Tag Archives: Aurora borealis

Customs

Sunrise/sunset: 08:34/ 14:27. Daylength: 5hr52min

One of the UK customs I miss is the celebration of bonfire night on 5th November. It was an occasion I loved when young. My father always loved a good bonfire, and I have wonderful memories from when I was eight or nine, when we moved to a house with a large garden and there was a party with Parkin and treacle toffee, and my dad set off fireworks in the garden. It always felt like the start of winter and meant that Christmas was not far off. In Norway, bonfires are lit to celebrate midsummer, which is very different.

The Norwegian custom for lighting candles against the darkness of winter is something I have completely embraced though. For now, I have autumn coloured candles, but in three weeks time, they will be replaced with an advent crown. There are already purple candles available in the shops. When I first arrived in Norway and took Norwegian lessons for a year, they lit a candle in class at the beginning of each week and left it burning during the lessons that day. Advent will come at almost the same time as the Polar night arrives. I suppose it serves a similar purpose to the British bonfire night, bringing light at the darkest time of year.

More light in the darkness – aurora over the reflected streetlights on Senja
And here are John and Triar, posing in front of a heart made of lights down in town.

The British affinity for queuing is another custom that I have found it hard to shake. I have applied for Norwegian citizenship, as well as reapplying for permanent residency under the new Brexit rules. I hadn’t originally applied for the Brexit pass as I hoped that I might gain citizenship before the Brexit pass deadline, which is the end of December. I initially went to the police to show my documents for citizenship in August (having sent my application more than a year earlier, the offices being closed in the meantime due to Covid) and was told that they couldn’t process it as I didn’t have a valid residence permit. This seemed odd, given that the deadline for the Brexit pass was December. Anna had showed her papers a month earlier in a different office without any problems. Anna told after she’d applied that the waiting list for citizenship applications was eight months. Having handed in my papers last week, I checked the waiting time, which is now eleven months. So no wonder they were insisting I should get the Brexit pass as it’s obviously going to be a long time before I find out if I can get a Norwegian passport.

Another odd thing was that it was possible to get appointments with the police for citizenship, but there were none available to show your papers for the Brexit pass, which is obviously more urgent. I am on a Facebook group for Brits living in Norway, and someone advised me that they had called the number provided for those with problems, and had been offered an appointment within a few days. It seems there are many times when there is little choice but to phone if you want to push your way to the front of the queue, though in fact I took a citizenship appointment and my Brexit pass was processed at the same time and has already arrived. But the need to phone, rather than wait (other than in dire circumstances that require a rapid response) still doesn’t come easily to me. I was reminded of when I was very sick in 2012 and losing weight at an astonishing rate while I waited to get my gall bladder removed. The six weeks they had told me I had to wait had come and gone and I was very perplexed that I hadn’t heard anything. When I asked my Norwegian friends, they told me I had to phone, which I did, and was taken in within a week or so.

It’s the same with job applications. In the UK, I always sent in my CV and whatever else was asked for, then waited patiently (or perhaps inpatiently, but still in silence) for a response. Someone in the Brits in Norway group asked for help as they were having no success with applying for jobs. I told them the advice that was given to me. There are instructions in the advertisements for how to apply, and I had always followed them to the letter, with little success. There was always a name and phone number to contact if you had questions, but as I rarely had questions, I had never called it.

Apparently, there is an unwritten rule that you must call that number for a casual chat, because if you don’t, they assume you’re not keen! This of course, seemed outrageous to my all-too-British, ready to queue soul! Then again, I have also been shouted at once by a doctor’s receptionist for not queuing enough. Doctor’s receptionists here are not behind a sliding screen off the waiting room, but behind a closed door. In my British ignorance, I once went through the door to queue politely behind someone else who was speaking to the receptionist. This was outrageous apparently, as discussions with the receptionist are private.

Customs are very odd things and some of them are invisible until you stumble over them. I love living in Norway, and hope to gain Norwegian citizenship, but I recognise that I am never going to be fully integrated. I will leave that (hopefully) to my children.

Not in any way related to the topic in hand, but here is Triar with his piggy toy.

I haven’t mentioned my other writing much. My agent hunt is continuing slowly. I have been told that so many people have written books during lockdown that many agents are swamped. I’m not in any particular hurry, fortunately. I have most of the storyline for a second book in place. It did cross my mind however, that I should perhaps do more research regarding one of my main characters who is blind. I therefore contacted the RNIB for help and they have shared my request with a Facebook group. A few people have got in touch with me, which was very cheering yesterday evening. Hearing about other people’s lives is always interesting and rewarding, so I have a pleasant weekend ahead of me.

I will leave you with a picture I took last weekend of Kistefjellet, which I still haven’t reached the summit of. It’s the peak on the left with the mast on it. One day I will get there and when I do, I’ll share it with you. Have a good week.

