Mike's Oslo Diary
Saturday, 27th November
On Saturday 27th November, 2004, the Colonel's Regiment (minus Steve) found themselves in London. During a spot of chilling in the Victoria and Albert museum, after a wander around the Natural History museum, the premise for Reardon's round in the draw was devised. Reardon's round would take the form of a mini pool tournament, which could be played at any point leading up to a break and all of the Colonel's Regiment attending that particular break could take part. Over over-priced coca-colas and muffins, we drew lots for partners in the tournament. David drew Rupert, I drew Amal, who would be playing on behalf of Steve, whilst Dave drew Chris. We headed over to Kentish town and after a brief stop in a pub to check out the tables there, we found ourselves in Rupert's office. Amal and I took on David and Rupert in the first match. We won the first rack, but the second went against us and, after a tense final rack in which Amal and I held the advantage, I miscued an attempted fine cut on our final ball and succeeded in potting the black. First blood to Rupert and David. It was apparent that myself and David had been carrying our respective partners thus far, but all could change. Rupert and David then took on Chris and Dave. Chris was not playing at his best and only an unlucky shot which succeeded in the black going in out of turn resulted in a deciding rack. Again, it was tense, but again David and Rupert prevailed. There was no need for the final game—David and Rupert had already done enough to claim their place in the final. Jon Gair turned up during the game and spent the time devouring Rupert's office food and watching the game.
At 2−0 up in a best of five, it seemed like David was coasting, but at this point he seemed to take his foot off the throttle. Luck was not with him and it was soon 2−2 and a deciding rack was required. Amal was somewhat over-exuberant with his support of Rupert, which seemed to fluster David. In the deciding rack, Rupert rode his luck and a brilliant pot on the black gave him victory. David took it somewhat badly, because he felt Amal's support for Rupert had been slightly over the top. Rupert's reward would be an extra destination in the draw, on behalf of Reardon.
We wandered to a pub over the road called the Vine and settled down with burgers. During the course of the meal, Rupert revealed his choice for Reardon. It would be Reykavik.
Once the meal was concluded, we headed back to Amal's house, bidding farewell to Dave and Jon at Camden Town station. Rupert, David, Chris and I then thanked Amal for his hospitality and headed out ourselves. At Baker Street tube station, David and I said goodbye to Rupert and Chris, knowing that we'd see them in a few days time, before heading back to Thatcham. We managed to get a train from Paddington about half an hour after arriving and, after a brief worry when some police boarded the train to accompany some drunken Welsh football fans, the train departed. Unfortunately, when we reached Reading, it became apparent that we'd been bummed. Replacement bus services were running to Thatcham and the next one was some 45 minutes later. We spent some time dicking around and eventually boarded the bus, clocking lookalikes of both Jon Gair and Bill Oddie. The bus driver then spent another 15 minutes dicking around waiting for a train to arrive, before departing and taking us back to Thatcham. At about 11.15p.m., after the walk back from Thatcham station, we finally arrived at David's house. We punched the sack, excited that mission 8 to Oslo was only a few days away.
Tuesday, 30th November
The Tuesday prior to mission 8 found me in the office at Warwick university. I had been intending to go to David's house for the start of the Oslo experience the following morning. However, after a somewhat unpleasant run the previous evening, I'd made the decision to cancel my trip to the running club and go down to David's house instead. At around five o'clock I left the office and went home to pack. Once I was ready, I loaded the car, but realised that I'd forgotton to pack Kurt and Eric, so I took my rucksack out of the car and retrieved them. I then picked up the remainder of my luggage and prepared to depart. As I was about to leave, I suddenly wondered where my rucksack was. It turned out I'd left it in the house and with it my passport, currency and a couple of the mascots. I breathed a sigh of relief as I collected it. The Oslo experience could have got off to a bad start had I forgotton my passport!
I set off and began my journey to David's house. The journey was uneventful and I arrived at around 7.30p.m. David greeted me with the traditional words, "Well, the Oslo experience has begun!" I entered the house and chilled for a while, before we made the decision to make some food. We decided to have baked potatoes, but a trip to the Co-op proved necessary as it turned out that David didn't have enough mayonnaise left for the tuna. We trekked into the centre of Thatcham, bought some mayo, a small tin of baked beans with sausage and some bathroom stuff before heading back to David's house. We then made our dinner, baked potatoes with tuna, cheese and beans followed by white chocolate chip cookies and relaxed on the glashtenmeid, watching "The Business of Strangers", a rather weird drama film starring Julia Stiles. Once the film had concluded, we watched a couple of episodes of "The Office" before making the decision to punch the sack as we wouldn't be getting much sleep the following evening.
Wednesday, 1st December
I woke up to be greeted by David wandering downstairs ready for work. He headed out early, telling me to help myself to coffee when I got up. I was intending to go out for a run that morning, so decided to get another hour's sleep or so. I eventually got out of bed at around ten o'clock and, after lazing around for another hour, I went out running. It was pretty cold and I wasn't entirely awake, so the run was difficult. I headed for the canal, intending to go all the way to Woolhampton, but I eventually packed in after running out for about 3 1/2 miles and turned around. As I ran past the house from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I noticed that the trees around it had been recently cut back and more of the house was visible. It was a little creepy and I accelerated my pace as I ran back into Thatcham. I arrived back at David's house after running for just under 50 minutes, thoroughly exhausted. I helped myself to an Orangina and went through the shower. At about half past twelve, David arrived home. We decided to go into Reading for the afternoon so I drove the two of us to Thatcham station, in the hope that we'd get a parking spot. We were lucky, as a car left a space just as we were approaching. The miserable bloke didn't seem to be on duty so we stood at the entrance to the ticket office and peered in to look at train times. Some sort of workman was wandering about and at this point the miserable bloke emerged from a door on the platform and said, "Was someone knocking on my door?" I thought he was talking about us and said that we were just looking at train times, but a woman on the platform pointed towards the workman. After a brief conversation between the two of them, the miserable bloke returned to the safety of his office.
The train eventually arrived, so David and I got on board and bought a ticket off the conductor. After a short train ride, we found ourselves in Reading. We made for Virgin Megastore, after a brief stop in WhSmiths on route. The video and DVD options were poor, but I did pick up one bargain—"LA Confidential" for the princely sum of 99p. Delighted with my purchase, we decided to head to the Oracle centre for a celebratory muffin. I selected a tuna baguette and banana and almond muffin, whilst David plumped for the sausage roll and chocolate chip muffin. We spent a while chilling before continuing our feature shopping with a trip to HMV. The options in HMV were poor and after a waste of an hour, we headed to Starbucks for an eggnog latte, slightly dejected. We sat down and did some more chilling, wondering if Chris and Rupert were going to let us know what they were up to. At this point, I got a text message from Chris saying that he was passing through Basingstoke. I phoned him and suggested that he phone us when he got to Reading and we could meet him. We thought about going for another browse around the shops, but decided we couldn't be bothered, so I phoned Chris again. He was now at Reading station and I told him to meet us at Starbucks.
This he eventually did and he got in a round of gingerbread lattes. We commented that the Oslo experience had started for another of the Colonel's regiment. After much speculation as to whether Rupert would bother to tell us what was going on, he eventually phoned David. Not surprisingly, he'd got held up and wouldn't be able to make it before seven o'clock. David told him we'd go for food without him and he could meet us later.
We headed back to the station to discover some mammoth dicking around going on, courtesy of First Great Western trains. We had about 20 minutes to wait for our train and the next train due at the platform was a train to Worcester. As it pulled in, there was an announcement to say that the train would now terminate in Reading. Our train was due in 2 minutes later (with another train to Plymouth due in first). Clearly the timetables were wrong and no one had bothered to inform the people on the train that their train wasn't going any further, so they all stayed on it. Chris phoned Rupert to tell him that we'd wait for him to arrive before going for food if he could get there by seven o'clock, but he was dicking around and hadn't left the office, so wouldn't get there before half seven. Eventually an announcement was made that our train was going from platform 5, so we hurried across the bridge to the new platform. As we boarded our train we noticed people finally getting off the Worcester train. However, this was only the start of the dicking around as we weren't allowed to leave until the Plymouth train had gone through. Ten minutes later, we finally left Reading and headed back to Thatcham.
