Is the moon made of cheese??

Being told you are “surplus to requirements” when you have worked somewhere for over 17 years is never nice and never easy. Even when you suspect it is coming and maybe even a tiny part of you wish for it to be so, just so the wait is over if nothing else. You are going about your business and suddenly somebody asks you to “pop down” to your own office without any further explanation. You duly oblige, you descend the stairs (Green Mile anyone?) and enter said room. Empty. You sit down in your own chair, at your own, very tidy, desk (well, we were expecting important visitors after all).  Next, the door opens and a Senior VP from German HQ walks in, followed by a very nice HR person from a sister company. Doomed. Fight or flight?  Ruuuunnnnnnnn!  No, can’t, they are blocking the door.  Ok then, there’s only one way to settle this: FIIIIIIIIIGHT!!!!!!  Maybe not, is that going to help me? Perhaps not. There’s only one way to handle this then: SMILE!  Well, grimace more like. And nod a lot.  Strangely I recall it now as if it was a poor tannoy announcement with a really bad echo, hearing words I have had to use myself to others before me “As you know… know… know… the market is very difficult… difficult…difficult…“  “I am very sorry…  sorry… sorry…, that it has come to this… this… this…”  Eventually the tannoy announcement stops and my visitors leave, leaving me with a letter which does confirm that I have been duly tapped on the shoulder. Silence. In fact, stunned silence. You hear the expression, but for the first time I felt I actually knew what it meant AND felt like.

Soon, you start to move, and speak, and, oh yeah, breath again! You seek out your fellow shoulder tapped colleagues for some jovial (brave) banter and “how was it for you”. The most difficult part was not being able to tell your colleagues that weren’t in on the act. 3 more weeks would pass before that could happen and was probably the hardest part of all, after losing your job that is.  Then again, I didn’t even tell my nearest and dearest for 24 hours. The dust in my brain had to settle and I needed to process it all.

Anyway, is the moon made of cheese?

In my experience, yes I think it is, then again I could be wrong. So why the moon? Well, now that I am no longer working for the same outfit I was with for 17 years I made the following approximate calculation:

I commuted a total of

3825 times to and from work. That’s at least 11475 hours of travel. Continually that’s 478 days or 1 year and 4 months!

Distance wise it was 344000 miles or 14 times round the world, OR if you go to the moon (!): The moon is 238,000 miles away. So I have made it to the moon and nearly halfway back. Currently stuck somewhere between the moon and the International Space Station. So, can someone please offer me a job so I can get back to earth?

Is the moon made of cheese? I honestly don’t know. The 17 years went by with rocket speed and I didn’t get a chance to look….

Moon

Advertisements

You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy…

This title serves a dual purpose. Country, literally, and countryside. For my fellow urbanites, countryside is where the green stuff grows, animals live and as if by magic things you can eat and drink appear in your local Megatron supermarket or local “top-up shop”

Many find it fascinating and interesting to learn that I was born and raised in Norway. Especially as I am not 6’3’’ and definitely not blond! I guess I look more “European” if there is such a type. Mid country, mountain village boy in a society where the nation carries a joint burden in proving that Norway/Norwegians are the best AT EVERYTHING or is the raison d’etre for someone or something.  There’s a new American president?  Ah well, the great great great great grandmother originally emigrated from a small fishing village in Vestlandet and settled in Minnesota, of course the President was destined to become the President, practically Norwegian!!!  I kid you not: Presidents or soap stars, Oscar winners or literary or scientific geniuses, journalists WILL find a connection to the Motherland. And why not? You need something to put in the newspaper, no? Especially in a country where practically everybody reads a paper and per capita hardly beaten by any other country in the world for readership.  So, where was I, oh yes, mountain village idiot of sorts.  Idiot I guess because I didn’t fit in, didn’t feel I fit in and ultimately DIDN’T want to fit in (That was the Idiot part I guess!!) The determination to get out was immense and by the age of 12ish just knew that country life was not going to be for me. I was getting out of the countryside and if for a while before settling in somewhere suitably urban like Oslo, I could live abroad, even better!

