Aeons ago, well, in the mid 90s, I programmed the then latest version of a swearing accessory for the Atari ST(E)/TT/Falcon called “The Automated Final Grandson of Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged”.
Wowbagger: A fictitious character from Douglas Adams’ “Life, the Universe and Everything” who, after an incident with a liquid lunch and a piece of elastic band became immortal. Having quickly discovered immortality also has its downside, he decided to insult every being in the universe, in alphabetical order. Accessory: A program on an Atari computer, that loads upon booting and then remains in memory. In the case of my particular accessory, it remains invisible until a user-configurable number of minutes have passed, after which it will pop up and insult the user (in English or Dutch, depending on the language setting). Atari: In the context of this article, one of a range of computers popular in the late 80s and early 90s. They were 16-bit computers running an operating system called TOS (The Operating System), not 8-bit (like the Atari XL), nor the old classic Atari VCS game consoles.
In the throes of nostalgia, I fired up an Atari ST emulator, configured it, and decided to upgrade that swearing accessory with the current building blocks used on wowbagger.com. It was practice I needed for when I’d get around to doing the 42nd Anniversary Edition of ST NEWS,
There were a bunch of things I needed to do:
The RSC file needed to be updated;
So I needed to re-learn how to work with an Atari RSC editor;
I wanted to replace the original building blocks with the vastly extended building blocks straight from wowbagger.com;
So I needed to write VBA code in MS Access to create GfA code with the building blocks in it;
So I also needed to re-learn how to work with the GfA Basic editor and compiler;
I wanted to fix the bug that caused a bomb crash when the .CNF file wasn’t in C:\;
I wanted to prevent the entire system from freezing each time Wowbagger was actually putting together the building blocks into insult phrases (this was a minor problem before, but with there being MANY more building blocks now, it would now freeze the system for up to half a minute);
The older version of Wowbagger had 3 ratings (U = friendly; PGA = raunchy; XXX = terrible), but the main wowbagger.com database only had 2 (U = friendly to raunchy; XXX = raunchy to terrible). To prevent me from having to go through the thousands of words one by one, I changed the 3 old ratings into U = friendly, XXX = terrible, and PGA = a mix of both.
This ‘Zombie’ version has one major improvement: it can make a lot more insults. There’s also a disadvantage, however: It grew in size by about 180 Kb, so it’s probably of limited use on original hardware with only 1 Mb of RAM. But it is like it is. If you happen to have original Atari hardware, or an emulator, you can download it here!
In 2019, some of my students read Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind”. Not only was I impressed by their ability (and initiative) to read this book, especially considering they were secondary school students, but I also thought I needed to read it myself. It was quite an eye opener, and no mistake. So when a colleague of mine who habitually makes his reading material available for others to peruse shared the ‘sequel’ to the former book I jumped on it.
This time it’s called “Homo Deus – A Brief History of Tomorrow”, published as a paperback in 2017. Boy, did this book fill me with regret that I hadn’t discovered it earlier. Because if there is one thing I could glean from this volume it’s that human development is happening ever faster…and also that this development is not going to be a lot of fun for mankind. Maybe that’s why it has “brief” in the title, whereas I originally reckoned it applied to the size of the book.
If you want to be shocked and surprised by reading the book yourself, do not read any further. Here be spoilers.
So the book quickly dispenses with the thought of the existence of God, although it does mention that some overarching belief system appears to have been (and most likely will continue to be) necessary to allow huge numbers of people to work together. It is this ability to work together that really sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Not a soul, not free will, not conscience. Harari even continues to deconstruct the principle of there being individuals. Each of us consists of a narrating and experiecing self, neither of which are perfect (in fact they have different agendas that are often at loggerheads). Our memories are highly imperfect without us knowing. Even our feelings can fool us. Feelings are nothing but algorithms, anyway. And literally everything involving algorithms can be done better by computers – if not now, then somewhere in the nearer-than-you-think future. A core thought here was, “Computers don’t need to be perfect, they only need to be better than humans.” And they are. And if they’re not yet, they will be, probably sooner than you think. Some algorithms are more difficult, so it may take more time. But computers can already pretty much do anything, including activities that were hitherto considered uniquely part of the human domain such as painting and composing music. Humans will, by and large, become economically superfluous once computers can take over their tasks (thankfully, I looked up that teachers have a less than 2% chance to be taken over by computers). And once humans are superfluous…well…why care for them? And what are they going to do with their lives all day? Rich people will some day make the cross-over to immortality, perpetual happiness, perhaps awareness within a computer.
The book left me with the the ambivalent feeling of having had my intelligence tickled and made irrelevant at the same time. Not a nice feeling, but it was nonetheless quite a roller coaster ride with a truly mind-melting or eye-opening concept on just about any page. The truth may be unpleasant (and I harbour a deep hope that these developments will take place quite a bit slower than Harari predicts), but I do feel that I am now perhaps a little better equipped to sense (and perhaps cope with) whatever is coming. The next war efforts will not be like what Putin’s attempting, but entirely cyber-based.
To start with, you need to know about the background of all of this. It starts, much in the way religions do, in a book. Including an ever-so-slightly paraphrased bit, it reads as follows…
There are of course many problems connected with life, of which some of the most popular are Why are people born? Why do they die? Why do they want to spend so much of the intervening time wearing digital watches?
Many many millions of years ago a race of hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings (whose physical manifestation in their own pan-dimensional universe is not dissimilar to our own) got so fed up with the constant bickering about the meaning of life which used to interrupt their favourite pastime of Brockian Ultra Cricket (a curious game which involved suddenly hitting people for no readily apparent reason and then running away) that they decided to sit down and solve their problems once and for all.
And to this end they built themselves a stupendous super computer which was so amazingly intelligent that even before the data banks had been connected up it had started from I think therefore I am and got as far as the existence of rice pudding and income tax before anyone managed to turn it off.
It was the size of a small city.
Its main console was installed in a specially designed executive office, mounted on an enormous executive desk of finest ultramahagony topped with rich ultrared leather. The dark carpeting was discreetly sumptuous, exotic pot plants and tastefully engraved
prints of the principal computer programmers and their families were deployed liberally about the room, and stately windows looked out upon a tree-lined public square.
On the day of the Great On-Turning two soberly dressed programmers with brief cases arrived and were shown discreetly into the office. They were aware that this day they would represent their entire race in its greatest moment, but they conducted themselves
calmly and quietly as they seated themselves deferentially before the desk, opened their brief cases and took out their leather-bound notebooks.
Their names were Lunkwill and Fook.
For a few moments they sat in respectful silence, then, after exchanging a quiet glance with Fook, Lunkwill leaned forward and touched a small black panel.
The subtlest of hums indicated that the massive computer was now in total active mode. After a pause it spoke to them in a voice rich resonant and deep.
It said: “What is this great task for which I, Deep Thought, the second greatest computer in the Universe of Time and Space have been called into existence?”
Lunkwill and Fook glanced at each other in surprise.
“Your task, O Computer…” began Fook.
“No, wait a minute, this isn’t right,” said Lunkwill, worried. “We distinctly designed this computer to be the greatest one ever and we’re not making do with second best. Deep Thought,” he addressed the computer, “are you not as we designed you to be, the greatest
most powerful computer in all time?”
“I described myself as the second greatest,” intoned Deep Thought, “and such I am.”
Another worried look passed between the two programmers. Lunkwill cleared his throat.
“There must be some mistake,” he said, “are you not a greatest computer than the Milliard Gargantubrain which can count all the atoms in a star in a millisecond?”
“The Milliard Gargantubrain?” said Deep Thought with unconcealed contempt. “A mere abacus – mention it not.”
“And are you not,” said Fook leaning anxiously forward, “a greater analyst than the Googleplex Star Thinker in the Seventh Galaxy of Light and Ingenuity which can calculate the trajectory of every single dust particle throughout a five-week Dangrabad Beta sand blizzard?”
“A five-week sand blizzard?” said Deep Thought haughtily. “You ask this of me who have contemplated the very vectors of the atoms in the Big Bang itself? Molest me not with this pocket calculator stuff.”
The two programmers sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment. Then Lunkwill leaned forward again.
“But are you not,” he said, “a more fiendish disputant than the Great Hyperlobic Omni-Cognate Neutron Wrangler of Ciceronicus 12, the Magic and Indefatigable?”
“The Great Hyperlobic Omni-Cognate Neutron Wrangler,” said Deep Thought thoroughly rolling the r’s, “could talk all four legs off an Arcturan MegaDonkey – but only I could persuade it to go for a walk afterwards.”
“Then what,” asked Fook, “is the problem?”
“There is no problem,” said Deep Thought with magnificent ringing tones. “I am simply the second greatest computer in the Universe of Space and Time.”
“But the second?” insisted Lunkwill. “Why do you keep saying the second? You’re surely not thinking of the Multicorticoid Perspicutron Titan Muller are you? Or the Pondermatic? Or the…”
Contemptuous lights flashed across the computer’s console.
“I spare not a single unit of thought on these cybernetic simpletons!” he boomed. “I speak of none but the computer that is to come after me!”
Fook was losing patience. He pushed his notebook aside and muttered, “I think this is getting needlessly messianic.”
“You know nothing of future time,” pronounced Deep Thought, “and yet in my teeming circuitry I can navigate the infinite delta streams of future probability and see that there must one day come a computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate, but which it will be my fate eventually to design.”
Fook sighed heavily and glanced across to Lunkwill.
“Can we get on and ask the question?” he said.
Lunkwill motioned him to wait.
“What computer is this of which you speak?” he asked.
“I will speak of it no further in this present time,” said Deep Thought. “Now. Ask what else of me you will that I may function. Speak.”
They shrugged at each other. Fook composed himself.
“O Deep Thought Computer,” he said, “the task we have designed
you to perform is this. We want you to tell us…” he paused,”… the
“The answer?” said Deep Thought. “The answer to what?”
“Life!” urged Fook.
“The Universe!” said Lunkwill.
“Everything!” they said in chorus.
Deep Thought paused for a moment’s reflection.
“Tricky,” he said finally.
“But can you do it?”
Again, a significant pause.
“Yes,” said Deep Thought, “I can do it.”
“There is an answer?” said Fook with breathless excitement.”
“A simple answer?” added Lunkwill.
“Yes,” said Deep Thought. “Life, the Universe, and Everything.
There is an answer. But,” he added, “I’ll have to think about it.”
A sudden commotion destroyed the moment: the door flew open and two angry men wearing the coarse faded – blue robes and belts of the Cruxwan University burst into the room, thrusting aside the ineffectual flunkies who tried to bar their way.
“We demand admission!” shouted the younger of the two men elbowing a pretty young secretary in the throat.
“Come on,” shouted the older one, “you can’t keep us out!” He pushed a junior programmer back through the door.
“We demand that you can’t keep us out!” bawled the younger one, though he was now firmly inside the room and no further attempts were being made to stop him.
“Who are you?” said Lunkwill, rising angrily from his seat. “What do you want?”
“I am Majikthise!” announced the older one.
“And I demand that I am Vroomfondel!” shouted the younger one.
Majikthise turned on Vroomfondel. “It’s alright,” he explained angrily, “you don’t need to demand that.”
“Alright!” bawled Vroomfondel banging on an nearby desk. “I am Vroomfondel, and that is not a demand, that is a solid fact! What we demand is solid facts!”
“No we don’t!” exclaimed Majikthise in irritation. “That is precisely what we don’t demand!”
Scarcely pausing for breath, Vroomfondel shouted, “We don’t demand solid facts! What we demand is a total absence of solid facts.
I demand that I may or may not be Vroomfondel!”
“But who the devil are you?” exclaimed an outraged Fook.
“We,” said Majikthise, “are Philosophers.”
“Though we may not be,” said Vroomfondel waving a warning finger at the programmers.
“Yes we are,” insisted Majikthise. “We are quite definitely here as representatives of the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries and Other Thinking Persons, and we want this machine off, and we want it off now!”
“What’s the problem?” said Lunkwill.
“I’ll tell you what the problem is mate,” said Majikthise, “demarcation, that’s the problem!”
“We demand,” yelled Vroomfondel, “that demarcation may or may not be the problem!”
“You just let the machines get on with the adding up,” warned Majikthise, “and we’ll take care of the eternal verities thank you very much. You want to check your legal position you do mate. Under law the Quest for Ultimate Truth is quite clearly the inalienable prerogative of your working thinkers. Any bloody machine goes and actually finds it and we’re straight out of a job aren’t we? I mean what’s the use of our sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives us his bleeding phone number the next morning?”
“That’s right!” shouted Vroomfondel, “we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”
Suddenly a stentorian voice boomed across the room.
“Might I make an observation at this point?” inquired Deep Thought.
“We’ll go on strike!” yelled Vroomfondel.
“That’s right!” agreed Majikthise. “You’ll have a national Philosopher’s strike on your hands!”
The hum level in the room suddenly increased as several ancillary bass driver units, mounted in sedately carved and varnished cabinet speakers around the room, cut in to give Deep Thought’s voice a little more power.
“All I wanted to say,” bellowed the computer, “is that my circuits are now irrevocably committed to calculating the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything – ” he paused and satisfied himself that he now had everyone’s attention, before
continuing more quietly, “but the programme will take me a little while to run.”
Fook glanced impatiently at his watch.
“How long?” he said.
“Seven and a half million years,” said Deep Thought.
Lunkwill and Fook blinked at each other.
