A Trip to Oslo
I took the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Norway to Norway with me on a recent trip to Oslo, having established that no guide seemed to be published for the city alone. I suppose that given the population of the whole country is just under 5,000,000, and of the capital just over 600,000 (and, interesting bit of trivia here, if you tipped the thin strip of land that is Norway on end it would reach Sicily), it’s not really surprising. That said, there is an amazing amount to see in Oslo, and almost every minute of our four-day trip there was packed.
The DK guide, as customary with all their travel publications, is a feast for the eyes. The sheer quality of the paper and dazzling colour photographs do great justice to the sights of the town and all information was almost 100% accurate, no mean achievement when changes in charges and opening times are almost inevitable. The series has an interesting feature which picks out what it considers the most interesting attractions which it describes in greater detail; subjectively, I agree with their choices, notably the Vigelandsparken, Oslo’s largest park packed with 212 sculptures of people, young, middle-aged and old, named after the sculptor Gustav Vigeland. It’s a unique experience and not to be missed on a trip to Oslo.
The city is also home to a plethora of museums, six of which are on the peninsula of Bygdoy. This is most easily reached by a frequent boat service. The Norwegian Folk Museum is an open-air affair to which historic buildings have been transported from the whole country; (Stockholm has the same idea at Skansen). Nearby is the Viking Museum with three genuine Viking ships on display. Go one stop further on the boat and you’ll come to the Kon Tiki museum, named after the raft on which Thor Heyerdahl proved that by building sailing craft with the simplest of materials, indigenous peoples from Peru could have sailed to Easter Island. Next door is the Fram museum, with the actual boat that explored the Arctic and Antarctic at the beginning of the 20th century, and in which the Norwegian Amundsen pipped Scott to the post by reaching the South Pole first. Back to Oslo Central for even more museums and galleries, notably the National Gallery which has a wonderful international collection as well as fine examples of Norwegian painters and the Munch museum which showcases the work of perhaps the most famous one. My interest in theatre led me to the Henrik Ibsen museum which houses an interesting exhibition of the playwright’s work but more importantly, offers tours round the apartment where he spent the last years of his life.
My only quibble with the Guide was that it failed to mention the Oslo Pass. This can be bought for 24, 48 or 72 hours and covers all transport and museum entrance fees for the period as well as discounts in certain restaurants and bars. The 72 hour pass cost around £50, but I carefully noted and added up what individual tickets would cost; thanks to our fervent desire to soak up as much culture as possible, the total spend came to over £100! And while we did more than just scratch Oslo’s cultural surface, there was masses that we didn’t have time to visit!
And perhaps my only quibble with Oslo itself is the cost. It has a deserved reputation of being the most expensive city in Europe and eating out (and certainly drinking out as well as in) is eye-wateringly dear. That said, the people are very friendly and welcoming and despite the cost it’s a city I’d dearly like to visit again. I said so to the nice bus driver as he unloaded our cases at the airport for our trip home. He seemed genuinely pleased that we had enjoyed his city and hoped that we would indeed come back ‘when we could afford it’!
The DK Guide to Norway is published by Dorling Kindersley and available from DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Norway
Jeannette Nelson, Contributing author
The Woman with a Worm in her Head
This book is a collection of fascinating true stories of a doctor’s struggle against the terrifying and invisible world of infectious diseases.
I can remember at the age of about ten dipping into my grandmother’s medical books, recoiling in horror at the pictures but fascinated by their message. The real awfulfulness of all things medical hit me hard and I thought I only had hours to live because I must have at least three infectious diseases and the possibility of a host of others. I know now my reaction wasn’t unusual and my morbid fascination with all things gory was something my friends shared.
The book reads like a medical thriller
Reading The Woman with a Worm in her Head reminded me of that first encounter with medicalspeak and graphic, dispassionate descriptions of conditions. Dr Pamela Nagami writes of the many patients she has helped through conditions involving bacteria, viruses, parasites and opportunistic microbes. For instance when Danielle Jordan ate a salad, she had no idea she’d become a ‘host’ to an organism that six years later would grow into a worm that would burrow into her brain.
