Beyond the border, perhaps the longest-lived and biggest storytelling festival in Europe has been canceled this year due to the pandemic. It’s a shame, but very understandable. I thought I should tell a little about my relationship with the festival. The first time I was there was as a storyteller, was around 2000. It went rather poorly, for instance, the recognized storyteller Abbi Patrix fell asleep during one of my performances. A good example of what can happen when you are uncertain and not well prepared. Just so it is said, Abbi is a good colleague today.

Another time, we were a small crowd that went to the festival as listeners, it was undeniably fun, a lot of energy was used to find a good place for the tent. And then you had a shared shower, and that was my limit. I am not comfortable with other “people’s private’s” within in my field of view.

Perhaps the most “peculiar event”, going there happened in 2014, which you can read about below, but first about the threefold present. I want to understand what presence is, being present in life, at work, what does it mean? The triple present is a term I borrowed from the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur (1913 – 2005). In the work «Time and Narrative Volume 1», Ricoeur begins with an analyze of Augustine’s «Confessions», focusing on what time is, and here he writes about the present as he interprets Augustine. It then has its basis in a religious dimension, which does not engage me much.

What is interesting is that the present is described as a triad. Past and future are placed in the present through memory and expectation (Ricoeur, 1984). Memory and expectation are modalities of the present. Expectation is analogous to memory, because an expectation is built on a prior knowledge, an image we know and which then creates our expectation. There is thus a dialectical relationship between memory and expectation (Ricoeur, 1984, p. 11). The third element present in the present is perception. The present therefore consists of memory, perception and expectation. This can be essential in understanding how a storytelling performance affects the listener’s cognitive and emotional response, the listener must both be able to recognize what is happening, but also be surprised and excited about how it goes on in a particular narrative one tells.

In 2014, Mathilde and I traveled to Wales to attend the storytelling festival Beyond The Border. Getting from Norway to Wales is a bit tricky. Well, you can buy expensive flight tickets to Cardiff, but we couldn’t. So the solution was to fly to Gatwick in England and then take train from Gatwick to Bridgend in Wales which was the closest train station to the festival. Train tickets were booked in advance. We then got a train route from Gatwick to Reading in England, there a change of train, a new train going to Cardiff and a new train from Cardiff to Bridgend. From Reading we had a seat reservation which we were required to have. This sounds a bit “advanced”, but is important information to help you grasp the mystery that is to come.

At Gatwick we had agreed to meet Ragnhild, a storyteller who came from Berlin. The plan was for us to take trains together, sit and gossip on the train, ie a proper «enjoy each other company time». Now, it turned out that Ragnhild had another train to Wales, she was to travel from Gatwick to Reading and then take a direct train from Reading to Bridgend, so she did not have “the extra train” we had. However, we had the same train to Reading, so we got an hour’s journey together. At Gatwick we randomly met Kouame and Raymond, two other persons travelling from Norway to the same festival, but they were to travel to London and take a train from there. This all seemed to us undeniably extra stress and we laughed a little that they had to take this extra detour, but this was a deal they had and that they had to follow.

Ragnhild, Mathilde and I sat on the train and were in a good mood; this youthful feeling came over us as we sat as backpackers on a train. It didn’t last long. Soon the train stopped because a train ahead of us had problems. We had to leave the train at a nearby station and wait for the train line to be ready for new traffic. With heavy luggage and some discouragement we waited and we realized that we were not going to catch the train from Reading. Ragnhild’s train would leave later and we crossed our fingers that maybe we could get on this. Eventually, we got on a new, and fully packed train, we were standing in the corridor for an hour, and we did not say much.
Arriving in Reading, we got off the train, of course we missed the second train, but maybe we could take the train that Ragnhild was going to take, despite not having a reservation on this train. This was a train we had never intended to take, and now it might have been full, but for us it was important that we arrive, if this meant that we had to stand all the way. This did not matter.

A little information here – Mathilde brought a very “unlucky” suitcase, produced sometime in the 1970s, before suitcases got wheels. So the change of train here and there was in practice a torture in carrying. At the station, we talked to a valet who gave us the signal that it was perfectly fine to take the train, despite bla.. bla… And down on the platform, another valet told us that we would find seats at the back of the train.
So like the “inconvenient companions” we were, we threw ourselves into a random coach at the back of the train. Once inside the coach, we caught sight of Kouame and Raymond and not least Jan, a good friend. The mood rose considerably, what luck they were on this train (despite having traveled from London). We sat down. I sat down next to Jan and the chatter was on. I was sitting on the outer seat, it was an aisle and in the four seats next to us sat two young British girls. Ragnhild and Mathilde sat in another row, right next to us four.

After a short while, and relieved that now hopefully, we could sit all the way the end station, Kouame leaned forward, he sat above me, pointed to the seat next to me (on the other side of the aisle) and said: Hello, your name is on the seat . I leaned over and took the seat reservation that was on that seat and there it said clearly «Dahlsveen». How is it possible? It wasn’t a train we were going to take, a coach we randomly entered and yet it has my name? That is to say, my last name, but not many people in Norway have that name and even fewer would be on their way to Wales at the same time. We had a seat reservation that we had booked, but this did not match what was here in this random train. The conductor couldn’t explain it. Are they so efficient on trains in UK that they would predict that I would end up on this train? The reservation was from Paddington, ie London, which was never my intention to travel from. This mystery has never been solved. How is it possible that my name was reserved on a train I should never have taken, but which I still and randomly ended up in?

I was at Beyond the Border last year too, when the festival was going to try out a new beautiful place and I was lucky to be one of the «test-tellers». It is a wake-up call that one event after another are cancelled, it requires restructuring as expectations get new twists and turns. It is also “exciting” what this will do to us in the long run. We, at least in Norway, have lived a privileged life traveling here and there without thinking about the consequences. At the same time, travelling has been an important part of my storytelling business. I think reshuffling can have many benefits, at least it’s something I choose to believe.

No one can escape his destiny
The title above is the title of a story from “Den gamle skattekiste” – translated to “The Old Treasure Chest.” I do not believe in destiny, in fact, I believe in very little «spiritual» without wanting to say that I lack a spirituality. What I believe is that words about destiny and faith have been normative terms used by authorities who want to manage and retain their power. By holding on to «destiny» as something governing in life, it means, for me, that you are a victim of what is happening to you and you are deprived of your responsibility. Many who see themselves as victims, a victim of system failure, of the structures of society, of their past, poor the opportunities they grew up with.
Here is the story:

Source: Den gamle skattekiste fortellinger legender eventyr sagn retold by Leif Wærenskjold
A man was once to prune an apple tree, and he was cutting the branch he sat on. A student told him. «You fall down.» And really: He fell down! «He was a sage,» he thought, now lying on the ground. He then asked the student if he could tell him when he was going to die. «When your donkey lets go of the third wind,» the student said and left.
When the donkey dropped the third wind, the man lay down and asked his wife to bring coffin carpenter, because he was now dead. The carpenter came and the man was put in his coffin. But when he was carried to the cemetery, he was so heavy that he had to go out and give a hand himself. Then he thought that when he was this alive, he could postpone the funeral. So he went home with his chest on his neck.

Then he met the student and said to him, «It wasn’t the third time.» «Then it will be the fourth time,» the student said. But then the man made a cork and put in the ass to the donkey. Three days through, the donkey did not let any wind go, but on the fourth day there was one so big that the cork killed the man for good.

Summer Day by Kevin MacLeod