Scandinavian Saga

March 6, 2009 at 11:04 am 7 comments


I recently had to travel on business to Oslo in Norway. Thanks to the demise of the airline industry post 9/11 and the credit crunch, I had to fly to Oslo from Birmingham International airport, rather than from Manchester, and, via Frankfurt in Germany rather than direct. This is like travelling to Aberdeen from London via Cardiff.

The cost of this mini European tour was some £750. For this I would normally expect the personal attention of my own stewardess (and a pretty one at that) with ready access to fois gras and a drinks cabinet. But, all I got in reality on the outward leg was the offer of a sandwich and a Twix bar, which I declined, and a small, unsatisfying square of cold chicken.

Oh, and we also got to sit next to/under a German man-mountain.

I was travelling with my diminutive boss, who was rather technologically challenged when it came to checking in online (he is only European Vice President of IT after all). Consequently, he was sat in the aisle seat. I was sat in the window seat. I was, briefly, relatively comfortable due to the empty seat between us and the lack of a seat in front of me – we were by the emergency exit. Relatively comfortable that was until this huge German guy waddled down the aisle and grunted (the usual mode of communication of a German abroad), indicating that he was booked into the seat between me and my boss. This came as a surprise because there had not been a towel draped over the seat – the usual German method of reserving seats.

Now, readers of my earlier post – Letter From America– will know that the issue of fatties on board planes is an unnecessarily controversial topic. But this guy was fat. Obese. He had not seen his feet in a long, long time. I declined the advice of one fellow blogger to check whether this unseemly excess of blubber was due to a medical condition as it was clear to me that this was a lover of food and sofas in equal measure. Indeed, he may even have been partial to eating the odd sofa.

Fatty squeezed past my boss, causing the poor souls sitting in the row in front of us to adopt the crash position. He hovered over the empty middle seat, casting a large shadow over my boss and I. And, then, he lowered himself into the seat. When I say he “lowered” himself, I am describing a motion much like that of an elevator in freefall in a disaster movie having had the cable severed. Gravity did the inevitable. The arms of the seat spilled outwards and there was a groan of metal in agony as the plane sagged visibly in the middle. And, I lost all sensation in the right side of my body as it succumbed to the inevitable spillage of spare flesh and blubber over the arm of the seat. I sat for the duration of the flight with my shoulder and head pressed firmly against the wall of the plane.

I am sorry, but this has to be a health and safety issue. If we had been forced down by a bird strike or a Turkish refuelling policy, my boss and I would have been goners. There was no way that we could have summoned the inhuman strength required to extricate ourselves from the bulk of Herr Gross. The emergency exit would have been blocked and the ensuing fire would have burned for days as it consumed the fatty mass of the man sat between us.

You may be interested to know that Fatty also declined the offer of a sandwich and Twix bar. But, this was not because he was dieting. Rather it was because there was no way he would be able to lower his tray because eight of his nine bellies were in the way. Just think of Jabba the Hut and you’ll get the picture. (Ooh, I’ve just had a Princess Leia flashback moment! ;)).

Incidentally, we were somewhat thrown by the safety notice on the leg from Frankfurt to Oslo.


It seemed to suggest that if you used your iPod then a black man would use his super powers to look through the plane’s window and set fire to the wing. It also seemed to suggest that Lufthansa had a less than pc approach to racial segregation on board, suggesting that black people should exit through the side entrance rather than through the front door with the rest of us.

This made me wonder what would actually happen if someone tried to open the emergency exit at 36,000 feet. I guess the only advice would be to hold on to the Fatty sat next to you and use him as an anchor. I assure you, that baby was going nowhere?

Indeed, this whole trip failed to satisfy on any culinary level. What is it with the Scandinavian obsession with fish, and, pickled herring in particular?! You know that you are not going to get a decent steak in a nation where the local delicacy is rotting shark meat.

I did try the sandwich on the return leg. The bread was hard enough to make your jaw ache ,while the tasteless cheese was hard enough to make the bread seem soft. Which reminds me, I must book a dental appointment…….The Twix was fine.

We nearly missed our connecting flight at Frankfurt. In part this was due to the fact that I got dragged off to a small ante-room at the security check. The officious Non-English speaking security people were highly suspicious of my travelling iron and insisted on checking it for explosive residue……..fortunately they found none and removed their rubber gloves!

In any case, my boss and I were upgraded to business class for the final leg to Birmingham. We hoped that this meant a hot meal. It did not. Strangely, Lufthansa had chosen this month to celebrate all things potato. My mother-in-law would have been in her element – she is Irish and lives in Royston Vasey. Our fine fare consisted of ” sweet potato slices with tartar of smoked salmon, tricolour potato terrine, cumin potato wedges and sweet potato mouse, followed by marzipan and potato chocolate balls”. It was inedible.


I would have killed for a packet of Walker’s cheese and onion crisps!

By the way, why is it that all Scandinavian doors open outwards? In the UK and the rest of the world it is normal for doors to open inwards, with the possible exception of cubicles in the Gents where they have to cater for the possibility of a drunk bloke collapsing mid defecation – the outward opening door facilitates  access by the emergency services. Strangely, I have it on good authority that this is not the case in the ladies. Anyhow, it seems nonsensical that in a region so used to heavy snow that you would elect to have an outward opening door – surely for 9 months of the year Scandinavians would be unable to get out of their front doors? Strange. It is also, as I found, embarrassing when you are stripped for bed in your hotel room and remember that you have forgotten to put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door – if anyone is in the corridor they will get an eyeful as soon as you open the door. At least she smiled…..

Related Posts:

Letter from America


Entry filed under: flying, travel. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

“We’re Doomed!” It Makes You Think…….

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Katie  |  March 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Re: doors. US doors also open outwards (ie. into the snow). As I understand it, it’s a fire code feature, the idea being that if there’s a massive rush to get out of the building, the last thing you want is for the crowds to have to move backwards to get the door open.


  • 2. Middle Man  |  March 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Katie, thanks for that. I didn’t notice when I was in America last but I take your word for it. It still doesn’t really make sense for those snowier climates though – if there was a rush to get out you’d just have more people pushing against the snow 😉


  • 3. Peter the Pedant  |  March 10, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Presumably the Hotel bedroom door opening outwards makes it easier for any young lady entrapped by MM to escape ?


  • 4. Fatty Americans » Blog Archive » By: Middle Man  |  March 13, 2009 at 5:08 am

    […] Filed under: General Leave a Comment […]


  • 5. erik  |  March 18, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Doors in the US open in. At least the ones I’ve used.


  • 6. meetvigdis  |  March 22, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Where I live the snow doesn’t get any higher than 30 cm, and there is no problem for us to get out through. I’m not sure how they do it higher above the ground, like in Røros (“omg, I used an Ø”), but I believe the doors there actually goes inwards.


  • 7. meetvigdis  |  March 22, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Edit: scratch “get out through” and place an through the doors.
    And for those of you who didn’t know it snows a lot more in the mountains, so there it would probably get half a metre of snow, that’s why I wrote “higher above the ground”. But I’m sure you knew that, just had to be sure.



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