2866 views

I was rehearsing in the music room on Blindern campus on Thursday afternoon when I began to receive calls and messages from my Norwegian friends. London, where I'd been living for the last three and a half years, had been bombed. At first it was unclear exactly how many tubes and buses had exploded, or what was going on. I tried to phone friends in London but the phone networks were down. Eventually I started to receive emails, and in the evening I finally got to speak to people. My friends are very much alive. In a couple of cases their regular train was bombed, but in most cases people I know seem to have either been in bed or were watching TV when it happened. But I knew many people in London, so I can't be absolutely sure I don't know one of the dead or injured. It's a...

2883 views

("The Summer School"). Until the 5th of August, I am a student attending a Norwegian class at the International Summer School of the University of Oslo. This of course means I'm not earning anything, so I have to work out an economical way of getting through the day in one of the most expensive cities on Earth. My flatmate gave me a bicycle card, which gives me access to the free bikes in the city. The bikes can only be taken from and returned to special bike stands, however, and there is no such stand on the university campus. So I can ride my free bike only as far as Valkyriesgata and then I've to walk the last 10-15 minutes. The Norwegian lessons remind me of school because there are about 22 students in the class. It can be as dull as school too - how do you fancy 3...

2834 views

("Welcome" in Norwegian). I have arrived. This ape stands guard outside the apartment block where I'm living, which I'm tempted to rename the Charles Darwin Block, for no other reason. I'm sharing with strangers. They found me from an ad I placed on a Norwegian website, and let me know there was a room going in this apartment. They are two very nice, generous and helpful people whose names are almost-anagrams for one another. There is also a Balinese cat, and he is the one who is really in charge. It's fairly luxurious, for cat or man, with balconies looking out onto a plaza. Inside, there are the various tell-tale signs that I am living in Norway: the two-prong plugs, the cigarettes in the fridge, and so on. Unregistered and disorientated, yesterday I went to the University campus at Blindern for registration and orientation. The first other summer school student...

2894 views

Having laboriously dismantled my life in London, I returned to the Old Country, to enjoy a few weeks of rent-free existence with my closest relatives. I had not spent much time in Ireland in recent years, so cannot tell you more than what I've noticed on the surface of things during my stay, because I have become slightly distanced. Urban, suburban and rural Ireland all look very well. During the 1990s economic boom there were cranes everywhere, and by now I think the country actually looks affluent. There's regeneration now where even the worst social decay used to exist. Even the Fatima Mansions are to be torn down. The standard of living is high here. Out of all the other EU countries, only Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium fare better than Ireland in the UN's Human Development Index (which takes into account life expectancy, adult literacy, enrolment in education and...