Friday 29th July 2016 – Day One
Having been approached by a homeless drunk asking for money (who turned out to be very pleasant), and being glared at by the girlfriend of a man I’d previously asked for help, I boarded the National Express from Bath 20 minutes late and began the 4 hour journey to London Gatwick.
The journey was fine, I slept on the coach and quietly ate my breakfast. It was still sinking in that I was on my way to an airport and I wasn’t coming home later that day. Twelve years on since my last trip abroad, I was not used to getting into the mindset of leaving England and my family, for such a long time. And to be honest, the whole feeling was rather exciting.
Arriving at Gatwick Terminal South, I slung my over-filled rucksack over my shoulder and clutched the handle on my suitcase and set off in the direction of check-in.
Going through security and check-in at Gatwick was single-handedly one of the most stressful experiences of my life. And I’ve been through a lot. Walking up the stairs to security, having ditched my water bottle and leaking banana, things felt reasonably calm. A feeling I would soon realise to be a false sense of security.
With the scene in front of me resembling what I imagine to be something quite similar to a Syrian border office, I was met with a wall of people queuing, bags and suitcases in hand, pushing and shoving each other. Each face had its own concerned and troubled expression, with eyes like a rabbit in headlights. I fear it wasn’t long before I looked pretty similar.
I spotted a free inch or three on a table where people were shoving liquids into a clear plastic bag provided by the airport, and becoming unusually territorial, I trotted like a kicked-up-the-arse-cow over and nabbed those precious free couple of inches. I had been organised enough before I left home to separate the liquids I was taking into a clear bag, but I noted here was a size limit on the bag’s provided by the airport. So conscious of not making my first criminal offence, I adhered to procedure’s and transferred it all into their own bag.
It was at this point the zip on my new (new) rucksack decided to break. The panic and fury that started to build inside me put me rapidly at risk of looking even more like a nervous wreck, so I did a pretty thuggish kick of my rucksack along the floor in order to keep my place at in the packed queue. There I was, juggling a passport, boarding pass, plastic bag of liquids, a broken rucksack and trying to fish out my ipad so I didn’t hold said queue up, I already looked dodgy as hell.
After about 5 minutes of being bumped into, shoved and stared intensely at by a 7-year-old boy holding a teddy, clearly trying to work out in his head how airlines allow twitchy human beings such as me to get on the same plane as potentially him, it was suddenly my turn to go through the beep machine.
Putting on my “I genuinely have nothing to hide and I was once a member of GirlGuiding” face and placing my belongings neatly in the trays, I proceeded to nonchalantly wander through the beep machine.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!!!!!
“Oh Holy Jesus” I screeched as what seemed like every alarm in the building went off following my emergence from the beep machine. Before I knew what I’d done, I was immediately told to stand to one side and take off my shoes. I did a little prayer that my feet hadn’t acquired any fluff since 6 hours ago.
What occurred next can only be described as a necessary evil. Not only was I now bearing skin (feet and ankle) in public, I was then frisked (by actual hand) by a woman officer. Legs, waist, arms. And then I was shouted at for having something in my pocket. Upon being told to remove it, and noting that the officer had stepped back for the removal, I did a mini prayer that the passport I’d previously shoved in my left pocket had not suddenly turned into a pound of class A drugs. Fortunately and unsurprisingly, it was still my passport, and after more frisking, I was waved on. Shaking and with the driest mouth since chewing on a plain Rivita, I hurriedly collected my things and walked through duty-free in a frenzied daze. Completely bypassing anything ‘discounted’.
The rest of the morning went fairly smoothly and without drama. After trailing around the airport looking at the shops with hiked up prices, I acknowledged my rumbling tummy and went to a place called Wondertree for brunch.
It was good, but what really made everything great; I could see the planes landing and taking off. There were a couple of incidences where a man thought I was taking a deep interest in his face but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that a very fast KLM had just taken off out of his left ear. Essentially. He was sat by the window…
When asked what I would like to order, I indulged in being quintessentially British for one last time, and felt compelled to order avocado on toast with tea. It was yummy.
Ok, a million hours later and 11.20am finally comes around. Boarding time!
Clutching my passport and boarding pass, standing in line grinning to myself like Mr Bean on his first holiday, I catch a glimpse of the massive creature that’s about to fly me 37,000 feet in the sky. I’m talking about the plane, not the pilot. I didn’t see him but I’m sure he’s very slim. He had a nice over-the-tannoy-voice too.
Settling myself into my seat (17c for those closet plane enthusiasts), I spot the man I’m sitting next to and launch in with introducing myself. “Hello, I’m Amy. This is my first plane ride by myself so if I start getting freaked out, don’t panic!” I say with far too much enthusiasm in my voice.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine.” He says with a slightly nervous smile on his face, and without even looking at me, plugs his earphones in to his ear and ‘reads’ something on his phone. We didn’t exchange a single glance or word the entire flight. Take off was bloody scary and how I didn’t inadvertently clutch the man’s leg or scream, I don’t know.
For the majority of the flight I kept dozing. Or at least I think that’s what it was, and not passing out. I’d taken travel sickness pills which cause drowsiness, so I was thankful I had a solid reason for occasionally missing chunks of the flight. I hope to god I didn’t dribble.
The fun came when we started our decent into Norway. I decided then would be a fabulous time to put some make up on so I didn’t resemble an extra from The Walking Dead when I greeted my friend at arrivals. Maneuvering the small space, ear pressure and a heavy rucksack, I retrieved my make up bag and started to line things up on my fold down tray. Well, anyone would have thought I’d started to unload little toy bombs and missiles given the amount of tut’s and sighs I was getting.
Apparently ladies, making yourself look pretty for arriving in a new country is off-limits. Who knew?
Landing was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. After bumping the back wheels like a kid on a new bicycle, the pilot then whacked the brakes on, what I considered to be far too early, and there was a sort of metallic grinding sound as we continued to bump along the tarmac.
Disembarking from the plane was relatively easy, as was customs and baggage reclaim. Very speedy and with such a small airport, there was no option for getting lost.
Before I knew it, I was walking through the doors of arrivals and when I saw my friend standing there, I don’t think I can explain how happy I suddenly felt.
The adrenaline was soaring through me and we chatted and chatted in the car, on the way to where she lives with her husband. I could barely stop smiling. We stopped briefly at a place called Aksla, in Alesund, where the following pictures were taken.
And after chatting quite a lot more about the last 3 years of our lives, we arrived in the town of Tresfjord, where they live. And where I would be staying for the next week.
As you may be able to tell from the above picture, I was introduced to some lama’s. This was my first encounter with a lama outside of a zoo and without a mesh fence as a barrier. It went well, but given the look on my face, a Vallium would have gone down well before the meeting.
Only a month previous to this, my friend posted a picture of one of these Lama’s on her front doorstep.
There was so much to look forward to already…
Their house is beautiful. Set basically in a forest, every window I looked out of were either trees or mountains. The view from their living room was fresh out of a fairytale.
And just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Ewelina presented the most delicious looking Pavlova she’d made for my arrival. It was spectacular and very yummy indeed!
My first evening in Norway was spent eating delicious food, in the company of great friends, having a good old catch up.
Being able to visit friends after three years apart and just pick up where you left off, as though time never really moved, is a very special thing.
I went to bed with a huge feeling of happiness and excitement for the week to come.