This is my third day in Oslo. It’s giving Glasgow a good run for its money as Raintown but I could forgive this city just about anything. I’m staying in a downtown district which is the closest Oslo gets to an underbelly, but I’d rather be here for three weeks, than spend only a handful of days in a hotel.
Friday starts with a coffee in Stockfleth’s where you get stars cut into your loyalty card instead of stamp. My Oslo Pass is burning in my pocket but it’s too wet for outdoorsy stuff, so I walk down Dronningens gate to The Norwegian Film Institute.
It also houses a film museum which takes you through the history of film, has a micro cinema where I viewed some moving and funny Norwegian shorts, and a section on censorship where they present some of the Norwegian Board of Film Censorship’s most disputed cases. Mid-morning was perhaps just a tad early for a fellatio scene.
Liv Ullmann (who does not feature in that scene) has donated a shelf full of her film awards to the museum and she is also the honorary president of The Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund (17-26 August 2011) www.filmfestivalenno which is the gateway to Norway’s film and cinema industry.
As the rain stops, I use my Oslo Pass courtesy of www.visitoslo.com and take the hop on hop off Batservice mini cruise from the City Hall to the new Opera house on Oslo’s recently joined up waterfront. Then we’re sailing past wooded islands with pastel coloured homes which are passed on from generation to generation.
Although the islands could be a reminder of recent dark events, they are neither sad nor sinister, as the dreadful acts of one man cannot erase their enduring beauty and calm.
As we’re returning to the City Hall, I get a call from jazz musician Bugge Wesseltoft to say that he can meet me in the city centre for an interview. Bugge is appearing at the Oslo Jazz Festival which runs from 15-20 August www.oslojazz.no. Like the Glasgow Jazz Fest, Oslo is celebrating its 25th anniversary; we should have twinned.
It’s only a short walk from the boat to the Bare Jazz Cafe (when I get to Heaven I want it to be like this place) and in spite of having just moved house, Bugge doesn’t show any signs of stress. For someone whose music is complex and multi-layered, Bugge talks about his work in straightforward terms.
His love of all music is palpable, and I will be posting the interview later, but essentially, Bugge draws inspiration from all over the world, be it from Istanbul or his Norwegian roots (puirt a beal Gaelic mouth music has so far eluded him). From that base, comes the freedom to explore, experiment and create breathtaking music that is uniquely Bugge.
When we are leaving, Bugge introduces me to the owner of Bare Jazz Cafe, the wonderful Bodil Niska Anbefaler, who had a dream of opening up a jazz cafe, and the drive and creativity to make it a reality. Listen to Bodil’s album Night Time www.niska.no
You will find just about any jazz CD in the downstairs area, have coffee or a drink upstairs, or sit in the pretty courtyard below. There is nowhere in the world I’d rather be – great music and coffee = bliss.
As Oslo Cathedral is on my way ‘home’, I pass it several times a day. This evening, the rain is so heavy you can hear it bouncing off the lanterns and candles that are set in amongst the flowers; the pervading scent is of autumn.
There’s a short service just beginning. It is a privilege to sing psalms in Norwegian, as Bugge said earlier, ‘music is the absolute opposite of violence’. I love that one of the minsters has a pony tail. The table of candles at the heart of the church is as always a symbol of light and hope.
When we share the peace during the service, I shake hands with a young boy who is sitting behind me and his family. We have a minute’s silence in the candlelight, with the bells chiming and the figure of Christ looking down on us from the cross. The young soldier at the door says good evening, then it’s back on to Karl Johan’s Gate where it is Friday night as usual.