Thursday, 12 January 2006

which will us bring us back to ...

Rennes. We got back last Wednesday, and I went back to uni, while Lee spent a few days pottering around. On Thursday we went for a drink with Soso, and on Saturday with Soso, Liz, Ashoo and Franck. On Monday Lee caught a couple of trains down to Madrid. She has a week or so in Spain, and plans on seeing some of Madrid/Seville/Cordoba/Granada before flying back to Rennes early next week and then back to T'ba next Friday.

As for me, I have a deadline looming, and need to buckle down to a couple of weeks of hard theory in order to make the paper submittable. Its already been published in a conference, but I'm a little ashamed at some of the errors and general naivety of it, so it needs some work before it goes to a journal.

Films 'n books

The 3 weeks in Norway were good for my book and film counts.

I started reading The Constant Gardener on the way to Oslo, and finished it off before leaving Lillehammer. Like Absolute Friends, the other Le Carré that I read last year, he is stylistically an airport novelist, but in this case the relevance to modern, umm, politics I guess you'd call them, and the way he managed to paint the change in the central character, made it a pretty engaging read.

After that I started on Lee's copy of The Great Gatsby, which she finished just before I started. I guess I had fairly high expectations, given that its a known book and that Fitzgerald was a contemporary of Steinbeck, one of my favourites. I was a little underwhelmed, though. He paints a nice enough picture of what the scene did to the people and relationships involved, but it wasn't a story that ever really involved me. Quite probably it was just that I expected more.

We also managed to get to a few films. Our first night back in Oslo we went along to see King Kong. I wasn't sure what to expect, but its basically a pretty entertaining film. The action scenes are done really well, and are well scattered through the film. The performances are mixed; Jack Black is marginal, Brody is just OK, and Naomi Watts is pretty good I guess, although little more is required than a scream or a longing gaze. The real star is the monkey, who's really, really well animated, and quite frankly gives far and away the best performance in the film.

We also trotted along to see Broken Flowers, with Jenny. As I wrote over at AllConsuming:
This isn’t a narrative, piece. It’s not even really a character study, but I still liked it. It just has a good vibe. Bill Murray, playing a character without any particularly strongly discerning characteristics, is just one of those guys that’s easy to watch, and the little vignettes on each of his “broken flowers” were each, for me, interesting little paintings of what can go wrong with people’s lives. It’s also very much a european style film, with little external dilemma, and with an ending that could generously be called inconclusive.

Then, on the weekend, Lee finished up reading the Constant Gardener, so we trotted down to Gaumont to see the film version while it was still showing. Its a weird feeling watching a film so soon after reading the book, since you know the story to a degree of detail beyond what is presented on screen. I guess the result was that I was watching the film much more from a perspective of assessing the choices they had made in adapting the story, and also paying much more attention to stylistic elements. Both of these were pretty well done here, and the film appealed to me, although I'd been keen to hear views of people who hadn't the baggage (or background, perhaps) that I did before seeing it.

New Year's

For New Year's eve, we were invited by Lee's friend Ingrid to a party at the home of a friend of hers, Marit (apologies for spelling). It was basically a pretty small deal, with 9 of us in total: Ingrid, Marit, 2 other couples, then Lee, myself, and Will, an Aussie friend of Ingrid's. Incidentally, Ingrid speaks with the most Australian accent I have ever heard on a foreigner; its freaky.

Anyway, we had our little dinner party, and just before midnight headed up to a nearby church on a hill to watch the fireworks over Oslo. Fireworks are legal to buy in Norway between Christmas and New Year's, and they were in full evidence, in the hands of families, couples and, somewhat worringly, of drunken teenagers. It made for quite a different vibe to the prepared shows I'm used to in Australia, with the sky filled with small flashes and bangs for what must have been an hour. The three skips - Lee, Will and I - were like kids in a candy shop with the combination of fireworks and snow, and ran around like crazy people for a little while.

Afterwards we went back the party and hung out for a while, chewed the fat, and played multilingual chinese whispers until the vibe died around 3.

Back in Oslo

In lieu of fire, smoke.

After finishing up our skiing we headed back to Oslo. We had about a week there, which we spent visiting various Oslo attractions: the viking ship museum, the sculptures at vigelands park (pictured), the resistance museum at the old fort, the Nobel Peace Centre.

In between times we cleaned up Lee's apartment and moved out, and hung out with Jenny, who had gotten sick of travelling and come back to Oslo to chill.

Tuesday, 10 January 2006


The ATP are quite clearly morons. Television and clay courts are also culpable.

