Category Archives: In Darkness and In Light

Blog about moving to northern Norway.


Sunrise/sunset: 05:26/18:23 Daylength: 12hr56min

I have lost my case against Mr Abusive. This despite the fact that, in his evidence, he made false claims and even sent in the receipt for a completely different oven from the one in the flat. Ignoring the fact that I could demonstrate he was lying about some things (which should surely have cast doubt on everything else he presented) they have taken his word for everything. I will get my overpaid rent back, but they still want me to pay him about two thousand pounds.

I am reeling and I don’t really understand how we ended up here. I knew that there was some fairly damning evidence against me in one or two aspects of the case. A vacuum cleaner had been damaged when it was in the store room and we had patched and used it, then stupidly left it behind. That was probably the worst as there’s a definite implication I hadn’t looked after things properly, or replaced them when perhaps I should have. The cooker had also been hard used and there was soot on the fan (burning fat from grilling spitting burgers being the most likely culprit) though there certainly hadn’t been a fire inside it, as he claimed. Also, there were some large items (the shower cabinet being one) which we hadn’t moved out to clean. If you move out items that haven’t been cleaned under for two years, with a dog in the house, inevitably it will be messy. But I think they have taken that as evidence that I had been negligent and have extrapolated that to everything else, rather than considering each claim on its own merits. They don’t seem to have taken into account the fact that he lied into account at all, even though there was undeniable evidence of it.

It is at moments like these that I feel most isolated. I have John and Andrew here, but there’s very little they can do. I have also friends and they will offer comfort and advice, but practically there’s not much they can do either. If I take the case to court and lose again, I will be faced with lawyer’s fees on top of the two thousand pounds I have to pay him. It’s also unlikely, given that he does have some evidence against me, that I would end up with a clear-cut result, where I win and he has to pay costs.

To pay up without objections feels awful though. I know that he has lied. I suspect that some of his evidence was contrived. He showed pictures of dirt where I know there was none, and unfortunately I left him a vacuum cleaner and enough dust and dog hair under the seats on the sofa that he had plenty of “evidence” to plant. He has shown pictures of garden seats that were not in my garden and removed the leg of a table that was standing fine when I left it, but of course I have no proof of these things. If they have decided to take his word over mine, there isn’t much I can do to undo it. I took some photos after cleaning the flat, but they appear to count for nothing. They are not mentioned once in the judgement. I will put them on the bottom of the post so that you can get an idea of what a flat in Norway looks like that needs a thousand pounds worth of cleaning doing and which contains damaged furniture and other things that were in such a bad stated that it warrants two thousand pounds worth of compensation. Click on them and zoom in all you will. It certainly wasn’t trashed.

So how do I move forward? I spoke to my mum, who has advised me to pay, basically to get it over with. I am fairly sure that is what I will end up doing, but it rankles. In books, the bullies never win, but in real life, it seems they do, all too often and I don’t really know what to do with that conclusion. There are too many complicated things going on with my life at the moment and part of me wants to run away, but for a number of reasons, that isn’t practical and wherever I went, I would still be there and there’s a risk I’d end up somewhere similar again.

So it looks like I am going to have to swallow this bitter pill. In the country where tenants rights are supposed to be strongly upheld, where the landlord’s power and relative richness and ability to pay are supposed to be muted, I still find myself here. Having been shouted at and lied about, having paid large sums of money for renting out his basement (enough that it probably covered a good percentage of his mortgage payment for the whole house) having been bullied to the point where it has affected my health and happiness, I am now being asked to pay him more money. Sometimes, life is just shit.

Link to previous post on the case.

The Snowy Peaks

Sunrise/sunset: 05:58/17:56 Daylength: 11hr58min

And so I have returned from my holiday. It was not as restful as I could have wished, but I did catch up with almost all of my immediate family in the UK. Quite a task when they are rather scattered.

I will start with a picture of our plane in Bardufoss, just as Andrew and I were boarding. I commented on it after my last holiday, but the contrast between Bardufoss and Heathrow couldn’t be much greater. I meant to take a photo at the end of our journey, but was so pleased to have arrived, I quite forgot.

We spent a couple of days in Winchester with my daughter Anna and her girlfriend Lauren and then headed up to the Peak District to meet my parents. A few months ago, when booking this holiday, I decided I wanted to meet up with Mum and Dad. Driving up to their home in Yorkshire seemed quite a long way, so looking at a map of the UK, I plumped on the Peak District, as somewhere that was in between Winchester and North Yorkshire and was noted for being beautiful. I knew I would be hiring a car and I was looking forward to gambolling amongst the daffodils and driving round in blue-skied, spring weather.

It was wet on the day we drove up, and the journey was longer than I had realised. I had hoped to be there to pick my parents up from the station, but they decided to take an early train and there was no way that, with almost two hundred miles to go, I could make it there comfortably by one o’clock, so abandoning any idea of getting there early, I decided we would take our time, given that the driving conditions were quite unpleasant.

