Tag Archives: Christmas

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.

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.

My Norwegian Christmas – First Sunday in Advent

Given all the uncertainty at the moment around the pandemic, I thought it would be nice to share some images from my life over the next four weeks in the lead up till Christmas. I had hoped to spend Christmas in the UK with my parents this year. It wasn’t to be but Christmas in Norway is beautiful, so hopefully I can share some of it with you.

Back in Scotland, in the lead up to Christmas, we used to go round the village where we lived to find the “crazy houses” – those wonderfully over-the-top places where there were inflatable snowmen in the garden, where a spotlit Santa was ascending the wall on a makeshift ladder and the entire house was lit up with flashing lights that would put Blackpool Illuminations in the shade.

Here in the north of Norway, there are a lot of lights, but most of them are warm white. The painted wooden houses look very cosy in the darkness.

In the town centre yesterday afternoon, my eye was caught by some lovely shop window displays and by a rather drunken looking Christmas tree, lingering beside a door. There was also a stall in the local shopping centre, selling cured sausages.

We decided to take a walk in Ånderdalen national park and then have coffee at Senja Roasters but our plans were foiled by the cold temperature. It was minus twenty two when we set off for our walk. Triar has always been surprisingly resilient in the snow, so it hadn’t crossed my mind that perhaps minus twenty two might be a step too far. We managed less than two minutes before his natural enthusiasm left him, and instead of racing ahead, he came back and walked in front of me looking very uncertain. We carried him back to the car and he seemed relieved. I paused to take a photograph of the fjord, which was already starting to freeze in the shallow bay.

We weren’t sure whether we would be able to go into Senja Roasters. We did contemplate leaving the car running for Triar while we galloped in for coffee ( it was a balmy minus eleven in Stonglandseidet – the temperature changes as we drove around were astonishing) but happily, they allowed us to take Triar inside, so we could have a somewhat more relaxed lunch.

It was beautifully decorated with candles and coffee beans, and a few other cosy Christmas touches.

The food was great, of course, as well as the company.

And happily for Triar, we have hopefully found a solution to the cold-toe problem. See you next week!

Please, Not Yet!

Sunrise/sunset: 06:40/ 19:37. Daylength: 11hr56min

I saw a moose on the way to work on Wednesday. There was nowhere to stop, so it was a fleeting glimpse, but it was standing in a clearing in the forest that lines the road for miles and miles. I saw the white plume of its breath on the chilly morning air as I flitted past.

There’s something magical about the dawn twilight. I had the sudden sensation of having caught sight of something that ancient people might have seen thousands of years ago as they walked in the forest. It crossed my mind afterwards, how little I knew about these primeval looking creatures. And so, I began to read a about them.

I was surprised to discover they are classified as a type of deer. They have long legs – good for walking in snow – and cloven hooves that splay out, helping them to walk on top of it, rather than fall through, once an icy crust has formed on top. Even more surprising was finding out that they are good swimmers. Their bodies are designed to withstand the cold, so are not well equipped for the heat of summer. They immerse themselves in water to help cool themselves, but beyond that they are well adapted for eating the aquatic plants they find there.

I had always thought their faces were an odd shape. I’ll put in a photo I took, last summer at Polar Parken, for reference below. Now I discover there is a reason for that long droopy proboscis. Apparently they can close their nostrils off when they are feeding underwater. They can actually chew and swallow without coming to the surface. Added to that, they can dive down to a depth of about six metres. Given that they look so ungainly on land, I was fascinated to discover they are so much at home in water.

And now back to last weekend, when Ann, Konstantin and I went for a walk. We set off close to Andrew’s school and trekked round a lake, taking in a stop in a lavvo along the way.

It was a beautiful day. The autumn colours are at their most spectacular at the moment, and the contrast with the blue skies and the darker green of the fir trees surely makes this one of the most beautiful times of the year.

As ever, some of the most interesting things were to be found at ground level as we walked through different kinds of terrain from dry woodland floors with undergrowth and tree roots to boggy wetlands, often with paths created by wooden planks or thick tree branches.

