Tag Archives: Irene

The Girl with the Chicken Head

I didn’t have time in my last entry, but in the car on Sunday Jan-Arne told me a bit more about Mystical Magne. As well as being married to Gerd, Magne is seventy-seven years old. I would never have guessed. According to Jan-Arne, Magne has said he will only retire when he doesn’t get up and look forward to coming to work every day.

Jan-Arne himself was off work on Tuesday… which just goes to show that large animal work can be bad for you. He told me on Sunday that he was hoping for a “small colic” in a horse. You should be careful what you wish for. Instead of the minor ailment he desired, he ended up dealing with a major incident. He carried out all kinds of treatment to try to alleviate the problem, including introducing a large-bore needle into the caecum to allow the gas to escape. At one point he was trying to get some liquid paraffin into the poor animal without much success. Rather than using a pump (which he felt would be unsafe for his patient) he tried to blow the solution down the tube… and landed up in a battle of rills where he couldn’t determine whether he or the horse ended up swallowing more. In addition he inhaled the stuff, and attributed the hideous cough he came down with the next day to this, as well as to a cold triggered by staying up half the night in his shirt-sleeves battling to save the horse. He is (as yet) not very experienced, but he is determined and innovative and shows a degree of dedication that I admire very much. Sadly this wasn’t a story with a happy ending. The poor horse was eventually put to sleep, but Jan-Arne tried all he could to resolve the problem and had done all that was possible to alleviate the animal’s distress. Sometimes that is all you can do.

On Thursday, still sounding like a rendition of the frog chorus, he turned up at work in a T-shirt and a pair of pyjama trousers. It is possible that he felt so ill that he didn’t have time to change, but more likely he thinks it is time to start a new trend. This is Norway after all, the land of cosmopolitan chic, and whatever you feel about maroon pyjama trousers, nothing could be worse than the hip-hugging, bum-crack showing jeans and white-socks-with-sandals look that has permeated the summer fashion parade here in recent years.

In the meantime Irrepressible Irene, short of veterinary work, had decided it was time to clean the windows. It would be more fun with two she told me, and so convincing was she with her foxy grin, that I found myself outside a few minutes later with a blade in one hand and a drying cloth in the other. Round the front of the building was easy enough, though there were a few girly screams as some spider’s webs came into contact with Irene’s hands. It must be said that she is a very attractive young woman, an opinion which must have been shared by two friendly spiders (both of them named Scott [after Sir Walter]) which felt so drawn to her that they began nesting in her hair and had to be removed.

Round the back of the building was a different matter. Not only were the windows higher off the ground, but there was a foot-deep runnel running along the side of the building that meant that the step-ladder Irene had fetched could not stand flat on the gravel. So with no discernible respect for Health and Safety* (yay for living in Norway) we mounted the precariously wobbling stairs and continued our perilous trip around the outside of the building. As we burnished the final window into glinting brightness, I thought we were finished, but with her usual thoroughness she insisted we should clean the inside as well. Unfortunately for her, there was some evil condensation in between the double glazing that even she was unable to banish. There was, however an interesting ritual that I observed. I can only assume that it is a Norwegian idiosyncrasy. At one point in the proceedings, Irene donned a rather natty chicken mask and continued to climb on swivelling chairs (*see earlier note on Health and Safety) to polish the glasswork. During this mysterious ritual, Gerd even came through to take a photograph. And so, dear reader, if you are really lucky and come back next week, I may be able to share some solid evidence of this fascinating local custom. Who could possibly resist that?

Smil

Beike came in last week to have his teeth cleaned. For those who aren’t aware, Beike is my friend Marian’s dog, a handsome Border Collie with a passionate love of balls and Frisbees. That’s him at the top of the page. Beike, Marian and I often go walking together and so I know him well. I think most vets would agree it’s more difficult treating an animal that has become a friend, whether it is an acquaintance from outside work or a long-standing patient that you have got to know over time. Anyway, I was nervous before he arrived and there was no escape because Marian had specifically requested that I treat him.

