Category Archives: In Darkness and In Light

Blog about moving to northern Norway.

Here Comes… More Snow

Sunrise/sunset: 11:03/ 12:51. Daylength: 1hr47min

So here we are, almost half way through January. In theory, the sun heaved its way over the horizon for the first time in a month and a half on Thursday. As there are mountains in the way, I knew it would take a few more days for it to appear, but it’s a moot point since it’s been sleeting and snowing for most of the week. The weather forecast says there will be more of the same for at least the next week. Keep on taking the vitamin D!

Difficult case update: the first of my reports is written and sent. I hoped to have the second done by the end of the week, but Hilde suggested before doing so, that I should write out a timeline of everything that’s happened. This turned out to be a very useful process. There are a couple of things hanging over what happens next and a few things we still need to find out. Writing out the timeline has revealed a couple of things that I had missed the first time round. I guess our memories put things together rather chaotically – at least mine does when I’m going through something stressful. Now I have a much clearer idea of what we are still lacking and a couple of new thoughts crossed my mind regarding what might have actually occurred. I still don’t know whether we’ll ever resolve it completely. Life isn’t like a detective novel with a perfect tidy ending and all the loose ends sorted. I do feel more ready to keep working on it though.

We did get to Nordkjosbotn for our meeting. I took the two pictures above on the way there on Monday morning. I was only there for one day as I was at the abattoir on Tuesday, but I did get my night in a hotel! Some people travel a lot for work, and I guess for them staying in hotels must become routine, but for me it’s always been special because it’s rare. I love Vollan Gjestestue with its clean, comfortable rooms. Norwegian hotel rooms are generally small, but I love them nonetheless.

Hotel rooms aside, the most important thing for me was seeing other people. My social circle remains tiny, but meeting up with colleagues from Storslett and Tromsø is always enjoyable. I left early on the Tuesday morning and Astrid got up to have a cup of coffee with me while I was having breakfast. It was a good end to a pleasant trip.

I had a lovely restful weekend last week. It was snowing for much of Saturday, but in the evening I took Triar out for a stroll around the harbour next to where I work. It’s a small, quiet place. I believe you can buy fresh prawns from one of the fishing boats, but at this time of year, there isn’t much coming and going.

If you want to, you can sit and have lunch overlooking the harbour, but I don’t think many people will be taking advantage for a few months yet.

I returned to a birthday cake Andrew had made for me. It had two layers of sponge cake, one with raisins and the other chocolate chips. It was topped off with chocolate icing and was easily as delicious as it looked.

When the sky is clear, I do try and get out during the brightest part of the day, so last Sunday, I took Triar out to one of our favourite haunts just outside Silsand. The snow was too deep to walk far (once it’s at mid-calf level, it becomes difficult for me to navigate) but we wandered around the areas where the snow had been cleared earlier, where it wasn’t too tough. It was minus fifteen and when Triar first got out, he very quickly looked apprehensive, standing with his back arched and holding up his paws. I scooped him back into the car, where he shivered as I put his little socks on. I wondered whether he would decide he didn’t want to get back out, but he did, then ran around quite happily, so despite not being very thick, the socks give enough protection to make a difference.

From Monday, I’m going to try to cut down on all the Christmas and birthday extravagance, but for now, with the snow outside, it’s still perfect hot chocolate weather. Mum sent me some chocolate balls, filled with marshmallows, for Christmas and I had the first one last night. January should definitely be a month for cosiness. Have a good week all!

Winter Whites

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

It’s snowing again today. Perhaps later I will feel like going out, but for now it seems like a good time to huddle indoors and wait for the return of the sun. In theory, it should reappear over the horizon five days from now, but I know it will take a little longer to reveal itself because of the mountains that surround us.

My difficult case is still ongoing, and now a bewildering array of other people are being brought in, some to assist with the investigation, others for the purposes of troubleshooting. I am tired, but very grateful to Hilde, Birgit and Line who have been giving unsurpassed support throughout, as have the rest of the team.

I worked a couple of days at the abattoir this week, which gave me a couple of days of calm, though getting up at four in the morning to check whether it has snowed overnight (it had, both nights) doesn’t tend to result in peaceful, unbroken sleep. Rather, I wake often, worried that I have missed the alarm, or perhaps forgotten to set it. It takes twenty minutes or so to clear the car and the driveway, a little over five minutes to drive to the office, another five to ten to defrost and clear the Mattilsynet car, then round forty to forty five minutes to drive over, depending on the driving conditions.