An ordinary insect bite on Allan Roth’s foot led to ‘flesh eating strep’. He shed his skin like a snake and had to have a large area of dead tissue removed from his abdomen and upper thigh.
We assume most infectious diseases can be treated and those that can’t be are somehow far removed from daily life, but think again. Do you know what ‘souvenirs’ you’re bringing back from your exotic holiday? Killer organisms are also on our doorstep.
Written from a practical viewpoint with a wry humour interwoven, Dr Roth’s book is compulsive reading and a reminder of how important it is to pay attention to cleanliness even in our super hygienic Western world. That is not to say we should be scrubbing ourselves and food preparation surfaces fanatically, but simply to be aware and remember the consequences of slackness. Washing hands after visiting the loo is so important as is our responsibility to remind our children and husbands (especially!). A doctor speaking on my radio show about hygiene was emphatic about the importance of washing thumbs. With air travel now taken by a vastly increased number of people, all over the world, basic hygiene could be the definitive feature of survival.
So, what ‘souvenirs’ might you be bringing back from your exotic holiday?
The Woman with a Worm in her Head is published by Fusion Press and available from Amazon
A couple of books about health when travelling we have found useful are:
<a href=”The Virgin Travel Health Handbook: Sound Advice for Anyone Travelling Abroad “>The Virgin Travel Health Handbook, Michael Wright, ISBN 0-7535-0748-X
<a href=”The Rough Guide to Travel Health “> The Rough Guide to Travel Health by Dr Nick Jones, ISBN 1-85828-570-4
Val Reynolds Brown, editor
London Sketchbook a pictorial guide book – Six to Give Away*
As I opened the packaging of a copy of another guide to London my thoughts were, well, Not another guide to London! Surely there must be sufficient already, a fact borne out by witnessing tourists of all nationalities armed with guides of all shapes and sizes and in a plethora of languages teeming through the London streets.
But I have to say that this one is just a little different. For a start the London Sketchbook* (see below for giveaway form) looks different, a slim hardback volume in A5 format with a delightful impression of Tower Bridge and the City on the cover. It doesn’t readily sit into a niche – it’s partly a traditional guidebook, partly a guided walks book, but what makes it stand out from the crowd are the wonderful line and wash illustrations drawn by the author Jim Watson and the very personal style of writing.
For him, creating this book seems to have been a labour of love; he first visited all the places he writes about and then set about drawing them with helpful annotations attached. The colours are really beautiful and all the people illustrated alongside the sights are smiling and happy!
As a seasoned Londoner who spends much of her time tramping through the capital’s street, there wasn’t that much the guide taught me – I have the Blue Guide to London for that, crammed with every fact and figure you could wish for. But as a guide, this little book would be excellent for a first-time visitor wanting to concentrate on the main attractions.
The ten areas broadly covered are
- Central London
- Piccadilly and St James’s
- Whitehall and Westminster
- South Bank to Fleet Street
- The City, Tower of London
- Bloomsbury and Marylebone
There is no mention of Camden Town with its famous market, Banglatown and the revival of London’s East End. These newly created latter attractions are interesting to visit but offer more a retail opportunity than a historical interest. But in my experience, most visitors who don’t know London come here with the express intention of seeing exactly the sights in this book. And in it they have quirky anecdotes as well as just enough facts to avoid knowledge overload.
It’s as up-to-date as any guide can be; I couldn’t help feeling that had it been written some time later, there would have been a mention of the city’s famous ‘Boris bikes’ because it’s just that sort of information it contains.
I’ve enjoyed browsing through it in the comfort of my own flat, but I can’t wait for my first overseas visitor (I get quite a few of them) so they can discover the wonders of London with the help of this delightful little book.
