*Sunrise/sunset: 04:27 / 21:10. Daylength: 16hr 43min.
It’s always an advantage in a new job to make a good first impression and so I arrived on my first day determined to do just that. I am working for Mattilsynet, which is the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. Mattilsynet has a wide remit. As well as working to ensure Norwegian food and drinking water are safe, Mattilsynet oversees all aspects of food production from farm or fjord right to the point of eating. People in Norway will be familiar with Mattilsynet’s Smiley Faces that indicate that the kitchen in the restaurant you’re about to eat in is clean.
My new boss, Hilde, welcomed me into the office at 8am, and introduced me to some of the other staff. Everyone seemed very friendly and the day began with coffee – which took me back years to working in large animal practice in Scotland. The surroundings were much brighter and more modern though, which will be important in winter. As well as the friendly critter at the top of the page, the office has a massage chair, attractive pictures of local scenes and on that Wednesday, in honour of my beginning, there was a large chocolate cake!
There is always a lot to remember when you start a new job and this one was no exception. I was soon knee deep in complicated Norwegian words about how national and local government works, but Hilde had put together a very comprehensive introductory programme to work through, which was reassuring.
The start of day two was marginally embarrassing. I had been given an electronic key fob thing to get in the door… and I had forgotten it. One of my new colleagues let me in with a smile and it was quickly pushed aside. More complicated Norwegian and a lesson in how to book one of the office cars followed and I made up my mind that on day three, all would go to plan and nothing would go wrong.
I had decided to walk in on the third day. One of my aims is to get out and about more and it seemed like a good way to start the morning. I set out at seven to walk down and arrived about half an hour later, feeling pleased with myself. I had remembered everything today – the little electronic fob was in my pocket and the sun was almost shining.
It was dark inside when I opened the office door. I was slightly surprised as I hadn’t expected to be the first there quite so soon. Still, I remembered that Hilde had explained that I shouldn’t turn on the main lights if I arrived first as some of my colleagues liked to have a nice peaceful start to the day. I knew there was an alarm system, but it hadn’t gone off, so I assumed there was someone around. I took a step further into the building and realised my mistake as the bleep, bleep of the alarm system kicked in.
Despite not knowing the code, I still felt very calm. Hilde had sent me a message about getting in the day before I started work, so I put my coat and bag down on the floor, pulled my phone out of my pocket and scrolled quickly up. But though there was a message about getting in, it was about accessing the computer system, not the door.
My heart was beating a little faster now, but I reminded myself it could all be sorted out. All I had to do was call Hilde, but the bleeping was accelerating and within moments, it was wailing loudly enough to deter even the most determined of thieves.
Though I couldn’t remember any code, one thing I did remember was Hilde telling me that if there was an accident with the alarm, there was a phone number on the keypad and in order to stop any further action (I presume it may be linked to the police, or some kind of security firm) I had to speak to someone. Taking a deep breath, I typed the number into my phone. I could call Hilde afterwards, I thought. Better that than having someone rush out and then charging a fee. I put the phone to my ear and could hear nothing due to the screech of the alarm. I would just step outside the door, I thought. Then I could have a conversation. I could remember what I had to say. I could sort all this out and still be sitting at my desk by the time Hilde came.
To my relief, the call was answered quickly and I explained what had happened. The noisy alarm went off and with a sigh of relief, I ended the call and returned to the door… which of course had locked itself behind me. I reached into my pocket… only to realise that I had put down my jacket and bag and everything I was holding on the floor. The little electronic fob was now inside the building and I wasn’t.
Walking back out into the open air, I leaned against the wall and pulled out my phone. There was nothing left to do but wait.
So much for good first impressions! Only day three, and so far, I hadn’t managed to get into the building without assistance. Fortunately Hilde arrived first, and if she thought I was an idiot, she didn’t let on.
And despite all that, my new job shows every sign of being every bit as interesting as I hoped when I first read the advertisement. One of the tasks in my comprehensive introductory programme was to look through my colleague’s calendars, see what they are doing, and perhaps ask if I can go along with them to find out more about what they do. The most interesting item I found was tantalisingly entitled Status Bjørn, so I decided I would ask about it next time we had coffee.
Despite the interesting title, I was half expecting Status Bjørn might be a boring exercise, or similar, but I listened in amazement as Hilde explained that there was a bear in the region, which unfortunately has got a taste for eating the local sheep. Moreover, she is a mother bear with two large cubs. Shooting her is not an option and so the only possibility is to sedate both her and her young and move them to another area where there aren’t any farms for her to raid. This is, however, a very complicated exercise, and one that Mattilsynet, in the shape of Hilde and Thomas (another colleague) are involved in to ensure animal welfare is prioritised.
So there you go. It’s only my opinion I know, but I don’t think veterinary work gets much more exciting than that. Next week I will be doing some work in the slaughterhouse, which is less romantic, but equally essential. Making sure an animal is treated well is just as important at the end of its life as it is at the beginning. And so here I am, aged 51… and on the cusp of what is looking like an interesting and challenging new career.
Wish me luck!
*I thought I should add in sunrise/sunset times and day length at the start of each post. It’s already changing fast and I want to give a sense of that.