Getting Naked

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I need to share something with you, here goes…….

I am unable to shower naked. Don’t be too alarmed by this, I don’t mean when I am alone in my own bathroom, in my own shower. I mean when other people are around. The only example I can offer of this is at the local swimming baths. Friday evenings are known as swimming and mexican night in our house or at least will be until my Son swaps the swimming for street dancing lessons (he watches one film where a bunch of kids learn to body pop and he wants to join a crew!) So every Friday evening off we go to spend an hour sharing an overgrown bath of freezing cold water with a bunch of strangers.

As you can probably tell I am not a big fan of swimming, I don’t like how my feet and hands shrivel up leaving soggy bumpy grooves in my skin, even the thought of it makes me feel a little queasy. I spend most of the time holding my hands in the air as not to get them wet. This looks a little silly but does the trick. But I go relentlessly every week to keep the lad happy.

The first time I entered the door of a Norwegian female changing room I nearly walked straight back out. There were bodies in every position, of every shape, size and age all completely butt naked. I’m guessing some of you are reading this and thinking “well, what does she expect it is a changing room”. I will tell you what I expect….. I expect a person to juggle holding a towel covering up every private part of their body while at the same time drying themselves. At no point is that towel allowed to drop and bare all, not until wearing at least underwear. I do not expect some unclad woman with her back to me bending over and drying her feet!!

After the initial shock of the amount of skin on show I walked towards the corner of the changing room and began to undress. I didn’t need to wrap my towel around me, I was prepared, I had my swimming costume underneath my clothing ready for this event. On my way to the pool I knew there would be more nakedness in the showers so I quickly diverted my eyes, but I couldn’t escape from the naked chatter around me. I was alarmed to see people taking their swim wear off to shower before entering the pool. I completely understand the importance of hygiene but really… is there any need to strip naked to do this?? At the far end of the room were two elderly women chatting away as if going for a stroll in the park, before entering the sauna forgetting to wrap a towel around their exposed selves.

I am not the only person who struggles with this. My Son aka ‘The Nevernude’ is exactly the same. He is the only child to put swimming shorts on before showering after gym at school. Every week he vocalises his disgust at his Dad for joining in with the norwegian naked shower ritual and when he bumped into his head teacher in the changing room he spent the whole time staring at the wall. We have also took family swimming when they have visited from England. My Daughter and her friend refused to shower and even went as far as saying that a sign should go up in the changing rooms and showers stating NO NUDITY. If someone would have been asked to spot the english folk when my in laws visited it wouldn’t have been too difficult… they were the costume wearing people standing in the showers offering no eye contact.

In the last 8 months of living here I have managed to shower naked once. This was with a little voice in my head repeatedly saying “oh my god, I’m showering naked… oh my god, I’m showering naked”. After, I was so proud of myself that I blurted out to my Husband at the top of my voice in the reception area, “I showered naked!!” Of course this only happened once, the week after my reservations returned and I went back to being the only person not strutting around with securities of a naturist.

So, I would like to know….. is this an english thing?

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Learning Norwegian

SDC14565After struggling (still struggling) with the fact that I am now a housewife, a spell of believing I would find a career in the entertainment business as a choreographer (this mainly involved making up dance routines in my kitchen) and saying roof to people instead of thank you for the past six months. I decided I needed to do something more productive with my time so I enrolled on a Norwegian language course.

It has been four weeks and this is what I have learned to date:

  1. My accent is not made to speak anything other than brummie.
  2. I am the only person who is unable to say ‘English’ in Norwegian. (This is a tad embarrassing as I am also the only English person)
  3. I have no idea how old I am.
  4. The Norwegian language needs to be reevaluated.

The first week was a bit of a shock to my system. My arrogant English self really believed that I would be taught Norwegian in English, this wasn’t the case. The lessons are completely taught in Norwegian, which means at least 60% of what is being said to me is lost in translation. I then had the embarrassing problem of being the only person not to master the art of saying ‘Engelsk’ (English). This is how most of my first day went:

‘Jeg snakker engelsk’. I said quietly to the class.

‘Nei, kan du si engelsk?’

‘Engelsk’ I repeated.

‘Nei, engelsk’.

‘Engelsk’.

‘Nei, Engelsk’.

I think you get the picture. This went on for what felt like forever until the tutor realised I was completely incapable of saying it.