At about two in the afternoon, Anna received a plaintive text from Mum. They had arrived soaking wet after quite a walk from the railway station. The inn where we were staying was all closed up until five. They had been allowed in to their room, only after a special appeal to the landlady and that was only because there were absolutely no cafes open in the village of Bradwell where we were staying.

When I had planned the trip, I had hoped that my dad would drive the two hour journey to join us, so that we would have two cars. What I hadn’t planned for were the Dire Weather Warnings. Far from the spring holiday I had been imagining, an Arctic Blast was to arrive. Understandably, Dad had abandoned the idea of driving. While our inn had received wonderful reviews, I hadn’t really checked out how much there was to do in the village. The idea that the inn itself would be closed until five each day hadn’t been part of my calculations either. Nor was the fact that it was Monday afternoon and the inn wasn’t going to be serving food in the evenings until Wednesday. What on earth were we going to do for two days in a village with nothing to do, with only one car and six people? How were we going to feed ourselves? Mum was also cross, it seemed, as she had been told I had received an e-mail with the information that check in was after five. I confess that, at this point, I began to think the entire trip was going to be a wash out.

We arrived at about four and spent the intermediate time driving around Bradwell and Hope Valley. It was certainly a charming place, with steep roads, bounded by grey stone houses and drystone walls, which were sometimes so narrow that the distance sensors on both sides of the hire car were flashing at me. I noted that there was an Indian restaurant in the next village. Potentially I could drive everyone there in two trips, but curry two days running didn’t sound too appealing either.

When we finally drew up in front of The Shoulder of Mutton Mum came out to greet us. It hadn’t really been so bad. They had been allowed into their room, which had been quite warm. The landlady had brought them milk for their tea and four pieces of cake. The room Andrew and I were shown to was lovely. Each of the rooms was named after animals and ours was The Hare. As well as a lovely view from the window, it was clean and fresh, with lovely touches on the theme of hares. Even the mugs had hares on them.

Better still, when we went downstairs, the landlord greeted us warmly. There was no food on offer in the bar, but if we would like to buy in fish and chips in the village, or order carry out from somewhere else, they would set us up a table in the restaurant and we could eat in comfort there. To my amazement, at no extra charge, we were provided with a table, plates and cutlery on both of the first two days of our stay. It was also realised that, because of the way the booking had been done, we hadn’t received the e-mail we should have that would have told us about the five o’clock check in. It was just an unfortunate oversight.

We spent Tuesday exploring Castleton. Mum and Dad went on the bus (a fifteen minute journey) and we joined them in the car. I should certainly have checked out what would be available a bit more before travelling. I am out of touch with opening times in the UK and had assumed there would be historic houses open to explore, but we were a week too early. Still, it was lovely wandering around Castleton and we did get some lovely food as there were several cafes open. Though it was chilly, it still felt spring-like.

With ever increasing Dire Weather Warnings, Mum and Dad decided to go home a day early. Though they were on the train, there was still a risk of disruption and they had to drive to get their much-loved cat, Sammy, from the cattery. The lovely owners of the inn even reimbursed their room fee for the night they didn’t use. I would absolutely recommend The Shoulder of Mutton. After an inauspicious start, we couldn’t have been made more welcome or been treated better.

Anna, Andrew, Lauren and I decided to stay on and risk it. Though I was wary about other drivers, the potential lack of gritting and clearing of the roads and the lack of my trusty winter tyres, I thought we would probably make it. We took a drive over to Bakewell on a Bakewell tart hunt and as well as buying a delicious Bakewell pudding (like the tart but without icing and absolutely delicious) we got to see some of Derbyshire as the snow began to fall.

Bakewell puddings in Bakewell

It wasn’t great driving to Lower Slaughter near Cheltenham on Thursday. It had snowed overnight and the road that led over the moors at the beginning of our journey was treacherous, with rutted slushy snow that made driving very difficult. We arrived safely however, and met up with my sister, Helen, and her husband, Steve. They came out with us for a delicious Chinese meal in Cheltenham and donated a big box of logs for us to use on the fire in the cottage we had rented. Anna and Lauren took a walk to Lower Slaughter, which they tell me was gorgeous, but it will have to wait until next time as I spent the day resting in front of the fire.

We arrived back in Norway on Sunday night, very late and slightly concerned as a girl beside us on the plane had been vomiting all the way from Oslo to Bardufoss. I hadn’t expected a lot of snow while we were away: the forecast had been clear, but there was a good deal more than when we had left. It was no longer possible to see the road in either direction when turning out of the driveway. Even in my SUV, the snow was too high to see over and I made a decision as I pulled out, that I was going to ask the neighbouring farmer whether they could come round and shift some of it. And so I did. He came around in the evening and cleared the snow from the driveway, as well as some from the sides of the road so we could out out more safely.

I hadn’t realised how much the snow had built up until he cleared it. There was a foot of compacted snow underneath where the cars were parked and now it is clear, you can see just how deep it is when the cars are parked there.

