With the use of the indefatigable Telenor "dongle" (my brother insists that this is the correct technological name for the cigarette lighter sized device which plugs into the space usually reserved for the USB port on the side of my mac) I have been scanning the web all morning looking for cultural activities, as the weather forecast is a little dreary for the next ten days (rain, rain and yes, rain). While the children are happy watching Running Scared (him) and old episodes of The Hills (her) downloaded on their computers back in Los Angeles, it's not quite what I had in mind for a jolly family holiday to our beloved island.
So far we've found a Warhol & Munch exhibit at the Haugar Museum in Tonsberg, Hoyjord Church, the only original Stave church in Vestfold, situated at Moa, and Haugen Farm in Jaberg which boast farm-themed carvings from 500-1500 BC. In typical fashion, my children are only excited by the Warhol, so much dragging and coaxing and no doubt bribery will ensue over the next couple of days.
As I look out over the fjord (which is, in fact, the North Sea) from our little Grimestad bay, the water and sky are the same color -- a flat, dull gray, not steel gray or a vibrant storm-heralding indigo, but pale gray as you might find on a building in the Eastern Bloc as imagined circa 1952. The islands, which stretch out over it like reaching fingers, the gray-brown granite rock sprinkled with pine trees and raspberry bushes, seem devoid of boats, although usually we see sail boats moored all around the bay. The sparrows are back on the flat, wooden rail of the deck, where we fed them yesterday crumbs from our lunch. They cock their heads to one side, inquisitively, like dogs, and it's hard for me not to take more bread out to them just to watch the parade. Ned has been videoing them, propping up his tripod in the kitchen and watching the endless cavalcade of fat little sparrows, who tustle and strut and swallow down pieces of bread as large as their heads.
Yesterday's great discovery was a medieval burial ground, perched on the top of a cliff face behind the working dairy farm at Magero. It's next to a lake, Kynna, where my mother bathed as a child during the war. My grandmother, thinking it a good place for the children to wash off the salt seawater, was oblivious to the fact that it was full of leeches, but my mother remembers that well. Across the road at Molledammen, Hans Christian Ringer, a hero of the Norwegian resistance, lived and farmed, but a few years ago his house was made into a few low-key modern apartments.
Viking ships and burial grounds are commonplace. They're found, it seems, whenever a house is raised and a new foundation built. We're sitting on thousands of years of artifacts, layered into the sand and the clay and the rock.
There is seed bread toasted with hard boiled eggs and kaviar for breakfast, boller warmed in the oven, cut in half and covered with a slice of brown goats' cheese, warm cups of tea in my grandmother's old cups. The children spread nutella on lompe (a flat, tortilla-like pancake in which the Norwegians like to wrap hotdogs.) And then there are mistakes. Boller (sweet cardamom buns) with raisins and chocolate chips -- if you take the most delicious thing in the world and think you can improve on it, you can't. Lesson learned.
The sea is cold. The Norwegians may disagree with me. But 17C is chilly at best. I've swum four times so I'm feeling incredibly smug. Yesterday it was dotted with jellyfish, tiny, light-colored ones, but stingers nonetheless. We wait on the trappen for a jellyfish-free moment and then fling ourselves out into the cold, midnight blue sea. My mother, who has the most Viking blood, swims laps between our jetty and the one next to ours. Ten laps most mornings, which leaves my children and I slack-jawed with awe.
A family supper on Saturday night -- steaks cooked most ably on the Weber by N, a salad with thinly sliced fennel, heart lettuce and almost translucent acid-green chervil, a gratin of potatoes and onions and nutmeg, peach clafoutis made by Minky -- revealed that my uncle (my aunt's domestic partner, aged a sprightly, handsome 80) believes that dogs are more intelligent than we believe. This is no epiphany to us dog folk, of course, but I was happy to have a partner in spirit, though we may be divided by culture and language and age. How civilized to sit next to a well-read, thoughtful, insightful elderly relative and discover that we are kin (or kind as the Deadheads would say) at least on the canine plane.
Off to Andy Warhol. Can't tell them apart at all.