Category Archives: Life in Norway

Dog in the Snow

Sunrise/sunset: 08:23/ 15:42. Daylength: 7hr 18min

I started the week in Bardufoss. John was here last weekend and I took him back on Monday night and stayed over until Wednesday. The temperature is much lower inland and it was -24°C when I parked the car.

You really find out how good your vehicle is in those conditions. After a few short journeys, my lovely BMW started to tell me that its battery was not very happy (it’s a very chatty car and likes to forewarn me before things get out of hand – though sometimes I wish it wasn’t quite so fussy about seatbelts when I want to shuffle the car on the driveway). A quick check on the internet told me there was probably no real problem, but for the last twenty four hours of my stay, I was worried that I might not make it back without complications. When I returned home (where it was a balmy -4°C) the warning light was still on, so I decided to get it checked out. It was snowing hard and the weather forecast was warning me that it wasn’t going to stop any time soon. The garage Hilde recommended was busy, but they kindly arranged for me to go to the petrol station next door. After a quick trip home to remove the dog cage from the boot (because that’s where the battery is apparently) the mechanic very kindly checked that the battery was indeed fully functional and then waved me on my way without charging anything. He’s definitely gained a new client!

When I’m not in the abattoir, I’m still working from home and for now, I’m concentrating hard on trying to qualify as the Norwegian equivalent of an Official Veterinary Surgeon. This will allow me to work in the abattoir without another (already qualified) vet. The course really does cover a lot of material, mostly to do with welfare, but some of it is very technical. On Friday I found myself learning about stunning chickens with electricity, which actually isn’t a method used here in Norway. Nonetheless, I found myself back at school learning all about Ohm’s Law, current, resistance and voltage, only this time it was all in Norwegian. Life here does sometimes throw up unexpected challenges!

I was, as you can imagine, quite relieved to arrive home safely on Wednesday and I decided that having got there, going back out again should be kept to a minimum. Here’s a summary of the weather forecast from Thursday lunchtime.

By Thursday morning, it looked like this.

It soon clouded over again though. Wave after wave of snow has passed. They come in from the North, slipping in over Gisundet, the sound between the mainland and Senja.

There has been quite some digging of the driveway to be done, though happily my landlord keeps popping over with his snow blower to remove some of it. It’s getting harder to dig out though as the snow at the sides gets higher.

Though of course my driveway has nothing on the public car parks down in the town itself. For reference, the zebra-crossing sign is a good deal taller than me.

But one of the best things about the snow is watching Triar playing. He loves going outside and flolloping through the deep snow, burying his face and emerging cheerfully covered. He will happily play outside for ages and doesn’t seem to feel the cold.

And of course, after all that play, it’s time for Triar to go to bed. Sleep well Triar!

Sunlight

Sunrise/sunset: 08:56/ 15:09. Daylength: 6hr 12min

It’s getting lighter very fast now. We have an hour more daylight today than we had last Saturday. We took Triar for a run on the beach last week, and these pictures were taken at around four in the afternoon.

We finally have some snow. It’s been falling on and off throughout the week and it makes the world seem much brighter as well. Back in Scotland, growing up, it generally snowed a couple of times each winter. It was usually around zero when it happened and often the flakes were huge. They landed on the ground and stayed there.

Snow at minus ten is quite different. I have occasionally seen bigger flakes, but they’re mostly much smaller. If there’s any wind at all, it carries them effortlessly. Sometimes they move so fast horizontally that I wonder if they’ll ever hit the ground. Driving at night, the snow skitters and dances across the road in the headlights. When lorries pass, they create clouds of it that seem to go on for miles. Of course, if there’s a lot of snow and some wind, you can get dangerous drifts, but so far it isn’t deep and nor is it windy. It has, though, covered over all that ice, and to enough depth that it is no longer treacherously slippery.

There is, as yet, no obvious heat in the sun. It finally made it over the hill to hit the house on Tuesday. Odd how heartening it was to see it, though it was gone a moment later.

It was rather misty as well that day. I was fascinated to see the bridge to Senja had become a bridge to nowhere. I took two pictures. The first is at the top of the page, when the sun was turning the fog a wonderful pink colour. Moments later, the sun was diminished as the cloud thickened, and then it stopped looking warm and colourful, but was beautiful nonetheless.