“Seven and a half million years…!” they cried in chorus.
“Yes,” declaimed Deep Thought, “I said I’d have to think about it, didn’t I? And it occurs to me that running a programme like this is bound to create an enormous amount of popular publicity for the whole area of philosophy in general. Everyone’s going to have their own theories about what answer I’m eventually to come up with, and who better to capitalize on that media market than you yourself? So long as you can keep disagreeing with each other violently enough and slagging each other off in the popular press, you can keep yourself on the gravy train for life. How does that sound?”
The two philosophers gaped at him.
“Bloody hell,” said Majikthise, “now that is what I call thinking. Here Vroomfondel, why do we never think of things like that?”
“Dunno,” said Vroomfondel in an awed whisper, “think our brains must be too highly trained Majikthise.”
So saying, they turned on their heels and walked out of the door and into a lifestyle beyond their wildest dreams.
… (seven and a half million years later) …
A man standing on a brightly dressed dais before the building which clearly dominated the square was addressing the crowd over a Tannoy.
“O people waiting in the Shadow of Deep Thought!” he cried out. “Honoured Descendants of Vroomfondel and Majikthise, the Greatest and Most Truly Interesting Pundits the Universe has ever known… The Time of Waiting is over!”
Wild cheers broke out amongst the crowd. Flags, streamers and wolf whistles sailed through the air. The narrower streets looked rather like centipedes rolled over on their backs and frantically waving their legs in the air.
“Seven and a half million years our race has waited for this Great and Hopefully Enlightening Day!” cried the cheer leader. “The Day of the Answer!”
Hurrahs burst from the ecstatic crowd.
“Never again,” cried the man, “never again will we wake up in the morning and think Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Does it really, cosmically speaking, matter if I don’t get up and go to work?
For today we will finally learn once and for all the plain and simple answer to all these nagging little problems of Life, the Universe and Everything!”
As the crowd erupted once again, we move down towards one of the large stately windows on the first floor of the building behind the dais from which the speaker was addressing the crowd.
In seven and a half million years the room had been well looked after and cleaned regularly every century or so. The ultramahagony desk was worn at the edges, the carpet a little faded now, but the large computer terminal sat in sparkling glory on the desk’s leather top, as bright as if it had been constructed yesterday.
Two severely dressed men sat respectfully before the terminal and waited.
“The time is nearly upon us,” said one, and Arthur was surprised to see a word suddenly materialize in thin air just by the man’s neck. The word was Loonquawl, and it flashed a couple of times and the disappeared again. Before Arthur was able to assimilate this the other man spoke and the word Phouchg appeared by his neck.
“Seventy-five thousand generations ago, our ancestors set this program in motion,” the second man said, “and in all that time we will be the first to hear the computer speak.”
“An awesome prospect, Phouchg,” agreed the first man, and Arthur suddenly realized that he was watching a recording with subtitles.
“We are the ones who will hear,” said Phouchg, “the answer to the great question of Life…!”
“The Universe…!” said Loonquawl.
“Shhh,” said Loonquawl with a slight gesture, “I think Deep Thought is preparing to speak!”
There was a moment’s expectant pause whilst panels slowly came to life on the front of the console. Lights flashed on and off experimentally and settled down into a businesslike pattern. A soft low hum came from the communication channel.
“Good morning,” said Deep Thought at last.
“Er… Good morning, O Deep Thought,” said Loonquawl nervously, “do you have… er, that is…”
“An answer for you?” interrupted Deep Thought majestically. “Yes. I have.”
The two men shivered with expectancy. Their waiting had not been in vain.
“There really is one?” breathed Phouchg.
“There really is one,” confirmed Deep Thought.
“To Everything? To the great Question of Life, the Universe and
Both of the men had been trained for this moment, their lives had been a preparation for it, they had been selected at birth as those who would witness the answer, but even so they found themselves gasping and squirming like excited children.
“And you’re ready to give it to us?” urged Loonquawl.
“Now,” said Deep Thought.
They both licked their dry lips.
“Though I don’t think,” added Deep Thought, “that you’re going to like it.”
“Doesn’t matter!” said Phouchg. “We must know it! Now!”
“Now?” inquired Deep Thought.
“Alright,” said the computer and settled into silence again. The two men fidgeted. The tension was unbearable.
“You’re really not going to like it,” observed Deep Thought.
“Alright,” said Deep Thought. “The Answer to the Great Question…”
“Of Life, the Universe and Everything…” said Deep Thought.
“Is…” said Deep Thought, and paused.
“Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.
It was 1988 when I read this for the first time. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by the inestimable (and unfortunately late) Mr Douglas Adams became etched into my consciousness, into my very being, my way of thinking. Things would never be the same again – at least not for me, nor for anyone within my (thankfully fairly limited) circle of influence.
This year marks the 42nd Anniversary of the publication of Mr Adams’ book, and this is the 42nd blog entry I’ve added to my site. Below you will find an overview of what I’d like to call “42 in real life”: Occurrences of this geek culture number In Real Life, whether influenced by Douglas or not (and believe you me, sometimes they are!).
But first a final bit of background.
In “ST NEWS” disk magazine Volume 9 Issue 1 (released in March 1994) I had a first look at what the figure “42” meant in real, ordinary life, show you what this figure meant in the world as we know it – for if you paid attention, you would notice that the number “42” occurs all the time! It was the result of a year of research, and it was dedicated to Douglas Adams, originator of The Number and the person to become 42 on the exact date on which that issue of “ST NEWS” was released. The final (July 1996) “ST NEWS” issue saw an enhanced and overhauled version of the “42” occurrence overview. More trivial or otherwise less meaningful entries had been discarded and new quality material added (also thanks to David Jones and Rod Kent).
Below you will find the current incarnation (version 3, if you will) of the article, additionally containing miscellaneous occurrences of the number “42” that I more or less meticulously kept track of in the quarter of a century that has passed since the previous version. It will be second only to the one that will come after it, in the 42nd Anniversary edition of “ST NEWS” that is due for release in seven and a half million…no…seven years and two months.
Let’s start with 42nd Street, which is a main and very popular two-way thoroughfare in New York, with many landmarks on it.
“42nd Street” is also the title of a film made in the US in 1933 by Lloyd Bacon, starring Ginger Rogers.
In a particular episode of the US TV series “Beverly Hills 90210”, the Walshes are reading a book about sexuality or something, and they are surprised to read that “60% of men over 42 think of younger women.”
In Japan there is a ritual involving the dragging around of 500-pound concrete penises and consumption of lots of alcohol. This penis is carried by loads of men who are 42 years old, which is considered to be the Japanese male’s age of turnaround (i.e. it can only go downhill from then on).
Strangely enough, the number 42 also seems to have deathly connotations in Japan. Some time ago, the first Japanese Formula One racing car driver crashed and killed himself in car with the number 42. The number 42 seems to be banned on Japanese license plates because of that.
In “Star Trek – The Next Generation”, the starship Enterprise has 42 decks.
One of the most notorious cracking groups on the Atari ST in the olden days was called “42 Crew”.
In “Dead Poets Society”, Robin Williams at one time says “Byron gets a 42, but you can’t dance to it”.
In that same film, the University is “in its 42nd year”.
The Iron Maiden twin CD-single “Two Minutes to Midnight” + “Aces High” (released in 1990) is exactly 42 minutes long including that brainless Nicko McBrain babble at the end.
To limit costs, it is possible to have certain services only at what are described as “the big National Railroad stations” in the Netherlands. There are 42 of those in the Netherlands.
The Oldest Rule In The Book (as mentioned in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, the courtroom scene), which is “All persons more than a mile high to leave the court”, is rule number 42. For a long time, this was thought to be the source of Douglas Adams’ number, too, but then it was revealed in an interview that actually it was just a totally random number (consciously, anyway).
Metallica’s excellent single “One” was the highest new entry in the Dutch 1991’s Top 100 of all times, entering at #42 (at was at #6 in 1992, and #1 in 1993!).
The heaviest man ever to live in the Netherlands, Jan Cleaszoon Clees (landlord of a pub in The Hague, who weighed 223 kilos, so telleth the Dutch version of the Guiness Book of Records), died in 1612 at the age of 42.
The password expiration time under Microsoft Windows NT is 42 days.
The longest recorded session of continuously talking in sign language took 42 hours (done by Wendy Fisher in New South Wales, Australia, in August 1987; she spoke an average of more than 45 words per minute).
The world’s largest church dome is that of the St. Peter church in Vatican City, which has a diameter of 42 metres.
A few occurrences of the number 42 in Stephen King’s “It” are the fact that Tom Rogan worked at King & Landry Public Relations at 42nd Street, and that the oldest person present at the fire at the Black Spot – Alan Snopes – was aged 42.
In Stephen King’s short story “Dolan’s Cadillac”, the ‘grave’ that he intends to bury Dolan and his Cadillac in is 42 feet long.
In the case of a bitch (i.e. a female dog) still with young, her puppies can be infected intra-uterinally by the Toxocara canis bacteria as of the 42nd day.
In Olympic female judo, there is a class division between lighter than 42 kilogram or 42 kilogram and higher.
In the mini series “Passion in Paradise”, the character Harry Oakes’ car has the license plate “93 42”.
On the date of 43-9-4242, the Belcerebons of Kakrafoon Kappa (a very intelligent race that never spoke so as to give their brain a chance to work) were officially verdicted to be “Arrogant Bastards” and given the worst of all social diseases – Telepathy (so proclaimeth one of the many animated Guide sequence in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” TV series).
Elvis Presley, the King, was 42 when he got abducted by aliens (or when he died, or whatever).
By a strange coincidence, 42 was also the age at which Cladys Smith, The King’s mother, died.
Saddam Hussayn’s (never mind how you spell it exactly) army during the 1991 Gulf War was divided in 42 divisions.
Nelson Mandela was freed on the 42nd day of 1990 (at 4:14 local time). On that same day, the last official issue of ST NEWS, Volume 5 Issue 1, was released.
On the 1990 Yesterday & Today (Y&T) rock band compilation album, “Best of ’81 to ’85”, the first track lasts precisely 42 seconds.
Guatemala takes up 42,042 square miles of the world.
In the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (the actual device, not the books) the amendments start off on page 42,000,000 (directly following the index which takes up most of the Guide, having started at page 577,000).
The highly regular binary value of 101010 is decimal 42.
The second (and, unfortunately, last) issue of Tom Zunder’s Atari ST disk magazine “Interleave” had 42 articles.
The Calixtus Catacomb in Rome has 42 niches.
The scale or fretboard (the bit where the left hand fingers are put down, with all the frets on it) of the Yngwie Malmsteen Signature Fender Stratocaster electric guitar has a width of 42 mm (1.654″) at the nut (i.e. the bit farthest away from the guitar body).
Douglas Adams’ “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish” has 42 chapters if you count the separate prologue and epilogue too.
Bullfrog’s highly successfull platform game “Flood”, released by Electronic Arts, had 42 levels.
Douglas Adams’ fifth part of the “Hithhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” trilogy, “Mostly Harmless”, was released in hardcover in the 42nd week of 1992, during which time I was in England in the Plaza Hotel in London (Princes Square 42!).
“Cleopatra’s Needle”, one of the sights at London’s river Thames and supposedly made aeons ago in ancient Egypt, was “given to England in the 42nd year of the reign of Queen Victoria” (quoted from the engravings on its pedestal).
The Atari Falcon 030’s extended joystick connections allow the connection of total of six joysticks, or four paddles, a light gun and up to 42 extension buttons (which I suppose are alternatives to fire buttons or something, I wouldn’t know what they mean otherwise). Info taken from a Falcon 030 promotion brochure.
When a program/data cartridge is inserted in the Atari ST/TT/Falcon’s cartridge port, its officially documented first required ‘magic’ longword value in order to be recognized by the Operating System as such is hexadecimal $ABCDEF42.
In “Raw Deal”, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, there are two mob families. The limousine of the main honcho of one of them, a guy by the name of Lamanski, has license plate “4242”.
In the second part of the “Star Trek – The Next Generation” episode “Best of Both Worlds”, at a certain stage where they are all hunting Borg they say they are “at 42 minutes from earth”.
The CD “Serious Beats – Volume 5” has 42 tracks (mind you, this information comes from someone I would not like to identify with, i.e. Tjeerd Bruinsma who is also known under many nicknames ending with “-ush”).
Similarly, the triple CD “Fantasia – The House Collection Volume 2” has 42 tracks.
In a TV documentary about allergies and the involvement of the English Breakspear Hospital in the treatment of allergy patients, one of the women interviewed (who had a very disruptive baby due to it being allergic to all kinds of things) said, and this sounded totally incredible, that she “had grown 42 years older in 12 months”.
Ostrich’ eggs hatch 42 days after having been laid (the eggs, not the ostrich).
The average life expectancy for a male inhabitant of the country of Guinea is 42 years (which is actually rather low).
In H.P. Lovecraft’s tale “The Haunter in the Dark”, the protagonist is the first one to enter the dark and mysterious church (the Haunter’s abode, so it turns out) in 42 years.
Thomas F. Malone, leading character in Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook”, was 42 years old in that story.
In H.P. Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”, Joe Slater had been in “torment and diurnal prison” by the alien agency for “forty-two of your terrestrial years”.
In 1992 there were 4.2 million CD players in the Netherlands (70% of all households had one).