The lavvo was fascinating. You frequently find shelters on well-trodden paths in Norway. Most I have come across are simple newly-built wooden shelters of one sort or another, and they are often stocked with wood and have a fireplace or grill site nearby. The lavvo looked like a much more traditional tee-pee type structure, which is unsurprising as a lavvo is a form of temporary home used by the Sami when herding reindeer.

We stepped inside and found benches lined with blankets and a fireplace. It felt very sturdy and also cosy. It would be amazing to visit in winter and light a fire. There were loads of interesting touches, such as tiny light holes that looked like stars against the dark walls and quite a big gap in the roof to act as a chimney.

I took a photograph of Konstantin and Triar in the lavvo, that pleased me a lot.

Later in the walk, we stopped in another shelter, this time of the more standard type. I had understood we were doing a relatively short walk and had brought only a banana to eat, but by five kilometers in, I was quite hungry. So I was amazed when we sat down at the wooden table and Konstantin started to pull out a veritable feast from his backpack. He started with a flask of tea, for which he had several cups, one of which I accepted gratefully. As well as the tea, he brought out bread rolls and salty biscuits and liver pate in a tin, as well as various pieces of fruit and a plastic box filled with individually wrapped chocolates. It was when he pulled out his knife and started to slice an onion to go into his rolls that I really started to appreciate his food organisational skills!

We finished the walk and then went for pizza, which was a lovely way to round off the day. Hopefully we’ll get some more good weather before the winter arrives.

I mentioned the arrival of mince pies in the UK in last week’s blog and was thinking smugly that there was no way anyone here would start so early with the lead up to Christmas. Though I love Christmas as much as the next person (not really – I love it way more than average!) starting too soon can take the edge off. October, is too early, and even if you begin half way through November, by the time Christmas arrives, it’s more anti-climatic relief than unadulterated joy.

So I was horrified when I set off to work in the dark hours before five am yesterday, to be greeted by my usual radio station playing “When You Wish Upon a Star”. I had heard an advertisement during the week saying they would be changing to Christmas music on Friday, but they mentioned that this would be additional to normal services, one of which would be on an app. I thought perhaps I had misheard and for now, that I could continue to listen to the music that has become a familiar part of my current life. When I drive a lot for work, I generally get used to the music on certain stations.

Of course, Christmas music on the radio in Norway is very different from Christmas music provided by UK stations. Nobody here has been listening to Noddy Holder yelling “It’s Christmas” at the top of his voice for years. One of the most famous Norwegian Christmas songs begins with the line “Now we have washed the floor and carried the wood in” (the song is by Alf Prøysen who wrote the Mrs Pepperpot stories I read as a child) which I can’t imagine featuring heavily in any British Christmas song. The Norwegian songs are interspersed with Bing Crosby and other US classics, which always seemed rather old fashioned to me, even as a child, and I still like them less than many of the British Christmas top hits, including more modern entries by Coldplay and Glasvegas.

So closer to Christmas, I will gladly start listening again. It’s about time I learned to recognise more of that Norwegian Christmas music. I have become rather fond of Alf Prøysen’s Julekveldsvisa (though I draw the line at having to clean the entire house before I relax into Christmas Eve) and I should continue to embrace more Norwegian things. But not just yet. December will be quite soon enough.

Season’s Greetings

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

So here we are in the last week of 2020. It has been, I believe, the strangest year of my life. Had you told me in January that by the end of it I would be living in the Arctic Circle, and that I wouldn’t have seen my parents or set foot in the UK for a year, I wouldn’t have believed you. In May, I would have told you I was going to move back to the UK. I had applied for a number of jobs there, but coronavirus was holding everything up. But those of you who know me well will know I was never able to resist an adventure. My eye was caught by an advertisement for a veterinary job in the far north and the rest is history.

