Archive for the ‘Norwegian Wood’ Category

I couldn’t make myself write about it: my reactions or my thoughts. From the beginning I have been struck by what a non-entity he is, and delving into analysis only gave disappointing results. Each time I tried to add my two-pennies’ worth I came up with – nothing. And that was awful because that nothing-person, that uneducated nobody, killed 77 people in cold blood. Had he only had the tinsiest bit of charisma, had his arguments been even a little bit good, made some sort of sense, then – well, I’m not sure exactly what then, but as I followed the first two weeks of the trial online via Norwegian media, I was left with this awful feeling of emptiness. 77 people were killed by Nobody.

Then, today, some of my intelligent and wonderful friends on Facebook posted a link to this, and this woman, Professor Janne Haaland Matlary, said exactly what I’ve been quietly thinking. I’m actually going to take the liberty of translating Klassekampen‘s article:

Couldn’t care less about Breivik’s ideology

Warning: Professor of Political Science, Janne Haaland Matlary, thinks that Anders Behring Breivik is historically and politically uninteresting. She warns her colleagues against wasting their time analysing the mass murderer.

“His political influence is zero, the person behind the actions is a zero, why spend so much time and media attention on him?”

This is what the well-known professor of political science, Janne Haaland Matlary, says to Klassekampen. Now she advices her colleagues not to appear as so-called “expert witnesses” in the media.

“It’s poor use of one’s working hours to provide serious analysis of something so primitive. If we take him seriously, we just contribute to give him more attention – which is his real motivation.

It is clear that he believes in his own vision, but this serves more as an alibi for mass murder than political motivation. His ideas are banal while his actions are evil and terrible – why dwell on this?”

Not interesting

Matlary’s view is that Breivik is politically and historically uninteresting, and that political scientists and historians neither can nor should contribute with analysis.

“Compared with other terrorist attacks outside Norway this is without political interest. His political understanding and reasoning is primitive and uninteresting: there is no one who really believes there is a Muslim invasion of Europe. So this is not something worth examining for a political scientist.

The terror is also without political persuasion in Norway as such. It is not ideologically interesting, for either the political Right or Left, simply because he has such crazy ideas that completely lack realism. He lives in a fantasy world and is as such without public interest.”

– But can’t experts contribute with the knowledge that there are others that share his political understanding and views?

“There is no empirical evidence to support any of his views. His world is Manichean – he juxtaposes Muslims and Christians and creates bizarre dividing lines partly based on race theory. His analysis is so stupid and primitive and completely lacks a realistic reference frame, and he has no movement behind him.”

Careful experts

The University of Oslo has set up a list of people who can comment on the court case for the media. At the Department of Political Science there is no wish to add people to the list.

“We were contacted by the information department and asked if we wanted to contribute to the list of experts with names and contact details. At that point I contacted 3-4 of the people already on the list and said it was not a good idea to join as we are not general experts on this entire case,” says institute leader Øystein Østerud.

He is of the opinion that the case has been coloured by the use of quasi-experts and does not want political scientists from the university to contribute to this.

“The goal must be that those best suited contribute, rather than that we create a list of experts that are to make statements on this and that”, he says. He points to the intern Anders Ravik Jupskås as a positive example of how this can be done.

Not political terror

Matlary emphasises that her criticism first and foremost is directed at the media, and not at colleagues who chip in as experts. She still feels that political science has little to contribute with.

“In this case it is the psychiatrists that have the most insight to give and there is not as much to be gained from political science. To us, Islamic terror, or the IRA-terrorist who is motivated by political goals, is of far greater interest. Breivik’s goal is himself,” she states.

“The case is influenced by journalists who constantly have to come up with something new. Foreign press covered the first week and pretty much wrapped it up after that. Ten weeks of daily news coverage only contributes to the fame of the killer.”

– Is it not a little too easy to claim that Breivik is a primitive loser?

“I think this is the reality. He never even completed school, has no real job, stayed at home in the boys room – in short: he is not a successful 33-year-old. So he compensated by creating his virtual world. He is without doubt mentally ill and evil, an extreme narcissist who enjoys all the media attention.”


What Matlary says here pretty much sums up my thoughts. Not many thoughts I must admit. Thoughts that can be summed up as – “He’s a complete non-entity, a nobody, and this court case should have been held behind closed doors.” And then the strange feeling that those killed on the 22 July 2011 had deserved to be killed by somebody with at least something going for him – and that’s a nutty thought because they should never have been killed in the first place, but – do you get this strange sentiment?

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I love hearing about others’ reactions to Norway, a place I once knew intimately from being born and bred there. Until I could take it no more and fled. And this post (as well as some of the preceding posts on the blog) describes so well why I no longer live there. I have a sort of love-dislike (can’t say hate — no, hate is wrong) relationship with my country of birth but can’t adequately explain either without becoming boringly long-winded and detailed. So I shall leave the topic for now.

Thomas and I are very much in the process of combining two households into one. Because we have had two rather large flats for the past three years, one each, this is proving a challenge. I have managed to chuck out a lot of stuff, especially clothes, but am suffering anxiety attacks at the thought of getting rid of shoes and any of my Danish belongings. Don’t ask. It’s an early childhood thing. Thomas is having palpitations over trying to change his very male flat into a more female, less garage like, environment. Simultaneously, we are attempting to change the tip of a boys’ room into a bedroom that happens to also be the room of a teenage boy. I am not sure this task is not beyond what is humanly possible.

Weather wise — we’re having the kind of winter that suits me to a T. NO SNOW. However, I could live without the rain. Thank you. In the meantime I read about Norwegians relishing the huge amounts of snow they have in areas while chastising long-distance lorry drivers for arriving at the border without proper tires for the conditions. Who can blame them — they live in hope, good people! Like me. I rarely have the right tires either.

