Tag Archives: Marita

Jan-Arne and the Well Preserved Eye

Intravenous catheters can be frustrating things. When I was working in the emergency clinic, almost every patient we admitted had to be put on a drip, so back then I got quite good at inserting them. Nowadays it seems a bit more hit and miss. There’s a definite pattern though. If I’m on my own, generally I can get them in without too much problem. Under the benevolent gaze of Magnificent Magne or Jan-Arne, it’s usually not too difficult. But both Dagny and Wivek make the thing look so simple that I seem to go to pieces whenever they are watching. Dagny doesn’t even have to be watching. She only has to be in the room for the difficulties to take effect.

Early on Tuesday morning, Dagny had all her kit laid out for an operation and (tactfully) wasn’t watching me in my attempts, but stood chatting to one of the other staff. The dog was a dachshund, and its legs were so short, that even after I had shaved quite an extensive area of its foreleg, its body hair was so long that it obscured almost everything. With shoulders that were becoming decidedly tense already, I selected the smallest possible catheter and took aim. Slipping the stylet through the skin, I was encouraged by seeing a tiny droplet of blood moving up into the breach. Quickly, I slid the needle a nanometer further in… and the bleeding stopped. I had gone right through. Trying to keep my breathing steady, I withdrew a little, but it wasn’t to be.

I decided at that point upon a tactical withdrawal. Often it is better to start again with a fresh catheter, which can’t be blocked and hasn’t been blunted by its first traverse through the skin. Selecting a slightly bigger catheter (sometimes this works better as they are less flexible) I set the tourniquet back in place to raise the vein and once again tried heroically to keep the hair out of the way with the final two fingers of my left hand whilst still stabilising the vein between my finger and thumb. This time, the catheter went into the vein, but when I tried to slide the sheath down off the stylet, it just bent. Through all of this, Dagny had been carefully not watching, but I could tell she wanted to get on. I confess I was relieved as she finally elbowed me out of the way and did it herself. A few moments later, with the catheter triumphantly in place, she looked around for the laryngoscope so that she could put the tube into the trachea for the gaseous anaesthetic but it wasn’t there. Ever efficient with her cleaning, Irene had already tidied it away.

A little later, and another dog, this time a little pug dog (or mops, as they are called here). This one was having its corneas treated with the cryoscope. Marita came into the room and began to ask Dagny about the freezing effect, and how strong it was. Ever the scientist, Dagny thought it would be a good idea to try it on herself. She held it against the back of her hand for a moment.

‘It’s not sore,’ she announced airily, and moved the tip to a different place with a smile.

‘Ouch!’ A moment later, she was staring at a white mark on her skin- ‘Okay,’ she admitted ruefully, ‘Maybe it does hurt.’

Jan-Arne managed to injure himself this week as well.  On Wednesday, he had taken a biopsy and opened up the small container filled with formaldehyde that would preserve the sample while it was sent to the laboratory. With an aim that he presumably couldn’t recreate, even if he tried, he managed to drop the sample into the pot in such a way that some of the formalin splashed up into his eye. After much salt water washing, he was packed off to the doctor’s to get it checked over. Fortunately there was no permanent damage.

He has though, been evilly trying to tempt me with birthday cake all this week. He brought in the leftovers on Tuesday. Heroically I managed to resist. I’m not really sure how many birthday cakes one person needs, but he seems to have been very well supplied. Then again, he’s so generous to everyone that he deserves good things in return.

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The remnants of the cake were still there on Thursday, but I confess I found it much easier to abstain. Also, someone had brought in a pack of freshly baked boller. Boller are widely available in Norway. They are a kind of sweet bread roll or bun, often with raisins or chocolate chips inside. These ones had bits of Smash: chocolate with caramel and salt. After taking one and eating it, Irene announced that she had discovered a new taste sensation. Jan-Arne and I, both foodies, were looking at her very intently.

‘I had a piece of the boller with a bit of cucumber,’ she said, with wonder in her voice. ‘It was lovely.’

There was wonder in my head. Specifically I was wondering whether such a combination could possibly be delicious or whether Irene had finally lost the plot. I hadn’t come this far with my resistance to eating extraneous sweet things lightly however, and somehow I managed to curb my enthusiasm towards this idea.