He went to sleep very quickly and we soon had him through in the dental room. The dental room is one of my favourite parts of the clinic. I’ve never worked in a practice with a dedicated dentistry area, but it undoubtedly makes for better treatment, both for the vets and for the animals. There is suction ventilation to remove the spray from the ultrasound descaler, excellent lighting that can be manoeuvred into position so you can see right into the mouth, polisher and drill, as well as more dental instruments for removing teeth than I have seen anywhere else. There’s even a specialised x-ray machine.

Anyway, back to Beike. The only complication was that he had a broken tooth right at the front of his mouth. In fact, if you look at the picture at the top of the page, you can see it. Happily for me Wivek was available to help. As well as wonderful facilities, Tu clinic has the best veterinary dentist I’ve ever come across. The more I get to know Wivek, the more impressed I am. She seemed very quiet to begin with, she never shows off, and yet she knows an incredible amount. If I read up about anything I can talk to her, and she is still ahead of me. Anyway when it comes to removing teeth she is second to none. I began to loosen Beike’s tooth, but as usual I came to a (literally) crunching halt. Wivek came to the rescue and very patiently worked away until, as if by magic, she produced the intact root. I, of course, was watching carefully. It’s great to learn new things!

After Beike’s teeth, it was nearly time for lunch. Every Thursday lunch is laid on and we have a practice meeting so that SBL can tell us all that we’ve been doing right and wrong. This week it was car parking. Apparently we are supposed to park down the side of the building, leaving the spaces in front for the clients. I kept my head well down at this point of the meeting because since arriving I have invariably parked my car in one of the prime sites. I have always stayed away from the doorways. I had worked out that when people had to take their sleepy animals to the car, it was better they could park there. But other than that, I have shamelessly avoided that difficult, overcrowded corner where all the staff seemed to leave their vehicles. Not any more it seems.

The meeting always ends with the Ukens Smil (The Week’s Smile). This is when the staff get to thank each other for favours done and congratulate one another for their achievements. There’s a little box in the staff-room with a hole in the top, and when someone does something nice, you write your thanks on a piece of paper and slip it into the box. Every Thursday the compliments are read out for everyone to hear. The person who gets the most smiles gets a packet of chocolates, conveniently named “Smil”. Incidentally, Marvellous Magne, whose English is good, but not as good as the vets who studied in English has never read my blog and therefore was wholly unaware of the extent of my evilness. He finally discovered last week that I had given Dagny the nickname, Scary Boss Lady. Since then he seems to have been Smil-ing rather a lot!

And finally, as promised two weeks ago, I attach below photographic evidence of the chicken-head ritual. There has been speculation that these events are part of contemporary Norwegian culture, similar to their habit of filling highly flammable wooden houses with candles each Christmas, or the more localised Jaeren farming custom of blasting liquefied animal dung into the air whenever washing is hung out to dry. However my personal theory is that this particular activity is related to Norse mythology, more specifically to Thaw, Goddess of Deep-Chilled Poultry. Irene has now gone on holiday and is sunning herself in Thailand amongst the mosquitos. If only it had been Turkey….

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Always Wet in Norway

And so we have returned from our wanderings in Denmark and the UK. I will upload some holiday photos shortly. We arrived home in a rain-storm very late on the 6th of August. Allegedly there had been warm weather the whole time we were away, but despite exhaustion from our journey, undisturbed sleep was impossible due to the most incredible thunderstorm I have ever (mostly) slept through. Periodically I was awoken by an explosion of thunder (it only rumbles when it’s a long way off; when the lightning is almost upon you the sound is like the crack of a shotgun) so loud and so brief that it felt the house was under siege. I was vaguely aware that it seemed to be going on for hours. The full extent of the attack only became visible in the morning when dawn dragged the world into some kind of daylight. The field behind our house was under water, and there was a river flowing through the farm that hadn’t been there before.

A new river.
A new river.