The need to leave was very strange in a way, as I had a future of sorts mapped out for me, if I’d wanted it. I was brought up in a family business and learnt very early on that work, and hard work, is the key to most things. This part I didn’t mind at all. Well not too much. From the age of 10-12 I was stocking shelves in the garage or filling petrol and cleaning car windscreens out on the forecourt. As I got older (12-13) I moved on to cleaning holiday chalets and flipping burgers, serving customers, stock control,receipting and rotation and put-away. I remember with great joy the first computerised tills where I got to be trained by the supplier on how to program up to 999 products with a unique code (alas no barcodes or scanners yet). A carton of milk, 211 <ENTER>; 2 kroner or whatever would PING! up on the calculator looking display. It was magic, the excitement palpable!  Now all that was left was to teach and train a bunch of grown-ups how to use the darn thing. A vacant office became “Training Central” with a variety of goods and a stream of people coming in over days and weeks for their chance to “play shop” before we installed the new wonders in the shop and ready to “Go Live”. Of course in those days I didn’t know what “Go Live” really was and how scary THAT could be. These were fun and exciting times. An age later now in an IT career “Go Live” suddenly meant something a bit more serious where a bad one could be career ending NOT something automatically exciting and new and career enhancing.

Anyway I digress. So why the need and urge to move on at such an early age instead of remaining at the heart of a (sometimes) booming family business? Well, with my father still alive and he would probably sue me; let’s just say family life was complicated, my father was, and is, complicated and rather than stepping into a ready made job and career I needed to achieve something off my own back. More on that another time.

So what’s the point of the headline do I hear you say?

Well, the other day I was out walking trying to shed those final one or two excessive pounds when I approach (at speed and NOT really paying attention), a skip with a couple of sandbags lying on the pavement next to it, THIS country boy exclaims to himself: “OMG! There’s a dead cow on the road!”

cowskip

You can take the boy out of the country, but his gut reaction 30 years later is STILL that there COULD be dead cows in the street……

 

Not so Grand, but Central

So, it’s here, after years of demolition and construction whilst still operating the main railway station in the country’s second city. The new New Street Station or Grand Central as the complex is called. This depends I guess on whether your are referring to the train station with a shopping mall attached or a shopping mall with its’ own train station. And here lies the problem for me. It has to do both. And I am not sure if it does itself justice.

Don’t get me wrong, its’ scale is hugely impressive and a FANTASTIC exterior. Inside, its’ almost cathedral like appearance hits you once you are in the middle under the equally large and impressive glass roof. But, and there is a but I’m sorry to say, it only works on some levels. Literally. The flagship John Lewis store is fantastic. The biggest outside London. In fact nicer, better and more impressive than its’ London parent.  The balcony area outside the store with all the other smaller stores is also very good, and the view down across and onto the concourse also impressive.

Down on the concourse though looking up I cannot help but feel unimpressed despite the open “sky”. The glass roof, meant to let the “right” amount of light in is grand, but makes for a “matt”, dull and dreary environment I think. On a bright sunny day, the only feeling I get is one of cold, impersonal and dare I say it, soulless atmosphere.  This becomes even more obvious if you walk across the road to the Bull Ring. The ceiling here is as if it almost does not exist; the sky is so clear and the blue is BLUE and the clouds WHITE. The Bull Ring in contrast also felt much more intimate despite its’ large scale and buzzing and almost FUN, a word I would not normally use about shopping or a mall. (I think I need a lie down)

Anyway, back to Grand Central.  John Lewis fab, the general shopping area very good and I guess “worth it”. So what about the station?

So, it’s the same space so there is no denying the impressive scale. What IS disappointing though is that after all this time and all the work, the platform re-construction was not completed in line with the rest of the complex. I don’t get it. Thousands of people arrive at the station every day and arrive, on shabby and at best half finished platforms. What has been done is good, such as the new escalators, but much of the problem with New Street remain, and I don’t see how it will change. Many areas of the platforms are still very constricted and tight for space and there is just a huge melee when leaving or boarding the trains. There is simply just not enough space for passenger stepping down onto the platform with the hordes that are waiting to get on. Try using 12B for example where the trains stops at the absolute narrowest point.