‘You could design a new boller,’ Gerd offered. ‘An Agurk Boller.’ (Agurk being Norwegian for cucumber).

‘A Cucumboll?’ suggested Marita.

‘What’s English for boller?’ Irene asked.

‘Bun,’ came the reply.

And so the CucumBun was born. At least it will be, when someone takes the time to make it.

 

Todays picture is Chika who was in for her first vaccination.

Miss Direction

It seems that last week in the clinic, I missed out on the exciting moment when one of our feline patients did the wall of death around consulting room A. Most of the cats here seem very reasonable, but apparently this one was half wild. It’s amazing how  much damage can be done by one cat on a dedicated shelf bombing mission. Fortunately Dagny’s arm was long enough to reach in to its hiding place behind the fridge and inject it with enough anaesthetic to calm it down.

Hair raising anaesthesia was also the order of the day earlier this week when one of the patients I was monitoring stopped breathing near the beginning of its operation. Of course with gas anaesthesia, it is straightforward enough to carry out assisted breathing, indeed on our anaesthesia course, the lecturer quite casually mentioned that it didn’t really matter whether the animal breathed itself or not as it was easy to respirate. I guess it happens often enough that it must eventually become almost routine. It has happened a few times and every single time it has been fine, but I still find myself checking and rechecking the equipment and assessing the animal in every way possible, whilst trying to look perfectly calm. Having been the surgeon in that situation, I know how disconcerting it is trying to operate and wondering all the time whether the animal is okay, and whether you should be doing something  to help. Trust is very important in those circumstances. Jacqueline has been incredibly calm before in that situation. Indeed when I asked her if everything was okay, she looked at me as if there was nothing untoward going on at all. My nerves are not as steely as hers though and I was profoundly happy when the dog woke up perfectly normally at the end of the operation.

On Wednesday I went in for my own hospital appointment. It seems that with tonsillectomy, there is a risk of post-operative bleeding and as I am attending a wedding in Scotland on the 24th May, I won’t be able to have my operation next week. They have rebooked it for Wednesday 27th May, just two days after I return. As I live an hour away from the hospital, they will be keeping me in overnight. Just as well as Charlie will be in Spain at the time. I’m glad now that I don’t have to wait any longer.

I was reminded the other night by a conversation with Wivek just how difficult it can be to get an accurate picture over the telephone and how confusing it can be when the owner has already made a diagnosis. It was Marita who was on call and Wivek was helping when they had a call from a client who told them that her bitch had a prolapsed uterus. In twenty or so years of veterinary practice, I have never seen such a thing in a dog. Plenty of cows, a couple of sheep and a very occasional pig, but never in a dog. Of course, such a conversation usually causes that lightning strike in your brain. How on earth will I deal with that? In that frozen state, it can be difficult to rationalise. So busy working out what you are going to have to do that alternative thought is banished. The reality is often that the owner hasn’t got things quite right, (in this case it turned out that the bitch had a polyp in her vagina) but I am sure I have a few extra grey hairs from this phenomenon.

Very occasionally the owner turns out to be correct. The one day old puppy I once saw with its liver hanging out really was just that. A proud moment for me when that dog reached six months of age. But more often, with hindsight, it is possible to look back and laugh, though obviously not in front of the client. Great tact was called for on the day when the owner rushed her dog into the clinic on an autumn day in Glasgow with a wound on the back leg which the lady thought had become infected.

‘It’s the wound on her leg. It’s gone all yellow.’ Dramatic hand to forehead. ‘Oh I can’t bear to look.’ Bending over the dog to inspect its leg, I was initially surprised by just how yellow it was until I realised that actually the dog must have sat down on a fallen leaf which had stuck to the slightly sticky wound. Another occasion, another panicky phone call.

‘My dog’s broken its leg. There’s a piece of bone hanging out,’ and then once again those portentous words, ‘Oh I can’t bear to look.’ On that occasion it was part of a stick of rock that was stuck to the leg. Quite how the owner had missed the fact that her dog was using its broken limb without even limping still passes me by.

