It is quite accepted, now, for young people to take a year out either before or after they qualify, but in 1962 there were many raised eyebrows when I announced that I was going to spend the summer working as a chambermaid in Norway.

In the February before I finished the fourth year of my nurse training I went on a skiing holiday in Geilo, a small mountain village halfway between Bergen and Oslo, and fell in love with the place. When I discovered that the largest of the hotels there employed seasonal workers I was “hooked”.

The friend who had accompanied me on the holiday thought I was quite mad, but another friend, Kay, was keen to come with me so we applied to the hotel and received an offer of work, (the pay was actually better than we were getting as Staff Nurses!)

A few of our co-students were staying on for a fifth year as senior Staff Nurses, but most were either getting married or going off to do further training (mostly midwifery part 1)

I think, in retrospect, that my parents (who were of the generation which put great store on having a secure job with an assured future) were probably a bit worried that I was apparently abandoning my chosen profession. They never showed this and supported  my choice, the only proviso my Dad made was that I should buy a return ticket!

There was probably a bit of tutting from the older extended family as some of those thought it was a waste to educate girls too much anyway 🙂

By the time we set out in early June there were three of us, as we had enthused another friend. We travelled on the Fred Olsen line from Newcastle to Oslo and decided to treat ourselves to the cheapest first class tickets.

Oslo was fine and sunny, but as we travelled up into the mountains the pleasant pasture land changed to a rather uninspiring muddy landscape as the snow was late melting that year and I did feel a few doubts creeping in. Within a week this had changed to a verdant green. One of the joys through the summer was seeing how suddenly the hillside  behind the hotel changed colour as the different wild flowers clothed the ground.

There was quite a large contingent of foreign workers in the village. We were mostly British plus one Dutch girl, two Danes,  one Kiwi and one South African,we were all single, most had just graduated from university though the few who were older had had varied careers from teaching to legal clerk.

This was before the spectres of drugs, illegal immigration and drug problems had reared their ugly heads so it was very easy to work over there. I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning work permits!

Many of the summer visitors were doing a tour of Scandinavia, so there was a rapid turnover at the hotel and this made it quite busy in the mornings, however it was quite relaxing to know that the most serious consequence of any mistake was the anger of the housekeeper. She was even more vigilant than the sisters I had worked with and could spot a smear on a tooth glass at 20 paces.

It was a magical time. It must have rained or been grey sometimes but, at this distance in time, I remember only long sunny days, which we spent playing tennis, walking up in the mountains or exploring the other villages in the valley.

In the evenings, after work, we either went to the Youth Hostel (which also doubled as a youth club) and played table tennis, danced or just gossiped, or some of the boys would hold a party in their chalet. It was at one of these parties that I got a bit tipsy on home brew.  Alcohol was expensive and strictly regulated, so most of the locals and some of the boys made home brew. I don’t usually like beer, but this tasted like dandylion and burdock, but was rather more potent!

It would probably not be possible to repeat that summer, even if we had all remained miraculously young, because Geilo is not the same little village, it has more hotels, shops and facilities. The regulations for working there are probably enforced with more vigour and today’s young people would not be satisfied with the unsophisticated life we led.

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