Saturday, October 29, 2005

Have you heard the one about the Moose?

In the world of Journalism a top story would be described as a "Man Bites Dog" headline. In Norway you would have to change that to "Man bites Moose". As we do not have them in the UK, Moose, that is, you may find it difficult to understand what an important role the Moose plays in Norwegian journalism. For example when a Scotsman was asked "What do you get with a 2 ton Moose" his reply was "Bloody big holes in your skirting boards"! Ask a Norwegian and what you get with a 2 ton Moose you would still be there 3 hours later listening to the answers. In Norway the Moose grabs more headlines than Jorden, Sharon Osborne or Georgie Best!

The most recent Moose headline in The Aftenposten was on 17th October 2005, "Moose attacked moose statue" A family in the coastal Telemark town of Bamble had erected a statue of a moose in their garden, but a pair of the real Moose showed their dissaproval and broke the interloper into several peices. "Moose regularly visit the garden but they'previously they have just eaten our apple and pear trees," Tveten, the statues owner, said.

On 12th October the Aftenposten had another Moose headline: "Moose collisions hurt most" Apparently Norwegian motorists hit over 3,000 of these creatures a year and always come off worse. Norway's insurers pay out about NOK 100 million (£9 million, USD 15.3 million) a year for animal-car collisions, most of them involving game - moose and roe deer.

One of the best headlines has to be " 'Dead' moose attacked hunter" A hunter's worst nightmare came true for 68-year-old Arne Aurdal after shooting a moose in the forest in Gausdal. Aurdal is considering giving up the sport after being beaten black and blue by the mortally wounded animal, though he survived thanks to a bit of quick thinking.
Aurdal, had taken the moose down with his first shot. He moved in to finish it off. Suddenly the animal reared up, I threw myself onto his horns, he said. The moose thrashed around in a frenzy, after what seemed an eternity but was less than a minute the giant, 300kg, animal crashed to the ground, leaving Aurdal black and blue but thankfully alive. He is keeping the massive antlers as a memento of his near death experience.

No wonder they leave big holes in your skirting boards.

I found over 50 Moose related headlines in Norweigian newspapers without really trying, here are a few for the really dedicated Mooseologists!

Moose set off on long-distance swim
Moose closes tunnel
Moose spark traffic trouble in Trondheim
Moose rings twice
Expanding moose population spurs calls for more hunting
Moose attacks laundry rack
Landowners see gold in moose hunting
Moose breaks into grocery store
Norway's annual moose hunt
Moose on the move!
Flying moose lands on car's roof
Drunken moose alert in southern
Norway Moose move proves fatal
Moose pose record-high traffic threat

Vital Statistics

Moose can be found in Canada and northern parts of America, northern parts of Europe (Scandinavia, Russia) and Asia (Siberia, Mongolia, Northern China).
Life span: 15-25 years
Weight: 550-700 kg (1200-1500 lbs)
Body length: 2.5-2.7 metres
Moose are herbivorous mammals, the largest of the deer family.
The Moose population in Norway is about 125,000

Friday, October 28, 2005

Ryan Air to Oslo (Torp)

Should we try the cheap and cheerful route to Oslo from Liverpool to Torp (Oslo) operated by Ryan Air? We regularly fly to Oslo via BA from Manchester, by and large we have been happy with the service. The primary attraction of the Torp route is the price around £40 per person compared with £130 per person with BA, The first problem is Liverpool airport is in Speke which is not as easy to get to as Manchester airport for us. Probably the biggest problem for me is Torp is 150 km and a 2 hour drive south of central Oslo. What is it about Ryan Airs pathetic grasp on geography Torp can hardly be described as Oslo! Travel to and from Torp is by regular coach service which links to the flight. Mind you Gardemoen air port is 50 km away fro Oslo ciry centre but at least they have a 19 min train link.

The other problem is I don't really like doing business with companies that think customer service is a joke and charge extra for toilet paper. There is an additional potential problem. Ryan Air don't like passengers taking luggage with them. As we are usually laden with Red Cross parcels when we travel to Oslo we could end up paying more in excess baggage than the BA fare.

I have read a couple of bad luck stories in the news groups. One was about missing a flight because of a traffic accident on the Oslo - Torp road, one of those things I suppose. The other was a bit more disconcerting, passengers were delayed 48 hrs because a flight was diverted because of fog. They spent the time in the cafe, the only place open at night. Ryan Air don't do hotels etc. The irritating fact was the plane was diverted to Oslo's main airport 100 km away but Ryan Air would not transport them there and the plane returned to UK empty. How b....dy irritating is that.

I sound as though I am talking my way out of saving a load of dosh. I think my fuse is too short and my blood pressure to marginal to be a Ryan Air "customer".

