Dancing in the lift – my first night in Oslo 1975

19/07/2014 by Christopher Buxton

The hottest summer in years – and I spend it in specialist shops buying padded anoraks, sweaters, thermal underwear and mountain boots. I’ve signed a contract with the Norwegian ministry of Education to work in a village school for at least a year– and I can’t find the place on any map. Never mind, I pack my St Edmund’s school trunk and heavy duty grip and make my way to Newcastle Docks to meet up with 6 fellow contractees, similarly luggaged up. We’re all bound for different parts of Norway but we have a week’s survival induction in Oslo via ferry to Bergen and spectacular train journey. So two days later, we haul our bags and trunks off the train at Oslo railway station, load up various taxis and arrive at our designated hotel.
The hotel occupies the third, fourth and fifth floors of a modern block. With much sweat and muscle strain we fill the lift with our luggage – there’s space for two of us and the rest take the stairs. The lift is doorless, so we watch the wall slide past as we keep the luggage pile from toppling over. At the third floor, I stay by the lift while my colleagues sort out our rooms. No problem so in a few minutes my colleague and I are back in the lift. He presses the fifth floor button, but the lift obeys a previous summons and descends to the ground floor where baffled folk have been waiting for the last ten minutes. They open the door to see the compartment filled with two sweating men holding on to tottering piles of luggage. They close the door and the lift lurches upwards. We reach the fifth floor to find that the outer door cannot be opened. We later understand the hotel has a problem with absconding guests. We press 3 to return to reception. Inevitably our journey takes past the ground floor where the same folk are becoming understandably restless. Back on the reception floor, my colleague gives way to the concierge who carries an impressive bunch of keys. We make our way to the fifth floor, again via the ground floor. At least the concierge’s considerable bulk offers some protection from the hot volley of complaints. The lift is now making alarming groaning noises as we ris to the fifth floor. The concierge finds the right key and inserts it, but before he is able to turn it, the lift shudders and begins to descend again, leaving his ring of keys to dangle precariously over the lift shaft. The concierge now performs dance of fury – quite impressive given his size and the lack of space. And I get my first lesson in Norwegian swearing.