• Mathilde Fongen

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

Yesterday, I got home from a week long tour with Audiokicks and I think I speak for all four of us when I say that, although our bodies are glad to get back to normality, we'd have loved to keep going. Returning the rental van, which we named Betty for reasons unknown, and unpacking made me very aware of how good last week was and how lucky I am to be in a band that gets on as well as we do.

On Monday, we set off from Aberdeen to Manchester in a van loaded with drums, amps, guitars, merch and sweets and the closer we got to Glasgow, the more it started to rain. Ready to blame this weather on Western Scotland, we would come to learn that it would follow us for the full seven days. Regardless of how sunny it was when we looked out the window in the morning, it would be sure to rain once we stepped outside.

On a six hour car journey, conversation goes to a strange place. How many sheep are there in the UK? What's your favourite dinosaur? What's your favourite biscuit? What beauty standards are highland cows judged by? We learned a lot about each other and googled some things none of us had googled before. In Manchester we stayed in a hotel called Ram Lodge, which can only be described as prison like, with a shower I felt cleaner avoiding. We played in a vegetarian café called Fuel that night, where we also enjoyed the best food of the tour. Recommendations include the halloumi fish and chips and the breakfast fajita (I could not stop talking about how good that fajita was and quickly learned I was the biggest eater of the group). Manchester provided the most questionable accommodation and the smallest crowd. It provided the best food, and the first of many pints and late night conversations.

There's something to be said about playing to a tiny crowd (read the sound guy, the other band and two other people). We listened to bands and met musicians we would never meet otherwise and we got to do what we love every night. We got to create something. There's a quote from the film "Fighting with My Family" that goes something like "If millions of people aren't watching, it doesn't mean it's not important." Playing to a small crowd made me aware of how much I love just playing, regardless of who's listening. I love that atmosphere and the sharing experience of a bigger crowd, but there was a moment of contentment in Manchester where I realised how much I love simply playing.

Tuesday took us to Leeds, and we had the most fun playing there. None of us are sure why, although the local porter "Taddy" might have something to do with it. There was dancing, banter, great bands and many more pints to be had, rounded off by the most amazing late night take away pizza. I think Leeds was where we discovered none of us like going home before closing time. We also had the greatest bagels and an impressive game of Jenga in a café called The Doghouse. Turns out we all rule at Jenga.

Next up was Glasgow and the lack of sleep started to take hold. It didn't stop us from playing our third night of tour and enjoying another few rounds of beer and excellent company. Conversation brought us to morning time and we also had our third and forth days of rain. I learned my lesson not to point out when the sun comes out. It scares it away and brings out the grey clouds as it turns out. I also learned I have terrible taste in pizza toppings and cannot eat a meal without spilling on myself.

Edinburgh, Dunfirmline and Inverness followed with more delicious food, many more pints of Guinness and many more favourites to be discussed in the van. Loading, unloading, sound checks, check ins and check outs, miles and miles of road and lots of sheep along the way, I didn't grow tired of it. I mean, I was tired, but that was more due to copious amounts of alcohol, and not such copious amounts of sleep. Late night conversations, carrying amps through cobbled streets, the desperate search for the next cup of coffee. At the end of this tour, I feel I've found my place. I feel I'm part of something special. And with Guinness, dinosaurs and first class dancing in mind, what can I say but let's do it again.

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  • Mathilde Fongen

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

In a way it’s like a wave. It washes over you, not enough to drown you, but for a moment you feel like you’re drowning as you helplessly heave for air and there's nothing to breathe in. Salty water is all there is. Salty water that you gulp down because there’s nothing else and it makes you feel sick. The water isn’t clear and beautiful like Sally told you it would be, but ice cold, murky and polluted. It envelopes you and you lose track of which way is up. It feels like drowning, but then you finally catch a breath and you don’t drown after all. You feel your head aching and your stomach twisting from all the murky water you swallowed, but you are breathing still.

Photo: Luke Norris

In a way it’s like a brick wall. It appears out of nowhere and there’s no way to break through it. There’s no climbing over or walking around it. There is no tearing it down. It just stays there, never moving, stubborn like you know she can be. Or it’s a thick, impenetrable fog that there’s no way out of. There’s no seeing through it. It’s all that’s there, all you can see, until it’s not there anymore and you don’t remember seeing it clear away. It leaves you disorientated and confused. You hear her voice in the distance, but you can’t make out what she’s saying. That fog, that pain, leaves you feeling strangely changed. You feel careful and heavy and slow and incapable, until you slowly start to feel clearer. You carefully return to yourself, knowing full well that it will return.

Sometimes Sally lets me sleep. As I sink into the mattress, into dark, the feeling fades away, like Sally’s voice in the fog. I wake up having forgotten about the wavelike brick-fog. I remember it in my body, in the tiredness and the headache, in the nausea, but I don’t remember it. Not really.

I remember asking Sally to take the scissors out of the room, because I’ve used them before, to make it go away, the pain. I’ve chipped away at the brick wall with them and little pieces have come off, but scissors are useless against brick. They’re even more useless against fog or murky water. They cut through me, but I can’t cut through them, so sleep is where I go to. In hindsight I think I would have left the scissors in peace, but hindsight doesn’t exist with this kind of thing.

Sally is sunshine in human form. She is May and flowers and lavender and holidays to the seaside. I was always November. I sat with her once, in her home, on her balcony, in the sun. It was the first day of the year where it was warm enough to sit outside without the cold piercing your bones. The sun warmed our cheeks and I watched her lean back in her chair, letting it soak into her face, her skin familiar with the blinding light. She smiled behind bright yellow sunglasses that covered most of her face and she sipped chilled white wine.

