We were fighting our way downhill on the E6 towards Oppdal in the rain against a gale force headwind when the bomb went off in Oslo. Damae became extremely cold at that very moment. Half an hour later we stopped in a lay-by and I made her drink three cups of tea to try to warm her up.

We arrived, cold and wet at the campsite near Oppdal, not long after Anders Behring Breivik had started his killing spree in Utøya, and unaware of what had happened, put up our tent and tried to warm up whilst making some dinner. A fellow camper told us of the news of the bomb in Oslo, and later in the evening of the massacre at the AUF summer camp. After we had taken a shower we sat in the TV room for half an hour and watched the news. It was all rather surreal.

I grew up with IRA terrorism, not just the news reports of attacks and reprisals in Northern Ireland, but I also remember violence much closer to home in Warrington in 1993. I was lying in bed when the centre of Manchester was blown up in 1996 (it was pure luck that I’d had decided to have a lie in that morning rather than go into town to do some shopping). I was living in The Netherlands in the period when Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh were killed. I remember the horror when I heard of the the senseless killing of children in Dunblane in Scotland in the spring of 1996. But none of those experiences prepared me for the brutality of 22.7.11.

In the days following the acts of that lone terrorist, we bought a newspaper every now and again. We tried to understand what had just happened to the people of Norway and, like everyone else, tried to understand why it had happened. We read the stories of heroism from ordinary people who rescued children from the waters around Utøya and the reports of the last moments of the victims with tears in our eyes. We felt that strong sense that Norwegians of all creeds, colours and political perspectives were not going to be terrorised into giving up their freedom.

This evening we watched the rememberance ceremony recorded earlier in the day. It made a great impression on both of us on so many levels. The speeches by King Harald and Jens Stoltenberg were understated yet powerful, the messages from victims of the attacks were poigniant yet forward looking and the musical contributions fitted in beautfully. It was hard to listen to the seventy-seven names of the victims being read out and to see the smiling faces of the young victims, most of whom were young enough to have been my children.

I am not sure what the result of the events of 22.7.11 will be. Will the sense of solidarity last, or will the events of that day merely sharpen the focus on the divisions and differences in Norwegian society?

The question is what do the peoples of Norway want for the future? A pointlessly polarised society, that stigmatises immigrants and elects extreme right wing governments as is to be found in The Netherlands and Denmark?

Or, will we really get a society with more openness and more democracy? A society where being different will not be regarded as an act of treason? A society where we are free because we will not let fear imprison us?


Following on from the popular film of a complete train journey over the Bergensbanen from Bergen to Oslo Sentrum, filmed from the engine driver seat, NRK have gone one better. They are televising the complete Hurtigruten journey from Bergen to Kirkenes. This will take one hundred and thirty-four hours instead of the mere seven hours of the Bergensbanen film.

I think you can watch the Hurtigruten trip from outside of Norway. If you are interested, or your paint has dried, try clicking here

The Hurtigruten started as a high speed postal service but is now considered to be one of the most beautiful sea cruises in the world.

Update: apparently the Hurtigruten live broadcast is the worlds longest TV program. For those of you that want to watch it again and again, the broadcast can be downloaded in parts as a Bittorrent. Even better, the material has been released under a Creative Commons licence which gives you a lot of freedom to use the material yourself.