Sacrifice

Sunrise/sunset: 09:36/ 14:26. Daylength: 4hr49min

Triar woke me up at six o’clock this morning. He was barking at something in the living room and I rushed through so I could stop him before he woke the neighbours. And what was it, you ask, that was so threatening at six in the morning? I was expecting it would be something outside the window. Maybe a bird in the garden or some snow falling off the roof, but no. Andrew and I had a carry out last night. This is a rare occurrence for us, because eating out is prohibitively expensive here. But Andrew had left the empty paper bag standing on the electronic keyboard and Triar had apparently just seen it and registered it as a threat to household safety.

This was easily resolved. I moved it onto the kitchen table and all was well, so I headed back to bed. Unfortunately, I hadn’t turned on the light in the hallway and I had left my bedroom door open. It opens into the hallway, and as I headed back into my bedroom, I walked into it. Doors are really quite solid things, especially first thing in the morning. Fortunately, I don’t have a black eye, so I’m not going to have to spend next week telling people I walked into a door and have them disbelieve me.

We started our working week with an emergency readiness exercise. Regular readers will know that we do this twice a year, putting on and taking off the protective clothing that we would have to use if faced with an outbreak of a highly infectious animal disease like foot and mouth, or worse, a highly infectious disease that can spread between animals and people, like bird flu. This time round, I was acutely aware that my colleagues down in Rogaland had been doing this for real this year. This time though, it wasn’t me who had to don all the gear. Konstantin was the sacrificial victim. Here he is with Thomas.

Konstantin and Thomas – emergency PPT

I took a photograph on the way home. There’s nowhere to safely stop the car, and so I took advantage of the fact that Thomas was driving. It’s a curved section of road, where there are deciduous trees on one side and fir trees on the other, and I love the way the fir trees stand out against the skyline. I’ve been wanting to photograph it for ages. It’s not perfect because it was taken through the car windscreen and I couldn’t choose the day, but here it is: one of my favourite places on the road to Finnsnes.

My favourite road curve with an even line of fir trees reaching into the sky.

On Wednesday, the sky finally cleared after weeks of clouds and snow and rain. We live in the lee of a hill, which is very useful when it’s stormy, but it does mean it takes a long time for the sun to reach the house in winter. And so at twelve o’clock, when the sun was reaching its high point for the day, Triar and I walked up to the top of the hill and saw it for the first time since the end of November. It was somewhat obscured by a line of cloud, but no less beautiful for that.

On Thursday, I finished what I hope will be my final report in my difficult case. There are tail ends to finish up, but I hope those will go smoothly. It did have one last sting in the tail however. One of Mattilsynet’s aims is that all the reports we send out are well constructed and consistent, and so they undergo several checks before they are sent out. For me, this usually includes sending it to a Norwegian member of our team (despite all my efforts, there are usually some grammatical errors in my writing) and then after I’ve cleared mistakes, it gets sent to a control team, one of whom rechecks it and points out any errors in construction, or other sundry things that might be a little awry.

Because this was such a complicated case, I had asked Thomas for help before I began, to make sure I used the right template. There are several different forms, depending on whether there are actions we feel the animal owner must take to comply with the law. Once I had written it, I sent it to Astrid and discussed the case with her, including a couple of things that concerned me about how I was handling it. Astrid is a member of the control team, so I felt it was particularly useful to get her help. She told me the people to ask to clear up a couple of outstanding points, and I did what she suggested.

Then, because Hilde is now involved and helping, I sent it to her to check whether she agreed with the approach taken. She added a couple of items in and then sent it back to me. Both Astrid and Hilde had told me that my report was good and I felt proud of the way I was managing the case, even though it’s been difficult and I have been quite troubled by it along the way.

Therefore I assumed, when I sent it to the control team for checking, that it would be a slam dunk: that it would pass muster and that any required changes would be very minor indeed.

I got it back after lunch, and found there was a note attached. It didn’t relate to the format or any grammar, but instead it was a comment on the tone.

After toiling so much with this case, and having felt satisfied with what I had written, this felt like the final straw. I don’t think I have ever written a ranty e-mail to my boss before, but I did this time, sending it to both Hilde and Astrid. Not least, I had it in my head that both Astrid and Hilde had seen it, and neither of them had noticed any problem.

On occasions like this, I often think that the person making the criticism or suggestion has no thought of how they might feel if they had to write something similar in a language that wasn’t their mother tongue, and that the suggestion they made, that probably seemed minor to them, might feel insurmountable to someone else. It can be the same with other tasks. “Just do a little checking round it” might seem like a small request. I know it would be if I was working in English. Just a little extra task that I would be able to follow up easily if I knew the landscape and reading was effortless. Instead, such suggestions can seem huge. I know it will get easier and it already is, but I often think that life would be very different if those obstacles were not in the way.

Hilde phoned me immediately, and we talked it through. If I was writing the report in English, might I have done it a little differently, she asked, and I agreed I might possibly have done so, though it’s not certain. Most of the sentences would actually have been quite difficult to construct differently, even in English, though there was one I picked out that I could have changed.

Still, she said, I should think on the fact that any incident like this counts as a learning experience: something I could bear in mind if I had to write something similar in future. In the end, she overruled the member of the control team and sent it as I had written it. I had, through the course of the case, spent a lot of time building up a polite relationship with the animal owner and any report I sent would seen through the lens of the rapport we had built, she said.

Despite the frustrating ending, I am glad that the report has now been sent. As I said, there are some tail ends that need to be followed up, but I hope that all will be resolved without me having to intervene further.

I will finish with some photographs. The sky finally cleared on Wednesday, and I have already shown a picture of the sun, but even where the sun is not visible, even if it’s lightly cloudy, there is still that wonderful light which reflects from the snow as the sky changes, minute by minute.

And here’s my trusty car, which so far hasn’t failed to make it out of the driveway, even though some days it has been so icy it was difficult to walk. I didn’t choose it because of its all wheel drive. I bought it because it looked sturdy for the harsh conditions I knew we would meet up here, and because though it was quite old, it didn’t have too many miles on the clock. German engineering. No regrets.

And finally to finish the week, I went out in the garden last night with Triar and was greeted by the wonderful slow dance of the aurora. As ever, it grounded me, a reminder that mankind has been looking up at the sky in awe and wonder for millennia, and that everything that happens in my life is really very small. Goodbye for now, my friends. Hope you too can find some peace in the night sky.

5 thoughts on “Sacrifice

  1. Had a difficult 2021 and have had a binge catch-up of your blog, ending here tonight. A belated Happy New Year to you and your family. I look forward to keeping pace with your writing from this point.

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