Murder in the Mountains

Sunrise/sunset: 07:33/ 17:35. Daylength: 10hr01min

It crossed my mind this week that perhaps I should try a change of direction in my writing. I don’t really read enough these days (I have six unread books waiting at the moment in my bedroom) but the family Netflix account is filled with dark drama from all parts of Scandinavia. I have all the elements I need. I could set it in the blue Polar Night, when the morning never comes and have a grisly scene in the slaughter house, with a human cadaver hanging among the carcases. There could be people smuggling, with all the season workers coming in, or perhaps the victim(s) could be working in the laundries, washing all those blood stained clothes. Maybe a hand can emerge from one of those huge piles of snow that gather during the winter months, leaving everyone baffled as to when the murder actually occurred.

It’s actually been a quiet week. Andrew has been away, visiting his dad, who lives near Stavanger. Before he went, I asked him to show me how to use the TV. When I was young, the TV was simple to use. Admittedly, you had to stand up to switch it on, and indeed to change the channel, though back then there were only three to choose from anyway. Our first TV was a tiny black and white portable that, rather bizarrely, my parents won in a competition. They also won a small sailing boat on a trailer. I can vaguely remember it appearing in the drive outside our house. Of course, it had to go because they had no car to tow it with. They sold it and bought a little white mini. Anyway I’ve wandered away from the point, which was that I have spent the week alone and quite enjoyed it. I could indulge my taste for true crime and mashed potato. The candles have been lit every evening. It feels comforting to return to having some darkness at a time that my body feels is appropriate.

I went out walking again with Ann and Konstantin last weekend. We went up Falkefjellet. The peak we reached, though not the highest point, was above the treeline, which meant there was a good view all round.

The best thing about it was that, for the first time in a while, I felt I could have walked further. My springtime Fit for the Summer campaign seems a very long time ago. The summer was marred by sickness and it has felt like every time I began to work again on getting back into shape, I was hit by something that stopped me. As I reached the summit of Falkefjellet, I remembered how much I love the feeling of arriving on the top of the world. The higher mountains are now swathed in snow, but perhaps there will be time to get a few walks in before the winter really sets in.

The photograph at the top of the page is of one of the red markers on the walk, though the shape of the rock and the bloody brightness of the paint was one of the things that prompted my Scandi Noir thoughts. Here it is again, the full photo, rather than the cropped version.

Konstantin was full of facts about the wildlife and the landscape. He is interested in geology and occasionally would point out pieces of marble, or rock formations and tell us how they had been formed. For example, here’s another red marker, this time looking a little like a stone dagger, set into fractured rock.

I asked him how the cracking occurred and he pointed to another section of rock just to the left, where there was more rock in the process of arriving there. This had earth in between the cracks, which of course will hold water. It freezes in winter, driving the stones apart, and then eventually the mud gets washed away, leaving the rather mysterious looking holes in the mountainside.

It was windy on the summit, so here is a picture of Triar, looking windswept and interesting.

Konstantin was in the lead with Triar during the walk. I think they look good together!

And of course, as we descended back to the treeline, there were some wonderful views to enjoy, as well as the smaller details of unexpected plants growing underfoot, in nooks and crannies, and on the trunks of dead but unfallen trees.

Andrew was due to return last night in the evening and the airport is close to the abattoir, so rather than driving over there twice in a day, I decided to take Triar in the car, have dinner with John, and then wait. It was a little hair raising, driving over. Until now, the temperature has been well above zero, but a wind from the north has changed that, and when I left for work at 04.45 there was frost on the car. I still have the summer wheels on as I don’t use the car much and up until now, they have been fine. I will change them over next week, but for now I had to proceed with caution in the darkness. I’d had to stop when driving home on Thursday, as there was a moose that thought about crossing the road, though he looked at all the cars which had stopped to let him, and changed his mind. They’re huge when you see them close up, so I was very wary, but we made it there safely. To fill in the time between work ending and collecting Andrew, I took a quick reprise of the spring fitness project. This is how the landscape looks now, as we head into winter. If you look carefully at the second picture, you can see the white peaks in the distance, though they are rather swathed in clouds.

The plane arrived on time and as we arrived back at the house, Andrew pointed at the sky. There they were, the northern lights, greeting him on his return to the north.

Night Life and Morning Coffee

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

I always start the morning with a coffee. I make it, then put on my coat and take Triar outside, warming my hands on the mug while Triar has his first sniff around the garden. Whatever the weather, it always feels like a good start to the day.

It’s not been the most cheerful of weeks. There are riots and insurrection in the US, and round the world COVID19 is on the rise. Looking at previous pandemics, it seems common that when winter returns and the second wave rises, it’s often worse than the first and this one is following that pattern. Cases here are relatively low, but we are locked down along with the rest of Norway and I have spent the past week (and will be spending next week) working from home.

The weather has turned colder again, though there’s still no snow. Locals tell me this is almost unheard of and I have been watching with bemusement as my social media feeds have filled up with lovely wintery pictures from the UK. I’ve found myself having a wry chuckle or two because back in October when I wrote about having a white Halloween, I had it in the back of my mind that I might eventually bore people with my snow pictures.

