We had 70 lads and lasses walking with us yesterday.
We always try to have a pensioner too. This is Øyvind Berntsen. He was 90 or 91 when he last walked with us. He had walked in this forest his whole life, and he knew this area when it was still farmland. He said that when he was a kid they never wore shoes all summer. And by the end of the summer the soles of their feet were tough like leather. One of the results of this life is that at 90 he still sprang over the rocks nimbly. Every day he went out for a walk, and every day even in the midst of winter he would bring something back for his wife. Some little twig or stone or whatever caught his eye. This was one of the most romantic couples I’ve ever seen.
One of the funny things that happened with Øyvind is that the first time he came out with us he was speaking a different language than the kids whose parents come from all over the world. A beautiful old fashioned Norwegian I rarely hear. But already by the second time he had modified it. What was in his favour was that he had an amazing story to tell. The day war broke out in Norway, the 9th April 1940 he went down to the corner shop where his friends hung out and heard what had happened. At the time he was 19 and he knew exactly what he felt about the Nazis. He went home, took his dads gun from the shed, snapped on his skis and walked up the valley where we walk with the kids, the Pilgrims way. The ancient motorway to Trondheim. There at the top where we eat our lunch and play he waited. Until he saw the army planes with swasticas on their bellies flying overhead. And he shot. And, luckily, he said, I missed.
The story goes on, including swallowing poison, being wounded and the poison running out in the blood, etc. Great stuff. I could have sat and listened to him for hours, and several times we did.
This week we had a pensioner called Erica. The kids asked how old she was and she said in 16 years she’ll be 100. She said that she was one of a million people the world has forgotten. A German speaking people who had lived for 100’s of years in Czechoslovakia. As a child she had seen Hitler driving through the streets, making his little Heil. She said he did it like that so no-one would see how short he was. And he would never allow anyone taller than him to stand beside him as he was rather short. At the end of the war everything they had was taken (by Russians? not sure). And then they were put into cattle trucks with no latrines, everyone men women and children of all ages and transported to Germany. Well I had certainly never heard that story before.
She then transfixed us all by telling us how she had then met some negroes (the norwegian word is kind of a mix of negro or nigger). The children, many of them with African background, started giggling. She said that Hitlers propaganda had told them that these people were criminal and without morals, and went round raping people. (more nervous giggling) But then she actually met these people who were extraordinarily kind to her and gave her chocolate, very rare at the time.
She walked with us on the super wet day, the rocks were treacherous. She even fell over once and the kids were trying to help. What a lovely brave old lady.
“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No meattr. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett