donderdag 4 januari 2018


Visitors from the Netherlands

It’s a warm and sultry summer in the early 70s, when a befriended family from the Netherlands are to spend their holidays in Norway with us. I’m in an extremely gloomy mood (even more so than the regular gloomy) because the day before – in an utter state of bewilderment - I decided to have my hairdo changed: from long blonde locks to an extremely short bob – with fringes. 

No idea what came over me and caused me to walk into the Kongsberg hairdressers. But reality hit me as soon as I found myself sitting in the chair in front of the mirror, a photo of the Cosmopolitan model on my lap, amid an awkward silence. The bewildered hairdresser did his utmost to entice me to exchange a few words, unaware of the fact that he was dealing with one of my greatly anti-social moods. So the poor guy just did his job in silence  – throwing me a glance and a tentative smile now and again.

The befriended family arrive and are warmly welcomed – but not by me. They are knackered and still feeling a bit overwhelmed after their long journey. The weather is great, the table is full of Norwegian goodies and my silence has no influence on the atmosphere yet.

A thick blanket

My adolescent years are covered by a thick, heavy blanket. A blanket with a suffocating impact. The blanket suppresses my feelings, makes me sombre, gloomy, melancholic, shy, insecure and causes awful mood swings. I’m insecure about everything and especially about my own appearance. I’m convinced that I’m ugly: my teeth, my nose, my length ... and not to mention my hair. It has a natural wave that I do not want; I want it to be straight, straighter, straightest. And oh yes, then there are my hands; the fingers are not long enough and I always hide my small thumbs. 

The Cosmopolitan is my style bible and every time I see the perfect models, my imperfections are emphasized all the more. When I look at photos from myself at that time, I see a child still, a woman in the making, the long blonde hair and the typically Scandinavian face staring gloomily into the camera. Not such pleasant company, obviously 😏

I love being on my own and undisturbed. My days are filled with day dreaming - and drawing, endless drawing; the inevitable tall girls with the long straight hair, obviously, but fairy tales in particular. Fairy tales in which the Norwegian forest, trolls and animals play a leading role, inspired by the John Bauer drawings.

Time for some adventure

If a few days later the blanket and the gloominess feel less heavy, it is time for some action. And when I say action, I usually mean adventure. While our parents are away to Kongsberg, shopping for the day, we – or rather I - decide that Store Ble should be climbed. And so the kilometres-long journey begins.  Directly behind the house the sandy path starts slowly meandering uphill, further and further into the forest. There we are, a group of six children, talking and laughing, walking, running and skipping; my best friend and I, both with our younger siblings.

A good hour and a half later, the sandy path, which has become more and more rocky, comes to a halt and the serious climbing starts. The top of the Store Ble is no longer visible from that point, making it all the more difficult to locate our position and our course. The journey is getting heavier. The dense and green forest has given way to rocks and half-dead, thinned trees and shrubs that we use to pull ourselves up. The younger sisters are agile and clamber behind us with determination. The 9 year’ old brothers have to be helped and pulled up again and again, but they are enjoying every minute of their adventure. Under a man-high overhanging rock we find a good number of scattered bones - clearly remnants of smaller animals; obviously this is the home of a lynx.

It is warm, suffocatingly warm and the climb takes us hours. Bare arms and legs are full of scratches, scrapes and insect bites. Going back is not an option. Ble toppen must and will be reached and conquered. Time and again we fill our field bottles with water from the countless streams and when we finally reach the summit - after hours of hard work - we cannot help but look around us in awe and let the imposing view and the cooling breeze work on us. All hardships are nullified as we are taking it all in. Even the boys are dead silent. Then all of a sudden, we die a thousand deaths when one of the sisters suddenly jumps down from the edge. Only joking, she says, reappearing from a lower edge, a broad smile on her smudgy face.

Clouds building up

We have to go back. The weather is changing. From my dad I had learned that thunderstorms can strike from one minute to the other, even when the sky is completely clear and clouds seem far away. We begin our journey back, climbing down. Carefully at first, from rock to branch and from branch to rock - but as the thunderstorm approaches and the clouds are building up, we go faster and faster, until we cross the few flat familiar plateaus on our way down.

With the sandy path in sight, we reach the last rocky plateau on our way, stumbling over our own feet. Then, with a deafening blow as of a steel plate, lightning bombards the rock right behind us. The ground is thumping beneath our feet and an intense smell of sulphur is spreading. We don't dare to look back and keep on running and stumbling downhill, on and on, dragging the screaming brothers along. Finally we reach the sandy path and only when it is starts to rain, fear slowly gives way to a cautious form of relief and dare we look behind us.

Strong stories

It is 6 pm and dusky when the hytte finally comes into sight. Soaked and exhausted we stumble up the porch stairs. When later that evening our parents arrive home from their shopping spree and find all six of us sitting reading on the couch in PJ’s - there is absolutely nothing - apart from tangled hair, battered limbs and faces - that betrays our adventure and absolutely nobody who takes the strong stories of the brothers seriously. 

zaterdag 2 januari 2016



It is still early, around half past five and I am wide awake. I can hear the water calling. It is

the only sound to be heard. The house is sound asleep while the water continues to call and
gets me out of bed. When I walk outside I see the boat lying on the shore; the boat which is mainly used for fishing. The house is situated on the rocky fjord coast, near Bodø in Norway.
It is the summer of 1970 and we are visiting bestemor. Because of her rather cramped housing conditions my parents had decided to rent a hytte a short distance from the city.

They will bite anyway

I wake up my sister and brother and tell them to come along. Still half asleep they follow me outside. Without talking we push the boat into the water, fishing lines on the bottom. Slowly
we row up the fjord, the house getting smaller and smaller. Except where I row the water is unruffled and serene. Once at considerable distance from the shore, we roll out the lines. The only fishing method we master is that of throwing the line into the water and move it with strong regular pulls. Stale bread is the only bait, which works well enough because "once amidst a school they will bite anyway," is a statement which I picked up when we stayed with the Vee family in 1966 roaming the Bergen fjord in a motorboat called Bamse.

Cod fish is heavy, especially hanging from a cord and fighting with might and main. Because
my sister and brother cannot get them in, it is me who pulls the fish inside the boat with great difficulty and disposes them of the cruel hook. When some time later I spot my parents
standing on the shore, frantically calling and gesturing, I understand that it is time to return. Half an hour later we - three children dressed in PJs in a boatload of codfish - are greeted
with an explosive mix of anger and admiration.

Codfish dangling and proud of it...


That evening there is a party on the big warm rock in front of the house. Bestemor and the
rest of the family are invited to dinner and accompanied by mosquitos - who celebrate
mainly on my bare legs - we watch a massive codfish sizzling on the grill.

May 2012

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Visitors from the Netherlands It’s a warm and sultry summer in the early 70s, when a befriended family from the Netherlands are to spe...