Friday, 23 February 2007
Alex Horne - 23rd February 2007
There is a small Norwegian community built around a church in Canada Water famed for its herring, waffle and brown cheese that I was looking forward to visiting at some point during the year. Before we got round to making this tasty pilgrimage, however, we were contacted independently by another of Norway’s imports who’d happened upon our project while visiting her own place of worship, myspace.
Ida Bondo (there’s an accent on the final ‘o’, but I can’t work out how to do it on my keyboard. Just imagine it’s been crossed out neatly, as if some killjoy had seen the comparatively fun ‘Bondo’ and thought ‘no, that really should be Bond, sorry’) came to England three years ago to study print journalism in Southampton. So basically she’s much more qualified to take on a project like us than Owen or I.
After she’d completed the course she moved to London with her English boyfriend (whose Dad’s main joke is to ask if people in Norway are particularly ‘hard of herring’ – that’s a good English Dad for you) and I met her for a coffee in the BBC where she’d recently surprised herself by snagging a job in development.
‘Ask me something exciting!’ she said as soon as we’d sat down in the canteen and I immediately stopped trying to spot famous people off the telly and tried to think of my most exhilarating question.
‘Do you have any hobbies’, I tried – not outstanding, I admit, but somehow hitting the jackpot. ‘Well, I go to a lot of burlesque parties’, she replied. ‘Yes of course you do’, I said, doing my best to take this news in my stride but almost certainly blushing, despite the fact that I didn’t really know what a burlesque party was. I thought it probably had something to do with basques or brasieres or something equally brazen so blushing was really the only option.
‘It’s essentially classy pole dancing’, Ida explained helpfully. ‘Singing, stripping, magic – old fashioned entertainment. Being a journalist I managed to blag some V.I.P. tickets to some parties on myspace and I loved it’. I know it’s a little pathetic to get embarrassed about this sort of thing but I’m English so I tried to focus on the magic and singing bit and just about managed to regain my composure. ‘So what do you do at these parties?’
‘Oh, I’m still creating my performer at the moment’, she said mysteriously, adding ‘but I’m not going to get my kit off’ to immediately lessen the mystery (and demonstrate yet more terrific colloquial English, perfected, she explained, by the subtitles used on English language programmes as opposed to dubbing).
‘I’d never have got into the whole burlesque scene if I hadn’t lived in East London’, she continued, explaining that she’d initially lived in ‘dull’ Ealing before falling in love with Hackney. ‘There’s a burlesque festival later this year if you fancy it?’ ‘Well…erm…’, I spluttered. ‘Will there be many other people from overseas’. She shook her head, ‘no, mainly English actually’. ‘Oh well’, I sighed, ‘I think I should really spend most of my time looking for foreigners. Yeah, it’s unfortunate but you know what work’s like…’ Phew.
Burlesque is something of an escape for Ida, who otherwise feels stifled by London life. She’s always lived by the sea and found her city existence ‘horrible’ at first. ‘So whereabouts in Norway are you from?’ I asked (again, not a particularly stirring enquiry but another amazing answer from Ida). ‘Well, my family own seventy two islands in a place called Rorvik Vikna, Nord Trondelag (ignore most of the ‘o’s bviously). ‘They actually live on the mainland but we all go to the islands in the summer. It’s fantastic. Cold seas but warm land. There’s no electricity or running water, just fish, ducks and geese. If you don’t kill, you don’t eat’. It sounds terrifying. She brought a couple of her English friends their once. They bravely jumped into the sea but turned blue and Ida had to fish them out.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, she’s not planning to stay in London that much longer. Even burlesque parties can’t make up for the blatant lack of seagull eggs, skiing and swimming with ice that she’s used to.
‘So, what next?’ I asked (why change a winning formula?). ‘I’m planning to go travelling for five or ten years’, she said breathlessly, and I agreed that if you’re going on a long journey it should definitely either be for five or ten years. ‘I want to travel the world and work as a journalist or write childrens books. I can’t do it here – London drains the creativity out of you’ (not good news for this particular creative exercise, I thought). ‘I’d love to go to Cuba at some point but I’m open to suggestions…’
‘Aha’, I said, at last seeing an opportunity to speak with some authority. ‘If you’re looking for somewhere unusual to visit, you could always try Georgia, or even Cape Verde…’ Well, I’ll probably never brave the world of burlesque or dive into the sub zero temperatures of the Nordic seas, but I can at least live vicariously through the people I meet doing this.