Neither Andrew, nor I picked up the vomiting bug, though both of us have been unwell this week. I guess that’s always a risk of travelling, particularly on planes. I must confess that the burden of the snow feels much lighter now. I don’t know how much I will be charged – I did ask, but the reply was enigmatic. Still, however much it is, it is necessary. Next winter should be much easier.

Anyway, my holiday is over for now, but I would love to go back to both the Peak District and Lower Slaughter, preferably when the weather is a little kinder. There’s also lots more blogging to catch up on, both with work and with a lovely gift I received from Mary, who reads this blog and sent me a Norwegian book with some lovely history attached, which I will write about in due course. I hope you have a lovely weekend and I will see you all again next week!


Sunrise/sunset: 07:31/16:32 Daylength: 9hr00min

I don’t know how many of you watch the daylight hours at the top of each post (I know my dad does, because I suggested leaving it out at one point and he said he found it interesting). Anyway, as I filled it in today, I noticed we now have nine full hours of proper daylight. Given that only a month and a half ago, we had none, that seems quite amazing. It does take the weather a long time to catch up though. This was the scene outside my front door at half past six this morning.

I noticed something about the snow, yesterday, that I hadn’t thought about before. As you can see, the fence posts are decked in snow on one side. I had always assumed this occurred because the wind blew the flakes against one side and they stuck, but actually, it’s the opposite. The prevailing wind here comes from the side where the posts are bare and the snow is collecting in the lee of the poles. Odd how the brain works, because I have carried that misconception around for a while, and it only struck me now because I know which way the prevailing wind is because whenever I walk Triar, it’s always blowing in my face on the way home and I wish it was the other way round! Silly really, because I know drifts form in the lee of things, but hadn’t really thought of the snow collecting on poles as a kind of drift!

I have been waiting for the response from Husleietvistutvalget/Rent Disputes Tribunal (previous update here: Soot on the Wall). They were supposed to assess the case within ninety days, which was a week or two ago now. I got an update yesterday evening, which said that Mr Abusive had called them and asked for a progress report. It was rather oddly worded, implying he had asked for an update for “the parties” which might imply he asked for me to get one too. That might sound silly, but the last letter I got from them was also sent on his insistence and I could see no reason why he had insisted, other than to cause distress; I had stated in an earlier statement that I experienced it whenever I receive these letters.

I felt sick to the point of faintness when I saw there was a letter, only to be faced with it being nothing of importance. I don’t know why I have quite such strong reactions to this and I wonder whether it’s down to the feeling of being trapped. I wanted to move out for a whole year before I managed to find somewhere suitable, mainly because I had a sense of unease about this man, but the feeling was never that extreme. It’s looking likely that the response will come when I’m on holiday though, which I could do without. It crossed my mind yesterday, that if I had the money to do it, I would just put the whole case in the hands of a solicitor now, and let them deal with it, but I haven’t, so I can’t. If I was still married, I’d have someone else to help me deal with it too. Sometimes, I do feel very alone, even though I’m not.

Anyway, this time next week, I will (hopefully) be sitting in the airport waiting to fly to Oslo and from there to Heathrow. Almost everything is booked, including hotels, AirBnBs and a car. The waiting area at the airport here is quite funny and old fashioned. I think the seats are purple and green, or some other such garish colour. I did discover last time though, that they had new baked chocolate boller (cardamom flavoured rolls) at a very reasonable price, so that will perhaps be my last taste of common Norwegian cuisine before I head to the UK. I may pop in here with some photos of the UK, or to update on the case, but other than that, I will be taking a blogging break for the next two weekends. See you on the other side.

What a Difference

Sunrise/sunset: 08:03/16:02 Daylength: 7hr59min

Last week was all about the snow. When it was coming down and down and down, it was almost as if it was lying heavily in my mind, rather than just on the roof; there was a real feeling of never-ending work coming at me. I took a photo of a snow drift that had formed beside the garage, that was both beautiful and daunting in its sheer volume.

Large snow drift that formed beside the garage, during last weekend’s storm.

As you can probably see, the drift reached almost to the roof. There are still huge piles of snow along the front and back of the house. It gathered on the roof, then partially melted and fell off in huge quantities, to the point where we couldn’t keep up with it. Doubtless there will be more before the winter is out, but as summer time comes nearer, and the sun returns it has begun to feel less daunting.

It’s been very much milder this week and though there is still a thick covering of snow, the relentless feeling has gone. Quite apart from anything else, Andrew and I are going on holiday in two week’s time and it’s finally close enough that I can begin to properly look forward to it. We are heading to the UK. I expect there will be signs of spring there, in the south at least. We are also meeting Anna and Lauren, as well as my parents and hopefully, my sister Helen. I expect it will whizz by, but by the time we return, we will be well into March.

