Customs

Sunrise/sunset: 08:34/ 14:27. Daylength: 5hr52min

One of the UK customs I miss is the celebration of bonfire night on 5th November. It was an occasion I loved when young. My father always loved a good bonfire, and I have wonderful memories from when I was eight or nine, when we moved to a house with a large garden and there was a party with Parkin and treacle toffee, and my dad set off fireworks in the garden. It always felt like the start of winter and meant that Christmas was not far off. In Norway, bonfires are lit to celebrate midsummer, which is very different.

The Norwegian custom for lighting candles against the darkness of winter is something I have completely embraced though. For now, I have autumn coloured candles, but in three weeks time, they will be replaced with an advent crown. There are already purple candles available in the shops. When I first arrived in Norway and took Norwegian lessons for a year, they lit a candle in class at the beginning of each week and left it burning during the lessons that day. Advent will come at almost the same time as the Polar night arrives. I suppose it serves a similar purpose to the British bonfire night, bringing light at the darkest time of year.

More light in the darkness – aurora over the reflected streetlights on Senja
And here are John and Triar, posing in front of a heart made of lights down in town.

The British affinity for queuing is another custom that I have found it hard to shake. I have applied for Norwegian citizenship, as well as reapplying for permanent residency under the new Brexit rules. I hadn’t originally applied for the Brexit pass as I hoped that I might gain citizenship before the Brexit pass deadline, which is the end of December. I initially went to the police to show my documents for citizenship in August (having sent my application more than a year earlier, the offices being closed in the meantime due to Covid) and was told that they couldn’t process it as I didn’t have a valid residence permit. This seemed odd, given that the deadline for the Brexit pass was December. Anna had showed her papers a month earlier in a different office without any problems. Anna told after she’d applied that the waiting list for citizenship applications was eight months. Having handed in my papers last week, I checked the waiting time, which is now eleven months. So no wonder they were insisting I should get the Brexit pass as it’s obviously going to be a long time before I find out if I can get a Norwegian passport.

Another odd thing was that it was possible to get appointments with the police for citizenship, but there were none available to show your papers for the Brexit pass, which is obviously more urgent. I am on a Facebook group for Brits living in Norway, and someone advised me that they had called the number provided for those with problems, and had been offered an appointment within a few days. It seems there are many times when there is little choice but to phone if you want to push your way to the front of the queue, though in fact I took a citizenship appointment and my Brexit pass was processed at the same time and has already arrived. But the need to phone, rather than wait (other than in dire circumstances that require a rapid response) still doesn’t come easily to me. I was reminded of when I was very sick in 2012 and losing weight at an astonishing rate while I waited to get my gall bladder removed. The six weeks they had told me I had to wait had come and gone and I was very perplexed that I hadn’t heard anything. When I asked my Norwegian friends, they told me I had to phone, which I did, and was taken in within a week or so.

It’s the same with job applications. In the UK, I always sent in my CV and whatever else was asked for, then waited patiently (or perhaps inpatiently, but still in silence) for a response. Someone in the Brits in Norway group asked for help as they were having no success with applying for jobs. I told them the advice that was given to me. There are instructions in the advertisements for how to apply, and I had always followed them to the letter, with little success. There was always a name and phone number to contact if you had questions, but as I rarely had questions, I had never called it.

Apparently, there is an unwritten rule that you must call that number for a casual chat, because if you don’t, they assume you’re not keen! This of course, seemed outrageous to my all-too-British, ready to queue soul! Then again, I have also been shouted at once by a doctor’s receptionist for not queuing enough. Doctor’s receptionists here are not behind a sliding screen off the waiting room, but behind a closed door. In my British ignorance, I once went through the door to queue politely behind someone else who was speaking to the receptionist. This was outrageous apparently, as discussions with the receptionist are private.

Customs are very odd things and some of them are invisible until you stumble over them. I love living in Norway, and hope to gain Norwegian citizenship, but I recognise that I am never going to be fully integrated. I will leave that (hopefully) to my children.

Not in any way related to the topic in hand, but here is Triar with his piggy toy.

I haven’t mentioned my other writing much. My agent hunt is continuing slowly. I have been told that so many people have written books during lockdown that many agents are swamped. I’m not in any particular hurry, fortunately. I have most of the storyline for a second book in place. It did cross my mind however, that I should perhaps do more research regarding one of my main characters who is blind. I therefore contacted the RNIB for help and they have shared my request with a Facebook group. A few people have got in touch with me, which was very cheering yesterday evening. Hearing about other people’s lives is always interesting and rewarding, so I have a pleasant weekend ahead of me.

I will leave you with a picture I took last weekend of Kistefjellet, which I still haven’t reached the summit of. It’s the peak on the left with the mast on it. One day I will get there and when I do, I’ll share it with you. Have a good week.

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