Pete’s Weekly: Moving Home The Nordic Way

Moving House, Nordic Style

Norway has a property market unlike any other I have seen. Very few people invest in any property other than a home. This may be because the government provides a more than adequate pension for most folk.

This means that the rental market barely exists. The only homes to rent belong to locals who are taking a ‘gap year’ somewhere ‘Siden’. (‘Siden’ is a broad term meaning any place south of Kristiansand, right at the south of Norway, and where heaven begins. Or, if not heaven, at least where some sun begins.)

Thank Thor that so many locals wander off in search of sun and lower taxes. This means that every few years a home becomes vacant for my family. If we are lucky, it is in the same town we have been living in.

This time we had a choice to two. One a few miles away, and the other just inside the Arctic Circle. The alpha male in the family put her foot down and decided the kids needed to stay in the same schools. And so we moved this past week.

Moving house in Norway is unlike the same event in SA. There are no branded removal companies like Pickfords or Stuttafords who arrive with large pantechnicons and an army of people to pack, wrap and carry, all the while smiling and singing joyfully.

In Norway there are myriad tiny operations who send along a Citroen Berlingo and two aged labourers, expecting the movees to get deeply involved in lugging furniture and boxes. Frankly, it was all a little too much for an old colonial such as me.

We took ourselves to a local hotel, chosen for its child-friendly environment, and because it was the cheapest we could find. Hotels in Norway are often not even bigperson-friendly, so this was an unusual experience.

Which brings me to the business point of this epistle, as Moses might have said if he had an iPad back in the day, instead of a couple of flat rocks.

On Thursday night, after a long day of packing and cleaning, we checked in. We headed for the hotel restaurant. A great bottle of Syrah later, some fine food, amazing service, and a rather fine Swedish ex marine, ex chef, waiter, and we agreed that this was the finest restaurant north of Siden. We resolved to come back after the next day of cleaning and unpacking. And so we did.

Friday night was, well, a disaster. If a restaurant is all about the experience, then Friday was Armageddon. I won’t go into the details, but suffice to say that when our waitress brought the bill five minutes after serving the dinner 45 minutes after apologising for it being late, and then called at our table every five minutes to ask whether we had paid the bill, it was a welcome relief to pay and run. This was not very child-friendly as she (the beta male) had not yet finished her pommes frites. (In fact, they had not yet arrived.)

Same restaurant, different day, and two deeply different experiences. I remarked upon this gently to the receptionist as we made for the sanctuary of the room. She apologised profusely.

Twenty minutes later there was a gentle knock on the door. The receptionist arrived with a bottle of French wine (a really big apology in Norway) and a big bag of goodies for junior. She is still eating from it, and has built three sailboats and a Bugatti Veyron from the contents.

The next morning the waitress (who doubles as the cleaning lady, or who had recently been demoted) bumped into us as we left for another day of cleaning. She personally apologised. I broke down in tears at her demotion, but discovered to my relief that she was just temping on our night, so all was well.

We assume that our own experiences reflect those of all other folk. Not so. Restaurants, like people and businesses, have bad days. That is life, and that is what adds so much colour.

As my partner suggested, when offering some perspective: “When you consider that you are smaller than a tiny speck on a huge ball of dust chasing an uncertain elliptical orbit around a flaming ball of gas which is constantly exploding, accompanied by all sorts of large debris, with none of us knowing quite how we got here or where we are going, maybe these challenges are not as crucial as one might feel at the time.

So, I am sorry I missed last week’s email to you, but I sure am happy that we are both still here.

All the best

Peter Carruthers

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