Yes, I did keep a diary on the plane. This is because by the time I got on the plane, I had been awake for twenty hours straight, after a night with only six hours of sleep in it. And then I couldn’t sleep very much on the plane. So you could say that my judgment was impaired. This version is abridged, because seriously, does anyone truly care about a plane flight beyond knowing that it arrived safely?
Incidentally, I flew with Malaysian, and they were lovely, if rather empty. I felt bad for them.
Also, at the end of this post there is opera. Also traditional Norwegian food. Feel free to skip the first two parts and go straight for that. I’ll never know!
Monday, 11th August – Malaysia and Sundry Aeroplanes
Well, I’ve made it as far as Malaysia, and most importantly, I finally got to lie down on a bed and sleep for six whole hours. Bliss! Rapture!
I’m flying as a vegetarian this time round, by the way, and I can recommend this. Aside from the ethical issues of not knowing where my meat is from, there is also the taste issue of… not knowing *what* my meat is from, even after I’ve been told. True, vegetarian airline food means fruit salad at every meal, no ice cream, and bad pasta, but I’d rather have bad pasta than Mystery Meat. And on this occasion, I got a rather good lentil and vegetable curry with parathas for breakfast, so I count this as a win.
Also I slept. Did I mention I slept? Sleepy sleepy happy sleep!
Kuala Lumpur airport is quite something. I can say this because I have done approximately three laps of it. It’s a cross between an airpost and a shopping centre, with shuttle trains linking the sets of gates, which are arranged in a star around a mini rainforest (sadly closed to the public). On the shopping centre side, I bought the silk kaftan that I have coveted, lo, these 20 years (ever since last time I flew via Malaysia, in fact), and then I began casting nervous sidelong gazes at all the things with exotic fruit. Especially durian. I’ve never tried durian, and I have heard much about it. Now would appear to be the time. I accordingly bought some freeze-dried durian coated in dark chocolate, on the principle that dark chocolate is always good, and that freeze dried fruit tends to capture the flavour of the original fruit quite well. We shall see…
I’m noticing different things compared to my last transit through Malaysia. This is probably because I’m 38 now, not 18, and am rather more observant. Also, I’m here longer. But I’m noticing the ‘muslim-ness’ of Malaysia a lot more. I’ve never seen so many burkas (and I’m a Brunswick girl), and practically all the female staff wear a veil. There are directions to prayer rooms, and notes on which boxes of chocolates contain alcohol. I walked past a wall suggesting a prayer for travellers, and on the plane, the main map display cycled around regularly to a compass showing the plane’s orientation relative to Mecca. Which, incidentally, I thought was rather cool. But I am feeling a little more culture shock than a Northern Suburbs girl should be entitled to…
Tuesday, 12th August – Oslo Airport
This day has gone on forever, in a seemingly endless parade of aeroplanes and long, long nights, and baggage carousels and departure lounges. Taking off from Malaysia was kind of fantastic, though – the display showed us a view from the plane’s tail-cam, which featured a spectacular lightning storm on the horizon… towards which we were travelling. And once again, I got a lot of space on the plane.
Paris Charles de Gaulle was actually OK to navigate around for once, and the views on the flight to Oslo was amazing. At one point, I looked down and saw what looked like a lot of white sticks in the sea – I couldn’t tell whether they were vertical or horizontal, and spent several minutes trying to work out whether they were boats or birds or some sort of optical illusion, before spotting a blade and realising that I was looking at a wind farm.
Flying over Norway could not have been a more profound contrast to Northern Australia. Everything is so incredibly green – dark blue green for the fir trees, but even the grass is brighter, more emerald, than Australian grass. No red at all. And there is so much water – long lakes everywhere, or are they lochs? Or fjords? I have a feeling fjords have to be coastal. I should probably find out what a fjord is before going to look for one…
And there is my flight being called – my last flight in this long, long journey north. Thank God for that.
Tuesday, 12th August, Ersgard, Trøndelag
Opera. With sheep.
I am three quarters asleep as I write this, but wanted to get down my impressions before I forgot anything. We are staying in Ersgard, a 200-year-old farmhouse, and the opera was on a stage set up in the farmyard, surrounded by red outbuildings that look precisely like an illustration of a farmyard. The audience sat at trestle tables with yellow flowers in vases, and partook of a traditional meal – a sour cream porridge.
Let me pause to tell you about this porridge, since weird food experiences must be savoured! The porridge is made, we learned, almost entirely of sour cream with a little flour. One boils it and boils it and boils it until it thickens into a gloopy creamy thing with the consistency, roughly, of polenta or semolina, but much stickier. And then one pours melted butter over it, and cinnamon sugar. (Because what a sour cream concoction truly needs is melted butter on top…) And then one eats it with flatbreads and preserved meats. It is truly hard to describe. The first few bites are fantastic, and then you realise that you have a whole bowl of this, and that it is insanely rich. This is, apparently, one of the great traditional foods of Norway. I suspect it would be great after a day spent skiing. After a day spent on a long plane flight… well, I think it would make rather a nice dessert, to be honest, but a small portion would be more than adequate. Did I mention that it is rich?
As for the opera itself, it was a Norwegian version of the Barber of Seville, in the local dialect and in traditional local costume. [Later Catherine: it was performed by the Opera di Setra, which I believe is a local company. I have not included photos of the opera here, because I’m not sure about copyright, but you can find some on their Facebook page and on their website.] Four singers and one pianist, who called us to attention using a long horn and a sort of yodelling cry that was, in fact, much cooler than yodelling, but I couldn’t really describe it.
We knew the opera, which was good, since we could not understand a word. There were, we were told, also many jokes about local politics, and also about sheep (we got some of those).
Incidentally, the actual sheep were fascinated by the whole thing, and while the chickens, who were wandering around keeping an eye on events, had little to add, the rooster kept crowing at the perfect moments in the tenor arias. Most amusing.
The singing was very good, especially from Figaro, and the quartets, duets and trios were particularly well-balanced. It was also interesting hearing a mezzo-soprano (really a contralto, I’d say) singing Rosina, though it had the interesting effect of making Figaro’s voice stand out more.
Although we could understand almost nothing, the acting allowed us to work it out. I did like Figaro’s hobby-sheep (on which he rode in) and tendency to ‘baa’ mid-aria. I have no clue why he was doing this, mind you, but he was kind of gorgeous and sang beautifully, so I was happy to be on board with it! Rosina appeared first in an upper window, singing Grieg, and everyone at our table nodded wisely and said that she looked just like Solveig, especially in that costume, which left me singularly un-de-mystified [Later Catherine: According to Google there is a song called Solveig’s Song, and now that I’ve listened to it on YouTube, that was definitely what she was singing. I’m still no further forward as to why, however].
Bartolo randomly broke into ‘What does the fox say‘ at one point, which was even more puzzling. Though amusing. But my favourite moment was when Bartolo was to be arrested, and the local mayor and a member of the military got up on stage to do the job. The mayor made a speech that was evidently hilarious but really could have been about anything at all…
It was all a huge amount of fun, and worth staying awake for, but now it is definitely time for me to sleep. My penfriend, A (yes, another A), has gone for a walk in the beautiful Norwegian sunshine – the sun won’t set until around 11pm tonight – and the landscape seems really too beautiful to be real – but I am having difficulty walking or even thinking in a straight line, and my bed is calling me…
With the exception of this last photo, all the other photographs in this post were taken by my friend A… who was awake enough to realise that we might want to document some of this fantastic evening!