Monday, 15 February 2010


I found the perfect morning. I found some time to myself. I found a frozen lake, 41 cm of ice, with a good 10 cm of snow on the top. Within a few moments of arriving at the local lake, I had my new skis firmly entrenched into someone else’s ski tracks from the day before, and I was away, straight towards the centre of this great white flatness at astonishing speed.

Let me make this quite clear. I am not Mrs Super-Fit. I am a relatively normal mother, enjoying the delights of what a friend kindly refers to as my ‘middle youth’. While this description may err on the side of generosity, it is none-the-less one I am pleased to tolerate. My exercise regime consists mainly of simple walking. I am not a marathon runner, I hate jogging and gyms. I am not a competitive cyclist, swimmer or player of any sporty games.

I am also not a stick, a shape which appears to be the norm for these langrenn types. But propelled by the thought that langrenn skiing may induce stickdom, I surged forward across this vast expanse of snow.

I have no wish to boast, but allow me a simple fact. Within 12 minutes I had skied 2 kilometres. I stopped to take my bearings, and immediately fell noisily into the snow-crust in shock. This was insane. Surely an old bat like me was not meant to be going that fast.

Once I was upright again, I realised I was at the very centre of the lake, and utterly alone. Only the TA (Technical Assistant) knew I was here, after a quick phone-call at the lakeside to discuss the intricacies of ski bindings. The exhilaration of being so entirely alone, on ice, in snow, under the brightest of suns, was nerve-jangling, but thrilling.

Boom. Longer boom. It was the ice, as though it was talking to me. Huge boom. BOOM. A haunting sound, certain to send shivers down any ice-bound spine. As the ice expanded and contracted under the morning sun, these great belting blasts rang out across the landscape, as though giant trolls were trapped in the dark waters below and were making their presence felt. I could feel my heart starting to join in.

I rejigged my sticks and ploughed ahead, determined to reach the other side of the lake. It had only taken 12 minutes, but I was hooked. Now I understood what all the fuss was about. Now I could see why all Norwegians seemed so keen to do this thing. Now I could understand my current hero, Fridtjof Nansen.

I made it, and all the way back, an easy 6K if my calculation by string and map is accurate. I pondered on how skiing had always been central to Norwegian life, as though part of a collective consciousness from cradle to grave, wrapped up in national identity and quiet, patriotic pride. I have often been told that people at the top of large organisations or prominent in public life over here are more or less expected to be ski champions, from the Prime Minister down. It’s part of being a ‘good Norwegian’. It is impossible to speculate on how much fitter the general population must be as a result of skiing.

As though to make the point, as I returned to my starting place, my icy private idyll was interrupted by a happy band of octogenarians, complete with wooden skis and poles, equipment so old it was worthy of exhibition in a museum. Each skier stepped into the skis they had been born with and sped across the lake with enviable ease, as though their life-time of skiing still had a good way to go.

I vowed that when I’m eighty, I would be able to match their speed.


  1. People have said you are a good writer. They are wrong! You are a brilliant writer. I'll check in here every day for updates :) btw, you must read "Farthest North" by Fridtjof Nansen.

  2. Thanks and great you liked it. Will read FN.