Floating on a raft

A hundred years ago a boy was born down here in Larvik. Today we are in the house where he grew up, the most famous Norwegian ever.

He was crazy. At least that’s what they said when he built a raft and WITHOUT EVEN DOING A TEST RUN AT ALL he sat on the raft, trusting it would float in the right direction over the worlds widest ocean. It did and the world cheered. Maybe because it was right after the 2nd world war and people wanted heroism that didn’t involve dead people.

Anyway here I am with the wonderful Charlotte and for the fifth year running I’m putting on the clothes of Thor Heyerdahls mum and pretending to be her. The first thing I say is: “I moved into this house just over 100 years ago.” Every day one or two of the kids, who are 13/14 years old, say, “Is that really Thor Heyerdahl’s mum?”
Charlotte says its because I look 140 years old that they get fooled. Hahaha Charlotte very funny but they also think that you are Thor Heyerdahl’s wife. The fact is we are fantastic actors. OR the kids love to go along with this stuff.

In this somewhat manic programme we tell them about his thrilling life, teach them about climate change, how to grow your own food, how to slaughter chickens, they make a mini story board with solutions to CO2 emissions, and go into role as one of 16 nations experiencing climate change. All in two hours. And then we do it again.

After I change out of Thor’s mums clothes I say “Charlotte what’s the big problem with Climate change? I mean it would be great if Norway got a bit warmer.”
This year for the first time these teenagers are saying “No!” In this country one can no longer ski in the winter as before. But as an oil nation Norway still has a high proportion of deniers. So its great that at last sense is dawning.

When we first started the kids were quite hostile as soon as we mentioned climate. But we have worked out a way that they really get into it. To explore the challenges, the fun and creativity involved in living a life out of the sofa. Finding solutions, we have a lot of laughs as they get in role. They portray a man from South Korea who thinks the solution is becoming vegetarian, a woman from Mauritius who sees sea levels rising, a Tanzanian who worries tourists won’t come because so many of the wild animals are dying.

The solutions the kids come up with can seem a trifle naive. Today as a solution to the growth of the Sahara desert a boy suggested importing earth to plant trees. Where from I asked. Buy it in the garden centre. But that’s all they know. I’m sure to God my solutions seem equally naive. None of them ever suggest buying less crap. But during this whirlwind programme they get more ideas. And its such a thrill when they remember it and talk about it. Planting forests, free public transport, alternative energy, buying less rubbish and more local food.
Yesterday was a boy who really went for it. He put on a super North Sami accent, and in a mixture of rage and begging us to see sense he made us both laugh and feel something about how it is to see their reindeer suffer.

As a Somalian lad said today – “We need to work together.” Or to quoteThor Heyerdahl –  “On this globe it’s like we are living on a raft. We are all together, and together we will either sink or float.”



The old soldiers

We had 70 lads and lasses walking with us yesterday.

Øyvind  og barn

We always try to have a pensioner too. This is Øyvind Berntsen. He was 90 or 91 when he last walked with us. He had walked in this forest his whole life, and he knew this area when it was still farmland. He said that when he was a kid they never wore shoes all summer. And by the end of the summer the soles of their feet were tough like leather. One of the results of this life is that at 90 he still sprang over the rocks nimbly. Every day he went out for a walk, and every day even in the midst of winter he would bring something back for his wife. Some little twig or stone or whatever caught his eye. This was one of the most romantic couples I’ve ever seen.

One of the funny things that happened with Øyvind is that the first time he came out with us he was speaking a different language than the kids whose parents come from all over the world. A beautiful old fashioned Norwegian I rarely hear. But already by the second time he had modified it. What was in his favour was that he had an amazing story to tell. The day war broke out in Norway, the 9th April 1940 he went down to the corner shop where his friends hung out and heard what had happened. At the time he was 19 and he knew exactly what he felt about the Nazis. He went home, took his dads gun from the shed, snapped on his skis and walked up the valley where we walk with the kids, the Pilgrims way. The ancient motorway to Trondheim. There at the top where we eat our lunch and play he waited. Until he saw the army planes with swasticas on their bellies flying overhead. And he shot. And, luckily, he said, I missed.

The story goes on, including swallowing poison, being wounded and the poison running out in the blood, etc. Great stuff. I could have sat and listened to him for hours, and several times we did.

This week we had a pensioner called Erica. The kids asked how old she was and she said in 16 years she’ll be 100. She said that she was one of a million people the world has forgotten. A German speaking people who had lived for 100’s of years in Czechoslovakia.  As a child she had seen Hitler driving through the streets, making his little Heil. She said he did it like that so no-one would see how short he was. And he would never allow anyone taller than him to stand beside him as he was rather short. At the end of the war everything they had was taken (by Russians? not sure). And then they were put into cattle trucks with no latrines, everyone men women and children of all ages and transported to Germany. Well I had certainly never heard that story before.

She then transfixed us all by telling us how she had then met some negroes (the norwegian word is kind of a mix of negro or nigger). The children, many of them with African background, started giggling. She said that Hitlers propaganda had told them that these people were criminal and without morals, and went round raping people. (more nervous giggling) But then she actually met these people who were extraordinarily kind to her and gave her chocolate, very rare at the time.

She walked with us on the super wet day, the rocks were treacherous. She even fell over once and the kids were trying to help. What a lovely brave old lady.




Walking wet

PJ small (2)

This is Per Jostein. Together with him for the last five years we have walked with thousands of 11/12 year old kids on the Norwegian Pilgrims way to Trondheim.

Was I soaking wet today! Wet and barefoot and looking forward to getting home and yet..

I wouldn’t have missed it.

About 40 kids walked today.

I swear, pretty much every day, I just can’t believe how beautiful the kids are and I make new friends. Two boys keen at the front, so open, so strong, so kind. One of them invited me to stay with his family, he gave me a samosa his mum made for his lunch. The other kept winning the gold.


Well to back-track a bit, I am a pilgrim from the Middle Ages. I am walking because I am a terrible sinner and I have to walk for seven years outside England to atone for my evil ways. When I meet the kids, I’m so delighted to get company and protection against robbers and wild beasts that I offer gold (you know chocolate gold) to the first who touches one of the pilgrim crosses that mark the way.

This boy kept being the first awake and fast . But did he gulp down all the chocolate himself? No, he ate half of one, otherwise he gave them all away. Another girl this week, when she got one, she just threw it in the air for anyone to catch! That’s the first time that’s happened.

Yesterday there was another girl who also said I could come and stay. She asked me how I wash, I said in streams so she wanted me to have a shower at her flat. She had pain in her stomach since she was a child that girl.


What is pain?

I ask them, ‘Should it be easy to walk as a pilgrim?’ That’s one thing they always know the answer to. ‘No.’ they say.

Earlier this week walking barefoot was just pleasure, so warm on the rocks, so soft on the grass. But today, and sometimes when we have walked into October it is HARD. And being from the Middle Ages I’ve got no rainproofs, just the wool cloak. But I am happy now. Yes lucky with a job like this.

very wet pilgrim