We decided to go straight to the Star Inn from the station so we got in my car and prepared to leave. There was a train of three cars in front of us, all of whom seemed to wish to turn right out of the station which, given the massive queue of cars going in that direction, proved a little difficult. The first car in the queue was dicking around and not taking the opportunity to turn out, so David suggested we could be mentalists and drive round all of them before turning left. At this point, the driver of the second car had had enough and he pulled around the first car, behaving like a total mentalist, and drove straight into the line of traffic. Miraculously he timed it to perfection and he drove straight into a gap. A few minutes later we managed to get out of the station and we drove to the Star Inn. We selected one of our favourite tables to the far left of the pub and put in an order—lemon chicken for me, scampi for David and chicken pie for Chris. David commented that the Little Lucky Leprechaun had missed out on the pre-break meal thanks to Rupert and his dicking around.
The food was good, but I was still feeling a little dodgy from my run and I gave some of my peas and chips to Chris, which he happily accepted. We declined desserts and coffee, deciding to head home and get an early night. We made a stop for some petrol at Tesco's and, as we left, Chris made a call to Rupert to find out how he was doing. He was just passing through Theale, so would be arriving at about the same time as us. Back at the station, we picked Rupert up and, after David had pointed out in no uncertain terms that Rupert had been dicking around, we headed back to David's house.
We settled down and watched the episode "Head" from "Blackadder II" before going to bed. We would be getting up at about one o'clock in the morning for our drive to Stansted airport so we would be needing all the sleep we could get.
Thursday, 2nd December
I woke up at about one in the morning. Once again, it was time for the journey to the aiport. David came downstairs and put on coffee whilst the remainder of us went through the shower. Once we'd all got ready, Chris, Rupert and I loaded the car whilst David checked that everything was turned off in the house. We drove to Stansted listening to the soundtrack from "That Thing You Do!" and getting in the mood for mission 8. A text message from Steve confirmed that he was on route and would see us in the terminal.
The journey was a little terrifying as torrential rain came down. I was a little wary as I was the designated driver. As we drove onto the M11, we passed a nasty looking accident on the other carriageway. It was unsurprising given the road conditions. It was with a huge sense of relief that I eventually parked the car in zone C of the medium stay car park. We pressed the intercom button at the bus stop and Chris spoke to the bloke, who informed him that he had nothing to do with buses. This seemed strange, but he assured us that one would be along soon. He proved to be correct. A bus soon arrived and carted us to the terminal. Upon arrival, we discovered that check in was not open. At this point, Rupert had a call from Dave to inform him that Garfunkel's had disappeared. We couldn't work out how he could know this, since Garfunkel's had moved to the other side of passport control a couple of years previously. It turned out Dave was in the terminal next to a breakfast area, so we walked over to meet him. We decided to get some coffees in. David, Dave and Rupert made for some seats whilst Chris and I put in an order. At this point, I had a phone call from Steve to say that he was arriving. I hurried over to meet him. The Colonel's Regiment was finally complete. The coffees arrived, with the exception of Dave's cappuccino. We asked the nearby work guy, who collected Dave's beverage. After a period of chilling, we decided to check in.
Chris and Steve headed over for a pot stop whilst the rest of us got in the queue. As the queue was fairly lengthy, I decided to join Steve in a trip to Captain Mainwaring's to get some currency. Unfortunately Captain Mainwaring himself wasn't on duty. Steve collected his currency, with the knowledge that everything in Oslo would be a bit more expensive for him than it was for us. We hurried back to the others, to discover that they were just about to check in. We joined them and, after checking in, headed over to passport control. At this point, Rupert mentioned that he had to pick up some currency he'd ordered. The exchange bureau he required wasn't open, so we left him to wait the 15 minutes until it opened and headed on through passport control to get a table in Garfunkel's (which we were pleased to discover hadn't disappeared). We found ourselves directed to the same table we'd had for mission 7 to Barcelona. Steve and myself ordered toasted sandwiches as we wanted something hot, whilst David got a breakfast burger. We ordered an omelette for Rupert and Chris had a massive cooked breakfast. Dave merely ordered a drink. Having eaten our fill, Chris and I made for a pharmacy shop to buy toothbrushes, whilst Steve headed to a bookshop to pick up a Dan Brown book. Once we'd done this, we all made for the gate. We were in the far corner of the terminal, which was accessible via a long walkway. We were confronted by a set of stairs and an escalator. Owing to an immense amount of dicking around in front, Chris, David, Steve and myself took the stairs. A few other people followed us whilst Rupert and Dave contented themselves with the escalator. We went down, around a corner and found ourselves at a dead end with som locked doors in front of us. Victims of a terrible shafting, we hurried upstairs again to pursue Rupert and Dave. At the terminal, we were then directed downstairs to an extended gate section which appeared to house most of the flights to Scandinavia. We joined the queue and waited to board our flight.
Once on board, I sat down next to the window with Steve next to me and David next to him. In front, Dave sat by the window with Chris in the middle and Rupert next to him. As the flight took off, Chris settled down to do a jumbo keyword. Drinks came around and myself, David and Steve decided to treat ourselves to a coffee. After about an hour and a half, there was an announcement from the captain to say that we may not be landing at Oslo Torp but the main airport instead—lots of fog in the area made visibility very poor. I looked out of the window and saw the mountains, with blankets of fog beneath us. Eventually, we began our descent and it became clear that we were landing at Torp after all. We descended through the fog and as we came through it, I was shocked to discover that the ground was only about a hundred feet beneath us. The landing was safe, however, and we soon arrived at the terminal. After collection of our bags, we walked outside to the bus area. There was snow everywhere and David suggested an immediate snowball fight. Our bus arrived and we began to queue for it. At this point, we started to sort out payment. Rupert said he had money for five people. However, I said we weren't five people, we were "five, and that one", pointing to Dave. This immediately started a massive Blackadder application. I said, "Five. And that One. I take one and I add it to the five, what does that make?" David replied with, "A very small mission." I said, "Yes, and no. I put this one with the five and what do I have?" David and Steve both said, "Ah, some Colonel's men!" At this point, the bus driver said, "Calm down please!" rather loudly. We were somewhat shocked and started laughing. We also couldn't believe that the driver had interrupted us during a very early (and perhaps strong) candidate for application of the break. As we paid the driver and climbed on board, David said to myself and Steve in the voice of the bus driver, "Look, I realise you're in the middle of the mother of all applications, but could you please be quiet?" This caused more hilarity.
We settled down for the long journey into Oslo. Several stops were scheduled on route, but with the lack of a resident loaf pincher, most of them were missed out. Eventually we arrived at Oslo bus station. We all climbed out and after some dicking around from Steve and Chris at the nearby cash machines, we walked through a miniature shopping mall and found ourselves outside. Following signs for the underground station, we found ourselves in another (somewhat larger) shopping mall. We stared around somewhat confused, but a friendly Norwegian man stopped and asked if he could help us. He pointed us in the right direction and we continued on our way.
