Sunrise/sunset: 06:40/ 19:37. Daylength: 11hr56min
I saw a moose on the way to work on Wednesday. There was nowhere to stop, so it was a fleeting glimpse, but it was standing in a clearing in the forest that lines the road for miles and miles. I saw the white plume of its breath on the chilly morning air as I flitted past.
There’s something magical about the dawn twilight. I had the sudden sensation of having caught sight of something that ancient people might have seen thousands of years ago as they walked in the forest. It crossed my mind afterwards, how little I knew about these primeval looking creatures. And so, I began to read a about them.
I was surprised to discover they are classified as a type of deer. They have long legs – good for walking in snow – and cloven hooves that splay out, helping them to walk on top of it, rather than fall through, once an icy crust has formed on top. Even more surprising was finding out that they are good swimmers. Their bodies are designed to withstand the cold, so are not well equipped for the heat of summer. They immerse themselves in water to help cool themselves, but beyond that they are well adapted for eating the aquatic plants they find there.
I had always thought their faces were an odd shape. I’ll put in a photo I took, last summer at Polar Parken, for reference below. Now I discover there is a reason for that long droopy proboscis. Apparently they can close their nostrils off when they are feeding underwater. They can actually chew and swallow without coming to the surface. Added to that, they can dive down to a depth of about six metres. Given that they look so ungainly on land, I was fascinated to discover they are so much at home in water.
And now back to last weekend, when Ann, Konstantin and I went for a walk. We set off close to Andrew’s school and trekked round a lake, taking in a stop in a lavvo along the way.
It was a beautiful day. The autumn colours are at their most spectacular at the moment, and the contrast with the blue skies and the darker green of the fir trees surely makes this one of the most beautiful times of the year.
As ever, some of the most interesting things were to be found at ground level as we walked through different kinds of terrain from dry woodland floors with undergrowth and tree roots to boggy wetlands, often with paths created by wooden planks or thick tree branches.
The lavvo was fascinating. You frequently find shelters on well-trodden paths in Norway. Most I have come across are simple newly-built wooden shelters of one sort or another, and they are often stocked with wood and have a fireplace or grill site nearby. The lavvo looked like a much more traditional tee-pee type structure, which is unsurprising as a lavvo is a form of temporary home used by the Sami when herding reindeer.
We stepped inside and found benches lined with blankets and a fireplace. It felt very sturdy and also cosy. It would be amazing to visit in winter and light a fire. There were loads of interesting touches, such as tiny light holes that looked like stars against the dark walls and quite a big gap in the roof to act as a chimney.
I took a photograph of Konstantin and Triar in the lavvo, that pleased me a lot.
Later in the walk, we stopped in another shelter, this time of the more standard type. I had understood we were doing a relatively short walk and had brought only a banana to eat, but by five kilometers in, I was quite hungry. So I was amazed when we sat down at the wooden table and Konstantin started to pull out a veritable feast from his backpack. He started with a flask of tea, for which he had several cups, one of which I accepted gratefully. As well as the tea, he brought out bread rolls and salty biscuits and liver pate in a tin, as well as various pieces of fruit and a plastic box filled with individually wrapped chocolates. It was when he pulled out his knife and started to slice an onion to go into his rolls that I really started to appreciate his food organisational skills!
We finished the walk and then went for pizza, which was a lovely way to round off the day. Hopefully we’ll get some more good weather before the winter arrives.
I mentioned the arrival of mince pies in the UK in last week’s blog and was thinking smugly that there was no way anyone here would start so early with the lead up to Christmas. Though I love Christmas as much as the next person (not really – I love it way more than average!) starting too soon can take the edge off. October, is too early, and even if you begin half way through November, by the time Christmas arrives, it’s more anti-climatic relief than unadulterated joy.
So I was horrified when I set off to work in the dark hours before five am yesterday, to be greeted by my usual radio station playing “When You Wish Upon a Star”. I had heard an advertisement during the week saying they would be changing to Christmas music on Friday, but they mentioned that this would be additional to normal services, one of which would be on an app. I thought perhaps I had misheard and for now, that I could continue to listen to the music that has become a familiar part of my current life. When I drive a lot for work, I generally get used to the music on certain stations.
Of course, Christmas music on the radio in Norway is very different from Christmas music provided by UK stations. Nobody here has been listening to Noddy Holder yelling “It’s Christmas” at the top of his voice for years. One of the most famous Norwegian Christmas songs begins with the line “Now we have washed the floor and carried the wood in” (the song is by Alf Prøysen who wrote the Mrs Pepperpot stories I read as a child) which I can’t imagine featuring heavily in any British Christmas song. The Norwegian songs are interspersed with Bing Crosby and other US classics, which always seemed rather old fashioned to me, even as a child, and I still like them less than many of the British Christmas top hits, including more modern entries by Coldplay and Glasvegas.
So closer to Christmas, I will gladly start listening again. It’s about time I learned to recognise more of that Norwegian Christmas music. I have become rather fond of Alf Prøysen’s Julekveldsvisa (though I draw the line at having to clean the entire house before I relax into Christmas Eve) and I should continue to embrace more Norwegian things. But not just yet. December will be quite soon enough.