And now it’s Saturday morning and John is home for the weekend and wants to take Triar out. It’s half past nine and already light, so who am I to say no! I will leave you with a picture of the cloudberry liqueur I picked up yesterday at the Vinmonopol. We tried it last night and it tastes of honey and late summer warmth. Cheers!

Colour

Sunrise/sunset: 09:30/ 14:33. Daylength: 5hr 02min

There is so much colour in the world. The changing sky continues to amaze me. I suppose one advantage of living so far north is just how long the sun lurks just below the horizon. And now it has finally risen, there are wonderful shadows and reflected light everywhere. The photo at the top is of the view from our garden, and though I see it every day, it never grows old. This was the first day I’d really seen the brand new sunshine on the snow-covered mountains. How wonderfully pink they are under the arching blue sky.

I was struck by the pink and powder-blue backdrop as I drove home from Bardufoss on Tuesday as well. So wonderful to drive home in the light. Of course, I stopped to take a photograph.

I had hoped to be travelling up to Storslett next week to the northernmost office in our region. I was waiting until the last minute, as the upper echelons of Mattilsynet had a meeting on Friday, but in the absence of any government lifting of the regulations, I will wait a few weeks longer. John tells me that two abattoirs further south in Norway are currently closed, one because a member of staff tested positive and the other because it’s in the area where the biggest outbreak of the English variant has taken hold. They are right to be cautious, but like others everywhere, I am champing at the bit to have a bit more freedom of movement.

Still, there are things to look forward to. I have booked a weekend away in a log cabin on a husky farm near the end of February. It’s only an hour and a half away, so hopefully there should be no travel disruption! And we have designated this weekend as 1980s party-food weekend. Last night there were sausage rolls, ham and crisp sandwiches and chocolate tiffin. Today I will be making pastry cases filled with creamy chicken, scones with jam and cream and it will be followed by ice-cream and jelly.

I don’t have a lot to write this week, so I will leave you with this video that Konstantin sent me. It features overhead footage of reindeer herding. I mentioned a while back that they hadn’t been able to bring the reindeer in before Christmas because of the lack of snow, and this gives an idea of why that would be a problem. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It’s truly a beautiful spectacle.

Thank you Konstantin. I hear you are coming back in May, which makes me happy. It’s good in the depths of winter to have things to look forward to.

Not Going Out

Sunrise/sunset: 10:07/ 13:53. Daylength: 3hr 45min

Another week working from home. It was only to be expected as the coronavirus figures, though steady, hadn’t begun to drop. The Norwegian government announcement was made on Monday, but they have promised to review it again next week. Numbers are now falling, so I’m hoping that next week I will be able to join some of my colleagues in the office.

That said, working from home has its advantages. The drive to work is shorter and the coffee is better. Aside from that, for the past two days, Storm Frank has been battering the Norway coast and going out hasn’t been so appealing. Luckily our apartment was protected from the worst of the wind by the steep slope that rises up behind it, but minus ten gusting up to sixty miles an hour is really quite chilly!

The company at home is furrier, though the conversation is less varied. Triar looks wistfully out of the window as Frank’s chilly blast keeps us sitting inside for another day.

There is now ice on everything. There is ice on this football field on Senja.

Ice on the pitch. Football… or curling?

There is ice in the ditches and escaping from rocks.

Frozen waterfall.

Even the snow is covered in ice. It cracks as you step on it, the deep sound echoing through the air trapped in the underlying snow: very satisfying to jump into!

All this is treacherous of course, but going out is still sometimes necessary. As well as boots with spikes on the soles, we have a bucket of stones in the porch that we strew on the driveway. These are not like the mealy, red grit-mixed-with-salt that they use in the south. These are serious stones and at minus ten, salt has no benefits. With excellent foreplanning, Anna and I covered the driveway when there was something of a melt last week and now they are well embedded in the minus ten ice.

I had my five month assessment at work this week. It went well. In spite of coronavirus, Hilde is satisfied that I am picking things up quickly enough and working well. My ongoing aims are to start to take the lead when I go out on visits with colleagues and to put forward my opinions more in meetings. I am definitely guilty of not speaking up in meetings. This quotation from verse 27 of an old Norse poem, Hávamál, the Sayings of the High One is pertinent here:

Ósnotr maðr
er með aldir kømr
þat er bazt at hann þegi
engi þat veit
at hann ekki kann
name hann mæli til mart
veita maðr
hinn er vætki veit
þótt hann mæli til mart

Translation by Olive Bray

For the unwise man
who comes among men,
it is best that be he silent.
None know
that he knows nothing,
unless he should speak too much. *
The man does not know it,
he who knows nothing,
whether he speaks too much.