There is some pressure, because the abattoir cannot legally start working until a vet has checked the live animals. If they notice I’m not there by six (when I officially start the check) then call me at that point, it would take me a minimum of an hour to get there if I was still sleeping. I do, however, get to drive home before it gets dark at two in the afternoon.

On Tuesday afternoon I also took a detour to Rossfjordstraumen on my way home, to carry out meat inspection on a moose that had been hit by a car. It was an unusual way to spend my birthday, but it’s a beautiful drive in the snow.

On Monday, all being well, I will be meeting Team Dyrego (the animal health and welfare team) at Nordkjosbotn. Definitely something to look forward to. I have at least two reports to write, information to send to various different people, and another case lurking in my inbox. Still veterinary work is always like that. Some days, there’s very little to do, others can be overwhelming. It’s easier to cope psychologically than it was when I was young, but my body isn’t as reliable as it once was. Swings and roundabouts.

I will leave you with a few more images from my life. I long for a garage, and if my car had a mind, I’m sure it would too. The boot has so much ice and snow stuck to it that it is getting heavy to lift when I’m opening it. John very kindly chipped away the ice that was covering the sensors that warn me that I’m about to reverse or drive into something. This was a great relief as before that, there was a siren going off inside the car every time I reversed out of the drive.

Icicles on my car bumper

Though the weather is cold, the water in the sound remains warmer, due to the gulf stream. This means that it tends to stay warmer here than inland, but also means that sometimes fog rises up from the water. This can be very beautiful.

Night fog rising up from Gisundet around Senja bridge

Sometimes I can watch as the snow clouds head towards us from the northwest.

Blue-grey storm clouds over Gisundet

And the last one is John, whose beard has turned prematurely grey after a skating session! Have a good week everyone!

John with an icy beard

Confidence

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

It’s been a mixed sort of week. As there wasn’t so much to do here on the 26th and 27th of December, we drove around a good deal during the brief periods when it was light. Though the days are very short, what light there is has a wonderful luminous quality. Coupled with the landscape of Senja, it becomes difficult to know when to stop taking photographs.

I took Anna to the airport and Charlie to the bus on Tuesday. Both arrived home safely. Always a relief, particularly when travelling to somewhere outside Norway, as Anna was doing.

My return to work was abrupt. Anja phoned me on the afternoon of the 29th December. A difficult case that I had dealt with before (and which I believed was under control) has flared up again. I am frustrated not to be able to discuss it more. It comes down to a dispute, as do so many of our cases. And if I judge it wrong, then animals will suffer.

Though I’m not in the UK, I saw a lot about the recently on social media about another child who had been beaten and killed by her mother and partner. The press always goes to town on those cases and reports unquestioningly from all those related people who made reports that were ignored. The subtext is always that the social workers were stupid to ignore such clear evidence.

Though obviously the main grief is for the child, I have a degree of sympathy for those professionals involved. So many of the cases I investigate involve a judgement regarding who is telling the truth. If those reporting were always good people, then it wouldn’t be complicated. But through my work here, I am learning that it is rarely straightforward. Obviously there are those who mistreat their animals. But there are also vindictive people who use the authorities to make lives difficult for others. There are even occasions when those people send in their flying monkeys if they see that they have not been successful themselves. It really isn’t cut and dried that lots of reports mean that there is something seriously wrong.

And so it comes down to a judgement about who is telling the truth, bearing in mind that sometimes it might be both or neither, and that there can also be misunderstandings. I am lucky to have a supportive team around me. I had advice from Torkjell, the regional big boss, and he chatted to Hilde, despite the fact that she was on holiday. I feel fortunate to have had help.

Regardless of difficult cases, family life goes on. The pond in the middle of the town is frozen and a couple of days ago, someone came and cleared away some of the snow, making tracks for ice skating. John and Andrew went and bought some skates, and for the past couple of evenings, they have been out on the ice doing circuits.

Tracks on the pond for ice skating

And of course Triar also needs to go out. John and I took him out for a walk up on the ski slope a few days back. There was fog over the fjord, but as we drove upwards it cleared. It was another of those days when it was hard for me to keep going as the temptation to stop and take pictures was overwhelming.

Triar is wearing his winter boots.

I posted a picture of our kransekake on social media. It’s one of my favourite Norwegian deserts, chewy rings of almond flavoured deliciousness.

