I took the picture at the top of the page on Thursday 17th November without really thinking much about it, and its sister photograph was in last weeks blog, but it didn’t cross my mind at the time that it would probably be the last I saw of direct sunlight in 2022. Although technically the sun will rise above the horizon for almost two hours today, there aren’t many places where the horizon is visible, surrounded by mountains as we are. The upper slopes of the snow covered peaks have still been lit up for parts of the day until very recently. They looked so beautiful when I arrived home from work, all glowing with a pink tinged light, but even that is now going. Polar night is one of my favourite times because it can be so beautiful. When the weather is clear, the southern sky becomes golden and it reflects on the frosty ground with the magical warm glow you sometimes see on Christmas cards. To the north, the horizon turns a dusky pink colour that I had never seen before I moved up here. Here’s a photo that looks so surreal, even to me, that it’s hard to believe the colours haven’t been enhanced, but I haven’t made any adjustments at all.
I took a few photos as I was driving around this week. There is still no snow, but the world is white anyway, with thick frost and ice. The ice crystals have formed slowly. I have shown photos before of hoar frost, but seems a little different as the crystals are large and flat.
We had a celebratory lunch this week at the abattoir. Ernestas and Vaidotas will be going back to Lithuania at the end of next week, and Øivind was missing waffles and the party spirit, so we decided to have a meal together, where we would bring something from our homeland. I brought an apple crumble, which went down well. Vaidotas brought honey and garlic roasted chicken wings, Oivind brought some Thai style chicken (his wife is from Thailand and is a wonderful cook). Konstantin brought a traditional Latvian bread soup, which tasted of cinnamon and raisins and Trude brought some amazing wraps, some with smoked trout and goats cheese, the others with smoked grouse that she had hunted and smoked herself. Everything was delicious and it was really very cosy.
If you look in the back of the photo above, there is a blue box containing Roses chocolates, which was Ernestas’ contribution. That was another treat for me. When I was young, we didn’t get a lot of chocolate at home, but an exception was made at Christmas, when there was always a large tin of Roses chocolates. Though the packaging has changed, many of the sweets were still the same, so although it wasn’t very Lithuanian (though for all I know, maybe they’re made there) I really enjoyed the nostalgic taste of Christmas past.
And with the mention of Christmas, I can’t ignore the fact that tomorrow will be the first Sunday in advent. I’ve already bought candles for my advent crown and the first candle will be lit tomorrow. Last year, I looked around on the internet for some kind of advent calendar app as I love advent and hoped for something that wasn’t chocolate based, as most advent calendars are nowadays. I didn’t manage to find anything particularly special, and it crossed my mind that perhaps I could make one myself. So from Thursday 1st December until Christmas, I will post an image each day. I can’t promise they’ll all be from this year. I may include some of my particular favourites from the past two winters, but hopefully I will be able to capture my Arctic Advent for you.
I’m not going to write much this week. I had migraine yesterday and through the night, so this morning I’m quite tired, though relieved that the headache seems to have passed. I bought a sofa bed a couple of weeks back – probably the last big bit of furniture for now – and it was delivered on Monday. There is still work to be done on the house, but it will probably have to wait now, until next year. The temperature has dropped below zero and I suspect it won’t climb much over it now until about May. The light is going too, and that which remains is already taking on the bluish tone that comes with the polar night. So this post will be made up of photos I’ve taken over the course of this week at different times of day and in different places. I hope you enjoy them.
This first picture is taken from the back of the abattoir. Part of my job is to inspect animals that arrive while I am at work (some arrive the day before, and I check them in the morning when I arrive). There are a lot of crows living around the abattoir and even a golden eagle. This picture was taken at ten to ten in the morning and as you can see, the sun is just peeking over the horizon. The plants are coated in heavy frost for now, but soon they will disappear under snow.
This was taken as I drove from the abattoir to Finnsnes at ten to eleven in the morning and the sun is still on the horizon. The river opens up here as it goes into a lake and the water is beginning to freeze at the edges. Soon it will be frozen and it too will be covered in a layer of snow.
I took a close up picture of one of the plants. They are covered in a dense layer of ice, which often forms when the temperature drops quickly, pushing moisture out of the air.
And this photo was taken when I arrived home from work at three twenty five in the afternoon. It was earlier in the week, already dark, as you can see, and the frost here is not so intense, but I was struck by the beauty of the frozen foliage in my headlights against the deep blue of the night sky.
We are, once again, reaching the time of year when the hours of daylight start to drop away faster and faster. We currently have almost five hours when the sun is above the horizon, but it is only two and a half weeks until the polar night arrives. I am feeling very tired at the moment and the lack of sunshine might be having an effect on that, but this week the landlord woes I wrote about before have taken an odd and unsettling turn.
