First Quarter/Right to Access

A double-entry.  Part one, the blog at the one-quarter mark.  Part two, Norway’s “right to access” law and swimming.

Fifty two weeks, divided by two, equals twenty six, the same number as miles in a marathon.  In that case, we’re just past the 10k mark, a good place to reflect on things.

I’m enjoying blogging and have a fairly lengthy list of topics I look forward to writing about over the next 10k.  And thanks to referrals from regulars I suspect, the number of readers continues to tick upwards.  Life is simpler in Norway, so I’ve had more time than normal to commit to the weekly post; as a result, as you may have noticed, they’ve increased in length.  They’ll probably shrink later in the year when I’m more pressed for time.

A lot of widely read bloggers suggest churning out lots of relatively short, imperfectly edited entries.  In contrast, I typically complete a post 4-6 days ahead of time and then spend 5-15 minutes a day editing it before posting it Sunday night or Monday morning.  Also, as you’ll notice, I don’t list the blogs I most enjoy, some of them written by friends who have recommended my blog to their readers.  I could add them, but I don’t know, it’s an eclectic list and I guess I wonder if just because I like a particular blog, you would too. 

A small proportion of readers choose to post comments, which I understand.  Unsurprisingly I suppose, younger readers account for a disproportionate share of the comments.  Apart from the occasional comments, I have no way of knowing what’s most important to me, the degree to which posts stimulate individual reader’s thinking and spark conversations.

Seems to me there are two distinct ways musicians, actors, writers, or other types of artists—build an audience.  The first is to ignore conventional wisdom, pursue your muse wherever it takes you, develop a truly distinctive sound, voice, perspective, or look, and hope people respond.  A second approach is to continually tweak one’s sound, voice, perspective, or look based upon whatever the artist perceives the majority of people want to hear, read, and see.  In the most extreme form, market analysis or focus group-based art.

In our consumerist society, the first approach is the path less taken.  (Imagine Frost market testing different stanzas within his classic poem!)  The first approach brings Dylan to mind.  When he picked up an electric guitar for the first time, and many of his most faithful followers were livid, he ignored them.  Granted, he already had some commercial success, but ironically, his decision to experiment and pursue his music wherever it took him moved more and more people and his audience continued to grow as he evolved. 

My preference is to split the difference.  I’d like to improve the blog, so I’d appreciate it if you’d shoot me an email or post a comment about which subcategories you are most enjoying reading/thinking about?  Also, what do you think about post length, too short, just right, too long?  Dig the new font?  Thanks in advance for any other feedback you might provide as well.  If you don’t have my email, consider posting a comment at the end of this entry. Also, I could definitely use some business/technical assistance if anyone wants to volunteer their expertise.  For all intents and purposes, I’m clueless on both accounts.  I could use guidance on a host of things including: the best way to copyright my work, website-design improvements or enhancements, and suggestions for building the readership.

Part two.  A few weeks ago I realized one of my deepest held dreams, but before I reveal it, I have to get something of my chest.

Norway has a unique “right of access” law that is explained on the State of Environment Norway website as follows:

[Everyone in Norway has a right of access to and passage through uncultivated land in the countryside, regardless of who owns it. This is of course of fundamental importance for traditional types of outdoor activities. It gives everyone the right to walk in the mountains and forests, go skiing in winter, and cycle, toboggan and ride on paths and tracks.

The right of access to uncultivated land is set out in the Outdoor Recreation Act, and is based on respect for the environment, landowners and other users. The right of free access and passage applies to uncultivated land, but also to cultivated land when it is frozen and snow-covered. It also includes farmyards, plots around houses and cabins, and industrial areas. The right of access does not apply if you are using a motor vehicle.

On uncultivated land, you may go anywhere you like on foot or on skis and picnic wherever you want. You may also put up a tent for the night – or sleep under the stars – but you must keep at least 150 m away from the nearest house or cabin. If you want to stay for more than two nights in the same place, you must ask the landowner’s permission, except in the mountains or very remote areas.

The right of access also involves responsibilities. You must show consideration and care, so that you do not cause any damage or inconvenience to the landowner or other users. You must also respect the countryside: make sure you take everything with you, including your rubbish, and never leave an unsightly campsite behind you.]

How progressive and enlightened right?  Well not if people exercise their “right to access” while you’re TRYING to get in a good swim workout like I just was at the Ankerskogen 50 meter pool.  The fish among my readers know well what it’s like to begin entering into a nice lap-swimming grove only to find Clueless Swimmer heading straight at them.  Why?  Because CS is the only person who starts in the deep end without bothering to ask if they can “split the lane.”  Instead, they’re intent on splitting your head.  Meanwhile, who knows what Clueless Lifeguard is thinking.  This might happen a couple of times a year.  In Norway, multiple those odds by say, 100%, and you begin to approach the likelihood of swimmers exercising their right of access in your lane.  A few weeks ago when I swam at Ankerskogen, it was nearly empty, but that didn’t stop a mom and child from choosing my lane to play in.  You have to be kidding me, there’s an entire OLYMPIC-SIZED pool for you two to practice your somersaults.  I wrote it off as an anomaly, but that was naïve. 