Just before this though I was asked to come to the front of the class, introduce myself and write my name, age and where I’m from on the board. So with my heart racing and face bright red I walked up and said, ‘Jeg heter Emma’, wrote on the board and quickly walked back to my desk and sat down. As I could feel my face resuming back to a more human colour, I looked at what I had wrote:

Emma, 38, England

For those of you that know me will know I am not 38, I am in fact 34. So why I felt the need to add four years onto my age is beyond me. As I sat there I started to panic. What if they ask for my date of birth? Do I lie and give them a false one as not to look stupid? Or do I come clean and tell the class I momentarily forgot how old I was? Nope, I had a better idea. I decided that the way to go would be to reduce my age by one year every time I was asked. Looking back now the simple thing would have been to jump straight to 34, but my brain didn’t come up with this little gem of intellect at the time. So, for the first day I had to stay 38. This was because it was written in big white chalk under my name. Thankfully on the second day this had been rubbed out so I proceeded with gradually reducing my age until I got to age 34. To my surprise no one picked me up on this but there did seem to be quite a few puzzled faces. But thankfully I am 34 again.

Being on this course has made me realise how simple my own language is. I don’t role my rrrrrrrrr’s or make a funny throat clearing noises at the end of words, my sentences don’t go up then down then up again and I certainly don’t feel the need to hold my nose to get the right sound when saying numbers 13 – 19. Which brings me to the subject of why I believe the Norwegian language could be made so much simpler.

  1. If you have to hold your nose when teaching how the numbers 13 -19 are said I think its a pretty good indicator that maybe Norwegian people have been saying them incorrectly. For instance, 18 is spelt ‘atten’ – just pronounce the e, it makes it so much easier.
  2. If you’re not going to pronounce a letter, then why is it there? e.g. ‘gjenta’, not only is the g silent but further confusion comes when the J is said as though it were a Y.
  3. Other words that confuse the shit out of me: Brød is said as brur, og as oo, jeg as yay, under as unner, gjør as your and so on.
  4. But the hardest thing for me to remember is the pronunciation of the three extra letters in the alphabet Æ, Ø & Å. Why oh why are these even needed?!

But of course I am only moaning about any of this because my plain, slow english voice prohibits me from saying anything Norwegian without sounding like a brummie Del Boy.

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4.30pm and still light!!

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One of the many things I love about winter is the darkness, but since moving here it has been a bit of a shock to my system. On entering the country in August, I gave up smoking and took up running, over the past three months this has become increasingly difficult.
I have been saying goodbye to my Son at 7.20am as he goes off to school in his high visibility vest, turning back into the house and wanting nothing more than to either get back into bed or drink copious amounts of coffee and smoke cigarettes.
Today is the first day I have noticed a change. It started to get light at 8.11am and it is 4.45pm now and darkness is yet to fall.
I can feel my energy returning as I type.

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Enjoying the snow!!

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing your children enjoying the outdoors.

Enjoying the snow!!

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A spot of cross country in Furedalen.

A spot of cross country in Furedalen.

A spot of cross country in Furedalen.

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A Norwegian Christmas…..

SDC14313We did it…. we successfully celebrated our first traditional Norwegian Christmas.  Weeks were spent leading up to this date researching  what was involved to ensure it all goes smoothly. This is what we found out. Christmas Eve seems to be the main day, consisting of a light breakfast, church, a big festive late afternoon meal and then the opening of presents. Christmas Day is a day of rest, Starting with a big Norwegian breakfast, testing out the presents, then another big festive meal, followed by plenty of alcohol….. I think we may have made the alcohol bit up ourselves. Then comes Boxing Day…. after the food, chocolates, beers, red wines and aquavit, this is also a day of rest.

SDC14435It was really important that we got everything right…. including the meal. So much so, that we were invited to a dry run of the Christmas dinner weeks before the event. This was hosted by a lovely couple known through Paul. The main menu for Christmas Eve was pinnekjøtt, this is grey salted inedible looking lamb that needs to be soaked in water then boiled on top of sticks in a big pan. Sounds awful but tastes lovely. Christmas Days meal was svineribbe…. which is basically pork ribs. This was my favourite. Each meal was a success, which is good because Paul always feels the need to ask any who has tasted his cooking to score it out of ten. I always give 10/10… its just easier.

So Christmas here was very different to previous years, this is down to a number of reasons. Firstly, it was our first Christmas without Sharnai and this was hard, but I was comforted by the fact that if we were to have served her grey lamb and surkål (similar to sauerkraut) she would have probably walked out anyway. Secondly, the change in routine made for a more relaxed Christmas and finally CHURCH….. yep, I attended church!!

