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Soup of This Day #319: And This Ain’t A Bad Place

June 22, 2013

Minnesota Vikings
Honouring Minnesota’s Scandinavian roots, the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League (NFL) have disappointingly just settled for painting the horns on their helmets – Photo: TonyTheTiger, 2009. TonyTheTiger is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

When The Noah was 6 months of age I took some parental leave from my job and tried being a stay-at-home dad.

The results were mixed, maybe a 2-2 draw – I did ok at the being dad bit, but the stay-at-home not so much. You see The Noah and I were at our best when we got loose of the family hall and went adventuring.

This last bit mostly involved long drives with a fair bit of sleeping. By the baby – The dad did not get to sleep much at all. Instead he amused himself by driving around parts of his home town that he’d either never seen before or hadn’t seen for a while.

And that was cool. We took our vessel, a lumbering 1992 Toyota 4Runner, to explore the side streets, back lots, hidden parks and ocean drives of this metropolis. At some point along each journey I’d pull over the beast overlooking something interesting – Windsurfers on the ocean, a school cricket match, grebes on a lake, a man fixing a boathouse, or a Viking ship at anchor.

Yeah, a Viking ship. What I’d call a longship. Sure they’re a little past their heyday but those Scandinavian raiders had made it to Perth, Western Australia and it’s not just because we have Ikea here too.

Actually, maybe that is why they were here. It was about this time that Ikea was moving into new premises in Perth so maybe indeed.

In truth though I can’t say what the story behind this sea-faring classic was. Because when I say that I parked overlooking that longship, I sort of meant from a distance. You see, the boat was anchored off of a headland and to get to the river side of that promontory you’d have had to clamber over some scrubby dunes to get a close-up.

That kind of off-roading was not for us – Once The Noah was asleep you kept him there on pain of deathly screaming. And if that meant spending 2 hours harboured in a car then that’s what I’d do.

So I only ever saw the Viking longship from afar, maybe 1 vika at closest approach in what the Internet tells me is an old Norse measurement for roughly 1 sea-mile. The Internet also says it might mean a week, a fault, to sleep, to fold, and to unfold. Confusing it is.

And anyway, it wasn’t an ordinary vika – I had to look across the sweep of Matilda Bay, sometimes from the foreshore and through river spray, and sometimes from a loftier perch atop Mount Eliza in Kings Park. From whichever vantage point I chose, the boat was definable as a Viking longship, with its high, curved prow, but I couldn’t tell much more beyond its basic colouring.

For 3 months I watched it from afar – It was obsidian black with some yellow highlights so at least it stood out from the other craft moored nearby – And despite my fascination with it I never once got closer.

I don’t regret that.

Sure I wouldn’t have minded if I’d got a better look. I wouldn’t have been unhappy if somehow that had come to pass.

It didn’t though and that’s ok too. Because from a distance that boat was what ever I wanted it to be and I wanted it to be special.

And so it was to me – An finely-crafted authentic example of a long-past age that was being meticulously readied for an epic saga – A journey fit for heroes and heroines. In horned helmets. Yep, the kind of adventuring that can only conclude with a roaring log fire and the raising of tankards of hearty ale.

The reality probably would not have met that dream on good terms. In fact, the odds were heavily against my dream – We’re talking Perth, Western Australia here, where the main use for 1 of those shields the Vikings used to hang along the side of their boats would be as a makeshift grill plate for some kangaroo steaks.

Yep, even with the bigger and better Ikea, this ain’t no Viking country. If there’s an Erik the Red down here then he probably got that name from getting sunburnt.

A nice tightly woven chain mail might have a decent sun protection factor but it would be bloody hot to wear, and those horned helmets are no substitute for a good broad-brimmed hat.

I guess what I’m saying is that if I was in Norway, cruising the fjords, and I saw myself a Viking longship, then I’d be all over it like a Viking sailor with an addiction to salt-encrusted oak. Here in Perth, not so much – I’ll stick with my imagination.

Which is why I didn’t buy tickets to see Liverpool FC play in Melbourne for their upcoming pre-season tour.

I’ve been a Liverpool fan from more than a few vikas distance for some time now – Roughly 30 years in fact, which taken another way is around 1,560 vikas. Screw you Internet – If you can’t give me a nice and tight Old Norse definition then I’m using all of them.

And I desperately want to see them play in the flesh. To stand in the crowd, hold my scarf aloft and sing You’ll Never Walk Alone like my voice is the only 1 that matters.

I’d like to do that at Anfield.

Not in Melbourne, which is over 2,000 vikas away and would result in me taking a vika out of my life away from my family. For that kind of cost I’d need an emotional connection and my only experiences with Melbourne involved purely physical connections – I had to change planes there twice. On 1 of those trips I ventured outside the doors of the terminal so that my travelling comrade could have a cigarette. That taxi-rank was nice but not enough for me to fall in love with the place.

So when my beloved Reds visit my country of Australia this July, I will not be there to see them. Instead I will be parked across the sweep of the Great Australian Bite, which in truth is a few vikas wider than Matilda Bay, dreaming my dreams.

And now that I’ve clarified all of that I should explain what got me thinking about it. You see, I started this post sitting in my car, parked by the river and with a young man asleep in the back. This time it was The Angus and I was more than a few vikas upstream from where that Viking boat had been moored. I was also parked facing away from the river so even if it had come sailing down I might have missed it anyway.

It wouldn’t have come sailing down though because soon after I returned to work that longship was gone, in my dreams to the edge of the world and then back home to a Viking hall of renown.

Speaking of dreams, it’s time for me to vika this post up and head off to vika.


And This Ain’t A Bad Place

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