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Oslo, 11 May 2004... h's Diary

In 2004 we published some extracts from h's diary. Travelling to Norway...

Woken suddenly by a prod from tour manager Quinner. It was the middle of the night (i.e. 9 in the morning). Everyone had to get off the bus to go and get on the ferry from wherever we were (never found out) to Göteborg. I rolled out of my bunk into the half-lit chaos of 18 unwashed blokes all trying to grab boots and bags from a confined space at once. It was like a slow motion crisis in a submarine. We all bundled out of the bus into a ferry terminal and wandered around like sheep for a while until we gradually discovered where we should be going. I cleaned my teeth as I crossed the car park and felt slightly, just slightly better for it.

Our destination appeared to be a steel corridor on a raised pedestrian-bridge. In the side of the corridor was an exit that was closed but would eventually lead to a ferry that hadn't arrived yet. This wasn't going to be quick... Ugh... We sat on the floor and generally hung around mumbling to each other like zombies. Everyone had had about 4 hours sleep at this point so our mood was subdued, but affable. Ian Mosley lay on the floor like a murder victim and asked if anyone could draw a chalk line round him. There was a bunch of 14 (I'm guessing) year-old schoolgirls next to us all singing some inane romantic pop song which they re-started whenever they got to the end. It's always heartwarming to see the fairer sex having a good time, but at this point in the day, it was wearing a bit thin with us lot, to say the least. Some old cynic said it would only be a matter of time before they grew up and set about the serious business of being tense and miserable around some poor bloke for the rest of their lives. A bleak view, I thought...

By the time the gate was finally opened to let us on to a high-speed ferry that had now reversed(!) into the dock, we were all twitching from a need to escape the Von Trapp family singers and get hold of a cup of coffee. We bought coffee and Danish pastries (which turned out to be the best I've ever tasted) and set about the process of achieving respiration. Cold-blooded species must sit on a rock for some time after the break of each day in order that the sun can warm their bodies up to a point where they can function. A touring band and crew possess similar characteristics.

The ferry journey took two hours that felt like five. I went out to the rear deck to watch the raging white torrent of the boat’s wash stretching back to the horizon and chatted to Ian Bond about Richard Barbieri's amazing toilet bag/first-aid kit that included most available prescription-drugs and even extended to the inclusion of emergency-fillings! Much more hanging around ensued until we were finally docking in Goteborg. I mused that the last time I was on a ferry in these waters, I was bleeding to death while a Swedish and Norwegian sailor sewed my right hand back together. What a life!

We returned to the car deck, boarded the bus and I was back in bed before Charlie – our busdriver – had even started the engine. Woke up around 2.00 and made my way to the back lounge to write the diary. Downstairs, some of the crew were watching Schindler’s List and as I typed, horrified screams of men, women and children drifted up the stairwell. Lovely. Top marks to Spielberg for making a movie that HAD to be made. I've never seen it and I don’t suppose I ever will. I'm not the kind of person who needs man’s inhumanity to man spelled out and illustrated. I guess I'm sensitive enough to it already. The fact that it happened at all serves as a reminder to all of us that it can happen again. Anywhere. And, interestingly enough, neither religious men, or religious institutions will lift a finger to stop it. We must all guard against the human weakness of forming into tribes in order to lift our self-esteem. We can feel good about ourselves without having to find someone else to classify as inferior. It's the slippery slope down into that same abyss. I tried to blot out the bleak noises and concentrate on remembering Hamburg and Berlin in infinitely better times. Our gigs there last week had been great and attended by many seriously lovely Germans. Stereotyping is, of course, part of that same slide down into tribalism and is as accurate a concept of 'sin' as I can think of. We all do it, and we must all guard against it.

Outside, the scenery was beautiful, pine forests and untouched Nordic countryside, occasional lakes, and then eventually opening out onto a vista of water, islands and fjords as we made our way into Oslo. I couldn't remember crossing the border from Sweden into Norway – maybe I was asleep.

We arrived in the centre of town and checked into a hotel. Opposite I could see a great many 'Edwin Shirley' trucks parked up. It turns out that Britney Spears is playing here tonight. I’m told she’s on the road with 17 trucks! That's a serious amount of space for frocks, make-up and a CD player, eh? Ah... rock 'n' roll.

I dropped my bags in room 323 (later labelled 'The Zone' by drunken crew, in white insulating tape across the doorway) and went down into the street which had many cafés with outdoor seating. I perched myself down, ordered a steak and a beer (I hadn't eaten since this morning's Danish pastry) and set about writing the diary. Ian M joined me after a few minutes, then Steve R, then Ian Bond and we sat and watched the Norwegian world go by for a couple of hours when Jan-Henrik Ohme – the singer from Gazpacho – showed up with his partner, Anelie, and announced he was going to take us somewhere better. You've just got to love the Nogs! He hailed a cab and took us down to the harbour front where there were many restaurants and bars. After some deliberation, we decided on a traditional Norwegian place right at the end of the waterfront. There were pictures on the walls of old Oslo as well as crusty old seafarers. There were also some genuine old whale harpoons. Pretty heavy-duty stuff. The bar had draught Guinness and it was just what I fancied, so I ordered a pint and, to my surprise, it was the best pint of Guinness I've had in or out of Ireland.

Everyone was ordering dinner, but I'd eaten so I stuck to the drink apart from an ice-cream sundae with egg-nog. Different... Roderick ordered smoked whale-meat which arrived garnished with sour cream, red onions and accompanied by strange popadom-like things. I had a taste and it was delicious. Chatted with Erik, Quinner, Roderick, and the Gazpacho family and drank Guinness til midnight, when we thought we should really call it a day before it all got out of hand... Jan-Henrik wouldn't let us pay for anything and despite much discussion, I couldn't get him even to accept money for the return journey in the cab. When we arrived at the hotel, Erik suggested a last beer in his room, so I went upstairs with him, and Jan and Anelie came too. Had one last beer and talked drunkenese for an hour before returning to 'The Zone' and to bed.

First posted on the Web UK website in 2004.



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