We soon found the underground station and purchased tickets at a vending machine to National Theatre station, which was the nearest one to our hotel. Upon arrival, we disembarked and left the station, to discover that the main street of Oslo was a building sight. Clearly there was a shafting in progress. We were staying in the Radisson SAS Scandinavia, a high rise hotel. I spotted it from the main street but it was unclear how we got to it. Going for the most straightforward method, we crossed the road, stared very briefly at the Royal Palace and headed in the direction of the hotel. I was leading the way and as I crossed the road by the hotel, the lights turned to red. David, determined not to be outdone, took off across the road as fast as possible and made it before the cars started moving. Upon arrival at the hotel, we checked in and were allocated rooms on the seventh floor, all next to each other. I took the first room with Chris, whilst the next was occupied by Rupert and Dave and the final one was taken by Steve and David. We stopped briefly in the hotel rooms to recover before all meeting up and wandering out to check out downtown Oslo. We left by the back door to the hotel and found ourselves within sight of the Royal Palace. The ground was covered with snow, so as we wandered through the park outside the palace, David and I contented ourselves by throwing snowballs at Chris. There didn't appear to be much going on at the palace. Guards were on guard outside it but that was the only action going on. We paused for photos by a statue outside then attempted to go down the ornate steps in the direction of the main street. At this point we noted that Norwegians didn't bother to clear snow from the streets. The steps were absolutely covered in snow and getting down them proved rather hazardous. Eventually we all made it and we wandered over to the main street. The main street had a central area with an ice rink in it. We suggested a rendition of Moules on ice at some point during our visit. We were a little disappointed to discover that there was no place to buy gluewein or equivalent. At the end of the main street, Chris spotted a bank and headed off there to change his 1000 Kroner note into smaller notes. We waited around listening to a brass group and watching a rogue Santa Claus get arrested by the police until Chris rejoined us. WE then headed up a side street and stopped at a place called Da Vincis for lunch. It was next to a restaurant called Mona Lisa so we assumed the Da Vinci theme continued down the whole street. The menu seemed rather pricey, but we suspected everywhere in Oslo would be the same. Most of us ordered baked potatoes, with David, Chris and I opting for the hot chocolate. As we ate our food, we began to worry that we'd run out of money.
Once we'd eaten our fill, we paid the bill, left the restaurant and turned right. At the end of the road we turned right again, looking for somewhere to relax with some gluewein. Eventually, I spotted what looked like a Christmas market down a side street. We wandered over to check it out, passing a pool hall on route. The market turned out to be a disappointment—whilst there were stalls there, there weren't many. We did discover a group of people sat around a fire, selling a beverage known as Glugg. We decided to get an order in for everyone except Rupert (who, as usual, opted out). They offered us nuts and raisins for our Glugg and we happily agreed. Once we'd paid and started drinking, one of the vendors told Dave that it was hard to make good Glugg when you used wine in it, so they didn't bother. We couldn't believe they'd shafted us. The Glugg was okay, but we all agreed that gluewein was much better.
We continued our wander, passing the cathedral on route to the main station. Steve stopped briefly to buy some gloves from a street seller, but discovered they were rather pricey. As the street seller moved in to close the deal, Steve said, "No thanks, your gloves are too pricey" and walked away. I suggested a detour into the shopping mall at the station to see whether we could find some gloves, but this was to no avail, so we wandered outside again. David and Chris posed for a photo with a big tiger statue and we then decided to head over to the waterfront.
We arrived at a motorway and went over a rather strange metal bridge with holes in it, which caused an unpleasant sensation when we were over the motorway. We found ourselves in the dock area. There wasn't much there, so we crossed the motorway again by a crossing an found ourselves in a little park. To lighten the mood, David threw a snowball at Chris. However, Chris ducked and the snowball skimmed a nearby car. We hurried on, relieved to have survived that situation.
The castle appeared to our left, so we hurried over to it and entered the grounds. I did a statue recreation and we then headed over to the drawbridge. At this point we noticed a soldier in a soldier's hut. He then started walking towards us, clearly on parade, walked across the drawbridge, stopped at the end, turned around and walked back to his hut. Rather puzzled by this behaviour, we went through the castle gates and wandered around. On our left we spotted some cannons, so we checked them out. We had an idle wander around the walls, pausing to take in the views. I looked in the distance and spotted a castle on a hill. We wondered what it was and I suggested that it may be the Castle Arrghh from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. After inspecting a cannon with a massive chunk knocked out of it, we walked up a path into a courtyard. I made for a hill behind the castle, but a guard standing there warned me off, brandishing his bayonet. I retreated quickly and we continued around the walls. At the far side, we took in the view of the Oslo bay area and, once we'd had our fill of scenery (which was sooner for Rupert than for the remainder of us) we decided to head back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. We descended some steps covered in snow. Dave took it rather carefully, conscious of his recently broken knee. We exited the castle by the rear entrance and, after walking past some out houses and crossing a busy street, we emerged into the centre of Oslo again. We paused briefly to admire the unusual town hall, before heading back for the hotel via the ice rink.
Once back at the hotel, Chris, Rupert, David and myself headed for the pool area. The pool was situated on the lower level, with a very small gym in the same place. We walked through the gym and turned right into the male changing rooms. Happy to discover that there was no one at all in the pool area, we made for the sauna first (which was, rather unusually, located in the male changing rooms. We could only assume that there was a similar one for women in the female changing rooms!). There was an egg timer which timed 15 minutes, so we turned that around. It then became a battle of wills to survive the 15 minutes. We did get through it and all headed to the pool to cool off. The pool turned out to be absolutely freezing and we didn't stay in it for long.
We returned to our rooms to get ready for our evening meal and, once we were all prepared, we headed over to the main street. We decided to stop in Andy's bar on the main street for a pre-dinner drink. It was some sort of sports bar with various television screens in it showing football matches. After a very expensive round of drinks (five pounds a pint and three pounds for a coke) we left and headed for dinner. Dave had suggested a couple of traditional Norwegian restaurants, so we headed over in their direction. The first looked like a buffet and the second was closed, so we continued onwards. We skirted the old town, finding several restaurants all of which were too expensive. We did, however, wander past a pizza restaurant with a friendly waiter outside it. He was trying to entice us inside, but we decided it looked like a pretty good bet for the final night meal. Eventually, we wandered over towards Aker Brygge in the bay area. I was finding it very difficult to walk in my smart shoes, as the Norwegians didn't bother to grit the road. Sliding all over the place, we eventually made it there, but the only restaurant that looked suitable was full. Getting rather frustrated and a little down, we headed back to the old town again, eventually selecting a restaurant that looked slightly less expensive than all of the others. We went inside and discovered we were the only ones there. At this point, everyone seemed to be really careful not to order too much, as they were worried about running out of money. David and I ordered burgers as they were the cheapest thing on the menu (at about twelve pounds a go). Dave, Chris and Rupert ordered steaks whilst Steve had the jambalya. We declined desserts and Dave decided not to have a drink to save money. Morale was at a low and we decided to consult the guidebook for cheap eats for the following evening. The food turned out to be very good, which made us feel a little better and once we'd eaten our fill, we paid up and headed back to the hotel. Our hotel had a bar called Summit 21 on the 21st floor, so we decided to head there for a final drink before punching the sack. We pushed through the crowds outside the hotel (the smoking ban in public places meant that nearly every restaurant we came to had crowds of people outside smoking, making Rupert think that people were queueing every time we arrived somewhere!) and headed up to the bar. The bar was busy and we secured an area in the corner. Dave, David and I did some chilling and admired the nighttime views over Oslo (which were very impressive) whilst the others got a round in. David and I ordered orange juice whilst everyone else ordered beers. After chilling for a while longer, we all decided we should punch the sack, so we returned to our rooms to prepare ourselves for day two.
Friday, 3rd December
I woke up just before eight in the morning and went through the shower. By the time I'd emerged, Chris was just waking up and getting himself out of bed. He disappeared into the shower and I sat down to wait for him to go to breakfast. Half an hour later he still hadn't emerged and I was getting a little frustrated. Once he finally came out, I accused him of dicking around. He replied that it was his holiday and he could take his time if he wanted. I didn't think that was very charitable, as surely a bit of give and take was what was required on these holidays. A little annoyed, I left and went down to breakfast with David and Steve instead. We sat down and helped ourselves to cooked breakfast, smoked salmon and croissants. Steve noticed that the guy in front of him at the orange juice machine filled his glass up and drained it twice before allowing Steve to use the machine. Annoyed, he made a comment to this effect when he returned to the table. The others eventually arrived at breakfast and we discussed plans for the day. We decided to head up the Holmenkollen, a large hill outside town, which had a ski jump and various skiing trails there and then wander up to Frognerseteren, the top of the hill which boasted great views over the surrounding area. Steve decided that he'd make a sandwich with the breakfast smorgasbord and take it with him as food was far too expensive. He did just that, shoving it in his pocket as we walked out, past a rather weird house made out of cardboard and icing.
