Tag Archives: Arctic Circle

Not Going Out

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

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

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

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

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

Ice on the pitch. Football… or curling?

There is ice in the ditches and escaping from rocks.

Frozen waterfall.

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

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

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

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

Translation by Olive Bray

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

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

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

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

New Day Dawning

Sunrise/sunset: 10:53/ 13:03. Daylength: 2hr 10min

This week has seen the return of the sun. I had hoped to take a photograph, but with the surrounding mountains and varying cloud cover, I haven’t actually seen it. The increasing daylight is cheering though. Anna and I made the most of the light that we had last weekend, taking Triar out for some wonderful walks on Senja.

This was also the second week of working from home. While there are some advantages to it, there are also frustrations. A large part of my job will be carrying out visits to farms and animal holdings, but for now all non-essential trips are cancelled. The best way for me to learn a new job is getting out there and doing it. I have a jigsaw puzzle brain. Individual facts or pieces have little meaning and are hard to remember. Understand how they fit together and I can build a comprehensive picture. Much easier to remember laws when I can apply them to cases, rather than trying to learn about them in isolation.

That said, I have spent each day this week reading around a different topic. The animal health day was probably the most interesting. I looked through the visits and checks we have been set for this year as part of the OK program and read around the different topics. As regular readers will know, the OK program is set up by Mattilsynet to monitor animal health and food safety in Norway and on my trawl through this years tasks, I discovered we have a few visits scheduled to herds of camelids (llama and alpacas) to check for mite infestations. I have never been to a llama farm before, so that is something to look forward to.

I will leave you with some aurora borealis pictures. We drove to Bardufoss on Monday evening to drop John off for work and on the way, we noticed that the sky was streaked with green. We pulled off the road and for the first time watched the northern lights from a place where there was very little light pollution. It was a show worth watching and we stood for a long time in the darkness, faces lifted to the sky, oblivious to the snow underfoot and the chill in the air.

Ann’s Place

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

Anna came home last week. In line with Norwegian quarantine rules, she has been avoiding areas where she would come into contact with people. She could however, go for walks, so on Wednesday I took a day off and she, Triar and I headed out to Ånderdalen National Park.

It has been overcast for most of the week and under the polar skies, the light is grey-blue, but has a rare clarity that I love. With the snow, it looks very different from my last trip, when everything was green. I was fascinated, as before, by the ghost trees – dead but still holding strong on the sturdy roots that have seen them through many arctic winters. These two trees, entwined in death, but giving protection to a few smaller fir trees growing in their shelter were perhaps the most beautiful.

Of course I was busy with my camera throughout.

Yesterday was another of those amazing work days that lift an enjoyable job into something even more special. Way back in September, if you’re a regular reader, you might recall the Finnsnes staff taking a trip out to cook hot dogs at Sørreisa. Back then, the season (the busiest time of year at the abattoir) was just getting started and between then and now, the Mattilsynet staff there have been working every day. But now, with the season past and Christmas fast approaching, there are days when there are no animals coming in and the line is still and silent.

Ann had invited me last week on a day out. I felt quite honoured. Most of the staff who would be hiking together have been working exclusively in the abattoir and for the past couple of weeks I have barely been there. In some ways it’s a rather sad time. While Ann is a permanent member of staff, Konstantin and Vaidotas came for the season and both of them are heading home for Christmas. Vaidotas is going first – driving home all the way to Lithuania this weekend. Konstantin will be there on Monday, but I will only see him for a short time as I will mostly be working at Hjerttind on my long delayed training day in the reindeer abattoir. He will be heading back to Latvia early next week. I feel that both of them have become friends. There’s no doubt I will miss them very much.

Anyway, back to yesterday. Ann and her boyfriend have begun an amazing project to build a smallholding where they will raise Norsk Villsau – an ancient breed of small but hardy Norwegian sheep – all wild eyes, wool and horns. They have bought a plot out in the wilds and the plan was to go out and have a hike around her land.

It truly was a beautiful place, though at the moment it’s too cold to do much work there. We tramped through fluffy snow down to the river, then headed back up to where they are going to build their house. The picture at the top of the page shows Ann in the centre as she explains where the rooms in their new house will be.