I will say first though, that outside of that, I have had a very interesting week. A couple of weeks back, an e-mail dropped into my work in-box about a table top exercise in Tromsø. The subject was emergency readiness in an Arctic setting. There were two scenarios that would be looked at. One was an outbreak of bird flu, the other a more subtle situation where there began to be sickness in reindeer, where the cause was not known. The meeting was being held under the auspices of the Arctic Council in line with the One Health Initiative. I was not aware that there was an Arctic Council, nor did I know anything about the One Health Initiative, so as you can imagine, it was a steep learning curve. That said, I found myself included (alongside my colleague Anja) more or less by accident, in two projects which are of huge relevance to the job I do, but on a scale that is so far above my pay grade that it felt like a whole new world was opening up.
To explain a little, the Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum which includes the eight countries which exercise sovereignty over the land that falls within the Arctic Circle, so Norway, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Russia. There is also a focus on including indigenous groups so that their concerns are properly represented and their knowledge brought forward.
The One Health Initiative is a movement which brings together medics, vets, researchers, environmentalists and other professionals to work towards a better understanding of the interdependence of human and animal health and the way that changes in the environment might impact these balances. Many of the diseases we monitor in animals at Mattilsynet (the Norwegian Food Standards Agency) are zoonotic (they can pass between animals and humans) or might become so. For example, we are currently keeping a close eye on bird flu, which can pass to humans when there is close contact between birds and people, but so far doesn’t spread easily between people after it made that jump. Similarly, we monitor salmonella (which spreads readily between humans and animals) and diseases like BSE (mad cow disease) and illnesses in other species that are related to it.
My job then, is right on the front line of dealing with that monitoring. I take samples from the animals, send them off to the lab and receive information back about whether they were positive or negative. Because I am interested in the wider picture, I quite often dip into Mattilsynets national emergency readiness website to see what is happening in other areas, to get a taste of how disease outbreaks are being handled. If an outbreak occurred in my local region, I would doubtless be involved in any testing that occurred, but generally all decisions about what happens from there are taken much higher up and other activities (for example, the disposal of the carcases of animals that present a risk) are then handed off to other agencies. I might be peripherally aware of it going on, assuming it was occurring in my locale, but I wouldn’t have any direct involvement.
Mattilsynet had apparently been contacted a good deal earlier about this exercise, but hadn’t responded. As it was getting later and later, the woman organising it had reached out to someone she knew in the local region, who had then put out an urgent call for representation (and unusually, had made the suggestion that someone relatively new to Mattilsynet might be suitable, as they would perhaps learn a great deal). Anja said she could go on days one and two, but asked if anyone could go on the third, or better still every day. I, despite still being up to my elbows in seasonal meat inspection, tentatively suggested that I might actually be free all three days. So I can only say that I went from a small, local perspective on emergency readiness as it relates to zoonotic diseases (with a quiet eye on the national situation in moments when time allowed) to a global perspective on the same topic. My mind was genuinely so blown by this that it took me until day three to really pick myself up and start to properly contribute, which I am proud to say I did.
Unfortunately, there was another factor thrown into this mix. On the first day of the exercise, in the morning, a letter from Husleietvistutvalget (the rent disputes tribunal) thudded into my digital mailbox. As regular readers will know, my ex landlord is making a vexatious claim against me for a huge sum of money and I previously have responded to his accusations, in what I believe was a careful and truthful manner. This new letter was his response. In a way, it was easy to respond to. It was filled with bizarre lies, which in some cases were easy to undermine.
For example, he has thrown away and replaced a cooker, which he says I had set on fire. This was an ancient cooker, which was acknowledged by his wife when we went round the flat together at the end of the tenancy. I was surprised to read then, in this latest letter, that it was actually relatively new and had been bought in 2018. The “proof” he provided was a receipt for a cooker bought in 2018. Had I been less prepared, or had he been luckier, I would have been at a loss regarding how to counter this claim. However, my photograph of the kitchen area had a reasonably clear (if rather distant) picture of the cooker. Though his receipt was for a Gram cooker, it was possible on my photo to home in on the logo on the cooker in the flat, which was a Zanussi.
There was other stuff, of a similar nature. The receipt he had sent for a sofa was one where, zoomed in, you could see it was bought in 2020 (after we moved in) and not now. It wasn’t the sofa in the apartment, so this was neither proof that the sofa we used was new when we moved in, nor that he’d had to buy a new one after we had left. To be honest, his lies have now reached such a level of inconsistency and outrageousness that I’m not too worried about the way the case handlers will view it, but I am worried about what he might do if and when he doesn’t get his way. He also has some money of mine, which was a rent payment, accidentally sent after I moved out. When I called the bank, shortly after realising what had happened, they advised me that if he didn’t send the money back, I should contact the police. I am now seriously considering whether I should go to the police and make sure they have details of the whole sorry case, from the start, when he stood in the apartment shouting at me, rather than explaining what he felt I needed to do to rectify faults he believed I needed to address, to this latest missal, which suggests to me that he is really starting to lose the plot.