London Sketchbook is published by Survival Books and available on Amazon
To view the list of winners click here
Jeannette Nelson, Arts Critic
A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.
*WE HAVE SIX COPIES TO GIVE AWAY TO IN BALANCE READERS:
To enter complete the form below. One entry per household. The draw will be held on 18 August 2011 so entries will be accepted up to and including 17 August 2011.
Puppy Training 1: Winnie Learns Digging is Not Popular
Winnie’s Woes: The diary of a golden retriever learning about life
A seven part series with a bittersweet final episode
Oooh! Hurry up Claire! I can’t hold on much longer!
I’ll just settle down on my bed again and try and wait
Is that the alarm I hear? Thank goodness, I’m busting here!
Footsteps on the landing, down the stairs – better position myself in extra cute mode just behind the door. Ouch! By Dose! Why do I always sit so close to the door?
Claire! I’m so glad to see you! I’m so happy, my tail is wagging like crazy
Ooh, nearly forgot, need the toilet.
What’s she doing? Getting my breakfast!
Oh the indecision, should I wait or should I point my nose at the door to be let out? It’s a real shame she doesn’t understand dog – life would be so much easier.
Ah, she’s noticed, thank goodness. Ahhhhhh, that’s better and breakfast on its way too.
Ooh how exciting, dog biscuits! I love biscuits. Better eat these quickly just in case anyone tries to steal them.
Now for a cuddle. Ah, tickles behind the ear, love that. What’s she saying? Blah blah blah blah, good dog, blah blah blah blah.’
Oh, she’s off again. Maybe if I sit here looking adorable she won’t leave.
It didn’t work. Oh well.
Oh – she’s left the back door open. I’ll just have a little peak outside.
It’s such a lovely day, think I’ll stretch my paws a little.
Oh, a leaf, I’ll carry that around. Oh wow! A stick! Boring leaf, I’ll have the stick instead. OH WOW! A bit of soft dirt – oh that’s just calling out to be made into a hole.
(Dig, dig, dig)
This is so much fun, I love digging
(Dig, dig, dig)
Paws are filthy, but I don’t care – digging’s great!
(Dig, dig, dig)
WINNIE! Blah blah blah
BLAH BLAH BLAH, bad girl!
Oh, don’t call me that – what have I done? I was just digging a hole. Don’t make me go inside.
She must be really cross, even my most cute look hasn’t worked, lying on my back with my paws in the air isn’t working either … oh dear – what did I do wrong?
Claire Price, Winnie’s owner
Dogs dig for lots of different reasons; fun, stress relief, boredom, hunting (animals, roots, etc), to cool down or to escape.
If your dog digs for any other reason than cooling down or to escape, you can do the following to save your garden:
Dig a hole in your garden, where you will allow your dog to dig. Now take some meat bones/smelly treats/toys and layer with soil until you’ve covered up the hole. Let half a bone or some garlic sausage stick out through the top soil. Go and fetch your dog and show her to the digging pit. Pretend to dig in the pit yourself and praise her lavishly when she starts digging. If your treats in the hole are yummy enough and you keep it topped up with new interesting items, you should have a dog that will go to her pit to dig, rather than the garden, as it will be more rewarding to her.
Episode 2: Winnie learns not to chew up shoes!
Have you read the bestseller The Puppy that came for Christmas … A true story that has appealed to dog lovers and non-dog owners alike – it is both truly heart warming and heart wrenching.
Recommended Link: Anythingdogz – an excellent website owned and run by Lisa Evans, an In Balance reader
Helpful Holidays offer holiday cottages in the West Country that welcome dogs. See their holiday cottages website.
Winnie’s Woes Part 7 – Winnie Moves On
Winnie’s Woes Part 6 – Winnie Learns about Children
Winnie’s Woes Part 5 – Winnie’s friend Henry learns not to eat stones
Winnie’s Woes Part 4 – Winnie learns about other dogs
Winnie’s Woes Part 3 – Winnie Eats too much
Winnie’s Woes Part 2 – Winnie eats a shoe
Winnie’s Woes Part 1 – Winnie finds digging is not a popular activity!
