July 9

9 July, Norway – ‘All Over The Place – Europe, Part 2’

After a rainy day off in Oslo (actually had to don my waterproofs to make it out of the hotel!) we all boarded our bus for a 4 hour drive down South to the seaside town of Arendal. I actually grew up not too far from Arundel in Sussex. Wonder if it was founded by some rampaging vikings from here?

Norway continues to impress me with its thick woodland, craggy landscape and glassy fiords. All the buildings look great too – different colours to liven up the sky on a dull day and all relatively simple and modern looking but made out of wood. On the whole journey down I don’t think I saw a single dwelling that was at all dilapidated. They do seem to have a very enviable quality of life.

Don’t think too many people would have been envious of what Naomi and I had to do today – the Take a Chance boat race. Boat race isn’t quite the right word for it though. I don’t know what you call it really – people compete to build an interesting looking craft which is placed at the top of a 4m high ramp leading into the quay. Once it hits the water you stay inside for as long as it skims along the surface, then one of you jumps out into the (quite cold) water and swims to a bell floating on a buoy. The team that rings the bell quickest wins.

What looked like a few thousand people had turned up to line the quayside and watch, and we were interviewed by the local paper who seemed very proud that the BBC were gracing the town with its presence. We picked out the most interesting boat teams to chat to (some enthusiastic Pirates of the Caribbean and two women dressed as ice creams, sitting on a giant ice cream, were my favourites). Then we met the teams we’d been paired up with. Naomi’s boat was put together by staff at a local shoe shop and was decorated as… a shoe shop (complete with till bolted to the counter). My team all worked at the local hardware shop and had an elaborately designed boat built to look like the contents of a toolbox, with a smaller boat placed inside. The plan was to hit the water and then, as the first boat lost momentum, my 2 team mates would push me out in the smaller boat. Once that ran out of steam I would have to jump out and swim for the bell as fast as I could. It seemed like the sort of thing an over-enthusiastic 8 year old would come up with, and I wasn’t entirely convinced that the physics made sense. But then, I was always awful at physics and these guys had entered 7 times in the past and won on 5 of those occasions, so what did I know.

As is often the way with these events, the closer it came the more it began to sink in that this was a bit scary. The Pirates had the back of their boat smashed in on entry, someone else got briefly trapped in a large sinking wooden box and every team that sped down the ramp let out a slightly unnerving scream. Naomi was one of the loudest as she hurtled down before me, and her boat gained a good few metres once it hit the water before she hurled herself into the drink and made it to the bell in very good time.

Once I’d clambered up the ladder on top of the storage container that made up the ramp launchpad I was really quite nervous. I waved at the crowd with my giant inflatable plastic hammer and squatted down into my boat. Before I knew it I was thundering down the ramp and into the sea. It all happened so fast that you hardly had time to think, but I could tell we were going at rapid speed. The guys pushed me out in my raft and I couldn’t believe how close to the bell I was. With a quick stumble over the camera mounted on front I was in the water and ringing the bell buoy. It’s fair to say the crowd was going wild – we’d nearly broken the record, with a time of just under 6.5 seconds.

Naomi was so annoyed she stood at the top of the exit and blocked me from climbing out of the water, so one of my joyful team mates decided to throw her in to teach her a lesson, and before long I was back in my hotel room recovering from it all.

Oh, one last thing, our fantastic bus driver Thor discovered my blog and likes to read up on what we get up to, so HELLO THOR!

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