My favourite story however is the apocryphal tale of the PDSA client who came into the clinic very angry. They had bought an expensive Rottweiler puppy and it wasn’t growing. It was left to the rather bemused vet to explain that the reason that the puppy was not making much progress was because it was actually a guinea pig. Somehow I have never been able to convince myself that story was true, even though I have been assured that it did really happen. Still it’s a great story, and there is just enough possibility in there to make it wonderfully tantalising. You really do need a great deal of tact to be a vet.

Today’s picture is Tiger who is in for a vaccination and is looking very fine at the great age of 16 years and 9 months.

 

 

 

Party Animals

“It’s a tough job being a vet, but you can never ruin our appetites.”

Wivek came up with this statement last week. I went in to join my colleagues for lunch on one of my days off and as I had arrived a bit early, Wivek collared me and dragged me off to her consulting room to show me a particularly unappealing case. We do get all sorts of unpleasant things in to deal with, from stinking abscesses to rabbits that are infested with maggots. Yet as soon as someone says “It’s time for lunch,” we can be immediately ready to eat. Of course, we would never leave an ongoing case that needed treatment. Sometimes, if it’s just too busy, we miss out on lunch completely. But there is almost nothing that occurs with animals that would put me off washing my hands and going off to devour whatever delight I have with me.

I do seem to have done more socialising this week than actual work. Tuesday was very quiet and Thursday was a day off for ascension day and on Wednesday night, Irene had a party. Not just any party, I might add. This was a Singstar party. If (like me about two weeks ago) you have no idea what Singstar is, it’s a PlayStation video game where two (or more) people compete by singing along to a music track. I confess that I found this concept almost as appealing as being poo’d on by an elephant with diarrhoea, but with promises of Jan-Arne’s sweet potato fries and Marita’s wonderful focaccia, I was finally convinced that there might be enough positives to make up for the potential trauma of making an absolute ass of myself.

I needn’t have worried. Having arrived unfashionably early (like about an hour before anyone else) to Jan-Arne’s party a few months back, I checked carefully with Irene what time things would be getting under way. Having been told I could get there from about seven (and help set things up) I finally managed to get out of my own front door at about eight-fifteen. Obviously I have a talent for arriving at the wrong time, whenever that might be. Still, there was much food preparation still taking place. Jan-Arne was rushing around dressed in shorts (and at one point a pair of blue light-up cats ears) trying to get three enormous trayfuls of sweet-potatoes to turn crispy. Wivek arrived with her dog Ida (pictured at the top of the page) clutching an enormous meringue base and a punnet of strawberries. Meanwhile Marita and Per Egil were bashing into the wine, presumably in a (very sensible) attempt to ensure their vocal cords were suitably lubricated to allow them to sing beautifully.

In the event, the food was wonderful. And I only managed to stay for three songs (none of them sung by me) as I had to dash off and collect Charlie from the airport. Despite my best efforts to convince him to return to the party with me, he politely declined. Obviously when it comes to being a party-animal, he’s more of a Scottish wildcat than a friendly lion.

Anyway, enough of the words. Time for some photos.

Not sure the screen was quite big enough.
Not sure the screen was quite big enough.
Mesmerising Marita. Focaccia queen.
Mesmerising Marita. Focaccia queen.
The nursing team: Kari-Anna and Jacqueline
The nursing team: Kari-Anna and Jacqueline
The Pussy Cat Doll (and Wivek)
The Pussy Cat Doll (and Wivek)
Ooooohhh... Young Maaaaan!
Ooooohhh… Young Maaaaan!
Turtally gorgeous
Turtally gorgeous
Jenny and her Australian friend (sorry, I can't remember your name)
Jenny and her Australian friend (sorry, I can’t remember your name)
Per Egil: Singing Legend
Per Egil: Singing Legend
Beautiful Ena wants to dance with somebody
Beautiful Ena wants to dance with somebody

 

The real stars of the show
The real stars of the show

 

 

 

Waltzing along

This week’s blog is going to be brief. Not only are we off to Scotland tomorrow for a wedding (Charlie has spent the last three hours on the computer writing his best-man speech) but also due to the impendingness of next week’s surgery, my brain has become as flaky as a West Highland White terrier with atopy.

Dagny’s neighbour Matilde has been in doing work experience this week. She has amazed me with the way she mucks in and helps with clearing up and holding things. I confess that when I was 14 or 15, I would probably have been too scared to touch anything without being specifically asked. She has also been with Dagny and me in the operating theatre watching some quite gory stuff. Again she impressed me by looking on with interest as Magne wielded his bone drill, rather than horror or faintness.

