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Naughty in Norway

Naughty in Norway – Press Release
A fascinating glimpse of Norway
in the 1950s

‘A book all Norwegians should read’

Barbara in forest near Oslo
Author Barbara Godfrey relaxes in a forest near Oslo on her day off

Naughty in Norway, a humorous book by an Englishwoman who was a hushjelp in Oslo in 1953, will be of special interest to Norwegians who remember the Coronation that year of Queen Elizabeth II of England. Nearly 50 years on, author Barbara Godfrey tells of her often comic experiences in the country which still holds a fascination for her, and whose inhabitants may well be following Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee celebrations this summer.

One of the chapters in Barbara’s book recalls how the Coronation in London hit the front pages of the Norwegian newspapers, sharing the headlines with the conquest of Everest. The audience in the crowded Oslo cinema, which had obtained a newsreel film of the ceremony in record time, gasped in wonder as they watched the crowning of the new British Queen – great-niece of their own beloved King Haakon.

Barbara and Alicia on boat to see Tirpitz
The girls take a boat trip to see the wreck of the battleship Tirpitz, near Tromsø

The fun-packed English paperback Naughty in Norway, which the publisher describes as ‘a saucy saga of the North’, has something for all ages and reveals an affectionate and light-hearted understanding of the Norwegian character and way of life in the post-war years.

One reader, Sten Adeler, who grew up in Norway, said the book brought back so many memories that it made him quite emotional. Now an airline pilot living on the Channel Island of Jersey, where he is Norwegian Consul, Mr Adeler was so moved by the book that he even sent his signed copy to his fellow Norwegian Consul in London. ‘In my opinion it is essential reading for all Norwegians, who will gain an insight into how visitors see Norway,’ he declared. ‘The book is a pleasure – not only for tourists.’

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Barbara and Alicia with Tromso polar bear
Barbara, right, and Alicia in Tromsø

Despite its playful title, Naughty in Norway is not just a comic romp. It gives a wealth of serious background information about the country which has enchanted Barbara since childhood, when her parents used to reminisce about their honeymoon there in 1923.

She says: ‘My father left my mother sailing up and down the coast as far as Kirkenes while he went off to explore Svalbard. Among his team of explorers was Sandy Irvine, who died the following year on Everest. Irvine caused a sensation in Bodø when he did acrobatics on a mast there.’

The chapter In love with Oslo paints a picture of a city in the early 1950s which had a quiet dignity and was just beginning to recover from the horrors of the Nazi Occupation. In those days, friendly foreigners were a novelty and Barbara and her friend Alicia, who worked together as hushjelper in the same home, attracted the attention not only of philandering Norwegian men but of women and children, intrigued by their dark hair and brown eyes.

Lapps on the road to Karasjok
A Lapp family gives the girls a friendly welcome near Karasjok

Pining for their Shadows, one of two chapters devoted to a visit to the North Cape, tells of a trip on the fjord to see the wreck of the German battleship Tirpitz being dismantled. There was a warm welcome from a family of nomad Lapps, followed by a strenuous climb to the desolate North Cape plateau up hundreds of steps cut in the cliff face – at that time the only way to reach Europe’s most northerly point.

The British girls’ adventures also took them to Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim and many other parts of Norway. There are a host of farcical episodes, such as the time they were invited to join the dancing at a traditional wedding feast during a hitch-hiking trip to the fjord country. An amorous Norwegian in full bunad, determined to emulate King Olav I’s prowess in leaping across the oars of a Viking ship, fell into the fjord in his velvet outfit after attempting this feat over floating logs.

Then there was the encounter with twins Odd and Ole, who offered the girls a bath in a tin tub – as illustrated on the book’s cover – and the time Alicia had to sit up all night embroidering a moose blanket for a blond young Viking.

Barbara hitching to Dombas
Barbara waiting to hitch a lift
at Dombås

A weekend at a students’ hut in the hills outside Oslo was equally bizarre. The chapter Thor’s Thunderbox tells of the girls’ reluctant use of a ‘thunderbox’ – a six-seater outside toilet – before lying all night on an uncomfortable pile of twigs in the forest with a party of students, hoping to hear the cry of ptarmigan and wood-grouse at dawn.

Oslo, too, was the scene of hilarious incidents. There was the luckless four-piece band which fell into an ornamental pond at a café during a scuffle after a young man tried to force his attention on the girls; and the store salesman who insisted on demonstrating the ‘snog rating’ of duvets in a large cardboard box in the stock room.

Even crazier was one of the outings described in Follow my Leader, when the girls’ employer tried in vain to drive home along a narrow forest track after the family had been to Asker to watch the wedding drive of Princess Ragnhild and her bridegroom Erling Lorentzen. They were closely followed by seven cars, two lorries and a bus, in the mistaken belief that they knew where they were going.

The chapter entitled Fishballs! – and references elsewhere to the dreaded fiskesuppe – will leave the reader in no doubt about the English girls’ dislike of these mainstays of the Norwegian diet . . .

Naughty in Norway is on sale at around NOK 92 in Oslo’s main bookstores and in bookshops in North Norway. The ISBN is 1902976002.

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Don’t forget to have a look at

A selection of Barbara’s snapshots taken in Norway in 1953

Press photos: High resolution jpegs

Naughty in Norway

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Last updated January 10, 2024
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