Monday, January 22, 2007

Something approximating winter...soup, a proper sale and Norwegian crime

...has just arrived. There is snow on Ronas Hill! It's cold and changeable but relatively survivable - one of these days when you really want just get on the all-weather gear and head for the remotest parts of Northmavine, such as Uyea, the Lang Ayre or the top of Ronas Hill itself.
Good to see Mark and Sam on Saturday, who had just finished a trek to the Summit of Shetland...they had been hoping, given the forecast, for something of an Alpine experience but alas, it was pretty wet and nasty until the upper slopes. We fed them Ainsley Harriot cup-soup (NOT Cuppasoup which is a registered trademark, like Portacabin). Far be it from me to recommend a commercial product, let alone one bearing the fizzog of the unbearably cheerful Ainsley, but this stuff is, if not in the home-made-reestit-mutton class, Very Acceptable; and it's not full of chemicals. I heartily recommend it.
It's too late to recommend the LHD sale (two days only) but my goodness, that's what ALL sales should be like.LHD is a marine supplies/chandlery in Lerwick, full of everything from seaboots and rope to satellite navigation systems and survival suits. It is also Shetland's prime source for trousers and jackets, ranging, oddly, from the frivolous and fashionable to the mind-bogglingly technical.
I didn't even know there was a sale on, but I was determined Martha and James, both prone to wandering about dressed in sub-zero temperatures wearing t-shirts and flimsy-but-groovy jackets, should get robust and warm protection from the weather. It was only after biting the bullet and agreeing that Martha should have that £100 Sprayway and James the £60 Weird Fish (the only jacket for sale in Shetland he would even think of wearing, he later informed me) that I noticed the discreet sign stating there was 30 per cent off every jacket in the place (20 per cent off shirts, trousers and everything else). That prompted me to buy myself The Best Lightweight Jacket Ever, the Sprayway Windbloc with extra waterproofing and hood. The, ah, third Sprayway of my life. As recommended initially by friend Mike, who ran across the Sahara wearing nothing else. Well, presumably shorts and shoes. Alas, I forgot to look for the freezer-trawler wellies with insulated soles that are, allegedly, the best footwear known to humankind for cold weather escapades.
And seeing as I'm in the mood for recommending things, let me say that I was inveigled into buying Jo Nesbo's thriller The Redbreast when I was in The Best Bookshop in North Britain Apart From The Bookcroft, The Shetland Times. I could not resist - I love police procedurals set in cold climates, and this is the first Norwegian novel I think I've read apart from Knut Hamsen's Hunger, which is only read by writers.
Set in Oslo, The Redbreast tackles head-on what I know is still a hugely painful issue in Norway - collaboration with Nazism during World War Two. It has some what I assume are weird Norwegian in-jokes on racial stereotyping via phrenology, and some other bits of translation that go awry, but on the whole it's a really tremendous read. It's ruthless in dealing with its very rounded characters in very unexpected ways, full of fantastic details about Oslo, where it's set, funny and brutally exciting. And the hero is called, ahem, Harry Hole ( pronounced, I think, Hew-lih)
Inevitable comparisons are with Henning Mankel's Swedish Wallander novels (Nesbo is funnier; or to be precise, is funny whereas Mankel never is)and with Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's much odder and more existentialist crime masterpieces (start with Roseanna). Nesbo's Harry Hole series is being published in English completely out of sequence, which is nigh on unforgivable. But The Redbreast has apparently been voted Norway's best ever crime novel, so perhaps it's understandable. The Devil's Stain is a sequel but was published here first. Never mind, I haven't read it yet!

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