Let me begin with the question: why am I living here in cold, expensive Norway? Unlike almost all other foreign men in this country, I wasn’t press-ganged into moving here by some weeping, homesick girlfriend, nor was I avariciously lured by the black gold of plentiful oilfields.
Nay, there can only be one category to which I belong. I must be one of the norgesvenner (“Friends of Norway”) that I hear whispers about in the bars and streets of Oslo. Yea, these fabulous and strange creatures come from afar to become peculiar objects of Norwegian affection in every fjord and fjell, despite the fact that they are often fameless and obscure throughout the rest of the globe. I now institute the Online Norgesvenner Museum. Can I persuade you to take the tour?
ENTRANCE. The first exhibit is Bonnie Tyler, pictured here in her original glory.
A Welshwoman, Bonnie is best “remembered” for her 1980s hit, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Her trademark raspy voice was caused by accident. Following an operation on her vocal chords, Bonnie was instructed by her doctor not to speak until her throat healed. “Okay,” she said, and her voice was instantly ruined, thus paving the way for a totally new kind of pop hit.
Who are these flamboyant bohemians? You may wonder. This is the rock band Smokie, who have been releasing albums since 1975. They are mainly forgotten for their song “Living Next Door to Alice”. A little known fact about them is that they are English. Even less known is their persistence regardless of exploding singers. Vocalist Chris left the band in 1986 to pursue a career in music. Nine years later, his replacement, Alan, did not survive a tour bus crash in perilous Deutschland. The band found a third singer, and continue to perform to this day. Apparently there is only one founder member of the band left, but I don’t know his name. Nor do I know who is in this photograph.
I’ll bet you don’t recognize this man. This is German detective Derrick, or rather, it is aged actor Horst Tappert, who played the role for 25 years. Norwegians watched this television programme. So did Umberto Eco, apparently. I have never seen it.
This is Leon Avanti. Like Tiny Tim or Oliver Twist, he was a penniless Londoner, but he was musically gifted enough to join a certain Norwegian musical group and move here. Onstage, he sits at the back. He is 21 and plays the flute.
This is Julenissen (“the Christmas pixie”), also known as Father Christmas and Santa Claus. Not an obscure figure by any means, he is certainly a norgesvenn, as Norway’s children will attest. However, his inclusion in this museum is controversial because he may in fact be a Norwegian himself. There is furious disagreement over where he actually lives. Is his northerly, snow-laden abode in Norwegian or Finnish territory? Even though he exists (see photo evidence), it is impossible to prove.
You have now left the Online Norgesvenner Museum. You are looking at Laetitia Casta, the living symbol of the French Republic. She is not, at least according to my “research”, a norgesvenn. But I’ll let you know if I see her around. A bientôt!