The men were seated at a table by the window which gave them a great view of the water separating Nora's place from Ane's factory. And Bjorn, sitting right by the window, facing North, also had a wide view of the alpine mountains at the far side of the Lundby bay. The bright red glow behind the mountains signalled the end of the day, and the rising moon, coming up behind the church, would soon be the only source of natural light for the village.
Turning his head to look south, Bjorn noticed that very little of the village could be seen. The knoll with the parked cars obscured the view completely, so the only other buildings visible from where he sat, was a couple of wooden houses next to the church, and another house behind the factory.
But Bjorn had little time to contemplate the view. Aung handed out the menu to everyone, and engaged them all in small talk. When Ante told her that they were celebrating Thomas' birthday, she lit up and told Thomas that he would get an extra treat on the house.
"We also have balloons," she added with a smile. "Would you like one?"
"Uh... No thanks..." Thomas answered embarrassed.
But everybody around the table protested and insisted that he accept the balloon, and it ended up with Thomas getting a silvery and blue helium balloon when Aung returned with drinks to everybody. It had "Birthday Boy" written in large gold letters, and it had a small weight attached to the end of its string.
"Just in case you should accidentally loose hold of it later tonight," Aung explained. "The weight will prevent it from flying away... Are you ready to order?"
There were not a lot of choice on the menu, which made it easy to decide on the set menu with a bit of everything. Nora's concept was clearly to stick to a few dishes and do them well rather than to provide a lot of variety and risk doing them poorly, and possibly being stuck with a lot of unused ingredients.
Very soon after placing their order, food appeared on the table, and the men dug into the goodies with eagerness. The review in the Gazette had certainly not been unjust. The food was great and the service friendly and homely, with hardly any waiting for anything. As soon as Bjorn had emptied his glass of beer, he was offered a new one, and the food appeared in such a steady stream that there was no waiting at all.
Ante took a small exception to his no alcohol policy for the night, finding the prospect of trying some authentic Philippine beer irresistible. He had one at the start of the meal, arguing with his colleagues that the alcohol would be worked out of his system by the end of the night, so there was no reason why he shouldn't embrace this unique opportunity to try something new. And when he had his second beer towards the end of the meal he simply said that it was too good to resist, and that the night was still young.
"As long as you stop drinking after this," Thomas insisted. "But don't go all drunk on us again. You're our designated driver, remember?"
"Sure!" Ante answered with a confident smile. "It's not like I don't know when to stop."
"Really?" Frank asked. "It did not look that way last time we were out."
"Hey, give me a break! That was a one off. I'm not like that normally... Have you ever seen me drunk up at the checkpoint?"
"No, but I have seen you pretty hopelessly drunk down here," Espen answered on Frank's behalf.