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15th July, 2012



There is a man in Olden who is known, not by his first name Aslak, but as ‘Mr Everything’. I hadn’t seen him for several years, but as we slowly approached the short jetty (which he used to own) there he was driving a line boat, then back on terra firma he clambered onto his bicycle to unlock the gate and, as ships' agent, brought the clearance papers to the Chief Purser. Aslak is one of the world’s characters and just about everyone in western Norway, including all the pilots, have heard of ‘Mr Everything’. And he does do just about everything including being the harbour master although, after greeting me as his long lost friend, he said, yet again, that he was going to retire this year. Probably about time as he must be eighty if he’s a day, but he seems to have boundless energy, a very firm handshake and a wry smile, particularly when he talks in his dodgy English about the real officialdom in his district for whom he has little time it would seem. He always asks when am I going to take a drive with him in his Rolls Royce (he has two, in immaculate condition, but fairly old), but as yet I’ve always had to reluctantly say ‘No time today’ – am I coward? Probably.

In fact, as it was a Sunday, I did manage to find time, but then I couldn’t find him so I took a stroll into the village instead, just as a light shower came down off the surrounding mountains. Olden is one of those little villages you pass through on the way to somewhere else, but it is a gateway for the Jostedalsbreen National Park and the superb Briksdal Glacier, to where I have walked in the past. I took the opportunity to take a look at the old church in the village, built in 1759 on the site of an existing 14th century Stave church, parts of which were used for door posts and pews. Inside it had the most amazing vaulted wooden ceiling.


By the time it was ready to leave Mr Everything had returned to the pier to finish his duties and lock up. We backed down into the wider fjord, passing the local hotel sounding three long blast to the guests who waved enthusiastically back. Probably not to the hotel managements pleasure though, as they apparently have some long running battle with the local authorities over the noise that large cruise ships are supposed to make, disturbing the tranquillity of their location. As it’s a location right next to the main road I can’t really see that they have much of an argument.

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