Oslo is a drab city inhabited by a wonderful if slightly odd people. Englanders should think of Slough, only on a slightly grander scale. Utøya is an islet set in a large lake northwest of the capital. Once owned by Oslo’s trade union confederation, Utøya is now administered by a company under the control of Norway’s governing social democratic party.
Norway is a country I know rather well. Throughout my time as a research scientist specialising in the aurora, I spent much time in Norway, especially in the far north – land of summer midnight sun and winter all-day drinking. Norwegian culture can seem a little peculiar to outsiders, but it runs deep. Very deep, in fact, and also broad and high, in fitting with the physical- and psycho-geography of the country.
Norway is one of the most free and open societies in the world, and not just because its citizens may peruse their neighbours’ tax returns, and do so without recourse to computer hackery and the like. It is a land of folk who are both hardy and sensitive, and, despite current talk elsewhere of an “end of innocence” resulting from yesterday’s terrorist attack by ultra-nationalist Anders Breivik, I have no doubt that Norway will remain free and open.