During a recent tour, Metallica’s lead guitarist Kirk Hammett wore a T-shirt which had a skull, the words “Las Cavaleras” and the number “42” on it. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, though.
When the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran ashore the Alaska coast in 1989 it spilled 42,000 tons of oil.
Princess Anne got re-married in 1992 (the first British monarchial person to get re-married after a divorce in over 400 years worth of British history) at the age of 42. At that same age she got a baby, too.
In “Mississippi Burning”, at a certain stage you get to see a family watching television. They are watching a television show where someone has just become the Cheddar Cheese Champion, “having beaten 42 other entrants”.
This sentence contains exactly forty-two letters.
Rainbow’s CD “Difficult to Cure” lasts exactly 42 excellent minutes.
The ‘putter’ golf club in the Atari Lynx handheld games console game “Awesome Golf” has a maximum hitting distance of 42 yards.
In the episode “My Desperate Valentine” of the American TV series “Beverly Hills 90210”, Kelly Preston (played by Jenny Garth) wears a T-shirt with “42” on the back and front, in large print.
In “Boyz in the Hood”, one of the main protagonists is called Rick. In a scene playing in his younger years he is wearing a football T-shirt with the number 42 on it.
In a similar film, this time by Spike Lee and called “Do the Right Thing”, one of the characters, Mookie, walks around in a Dodgers number 42 baseball T-shirt.
In one of my second year English course books, Jonathan Kaye’s “Phonology – A Cognitive View”, he uses the sentence “I ate 42 oranges” to demonstrate some syntactic property of a sentence.
The only electric railroad system in Cuba, the Hershey Express that was originally set up in 1915, has 42 railway stations (it goes from Havana to Matantas and back).
On the 42nd day of 1858 the Virgin Mary appeared to three girls (among which the famous Bernadette Soubirous, later Sainted) at Lourdes in France.
In an episode of “Married with Children” (title nor sequence number known) where Al tries to get rid of his old car to buy a new one, he goes to a car salesman and takes with him a shoebox in which he has put 5,000 dollars, 10 years worth of savings. When he looks in it he only finds 800, because Peggy had discovered the shoebox and spent the other 4,200 dollars of Al’s savings!
In another episode (of which name and sequence number are again not known) where Al competes in this 65+ athletics competition, he gets back home with a ridiculous outfit that originally cost US$ 3. Upon having used his illegally acquired 65+ discount card, however, he proudly exclaims he got it for 42 cents!
In Terry Pratchett’s “Strata”, mention is made of a frog-like four-armed race called the Kung. They have 42 words for “rain”.
In the British TV series “Grace and Favour” (the follow-up to “Are you being Served?”) at a certain moment Mrs. Slocombe runs into her ex-husband, Cecil G. Slocombe. She mentions him having run out on her 42 years ago.
When King Baudouin of Belgium died at 62 on July 31st 1993, he had been Belgian king for 42 years.
More or less incidentally, that year also saw the 42nd Miss Universe Beauty Pageant.
During the Norwegian Highschool Graduation festivities known as “Rüss” (I seem to recall), Ronny Hatlemark’s Rüss-name was “Forty-Two” (Ronny was our Norwegian ST NEWS distributor and still a good friend). The last four digits of his mobile phone number, incidentally (though probably not at all coincidentally), are “4242”.
In Jonathan Demme’s “Silence of the Lambs”, the Buffalo Bill character wants to skin girls who have U.S. size 14 – that’s European size 42.
The setting: The pilot episode of the US police series “Sunset Beat”. When at one instance a colleague cop asks some of the heroes, Chesbro and Coolidge, how come they make more successful arrests then any other cop on the beat, they reply: “Find out for yourself. We give courses at US$ 42 per semester”.
The major family (of which the name is Alberts) in the Dutch TV soap “Goede Tijden Slechte Tijden” (translation “Good Times Bad Times”) lives at house number 42.
In the “Dragonsdawn” book in Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Pern” series, it’s mentioned that originally 42 mares with foal were taken from earth to the new world of Pern. Also in the same book, it comes to pass that on the 42nd day after the first fall of thread the first gather was organised, that the first batch of dragon embryos they constructed consisted of 42 specimens, and a bit further they mention someone who is technically in charge of the program on file in the biology Mark 42 computer.
In a 1993 (Volume 27) issue of the “Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London” there is an article called “The History of the 42-Club”. The name refers to the year of its founding, 1942, and they discuss various topics of interest to physicians.
The special leatherbound version of Metallica’s “Metallica” CD (with pic of guitarist James Hetfield’s head on the leather sleeve) has Vertigo catalogue number 510 022-42.
Cicero, the roman statesman and orator, died in 42 BC.
Almost half of the 28 acres of the British Elstree studio (where, among others, “Indiana Jones”, “Star Wars” and “Superman” were made) were sold to a supermarket chain in 1993. The price was US$ 42 million.
The Royal Rotterdam Zoological Garden (called “Blijdorp Zoo” or “Diergaarde Blijdorp”), a zoo in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is located on a 42 acre site (as of 1938).
The first criminal who Charles Bronson kills in “Death Wish” is identified by the police as someone who has already once served a 42 months’ suspended sentence.
In “Best Friends” (Norman Jewison, 1982, US), starring Goldie Hawn and Burt Reynolds, the Babson family (Burt’s folks) have been married for 42 years.
In 1862 King Edward of England purchased property called Sandringham Hall. When the sanitary provisions had to be overhauled, the “Report on the Drainage of Sandringham House” of February 18th 1886 occupied “42 pages of meticulously executed handwriting”.
Gaius Cassius Longinus, chief conspirator in the murder of Julius Ceasar, died in 42 BC.
The Netherlands has the dubious honour of being the third European country when it comes to the amount of people who smoke. A total of 42% of the Dutch populace does it.
According to the Annals of Tigernach one of the earliest and most capable Irish kings, one by the name of Cormac, ruled for 42 years.
In the 1992/1993 New Year’s Celebrations that traditionally take place at London’s Trafalgar Square, where a huge gathering of thousands of people usually forms, 42 people were wounded.
In “Sleepless in Seattle”, when the little son of Sam (i.e. of Tom Hanks) and his female friend want to put together money for him to fly to New York to meet Annie (i.e. Meg Ryan), the boy finds he has 80 dollars; the girl discovers she has 42.
The Russian battle chopper that crash-lands after having let Rambo and the others escape in “Rambo III” has ID number 42.
Clint Eastwood is quite wealthy. Reason for this is the fact that he does not request a fixed salary when signing a film contract. Instead he just wants a specific percentage of the film’s profit. This just so happens to be 42%.
In the film “10” starring Dudley Moore and Bo Derek, the former plays a character that has his midlife crisis at 42.
In the film “The Fugitive” (with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones) the bus from which Dr Richard Kimble escapes has number 42.
A bit later in film “The Fugitive”, when Kimble is examining things in the orthopedic department, for no particular reason there’s a white note with “42” written in red on the clipboard.
In “Police Academy III”, at a certain instant one of the two competing academies is not doing very well. One of the characters then says “it’s Mauser 42 – Lassard 0”, indicating they are the ones that have not done too well.
The Llamasoft shareware game “Revenge of the Mutant Camels” has 42 levels.
British painter and nonsense author, Edward Lear (1812-1888) published a series of 42 coloured parrot images in 1832.
Dutch-born British spy and double agent for the communists, George Blake (born in 1922) was sentenced to 42 years imprisonment in 1961 (he escaped in 1966 though).
Dutch soccer ace Roland Koeman has feet with two different shoe sizes. His right foot, the one with the killer free kick, is (European) size 42.
In 1993, a survey was performed to see how many people owning Nintendos were over 18. That turned out to be 42%.
The picture of the ancient Queen Ynci the Short-Tempered, run into by Magrat in Terry Pratchett’s “Lords and Ladies”, is claimed to have a 42 D-cup breastplate and shoulder pads with spikes.
In Richard Bachman’s (i.e. Stephen King’s) “The Running Man”, the pollution count on a bad day in Boston is said to be 42.
In the AC/DC song “Let There Be Rock”, one line of the lyrics goes “42 decibel rockin’ band”.
In the film “The Poseidon Adventure”, the main shock of the seaquake to cause the wall of water that sunk the the S.S. Poseidon to sink lasted 42 seconds.
In 1993, David Letterman signed a contract for three years, allowing him to do “The Late Show with David Letterman” at peak hours. The contract was worth US$ 42 million.
In an episode of the American TV cartoon series, “Duckman” (which is absolutely fab), he owed the IRS US$ 28587.42.
Stephen King’s “The Stand” (the uncut edition) consists of three parts. The first of these, “Captain Trips”, is 42 chapters in size.
In the film “Airplane!” (a.k.a. “Flying High”), the airplane has a cruising altitude of 42,000 feet.
When some English chaps released the “Maggie Guide to a Classic Video Life-style” in January 1995, they claimed it was “the first of a series of 42”.
In the film “The Crow” starring Brandon Lee, the squad car of the most prominently cast police officer has number 42.
In the film “Trading Places”, starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, the character played by Jamie Lee Curtis claims at one instance to have saved “42 grand”.
The book “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller – a book funny in a way quite like Douglas Adams – has 42 chapters.
In a Monty Python sketch about Colin “Chopper” Mozart, son of the composer and Rat Annihilator, he is sent out to 42a Kartoffelstraße, where Beethoven lives.
Although no text survives of the legendary original Welsh Law of Hywel Dda, 42 texts written between 1230 and 1500 are extant.
In “Die Hard with a Vengeance”, one of the puzzles that Bruce Willis has to solve is “What is 21 out of 42”, leading to the 21st American president, Chester A. Arthur, which is also the name of a school where a bomb is placed. The temperature of the cooling equipment that the bomb is stored in is 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
In J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”, at one time the 16-year old protagonist claims to be 42 when addressing a record salesperson. A bit further in the book, the uncle of an acquaintance of his was said to have gotten polio when he was 42.
In an episode of “Blackadder III” (the one with the inheritance and his not allowed to get drunk but getting pissed anyway), at a certain instant he is fed beer while still sober. Captions read “42 seconds later”, and he’s brainnumbingly drunk.
Stanley Frost, father of the rather nasty woman that haunts Michael Douglas and his family in “Fatal Attraction”, died when he was 42.
Falcon FacTT File has set up a Bulletin Board System called 42BBS.
In Roald Dahl’s short story collection “Someone Like You” there is a story called “Claud’s Dog – Mr. Feasey”. The first time Claud’s dog goes to the races, they bet on it and get bet slip number 42.
Special agent Mulder, main character of the “X-Files” TV series, lives at appartment number 42.
In Tennessee, there was a law that proclaimed one could only teach creationism in classrooms (as opposed to Darwinism, or the theory of evolution). The law remained in force from its inception in 1925 to 1967 – 42 years.
Including two re-publications, I’ve had 42 articles published in the Dutch Atari magazine “Atari Nieuws” up to now.
The first ever sighting of the number 42 is from the Bible (Kings 2:23-24 (23)): “And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou baldhead; go up, thou bald head. 24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name ofthe LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare _forty and two_ children of them.”
According to the Bible, there were 42 generations between Abraham and Jesus Christ.
Other Biblical sightings are “The beast was given a mouth uttering proad boasts and blasphamies, and it was given authority to act for forty-two months” (Revelations 13:5), “Forty-two months was how long the profanation of the holy city was to last” (Revelations 11:2), “Twelve hundred and sixty days (forty-two months) was the length of the prophetic mission of the two witnesses” (Revelations 11:3), “Twelve hundred and sixty days (forty-two months), is the length of the retreat to the desert the woman goes on to escape the Serpent.” (Revelations 12:6-14), “But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.” (Revelations 11:2).
The angle at which light reflects off of water to create a rainbow is 42 degrees.
A 42 mile per hour wind brought down the original Tacoma bridge in the state of Washingtion in the 1930s.
42 is the natural vibration frequency of human DNA.
42 is the natural vibration frequency of white mouse DNA (this sheds an interesting light on white mice being more intelligent than man).
The chamber in the Cheops pyramid is exactly 42 metres over the ground.
The total number of dots on a pair of dice is 42.
The integer part of the square root of proton mass divided by electron mass gives 42.
42 was the name of the painter in episode 2 or 3 of the “Prisoner” series.
An episode of “X-Files” makes reference to a ship being lost for 42 hours.
An episode of “Married with Children” had a football game where the score was 42 to 0, with Al’s team losing.
In the film “Teen Wolf”, Michael J. Fox has the number 42 on his jersey.
The song “Minimum Wage” by They Might Be Giants is 42 seconds long.
In the film “Ghost”, Patrick Swayze learns to move things (as a ghost) at subway platform 42.
In the book “James and the Giant Peach”, the centipede has 42 legs.
In Kansas’s (the band) song “Closet Chronicles” (from the “Point of Know Return” album) they have the following line, “Gazing out the window, from the FORTY-SECOND floor…”
LucasArts’s classic “Zak McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders” has the number “42” plastered all over.
In Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” (album version), immediately after the “Every Sperm is Sacred” song, the narrator says “Meanwhile, at number 42”, whereupon we are taken to the Protestant family sketch.
A current (English) advert for Guiness stout goes: “It’s hard to put a value to most things. This, however, is 42.”
The elevator in the film “Speed” starts at level 42.
There is a french magazine about cars, relationships and home improvement etc. The title of this magazine is “Le 42”.
There is a bar/night club in Lyon, France called “The 42”.
