Thursday, 20 August 2015

Norway my second homeland

Dag Ringstad with his wood cut print of yours truly
photo by Karen Valeur

Dag Ringstad is an artist and musician who gave me the print he is holding in the photo above. Thank you my friend this was special. Dag did not know that this is a selfie.  I took it on a beach in Weymouth in the UK some years ago and so I feel this was a happy collaboration.

I was very pleased to see my friends Karen Valeur and Birger Westergren waiting for me at Kritiansand airport. My arrival in Norway was slightly marred by the non arrival of my luggage and guitar. How ever the very nice SAS airline woman gave me a T-shirt and toiletries for the night to come. The luggage arrived the next day so all was well. 

I stayed in Kristiansand with my very good friend Karen Valeur who looked after me so well. We spent most evenings and long into the night,  talking about our lives and work and found we had very much in common. We have experienced many similar obstacles along our journeys trying to make a difference to the lives of others. It is so good to share with some one who knows and who understands.

After a good sleep I was ready for action. A fishing trip was planned and I was very excited to be heading out. Birger drove us to the airport where we collected the delayed luggage. Later we met up with Roar Jacobsen. I had met Birger and Roar who drove me from Kristiansand to Larvik to meet up with Gry and Ragner of the Larvik Vinyl Club, last year. 

Soon we were on our way to meet with Kai Severinsen who was to be my guide for the day. I noticed Kai had a couple of fly rods fixed to his car. I later found out he had a couple of very nice spinning rods for me to use. 
We drove to a farm on a high bank of the river Tovdalselva, a fast flowing salmon river that runs through tree covered high cliffs and mountains where wolves and moose roam.
After a quick tour of the farm and facilities for fisher people wanting to stay over we headed down to the river bank. There we found a wooden shelter and picnic table. Soon a picnic was laid out and we all relaxed in the sun as we ate. 

Kai and me
photo by Karen Valeur

Karen took photos while Birger prepared for his exploratory adventure in and along the river. Roar was very relaxed and Kai and I were ready to fish. 

Birger is like a little boy on an adventure. His knowledge of nature is vast and for him this was a paradise of flowers, insects and all the creatures in his sight. Kai had rowed me across the river to the opposite bank where we began to fish, he with a fly rod and me with a spinning rod.

2 men in a boat
photo by Karen Valeur

While watching Birger on the opposite bank I remarked to Kai that it was so good to see the boy in the man as we watched him splashing around in shorts, in the river, then examining the undergrowth along the river bank. Kai smiled and told me that Birger had always been that way.

We both fished hard. Big salmon jumped all around us and I saw a couple actually slip along the edge of the rocks I stood on. They had jumped onto the rocks where they appeared for a second or two before slipping back into the fast running channel I was fishing. I glanced to watch Kai flicking his fly into the river. We didn't catch but it is fishing not catching.
Kai rowed us back across the river and I had a few casts that covered all of the pools and creases in the current but still no fish.

We all set off up the bank to where we had parked the cars. It was a good climb and I walked slowly with Karen. Roar and Kai were soon out of sight while Birger came up behind us with  a handful of wild berries he was collecting, saying he was "eating his way up the hill".
We drove to another fishing mark by a raging waterfall that produced the most amazing pools and eddies.

boys together Roar - Me - Kai and Birger
photo by Karen Valeur

yours truly fishing hard
photo by Karen Valeur

By this waterfall the salmon were jumping feet away from me but though I tried all I knew I couldn't hook one though I did get a few knocks or tentative bites. From here we drove to Boen Gard. This is an old farm with a very beautiful house lovingly restored by Johan G Olsen. It hosts weddings, corporate events and of course it caters for all the needs of the salmon fisher who wants the best.
I fished the river there until dark and then we made our way back up to the farm.

Boen Gard in the  dark - photo by Karen Valeur

Johan gave us a very interesting guided tour. The size and complexity of his restoration of the house and surrounding accommodation had presented a huge task and it is still a work in progress.

