Back from a long weekend at a friend's cabin in the east of Norway. No running water. No central heating. No TV. No internet. No flushing toilet.
To get there required two words that have long held a special place in my heart. Road trip. As none of us own a car these days we hired another poor Civic and I promised I wouldn't treat it as badly as the last one. I loved the drive. 9 hours long but full of sweeping bends, sublime scenery and tunnels. Lots of tunnels. Including one that bores through granite for 24km.
Winter might be ageing dinosaur rocking through it's farewell tour but it knows how to play a classic. Lighters in the air, "This one's called The Blizzard!".
It's amazing what can hold your attention when there is not a lot to do. Steve outlines the rough shape of a spoon with an axe in the woodshed.
Our friend's cabin is over 100 years old and is a converted dairy. Everything drips with nostalgia and stories.
The skyline is a welcome change from the monumentally jagged west coast. Rolling hills and trees as far as the eye can see, which happens to be the Swedish border.
The nights are drawing out but the still creeping cold reminds you not to unpack the shorts just yet.
Living slowly. No instant heat, drinks or food. Everything relies on someone lighting the stoves that populate every room. Someone had to get up in the morning and perform this chore before his first coffee. Someone sounds like he's complaining but actually he enjoyed it.
It wasn't all chores, eating and sitting around reading books. We got out for a couple of days skiing. Potentially the last of the season for some of us. The first day we broke our promise to the poor Civic and brutalised it again up the 4x4 track we swore we would never take it to again. The second day we found a far more accessible trail through Finnskogen, a part of Norway where Finnish people settled as it reminded them of home. Intermittent sunshine, elk tracks and a ski trail that flowed and snaked around the gentle contours.
Lichen at lunchtime. Deep in the forest we found a snow-free spot to sit on deeply upholstered armchairs of sumptuous moss amongst the sun warmed stone.
Evidence of Spring's march. Ant hills bursting through the forest floor and adventurous spiders that crossed ski trails, hoping that the flies were greener on the other side.
Eating slow. Mealtimes ebbed, flowed and merged. It seemed like we spent more time at the dining table than anywhere else.
The rest of the time was spent in quiet contemplation, noses poked in novels cocooned by the sound and smell of crackling wood deep in the black iron stoves.
The drive home was hell. The debilitating holiday weekend traffic and the dull surroundings...