Season

Sunrise/sunset: 05:47/ 19:39. Daylength: 13hr52min

Autumn is in full swing now and there is a chill in the air. Every year in Norway, there comes a time when winter is approaching and bright red snow poles suddenly appear along the sides of the roads. I have often wondered how they are put up and as I was driving John home from his evening class this week, we saw a brightly lit lorry in front of us. It was stopping and starting, and it was on our side and we ended up stuck behind it for a couple of minutes.

It had an arm on the side, overhanging the edge of the road. There was the sound of a jack hammer as it created holes and then it moved on and the poles were dropped into them. I would happily have watched for a bit longer, but the cars coming the opposite way had passed and there was no excuse to linger. If you look in the photo at the top of the page, you can see one of the poles. I also wanted to photograph that section of the road as I love the two tone effect of the taller pine trees, which are still green, and the smaller silver birch and undergrowth, which are autumn yellow.

I mentioned the Covid roller-coaster last week, but hadn’t expected the drop to be so steep. There’s an outbreak at Andrew’s school, which seems to have spread through the students who board. The school runs an international baccalaureate program which attracts pupils from overseas. Additionally the school covers a huge area, some of which has no public transport that would allow daily access, so those students board too. Information seems difficult to come by, but last weekend there were nine confirmed cases out of one hundred and fifty students, all in different classes and streams.

I half expected to hear the school would close, but discovered instead that even close contacts of the infected students would be in school, and would be tested three times over six days instead of quarantining. Within class groups there is no social distancing or mask wearing and vaccination of sixteen and seventeen year olds had only really started a week earlier, which seemed rather rash. Why not take stronger precautions, at least until the first vaccine dose starts to have an effect? After more than a year of disruption, would two more weeks be a big deal?

Half way through the week I was still assuming there might be a change of course, and I spoke about it to a friend who lives in Rogaland, where I used to live before we moved here. She has a daughter in the same school year as Andrew. I told her about the nine confirmed cases and the lack of precautions, hoping to hear what she thought would happen. She told me instead that in her daughter’s class there are four students off with Covid and even there, they are taking no precautions other than frequent testing.

There’s a definite irony to all this. The government website is firm in that they feel that Norway’s young people have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and that from now on, they want things to be as normal as possible for them. But having sold the idea that vaccines are the answer to protect people, then having given the first dose of vaccine to those between 12 and 17, why would you then not wait until that dose at least had a chance to give some protection? My friend tells me her daughter’s year feel instead, after more than a year of lockdowns and quarantine, that the government are abandoning them to their fate because the older people are now protected, and who can blame them? Of course logically that age-group are at low risk from Covid, but it’s the ultimate in mixed messages to a group the government claims they want to protect.

Anna will return to the UK tomorrow for university. She had to brave the local Covid test station, with its potential queue for sick people, but fortunately it was very quiet (which I hope is a good sign for the more general situation). I’ve printed out her vaccine certificate, and now hope that everything goes smoothly for her.

As well as the changes in the weather, it is now also “season” in the abattoir, or in other words, the time when the spring lambs come in for slaughter before the adult sheep are taken inside for the long, hard winter. It’s a busy time, with all kinds of people coming in from different countries to work on the line. For the rest of the year, Mattilsynet provides two or three staff on days when the line is running, but from next week, when the season is in full swing, there will be seven.

So I’m likely to be a little more at the abattoir in the coming weeks. Konstantin and Vaidotas, who were here last year during the season, have returned. Already the office has a busier feeling and better still, there might be a bit more social life on offer. Having spent a year social distancing and having a general rule that the office should be avoided unless going there is essential, that is definitely something to look forward to.

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