Well, youngsters are the same everywhere, I guess that is reassuring. That was my thought process at the time.
In our first 6 months here, I spent my time at home with the kids. This was to do the obvious, get used to the environment, ease them in gently as they got used to a new place and people talking in a new tongue.
So off we went every morning at around 10 o’clock to a playground, a familiar or unfamiliar one depending on how far we ventured on any day. I mentioned in an earlier post that this area where we live is very generously peppered with playgrounds, a joy for kids as we just tended to ramble from one to the next. Some have swings, some have slides and see-saws, some have roundabouts and climbing-frames and so on. One quickly became “the best playground in the world” and all was well until we found an even better one. There was much smoke coming from the cranium of the 5 year old when dealing with this conundrum, what would you call better than the best. It became the Mega playground. We stopped looking after that, just in case.
So very early on, I noticed that there were foil wrappers on the ground in playgrounds, silver with blue writing on them mainly. Square, circa 2 inch x 2 inch. Clearly condom wrappers. I was grateful that only the wrappers were hanging about and the condoms at least were nowhere to be seen. These youngsters were clearly a bit frantic getting into the moment but at least they were conscientious cleaning up after themselves, that was something.
You see, I knew all about such antics in playgrounds. In West London where we lived previously, we had some lovely parks around us but our local playground in Hounslow was grim. When on maternity leave, I frequently went there with the baby to sit on a swing with her or even get talking to other moms. It was close by and convenient and I was usually knackered those days. The problem was that with a secondary school nearby, it was a hangout for local youngsters and so there were cigarette butts frequently under the swings and yes, sometimes used condoms also. Grim. I would approach with trepidation with each visit to gingerly check what was in store for us this time. Sometimes, the youngsters, maybe 16 / 17 years old, were sitting on the swings when moms and babies were there but they would never vacate to leave to the rightful kids and toddlers; no, they left when they were ready. They were not aggressive or rude but not so hot on politeness either. But then teenagers are famously self-involved, right? Clearly the local council was aware of the problem as there was a big sign saying that the playground was for under 12s only, having zero effect obviously.
Anyway, jump forward to Oslo, I didn’t think too much of the plastic wrappers as I had seen it all before.
My husband was lucky enough to get a detailed account every evening of what we had been up to that day and of course, that included details on the mating habits of the young locals. He was always a bit doubting about my deductions on this one but he couldn’t refute it really as he didn’t seem to want to raise this topic with his work colleagues. “By the way, do the youngsters here shag a lot in playgrounds?” A difficult one to integrate in to IT discussions. So I carried on, confident in my convictions.
Then one Saturday, all my comfortable assumptions made a bit of an eejit out of me ( that is Irish-English for idiot/numpty/dim-wit). We were all 4 of us at a playground together. I saw a silver 2 x 2 wrapper on the ground. I called my husband over, relieved that I could finally prove my point.
“There you go, finally! This is what I have been talking about.”
He bent down to pick it up. I said Eeeeeuuugghh expressively at the very fact that he would touch it. He said…
“These are not condom wrappers, they are seasoning sachets that you get in crisp bags (or chips as they are called here) or maybe even noodles. The worst the kids have done around here is eat!”
After working my way through a few shades of glowing fuchsia pink, I started to laugh. And then I couldn’t stop. Teenagers 1 Midlife Migrant a big fat 0 for settling in so comfortably to a stupid assumption about something that I thought I knew something about.
But almost more importantly, I was amazed that the Irish crisp eater in this house was bested by a crisp-scathing non noodle-eating German on these important subjects. Something still doesn’t sit right with me on how we could have slipped to such a state of affairs but I am not one to hold a grudge on being outsmarted, well, not forever anyway.