Well Met

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

In many ways, living here in the north of Norway, it’s easy to get complacent about coronavirus. The Norwegian government has stipulated that nobody should go to work or school with a cold, or any symptoms of a respiratory illness. Some people take this seriously. Quite a few ignore it. A colleague of John’s announced last week at work that he had a cold. John came over on Saturday to stay for the weekend, but by the evening, he had developed a sore throat. I took him for a test on Sunday, then very sadly took him home. Andrew is entering exam time and the last thing he needs is to have to stay at home because of the coronavirus rules.

It is frustrating when there are rules and people ignore them. And here in Norway, there isn’t anything like the pressure for presenteeism that exists in the UK. I was amazed years ago, when working at Tu Clinic, to find that if one of the vets had a cold, they would stay home and the receptionist would ring round the clients and rearrange the appointments for another day. Back in the UK, it was an unwritten rule in all the practices I worked in that unless you were actively vomiting or unable to get out of bed, you should drag yourself into work. If you did take a sick day, nobody would ring any clients. The other vets were expected to manage.

It wasn’t coronavirus, happily. It is easy to get complacent, living up here in isolation. I no longer feel the fear I did when I was further south and living in an area where many people travelled because of the oil industry. But there is currently a significant outbreak of British variant COVID in Hammerfest, which is about as out-of-the-way as it gets. It’s a reminder that nowhere is completely safe.

Having said all that, it was a pleasure to attend a real-life meeting in Tromsø on Tuesday this week. It was a training session for Dyrevernsnemnda, who are a group of lay people with an interest in and knowledge of animal husbandry. They work alongside the veterinary surgeons on welfare cases, providing a different perspective and improving balance in decision making. For me, it was a very useful meeting. Those working for Dyrevernsnemda come out on inspections with us and so the information was a whizz through of the laws and practices that govern us. It was very well presented.

It was also lovely to travel to Tromsø. Though it’s only two hours away, I have only been once before on an emergency mission to find a companion guinea pig. Another reminder that we are not living in normal times. I drove up with Thomas. Tromsø is on an island and we entered the city over this bridge.

I was glad that Thomas knew his way around. The city is on a hill and he pulled into a car park built into it. I was surprised to find a row of arches cut into the rock and lined with some kind of material. After the meeting, when we returned, I was even more amazed when I discovered the car-park was connected to the tunnel system that runs under the city. Norwegians are very skilled at building tunnels, but it still fascinates me when there are miles of roads underground, with junctions and roundabouts. I was also pleased to find a speed-bump sign in Norwegian. Obviously my sense of humour is very basic!

Wednesday was lovely. I travelled up to Laksvatn with Ammar to blood test some goats and we have arranged to do some more next week. I love going out to farms and doing practical work. There is none of the pressure that exists with the welfare side of the job and it is a lovely reminder of the time when I was working as a farm vet, which was what I always wanted to do. I gave it up after having children because the lifestyle doesn’t fit easily with family life when both parents are vets. I thought about returning to it last year, but didn’t feel certain I could manage calvings and some of the other more physical work now. Odd how life turns out.

Speaking of goats, we received an interesting e-mail this week. A couple from Germany, or perhaps the Netherlands have been travelling in Sweden. They have been hillwalking, which would be all very well, except for the fact that they have taken their pet goat with them. They’ve been seen out and about with the goat on a lead and it is rumoured they might be heading to Norway. I’m not sure what the rules are in Sweden, but in Norway there are very strict rules attached to importing animals. It’s one thing taking your dog with its passport, but the idea of roaming around Europe with a tame goat is something I found amusing.

I’ll finish off with a few photographs I took while continuing my walking program this week. More spring flowers are pushing through the ground and this week, cowslips seem to have taken over from the coltsfoot. Now it’s summer, more people are flying flags. It’s quite common for Norwegians to have a flag pole of some sort. There are strict rules around flying the Norwegian flag. If you put it up, you are supposed to take it down again at nightfall. Perhaps the Norwegian flag doesn’t like to be darked on. Presumably up here, in summer, you could leave the flag up all day because it doesn’t actually get dark, but it still seems to be common to fly a wimple, which has the Norwegian colours, but isn’t technically a flag that needs to be taken up and down. And although it’s very spring like, as you can see in the picture at the top of the page, and the one below, there are still lots of places where the trees have no leaves. Have a lovely weekend everybody.

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