And now for my biggest gripe. As New Street is now a station AND a mall in one, what happens when using it as an interchange? Well first of all we now have automatic barriers rather than people checking tickets. Not a problem in itself if there were enough gates, the entry and exit programmed the “correct way” for the direction you are travelling and the tickets worked each time.  So far I find they don’t about 25-30% of the time. This is no good when you are rushing for your connection. And from gripe I move on to HATE. If you are unlucky enough to to have to change platforms from a high number, “A” end to a low number platform also on “A” end on a tight schedule; forget it! This might have been possible in the past but not today. Now you have to get up onto the concourse, go through the ticket barrier, run across the path of shoppers entering or exiting the station and then go back through another ticket barrier and then run for your life down the escalators again. I have lost count of the number of times that this has now been the end of my day. The next connection being from MOOR street.

Then again, at least I get to walk through the Bull Ring!

Disappointing

Disappointing……..

Impressive exterior

Impressive exterior however

No Bull Here!

And across the road: No Bull Here!

Hellig ku

Jeg skrev nylig om hvordan søndagshandelen har endret livsmønsteret til millioner av mennesker i Storbrittania og at det i år er 21 år siden det ble lov å holde store butikker åpent på en søndag.  Det har vært interessant å følge med på “søndagsdebatten” i Norge som delvis “raser” i mediene fra diverse interessenter.

Norge har på mange områder oppholdt seg i et slags vakum hvor man ikke har tatt eller ikke villet ta, på godt og vondt, stilling til ting som andre land har gjort, ofte 10, 20 eller 30 år tidligere.

Jeg er gammel nok til å huske når vi ikke skulle ha noe mangfold i media. En TV kanal var nok, selv om høydepunktet på en tirsdagskveld var Fjernsynsteateret med et “drama” som kanskje utspilte seg på en italiensk (nedlagt) jernbanestasjon med null dialog men med lydeffekter av passerende tog man ikke kunne se…..  Ikke akkurat en contender for en “Gullrute”. Det er klart, mangfold behøver ikke å bety at kvaliteten alltid blir bedre, MEN er det ikke ok å kunne ha frihet til å velge?   Jeg klarer godt å velge en seriøs dokumentar om barnearbeidere i Asia som syr fotballer til en billig penge for vestlige konsumenter, samtidig som jeg etterpå klarer å slappe av i stress-lessen og le av hvor dumme Paradise og Big Brother deltagere egentlig kan være.

OK, her kunne jeg også la meg selv avspore ved å ta et oppgjør med norsk alkoholpolitikk, men en må kanskje passe på blodtrykket sitt litt så jeg sparer det til en annen gang.(Kanskje til  etter kl 9 en kveld når jeg har vært nede på super’n for å kjøpe den vinflaska jeg glemte til middagen!)

Så tilbake til den norske søndagen. Hvorfor ER den fortsatt ei “hellig ku”?

Kua må fortsatt melkes – 2 ganger! – også på en søndag. Kvinner føder og en hær av leger, sykepleiere og andre hjelpere sørger for at det brekte beinet får pleie og at mormor har det bra på aldershjemmet. Brannmannskap redder deg fra brann og fare, mens politiet passer på deg. Tusenvis av transportarbeidere frakter folk fra A til B mens andre lager mat og server deg på hotell, restaurant eller bensinstasjon. Andre selger deg kinobilletten eller snop fra en kiosk.

Men vil du kjøpe deg et par sko, en ny dress, et nytt kjøkken fra Ikea eller tørre å ville gå å handle mat på en butikk større enn 10 x 10 meter så er dette som om det var verdens undergang.  Jeg sier som Homer Simpson: “Doh!!!”

Det ser ut som om byråkratene og politikerene fra 70-tallets “Oslo-Kremlin” og Youngstorget fortsatt er i levende live og fortsatt skal bestemme over deg.

Åpningstider som reflekterer at veldig mange allerede har fri på virkedager og jobber i helgene OG motsatt,  er kanskje for enkelt for disse “forståsegpåerne”?

Gjør det vondt? “Berre når eg ler!”