Speaking of tires, it is time to take the dogs out before they drive me nuts.

Speaking of nuts: I think Orion is slightly nuts. He’s gone from being this difficult, skinny dog who would eat sometimes and sometimes not, then have diarrhoea for three days then eat again and then… Then he had this bloat thing in September last year, and since then he has started eating like a horse. Huge amounts almost continously. He is still very slim as he is so active and because of his breed — unable to gain fat — but he is far more solid and healthy than back then and I am no longer afraid that he might be blown away in a light breeze. And we don’t get ugly looks from bypassers who think we mistreat him. Instead the bouncy, healthy dog is admired and people refuse to believe he is nearly 12 years old. He also rarely has runny poop any more, which is a great relief to all. For a while the gas attacks he regularly subjected us to also abated, though last night they were back with a vengeance keeping me awake most of the night and yes, that is entirely my own fault as I could have made him sleep in the living room instead of next to the bed but he is so cute! when he looks up at me with that sleepy, deer-like face and how can a person with a heart chase such a cute dog out of the bedroom? Which reminds me that I should really air out the bedroom.

Now, where was I? Yes, Norway. Among the headlines in Aftenposten online today are that two have died in a helicopter accident. And that people should try to avoid driving over the mountains for snow-reasons. Want to know what the helicopter was out doing? Collecting reindeer. What did the Sami do before they had helicopters?

Sorry. Have waffled enough. I think it’s time to watch something brainless on TV to find out if there is a world outside Norway (and Austria) where the news are free of the word “snow”. Perhaps there will be a tsunami or two instead somewhere.

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My attempts at returning to my non-sensical, blethery blog is proving harder than I thought. Today, 32 more of ABB’s victims are being buried in Norway, and it is so very, very sad. Gro Harlem Brundtland — remember her? former Norwegian prime minister — cried her way through her speech during the funeral of 16 year-old Marianne Sandvik’s funeral yesterday. In this interview with two of the survivors, one of the girls says “There are so many funerals. I’ve bought a dress I will be wearing for seven funerals.” I don’t know why that comment stood out from all the rest.

The more I read about ABB, the more I cringe. He is making all sorts of demands while in custody — and quite frankly it’s an embarrassing read. He wants a Japanese court psychiatrist because “only the Japanese have a proper understanding of honour codes and would understand him”; he wants access to WikiLeaks; he wants to wear a uniform when appearing in court; he demands that the Norwegian government resign; he wants 20 minutes on Norwegian national TV in order to mobilise an “army” of 2000; he wants a new hierarchy with himself in a central role… I hereby withdraw my former statement that I could not write him off as crazy. I can. And delusional.

The funny (sic.) thing is that all of this is outlined by his defence attorney in a tone of “and now the tosser wants this, like some sort of spoilt five-year-old”. I get a strong feeling his attorney would rather see ABB erased off the surface of the planet, never to be heard of again. And I also get the feeling — call it female intuition — that he is not alone. I am fairly certain that the Norwegian legal system will find it possible to do more or less that. I am sure he will be put away for good because he will always represent a threat to society.

In the middle of trying to rediscover some sort of meaning to it all I am also attempting to get through the pile of work on my desk. I’ve been back at work for two weeks now and am finding it quite a challenge to get through the days. Straight from 7 weeks sick leave to 8-hour days is hard. I try not to get stuck in my chair all day but it is much too easy to fall into the old routines as, well, there is just so much to do that require me to be seated in front of my computer.

To compensate a little I cycle to work. On Pascal’s old bike which is way too small for him and a tad too small even for me but otherwise really good. I used Brian’s old high-riser for a while but didn’t feel particularly stable on it and with all the bat-out-of-hell cyclists and mean BMW drivers in the city, Pascal’s is a better option. I could, of course, take Nina (my little 250cc motorbike) but then my left leg wouldn’t get the workout it needs. The news there is that I am slowly getting stronger but I still can’t run. Dad rang and told me to get over myself where that is concerned and that I have to wait for at least a year before I try to run again because he had the exact same operation a zillion years ago and KNOWS WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT. Well, I am cryptically mumbling “we shall see” at regular intervals while I walk on my toes up and down the stairs at home and at work.

Today I have brought both dogs to work with me as I am alone in the office. We walked all the way here: it took us over an hour of criss-crossing town with the two of them sniffing invisible spots every few metres, and as they were on a shared lead, a miserable-looking Mischa who only wanted to read the headlines while Orion wanted to do in-depth studies of every spot and partake in the discussion. When he discovered a Papillon and begged me to let him have it, Mischa looked on with unbridled contempt and dragged him away. I think the Papillon’s owner was rather relieved.

Orion finds it slightly unsettling being here, not sure what it’s all about though breakfast on the veranda appealed to him. Mischa has settled straight back into his at-work-with-mummy routine and is sleeping happily with alternately his head and his paws under my chair. There may be doggie screams if I forget he is there.

We’re also trying to prepare a wedding these days. Thomas and I are getting married in a week (we believe in recycling, we do: my second and Thomas’ third) and the first couple of guests are rolling into town tomorrow. In all the mess we’ve also experienced last-minute cancellations both on the part of guests and catering and each day we tell each other of our latest disaster dreams. Then we hug, cuddle the dogs and watch DVDs of Babylon 5 to get over it in between going out of our way to embarrass the nearest teenager. The latter is the easy part. All the previous will take a little more practice.

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This was first posted on openDemocracy this morning. Big thank you to Tony Curzon Price and his team for letting me blurt my grief so publicly (even more publicly than usual).