Of course, even my initial interaction with her showed signs of my erratic brain. I asked her on Tuesday morning what her name was, and completely forgot to tell her mine. Fortunately Dagny was there to remind me. I was trying to remember though, how introductions tended to occur back in Scotland. Here in Norway, it is a very set thing that when you meet someone new, you shake their hand and introduce yourself. Whilst this is probably very practical for most people, my available memory is now smaller than that of a fifteen year old laptop so within three seconds I have forgotten. Still, I suspect in Scotland that there might have been occasions when I could get through a whole week of work-experience student visits without them ever knowing what I was called. If they were lucky, the receptionist probably told them. Despite the readiness of the words “Sorry,” and “Thank you” on my lips, I fear that the reality is that I am just terribly rude sometimes.

Still I have been pleased to go into work this week. The (probably unwarranted) adrenaline flow over next week’s tonsillectomy has made me jumpy and there’s something reassuring about arriving in the morning and going through the consulting rooms to check the drawers whilst automatically assessing how many surgical kits are awaiting assembly and whether there is enough distilled water. Routine is my friend. As are Irene, who noticed I was quiet and gave me a hug, Wivek who is driving me to hospital next week, Marita who helped me with a dental this afternoon, Dagny, who told me to take the rest of Tuesday off after I have been for pre-op blood test and check-up, Jaqueline, who volunteered to speak to the owner of the dental so I could go home and Jan-Arne who made me laugh when I walked into the changing room and found a cuddly man there dressed only in a pair of stars-and-stripes boxer shorts. How lucky I am.

So I’m not sure whether there will be a blog next week. I will be in hospital overnight from Wednesday, hopefully home Thursday. Who knows, maybe something will happen on my ward that is so ridiculous that I can’t wait to share it with you. Au revoir mes amis. See you all soon.

 

This week’s photo is of Mika, who had been managing to lick his stitches. Hopefully his new, larger buster collar will discourage him. He is just as cute as he looks!

Touched (in the Head)

It seems like an age since I have written here. In my last post I was about to head off to Scotland. That weekend already feels like a distant memory. It was a wonderful wedding. I won’t share all the details, but just as a random sample of how great it was, here are some photos of the venue and the  wedding cake.

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The day after I returned was a whirlwind of hospital appointments and seeing Charlie off to the airport and then suddenly it was Wednesday and time for my operation. Wivek very kindly drove me to the hospital, and to my surprise (and relief) rather than dropping me in the car park, she accompanied me up to the ward, helped me find where I had to go and then waited with me until the nurse arrived. I was bundled into a bed and given some pain relief. I don’t know what it was, but somehow I managed to fall asleep and they had to wake me up to take me into theatre.

I came round a while later to be presented with some ice-cubes to suck. These were oddly soothing, but there was a horrible taste in my mouth and I remember a strange moment of overwhelming gratitude when the nurse came over to me proffering a lurid pink and yellow ice lolly.

At some point I was reunited with my mobile phone and it struck me that it might be a good idea to let my nearest and dearest know that I had survived. Having sent a boringly factual message to Charlie, I then concluded that I should also let Wivek know. I’m not sure what kind of madness seized my brain at this point. Rather than repeating the factual tone, my fingers sketched in the abstract statement ‘Ice-cubes are my friends.’ At least I think it was something like that. Having typed this gibberish, my clouded brain then decided it would be a good plan to include Dagny and Jan-Arne. To their credit, Dagny and Wivek just wrote back saying they were glad.

Jan-Arne however was obviously confused. Unlike the other two, I suspect that he didn’t have my number programmed into his phone, and faced with some random babble about ice-cubery, he rapidly texted back ‘Que?’ Followed by another message saying ‘Who is this?’ When I let him know it was me, he decided to call me. Goodness knows what I sounded like with a swollen throat and a brain filled with opiates, but it was lovely to hear his friendly voice.

At some point, the surgeon also very kindly visited to let me know that although they wouldn’t have the definitive pathology back for a week or so, there had been no sign of anything severely wrong with my tonsils. As the reason I skipped the waiting-list was that there was some concern over my history of melanoma, this was an enormous relief.