Remarkably the cellar was still dry, but as the water rose it started to fill. Unlike Noah we were unprepared, so instead of relaxing and gradually unpacking the car, we spent the day removing everything from the cellar that we could shift in time. The washing machine, freezer and fridge all had to go. Most of the food, the bottles of wine on the lower shelves, all the tools and batteries and drawers full of debris, and still the water was rising. The neighbouring village had been evacuated. We were told this when we went to ask the neighbour if we could move our car onto higher ground. We didn’t know if we should try to get out but most of the roads were blocked anyway. Eventually, some time in the afternoon (five o’clock came round while I thought it was about lunchtime) the fire-brigade arrived and started to pump the water out of the village, over the main road and down into the lagoon beside the beach. Later still, a small fire-service van made its way through the water at the side of the house and knocked on our front door. An unnamed neighbour had informed them our cellar was flooded. Could they pump it out for us? We were immensely grateful, both to them, and to the unknown neighbour who had bothered to let them know our plight.

The view from the front door.
The view from the front door.
The wonderful fire and emergency services.
The wonderful fire and emergency services.

Various things happened while I was away. Kari Anna has had a beautiful baby boy. That much I was expecting. After my return, on Facebook on Sunday there suddenly appeared photographs of Irene dressed mysteriously as a bride. Strange, I thought, because when I went away she had no holidays booked. Monday morning there were pictures of a champagne breakfast. I confess I was a little saddened that in the photographs of these events there was no sign of the chicken-head mask but obviously her plans must have changed while I was away and I concluded it could be a little busy at work as she would undoubtedly be on honeymoon.

By the time I returned to work on Tuesday I was, at least, fully rested, though as sometimes happens, the practice was going crazy. It’s always that way with veterinary work. Some days there are no emergencies and other days there are so many that it is impossible to fit everything in. As soon as I was in the door, Marvellous Magne, smiling (mostly I think with relief, possibly there was some pleasure there at my return but there was no time for chat) grabbed me and asked me to help him put a dog on a drip. For the next few hours I was in constant motion. All the bottles of Virkon for cleaning the tables needed to be refilled. I did them one at a time. Setting up the operating theatre, I noticed we were down to the last sterile surgical kit. As I held up the testicle that Magne was removing, my mind was working through my plan of campaign. From there I moved smoothly through to get the steriliser in action, set up the machine to distil some water, and then back to help with yet another case. It was an unusual case, a dog which probably has an insulinoma, and so it has chronically low blood sugar. It also seemed to be anaemic, and so we got permission to give the dog a small blood transfusion from a generous donor dog. Having added some blood into one vein, we set to and removed some from another to send into the laboratory to assess the dog’s insulin levels. In the meantime, Magne set up a programme of medical treatment to try to alleviate some of the dog’s clinical signs.

More cases followed, and for the first time since I have met him, Magne seemed weary. I offered to finish up his operations for him. Falling to his knees in gratitude (no not really, he’d only shatter his kneecaps which would be quite incapacitating) he thanked me and disappeared. A happy moment for me as I love surgery. To my amazement as I escaped from theatre at about one, Irene appeared, hair still tousled and highlighted as in her wedding photographs. She had got married, but for practical reasons she wasn’t going on honeymoon until next week. I was immensely glad to see her.

Thursday was much calmer and there was more time to ensure everything was up-to-date. Most of the afternoon was spent clearing some of the shelves in the Prep-Room as part of it is to be walled off to create my new consulting room (scary boss lady has declared that it is hers, but obviously it’s really for me). Every little corner that isn’t in constant use is now taken up with towels, uniforms, dog and cat food, reams of toilet paper, bottles of washing up-liquid, and some very strange unidentified instruments of torture including padded rings encased in (generally rather filthy) bandage with metal bars protruding out at strange angles and a special visor apparently for dogs. Maybe they need to be protected from the riots that regularly occur in the clinic on a Friday night. There was just one classic Irene moment. We had retrieved some boxes from the paper bin (this really is the most glamorous job anyone could devise), and stuck them back together, I was packing one box with huge soap and detergent bottles, and Irene was packing a smaller one with washing up-liquid. To fill up the remaining space, we piled in packets of toilet rolls and as she handed me a pack, she remarked, “You’ll have to stick it in yours, my hole isn’t big enough.” Luckily I didn’t quite wet myself laughing, so the rolls remained wrapped up.