Anyway, it was unfortunate that this fell onto me during this wonderful conference. However, despite that, I still managed to enjoy my trip. By the end of it, I was wondering how on earth I could get more involved, as it seems unlikely I will be included in the next exercise, which will be in Alaska. I even started to look up Masters Degrees in Public Health, but at 53, spending two years back at university would be a huge and significant change. It has certainly given me a lot of food for thought though.
I was very tired as I was driving back yesterday, but I stopped to take a picture of the snow, which has now come down from the mountains, though it is still patchy at sea level.
And now I have to go. My car has been in at the garage in Tromsø. It had a major fault that could only be fixed there, and now I have to go catch a boat so I can pick it up. Have a lovely week all!
Yesterday was officially the last day of the season at the abattoir. It’s rather sad to think that the vast majority of the lambs that were born in the spring time are now processed and ready to be eaten, but that is the end result for almost all animals that are bred for food. My job, as ever, is to ensure that the animal welfare during that process is as high as it can possibly be, and also to check that the quality and cleanliness of the meat produced is up to scratch.
Though the season officially ended yesterday, lots of the season workers flew home (including twelve who had decided to desert early in order to get cheaper flights). A quick change of plan meant that instead of being on the sheep production line, as I had expected, I was suddenly free to make a start on all the work that’s been building up while I’ve been busy. Every year, the season overshadows all the other work we do and I guess it’s the busiest time of the year.
It felt good to be making a start on the backlog. Hilde has given me some new tasks at the abattoir as I will eventually be moving there on a permanent basis. As with any other business, there’s a lot of paperwork to do behind the scenes and with my predecessor having left a year ago, and the other permanent vet (Ann) on sick leave, I am in the sink or swim phase of a new job, where things are thrown at me and I have to work out how they are done before a (fortunately mostly reasonable) deadline. That sort of thing can be somewhat stressful, but I can remember, all those years ago as a brand new vet, being thrown into a consulting room with clients when my knowledge of how to do the job was sadly lacking, and that was way worse! Ultimately, I will swim. I always do. Life experience is a wonderful thing.
John’s Triar fence isn’t quite finished. He and I had measured before we began and had estimated we needed 100m of lamb netting, but it seems we were out by a few metres and will need to buy some more lamb netting. I was amazed by John’s expertise though. One of the beautiful things about having adult children is that they learn to do things you never expected them to. Before I married, I was always impressed with the young farmers I had to work with, who were so wonderfully practical and seemed to be able to turn their hands to anything. I can do lots of things, if taught to do them, but often fear messing up (though obviously, reading my own words higher up the page, that doesn’t apply to things that are thrown at me at work!). John reminds me of those young farmers. He has no fear of taking things apart and putting them back together, or building a fence and sorting out any problems that come up. I am immensely proud of the young man he’s turned into.
Here he is wielding a mallet to put the posts in place, banging them down with a post knocker, sawing a notch for the stay (posts that go in at an angle to stabilise the corner posts) hammering in a stay and finally, tightening up the lamb netting (wider holes at the top, smaller gaps lower down). As you can see, he did it all with snow on the ground. That snow is mostly gone again for now, but winter is definitely here.
After we had been working on the fence, John went inside to have a warm shower, while I did some washing up. The washing machine was also on. While I was standing at the sink, I got something of a shock when I found my feet were suddenly wet. We have a dishwasher, but it isn’t plumbed in yet (it needs a new pipe and, you guessed it, it’s on John’s list of things to tackle). This means that there is an uncovered hole in one of the pipes under the sink. Up until now, the water has drained away normally despite this, but now it wasn’t. John also came out of the shower to say there was water all over the bathroom floor. It’s a wet room, so that wasn’t a disaster, but it certainly wasn’t normal either.
Norwegian insurance companies are great. In the UK, most seem to spend their time trying to get out of paying out, but here in Norway, I phoned mine (Gjensidige) immediately, and within a couple of hours there was a plumbing expert, who ran a self propelling hose up the pipes from the septic tank, then put in a camera to see what was wrong. It seems a previous occupier has thrown a load of solid fat down the drains, which has attached to the pipes and not only blocked them, but has done significant damage. For now they are unblocked, but will need to be replaced.
