Tuesday, 13 April 2010

i come from the land of the ice and snow

viking ship
A couple of upgrades today, one of which was officially 'Involuntary'. As I flipped across to Norway, I was gently taken to one side on the way into the airport lounge.

An upgrade so that I could sit at the very front of the plane.

Then the journey, and an embarrassing book to read during the flight. I'd intended to take Norwegian Wood, but couldn't find it. Instead I found Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart but before I'd left, the latest copy of Granta popped through the front door.

"Perfect", I thought, as I substituted the new stylish silver overprinted softcover into my densely packed rucksack for the journey.

The chap sitting adjacent to me in the spacious seats was Norwegian and had just been to the UK to visit some friends and attend a soccer match. He'd even got a tattoo of the team and its only afterwards that I'm wondering if it was one of those fake tattoos. It certainly looked realistic enough whilst we were chatting.

But it's a couple of hour flight duration and I soon ran out of things to say about Harry Redknapp and decided to move to reading my book. My new friend had a soccer programme to read.

That's when I noticed the cover of my book in more detail. Most Grantas are themed (the last one was Chicago, I think). This one displayed its theme quite conservatively under an interesting picture.
"No problem", I thought, as I curved the front cover around to make the reading choice a little less obvious.

Then the first story. Called 'The Unwriteable', it was a little like something from that Stanley Kubrick movie with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, except this was a rather explicit male-only version of just a part of the proceedings. The problem was that it felt as if certain words on every page were written extra large and in that type face called "Noticable Bold".

I got through the first article and looked at the map in the plane. We were only at Cambridge...

This was going to be a long flight.

The next story was relatively straightforward for the first 10 lines, with just the illustration to hide by curling it around like I'd done with the cover. The the full story began to unfold and the Noticable Bold was once again evident.

The next couple of stories were relatively 'plane friendly' and the Fig Tree and the Wasp was positively a good story, as was the 'The Spa'.

Of course, my colleague was occasionally looking across and chatting as we were served beers and later food, so I managed the page turning with some care to reduce any unfortunate side effects. I was doing so well until the main course arrived. The stewardess and my new friend looked at me as I fumbled the book, which fell open at...

"Empty Porn Sets" - a collection of photos.

Oh Dear. And before the ravioli.

Well, there was nothing for it but to read on after this, although the collection of illustrations by Dave Eggers probably raised a subsequent eyebrow from my adjacent soccer fan.

But I'll admit that by the time I got to 'The Blue Zoo' I decided to stop. The book was beginning to struggle as there were so many pages bent around to mask the content. I was concerned it would explode and scatter paper throughout the fuselage.

Instead I started to look out of the window, which above Norway is no bad thing.

I always marvel at the amazing scenery of Norway. Its like there's an invisible scenic field around the whole country and as you enter its airspace everything has to look extra magnificent. Douglas Adams wrote in a similar way when he referenced the crinkly bits in the Hitch-Hiker's Guide.

My personal soundtrack for the day switched to that Led Zeppelin song about 'we come from the land of the ice and snow' as I marvelled at frozen rivers and lakes and small twinkling settlements against a dramatic sunlight and distant mountains.

Then to land. To say farewell to my soccer colleague and to catch the 210km per hour train for the next part of the journey.

Now I'm in the rather pleasant hotel, which is where I received the second upgrade of the day, to a modern suite which seems to also contain its own banqueting table.

Time for some grapes.

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