WHY PEOPLE MISS FLIGHTS
The most common reasons and some practical advice to help ensure you catch your flight
Travel website missedaflight.com has carried out research to find out the most common reasons why travellers miss their flights and provide some helpful hints and tips on how to avoid the most common reasons for missing a flight:
Problem: Mis-read and mis-spelt documents
SOLUTION: On receipt of your documents check the name, spelling and flight details are correct.
Problem: Flight schedule changes
SOLUTION: Check your latest paperwork for any changes. Remember the times on the ticket will be written using the 24 hr clock.
Problem: Traffic delays caused by road accidents and road works or engineering works on railways
SOLUTION: Check with the RAC and AA for any delays, accidents or engineering works that may affect your route and if need be find an alternative route.
Denied permission to travel due to incorrect passport or expired passports.
SOLUTION: Review your passport in advance to ensure it still has six months to run after your return to the UK. Also remember to pack your passport in your hand luggage.
Problem Essential medication needed urgently but packed in the hold luggage which has been checked–in
SOLUTION: If your bags do not join you on the aircraft you run the risk of missing your flight. Make sure any prescribed medication is packed in your hand luggage just in case you need it before the flight departs. Most airports have a chemist but they may not stock your particular prescription.
Problem Too late to check-in
SOLUTION: Add more time – Airports are big and somewhere you might not be familiar with. Never under estimate your timings, make sure you have left plenty of time to get from the airport car park, (which may require a transfer service) to the terminal, and into the correct check-in zone. Remember there may be a queue at check-in. Make sure you know which terminal as some airport have more than one and airlines can also fly out of more than one terminal.
Problem Not allowing enough time to get to the departure gate once checked-in
SOLUTION: Airlines are requiring their passengers to arrive at the gate for their flights earlier than in the past. Plan on getting to the gate at least 30 minutes before your flight departs and remember some gates can be as much as 25 minutes away from the main retail area. If you’re late they won’t wait.
Problem Flights not connecting
SOLUTION: Connecting flights are the most difficult to negotiate. If there is no nonstop flight, then build extra time into your itinerary for the connection. Don’t take the connecting flight that gives you just 45 minutes to change planes at a busy airport; instead, ask for a 2 to 4 hour layover to make the connection. You may not be able to do this online, instead call your travel agent or the airline directly. Please remember if you have bought two separate flights your connection is never guaranteed.
Having missed your flight first speak to the airline to find out what you need to do. If they can get you on a later flight get in touch with your hotel to make sure they don’t give away your room.
Next contact your travel insurer to let them know the situation and find out if you are covered for any additional costs you may incur as a result of missing your flight.
Airline companies vary in the way they will treat your booking if you miss your flight. A good idea is to visit the forums on the internet.
Our experience has been to always have decent insurance cover. Finding that insurance will take time and effort. In the long run it is not expensive and could save you a deal of trouble and extra expense. Reputable insurance companies will give you an emergency phone number to call – just remember to take it with you!
Have you had a bad experience? Want to tell us about it? Or, have you had a good experience? Tell us about that too!
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
Perfect Travel Guides when Visiting Sweden
Art in Clay Outdoor Exhibition – Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
This has to be one of the most interesting and fun outdoor art exhibitions we have visited. There is always a really friendly atmosphere – all the potters and ceramicists are very approachable and interested to talk to visitors.
Details for the 2013 show are on http://www.artinclay.co.uk/
The range and diversity of the work of British potters is well known and this show always has lots to admire and be attracted to. Some work is just so out of the box it’s a joy to behold!
Children are of course very welcome, there is plenty of space for them to run around and enjoy themselves and the opportunity to make clay pots.
We put together a slideshow of the 2008 show – if you would like to have a look click here.
