Tag Archives: Darkness

The Gathering Darkness

Sunrise/sunset: 06:13/ 19:08. Daylength: 12hr54min

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that it was not yet entirely dark, but from Thursday this week there has been full darkness for a short time each night. It’s hard to believe we’re already well into September. The sun is low in the sky for much of the day and the autumn equinox will soon be here.

I took that photo when I was out with Triar, and he very kindly posed for me on an upturned boat, that lies beside the narrow path we walked down.

I’m not sure what the boat is doing here, halfway up a rather steep hill, but I suspect it might be a remnant left over from a children’s play park. They quite often use old boats in playgrounds, when they are no longer any use for fishing.

Though it’s coming up for two years since I’ve been in the UK, I do like to follow what’s happening on social media. So I was interested to see, in the past couple of weeks, that the first mince pies have started to appear in shops over there. Mince pies are one of the Christmas foods I miss most. Of course I could make my own, but it’s nearly impossible to recreate the wonderful cool pastry and spiced mincemeat that you get in the shop bought version.

That said, I was pleased to see the return of mørketids boller to the shop I was in yesterday. Mørketid is Norwegian for polar night, which will not arrive until 30th November, so like the mince pies, they are a little early. But I love the seasonality of the foods in the shops here, and this one is specific to the north of Norway. They aren’t as good as mince pies. It’s really a doughnut with dark chocolate and vanilla filling (I have seen pictures with chocolate fillings, but have never located one). Very pleasant with a cup of coffee.

The shorter days at work also ended this week. For a few months in the summer, we work seven hour days, whereas in winter, we work seven and three quarter hours. The difference doesn’t sound much, but I was pleasantly surprised when it began, how much faster the working day passed. It’s a great perk to have shorter working days when the summer is so brief.

There are also some odd quirks in the working hours over Christmas and New Year and there was some discussion about this over morning coffee this week, when there was only me and two Norwegian colleagues present. For example, on New Year’s Eve, our official working day is only two hours. So if you have built up some time off in lieu (TOIL) then that is a good day to use it. If you take the day as holiday, it counts as a whole day off, regardless of how long or short the day is. So if you do that, you took off two hours when you could have taken almost eight if you’d chosen a different day.

I had been thinking about trying to take my one remaining holiday week between Christmas and New Year, but as most of the days then are only five hours, it is worth looking into taking them as TOIL instead. The only downside being that agreed holiday can’t be removed at the last minute, whereas agreed TOIL can.

There are a lot of differences from the UK in the Norwegian way of working, and it can be difficult to find all of them out. I should imagine it’s the same for anyone who lives in a culture they weren’t brought up in, but there are times when I have the feeling I am living in some kind of twilight zone, where all kinds of things are obscure. Nobody tells you about them as they assume everyone knows and of course, as you don’t know they exist, you don’t ask about them.

One thing that I do know about, that is definitely worse in Norway than the UK for permanent employees (and is illegal in EU countries) is that in your first year in any new job, you are not entitled to holiday pay. Last year I worked for Mattilsynet from August and so I was not entitled to any paid holiday at all from them. Technically, I received holiday pay from my last job when I left, but that was eaten up in the expenses of moving up here. This year, I only have ten days paid holiday. I can take unpaid holiday, but three weeks without pay would be quite a hit and I don’t really want to do it unless it’s unavoidable.

I’m not really sure why this rule persists. I believe it has been challenged in Denmark, which is in the EU, while Norway is technically not. But Norway does adhere to most of the other EU rules, as expected under the EEA agreement, so I am unsure why they have not implemented this one. For my part, it’s a bad rule. Given that the only “holiday” I had last year was taken up with driving up here, it feels like a long time since I’ve had a proper rest. It’s not as easy to bounce back at fifty two as it was when I was younger either. Roll on next year, when I will be back up to five weeks plus bank holidays again. I guess anyone from the US reading this might think I’m a wuss, but there it is!

Fungi are odd things. A rather cute looking mushroom appeared one day under the hedge beside my driveaway. I took a few photos over several days. It looked tasty, and at the same time rather demure, with its closed head, all neat and dry. This was taken on the tenth of September and I think it had been there a few days. I assumed this was its final form. I rather liked it.

So I was bemused to come home on Wednesday to find it had seemingly doubled in height. The cup was now opened and its edge had a grim wet look to it! I guess it had to open as its spores must be inside, but any feelings I had that it might taste good disappeared instantly!

I will leave you with a couple of pictures from my drive home yesterday. There’s a falling down barn that I have been passing every time I drive to the abattoir. I decided I wanted to photograph it in the autumn of last year, but it was difficult to find anywhere to park, and then winter came and the parking possibilities reduced even further. It’s impossible to pull off the road when there’s a wall of scraped snow on either side. I drove past yesterday morning, when I didn’t have time, and thought that by the time I drove home again, the sun would have moved. But I had forgotten that the sun is now permanently in the south and doesn’t move so much from east to west as from south-east to south-west. So here it is in the autumn sun, in all its dilapidated glory. And I’ll throw in one of trees and snow topped mountains for good measure. Hope you enjoy them!

