We’d been up since dawn or shall we say, ridiculously early for a Saturday. Dawn is a bit hard to pinpoint here in the eternal bright of summer. The bag of supplies to keep us all going for the day was packed. My niece says it’s a very Irish thing to do, never leave home without a week’s worth of food, water and clothes for the little people, all in your handbag of course. She could be right, I don’t like to be caught off guard. I would give Mary Poppins a run for her money with the handbag most days.
Anyway, here we were in a very impressive gym in a town called Mysen, south east of Oslo. The long-awaited karate weekend was here. We had heard about it through our local club some months previously and it was for kids between 7 – 13 years to get karate coaching, have fun and accelerate them on their way to the next grade. Our boy had been keen from the onset.
After registration, we had found a good place to sit up in the viewing gallery, looking down at our 8-year-old in the gym below as he waited for his training to start. There were about 150 cute if slightly scary-looking kids milling around in their white suits ready to figuratively kick ass for the weekend. It was easy to lose track of him in the sea of white down there but then suddenly, we spotted him chatting animatedly to a man sporting an NY baseball cap (very ‘in’ here this season) holding onto a big camera on a tripod. Introducing The Lone Reporter from NRK, which is the national TV broadcaster here in Norway. That’s nice we thought, there he is making friends with random grown-ups. They even waved up at us in the gallery, the Mam and Dad and little sister. We waved back and gave that universal sign of support and approval, the up-thumb.
And then about an hour later, The Lone Reporter appeared behind me in the gallery and tapped me on the arm for a chat. He had been given a tip-off about this great karate weekend and was there on behalf of the local county broadcaster, NRK Østfold. Would it be OK to interview our boy about karate and film him for NRK Østfold? He also wanted to interview the parents. This karate lark and in fact any sport for minors is always a family affair where parents are heavily involved managing logistics, chauffeuring and so on. The Lone Reporter wanted to talk to Alexander’s support group also, a.k.a. us.
I then said what was probably already very clear, I’m not Norwegian and neither is the husband. That in itself didn’t matter, what I was really saying was …‘Well, you’ve no hope of getting the husband to talk in Norwegian…. I’ll talk to you alright because I like talking but I’m not sure you’ll understand me and I’m not sure at all that I want to hear myself sounding stupid on the telly…’.
I really expected him to say, Ah OK, extract himself awkwardly and move on. The gym was full of Norwegian parents with Norwegian kids and I was already feeling a tiny bit bad inside for letting our fluent Norwegian-speaking boy down.
But lo and behold, The Lone Reporter didn’t mind. He said he could understand my Norwegian just fine. Then proving this nicely, we proceeded to have a good, albeit confused, conversation about Island (pronounced Eeslann in Norwegian) or Iceland, as it turned out that’s what he thought I said when I said I was from Irland. In fairness, it was noisy in that place but still, suffice it to say that I wasn’t feeling too confident about talking to local media. However, all the while, out of the corner of my eye, I could see our boy looking up excitedly from the gym. I had to do this for him.
And so, it came to be that myself and Alexander talked about karate on Norwegian television. For my part, I still haven’t managed to get sorted with permanent work here or re-establish my career in any recognisable shape so it’s easy to feel like an outsider. BUT HEY BABY, MY NORWEGIAN WAS GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE LONE REPORTER. It was a good boost.
And as for our boy, he was in his element. Footage of him was picked up by national TV during the week and his classmates saw it, all very impressed at what he got up to at the weekend. Apparently, the word ‘kjendis‘ or celebrity was used. There’s no sign of it going to his head thankfully but we’re watching the situation carefully.
The event itself was great, there were circa 12 trainers with black belts putting the kids through a series of moves and exercises in groups, emitting terrifying fighting sounds every now and again to keep the parents in the gallery tense and alert at all times. There were facilities laid on for kids to stay overnight, with pizza and a movie lined up, after which they would collapse into their sleeping bags in the local school. Lots of older kids stayed but it looked like most of the under 10’s went off home again to return the next day as we did.
It was a great sporty weekend and the diploma is now hanging on the wall. We came away with an impressive Japanese wooden sword and that great Japanese martial arts weapon, nunchaku. If we ever have burglars in this house, they won’t know what hit them.
And as for the supply bag, we didn’t need it at all because we’re in Norway and no matter where you go, if there is a gathering of people for an event, there are waffles. You just need to have faith. Black coffee and waffles will help you get through the darkest or brightest of days.