The poverty of words is striking right now. As I sit here I stream news from the Norwegian broadcasting corporation NRK over the internet while trying to come to terms with the enormity of the crimes committed by Anders Behring Breivik on Friday 22 July 2011. 93 people are now confirmed dead. Several more are badly injured in hospitals. He actually managed to kill nearly a sixth of the kids at the Labour Party’s youth camp on Utøya. He killed them with a coldness I am unable to fathom.

There are people killed in terrorist actions every day in other countries. And millions have been starved and killed through other bestial methods throughout our bloody European history. I lived in London for a few years and got used to the many posters encouraging vigilance and asking people to report any unattended luggage anywhere in case it were a bomb. I’ve been one of those alerting the bus driver to an unattended bag, causing a traffic jam in London’s busy streets. In London you get used to being a small piece of the total randomness of bomb threats. When 7/7 happened, I was on Liverpool Street Station 20 minutes before the blasts went off. The Internet and mobile network broke down with people’s attempts to get hold of each other and my own mum panicked when she was unable to get hold of me. Millions in London can make similar statements. It’s almost no big deal. It doesn’t make it right or good.

But this? This is unprecedented. Since WWII, there have been no major mass deaths in Norway. It is known as one of the world’s most peaceful nations. Norwegian negotiators were behind the Oslo Deal. This is the country where King Olav could join the rest of the population using public transport during the oil crisis in 1973. My father was asked by foreign guests: “What about security? Where are his body guards?”, to which he answered with a smile “He has 4 million of those.”

Since then, the population has increased — partly thanks to our immigrants — the exposure to the outside world has grown, xenophobia has grown, the royals have more and clearly visible body guards. Still we managed to keep conflict on a discussion level. If you had an opinion you were free to express it as long as you did so in words. So though security in Norway too has grown over the years, we never really felt threatened by — anything, really. As for me, whenever I visited, it was my childhood paradise I visited. My country of birth and upbringing became my holiday resort, the place I went to rest my soul and get a break from the somewhat busier and pressurized life I usually lead.

Now one of “ours” has turned it all upside down. The threat didn’t come from without, it came from within. A good looking man in his early thirties, still very young, turned himself into the worst mass murderer Norway has ever seen, and now he sits in police interrogations and calmly justifies his actions. And I don’t think there is a single Norwegian who in some small way would mind seeing him hung, quartered and drawn in the most medieval fashion after the horrors he inflicted on hundreds of kids assembled on an island, and randomly in Oslo. At the same time we all know how futile that would be. It wouldn’t bring back a single one of the lives he destroyed.

Since Friday 22 July, I have watched the news and listened to hour-long programmes analysing Mr Behring Breivik’s actions and personality, none of which have brought me any closer to understanding how such a normal person could turn so completely evil and without even the slightest empathy. I don’t think there is a single book on personality disorders that can make me understand or accept his complete liberation from a conscience. I am not used to people with no conscience. I don’t think I have ever met one. Forgive me: I am naïve. But then again, I am Norwegian.

I feel closer and yet farther away from Norway than ever. I know no other Norwegians here in Vienna. Not because there are none here, our paths just don’t cross. And so I suffer ever so slightly from “absent survivor’s grief”, if there is such a thing. I spent Saturday bursting into tears the more I read and heard about the killing spree on Utøya. I read Parbleen Kaur’s first-hand account and cried more. I translated it to English [previous post], and cried. My two dogs were deeply upset and very clingy all day. The skinny dog refused to eat, the fat one is a comfort eater so he stole the skinny one’s food before he went back to whimpering again. My fiancé declared his support on Facebook and gave me lots of hugs, and as friends and family reported in as safe I cried some more.

I and mine are safe. But like all others from Oslo, I know people who either heard the bombs in Oslo or know victims of the shooting. I have several friends who work close to the government district as well as in the government offices themselves. This is the bomb-randomness I knew from London. Also when there, and during the IRA time before I moved there, I got used to contacting my nearest and dearest to make sure they were ok whenever a bomb went off. I never thought I would have to do that with my Norwegian friends and family. I am relieved that they are well. I am deeply grieved that others are not. I am extremely angry that the madman targeted children, young people who would probably have had active political lives ahead of them, our future politicians and leaders.

And the more I read of his “manifesto”, the angrier I get. Because these are not really the writings of a madman. I can’t even write him off as a lunatic! His self-aggrandising writings are not actually ramblings, they are considered, based in history — albeit his own interpretation of it — and he has given himself a ridiculously grand place in contemporary history. He seems to think that he will hold a position as some sort of heroic soldier. A martyr of Christianity and Norwegian nationalism. It bears a frightening resemblance to militant Islamism. Does he expect a load of virgins when he dies too?

Speaking of dying: I am proud to be Norwegian when I see my friends’ reaction to a Facebook survey asking if Norwegian law should be changed to once more allow the death penalty. They have replied with a resounding NO! Then he would in some twisted way have won his one-man battle against humanity. Norwegian law has 21 years as maximum penalty for murder. If that is all he gets, he would still have a fair amount of life left in him on his release. Do I think 21 years for Mr Behring Breivik is enough? Not by a mile! But I shall not take the law into my own hands. Norwegian justice is as it is for a reason and I shall follow the process against him closely. I have the right to express my agreement or disagreement with his sentence when it comes, but until then I trust with confidence in my fellow countrymen, our justice system, police, and the vast majority of Norwegians who are equipped with a healthy conscience and lots of common sense.

Today I really wish I could hug a Norwegian. As Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme said in his memorial service in Oslo: “We are a people in mourning.” So we are. Wherever we are.

