Thursday, 27 January 2011

Northern Outposts

Fantasy Bob recognises that, in all his excitement this week about Burns Nicht and Australia Day, he is remiss in not mentioning that other great celebration - Up Helly Aa.  This is Europe's largest fire festival which occurs in Shetland on the last Tuesday of January every year.

Like all long standing traditions, Up Helly Aa is remarkably young, originating in 1888 - long after the Vikings, to whom it pays some kind of tribute, had matured from their wild young lives of ceaseless rape, pillage and sailing to America.  FB has to acknowledge that there is relatively little to interest the cricket lover in this Festival.  It involves Guizer Jarl and his squad marching about Lerwick in helmets and breastplates before burning their long boat and (the main point of it all) going on to endless celebrations, parties and dances which last through the night.  As the official website puts it 'Wednesday is a public holiday to allow for recovery.'

Orkney vs Shetland
the 2007 contest
FB accepts that it is unlikely that the Vikings could have brought cricket to Shetland, whatever other legacy they may have left.  But they didn't bring Up Helly Aa either.  However it will be a comfort to FB's readers to learn that cricket is played in Shetland,  where there is an active indoor league during the winter and a summer season, the highlight of which is the 'county fixture' against Orkney - a battle more keenly fought than the Ashes.  Orkney hold the Northern Light Trophy following their victory in 2009 - but the match was not played in 2010.

Cricket is also played in Norway where about 4000 play, out of a population of 4.5 million.  As is common in many countries, the national team is composed entirely of players of Asian extraction who also dominate the player base.   Scotland has played Norway once, when they were briefly in Division One of the European Championship in 2008 - Scotland won by 9 wickets with Sean Weeraratna getting 6 for 24.  Norway's fortunes have declined since then and they are now in Division 7 of the World Cricket League. 

Ibsen - cricket a step too far

Not a Norwegian cricketer
Roald Amundsen might be the Norwegian that most people have heard of - he was the first to reach the South Pole.  But other significant Norwegians include Henrik Ibsen,  the father of realist drama who shocked the late Victorian world by dealing with incest, syphilis and domestic abuse amongst other cheery light hearted themes.  But he dared not address cricketing themes which he thought would be a step too far for his audience.  And composer Edvard Grieg (no relation to Tony Greig) whose Morning Mood, from his Peer Gynt suite, has been plundered by a thousand coffee and breakfast cereal advertisements. Anni-Frid Lyngstad of Abba is also Norwegian. 

As at the time of writing, no Norwegian has played Test cricket.

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