Thunder, Lightning and The Weeping Statue of CAFÉ MONO

If it’s been weeks since I last blogged, that’s because I’ve been ill for what seems like an eternity and suffering from severe brain fag. The last time I wrote I closed by saying I’d report on the gig I did in Oslo in September with fellow writers Patricia Foster and Dzifa Benson, so here, at last, are some of the edited highlights.

The three of us were a tad nervous arriving in Oslo on September 18th, only because arrangements had been very last minute, and we had no idea if/when we were being met, where we’d be staying or when our gig was. All we knew was that we’d been booked to re-start the poetry programme of the Café Mono, one of Oslo’s leading music hang-outs, and that Norway had a reputation for being one of the most expensive places on the planet. We’d originally been invited by Oystein Wingaard Wolff, a Norwegian poet of some reputation, who seemed to know everyone in Scandinavia, and whom I’d hosted more than once when I ran Angel Poetry (the companion gig to Loose Muse, which ran until late 2009). But we didn’t have to worry – the very agreeable young manager of the Mono, Harald Christian (or HC as he preferred to be called) had come to collect us and drive us to our hotel. Phew….we wouldn’t have to sleep on the airport floor for the next couple of nights after all!

Dzifa Benson, Patricia Foster and me, Agnes Meadows.

As we drove towards Oslo, the sky darkened and pretty soon we were engulfed in a rain storm of such epic proportions it threatened to wash us off the motorway and into the pine forests stretching endlessly in every direction all around. Several brutal thunder-claps and forked lightening bolts convinced me that the Norse Gods up in Valhalla were greeting us, and telling us to behave ourselves. But as quickly as it had appeared, the storm faded, and we arrived at the Golden Lion Hotel in blazing sunlight.

A quick change of clothes, and the delightful HC took us to Café Mono in the heart of Oslo, to meet up with Oystein and eat what was probably the most expensive lentil burger (Patricia’s a vegan) in the world… delicious though, so I’m not really complaining. Café Mono is an interesting place with a well-thumbed look to it; several dimly lit rooms around a central bar and performance space, with a café and restaurant attached, all of which were heaving with tall young men and women who looked as if they’d just come back from a week in the woods hunting elk. The music was typically melancholic in the Norwegian way. When we asked the DJ if he had anything livelier he looked as if we’d just said a very rude word, shrugging forlorn shoulders with a crisp ‘No’. But we were treated like superstars, and everyone was unfailingly generous and enthusiastic. And they all – and I mean ALL – spoke flawless English, much better than many native-born English, which is a bit of a disgrace really. We’d be performing the next night, so spent the rest of the evening drinking, being generally raucous, and having a very good time indeed (though I don’t know how anyone can afford to tie one on in Norway given the price of drinks…thank you HC for buying us drinks all night…can I marry you?!)

The next day Oystein introduced us to several Norwegian publishers, where we exchanged ideas about poetry and work in translation and explored the possibility of getting some of our work published in Norway. We also had the chance to have a brief look at Oslo. Now I’ve had a life-long love affair with the Mediterranean – cross the Channel and turn right has always been my motto – but I totally fell in love with Oslo; small, clean and perfectly formed, it really is a great place to hang out, and we all wished we could come back to take a closer look at it.

Out and about in Oslo with Oystein and Dzifa.

Can’t remember his name but apparently, he was the founding king of Norway.

And then it was evening, and we were back at the Mono for our gig. Although it’s primarily a music venue, the Mono had a well-attended monthly poetry night until a couple of years ago when the guy who ran it became a dad, parenting winning over poetry, so the night stopped. We were there to kick start it again, and had a lively and appreciative audience who greeted each of us with warm applause. Dzifa and Patricia both wowed the audience with a range of their most powerful and popular pieces, and I was last to go on. And yes, I did read the ‘Shoes’ poem (how could I not?!), which was as much appreciated in Oslo as anywhere else I’ve read it. And I must have been doing something right because I sold every one of the books and CD’s I’d brought with me. Yes… I LOVED Oslo.

Post-performance cuddle with Oystein.

As we were settling in for another good night’s drinking and mayhem, the irrepressible HC said he had something to show us….the famous ‘weeping statue’ inside Mono’s other café across the road. So we all traipsed there to see this statue, the head of a local artist, inside a glass case. The instructions were to step close but not to look into the statue’s deep-set eyes…which meant of course that’s precisely what everyone did. Poor Patricia was the guinea pig, and got well and truly caught. She peered into the glass case, closer and closer….when sudden fierce jets of water shot out of the two eye holes and frightened the living daylights out of her…I swear she lifted two feet off the ground in surprise, and we nearly all wet ourselves we laughed so hard. I’ll post the video in future blog post. It’s hilarious!

And then it was time for us to go home. HC got up at the crack of dawn to drive us to the airport. Leaving him behind was a real wrench, as we’d all grown incredibly fond of him, insisting he must come to London to visit so we could repay some of generous hospitality he’d shown us. And hopefully in the Spring we might get invited back to read at the Mono again…I honestly cannot wait. Really, if you’re wanting somewhere fabulous to go for a weekend break, I’d totally recommend Oslo, and especially the Café Mono. But do take plenty of cash…you’ll need it.

The lovely HC outside our hotel.

And if you want to hear about Patricia’s freak out with the weeping statue first hand, she’s one of Loose Muse’s feature on November 14th, alongside Natasha Morgan. So why not come along and check it out – Poetry Café, 8.00 p.m. £5/£3 concessions. It promises to be another fabulous night out, with just a hint of Norway about it. Love, Agnes

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Comments

  1. Sounds a fab gig, Agnes (and that’s not just because there were men there who looked as though they’ve been hunting elk all weekend!).

  2. Sounds like a great gig, Agnes (and not just because some of the men looked like they’d been hunting elk all weekend!)

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