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Archive for June, 2007

Mao. The Unknown Story

Today I got up late (though my idea of ‘late’ has changed since I was a teenager and now means around 9.30) after reading a dull book about Mao. I bought the book at the Oslo airport so it’s in Norwegian, which is not a bad thing as I rarely use my Norwegian any more and could do with the practice. It’s just that it’s so infuriatingly badly translated!

Now, how can I tell the difference between a bad translation and simply a bad book? Because this book has the elegance of the phrases supplied by http://www.-translators and has been rendered about as readable as a brick. Word of advice; when you translate – don’t translate word-for-word! It loses its meaning. And – please do not be so lazy as to let the spell check do all the proofreading… the mistakes… oh the mistakes! They hurt!

I thought about providing a page-by-page list of the many mistakes, but as most of my readers don’t speak much Norwegian I realized this would entertain no one, least of all me. But I can assure you the mistakes are dumb. And basic. Such as saying ‘us likes ice’ or ‘childrens’. Or ‘womans’. And yes, I do know that Norwegian has retained gender for their nouns and it can be really difficult to remember the gender of all the words, but if you are native you should know – without having to look them up even. And if you are a professional translator for a large publisher you have no excuse!

I could go on but I’m boring myself here. I didn’t have to try to find the mistakes – they’re screaming out to be found like lost children. With not even trying I have so far found more than 50 basic mistakes – how many more mistakes are there? I’ve only got to page 169 and there are more than 800 pages to plough through.

I haven’t even mentioned the commas. Don’t make me mention the commas! Ok, I’ll mention the commas that are strewn across the pages with the finesse of a teenage Al Qaida fighter using his newly acquired Kalashnikow for the first time. To put it simply; the publisher, Gyldendal, has done a crap job of this one. But because of the subject matter and who the authors are I am going to force myself to finish it. And then I shall burn it. And I shall enjoy the warmth of the fire with my favourite man and a bottle of good wine. I can hardly wait!

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Not Quite Banksy

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I just love the little ‘…please’ at the end. This punchy bit of graffiti is sure to secure justice and equal right (we’re only asking for one, is that clear?!) for all. Spotted this one on our annual ride along the Danube canal on Sunday.

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The Memories are Flooding In

And this time I’m not talking about flashbacks from the car accident. Btw, Todd, I think you have a point. Let me think about it.

Anyway; I have about a zillion accounts all over the web, most of which I never use. The latest one has proven to be a bit more useful than most as one of my sister’s childhood friends contacted me in her quest to find my sister. We ended up having a long and rambling IM-chat in our shared fate of not being out on a Friday night, and she sent me some pictures – thank you, Eli! These are pictures I have never seen before and which have sent me on a roller-coaster of a ride of childhood memories… brace yourself for cuteness:

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Me and the cat Mons. I am fairly sure it is my love of cats that triggered my cat allergy as I was totally unable to pass a cat without forcing a cuddle on it. Remarkably, I was never scratched.

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I had sooo forgotten this little ferry, and I still can’t remember where it went (Kalvøya?), I just remember it was a trip we used to make and that the boat was called Rigmor and that was such a good name as my sister’s god-mother was Rigmor and… I’ve always liked boats and the sea, though I’ve a positive fear of water and am a lousy swimmer. Go figure

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Me and my sister on Rigmor. I am fairly convinced this picture was taken by Eli and I must agree that she had an eye for photography even then. It’s really well-composed.

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Dad used to be in the UN forces and always brought back silly souvenirs, these fez’ among them. Look at my sister’s wonderfully tanned legs. I was always envious of her smooth golden summer skin; I just went pink and peeled.

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Cute alert! This is also the national dress (Rondestakk) I wore the very first time I was on stage at the age of 4. These dresses are put together in a way so they can grow with the wearer, and I had this dress for many years.

Now, do explain to me how David Sim and Capital Car Hire in Edinburgh would want to kill off someone as cute as this? I’m not saying I haven’t changed since then, but this is how cute I was and that cute little thing is somewhere inside me and no-one in their right mind would try to kill something that cute!

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Don’t forget to LOOK UP!

Suddenly had a day off from teaching and used it to go to the gym – in 35C. Not only that, I walked to the gym as I’m one of those people strongly opposed to those people who sign up to a gym membership and then drive there even when they are within walking or jogging distance. Those people belong to the Sad and Pathetic. I am not one of those.

