Tag Archives: Holiday

Happy Place

It’s been an interesting week. I’ll start with an update on the water situation. The temporary fix with the tank and pump failed on Sunday due to an airlock. Sunday wasn’t great, but the main concern was still that it might be tough and costly to get the problem sorted out.

On Monday, the representative for the insurance company came back and quickly fixed the airlock (this time I remembered to ask him how he did it. After that, he went off to speak to the owner of the house nearest the well. He called me back about an hour later. Apparently the other house owner had actually begun to run out of water on Friday evening, but despite having our phone number, he hadn’t thought to tell us. There was an ice bridge blocking the stream further up, which meant the well had gradually emptied. Our water disappeared first because our pipe was highest up. So the mystery was solved and (thank goodness) no major digging works were required. So all in all, a bit inconvenient, but several lessons learned about where everything is and what to check if it happens again!

We had an interesting case at the abattoir on Wednesday. Some animals were sent in that were thin enough to set the alarm bells ringing, not only in me, but in the abattoir workers that work with the live animals. It’s almost a physical punch to see animals that are so obviously struggling. It’s quite a big job when we start to document such a case. I took a number of photographs while the animals were still in the pen, though I was worried enough about them that I didn’t go in and stir them up. The last thing I want to do is cause any additional distress.

I asked the animal handlers to call me back when the time came for the animals to be slaughtered. That way, I could photograph and handle them when they were already restrained. I then went back and sent messages to Hilde and Thomas. This case was serious enough to warrant immediate follow up.

I came back to examine the animals as they were being brought onto the line. It wasn’t reassuring. Close up, the animals were distressingly thin. The animal handlers obviously felt the same as I did and while it was upsetting, at least I was doing my utmost to make sure we had plenty of evidence.

The farm where the animals came from has been on our radar for a while, but things had been improving, so this was a real blow. But there was a curveball on the way, because after the animals had been killed, it was discovered that quite a large percentage of them had very unpleasant looking lung lesions.

Having spent some time inspecting the lungs, it was obvious we needed to find out what disease this was. So having photographed the carcasses and the lungs (evidence of everything must be recorded) I sent off various samples to the lab. It doesn’t sound so much when I write it down, but with all the extra tasks in addition to my normal work, it ended up being a ten hour working day. I spoke to Hilde and Thomas after I had finished and Thomas had already set up a visit for the next day.

I had been planning to catch up on some paperwork on Thursday as Ann was coming in to cover my morning shift, but I really wanted to be involved in the follow-up and so, mentally casting aside the reindeer overtime fees calculation checks I had been sent, I asked Thomas if I could join him and he agreed.

Though the thinness of the animals had been distressing, the farm visit was actually somewhat reassuring. There were thin animals there as well, and though things weren’t perfect, various steps were being taken. The grass is starting to grow now, so some of the problems will resolve once the animals are back outside and major plans for improvement are under way. But now we also have to throw in the possibility of some kind of infection on the farm. Once we know what caused the lung problems, then we will have to work out how to manage the problem. That could involve anything from a new vaccination program, right up to mass culling. Either way, we will be offering whatever support we can to the farmer, who has already expressed himself as being very grateful for any insight we can give on what’s going wrong.

This is the kind of work I signed up for when I chose to be a vet. I know there are times when it is incredibly heavy work, but at the end of the day, this really is what I want to be doing.

But as you can see from the photo at the top of the page, I am now a very long way from all that. I flew into Manchester yesterday, into the chaos of a failure in the electronic passport system. Having survived that, I am now back in beautiful Yorkshire, where the summer is coming in. There are fat, healthy cattle in the field behind the house and everything in the garden is beginning to bloom. And now I can hear that mum and dad are up and the kettle is on, so I will drop a few photos here and then go and join them. Have a lovely week everyone!

The Snowy Peaks

Sunrise/sunset: 05:58/17:56 Daylength: 11hr58min

And so I have returned from my holiday. It was not as restful as I could have wished, but I did catch up with almost all of my immediate family in the UK. Quite a task when they are rather scattered.