Kransekake with crackers and Norwegian flags

Usually, people say how lovely the photo is, but this time someone asked whether it was meant to look like a dalek. And now I’ve seen it, it’s impossible to unsee. Of course, the only thing to do with that kind of information is to embrace it. Next time, the crackers should be placed to point straight out in front, and if I’m feeling really keen, I will create a plunger out of chocolate to give the full effect.

Anyway, I hope that 2022 is a better year than 2021, and that wherever we find ourselves, we can find some brightness in the road ahead. Happy new year to you.

My Norwegian Christmas

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

When I left you on 21st December, I had only a faint hope that there would be a white Christmas. It had turned cold after the thaw and at some point, a tiny potential snowfall had appeared on the weather forecast. Only a few millimetres, but perhaps it would be enough. But when I checked again on the twenty second, this was what greeted me.

I texted Charlie. After all, he was supposed to be flying up the next day, and the forecast for Tromsø was much the same. Clicking on the yellow triangle told me that this was a warning for a Polar Low – otherwise known as an Arctic Hurricane.

Early on Wednesday afternoon, the sky had turned to a brooding shade of grey with edges of lilac. Already, there were a few snowflakes in the air.

The wind never really got up, but it did snow. Fortunately the airport in Tromsø was unaffected and Charlie arrived from the fastboat right on schedule.

We went for a drive on Christmas Eve so that John could knock some of the snow off the roof of his caravan. One of the thing that daunts me about buying a house here is that you have to know when to knock the snow off your roof. To an extent, the snow insulates your house, but if there’s too much, the roof can collapse. This was a picture I took along the way.

We made (and ate) a chocolate log on Christmas Eve.

And despite all the rain, we awoke to a beautiful blue-white morning. I got my white Christmas after all.

Though it was cold outside, inside it was warm and cosy.

Triar was wearing his Christmas hoodie to open his presents.

Perhaps My Norwegian Christmas is an imperfect title, because though we were in Norway, we have never got into the local habit of eating our big meal and celebrating on Christmas Eve. I did cook ribbe though, instead of turkey. Ribbe is pork, taken from the flank of the pig, over the ribs, as you might expect. It’s very tasty and forgiving meat, but for Norwegians, ribbe is all about the crackling. In order to get it right, you have to salt the joint two or three days in advance, then you have to roast it in steam for the first hour, then roast it uncovered until it’s finished. I was pleased with the finished result, which was properly crispy and light.

There’s lingonberry sauce instead of cranberry, but other than that, our dinner will probably look familiar to most Brits.

One day we will perhaps cross over to cloudberries and cream, but for this year, we celebrated in true British style with a traditional Christmas pudding.

Anyway, as you can probably see, we had a very festive Christmas. I am very much aware that we were lucky that everyone arrived safe and healthy. I know that some of my friends were not so fortunate. But wherever you are, I hope you managed to find some peace and joy.

And if not, and you ended up going to hospital, I hope your ambulance station was as tastefully decorated as the one here in Finnsnes. Merry Christmas all.

My Norwegian Christmas – Fourth Sunday in Advent

The final advent candle is lit.

My last advent post and with it, another tour to the south of Senja. With the snow melting at speed, it would be easy to lose the Christmas feeling, but we were determined to enjoy our trip. Anna, Triar and I seized the moment between rain showers to explore a not-too muddy track that went down to the shoreline.

Though the snow was mostly gone, the distant mountain top is still covered.

There, we found a wonderful decorated hut, obviously someone’s barbecue place for summer days. Despite that, the decor seemed to fit so well with Norwegian Christmas vibes, I thought I’d share it with you.

There was sleet hammering on the windscreen when we arrived at Senja Roasters. It was empty as well, but no less welcoming for that. I had come with the intention of trying the nussecken I had seen when I went before, but this time there were three kinds of Christmas cakes lined up on the counter, so Anna and I decided we would share a piece of each between us.

From left to right, gløg cake, Greek biscuits and nussenecken.

We sat down and enjoyed the cosy decorations against the backdrop of the half light outside the window, where the wind was flitting across the bay, stippling the water in wild flurries.

A tealight and a lantern light up the pine cones in the window.

The cakes were as wonderful as they looked. As well as the nussecken, there were soft Greek Christmas biscuits and a gløg flavoured sponge cake. They went perfectly with my Christmas spiced latte.

A triplet of Christmas cakes from round the world.