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This was posted by Prableen Kaur on her blog, vice chairwoman for the Oslo youth party who had their summer camp on Utøya north west of Oslo. She survived the slaughter, and this is her account given just hours after she escaped.

I’m awake. I can’t sleep anymore. I’m sitting in the living room. Feel grief, anger, happiness, God I don’t know what. There are too many emotions. There are too many thoughts. I am afraid. I react to every noise. I will now write about what happened at Utøya. What my eyes saw, what I felt, what I did. The words come straight from the gut, but I will still withhold many names out of respect for my friends.

We’d had an emergency meeting in the main building after the bombings in Oslo. Then there was a separate meeting for the members from Akershus and Oslo. After the meetings, many were still in and around the main building. We took comfort in being in safety on an island. No one knew that hell was about to explode around us too.

I was in the main hallway when panic struck. I heard shots. I saw him shoot. Everybody started to run. The first thought was: “Why is the police shooting at us? What the f***?” I ran into the small assembly hall. People ran. Screamed. I was scared. I managed to get into one of the rooms towards the back of the building. We were many in there. We were all lying on the floor. We heard more shots. Got more scared. I cried. I didn’t understand. I saw my best friend through the window and wondered if I should go out to get him. I didn’t have time. I saw the fear in his eyes. I remained lying on the floor in the room for a few minutes. We agreed not to let anyone else in in case the killer came. We heard more shots and decided to jump out of the window. Panic broke out among us. Everybody in the room rushed to the window and tried to jump out. I was the last and thought: “I am the last one to jump out of the window. Now I will die. I’m sure, but perhaps it is ok, then I know that the others are safe.” I threw my bag out the window. Tried to climb down but lost my grip. I landed hard on the left side of my body. A boy helped me up. We ran into the woods. I looked around. “Is he here? Is he shooting at me? Can he see me?” A girl had broken her ankle. Another was badly injured. I tried to help a little before continuing down to the water. I took shelter behind some sort of cement wall. We were many. I prayed, prayed, prayed. I was hoping that God could se me. I rang mum and said it was not certain we would meet again but that I would do everything I could to make it through. I told her several times that I loved her. I heard the fear in her voice. She cried. It hurt. I sent an SMS to my dad, said I loved him. I sent an SMS to someone else I love very, very much. We kept in contact for a while. I sent an SMS to my best friend. He did not reply. We heard more shots. Pulled closer together. Did what we could to stay warm. There were so many thoughts. I was so scared. Dad rang. I cried, said I loved him. He said he was on his way with my brother to get me when I reached the mainland, or they would come over to the island. There were so many emotions. So many thoughts. I prayed for what I was worth. Time passed. The others rang their parents but after a while we all sent texts, fearing that the killer would hear us. I thought about my sister who is away. How would I tell her what happened? What happened to me. I updated Twitter and Facebook that I was still alive and that I was “safe”. I wrote that I was waiting for police. People were jumping into the water, starting to swim. I neither ran nor swam. I can’t describe the fear, all the thoughts, what I felt.

A man came. “I’m from the police.” I stayed down. Someone screamed that he had to prove it. I can’t quite remember what he said, but the killer started to shoot. He reloaded. Shot more. He shot those around me. I remained still. I thought: “It’s over. He is here. He will get me. Now I die.” People were screaming. I heard that others were shot. Others again jumped into the water. I lay there. The mobile in my hand. I was on top of the legs of a girl. To others lay on top of my legs. I lay still. Text messages were ticking in. The mobile rang several times. I remained still. I played dead. I lay there for at least an hour. It was completely quiet. I carefully turned my head to see if I could see anybody alive. I saw dead bodies. I saw blood. Fear. I decided to get up. I had been lying on top of a dead body. Two dead bodies were on top of me. I had guardian angels.

I didn’t know if he would come back. I didn’t have the courage to check all the text messages and missed calls. I hurried down to the water. Took my sweater off. It was big. I thought it would be hard to swim with it on. I tried to decide whether to take the mobile or not. I put it in my back pocket and jumped in. I saw several others in the water. They had swum a long way out. I saw that some of them had gathered around an inflatable boat or something. There were many who picked up those who were swimming away. I swam, swam and swam towards the air-thing. I screamed. Cried. Got cold. Wondered when I would drown. It got heavier and heavier. I prayed. I carried on. My arms got tired. Decided to turn over on my back and only use my legs to keep swimming. I sank. I started swimming normally again. Briefly, I thought those who had gathered around the inflatable boat were moving away. I screamed. Begged them to wait for me. I must have been seeing things. I swam at least a few hundred metres before I reached them. We talked a little. Introduced ourselves, told each other where we came from. When the boats passed we screamed for help but they picked up the swimmers first. A man in a boat came to us. He threw out several life vests. I got hold of one. Put it on. I held on to the small inflatable boat for a long time until the same man came back to pick us up. We all got in. He headed towards the shore. After a while the small boat started to take in water. I did what I could to get as much of the water out as possible. I used a bucket. I got tired. Another girl in the boat took over. We got to the shore. We were given blankets. The tears came. I cried more. A woman hugged me. It felt good. I cried loudly. I sobbed. A man lent me his phone. I rang dad: “I’m alive. I made it. I’m safe now.” I hung up. Cried more. We had to walk a short stretch. Complete strangers picked us up in their cars and drove us to Sundvollen Hotel. I ran in to see if I could find my best friend. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I saw a female friend. I was crying loudly. We hugged a long time. It was good. I wandered around looking for friends. My heart was pounding. I cried more. I registered with the police, looked through all their lists. I didn’t know if my best friend was alive. I went through every list. I couldn’t find his name anywhere. I was scared. I was given a downy. Took my wet socks off. I was half naked. Was given a jacket. I tried to get my bearings. Contacted my parents again. Dad and my big brother were on their way to collect me. I had some cocoa. Sat down. Thought. Cried. Saw more friends. Hugged them. Cried. Got to borrow a computer. Updated Facebook and Twitter again saying that I was now in safety. I stayed at the hotel for several hours before my family got there. I searched for people I knew. Talked to a minister. I told him everything I’d seen. It was a good conversation. A man from the Red Cross checked all my wounds. Cleaned them. Time passed. I was with some of my friends. Everybody talked about the same thing. How we had survived. What had happened. I asked several if they had seen my best friend. Nobody had seen him. I got scared. Thought it had to be my fault because we hadn’t managed to stay together. A girlfriend got a key card for one of the hotel rooms. We sat there, watched the news. It was anger, sorrow, so many feelings. Dad rang, they had arrived. I got in the lift. Ran out to meet them. Hugged my brother and dad for a long time. I cried loudly. My brother cried too. It was a good moment. I saw a boy who looked like my best friend. I called his name. He turned around. It was him. We hugged each other for a long time. Both cried, we asked each other how we had managed. After a while I checked out and we drove home. A few others got a lift with us. My best friend came with us. His brother was at my place together with his best friend. Several had gathered at my place. They didn’t want to go home until they had seen that I was ok. We talked a little. I drank a glass of juice. Ate a yoghurt. Talked a little more with mum and my family. I rang my best [girl]friend. It was a good talk. She said: “I wasn’t sure I would ever get this call.” The tears welled up. We talked for a bit. After that I went to bed. It was three in the morning. Mum refused to let me sleep alone, so we slept together.

