Tuesday, 1 June 2010


These light, light nights. June has arrived, and the main question is, how on earth do we get the children to go to sleep? These days, 10 pm feels like the middle of the afternoon and I’m more or less ready for a cup of tea and a macaroon. Nobody is tired, nobody can imagine why they should be sent to bed, and unless you happen to have curtains that cut out the light with maximum efficiency, you might as well try to sleep in broad-daylight. Once again, the body clock is going awol.

But how puny are our efforts compared to those who live in the far north of Norway. The human inhabitants there are experts at looking after their body clocks, whereas we tourists, up there one June a couple of years ago, we were absolutely useless.

We were north of the Arctic Circle. ‘Anyone fancy dinner?’ I vaguely asked when I happened to observe the time was 11.30 at night. I had no idea when we had enjoyed lunch, but meal times had even less relevance than bedtimes.

I suspect those who live in the Land of the Midnight Sun are extremely strict with themselves. This was clearly demonstrated when I happened to find myself in a hotel bar in Tromso on the evening of the Midnight Sun Marathon. I was quietly congratulating myself on my very feeble effort in the shortest race of that great event (ie, I had skilfully avoided having to take part in the WHOLE marathon....frankly the fact I was even in town when such a thing was taking place was a personal best in itself....I think it is fair to say I am the opposite of everything a runner should be, but I didn’t allow that fact to get in the way of a good race).

However, having completed the course, I was enjoying a small and ruinously expensive beer in a Tromso High Street bar, and I felt it my duty to sit at the window and admire the passing marathon runners....they were the Real Thing in that they were running the full marathon which had started at about 8pm. We were enjoying the spectacle, and trying to guess what sort of music each contestant might be playing to themselves by the pace it was setting for them, when a huge Norwegian barman started to close the blinds, very carefully. What form of madness was this, I asked myself. He was going about it in a very business-like manner, and not taking any flack from anyone.

I was astonished. Clearly he had no idea that the customers over whom he was reaching were engaged and entertained by the drama taking place outside the window. The whole bar was glued to the marathon outside....how could he possibly want to blot out the view?

When he arrived at our window, I mildly enquired just what the blazes he thought he was up to...he was, as I say, immense, so I made sure I was being polite.

‘Is it absolutely necessary to close the blinds? We’re watching to see if our friends go past...they’re running, you know, in that marathon outside.’ I mean honestly, how many marathons does the city of Tromso have in a year?

‘It is 11pm,’ he said very firmly, without a flicker of emotion crossing his very serious face. ‘We always close the blinds at 11pm. It is too light. This is very important. We will not feel tired.’

I was FAR to scared to argue. I’d never lived north of the Arctic Circle...what did I know?

‘All this light,’ I remarked, ‘it must be rather a contrast to your long, dark winters, I suppose. I think I might go mad if I lived here.’

‘Exactly,' he growled. 'We could all go mad at any moment. We have three solid months of no light at all in winter, and now we have THIS,’ he pointed aggressively in the direction of the sun.

I shrank back into my ignorant tourist mode. Eventually I managed to pluck up enough courage to sneak a few peeks at the runners by forcing a wee viewing hole in the slats when the guy wasn’t looking. Luckily, I wasn’t caught.

But in a way I rather admired his attitude. It was as if those who knew how to live within the Arctic Circle were more finely-tuned to nature than the rest of us....they knew something everyone else had forgotten, that humans need to sleep in the dark, and it is therefore a natural human activity to make sure it IS dark, even when the sun is blazing away like crazy outside.

Good night and sleep tight, wherever you are.


  1. So I've discovered your blog just as you are leaving. But I am very much looking forward to reading back through the older posts and enjoying your look at life in Norway.

  2. Pam
    Thanks for that...are you in Norway? Cool place. Enjoy.

  3. Oh how I would love to be in Norway. Alas, I am landlocked in central Arkansas in the south central portion of the US. But I do enjoy reading about other places and hope to do some traveling overseas one day.

  4. Pam...there's a good many of you US folks over here...I just had lunch with 2 of them. Also, there are now more people of Norwegian descent in the US than there are in Norway, so the ties are quite strong.
    Cheers, RS