In the “Pelican Brief”, Darby Shaw, (Julia Roberts) lives at 42 Beau Luc Lane, New Orleans. You can see this briefly on the cover of the brief once during the film.
In A.A. Milne’s (author of “Winnie-the-Pooh”) collection of poetry, “Now_We_are_Six”, in the poem “The Morning Walk”, it says:
“When Anne and I go out a walk,
We hold each other’s hand and talk,
Of all the things we mean to do
when Anne and I are forty-two.”
In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet sleeps for 42 hours.
Dr. Seuss wrote 42 Children’s Books.
In the “Babylon 5” episode “AND NOW FOR A WORD”, ISN reporter Cynthia Torqueman (Kim Zimmer) said: “Aliens make up roughly 42 percent of Babylon 5’s population.”
In the film “Aliens” (with Sigourney Weaver), when Ripley is being shown how to use the machine gun, there are 42 rounds left in the clip. You can see ’42’ on the read-out on the side.
On the television show “Martin”, his apartment door is 42.
Marsha Clark, the prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson Trial, was 42 years old
The cop that found the body of Nicole Brown-Simpson had been a police officer for 4 years 2 months.
On day 142 of the O.J. Simpson trial, defense attorney Johnny Cochran asked screenwriter Laura Hart McKinney how often the “N”-word was said in the conversation she overheard. Her answer was: “Approximately 42 times.”
42 is the number in the header file of a TIFF file that identifies the file.
Apple filed 42 patents on technology developed for its Color LaserWriter 12/600 PS.
The most successful electron tube for audio applications in the 1930’s was a “type 42” six-pin amplifier.
The toolbar button with ID 42 in Microsoft Excel has a toolface saying 42.
42 percent of all American women rely on some type of sterilization for birth control (Newsweek, March 13, 1995, p.60).
There is very often a 42 on the zipper of your Levis.
ZOCOR, a new cholesterol drug, was resposible for saving the life of 42% of the people who took it in a 5 year study.
42 people died at Chernobyl.
Found in the German postcode-register: 06420 Lebendorf (Leben = life), 06542 Allstedt (All = universe) and 88422 Alleshausen (Alles = everything). Now what do these postcodes have in common? These 3 cities are located on a straight line and do not form a triangle as you would expect!
Napoleon graduated 42nd in his class at Brienne military school.
The first book printed on the Gutenburg (movable type) press was a bible with 42 lines on each page.
Aloutte, Canada’s first artificial space satellite, was 42 inches in diameter.
Cleopatra became Marc Anthony’s mistress in 42 BC.
There are 42 rooms in the White House, including bathrooms excluding closets.
In the Red Dwarf novel “Last Human”, Arnold J. Rimmer’s son, McGruder, is introduced to his father at the tender age of 42.
The bullet sign used to head off all these items is, you guessed it right, ASCII CHR$(42). This is also known as a “wild card”, which stands for anything (including life, the universe and everything).
The first version of this document (in ST NEWS Volume 5 Issue 1) was exactly 42 Kb (43008 bytes) long; the second version (in ST NEWS Volume 9 Issue 1) was a little longer; Volume 11 Issue 1+2 saw a reprise of that same article).
There is a band called Level 42. Perhaps more coincidentally, the band chose the week in which Douglas Adams was to become 42 to release their first post-split album. It is also said that they either named themselves after The Answer or after the highest car park in the world, which had 42 levels (in Hong Kong, apparently).
The scroller in the Exceptions’ “BIG Demo”, probably the first Atari ST megademo, was 42 Kb long (although this was life imitating art, not the other way around).
In 1994 a band called Rot released a CD called “Cruel Face of Live” that contained 42 songs.
There are 42 territories in the game of “Risk”.
In Terminator – Dark Fate, they take the big bomber towards Bridge 42.
In The Chalkman, the book is divided into two segments. In the second, protagonist Eddie is 42 years old.
Jonathan Price’s character in “Brazil” lives on Level 42.
“Jet Set Willy” has 42 levels.
In Frank Herbert’s “Hellstrom’s Hive”, the hydroponics farm is on level 42.
During a November 2019 manouvre by the German navy in the Baltic Sea, they blew up 42 old sea mines from World War I (and, allegedly, accidentally killed 18 protected porpoises of a protected subspecies).
There is a game called “Texas 42 Dominos”, also just called “42”.
“The Year is ’42” is a WWII novel by Nella Bielski, published in 2005.
The year 2013 saw the release of a Jackie Robinson biopic called “42” – he was the first successful black baseball player.
“Tower 42” is a skyscraper in London, England.
“Channel 42” is the name of an electronic dance track by Deadmau5 and Wolfgang Gartner.
In the TV series “Supernatural”, the episode “Inside Man” features a door labelled “42” that leads to the gate of heaven.
“The 42” is a residential skyscraper in Kolkata, India, which became the highest building in India on April 2019.
“42” is the title of a 2007 episode of “Dr. Who” (where he had exactly 42 minutes to rescue his crew).
“42” is the title of the final (2001) episode of “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command”.
The debut album by Ukrainian musical group Cthulhu Rise is called “42”.
“42” is the title of a song on Coldplay’s 2008 album “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends”, later also featured on their 2009 live album “LeftRightLeftRightLeft”.
42 is a pronic number (a number formed by the multiplication of two successive integers, in this case 6 x 7).
In binary, 42 is the nicely regular 101010.
42 is one of only three small primary pseudoperfect numbers below 1000 (as are 2 and 6).
42 is a Hardshad (or Niven) number (an integer divisible by the sum of its digits).
The perfect score in the International Mathematical Olympiad is 42 out of 42.
A male Koala will thrust exactly 42 times before he ejaculates.
In 2017, 42 people together owned as much as the rest of humanity.
There is a software company called “42 BV” in Zoetermeer, the Netherlands (they produce software for, among others clients, banks, the Dutch tax department, and insurance companies).
When the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” premiered (in 2005) it raked in BP 4,2 million at the box office.
In “Finding Nemo”, Dory and Marlin are on a mission to 42 Wallaby Street in Sydney to find, obviously, Nemo.
An important number sequence in the TV series “Lost” is “4 8 15 16 23 42”.
Donated blood lasts 42 days.
According to the bible, there are 42 generations between King David and Jesus.
In the film “The Square”, we see an art exhibit that people can enter via “I Mistrust People” or “I Trust People” entry points. The Trust counter is at 3, the Mistrust one at 42.
There are 42 years between the release of the first Star Wars film (“Episode IV – A New Hope”) in 1977 and “Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” in 2019.
In the Star Wars universe, the Acky Acky Festival takes place every 42 years.
If you order train tickets using NS International in the Netherlands, you need to round off your order within 42 minutes.
In the documentary “Murder Music” (a history of black metal), Jens Ryland (organiser of the Inferno Festivals) claims 42 wooden stave churches burned down during the early 1990s arson attacks (though this number is actually more like 50 to 60).
The Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park in Thailand consists of 42 islands.
During the much-protested Black Mass at the Oklahoma Civic Center, organised by the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu Satanic church in September 2014, there were (a mere) 42 ticket-holding attendants.
Gard Eggesbo Abrahamsen, a.k.a. Drag the Insanely Witty One of old, erstwhile ST NEWS co-conspirator, Nutty Norwegian and all-round friend, died on 13 August 2016 at the much too young age of 42.
Two fishermen went missing after leaving the Marshall Islands on April 2nd 2020. They had landfall on Namoluk, exactly 42 days later, more dead than alive.
Theodore Roosevelt became president of the United States when he was 42, in 1901.
When henry VIII died he had 42 palaces.
A barrel of oil is 42 gallons.
Legally, in the United States blood can be kept for transfusion for forty-two days.
When Thomas Jefferson’s father died (in 1757) he left him a library of 42 books.
In the live-action version of “Jungle Book”, the individual frame requiring most rendering took, in fact, 42 hours.
In “The Chalk Man” by C.J. Tudor, the protagonist (Ed) is 42 years old.
In 2016, 42% of American voters voted early.
42 is the smallest number k that is equal to the sum of the nonprime proper divisors of k, i.e., 42 = 1 + 6 + 14 + 21.
In most Pixar movies, the Walt Disney and Pixar company logos together take up 42 seconds.
In “The Bridge” Season 3, L369G42 is an important code number.
In “The Sandhamn Murders” season 3 episode 3 there were planned to be 42 guests on Nora and Jonas intended’ wedding.
The assembly cut of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” movie was 2 and a half hours long. The theatrical cut is 42 minutes shorter.
The recommended time between the two injections of the anti-Covid-19 BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is 35 to 42 days.
In an early season 1 episode of the TV series “Arne Dahl”, the main bad guy is Jüri Mikojan, who is 42 years old.
There was a Commodore Amiga scene coder called Magician 42.
Jack Nicholson was 42 years old when he played in “The Shining”.
In the 1985 version of the film “Teen Wolf”, Michael J. Fox wears a jersey numbered 42 for the Beavers basketball team.
Light refracts through a water surface by 42 degrees to create a rainbow.
Light requires 10−42 seconds to cross the diameter of a proton.
42 is the number of laws in cricket.
The Allen Telescope Array, a radio telescope used by SETI, has 42 dishes.
There is a British TV show called The Kumars at No. 42.
The Hitchhiker knitting pattern, designed by Martina Behm, is a scarf with 42 teeth.
The number 47 appears often throughout the Star Trek franchise. When producer Rick Berman was asked about the unusual frequency of the number, he stated, “47 is 42, corrected for inflation.”
The games developer Mens Sana Interactive released a computer game called “The Answer is 42” on Steam in December 2019. The game consists of 100 puzzles, each of which is a grid of numbers that must be connected to sum 42.
The 42nd episode of ‘The Spawn Chunks’ (a Minecraft podcast) is titled ‘Life, The Universe and Pillaging’.
In “The Hunting of the Snark”, Lewis Caroll wrote about the baker:
“He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
They were all left behind on the beach.”
42 is the sum of the dots on a pair of dice.
6×9 is said to be 42 in the “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” itself (in part 2, “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”), however that is only really the case in BASE13 calculations.
As determined by the Babylonians, in 79 years Mars orbits the Sun almost exactly 42 times.
The hypothetical efficiency of converting mass to energy, as per E=mc², by having a given mass orbit a rotating black hole is 42%, the highest efficiency yet known to modern physics.
In the military IRIG 106 Chapter 10 data recording standard, the hex value 0x464F52545974776F (ASCII “FORTYtwo”) is used as a magic number to identify directory blocks.
In TIFF (Tagged Image File Format), the second 16-bit word of every file is 42, “an arbitrary but carefully chosen number that further identifies the file as a TIFF file”.
There are 42 body parts of Osiris: In some traditions of the Osiris myth, Seth slays Osiris and distributes his 42 body parts all over Egypt. (In others, the number is fourteen and sixteen).
Clement of Alexandria stated that the Egyptian temple library is divided into 42 “absolutely necessary” books that formed the stock of a core library.
In Egyptian mythology, there are 42 questions asked of persons making their journey through Death.
There are 42 Stations of the Exodus which are the locations visited by the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt.
42 is the number with which God creates the Universe in Kabbalistic traditionThere are 42 generations (names) in the Gospel of Matthew’s version of the Genealogy of Jesus.
In Revelations, it is prophesied that for 42 months the Beast will hold dominion over the Earth.
The Gutenberg Bible is also known as the “42-line Bible”, as the book contained 42 lines per page.
In Japanese culture, the number 42 is considered unlucky because the numerals when pronounced separately—shi ni (four two)—sound like the word “dying”.
The Sutra of Forty-two Sections is a Buddhist scripture.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has 42 illustrations.
There is an American rapper called 42 Dugg.
In the Stargate Atlantis season 4 episode “Quarantine”, Colonel Sheppard states that Dr. McKay’s password ends in 42 because “It’s the ultimate answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything.”
In Pacific Rim, a 2013 American science-fiction monster film, when Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket arrives at the Hong Kong Shatterdome, the hangar door number is 42.
42 Entertainment is the company responsible for several alternate reality games, including I Love Bees, Year Zero, and Why So Serious.
Tokyo 42 is a videogame released in 2017.
42 (dominoes) is a trick-taking game played with dominoes, rather than cards, originated and predominantly found in Texas.
If you have not yet had enough of The Number, feel free to check out “A Math Fan Guide to the Number 42” by Scientific American. And a special thank you to erstwhile “ST NEWS” writer and co-editor Stefan Posthuma for telling me about “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in the first place, all those years ago.
Whenever you see a 3D Youtube video, you can swipe the video to view the scenery all around. Alternatively you can use the “View on Youtube” button and even watch the video using a VR headset or using a gyro-equipped smartphone.
Monday, 12 August.
Woke up after not having slept well. The bad sleep was probably caused by the anticipation of going on a trip, and not just any trip! Hurtigruten! My wife Ruth and I took just about the first train after 09:00 towards Schiphol airport.
We arrived well in time for Norwegian Airlines flight DY1257, 13:40-15:25 to Oslo. It made me think of the explosive scene in Douglas Adams’ “The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul”:
“The explosion was now officially designated an ‘Act of God’.
But, thought Dirk, what god? And why?
What god would be hanging around Terminal Two of Heathrow Airport trying to catch the 15:37 flight to Oslo?”
Oddly disappointingly, there was no explosion before we managed to board the plane well in time for it to depart well over fifteen minutes late. No explosion, obviously, of course, as it hadn’t been Heathrow, nor even a 15:37 flight. But such is the impression a beloved author can leave on a reader.