A few hours have passed since all this happened. I’m still in shock. Not everything has sunk in. I’ve seen my friends’ dead bodies. Several of my friends are missing. I’m glad I can swim. I’m glad I live. That God looked out for me. There are so many emotions, so many thoughts. I think about all the next of kin. About all those I have lost. About the hell that is and was on the island. The most beautiful fairytale of the summer has turned into Norway’s worst nightmare.

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While at work yesterday I read that the government district in Oslo, my birth town, had more or less been blown up and that at least 3 people had been confirmed killed. Since then my childhood paradise, Norway, has been torn apart by the most incomprehensible crimes imaginable. A good-looking young man turned his frustrations into death and shot more than 80 people dead at a political youth camp on an island north-west of Oslo, and he is believed to also be behind the bombings.

Not a bad-looking guy, is he? Anders Behring Breivik

The gut reaction from many was to separate the two and at least see the bombing in Oslo as a Muslim extremist terrorist act. But no. In peacetime, one of “our own” lost his every last marble and turned into a mass killer. And he killed a yet-to-be confirmed number of young people, slaughtered them, more than 80 of them. And the bombs in Oslo could have killed so many more than they did, including my own friends and family.

There are people killed in terrorist actions every day in other countries. But the big difference here is that these are countries that are already experiencing political and often religious upheaval. Not that THAT is a great comfort to those who lose their friends and family members, but at least it’s not as unexpected and more easily explained.

And there were no terrorists in Norway. Ok, I’m being naive, but my country of birth has always been a safe haven for me. I’ve lived in London and got used to the many posters encouraging vigilance and asking people to report any unattended luggage anywhere in case it were a bomb. And people did — and do. The moment someone noticed a bag that seemed ownerless on a bus or the Tube, the busdriver was alerted, or emergency break was pulled, and the bus/Tube was emptied of people and police contacted. I’ve been there. I’ve been one of those telling the busdriver about a suspicious bag, causing a total traffic jam in London’s busy streets.

But this? This is unprecedented. And I can’t understand what this good-looking young man was thinking. Did it ever even occur to him that there would be a time AFTER his killing spree? He clearly expected and wanted to live since he was wearing a bullet proof vest. But what will he have to live for now? He will be locked up for the rest of his life (actually, Norwegian law has a maximum penalty of 21 years — but if he is found mentally ill he can be put in an institution with a the likelihood of not being let out again). And there will be no forgiveness coming his way from a collective Norwegian population.

But now, Life, as it should be for all of us, is calling me. Thomas has prepared breakfast and Mischa is right next to me, a little confused about my grief and constant bursting into tears.

This one will take a long time to get over.

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The holiday in Norway

I’ve lived in the 15th district since February, and though the district itself leaves a little to be desired I absolutely love living here. Mainly because of Louise and the flat and, well, Mischa, of course. I just had to mention the obvious there, right?

When I went to Norway in July, Mischa went to stay with his old family which was back home on holiday. By placing Mischa with them when I go away myself he sees that the connection to all that was is still there. But even they discovered that Mischa has made his own choice, and towards the end of my holiday I got the message from Livia that Mischa was depressed and when would I come pick him up, again? So the same day we returned I went there. As I entered the Hof (an Austrian backyard surrounded by buildings) they let only Mischa out to meet me. It was the quietest of reunions, as if he wanted to demonstrate his depression: he walked towards me with a slowly wagging tail, then leant against me and just stood there. “Don’t leave me again.” Of course, I have no idea if that is what he was thinking. Perhaps he just recognised me as peace and quiet after three weeks with Knickers and four kids.

Me in the train cell. Keep in mind that I am 152 cm only. (Photo: Thomas Schluet)

Me in the train cell. Keep in mind that I am 152 cm only. (Photo: Thomas Schluet)

Our holiday went to Norway via Hamburg and Copenhagen. Hamburg didn’t really count; we didn’t stop to take in its beauty, not even of Reperbahn. We took the train with our bikes from Vienna. We had a sleeper for two, and it’s the most insanely small space I’ve ever been in with two beds (?), seats (when not beds), table-cum-sink and freely improvised storage space.

