Oslo: Land of the fjords and the World’s Most Expensive Taxi Ride

Just got back from a weekend in Oslo,which by some accounts is the Most Expensive City in the World. I can pretty much attest to that having spent £12.50 on the World’s Most Expensive Burger Meal, £25.79 on the World’s Most Expensive Round of Two Drinks (Ordinary Bar category) and £7.50 on The World’s Most Expensive Ice Cream (non-Rome section).

The World’s Most Expensive Taxi took us for a 1 mile journey that had us almost having an all-out panic attack as the fare rolled past 250 Norwegian Krone (about £26.00) and carried on ticking at about 50p every half a second while a late night reveller strolled across a zebra crossing in front of us.

On the other hand, we travelled around Oslo using public transport in gay abandon without paying for anything at all. It’s not that we were trying to diddle anyone out of any money; there just didn’t seem to be any way to pay for it.

We got on trains that we couldn’t buy tickets for and boats that welcomed us without asking for any money. We kept expecting to pay on exit, but no-one asked. Maybe they’re subsidised by the taxis.

Oslo itself was nothing like I’d expected. I’d researched Norwegian food so that when we went to restaurants we’d be able to look at the menus and look knowingly at the contents sure in the knowledge that we knew what it all meant.

We looked forward to kjøttkaker and gravalaks and aquavit, but all we got was burgers and curries and Pepsi Max. Which was a bit of a shame.

We saw a cosmopolitan city that had more ethnic diversity than any city I’ve seen apart from London, more beggars than the streets of Hammamet and felt safer that St Ives. A walk through the tree lined boulevards showed us that American tourists had discovered Oslo in their multitudes. And maybe that explains the inevitable glut of pizza and the lack of pickled herring.

We did see some astonishing sites beneath a never-ending rainfall that stayed with us the whole time. The blinding whiteness of the Opera House, Amunsen’s ship, gorgeous leggy Norwegian couples, and gangs of pac-a-mac clad teenagers romping around the streets at midnight in a non-drunk, innocent kind of way that would be inconceivable back home.

We walked the long streets of Oslo til our feet ached and we drank champagne brandy that made our noses tingle. Not a bad way to spend a wet weekend. To quote Bill Pullman, not bad at all.

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Quotes of the Year 2012: Part deux

Facebook status

Defo taking the scenic route on this weight loss journey.  Danielle A.


Nowadays people go on holiday to places where years ago you could only go if you were shipwrecked. Tony Blackburn

Two year 10 lads from Bluecoat school on Twitter.
1st lad: I might go to Sayers instead of Gregg’s tomorrow.
2nd lad: If you dare go near f***ing Sayers, you’re off the dance crew.

Stuff off the telly

I’d shake your hand, but it’s taped to my ass. Seventeen Again.

A conversation on Never Mind The Buzzcocks about shit jobs:
Mel B: I used to work in Pizza Hut.  I liked it, making pizzas…
Noel Fielding: Was that before or after The Spice Girls?


Imagine if your bumhole was in your hand and you were holding hands with someone and you farted.


Alex: You know when you fry an egg and the white bit is separate from the yellow bit, but they both get cooked?
Jay: That’s a fried egg.

Jo: Do you want a pint?
Uncle Ted: Does death come after life?

Jay: Don’t you know what a poached egg is?
Alex: I’m fuzzy on the whole concept of eggs.

Alex doesn’t do inches.
Jay: Alex, what shirt size are you?
Alex: Medium.

Jay: Your face was funny before when your phone went off.
Alex: Well I wasn’t expectiing a text message today.

Kaz orders a meal in a fancy French bistro:
I’ll have the pâté to start and the cod for mains. Merci bo qua-ha-ha.

Jo: I’m going to be like Cherie Blair if I ever get round to having kids.

Chris: Do you know how long it takes to work off a pork pie?
Jay: About a minute?

Chris: I’ll have to go home and have a lie down in a dark room.
Jay: That’s what they all say.

Stuff that happened in work

Message of the Day giving employees the opportunity to ask the Chief Executive anything.
Alex: I’m going to ask him a maths question.

Lezzer explains why there is so much crap in her keyboard: I have a lot of fibrous, healthy stuff.

Jay ponders life’s great mysteries

Are they noisy, them electric blankets?

I grew an inch in Zante.

Why is it Eddie Murphy season? Is he skint or off his head or something?

In ‘Emmerdale’ they never get tired of The Woolpack, do they?

Guess what I ate in Egypt for the first time? A cheese sandwich!

You know what they should have on Groupon? Like, a funeral.

I love it when Lezzer says rough stuff in her posh Crosby voice.  “Hashish?”

I ruined my lounge pants on my bike, didn’t I?

It smells like EasyJet wine.