We landed at Gardermoen Airport, as opposed to Fornebu, the former airport where ST NEWS co-conspirator Stefan Posthuma and myself had made landfall in December 1989 at the start of what we had grandiosely called “The ST NEWS Norway Quest”.
Lots of things had changed since 1989. Luggage retrieval took mere minutes, which is quite unusual. Oslo Airport is the epitome of modernity, and even two such utter Norwegian-language-n00bs such as ourselves had little trouble finding the Airport Express train in the direction of Drammen (a word which in Dutch is the verb “to nag”, but nothing like the funny false friends we’d read on our way back home!). After the initial shock of the price of the train tickets (425 NOK = nearly 46 Euros) for two half-hour-travel tickets we took the 16:10 towards Drammen. At 16:42 we met Ronny Hatlemark (a.k.a. Ynnor the Divine One from the Days of Yesteryear) at Sandvika station. Ronny had barely changed since the last time I’d seen him during a brief visit of his to Utrecht in May 1998, with Torbjørn “Lord HackBear” Ose. His big smile was but the start of a continuous barrage of hospitality we were to enjoy until we left its warm embrace the day after.
Ronny drove us to what he would no doubt call a “humble abode” but which was really quite a sumptuous dwelling lying against a hill (in the Netherlands no doubt dubbed “a mountain”). We were met by the lovely Ginny and their Australian Cobberdog Walt (named after Whitman, not Disney). After a chat we were treated to a great three-course meal, at the start of which we found out that Ginny was rather a fan of cooking – and Ronny rather a lucky man.
During the meal and the ensuing evening we spoke of politics, language, adults being children with filters, Norwegians being cold cucumbers (or not), the erstwhile Atari ST scene, the current ST scene, education, and a variety of other subjects. Quite a difference from back in 1989, when conversations had centred around hacking, car dating, freezing cold weather, Papillons and stiff water.
Tuesday, 12 August.
During the night I entered the vicious circle of a headache causing non-perfect sleep (for the second night in a row), which in turn caused more of a headache. Thankfully the Hatlemarks were able to supply me with a couple of painkillers that twisted the vile headache’s neck. It was not to re-appear.
Breakfast was no disappointment either, including a re-introduction to (a probably milder version of) Norway’s Brunost (a fairly more pungent and darker version of which Stefan and me had been introduced to nearly 30 years earlier). Ronny and Ginny had prepared a map of Oslo with some places to be and things to do, so we had our day cut out for us. The morning inevitably led to a situation where, like the Great Bard was wont to write, any many others have since copied, parting was such sweet sorrow. After bidding adieu to Ginny and a tail-wagging Walt, Ronny dropped us off at the nearest Metro station. Our ways parted once more.
Ronny. Awesome dude. Old friend. Fine host. And Ginny is cut from the same cloth – a wonderful couple.
We went towards the centre of Oslo (which they call, of course, “Sentrum”), where we arrived at 11:00. The last time I’d ever really been there was with my then girlfriend in the summer of 1993. Our impression of the capital city of Norway had been, let’s say, unimpressive. We now found out that this was largely caused by the fact that we had only spent an hour’s time between the city’s Railway Station and the Bus Station that was to take us further north, whereas all the interesting stuff is located south of the railroad tracks. So that is where we started our discovery of the nation’s capital now.
We walked towards the harbour, at the east side of which we saw the Opera Building. Its most striking feature was a huge sloping roof which could be walked onto if you wanted to enjoy a view of the harbour unimpeded by traffic and the public at large. The marble, so Ronny proudly claimed via WhatsApp, was the same type as that from which Michaelangelo’s David was chiseled.
As the weather remained quite sunny and dry, we decided to take in a few other sights as well. Next up was Akershus Festning, a 13th-century fortress (also once a school, once a prison). Part of it was being renovated, so we settled by walking around it. Attempts at making a semi-distant selfie with the lone guard were unsuccessful, but at least Ruth managed to hug a tree in a small park specifically designated for people with such tastes. After that we set out towards the Royal Palace, which didn’t press our proper taste buttons so we continued instead in search of a place to press our proper taste buds. That became Brasserie La France (“Gallic cuisine in a traditional setting”). This was yet another baby step towards us learning to cope with Norwegian (perhaps Scandinavian?) prices, though, granted, this wasn’t exacly a backwater street where one might expect modest prices to begin with.
As of this paragraph I will try to abstain from remarks about prices, no matter how Dutch (or, for that matter, Scottish) this behaviour is.
After La France we needed a place to wait until we felt we really needed to get our trolleys back from the railway station lockers and get onto the train to Oslo Airport (“Lufthavn”). That became café Egon, practically next to the station.
Before we started this Norway trip I had started reading Jamie Lendino’s “Faster than Light – The Atari ST and the 16-Bit Revolution”. Although understandably less scene-centric than Marco Breddin’s “Borders” series, it was an interesting read that did mention a few legendary demo screws and, yes, Thalion. Lots of the Atari corporate background, too, with key players being interviewed. While sipping a large Coke at Egon’s, I finished this title and continued with Lendino’s “Adventure – The Atari 2600 at the Dawn of Console Gaming”. I never owned a 2600 and almost everything I read was new – and certainly “back to basics” when you consider the exceedingly limited technical specs that hardware had. An interesting read for sure.
Be that as it may, we now took a cheaper (…) train from Oslo Central Station to the Airport.
At 16:20 we went through security, and I even had to enter some new-fangled cylindrical piece of equipment that may have been an active (or passive) particle airport body scanner.
At 18:24, flight SK4478’s Boeing 737-7000 (thankfully not a 737 Max) ascended up and north towards Kirkenes, one of the most northern towns in Finnmark. When we landed at 20:20, we were glad to have taken warm coats with us – it was 7 degrees Celcius. The airport was a shack in front of hills shrouded in a blanket of clouds. Luggage retrieval, despite the airport basically consisting of one hangar, took a very long time. Thankfully we did manage to catch a transfer bus that drove to the town proper, what with it being about half an hour’s drive away. Checking into Scandic Kirkenes was a bit of a survival-of-the-fittest situation – instead of merely wondering why people had been running from the bus to the check-in desk, I should have joined them and run a bit myself.
Kirkenes itself, at 21:45, was pretty depressing and sad to behold. It wasn’t yet dark, but the streets were utterly deserted. Google had pointed us towards two possible restaurants where the kitchens wouldn’t close until 22:00 or later. The one we got to was “Surf and Turf”, a restaurant where we were the final and last customers of the day. Unfortunately they had run out of King Crab starters that we would have liked, but the spicy reindeer-brunost pasta dish was delicious! Never had reindeer before, but it wouldn’t be the last time.
But Kirkenes at night, well, let’s say it’s easy to imagine youths spending most of their time trying to find an excuse to move Anywhere But There.
Back in the hotel, I finished the 2600 book. It left me with a feeling of admiration for the programmers of the time – in particular the people who founded Activision – and the desire to install a 2600 emulator after getting back home. But first Hurtigruten, and even before that, sleep.
Wednesday, 14 August.
And sleep I did, like a log, before having the excellent Scandic Kirkenes breakfast buffet the reviews on the internet – quite rightly – all rave about. Breakfast on its own is just about enough reason to stay at this hotel if you ever find yourself north of Amsterdam (much in the same way I always advise people to visit Alhambra if they ever go south of Amsterdam).
Ruth usually likes to scavenge local supermarkets to see what local goods are like. One such local goods was something you’d call reindeer jerky (really called “Reinsnacks”, which certainly makes sense). We bought some, and I thought it was quite enjoyable.
We more or less accidentally ran into the transfer bus towards the harbour where the Hurtigruten ship MS Kong Harald lay, waiting for the start of its southward journey to Bergen.
This moment in the story is perhaps opportune to tell you something about Hurtigruten. It is basically a company that, among other things, organises cruises from Bergen to Kirkenes and back. They also do cruises around Greenland, Svalbard (Spitsbergen) and Antarctica. The ships, I am told, do not only cater for tourists but also provide mail and other transport services for the many municipalities on the 1500 miles it covers along the Norwegian coastline. And when I say “Norwegian coastline” I really mean to say “spectacularly formed, wild, rugged, impressive, beautiful collection of fjords that in Norway comprise what other countries would merely call a coastline”.How did I find out about Hurtigruten? This is a question Ruth also asked me. The answer takes me back to 1991, when the band Fear of God released their seminal debut album, “Within the Veil”. Even with Metallica’s black album released that same year, “Within the Veil” was more impressive and generally more awesome. The band’s sophomore album, 1994’s “Toxic Voodoo”, was a whole lot less impressive and generally not quite so awesome. However, it did not prevent me from taking over development of the sortof official Fear of God website previously run by Kevin “Bl00d” Nunn.
You must be wondering how Hurtigruten is going to fit into this extended anecdote. Did the band ever do a “11,204 Tons of Metal” cruise on Hurtigruten? Well, no, but do bear with me.
Once the site got more and more exposure among band fans I got contacted by a guy who was mentioned in the sleeve notes of “Toxic Voodoo” as Germany’s #1 Fear of God fan – Burkhard Krumkühler. Burkhard was (and is) seriously into female-fronted metal bands, as well as Kari Bremnes. Kari is a Norwegian singer who also wrote a song about Hurtigruten (on her album “Blå krukke”, 1989). I had already divulged my love of Norway to him, so Burkhard mentioned Hurtigruten and e-mailed me a link to a video stream of one of those voyages. At that moment, doing a Hurtigruten cruise of the Norwegian coastline became an item on my bucket list. And last Christmas I had saved up enough money to actually book it, albeit a slimmed-down version of just the southbound part. So that’s how Hurtigruten happened for me. I mean for Ruth and me – though Ruth was really just a more or less unwitting (if appreciative) victim.
Here’s the video link Burkhard sent me that hooked me. Beware…it might hook you too!
Back to Kirkenes, around noon. The sky was overcast. In novels, such weather is typically described when introducing a mystery, or a murder, perhaps both. People with rucksacks and/or trolleys, hopefully not all too bent on murder, started gathering on the quay in front of the 1993-built (and 2016-refurbished), 121.8-metre-long, 11,204-tonne, 498-bed MS Kong Harald, named after the reigning monarch of Norway. We noticed right away that the average age of those around us was, um, above the retirement cut-off. Some of the less socially proficient retirees blankly stared at us. It wasn’t until later that day that we spotted a family or two. In total there may have been at most half a dozen pre-teens and about a dozen teens on board.
At 12:25, we had checked into cabin 325, which was directly to the left of the ship’s loading/unloading portal, and the vessel cast off. We were checked in by Jacqueline Seagal – or at least someone who was called Jacqueline and who very much looked like she could be Steven Seagal’s sister. Upon check-in, we got a key card which, after having been linked to my credit card, was also the way to easily make on-board purchases.
Now the cabins need a special mention. They are obviously very compact – especially the shower – but they are also quite luxurious. We had a mid-range cabin on the outside of the ship, so we had a nice view of whatever bit of sea or fjord was available for viewing. And the bathroom floor was heated. There is something intrinsically luxurious and somehow peaceful in being able to, um, relieve yourself while your feet get warmed.
Most of the luncheons we enjoyed while on the Kong Harald were of the buffet variety. You could chose from quite a wide selection of hot and cold dishes, and usually there was quite an extensive choice of local produce. Even if you’d never tasted something before (like I hadn’t ever tried herring in curry sauce), you could just have a little to try, have more if it was, as Borat would say, “success!” Buffets rule. And not only was the variety a big plus, the taste was, too. Obviously, the catering side of Hurtigruten must be supported by a very capable chef and kitchen team. Although most dinners and some lunches were three-course (not buffet) and therefore fixed, there was never any reason other than to praise their talents.
Later that day we left the ship for the first time. In Vardø, the ship stayed for about 45 minutes while us tourists could visit the small local fortress, “Vardøhus Fortress”, a modest museum surrounded by a stone wall, guarded by a statue of King Haakon VII (1905-1957). It is was located on a hillock with a gentle slope. Everyone had to hurry, as you were supposed to be back on the ship 10 minutes before departure.
It was the first time I tried out my school’s Garmin VIRB 360° camera. I had resolved to use this trip to beautiful Norway as a starting point for some really cool 360° video clips to be used in our “Virtual Reality Club” (of which I am the supporting teacher). Nothing except the real thing beats such a video if you want to remember what a certain place was like. Vardø wasn’t spectacular, but it was a good place to try out what the camera could do, and how it functioned. The clips are a bit short, but at leas they give an impression.
We ultimately had to hurry back to make it in time. Mrs Seagal told off a few trembling people who arrived just within the 10-minute-early time slot (“the ship will really leave without you!”). We vouched to be in time, always!
I would like to briefly dwell on my physical state here, in particular of my left heel.
About a year and a half ago I did something to my left foot that caused the heel to feel uncomfortable (and even painful) after a prolonged period of non-use (read: almost every time I get up in the morning). After dance lessons or a day with much walking, it’s at its worst. The oddest thing, to me, is that it feels better after some use. I do intend to go to my GP soon, it’s just that I wasn’t raised to go to the doctor for any little thing. And, really, it’s already feeling a lot better as I am writing this…
Anyway, while Ruth ambled comfortably to and from the ship, I more sortof limped, feeling like old age had finally caught up on me. I was already blending right in with the old folk around us.
