Well, today was the day: Off to Oslo to meet the Queen!
First I had to spend some time on suiting up. The instructions which came with the invitation stated ‘dark suit’ so that’s what I put on. After contemplating wearing a Shinobi shōzoku, I decided to play it safe and put on the dark-blue suit I purchased especially for the occasion instead.
Since my better half was visiting her mother I had to walk to the bus stop. Not many people were out and about, and I am sure I was the only one wearing a fancy suit. Needless to say, the few people I did encounter turned their heads for a second glance.
Thanks to the excellent services of TIMEkspressen I arrived in Oslo only 5 minutes behind schedule (which was not their fault, but to blame on a military convoy). From there it was a brisk walk down the main shopping street, past the Parliament building and to the Oslo City Hall.
The meeting was in the art gallery at the city hall. After our invitations had been checked we were ushered into the main hall where servants handed out (non-alcoholic) drinks and gave the Dutch people a chance to mingle & chat with each other. My guesstimate is that there were perhaps about 200 people there, all Dutch. Some ‘celebrities’, like former Olympic skater Kees Verkerk (who seemed a bit nervous… )
Some were wearing uniforms, but most were in suits more or less similar to me. Well, the men were… The women were all dressed up as well, one of them even wearing the national costume of the area in Zeeland she was originally from.
Since I didn’t know a single person there, I wandered around a bit and ended up chatting with a/the fire chief of the city of Nesodden, Axel Smit.
After a while the Dutch ambassador in Norway, Mr. Richard van Rijssen
, instructed everyone on the procedure to follow: We were to go upstairs where we would be introduced to the Queen one by one, by name and profession. Axel & I made sure we were one of the first ones so that ‘the queen would still be awake’ as we joked. (Not that that was anything to worry about. Queen Beatrix was wide awake and energetic the entire time).
After the introduction & handshake we ended up in yet another room, this one with servants who did have alcoholic drinks! Even though there was Heineken(?) on the tray, we helped ourselves to red/white wine instead. Other servants had trays with cheese cubes & Dutch herring. (Bitterballen were also being served, but unfortunately those servants never came close to us).
After she’d been introduced to everyone, Queen Beatrix mingled with the people and chatted here and there a bit. (Just like the bitterballen she also did not come close enough to where Axel & I were standing.)
Instead we did end up chatting for a while with the director of the Cabinet of the Queen (the administrative office of her Majesty. It is the link between the Queen and the ministers. Not to be confused with the Cabinet of the Netherlands which is the Prime minister and the ministers.), mr. P.W.A. Schellekens. Neither Axel nor I dared to confess we had never heard of the Cabinet of the Queen before…
Not that it really mattered, of course. The three of us had a nice chat, and Mr. Schellekens was genuinely interested in life in Norway, it seemed.
After a while the Queen moved to the small stage and gave a short speech. Then followed the first part of the Wilhelmus, 3 times ‘Long Live the Queen’, and that was it. The Queen moved on to the next item on her busy itinerary, and the Dutch people chatted some more. I left after about 20 minutes to catch my bus back to Sarpsborg.
All in all a very pleasant afternoon, and perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Unless of course King William IV /Alexander I (I don’t think his title has been chosen/decided yet) will visit Norway as well in a few years/decades…