Monday, 9 January 2006

Back to it

A quiet Christmas day was followed by a quieter Boxing Day; I can't recall doing anything. Probably that was a good thing, since on the 27th we headed back up to Sjusjøen. We had planned on doing downhill for a couple of days, but the weather forecast suggested temperatures down to -14 or -17, so rather than freeze our bits off on skilifts all day, we figured we'd get back on the cross-country horse.

We once again rented some gear and headed out from Sjusjøen around the lakes, this time going a little further north, and then around down towards Rømåsen. We probably covered 11 or 12km, I'd reckon, and felt pretty happy with ourselves heading home that afternoon. The next day, our last of skiing, we caught a bus from Lillehammer to Nordseter. From there we ski'd north up to Mellsjøen, then across to Elgåsen, then south past Kroksjøen to Sjusjøen.

Below the Lillehammer ski jump

We spent Christmas in Lillehammer. After a latish breakfast, we went for a wander up the hill to the Olympic skijump (behind me), and past the Olympic museum, the skating rink, and a hill with a few kiddies on toboggans. We had a quiet lunch, then at 3pm headed out on a Moose safari.

The fact that everyone in the minibus was a native English-speaker (do Americans count?) was a good sign that it was a tourist trap, and we had a warning that the mild temperatures (between -5 and -10) made it unlikely that we would see many moose. Sure enough, we saw just one, and that at a distance. Also, starting late meant fading light, which made photos basically impossible with any affordable camera rig.

On getting home, we prepared our little Christmas dinner: crackers, caviar, and smoked salmon for starters with an Australian sparkling white (dare I call it a champagne), followed by roast pork with an Australian Cab Sav Shiraz, rocquefort and pie for desert.

lunch on high

We had a late lunch, about 2pm, while waiting for the bus back to Lillehammer. In Norway, the big day of the Christmas period is actually the 24th, both in terms of the big lavish dinner, and of going to church. In their case, this is the state-supported Lutheran denomination, and it was at the small Sjusjøen church, just as the sun was nearing the horizon, where we grabbed our sandwich. Meanwhile inside, it was standing room only for the service.


At the end of the day we (here Lee) went home across the lake, which was frozen and had a few inches of snow on it. There were plenty of tracks on the ice though, and a couple of girls went across just before we did, so we weren't too worried about falling in.

Skiing, day 2

The next day, we went out again, but took it pretty easy, getting up to Sjusjoen a couple of hours earlier, and doing a half-lap of the neighbouring lake (also called Sjusjoen, I think). This was perhaps the only water in the area that wasn't frozen.

fortnight in norway

I can't blog about recent items in good faith until I've done the holiday report.

I spent my Christmas and New Year's in the cold. On the Wednesday before Christmas I caught a bus to the station, a train to St Malo, a taxi to the airport at Pleurtuit, a RyanAir flight to Stanstead, another to Torp, and then a 2 hour bus-ride to Oslo central, where Lee met me. By 1am, I was safely arrived at Lee's little apartment. Pretty simple, really.

The next day we headed up to Lillehammer by train. We checked into our massive apartment, which normally sleeps 6, and then spent the afternoon wandering around exploring and buying supplies for the coming days. We had dinner that day, and indeed the next, with Jenny, from Lee's course, and a friend of hers. They were doing a whirlwind 2-week tour of northern Europe with 2 or 3 days in Lillehammer before going still further north for Christmas. Good company.

On day 2 of Lillehammer we started our cross-country skiing. We caught a late bus up to Sjusjøen to hire gear, and decided to ski back down to Lillehammer, a route of about 16 or 17km. I was shocking at the start. The flat sections were OK, but on the downhills I had absolutely no confidence, and fell about every 10 meters. The route wasn't the best choice in terms of terrain, either, since it started with what must have been 4km or so of downhills. Once we got down onto the flat it was OK; I started to get the rhythm for the flat parts, and gained a little more confidence on the gentle downhills. We started to run out of light, though, since the sun starts to disappear about 3pm, and is gone by 4pm, at that time of year. By the time we were a few km from Lillehammer it was dark, and we were both pretty tired. The scenery was really beautiful at times, with long sections through forests and past frozen lakes. Unfortunately, the last few km were, like the first few, downhill, and pretty twisty to boot. The fatigue and my general lack of ability saw me falling again a fair bit, culminating in a face plant at speed that my right knee objected to most strongly, to the point that I swear I heard it click at me. We took that as a sign and walked that last km or so back to the cabin, where a cold beer was well-earned.