I will start with a picture of our plane in Bardufoss, just as Andrew and I were boarding. I commented on it after my last holiday, but the contrast between Bardufoss and Heathrow couldn’t be much greater. I meant to take a photo at the end of our journey, but was so pleased to have arrived, I quite forgot.

We spent a couple of days in Winchester with my daughter Anna and her girlfriend Lauren and then headed up to the Peak District to meet my parents. A few months ago, when booking this holiday, I decided I wanted to meet up with Mum and Dad. Driving up to their home in Yorkshire seemed quite a long way, so looking at a map of the UK, I plumped on the Peak District, as somewhere that was in between Winchester and North Yorkshire and was noted for being beautiful. I knew I would be hiring a car and I was looking forward to gambolling amongst the daffodils and driving round in blue-skied, spring weather.

It was wet on the day we drove up, and the journey was longer than I had realised. I had hoped to be there to pick my parents up from the station, but they decided to take an early train and there was no way that, with almost two hundred miles to go, I could make it there comfortably by one o’clock, so abandoning any idea of getting there early, I decided we would take our time, given that the driving conditions were quite unpleasant.

At about two in the afternoon, Anna received a plaintive text from Mum. They had arrived soaking wet after quite a walk from the railway station. The inn where we were staying was all closed up until five. They had been allowed in to their room, only after a special appeal to the landlady and that was only because there were absolutely no cafes open in the village of Bradwell where we were staying.

When I had planned the trip, I had hoped that my dad would drive the two hour journey to join us, so that we would have two cars. What I hadn’t planned for were the Dire Weather Warnings. Far from the spring holiday I had been imagining, an Arctic Blast was to arrive. Understandably, Dad had abandoned the idea of driving. While our inn had received wonderful reviews, I hadn’t really checked out how much there was to do in the village. The idea that the inn itself would be closed until five each day hadn’t been part of my calculations either. Nor was the fact that it was Monday afternoon and the inn wasn’t going to be serving food in the evenings until Wednesday. What on earth were we going to do for two days in a village with nothing to do, with only one car and six people? How were we going to feed ourselves? Mum was also cross, it seemed, as she had been told I had received an e-mail with the information that check in was after five. I confess that, at this point, I began to think the entire trip was going to be a wash out.

We arrived at about four and spent the intermediate time driving around Bradwell and Hope Valley. It was certainly a charming place, with steep roads, bounded by grey stone houses and drystone walls, which were sometimes so narrow that the distance sensors on both sides of the hire car were flashing at me. I noted that there was an Indian restaurant in the next village. Potentially I could drive everyone there in two trips, but curry two days running didn’t sound too appealing either.

When we finally drew up in front of The Shoulder of Mutton Mum came out to greet us. It hadn’t really been so bad. They had been allowed into their room, which had been quite warm. The landlady had brought them milk for their tea and four pieces of cake. The room Andrew and I were shown to was lovely. Each of the rooms was named after animals and ours was The Hare. As well as a lovely view from the window, it was clean and fresh, with lovely touches on the theme of hares. Even the mugs had hares on them.

Better still, when we went downstairs, the landlord greeted us warmly. There was no food on offer in the bar, but if we would like to buy in fish and chips in the village, or order carry out from somewhere else, they would set us up a table in the restaurant and we could eat in comfort there. To my amazement, at no extra charge, we were provided with a table, plates and cutlery on both of the first two days of our stay. It was also realised that, because of the way the booking had been done, we hadn’t received the e-mail we should have that would have told us about the five o’clock check in. It was just an unfortunate oversight.

We spent Tuesday exploring Castleton. Mum and Dad went on the bus (a fifteen minute journey) and we joined them in the car. I should certainly have checked out what would be available a bit more before travelling. I am out of touch with opening times in the UK and had assumed there would be historic houses open to explore, but we were a week too early. Still, it was lovely wandering around Castleton and we did get some lovely food as there were several cafes open. Though it was chilly, it still felt spring-like.

