Gamle Oslo

I’m sitting at Oslo Mekaniske Verksted’s as I write this. Oslo Mek is in Grønland, which is in the bydel Gamle Oslo. I’m part of a writing group that has semi-regular meetups there. We meet, we buy coffee/tea/beer. We talk about what our writing goals are for the day and then we sit in silence and write for 45 minutes. Then we take a break, sometimes we share, sometimes we ask for feedback. If we’re not too tired we go for another 45 minutes. I often see other groups at Oslo Mek: friends that are meeting up for coffee, there’s a group of knitters that I see regularly, there are other more official looking business meetings (but some kind of artsy business)… It’s a cool space and the drinks are good. They don’t serve food, but allow you to bring in your own. The couches are comfortable. There are plenty of outlets to plug in a laptop or phone. The walls are lined with old maps and botanical drawings.

 In case you need to know how to cut up
a side of pork while you’re studying…

There are shelves and shelves of books and also board games. At one point it was possible to find my poetry book, but I haven’t seen it for a long time. I can only hope that someone stole it.

Grønland is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Oslo. Here was the first place that I found I shop where I can buy food that I can actually afford and that remind me of “home” (which is a wide-ranging concept). When I’m missing the Mexican food/Tex-Mex I grew up with in the states I can find affordable avocadoes and the right kind of chili peppers. When I think of my Caribbean grandparents and long for the British-Caribbean sustenance I learned to cook in my young adulthood, I can find all of the root vegetables I need for “Sat’day soup”. (Saturday soup is a concept that exists in British-Caribbean communities, but not in the Caribbean as far as I can tell.) I even found ackee! (Ackee and saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica.) Lately, I have found other shops that have the same type of imported produce. The other locations are less busy and crowded.

Foreign food to warm foreign hearts.

Also in Grønland there is plenty of culture. Cafeteatret/Nordic Black Teater reminded me of the theatre that I worked at in the UK. I felt at home there right from the start. I don’t get there as often as I like but I LOVE their regular poetry open mic events. I discovered Oslo Mekaniske Verksted for the first time, back when I was a volunteer at Fortellerfestivalen (The Storytelling Festival). They have some of their events at Dramatikkens hus and the bar is right next door (actually, they share a garden, but I understand they are not under the same management).

I have seen the words “Skatt Øst” in spray paint on walls in different parts of the city. I found this strange. Usually graffiti is reserved for the artist’s tag or cuss words, right?

Grafitti found at Løren, bydel Grünerløkka.

So the first time I had to go to the tax office to register it was odd that I had seen the words on their signage before, but in spray paint. Also at the tax office there is a window display of bureaucracy through the decades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Window displays at Skatt Øst.

I’ve been to Kampen a couple times also. Once was for the Christmas concert of my friend’s choir who rehearse weekly at Kampen Skole. The other occasion was for a book launch which was held at Lille Kampen which has arguably the smallest stage in the city. Lille Kampen has good food and a lovely ambience.

I have come to the realisation that I am obsessed with Tøyen. If you read my first blog post you will know that I addressed the debate in regards to which bydel Tøyen belongs to. The conclusion is that part of it is in Grünerløkka and the other part is Gamle Oslo. Tøyen is currently undergoing a lot of changes. The Tøyen torg has had a revamp of late. I ate a ridiculously fancy meal at a café by day, come swanky restaurant by night a couple weeks ago. In the same area there is a fairly new library which is specifically targeted to children and young people.

My second poem is also inspired by an experience I had in Tøyen, but the other bit, the Gamle Oslo bit. In it I talk with affection about people who sew. My great-grandfather was a tailor. I come from a long line of people who can sew well. There have been several home businesses related to dressmaking and two of my cousins are currently working in the fashion industry. I cannot sew. I own a sewing machine and I am starting to get better. Through my work with oslo soup I became acquainted with Made in Tøyen and attended one of their sewing classes.

Made in Tøyen.

Their new home is at Aktivitetshuset K1 which will have it’s opening week Monday 6 – Saturday 11, March.


Because we will be holding our next oslo soup event there I got to have a preview of the space, but I’ve already decided that the heart of Gamle Oslo is here. For me the heart of Gamle Oslo is specifically with the Made in Tøyen ladies.

Hva syr dere?

Hva sier dere?
Hva ser dere?
Hva syr dere?
Vi sier «Vær så god».
Vi ser alle farger.
Vi syr sammen en verden som er revet i mange stykker.

Hva sier dere?
Hva ser dere?
Hva syr dere?
Vi sier «Takk». «Takk for oss». «Takk for maten». «Takk for i dag». «Takk for nå». «Takk for alt».
Vi ser på kunst og vanlig hverdagsskjønnhet.
Vi syr duker, praktiske og vakre ting.

Hva sier dere?
Hva ser dere?
Hva syr dere?
Vi sier ingenting, noen ganger bare smiler vi og ler sammen.
Vi ser ting som ikke har form. Kjærlighet og familiefølelse.
Vi syr lappetepper, det er et gruppearbeid.

Hva sier dere?
Hva ser dere?
Hva syr dere?
Vi sier «Gratulerer med dagen».
Vi ser overgangsriter.
Vi syr kjoler til bryllupsdager og navneseremonier og bursdagsfester.

Hva sier dere?
Hva ser dere?
Hva syr dere?
Vi sier «Unnskyld».
Vi ser private øyeblikk.
Vi syr gardiner. (Vi hater å sy gardiner, de bruker så mye stoff, men vi syr dem. Vi har tusenvis av vinduer mellom oss.)

Hva sier dere?
Hva ser dere?
Hva syr dere?
Vi sier «Ja vi elsker».
Vi ser barnetoget på Syttende Mai.
Vi syr nye flagg til nye land. Land som er en blanding: Gamle og nye.

Hva sier dere?
Hva ser dere?
Hva syr dere?
Vi sier «Fremtiden er nå».
Vi ser sirkler.
Vi syr sammen fortid og nåtid med tradisjonelle og moderne metoder.

 

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Throughout 2017 poet and blogger Leeanne Stoddart will travel around Oslo searching for the heart of each borough. She will write blogs, take photos, and write poetry from each place she visits. You can trace the journey here, and follow @hverbydelharethjerte on Instagram. The blog posts will be in English, whilst the poetry is in Norwegian.