I’m not sure yet whether this is going to involve digging up huge sections of the garden (there might be a quicker fix under the house as the pipe from the toilet is large and still intact) but either way it’s a big job. It may be that it will have to wait for next year, as when the snow comes and the ground freezes, it will become impossible to dig, or indeed to access the “creep cellar” under the house, which is accessed from outside and will shortly be under a metre of snow. Still, for now it’s all working okay and it will be sorted out eventually. I’m just glad we found it early. The person that sold me the house also bought insurance for unexpected things happening after she’d moved out, so I will, if at all possible, shift the claim from my own insurance onto hers, but either way, I feel confident that this will all be sorted out.
Anyway, I have to go. My car has a major fault which is going to take three days to fix (something called the wire harness has a fault) and there’s nobody nearer than Tromsø with the expertise to fix it. I’ll take it today and collect it next weekend. One thing I can certainly say is that life here is rarely boring!
It’s almost November and winter has arrived. Last weekend’s rain turned into snow, which shouldn’t have surprised me, but it felt too sudden, having so recently returned from the UK. This weekend the clocks go back. Not that it will make a lot of difference to the daylight hours here. It’s only a month now until the polar night arrives. Though the temperature dropped to minus nine at the beginning of the week, it’s back up again now and hovering just above zero, so John has brought home the fencing kit: not a facemask and foil, but a huge mallet and a metal spike for making holes in the ground. He’s going to build a Triar fence, so that Triar can enjoy the garden without being on a lead the entire time. Obviously we’ll have to check it each morning to make sure a moose hasn’t walked right through it, but Triar loves zooming about (and burying his head in the snow) so it will be great for him. John made a start last night with lining up the posts, despite the fact that it was already getting dark when he got home.
In a rash moment last week, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. It’s an annual event where people who want to write a novel join a challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I’ve tried once before and didn’t make it, but I haven’t written anything but this blog for ages and it’s about time I got started again. So now I have only a couple of days to get the rest of my plotline sorted out for my next novel. That is slightly less daunting than it sounds as I had started planning it months ago and have several storylines ready to go. Now I just have to weave them together and make sure they all work together. 50,000 words is just over half the usual number of words I’d expect to write, so even if I haven’t got the plotline worked out right to the end, I can still make a start. More writing, less procrastinating!
Next week is officially the last of the season at the abattoir. This years’ lamb is already appearing in the shops. Farikål is a very popular meal here. It’s a stew made of lamb or mutton on the bone, with cabbage and peppercorns. I confess I’m not a fan. The meat tends to be very bony and though it’s cooked for a long time, until it’s falling off the bone, I generally prefer my lamb slow roasted, rather than cooked in a casserole. Of course, it may be that I just haven’t found the right recipe yet. When it comes to food, I’m always open to persuasion!
Once the season is over at work, Thomas and I are going to have to work very hard to catch up with all the work that has been building up out in the field. There are routine visits we have to complete each year, including visiting set percentages of sheep and cattle farms to check the animals are properly eartagged and to educate about scrapie (a neurological disease in sheep that is similar in nature to BSE in cattle) and also some blood testing to do. All that is on top of responding to messages from the public about potential cruelty cases. Though we often have to slow down for the season, this year both Thomas and I have been at the abattoir daily, because two members of the regular staff have been on sick leave throughout. Our job can certainly be challenging.
Here are a few pictures I took when driving to and from work this week. A dusting of snow lightens the world, even on the darkest winter days.
It seems like ages ago already, but last Sunday I took off from Bardufoss Airport and flew (via Oslo) to London Heathrow. Quite a change of scenery!
It’s been one of those magical weeks. One of the hardest things about living in Arctic Norway (apart from the weather) is that it’s a long way from the UK and family. It’s only a couple of flights, obviously, but there’s a limit to how many times I can manage it each year. So it was a big deal to visit Anna, partly for her graduation, but also because things are moving along in her life and I wanted to catch up in a way that just isn’t possible in a phone call.
In addition, when I visited Anna earlier in the year, my co-author for the Hope Meadows series, Vicky Holmes, had pointed out that Winchester was within relatively easy driving distance from where she lives. That time I hadn’t hired a car, so this time I had rectified that.
I confess I was slightly nervous about driving. The roads around Heathrow couldn’t be much more different from the roads around Bardufoss. The national speed limit in Norway is 50mph and there are no motorways within easy driving distance. I’m generally more worried about ice on the road than about what the other vehicles around me are doing. On top of that, driving on the other side of the road is always challenging, and so I had booked an automatic. Not having to reach for the gearstick (and banging your hand into the door) was one less thing to think about. I had declined the offer of paying an extra £50 for GPS. I feel that GPS in a hire car should come as standard in this day and age, but I was wondering whether it was a decision I would come to regret.