Trude, Ann, Vaidotas
Konstantin kindly modelled one of Ann’s all-terrain vehicles

And after that, we lit a fire and had warm drinks to heat ourselves up before we drove back to the office to eat together one last time.

A Road Trip… and a Walk

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

A lot to get through this week, but come with me first on a road trip. Thomas and I took off into the darkness on Tuesday morning on a three day mission. With coronavirus, the Mattilsynet team that covers Troms and Svalbard was a little behind on one of the annual campaigns that had been set at the end of last year. The plan was to roll up unannounced at a number of farms to check whether the animals had their full complement of ear tags . In Norway, farm animals are closely tracked from the time they are born until the time they die. All of them should have two tags, one in each ear, and that was what we were going to check.

Being efficient, Thomas had added other parameters onto the list. If we were lucky enough to find some sheep or goat farmers in, we were to check whether the farmer knew the symptoms of scrapie (a disease like BSE that causes neurological problems) and what systems they used to monitor the movements of animals on and off the farm.

It’s a bit of a hit and miss affair rocking up at farms unannounced. Farming is a job with irregular hours and it’s common here, where farms tend to be much smaller than those in the UK, for farmers to have other jobs in addition to their animals. Nonetheless, by the end of a fairly long day, we had managed to get round two herds of cattle and three flocks of sheep. I hadn’t reckoned on it being quite so exhausting. When I worked in the UK, we travelled round farms pulling on the same pair of waterproof trousers and wellington boots at each place. A quick wash at the end and good to go. Here, before entering each barn or byre, we have to enter what’s called the sluse, step over a bench or line of some sort in your stockinged feet, then pull on a papery jumpsuit, big white boot covers and a face mask. For all those who wear glasses and have worn a mask in cold weather, you will appreciate how hard it is to check anything once your glasses are well and truly steamed up. What with that and the freezing air and rough snowy roads, I was very tired by the time we arrived at the hotel where we were to meet Birgit who had been on a similar expedition of her own.

It may have been the best shower I’ve ever had. By the end of it, I could feel my toes again and the aroma of animals had been washed out of my hair. Birgit had retired early, so it was just Thomas and I that met in the hotel restaurant for dinner. After that, we retired as well, having arranged to meet for breakfast to plan the next day’s manoeuvres.

We set out in darkness again on day two. When the light did come it was lacklustre and overcast with the kind of distant, undefined sky that often heralds snow. Though the countryside was beautiful, it was close to monochrome with only the occasional splash of colour of the traditional red-painted barns.

One of the farms we visited was very impressive. As well as some 250 well-kept Norwegian white sheep, there was a brand new barn where they are building a glassed in warm room with leather armchairs for watching the sheep overnight at lambing. You can see the window of it here on the right of the picture.

I had been intrigued on the drive north to see a layby that was designed for lorry drivers to stop and put chains on their lorries, but I was even more fascinated to see that even tractors need them here.

Back at the hotel, more of Mattilsynet’s staff were arriving. There was a departmental meeting in the morning where the work would be planned for next year, but tonight the plan was to enjoy some food together.

Everyone was very cheery as we sat down and enjoyed a fairly traditional Norwegian Christmas feast: two different kinds of fish pate, a selection of meats including ribbe (a cut of pork from the flank) pinnekjøtt (salted lamb cutlets and ribs) mutton sausage and various vegetable accompaniments, then rice pudding with raspberry sauce.

Social distancing with Anya, Astrid, Ann, Birgit, Ammar and Thomas

It was great to meet up with other staff from the offices in Tromsø and Storslett and I returned after all the visits and the meetings feeling I had a better understanding of how everything works.