Recovery

Sunrise/sunset: 05:20/ 20:11. Daylength: 14hr51min

And so it’s September and already autumnal here in the far north. Though I enjoyed the summer, it had a frenetic feel to it. I had heard, before I moved here, that many people found twenty four hour daylight more troublesome than the darkness of winter and I can understand why. Even with blackout blinds and curtains, it’s disconcerting to wake at four in the morning to see bright sunlight around the edges. Too easy to lose track of time and unexpectedly difficult to go back to sleep when your brain is telling you it’s morning and time to get up.

It’s also interesting to note, as I check timeanddate.com, that it still isn’t fully dark. At the moment, during the darkest part of the night, we are still in something called “astronomical twilight”. It’s a bit of a technicality, related to where the sun is in relation to the horizon, but we won’t experience full darkness for another week and a half. Either way, it’s reassuring to see it getting dark outside the window in the evening, though odd to have to get used to putting lights on again. The rapidity of the change is taking some getting used to.

Not much has happened this week and I don’t have so many photographs. I worked for about an hour on Monday (at home) and attended a meeting on Teams about half an hour in. Though I was there in spirit, my woolly brain was having trouble following what people were saying. Hilde was there too and asked how I was. I explained I was still tired (at that stage, I was still waking at least once through the night to cough for an hour) and proposed working limited hours each day and taking time off using some of the hours I’ve accrued. But she told me if I was still sick, I should use my last day of self-reported sick leave and perhaps get a doctor’s note.

Obviously being ill hasn’t been pleasant, but it has been instructive. The standard legal requirement in Norway is that employers must allow you three days of self-reported sick leave before you have to get signed off by a doctor. You can take up to three days, four times a year. I had assumed that was my entitlement, but Hilde told me that Mattilsynet have signed up to a better agreement (recommended by the state, but not enforced) that we can take eight days sick leave before we have to see the doctor and have up to twenty four days in a year. I was glad to hear it, having already taken two of the four lots of three days. I hope I won’t have to take any more this year, but with Covid on the rise, nothing is guaranteed.

I am signed up to get updates on the Covid situation from Folke Helse Instituttet, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Covid is rising rapidly in Norway at the moment and the children are now back at school, so it is likely to escalate. Yesterday I received two messages from them regarding the figures. It seems that, like the UK before them, Norway have decided that, as the most vulnerable people have now been fully vaccinated, they are going to let Covid run its course. I knew this was going to happen at some point. There has to be an end to lockdowns. And of course, more general measures to slow down the spread, like working from home and keeping your distance from others are still in place. But I do still have an edgy feeling when I think about how the next few months might be. A bit like teetering on the brink of a properly scary roller-coaster. I wonder what the world is going to look like on the other side of all this.

Speaking of vaccinations, I had my second on Wednesday. Having researched the reasons for not getting it when unwell, I reckoned that I was recovered enough to get it done. It would also mean that if I had any side effects, I would be at home already. I was sitting in the queue when my phone went twice. Ann was trying to call. I didn’t answer, but a few minutes later I got a message from John to say that he’d been in an accident at the abattoir and had hurt his hand. He was coming over to get an x-ray at the emergency doctors’ clinic here in Finnsnes. It’s very well equipped because of the distance to the nearest hospital.

And so after my vaccination, I went to collect him. Fortunately, his wrist was not broken, but he too was signed off for the rest of the week. As Anna was now unwell, it didn’t seem a good idea for him to stay with us, and so I took him shopping, we ate lunch in the car, and then I drove him home. I am used to driving when tired and sick (in the small, rural practices I worked at in Scotland, unless you were bed-ridden or actively vomiting, you were expected to be at work) but I did have to stop for a rest break on the way home. There has been a lot of weather this week: sun and rain and dramatic skies. The photo at the top of the page was where I stopped and below is a rainbow that appeared while we were eating lunch.

Other than that, I’ve not been out and about much. I’ve been hanging around at home, cuddling the dog, eating jelly and looking out of the window which, fortunately for me, is a view well worth looking at. And so I will leave you with a pictorial summary of the last few days and hope for more variation next week, when I will be fully back at work.

The Dying of the Light

Sunrise/sunset: 11:26/ 11:45. Daylength: 19min

A very brief post to mark the arrival of Mørketid. The sun made it over the horizon today for nineteen minutes, but now the Polar Night has arrived.

It was cloudy today, and the light was blue-grey over the sound, but when the darkness comes, festive Christmas lights are everywhere.

And of course it is the first Sunday advent and in true Norwegian style, we have an advent crown… though over the years I have strayed a long way from the traditional purple candles. This years crown looks like this.

Hope you are all finding light in the darkness.

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.

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!