Discussing the best way to measure weight loss: You should do it in Kit Kats. Or like, a Freddo’s 100 calories.

The quote that keeps on giving….

It came about as a result of a heated debate with Alex claiming that you can buy everything you need in life from Amazon.  As the conversation took to Facebook, Stuart S came up with a quote that has been hauled out endlessly since.

“So, he’s clearly a twat then.”


There are times as a single mother when the definition of “culture” is when you slap on some lipstick before you go to see the latest Pixar release in a big, ugly multiplex.  There are other times, many, many of them, when your idea of a fun Saturday night consists of an involved online conversation on Facebook with other bored mothers about a BBC2 programme about boy bands.

Once the kids are in bed and the front door is locked, the hours stretch out like toffee.  My own brother frequently mocks my lack of a social life with caring, heartfelt comments like, “Those long, winter nights must fly by.”

This can lead inevitably to mind-numbing boredom, and when I’m bored, I frequently start to look at things to stop my brain from turning to mush.  The last time this happened in a serious way I ended up at going to University at 39 to do a post-graduate degree.  I passed top of the class with a distinction.  The people in my class thought I was some kind of wünderkind. Truth was, I simply had loads of time to kill.

I’ve wanted to do a masters degree, but finances being finances, I haven’t been able to get funding.  It was with a sense of boredom and recklessness, therefore, that I decided to jump at the opportunity to apply to be a Cultural Champion for the city of Liverpool when we got a staff bulletin in work sometime last year.

The application asked for an example of a cultural experience I’d had.  I talked about visiting the Tate Liverpool with my son and my dad.  My son, being 9 at the time, wasn’t concerned with what message the artist might have been trying to convey, or with the depth of brushstrokes, or the implicit spirituality/sensuality/muscularity of a piece; he just wanted to have fun with the stuff.

We came across a polished copper sculpture by Donald Judd, which was mounted on a wall.  If I’d be alone or with another grown up, I probably would have walked past it without a second glance.  My son, however, stopped in his tracks and gave an almighty “Woah!” at the sight of it.  To him it was a mounted Hall of Mirrors.  We stood in front of it for ages making shapes in the reflected metal.  Haz was a flat rug and I was standing on him.  We were two foot tall and seven feet wide, we disappeared and appeared again.  It was magic.  When I looked round we’d drawn a crowd. Everyone was smiling madly at my son’s joyous messing about in front of the artwork.

Ghost by Ron Mueck. Bloody horrible up close.

As we went further round we discovered more sculpture, including a piece called Ghost, a six foot seven sculpture of a teenage girl.  Never have I been so unsettled by a piece of art.  The gawky, awkward statue actually made me feel queasy to such a massive degree that I had to flee it.

Further round the floor my octogenarian dad got fed up and looked for somewhere to sit down.  He found a chair near to an exit and, wearing his Sunday best Marks & Spencer flat cap, pulled the chair out, sat on it with his arms crossed and feigned sleep. As he did this, I was gobsmacked to see that a serious number of my fellow visitors thought he was part of the exhibition.  One particularly memorable couple walked around him for several minutes discussing him.  “Oh, Fiona, look at the level of detail the artist has captured,” said the man.  “I think, Donald, that it’s a statement about the weariness of age,” Fiona replied gravely.  My son ran over and said “Grandad, we’re going now,” to which my dad rose from his chair, touched the peak of his cap in a jaunty salute to the crowd and departed to a small sea of stunned faces.

The application form also asked what I would like to get out of being a Cultural Champion for a year.  Not wanting to be completely tragic and put “to get out more, please” I said that I wanted to be more active and less passive in my experience of culture in my city.  I thought that whoever was judging this thing would think I was some kind of sad sack, so it was with nothing less than astonishment and delight that I got a phone call from Christina at Open Culture telling me I’d been successful.

Now after the excitement of meeting the Open Culture my fellow Champions – an absolutely brilliant bunch – and the whirlwind of our induction, I’m faced with the daunting prospect of actually getting down to it.  Eek!  I’m actually trembling at the prospect of my first proper experience as a Champion, but here goes!

Well I did say I wanted to get out more. Wish me luck.

John, Ray, Andre, Judy and I will be sharing our experiences on Open Culture’s blog.



Welcome to Valentine hell

As anyone who knows me knows, I am a single woman.  This is my choice.  It is how I choose to be. I have two great kids, fantastic friends and a wonderful and loving family.

Today is Valentine’s Day, the most romantic day of the year.  So they say.  I’m off work this week.  It’s only Monday as I write this and already I’ve had to sit through endless programmes and adverts showing everything from dramatic wedding proposals to romance courtesy of M&S for only 20 quid. Heck, even google are at it.  Check out the cutesie-wootsie little video on their homepage.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not unromantic.  In fact I can be quite a little sweetie-pie when I choose.  I love romantic things. An unexpected little note that says “I love you.”  Sitting together with that someone special on a beach as the sun goes down.  The light touch of the person you desire on the small of your back.  Even a look across a crowded room between just you two that makes the proverbial butterflies take flight and do loops in your stomach.  These things can make me melt like butter.