So when I arrived I was pleased to find they were offering to upgrade me to a car with GPS. Better still, they had moved me up a class, so the car I drove out of Heathrow was a nice little Mercedes A200. I guess some of the local drivers must have been mystified at the sight of me driving a neat sports car at 60 mph as I navigated from the M4 to the M3 via a short section of the M25, but I arrived safely at my hotel about an hour and a half later, feeling both relieved and proud.
Having endured the slowest check-in ever (computerised systems are great until they’re not) I went round to collect Anna and her lovely girlfriend Lauren. It’s odd, being on the other end of that “meeting the parents” situation. It didn’t cross my mind until I was on the way, that Lauren might actually be nervous about meeting me, but if she was, I hope the worry was swiftly put aside. We had sharing plates at Weatherspoon’s, which was a lovely, relaxed way to begin our few days together.
Anna’s graduation was on Tuesday, so we had arranged to go to Stonehenge on Monday morning, then we were to meet up with Vicky for afternoon tea later in the day. I hadn’t been sure that Stonehenge would be the most interesting place for Lauren to visit (I know Anna loves ancient monuments as much as I do) but I needn’t have worried. Lauren was soon reading up on the history and telling us fascinating information as we walked round. Stonehenge in the modern age is frequented by people keen to experience the summer solstice, but I was intrigued (and quietly pleased) to find out that, in ancient times, the winter solstice was actually more important. There used to be huge gatherings there, with people coming from as far afield as Scotland with their animals each year. What a tradition that must have been!
The stones themselves were fascinating, not least because they were occupied by a flock of starlings, who called loudly throughout the time we were there, except for on a couple of odd moments when something disturbed them. When that happened, the entire flock (along with a few ravens) took off with an intense rush of wings. They performed a few acrobatic manoeuvres in the sky, then flew back in and the chittering and chirping would start again.
It was amazing to meet Vicky after all these years. Vicky and I wrote six books together, starting in 2016. We were meant to meet in Oslo years ago, but just before the trip, Vicky was diagnosed with cancer. Since then we have been through a pandemic and it had begun to seem likely we would never meet.
It turned into the most perfect afternoon. Vicky had found a lovely hotel in a village not too far from Stonehenge and we were soon deep in scones with cream and lively conversation.
As well as Hope Meadows, I knew that Vicky had been the driving force behind the Warrior Cats/Erin Hunter series. What hadn’t crossed my mind was that she had also been the creator of other, very popular, children’s’ books, but she looked at Lauren, who is studying creative writing, and diagnosed that Lauren might be of an age to have read Daisy Meadows’ Rainbow Magic series. It turned out that these were some of Lauren’s favourite books as a child and she confessed on the return journey that she had recently put some of her favourites into a box, in case she has children. So not only did I meet a friend I’ve been chatting to for six years without meeting, quite unexpectedly, Lauren also met one of her favourite authors. Here is Vicky, smiling that wonderful smile as she peeps out from behind the two enormous stands of afternoon tea!
Tuesday was the day of Anna’s graduation – another wonderful occasion. It was heartwarming to see her looking so happy. Her years at university couldn’t have been much more overshadowed, with the pandemic dictating that she spent most of her second year with us in Norway. It was lovely to see her with her university friends, and with Lauren. Charlie came too and it ended up being another perfect day.
The hardest thing, as ever, was leaving. Anna won’t be coming home for Christmas as she is working, so it could be quite a while until we meet again. It was also a tug leaving Winchester. It really is the most wonderful example of a small, cosy, English city. They were setting up the huts for a Christmas market near the cathedral and of course, I want to visit that now! Maybe sometime in the future, I will be able to walk among the weathered sarsens of Stonehenge on the winter solstice and visit the stalls in Winchester on Christmas eve, but all that will probably have to wait a few years. For now, I am back in Norway, listening to the rain on the metal roof of my house, with Triar snuggling beside me, and that will have to do.
I tried to take a picture of the descending snow line this week. It got to about halfway down the slopes of the highest mountains, so probably about five to six hundred metres still. As you can see above, I was hindered by the fact that the mountain peaks were swathed in clouds, but it was beautiful nonetheless. You may have to click on the image to see the mountains!
I have to take the car to Tromsø today. The windscreen washer hasn’t been working properly for a while. Sometimes water sprays, but it seems to be coming from an overenthusiastic headlight skoosher and not on the actual windscreen itself. It was in at the local garage a couple of weeks ago. They changed over the washer motor, which seemed like an odd choice at the time, given that it was sometimes working, but I hoped they were on the right track. Unfortunately they weren’t. They called me and told me I would have to take the car to a BMW garage, and the nearest was in Tromsø, so that’s where we are taking it. I’ll have to drop it off today and pick it up towards the end of the week. Fortunately I’m off to the UK tomorrow, so it won’t be too much of an inconvenience. To my amazement, my local garage haven’t charged me for changing the washer motor. I went in, all ready to be decent about it (because I understand that sometimes, diagnosis can be difficult and time consuming) and was very pleasantly surprised to find I didn’t have to pay for the work. They’ve certainly attached me to them more firmly by doing it!
