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Monday, 9 July 2012


I’ve spent the last couple of days working on this talk for the U3A group next Monday. It’s about my stay in Nebraska last year, and goes by the title “A Home On The Range”.  I’ve finally managed to corral 65 photos into some kind of order and think I have worked out what to say in order to render the story coherent, perhaps even entertaining. The hard part has been in deciding what to leave out.

Meanwhile, another note or two on Norway. I suspect this will be coming out in dribs and drabs as the memories come back to me. The picture above is of a public toilet in the delightfully named town of Grimstad; the new public toilet, the vandal-proof public toilet with the no-nonsense steel door. Not the kind of place you want to go in, do the business and then find that said door is jammed.

I nearly ripped the skin off my fingers trying to turn - first the handle, then the lock itself. They were having none of it. I hammered on the door. Finally A., who was contemplating a quick swim in that glorious, blue, icy cold water, heard me. ‘I’m stuck!’ I shouted. ‘Can’t get out.’

Let’s keep this brief. I still wince when I think about it. She tried the door from the outside - but of course, it was built to withstand any amount of tampering. So she took off for a nearby hotel. Ten minutes later she reported that the fire brigade were on their way - and that if I emerged alive there was a free tea or coffee awaiting me at Reception.

The Fire Brigade, eh? Re-sult!!! Here was the spicy kind of story you pray for when you’re on a trip. The kind that sells to travel mags and weekend newspapers. Writer Penned In Public Convenience! Man of Letters Locked in Loo! The Blog From The Bog!

I immediately texted everybody I could think of back home. ‘Guess where I am? Yeah, that’s right. Locked in a lavatory, and a posse of Norwegian firemen are on their way, bells ringing, axes at the ready. Stand by for noise, action, explosions, forcible entry, helmeted figures emerging from a cloud of smoke.’

The tender pulls up outside. I prime the camera, check all the settings. This is going to be the holiday snap to beat all. But will it be a door-enforcer such as the police use - the one I’ve had to describe in minute detail in the Mike Pannett books? Or could it be the loud BANG! and the shower of sparks, like on the TV? Fingers crossed - but really… who cares, so long as I get the picture?  

‘Are you all right in there?’ the head man asked, in perfect English.

‘Coping,’ I gasped, as I squatted on the floor and pointed my camera at the likely point of impact. Have to show these foreign types how cool we Brits are in the face of imminent destruction. ‘Fire away!’

I’m glad to say I didn’t actually say that, because, after a brief pause - a tense pause, I might add - there was a faint sort of jingling noise, followed by the sound of a key being inserted in the lock and then… sunlight. The buggers had come with a duplicate.

Oh well, I was out; the free coffee awaited, and we had the souvenir picture of the hero standing beside the Grimstad fire tender.


No rain today - well, apart from that heavy drizzle around mid-morning which hardly counts as precipitation in this monsoon summer. If this holds we could well be applying the slug-killer this evening. The knowledge that we have the eggs of 30,000,000 death-dealing nematodes** in our fridge is both comforting and… unsettling.

**Phasmarhabditis hemaphodrita, to give them their precise appellation.

Tomorrow is my birthday. 63 - and only two years to go till I collect my state pension. I feel a party coming on….