Table w. sink. For your inconvenience.

Table w. sink. For our inconvenience.

As we could not leave the luggage on the bikes the way the car drivers could, we were not just cramped by our own presence, but also by a load of motorbike cases. And just to help the situation, the night train to Hamburg did not (does not) have a restaurant car where we could enjoy a beer while waiting for bedtime. Which was never 8pm for me. Also (I’ll get past this soon, I’m sure) the AC system on the trains require that all windows stay firmly shut with the result that you get boiled alive while being denied the relief of an open window. Please bring back the old-fashioned trains with no AC but windows that can be opened! Admittedly not as bad as being transported per cattle train to Treblinka. I did not just draw that comparison. You are imagining things.

I did observe an elderly couple who’d clearly done this before and knew how to enjoy themselves. Within minutes of leaving the station the wife was standing in the narrow corridor swigging glass after glass of wine while enjoying the landscape. We only discovered how expensive the wine was (which had to be ordered from an overworked stewardess) once we were captive on the train. A mistake we only made once.

Lene gave us the master bedroom while we were there. We noticed that the painting in our room was missing an essential part. Insects.

Lene gave us the master bedroom while we were there. We noticed that the painting in our room was missing an essential part. Insects.

That aside, I was nervous about the long ride, but it all proved a doddle, as Colin says, and we arrived in Copenhagen at a lovely house my cousin Lene and her former partner Ray were looking after. The house came with a garden, barbecue and a dog which did all the usual doggie stuff: begged for food, jumped on the bed, and humped me.

Things to do in Copenhagen: walk down Strøget, eat giant ice cream cone, visit Tivoli. We had to visit Magasin and Nyhavn on the return journey as we simply ran out of time. The last time I was in Denmark was for my grandmother’s funeral. This is the last picture ever taken of her. She was 94 and had no idea who I was:

My grandmother from Odense, H.C. Andersen's city.

My grandmother from Odense, H.C. Andersen's city.

It’s also been years since I saw Lene. She speaks this amazing semi-cockney English with a slight Danish accent, and Ray who is English has also developed an accent and chucks the odd Danish word into his sentences. Lene has lived in England, and she has also spent a considerable amount of time in Israel where she worked in a kibbutz. I had forgotten just how much fun she is and spent a lot of time laughing. Ray said that listening to us talking Danish/Norwegian together was like listening to two people singing to each other.

The drive through Skåne in Sweden was tiring. The landscape is flat and offers no protection from the wind. No problem for Thomas who rode a big sturdy bike, but for me on my little Ninja it turned into a bit of a battle to stay on the road.

Ine (waking up with a start): "What was that??" Dad: "Det var en elg." [that was a moose] Ine: "Fucking hell! Stop the car!" Dad (peering out through a hole in the windscreen): "Nono, this is fine, I'll take her straight to the SAAB garage in Halden."

Saab after sudden meeting with moose

My last memories of driving through Sweden was with my parents on the way back from visiting grandma for the last time. I had been the driver most of the day so when dad took over I promptly fell asleep. I woke with a start when a moose jumped out of a ditch and hit the car. The moose lost and had to be put down, but the car was a little mangled. Of course, the Swedish police could not contain themselves and had to crack jokes about Norwegians going moose hunting in Sweden, and then they gloated that it was a good thing we drove a Swedish car or we would have been killed like the poor family of four who’d driven the same stretch the previous week in a VW Golf. Such consolation at a time like that.

No mice this time. Don’t think we would have fared equally well with our bikes.

Kaisa and Thomas staring out across the lake Fisjeløysa (Fishless) in the rain.

Kaisa and Thomas staring out across the lake Fisjeløysa (Fishless) in the rain.

First few days were spent with Hanne (my sister) and her family at their mountain cabin. My vain hopes for good weather failed miserably, but we did manage to drag ourselves out for a wet walk and scare poor little Kaisa when we meet some horses that wanted to say hello to her. Stig (brother-in-law) did his impersonation of a true Norwegian to perfection and served a mish-mash of alcoholic beverages that he pressed upon a pressable Thomas. It was this thing of opening a new bottle of high-octane booze and throwing away the cork that did it. It’s a Norwegian thing. It also impressed Kevin when first confronted with this. We’d given Stig a bottle of Jamiesson whisky which was emptied the same evening. Cork gone, no choice. We lived to regret it.

Dad and Thomas painting. And painting. And -- you get the picture?

Dad and Thomas painting. And painting. And -- you get the picture?

From then on we did even less. Well, we painted my cabin. Which is now a much bigger cabin. It was really strange; the tiny little cabin was still there with the “outline” of the new exterior walls around it, not yet filled in with floors and walls and in short the rooms that are going to be there. It’s my favourite place in the whole world and I have every intention of retiring there. Even if it means getting some sort of chair-lift installed to get my arthritic bones up the rocks to get to it. I am trying hard to forget what winter and snow will do and how I am likely to freeze to death and be found many months later when my corpse thaws out and starts to smell. OK, so the anti-depressants are only working so well. Fine! Get off my case!

We managed a couple of trips to civilisation as well — Oslo. That is not to say that my parents don’t live in a civilised place, I’d be far from making that claim! But… I lived there for all of six months before I gave up. In the course of that time I experienced the unpleasantness of taking the last train there from Oslo with a drunken middle aged man with some bizarre inferiority complex. He spent the trip shouting abuse at me eloquently spiced up with a string of less flattering names until a Real Life Hero, a young man doing his army service, had enough of listening to it, picked the man up bodily from his seat, carried him out to the exit and said very, very quietly while dangling him in mid-air “you are now getting off the train”. Once done with the task he returned to his seat, nodded unceremoniously and resumed reading his book.