Once everyone was ready to depart, we left our rooms and headed out to National theatre train station. We got off the train at Majorstuen station and waited for the train up the Holmenkollen. Lots of people were hanging around dressed in skiing gear and carrying skis, presumably intending to make the most of the skiing trails in the area. The train pulled in and we climbed aboard to head off to Frognersteren. David pointed out a mentalist kid being guided around by a girl. He was getting very excitable about his trip up the mountain and appeared to want to tell everyone about it. The journey up to Holmenkollen was impressive and we spent a memorable half an hour taking in the great views. We past lots of small ski jumps on the side of the train track on our way up. At Holmenkollen station we got off the train. Very few people got off with us. The majority were clearly heading up to Frognerseteren to ski. We walked up a hill and paused outside a restaurant to take in some views, chuck a few snowballs at each other and take some photos. We continued our walk up the hill towards the ski jump and noticed several trucks driving around hauling snow. We wondered why they bothered considering there was so much in the area. After climbing some very slippery steps, we noticed a hotel in front of us very similar to the Stanley in Colorado, where Stephen King wrote "The Shining". We wandered up to it and took some photos. Eric, Shaft and the Little Lucky Leprechaun emerged to sit on the snow for a mascots' photo.
Chris led the way over to the ski jump as it started to snow. We were amazed how big the ski jump was. We arrived at a viewing area halfway down the landing area. It was much steeper than I had expected and the pool of ice at the bottom indicated that it hadn't been used for some time. There were sizeable seating areas on either side of the landing area and behind it, and a raised area over the bottom of the landing area. Beyond the ski jump and to our left we noticed some people clearly training for a biathalon. They were cross country skiing into a shooting area, firing off a few shots and then skiing off again. We wandered past the ski jump and gift shop, pausing briefly to read the inscriptions on the wall which showed how the ski jump had grown over the years. The record jump appeared to be longer than the jump itself. We wondered how this could be the case and whether the skier in question had survived the jump. Chris noticed a Norwegian flag without the vertical stripe and wondered why it wasn't complete. We didn't know. After a few of us made a quick pot stop, we decided to walk around to an interesting looking church in the distance. We set off and I happened to glance behind me to notice that Dave was charging towards myself and David with a massive snowball. He launched it at David, who ducked. I was in front of him and I ducked even further. Chris was in front of me and the entire snowball impacted with his ass. We all broke down into hysterics. After drying off, Chris continued to lead us onto a cross country skiing route. It was difficult to walk on, but the trek was interesting. We walked down a hill and over a bridge, stopping to admire a downhill ski run, before arriving at the church. Rupert and I posed for a photo holding massive chunks of ice, whilst David stood next to us struggling to lift a very small snowball. The church appeared to be locked, so we walked down the hill at the other side and arrived at the far side of the ski jump. After a bit of a debate, we decided to walk up the road to Frognerseteren, rather than returning to the station to get the train up. As we walked up the hill, fog started to descend over us. I then began to quote from "Airplane!", saying "The fog is getting thicker". Steve and David simultaneously grabbed Moules and shook his stomach saying, "And Moules is getting larger!" Steve decided it was high time to eat the sandwich he'd hidden in his pocket, but after finishing it he confessed that it probably hadn't been worth smuggling it out of the breakfast area. We arrived at another cross country skiing route, so we walked towards it, crossed the road via a skiing bridge and continued down onto another cross country skiing trail. As we walked along through the forest we were passed every so often by a cross country skier. Dave stopped to take a few photos whilst the remainder of us continued walking. Eventually we decided to wait for him, and turned around to look behind us. We soon saw a guy coming up the hill and I thought it was Dave doing an impression of a cross country skier going up hill. As he got closer, it turned out that I was wrong. It was actually a cross country skier. After this false alarm, we waited a few minutes before Dave came into sight. Ten minutes later, we found ourselves at a look out point. The fog was clearing slightly and Rupert stripped off several layers of clothes to enjoy the view. There was an icy slope in front of us and David asked Rupert if he fancied sliding down it, but he declined. We carried on walking, passing several strange houses on stilts and a couple of kids who were sliding down the skiing route on some sort of flat dish contraption before arriving at a large restaurant on top of the hill. We decided to stop for a break and check out the cafe. As we got there, the mentalist kid we'd spied earlier on the train was leaving with his friend. The view from the hotel was impressive and Chris again pointed out the Norwegian flag without the vertical stripe. David and I went inside to check out the cafe whilst the others dicked around looking at the view.
Drinks proved very expensive so David and I ensured that we got a free refill of the diminutive hot chocolate cups before moving to the counter to pay. Chris and I engaged in a meringue and custard danish sharetron. We sat down in a large hall at a long table whilst Chris tabulated and Dave attempted to take a photo of the low hanging light fitting, which was in the shape of antlers, with his digital camera. After a suitable period of chilling, we left the cafe and decided to continue our walk around Frognerseteren. We crossed the station tracks, pausing to check out the train timetable, before walking up the hill beyond. In the distance we could see a pair of TV towers. Dave informed us that it was possible to go up them in a lift, but they seemed too far and it was too cold for us to want to make the journey. It was now about 2.30p.m. and amazingly the sun was setting and it was beginning to get dark. We had now arrived at a frozen lake. David began to cross the ice, but Chris expressed concern that he might fall through, so he turned around and came back. The heaped snow was beginning to prove a problem under foot and we were all feeling the cold. Beyond the lake we arrived at a car park. We paused for a photo at a "Skiforeningen" sign and then crossed the car park to find the nearest station. At this point, I picked up a massive snowball and dumped it over Chris' head. Thus began a massive snowball fight with myself and David taking on Rupert and Chris. Whilst this was going on, Dave made the decision to head for Voksenkollen station - the nearest station to the lake. We made for a path at the far side of the car park and walked down the hill towards the station. I scooped up a huge snowball and threw it at Dave at point blank range. A new improved snowball fight began, with us chucking massive snowballs at each other. This made the walk to the station seem to pass by in no time at all and we soon arrived at Voksenkollen. Waiting at the station was a group of about 10 eight year olds in winter gear, waiting for the train with two adults. We wondered whether they were also on a Colonel's break and immediately adopted them as the junior Colonel's men. One of the young children decided to run up the path and then slide down an icy bank towards the platform, landing on his ass in the process. We immediately christened him junior Moules.
After about a 20 minute wait, the train arrived and we began the lengthy journey down to Majorstuen. After a few stops, Dave, David and I began discussing the fact that a gong sounded just before every stop. I mentioned that it was very similar to the gong from "Knightmare" and you might expect Treguard to say "Well team, time's up for another week", before freezing everyone on board the train. From this point on, every time the gong went off as we continued down from the Holmenkollen, David, Dave and myself proceeded to say "Well team!" A few stops down the line, the junior Colonel's men disembarked and we waved goodbye as we continued our journey. As we approached Majorstuen station, David and I speculated that the nearby Norwegians were getting fed up with the gag. As a pair sat near to us got off the train, we assumed that one turned to the other and said, "I don't know why they had to say 'Well team', every time the gong went off. I didn't even like 'Knightmare' when it was on."