I had an interesting case at the abattoir this week. A batch of pigs came in and two of them had clear signs of a bacterial disease: erysipelas (rødsyke in Norwegian). I’ve never seen it before, but some of its symptoms are so distinctive that I remember them from university. The pigs I saw had very classic, diamond-shaped, raised red patches on their skin. The other thing I remembered from university is that it is a zoonosis – it can spread to different species, including people. The bacteria can survive a long time in infected meat, even if it’s kept chilled, so it’s important that infected pigs are kept out of the food chain. I also had to call the farmer and make sure he understood the risks and would take suitable precautions.

There was also an article on the front page of Mattilsynet’s intranet this week about the fact that tuberculosis had been picked up a some time ago in an abattoir further south. The investigation and (hopefully) eradication process is ongoing, but the article pointed out that though meat inspection is often seen as the poor relation in terms of importance when it comes to animal health and welfare, it can play a hugely significant role in keeping people and animals safe.

I have also been out on some welfare visits this week for the first time since the autumn. It was good to get out and about, and happily both the animals we went to see were not at risk. Thomas and I also went out to pick up a stray cat, only to find it had been picked up by Dyrebeskyttelsen (a Norwegian animal welfare charity) two hours before we got there. Our travels took us over to the far side of Senja, where the snow was largely gone at ground level. It is amazing how much difference in temperature the gulf stream brings, even this far north, though you can see the thick ice on the left, where the snow has been flattened in a car-parking area. Ice takes a lot longer to melt than snow.

Skaland, Senja

With the higher temperatures outside, the temperature in the house has also been more stable. The larger, more powerful heat exchanger I bought on moving in still wasn’t enough to keep the house properly warm when it was minus twenty outside. The wood stove has been wonderful though, and has been of particular interest to Triar. For most of his life we have lived in apartments in the cellars of other people’s houses, which is relatively common in Norway. Neither of our flats had fires or stoves and so he has always curled up on the couch beside us. But I had begun to notice that, now and then, he would go and lie in front of the wood stove when it was on. He didn’t lie there for long though and it crossed my mind that, in the UK, almost everyone I know has some kind of rug in front of the fire and a rug would be much more comfortable to lie on than laminate. And so, we have got Triar a sheepskin to lie on near the fire. As you can see, he loves it very much. Hope you all have a good week.

Too Much Snow

Sunrise/sunset: 08:35/15:30 Daylength: 6hr55min

Okay, I admit it! Even for me, lover of snow extraordinaire, it’s a bit over the top this year. It’s February, and from my limited experience of living in the Arctic, I would expect it to be minus twenty for most of the month and for the snow coming down from the sky to be very limited. There should be some on the ground, obviously, but falling… No!

A photo taken yesterday morning when I arrived at work.

When it falls below minus ten or so, humidity normally falls away. The amazing hoar frosts we sometimes get occur when the temperature drops quickly and all the water particles in the air attach themselves to anything and everything. But it also means that in the colder months, snow is generally quite limited. Much of the snow that falls tends to fall later, in April perhaps, when the sun’s rays begin to carry some heat and the world begins to warm again.

It is mesmerising, of course, and very, very beautiful. Unfortunately, it is heavy enough at the moment to create some significant problems. I drove John’s car to work yesterday as he went away yesterday to a farm up a long, heavily rutted road. I bought an SUV before I came here for exactly that type of scenario, so we have swapped for a couple of days. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem. John’s car is lovely and I’ve driven it before. But unlike mine, his car is very low to the ground and long and requires significant care when turning into driveways or car parks with any kind of camber or slope. In addition, it is manual and I haven’t driven it often enough to be familiar with the controls, all of which would have been fine if it wasn’t for the addition of a blizzard that went on and off all day.

I left work in time to get home in daylight yesterday, but even then, conditions were difficult. Visibility was poor. This was partly due to the whirling snowflakes, but also because of the cloud cover, which obscures the sun, meaning there are no shadows. When everything is white and the edge of the road is blurred by snow drifts sending their deadly fingers across the asphalt, it becomes almost impossible to see where the edge of the road is. There are snow poles, which you can follow of course, while trying not to go too close. If you go into those drifts, they can drag you in and send your car into a spin. So I limped home at 50km/hr (30mph), trying not to think about the queue of more confident drivers behind me. I was very relieved to get home.

John’s car, safely home

It’s been snowing quite a lot since then. This is what I saw when I opened the front door this morning to let Triar out.

Snow outside the front door, obscuring the steps.

I am going to have to do something about it, because John will be coming home from the farm later, and even in my car, I think he might struggle to get into the driveway. He suggested, last night, that I move his car over nearer to the garage (to make it easier to clear the driveway with the snow blower) and I thought I would do it today, when it got light, but that’s now a very big task!

John’s car, not yet buried, but still quite significantly covered.