So in 35C I walked to the gym thinking to myself that at least I wouldn’t need to warm up. On my way I once again spotted this rather amazing decoration on top of a building, and I thought I’d share that with you. It’s a life-size statue of a knight in (not so) shiny armour. You find him on the corner of Lerchenfelder Strasse and Strozzigasse.

I got so distracted by the sight I did a warm up anyway, and then I spent a good hour faffing around doing not very much but thinking about all the things I ought to do to stay in shape before I had a cold shower and walked home again in 35C. A total waste of a shower, if you ask me.

I never knew he had a face.

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WHY Do I Aways Do this?

I’ve done it again. I’ve turned night into day and day into night and now I’m just totally and utterly shattered. Within minutes of teaching my last class of the week I am in night-owl mode; my natural state. But come Monday I am forced back into the habits of the rest of the nine-to-five world and it hurts! Mondays stink.

My dad used to delight in calling me on Monday mornings while I was a student at UiO and make gleeful remarks about me still being in bed. Of course I was ‘still’ in bed! I’d been up until 6am working on my thesis about (try not to weep when you read this) ‘Compare and contrast Pope and Swift with Collins and Gray as writers of short poetry‘. I had three weeks in which to write 30 carefully typed pages about this, and since I had spent the first week crying and deciding that this was an impossible task – my supervisor having set the text – I was down to two weeks to try to make sense of it. I reverted to my natural state of owlishness and started working at around midnight, and by around 2am I was at full steam – while the rest of the city was asleep (Oslo is a city that sleeps. It helps people like me get some work done). My solution to getting some uninterrupted sleep – i.e. uninterrupted by dad since most other people I knew were on the same schedule as myself – was to unplug the phone and let him talk to the answering machine. And he seemed content to tell the answering machine how amusing he found it that I was such a typical student. He could quite happily talk to the machine until it cut him off and then phone up again telling me all about how the machine cut him off. If he was lucky and didn’t run out of tape he might even get around to the real reason he was calling around the 4th or 5th call.

Which reminds me that not only am I a night owl, I also come from a family of faffers. We faff when we talk and we faff when we try to get something done. Getting to the point takes forever, getting out the door takes longer. Kevin, who is not a faffer, finds it extremely exasperating, but the first time he met my family he realised that I was weighted down by generations of faffer-genes and could not be held responsible for my faffing. And he discovered that I was, unbelievably, not the top-faffer of the family. That prize goes to my sister, the Queen Faffer.

On Monday mornings I also wake to the painful squeek of the alarm clock inexplicably followed by the incessant tweeting of the neighbour’s caged bird. That bird has the most annoying tweet. It’s… a tweet. That’s really all it is. A tweet. A tweet, dammit! One. Tweet. Nothing more. But it never stops. Without variety, without the slightest change in pace or pitch, without as much as one tiny note added for tuneful excitement ever it can go on for hours. And how does that bird know that I am awake to hear it, how does it know to start its torturous routine the minute I get out of bed and all through my shower where I desperately try to remember if I have shampooed my hair or what the hell day of the week it is in the first place. Yes, the damned tweeting cuts through the noise of the water in the shower. That tweeting would cut through the sound of chainsaws. It can cut glass, be used to keep prisoners awake for weeks and to put the finishing touches on a rare diamond. I am sure the tweeting has turned my hair grey, but the dye I use covers grey to perfection so I have no proof at present. Not only do we share a building with a bunch of spoilt rotten students who play shittyshittyshitty music (I was never like that, and I claim that without as much as a hint of humour), we share a building with a brain damaged caged bird that tweets and should have its neck wrung for its sins.

Yes, I dye my hair. I have dyed my hair for decades, and I do it myself. My mum got me started through an innocent remark about how wonderfully golden red my hair looked in the evening sun, and the words ‘gold’ and ‘red’ stuck in my wee head and I tottered off to the nearest place that sold products to cover up reality and tried my first shampoo-in toner. Which did nothing as I was worried about causing too much damage and only left it in for about half the recommended time. So I tried again and left the stuff in for nearly two hours to make up for any misunderstood carefulness and had the reddest hair in history of mankind. As a teenager I thought that was cool. So I kept doing it. Except that I switched from the shampoo toner type and started using the permanent kind which I only left in for the recommended time so as to avoid it seeping into my brain but I suspect the damage was already done.