And to finish off, let me invite you for a walk on Senja with John, Triar and me. Imagine the still, frosty air and the crunch of snow underfoot. The sky in one direction is a cool duck-egg blue. The other way there’s a wonderful sunrise that melts into sunset without the sun ever making it over the horizon. There is hoar frost on the trees and animal and bird tracks in the snow. And after that, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Depth

Sunrise/sunset: 10:00/ 13:06. Daylength: 3hr 5min

Less that ten days now until the Polar Night (or Mørketid as it’s called here) arrives and the snow has properly arrived. Hilde said on Monday that it looked like the early part of the week would end the mild spell we’d been having (all relative, obviously – it was around 7°C) and the winter would start in earnest and my neighbour said something similar this morning. He has very kindly cleared my driveway twice in the past two days, using his snow-blower. I’ve also cleared it using the more traditional scraper method… which will tell you just how much snow there has been. “Ah yes,” he said when I met him as I took Triar out for a morning walk, “It’s no longer a case of whether there’s snow, but how many metres.” I gulped a little, but smiled and thanked him for his help. He also advised me not to leave my car right at the top of the driveway as it might get damaged by chunks of ice when the road clearers come through at night. So my cunning plan for not having to clear the entire driveway has already gone out of the window.

Driving over to Bardufoss has been interesting too, over the past couple of days. Though the roads are regularly cleared, they don’t seem to use any grit. Perhaps when it’s properly cold, it doesn’t make much difference, but right now the road is treacherous. As I drove past the flashing light on the snow-obliterated “Elk crossing – great danger” sign, I could see the light reflecting off the ice that was lurking underneath the tiny swirling snowflakes. Like the southern wuss I am, I didn’t get much over 70km per hour (about 45mph). The locals, however, confident in their spiked winter tyres, were whizzing past me at the normal speed limit of 80.

Though I’ve bought lots of things, including two ice-scrapers (one with a long handle and one attached to a mitten) I realised this week that I was going to have to invest in one of these:

As well as scraping off ice, there’s a brush for taking off the fluffier snow on top. I am very pleased as well, with my purchase of a pair of leather driving gloves with a soft, knitted lining. When your steering wheel is minus ten, it does take a while to heat up.

While we’re on the topic of excellent purchases, I must quickly give a shout out to the rather wonderful Vinmonopolet here in Finnsnes. Though beer and lower alcohol drinks can be bought in the supermarket, anything stronger than 4.7% has to be bought from the state-owned Vinmonopolet shop. Last year I tried to get chocolate Baileys and was disappointed to find they had none in my local store, but this morning, I thought I’d see what they had here. To my delight, I managed not only to buy the original, but also Salted Caramel and Strawberries and Cream varieties. So it looks like, whatever else befalls us, I am now officially ready for Christmas!

Of course it wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t spam you with some snow photos. First up is the view from the garden this morning. When I take a cup of coffee out with the dog first thing before work, it’s very much still dark, but as it’s the weekend, I could wait until the sun was up.

And from a walk with Triar last night, when I felt as if I was strolling through Narnia. It doesn’t get much more magical than that.

Ghost Trees

Sunrise/sunset: 08:41/ 14:21. Daylength: 5hr 40min

It’s been an eventful week. As Donald Trump and Joe Biden totter towards a final result in the US presidential election, coronavirus is surging worldwide. On a more personal level, the abattoir season has ended (hooray!) and I had my 2-3 month review.

The review went well. I knew I had done all the online coursework I had been set, but there were one or two tasks I hadn’t really had a chance to get my teeth into. One of my tasks is to find out what my colleagues do. Some of them are involved with aquaculture, others with quality control of drinking water and those in my own small section are involved with animal health and welfare. But with many of us working at the slaughterhouse, there has been limited time for other tasks.

Before my review, therefore, I had a quick look at what my colleagues were up to. Øivind (who works with drinking water) had a trip next Thursday to Husøy, and so I decided I would ask Hilde whether it might be a suitable trip for me. I was unsure where Husøy was. Øy means island and I know that there are some far flung places in our region. If it involved an overnight trip, it was unlikely I could join at this late stage. But Husøy, I discovered, is a small island off the coast of Senja. No ferries required – there’s a bridge across. Hilde told me that Husøy had been the subject of a Norwegian documentary, “Da Damene Dro” back in 2008. All the women on the island were taken off for a ten day holiday in the sun, while the menfolk were left to fend for themselves and their children.

This seemed like the kind of social experiment I could get behind, so a taking a trip there would be fascinating… but it wasn’t to be. When I caught up with Øivind at lunch time, he told me that the trip had been cancelled. With the surge in coronavirus cases, nobody wanted to take any chances and the trip was not urgent.