It was also my birthday this week, and knowing my love of coffee (and my enjoyment of Harry Potter) my children bought me a mug.

I also received a latte glass from Charlie from Steam, one of my favourite coffee shops down in the south of Norway. One of the things I miss most in these pandemic days is going out to cafés. They are still open here and the risk isn’t as high as it would be in the UK, but the easy life we had before, when going out was a straighforward pleasure, seem a long way away. So now, thanks to Charlie, I can have the echo of those days with a homemade latte.

Having started the day in the garden, I often end it there too. At the moment, it is dark at both ends of the day, but there are compensations. The picture at the top was from Thursday evening. Odd the things people see. I thought it looked a little like flames licking across the sky, but I posted it on Twitter and many people commented that there was a goddess looking down at me. The aurora last night was less spectacular, but still there, like searchlights across the sky.

And so, the polar night is ending. On Tuesday the sun will rise for the first time in 2021. I am hoping for clear skies and looking forward to longer days. And whatever happens, hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you.

Northern Light

Sunrise/sunset: 06:18 / 19:02. Daylength: 12hr 44min.

I’m spending more and more time at the abattoir as the season progresses. Next week, I will be there every day. It’s acknowledged that it is a high risk environment. There are big metal hooks overhead, which require helmet use at all times. We wear chain mail to protect our vital organs from errant knives. The knives need to be sterilised as well. This is done by placing them in hot water whenever they are not in use. Despite having read a plethora of H&S documents and watched videos about the risks from the sterilisers, in the first couple of days on the sheep line I managed to lean on the hot metal plating a couple of times. So now I am branded on both hips like an old cow.

I’m working exclusively on the lamb/mutton line for now. Pork and beef inspection are more complicated and there’s no time for me to learn. Though I am starting to feel more confident, at the beginning it felt surreal as I strode up and down, marking the meat that had passed with that all-important EFTA stamp that means it can be sent out into the world for consumption. I was reminded of a chapter in a children’s book: Time Tangle by Frances Eagar. Though it’s an old book, I know it from cover to cover, having read and reread it as a child, then read it aloud to my children every year in the lead up to Christmas. There’s a scene in it where Beth, a girl dealing with some difficult emotions over the yule period, is unwillingly visiting a friend’s house. She is pressed into helping her friend’s mother to make mince pies, and to get through it, she imagines herself in a busy mince pie factory, slapping the pastry lids onto the pies. She also imagines being praised for her prowess and speed. Her bubble bursts when it becomes apparent that the reason for her speed is that she’s forgotten to add the mince filling.

Like Beth, I was rather enjoying working on the sheep line. There had been some doubt over whether I would be ready in time, but the vets I worked with had all been positive, which of course was encouraging. I had my empty mince pie moment though at the end of last week when at the end of my shift, Ronny the Official Veterinary Surgeon (OVS) took me aside and showed me a carcass that I had stamped that I should have condemned. Several of the joints were massively swollen and she was very thin. It was doubly frustrating as I had noticed she was thin and had taken a very brief second look, but instead of stopping the line, or sending her to the side for a better look, I had allowed her to pass.

I was shocked when Ronny showed me. I had known I was rather distracted as it had been a difficult day in other ways, but even so, I ought to have seen it. A short time after that, right at the end of the day, the man in charge of the line called me over and asked me whether the carcass should be placed in the chill room where the emergency slaughter carcasses are placed for inspection. I agreed that it should, then he looked me up and down, then back at the sheep. “I know you missed it,” he said, “but do you see the changes, now they’ve been pointed out?”

Seeing as the joints on both front and hind legs were not cut through clean and straight, as they should be, but instead resembled a pair of seventies bell-bottom jeans in shape, I half wanted to snap back that of course I could see it. Only an idiot wouldn’t. But in the circumstances, that would have been rather churlish, so I muttered, “Yes,” and to my relief, he began to slide the carcass off in the direction of the chill room.

And mortified though I was to miss something so obvious, the good thing, of course, is the comfirmation of something I’ve known for years.. Experienced technicians (and it applies equally to veterinary nurses in practice) know way more about almost everything than vets who are just starting out in any completely new area.

There are some compensations to working in the slaughterhouse. The world around me is turning to gold and the drive there takes about forty minutes. Back in Rogaland, where I spent my first years in Norway, there wasn’t much autumn. The trees would start to turn and then there would be a storm and by the time the wind and rain stopped, the trees would be bare. Up here though, there’s less wind and as I have to drive through miles of forest every day, the changing colours have been wonderful to watch.

And Andrew and I had a wonderful surprise last weekend when we popped out in the garden to “air the dog” as they call it here in Norway. As we stood there, we noticed there was a green tinge to the sky. We weren’t sure at first, but as it brightened and began to dance, we realised that for the first time, we were properly seeing the Northern lights. It was a wonderful moment.