The March sun was warming the first Spring evening in London just a few hours ago, but it’s a winter’s tail that tells of Scandinavia now. Thirty centimetres of snow drape the train tracks in the station.
I fumble my way outside, and pull my coat around me. A mile of dark, uncertain streets leads past the midnight girls and drug dealers (who thought this city knew such things?) to my hastily-booked hotel.
No alarm call needed, as morning brings the sounds of a building site next door. The day is lightening outside my window, and pretty soon I’m running beneath a chill grey sky as deserted shopping streets lead me towards the Cathedral.
I take a short diversion to reconnoitre the address for my meeting, and then my mental map of Oslo runs out. Five circular minutes later I’m slithering across white snowy gardens around the Akershus Fortress, and then on to reach the waterfront.
The Oslofjord lies black and still before me, the quaysides completely empty. Five minutes of quiet is the time I need to clear my mind and think.
Shut your eyes and think of somewhere
Somewhere cold and caked in snow
Snow Patrol – May 2006
All of winter, and all in one day.
It’s mid-morning on a snowy Thursday, but as troublesome journeys to work might go, I really can’t complain.
Guildford’s white and black night is far behind me, and just a few hours later the snow is screaming past the train as we speed towards Oslo at 200 km/h. No Norwegian dogsled ever made such progress.
Arriving early at my meeting, I’ve a moment to survey the scene.
From the office window, the muffled view stretches out silently into the distance, Oslo peering shyly back at me through the white mist of intermittent wintry showers.
The view down to the railway tracks offers a camera angle perfect for any latterday remake of Anna Karenina, the architecture of this place even more impressive for the white curtain draping all around it.
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.
The 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.
It was a cold and wet December day
When we touched the ground in fair DK
Denmark, like a Christmas tree
Tonight this city belongs to me
After ‘Angel of Harlem’ (‘Rattle and Hum’, Island Records – October 1988)
Another week, another city. The traveller’s laments may be eternal, but so often they are rewarded by a fresh viewpoint on the world.
It’s a short flight across the North Sea, and yet remarkably it deposits us from grey old Gatwick into the floodlit swirl of a million scattered snowflakes illuminated by our approach beam. Even in the airport there is that quintessential flavour of Denmark – warmth, light, sophisticated simplicity, and a sleek array of thinly sculpted, contemporary wooden furniture.