Barefoot

 Really I should be writing every day. Every day, a new bunch of kids, every day so many new meetings with the ancient pilgrims way.

We’ve been walking, pretty much every day for five weeks.

A graceful Somalian girl says ‘Going barefoot, it makes me feel like a real lady.’

This year were some kids from the more affluent side of Oslo. Kids who come from rich West side think this Eastside is scarey. But now they feel the adventure and history and kindness which is here too. Three girls from Kjelsås say they will walk to Trondheim when they get older.

A boy, he looked tough but kept picking bunches of flowers. During Per Jostein’s telling of Olav the Holy he quietly made an installation of twigs and stones. An artist. He told me he loves nature.

A kid asks – Do you beleive in God? I do, they say. I remember when I was a child, you couldn’t say that, it was uncool.

Norwegian kids are not brought up to share food. You bring your pack lunch, you eat it. But the kids from immigrant parents, they are different. One quiet mix race boy, kept following me. He said, you must be hungry, he shared his water then a lovely potato and home made meat ball.

Some days in April were unbelievably cold. As a medieval pilgrim I have no waterproofs and some of the kids do not have good equipment either. We are walking barefoot on the freezing ground. I hear squeals but no complaints.

At one point a bunch of robbers attack us – here you can see the robber chief in black on the hill, preparing to attack us.

røverkongen

The teachers are fabulous, we meet so many great teachers. But they can be so insensitive. The kids are in the middle of an adventure where I have been walking overland for 6 years. The teacher comes up and ask me how long I’ve been working as an actor etc.

geo 15

We are collecting gold coins. A short stocky boy is walking along and he says – ‘Today its not just about gold and material possessions! Other things are far more important. Listen! You should listen to me when I say wise things like that!’

Usually there are one or two kids during the 4 hour walk who hang extra close, have extra many questions. Might be a boy, might be a girl. One day 60 kids from the school at the end of my garden joined us. Most of them have parents who have gathered here from the far corners of the globe. Oslo is divided East West and most of the East side kids dont have white skin. But this girl was one of the few who did. She also had freckles and we both knew just the little hillock we wanted to sit on for lunch. She told me about how her family from the far North, Sami blood. We got on so well and she suggested that since I am a pilgrim and often have to sleep outside, I could stay that night with her. She had a spare room or maybe I could stay in her room. She could cook for me and show me the stream where she plays.

This happens fairly often, this kind of hospitality amongst kids which you pretty much never find amongst adults in our super rich town. The other kids were intreagued – ‘Hey the pilgrim is going to stay the night with her tonight!’ It was building up and I was starting to feel a bit bad. Near the end of the walk I say to the kids – ‘Am I really a pilgrim from the Middle ages?’ ‘No!’ says someone. ‘Does that mean I am lying to you?’ I explain that although I am not several hundred years old, the story I have told is based on a historic tale. A woman who tried to kill her husband and had to walk for 7 years through Europe as a penance before she could go back to the North of England. Otherwise she would have been burnt as a witch or put in prison.

Well this particular day, I liked that girl. I knew somehow that life was not so easy for her, she told how hard it was for her not to eat too much and she missed her mum. And I didn’t want her to feel betrayed or disappointed. So I decided I would go over to her house anyway since it was not so far. Another 20 minute walk is not so much after all. She was there. We went out and together we discovered a viking grave, just a few minutes from her house. We discovered we both love trees and she showed me the stream where she and her brother have made a den. We cleared up some plastic to make it more beautiful. She showed me the tree she loves climbing. We went home and she made me some tea, and then she read me her poems full of incredible insight! I asked her over to me the following week as I live just below her school and wanted to show her my ducks.

Later she sent me a message. Her stepmother said that she couldn’t come, she had to go shopping that day.

kongedalen

The individuality of the kids emerges as they have time to play, picking up their sticks and stones.

A kid says – ‘I like challenges.’

I ask how was it to walk in silence. ‘Deilig.’

Many wanted to be pilgrims, talked of getting their family to do it with them.

One thin active girl tells me towards the end –  ‘This is the best thing I’ve done. And I’ve done a lot of crazy stuff.’

 

 

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.