In the evening we had our first dinner at the MS Kong Harald. They always strived to provide us with locale produce, like I said earlier, and as we were sailing around Finnmark this included reindeer. Lovely, and much less gamey-tasting than deer for example. Dinner, however, also made us discover the only thing about Hurtigruten that wasn’t quite perfect.
In the Hurtigruten price structure. Everything is divided into Basic, Select and Platinum. We had gone for Select, as that allows you to choose a cabin type, get complimentary tea and coffee, and of course the only thing below oxygen in our Maslow’s hierachy of needs, Wifi. Platinum, among other things, boasts two free excursions, dining á la carte, a welcome basket with champagne, private airport transfers, a visit to the ship’s bridge, priority embarking/disembarking and an activity outdoor clothing package. Together with the obviously much steeper price, the Platinum package includes especially things that are really quite unnecessary. One of the things Platinum also offers, however, is “inclusive drinks package with dinner”. And that, we both felt, is really something that should have been included in the “Full Board” description of Select. This was, in fact, the first time I had been on holiday in a “Full Board” type situation without free drinks all day around.
After dinner we went back to our cabin, as the next day would start early for the “Breakfast at the North Cape” excursion.
I started reading my next book, Hans Rosling’s “Factfulness – Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think”. It quickly became apparent that this was a life-changing book, and in fact I think you should definitely also read it. Those who are familiar with me know I am no stranger to hyperbole, but believe me that you should all read this book as quickly as you possibly can. Read a review somewhere, order it right away, read it. It will change your view of the world utterly, and will also make you feel a whole lot better in general. If there is one thing I’d really like you to take away from this whole Hurtigruten story, it’s the utterly non-Hurtigruten-related fact that you ought to read this book. You don’t know it yet, but you owe it to yourself and to the world.
I did not sleep well. Not on account of the book, but on account of wanting to fall asleep as quickly as possible. We knew we had to get up at 05:00.
Thursday, 15 August.
We got an unexpected wake-up call at 4:45, which startled me from a dreamless semi-sleep. As we got woken up 15 minutes before we had personally intended to, a feeling of relaxedness settled over us. No need to hurry, really, was there? The ship arrived at the fog-enshrouded town of Honningsvåg, starting point for our first excursion. Despite our feeling not too hurried, Ruth was the last off the ship and we needed to break into a brisk trot to make it to the bus.
The Finnmark area of Norway barely has any trees and looks barren. Most vegetation you’ll see is moss. Left and right are impressive rock formations, little lakes, a waterfall here or there. Good thing we had those coats, for it was 9 degrees or thereabouts. Guide Petter (or Petr?) spoke of people getting stuck in the snow with the army having to be called in, about the Sami people, and about low average temperatures on sea and on land. I always tell Ruth I could live anywhere as long as there’s good internet, even (or perhaps “especially”) if there are barely any people, but perhaps this area of Finnmark does not fall within my usual sweeping statement.
The occasional reindeer would be spotted close to the bus, which resulted in every single person in the bus whipping out their cameras or smartphones and snapping away. Though Petter predicted it, nobody believed we would soon almost be tired of seeing reindeer. He also told us the water temperature around here was 24 degrees – 8 in the morning, 8 in the afternoon and 8 in the evening :-).
At 06:10 we arrived at the North Cape, at 71º9’53.7552” N latitude. When the bus parked in front of the visitor centre – erected around the spot where Siam (Thailand) king Chulalongkorn (Rama V) carved his name in a rock during his visit in July 1907 – we barely even saw it, that’s how thick the fog was. So the view from the North Cape was correspondingly limited, but we did gather around the globe built on its very northern edge. Although it was too late for the midnight sun and too early for the famed Northern Lights, it felt like a pretty special place to be.
Sorry about the wind noise. I couldn’t figure out how to zero the sound using the VIRB Edit software (which, to be honest, is quite basic).
The visitor centre boasted an exposition of the history of the North Cape, as well as the demise of the German WWII battle cruise Scharnhorst (was sunk off the coast there). We also had breakfast there, where I had my first pickled herring in tomato sauce experience (I’d have more of that on future occcasions!).
At about 07:45 we left the North Cape. The ship had obviously already set sail from Honningvåg while we were doing this excursion, so we would be dropped off on the MS Kong Harald’s next port of call, Hammerfest – which I reckoned was a very cool name for a power metal festival. But we had nearly 4 hours ahead of us, with a short break in Olderfjord (where we resisted buying a reindeer skin, which in hindsight we regretted a little). During those hours Petter regaled us with various facts about Norway, Finnmark, the Sami people, reindeer, and the scorched earth policy of the retreating German Wehrmacht in 1944 (“das war kein Spaß”).
And we saw reindeer. Calves, proudly-antlered bulls, cows, whole herds, and sometimes a bunch that leisurely blocked the road and took a little while to leave. Photo ops galore! I found myself deleting the reindeer pics I had made earlier that day.
It continued to be very foggy and there was a lot of wind (hence so few trees, Petter revealed). We also came past a collection of stones sitting on a coast that looked remarkably like a troll. Norwegians have something with trolls. And vikings. And reindeer. And moose. Ruth was a bit disappointed when we didn’t get to see any of the latter.
A thought about those Vikings…1400 years ago the Viking invasions of Europe were not exactly welcome, and the inhabitants of the European coasts thought they were harbingers of doom, starting the end of the world. They slaughtered and pillaged like there was no tomorrow. Nothing like the romanticized picture of Vikings that was shaped in the last two centuries. How long will it take until mainstream Russians have T-shirts with “Home of Stalin”, or Germans have T-shirts sporting a “Country of the Nazis” slogan? Just made me wonder. Hopefully more than 1400 years, though.
We arrived at the city of Hammerfest when it was almost noon. Hammerfest has the peculiarly shaped Hammerfest Kirke, re-built by Germans in 1961 after they had burnt it down behind them (as you do) in 1944. Probably not the same Germans. Its odd shape was, apparently, inspired by the typical shape of a stockfish drying flake (the lovely German translation and potentially cool Hangman word being “Stockfischtrockengestell”).
Sorry about the tilted thumbnail, but if you click on it, it will display right.
The ship didn’t leave until 12:30, so we walked through town a bit. We visited the famous “Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society” and got a bunch of picture postcards there, to send to the home front. We did not become members of said society, though we’d heard it was the in thing for tourists to do. We did get the postcards stamped with a special polar bear society stamp, however.
We spent most of the afternoon reading aboard the ship. There was a pretty homey part of deck 7 where you could have a drink, which is what we did. Rosling’s book continued to captivate and educate as I progressed through its chapters. Ruth had been reading Isabelle Allende’s “The House of the Spirits” and continued throughout the trip. The Hurtigruten home red wine was lovely, the dry white one was pretty ordinary.
In the evening, we had upgraded our regular meal to a one-off King Crab meal. After the slight disappointment of not being able to get the King Crab starter in Kirkenes, certainly after we had heard so many stories about King Crab multiplying like crazy and overrunning native species in the fjords, we had figured the Norwegians would be pushing us to eat them left and right, and practically for free (as we’d be doing them a service!). Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Be that as it may, I think we got a whole King Crab, nicely dissected and pre-broken for our culinary delight.
If you’ve never had King Crab, the taste can be compared to lobster but it’s a little sweeter to my palate. The meat is structured much more nicely when compared to regular crab, which makes it much easier to eat. These are first world problems, I know (though Hans Rosling would strongly discourage me from using any such description of a developed country, as well as the word “developed country”), but I can’t help myself.
After dinner, back in the cabin, I finished the “Factfulness” book before going to sleep.
Friday, 16 August.
We woke up before eight. The nights above the Arctic Circle are really much lighter, despite the Midnight Sun having climaxed as far back as June 21st. The curtains in front of our porthole also, let’s say, functioned modestly. The entire night had been extremely comfortable sailing. The ship did not always sail on open sea, instead choosing a more sheltered route between islands and the mainland. The sea was virtually as smooth as a swimming pool.
The next port of call was Harstad, as the ship crept closer and closer to the Lofoten islands to the south. It was only a very short stop, marred by some difficulties disembarking due to an incessant alarm going off to indicate that something wasn’t right with the gangplank mechanism. Ruth in fact had to exit via the car deck door. We barely had enough time to admire the local habit of hanging colourful clothes across the streets and run to a local “Mix” shop to get some Coke and 7up. Did make a 360º video at the quay…
We were back just in time to prevent Mrs Seagal’s wrath.
After Harstad we had our first breakfast on the ship. Like lunch and dinner, this was extremely varied and satisfying. One always tends to eat too much at these breakfast buffets, but it was impossible to resist the temptation of having a warm English-style breakfast, followed by some bits of brie and blue cheese, topped off by some fruit yoghurt. Those bits in the brain that tell you you need to eat as much as possible just in case there’ll be lean years ahead – an ancient survival mechanism – run amok in this type of situation.
Next, we sailed a bit to the northwest so go to the next harbour on the route, Risøyhamn. The voyage took us through the quite narrow Raftsund strait, artificially dredged through where, until not too long ago, one could walk from one island (Andøya?) to another (Hinnøya?) at low tide.
The video clips show the approach through Raftsund Strait and the approach of and departure from Risøyhamn.
We did not leave the ship during its short stop there, and instead elected to have an apres-lunch snooze in our cabin. I started reading my next book – the enlightening, educational and very humorous “Mythos” by the wonderful Stephen Fry. This actor and writer is not admired half enough, I find. This book makes Greek mythology and its tremendous influence on our language accessible to otherwise classically illiterate readers such as myself.
Five o’clock came closer and closer – the time at which we’d enter what expedition team member Heinz called one of the most unmissable places to see during the voyage, Trollfjord. According to legend, this fjord was shaped by one giant axe swing when a troll called Vågakallen got angry when his neighbour’s goats trespassed on his property. We were all urged to go on deck, which is indeed what most people did as we sailed past Olvøya and then rounded Brakøya to enter this fjord. The weather was lovely and just warm enough.
Trollfjord is particularly picturesque due to its narrow entrance among steep cliffs and its compact, visually spectacular and somehow ‘private’ interior. It was made even more special by two sea eagles that we saw soaring between its steep sides. I made a nearly-10-minute 360° clip when the ship exited the Trollfjord, too, some of the most stunning footage I thought. It was a magic and romantic experience, made all the more memorable because I was experiencing it with the love of my life.
Not too long afterwards, dinner included Brunost icecream, which tasted far nicer than I would have imagined back in 1989. And after dinner it was time to join our second excursion, which we had only decided to partake in more or less on a whim earlier that afternoon – the Lofoten Panorama bus excursion which started in the next harbour the boat stopped at, around 18:00, Svolvær.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle around the fact that two buses were needed but there was only one (we later heard this was solved). This seemed to affect the demeanour of our guide somewhat, though it did not affect the content and extent of the information about the Lofoten islands she shared with us while we drove across two major (Austvågøya and Vestvågøy) and a smaller (Gimsøya) islands of the archipelago.
Our first stop was a small fishing village called Henningsvær, located at the far south end of Austvågøya. It could be reached along a practically Caribbean-looking white-sand-with-clear-green-water (but 9 degrees Celcius water temperature) beach and two one-way-traffic bridges. Dusk was upon us, and some rain as well, but just before we left Henningsvær again we were treated to a pretty cool sunset.
The rest of the trip was less eventful, though no less interesting. We took a small (nicotine-induced?) break upon reaching the isle of Gimsøya, and another near Bøstad (with quite a breathtaking view, see below). We drove along the Viking Museum, which was based in or near a large restored viking dwelling, before turning east to the village of Stamsund where the MS Kong Harald lay waiting for us, brightly illuminated in the dark.
After departure, it seemed like we got into a bit of a storm – though no sailor worth his salt would likely describe it as such – with a lot of rain. We read a bit while sitting in the Explorer Lounge (for those among you who harbour bad memories of people getting up early to put their towels on deck chairs near swimming pools, the Explorer Lounge was a slightly less blatant maritime version of that, due to the highly desirable prime seats with panoramic views equalled only by those from the captain’s bridge).
Saturday, 17 August.
Again, we woke quite early. Breakfast happened at 08:30, after which the first event of note was the crossing of the Arctic Circle. Did you know that the position of the Arctic Circle is not fixed? As of 20 August 2019, it runs 66°33′47.7″ north of the Equator. Its latitude depends on the Earth’s axial tilt, which fluctuates within a margin of more than 2° over a 41,000-year period, due to tidal forces resulting from the orbit of the Moon. Consequently, the Arctic Circle is currently drifting northwards at a speed of about 15 metres per year. Nevertheless, a globe on Vikingen island functions as an Arctic Circle Monument. We passed it as breakfast was drawing to a close, at 08:52.
Crossing the Arctic Circle, at least on this particular ship, comes with a certain ritual. Pictures of the northbound journey seemed to indicate this involving ice cold water on one’s head. The southbound version was arguably less traumatic – having a spoonful of cod liver oil with a champagne chaser. We duly partook, and especially Ruth’s contorted face was later immortalised as part of the Hurtigruten Voyage 20 souvenir video.
At 11:51, during the MS Kong Harald brief(!) stay at Sandnessjøen, we ran towards the local “Mix” for something to drink and made it back in time for departure.
After 12:30, the cruise passed a mountain range called “The Seven Sisters”. The range is so called because it features 7 distinct peaks, protecting the hinterland from severe weather phenomena.
