North Sea Ferry Journeys

During my expedition to Bergen, I crossed the North Sea several times on Colour Line's ferry service, which used to run between Newcastle (in north east England) and Bergen (on the west coast of Norway), with a stop at Stavanger (further south on Norway's west coast) on the way. The ferry was used by a fair amount of road freight and quite a lot of students from Bergen – the savings they could make in a shopping spree in Newcastle were enough to make the ferry ticket seem cheap and the ship's beer was cheap by Norwegian standards. The journey took a bit over a day, allowing for travellers to party the night away, sleep off the results and have a hearty breakfast before arriving.

The Ferry had plenty of shops (all duty-free, of course) and various restaurants and bars. The main bar was on an upper deck, with large windows showing the sea (and the horizon: a good thing to watch to avoid sea-sickness). It had a sizeable dance-floor overlooked by a stage on which a band would typically play. Naturally, I danced a fair bit each evening I travelled this way; I also mingled with the strangers and had some interesting times.

On one crossing, I sat with a group of students from Bergen chatting round a table. Another (to them as much as me) stranger joined the group and was rather obviously interested in the pretty young women among them. He managed to sit between two and failed to respect their boundaries, rather flagrantly and to their evident discomfort. When next he went to get a drink, I talked to the students about this and we rearrangee our seating to leave him, on his return, isolated from the women. When he got back, he feigned stumbling so as to fall onto them; at which I got up, stepped to him, picked him up and turned him around to face away from the group. He was quite furious, complaining at this treatment: a faced him and calmly explained that his behaviour was disrespectful to the students. There was a moment when it seemed possible he would be so rash as to hit me. Over his shoulder, I noticed a group of British squaddies at a table was paying rather close attention to events. He stormed off to find the purser and complain at my manhandling of him. When the purser came over, I explained what had happened and the students confirmed my account; the purser told the fool to go away and leave us alone. After that the party resumed more pleasant discourse. Later, I met one of the squaddies at the bar: he shook my hand and commended my action, mentioning also that he and the lads were on the point of getting up to come to my assistance. I am heartily glad they restrained themselves.

I generally danced, in so far as I could get over my self-consciousness at folk watching me. On one crossing, in a moderately vigorous storm, all the other passengers were either sitting down or, when moving, holding onto furniture; the band played all the same, sitting to do so. This meant I had music and a dance-floor all to myself. The fact that the deck was seldom in the same place by the time I landed on it was just one more challenge in which to delight. I have seldom had as much fun dancing.

Sadly, by the time I moved to Oslo (seven years later), this ferry service had bene discontinued – I might, otherwise, take the train to Bergen or Stavanger in order to catch it rather than fly when I visit England. The ferries I'm able to find out about across The North Sea, however, are less practical than that.

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