A National Day is a National Day

17 MaiAs an Irishman, my national day is St. Patrick’s Day, 17 March, and it’s a fairly unpleasant affair. Although the children of Ireland get to go out on the streets and watch colourful parades, the day swiftly descends into public displays of alcoholism and casual street violence. Then the next day, there’s litter to be seen everywhere, and Ireland looks like a complete shithole. Norway’s national day, Grunnlovsdagen (“Constitution Day”) is on 17 May, and it was my first experience of it. How would it compare with the Irish experience, at street level?

Norway’s is the only national day in which parades consist exclusively of child participants. School bands march through the centre of town. I didn’t venture out early to see such things, though. My day began at noon at a private frokost (“breakfast”) at Sound of Mu, with a grand selection of food, and champagne. I wore a suit, which was the done thing if you don’t have a national costume. The picture above was taken during the festivities.
Outside, Grünerløkka School paraded past my bar on their way back.
But I couldn’t dally at Mu. What was Oslo’s immigrant community doing? Well, the Afro-Caribbeans had it all sorted on a café boat called the MS Innvik. I went down there with a portable family to check it out. There was a theatrical performance for children, then a “reggae family disco.” There was food and affordable beer, which suited me fine.
Elsewhere on the dock, four guys were shooting up. One of them held a Norwegian flag as he injected himself.
At night, I DJed at a huge party, from 8.30pm till sometime after 4am. I had unlimited free beer and earned more than a month’s rent! Sometimes I feel very cushioned by Norwegian life.
However, people had been drinking literally all day long. I had several tables to protect me from the public, but on two occasions dancers fell into the sound desk. There was also a fight. Someone broke a window.
As if to underline some ineffable point, the next day I received my five-year residency permit.

Barry Kavanagh writes fiction, and has made music, formerly with Dacianos.

Contact him here.