With ever increasing Dire Weather Warnings, Mum and Dad decided to go home a day early. Though they were on the train, there was still a risk of disruption and they had to drive to get their much-loved cat, Sammy, from the cattery. The lovely owners of the inn even reimbursed their room fee for the night they didn’t use. I would absolutely recommend The Shoulder of Mutton. After an inauspicious start, we couldn’t have been made more welcome or been treated better.

Anna, Andrew, Lauren and I decided to stay on and risk it. Though I was wary about other drivers, the potential lack of gritting and clearing of the roads and the lack of my trusty winter tyres, I thought we would probably make it. We took a drive over to Bakewell on a Bakewell tart hunt and as well as buying a delicious Bakewell pudding (like the tart but without icing and absolutely delicious) we got to see some of Derbyshire as the snow began to fall.

Bakewell puddings in Bakewell

It wasn’t great driving to Lower Slaughter near Cheltenham on Thursday. It had snowed overnight and the road that led over the moors at the beginning of our journey was treacherous, with rutted slushy snow that made driving very difficult. We arrived safely however, and met up with my sister, Helen, and her husband, Steve. They came out with us for a delicious Chinese meal in Cheltenham and donated a big box of logs for us to use on the fire in the cottage we had rented. Anna and Lauren took a walk to Lower Slaughter, which they tell me was gorgeous, but it will have to wait until next time as I spent the day resting in front of the fire.

We arrived back in Norway on Sunday night, very late and slightly concerned as a girl beside us on the plane had been vomiting all the way from Oslo to Bardufoss. I hadn’t expected a lot of snow while we were away: the forecast had been clear, but there was a good deal more than when we had left. It was no longer possible to see the road in either direction when turning out of the driveway. Even in my SUV, the snow was too high to see over and I made a decision as I pulled out, that I was going to ask the neighbouring farmer whether they could come round and shift some of it. And so I did. He came around in the evening and cleared the snow from the driveway, as well as some from the sides of the road so we could out out more safely.

I hadn’t realised how much the snow had built up until he cleared it. There was a foot of compacted snow underneath where the cars were parked and now it is clear, you can see just how deep it is when the cars are parked there.

Neither Andrew, nor I picked up the vomiting bug, though both of us have been unwell this week. I guess that’s always a risk of travelling, particularly on planes. I must confess that the burden of the snow feels much lighter now. I don’t know how much I will be charged – I did ask, but the reply was enigmatic. Still, however much it is, it is necessary. Next winter should be much easier.

Anyway, my holiday is over for now, but I would love to go back to both the Peak District and Lower Slaughter, preferably when the weather is a little kinder. There’s also lots more blogging to catch up on, both with work and with a lovely gift I received from Mary, who reads this blog and sent me a Norwegian book with some lovely history attached, which I will write about in due course. I hope you have a lovely weekend and I will see you all again next week!


Sunrise/sunset: 07:31/16:32 Daylength: 9hr00min

I don’t know how many of you watch the daylight hours at the top of each post (I know my dad does, because I suggested leaving it out at one point and he said he found it interesting). Anyway, as I filled it in today, I noticed we now have nine full hours of proper daylight. Given that only a month and a half ago, we had none, that seems quite amazing. It does take the weather a long time to catch up though. This was the scene outside my front door at half past six this morning.

I noticed something about the snow, yesterday, that I hadn’t thought about before. As you can see, the fence posts are decked in snow on one side. I had always assumed this occurred because the wind blew the flakes against one side and they stuck, but actually, it’s the opposite. The prevailing wind here comes from the side where the posts are bare and the snow is collecting in the lee of the poles. Odd how the brain works, because I have carried that misconception around for a while, and it only struck me now because I know which way the prevailing wind is because whenever I walk Triar, it’s always blowing in my face on the way home and I wish it was the other way round! Silly really, because I know drifts form in the lee of things, but hadn’t really thought of the snow collecting on poles as a kind of drift!