And so, I’d better go out and make a start. The first step will be to take a shovel and dig a pathway to the garage where the bigger snow pusher and the snow blower reside. Then I have to decide whether to try to start the snow blower (not easy, it’s physically tough to even pull the rope fast enough) or whether I should just resort to pushing enough out of the way in the more traditional way. I just hope that John actually manages to get home. He’s working on the farm next weekend, feeding and caring for the sheep while the owners go away for the weekend. They’re rushing through showing him everything last night and this morning, as the long, rutted road is also in an avalanche area. There are early warning systems, so he’s unlikely to get caught in the avalanche, but if there is one, he will be trapped there until the road is cleared.

Anyway, that’s a reasonable summary of this morning. It’s snowing again now, but even so, I’d better go and make a start. Have a good week everyone!

Super Blue

Sunrise/sunset: 09:08/14:56 Daylength: 5hr48min

I’ve seen the sun! I wasn’t even looking for it, but went outside at work on Monday just after ten o’clock and, to my amazement, there it was!

I don’t think the feeling of joy this gives can be understood until you’ve lived somewhere where there is a significant period when the sun doesn’t come over the horizon at all. Long cloudy spells, even in the south of Norway, were not the same. I had a visceral feeling of joy at this moment. When the sun isn’t out, the light here is still super blue. I will add some other photos later, taken on a couple of different days this week, and you will see what I mean.

This winter has been hard. The snow came early and there has been a lot of it and on top of that, the temperature changes have been crazy. One day it’s minus twenty, the next it can be above zero. We badly needed the wood that Ann brought because this year has demonstrated that our house is not really insulated well enough. At super-cold temperatures, even the lovely new, powerful heat exchanger I bought doesn’t really cut it and the electricity bill last month was heinous. On the coldest days, when we come home, it can be thirteen or fourteen degrees in the house, which isn’t super-freezing, but isn’t comfortable to sit in. The wood stove solves the problem, but it takes a couple of hours to really start warming the place up. Before next winter, I will be getting new insulation in the loft and I hope that will make a significant difference.

As regular readers will know, I am in the process of moving jobs at the moment, though still within the Norwegian Food Safety Authority: Mattilsynet. I have spent most of this week working in the abattoir, where I am rapidly learning how to do new tasks, in particular to do with administration. The two main aims are to ensure that the food produced is safe and to ensure that animal welfare is high and though the first is very important, it is the second that interests me more.

For the first time this week, I have come across a situation where I am going to have to issue a fine. In Norway, it is illegal to send cows to the abattoir within the last month before they are due to calve. As their pregnancy progresses, the ligaments around the pelvis begin to loosen, and obviously as the calf gets bigger, it’s more likely that loading and unloading and travelling in general can result in pain or injury. In an odd coincidence, having not come across a case before, this week there were two.

In one of these, in my opinion, the farmer seems not to have been careful enough, though I believe he does still care about his animals. It’s not entirely up to me and Thomas explained that I will need to involve the animal welfare advisor before I make the decision, but it seems likely he will be fined. The other case was even sadder to deal with. I called the farmer and he told me that he’d had a vet out to check the cow for pregnancy and that the vet had got it wrong. It happens, of course. Mistakes do occur, but for the farmer it was a significant blow. He won’t be charged a fine as he sent me evidence, but his cow was pregnant with twins and he sounded very upset as he told me she was a good cow. Farming has to be one of the toughest professions there is.

Andrew is in his last year at school. He has known for a while that he wanted to go to folk high school for a year (before probably going on to university), but this was the week when many of them started accepting applications for next year, and to his enormous delight, he got into his first choice of school to study film. We had previously looked at ones closer to home, but the courses local t ous didn’t seem as well suited to what he wanted, and so he is going to move back to southwest Norway for a year. It will be strange without him, but I am delighted with how excited he seems. Anna spent a year studying computer game coding near Trondheim and I think she would agree it was one of the best years of her life so far – an uncomplicatedly happy time. As well as studying computing, there was an unexpected sideline at Torshus where they sang sea shanties and the culmination of the year was to sail a tall ship from Bergen to Shetland and back. It will be very interesting to see how Andrew’s school compares.

Last but not least, my mum is eighty years old today. I hope you have something lovely planned and I’m looking forward to celebrating with you in March when we come over. Happy birthday Mum!

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Sunrise/sunset: 09:43/14:19 Daylength: 4hr36min

It’s almost the end of January and it’s pouring with rain. Not that the snow is going anywhere fast; there’s too much of it and anyway, the forecast says the rain will turn to snow again shortly. I’m not wishing the time away as I’m enjoying work at the moment, but I am looking forward to lighter days and the loosening of winter’s grip. John and I made a second attempt to see the sun last weekend. We drove up to the ski slope at Fjellandsby last weekend, but this was the nearest we came.

There was quite a lot of fresh snow before the rain arrived and John worked hard to get the driveway as clear as possible so that we weren’t knee deep in slush.

