by Berck

It was early in the morning in Oslo, and I rarely seem to be properly functioning early in the morning, especially after having spent the night in a train. Furthermore, my hopes for a shower had just been dashed, since Gina was going out of town. I collected a map from the tourist info place. It was actually a decent map for being a tourist info map, and I’ve seen a lot of them. Some places when it is very difficult to get around, such as Venice, I’ll spend a few dollars and buy a proper map, but usually I try to get by with the tourist maps. I frequently get frustrated by such maps because while they work splendidly if you are trying to get from one huge tourist destination to the next, this isn’t generally what I need out of a map. I often do my best to avoid the areas frequented by tourists, so the maps can be infuriating as they invariably show only the largest of streets in the most pathetic level of detail. I managed to figure out which street was going to be the biggest tourist street in Oslo simply from looking at the map. It was easy to spot as since ran from the train station all the way to the royal palace. As I started down it, I discovered that it was not only tourist-infested but completely pedestrian.

I feel that should note, at this point, that Jayne O’Brien, the lady of this house, just brought me tea. This is quite delightful, and I fear I’m going to pick up quite a habit by the time I get back. It’s easy to see how tea can become an essential part of life, especially when it is this good and you get used to milk and sugar. And it’s even more wonderful when someone randomly brings you tea all the time. It’s not like you can refuse the tea, and they make it incessantly.

I found a large McDonald’s whose toilet I utilized. I returned to the street to watch a guy busking. Busking is not a word I’d ever heard before, maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s British. And while this spell checker doesn’t even recognise it, I know it’s a word because I’ve seen signs in the subways that say, “No Busking”. Busking itself is quite familiar, it’s simply the word that is unfamiliar. Busking involves playing an instrument in hopes of having money tossed in your instrument case. This guy was playing Bob Dylan on his guitar, while playing a bass drum by kicking his right foot which has a string attached the drum on his back. He also had a tambourine tucked under his left elbow, which he had no trouble playing simultaneously with the guitar. He also had a harmonica and a kazoo around his neck, which he played from time to time as well. The reason I stopped to watch him is because he was thoroughly, dreadfully, contagiously, happy. Or, at least made himself appear so. He changed the words to everything he sang to make it fit his surroundings. He sang things such as, ‘You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, but you’re not smiling’ to a passer-by. He’d comment on everyone’s dog that came by, while singing, referring to the dogs as “woof-woofs”. The men, for the most part, ignored him. The women smiled, or looked embarrassed. The children loved him. I just sat around for what must have been an hour, dozing against the building behind me and people-watching. He left eventually, and before long I did too. I didn’t toss him any money. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever given any money to someone playing on the street. I’m not sure why. I frequently stop and listen to them for a minute, but never feel obligated in any way to give them money.

It had been awhile since my last shower, in Paris sometime, and my hair was feeling quite nasty and must have looked worse. I wanted a hat, but had lost mine in the church of San Giovanni in Laterano during Roman reconnaissance the second day or so of the Rome semester. I decided to buy one, provided I could find one for less than 10 dollars, something I thought would be a stretch in Oslo as everything in Norway is dreadfully expensive. I saw a department store and wandered in, up the escalator, and right to the area with some baseball caps. I found a plain, nondescript grey baseball cap with no writing whatsoever on it, for less than $6. I was proud of myself, bought it, and walked out of the store quite glad that I didn’t have to succumb to sporting a swoosh or some such nonsense.

I continued down the road to the Royal Palace which was surrounded by a well tended park with green ducks and green grass and not so green lovers. Scattered throughout the grounds are armed guards who march about looking a bit like something out of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. (A related, but chronologically misplaced note: In Oslo I watched a travel documentary on the BBC by none other than Michael Palin, former member of Monty Python. Although his travel show is funny and well put together, Monty Python was certainly funnier. At one point he flags down an entire express train in British Columbia, Canada which stops, and lets him on board. I wish I could do such things while travelling. (Wow, I had no idea ‘travelling’ had two l’s.) He always appears to be in nicely ironed clothes and have clean hair, something I’d sure like.) I took a nap on one of the park benches, and mused to myself about the extents of the Norwegian right to public access camping. Basically, in Norway, one can pitch a tent anywhere within 150m from any building, farmland and gardens excepted. I somehow wasn’t up to testing it out on the Royal Grounds while the Ministry of Silly Walks patrolled with not-so-silly rifles. I must say, there is something intimating about a man with a gun, no matter what country I’m in.

At this point, I’m going to interject a bit about my present days. Aside from going to Glastonbury yesterday, I haven’t done much travelling at all. I’ve been doing absolutely nothing and enjoying every minute of it. I haven’t really had much of a rest since Last summer? No, even then I was working or travelling. I find travelling relaxing, but only mentally, not physically. I’m just relaxing here. The house I’m staying in is absolutely beautiful, with wonderful gardens surrounding it, and an extremely delightful family. I’ve attempted to help out a bit while I’m here, so as not to be a complete burden on my hosts. I’ve offered to help Rodney (the Dad) paint the cellar, I’m cooking dinner for them all tomorrow, I’m helping Jayne (the mother) with her computer, I’ve attempted to teach Anita (Daughter-16) a bit of trigonometry for her math exam, and I’ve accompanied Peter (son-18) to a pub with Sebastian and Nathan, two of his friends, on several occasions. It doesn’t seem like quite enough, so I hope I can find something else to do in order to be a bit more helpful. As it is, I’ve been doing mostly nothing and enjoying it. I found a huge used book store in Glastonbury, and bought a Heinlein book as well as a bit of CS Lewis. I’ve read about half of the Heinlein book this afternoon with their cat, Kit, sleeping on my chest, which is somehow appropriate. I’ve missed having a cat about, even if my itchy eyes don’t. I told Rodney a moment ago that I think I shall miss the incessant tea and shall have to buy some to take back to the states with me. Saturday I’m leaving in the morning to go to Reading and spend the day with Lauren Bedsole, a friend from high school.

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