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Monday 8th September 2003

I hadnÂ’t really prepared myself for the fact I was going to Norway today, so the whole experience of being here (especially given the reasons why I am here) is slightly surreal.
Jan and Kjetil, the producers of the Norwegian Talking Cock or Pikk Priek (literally “Prick Gossip” though apparently it very nearly also means “Bull-shit” which might be something they regret when the reviews come out) took me and Alison (who works for Avalon and is accompanying me on my adventure) out for dinner.
The Norwegian men seemed worried by early ticket sales (they should have seen how bad it was in Carlisle. Perhaps it just gets worse the further north you go), but pleased with the amount of press and TV they had been getting. TheyÂ’ve invited all OsloÂ’s in-crowd to the first night, but some are seemingly reluctant to be there. ItÂ’s all causing quite a stir and Jan noted that whilst many of them were available to come to one of the warm ups or the Wednesday show, they are strangely all unavailable on Tuesday. They donÂ’t want to have their photos in the paper in case it turns out to be a controversial flop. Success apparently depends on the reviews.
The actor being me is called Nils Ole Oftebro and heÂ’s pretty famous here in Norway. HeÂ’s a classical actor and performs a lot of Ibsen plays. This might be quite a leap for him. I am after all a much better writer than Ibsen. Well, my knob gags are better.
The restaurant was practically empty, although we were eating late, though the streets had also been quite deserted. Monday night in Oslo is not a big party night (and with the price of booze here one can begin to see why). But about half way through our meal, an old man in young manÂ’s clothing and a young woman in young womanÂ’s clothing came in and sat at the table next to us.
Jan and Kjetil were very excited by his arrival. They talked to him animatedly for some time in Norwegian. Alison and me sat quietly, unable to understand. The attractive young woman also sat quietly. Presumably she understood, but had nothing to offer on whatever subject they were discussing.
The man was probably in his sixties, but had orange skin and trendy sunglasses and what probably passes for a fashionable hair cut in Scandanavia (if you are an old man who thinks he is in touch, but is slightly out of touch). As they were sitting above us I could also see that he was wearing a pair of white moccasins. Charitably I assumed that his young companion might be his daughter, or more likely his grand-daughter, but when his moccasinned foot began brushing against her leg I was forced to reconsider (unless this was a way of showing parental affection in Norway. Or possibly just a means of keeping each other warm through the harsh winters).
Eventually our hosts stopped talking in the bizarre private language that they all seem to speak over here (yes, it is their language, not ours that is bizarre. Anything that is unlike what I am used to is strange and amusing. Wait, but then all that is normal to me must be strange and amusing to a Norwegian. Perhaps it is us, not they that are the strange onesÂ…Â… No, itÂ’s the Norwegians who are weird. Listen to them talk, itÂ’s all gobbledegook. Phew, for a second it seemed that all I believed to be normal and right might collapse in on itself). Jan told us that the wrinkled old man with orange skin is the most famous singer in Norway, that heÂ’s been going since the sixties and they later confided that he is also infamous for going out with ever younger women (so that wasnÂ’t his grand-daughter after all. I would never have thought it!).
It struck me how weird the nature of celebrity is. Anywhere else in the world that fella would be a slightly unusual looking man who people would only look twice at to confirm that he really was wearing white moccasins, but in Norway he is a huge star, able to date gorgeous women who are approximately twice his height and a quarter of his age. Similarly in Norway I am able to walk the street unrecognised and unmolested, but back home in the UK I am only able to do that because people are too cool to make a big fuss of me. IÂ’m sure thatÂ’s why I remain unmolested anywhere in the country. Especially Carlisle. They are really cool about my fame there and I really appreciate their efforts to make me feel just like an ordinary bloke. Thanks very much you Cumbrians. (I think my mistake was maybe to upset the very important pencil manufacturers of Cumbria. Apparently four out of five Cumbrians make their living from pencils and pencil related products-not erasers- and they are furious with me for making out that their pencil museum is rubbish.)
The singer made little effort to engage with me, possibly because he was keen to spend some time with his grand-daughter, maybe because he couldn’t speak English, or perhaps because he knew that to me he meant nothing. Just like the realisation that the different customs of a foreign country will ultimately challenge your faith in the things you take for granted as being “normal” in your own, once you see that the celebrities of another country are just some strange looking people, then it strikes you that maybe that’s true of the celebrities that you hold dear and that get treated as if they are more important or interesting than anyone else.
Obviously it’s in this old man’s interest to keep things as they are (and to be honest if I’d have been willing to sell one of my livers if it meant I could have been having dinner with the woman he was with, even though she didn’t seem to be a great conversationalist- incidentally, don’t write and say that I only have one liver. I have a vast collection at home in my freezer. And I cut them out, so technically they are mine). But one week I’d quite like to swap all the Hello magazines from Norway with all the Hello magazines from the UK and see it will make the readers say, “Hold on, seeing these pictures of people with odd hair and moccasins that I’m unfamiliar with, has made me realise the essential worthlessness of my all-consuming interest in the lives of other people, who have nothing more going for them than the fact that I once saw them on a television. From now on I will eschew all celebrities and instead take more of an interest in the lives of myself, my family and maybe that lonely old lady next door. After all we are all of equal worth!”
It might work.
Jan asked the leathery man whether he was coming to the first night of Pikk Priek. With innocent eyes, he claimed that he hadnÂ’t received his invitation. So some things remain constant in the world of celebrity, whatever the country. ThatÂ’s bullshit in any language.
As we left he said “Maybe see you tomorrow.” But he sounded about as genuine as his skin tone.

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