Ann and Stejn came round last weekend and, very generously, gave us a load of wood as we were running low. I’ve commented before that this year’s winter was complicated as it was the first in our new house. There have been other factors as well; it’s been a very long winter with lots of snow early on. John was also home a lot when he hurt his ankle and it was so cold that he had the wood stove burning all day. However it’s clear that next year, we will have to buy a lot more wood.

I was looking back through some old photos this week and came across one that triggered a lot of memories. Here it is:

Aesthetically, I like it. It’s a picture of a sunrise, taken in February of 2020. There’s nothing spectacular about it, but it did provoke a lot of reflection. John was still living in England then, with no real thought of returning, and Andrew and I were still in South West Norway. This was John’s first visit to Norway in a while, and we took a short break in a cottage in Flekkefjord.

There are some very specific memories of the weekend itself. The cottage was an old farm house, up a long track. It was cosy, but very old-fashioned. We found the key and opened the door, and as we walked in, we heard voices. There was nobody there, but the radio in the kitchen was switched on. It felt very eerie, like the beginning of a horror movie. We went out for Chinese food in Flekkefjord and lit the fire in the cottage and watched creepy films. It was all very pleasant and unremarkable and I can remember thinking we would come back and do the whole thing again sometime.

Within weeks of our return, Covid hit and everything changed forever. England began to feel very unstable and John and Anna returned to Norway, clutching print outs of their residency passes, going through checks where airport staff asked for their personal numbers to check if they were entitled to get in. They both made it just before the borders closed and almost all flights ceased. Six months later, when John and I drove up here, we camped out on the first night on the track up to that old farmhouse (Almost Arctic).

So now, here we are. Things are less chaotic and unpredictable than they were back then, but there are a lot of changes still to come. Andrew will likely move out in summer this year. We need to look at folk high schools for him as he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life yet. Folk high schools, for those who don’t know, are almost like a structured gap year, though with some fun education thrown in, which means you can get a student loan to cover it. He wants to do something artistic, probably to do with film, so he will try to find a course related to that. Anna went to Torshus Folkehøgskole and had a wonderful, uncomplicatedly happy year where she studied computer graphics creation in between taking a trip on a tall ship between Bergen and Shetland and getting a team silver medal in Norway’s national fencing championships.

John might move out at some point too, and then my life will become more complicated. There is a lot of physically hard work here, that I would have tackled when I was twenty five, but which looks way more daunting at fifty four.

But for now, I am looking forward to March, when I have booked a holiday in the UK. Andrew and I will fly over to see Anna and her girlfriend Lauren in Winchester and then we will all travel up to the Peak District to meet Mum and Dad. Then Andrew, Anna, Lauren and I will spend a few days near Cheltenham, where we will probably see Helen.

Other than that, who knows what’s just around the corner? I write about Scotland, which still, in many ways, feels like my spiritual home, but will I ever go back there to live? People have asked me now and then whether living in the Arctic is a lifelong choice or a temporary adventure and the answer is that I don’t know. There are advantages to living here and I like my job, and past experience has taught me that is important. But the winters are so long and so physically challenging that I will need to find ways of living with them, if I am to stay here permanently. Still, the good thing is that at the moment, I don’t need to decide. Though changes are coming, for now my life is relatively stable, which is something I never felt when I was living in a rented flat. I always knew would be temporary and the unsettled feeling that gave me is gone.

But for now, it’s time to get up and get breakfast with John. Time with family is one of those small pleasures that keep me going. The light is returning and soon the sun will come out from behind the clouds. Have a good week and thanks for reading.

When I Almost Saw the Sun…

Sunrise/sunset: 10:22/13:37 Daylength: 3hr14min

This week, I have been working at the abattoir most days. I was working in the lairage where the live animals are kept in pens (and where I inspect them) when I looked out of the window and thought it looked remarkably bright. Glancing at my watch, I could see that it was between eleven and twelve, meaning technically the sun was up and it was daylight. Abandoning my work, I rushed outside and round the corner of the high building, only to find that the sun hadn’t quite heaved itself over the mountain pass and was still hidden. The scene was beautiful though, so I took the photo at the top of the page, to share with you the moment when I ALMOST saw the sun. There is snow forecast now, and clouds and warm (well relatively) weather, so it will probably be at least another week before I get another chance to see it, but it will come eventually. I’ll just have to be patient!

I am also having to be patient while waiting for word on my (still unpublished) book. My agent, Ger, has had quite a lot of positive feedback from publishers, but as yet, no definite offers. Just before Christmas, one of them asked whether I would be interested in making some edits, after which they would take another look. I completed the amendments just over a week ago, so now am back in waiting mode, though I am also trying to get going on book two again. Book two will be set in the lead up to Christmas and I would very much like to get some of it done while it’s still wintery. I admit that gives me a lot of leeway, living where I do, but from experience, it feels very odd to be writing about Christmassy things in May.

