Sunday, June 14, 2015

Oslo (I don't belong, I belong)

Anytime I go to Oslo I look from outside with my face pressed against the glass. Just an observer, I cannot partake. It’s too damn expensive.
This time I didn’t have even one beer the whole time I was there – it must be a record. I bought a book with the money I would have spent on a beer. An expensive book but a good one.
Again I paid for everything on credit card. But I found a krone in my hotel room on the last day – the first time I handled actual money on any of the four visits in the last couple of years. One krone (NOK) is about three billion euros.
I managed mostly to survive on free food from the “Strawberry Party” at Oslo City Hall and the free grub for journalists at the Bislett Games. I ate like a snake, stuffing myself when the food was free, abstaining when it wasn’t. I tried digesting slowly. I’m still alive so I guess it worked. I guess that’s how all journalists survive. Free grub and/or cheap beer.
Oslo itself is pristine, steel and glass buildings, not a corner askew, immaculate. Cars are shiny and confident, the yachts too, all the fucking yachts. It’s spotless, no place for rubbish. There are sculptures and art pieces on every corner. The city’s pretty, everything and everyone.
Somehow I like Oslo, I’m not sure why. It seems like a fourth home now. I guess I like the sculptures and art pieces. The people are very nice and friendly. And I found a squat, though the squatters probably also have yachts. I admit being envious of the yachts and the fancy apartments overlooking the sea. There are equal levels of envy and disdain. I don’t want them, I don’t think I want them. I’d like the option of being able to reject them though. Perhaps I’d be corrupted too.
On the other side of the kroner there are the Osloers left behind, the ones who don’t have yachts, fancy apartments or restaurant reservations. There are quite a lot of fucked-up people around, some lying on benches, cans in hand, others on drugs of one sort of another. There are plenty of beggars too. When I arrived, four white police officers were harassing a black guy. I don’t know the circumstances – maybe the black guy murdered someone (I doubt it) – but it still jarred the attention. Them vs. us. Insiders and outsiders.
I imagine Oslo is a hard place to survive without connections, possibly even with connections, a hard place for outsiders. I suppose it always was – even the Vikings left for greener shores.

The first picture below was taken at 1.03 a.m. on June 11, after I’d finished work. It was darker than the picture shows – I guess the camera gathers what light it can – but still remarkably bright for such a time of night. I have to go to the Arctic Circle. One of these days, if I save enough…

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Fußballfest (Someone's gotta do it)

I was beginning to feel like I was living at Olympiastadion. Five times in just over a week I was there, culminating with Saturday’s Champions League final. In a way, I’m writing these words to remind myself of how privileged I am. It’s mad how quickly it all becomes commonplace and normal.
But of course it’s a huge big deal, the Champions League final. Messi, Neymar, Suárez, Iniesta, Buffon, Pogba. It was Xavi’s last game for Barça, likely Pirlo’s too for Juve.
The Saturday before it was the German Cup final, Klopp’s last game as Dortmund coach. I couldn’t bring myself to take one last photo of him from the last presser he gave – he was heartbroken, it was like a funeral. German football will be a helluva lot duller without him.
It’s incredible to think I’m being paid to go to such things, but of course I had to work too. There was a feature on Klopp and match report for the German Cup final, a Messi/Neymar/Suárez feature and then player rankings for the Champions League showpiece. I wasn’t the only one there – all the bosses including the top boss from New York were all over for it. We went for a fancy dinner Friday night at a restaurant where the prices would make you cry. Thankfully I didn’t have to pay.
I ventured down to the mixed zone in the hopes of getting an interview with one of the stars (at the match, not the restaurant). Well, I wasn’t too optimistic. My Spanish isn’t good enough to interview anyone and my Italian’s non-existent. I got Barça’s German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen but he didn’t say anything interesting.
Messi walked through with his kid, so did Neymar (with his own kid, not Messi’s), and Dani Alves bounced through blaring jungle music or something. The great Pirlo walked through without stopping for anyone.
I cycled home without stopping for anyone. I’d been biking it all week. It’s great waking up in your own bed and cycling to the Champions League final. I locked the bike inside the stadium and got strange looks from security when I cycled out.
That’s it for me now, the football season’s over. I’m off to Norway on Wednesday for athletics and the Strawberry Party at Oslo City Hall. That’ll be fun. Then Halle for tennis the week after that. ‘Tis a tough oul life.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

The beach

First swim of the year today, the first of many I hope. Jesus, it was glorious. It was too sunny to stay in and do the things I needed to do – summer arrived Thursday and I’d been running around like a blue-arsed fly since – so I hopped on my temperamental steed and cycled to Flughafensee, beside Tegel.
I was only there in winter before and wasn’t even sure if it was the same lake, but it was, lovely, airport in front, forest behind. You could watch the planes taking off and landing from the comfort of the sandy beach and throw yourself into the water to swim. Swim! I swam, twice, good swims, great swims. I’ll go swimming again. It was refreshing to do something non-destructive for a change.
I lay on the beach and let the sun massage me. I skipped the FKK beach this time – I passed it on the way but was put off by a spread-eagled man with his scrotum looking up at me – and so opted for the safer option. One of these days…
The beach was crowded by Irish standards, sparse by local. Teenagers arrived on one side blaring some shite German rap. Rap is bad enough in any language but it’s even worse in German for some reason. Other teenagers on the other side, who’d been quiet up to then, responded with dance music. Thankfully they won, the lesser of two evils when you’re at a beach. I could actually have put up with either of them. My tolerance levels have grown.
I read my book about punks in the DDR and wished I were a punk. I always wanted to be a punk but never had enough strength in my convictions to make the necessary concessions. The punkiest thing I ever did was have my ear pierced and hair dyed when I was 17. Some punk I was.
It was good at the beach. Introspective. Sunshine. Warmth. Water. Outrospective too. I looked around at my co-conspirators, made judgments on them all.
I got a puncture on the way home. It was outrospective again. I forgot about being a punk and pushed the damn bike home.