The 2011 exhibition underlined The Japanese Earthquake which had a disastrous effect on the world famous pottery town in Japan called Mashiko. The town had over 400 pottery workshops many of which have collapsed together with kilns, houses and the town’s museums. Bernard Leach met Shoji Hamada when he was studying pottery in Japan and became lifelong friends. They helped each other with the development of their potteries.
Catherine Thom, daughter of a Northern Ireland potter whose work was strongly influenced by Bernard Leach and Japanese pottery, is an international classical guitarist, and recorded a cd to raise funds for the Japanese Disaster Fund. Catherine gave three concerts on each of the three days of the Art in Clay exhibition – all non-ticket donation events.
Art in Clay is a great event for pottery lovers and the organisers are offering Two for the Price of One entry fee on all three days of the show.
For even more information and regular up-dates see the News page.
Val Reynolds, Editor
Authorised by Andy McInnes, Exhibition Organiser
Henry Moore Exhibition 2011
Henry Moore at Hatfield and at Home
Could Moore be compared to Marmite? His work is so huge, so enigmatic, so smooth, so in your face, that many find it too much. Others love just those features. It seems you either love it or hate it. That was the concensus when I did a quick verbal survey before a visit to the Moore at Hatfield open air exhibition that has attracted thousands of visitors this summer.
Some of the questions I asked:
Are you familiar with Moore’s work – About 70% had seen at least one sculpture, many abroad
How would you describe his work – Chunky, smooth, fun, weird, creepy, ugly
Do you know how he made some of the work – Most didn’t but were interested to hear about Perry Green where you can join in free workshops for children, young people, adults and families.
When I visited the exhibition I asked several visitors Is there any one piece you like best of all? My favourite answer was the child who said she loved Hill Arches because it was smooth and she liked lying on it, not something encouraged by the exhibition organisers, but inevitable I guess!
A reclining Toltec–Maya figure was the original influence on Moore’s sculpture – Chac Mool stone statue at Chichen Itza site, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico which you can see in his very early work.
The Hatfield setting is big enough to take fifteen massive pieces. Every piece has at least one seat to sit and contemplate the work, just as Moore always wanted.
The huge historic buildings at Hatfield are certainly big enough to contain the work rather than be overwhelmed.
He was especially pleased with the siting of the Two-Piece Knife Edge next to the House of Lords, placed right next to a path and seats.
He was once asked by his niece why his works had such simple titles and he replied: All art should have a certain mystery and should make demands on the spectator. Giving a sculpture or a drawing too explicit a title takes away part of that mystery so that the spectator moves on to the next object, making no effort to ponder the meaning of what he has just seen. Everyone thinks that he or she looks but they don’t really, you know.
There is an excellent Wiki page about Moore that includes many well known pieces. One photograph shows the panorama created in the Ontario Museum.
A visiting teacher from Vancouver said it was not possible to take photographs or touch the exhibits in Ontario and was delighted to be able to have the opportunity to get a real feel for Moore’s work at Hatfield and excited about visiting the Perry Green permanent exhibition.
Although interest in Moore has diminished since his death, Perry Green, his home in Hertfordshire, has a popular outdoor exhibition with 25 outdoor works on display. When I visited everyone seemed to be loving the whole experience, I certainly smiled at some of the pieces. The children especially liked some hollow copper pieces that made satisfying noises and big enough to play hide and seek in.
This hugely successful sculptor – he was paying million in tax in 1970s – left a legacy that continues to delight and intrigue.
One suggestion I have is to make available for sale small reproductions – to scale – I would love a collection of miniatures to handle, admire and contemplate.
Moore at Hatfield is open until 30 September – ideal for picnics and lots of room for children to run and play in!
Hatfield House is just 20 miles from central London and only 16 miles from Moore’s former home at Perry Green, Herts – The Henry Moore Foundation.
