I thought I’d start with a few thoughts about my stay. Someone commented last time I was in the UK, that they were interested to find out what changes I’d noticed since I was last here, in 2019. I can’t say I’ve noticed too many, though of course my parents notice many things I haven’t, such as changes in the NHS. Prices have probably gone up, or portion sizes have shrunk, but that’s happened elsewhere too.
I think perhaps it’s me that has changed more, and that’s partly to do with the pandemic. Living in the north of Norway, along with general pandemic precautions, I am unused to being close to large numbers of people. In Glasgow I went to a Marks and Spencer Food Hall, which was (to me) heinously busy. I pretty much ran to the section I wanted, grabbed something, and rushed out. It was much the same when we stopped at a service station on the motorway. I escaped outside as soon as I possibly could. I also had a discussion with John about driving. He’s learned to drive in Norway in an area where there are relatively few cars on the road. He was watching the drivers on the A65 with a kind of horrified fascination as they drove in close convoys, with only a meter or two between each car.
Other things struck me anew, which I had forgotten because I hadn’t been here for so long. Nobody in Norway has a string light switch in their bathroom! Anna tells me one of her friends was mystified, trying to turn the light on when he visited. Then again, Norwegian houses seem to burn down quite often, which is probably because a lot of the electric wiring is DIY. That and all the candles, of course. Most of the taps (faucets) in Norway are mixer taps, so I was freshly frustrated trying to rinse my hands before the hot tap got too volcanic. Cash? There was consternation recently when the entire card network went down for one of the major Norwegian supermarket chains. I had to go and find an ATM. I’ve lived in Finnsnes for two years and didn’t know where it was. Lots of people still seem to use cash here. And for anyone who likes their floors to stay clean, Norway is the place to be. I still can’t adjust back to keeping my shoes on in the house. I kick them off at the door, every time.
Food wise, it’s been a frustrating holiday. I’ve been sticking to low fat foods throughout. Fortunately, there’s a fairly good selection, though it can’t have done my teeth much good eating so many iced buns and scones with jam. There has also been a glut of bacon and ham rolls, slathered in delicious chutney, but without butter. Eating out is difficult, though full marks to Rosa and Matteo’s Italian Restaurant in Settle, which made me a wonderful low fat Pasta e ceci – pasta with chickpeas – (twice) but there have been a few occasions where I’ve watched everyone else eating fish and chips or curry, and wished I could join in. Still, there’s much more choice here, even with my health limitations. I think I might get thinner when I go back.
Still, I managed to fit in a couple of walks this week. On Tuesday, Helen and I were driven over to Long Preston, and walked back to Settle over the fells. We also took a detour up to see Scaleber Force waterfall, though Force is a complete misnomer at the moment as there’s hardly any water in it. Still, it was a pleasant, 9km walk, taken early in the morning, before the day started to heat up.
The second walk was this afternoon, with Dad. We didn’t go far: just along the riverside in Settle itself, but I was glad to have the time together, before I have to leave tomorrow.
We’ve also managed a bit of shopping. Andrew took us on a hunt for Raven Forge in Crosshills. We almost missed it, as it looked like a unit in an industrial estate, but we stopped and asked someone who was working there, and found ourselves invited in to a wonderful display of swords and weaponry, from all kinds of games and films.
We also went upstairs in The Geek Side, a little gift shop in a rather magical arcade in Skipton, and discovered a veritable Harry Potter paradise.
And if you want some sweets, you could do worse than The Dalesman Café in Gargrave.
But in the end of the day, it all comes down to the wonderful view from my parents’ garden. As the sun goes down, and the shadows lengthen on my last day in this golden oasis, I can only hope that it won’t be too long before I can return.