Tomorrow I fly to Heathrow, to visit Anna in Winchester and see her graduate. We have planned a trip to Stonehenge on Monday and we are hopefully meeting up with Vicky Holmes, my co-author for Hope Meadows afterwards. Vicky and I wrote six books together and have been corresponding for years, but never managed to meet up, so fingers crossed, on Monday we will finally manage it!
I will also be sending off my evidence to Husleietvistutvalget (the rental disputes tribunal) this evening before I go. I will be glad to get that done. After that, I’ll have to wait and see what happens. I think my evidence is more compelling than Mr Abusive’s, so I hope they will see it that way too.
And last but not least, I have a spectacular aurora photo to share with you. I was driving to the airport to collect Andrew last week. It had been raining heavily, but as I drove towards Bardufoss, the sky cleared to reveal both a beautiful moon and some wonderful aurora activity. It will soon be dark for most of the day, so it’s just as well that the night sky sometimes offers some spectacular scenery of its own.
A lot has happened this week. I’m starting to feel that life couldn’t be much more up and down if I was strapped into a roller coaster beside a demented grizzly bear.
Last weekend was mostly good:
John and I drove down to Narvik on Sunday to buy a snøfres or snow blower. I can see, when I look at the estate agent pictures of my house from last winter, that it obviously gets a lot of snow, so working out how to clear it is important. I like snow, which is just as well, and at least I now have a garage – no more getting up at 4a.m to clear one car, then a second ten minutes later. But I will still have to clear the driveway, which is longer than the old one. John found the snow blower on Finn – a Norwegian website that has everything from second hand stuffed otters to holiday booking and jobs.
The bloke selling it laughed at us when we arrived with my car and no trailer. I seem to have been beset by arsehole men of late (not sure why – I wouldn’t have said it was typical here) but happily John had brought his tool kit. He very quickly removed the wheels and the funnel that directs the snow, and we soon had it in the boot to drive home. Here’s John checking it out when we got back.
In addition to the snow blower, I have also invested in a Roborock Vacuum cleaner. This must surely be the best invention ever for those of us who don’t like housework. In order for it to work, the floor must be clear, so that was a good start and gave us the final push to put away the last few things that were still lying around after moving. The first time I set it going, I discovered that you can watch its progress on the Roborock app. This was oddly fascinating and I sat and watched the lines building up as it cleaned the floor in sections. I actually watched this for about 40 minutes as it wove in and out of the hall and kitchen! A couple of days later, I showed John and he was equally mesmerised. And all that comes with the added benefit that the floor is unprecedentedly clean.
The highlight of the weekend was a visit to Trude’s to see the puppies. We had a puppy cuddling session and then coffee and I even came home with some plants for the house.
Monday wasn’t a bad day until the evening. I was checking my online bank when I noticed there was very little left in my current account. This does sometimes happen, but I wasn’t expecting it, right at the start of the month. When I checked the outgoings I realised, to my horror, that an automatic rent payment had been paid out to my ex-landlord. I went and checked, with shaking hands, and realised that the monthly payment, which I had stopped, had restarted.
The bank helpline was still open, so I called them. They told me it was my responsibility, that the stop button was only for a month, and that it was now on me to try to get the money back. I was reeling. It was a lot of money as I was paying 14,500kr per month rent (well over a thousand pound or US dollars).
John was frantically searching online – a difficult task as all the information was in Norwegian – and he told me I had to contact the person I had sent the money to, to establish that it had been sent in error and that I wanted it back. My first instinct was to message the wife of Mr Abusive, so I did so, but then thought afterwards that I should tell him as well, given it was his bank account. I’m glad I contacted her as well as him as, though neither of them responded, I can see from her messenger (and thus can prove) that she read it, which might turn out to be quite important.
My bank have not been particularly helpful. I will be making a complaint, as if I click on a button that says “Stop transfer” and a button pops up that says “Start transfer” I assume that the process is stopped until I start it again. When I looked again, I can see there was also an option to delete. It was a while ago, so I’m not sure why I didn’t take that option, but with a word like “transfer” which can refer to an individual transaction, or the monthly transfer of funds, that the bank should have made it absolutely clear that the stop was only temporary and would restart the next month.
Of course, Mr Abusive has not sent the money back. I presume that he thinks he will keep it as a kind of “deposit” against the 40,000kr he thinks I will have to pay him. Taking a deposit in your own bank account is illegal in Norway though, so I hope that the rent disputes tribunal will take a very dim view.
