Monday, June 22, 2015

Norwegian Summer & Optimism

Now that summer's here and I'm thinking of Norway, a fragment of a short story from February 2010:

It was early summer, when optimism floats in the air ready to be inhaled by young and old, a time when ancient bones stretch out and warm in the sun and cricked necks un-crick themselves and chins jut and eyes close into the light.  And the light carries the long day into night and night is light and pink, mostly pink, and yellow.  Boys and girls in blue and white and red walk two by two or in groups, maybe three or five, trying in vain to contain the energy stored all winter long in long nights and hours of darkness and the smell of burning logs and wet dogs and snow, brought in and out of the house, a general damp, some yeast, Christmas buns perhaps with cardamom and sultanas, the yellow kind, plumped in sweet wine.  Now doors and windows are flung open and the air is called inside. Come in, come in.  Red and white curtains flap from the inside out.  Red and white and blue flags unfurl and blow and furl again and make the noise of sails against masts, a clink echoed by the mother with the pushchair and the fat child with the rosy cheeks and the brown skin.  And there are hotdogs wrapped in lompe with sweet mustard and red ketchup, the color of strawberries. And vanilla cones with a strawberry in the middle, saved for last, like the chocolate at the bottom of the cone that stops the cream from dripping onto the fingers which go into the mouth or into mamma's hand. Sweet summer stickiness.  And the hillsides have strawberries too. Red berries, tiny, baby berries, hidden underground and then under grass and now also worshipping the sun.  And boats are out in blue and white and scrubbed. Awnings pulled back. Bikini-clad girls inside spread out like stars under the sun.  Boys with fishing rods stand on jettys and smaller brothers kneel next to them, peering through the wooden slats into the seaweed, with bits of string and plastic buckets, usually red, for crabs, usually hundreds.  Girls on bikes and grannies on bikes.  Pavements full of wheels but without urgency. Sandwiches packed in paper, wrapped in foil, buried in a backpack with a towel, a book, a radio, a resolution to be back before suppertime.  And then out again, because no-one stays in.  And the ladies on Storgata are no longer wearing gloves. A navy army of thin legs marches with arms full of packages. At Slemdal, school is out but a few boys play on the swings.  Holmenkollen has no snow, but be-camera'd visitors arrive on buses, t-shirts emblazoned with other cities from their European tour. Brussels is a surprisingly popular destination in early July.  Here they take pictures. Usually of the ski jump, the view from the ski jump, the view from the ski jump with their significant other and the stuffed reindeer who resides there from year to year, the one with the beatific look in his glassy eyes. They come for kjotkaker with onions and open sandwiches with Norwegian shrimps and majonais. Sprinkled with dill.  They come for the fjords and the mountains and the "spectacular" views but not many set foot outside of Oslo. This Oslo. This summer Oslo where the day melts into night and no-one can tell when it's gone.  This frenzy of summertime, so short-lived, so pressing.  The sun lies on the sea, a great strip of yellow rolling out like a carpet towards you.  The ghosts of Munch and Grieg and Bjornson.  The trolls that hide behind the larch trees and only come out when the visitors have gone.  And beyond the mountains, a song plays, a familiar song with strings, and the young girls with pigtails hum it and the boys on their bikes sing it as they whizz down the hills with their legs horizontal, and the ladies on Storgata hear it in their heads and turn to try to find where it comes from.  And the man at Henie Onstad, who's curating the exhibition with the textiles from Lapland, in his navy trousers and his short-sleeved shirt with the glasses case in the pocket, hears it too.  He turns to look at the woman from Tokyo who is here with her two sisters and one hell of an itinerary and he knows that she can sing it too.

1 comment:

wendy Murray said...

had I read this? had I been sitting in a room when you threw this together and I heard you speak it out loud?
It is glorious, gorgeous; all words that are more than one syllable with softness on either end.
You write like ice cream.
Brilliant girl.