Anyway, my two weeks off raced past in a blur of writing (trying to get Ready. Vet, Go edited in time for a summer onslaught of literary agents) and Come Dine With Me on the TV. In defence of my (appalling) taste in TV programmes, I must say that I only watch such drivel when my brain and body are drained.

And so yesterday, I returned to work. I had been there less than an hour when I began to feel shaky and exhausted. Somehow, everyone but me was swamped with work and this was doubly frustrating as a vomiting cat had been booked in for me and left by the client, and despite having time to spare, without another pair of hands, I was unable to examine it. In between flurries of washing, topping up and resetting the haematology machine, I spent quite a while sitting in the lunch room feeling utterly drained, mentally and physically. I struggled most of the day, both with my veterinary work (thanks are due to Wivek and Marita, who very patiently helped me with each and every case) and with my Norwegian. At one point, I saw a very stressed owner whose dog had been hit by a car. Whilst my emergency-clinic primed brain was still ticking over well enough to asses the dog,  I struggled so much with explaining the concept of keeping an eye on the dog’s breathing that I was worried that I wasn’t managing to reassure the owner well enough that she could cope with monitoring the dog for the rest of the day.

I was also still horribly aware of the poor cat which was awaiting a full assessment. I had checked him out and put him in a comfortable kennel with some water so I knew his condition wasn’t critical, but as soon as Jacqueline had arrived, Magne had rushed her in to help him in theatre and I was beginning to wonder whether I was ever going to get a chance to examine and blood test him. I think the emotional roller coaster of the past few weeks was taking its toll, because there were moments when without logical reason, I found my eyes were suddenly threatening to overflow. It’s a long time since I have felt so oddly helpless.

Still there were a few lighter moments which kept me from being overwhelmed. Marita had two cats booked in for clipping and grooming under sedation. She appeared in the prep room clutching the wrong end of one of those evil plastic aprons that come in a roll and from the quizzical way she was examining one of the side tapes, I could tell that she had no idea which part of the thing she was gripping. It became apparent to me at this moment, that despite the fact that most of the logical and language sections of my brain were running on empty, spatial awareness was still fizzing away in a miasma of over-efficiency. I took it from her, tore away the throwaway sections and handed it back to her the correct way up.

‘What kind of IQ do you need to sort out one of those things?’ she asked, rolling her eyes.

‘Not very high,’ I responded. ‘After all I managed it.’

I think this probably demonstrates just how disconnected my brain was. Fortunately, instead of thumping me as I deserved, she just laughed and fixed me with a fake glare.

‘So are you saying my IQ is really low then?’ she demanded. In response, I just grinned rather weakly.

After the road-traffic-accident dog, I managed to snaffle Jacqueline to help me with the vomiting cat. Having tried unsuccessfully earlier to take his temperature on my own, I finally managed it with her there to help. Logic however, had deserted. Somehow I had forgotten  it might be better to blood test him first before winding him up by inserting an object up his bottom, however fortunately for me, despite turning into a wildcat with the thermometer, he reverted to sweet pussy cat while I wielded the syringe to take blood from his jugular.

Time was going on, and we were broaching the Thursday communal lunch hour. There was no meeting as Dagny was absent, but people kept urging me to come and get my lunch. Thinking that this was mainly out of concern for my health, I stubbornly sat and waited for the cat’s blood test results, and when they came through, I burrowed my head in a laboratory book to check the significance. I think I had been once or twice into the lunch room. I had started to prepare my lunch and was frankly oblivious to what was going on around me. Suddenly someone started to sing ‘Happy birthday’ and I finally looked up from my book.

‘Whose birthday is it?’ I asked.

‘We’re singing it for you,’ they replied.

I confess that, at this point, I was a million miles away, utterly disconnected from the clinic and wishing I could go home.

‘It’s not my birthday.’ I said in grumpy confusion. There was a rather long silence, filled with suppressed giggles and when I finally managed to reconnect my brain, I realised they were all  glancing between me and some stunning flowers rather obviously placed right in the middle of the table.

‘They’re for you,’ they said. The message on the card welcomed me back and said they had missed me and it was signed by Irene, Wivek, Jan-Arne, Jacqueline and Marita. Suddenly my eyes were filled with tears again, but happy ones this time. This was a gift from my friends, not an official token from the clinic and that meant a lot.