Johan - Kai and yours truly sampling the local cider inside the house
photo by Karen Valeur

Johan -  Kai and yours truly
photo by Karen Valeur

I didn't get the salmon I fished hard for but I'd had a very special day on the river with my good friends. I will never forget it. I have been invited back and I will have to do that all again. I must add that Kai Severinsen is one of the dedicated people responsible for getting salmon back in the river after acid rain drove the salmon away. The evidence of the success of this great achievement can be experienced by any one fortunate enough to watch these great fish jumping in the boiling waters of the Tovdalselva.

Next day we all assembled again for a salmon dinner at Birger's house.  The salmon was caught by Kai some time before our trip on the river. It was so nice to meet Birger's family. The dinner was splendid with lots of fresh seafood which is my favourite food. It was a very pleasant and interesting evening. I remember Kai explaining the process for bringing the salmon back to the river and Birger's stories of his times on the north sea oil rigs as a helicopter health and safety expert. 

Next day was show time. After a sound check at Vaktbua, outside in the garden the sun disappeared and the rain began to fall and banks of rain cloud poured in off the sea. It wasn't long before it was decided to move inside. This meant moving all the gear inside and special thanks must go to Alf Solbakken for looking after the P.A. system and for recording my show. Alf is another renowned local artist and avant garde musician who exhibits his work regularly at the Vaktbua venue.

While this going on Elisabeth Labdon, Vaktbua's owner, dashed around making things work. Vaktbua is a community of people who work for the ideals of Vaktbua and voluntary contribution is made by many. Karen Valeur is one of the people who steer and guide the progress and development of this remarkable community.

I began the show with an expanded Speak down the wires. The reception from the packed in audience was lovely and I proceeded through my song list. I threw in some oldies including Home fit for heroes at my brother Steve's suggestion , some weeks ago. Actually the audience sang all of the words and I just sang along. Lovely!

the show - photo by Karen Valeur

Some people were quite happily drunk. I say happily because they remained good natured. Some folk were noisy but the ones who wanted to hear prevailed and only a few delinquent fans persisted with loud chat. I ended the set with Poppy and the unavoidable encore was Ice on fire. I asked that all be quiet for this and thankfully they were. Job done! They were a lovely audience and I really enjoyed myself from beginning to end. I noticed that some folk were singing along with the choruses of some of the new songs and that was a very cool thing for me.

I walked from the little stage to the garden outside where I met four young people aged around 18. One young man and three young women. Meeting them was for me the high light of the day. They sheltered me from the rain with their umbrellas and I joked to an older fan that finally the kids were looking after me. These youngsters were delightful and it meant so much to me to find that I had reached them and touched their hearts in some way. It was time for them to go and I began to shake them by the hand when one of the young women asked for a hug. I was very touched. Then they all asked for a hug and I was quite overcome by this lovely connection. My heart sang!

Some of us stayed around quite late talking and drinking. It was very nice and I had the opportunity to learn more about my old and new friends. I feel very at home at Vaktbua. I was quite sad to leave Elisabeth and the people of Vaktbua but I will be back for sure.

During the week some people in Stavanger had asked if I could play for them. It so happened that my very special friend Jarle had come from Stavanger to see the show at Vaktbua and so with the chance of a drive with my friend and the possibility to stay with his family I agreed to play the gig. I can tell you the rain that had begun on the afternoon of the Vaktbua gig kept on all through the night and all along the road to Stavanger. We arrived at the gig for a sound check after a quick drop in at Jarles home where we ate some great pizza. Thank you for that Kirsten. It was a life saver.

I can't tell you much about the secret gig in Stavanger but I will say we arrived for the show in time to see the fascinating experimental music set from a couple of the guys who run the place. This a co-operative collaboration by a small group of community minded musicians and artists. I received a very warm welcome from the audience who had turned out at short notice in torrential rain. The show went well and the quiet, attentive audience was a delight.
Jarle and I said our farewells and we headed back to his home. Still the rain poured down. I slept like a log that night and next day relaxed with Jarle, Kirsten and the very delightful young Ingrid who, at eleven years of age, makes the best English style tea in Norway.

