PENNY McCORMICK on A-HA, Norse mythology and a NORWEGIAN EX …
My first A-ha moment occurred during a stint as an English language assistante in Lycée Bellevue, Le Mans. My remit was to discuss “aspects of culture” with sixth form students. Invariably they wanted to talk about le pop music and I remember vividly being asked to translate Take On Me. As was the case with most 90s hits, I was able to forgive the lack of depth or meaning because of its aesthetically pleasing auteurs – Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen and Pal Waaktaar-Savoy.
That the trio set the bar high for pop stars and the male population in general, was reinforced in early October when I happened to catch them on BBC Breakfast being interviewed about their love of orchids (seriously) and their European acoustic tour planned for 2018. My phone buzzed with texts from friends who agreed the sun was indeed shining on tv, and by mid-morning my WhatsApp group was hypothetically debating a short trip to Oslo to check out what Michael Booth wrote about in The Almost Nearly Perfect People; The Truth About The Nordic Miracle. The main miracle was how Morten, 58, and Magne, 55, had aged so well. There was no paunch, no attempt to conceal greyness, and a casual approach to fashion; on trend yet not try-hard. Compare to rockstars of the same era (Bono et al) and you can guess who wins my vote. Novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard and explorer Erling Kagge also carry off what I call the “sexy dad” look effortlessly.
My (cultural) interest in Scandinavians precedes A-ha though. For someone brought up on Louisa May Alcott & Co I was fascinated by Norse mythology when at school, later reinforced by my adoration of Seamus Heaney’s North anthology, the titular poem of which refracts so well the common bonds of Irish and Scandinavian history. Surprisingly I have not (yet) seen actor Chris Hemsworth’s interpretation of Thor, nor taken a Viking Splash tour of Dublin. However, as with most self-fulfilling prophecies, I eventually dated a Norwegian. I foresaw a future that looked a little like Wham’s Last Christmas video – tartan elements and cable knit jumpers – when in reality I am hopeless on or in snow, and my design aesthetic is more bohemian than BoConcept. It ended (a few times) with my friends ordering me to sign a DNR agreement should he ever turn up again. Still, the male of the species continues to fascinate, and fortunately there are plenty of specimens to keep my interest alive …
Morten Harket. One of the most famous falsettos in music, Harket now mentors on The Voice.
Karl Ove Knaugaard is a bestselling author whose latest book Winter is written for his unborn daughter.
Alexander Skarsgard recently debuted a bald hairstyle, devastating fans.
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