Freyr, one of the Norse gods who has responsibility for rain and sun, spent much of May having a laugh at our expense. In fact, he must have invited his friends along too. We were subjected to every possible weather variation. As I shivered in snow in the first week of May, I could almost hear them up on their respective clouds. “Ah go on now….throw in a bit of hail and wind! That’s it…look at them! Haaaa ”
The following week we were bewildered into stowing the umbrellas and shoving bare white toes into sandals. As usual, I got sunburned in my excitement at seeing the Big Yellow Thing in the sky. A week later, it was back to nine degrees and pessimism. Impossible to gauge when to finally pack away those winter woollies.
I’m beginning to think….cautiously….that those gods have tired of their game. For now. Maybe they went on holiday. In any case, summer temperatures are creeping back into Bergen. Regularly overlaid and sprinkled with rain, just to guard against complacency.
I am to be found sipping a latte (yes, it’s a coffee moment) in the cool breeze outside a simple café, out of the way of Bergen’s bustling centre. I need no book. I am observing the pages of life turning all around me. A whippet yawns expansively, then trots after its owner. I love whippets ….their delicate, fine-boned structure and narrow, intelligent heads. Tail curving apologetically against the back legs. Dappled coat. In the other direction, an enormous wolfhound seems to take its human out for a constitutional.
An abundance of tiny toy dogs, so fashionable and oh so yappy. Bred to the point of fragility …. I worry they will get stepped on. Electric cars, passing with that creepy science-fiction whirr. Sparrows eyeing me hopefully. I have no food.
There’s a rare telephone box across from the café, overshadowed by the rack of pristine electric City bicycles. It looks like a relic from another age, familiar yet unfamiliar. I expect the clumps of tourists will soon stop to click away, as they do at even the most unexpected corners. Packs of them swarm and cover the city, often stopping in the middle of a road for the perfect photo. The same one replicated throughout their group.
I navigated with difficulty past them to reach this café. Around me sit handfuls of tourists of the quieter, more considerate variety, content to sit like me and drink in the atmosphere. Languages fly over my head as I catch a salty whiff of the nearby sea. Seagulls are bold and cheeky, stalking in close and keeping an unblinking eye out for opportunity. Now the air smells new green and warm, with a hint of the North never far away. People wander, many hand in hand. On some days it feels as though the world in front of me is full of couples. A stroll together, a chat, a giggle, then sharing the silence. They pass me by as I watch.
Norwegians love their hotdogs almost as much as we Brits love our cuppa. There’s just one place in Bergen I know where they really are something else. Rumour has it that even the King has made a pit stop there when in town. The smell is more appealing to me in summer weather, conjuring up a holiday, outdoors atmosphere.
The National Day has just passed, and the locals take a pride in sprucing up their window boxes and entrances. I enjoy wandering past a succession of restored wooden front doors, intricately carved and lovingly painted in bright, smart colours. There’s a cat sprawled inside a window box, squashing the heathers therein. He mews a greeting as I pass but doesn’t stir.
Bergen is at last full of green again. I find trees comforting and soothing. Like benevolent beings, calmly observing, absorbing. On damp evenings, I listen to the blackbirds singing joyfully through my open windows. There is reassurance in a tree. It will be there, most likely, long after I’m gone. I’d rather a tree planted than a gravestone, for sure. A wagtail hops out of my path. A cheeky little bird that always makes me smile. I count the things on my walks that make me smile. Earlier, I walked by a man who went down on his knees to spontaneously embrace his dog. Man and hound, in total understanding and affection. I smiled all the way to Grieghallen.
May was an intense working month for the BFO….hence my delayed post. The International Festival here naturally involves the orchestra, as indeed it should, usually in concerts of the off-the-beaten-path variety. But we managed to pay homage to our beloved Grieg, along with some exquisite and rewarding Mahler.
Latterly, we have been recording with our familiar Chandos team from the UK. Their professionalism and respect produces fruitful and fulfilling weeks, which will later translate into another stunning CD. Recording sessions make different demands on us, notably of stamina and concentration. The discipline to jump straight into a segment of the work and deliver a clean and convincing account of the music. Again and again with the same intensity. We are drained by the end of a week, but the sense of achievement is enormous after the last take as we hear producer Brian intone his famous word, “Marvellous!”
I continue on my walk, past the wonderful array of boats moored in the harbour, their owners enjoying a well-deserved “utepils “, or “outside beer”, on board. They don’t seem to care that the rain is back. Onwards, past a hotel disgorging a bunch of bewildered tourists who are anxious about what to wear. In a city where you can get all four seasons in one day, I can’t blame them. Someone stumbles out in unfamiliar new hiking boots. Likely product of a bulk buying session in Millets. “It’s trying to rain, Joan!” That sounds so typically British that I giggle, enjoying the moment.