 

 

 

Coming of Age – Sunday Trading

This year Sunday trading comes of age and we can celebrate or commiserate “The Sunday Trading Act 1994”. Its’ formal Royal Assent was granted on July 5, the day before my twin boys were born and it is interesting to look back at what was then, and what is, today. In the lead-up to Sunday shopping we were promised the full range of doom, gloom, the end of the world as we know it, and then some. How do we view it today? Well, I for one, can’t imagine not being able to go out and “run errands” on a Sunday, as if it’s a “normal” day. If anything, the restriction for larger shops to only being allowed to open for six hours, seems to me archaic. If a supermarket would like to open for 8 hours on a Sunday, why shouldn’t they? If the customers aren’t coming through the doors, they will soon enough reduce their opening hours. Who are we to say “No”? Let the market decide! Retail outlets are there for their customers, not the other way round! . In the 21 years since my boys were born we have seen a revolution in shopping and shopping habits. Back in 94 we barely had the internet or mobile phones but we saw a rapid growth in both and as my children’s generation grew up, they haven’t known a time where they couldn’t use a wireless device if making a call away from home, or only know Amazon as the rainforest covering the Amazon delta! Interestingly, Amazon was also founded on July 6 1994. So in just over 24 hours, THREE important things all took place that would change our lives forever.

As bricks and mortar shopping is on the decline and internet shopping has rocketed, we have changed the way we live our lives forever. Some would say, not for the better. I respectfully disagree. Why should I have to jam all my domestic “to-do”s into a packed Saturday? Why have all these outlets open when most people are at work? (It’s a bit like when you used to go to the bank during your lunch hour and the queues were massive, as the staff were also on their break! Now you can apply for a loan from your banking-app in the bus queue!)

Surely it is much better to share the load and have less stress. As much as I can’t imagine my life without those two little boys, I also can’t imagine a society where Sundays are “closed for business”. Not being able to go to Ikea on a Sunday? What a thought!

 

BeJa

Taking the slow train

I 2015 var det kommune og fylkestingsvalg. Derfor er det naturlig at det ble mer fokus på distriktspolitikk, på godt og vondt. Det ble sikkert en del skremselspropaganda fra både den ene og andre sida om både det ene og det andre temaet. Men slik er vel politikken blitt.

I 2015 ble det skrevet en del om grisgrendte strøk, fraflytting, NAV, kravstore bygdefolk, behovet for sterke regionbyer og «utflagging» av statlige arbeidsplasser til bygd og dal.

Jeg er ingen ekspert på hverken «smartere økonomi» eller byer som er mere produktive osv.  Store ord er ikke nødvendigvis gode ord. Og jeg spår følgende: Samme hvem vi stemte på, på sikt blir det ikke noen store endringer på resultatet. Ok, det kan hende at hvis en vi ikke tåler trynet på mista plassen sin på fylkestinget så feirer vi det, eller at vi FØLER oss bedre fordi «våre» blåe, grønne eller røde sitter med makta i kommuner her og der. Men til slutt og sist: New year, same shit. «Same procedure as EVERY year, James»

Vår verden har jo blitt mindre. Teknologisk sett kan en jo nå bo nesten hvor som helst uten å ha det noe «dårligere» digitalt enn hvis en bor i en by.

Men fysiske sett, målt i avstander, forblir distrikter ei «bakevje», hvor arbeidsplasser og andre tilbud ikke strekker til for å få ungdommen «heimat».

Suksessive rød-grønne og blå-blå regjeringer har TOTALT manglet ambisjoner. De SIER de er ambisiøse, men når nasjonale transportplaner er offentliggjort, utgjør det som skal gjøres nord for Sinsen krysset fortsatt bare en brøkdel av det som BURDE gjøres. Det er som å skjære av skalken av kneippbrødet og servere den til frokost og håpe på det beste. «Nå æ alle fatan tomme, og alle folkan mætte»! Nei! De er ikke mette. De er fortsatt sultne! Og hva gjør folk hvis de forblir sultne; de flytter på seg dit de kan få flere skiver av kneipen. Uten gode, praktiske og rimelige transportmidler, vil grisgrendte strøk forbli grisgrendte. Tettsteder kan begynne å kalle seg byer så mye de vil, men realiteten er at hvis det ikke finnes grunnlag for et voksende offentlig OG privat næringsliv, og du ikke kan komme deg noe sted raskt nok, da blir det fraflytting fra bygdene.

Fra Dombås til regionbyen Lillehammer med sine ca. 27,000 (?) innbyggere tar det i dag nesten to timer med tog.  Det har det gjort i ÅRESVIS! NSB publiserer sine nye rutetider 2 ganger i året. Hver desember og juni blir en like skuffet, spesielt når noen av avgangene legger PÅ reisetida.