We disembarked at Majorstuen station and decided to walk to a nearby park which apparently had some interesting statues in it. We had a brief stop at the station whilst we bought some hot dogs, drinks and a chocolate bar called "Kvikk Lunsj" for a late lunch. Once the hot dogs had been consumed, we shared around the Kvikk Lunsj and were a little disappointed to discover that it was basically a Kit Kat. We crossed a road and arrived at a statue of a skater. Chris did a statue recreation and we climbed up the snowy bank to our right to discover a massive skating rink in front of us with people playing ice hockey at the far end. We walked along the bank beside the ice rink, descended the other side into a car park and engaged in another sizeable snowball fight. Chris dumped a large snowball on my back and I got a bit of a shock as freezing water went down the back of my neck. Dave led us into the park he'd noticed on the map. I utilised the nearest dustbin to get rid of my drinks bottle and was amazed to discover that the inside of the dustbin was much bigger than it appeared - it actually widened out under the ground into a massive cavern. In front of us now was a river and to our left was a bridge with several statues on the sides. As we arrived at the bridge, we discovered that all of the statues depicted people with children in very strange positions. All of the figures were naked. It seemed very odd. Across the other side of the bridge there was a monument which involved four figures holding a dish above them. David and Rupert attempted to lob a snowball into the dish but failed. Behind this structure was another monument very similar in design to the Washington Monument, or so it seemed. However, upon climbing up the steps in front of it, we discovered that it was actually in the shape of a giant penis and it was made up of naked people stacked one on top of the other. To our left was another statue recreating what appeared to be the largest orm in the world. David attempted an orm on top of it and photos were taken. We walked around the monument and down the steps at the other side. David threw a snowball at the penis statue and, whilst Dave and Chris figured out where we should go, David and I wandered away from the monument to check out what appeared to be a sundial up the hill in front of us. It wasn't very interesting, so we hurried over to a viewing area just beyond it which marked the far corner of the park, before returning to the others. We were all pretty cold and wet so we decided it was high time to return to the hotel and prepare for the evening meal. By this point it was about four in the afternoon, but it was almost completely dark. Dave had discovered a quick way out of the park via a side entrance, so we made for that, passing the ice rink again on route to Majorstuen station.
We took the train back to the hotel and, upon arrival, I expressed my desire to head down to the gym. Steve fancied chilling out in his room, so he stayed there whilst Chris, David and Rupert went down for a swim. I ran on the treadmill for a bit, but it wasn't very good as the timing mechanism for the treadmill involved a digital watch sellotaped to the top and the speed was controlled by a somewhat inaccurate analogue dial. Dave joined me in the gym after a while and sat on the bike in his jeans to cycle a few miles. After a workout, Chris, David, Rupert and myself went for a sauna, before heading back to the room and preparing for the evening meal. We decided to meet in Summit 21 for a drink before the evening meal. We chilled on some bar stools around a small table and discussed the plan for the evening. Dave had been reading the guidebook and had discovered that if we took the train to Gronland there were some cheap restaurants in the area. We did just that, departing for National theatre station and taking the train 3 stops to Gronland. We left the station, passing some rather dodgy looking teenagers hanging around in an underpass. Outside, we triangulated our position with help from Chris and walked towards the area that Dave had assured us there would be restaurants in. We arrived at an interesting looking bar. I suggested a drink, but the general consensus was that we should find somewhere to eat first, so we continued our trek along the street. Most of the restaurants on the street didn't look particularly great, but we eventually arrived at one that was recommended in the guidebook. Steve and Rupert wandered in to see if there was space, but soon arrived back to inform us that it was full. We were beginning to get a little concerned and tempers were short. David was starting to get annoyed with the plan to go to Gronland. We turned left and began to walk back to the centre of Oslo. We passed a pub on the left hand side of the road and so, in order to avert an argument, I suggested going into the pub, getting a round of drinks in and discussing what we thought we should do about finding somewhere to eat. Chris, Steve and Dave wandered to the bar to get a round of drinks in whilst David, Rupert and I waited behind them. At this point, a strange Norwegian man walked past David and asked him where he was from. David replied he was from England so he just said, "Oh, okay" and walked off. David, Rupert and I walked over to a table and sat down to await our drinks. At this point, the strange Norwegian guy came over and sat at the table in front of us. He said nothing, merely relaxing with his beer and shot, until Chris, Dave and Steve had joined us with our drinks. At this point, he started to engage us in conversation, asking us where we were from. Dave did the bulk of the talking and struck up an immediate rapport with the character. David and I were getting a little concerned that he might follow us out to dinner. Steve was enjoying the conversation and when, out of the blue, the Norwegian guy said, "I am from the working classes" I replied with, "So's Steve" in an effort to draw him into the conversation. We were urging Steve to speak in Geordie, so he explained to the Norwegian guy that Geordie and Norwegian were very similar. "For instance," he said, "if I want to say, 'The baby is going home', I'd say, 'The byrne's gan y'an.'" The Norwegian guy sat back shocked and replied, "That is English? No, it is Norwegian. We would say 'Babyen går hjem.'" We couldn't believe the similarity. He then told us that alcohol was so expensive that he only drank one night of the week. He left to get himself another drink in and it was clear that by the amount he was drinking he wasn't too worried about the cost. When he returned he asked us what we thought of Oslo. We replied that we liked it but it was cold. He then said that, whilst it was six degrees in Oslo, it was only five degrees in London, so Norway was actually warmer than England. I asked Steve if he'd got similar results with his climate model. David and I speculated that he had come up with these results on a climate model and was in direct competition with Steve.
We eventually decided it was time to go so we bade him farewell, saying we needed to go and eat some traditional Norwegian food. He couldn't understand why we wanted to eat Norwegian food but he gave us a restaurant recommendation anyway. It was a short walk away. As we left, Steve said, "What is your name?" He replied that he was called Tomas. The restaurant was a few doors down the street, so we found it quickly and hurried upstairs. We arrived at a desk and asked for a table, but it turned out the restaurant was full. However, the waiter directed us to a bar downstairs, informing us that the food was pretty much the same. We left the building and walked around the corner, entering a place called "Doverestua". It was essentially a bar with tables for diners and we were allocated a table near the window. Chris sat down on the banquette, with myself sliding in to his left and David to my left. Rupert sat opposite David, with Dave opposite me and Steve opposite Chris. I glanced at the menu and put in an order for some sort of meat dish served with Swedish stew. It seemed the closest thing to Norwegian food in my price range. Dave and Chris ordered likewise, whilst Rupert ordered some weird dish and David and Steve ordered Weinerschnitzel. As we waited for our meals to arrive, we reminisced about our encounter with Tomas and how hilarious the whole situation was. The main courses arrived and I was somewhat unimpressed with my choice. It was okay, but the Weinerschnitzel looked much better. Somehow, talk turned to language and how odd it was that some words were regarded as rude and some weren't. Steve pointed out that he thought it was strange that calling someone a twat was considered okay, but calling someone a c*** was considered very offensive. David reeled off some other words on the same theme and queried which were offensive and which weren't. Chris then chipped in, pointing out that he thought they meant different things, some referring to the general area, and gave examples of which fit into which category. Steve and I looked at him completely shocked, then burst into hysterics for ages. It was just so out of character for him to come out with such a comment. David, Dave and Rupert hadn't heard what he'd said, so as soon as I could speak again I was forced to repeat it for their benefit, which caused David to go into a fit of hysterics as well.
