Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Singing and counting

Sitting on a bike all day I needed to find something to do with my brain at times.  This was especially the case when dealing with steep hills, where I started to find snatches of songs insinuating themselves into my mind and repeating over and over again.  The first of these was a song called ‘Nancy of Yarmouth’ in a version recorded by a Suffolk singer named Cyril Poacher back in the 1960s. I don’t know why it got into my head, but it did, and I thought I’d better learn the whole thing, so I found a transcription of the words on my phone then copied them onto a piece of paper and slipped it into the map case on my bar bag. The pace of the song seemed to fit the rhythm of my pedal strokes perfectly, especially when going uphill.  And of course Yarmouth was over on the other side of the North Sea. 

Learning this song took me through most of Norway, and when I wasn’t practising the song I devoted myself to learning to count in Norwegian. It was a nice language to learn to count in.  Once I had one to twenty, or en to tjue the rest was quite straightforward, and I was amazed at how much difference knowing the numbers made in shops and cafes.  Suddenly the language started to make sense. Unfortunately I had no sooner learnt to count in Norwegian than it was time to leave Norway. 

There is a ferry in the summer between Langesund and Helgeroa. Sadly, I was a week too early to catch it. Instead I got entangled in Brevik, where I made some unnecessary detours up and down over the bridge and through the quaint old town.  I escaped to find myself in a vast industrial area, which was followed eventually by a pleasant road along a ferny river valley back to Helgeroa where the ferry would have deposited me.  The route was now taking me through increasingly built-up areas and by the time I had made my way through Larvik I was starting to think about taking the ferry from Sandefjord to Stromstad in Sweden.  I felt ready for a change of country and although the official NSCR crosses Oslo fjord further north between Moss and Horten I decided there was a certain logic to crossing at Sandefjord.  The night I spent on the campsite at Granholmen helped to confirm my decision.

The road from Larvik to Sandefjord passed through pleasant rolling farmland.  Haymaking was in progress.  I arrived at the campsite and found a sign directing campers to the café to check in. The café was closed for the winter. The Tourist Information board wasn’t much help either!  The facilities were open though – open enough for swallows to be nesting in the kitchen.

Tourist Information

I put up my tent under some trees and was woken at 5AM by what I thought was the tent flapping in the wind. There was a lot of seagull noise too, and I finally realised that they were mounting a raid on my food store.  I unzipped the tent and saw a massive fight in progress over a bag of raisin rolls which one of them had pulled out from under the tent.  By the time I had cleared up the mess it didn’t seem worth going back to sleep, so I packed up and headed into Sandefjord with the early morning commuters. 

There were only two places open in Sandefjord at 8AM: one was the ferry booking office and the other was McDonalds. I bought a ticket to Sweden and nearly fell over when they told me the price for me and my bike was only 46NKR.  I’d paid nearly as much for a ten-minute ride elsewhere. McDonalds was an interesting experience. I waited half an hour for a coffee.  I wondered if perhaps Norway hadn’t grasped the essential idea of fast food, but to be fair, they were cleaning the coffee machine.

Mission accomplished

There were a lot of pedestrians on the ferry to Sweden. It wasn’t until I saw them all waiting to get off that I realised why they were travelling.  Everyone had a huge stack of cases of beer and wine.  Lots of them had brought special trolleys to transport their provisions. It makes sense – a beer in a bar in Norway can cost you 70NKR but you can buy duty-free on the boat and get a pleasant sea-voyage thrown in.

The last of Norway

  • Norway still does Sunday.  Some small shops are open, but in smaller towns almost everything is shut.
  • Watch out for seagulls when camping near the sea.
  • Post Offices these days are almost always hidden in supermarkets.  Who knows which one it will be in?  Not me.

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