Karen Koren: Sad times and good times in Norway

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I’M in Norway, going to my aunt’s funeral, my mum’s sister and the last of her siblings. Sad, of course, but a really good opportunity to catch up with family I never see.

I know it will conjure up memories of childhood, when we used to spend idyllic summer holidays at my grandmother’s or mormor’s (mother’s mother) big house by a broad river in Telemark, where steamships sailed up and down as we waved like mad at the crew, standing in the freezing water.

Behind the house was a huge field of raspberry bushes. We’d pick as many as we could eat, put them in a bowl, stir them with sugar, and have them on bread. Heaven on a plate.

I remember dancing as my mormor played the squeezebox and sang her Norwegian folk songs, all but forgotten tunes, though I can still remember the popular ones.

My mother’s family were very Norwegian and did not speak English well, as most do now. Mum arrived in Scotland in 1947 without knowing any English. My father, although brought up in Edinburgh from the age of six, was a native Norwegian speaker too.

My mum never learnt to write English and would speak Norwegian as her preference.

For a great example of Norwegian culture watch BBC 4’s ridiculous comedy drama, Lillyhammer. It is a mixture of Norwegian and English, and makes me laugh.

It’s very silly, especially the way they try to show the differences in social behaviour. The central character, Giovanni Hendriksen, never speaks Norwegian but everyone speaks Norwegian to him... then translates. Though it does have subtitles - you get the gist.

Really worth watching.