Infrastrukturen er for dårlig, og når det tas et tak så skal det utredes og utredes og utredes. Så får vi litt trenering og så skal det utredes igjen. Og så skal alt skje stykkevis og delt. Det positive som skjer, som for eksempel Gardermoen til Hamar, tar så altfor lang tid. Småbarnsfamilier i dag kan jo nesten rekke å bli besteforeldre før det blir dobbeltspor til Hamar (2024) og Lillehammer (2030). Og hvem sier at disse årstala er garanterte?

Det er jo lett å se at mitt Utopia ikke har en sjanse. I mitt Utopia hvor toget Dombås til Lillehammer tar en time, Otta til Lillehammer 40 minutter, pendlere kaster seg på morgentoget TIL Dombås for komme seg på jobb i et nytt landsfengsel på Jora, eller til Otta på kontoret til ett eller annet for noe som ikke absolutt MÅ ligge på Østlandet.

Der Lillehamringene må smøre seg med tålmodighet i 15 år til, må nok norddøler finne seg i å smøre seg med balsameringsvæske hos begravelsesbyrået, for dette skjer ikke i min livstid!

Ta plass, dørene lukkes. Veeeeldig sakte.

IMG_4325 IMG_4326

When will they ever learn, When will they ever learn?

My grandson adores Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam. Loves cars and trains and playing silly games. In a few months’ time he will be two years old. In the US he could be about to accidentally shoot his mother to death in a supermarket. All because of a not-to-be-challenged right to bear arms, resulting in 30,000 gun deaths per year. In the UK the number of deaths is approx 150, adjusted for population; 750.

Makes you think…

arms

Suitable case for your first gun collection Toby?

 

 

Bleak Friday

It was so sad to see the news this morning. People pushed to the ground, trampled on, small children crying, all for a £139 LED TV. As much as I love a bargain, I can’t help the feeling we are all being taken for a ride. “Black Friday”, imported from the US with mass hysteria whipped up by Walmart / ASDA, Tesco, Dixons/Currys and so on, trying to con us into buying stuff because it’s at such a knock down price. Knock down indeed.  Curry’s is having this annoying and totally fake queuing system where whether there are 20 or 90 thousand people allegedly in a queue to get onto the website you have a waiting time of 20 minutes. So, if this is real, you have had a year to prepare better capacity (the site works fine, as does PCWORLD with no queueing system!) No, this one has been left in the hands of the marketing department!  So, we are being ushered into buying stuff THEY want you to buy.  Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t have much money a 40” Polaroid TV (who? What?) at £139 (half price) is of course a good deal, no question. However, if the electrical stores, supermarkets and department stores REALLY wanted to give you a GREAT Friday they would have a (proper) LG or Samsung Led TV at 40-50% off and the balls to offer, say, a 10-20% discount across the board on all electricals. Instead they just offer you discounts on stuff THEY want to get rid of or have bought in specially for the promotion. The dishonesty is just cringe-worthy and definitely not worth being trampled to death for….

Fake Queue

 

Tilhørighet – It’s a state of mind

Hvis noen skulle fortalt meg for bare noen måneder sida at jeg skulle ende opp med å forsvare denne «rikspurka», som Bjørn Rusten Jr kalte Sanna Sarromaa, vill jeg bare ledd godt. Om jeg ikke akkurat ville kalt Sanna ei purke (så ufin er jeg ikke) så leste jeg ett hvert blogginnlegg med ei holdning som «hva skriver denne kjerringa om denne gangen?». Tittelen «kjønnsforsker» og «feminist» fikk de lille hårene på nakken til å reise seg. Og ikke på en god måte. For meg var det synonymt med enspora 70-talls feminisme hvor mannen har liten eller ingen betydning og kvinner skal ha alt. Etter at Skullerud plasserte 90% av GD.no bak en betalingsmur følte jeg det som vondt verre at Sannas blogg var en av de få artiklene som nå kunne leses uten å gi etter for betalingskrav.