I left after lunch as Charlie had texted me to let me know he was arriving soon. Charlie is John, Anna and Andrew’s dad and he is here for the weekend. He came up to watch Andrew in a school concert. Andrew has been learning the piano and the music group had put together some songs, which were to be performed in a local café. But that too was disrupted by coronavirus. The venue changed from the café to the school and then the message came through that it would be broadcast online. So Charlie flew all the way up here from Stavanger to sit in the living room and watch the concert on TV. There were advantages though. Charlie and I were going to support Andrew, but with the change in the agenda, both Anna and my parents were able to watch from the UK and Wytske, a friend from the Netherlands also joined us.

The weather this week has been stormy, but despite the forecast, Charlie, Triar and I took a walk this morning in Ånderdalen National Park. It was a wonderful place to explore. There is a trail up into the park which has been made suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, and beyond that, the tracks are well marked, so even if the weather had taken a turn for the worse, it would have been possible to get back safely.

The park is stunning, even at this time of year, when everything is lowering into winter. Fir trees dominate the landscape and in the distance, snow covered mountain peaks, but the trees are sparse, the landscape shaped by the long winters. There are many dead trees amongst the living, their trunks and branches still rooted deep against the winter winds. The weather was changeable, one moment bright and clear, the next darkening as snow or hail began to descend.

I love trees and found myself as fascinated with these beautiful ghost trees as I am with the living trees that stood alongside them. Lichen caught my eye, and wonderful shapes on the trunks of the bigger trees.

And so, tired and damp we returned home. It was Charlie’s birthday yesterday and there was leftover carrot cake to go with our coffee. And now, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the rest of the day. I’ve taken Monday and Tuesday off and I am looking forward to going back to work fully refreshed.

Many happy returns Charlie.

Dreaming of a White … Halloween!

Sunrise/sunset: 08:07/ 14:54. Daylength: 6hr 47min

The days are getting very short now and in only one month, the sun will go down for the last time on 2020. It won’t come over the horizon again until almost the middle of January.

Monday started well with another elk sighting. This time, since the snow hadn’t yet arrived, I pulled in quickly and managed to take a photograph, though it’s not the clearest. Difficult to capture a moving target in the pre-dawn twilight.

In other news, the snow arrived properly on Thursday. For the past two days, I’ve had to factor in scraping it from the car before I set off in the morning, though so far I haven’t had to clear the driveway. . Even in those two days, I feel I’ve learned a lot. For example, it’s clear that you should never rent or buy a house in the Arctic Circle that doesn’t have a garage. Equally, if you apply for a job where you are expected to use cars daily from a car pool… make sure you don’t choose a workplace without some kind of covered parking. I expect I will get very efficient shortly, doing it at least twice a day. More if it snows while I’m at work!

Today has been rather lovely. Andrew and I set out this afternoon to go to Silsand on Senja Island. We go there some evenings and there’s a pleasant enough walk up to a lake, but to our surprise, the car park, which is usually empty, was full. Rather ominously, there was a sign up which said “Testing Senter”.

Recalling that I had read somewhere that a specialised centre for COVID was being set up in Silsand, we beat a hasty retreat, then drove north for a short way. A sign directed us towards “Woodland Lodge” and we drove down a little track, which to my delight led to a tiny pavilion and a stretch of woodland.

Andrew found some animal tracks. At first I assumed they were a dog’s, but if they were, it had gone for a walk alone. So we began to follow them. When we got down to the waterline, we found the lovely little jetty pictured at the top of the page. And though we never found the Halloween wolf… or whatever it was, all three of us very much enjoyed roaming around in the snow.

Manic Meat-inspector

Sunrise/sunset: 08:36/ 16:26. Daylength: 7hr 50min

The slaughter season for lamb is almost over. I can’t pretend to be unhappy about that. With three technicians out of action and a vet colleague limited to inspection of live animals, I’ve ended up working in the abattoir every day for the past couple of weeks and it will continue for a week and a half more. I’ve decided to write a bit more about what I do… though it will be tongue in cheek. I have the typical dark humour about my job that I think many vets share. The life of a vet has some grim moments alongside the joy that working with animals often brings, and so it pays to laugh about it all now and then. So if you’re squeamish, you could just look at the photos and ignore the text altogether… otherwise, feel free to join me.