Not that I am especially unwise, of course, but until I have a full understanding of what is going on, I always tend to listen more than speak. Silence among crowds comes naturally to me. But given that a few days back, I heard in a meeting that Anja would be conducting the visits to hens and chickens, and rather than speaking up at the time to say I was interested in chickens, I stayed silent and e-mailed her afterwards to ask if I could accompany her, there are definitely some changes I can make that shouldn’t be too difficult.

And I will leave you with two more pictures I took in the tail end of the storm (the first being at the top of this post). Removing my gloves to take them was painful, but definitely worth it.

Uneasy water in the fjord as back-lit clouds race across the sky.
The bridge to Senja.

Surge

The past few weeks have been stormy. Even for coastal Norway, it has been exceptional. Gale warnings have been almost the norm. I noticed last night however, there was a surge warning in place for this morning. For the whole coastline south of Stad Peninsula, the tide was to be 60 cm higher than usual. So at high tide this morning, I made my way to the beach.

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First view of the waves.

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Looking back towards the village. The tide was so high the path was disappearing and waves were entering the lagoon.

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The bridge was also under water.

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Rounding the corner, the wind was quite refreshing.

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The sky was sullen.

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In summer, these fishermen’s huts are a favourite destination for barbecues.

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There were seabirds gliding over the water.

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This isn’t well focused, but I was fascinated by the way these birds seemed to be flitting along in the trough between the waves.

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Last year, this piece of art appeared. Remarkably, it is still standing. Usually, it is quite a way above the waterline.

Kongeveien Jæren

This is one of my favourite short walks along a section of the old King’s Road, or Post Road that runs along the coast. There are many such roads around Norway and until relatively recently, these were the main roads around the country.

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My first view of the sea, through an avenue of trees between two farmsteads.

I’m not actually on Kongeveien yet. The first thing that comes into view is the tiny church at Varhaug.

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Varhaug gamle kirkegård

It hasn’t been cold for long. The river is still flowing, albeit with some ice around the stones.

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From the bridge

It’s such a wonderfully clear day.

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Looking north

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Looking south

If you look at the two photos above, you can see the snow has melted on the south side of the stones and not the north, a reflection of the sun’s low winter path across the sky.

I saw a number of other people out enjoying the sunshine. Below is a typical grouping, two young women, two dogs, one pushchair. When the sun is shining, it’s time to be outside.

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Not alone

It can be difficult to photograph all the things I love to look at. I am always fascinated with the rugged outlines of the stone walls, so different from those in the UK. I also love the clean lines of the branches against that vast sky, but it can be difficult to capture.

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A typical Jærsk wall.

The sea is almost completely smooth, so different from last week’s storms.

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Clear and calm

And now I’m heading back.

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I stop on the bridge to admire ice that has formed around the stones in the river.

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Patterns in the water

And then I’m back at the church and it’s time to go home.

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Buzzing!

Spring is arriving here at last. Marian and I have finally managed to find some time for walking. As you can see from the picture at the top of the page, Bijke came too.

We took the Vestlandske Hovedsvei as it isn’t too far from home.

I actually only started taking photographs when we reached the top of the hill and sat down for coffee . . . here . . .

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I always find this landscape hard to photograph. It’s very rough terrain, but the horizon is flat. As you can see, everything is still winter brown.

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Bijke seemed to be enjoying the sunshine.

We sat for quite a while. The sun is beginning to have some real warmth. While we were sitting on top of the hill, I could hear a skylark singing.

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As we walked down this hill, there was a ringing sound in my ears.

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Not such a good photo because she was a long way away, but we did find the source of the soothing clank clank . That is one of the sounds of summer here.

As we passed by a rocky stream, above the rushing water, frogs were croaking out their spring song.

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Anyone want to live in this house? I know I do. Note the grass roof.

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Almost back at the car, our footsteps were arrested beside this tree.

It wasn’t the sight of it that caused us to stop and take a closer look. The tree was humming.

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Bees! There were thousands of them. I’ve never heard anything like it. I can see two in this photo alone.

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And then we were back at the car in the farmland at the bottom of the valley where it’s possible to grow crops.