I have been waiting for the response from Husleietvistutvalget/Rent Disputes Tribunal (previous update here: Soot on the Wall). They were supposed to assess the case within ninety days, which was a week or two ago now. I got an update yesterday evening, which said that Mr Abusive had called them and asked for a progress report. It was rather oddly worded, implying he had asked for an update for “the parties” which might imply he asked for me to get one too. That might sound silly, but the last letter I got from them was also sent on his insistence and I could see no reason why he had insisted, other than to cause distress; I had stated in an earlier statement that I experienced it whenever I receive these letters.

I felt sick to the point of faintness when I saw there was a letter, only to be faced with it being nothing of importance. I don’t know why I have quite such strong reactions to this and I wonder whether it’s down to the feeling of being trapped. I wanted to move out for a whole year before I managed to find somewhere suitable, mainly because I had a sense of unease about this man, but the feeling was never that extreme. It’s looking likely that the response will come when I’m on holiday though, which I could do without. It crossed my mind yesterday, that if I had the money to do it, I would just put the whole case in the hands of a solicitor now, and let them deal with it, but I haven’t, so I can’t. If I was still married, I’d have someone else to help me deal with it too. Sometimes, I do feel very alone, even though I’m not.

Anyway, this time next week, I will (hopefully) be sitting in the airport waiting to fly to Oslo and from there to Heathrow. Almost everything is booked, including hotels, AirBnBs and a car. The waiting area at the airport here is quite funny and old fashioned. I think the seats are purple and green, or some other such garish colour. I did discover last time though, that they had new baked chocolate boller (cardamom flavoured rolls) at a very reasonable price, so that will perhaps be my last taste of common Norwegian cuisine before I head to the UK. I may pop in here with some photos of the UK, or to update on the case, but other than that, I will be taking a blogging break for the next two weekends. See you on the other side.

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Sunrise/sunset: 09:43/14:19 Daylength: 4hr36min

It’s almost the end of January and it’s pouring with rain. Not that the snow is going anywhere fast; there’s too much of it and anyway, the forecast says the rain will turn to snow again shortly. I’m not wishing the time away as I’m enjoying work at the moment, but I am looking forward to lighter days and the loosening of winter’s grip. John and I made a second attempt to see the sun last weekend. We drove up to the ski slope at Fjellandsby last weekend, but this was the nearest we came.

There was quite a lot of fresh snow before the rain arrived and John worked hard to get the driveway as clear as possible so that we weren’t knee deep in slush.

Ann and Stejn came round last weekend and, very generously, gave us a load of wood as we were running low. I’ve commented before that this year’s winter was complicated as it was the first in our new house. There have been other factors as well; it’s been a very long winter with lots of snow early on. John was also home a lot when he hurt his ankle and it was so cold that he had the wood stove burning all day. However it’s clear that next year, we will have to buy a lot more wood.

I was looking back through some old photos this week and came across one that triggered a lot of memories. Here it is:

Aesthetically, I like it. It’s a picture of a sunrise, taken in February of 2020. There’s nothing spectacular about it, but it did provoke a lot of reflection. John was still living in England then, with no real thought of returning, and Andrew and I were still in South West Norway. This was John’s first visit to Norway in a while, and we took a short break in a cottage in Flekkefjord.

There are some very specific memories of the weekend itself. The cottage was an old farm house, up a long track. It was cosy, but very old-fashioned. We found the key and opened the door, and as we walked in, we heard voices. There was nobody there, but the radio in the kitchen was switched on. It felt very eerie, like the beginning of a horror movie. We went out for Chinese food in Flekkefjord and lit the fire in the cottage and watched creepy films. It was all very pleasant and unremarkable and I can remember thinking we would come back and do the whole thing again sometime.

Within weeks of our return, Covid hit and everything changed forever. England began to feel very unstable and John and Anna returned to Norway, clutching print outs of their residency passes, going through checks where airport staff asked for their personal numbers to check if they were entitled to get in. They both made it just before the borders closed and almost all flights ceased. Six months later, when John and I drove up here, we camped out on the first night on the track up to that old farmhouse (Almost Arctic).