Sleeping with the Enemy

After 60 years of shame, misery and discrimination the Norwegian government has decided to officially forgive the 14,000 women described as “German Whores”. These were the women who at the end of the war where arrested for fraternising with the German army and for giving birth to their children. The Nazis who occupied Norway for 5 years actively encouraged their soldiers to have affairs with local women, part of the SS plan to enrich the “Aryan” gene pool. At the end of the war the "tysketöser" where denounced as traitors by the puppet government of Vidkun Quisling and many were sent to labour camps.

It is estimated that over 12,000 children were born from these liaisons. They were separated from their mothers and suffered unbelievable abuse in homes and lunatic asylums. There mistreatment was justified by the authorities because they where considered to be a danger to the state and are still considered a threat.

One of the most well-known "tyskerunge," or "German brat", is Anni-Frid Lyngstad, the brunette singer from the 1970s group, Abba. Her mother, Synni, had an affair with a German soldier and fled to her native Sweden when they were ostracised in their village in northern Norway. Synni died in the late 1940s and her daughter eventually met her German father when she was in her 30s.

After the war the Norwegian government paid a war pension to all citizens who remained true to "good national principles" during the Nazi occupation. The "tysketöser" were excluded until now. The Norwegian government has decided to pay the dozen or so remaining women their belated pension, which will not be backdated. A group of the “war children” have been fighting for the justice and compensation in the “European Court of Human Rights”. One of the children, now 63, explained how when she was 10 the local villagers branded her with a swastika on her forehead.

Other links: Unique Quisling interview found

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Smoking Ban

"Welcome to Norway. The only thing we smoke here is salmon"

Norway banned smoking back on 1st June 2004 following a protracted debate much the same as is taking place in the UK at the moment. The principle thrust of the Norwegian governments case for banning smoking was the Health and Safety of workers in the hospitality industries. Not surprisingly there were objections from all and sundry. It has to be remembered that Norway already had a compulsory no smoking policy in all offices and public buildings. Restaurants and cafes already had designated no smoking areas. Prior to the ban 30% of Norwegian men and 29% of women smoked despite the cost of a pack of cigarettes being in the region of 62 NKR (£5.50). Although it is noticeable how many Norwegians, including many women roll their own fags. The ban followed heavy pressure from restaurant workers' unions who claimed their members had a higher incidence of lung cancer than other workers due to the effects of passive smoking.

Following the ban Norwegians could only smoke in their own homes or outdoors. There were the inevitable claims of doom and bankruptcy from the hospitality industries but more than 2 years on ingenuity has triumphed. The first thing to appear were a variety of out door extensions to cafes, bars and restaurants ranging from chairs benches, window ledges with cushions to major out door seating areas. To cope with the harsh winter temperatures, breweries helped out by providing free or subsidised gas heaters and blankets. One ingenious bar owner bought up a redundant petrol station and changed it into an open air bar under the old garage canopy.

I must say from a punters point of view, as a non-smoker, I find eating and drinking out a much more pleasant experience than back home. It is surprising how people have adapted to the situation. Watching a football match in the pub is interesting, The place empties at half time whilst the smokers charge outside for a quick drag, it makes it easier for the non-smokers to refill their glass! The only down side is eating and drinking outside during the warmer weather. The smokers get their own back by blowing billowing clouds of smoke in your face.

The Norwegian government are claiming the ban as a great success, better than they had hoped for. The grim forecasts of widespread bankruptcies in the pub, bar and restaurant sector have so far proved unfounded. As anticipated there has been a marker improvement in the health of those working in the hospitality industries. Public reaction has also been better than expected. In a survey three out of four Norwegians were pleased with a tough new anti-smoking law. They say they're still patronizing bars and restaurants, even if they can't light up. One of the unexpected results of the ban is a 3 fold increase in restaurant customers dodging off with out paying their bill after slipping outside for a smoke.

It looks as though the UK government is making a meal of its' smoking ban legislation. It is hard to see how anything but an outright ban on smoking in all work and public places will work. Particularly as the primary justification for the ban, is worker health and safety. The segregation proposals did not work in Norway so it is hard to see how it would be any different in the UK. One thing is for sure, the smokers days are numbered, more and more countries states and cities throughout the world are introducing smoking bans, restricted tobacco advertising and in some extreme cases a complete tobacco ban.

27th October 2005 - UPDATE: Ministers Scupper All Out Ban On Smoking

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Winter has arrived in Oslo

First snow Torshov 25 Oct 2005While the Journo's in the UK speculate about how hard winter it is going to be in Britain, winter has arrived in Oslo. There was a flurry of snow on Sunday but today, Tuesday 25th October we woke up to winter. It has snowed all day producing close to 3 inches (10 cm). From the look of the satellite feed on the Intellicast weather site, the source of the snow is the same front that is dumping large amounts of rain on the UK. The forecast suggests there could be snow for the next couple of days.