John and I paid a visit to Ann’s house a couple of weeks ago. Ann’s partner, Stejn, is doing up the house they’ve bought together and John was very interested in some of the practicalities of wood panelling. When I came to view our house, almost the first thing I saw was a horrible area in the hallway, where it appeared there had once been a cupboard, of which the only remaining structure was a piece of white boarding attached to the wall at one end. The previous owner had placed an ugly shelf and some industrial-looking storage baskets in the area, but neither they, nor the neutral paint that had been used to cover the wall, could hide the fact that this area had once been the back of a cupboard and was clad in various different types of textured wallpaper in odd shaped patches.

John took down that board last week and I wish I had taken before and after pictures. The hallway immediately felt twice as big and much brighter. I hadn’t realised how much light that board was blocking. Having seen the wood panelling Stejn has put up in various areas of their house, it struck me that, rather than trying to remove all the wallpaper from the entire hallway, in order to match the small area where the wallpaper is a mess, perhaps we could put up an area of wood panelling and make it a feature. The area that used to be a cupboard is wider than the rest of the hall, so it would be relatively easy to do and would look like quite a natural part of the hallway to pick out. There is another small mystery to solve however. In that area, there was a small, round plastic patch that was obviously covering something. John unscrewed it and we found some kind of electrical wiring point behind it. Whether it needs to have future access, or whether it was installed and the white plastic patch was just to cover the hole is a mystery to us, but obviously one we have to find out before we put any panelling in place.

John also disappeared out to the room next to the garage one evening this week, then came back in to ask for my help. He was building a workbench from the board he’d taken down from the hall and some old wood from the uneven decking that he and Andrew took up from the back garden before the snow came. I’m never sure where John picked up his carpentry skills. Neither I, nor his father, have any talent in that direction, though my dad is quite good. I did ask, but John couldn’t give me any clear answer, only that he’d just picked it up. Either way, I was impressed he’d built a sturdy workbench from scrap material.

Anyway, that’s probably a reasonable summary of my week. There are other people astir in the house. and Triar has just appeared, so I should probably get up and get him some breakfast! Have a good week all!

Soot on the Wall

Sunrise/sunset: 11:16/12:37 Daylength: 1hr21min

You will hopefully be amused to hear that I had a bizarre new update this week in my dispute with my ex landlord.

(Related posts for anyone who wants all the lowdown: Cows in the Field , How Much?, Don’t Try This at Home, Mixed Emotions).

The time for sending in evidence is long past, so when a letter pinged into my Digibox account (in Norway, secure letters are generally sent electronically) from Husleietvistutvalget (HLTU) I assumed that here, finally, was the judgment. I was out at work when the letter came in, but I waited until I was home to open it, and when I did, I discovered it was not the judgement at all.

As background, I was copied in to a letter, a while back, which HTLU had sent to the ex landlord. He had been sent my last statement (submitted before the deadline) and HTLU wanted confirmation that he had received it.

Instead of sending confirmation of receipt, the ex landlord had sent another “evidence statement”. This, HLTU confirmed, had been sent after the deadline and therefore would not be considered when the evidence was examined, but they still wanted him to confirm that he had received my statement. Later the same day, I was copied into another letter, which indicated he had called HLTU and no longer had to send confirmation as they would accept the fact that his opening of the letter in Digibox was indication enough.

The new letter, which I received on Wednesday, had a short explanation at the top, which roughly translated said:

Ex landlord has informed us that his pleading of 24th November has not been sent over for information. We apologise. Attached is ex landlord’s pleading of 24th November, for information. The case remains in the queue for a decision.

I am beginning to be quite fascinated by this. There was little new evidence sent. In his previous statement, he had claimed the ancient cooker in the flat had been bought in 2018. He had sent a receipt for a cooker as proof, but unfortunately for him, I was able to demonstrate that the Gram cooker in his receipt was not the Zanussi cooker that was visible in one of my photographs of the flat. In his new pleading, he “explains” that he had been so excited by finding the receipt, that he had sent it, not realising it was the wrong one. He claims the cooker in the flat had, nevertheless, been bought in 2017 or 2018. He had asked both the electrical appliance shops in Finnsnes if they could find a receipt, without success. He therefore thought the cooker must have been bought from a shop in Finnsnes that had since closed down. Honest guv….

At the end of my previous response, I had commented that I was pleased he had stated he hadn’t actually bought a replacement vacuum cleaner. My understanding was that in Norwegian law (case law, I think, found on a solicitor’s website) the landlord in such a case had to show actual financial outlay. If there was no financial outlay, therefore my belief is that he can’t claim any money for that object. He said he wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Given that he has been preening himself throughout for being Norwegian and therefore having superior knowledge of how everything works in Norway, I found this rather ironic.

But my very favourite “evidence” was his response to my comment that, if I had set the cooker on fire, as he claimed, there would be soot on the wall behind it. He had previously sent a picture of an electrician mending the electrical contact behind the cooker and the wall was (in my opinion) very clean for a wall behind a cooker that I supposedly left dirty and which should have been fire damaged.