So now, here we are. Things are less chaotic and unpredictable than they were back then, but there are a lot of changes still to come. Andrew will likely move out in summer this year. We need to look at folk high schools for him as he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life yet. Folk high schools, for those who don’t know, are almost like a structured gap year, though with some fun education thrown in, which means you can get a student loan to cover it. He wants to do something artistic, probably to do with film, so he will try to find a course related to that. Anna went to Torshus Folkehøgskole and had a wonderful, uncomplicatedly happy year where she studied computer graphics creation in between taking a trip on a tall ship between Bergen and Shetland and getting a team silver medal in Norway’s national fencing championships.

John might move out at some point too, and then my life will become more complicated. There is a lot of physically hard work here, that I would have tackled when I was twenty five, but which looks way more daunting at fifty four.

But for now, I am looking forward to March, when I have booked a holiday in the UK. Andrew and I will fly over to see Anna and her girlfriend Lauren in Winchester and then we will all travel up to the Peak District to meet Mum and Dad. Then Andrew, Anna, Lauren and I will spend a few days near Cheltenham, where we will probably see Helen.

Other than that, who knows what’s just around the corner? I write about Scotland, which still, in many ways, feels like my spiritual home, but will I ever go back there to live? People have asked me now and then whether living in the Arctic is a lifelong choice or a temporary adventure and the answer is that I don’t know. There are advantages to living here and I like my job, and past experience has taught me that is important. But the winters are so long and so physically challenging that I will need to find ways of living with them, if I am to stay here permanently. Still, the good thing is that at the moment, I don’t need to decide. Though changes are coming, for now my life is relatively stable, which is something I never felt when I was living in a rented flat. I always knew would be temporary and the unsettled feeling that gave me is gone.

But for now, it’s time to get up and get breakfast with John. Time with family is one of those small pleasures that keep me going. The light is returning and soon the sun will come out from behind the clouds. Have a good week and thanks for reading.

Narrow Lanes

We flew out of Tromsø last Sunday. Despite the threat of strikes and potential airport chaos, for us everything went without a hitch. Flying out of Tromsø is spectacular. The island the city inhabits is still surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Snow-capped mountain peaks and Tromsø from the air

Andrew and I arrived in Edinburgh in the evening, then the next day we took the train, via Carlisle, to Settle in the Yorkshire Dales. My dad met us as we climbed down onto the platform. It was both wonderful to see him after two and a half years, and jarring at the same time as he stood well back: the first time we’ve met and not hugged immediately in many years.

I had booked an AirBnb – an old workers’ cottage in Upper Settle. Our intention was to quarantine for a week before moving into my parents’ house, but our plans changed with the sad death of my mother-in-law. Instead of quarantining, Anna joined Andrew and me and we drove to Glasgow to attend her funeral two days ago.

Driving in the UK again was something of a challenge. When I bought my car two years ago in Norway, I went for a sturdy SUV. it had to be suitable for winter driving and potentially farm roads. I wasn’t looking for an automatic, but as luck had it, that was what I got. Mum and Dad’s manual, diesel Polo couldn’t be much different. Add in the fact that the national speed limit in Norway is 50mph and I hadn’t driven on the left for three years and starting out was something of a challenge. Our practice run into Skipton was … interesting! Sixty mph on the narrow, winding road seemed impossible. I kept slowing down to go through the towns and villages, only to realise I was already only doing forty. I was amused then, when Dad solemnly bade me not to drive too fast as I set off a couple of days later to drive to Glasgow.

John also flew over and joined us for the funeral, which was only very small, but which fortunately went well. He returned with us to Yorkshire, and so yesterday afternoon, for the first time in many years, John, Anna, Andrew and I all sat in my parents’ conservatory together.

Though I was in the UK in spring, with Anna, it’s different being back in Yorkshire. The contrast with the northern Norway summer is striking. Where the growth around Troms is short-lived, wild and uncontrolled, here the green has a quiet maturity, with its dry stone walls climbing the fellsides and the clustered grey houses on steep lanes. The rest of this entry then, will be a few of the photographs I’ve taken this week, in sunshine and showers, both in my parents’ garden and as I’ve wandered round the town.