So how are the locals coping with the sudden arrival of winter? Most motorists were caught well and truly unawares. It is normal practice to change your tyres as winter approaches. You fit either soft rubber snow tyres or less popular, mainly because you have to pay an extra tax, If you have a car in Norway you own two sets of tyres, summer and winter. The problem is changing them when the weather catches you out. As a result the tyre depots were working overtime, long queues quickly formed outside most of them. The early callers were the taxi drivers. Most taxis use studded tyres during the winter. This is mainly to allow them to maintain the mandatory 2G cornering speeds on Oslo’s many cobbled streets! The use of studded tyres in Oslo is discouraged, they destroy the road surfaces, one reason why Oslo still has a large number of cobbled streets and because they encourage faster driving speeds. In addition they claim that the abrasion of the road surface creates a health hazard due to people breathing in the particles. However it seems you can not win either way. There is now a move to have the composition of the soft tread winter tyres changed because they contain carcinogenic chemicals.

You would think Norwegian kids would be blasé about snow but there they where making snowmen and belting each other with snow balls. At least they are dressed for the weather. The younger ones wear these “all in one” waterproof boiler suit outfits that allow them to throw themselves around whatever the weather. It is noticeable that footwear fashion this year has changed from UGG boots to fancy welly boots.

National Statistics

Amazingly Norway is the top ranking country for drug related crime at 987.1 offences per 100,000 people. This compares with 214.3 in the UK. They have the highest coffee consumption at 10.7 kg it person compared with 3.0 kg in the USA and only 1.2 in the UK. Must have something to do with the long bleak winters.

Hardly surprising Norway have won 263 winter Olympics medals, more than any other country . This compares with 26 in the UK who are ranked 17th in the world.

Interestingly Norway donated more aid to the Tsunami Disaster, per capita than any other country, $57.71 per person, compared with the UK who ranked 19th with $5.42. But then Thailand is the top holiday destination for Scandinavian countries. We were in Oslo at the time of the Tsunami disaster and just everybody was collecting money for the disaster appeal.

If you want to bore your mates silly down at the pub, check out the fascinating web site at

Monday, October 24, 2005

Egalitarian Society

Cafe Lilleborg
In addition to being rated the best country in the world to live in, Norway is rated as being the most prosperous country in the world according to the United Nations. The source of this prosperity is of course North Sea oil. Norway is the third largest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia and Russia. Yet Norway has the worlds most expensive petrol. You would think that with all this prosperity Norwegians would be enjoying a low cost subsidised lifestyle instead of the highest cost of living in Europe. Why? Well apparently the prudent politicians are saving up for the day that North Sea oil runs out. The fund currently stands at £103 billion equal to £22,000 per Norwegian citizen. Sounds a lot but it amounts to less than 6 months salary for the average citizen. Mind you it is a damn sight more than the British Government has salted away on behalf of its citizens.

Another contributory factor to Norway’s high rating is its egalitarian society and generous welfare system. Following 5 years of Nazi occupation egalitarianism was considered by the people to be the way forward. It is the equality in society that makes Norway attractive to Norwegians not to mention the burgeoning numbers of immigrants and asylum seekers. In society where few people are desperately poor and overt wealth is frowned upon it may come as a surprise to discover that a bus driver earns a similar salary to a Doctor, around £2000 per month. Visitors to Oslo may find it a bit hard to believe that there are not rather fatter salaries around from the number of BMW’s, Mercs and Range Rovers to be seen on the streets.

Norwegians are frequently asked how they survive the high cost of living in a country where beer cost over a fiver a pint and petrol costs nearly as much as computer printer ink! The answer may have something to do with the fact that most do not have to pay out for private pensions, health insurance and choose to send their children to state schools. They don’t spend much on food if the absence of fat Norwegians is anything to go by. They seem to cycle everywhere despite the hilly terrain of much of Oslo and spend the weekends cross country skiing.. This may have something to do with why the population includes a large proportion of healthy octogenarians. At the other end of the scale mums enjoy 10 months maternity leave on full pay or 12 months on 80% pay. On a topical UK note, dads can share this leave on a pro rata basis. Incidentally you have to be 67 before you get your pension which is equivalent to two thirds of your highest salary.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Oslo Facts and Figures

Oslo was named Christiania, then Kristiania, before adopting the name Oslo in 1925
Capital of Norway
Population: 507,467
Elevation: 56 feet above sea level
Average Annual Rainfall: 29 inches (74 centimeters)
Average January Temperature: -3 degrees Celsius
Average July Temperature: 18 degrees Celsius
International Dialing Code: 47
Currency: Norweigian Kroner
Exchange rate: approx 11.5 NKR to 1 British Pound (23 Oct 2005)
Average cost of a coffee: 25 NKR
Average cost large beer: 50 NKR
International Airport: Gardermoen

Gardermoen Airport

Autumnal Leaf

Autumnal Leaf