At the end of the afternoon, Jan-Arne showed me his new baby: a Toyota Auris Hybrid Stasjonsvogn. It’s not quite as beautiful as Kari Anna’s new son, but I think Jan-Arne is almost as proud.Jan-Arne's car

All the Wrong Words

Back to my normal two day week this week, and Tuesday was a good day. Irene’s working times had changed so that she was starting first thing in the morning with me. It was great to know, as I prepared theatre and assisted with the anaesthetics, that she was there for back-up, assisting the other vets and generally carrying out the other million little tasks that sometimes get pushed aside. Whenever I escaped from theatre I found her clearing and re-organising everything. I haven’t been able to find the scissors since, however this seems a small price to pay when everything looks so beautiful. Actually there is another downside to tidying things away. After Irene and I so carefully piled all the toilet rolls into boxes and put them in the cleaning cupboard a couple of weeks ago, someone else couldn’t find them. Assuming we had run out, a whole new enormous batch was ordered and now the clinic is swimming in them. Still, at least all our bottoms will be clean and shiny at all times and that is always important.

I’ve had two comments this week on my use of the Norwegian language and the first of them came on Tuesday. As I said, that day things were well under control. Free to pursue my aim of ensuring everything was perfect in the operating theatre, I felt I was entirely ready on Tuesday afternoon for the dog that was coming in for a major operation on its leg. The anaesthetic machine was on. I had investigated carefully and found the correct instruments, I had additional suture materials and extra swabs. I had pain-killers all worked out and drawn up, and I even had the gentamycin at the ready in case they wanted to use some antibiotics at the surgical site. Imagine my frustration then when Dagny looked through the window in the door and said, “Oh, there’s no cushion and pad.”

I confess I was annoyed at myself. All the complicated stuff complete and I had forgotten something utterly basic. I couldn’t help myself. ‘Unnskyld,’ I muttered as Dagny loaded herself up with the items and strode into theatre.

As she heard it, she turned round. ‘You shouldn’t say that,’ she said.

‘Um…. what?’

‘You don’t need to apologise. You’ve been busy all day.’ Ah! That old thing.

‘But I have to apologise all the time,’ I explained. ‘I’m British.’ She just laughed.

Thursday was an interesting day. For months there have been suggestions that I should start to consult, but frankly I’ve been putting it off. There’s something very freeing about not having ultimate responsibility for cases. I know when I became a vet, that was one of the hardest things to come to terms with. However Irene, in her new role as Scary Boss Lady Junior had decided that the appointments needed tidying up as well as the prep room, and so in order to allow for additional appointments, she made me my own list. Admittedly it had only two vaccinations on it but it’s a start.

And on Thursday afternoon, I had more feedback on my Norwegian usage, this time from Wivek. In my head, there is this enormous enthusiasm for helping people. And so when asked for assistance, instead of just saying ‘Yes,’ or ‘okay’, I often use the word ‘Sikker’. Now ‘Er du sikker?’ translates roughly as ‘Are you sure?’ and therefore, in my mind, when asked for help, I was enthusiastically agreeing. And so it was left to Wivek to very gently break it to me that when you say ‘Sikker’… it’s pretty much equivalent to rolling your eyes and saying ‘If I must.’ Obviously as I am beginning to see clients now, it is quite important that I don’t make such an error. But how excellent that for all this time I have been quite inadvertently rude to Dagny so often. And I wonder whether that is why Magne has so many little smiles when I agree to help him. I always thought it was just because he liked me. Still, from now on, at least I know the difference. And perhaps, so long as she doesn’t read this, I can go on saying it to Dagny for a while. And then I can have some little secret smiles of my own!

And finally, somehow or other, I managed to miss the fact that last week was Guro’s last before she went off on maternity leave. One of the sad things about not working on Fridays is that I don’t always realise when important things are happening. Anyway, I’ve missed you this week Guro, and I wish you all the best for the coming weeks and months.