After the main course, we decided to order apple cakes and coffees all around for dessert. The apple cake was pretty reasonable and we all reckoned we'd made a pretty good choice after the problems of the evening. We appreciated our good fortune in running into Tomas in the pub next door. Once we'd eaten our fill, we paid up and left the restaurant to walk back to the centre. After a short while, Steve realised he'd forgotton his gloves and decided to go back for them. I wandered back with him to check the name of the restaurant for interest's sake. Fortunately the gloves were still on the table, so he picked them up and we left again. We walked back to the city centre and soon arrived at the main street with the ice rink. At this point we spotted a lone traffic cone with a piece of tape attached to it at the edge of a building site. It was the only one we'd seen whilst we'd been in the city so I decided we should probably go for it. However, some police were in the vicinity so no one was willing to take the risk. At this point, fortune favoured us. The two policemen hurried over to some sort of commotion in the small square behind us. It seemed that they were arresting Father Christmas! I seized the opportunity, grabbed the cone (trying not to trip over the tape attached to it in the process) and shouted, "Stop telling me what to do!" whilst the appropriate photos were taken. Replacing the cone, we hurried away from the area. After a short walk we found ourselves near the town hall. We weren't sure whether to get another round of drinks in as the area was so expensive, but when we found a pub called the Churchill, we couldn't resist. We wandered in and Steve and Dave went to get a round in whilst the remainder of us located a useful alcove in the corner. We sat there and chatted for a while, looking at the many pictures of the pub football team on the wall (who appeared to play in Newcastle United colours) documenting their recent tours to England. Once we'd finished our drinks we left the pub and wandered back to the hotel through the snow, pushing through crowds of smokers out on the streets in the process. Back at our hotel, we pushed through crowds of more smokers in evening wear (we noted with amusement that the women must have been absolutely freezing) and headed up to our rooms. Chris and I bade goodnight and went into our room to punch the sack.
Saturday, 4th December
I woke up and, realising that it was unlikely that Chris would be ready for breakfast in time, I headed down with Steve and David. The breakfast options seemed to be rapidly deteriorating over the course of the break. Once everyone had arrived at breakfast we had a discussion about what we should do during the day. We had several choices, one of which was to go to the Viking Ship museum, some distance away. Another, which we were quite keen on doing, was to find a way to visit the Castle Arrghh. We decided to give the Castle Arrghh a try, so we set out to go to the city centre Castle we'd already visited and see if we could get a boat or something from there. We wandered across the front of the royal palace and headed past the ice rink towards the town hall. On the same street as the town hall, we paused inside a souvenir shop and spent a while browsing for mascots. David was pretty keen on purchasing a rather cute seal, but we settled upon a comedic reindeer wearing a sweater with a Norwegian flag on it. We called him Glogg, after the drink. David purchased the seal as well and we went on our way. We took in the views at the castle again, but decided that visiting the Castle Arrghh probably wouldn't be feasible and maybe the viking ship museum was the better option. We therefore left the castle and wandered back towards a bus stop near the souvenir shop. Dave worked out which bus we should get and we boarded, got some tickets and headed over to the island with the viking ship museum. On route I spotted some cones. Unfortunately the shout of "Stop telling me what to do!" had already taken place. After about half an hour, we got off the bus at the folk museum, deciding to walk from there. The bus driver tried to stop us from getting off, as we weren't at the viking ship museum but, after trying in vain to get us to reboard, he gave up and drove off. The ground was covered in snow and the walk to the museum was a little hazardous. We arrived shortly and David and I engaged in a brief snowball fight in the car park with Moules. We went inside and paid our two quid to check out the museum. I made for a quick pot stop then joined the lads.
The viking ships themselves were pretty impressive. The museum was in the shape of a cross, with platforms in the centre allowing you to climb up on to them and admire the ships from above. There were three ships in the museum, two of which were in pretty good shape and one of which had nearly fallen apart. In the rear portion of the cross was what could only be described as a boringamead. It was an area with information about the vikings and various boring artefacts that were dug up. There was a glass case at the back with some artefacts in and two dead-end passageways either side that provided the main part of the boringamede. I lingered there briefly and, as I moved away, David joined me, informing me that Rupert was spending rather a long time inside the boringamede. There was another boringamede in a small room off the main boringamede, so I headed in for a brief look. It was dull. After a while, David, Steve and I were keen to move on, so we headed over to the main entrance and waited for the others.
Once we'd all reassembled, we left and decided to walk to another set of museums. Chris lobbed a snowball at me but I ducked and he was lucky not to hit a nearby chink who was wandering into the museum. We then went for a lengthy walk on route to another set of museums. The walk was interspersed with several incidents in which one of us would scoop up as much snow as possible, run at one of the others silently and then dump it over their heads. Chris got me with a particularly nasty one at one point, causing water to go down my neck. We walked past a school with a swimming pool under some sort of canvas and plenty of pleasant houses, before arriving at a slightly more open area with the set of museums Dave was keen on doing some dicking around in. We were all pretty cold by this time, so we headed over to the nearby cafe and sat down with a round of hot chocolates to warm ourselves up. Once we'd done this, we left and wandered around the edge of the Oslofjord.
The views over the fjord were pretty impressive and we decided that it would be a suitable place for a mascot photo. We got out all the mascots and sat them down on a nearby anchor. Once photos had been taken, I was about to pick the mascots up when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, Rupert launch a snowball at them. I couldn't believe my eyes! The snowball landed in the middle of them and scattered them all. David yelled at Rupert in disgust. I moved forward to check the mascots for damage, only to discover that Eric's helmet had been chipped. We scrambled around to see if we could find the broken piece, but it wasn't obvious with snow all over the place. David got really annoyed and berated Rupert for his stupidity. Chris tried to calm him down, but it was tricky as none of us could understand why Rupert had thrown the snowball, knowing full well that Eric was fragile. I suggested we walk towards the museum area, so David stood up and kicked Rupert's rucksack in disgust. This caused some hilarity from myself and Steve. One of the museums in the vicinity housed a ship called "Fram", which was apparently the one which Amundsen went to the South Pole in. Dave was quite keen to go in and, after some discussion, it was decided that everyone except David would go in. I wasn't too keen but thought that it might be slightly warmer inside than it was out. I would soon find out that I was mistaken, as it was absolutely freezing. The museum was okay. It was on several levels—walkways surrounded the walls of the museum and Fram itself was in the middle of the room. We made our way around the outside of the ship, gradually ascending levels. I became bored quite quickly and soon found myself whizzing around to the top level, where I discovered that it was possible to board the ship. Steve caught up with me and we walked onto the deck. The ship was by far the most interesting part of the museum. We descended the steps into the ship and checked out some of the living quarters, including Amundsen's own cabin. Down some more steps we found the engine room. It was mildly interesting, but I soon decided I'd had enough. Steve agreed, so the two of us headed out of the ship and, after briefly stopping to look at some pictures, we left the museum. We bumped into David who was wandering around outside, in a minor poop that we'd been in the museum for so long. I didn't think we'd been in that long and said so. After more discussion, I realised that David's mood was mainly due to the fact that he'd nearly frozen his fingers off digging to find the piece of Eric's helmet that had come off thanks to Rupert's stupidity. Steve and I headed over to a nearby gents for a quick pot stop. Once we'd emerged again, the remainder of the regiment had finished dicking around and were ready to catch the bus back.
We took the bus back to the centre and walked over to the ice rink on the main street. Myself, Steve and Chris purchased hot dogs and, whilst Chris was selecting some ice skates, the remainder of us bought some hot drinks. Most of us got hot chocolates, but Rupert purchased a drink with a strange name. It turned out to be hot Ribena. We couldn't believe he'd been duped so easily. We spent a while chilling by the side of the ice rink watching some Moules on ice action, but it was getting dark and hence much colder. Eventually I decided that I couldn't take it any longer so, after watching Chris take Reardon on a couple of laps around the ice, I suggested that we head over to Andy's bar for a drink whilst Chris finished his skating session. The bar was fairly busy and we had to prop ourselves up at the corner of the bar. It soon became obvious why it was so busy—Chelsea were playing Newcastle United in the Premiership and it was being featured on the big screen. It wasn't going too well for Steve's team. The end result was 4−0 to Chelsea and Steve wasn't too happy so proceeded to get a round of drinks in to cheer himself up. At the end of the game, the bar emptied a little and we managed to secure a raised table in view of the big screen and a smaller television above the bar. A random Norwegian came to our table and asked us whether we wanted to watch Arsenal or Manchester United. We said we didn't mind. We soon found that Arsenal vs Birmingham appeared on the big screen whilst Manchester United vs Southampton was put on on the little screen. It became somewhat confusing. Chris joined us and proceeded to see his team (Southampton) lose 3−0. In the other game, Birmingham went down by the same score. After the games had concluded, we decided to head back to the hotel to get ready for the stammtisch. David, Chris, Rupert and I headed for the pool, whilst Steve and Dave relaxed in their rooms. There was some debate as to whether they'd go straight to the stammtisch without waiting for their respective room buddies. Chris and I left them to sort it out.