In the meantime, I have contacted his bank – apparently they are obliged to take “reasonable steps” towards getting my money back. My own bank told me I should contact the police, if he doesn’t pay it back. I think they might be referring to a particular branch of the Norwegian police force, who work in debt collection, rather than him being arrested, but that is all still to come.
In the first instance, I have been able to obtain legal assistance from Jusshjelpa i Nord Norge, a group run by the university in Tromsø, where law students assist people with legal issues. I have also informed the rent disputes tribunal and they have extended my response deadline so that I can find out whether he pays me back or not. If he doesn’t, I will be adding it to that case, which will be legally binding, if they decide in my favour. Given Mr Abusive’s ongoing behaviour, I think it’s becoming increasingly clear who isn’t being honest and reasonable here. Legally, he should send the money back and wait for the tribunal result, but it’s looking unlikely that he will do so.
Anyway, having picked myself up from that debacle, I was feeling tired, but pretty happy towards the end of the week. The house and my life in general are still giving me a good feeling of happiness and stability. So I was looking forward to the weekend yesterday, when I was on the sheep line at work. We use sterilisers for our knives, which are filled with water that is usually simmering. My knife fell into the water. I was wearing a latex glove with a cotton glove underneath, so I put my hand in to retrieve the knife, as I had often done before. Unfortunately, this time there was a hole in the glove. It took a moment for the pain to hit, but I had to rush off the line, ripping the gloves off and leaving Vaidotas alone.
It was one of those horrible moments. I was wearing loads of protective clothing and it was becoming increasingly clear that I couldn’t continue without running my finger under cold water, so I had to throw off all the gear as quickly as possible and rush to the Mattilsynet room, where fortunately Ernestas was sitting at the table. I asked him to go in for me, and went to run my finger under the tap. Having looked at the NHS website last night, I can see that the first aid advice for burns has changed from ten minutes under cool water to twenty, but having stopped after ten minutes, I was still in so much pain that I had to ask Trude to take me to the doctors’. Another change of clothes was required. I guess, in an out and out emergency, they’d take you in your white “clean area” clothes, but a scalded finger didn’t really qualify. I was in enough pain that I had been sitting with my finger under another tap at the surgery for fifteen minutes, before I noticed I hadn’t actually done my trousers up.
So now I have a bandaged middle finger on my right hand. Second degree burns, apparently. There’s a blister encompassing a good section of my finger tip and another at the top of the nail. The pain seems to be under control for now, but typing is definitely not as easy as it usually is. Fortunately, I will be inspecting live animals on Monday, which will only require me to wield a pen, rather than a knife, so that should hopefully be okay.
And now I need to go shopping, partly for food, and hopefully also to buy an outfit for Anna’s graduation, assuming I feel up to it. She and I are also planning a trip to Stonehenge when I go over. We share a love of the ancient, so that definitely qualifies.
And I’ll leave you with a photo of a snow capped mountain. It’s rather distant and therefore difficult to photograph, but beautiful nonetheless. Have a good week all!
I am getting a lot of pleasure from small things at the moment. For example, I enjoy getting up in the morning. Triar wakes, greets me and stretches and I take him outside and see how the weather is looking as he rushes around the garden. This morning it’s frosty and the sky is clear. I love the freshness of the air as I breath it in, and the glow of the sunrise along the horizon. Then I come back inside, give Triar some breakfast and make myself a cup of coffee. I go back and drink it in bed with some gifflar: small cinnamon flavoured buns. My new bed is a great addition, with its tilting mattress so I can sit up effortlessly and in comfort.
The house is bringing me joy as well. We’ve bought various floor and table lamps and we’re using Philips Hue bulbs which turn different colours, so the living room feels very warm. Better still, last week we lit the wood stove for the first time. I feel that even when we’re in the darkest winter months, we’re going to be wonderfully cosy.
The whole family have been enjoying wildlife spotting from the kitchen window. At the beginning of the week, we watched a weasel playing in a pile of planks in the back garden and yesterday there was a family of moose in the woodland. I couldn’t get a good picture. I will need to buy a camera with a good zoom lens if I want to do that better. In the meantime, this was the best I could manage.
I have more or less finished my evidence report for the Rent Disputes Tribunal. It was so long that I asked Trude to read the first half and Marit to check the second. I still have Marit’s corrections to make (though there aren’t too many) and John’s witness statement to add. After that, I’ll need to work out how to send it off. Writing it has eased my mind at least. Until I had it down, I kept having flashes of thought where I remembered things I wanted to add, or thought about how I wanted to express things. Now that’s all gone and I’m sleeping better again and back to enjoying life.