Build

This week has been dominated by the construction of the new consulting room. The prep room has been unusable, partly due to dust, but more because of the noise. The crack of the nail gun causes immediate heart failure; I was only affected once or twice, but Jan-Arne died on several occasions. Marita also kicked the bucket in the dental room and I pointed out that in English this would be funny. For some reason, by the time I had explained that “kick the bucket” is an irreverent euphemism for dying, the hilarity was lost. Some things just don’t translate.

There has also been a rash of flank cat spays. Both Jan-Arne and Wivek had a go and the results looked very neat. As usual, the bubbling enthusiasm for trying new things is infectious. Scary Boss Lady’s cat, to my relief, was quite okay after last weeks operation, however Dagny, despite sharing the enthusiasm for new things, feels that except for nursing mothers, she will continue to use the traditional method as she can operate so quickly and cleanly already.

Somehow or other, I won the Smil again, partly because I had helped people with cat spays, but also for my anaesthetic skills on exotic pets and my apparent ability to hold onto cats that aren’t so very keen on being injected. I would love to feel I was an expert at cat-wrangling, however having seen British Veterinary nurses undertake this most dangerous of sports, I know that my skills are only a pale imitation of the real masters.

Irene spent Thursday defrosting the fridge in the kitchen. At some point, without me really noticing, an iceberg about the size of Mont Blanc had appeared in the left hand corner. So smooth and shiny was its surface that somehow I had believed it was an unusual curved part of the back wall, though what that says about my powers of fridge observation I’m not really sure. Still, armed only with a hairdryer and an enormous pile of incontinence pads, the intrepid Irene set forth to crush this enemy of refrigerator space. There was a moment of mystery half-way through when a small yellow Tupperware tub hove into view. After a few moments of frenzied hot-air, it was recovered but its content was sadly unidentifiable.

As I’ve said before, it’s never boring working at the clinic. Thursday afternoon was spent building some Ikea shelves. Dagny told me during lunch that she wanted my help. This sounded hilarious to me, because the Norwegian verb for assembling furniture is “skruer”. Again I tried some of my merry British wit by suggesting that after lunch I would be screwing with the boss, but nobody noticed. It actually fell to Leah and me to put the cabinet together and she is obviously very handy with a screwdriver. Sadly this is her last week for this summer, though she will be back at Christmas. Dagny commented during this process that I was always very quiet. I explained politely that while my brain was working, my mouth stood still, meaning that the translation process exacerbates my usual quietness, but someone else in the room (I think it was Jan-Arne, but I would be happy to be corrected) pointed out that the reason I was so quiet was because Dagny was always talking so much that I couldn’t get a word in. Of course the real reason, as I have probably said somewhere before, is that I like to live by the traditional maxim “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”. It’s definitely a good ploy when you are working in such a crazy environment.

Dagny preparing to spay a cat by the traditional Norwegian method.
Dagny preparing to spay a cat by the traditional Norwegian method.

A Little Bit Crudie?

This week saw my return to work after three weeks off following my operation. I was delighted to be back. There is so much more humour at work than on the Jeremy Kyle Show. Having checked all the other rooms were stocked, I found myself in Magne’s, where as happens every now and then, he asked me a question about an English word he had come across.

‘What does crude mean?’ he asked.

I found myself wracking my brains over that one. It definitely depends on context. Crude oil and crude humour are rather different. Both imply that the things they describe are unrefined, but that word carries almost as many difficulties. We discussed crude oil (because that one was easy to explain) and of course, being me, I had also to try to explain crude humour. ‘A bit rude’ doesn’t really cover it. Finally I think I got through when I told him that farting jokes would be a good example.

Of course, none of this got us any further with translating his medical text. I asked him if he could clarify, but when he said ‘it said that the cells were crude or something,’ I was more confused than ever. Finally he found the text and it described the cell collection technique he had used as ‘a crude method for detecting oestrus’ so finally we were able to get to the bottom of it.  As ever though, Magne, when presented with a new word, and especially one attached to humour, was unable to drop the subject. He spent the rest of the morning asking me. ‘Is that a bit crudie?’ ‘Is this a bit crudie?’ Of course Scary Boss Lady then wanted to know what we were talking about. She asked me whether my humour in this blog was a bit crude, so I pointed out that mostly I wasn’t crude. I was just rude and mostly to her. She seemed happy with that.