Not too long after another very satisfying lunch, we alighted the ship in the village that claims to be practically in the middle of the Norwegian coast, Brønnøysund. Tourist sight number two, according to Google, was the Brønnøysund bridge. According to the usually infallible Google Maps, it was supposed to be located at a 4-minute walk from where we were. It seemed further away as we looked south to where the Fv54 road crossed the water, but nonetheless we set out full of hope.
It was after over 20 minutes’ walking that we decided to see if we could actually try to hitchhike there. This would then hopefully also prevent us from actually having to ascend that bridge (the highest centre span has a clearance of 30 metres above sea level). Also, my left heel was gently killing me. Even more importantly, however, the time the ship would remain in port was slowly running out and we also had to make it back before it left (at the time we thought we had an hour and a half available, though it later turned out we had two and a half hours at our disposal).
A very friendly lady in a large Volvo proved once more that Norwegians are very friendly folk by dropping us off at the other side of the bridge. Stopping in the middle of the bridge was not allowed and potentially dangerous, but ascending the bridge from the other side was much less challenging. In the end we arrived at the highest point of the bridge just a tad earlier than two rather much more sporty looking girls from the ship (who had not hitchhiked) got there. Minor victory!
The view was spectacular enough to warrant whipping out the 360° camera again.
We walked back, if I may add, entirely under our own steam and got something to drink at a local shopping mall as well. We spotted the girls jogging back. One can but frown sometimes, can’t one?
After the ship’s departure, we saw the Brønnøysund bridge from sea level as the ship boldly continued forth to tourist sight number one, Torghatten. Sure glad we didn’t decide to think we were able to walk there – the distance was perhaps 15 kilometres.
On its way to Torghatten, by the by, the MS Kong Harald passed Brønnøysund tourist sight number three, Steinar Breiflabb. It is Brønnøy’s contribution to Artscape Nordland. The sculpture was created by the Swedish/French artist Erik Dietman, and is a landscape installation shaped like a 70 m (230 ft) long stone fish.
Torghatten, then. This is an impressive granite mountain with a naturally formed, 35-metre-high tunnel through its centre. Legend would have a troll-based story behind the tunnel , of course.
It wasn’t crowded at the ship’s stern at all, unlike when we had entered Trollfjord. This may have been on account of most interested people having visited the actual Torghatten tunnel during the day’s excursion, or the gale-force winds that rocked the front of the ship. Nonetheless, we enjoyed each other’s company enough to do a spontaneous little jive, in our warm coats, hoods pulled up, strands of Ruth’s hair whipping. The ship went there and then back out along Brønnøysund, on its way to the next harbour, Rørvik (which was at night, and we didn’t leave the ship).
At dinner, the time until which was spent reading in the Explorer Lounge, we decided to splash out a little on a bottle of Chablis. Because quite a few people were set to leave at the next major harbour, Trondheim, there was some sort of celebration. The main crew, including captain Asbjørn Dalan, were there for a goodbye speech followed by “skol” all around. And I say “all around”, but my enthusiastically lifted glass was pathetically kept hanging by all and sundry. That is, until the friendliest, most-often-smiling waitress, ‘skol!’ed’ me.
At the end of dinner we hadn’t finished our wine. A waitress was happy to put it back in the fridge for a later occasion – such a nice service.
Sunday, 18 August.
We were awoken by the sound of the entry/exit hatch opening creakingly at 06:45. We wanted to go into Trondheim, but there was no reason to hurry as the ship would be in its berth for over 3 hours. So we freshened up, exited the ship and took a taxi towards the Gothic Nidaros Cathedral in the old town. It was Sunday early in the morning so there was barely anyone to be seen. The taxi driver was enthusiastically explaining stuff about the town, in particular about something that could be seen on the left, when a car coming from the right made a condensed version of our lives flash before our eyes. A crash was barely averted, though our cabby could easily have died a horrible death if looks had been able to kill.
We left the cab onto a scene entirely bereft of other life except for literal early birds. It was exactly the kind of atmosphere you find after a long night – something may have happened in the night, but early dawn holds only the promise of tranquillity (or, in the case of a post-party scenario, a hangover). We walked around the cathedral, where we now spotted an anonymous reading Norwegiëtte who remained calmly unperturbed by our camera-centric tourist behaviour. The cabby had also advised us to check out the wooden houses of the old town, so we crossed the Old Town Bridge (“Gamle Bybro”) in its general direction. Very picturesque, again, and thankfully it only rained a little now and then. So much picture postcard material all around us.
Right then and there, surrounded by old Norwegian Trondheim, my iPhone told me it wanted to update to iOS 12.4, so I told it to. The last time I was in Norway it would still be more than a year until I would first use the internet myself, let alone 4G mobile internet. Back then, a current-day modern smartphone such as many of us have right now was the stuff of insanely progressive science fiction. My world consisted of a computer that had 4 megabytes of RAM, and a hard disk featuring 60 Mb worth of storage capacity was just about the best you could get (and you’d pay through the nose for it!). Times have certainly been a-changing.
We decided to head back towards the harbour. Since there was no real hurry, we figured we might find a cab, or we might not. Imagine our surprise when we found our old cabby friend again, still alive, still operating from the same miraculously dent-free car. We decided to tempt the gods by asking him to drive us back to the MS Kong Harald, where we arrived alive and well to have a 9:00 breakfast.
Not long after we started, the ship departed Trondheim. Upon our leaving the harbour, Hurtigruten sister ship Richard With (named after the man who started Hurtigruten in 1893) made berth there. The ships exchanged customary hooting sounds as we sailed through Trondheim Fjord on our way to Kristiansund, the next port of call we were supposed to arrive at late in the afternoon.
We went to the Explorer Lounge again, to read and have some tea. The beautiful coasts of Hitra and Smøle scrolled by on the port side, smooth like the sea under a blue sky with a bright summer sun. I had taken my earpods with me and listened to some metal (My Dying Bride in particular, who I have learned to re-appreciate after reading their extensive history in the great “A Harvest of Dread” box set), playing the occasional bit of air guitar and bobbing my head while continuing in Fry’s “Mythos”. Many moments of profound peace, Ruth reading next to me.
After lunch (where we enjoyed the remainder of the Chablis) the good weather didn’t relent. The sun, gentle breeze and bewitching scenery lured me outside on the deck again to do another 360° video clip, at 14:40 around Grisvàkøya. Honestly, anything less than 24/7 coverage of such a grand voyage is less than it deserves. You see one thing, and up comes the next thing that requires attention and admiration. Really, it would be exhausting if it weren’t also energy-inducingly gratifying.
Recharged and optimistic, I went back in and decided to ask Heinz of the expedition team if, despite my not having Platinum status, it would perhaps be allowed to visit the bridge and create a 360° video clip there. I showed him the camera to prove my worth. For school, you see, as I am after all a teacher and the guy who oversees the aforementioned Virtual Reality club. He dashed my hopes by saying that the day before had been the day on which interested people had been able to visit the bridge, and besides they really officially weren’t allowed to anymore. He said he would ask, but he expected little of it.
Another minor setback was the jacuzzi. We had been rejoiced by the fact that it had been available for use, after the Hurtigruten site having stated that it was unavailable during the week before we boarded. We had planned for a Sunday late-evening session of hot tubbing, but this day we heard that the jacuzzi had to be checked, cleaned and repaired on account of an unspecified member of the guests having had an accident with a piece of illicit glassware.
As afternoon changed into evening and the ship had visited Kristiansund, we sailed past the Atlantic Ocean Road. It’s a stretch of road, largely across bridges built between 1983 and 1989, that is known to have been called “the world’s best road trip” and awarded “Norwegian Construction of the Century”. The bridges often feature in automotive commercials. The MS Kong Harald sailed by at quite a distance from it, so it was difficult to behold from the deck.
After dinner we went to the Explorer Lounge for a bit of light reading and music. Well, “Mythos”, and expedition team’s Giske singing from behind a piano. Although Giske’s folk singing had sounded quite pleasurable when she launched into song at the end of our first day’s information meeting, we decided to give in to Morpheus’ siren song of sleep and head for the cabin after a few of Giske’s tunes. We read a bit there, and I ate my first (and, well, last) bar of Nero Lakrissjokolade (liquorice-filled chocolate).
In the night we sailed past Eggesbø island (past homestead of the late Gard Eggesbø Abrahamsen who died much too early almost exactly 5 years ago), to the east of which lay the village of Ørsta (past homestead of Ronny, where my previous two visits to Norway had largely or partly been spent).
Unfortunately the middle of the night also saw us dock for a meagre half hour at Ålesund. This was literally the one spot where every single person I had spoken to about our Hurtigruten adventure had advised us to climb the stairs up to Fjellstua to enjoy a stunning view of the whole town. Alas, this opportunity only avails itself to travellers on the northbound trip, when the ship stops there for a longer time. Instead we slept.
Monday, 19 August.
We woke up just after seven. This was to be our final day of Hurtigruten and, as can be said so dramatically, the beginning of the end. A look outside our porthole quickly revealed that the drama wasn’t restricted to my mind – it was raining outside.
At 10:00 we had to have vacated our cabin, after which we spent most of the time reading in the homey part at the aft of deck 7. With literally everyone out of their cabins, the ship now seemed quite crowded and it was more difficult to find a place to sit.
Although there had been no farewell celebrations the evening before, all those who were interested could decide to be in a group picture on the back of deck 7. This really brought a bit of a family atmosphere which just made it a bit sadder that the end of our Hurtigruten adventure had begun. As it was unexpectedly dry, Giske organised a quick spell of folk dancing on the same deck.
There was un expectedly positive announcement when I ran into Heinz, who told me it was possible to visit the bridge after all. He reiterated that this wasn’t customary at all, and that we had to be silent as part of the crew was asleep in the cabins adjacent to the bridge. Captain Dalan was very hospitable, if perhaps not entirely fluent in English, and insisted Ruth and I took turns on the captain’s throne. That was unexpectedly cool. I also whipped out the 360° camera for a shot of the bridge, which was what the original intention had been.
After the Last Lunch (doesn’t sound quite as solemn as “Last Supper”, but it sure felt like it) everyone gathered to, well, basically wait for their deck number to be called for debarcation in Norway’s second city, Bergen.
I forgot to make note of the time it was our turn, but I do remember that it was raining. We went through Bergen’s Hurtigruten Terminal to where the luggage had been put. Unfortunately the heavens opened at around that time so some of the luggage (including ours) got pelted on by rain.
Not too long afterwards we managed to hail a cab that brought us to Magic Hotel Solheimsviken, across the water in the south of Bergen. After checking in and ditching our luggage in our room – which was a smorgasbord of curiously slanted and asymmetrical design choices – we went to the nearest Bergen Light Rail (metro) station of Danmarks Plass. It took us straight to Byparken in the centre of town, each stop with its own little tune in its announcement message.
Before any fun could be had, we had to embark on a Quest for Socks. Several days earlier I had made the terminally stupid mistake to mention that Ruth’s son, Oscar, might want a little souvenir, perhaps Norwegian socks? Well, as our stay in Norway was drawing to a close, time was running out. To get it out of Ruth’s head, the best choice would be to find them now. After we had seen some of Bergen’s old town (Bryggen) and found a pair of socks that would hopefully satisfy all those involved, we sat down in a makeshift restaurant at the local Fish Market, run by Age Sørensen and a host of Spanish waiters and waitresses. I finally had whale steak (tastes somewhere between beef and liver). I liked it quite a bit, though it had irritating white thin stringy bits running right through it. This was exacerbated by the restaurant’s flimsy plastic cutlery. Ruth had King Crab which, obviously, was a unanimously positive experience.
Nature called afterwards, so we went to have dessert and find relief at a “Thank God it’s Friday” place. I had the best strawberry milkshake ever there. I am nearly 52, so I’d like to think, perhaps arrogantly, that lends weight to my judgement.
Back to the hotel, in bed by 20:35, probably asleep before nine. Somewhere in the very early morning, Ruth felt between the mattrasses and found a somewhat dried, partly eaten apple. This was about as welcome as the weather prediction which spoke of storms and rain for that day. Bergen, we supposed, was never going to be a highlight of the trip. Bergen was the city that made you forget it’s summer.
Tuesday, 20 August.
Not long after waking up from a very nice sleep, at 08:15, I emailed Kai Holst (he whose family hosted the second half of my 1993 visit to Norway) on behalf of his birthday.
After a pretty decent breakfast we stored our luggage at the hotel and found our way to the centre of town again. We got tickets for one of the city’s “hop-on/hop- off” bus services, “Sightseeing Bergen”. This included a ticket for the “Fløibanen”, a steeply ascending cable train towards the Fløyen mountain to the north-east of the city. At 320 metres, it yields a beautiful view of the whole of Bergen including its harbours. Needless to say, out came the 360° camera. This mountain with its spectacular vistas saved our Bergen experience from becoming unfortunately forgettable. The weather prediction had so far also proved wrong. Although the sky was overcast, it was mainly dry. We didn’t even need to wear our coats, on account of it being warm enough.
Below are two clips from the Fløyen mountain, both from the same vantage point. The images created by the front and back lenses of the camera are sown together by software so you always have fuzziness there. To allow everything to be seen sharply I took one shot with the front lens pointed west and one with it pointed south.