We came home and put on the Christmas tree lights and it wasn’t too hard to forget the weather.

Yesterday was a hard day to follow, but this afternoon, we put on some Christmas music, cracked open the Red Velvet Cupcake Baileys and made the Christmas pudding mixture. Usually I leave it a in the fridge for a few days before cooking, but as I’m so late this year, it’ll be done tomorrow. But for now, the kitchen if filled with the wonderful scents of spices and rum.

Of course, it’s traditional that everyone in the house has to stir the pudding and Triar put on his special Christmas jumper before he took his turn.

And now the last of the advent candles is lit. Soon Christmas will be with us. John is coming, as is Charlie (John, Anna and Andrew’s dad, for those who don’t know). My next update will be on Boxing day. And so for now, I will wish all my English speaking friends and relatives a peaceful Christmas. And en riktig god Jul to all my Norwegian friends.

Wet, Wet, Wet

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

I was sure we were going to have a white Christmas this year. There has been snow on the ground for weeks and the temperatures were securely in double minus figures, or so I thought. And then a day of rain appeared on my weather forecast app. The temperature was to bounce right up, round about the date that Anna was due to come home on Wednesday the 15th. When the first day appeared, I hoped they’d got it wrong. And the temperature wasn’t to go that high. Wholly possible they’d be out by a couple of degrees and we’d have snow instead.

But then another day of forecasted rain appeared and another. The temperature was higher too. This was the screenshot I sent to Anna last Sunday.

They don’t use much grit on the pavements and roads round here. Mostly they concentrate on keeping them relatively clear of snow. So when I went out on Wednesday morning and saw that the pavements, roads and carparks were densely strewn with the small stones they use in place of salt and grit, I knew that they thought that a major thaw was on the way. This was the carpark at work. They may not grit often, but when they do, they do a proper job!

Still, life had to go on. Monday and Tuesday this week were a little hair-raising. On the Friday of the week before, I felt like everything was well on track. I’d done three visits and written two reports. We have to send them past a colleague first for quality control and then an official quality control team checks them. After that, they go to my boss, who sends them out. These two reports were past the checks and I’d sent them to Hilde, so all I had left was one report to write. It was complicated and I would need help, but I had four days to do it. So when Line sent a shout out to see if someone could translate an official document from Norwegian to English, I said that I would be happy to do so. Kristen, my colleague in Storslett had got in first, but I indicated that if anything cropped up, I would be more than willing to step in.

My peace was slightly disturbed late on Friday afternoon when, for the first time ever, Hilde sent back my two reports for amendment. It didn’t sound like anything too major, but I had to include a short summary of what Gry had observed. Still, hopefully Thomas would help me with that.

So I wasn’t too worried when I opened up my case inbox on Monday morning. I had two reports to amend and the complicated case to write up, but I had until Thursday. But when I looked through the list, I saw another case had come in. Some cases you can leave for a few days. For example, if someone isn’t walking their dog often enough, it’ll probably be okay if you leave it a week or two. But if someone is leaving their animals outside in all kinds of weather, without food or water, then “It’ll be fine, I’ll leave it until after my holiday,” really isn’t an option. And of course, it was one of those cases.

To make matters worse, Kristen had bowed out of the translation. So now I had three reports, a new case, and a complicated document to wade through.

Thomas came to the rescue. He could fit in my new case on Tuesday, if I wanted. Hilde was on holiday by now and he was having to sort out all the paperwork around an outbreak of strangles in a horse in our region, but he could fit me in between that, a bunch of reindeer rampaging around a housing estate over Tromsø way, and a case of his own that he was tackling on Wednesday. He also found the time to help me sort out my two returned reports.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well. I stayed late on Monday evening to get the translation done. I asked Line to help me with my complicated case report and she made everything so wonderfully clear that by the time I sent it off for the first check with another colleague, there were almost no errors. Hooray for that! And to my relief, the case on Tuesday turned out to be much less complicated than I had feared. So I was able to collect Anna from the airport on Wednesday afternoon.

And all this was going on against the backdrop of increasing rumblings about locking down again due to Omicron. From next week, Andrew will be homeschooling. Working from home is now the norm again. And when I went to the gym, I was surprised to see notices on some of the running machines that said not to use them. For a bizarre moment, I wondered whether they had been contaminated somehow. Had someone with Covid used them? Should I leave quickly and rush home? And then I remembered that it was nothing to do with that. It was just a return to the stricter distancing rules. The machines were too close together. Similar notices will have reappeared on pub and restaurant seats and in the waiting room at the doctors. Life can continue for now… but don’t get too close.

