Part 1 – Snapshots of my residency in Kunstnarhuset Messen, Ålvik, Norway, during the month of May 2013.
My romantic self had not packed wellies. Only summer clothes, a light waterproof coat, and – of course – swimming gear. I had visualised myself returning to Norway in May as quite the care-free artist, cycling past sweet-smelling apple trees blooming in the warm Norwegian sunshine. Accordingly, I did not prepare for the deep snow that now comes at me from every angle as I travel on the bus from Bergen to Ålvik.
The sleet falls steadily. The slippery, heavy, material collects on the roof of the house and clatters off every few minutes; it frightens me.
I return to the little jetty below the house to look out at the water and mountains. A vulgar cruise ship silently passes by in the miserable, grey weather, its size no match for the hulking rocks behind it.
Ill-equipped for this weather, I don’t last long, preferring to return inside and huddle up next to a radiator. I am grateful not to have to walk in this slush, as I had done during the Camino.
Tonight, in the warm kitchen, I listen to a story told by a Norwegian artist, who is wearing her elaborate national costume. She tells us of a girl who was getting into a boat from the jetty. The gap widened at the last minute and she fell into the water. Her bulky woollen skirts went right up over her head and when she re-surfaced, her bare backside greeted the other locals (women did not wear underwear). In their God-fearing state of shock they pushed her under the water again, to ensure that she would reappear the right way up, modest and covered. But in doing so, they drowned her.
I imagine the heaviness of the layers of felted wool in those cold waters, and shiver.