Norway ~ Tromsø – 2013
Despite bitterly cold temperatures that leave your extremities feeling like ice cubes, Norway regularly scores in the top two or three when it comes to “happiness” scores…not sure how they actually work those things out – I assume it is more technical than walking up to people with a clipboard and asking “ARE YOU HAPPY?! NO LIKE…ARE YOU QUITE HAPPY – OR LIKE REALLY, REALLY HAPPY?” Or maybe that is how they do it – answers on a postcard please. The thing is, happiness is of course subjective, so how can you possibly throw it on a scale? You see spending a day lying on a sofa ,dipping marshmallow into hot cocoa before shoving it in my face, all the while having someone massaging my feet – would make me the happiest man on earth (in my book), however you may get the same level of happiness from say…something completely the opposite…like…giving a homeless man chocolate coins and hiding around a corner to wait for his reaction, or hitting a pensioner with a French baguette – I mean, I personally would say you are deeply disturbed due to those desires, and need to seek psychiatric help…but my point is, our happiness comes from different places, so I am not sure I trust a scientific happiness algorithm.
I was fortunate enough to spend a day in Norway back in 2013 as I flew out of Tromsø airport when returning from my Finland/Sweden venture…I’m afraid to report the rumoured happiness didn’t rub off on me! Maybe you have to be a full time resident to get the full privileges, rather than just a fleeting visitor – but the horrifically cold weather had me considering peeing my pants in exchange for temporary warmth, I considered that it wouldn’t be so bad as I had so many layers on they would serve as a makeshift nappy. No point bitterly dwelling on that I suppose – missed my chance.
Naturally the first port of call in these situations is to get yourself a hot drink, but I recall that I could barely scrape together the money for a warmish coffee, as I had been paid in useless English pound sterling…despite the surge of melancholy over the fact that I wouldn’t be able to have a delicious slice of cake, I clung desperately to the cardboard of the cup – pathetically thankful for the vague heat it provided to my ice cold fingertips. In stark contrast, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund ranks as the richest sovereign wealth fund in the world…and yes, sure, money doesn’t buy happiness – but I am sure in a country that is effectively a huge fridge-freezer, being able to afford North-Face jackets and copious amounts of whiskey is probably a massive plus! I mean look at this fella:
Anyway, we decided to go for a little walk – the logic wasn’t all there clearly, if we were to fast forward it a little it would go something like this; arghhh, that was freezing! GET INSIDE, GET INSIDE! Ahhhh, so much better…phew, all better. Fancy a walk? Against my better judgement we wandered back into the open air freezer…unsurprisingly we were hobbling back in stricken with frostbite approximately ten minutes later (tops!) As we piled back into the café I was instantly taken aback by something – it’ll seem small to you probably, possibly a little stupid in fact – but it is something that struck me as spectacular!
The young lady who was working there was going about her usual duties, you know – smiling at the customers, wiping a table down, blah blah blah – but then she leaned down to open up the dishwasher…and preceded to take the whole fully stacked tray out with one hand, pulling it out and placing it down without so much as a grunt of disapproval – the same way in which I may take out a notebook from my bag and place it on a table…obviously I am no Arnie by any account…argh, again I realise that this may seem like nothing to you, but I was in total AWE! Listen, those things are heavy! THEY ARE! As one of five kids I was tasked with piling splodgy plates into those contraptions for literally my whole childhood, even in my wildest nightmares I wouldn’t ever consider removing the tray with plates still in it, that would be lunacy – but I suppose if I went utterly insane and attempted it, I could manage with help from every single one of my siblings! And even then, we would winge and moan about it.
As I stared (listen, I tried not to, but I mean come on – that is AMAZING!) I noticed that she wasn’t wearing your usual café worker outfit. Instead, she was dressed head to toe in Adidas spandex type of material, in fact if it wasn’t for the apron you would have thought she was about to take part in some kind of Olympic event. I mean, she had the thickest thighs I may have ever seen, but like muscle you know? And wait…whoa…she has biceps, like really big, oh…actually she is…
But I couldn’t help it – perhaps this is what love at first sight is like? I didn’t ever think that was my type but…oh…that’s when I began to notice that the other two girls working there were of a similar build and dressed in almost identical sportswear. Perhaps this is…errr…like a thing that –
I awkwardly tried to ask for my elder sister’s opinion, (unsurprisingly that didn’t go well, as I came off as a huge sexist and in short a massive piece of shit):
“Have you…have you…noticed how muscular these girls are?” I whispered uneasily,
“John, I knew you would say something like that – many people would say that they are some of the most beautiful people in the world!”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! I would too! I’m just saying that…listen…well, this will sound unbelievable – but one of them lifted the whole dishwasher tray out by herself!”
“I know it’s crazy right?! But believe me, I just saw her!”
“Well…it was with one hand! That’s pretty amaz-”
“IT WAS FULL OF PLATES!? GAAD!”
We both went on an unofficial break from talking to each other for the next little bit – as we gave each other silent treatment on both sides. This gave me time to notice a few things, one being that many people are built in this way, that gyms and health food shops appeared to make up a large percentage of the buildings. Could it be true? Surely not? Was the path to happiness truly a good exercise routine and a balanced diet? I mean it sounds outrageous – up until that moment I was a firm believer in happiness being found in ice cream and quality sitcoms…but hey, the truth is in the pudding, right?
I bet Norwegians don’t eat pudding – you don’t get like that from eating pudding. Man, I love pudding.
Anyway Norway, don’t judge me so harshly for my ignorance – it is truly a beautiful country you have! I mean the Norwegian fjords? Wow! Let’s just say that whoever made those – great job! And you are a beautiful set of people, I am just deeply, deeply, jealous. Perhaps one day, with lots of training – I will lift out the full dishwasher tray with one hand…
Guys, if we don’t have big dreams – then what is the point in life? That’s my message here.
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