The blog Elusive Moose does an admirable job of providing a steady stream of news and color from the self-imposed confines of Norway’s Østfold County. Sometimes it is worth remembering that even a very local view can produce a good yarn, and that even if you seem be blogging about moose, you don’t have to. Take where I live for example – Asker.
Even ‘suburb’ sounds too urban. Even though it is just 20 minutes drive from Oslo, little Asker has more of a village feel to it, and this Saturday my newly turned 11-year-old son and I were relaxing outside a bakery café after the weekend shopping, the kind of posh, modern version of making the trek to the general store. It was 4 in the afternoon, and the café was shutting down, because the weekend hubbub of village life was winding down as well.
A young man in a T-shirt walked past us towards the door of the café, smiling slightly, and I was struck by his remarkable resemblance to Crown Prince Haakon Magnus. When a woman emerged from a dark van and walked the same way, I confess to staring wide-eyed, because she looked exactly like Crown Princess Mette-Marit, so this could be no coincidence. She gave us a friendly hello to defuse my startled look, and followed her husband inside the bakery.
I told my oblivious son what had just happened, and he took it calmly. After all, Asker schoolchildren march past the royal residence in Skaugum on Constitution Day every May 17th, and greet the crown couple before the day’s business (regal waving with the whole royal family from the palace balcony in Oslo). He sensibly observed that they were probably nipping in for their baked goods at closing time to minimize their exposure to the masses. What amused us was that they departed almost immediately – empty-handed!
There is something quintessentially Norwegian about the royal couple being sent to the door because they arrived a few minutes after closing time, and on a weekend no less. You don’t have to be a republican to put the rights of the working stiff ahead of a royal whim for pastries.
Poor Håkon Magnus is regularly jabbed in the press for his poor or absent boating safety habits after chronic mishaps, and when I returned home I found out that this trip to the bakery must have been motivated by a desire to relax with a treat after another hard day in the public focus.
The royal couple had decided, under quite some criticism from local farmers, to give up dairy activities on their farm, and either sell or slaughter their stock – a decision that was called a poor advertisement for both agriculture and the royal family.
This Saturday in fact, had been auction day, and Aftenposten reported, with an angle typical of the easy-going relationship with the monarchy here, that farmer Torstein Alm, who had won one of the cows on offer, had already decided its impending calf will be called either Mette or Mette-Marit.
And so, a day in the life of the Norwegian royal family. No sign of fussy bodyguards, no special treatment in shops, and dubious honors related by a sardonic press. Still, I bet it will be good to be king.