Green fields and drystone walls – view from Ingfield Lane
Dry stone walls and graceful trees

Spray that Again

Holiday season has begun. This week Scary Boss Lady was off for her summer break. Just in case we were thinking of having a wild party with the Dechra rep who had made an appointment to come and tell us about their range of skin products, she left her daughters Ena and Sara in charge. Tornado Tawse was also presiding over the nursing duties and therefore the whole clinic was a hive of efficiency. Four pallets of pet food arrived at lunchtime on Thursday and within about ten seconds, the entire delivery had been redistributed onto the shelves. Before I knew it on Thursday, all the rooms had been cleaned. Luckily Gerd and Irene had booked me in some cases to see, otherwise I might actually have been at something of a loss for what to do.

One of the cases was desperately sad. A cat had been attacked by a dog and its injuries were serious enough that it had to be put to sleep. There was a little girl there. It is so difficult watching a child having to say goodbye to a loved pet. At the other end of the spectrum, Magne and I performed surgery on a lovely Cavalier King Charles spaniel for pyometra (infection in the uterus). Without our intervention, she would very likely have died. It was a pleasuritself to operate with Magne. This is the second time we have worked together on an uncomplicated pyometra and everything just clicked into place both times. It’s a delicate operation that requires nimble fingers and great care and the process itself was intensely satisfying, but the end result, when the dog comes round safely and greets its owner is the best feeling there is.

Due to the efficiency drive I mentioned above, I did have time to pop in and out of the dental room where Wivek and then Jan-Arne were working. Wivek was enormously helpful with the injured cat and so I was keen to do all I could to help her in return. Obviously she is much better than me at the actual work, but I was able to fetch things that she wanted. Jan-Arne was on good form as usual, telling me how simple Norwegian was. After all, he explained, there were very few words and some of them sounded exactly the same as each other. Prayers, beans and farmers are all pronounced in the same way, he said. At this point, he was about to set to with the ultrasonic descaler. His foot, he thought was not quite on the floor-pedal that operates it and so he reached out with his toe to pull it towards him. It was only when the instrument sent a jet of water right into my mouth that he realised that actually his foot had been on it the whole time. At least that was his excuse anyway. Personally I think it’s odd that that jet was pointed so accurately at my face. If I now come down with some awful cat-tooth disease, I know who is to blame.

The Dechra rep I mentioned at the beginning turned up late. He was meant to arrive at two thirty with lunch and so by two thirty five, everyone in the clinic was sitting in the staff room with bright expectant faces. For some reason, he had called into the clinic in the morning with boxes of sweets for everyone and as the clock ticked onwards, it seemed more and more likely that we were actually going to lunch on forty eight chocolate hearts and seven slightly-worse-for-wear grapes that someone had found lurking at the back of the fridge. However, at three pm, he finally arrived clutching a bag of seven enormous sandwiches to be split between the eight of us who were present. Looking around the table for someone to deal with this delicate situation, Gerd, officially recognising my superior surgical skills asked me if I could dissect each baguette into two. Sadly nobody had thought to tell the rep that Jacqueline was vegetarian and so she was left removing pieces of chicken to leave her with a lettuce and dressing salad. Hungry as ever, Jan-Arne demanded that she hand over the meat. Oddly though, when we later offered him the massed bits of cucumber, mayonnaise and chicken that had fallen from Ena’s sandwich and the slice of lemon that I had removed from mine, he seemed strangely to have lost his appetite.

The afternoon ended with Jaqueline delightedly swapping her Toffifee pack for a box of Sara’s chocolate hearts. Rarely have I seen such a pleased look on her face. Magne had to make do with the enormous pile of leaflets and pamphlets that the Dechra rep had left. For some reason, when I suggested he could take them home for a bit of light holiday reading, he seemed less enthusiastic. Anyone watching might easily have been fooled into thinking that really we clinic staff were actually more interested in the food than in the important information about what drugs the man was trying to sell. As if we were both hungry AND shallow people. Obviously though, as all of you kind people that read my blog know only too well, that could never be the case. Thanks for reading.

Today’s photo is Billy, who was in to see Wivek for some blood tests.