In turn, this week has been something of a roller coaster. On Monday, Ann and I accompanied Ammar to the little reindeer abattoir at Hjerttind. I am conflicted, showing you this photograph. Reindeer are beautiful animals and bringing them in to an abattoir might not be considered a happy ending. But the other side of that coin is that these animals have led perhaps the most natural life of any of those that come into the food chain. They have spent their lives outside in their natural habitat. And rather than being brought in by lorry, they were brought in on foot, though I understand a helicopter was used in the herding process. There hasn’t been enough snow, apparently, for them to be brought in with snowmobiles! Traditional Sami methods with a modern twist.

The slaughter process and meat preparation at Hjerttind is very traditional too. The only mechanisation in the process is a hoist. Everything else is done by hand. Every part of the reindeer is used. Outside the window, I could see the skins being spread out on the snowy ground in the gathering gloom. But Ann and I didn’t stay long. We were there to learn the process. The plan was that I would return the next day on my own.

But it wasn’t to be. I woke on Tuesday morning with a mild sore throat and a tendency to cough. I was very torn because usually I would ignore the symptoms and carry on. I didn’t feel particularly unwell. But Anna had arrived from the UK only two weeks earlier. The news was filled with stories of a new, highly infectious strain of COVID. The Norwegian borders had been closed and everyone who had arrived recently was to be tested. Anyone with any respiratory symptoms here in Norway should be tested as well, and so on Tuesday instead of heading to Hjerttind, I went to Senja with Anna to be tested for coronavirus.

The process itself was mildly unpleasant. A swab to the throat, then in through the bony nasal turbinates to the nasopharynx. Waiting for the results was infinitely worse. I had begun to feel more unwell and by Wednesday afternoon, though technically I didn’t have a fever, I was definitely warmer than usual and was feeling rough. They had told us one to three days for the results. I thought they might be delayed by the approach of Christmas and the additional testing involved with the new requirement to test incomers from Britain, but late on Wednesday afternoon, I got a message to say my results were in. I was surprisingly tense as I opened the Norwegian health website. I had been feeling lucky that all my children were safely home, and now there was the possibility that I might have to spend Christmas day isolating in my bedroom. But to my enormous relief, the test came back negative, as did Anna’s, and the worry lifted. Better still was the news from my parents that my dad has had the first of his vaccinations against COVID. I hope this means that I will be able to visit them next year.

But back to Christmas. Though I’m sad I couldn’t be with Mum and Dad, this was the first time in years that all my children could be with me. John has come back from the UK and is living in Norway again. It was lucky that Anna also changed her plans to come home early from university. The borders are closed now and some of her Norwegian friends are stuck in the UK. Britain has also gone into lockdown and many people can’t be with their loved ones.

And yet Christmas brought me joy, as it always has. We put up our decorations gradually and on Christmas Eve, Andrew and Anna put up the last of the fairy lights and now I feel as if I am sitting in a Christmas grotto.

Those of you with sharp eyes might have noticed another strange thing. Having moved inside the Arctic Circle, I had thought we would be guaranteed a perfect white Christmas, but most of the snow melted earlier in the week and there isn’t even enough now to cover the grass.

Triar has been the most hyped up member of the family. He loves unwrapping his presents on Christmas morning.

And of course Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a feast. In Norway, it’s normal to have the main meal and presents on Christmas Eve, but in line with British tradition, we still eat on Christmas day. This year John and Anna helped with preparing the food. We have something of a mixture of Norwegian and British cuisine. While we serve the traditional roast potatoes and honey-roast parsnips with stuffing and gravy and bread sauce, they are served alongside pork ribbe and lingonberry sauce. I was very proud of the crackling on my ribbe this year. It was the best I’ve managed: golden brown and wonderfully salty crisp.

And for dessert, there was Christmas pudding (it doesn’t get more British than that) and Norwegian kransekake, a wonderful, chewy almond flavoured extravaganza.

And now the year is almost done. Thank you to all those who have been following my adventures. I wish you well for 2021.

Julebrus

Sunrise/sunset: 07:11 / 18:00. Daylength: 10hr 49min.