But the awful, forced romanticism of Valentine’s day makes me want to poke myself repeatedly in the eye with a rusty old fork.


I used to work in pubs many moons back and on VD (as I’ll call it from now on) I’d see men who miserably propped the bar up week in, week out or, worse, spend every Friday night leering lasciviously at any young girl who came within twenty yards.  To celebrate VD, these self-same men would turn up with their wife or girlfriend in an attempt to romance her for one night of the year.  They’d have been down the Tasmi Balti for a nice meal and would round the evening off with a pint of Wobbly Bob, a Malibu and pineapple, and a rose that he bought for a fiver from a man with a bucket.  How romantic.

My best friend, after being single for all of 37 seconds, has recently found herself a new man.  This chap makes my friend giddy to such an alarming degree that I’ve taken to calling her Maria Von Trapp, so twirly and sing-song-y is she about him.  I can only sit agog and watch as she gushes like a busted water main about the joys of enjoying their first VD together.

I wish my friend and her chap a lovely day together.  As I do for all the loved-up, blissfully happy couples out there.  I wish them joy every single day of the year.  Just don’t ask me to buy in to a day decreed romantic by Hallmark and Marks & Spencer.

Now excuse me while I down a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 and wail along to an old Del Amitri cassette.  “Be my downfaaaaalllll………be my undooooing, be my slow road to ruin, tonight” Hic!

Quotes of the Year 2012 – Part 1

Favourite tweets

Fact. The Drifters are the The Fall for black people. Sooner or later you get called up.

There is a 0.2% chance that you have been a member of The Drifters.

I’m still trying to find out what the first rule of Fight Club is.

Get your ‘Guy Ritchie Character Name’ by touching something close to you with a body part, and using those two things as your middle name.

Mark Gatiss watching Craig on The X Factor: Who was that fat lass singing Paparazzi? Continue reading

I hate everything about you

No, not you!  Obviously not you. Just most people.  Seriously.  Can not bear them.

You’d never guess if you met me.  I did a quick and very unscientific survey among my friends on Facebook and the general consensus is that when they first meet me, people tend to see me as fun, confident and the ever-awful “bubbly.”  (There were a couple of references to body parts, but I’ll leave well alone.)

What you would never suspect is that I secretly can’t stand most people. Take Facebook for instance. Continue reading

National Adoption Week: The story of how I was adopted

The story of the room with the cots…

When my brother and I were little, my mum used to tell me this story….”When Aunty Eileen had John, and Aunty Olive had Adele, they went into hospital.  But I couldn’t go into hospital to have a baby so I went to this place instead.  It was a place with a great big room that was filled with cots, and in each cot was a baby.  When I looked into one cot and saw a little baby girl with brown eyes I said “That baby’s got brown eyes just like mine” and I brought you home.  Then when I went back they had a little baby boy with red hair and I thought “That baby’s got red hair like my sister’s baby boy” and I brought Michael home.” Continue reading

One Direction to Wembley (and back again)

Life’s not easy when you’re Mrs Harry Styles’s mother

You know when you’re pregnant with your first child?  Once the joy of finding out there’s a new life growing inside you, the horrible realisation dawns that you need to go through childbirth in order to meet him or her?  Well, last weekend I went to Wembley and back in a day and it felt kind of like that. The happiness at getting there followed by the horror of realising you have to get back afterwards.

So what was I doing going on a 440 mile round trip to Wembley?  Well, I went to Wembley and discovered the nightmare of the North Circular Road, the end-of-the-world style traffic heading for Brent Cross shopping centre, and to learn that a trip to IKEA can be akin to a trip to hell when said store has its own 5,000 place multi-storey car park, before giving in and going to sit in the car park of a local retail park for 5 hours. Continue reading


Move over karaoke, your time is up.  It’s time for something new.  Something better. Time for Movioke.

I always wanted to bring movioke to the UK.  Movieoke is like karaoke, only instead of singing, you speak lines along to movies. It already exists in the USA, where people gather together to re-live old movies. These are usually the kind of cult movies that only the most hardcore film nerd will have a collection of.  Think Kim Newman’s video dungeon, Planet of Blood and other B movie guff that 99.9% of the human population lives in ignorance of. I was reminded of Movieoke a couple of weeks ago while I was on Twitter and Aliens was showing on Channel 4.  Aliens is classic Movieoke fare.  It has so many excellent and memorable one-liners that the Movieoke fan is spoiled for choice.