Time passed and we had just time to see the first goal of Chelsea's drubbing on Sunday before it was time to fly out.  I was sad to leave Jarle as I made my way through the check in at Stavanger airport. It had been a wonderfully satisfying trip and my connection with Norway and my very good friends there grows with each visit. I will be going back for FDPFAFDW show in Lillehammer on the 10th October and for a festival with Luke in Haugesund Oct 30th.

So my love and thanks to all who made such great efforts to make my stay so special. I will never forget the kindness shown to me by all. Special thanks to Elisabeth for asking me back and to Karen, Dag, Alf, Birger and family, Roar, Kai and to Jarle and family for their friendship and support.


Saturday, 8 August 2015

norway again

17/8/15 - I will post a full report of the trip to Norway at the end of this week.

I am off to Norway again next week. I am playing on Friday the 14th but going a few days earlier. Very kind people have arranged for some fishing for me including river salmon fishing. 

One of these would be very special.I will probably take a very portable lure set up with me including a four piece travel rod for fishing around the island where Vaktbua is located. Then I will play the gig. This will be the high light for me. It is an honour and a privilege to be invited back by such lovely people.

More later.


Sunday, 2 August 2015

time for change

The battle for Labour leadership is on. Neil Kinnock throws his support behind Andy Burnham and warns that “Trotskyite” forces with “malign” intentions are trying to drag Labour to the far left under Corbyn. He says" he understands the “rage” that is compelling many genuine members to support Corbyn, but insists the party must choose its leader with “sincerity and realism”. He warns that a Corbyn victory would turn the party into a powerless “discussion group”.

Kinnock was a total disaster as Labour leader and as for a powerless discussion group, what is else is the Labour Party if it is not just that? The woeful performance of Miliband on television during the run up to the last election was the writing on the wall.  Remember his response when asked if Labour had overspent during their time in office? He answered with a simple " no". It isn't just that of course. Labour has struggled to offer a truly different set of policies based on different principles for years. This Tory government is possibly even more right wing than Thatcher's so isn't it time for a clearly left of centre vision? Scaremongering about the rise of Trotskyite elements in the party is nonsense.

I am not a Trotskyite, far from it. I am a socialist who believes that it is time for balance lest the young forget what it is to have a political party that cares and demonstrates it through radically fair minded, principled policy. At this time there is little hope of that among the Burnhams and others. The spectre of Blair, the warmonger, still haunts the party and it is clear that his success has forced Labour policy into pink impotence.

Today I re-joined the Labour Party. It has been years since I was last a member. I have joined on a monthly basis and if I do not like what happens with Labour over the coming weeks I will resign. The local Labour HQ is just around the corner from me so I can assure you they will be hearing from me at regular intervals.

I have researched the other leadership candidates and I say if we want more of the same pathetic and  weak opposition to Cameron and if you think it was perfectly ok for the Interim Leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harmon, to vote for Tory welfare cuts then Jeremy Corbyn is probably not the man for you. If like me you think it is time for real change then act now and make a difference.

I am appealing to all of you Lavender Tories. Stop the rot. At Glastonbury Festival, earlier this year, the Dalai Lama said-

“I speak to you now just as another human being. Like you, I too am subject to mental disturbances. Like you I love my life, in fact everyone loves their own lives and everyone has a right live a happy life".

The young will not thank us for leading them deeper into mass apathy and into a place where if a man or woman has nothing to sell they will struggle to exist. This is the sixth richest nation on the planet and still we have food banks, still the poor and disabled pay the most towards reducing the deficit they did not cause. According to Unicef, British children are catered for and cared for less than in nearly all other developed nations. We sit just above the US at the bottom of the pile with Scandinavian countries at the top.
Time for real change? What say you?