Sadly, there were not always knights in uniforms around to do gallant deeds.

Another thing that had me somewhat miffed was when the local paper claimed me as “theirs” in an interview when I directed the local review. Six months was all it took. And by then I didn’t even live there any more. I guess they were desperate for fresh blood to end the frequency of large ears and crooked noses.

Meeting old classmates from AGES ago. Not telling. Am feeling old and tired.

Meeting old classmates from AGES ago. Not telling. Am feeling old and tired.

Oslo was as always lovely, though. And meeting people I had not seen in over hrmff years — some of the guys I went to primary and secondary school with — was just amazing. Including my first kiss… another Thomas. Ahh, the memories!

Anyway. It was a memorable holiday for so many reasons, not least because it was without Kevin and with Thomas instead. But that is something I will come back to at a much later stage. Because it’s —- complicated.

We remembered to get wine before getting on the train in Hamburg, and while we waited to board the train we had the best beer I’ve ever, ever, ever tasted. And experience had shown us how to bend and squeeze ourselves into the cell and even get a little sleep. In the heat which was just as unbearable as the first time.

Now, as I write these last few sentences, I should really be in bed instead. I am supposed to get up in about four hours to get ready to go to the airport. We’re having a board meeting in Romania and I’ve been looking forward to going there for months now. But I can’t sleep. And the only reason I can’t sleep is because the plane leaves at 7.15 in the morning and there’s sort of no point in even going to bed when it’s like that. So here I sit. Sleepless in Vienna. Waiting for the hell of a much too early morning and what is likely to be a much too long day. Before a back-to-back board meeting in a country I have been wanting to visit for the longest time.

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Summer is upon me

I’m going on holiday today. Per motorbike. Yes, I have a new bike. A little Kawasaki Ninja 250R. I’ve called her Nina — what else? We’re taking our motorbikes overnight on the train from Vienna to Hamburg, then riding to Copenhagen where we will stay with my cousin and then we go on to Norway. I’m really excited as it makes the travel itself part of the holiday, and it all starts on the train: the most civilised way of travelling!

Over many years of flying here and there I have come to loathe flights. I used to love them, used to love being at the airport early, get the seat of my choice and then wander around the tax free trying all the perfumes until my eyes watered and people took flight before me to avoid the tear gas, sometimes trying various versions of whiskey or gin or whatever they were promoting that day, then going to the technical equipment bit — Dixons or something — and buying something completely useless I could load down my hand luggage with.

When going to Norway I would naturally add some tax free alcohol to the load that was already in my suitcase. That’s just a given. Norway is insanely expensive when it comes to alcohol. As if that stops anyone from drinking. The making of moonshine is something Norwegians are taught in the womb. It’s how we survive the cold. And dark. And the depressions that go with being Norwegian. And yes, everything you’ve heard about Norwegians and alcohol is true.

One Christmas my dad invited Kevin to a morning of manliness with his friends. The guys were going to head into the forest and chop their own Christmas trees. As dad had talked about Kevin, his exotic son-in-law (in the sense that he is not Norwegian), the guys were curious and thought it was was a great opportunity for a bonding session between men. They had not counted on Kevin’s reaction which was “I am not going without Ine”. And that was that. Not up for negotiation. So I was an honorary male among testosterone ridden males with axes.

They had also not counted on Kevin refusing to kill a tree, so I was the one who headed into the freezing forest to find and kill our prey. Which I did with gusto and in record time. And then we all assembled by the cars where it was time for some man-talk and a coffee.

With my history of migraines I turned the coffee down. The bringer of the coffee, however, would have none of it, stating that there was not a lot of coffee in the coffee. And when the “coffee” turned my face a shade of red not before seen in the real world the lads roared with laughter, coffee bringer — the local sheriff — included. It was indeed an illegal substance of little colour but impressive potency. With the sheriff’s blessing, our prey in the trailer and alcohol schlosching around our veins, I got behind the wheel and drove me and Kevin back to the warm house where I spent the rest of the day sobering up.

Not sure I would recommend this experience.

Last night I took Mischa over to his previous home. I had agreed this with Livia who is presently on a hiking holiday, but she had only passed the information on to her mum in her imagination so the agreement came as a bit of a surprise to her. Karin is already taking care of all the kids (4), the other dog Knickers and the cat. Sorry; keep forgetting the cat’s name. I only see the cat in short glimpses when I’m there, between her hesitantly emerging from the shed until she disappears around a corner with Knickers in hot pursuit.

When I got ready to leave, Mischa trailed me with the expectation that he would come too. I cuddled him and said no, he would be staying to have his own holiday with his old family, but the look of loss and bewilderment he sent me was heartbreaking, and the last thing I heard was Karin reassuring him that I would come back for him — “Sie kommt wieder! Dass verspreche ich!”

Today I’m scratching my head trying to squeeze my usual holiday luggage into two small saddelbags and a top-bag. I intend to keep up with my jogging regime, so running shoes and sweatpants etc. have to fit in as well in addition to the thousands of shoes I always have to have, a nice dress, a summer dress, underwear to last, extra — ok, you’ve been there done that yourself so I’ll shut up now. I’ll just reveal that I’m not taking my hairdryer — and that’s a first. Since I will be spending a considerable amount of time with my head in a crash helmet it hardly matters if I blow dry my hair first. It’s gonna look shit regardless. Sorry, mum! This time I will agree without hesitation when you tell me you don’t like my hair. But just wait until 1 March 2011! My hair will be sorted out then.