Before moving here we lived in a small village surrounded by churches, some of the most picturesque churches I have ever seen. In the time we were there we never entered a single church, not even at Christmas. This was down to the fact that the village was also surrounded by pubs! Every Christmas we would contemplate going to church, but the lure of the local was too much to ignore. Here it is very different….. unfortunately there is no pub culture. We do not have little caverns nearby that we can drop into for a pint after a long walk. We do not have cosy welcoming huts filled with neighbourly people shouting “skål” while holding up tankards of ale and wearing  bunad’s (traditional Norwegian dress) and clogs. Instead, I am surrounded by farmland dotted with sheep, houses and one big beautiful church. So because we have no pub to lead us into temptation we attended church : /

On entering I was surprised to see how popular it was. The magnificent structure was overflowing with smartly dressed people waiting to enjoy the service to kick start their Christmas festivities. Paul and I sat on the back row as to not bring attention to ourselves. I’m not sure why we did this but I have a vague memory of attending church in my late teens and a Pastor shouting out pointing to me “HAVE YOU LET GOD INTO YOUR HEART TODAY”? I remember panicking and answering in a very small voice “No not today”….. I then went home felt guilty and nearly joined a cult. So, after making ourselves comfortable in the warm welcoming house of God I was happy to see a brass band and choir up front. “Cool, that should mix things up a bit”, I thought. Then came the singing of the hymns. Paul, who can sing and also in his own words “can read Norwegian” joined in. I looked at Ben who seemed to have fallen asleep on my arm and started to feel the need to distract myself and pretend I was busy doing something else. I undid my laces…. then did them back up again, I searched in my pocket for a tissue that I didn’t need and I stroked Ben’s head as though he needed reassurance…. he was fast asleep at this point. All done so I wouldn’t have to sing a Norwegian hymn. Thankfully the hymn eventually came to an end and I relaxed a little. The priest said a few words, Paul and I looked at each other a few times and shrugged, he then must have said something funny because people laughed, so I laughed also. Then came the next hymn I decided to give this a shot until I got to a part that was written on the page as ‘og fred på jorda blant menneske som Gud har glede i.’ I started to wonder who Fred was. In my early teens my Mom came up with the idea, that to get us from under her feet she would send us to Sunday school. I hated it, but I was reassured by the certainty that if I attended every Sunday for ten weeks I would get a gift at the end. On the tenth week I skipped to Sunday school and sat with a huge grin on my face until my name was called to come up front. As I walked to the stage I noticed that the Pastor was holding a bible…. “shit” I thought. “thats my bloody present”. I was not impressed. I did however have a go at reading it and I do not remember it referring to a Fred.

After an amazing performance from a choir boy and the brass band the Priest said a few words and the service came to an end. We walked out into the afternoon damp air and made our way back home. As I walked I felt a surge of contentment. I’m not saying that I will be attending church every Sunday but with no pubs within walking distance this definitely came a close second to begin our Christmas celebrations!!

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To Croc or not to Croc…….

IMG_0629Holy Shit…….. I seem to be suffering from what I can only describe as ‘Croc envy’. How this happened is beyond me. I hate the things…. or at least I thought I did.

Anyone who is not British is probably reading this and thinking ‘Whats the big deal?, they’re only crocs’. WRONG!!! They are plastic looking clogs filled with holes that people feel the need to decorate with things called ‘jibbitz’. Seriously who in their right mind would buy a pair? They neither look nice or sound nice. And in my opinion on a par with wearing Jesus sandals and socks!!

But yet I find myself staring at a pair of navy blue size tens … imagining what they would look like in a petite size 5 in either a red or green. I watch as they walk across the kitchen, out the back door and notice how they seem to be cool, calm and in control on the slippery decking. I mutter under my breath ‘these bad boys would handle any terrain’.

When no one is watching, I do the unthinkable….. I slip my right foot in and feel the bounce below, these are not plastic! The traction  under my feet does not only act as a grip but also seems to be massaging the sole of my foot, is there no end to their talents?. I mess with the strap, test out whether it looks best resting on the heal or on show up front and start to day dream of how nice it would be to have their comfy spring below. I hear someone and  quickly take my foot out, look around and walk away.

The next day they are sitting by the back door. I feel this is to tease and  convey that they are not only a sturdy outdoor shoe (that take two seconds to get on and off) but also an indestructible slipper. They still look as new as the day they first entered the house and yet they have been used many times to play different roles.

  • A Quick dash to the shop in the car.
  • A Trip to do the recycling.
  • A quick clean up in the garden.
  • Taking the bins out.
  • Fetching the post from our restored postbox.
  • Cooking a meal – they seem perfect for messy cooking.
  • Sitting in the garden admiring the view.
  • Chatting with a neighbour on front porch.

The list is endless…… So my question is: To Croc or not to Croc?

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