With: Anna (born 1975)
Date: 24 September 2016
Where: Ål, Buskerud, Norway
Anna and I have been friends since 1995. We met in lectures for our first-year course 'Introduction to Psychology' at Sussex. Anna's degree was psychology in the school of biological sciences whereas mine was social psychology in the school of social sciences. For a while we worked together in a horrible smoky gay bar in Brighton, then called Zanzibar.
I've been to Oslo a few times to visit Anna, most recently for her marriage to Kristine in September 2010, exactly six years ago. She came back to the UK for my 40th in the summer and gave me a birthday present consisting of a set of inspired vouchers, redeemable for various joint activities. (Anne, entirely independently, did the same - what thoughtful friends I have!) Knowing I would be riding as far as Sweden in September and wanting to spend some time together, Anna suggested I redeem one of my vouchers for a return train journey from Göteborg to Oslo, which she organised for me.
During my five-day visit Anna drove us up into the mountains to the modern wooden cabin they share with another family, for the weekend, just the two of us. Having a toddler and both working, neither Anna nor Kristine gets much in the way of down-time, so I was honoured and grateful both to Kristine for giving Anna the weekend off parenting and to Anna for choosing to spend that weekend with me.
On the Saturday we had a good breakfast and then set off to tackle a particular walk Anna and Kristine had attempted a couple of times before but been thwarted for various reasons. Anna had brought along hot coffee in a Thermos and some snacks, as well as some special bum-mats for sitting on. She's gone totally native, that one.
Aiming for the peak Anna had in mind was easy: it was right there in front of us. It was pretty windy and cold up there so we moved quickly whilst chatting about families, mutual friends, relationships, parenting and Anna's work. Getting close to the top we realised the peak was in cloud and concluded it would be fairly pointless to continue, so we took some photos and started to scramble back down. The colours (rock, moss, lichen etc) were amazing, ranging from grey to bright green.
Though all we had to do was retrace our steps back to the car and there wasn't any fog, we managed to get lost on the way back down. Well, not totally lost, we just lost the path and spent a long time staggering through a very uneven bog following what seemed more like sheep trails than human ones. At one point we made for a wooden pole with a map nailed to it, which turned out to be a cross-country skiing map and not much use to us in September!
We were never in any kind of peril and we'd had food and we still had some coffee, but it was a bit of an 'adventure' nevertheless! Safely back in the car Anna switched on my bum-warmer, which was nice of her. Then she started talking about going for a swim in the river. That didn't happen. We went back to the cabin instead and ate and talked some more. Anna was also kind enough to read the personal user manual I was working on. It felt good to have an early night and to know Anna wouldn't be woken in the middle of the night by any screaming.
On Sunday it was a long, stunning drive back to Oslo. We stopped at a funny roadside cafe for some typically Norwegian lunch to break the journey. Given it was Anna and Kristine's wedding anniversary I was very happy to be allowed to babysit while they went out for supper at a neighbourhood restaurant.
Thank you Anna so much for your friendship and for organising and funding this time together. It means the world to me.