Monday, May 15, 2006

When You Don't Know Quite Where You're Going

After 17 years in Norway, I lived in Eastbourne with my then partner, Bjørn, and my three children, Paul, Inger Lise and Linn Marie, for about 6 months during 1997/98 (I think). For reasons I won't go into here and now, we ended up leaving without any real plan as to what we were going to do when we got back to Norway. In fact, we had no plan whatsoever.

First up we stayed at a friend's house. Johnny in Tranby. A nice bloke but we couldn't put him out forever so after a week or so we moved on. We'd already been to the social but while they were willing to pay the deposit on a flat, it was up to us to find one. There was one available in Hokksund but Bjørn decided it was too expensive so we spent another week in a cabin at Hokksund Camping. The social were paying for that but once they'd sorted out the equivalent of Income Support for us, it became too expensive so we moved to another cabin at Fiskum. The girls started school and Bjørn found a job in Oslo and if only we'd been able to find a flat we could afford, all would have been well.

This particular cabin was no more than two rooms, one big enough for a bench along each side to sit on, a two ring worktop cooker and a tiny fridge, the other with two bunk beds and nothing else. Considering we also had a Border Collie and pet rat with us, we were just a little crowded. There was no running water - we had to go over to a converted barn for the luxury of a shower or fresh water for cooking.

As 17th May (Norway's constitution day) crept closer, the farmer who owned the cabin (and several others) decided he didn't want us there anymore. "This ain't for long-stay guests," he said, "so it's about time you lot moved on."

To where, exactly?

That night we saw an ad in a newspaper. Basically it said that an agency in Bergen could guarantee you a property to rent. Next morning I phoned them and was told that if I sent the equivalent of a £75 cheque, they'd arrange for us to have somewhere to live in a week's time. Hallelujah! It may have been the other side of the country but what the heck! It'd be a place to live and a new start.

The girls were taken out of school again, Bjørn handed in his notice and off we went, over the mountains from east to west, fully laden and arriving in Bergen on the pre-arranged day. We were all looking forward to our new future in the county of Hordaland on Norway's west coast.

But things are never quite what they seem. The broker hadn't promised us anywhere to live at all!

"But you did" I argued. "You told me quite clearly that--"

"No, I didn't. What I said was I'd have a property ready for you to view. Whether or not the landlord accepts you as a tenant is up to him or her."

"Ok, well let's go see this place."

The house was lovely. Yes, we'd take it.

Hold on -- it's not that easy. The broker had sent a dozen families to view the same house and the landlord hadn't yet decided who he would let to. We could expect to here something within a fortnight!

What???? Where we were supposed to live in the meantime?

The next three nights were spent living in the car. A Hyundai Pony. For those who don’t know, they're about the size of a VW Golf. It was cramped and nobody slept properly. How could we?

Hardanger FjordThe situation did have one positive aspect, though. I clearly remember waking on the first morning and being absolutely amazed at the beauty of the sun rising between two mountains and shining down across the Hardangerfjord, one of Norway's most spectacularly beautiful places. I woke the others (this was about 5am) and we all stood by the edge of the water just watching, awestruck! I'd go back and do it again just for those 15 minutes on that beautiful May morning. I don't think I've ever felt such peace since.

Anyway, we found another cabin on a camping site by Bergen's racing track. The girls used to go sit up on a hill and watch the horse races (and, I've since learned, have a sneaky fag) and all in all, things weren't too bad. The future was very uncertain but we were still together and that's something we all felt grateful for. Having each other made it so much easier.
View over Mountains
About a fortnight later we were offered a house at Bontveit. It was in the mountains surrounding Bergen, and one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

The house itself was old and shabby but the peace of the surroundings and the nice people we lived amongst more than made up for it. There's something incredibly peaceful about going to sleep to the sound of a waterfall crashing its way down the mountain at the side of the house, and eating breakfast whilst watching an eagle fly across the valley. We were only there for four months before things took another dramatic turn and we were once again heading for England, but during that short time we made some good friends, one of which I'm still in regular contact with. Thanks, Britt, for making life in Bergen so much easier for us all.



At 2:24 am, May 18, 2006, Blogger Teapot said...

i just chanced upon your blog and it is written in such a compelling fashion i am just amazed!
thanks for a lovely read.


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