Down at the pool, we first checked out the sauna but, owing to the high proportion of naked people present, we rejected the opportunity to go in and went for a swim instead. Unfortunately the pool was still freezing so I wasn't able to stay for too long. Chris and I left after a while, leaving Rupert and David in the pool area. They decided that, since their room buddies were already in the rooms, it would take less time for them to get ready so they could afford to give us a bit of a head start to get ready for the stammtisch.
Chris managed to get through the shower with minimal dicking around and we were reasonably efficient in departing for the stammtisch. As we walked across the park in front of the royal palace, we speculated as to who, if anyone, had arrived before us. I suspected we might be last, as the other two groups had a head start on us. We arrived at the bar and after a quick search of the place we deduced that we must be the first ones to arrive. We got some drinks in and sat at a table in the far corner to watch Blackburn against Tottenham on the big screen (the final score was 1−0 to Tottenham). Steve and David arrived almost immediately and were slightly disappointed that we'd beaten them to the stammtisch. We chatted for quite a while before Dave and Rupert turned up. After about an hour's worth of chilling and a couple of rounds of very expensive drinks, we left Andy's bar and made for the destination for the final night meal—the pizza restaurant called Medallion that we'd checked out on the first day. We turned right out of the bar, passed a chain pizza restaurant similar to Pizza Hut that Dave had previously suggested for a final night meal, walked along a walkway through a square that seemed to have become a building site, and found ourselves at the restaurant. We descended some stairs and were shown to a table. A waiter asked if he could take our coats but, deciding there may be a surcharge, we turned down this option.
I sat in the corner with Chris opposite me. Steve was next to him and Dave was next to Steve. Opposite Dave was Rupert, with David filling the final spot next to me. As the menus were passed around, I prepared the pieces of paper for the draw. The initial draw took place for the revealing position in the draw. Once this had been done, the draw took place for which mascot each person would represent. Dave won the role of Amal, the only absentee, whilst Steve drew the Little Lucky Leprechaun, Chris drew Kurt, I drew Shaft, David drew Grosser Vass and Rupert would be Reardon, as he'd won Reardon's round. I handed over Amal's envelope to Dave for later use.
We put in our order for food and drink, with wine being ordered for everyone except David (he ordered coke). David hid his wine glass for later use in the draw. As our drinks arrived, we began the process of revealing destinations. Naturally, the first destination in the draw would be Reardon's choice. Rupert had won the pool tournament and his destination would therefore be:
Steve revealed next. He was holding true to the old bargain between himself and David and his destination would therefore be:
David was up next. Pleased with the spread of destinations so far, he decided to add to the Scandinavia bias and thus revealed:
HELSINKI. David had put in a good choice, but also taken one of my possible choices away from me.
The starters arrived. Myself, David and Dave had ordered fish soup. The waiter deposited the starters in front of everyone, leaving Dave until last. When it came to be Dave's turn he said, "And for you, sir, the hot dogs." He then placed some fish soup in front of Dave. Clearly we'd got a comedian. We laughed as he returned to the kitchen. The soup however, was excellent.
It was Amal's turn to reveal next. Dave began to open the piece of paper, entitled, "Amal's destination in a home made envelope" and read one word on the paper. It said:
I wasn't too impressed as we'd already had a mission in Germany. The draw moved on to Chris. He had been undecided for some time, but had decided that one of the former Soviet states would be interesting to visit and thus his choice would be:
TALLINN. My other destination had gone. It seemed that I'd have to do some quick thinking.
David got up to go to the toilet as the main courses arrived. Pizzas were distributed all around. As David returned to the table, the waiter said to him, "I'm afraid we have no pizza left, sir." David looked shocked and said, "Oh no!." After a pause he came back with, "I'll have the hot dogs." The waiter said that was fine and disappeared to bring David his pizza. Clearly he'd been telling fibs. Dave received his pizza next and the waiter said, "Fried Chicken for you, sir". Realising he had a good audience, he seemed to be really going for it with the gags. The pizzas were really good and we all agreed that we'd picked a good final night restaurant.
However, the mood became more sombre as we realised that it was Rupert's turn to reveal. He stumbled for ages before saying that he was choosing:
LLUBLJANA. The first fairly crap destination had gone in the draw. And no surprise, it was Rupert who'd put it in. I didn't have time to worry about this as it was my turn next. Dave speculated as to what I would do, but David said he was fairly sure what I'd put in now. I pointed out that my top two choices had gone so, having to think on my feet, my choice would now be:
GENEVA. People seemed pretty satisfied with my choice. Finally it was Dave's turn and he said that he was going for a stereotypical summer beach resort. David and I were worried as he revealed his choice to be:
GDANSK. Not bad. It certainly could have been worse. We then moved to discuss the choice for the Little Lucky Leprechaun, finally settling on one obvious country that hadn't been represented in the draw. The leprechaun's choice would therefore be:
The waiter came to clear our plates and we ordered desserts. I ordered tiramisu with the others ordering tiramisu, banana split or tartuffo depending upon their needs. As the desserts arrived, Kurt's veto round took place. Steve pointed out that he liked the idea of one of the Eastern European countries before writing down his veto vote and laughing. Chris collected the votes and said, "I'll count the votes" before revealing, "Berlin", "None", "None", "Llubljana", "Copenhagen", "None". I'd voted for Berlin, David had voted for Llubljana and Steve had, somewhat strangely, voted for himself. However, it was irrelevant. Nothing would be vetoed. I prepared the shaft round and drew out a piece of paper at random. It was blank, so neither Amal, Reardon nor the Little Lucky Leprechaun would be shafted. The glass was passed to David, who repeated the procedure for the making grosser round. Again the piece of paper he extracted was blank, so nothing would be made grosser.
Once desserts were finished, we ordered coffee and began the rehearsal draw. The glass was passed first to Rupert who eliminated Helsinki. David did a Barthez. Steve then eliminated Llubljana on behalf of the Little Lucky Leprechaun. Dave eliminated Copenhagen, whilst I drew out Tallinn. Rupert then removed Reykavik and Chris removed Holland. With three destinations left, Dave removed Geneva on Amal's behalf. It was Dave against Amal in the final two. Could Amal win yet another draw? David selected a piece of paper and revealed the runner up: Berlin. Dave celebrated with a Shearer as Steve revealed the winning destination of Gdansk. David reminded us that it was "just a bit of fun" and, as the coffees arrived, we finally got down to the real business of the evening. I prepared the glass a final time and we all prepared ourselves for the draw. Rupert received the glass first on behalf of Reardon and he eliminated:
Reardon commiserated himself with a Barthez.
Steve then received the glass and, on behalf of the Little Lucky Leprechaun, eliminated:
David was slightly upset as 8th was his worst ever finish. The draw certainly hadn't started well. Dave received the glass next and I celebrated as he removed:
The tension was obvious as I performed the 4th elimination. I selected a piece of paper and revealed:
GDANSK. Dave and Steve looked disappointed. Rupert then received the glass and revealed:
GENEVA. I was unimpressed. It seemed that my sole win in Genoa would remain my only finish above 4th for a while longer. More worryingly, Amal's destination was still in the hat.