Sanna’s uttalelser er ikke akkurat alltid bredt akseptert, men det er vel heller ikke meininga?  Om det er ytringer om kn…e dokker eller ru….e (jeg er litt høfligere kanskje, på trykk i hvert fall!) sparer hun ikke på kruttet. I tillegg er hun Venstre politiker. Og hva er dét egentlig? Ta i betraktning at da jeg forlot Norge hadde vi fortsatt Lillehammer Tilskuer for de fine Lillehamringene, Gudbrandsdølen for bøndene og Dagningen for arbeiderfolket. Odd Einar Dørum var leder og Venstre var bitte bitte lite og mistet sine to Stortingsrepresentanter i ukene før jeg dro. Selv om jeg i senere tid har hørt om «une Grande dame» ved navn Trine ved et par anledninger er Sanna for meg en «jøss, erra Venstre politiker hu da? Er det slik de er a?» Om ikke annet så skal jeg i hvertfall sette meg inn i hva de står for når det nærmer seg valg i 2015 før jeg setter kursen mot ambassaden i London for å stemme. Hvis høyrevridde folk i Dovre kan bli arbeiderpartipolitikere så skal ikke denne høyrelenende Dovringen være dårligere enn å kunne sette seg inn i hva Venstre og alle de andre partiene for den del, står for.

Men tilbake til vår finske venn. Tross mine fordommer leste jeg Sannas innlegg når jeg kunne og etterhvert så kom jeg til den konklusjonen at kanskje ikke alt Sanna sa var like ille. Hennes meninger om at feminisme ikke betyr at du kan, og må, ha alt, men at du må ta visse valg og at ikke alt dreier seg om å alltid holde seg ved de «bestemmende bordene» til enhver anledning. Dette synes jeg hørtes fornuftig ut. Selv foretrekker jeg likeverd fremfor likestilling. Kvinner seg imellom er ikke like, heller ikke menn. Og det er mye som IKKE er likt mellom kvinner og menn! Men vi er alle like mye verdt.

Så her var dilemmaet, lese Sanna’s blogg eller ta ut lommeboka og fylle kassa til GD? Prinsipielt er jeg fornøyd med nyheter finansierte med annonser, men å måtte betale for nyheter on-line, det gjør jeg ikke. Da får det heller bli Vigga for norddalsnyheter. Så, det ble Sanna for meg og etterhvert så ser jeg nå fram til neste gang hun blogger om noe. Og her kom jeg over siste kneika i mitt usikre forhold til den ”finske dølen”. Kan hun eller kan hun ikke kalle seg døl? Er det kun plass i lokalsamfunnet for «etniske» døler eller kan utenbygds/lands folk også bli døler? (kanskje etter en viss prøvetid?!)

Jeg gikk den andre veien, jeg forlot bygd og land og bosatte meg i England. Her har det alltid vært mye snakk om integrasjon og identitet, ikke minst med stor immigrasjon samt 2014s folkeavstemning i Skottland om løsrivelse fra unionen med England, Wales og Nord-Irland. Jeg kan ikke påstå at jeg er hverken er engelsk eller britisk men jeg bosatte meg her ikke bare fysisk men også veldig fort mentalt. Selv om jeg noen ganger får skjenn fra mine voksne barn nå i 20-åra når jeg sier «we» og «us» i talemåter om «oss» briter og englendere så skjønner jeg og føler jeg Sanna’s mentale «døl» tilstand, i engelsk versjon. Jeg synes egentlig de etniske burde være litt stolte av at «mentale» folk vil være og føle seg som dem?

Jeg føler en form for tilhørighet i et samfunn hvor jeg føler jeg er «hjemme». Hvor du har adoptert en væremåte (noen vil si assimilert i mitt tilfelle!). For meg så kiler det i magen når kveldsflyet tar meg inn over London på vei inn til landing på Heathrow eller over huset vårt eller kjente steder på vei inn til Birmingham. Du lander og så gjennom passkontrollen og ut i det fri: It’s a state of mind; I’m home!

For Xmas I would like…..

I’ve bought you a present!”, says my lovely wife upon her return from the seaside. “Guess what you are doing on Christmas Day!?” My mind boggles. Take delivery of a new car? Jet off on a winter-sun holiday?

No

“You’re washing up!”

 

threetree

Sainsbury’s Tree-shaped Sponge Scourer. Pack of 3 only 60 pence! Other supermarkets and sponges are available.