I’m off to Yorkshire on Thursday. I’m hoping for sunshine and lambs. Not sure when I’ll be able to blog again (I’m not back until Monday) but I hope while I’m there to do some research for Christmas at Mistletoe Cottage.

Julebyen – Egersund Christmas Market

With the heavy snowfall late last week, it seemed like a good time for a Christmas pilgrimage. And so we made our way, by bus and train to Egersund, to join the Egersund monks in their annual Gløg Festival.

 

This is where the bus dropped us off by the harbour. It was truly a beautiful day, though perhaps not the best weather for sitting down to admire the scenery.

Then we walked across into the market.

The Christmas tree was the first thing that caught the eye. It was beautifully decorated in red and gold, then nature had added the best touch of all with snow that sparkled in the winter sunshine. The stall is selling ris grøt – a kind of rice pudding eaten with cinnamon and sugar and sometimes butter or cream.

We paid our first visit to the gløg shrine at this point. Gløg, for the uninitiated, is Norway’s version of mulled wine. It’s sweeter than the more familiar beverage, and improved with the addition of nuts and raisins. All in all, it’s very welcome on a cold day in December.There’s an alcohol free version for children and anyone driving home. The bottles at the front of the picture are of Norway’s other traditional Christmas drink, Julebrus.

There were lots of different stalls, selling everything from miniature Christmas gardens to Dutch cheese.

 

There were traditional toys.

All kinds of sweets.

 

And more decorations.

We went for a wander through the main shopping street where they were setting up trees for a tree decoration competition

Still too cold to sit down, but in the picture, the tree is garnished with a bundle of straw. I’ve seen many of these in the city, often tied with attractive red ribbons. This tradition began as a way to provide food for birds.

But we were drawn back by the singing monks.

Who kindly replenished the huge copper containing the gløg so we could have another cup.

Some Thai street food followed, then back for another walk round the market as the sun sank lower.

We returned to the harbour to catch the bus back to the station. The sky was beginning to turn pink, but the fjord was still bright with the reflected light.

It was dark by the time we got off the train and tramped through the snow towards home…

…where we lit the second of our advent candles: a peaceful end to a beautiful day.

 

 

 

Plah! A Journey through the Jungle

Last weekend, I was in Oslo. Originally, the plan was to meet my friend and co-author of the Hope Meadows series, Victoria Holmes. Sadly, Vicky became unwell soon before the trip and was unable to come. Charlie very kindly joined me instead for the weekend. Vicky did ask me, however, to record the things I saw and the food we would have eaten. So here is one of my favourite meals of the weekend.

The venue: Plah Thai Restaurant, Oslo

Our waiter for the night was the delightful Sebastian. He was very friendly and spoke excellent English.

I chose the vegetarian option.

The starter came in three parts.

Kaho grab – rice chip

Light rice crisp with flavoursome herb topping

Miang kam – “betel leaf” with pomelo

The stuffed leaf was served on a delicious bed of toasted coconut. I had to stop myself from eating the lot, knowing there was so much more to come

Karipap – Southern Thai samosa with sweet potato and curry

I think this was my favourite part of the whole meal! Crunchy pastry with a delicious filling

 

Then there were four further savoury courses

Kao tod – Rice ball with cucumber and sour mango

Sebastian recommended the rice ball should be crushed, then eaten with the crunchy salad

Gaeng klo wan – Green curry soup with bitter eggplant, fresh bamboo and basil

This was hearty and delicious, with a slightly hot and sour taste

Taohoo – Crispy soft tofu with pepper chilli and coriander

The tofu was perfectly cooked with a wonderful crisp coating. Perfectly contrasted with the colourful salad

Gaeng deng pak op – Baked roots, kale and curry

This was marvellous: sweet chargrilled root vegetables, some soft, some firm, with a delightful curry sauce. Extremely satisfying

Then there were three parts to dessert.

Kanun lae saowaros – Jack fruit and passion fruit

Like miniature tasty smoothies

Som chon – Kaffirlime and pandanus granite

Flavoured ice. Sweet and refreshing

We were offered coffee. My cappucino was as beautifully presented as the rest of the meal

Kanom dok djok – “Rosettebakkels”

This was the most amazing presentation of the evening. The rosette biscuits came under a glass container which had been filled with steam to carry the aroma of the dish to us. It was lifted at the table. There were edible flowers and small chunks of chilli jelly in the glass cover.

The biscuits inside were equally beautiful

And now, all I need to know is, when can we go back! A fantastic evening.