by Berck

I’m in Somerset, which, I fear, I’ve been spelling incorrectly for some time now. The O’Brien family, with whom I’m staying, has been kind enough to allow me to use their computer. This arrangement is provides a luxury I haven’t had in a long time. I’m not paying by the minute for I can actually compose offline now.

I wrote a large e?mail in London a few days ago, but lost it before it was sent. I’m rather upset at that, as it means that it’s the second such email I’ve lost. I was typing it in Word, even, so it would be backed up in case something happened. The console I was at froze and restarted itself. This would have been fine, except these terminals do an interesting thing when they restart abnormally. Rather than trying to make sure everything is okay upon restart, it automatically reinstalls Windows after wiping the hard drive partition clean. It does it over the local ethernet so it only takes about 5 minutes. This is clever, as windows is so unstable that a clean install is sometimes the only way to get it stable for a while. The only problem with this, however, is that the backup file of my document was lost. So, once again, you guys lost out on an update.

I suppose I shall start from Paris. The first time. Well, no, its not the first time, for that was with Robin. The second time I was in Paris then.

I took a night train to Paris from Zurich, the last place I’d written from. I shared a compartment with a Canadian girl who was studying in Norway, and a guy from Florida who was working in Kobenhavn. Neither of them provided either interesting conversation or amusement. I slept quite well that night, though the conductor woke us up dreadfully early, a whole hour before our departure. It’s not like I can take a shower or anything on the train, so I don’t know why he woke us up so early. A half an hour before arrival is too early for me, but I can understand why some people might want that much time. But an hour?

There was nothing open when we got to Hamburg, even though our train was rather late. It was early in the morning, but I can no longer remember just how early. I was starving, but I didn’t want to change any money because I was only staying in Germany for a few hours and taking the next train to Copenhagen. I changed 50 francs I had leftover from Paris, and with a grimace walked into the only place open which I could also afford. McDonald’s. I bought my grease and Coca Cola, and while looking for a place to sit down, was hailed by the Canadian and Floridian from the train who were sitting at a table for four. I decided to be polite and sat down next to them even though I didn’t want to. My pommes frites were absolutely nasty. Who knows how long they’d been sitting out there. I’d have gotten breakfast only I couldn’t because Europeans, save the British, don’t have a clue what it’s about, and a European McDonald’s is apparently no exception. No egg McMuffin for me. The Canadian girl agreed that the French fries were nasty and got them to give her new ones. I was a little annoyed that she got fresh ones. I’d already mostly finished my nasty ones, not thinking to complain. I wasn’t about to let food go to waste that I’d paid for– nasty or not.

The train to Copenhagen was kind of neat, it was the first diesel train I’d been on in Europe as they are all electric. I didn’t understand why until the train drove onto a ferry, something the electric ones would have a bit of trouble with, I imagine.

Copenhagen was okay, but not terribly exciting. I wrote a lot about it, but unfortunately, you didn’t get that letter. I found the little mermaid statue which is disgustingly covered with tourists climbing all over it. I couldn’t figure out how they’d all found it, since it took me some doing. There are signs, but they simply say “Der Lille Havfrue” which I couldn’t translate at the time. Then a bus drove up and dropped off a whole buttload of tourists, and it all made sense. It’s a lot easier to find if a bus deposits you. It was one of those huge sightseeing buses. I’ve never understood anyone who tries to see a city from a bus, why bother? You go too fast, you can’t really see anything. Such buses are always full of lots of old people and Japanese people trying to take pictures of anything and everything through the windows. They got out of the buses, climbed all over the statue to get pictures of themselves with the mermaid. I think they ought to wire her up with a nice electric charge, so if you touch her you get quite a shock, as I can’t believe the thing is even in existence after all the abuse its been put through. It’s a neat statue, but not terribly exciting. While shooting pictures of the dumb tourists around the mermaid, I realised [Editors Note: My spelling tended to become more and more British when it was subjected to a British spell checker.] that my roll of 36 exposure film hadn’t wound properly, and I hadn’t actually exposed any of it. This wouldn’t have been quite so annoying if I had shot any more film than that since Budapest. I hadn’t, and was quite annoyed at myself. I mean, I carry that camera everywhere, and since I’ve left Rome, I’ve taken few pictures. I’m not sure why, as much as I usually shoot, one would think I’d be going mad. I guess everything I look at, I think, “Nah, it’s not worth it, besides, I want to save money on film.” I wanted to rent a bicycle, but as Michael discovered, 1 June is an obscure Catholic holiday during which time bike shops were all closed. Most things, including all the museums, seemed open, but for some reason all the bike shops were closed. I don’t KNOW that ascension day was the reason it was closed, but it’s the only reason I could come across. Actually, I few other businesses were closed as well, but not many.

In any case, I decided to go ahead to Norway, because I’d heard it was beautiful, and Joanna had given me the number of a girl in Oslo she met in Italy who would probably give me a room. Beautiful and I could stay for free, sounded like a good combination to me. I took a night train to Oslo, and got there fairly early in the morning. I decided that 8.30am on a workday wouldn’t be too early to try her home, but I got an answering machine in speaking in Norwegian. I called her work number, and someone answered the phone in Norwegian. I’ve been climbing strange mountains, sleeping in strange places, and this is all fine, but for some reason I was simply petrified of calling this girl I didn’t know and never even met to beg for a place to stay. To make things worse, I don’t even speak her language. I didn’t even know how to ask, “Do you speak English?” in Norwegian, something I try to learn in most languages. Most Norwegians, I found out later, speak English. Most of the Danish did as well. “I’m looking for Gina?” I said questioningly. “Yes, this is Gina,” she said in a thick accent. It turns out that I had the worst timing as she was going out of town for the weekend on her job, and couldn’t offer me anything, as it was Friday, but would be glad to feed me and give me a place to stay Sunday night. She was most gracious and actually sounded a bit upset that she wouldn’t be able to give me a place to stay. I thanked her and told her that I wasn’t sure if I’d still be here on Sunday, but that I’d give her a call if I were.

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