“This is the life, babe,” she said and let out an audible sigh. I was still waking up, my coffee growing tepid at my feet.

I nodded and looked over the balcony railing. Flowers dotted the grass below and the trees had started to bloom. It was far down to the flowers and the metal railing protected us from the fall.

A seagull cried, piercing through me.

“I love the song of seagulls," she said, "they remind me of summer. But maybe I love waves more. There’s nothing more peaceful than the sound of crashing waves, you know?” I’d never thought of crashing as a peaceful thing. “They start out dark and a little mysterious,” she said about the waves, “and then they lift and grow lighter. They show you they have nothing to hide until they transform into white foam. They hug your feet.” I could picture her running into the sea, the rim of her dress soaking up the salt water in childlike play.

That’s what a wave was to Sally. Not threatening or overwhelming. Not something that makes you feel like you’re drowning. She didn’t want to escape the waves. She ran into them and crashed into them, taking away their power in playfulness. Clear seas was all she knew.

“You know, right? Feeling the sand between your toes, watching the shades of blue in the sky and the sea?” I often thought Sally would make a good poet, had she not been so cheerful.

I looked down at the flowers in longing. I frowned at the sun. Maybe letting the waves wash over you by crashing into them first, catching them in the act, could be a joyful thing. If it is, in fact, like a wave, it can be turned, folded into something beautiful, a sheet of origami paper. I could feel Sally trying to fold me as she looked at me, but I knew I would tear if she folded in the wrong place.

My fingers ran across the rim of her skirt and I couldn’t imagine it would stay dry for long. She never stayed away from the sea longer than she had to. There was a line running along the floral fabric a few inches up, dried salty water she had played with recently. I wondered if all her clothes had lines like this.

Then she took my hand, twisting her fingers around it like ivy around a tree until it was hidden inside hers. Her fingertips traced the grooves on my skin and for a moment we sat in silence. I felt paper thin when she held my hand like that, more paper thin that usual when she looked at me, and I felt my edges fraying as she touched me.

I pulled my hand out from hers and stood up, grabbing hold of the railing. I needed its support to keep me standing. She stood up quicker than I and knocked over her glass as she did. The wine ran along to her bare feet, filling in the gaps between her toes. I could see it drip down to the flowers far below and wondered if the flowers would mistake it for rain.

She stood close enough for me to feel her breath, a fresh breeze on my shoulder. Her arms alined with mine and she held on to my hands with hers. I let go of the railing and let her hold me. Just for a little while, I thought, until I don’t need to be held anymore.

In a way it’s like a wave in the way it washes over you. A brick wall. An impenetrable fog. It’s all that’s there until you’re left, careful not to tear yourself into pieces as you fold that plain piece of paper into an origami bird that can cry out and remind Sally of summer.

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  • Mathilde Fongen

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

The day I learned I was named after a mountain, I was excited and in awe. Well, it’s not just me, but my family, which makes it all the more exciting to think that Mr. Olsen, back in the day, met a mountain and decided to share its name. He didn't want to be Olsen. He wanted to be Fongen. It makes a lot of sense to me that that's where my surname comes from, because no matter where I am in the world, mountains feel like home.

It was August 2017 when we decided to conquer Fongen. It was a fairly miserable day, in terms of the weather, but our spirits were high as we trudged along a path leading to the foot of it, my father, my brother, my boyfriend and I. The rain, the fog, the cold and the wind whispered “prove yourselves!”. And we did. Normally, reaching the peak of a mountain offers the reward of a stunning view, but Fongen didn’t offer that. It offered us greyness, but it also offered us the joy of knowing that we had finally made it to the peak of the mountain we’re named after. The weather made the experience all the more rewarding.

I’ve climbed mountains since I was wee and even though I see myself as a city girl, the mountains have always felt like home. My family have a small cabin in the Norwegian mountains which I've always considered to be my happy place, a place to escape to, a place to find peace, comfort and joy. We climbed Fongen only days before I moved to Scotland, leaving Norway behind, but it didn’t really feel like leaving home. I moved from mountains to mountains and whenever I feel homesick I can look to the Cairngorms and find comfort there.

Earlier this month I spent a week skiing in the Alps. I hadn't gone downhill skiing for about fifteen years and I was scared and apprehensive, but then there we were and it only took a day to feel comfortable skiing again. That Norwegian cliché really is true, that we're born with skis on our feet and it felt wonderful to be skiing down a mountain again after so many years. I challenged myself and I felt free, and even though I'd never been to the Alps before, I felt at home.

I don't know what it is about mountains that makes me feel so at peace. Maybe it's their unmoving, unbeatable nature, their drama and unpredictability or maybe it's just the sheer beauty of them. All I know is that whenever I don't quite feel like myself, I can walk up a hill and find reassurance there. On the peak I feel my happiest. I suppose I see myself in the temperamental and shifting, slowly changing, unpredictable mountains. The weather capable of dramatic change within minutes. Like humans, no two mountains are the same, and like humans, it's a challenge to get to know them. And maybe you can never truly know every part of them.

One could argue that walking up a mountain doesn't actually achieve anything, but to me it achieves something important. It's time taken to take care of myself, time taken to appreciate the beautiful nature surrounding us, time to do something that doesn't earn us money or success or material gain. It's simply about the challenge and enjoyment of it. It's about wellbeing, and yes, I'll bring this into it again; mindfulness. When walking in the hills you need to be aware of every step, the weather, how you're feeling. You need to respect the environment you're in and act according to everything around you. It makes a lot of sense to me to share a name with the Fongen mountain in Trøndelag, Norway. I've moved a lot and traveled a lot, but I can always find home in mountains.

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