I’ve said before that the abattoir is a dangerous place. We have to wear a lot of PPE ( I no longer have to explain what that means – thanks Covid!). I generally work for an hour, then have half an hour off, but during the break, I have to strip off the outer layers of protective clothing, then put them back on again, which takes five minutes or so off each end.

Everyone in my section wears white trousers and a T-shirt as standard, and as I go into the sluice to get ready, I add a hair net, a white cotton short sleeved shirt, some rather fetching chain mail, a blue plastic apron, a helmet with ear protectors, a Kevlar glove on my left hand, a cotton one on my right, and finally a pair of waterproof latex gloves on top of the first pair. It’s important to put it all on in the right order. It’s hard to get a chain mail shirt over your helmet and harder still to tie your apron behind your back with two pairs of gloves taking away most of the fine sensation. I’ve managed to arrive in the hall missing every single item, including one head-scratching moment* when I reached up a hand to grasp something and realised that although my right hand was fully gloved, on the left I was wearing only the Kevlar glove. Goodness knows how I managed to remember the first and not the second, but there it is.

The line often stops while we are working. There’s a long succession of people, each one playing a small part in the process, and if any stage a problem occurs, then it is possible to stop the line while it is overcome. Most of the time, I have no idea why everything has come to a standstill as much of it is out of sight. I imagine generally, it is something mundane: one of the shearers hasn’t completed the job, or some item of equipment has lost power. But the other day, as I was leaving the hall for my break, I heard loud yelling. When I turned round, someone was running to stop the line. With a sense of shock, I saw one of the engineers was up in the rafters. His shirt was entangled in one of the meathooks and he was being dragged towards the edge of the inspection platform. Luckily the line stopped in time and someone else began to climb up the ladder to free him. Which is fortunate for me as if it had ended differently, I would definitely not be including this part of the story.

As I said earlier, I will be glad when the season is over. There are good things about the work. I could wax lyrical about my wonderful colleagues and the simple pleasure of a really good sharp knife, or even the unexpectedly entrancing swirl of a chainmail shirt as you stride across the floor. But as I walked back into the hall on Wednesday, checked to see that nobody was hanging from the roof, then dodged between a pair of swinging pig carcasses, both decorated with one of the big red tags that means the vet has seen something dodgy that needs attention, it struck me** that you could make the most wonderful platform game based on the production line.

If you’re young, you probably won’t remember Manic Miner, who rushed around underground trying to avoid spiders, slime and at one point being pursued by angry toilets with flapping seats that I could never get past as I was laughing too hard. But for those of us old enough to remember the pleasures of a good platform game, I hope you’ll agree that the slaughterhouse holds loads of possibilities. As well as pork dodging, there could be ladders up to the ceiling with moving hooks to avoid, a run through the flaming hot section where the hair is burned off the pigs, and a section with slippery bits of fat lying on the floor, just waiting for you to put your heel on them and slide into oblivion.

Anyway, enough of that. Back to the real world. It did snow a little, as you can see from the pictures of the frozen pond halfway up the page. But before that there were a few days when the temperature dropped fifteen degrees overnight. The resulting hoar frost was the best I have ever seen. Everything was sparkling, each blade of grass and tree branch wonderfully decorated: white on blue. I stopped half way home to take some pictures, one of which is at the top of the page. The rest I will add below. So while work is less than perfect, I am still marvelling every day about the fact that I get to live somewhere so beautiful. And as the winter arrives in full, I very much hope to share it all with you.

* Head-scratching is neither advisable with gloved hands, nor really possible with a helmet on. ‘Twas only a figure of speech.

**It was the thought that struck me, not a lump of pivoting pork. Just so we’re clear!

Waiting

Sunrise/sunset: 08:06/ 16:58. Daylength: 8hr 51min.