I’ve had a couple of mishaps. One was when I went to drama school in Denmark and one of my classmates who’d been a hairdresser’s apprentice (any other idiot would have taken the ‘apprentice’ part as a warning, but not this idiot – oh no) cut and dyed my hair. He went for the bleach+Henna combination which, if it didn’t finish off my brain, certainly finished off my hair. It went an almost fluorescent orange, extremely dry and broke off. One of the many times I’ve ended up with short hair for vanity reasons that failed. Before it all broke off I could have saved thousands on electricity bills, it was so bright. I’m surprised my flatmates didn’t simply tie me to the cord hanging from the ceiling in the common room and learned their lines in the orange glow. Or they could have gathered around my head an held their hands up to the fire for warmth.

I had another mishap the other week. No, turning myself into a live traffic cone did not teach me any sort of a lesson. Anyway; I am a bit stingy when it comes to hair dye. I will not let the hairdresser do it, and I am forever going for whatever brand is the cheapest at the moment. So a couple of weeks ago I bought a German brand that was nicely priced at €4 and which announced the colour as ‘Rubin Rot’. That’s pretty darn red. I don’t normally shampoo my hair immediately after because you’re not supposed to, but I looked as if I’d been stabbed and was bleeding heavily from my entire scalp, so I did. It made no difference. This was not just Rubin Rot, it was the entire Amsterdam red-light district. On top of my head. And for ten whole days I walked around looking freshly stabbed. So I caved and got a more expensive brand of ‘Gold-Braun’ (at least the word ‘gold’ was still in it) to salvage the disaster and now I look less desperate. I am beginning to think it’s time to leave the red dye on the shelf and think about ageing gracefully.

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Dear Jenny

Today is your funeral. Some of the nicest, funniest, most beautiful and caring people I have ever known will be there with you. I desperately wish I could be there too, to share in the empty space left by your death, to cry with people whose friendships have lasted through long partings and to share in memories and laugh and cry some more.

I first met you when I was 13 when I started taking tap classes, the dance form closest to my heart. Strange for a wee white girl, but I could follow in the footsteps of wee white girls such as Shirley Temple – with whom I had nothing else in common. You quickly paired this wee white girl with this wee white boy and created a truly cute double-act that danced their hearts out in little sailor’s outfits in the cinema theatre in Sandvika. Ine and Henning. Man, we were cute! I still remember most of the steps.

Over the years we and the rest of this dedicated group of tap-dancers performed in countless dance shows, and some of us even went on to teach at your school – you were a brilliant teacher, ever meticulous about the technique, and your teaching system was infallible, near perfect.

You also taught us to sing – you were my first singing teacher – and your home formed a base, an HQ, for this group of friends united in dance and song. Your house, a big, white house, had a history, and some of the cupboards in the living room had sliding walls where, during the early stages of WWII your family had helped hide people from the resistance and smuggle them over to Sweden before you and your family eventually had to be smuggled out yourselves; the Gestapo were on to you.

I remember the first time I saw your bed. A big elaborate four-poster that took up most of the room. I so wanted that! And you had a grand piano where we had our singing lessons. Oh, and you had a swimming pool in your garden! Almost unheard of in Norway at the time. An unheated, deep swimming pool. It was just freezing taking a dip in that. The house was so big it had been divided into two, and some of your students lived in the other half for a while. So then that became the HQ with trips across to your bit whenever opportunity bid.

I still remember one of our summer parties in the ‘student-bit’ where we’d all collapsed in little heaps on mattresses spread out all over the floor. I woke up to an overly cheerful ‘gang-member’ and resident who’d briefly gone to a dinner party and had just arrived back, still in his dinner suit, with the bow-tie dangling, holding a tub of discarded, melted pistachio chocolate chip ice cream and half a bottle of red wine with bits of cork floating around in it. I was the only one who woke up on his return and we shared the melted goo and the wine with extra fibre for breakfast while he told me about the brilliant food he’d been served at this posh dinner he’d been to. Later that day we went over to your part of the house and spent the rest of the day freezing our little butts off in the pool and singing and talking some more about the apparently brilliant food our party-buster had been served.

Our parties could last for days, and parents sometimes had to drop by just to remind themselves what we looked like. I guess it was more like going to summer camp together. And you – you were the glue that held us together.

Now, so many years later, some of us still keep in touch with each other. The magic of your glue; what on earth did you use? I hope many, many people come to your funeral – you deserve a proper sending off! And Vibeke, Henning, Gyrid, Petter, Øyvind, Arlene, Ingrid (and Charlie – let’s not forget Charlie, the Ultimate Party Cocker Spaniel!), Anette, Henriette, Kjersti, Kristin, Inger, Anne, … give each other a hug from me in memory of all those memories.

I miss you guys. I miss you, Jenny.

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Hailstorm in June

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