120. Norwegian blue – Stavanger

The rain is pouring now – not really cold rain, but wet rain all the same. Easy enough, once you’ve started running, but these are still, technically at least, the critical moments of indecision.

stavanger-norway.jpgThe black bar edges half way across the screen, flickers temperamentally back to zero, and then to half way once more.

There it sticks, motionlessly, for over a minute. And that rain is still falling, harder – running down my neck now. Testing my resolve.

I hold my hand over the infernal machine, blocking the signal. The bar doesn’t move. I press pathetically at the power button. Nothing at all. No choice now, I know, but to let it run out of juice, go comatose and lose its faint memory of Norway before I charge it up again at home. My GPS is dead, deceased, departed. No more.

Pining for the fjords.

There’s no reason to wait now, and so off I trot, through the puddles, over the road and past the row of white clapperboard houses. The breeze is picking up, lashing the first real sheet of morning rain to slew across the street.

But I’m soaked already, and I’m on my way. The cobbles may be damp and slippery, but they’re flowing lumpily beneath my feet now, down to the harbour, left at the quayside, past the pleasure craft and out towards the open sea.

I used to come here regularly, some years ago. I was a younger man then, in a different job, but this town still feels much the same. I head out a mile or so beside the ferry port, where a huge ocean liner is tied up today, past some flats and warehouses, towards the building where I worked from time to time. From far away it looks as imposing as it always did, standing sleek and stark and steel above the Stavangerfjord, in the perfect spot to greet the vessels coming into port.

On sunny days I’d sit in the office here, looking out over blue water, straight into clear blue sky above. It was invigorating, clean, refreshing, to work beside the sea. Once or twice I glanced directly into the bridge of a passing seismic boat, and if it was the competition, then the captain would rudely blast his horn and make us all jump off our chairs inside.

I tasted the raw essence of Norway on those trips. To be more specific, I ate raw fish for lunch, and occasionally I washed it down with aquavit as well. I paid five quid for evening beers, too, enough back then for a decent bottle of wine at home. Just one snapshot, one handful of memories and experiences of a country. I’d forgotten them, but I can see now that they were always there, just stored away for a day like this.

I didn’t run, not then. But now I do, and after a slow beginning, I’m settling into my stride. I lope easily up the gentle slope to the doorway, gunmetal and glass looming against a greyer sky this morning. The cool fjord is stretching grey below the cliff, the water’s surface ruffled only by the marching raindrops. Nothing much has changed out here, but inside I know it’s not the same. Only the faded outline of my old company name remains – in the transient nature of business, that old logo has long since vanished and another set of companies works here today. Those office desks and shining anglepoises are already greeting a different set of early morning coffee drinkers.

My own working day lies not far ahead, so I turn around now, back into the breeze, my face towards the rain. Past the dockside, and beside the harbourfront bars where we saw a gentle summer nightfall just a few hours ago, at halfpast midnight. In better weather, the white wooden front of the pubs and the Skagen Brygge Hotel here might feel at home on Cape Cod, or at Key West perhaps – waterside communities just like this one, always looking out to sea.

I wind my way atop the cobbles to find the shopping streets of Old Stavanger. It’s smaller than I remember it, and flashes by in just a minute. A moment’s detour to catch the view from the old customs tower, but there’s nothing much more to see, nor much time to see it, and so I trot slowly back to the harbour and up the hill to the hotel. A shower, some breakfast and a day of meetings lie ahead.

Twenty seven minutes run, not quite three miles perhaps, although thanks to my pining Garmin we’ll never really know. It’s not that far, but then again there’s no great running goal in sight for me this summer, not yet. Just a resolution that I’ll try to run, wherever I happen to wake. A heavier bag to carry through airport security is all I need, an earlier alarm call or two, and that feeling of slightly sunken, scratchy eyes as I leave the hotel room before breakfast, having beered and gone to bed on British time and forced myself to rise at this over-early European hour.

It’s no recipe for great running. But this morning it’s a taste of wet Norway I’ve not felt before. Two different jobs, three companies have occupied me since last I came here. Four thousand days – the last three thousand of them as a runner. How many miles have I travelled in that time – fifty, sixty, seventy, a hundred thousand ? How many miles run – five thousand, six, seven, or eight ? I’m not sure, but perhaps the miles themselves don’t really matter. It’s the views along the way which count.

It’s strange to find myself in Stavanger today. An old familiar scene, and yet viewed anew from a different perspective. A very damp one, admittedly – it’s been a grey, wet and uninspiring start to the day, but at least I’ve made the most of it.

The rain has almost stopped now, the sun will surely be out by lunchtime and I’ll be home again by evening.

And before then, here in Norway this morning – you never know – I’ve got that feeling, that another blue day might just begin.

Related articles:
139. Snow patrol – Holmenkollen, Oslo
74. God Jul: from Copenhagen to Crawley
130. Tenerife – 2: the world at the end of the light
135. Backs against the wall – Footdee, Aberdeen
76. A year of running, rainily
69. Running low on fuel

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