Laden Bin and the Exploding Tomato

It’s holiday time here in Norway. Irene has been away two weeks, Boss Lady was off last week and next week Magne will go as well. It seems almost unthinkable, for me with my British mindset, for the two practice partners to be away at the same time. In the practices I worked for in the UK it would have been inconceivable for even two of the vets to vacation simultaneously, nor was anyone ever allowed to take more than two weeks in a row. The attitude here is quite different in all areas, health work seemingly included. The local car-workshop shuts for a month. Even the Thai take-away van in our village, which potentially might have had a roaring trade with all the campsites locally, has disappeared. Family and holidays come before trade and profit. Four or five weeks off in a row is normal and none of the businesses seem to have broken.

In the meantime, things are going on in the practice more or less as usual. The practice is busy, but not (to me) unbearably so. I spent most of yesterday sedating dogs and cleaning their teeth. I am gently sliding into doing consultations without ever setting out to do so, though the computer system remains a mystery and all my cases so far have been chalked up to other people. There are happy cases and sad ones. Euthanasia is always difficult. Jan-Arne asked yesterday whether it ever got any less emotional, and I had to reply that for me it hadn’t. I still routinely find tears in my eyes, even after twenty years. There are funny cases too. Yesterday a dog came in because its owner was worried about some lumps on his abdomen. Turned out they were nipples. Cue mixed relief and embarrassment on the part of the owner and laughter all round. As Jan-Arne said, it’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last.

On the assistant/nursing front, I continue to be busy. I haven’t mentioned it before, but Kari Anna is in the latter stages of pregnancy, and I am trying to learn as much as I can before she disappears. I can now carry out the early-morning room-checks before most of the vets arrive, and cleaning and sterilising the instruments has become routine. Some things continue to take me by surprise though. Periodically there is a problem with the bins. With all the waste, and especially with all the cardboard delivery boxes, there never seems to be quite enough space for all the rubbish. By the end of the cycle everything is starting to burst out of the top. A while back, Gerd had said something to me about hopping up on top of the paper-bin to squash down the contents. I dismissed this suggestion. I presumed that I had misheard, or misunderstood, or even perhaps this was a joke where she hoped I would climb up there and she could laugh at the naïve Scot who believed that anyone would really climb into a bin. So when Kari Anna suggested it again this week, I presumed the joke was continuing. To my horror, when I just laughed, she pulled up a wooden pallet and shinned up it. Before I knew what was happening, she was stomping around on top of the cardboard. I was petrified that she might fall and something awful might happen to the baby, but fortunately she made it down safely. Next time she suggests it, I’ll be up there like a shot.

Thursday’s communal meal is a highlight for me. There’s something very positive about getting everyone together in a room in a relaxed atmosphere and discussing how things are going. I’ve joked before about Norwegian attitudes to health and safety, but there is an injustice there; though safety may not be at the top of the agenda, health often is. The foods widely served in workplaces and schools seems to consist of brown bread, salad and fruit and a selection of toppings for the bread: cold meats, smoked salmon, eggs and cheese. There is some risk however, in even these innocent-sounding foods. Last week I popped a whole cherry tomato between my teeth and when I bit into it all the seeds exploded from my closed mouth all over the table. Luckily only Wivek and Dagny witnessed the ugly mess. Scarily, Dagny asked “What are you doing Sarah?”, but Wivek just giggled.

Yesterday there was a fly in the staff room. Most of us had eaten already. It was filled rolls this week for a change, and only one and a half remained on the unfolded cardboard box. After watching it for a moment as it took off and re-landed on Magne’s lunch, Kari Anna got to her feet, fetched a decorative orange and black fly swat from the kitchen and returned to the room with narrowed eyes. The evil-one was sitting at this point on the flattened cardboard a few inches from the food. A devastating flick of Kari Anna’s arm and there remained only a black full-stop adhering messily to the box. For a few long seconds, we sat there looking at it, and for a brief moment I thought it was just going to stay there, but Kari Anna retreated and came back with some paper towel and, efficient as ever, wiped it away. Just remind me never to get in her way if she’s carrying a whip.

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