So there are no lovely pictures of pink and blue skies this week. The garden is a muddy mess. There is a tiny ray of hope on the weather forecast. It’s to turn cold again from Monday and there might be a little snow on Wednesday. I live in hope! Even if it doesn’t snow, Anna got here safely from the UK. And I’m on holiday for a week and there are presents to wrap and cakes to make.

I’ll leave you with a picture I took on Thursday evening when I was out walking Triar. It had been raining, but the ground has had weeks to become very chilly and huge chunks of ice take a long time to disperse. The sky cleared briefly and the moon was shining through. I loved the way the blue moonlight gleamed on the frozen waterfall. Whatever the weather, there is always beauty to be found somewhere.

My Norwegian Christmas – Third Sunday in Advent

The third purple candle is now lit on the advent crown.

Not really a Christmas thing, but the sledge-like object in the picture at the top of the page is a spark, or sparkstøtting. As you can see, it has a handle at waist height and long runners behind the seat, so you can walk and push a child, or carry something. It’s not uncommon to see people taking them to the shops and around the town and children sometimes play with them on the road to our apartment. The pavements are rarely gritted, so sliding about isn’t too difficult. That said, at minus ten, there tends to be less ice and even though the snow is hard-packed, it often has powder on top. When the temperature rises above zero and it begins to melt, that’s when it is at its most treacherous.

The office is now filled with Christmas cheer. These three nisser look a bit more cosy than the one in the hotel last week. I was hoping to bring pictures of our Christmas lunch, but I ended up working elsewhere on Thursday. I did take pictures of some of the most common Christmas “biscuits” though. On the left are kokosboller, top right are pepperkaker and bottom left are havreflarn.

And this is risgrøt – basically rice porridge. This is what the nisser should be fed on Christmas Eve (Julaften). I had mine with butter, sugar and cinammon, but John tells me they eat it up here with spekemat – dried meats and sausages. One day I’ll have to give it a try.

As in the UK, there are lots of Christmas sweets and snacks in the shops. Many are marzipan based, with a particular slant towards marzipan pigs. There is also the delicious sounding Juleskum though, if you’re feeling brave. I also had to take a photo of a packet of salted caramel crisps. Salted caramel is lovely, but this is one of those moments when even I think they’ve taken it a step too far!

If you’re thirsty, the classic drink is gløg, which is a warm, spiced wine drink, a little like mulled wine, though there is an alcohol free version for children.

Alternative drinks include Christmas beers, made by all the bigger beer-makers and also Julebrus, which is a sweet, fizzy drink in either red or brown flavours. Mack is our “local” brewery (it’s in Tromsø) and it’s the most northern brewery in the world. As you can see, they make Julebrus as well as beer. The Julebrus here is different from the brands we used to buy when we lived much further south.

I’ll finish off with a few decorations. These are from a cafe we visited yesterday in Bardufoss. I was hoping they’d have some more Christmassy food, but nothing was leaping out at me, so I had a coffee instead, which was very pleasant.

And these are from my own Christmas tree. My mum sent me these tree critters, so they’re not actually Norwegian, but they are definitely now part of my Norwegian Christmas.

Welfare

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

I’m on holiday from Friday next week, so there is a sense of keeping going until then. I’m very much looking forward to it. The past week has been both busy and interesting though, and has opened up my mind to thoughts of how I might make a difference. It started out with a meeting on Monday of a group of people who want to try to improve animal welfare in our area by improving the lives of those who keep them. There used to be many more small scale farms in Norway. Lots of people followed a traditional way of life where they had a few animals that were out in the summer and housed in a barn near the house in winter time. It became more difficult to make a living from small scale farming, so increasingly people had to work alongside their animal commitments.

But keeping animals is a tie. It will be hard enough to find someone responsible to look after Triar and the guinea pigs when I go on holiday. Harder still to find someone to look after fifty or a hundred sheep, or a few cows, especially if they need milking. So the networks that farmers used to have, where there were neighbours nearby who could help out in a crisis have, to an extent, disappeared.

And it’s not just about the work. By their nature, farms are physically isolated. You need land around you to allow you to feed your flock or herd. There isn’t a pub culture in Norway, like there is in the UK, and even if there was, here in the north of Norway, the distances between towns can be huge. And so the meeting was about trying to build new networks to support those who remain.