I was hoping to share the first snow pictures of the winter with you today. The weather forecast was for sleet, and I know these things can be wrong in either direction. I am, at last, beginning to feel I might be prepared. Yesterday I bought snow scrapers for the car windscreen and the driveway as well as some bags of environmentally friendly, reusable grit. But for now, there is only rain outside my window, as there has been for days. The picture at the top of the page was taken on my drive to work on the last day before the rain began. It was so beautiful, I couldn’t resist stopping. I sometimes wonder whether people will see the Mattilsynet logo on the side of the car and wonder what I’m up to!

There isn’t much of interest to report at work. The seasonal meat inspection is still in full swing and I have been working there every day this week, though the drive over is often a pleasant experience. Yesterday, I glimpsed what I thought were some horses or cows in a field. I turned my head at the last minute, as something was hammering in my brain about them being the wrong shape. To my pleasure, I saw it was a moose with two almost grown calves. I still feel a frisson of delight in seeing wild animals. By the time I realised, it was too late to stop for a photograph, but hopefully it won’t be the last time.

The basement flat where we live is feeling more and more like home. Anna and Andrew bought me an Alexa for Christmas last year, and other than wrestling with her for a while as I tried to get her to play Tir n’a Noir I haven’t used her very much. But John, having researched a new lighting system that is voice activated, has set her up so that we can now ask her to turn on the lights and she does so. The bulbs are heinously expensive (I bought a new one last night which was reduced by 114kr or around around £10 [16 Canadian dollars for Iceland Penny!]) but they can be set on different brightness levels and also to warm or bright light. We also have strip lighting on a shelf beside the TV which can change colour. When it is properly dark, and especially if I work from home at some point, the lighting is going to be very important.

Anyway, John is home for the weekend, and he and Andrew need to go shopping for winter boots, so I will leave you with another photograph of misty mountains at dawn. Have a great week everybody.

Changes

Sunrise/sunset: 07:38/ 17:29. Daylength: 9hr 50min.

I have been adding the changing daylength at the top of each post for a while now. Those who have noticed might have calculated that over the course of each week, we are losing an hour of light and gaining an hour of darkness. The rate of change is not exactly disconcerting, but it is a little disorienting. I look at the clock expecting it to be late evening and find it is only seven o’clock.

Sometime last week, I noticed two of the trees beside the little pond in the town centre had been decorated with lights. In the UK and in the more southerly part of Norway where I used to live, there were tasteful lights draped in the branches of the trees around Christmas, but this was something different. The whole tree, trunk and branches, seemed to be swathed in lights, and it seemed odd that there were only two. I drove home yesterday and to my delight, saw that now there were lots more trees lit up. I don’t know whether they are finished, or whether there are more to come, but Andrew, Triar and I went for a wander around the pond and it was beautiful.

As well as the changing daylength, there has been another change this week. John has started to do seasonal work at the abattoir. He is working with the sheep shearing squad. There is a technique, of course, to sheep shearing. He tells me it’s important to remove the wool in a smooth manner, ensuring that the length doesn’t get disrupted. If they don’t get it right first time, they are encouraged not to take another cut as the shortness of those segments would degrade the quality and mean the price would be lower. For my part, I’m glad that the wool is used. I remember being told at university that wool was considered so worthless that it was often thrown away. If we breed animals for food, I can’t help feeling that we should do what we can to use every one of the products that creates. Anyway, for now, John has moved out and is living in a house with other members of the team and seems to be enjoying it, which is wonderful.

Andrew has also been away this week, visiting his dad and the orthodontist. He flew back yesterday evening, and as the airport is near to where I was working, I decided I would find something to do there instead of coming home and having to drive back. Rather than leaving Triar at home all day on his own, he came with me in the car. The airport is at Bardufoss, and as Foss is Norwegian for waterfall, I decided to go and look for it. It didn’t take too long to find. I’m sure it was beautiful once… but it was now empty. Norway is famous for its renewable energy. 98% of electricity production comes from renewable sources, and though the number of wind farms is increasing year on year, the majority still comes from hydroelectric.

But of course, where there are mountains, you are never too far from a waterfall. As I was driving, I noticed signs for Målselvfossen and so I followed them. It was well worth the effort. As Triar and I walked down into the valley, sunlight stippled the hills in the distance.

Down beside the river, the roar filled our ears. There was a salmon ladder, currently closed, but well worth a revisit next year as the summer comes round again. We’ll definitely be coming back!