Thursday morning’s computer check revealed that I had a patient coming in to see me at 9a.m. Lucy was to have her claws clipped under sedation. Her owner had asked to see me… the first time that has happened here. I was delighted, especially as Lucy is such a lovely dog.  It all went very well. My only failing was to forget to ask to photograph her before she went to sleep. She was just waking up when I took the photo at the top, but I think she’s gorgeous.

Despite being very happy to be back at work, there were some complications. I’m not supposed to lift anything for six weeks so I had to ask other people to do all my heavier tasks. Gerd carried the water distillation container, Marita carried the reagent box from the blood biochemistry analyser, Irene carried the big soap bottle and put away all the dog food. We have a new nurse as well who started on Monday, Jacqueline, and she helped too. She’s been in the practice before, and so she knows her way around. Really I was very well looked after. Despite all this, I found myself quite sore by lunchtime on Thursday. Realising this, Dagny sent me home. She keeps trying to pretend that she is only worried that I will take more time off, but really I can see through the disguise.  I was hugged by Marita and Jan-Arne too and Irene wished me ‘God bedring’ (Get well soon) before I left. Really it’s lovely to be back.

Wivipedia

Nicknames are strange things. Sometimes when you meet people, something just clicks. Scary Boss Lady and Magnificent Magne have had their names almost from the time I started working at Tu. At some point, even though I have never mentioned it in this blog, Jan-Arne has become The Whipping Boy in my head. Obviously this has all to do with the fact that I took my whip into work for Irene to use when he wasn’t calling his prescriptions through to the pharmacists and nothing at all kinky. After all, that would be a little bit crudie, and we have already established that I am rarely that. However, Wivek has very kindly outed herself this week with a new name. Marita came into the dental room to ask Wivek a technical question, and I was already there asking Wivek a technical question. Following a short and hilarious discussion about how everyone was always asking Wivek technical questions, she announced that from now on, she would be known as Wivipedia. If Scary Boss Lady is the tag we are using at the Christmas Party, then Wivek has surely earned herself a new tag as well.

I also finally caved in to the pressure bit the bullet this week and told Dagny that I would begin to work on Fridays after the New Year. As a veterinary surgeon rather than as an assistant. Oddly enough, after being so keen, she suddenly seems to be panicking about whether I will manage or not. I don’t really have any qualms on that front. After all, I’ve done it before  for years and years and at some point it did stop scaring me, and that confidence seems to have returned. The language barrier might cause a few problems, but so far when I’ve been left to it, it’s not as difficult as it seems when I’m thinking about it.

As it’s been a bit quiet this week, I have spent some time in other people’s consulting rooms (thanks Wivek and Jan-Arne for putting up with me) mangling their computer systems and generally muddling things up. It is interesting (though I can’t say it surprises me) that Wivek plays the computer system as if it is a Stradivarius violin, whilst I’m still plucking away on an ancient school instrument with a chipped veneer. The system is not at all instinctual. There are random buttons for all sorts of things scattered all over the screen, so to perform any particular function, you have to know where the correct button is. Even if you manage that, there is normally a pop-up box which asks if you want some modification. They are all in Norwegian, which would be fine if they said “Save” or “Are you sure?” Unfortunately they say things like “Are you treating this in reception with a new appointment and ten prescriptions?” or “Will you add some fishcakes to the filing system?” ( I suspect I may have got that slightly wrong, but that’s about how much sense they make for me) and so even when I triumphantly click on the correct function button, I end up confused again. Still, there are a few weeks to go before I have to go it alone, and even Jan-Arne tells me that Irene had to keep correcting things for him in the first few weeks, so maybe she can do the same for me.

This weeks picture features Marita as she is cleaning Luke’s teeth. Luke is a gorgeous little Pomeranian… with lovely clean teeth. Smile for the camera Luke!

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