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So, here’s the list of stuff that’s going on:

Work: in addition to the usual workload which could easily fill up 12-14 hours per day — and from time to time does — we’re about to host a conference in Vilnius, Lithuania. We have some wonderful partners we work with there, but unlike the previous conference where we had a separate team employed to work on just the conference full time, we are now in charge of all those fiddly little things we were able to leave to that team. On top of our 14-hour days.

Private: still grieving my (entirely caused by me — fine! so it takes two to tango — blahblahblah!!) broken marriage and spending an inordinate amount of time covering Mischa’s coat in salty water. He’s quite the sponge.

The car then suddenly had to be picked up from London, see previous post. The drive back was actually fun thanks to Thomas who is an excellent driver, also of sports cars with the steering on the right. And the indicator on the right. And the wipers operated via a switch on the dashboard. And the gear stick to the left. He stopped fumbling remarkably fast and got down to driving and got more out of her than I ever have. She’s a sports car! Cooooool… but I am now even more bogged down with work than ever — it’s known as a backlog. Which I am unlikely to clear. Ever.

Kevin and I are also being sued by a gym we were members of two years ago. Beware: never sign a contract you can’t read, and never take anyone’s word for what is in the contract. We were not aware that on expiration of the contract, it did not really expire but kept running and gave the gym the right to sue, without prior warning, for non-payment. The first we knew about this was when we received a letter from their lawyer stating that we were being taken to court. No other warning. As far as I know, in other countries it is good practice to contact customers prior to the end of a contract period, or at least when discovering that payment has not been made, to let them know and give them a chance to deal with it. But now, this company waited for well over a year and then sued us. And our lawyer is just like all other lawyers here; he thinks it’s a brilliant “system” because it makes him lots of money. Our money. Money I don’t have. I may well be about to find out what an Austrian prison looks like from the inside. Seriously.

Am also getting a little bored with Austrian mail. I started a mail forwarding service when I moved, but have received nothing for over three months. Yesterday I got an envelope full of old mail, the oldest dated 30 January. It was from the tax people and should have been replied to in mid-March. Also my lawyer, whom I long since informed of the address change, has been sending follow-up letters to my old address. And he keeps misspelling my name. No, we do not have a good working relationship. It would be funny if it weren’t so expensive. But I can promise that if he, or the courts, present me with papers they want signed and those are not in English — and my name is misspelled — I am not signing. Arrest me for contempt of court? Go for it. They’d in reality be arresting me for honesty. Perhaps that is an offence in this country. Who knows? I can’t read their laws.

I’ve tried to contact the Norwegian embassy for legal help, but they are non-responsive. However, they are very good at sending out invites to receptions at the residence in connection with the upcoming constitution day. Because that is fun and cute and far more important than a citizen needing legal help. We’re NORWEGIAN, you see, and then things are rosy and happy and no one must rock the boat or show evidence that not all is well in Paradise. Being Happy and Untroubled is a Norwegian Duty.

Am I angry? Duh. Do I have the energy to fight?


But I’ve heard prison cells come with mattresses and meals. I could do with a few nights’ sleep.

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Had the best experience last night. Thomas took me to an Al Jarreau concert. The god of the best music ever was performing in Stadthalle, and I got to be there! I admit it; I was like a five-year-old before Christmas morning and — it was amazing! I’ve wanted to go to one of his concerts since I first heard him when I was about ten or twelve — really have no idea here, but we’re talking about thirty years of being a closet groupie. His music always makes me smile and I have the best memories from listening to his music at various times.

One memory which will never leave me was the summer when I was seventeen and had recently returned to Norway after a year as a foreign exchange student in Texas. I was lucky to come home to a wonderful group of tap and jazz dancers (actually, we danced whatever came our way; classical, jazz, modern and tap, but it was the tap dancing that was the main thing for us, and to add to our repertoire we also sang together, with Jenny Wagstaff as our tap dance and singing guru). Do I remember all the names? Ingrid, Vibeke, Øyvind, Petter, Arlene, Henning, Toni, Gyrid, Kjersti… there were more that came and went, but that is the core.

My parents spent a lot of time travelling and I had the house to myself most of the time. Or rather, WE had the house and so, that summer of seventeen, we had a round-the-clock full house of dancers, singers, PERFORMERS, who slept and ate and sang and danced together. And on slow, lazy mornings when we were all there, waking up in various parts of the house, I would put on Al Jarreau’s Mornin’ followed by Your Song (I like Al Jarreau’s version even more than Elton John’s but there is no good version of it on YouTube) and wake everybody up slowly to this. And we would set the big dining table in the living room with everything we could find and eat for HOURS.

My sister thought we were horrid teenagers, especially me. She was probably right. She moved in with her then boyfriend and took half my mum’s cooking utensils with her. Mum was none too pleased when she came home and discovered that, but I was given the blame, being so HORRID.

We also spent an inordinate amount of time at Jenny’s house, a huge villa split in two to accommodate two families, where Jenny lived in one part and Arlene, Petter and Øyvind lived in the other (people coming and going in those living arrangements too). I remember waking up on a mattress on the floor in their joint living room one morning, looking up these loooong dinner-suit-dressed legs of Petter who had just returned from an all-night party. It was around seven, and he was swaying gently while holding a tub of melted pistachio ice cream and half a bottle of wine where the cork had been smashed into the bottle since we couldn’t find the bottle opener. When he realised I was awake he sat down next to me, and together we ate melted ice cream and drank wine with cork for breakfast. It tasted crap. But the moment was wonderful.

I have no idea if I managed to get any of them to listen to Al Jarreau regularly, but everytime I hear him I am reminded of that summer. 1984.

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