Not for much longer, however. Chris received the glass and removed:
BERLIN. I was pretty pleased. A little tension had gone out of the draw. Dave picked a piece of paper on behalf of Amal and revealed:
COPENHAGEN. It appeared that Copenhagen was fated not to win the draw. Two destinations left and it was Chris, who'd never won the draw, against the Little Lucky Leprechaun, who'd won his first ever draw. David selected a piece of paper and passed the remaining one to Steve. He then revealed:
As Steve revealed the winner:
HOLLAND, he allowed the Little Lucky Leprechaun to run up and down the table to celebrate with a Shearer, as we said, "Well, it's Holland next time!" I wasn't sure how I felt. I knew that Holland would be good, with the likelihood being that we would end up in Amsterdam, but I was quite keen on Tallinn too.
We paid up and left the restaurant, saying farewell to our friendly waiter. We walked back to the hotel in high spirits having had a fun evening and an entertaining draw. Back at the hotel, we decided to have a final drink in Summit 21 before heading to bed. We got a round in and spent a while chilling and soaking up the atmosphere, before deciding to return to our rooms and punch the sack in readiness for our final day in Oslo.
Sunday, 5th December
I woke up at about eight o'clock in the morning and, after going through the shower, went down for our final breakfast. It was a pretty subdued affair, as the break was nearly over. We had the morning in Oslo before we were due to catch our bus, so once breakfast had been concluded, we checked out, left our baggage at the hotel and went for a walk. We decided to head around the back of the Royal Palace to see what was there. Half of it appeared to be inaccessible, so we headed around the back and joined a road leading us back to the centre. I spotted some traffic cones but, having already resigned ourselves to the one cone earlier in the break, we could not come in with a "Stop telling me what to do!" We soon found ourselves back at the castle. We walked around the edge, through some sort of dockyard area. I was beginning to regret getting a hole in one of my shoes whilst up the Holmenkollen, as my entire food was getting soaked. The snow was starting to melt and we ended up walking through loads of slush.
We arrived at the far corner of the castle and saw some Jewish war memorial, with some rather bizarre relics of torture devices and gas chambers. We headed over the road, attempting to avoid slipping and falling on our faces in the ice, before climbing some stairs and coming out near the castle drawbridge. After a short discussion, we decided to head over to the Norwegian army museum and chill with a coffee. A short walk later, we found ourselves outside the museum. There was a couple of old tanks outside and the Little Lucky Leprechaun posed for a photograph in front of one. We wandered over to the far side and were delighted to discover the Castle Argh across the water. On closer inspection, it appeared to be some sort of prison.
We entered the museum and David and I were delighted to discover it was free. As I was one of the few people left with cash, I volunteered to buy the coffees and cakes. We had a brief ordering debacle, as it turned out the person behind the counter was unable to serve cakes, so once we'd done this ourselves and David and I had gone for a sharetron, we moved to pay. As the cashier told us how much it was, I started to sort out my money. I handed some over and David said he had some more cash if I needed it. I said I was probably okay and was about to sort out the money for the rest when Rupert suddenly butted in and handed over enough money to cover the remainder of the bill. I couldn't believe that Rupert had suddenly decided to take over like that and a brief argument ensued. Chris typically intervened and made things worse, assuming I was annoyed because I didn't get rid of my money, which wasn't the point—the fact that Rupert had taken over a transaction I was dealing with was the real annoyance. Dave seemed unable to cope with the argument and decided to have a walk around the museum. After David and I had wandered downstairs and made a brief pot stop and Dave had returned, we decided to have a look around the museum ourselves. It was pretty interesting and dealt with Norwegian military history for the previous few centuries. We spent about 45 minutes wandering around looking at the exhibits before deciding it was time to head out. Unfortunately we had to whizz through the more interesting World War II stuff at the end, including a display of some Nazi troops attacking a small Norwegian bunker.
We left the museum and headed back over to our hotel. Once there, we hurriedly picked up our bags and wandered to the station. Dave decided he needed the toilet, so we set off, leaving him to catch us up. We speculated on whether he would miss the bus, but he soon joined us on the train. We were disappointed to discover that the last train we'd be taking in Oslo was not one which had a "Well team!" gong on it. We eventually made it back to the main station and, after a walk through the shopping arcade, we got on the bus for our long journey back to Torp airport. Most of the boys fell asleep whilst I continued to read my Dan Brown book and looked at the scenery.
Back at the airport, we rushed to the check in desk. David noticed a dicking around chink at the front of one queue and also some black guy who was messing around with his luggage. Steve and Chris had been dicking around getting off the bus, so they had to attempt to push into the queue with us, prompting a rather large English woman behind us to make some comment. Once we'd checked in, we pooled our cash resources and headed over to the cafeteria. I got a round of drinks in with David and Rupert, whilst Dave, Chris and Steve went over to buy sausages. They soon returned with sausages with bacon on for themselves and one for David. I asked where mine was, but it seemed wires had got crossed and they hadn't bought me one. Chris kindly went back to get one, but returned later without one cos they didn't have any with bacon on left. A strange decision, I thought, so I sat there without whilst the others tucked in greedily. Dave seemed not to care that I had been the victim of a shafting, which caused me to get a little disgruntled.
We shortly headed through to the departure area. Chris got reprimanded because he'd left a screwdriver in his rucksack. He was given the option to either relinquish it or check his bag in. He went for the later option, as it involved maximum dicking around. Steve kindly bought me the sausage that I should have had some time earlier, whilst David and I selected some Norwegian chocolate bars. We picked up a bar called "Sport Lunch", a packet of things that looked like Rolos and a few solid chocolate bars—a couple of milk ones and a coconut one. Rupert went through his usual whisky buying routine and, once we were all done, we went to wait for the plane. At this point we discovered that we had to go through yet another passport control area to get to the UK flight departure zone. Once through, we sat down, ignoring the line of people queueing for a flight which wasn't leaving for another 40 minutes.
The flight back was uneventful and we soon found ourselves back on the ground in the UK. It was evening by the time we'd arrived back and, having picked up our bags, we were all eager to get home. David rushed for a pot stop whilst we waited for a long stay bus to show up for Steve. He sited one, so bade farewell to us. David returned a couple of seconds later and set off in pursuit of Steve to say goodbye, but it seemed that his bus had already left.
Rupert then departed to catch a train and Dave headed for the bus back to London, leaving David, Chris and myself to get on a bus back to the medium stay car park. We all piled in to the car, noting that, as Tomas had predicted, the weather in the UK was indeed colder than in Oslo. After a couple of hours, we found ourselves back in the Reading area and we took a detour to Reading station to drop of Chris. Mission 9 was over for yet another of the Colonel's Regiment. David and I continued our journey back to Thatcham. We were both feeling quite tired and deflated. The holiday had been fun, but it was now effectively all over. We arrived back at David's house and, after a brief chill with a drink, we both punched the sack.
Monday, 6th December
I woke up at around eight o'clock. The break was basically over, but I still had the journey back to my house to complete. I went upstairs to the bathroom, but after establishing that there wasn't enough water for a shower, I retreated downstairs again and watched some morning comedy on channel 4 for a while. David came downstairs, made some coffee and, once I'd finally managed to get my shower, we shared some of the Norwegian chocolate out for breakfast.
After David had been in the shower also, I loaded the car and bade farewell to David, who presumably then headed off to work. The Oslo experience was finally over and I now had to drive back to Warwickshire on my own. Things were going well until I was about 8 miles north of the M4 on the A34, when I hit a massive traffic jam. I was stuck there for a good 30 minutes. Eventually, I heard on the radio that there'd been a lorry accident and the queue now stretched beyond the M4 junction! It was then that I passed the lorry. It was twice the length of a normal truck, with a separate trailer section the same size as the front part. Some sort of white powder covered the inside lane and several recovery vehicles were at the scene. I moved past the accident and continued my journey, arriving back at the University of Warwick about an hour later. It was now nearly midday and as I walked into the department I realised that Oslo was finally over.
But it's Holland next time!