Moore at Perry Green visitor season runs from 1 April 2011 – 30 October 2011. It has a newly-refurbished pub dining room, The Hoops Inn, and a new exhibition in its gallery, Henry Moore Plasters. There are 70 acres of outdoor sculpture as well as the artist’s house and studios, carefully restored.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
Good Health – The Influence of Sitcoms & Drama Series
Good health and its maintenance concerns most of us, although it seems women take the greatest interest. This was graphically highlighted in a recent survey of couples that found men took little or no responsibility at all for how healthy they were, leaving their diet and choice of food up to their partner. Amazingly more than half the men consulted their partner before having a drink and three quarters asked her before eating unhealthy food which would seem to indicate some awareness of the importance of good health but a preference for relying on their partner’s advice.
So where do women go to build up that bank of knowledge they need to keep their family healthy. Well, family, magazines, friends, the web, but it seems the most influential are tv sitcoms and drama series where scriptwriters take on topical health issues, based on contemporary medical research and findings. And it would seem we take them seriously, rather than regarding them as fiction, thereby getting positive health messages across effectively.
With the most popular TV drama series with powerful plotlines in the US off air during the summer EverydayHealth, one of the most comprehensive and accessible health websites we have found, looks at next season’s content and questions the general view of the unhealthiness of mindless tv soap addiction.
PARENTHOOD is an NBC drama with humour grounded by the difficulties of parenthood and the next series includes a father confronting his son’s emotional issues the son having been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. By the way if you are interested in one of the most inspiring accounts we have read do have a look at Look Me in the Eye written by John Elder Robison. A compulsive read.
ARMY WIVES on ET on Lifetime, focusses on a very fit and seemingly healthy wife who receives a diagnosis of diabetes. This is particularly topical in the light of the huge increase of diabetes in the Western world.
THE BIG C Showtime puts a young woman in the limelight, chronicling her way of dealing with a diagnosis of melanoma with just a year to live. Who hasn’t been touched by someone with cancer and wondering how they would cope with a similar diagnosis?
BREAKING BAD, an AMC drama, relating how a high school chemistry teacher reacts in an unconventional and fearless way to provide money for his family when he dies.
A musical drama by Fox, GLEE, has two storylines, one that develops the character playing a student with Down Syndrome at McKinley High School, the other explores the mental illness of one of its teachers. Two storylines with strong human interest threads. This is the show that had Gwyneth Paltrow as a feisty teacher last season.
UNITED STATES OF TARA, another Showtime drama, portrays a character with dissociative identity disorder (DID), once known as multiple personality disorder one of the lesser known afflictions .
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
Learning to Live with Asperger’s Syndrome: A Real Life Story
Does it make you feel uneasy if someone you are talking to avoids looking at you, direct eye to eye contact?
Is that learned behaviour on your part, or instinctive? Most psychologists would say it was learned, that you had experienced it before and been puzzled and made some assumptions – they are uncomfortable with you, they are guilty of something and they don’t want to look at you for instance.
But what of the person who is avoiding the eye contact? Do they have something to hide, or are they simply not wanting to make any kind of contact with you? Are they painfully shy?
John Elder Robison has written an account of his life from when he realised he was different from other people. Unable to make eye contact or connect with other children and by the time he was a teenager his odd habits – an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, behave obsessively – and earned the label social deviant.
I found this book hard to put down and spent most of a day and evening reading it cover to cover. I have come across people who displayed some of the behaviours described by Robison, who was eventually identified as having Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 40 and who eventually was able to work hard to communicate and be able to socialise with greater ease.
This fascinating book, a New York Times bestseller, mixes ascerbic wit with painful honesty, wry humour and clarity. It should help to break down some barriers to understanding the behaviour of anyone within the autistic spectrum. More importantly I think it should help anyone with Asperger’s syndrome to manage their interactions with their peers and society in general better and be more able to successfully survive the slings and arrows that life throws at us all.
Published by Ebury Press, 2008, available from Amazon Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s