Trude’s dog has had puppies and it’s been wonderful to hear about them over the past couple of weeks. They’re just starting to walk – she showed me a video – and are already showing markedly different personality traits. She has invited me round to see them this weekend, so I’m really looking forward to that.
Tomorrow, John and I will drive to Narvik and (hopefully) buy a snow clearing machine. My colleague Ronny, who lives across the road, has warned us that there is a lot of snow here in the valley we’ve moved to, so when it’s four in the morning and there’s a snowstorm, I will need something better than a shovel. Once all the leaves are gone from the trees, I’m going to have to send John up a ladder to clear out the gutters as well. That sounds like I’m pushing him into it, but when I discussed it with him, he said I could hold the ladder for him, but there’s no way he’s letting me go up it. It’s fair enough (and I’m very grateful) as my balance is terrible.
Anyway, I’m back to enjoying life again and there’s still lots to be done as we prepare for our first winter in our new home. The equinox has passed and we’re heading into the darkness. And I, for one, am looking forward to it.
I genuinely hoped, when I was opening it, that they had been reasonable. There was some cleaning I hadn’t finished, which I would estimate would have taken a couple of hours, though I’d have paid them if they had got professionals in to clean, or indeed if they had requested payment for even four to five hours cleaning they had done themselves. My hope was dashed immediately. They are trying to charge me for twenty three hours of cleaning time and appear to have decided, presumably filled with rage, to throw out multiple items, which they claim were so filthy that they could not be salvaged. Fortunately I took some photos while cleaning.
When you look at that picture, what do you see? I hope you would agree there are signs it has been cleaned adequately and everything was in good order. One of the pillows is, perhaps slightly stained, but that is surely part of wear and tear after two years of use. My ex landlord claims that the room was so dirty that it needed to be completely cleaned again. In addition, the duvets, pillows and the mattress topper were so filthy and stained that they had to be thrown out. Never have I been so glad that I am reasonably competent at taking photos.
In total, they are trying to claim 40,000kr worth of cleaning and damage (around £3,500 or 3,800US$). I have no experience with such disputes. I have always received my deposit back in full, so their outrageous claims really floored me, though with a few days to gather evidence and calm down, I am sure I can get it down to a much more reasonable figure. But the whole thing has been incredibly stressful. After fourteen years of living in Norway, two years of collecting together handing in paperwork and a year of waiting, I finally received a letter to say I was now a Norwegian Citizen on Wednesday. What should have been a wonderful, happy, once in a lifetime event has been completely overshadowed by their vexatious claim.
Fortunately, a couple of my colleagues have been providing rock like support. I have been at the abattoir all week and confided in Trude, who has given me information on how things should have gone after the landlord and me and John had carried out the inspection together when I believed I had finished cleaning. She says the requests for additional cleaning made then should have been binding and final. I hadn’t been sleeping and on Friday asked her if it would be possible for some slight adjustments to be made to the rota because the last thing I want is to find myself too unwell to work. She arranged them immediately and better still, has worked out the rota a few weeks ahead so that, despite the fact that there are still staff on sick leave, I will be able to take a few days holiday in October, so that I can go to the UK and see Anna graduate. I was almost in tears when she told me.
The other colleague who has offered most support is Marit. I have to collect together my evidence and write a report with my version of what occurred. Marit has agreed to go through my statement, which has to be written in Norwegian. She has also offered to ask around to find a good solicitor. Husleietvistutvalget might offer mediation between the landlord and me (I very much don’t want to go through that) or they may produce a written report. Their decision is legally binding and if either party disagrees, they have to challenge it through the court system. Unless I am asked for a ludicrous amount of money, I will almost certainly pay it, but I can imagine if things don’t go the landlord’s way, that he may well decide to take things all the way.
Some good things have come of it, of course. I will be able to see Anna graduate, another once in a lifetime event. I also feel very well supported by my colleagues. You always find out who the really good people are when you are in trouble.
While all this was going on, I also decided I should do something I hadn’t had time for, with all the house moving, so I called Ann and asked if I could go round and see her new house. She and her partner Stejn have bought a smallholding with some barns and a small amount of land. The house needs a lot more work than mine, but they seem to be getting through it. And it is in a truly wonderful place. I took some photos (of course I did) while I was there. As you can see, there is a dusting of snow on the top of the mountains now.
This picture was taken on the drive there, beside Bardufoss.
Anyway, I have to go now. I have to write a report for Husleietvistutvalget and then translate it into Norwegian. I wish I could spend my weekend doing something more pleasant, but there is a fairly short deadline of two weeks from my receiving their letter, so I had better get on and get it done. Hopefully, by next week, things will be a little less stressed.