After taking the Fløibanen down, we proceeded with the rest of the hop-on/hop-off bus tour, though we hopped on nor off. We drove past the 15 most noteworthy tourist highlights, including Bryggen, the harbour, the Fish Market, Grieghallen, the university and others. I noticed there being a lot of Teslas on the roads of Bergen, which I suppose is a good thing for both Norway’s affluency and its environmental awareness.
As the trip’s end approached, so did rain. We ate at the same Fish Market restaurant again (paella and scampis) and went back to the hotel to get our luggage. We were running a tad late. The rain had disappeared again, thankfully.
Now we were on the final stretch of our journey that had brought us over 2000 kilometres north and then, much slower, 1500 kilometres south. We took the Bergen Light Rail in the other direction towards its final stop, “Bergen Lufhavn”. This was quite a bit further than going to Byparken, and it was not without its share of poking fun at the Norwegian language.
First we had “Sletten”, the name of the 4th stop. We thought that was very funny, as this basically means “sluts” (as in “promiscuous girls”) in Dutch. The next stop really had us in stitches, “Slettebakken”, this being just a more elaborately insulting Dutch version of the same. The adult filters Ronny had mentioned during the first evening of our trip fell away and we laughed out loud like schoolgirls. What must our fellow train travellers have thought?
At 16:05 we checked in at the airport. This was the first time (for me) that the process was entirely automatic. It seemed like all check-in counter personnel had been effectively made redundant here. We had some farewell fish at “Fiskeriet”. Behind the cash register hung stockfish, looking like they had been scared to a horrific death and then having their intestines opened.
At 17:35, flight KL1190 took as back to our native country, where we landed in warmer and sunnier weather around 19:25. It was the first time ever that the Dutch weather we returned to was actually better than at the holiday destination we had come from. Luggage retrieval was ridiculously fast, and in fact both our trolleys came off the carousel first, and together. We hit home at 21:00.
Today is Towel Day, a day to commemorate the life and works of the late great Douglas Adams (1952-2001). On this day, fans are supposed to openly carry a towel with them all day, on account of what “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” says about the importance of towels:
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)
I read the initial three volumes of these books in 1988, and to say they shaped my life is barely hyperbolic. Since then I believe I have read all Douglas Adams’ books, even including his non-fiction title “Last Chance to See”. Now I cannot let an everyday occurrence of the number 42 go by unheeded. The Atari ST scene gathering “ST NEWS International Christmas Coding Convention” had a 10th and 25th anniversary, and will next convene on its 42nd anniversary. I use the words “skoonsproot” and “affpuddle” in active conversation (though they are from his “The Meaning of Liff”). I regularly re-read the Hitchhiker’s series as well as the Dirk Gently books. And yesterday I finished binge-watching the second season of BBC America’s rather entertaining “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” (which are very very very loosely, in fact hardly, based on the books) with my wife. I set up the most insulting website ever at www.wowbagger.com. When I attempted to write funny stuff, I wore Adams’ influences on my sleeve (well, and a bit of Pterry). Douglas has really touched my life in a way otherwise only achieved by Tolkien and Orwell.
So here’s to the life and legacy of Douglas Adams. Have a great Towel Day!
Dit blog kan worden gebruikt om bij een bezoek aan het mooie plaatsje Beek (in Gelderland, tegen Nijmegen) de locaties te zien waar de gebeurtenissen in Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s roman “Hex” zich afspelen. Als je de belangrijkste locaties wilt zien kost dat ongeveer een halve dag. Als het heeft geregend is het handig om goede wandelschoenen of kaplaarzen te dragen bij het verkennen van Keteldal en Smorenhoek (punt 10 en 11).
De verwijzingen naar hoofdstukken zijn gebaseerd op het ebook met e-ISBN 978 90 245 7531 2, (c) 2013, 2016 Thomas Olde Heuvelt en uitgeverij Luitingh-Sijthoff B.V., Amsterdam.
De route begint bij het de meest afgelegen locatie – Rijksstraatweg 188, “tegen het stijl oplopend Filosofendal (…) tegen de Duitse grens aan de voet van de Duivelsberg”. Dit is het meest oostelijke punt van Beek, vrijwel tegen de N325. Hier woont de familie De Graaf, en vinden ook de dramatische gebeurtenissen van hfdst 22 plaats. Het is geen bestaand adres – er is geen hoger nummer dan 186. De Filosofenbeek loopt er langs, richting het Wylermeer (uitgesproken als “Wielermeer”). In hfdst 14 is de Filosofenbeek rood van bloed. Achter het huis van de familie De Graaf heeft Katharina van Wyler tot haar dood in 1666 gewoond.
We beginnen de wandeling naar het centrum van Beek, richting het westen, langs de in hfdst 3 genoemde keien. Aan de zuidkant van de weg staan een aantal prachtige huizen, alsmede Hotel de Musschenberg (de eigenares is helemaal geen fan van het boek :-).
Na ongeveer 600 meter lopen zien we links de Van Randwijckweg die de heuvel op gaat richting Berg en Dal. Het uit 1912 stammende gebouw met het opvallende opschrift “Gem: Electriciteits Werken – Nijmegen” is in het boek het hoofdkwartier van HEX. Tegenwoordig zit hier het Antiquariaat Supplement Beeld-en Boekwerken (www.supplementboek.nl), maar vroeger was dit een transformator-gebouw ten behoeve van het zogenaamde Bergspoor (Lijn 2), en daarna nog een VVV kantoor.
Als we ongeveer 50 meter verder naar het westen lopen komen we bij het “Dorpsplein” – niet echt een dorpsplein maar een klein kerkje (Het Kleine Bartholomeuskerkje) met een bescheiden begraafplaats en wat wegen eromheen. In hfdst 4 lezen we dat de cel met Arthur Swinckels onder dit kerkje ligt.
Slagerij en Lunchroom Holst (van Gemma Holst, lid van HEX en moeder van Jelmer) ligt aan de Nieuwe Holleweg ten zuiden van het kerkje. Tegenwoordig is dat een plek waar een toneelgroep in een voormalige slagerij optreedt.
Rondom dit kerkje gebeuren veel dingen in het boek, in eerste instantie de #lantaarnpaaltest, aan de oostzijde van de begraafplaats in hfdst 4 (aan de Nieuwe Holleweg).
Het pannenkoekenhuis De Heksenkring dat in het boek wordt genoemd bestaat niet, en dus ook niet het terras vanwaar dat experiment in oostelijke richting werd bekeken. Maar dat zou dan moeten liggen op de plek van Jos Peters Wijnkoperij.
De oude dames die eveneens getuige waren van het experiment houden zich op bij het beeld van de Bronzen Wasvrouw op de noordoost-hoek van de begraafplaats.
Aan de zuidwesthoek van de begraafplaats ligt eetcafé De Witte, in hfdst 5 ’t Wittecke genoemd. In hfdst 23 vindt de begrafenis van Timo in de serre die erachter ligt plaats.
Het Wickervrouw ritueel uit hfdst 10 gebeurt op de kruising van de Nieuwe Holleweg en de Rijksstraatweg, evenals de geseling van Jelmer (hfdst 21). Vanaf het direct aan dit kruispunt gelegen hotel ’t Spijker, “keek (Katharina) toe op het balkon, centraal op de voorgevel” naar die geseling. Ook in hfdst 6, nadat de heks een “home encounter” bij de recentelijk naar Beek verhuisde Van Aerendoncks heeft, is ze in hotel ‘t Spijker verschenen.
We vervolgen de route ongeveer 200 meter verder naar het westen over de Rijksstraatweg. Aan de linkerkant, daar waar de Verbindingsweg aan de rechterkant op de Rijksstraatweg uitkomt, bevindt zich het Waterrad Beek. Een mooi plekje, wat in het boek alleen in hfdst 14 wordt genoemd, wanneer zowel de Kastanjebeek alhier en de Filosofenbeek aan de andere kant van het dorp rood kleuren van het bloed.
In één moeite door staat aan de overkant van de Rijksstraatweg het Gemeentehuis (sinds 1 januari 2015 niet meer in gebruik als gemeentehuis). In hfdst 21 wordt de geselkat waarmee Jelmer wordt gestraft uit de Kleine Raadzaal van dit gemeentehuis gehaald.
Nu kan worden gekozen een uurtje meer of een uurtje minder aan wandelen kwijt te zijn, want de volgende twee locaties liggen een beetje uit de route en zijn ook beperkter interessant…
Indien ze kunnen worden geskipt: loop de Verbindingsweg in en loop na de flauwe bocht naar rechts rechtdoor de Waterstraat in. Ga verder bij punt 7.
Indien ze niet kunnen worden overgeslagen, ga meteen verder bij punt 5.
Loop de Verbindingsweg in. Voorbij de Van Hasseltstraat (links) de Verbindingsweg naar links in de richting van de verkeerslichten volgen. Vervolgens de eerst volgende weg links (Roemer Visscherstraat) in. Loop deze ongeveer 100 meter af tot de T-kruising met de Vondelstraat. In deze straat, “bij mevrouw Tielrode” op een niet nader gespecificeerd huisnummer, verscheen Katharina na de #lantaarnpaaltest (hfdst 5). Sla op de T-kruising rechtsaf de Vondelstraat in tot het eind, de Gelderhorstlaan.
Sla linksaf de Gelderhorstlaan in. Ga de tweede weg links in, de Potgieterstraat (de eerste mogelijkheid links is de Nesciostraat). Burak Sayer woont hier. Het incident met Fledder en Jelmer en het Stanleymes uit hfdst 12 gebeurt hier. Het boek zegt dat het een rijtjeshuis is met een steegje ernaast. In de straat staan alleen twee-onder-één-kap woningen en alleen naast huisnummer 2 is iets wat je een steegje zou kunnen noemen.
Loop weer terug naar de Verbindingsweg, sla daar rechtsaf. Ga na het binnengaan van de 30 km zone linksaf de Waterstraat in.
De Waterstraat ongeveer 250 meter volgen tot aan de linkerkant de Plus van Nico de Witt verschijnt. Loop vóór de parkeerplaats de Akenshof in en volg op die op het eind naar rechts. Op een gegeven moment lopen we achter de Nico de Witt, waar in hfdst 9 het Ray Ban experiment plaatsvond.
Loop door, helemaal om de Plus heen, of loop terug naar de voorkant bij de parkeerplaats. Dit is de plek waar het boek opende, waar Katharina werd verborgen onder een nep-draaiorgel in hfdst 1.
Loop verder (volg de Waterstraat naar het zuiden tot het bekende kruispunt van punt 3) en sla linksaf de Rijksstraatweg op. Na ongeveer 100 meter ligt links, na een bloemenwinkel, de Hubertushal op een meter of 50 van de weg. Deze sporthal is het toneel van het proces in hfdst 20, waar Jelmer en twee andere jongens middeleeuwse lijfstraffen krijgen opgelegd.
We vervolgen de route naar het Keteldal. Volgens het boek hingen hier geen camera’s meer, wat Gemma Holst in staat stelde om Katharina bij wijze van zoenoffer stiekem haar legendarische ganzenborstpaté te brengen (hfdst 8). Tegenover het links gelegen Rijksstraatweg 231a ligt, rechtsaf, het verharde pad dat Keteldal heet.
Na ongeveer 300 meter verwordt dit tot nauwelijks meer dan een karrespoor, op welk moment er een pad naar links gaat (vanaf hier is het aan te raden laarzen te dragen als het heeft geregend).
Enkele tientallen meters verderop is voor te stellen dat de verregende ganzenborstpaté aan de Wylerheks werd aangeboden.
Loop het pad verder de heuvel op en houd links aan. Na ongeveer 200 meter kom je bij de open plek in het bos die Smorenhoek heet. En aan de nu voor ons rechts zichtbare bosrand (ten oosten) bood Gemma in hfdst 14 de levende pauw in de Nico de Witt big shopper aan Katherina aan.
Het is nu mogelijk terug naar de Rijksstraatweg te lopen via het Keteldal, maar je kunt ook doorlopen en links aan blijven houden om door de Smorenhoek heen verder naar de Rijksstraatweg te lopen. Dan kom je ten oosten van Hotel de Musschenberg uit.
De Van Aerendoncks zeggen, in hfdst 6, dat ze hebben gegeten in het pannenkoekenrestaurant De Duivelsberg op de Duivelsberg. Er gebeurt hier verder niets in het boek, maar het is te voet (met goed schoeisel, vanaf het pad links naast Rijksstraatweg 186) en ook met de auto (Duivelsberg 1, 024-6841439, www.duivelsberg.nl) goed te bereiken en zeker de moeite van een gastronomisch bezoek waard. Heel lekkere pannenkoeken!
Polderdetentie. Volgens het boek vond dat plaats in een bunker in de Ooijpolder, 6 km buiten het dorp. De Ooijpolder ligt ter noordwesten van Beek, en valt buiten het bereik van deze blog.
Plattegronden en lijst van locaties:
A Naambord Beek
B De plek waar geen huisnummer 188 is
E HEX hoofdlkwartoer
F Kleine Bartholomeus Kerkje
G Slagerij Holst
H De Bronzen Wasvrouw
I De Witte
J Hotel ‘t Spijker
K Waterrad van Beek
O Het huis waar misschien Burak woont
P Steegje achter Nico de Witt
Q Plus Nico de Witt
S Keteldal ingang
T Begin van zandpad
Foto credits: De Hex dame vond ik op Facebook op de site van Anja Sylvie Postma; de auteur bij het Waterrad van Beek komt van de site van De Gelderlander. Andere foto’s gemaakt door mij.
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