ironic moment occurred when Trygve and I drove to Tromsø, stopping on the way for dinner where it was minus 19 degrees.  We walked inside and each bought a coke - complete with ample ice, made of course, in the ice-making machine inside...I think Trygve was also quite pleased to reach Tromsø since I kept rolling down the window everytime the temperature got lower in order to have my first feel of minus 16 - or minus 17 or minus 18 and so forth, until we bottomed out at minus 24 (just for a second, but I wasn't quick enough with the camera and Trygve didn't like my suggestion of turning around so I could try again...)  I liked minus 24 by the way ;-)

I have decided that Trygve is right though, and that minus 5 degrees is the perfect temperature - the freshness feels great on the face but it is not so cold that your extremities freeze off within 10 minutes.  I went ice skating in minus 16 degrees, and I have to say, it was COLD on the hands and feet (or maybe as the Norwegians say, I simply had the incorrect clothing on since 'there is no such thing as bad weather in Norway, only bad clothing'...)  But man, was it beautiful!  It took me a few goes to get my skating legs back, but on my last day at home, I finally found my balance and had the most wonderful two hour 'tur på skøyter' (an ice-skating trip) in minus 6 degrees (ie: perfect temperature of course!) on Skøvatnet, which is a big lake near Brøstadbotn which gets a lot of wind so the ice stays clear of snow for longer than the other lakes.  Sverre and his family are into skating, so he has been giving the me local tips about where is best to go (but like most Norwegians, it is ice hockey that is their focus, not speed or tour skating like I am equipped for).
skating in minus 16 degrees on Røyrvatnet


The two north Norwegian projects I did were a great pleasure!  The first was a dive into the deep end for me - and  leap of faith for my employer, who trusted me armed with modern oboe!  My first paid modern oboe work in 11 years!  Luckily it was only the Vivaldi Gloria, which is not difficult for oboe, with one sweet solo aria which I had the pleasure of playing with Bodil from Vokal Nord singing the soprano solo.  (It was quite a concert for her, because it was her choir, so she was also conducting - she did a great job!)

The second project was a Handel Messiah in Narvik and Finnsnes - so I could actually sleep in my own bed after the second concert!  I had been particuarly looking forward to this project because legendary violinist Bjarte Eike (who I knew from Concerto Copenhagen) was leading the orchestra, and also because I knew it was a chance to meet quite a few local musicians.  I was quite surprised to discover that I already knew 50% of them - several from working with Oslo based baroque orchestras, and also Øyvind (violinist) who I played the chamber music tour with in September, and Runa (cellist) who had introduced herself to me after one of those concerts with Øyvind.  It was especially exciting to finally meet Ole Thomas (trumpet) whom people had told me about, saying that he had been furiously practising natural trumpet for two years, and was mad keen to start a baroque group, with me if I was interested.  I knew that he had been in the audience of one of the September concerts, but assumed that I had scared him off with my terrible playing since he didn't introduce himself after the concert.  Apparently he was just too shy and had sent his clarinet colleague to chat with me instead (do I look so scary??), and we had a wonderful time getting to know each other and dreaming of 'Brøstadbotn Barokk' over multiple highly expensive beers!  But thanks to his initiative and organisational talents, 'Brøstadbotn Barokk' is suddenly taking shape, and it looks like we will have our first rehearsals in January, and our first concerts in March.  At the core will be Ole Thomas, Runa, Øyvind and me - and the most amazing fact of all, which I still cannot get my head around, is that I am the only one who will need paying!  This is because the others are all in some shape or form government sponsored musicians, and can probably use the ensemble as 'work hours' from their usual jobs!  More points for Norway...it makes SO much more possible when the system works like this.

The guineas continue to enjoy their nordic existance, although they do complain that 12 degrees inside early in the morning before the fire is lit is too cold for Peruvian creatures.  So now, along with plenty of hay, they have two houses, one each, since Wilhelmina likes her personal space and kicks Henrietta out into the cold.  They also apparently think they are on eating camp whilst I am away, but the fussy little blighters have decided that Norwegian cucumber and capsicum (formerly their favourite foods) are not of a high enough quality and now refuse to give them more than a cursory sniff - or maybe a tiny nibble just to make their point.
a rare 'house sharing' moment - neccessity, not love...
So, now I am in Holland for some Christmas concerts and God has decided to make me feel more at home by dumping a good 20cm of snow on the country!  This is more snow than I have ever seen in Holland - it is beautiful, but snow just looks even more beautiful when it falls on mountains and fjords!  And of course, here the entire country grinds to a painful halt already after the first 2cm.  I was quite amused by the sign at Amsterdam Centraal yesterday which quite proudly read, 'the public transport in Holland is almost 100% non-functional.  Therefore, no buses, trams, metro, trains...' I look forward to getting up north again where the planes just land on snow and the bikes have winter tyres.

Friday, 12 November 2010

more winter...

I am still on tour, home in a week, but I had a text message from Trygve to say that it was minus 12 degrees and that there had been another big storm which ripped one of my doors open!  I am assuming it must have been the garage door which I think I was meant to lock before I went away - ooops...When I left home 12 days ago, there was still sun between 8am and 4pm, but when I get back on 21st it will be gone until late January.  So I had better prepare myself for the shock!

Monday, 1 November 2010

News flash!

There is a raging storm out there today, the sea is in turmoil, and poor Bente couldn't get home from work in Harstad!  The fast boat to Brøstadbotn got cancelled, so she took the one to Finnsnes, where Trygve drove 45 mintues to pick her up.  But after numerous attempts, the boat gave up trying to dock and had to go on to Tromsø.  So Bente gets a free trip to Tromsø, a night in a hotel there, and a free ferry ride back home tomorrow morning - except that she has to work in Harstad again tomorrow!