Today was classic.  Norway is the land of the slow breaststroker (insert joke), which I can deal with.  Slow Breaststroker got in MY lane, but I was able to swim around her fairly easily.  That is until SB’s Man Friend joined her and they proceeded to do slow-mo breaststroke side-by-side 5-10 meters in front of me as I was about to begin an interval!  Did they expect me to swim under them?  What did I ever do to them?  I switched lanes and shortly afterwards noticed that the Tandom Breastrokers tired about two-thirds of the way into the lap and decided to recover on the lane lines with their legs straight out in effect shutting down the entire lane.

Just appreciate the cross-cultural differences my arse, that is just wrong.  The only good news in the TB’s universal breach of lap swimming etiquette is that they did the same thing to another lap swimmer a little later.  Until then, I thought they somehow intuited that I was a US citizen, and were taking out their anger over the Iraq War and American imperialism and hegemony more generally on me.

A little later, poof out of nowhere, a few kids appeared right in front of me in MY lane.  I pulled up as if swimming into something in open water only to see the proud parents beaming from the deck.  “Way to exercise your ‘right to access’ kids!” 

Let’s revisit the wording of the law shall we: On uncultivated land, you may go anywhere you like on foot or on skis and picnic wherever you want.  Nowhere does it say, in a public pool, you may do slo-mo tandom breaststroke whenever and wherever you feel like it.  Nor does it say you may play in the one damn lap lane that someone’s working out in.

Okay, I feel better.  Can you tell I’ve entered a new phase of cultural adaptation, one where I’m less likely to romanticize cultural differences and I’m more cognizant of contradictions, imperfections, and complexities?

But fortunately, the news is not entirely downbeat on the swimming front.  As mentioned, one of my long held dreams was surprisingly fulfilled recently . . . if only temporarily.  I’ve always thought it would be way cool to have access to a lap pool that I could swim in whenever I’d like.  No time restrictions, no Biannual Pool Guy swimming next to me every third fifty, no Clueless Swimmer heading straight for me, no Tandem Breaststrokers blocking my path, no lifeguards to tell me I can’t run on the deck or see how far I can spit water in the shower.  Turns out, Hedmark College University, my current base, has a pool that’s occasionally used by students.  Recently, I received an invite to swim with a couple of faculty on Tuesday at 7:45a.m.  They were great, both about 60 years old.  One said, “We are two boys, and we swim, oh about 500-600 meters and then sit in the sauna.”  I was invited to join the boys in the sauna, but opted to swim a bit more than 500-600 meters.  We three boys had the pool and fitness center to ourselves.  And I’m happy to report neither of them breaststroked into my lane.  It’s a decent, five-lane wide pool, but quite short at 16.67 meters.  Lord knows I need work on my flip turns, plus, the price is right.

As I dressed after that first swim, I started to connect the dots.  I have a key card to the building and locker room.  So don’t tell anyone, but I’ve started going solo.  Not as good a workout as normal since everything is broken up with all the pushing off.  I can tell I “recover” a bit with every one to two second push off.  But beggars can’t be choosers, and in my opinion, solitude and swimming are the perfect way to start the day.  When do I want to swim next?  The mind whirls. 

5 thoughts on “First Quarter/Right to Access

  1. When I lived in Munich and swam regularly at the Nordbad, I was told by the lifeguard not to swim freestyle because the splashing of my arms upset the old ladies swimming breastroke with their heads out of the water! Also, even with my hairstyle similar to yours, I was told that I must swim with a cap—rules are rules. Have fun!

  2. Ron,
    In response to the 10k mark, I think the blog is great! It’s smart and funny, and makes my Monday brighter. But I do not like the new font. I’m pretty partial to serifs.

  3. Ron,
    Love the blog…especially the entries about family and living abroad. Also loved the response from Dean as we live literally around the corner from the Nordbad in Munich and swimming there apparently hasn’t changed much although I don’t think swim caps are required.

  4. I haven’t been around your blog for several months so I’m probably still around a 5K but I’m trying to catch up. Regarding the swimming in your lane thing. . . while I’m not “abroad” the east coast still seems like a different world at times. For example, the “property manager” (aka hire illegal workers to come at off hours so you can exploit them to the fullest) seems to think that women are a week sub-species that should be kept in their place – or to jive with your blog – shouldn’t have their own lane. On several occasions I have found myself coming head on with a man who believes that “right of access” means that he can come over, unannounced, and expect you to drop everything while he explains to you that you are an idiot. The latest incident involves me on the telephone with the credit car fraud department who is explaining to me that there has been an unauthorized purchase for over $1000.00 on our credit card in Minnesota and that I need to close my account immediately while my husband is two days into his 2 week international trip starting in Turkey. It was at that precise moment that “property manager” decided to swim directly at me with no intention of stopping. Luckily for “property manager” my mother was in town and was able to run interference before I could give “PM” and verbal kick in the arse. He proceeded to insult me and my mother within 1/2 hr and then went on his merry way – I’m sure to disrupt the flow of some other poor guys “interval training”. While this may be a stretch, I think I understand your frustration level. I’d love to put “PM” into the lane with Slow Breastsroker and see how that war of the worlds plays out. Hope all is well with yours!

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