I saw a post on Twitter bemoaning the appearance of Christmas items in the shops in the UK yesterday, or more accurately someone posted that as they were on COVID lockdown, they were deprived of the pleasure of complaining about it this year. As someone who loves Christmas, the gathering signs that it is on its way are always something I have enjoyed, though I am glad that in Norway, it’s rather low key compared to the UK. I rather smugly commented on the post, saying that I hadn’t seen anything here yet, then went into my local supermarket and saw that the Julebrus had appeared. Julebrus is a Norwegian fizzy drink, only available around Christmas time and much beloved by my children. It has a kind of fruity flavour and comes in red and brown varieties. But enough about that for now!

I haven’t said much about coronavirus lately. I see a lot on the news about it – this is the week when President Trump has been confirmed positive and a previously obscure SNP member of parliament travelled to Westminster then back to Scotland after having a test that was found to be positive while she was in London. The situation here in Norway remains relatively stable, though rates are higher than they were between May and July. The criteria for testing are extensive. Anyone who has signs of a new respiratory infection is asked to present themselves, alongside anyone who knows they have been exposed to infection with COVID-19. Two colleagues were off work this week while waiting for results and I guess if everyone with a cold has to go through this, it’s going to be a common feature of the next few months.

Back at the start of the pandemic, I was careful to take all possible precautions. I shopped once a week or less and took my breaks at work sitting out in my car. Now I shop more or less daily again and though I use the hand-gel that is liberally available in all public spaces, and try to ensure I keep a metre away from people, it isn’t having much impact on my day-to-day life, though I recognise that could change rapidly. Mattilsynet has its own set of rules, which we are to read at least once a week. Those here in springtime all have home offices set up and it seems likely that at some point, home working might become the norm again.

The main effect on me is that, for the first time since I’ve moved to Norway, I haven’t been to the UK during this calendar year. My daughter is a student there and my parents are in Yorkshire and I miss having the chance to visit them. Strange times we are living through.

Northern Norway: In Darkness and In Light…

Ye Crowlin Ferlie

This week’s picture is of Daisy, a West Highland White terrier who came in yesterday morning to be inseminated. I have seen cows inseminated before, but never a bitch, so I was interested to watch Magnificent Magne as he took a swab to check if Daisy was ready, and looked at the sperm under the microscope to see whether the sample was healthy. Apparently both were good enough. Daisy’s mum used to come in for Magne to inseminate her as well, so her owner told me, so obviously it’s a successful technique. Hopefully in 63 days or so, there will be some more puppies as beautiful as she is.

The microscope in the practice does get very well used. Far more so than any practice I worked at in Scotland. I was very interested when Jan-Arne called me over to look through the lens a little later to show me a blood-sucking louse. For some bizarre reason, when he showed Irene, she said ‘Awwwwwww’. Obviously her idea of cute differs slightly from mine.  I wonder whether this extends to her taste in men.

On Thursday, Jan-Arne came in in his pyjamas again. He actually admitted this time that they were his pyjamas. Obviously an eleven a.m. start is too early for him. I went into the changing room a few minutes after he had left and found his trousers decorating the floor and his boots haphazardly strewn . This amused me, so I took Irene to see, then asked him if he thought we were his servants. I threatened to take a photo, and he rushed to tidy them away. ‘Otherwise my mother will say I’m just the same at home, and Steinar (his partner) will as well,’ he groaned.

Still, he made up for it easily by bringing in the biggest Suksess Cake I’ve ever seen. For those of you not in Norway, this is a delicious cake with an almondy base and a sweet creamy yellow topping. It’s definitely my favourite Norsk cake. When I asked Jan-Arne what the success was that we were celebrating, he replied that the success was getting the calories out of his house. A few of them are undoubtedly now in mine. Still it was worth it. And just in case that wasn’t enough, at the meeting yesterday, everyone was handed an advent calendar. It seems that Scary Boss Lady really is into Christmas.  It all looks veldig gøy. I wonder how many dogs will enjoy the tree.

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