Nevertheless, the day after the Graduate show finished, Clare and I did not uninstall our work as we were instructed to, we went to Norway. For €20 return. We brought a tent.
Determined not to spend any of the money we didn’t have in what we had gleaned was an utterly terrifying Norwegian economy, we stocked up on chocolate and packets of dehydrated Mexican rice in Lidl before we left, determining to buy a spectacular amount alcohol in the airport. (Which we did - God bless duty free).
We had cycled to town to catch the airport bus at the ungodly hour of 3am, leaving the keys for our bike locks on top of a phone box, and a series of enigmatic clues as to their whereabouts for a friend to follow. Then the plane was delayed by 5 hours anyway, which rendered our midnight cycle pointless. But it was ok because we saw Nick Cave in the airport. He was with a man who we decided was probably one of his Bad Seeds. We followed him for a while, clutching the Joker cards from our deck, which we hoped he might sign and think we were cool. But we didn’t really know who Nick Cave was, only that he is a fabulous celebrity, and we were scared that if we talked to him, he might ask us which of his songs was our favourite. And that would be embarrassing for everyone.
In the end we pottered off to the gate and someone gave us food vouchers, which we successfully exchanged for a sort of limp tomato sandwich. GOOD JOB RYANAIR. We made up for this by discreetly but efficiently stuffing our thermo-mugs with condiments: butters, salts, peppers, ketchups, mayonnaises, marmalades, jams, more butters and a packet of tartare sauce just because it was there. This is not stealing, but I think it is generally frowned upon. And if someone sees you, and you catch their eye they'll make a face like, "sorry, what?" and probably whisper something to the person next to them and then they might come over and ask you what you think you are doing. Under normal circumstances you could just quickly leave before they get to you but if it's in an airport you have to stay in the building, so there's a chance you might run into them in the bathrooms. Discretion is critical.
So we flew to a place called Rygge. A shuttle bus took us from the airport to the train station and then we got the train to an area we vaguely thought might hold a campsite, based on a map we found on a chair in the airport. We accidentally left one of the condiment-filled thermo-mugs on the train, so some lucky varmint got all our marmalade.
All the banks were now closed because we had arrived so late which meant we couldn’t get any Norwegian money. Which effectively meant we had no money. No money and no marmalade. Neither of these are good things to have none of.
We walked about 6km up a mountain in the direction we thought there might be a campsite. Luckily we had obtained a large bottle of gin in the airport and a rather dusty bottle of tonic from a small shop that took euro and seemed to have been in possession of the bottle for a great many years. We had two gin and tonic breaks on the way up the mountain, which increased the length of the journey dramtically but made it infinitely more enjoyable.
A funny thing, every time we took something out of our rucksacks, they seemed to shrink so the thing wouldn’t fit back in. Certainly not without a repack. So along with our rucksacks, we now carried a large cardboard box given to us by a sympathetic lady in a shop, filled with all the things that couldn’t fit in our backpacks anymore. This box got harder to carry the drunker we got.
We arrived at the campsite, red and sweaty and quite drunk, explaining that, em, actually, we had no money but, em, ah, could we please just pop our tent up and stay here anyway? The owner, a large balding blonde man in tight denim shorts wearing no shoes, observed us for a moment over the bridge of his nose. The two of us were slumped sideways against the ice cream freezer, Clare holding a bottle of gin and a saucepan, and me clutching a cardboard box filled with socks, tupperware and hundreds of small packets of butter. Then he said quietly, "I do not think that this will be a problem."
That night we got drunk with a group of Americans, agreeing that the next day we must all haaaaaaang oooouuuuut! In the morning after a night of heavy drinking in a place where the sun doesn’t actually set, we poked our fragile heads out of the tent to see that the Americans had run away. Tents gone. Everything. Not even an indentation in the grass. I think they were a bit scared.
One morning we were lying on a jetty overlooking our local Fjord, feeling hungover, swollen and increasingly sunburnt. Clare wanted to go for a swim but I didn’t feel up to it, and she didn’t want to go in on her own because the water was dark and something might get her. I wouldn't have gone in on my own either. Then the wind picked up my notebook and threw it into the sea. I always keep a notebook, for drawing and writing down things I need to remember in my busy and interesting life, and normally it would be expendable, but this particular notebook had the contact details, deposit slips, and framing orders of everyone who had bought work from me during the show. Which would really not be a good thing to lose. So I took off all my clothes and jumped in after it. I didn’t have time to take off my socks.
I got it back and the apart from the wrinkliness of the pages, the only noticeable damage was that the ink on each page had printed onto its neighbour page. And nothing in the water got me. Phew.
We hitchhiked around the area. There happened to be a major Scandinavian Art Biennale taking place in the tiny town we were accidentally on holiday in. So we went to that, which made the trip feel very purposeful and worthwhile and we saw some really great work.
The whole thing was spectacularly lucky. We were remarking on how well things had worked out and discussing some of the curatorial choices in the biennale, when we saw a roadsign that said 'farts'. Who were we kidding, we started screaming and ran over to take pictures of ourselves in front of it.