So he sent a picture of the soot. It was difficult, he acknowledged, to show it in a picture. The picture at the top of the page shows part of the photograph he sent, but for the avoidance of doubt, I will show you the unclipped picture.

All in all, though I am slightly worried about his state of mind and where he might take all this, if he doesn’t get his way, I can’t help feeling that, with every new move, he is shooting himself in the foot more. Indeed I will be sad if they don’t take his evidence into account, especially as he has now insisted that procedure be followed and they must send this to me. What possible reason could he have for such an insistence that I must be sent this? I think I acknowledged earlier to HLTU that I felt sick every time I got a letter from them. If he has that information, the only reason I can imagine he wanted an additional letter sending was to cause further distress. I do know, however, that if I was dealing with this case at work (I don’t deal with this type of case, but assessment of animal welfare cases is part of my job) I would probably have drawn quite significant conclusions about who was likely telling the truth and who was an arsehole.

Anyway, other than that, it’s been a pleasant enough week. Officially, the sun came up yesterday and will come up again today, but I have barely been outside during daylight hours and therefore haven’t taken any photos. I thought I would look back at some photos I took last year and the year before, to compare this winter with those. I was surprised to see that in January 2020, there was almost no snow. Quite the contrast with this year.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I hope you have a good week.

New Beginnings

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day

Is there anyone who doesn’t find themselves, at this time of year, reflecting on their life? As the new year comes in, it always feels like time to take stock of where I am, where I’m going and where I want to go.

There’s a lot happening at work at the moment. I am moving roles, from a focus on animal welfare out in the field, to animal welfare in the abattoir. They are advertising my old job for the second time now, without any notable success. I understand it is always harder to recruit people up here and perhaps working for Mattilsynet isn’t so attractive right now, partly as the wage is not competitive compared with other veterinary jobs, and perhaps because Mattilsynet is coming under a lot of flack at the moment. Still, I am thriving in my job. Though I can’t completely abandon my old role until I am replaced, there has been a significant change in focus.

I have gradually been taking on tasks related to meat inspection and now I have taken over the role of team coordinator for the team of vets and technicians who carry out Mattilsynet’s tasks in the abattoir. This role is partly administrative. I have to slot people into the rota and let them know what days they will be working sufficiently far ahead that they can work around it. There are currently only two staff who are full time in the abattoir and present: Trude and Konstantin. The rest of us work shifts there while based elsewhere, though it looks like I will be working there more than fifty percent of the time for the foreseeable future. I will need to get up to speed on what should be, rather than what is. Working permanently with a skeleton staff is harder on the permanent staff who are there than it should be, though for the past three years, we have been lucky enough to have enthusiastic and highly competent temporary staff, both in the season in autumn, and year round. Konstantin came for the season in 2021 and has been filling in for missing permanent staff now for almost a year and a half.

But as well as the admin side, I also represent the team, both in the wider department and on various committees, who work towards ensuring animal welfare and complying with the legal requirements we have to fulfil, and that is the role I am most looking forward to. Last week I wrote about Helene in Karasjok and Venche in Mo I Rana and I am excited to be working with them. I have masses to learn, and I love learning new things. I can also imagine a time, further into the future, when I will have learned enough “locally” (Mo I Rana and Karasjok are both about eight hours drive away from Andslimoen where I work) that it might be useful to travel further afield, to find out what abattoir workers in other parts of Norway do. For now though, that’s a long time away. I have my annual review next week though, so there is a lot to discuss with Hilde.

At home, things are reasonably stable, though I think we have messed up a bit with snow clearance. There was something of a thaw last week and all the snow slid off the garage roof. We hadn’t yet finished shifting the snow that had come off the house roof and the handle of the snow blower was broken. There wasn’t time to move it all by hand before the temperature dropped and it all froze again. So now we have huge piles of hard, icy snow around the house and the garage. Obviously it will melt eventually, but I think we probably ought to have cleared some of it to avoid the risk of too much build up through the rest of the winter and potential flooding when it does finally melt again. Only time will tell whether it will be problematic or not. Well, maybe some local people would be able to predict better than I can, but that’s the nature of living somewhere unfamiliar. Whatever comes, it will be dealt with when it arrives.

It continues to be very beautiful, though the tendency to hibernate is strong when it’s minus twenty outside. My pictures then, were taken around the house. The one at the top of the page, with the pink and blue sky, is from the veranda and here are two taken at night when Andrew and I went out on a duel mission to clear the pathway that allows him to get to the bus stop in the morning without walking on the main road and to give Triar some fresh air.

This is the house of our nearest neighbour. It looks very cosy with its mørketid lights.
The barn next door, with complementary aurora.

Anyway, I have to go now. In addition to everything else, I have some editing to do on my book. I told my agent I would have the changes to her by the beginning of next week, so I have to do it now. Deadlines are good for me when writing. Without them, the tendency for procrastination is way too strong.

Happy new year to everyone who has made it this far down the page, and I hope you have a good week!