Thursday, 19 January 2017

Snow globe

In London this Christmas I picked up a snow globe of the London Eye as a present for my son's friend. It has the millennium eye in it, at least a crude representation of it daubed in primary colours. A little world encapsulated and portable, where we can change the weather at will. In some globes it is snowing, in others it is even glittering. The snow globe is tacky and ubiquitous, you can find even cities pretty much devoid of snow, like Dubai and Bangkok in them. Yet take one in your hands and you suspend disbelief just as the liquid-air suspends fake snow and it feels personal, magical.

Arriving at Oslo which we visited at New Year, there was no snow at first, disappointingly for the kids. We visited a ski centre high in the mountains around Oslo where a machine was pumping out fake snow, creating its own snow-globe world for sports enthusiasts. While my husband and younger son went skiing, I queued a long time for an expensive pizza with my pre-teen son who had opted out of skiing. Everything I did seemed to cause him embarrassment. When I asked two Norwegian lads if we could share their table in the crowded lodge, it was as if I had taken off my clothes and danced on the table tops, he was so mortified. Admittedly, I felt out of place amongst sports enthusiasts and I was not sure if I was breaking any unspoken rules of Norwegian social etiquette just by being me. My son's preteen embarrassment aside, I admit an urge to shake things up when I feel the pressure of conformity upon me, and my son's mood added to that. The jazzy chaos of flakes is the answer to stasis in the snow globe.

I felt more at ease in the Vulkan district of Oslo, a former industrial area we visited along the river Akerselva. It is a newer development in Oslo with innovative and sustainable architecture built on the idea of sharing resources, amenities and equipment amongst its residents. These include schools, cultural centres, offices and food-halls. Alongside green initiatives like car-sharing, it also two urban bee-hives designed by the Snøhetta, the firm of architects responsible for the Oslo Opera House. Over the bridge from this area, my eye was caught by a former wheat elevator, now student accommodation and an intriguing playground, with its vertical poles like pick-up-sticks.

I didn't see any snow globes on my visit to Oslo. Perhaps with snow being so commonplace, it is the last thing that needs to be conjured. In my photos I pictured an alternative snow-globe, one with glowing colours to see off the winter gloom, set against the night sky, peaceful but not still, with a layer of crisp snow on the ground. Stirring, but not shaken.


  1. I like the second photo best with the red and yellow light.

    1. Thanks Joe, that is the converted wheat elevator. Sky looks quite eerie in this one.