Our ‘hub’ city for these Scandinavian shows is Oslo and today’s journey saw us leave our hotel rooms at 3pm for our 9pm showtime in Bergen, 462km to the West. We drove in the usual VW convoy towards the inconveniently located Oslo airport, a good 40 minute drive away but soon hit a delay which judging by the appearance of ambulances winding their way through stationary traffic was caused by an accident. We were going to miss sound check. Our driving team concocted a plan and we were soon onto some incredibly scenic country roads and on our way once more. We ended up just making it to the venue in time and all was well.
Bus driver Dave Belton shares a joke with in-cab driving team…
Jackson Browne and his band are in town for their show in a couple of days and since a few of our guys know a few of their guys, a dressing room meet was set up. It’s always great to hook up with old friends and bands when away on tour and as always, there was much to chat about.
The first of five outdoor shows in Scandinavia, the weather clearly plays a large role in events. Fortunately it would be dry but quite chilly. I foresaw this and packed an array of Galvin Green thermal undergarments, a must on the golf course in wintertime and perfect for chilly outdoor shows. It wasn’t until I got down to the front of the stage that I really felt the chill and I wondered how Mark was coping. His hands were freezing and to be honest, I don’t know how he managed to play some of the things he did. With the show now running at over two hours, by the end of the set, we were all pretty cold but the warmth of the audience in what is a great venue more than made up for any pain we went through. In the cars on the way back to Bergen airfield, it was a while before our fingertips regained any sort of normality, actually it wasn’t until we were onboard the jet. Just in time to take delicious sips from Laetitia’s perfect G&T’s. By the time we got back to our Oslo hotel, I was too tired to do much else except drink half a cuppa tea and crash.
Opened in 1874, the Grand hotel has a rich history and each year hosts the annual Nobel Peace Prize banquet with the prize winners staying in the Nobel suite at the hotel. Roald Dahl was inspired to write his autobiographical book, Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984) when he stayed here when he was young. These days the hotel has, shall we say, seen better days. Past experience tells me not to order anything remotely confusing for room service breakfast here so I just plumbed for the Grand breakfast, a mix of everything; I’ll pick through it later. The grumpiest of surly waiters huffed and puffed as he begrudgingly handed over the trays of hastily prepared goodies. Still, at least it was inedible. A huge pile of offal with tinned mini frankfurters, meatballs (partially burned) and bacon with solidified fat attached..and the eggs were definitely not from a Chicken. I really should have photographed it but I fear it may make the reader sick. Orange juice from a tin and poor coffee rounded off a humbling experience. The ‘breakfast club’ reported that the food was no better downstairs in the restaurant with Mark’s ‘Prison Porridge’ being almost inedible and Ianto’s ‘Cat Litter’ Müsli too. The problem is that we’ve just come from a run of cracking hotels who simply know what they’re doing but it’s not rocket science. With food untouched it’s off to the gym I headed. The gym being a new feature of the Grand as in the past it has simply consisted of a rusty bike machine in a top floor corridor. I’m actually not joking, it was exactly that in 1996. Sadly, it’s only a little better now. The ‘Artesia’ spa is a very cramped, hot room with a couple of Technogym machines (not top of the range) that are placed in such a way that you cannot open the doors to get some air. Clearly an afterthought, it’s a ‘token’ gym as I suppose hotels at this level have to offer a gym facility to stay competitive. And that’s just where the real problem lies. As much as we LOVE Oslo, there simply isn’t a decent hotel here. God, that sounds so elitist but I’m not doing this as an advertisement for a travel company am I? Just imagine Fawlty Towers on a larger scale but without the gags. The hotel could use a serious renovation as the building itself is truly wonderful, and historic.
Did you know – the decision of a Norwegian committee in October 2010 to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a jailed Chinese dissident has resulted in strained relations between China and Norway ever since. In fact Norway’s market share of salmon exports to China has plummeted from 92 per cent in 2010 to just 29 per cent.