The social side of my job is something that I find very interesting. Obviously there are many things that can drive animal welfare up or down, but mental health is definitely there among them. Thomas has told me about his involvement in one such case, where he arrived on a farm to find the owner had almost given up hope, and he was instrumental in helping him find a way through. And Thomas is rightly proud of having done that. But to help more people, we need to reach more of them.

The meeting ended with a plan for more meetings, but I was due to go out on a welfare visit with Gry from Dyrevernsnemda later in the week. Remembering the potential bomtur debacle from two weeks ago, I compiled a list of all the sheep and goat farms in the surrounding area.

We ended up visiting two farmers on the list, in addition to the welfare investigation. We carried “Skrapesjuketilsyn” where we discuss the symptoms of Scrapie and the monitoring systems in place to track it. One of the farmers was obviously very happy to see us. He knew Gry already (Gry is a key member of another farming network) but when I introduced myself and said I was from Scotland, he said how wonderful it was to have someone who wanted to come to the north of Norway and was interested in working with sheep welfare. I confess, I am filled with inspiration. I would love, as a Mattilsynet vet, to be a part of a network helping the local sheep farming community. But I do have to bear in mind the constraints of budget. Next week, or in the new year, I will have to have a chat with Hilde about what I can achieve within the current economic climate.

Tuesday was also one of those rather unusual Mattilsynet days. As regular readers will know, Mattilsynet runs the OK program, where we check food producing animal breeds for various infectious diseases and for foreign or banned substances. Ammar had planned to go out and get a urine sample from a cow, but he was unable to attend himself, so he rang me on Monday afternoon and asked me to step in. And so on Tuesday morning, I drove out to a farm and spent an hour in a byre behind a row of cows, waiting for one of them to oblige.

Polar night, snowy mountain under a blue and pink sky – taken on the drive out on Tuesday

There were a few false starts involved. Even the tamest cows are wary creatures when strangers come into their space. And of course, I was a stranger wearing a very odd blue overall and huge white boot covers with bows on them, so they were wary to begin with. One or two of them lifted their tails and started to pee, but as soon as I moved towards them, they gave me a very offended look and stopped again. Fortunately, I eventually managed it, but not without some very amused thoughts about the sheer glamour of my job. Since then Konstantin has told me there is a way to get the cows to urinate, so next time, perhaps I will be quicker, but either way, spending time around cows is something I very much enjoy, whatever the task.

The road to Bardufoss

This week’s blog is a bit short as I have to go and collect John and bring him home, but I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of the decorations that have gone up in our office. I hope you’ll join me for more advent pictures tomorrow.

My Norwegian Christmas – Second Sunday in Advent

Christmas in Norway wouldn’t be complete without Nisser. There’s a programme on Netflix about them at the moment, and the name has been translated into English as “Elves”. But Nisser are nothing like the elves in British and American tradition, which assist Father Christmas or Santa at the North Pole. Nisser are definitely not helpful. Indeed if you forget to give them rice porridge on Christmas Eve, they can apparently become cantankerous. I should imagine they’re a bit like John when he’s expected to put up a Christmas tree with insufficient Pedro Ximenes. Anyway, I found one in the hotel up in Storslett. The poor critter has been given uncooked rice, which will probably give it a terrible stomach ache, but at least they tried.

I have a few more photos from Storslett. The candlelit lavvo we ate in was beside a beautifully decorated Sami shop. The log cabin at the top of the page (under a sky that was green with aurora) was nearby too.

We’re a few days into the polar night now and when the sky is clear, it is layered with pale blue and pink. The temperature has remained low all week and the snow creaks when you walk on it. Often you can smell wood smoke in the crisp air as you walk. This is the view from my garden at eleven o’clock in the morning.

Another snow picture for you, this time from a drive inland, where it’s generally colder. My car reminds me that its battery isn’t happy as soon as it drops below minus twenty, and here it was nine degrees below that, but fortunately, despite the objections, the car brought us safely home.

And just in case you were thinking that Christmas in Norway is all tasteful (Nisser aside) here’s a wonderfully over the top display I found, in the toy shop in our local shopping centre. I took a still photograph, but if I say there was plinky-plonky music playing and they were swaying their heads in time, you’ll be able to imagine the scene in full.

Have a great week and I’ll see you next weekend.