Finally, as I was leaving, Jan-Arne came up and gave me a huge hug.

‘I really missed you,’ he said. ‘It just isn’t the same when you’re not here.’

Magne appeared in the passage behind him and said something, at which point Jan-Arne went over and offered to give him a hug as well, but he was humorously rebuffed. For a moment, I considered giving Magne a hug as well as I suspected that might have been more to his taste, but somehow at the last minute, we both lost our nerve. Instead he patted me rather awkwardly on the shoulder and told me how glad he was to see me back. Despite the fact that yesterday was my worst day at work for a very long time, I am  very grateful to all my colleagues for their obstinate insistence (despite all the evidence) that I am lovely.

Heartwarming

We do get asked some bizarre questions now and then. This weeks prize goes to one of Jan-Arne’s clients, who wanted to know whether we could do a test to see if his dog was gay as he had failed to show interest when presented with a bitch in heat. Although he was almost certain, Jan-Arne, conscientious to the last, came to check with me and invited me into the room to look at the patient. Of course, there was nothing significant to find.

‘He just doesn’t like women,’ his owner commented to me after I had checked out his pet’s (entirelly normal) testes. It crossed my mind to reply that his dog seemed to like me perfectly well, but he seemed like a lovely man and he had been kind enough to speak in English after all (one of only two non-British clients who chose that path this week).

‘Some men just don’t.’ I replied with a shrug. ‘It’s nothing to worry about.’ Of course, it may be that given another bitch, his dog might change his mind. Love can be a fickle thing.

It has been a week of contrasts and working every day this week has meant I played a full part in all the drama at both ends of the spectrum. It is often the case that when a very old pet is reaching the end of its natural life, there comes a time when it needs a great deal of care. Sometimes just how much is brought home to an owner when they are faced with the decision of how to find someone to take responsibility for their animal during the vacation. It isn’t always possible. Even if you choose to take a holiday where your pet goes on your journey with you, it isn’t always suitable for an animal that is nearing the end of its life to travel at all and sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. The contrast to this has been seen in the number of kittens I have seen this week which have been found and adopted by their finders. The real generosity of some of our pet owners is deeply heart warming.

There was no sad ending for Ludwig, a delightful young Cairn terrier. Ludwig first arrived at the clinic on a Sunday evening, vomiting and in agony. After initially thinking that his pain was abdominal, Marita quickly discovered that poor Ludwig was actually suffering from a testicular torsion. He was given strong pain-killers and his excruciating condition was resolved by careful castration of the affected testicle.

To Marita’s delight, when he returned on Tuesday, as soon as Ludwig saw her across the waiting room, he  launched himself towards her and greeted her with delight. It has often been a source of rueful irony to me, that having loved animals enough to become a vet,  so many of them regard me with at best, suspicion and at worst, fear and dislike.  The only times I have seen this truly reversed was in the emergency clinic. It happened enough to convince me that when an animal comes into the clinic in real genuine pain, and you are the person who gives them relief, then there is no doubt that they feel grateful. I think anyone experiencing this would be left in no doubt of the complex nature of a dog’s consciousness.

I asked Ludwig’s owner if I could take his photo for my blog, and as he was too busy sniffing around the consulting room to pose, Marita picked him up for a cuddle. He immediately took advantage of the situation by kissing her most enthusiastically. Despite the fact that Marita likes him very much indeed, I’m not sure she enjoyed the experience as much as he did.IMG_6515

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6516IMG_6514Still, understandably, she was both happy, and delighted with his reaction. There are few things better than knowing you have done a great job, especially when the result is seeing a lovely young animal make a full and happy recovery. If they like you as well, that really is the icing on the cake.

 

Todays featured image is of Turbo Trine, Irene’s lovely dog, who had been in to have her teeth cleaned.

 

Living the Norwegian Dream

Change can be fun. During the holidays, instead of working half my shift as an assistant, I worked fully as a vet. From being afraid to consult in a language that is not my mother tongue,  I embraced the reality. It was interesting to contrast the assistant role with the veterinary. When I started out so many years ago, I often wished I had become a nurse instead. The responsibilities weighed heavily. Nurses got to interact with patients almost as much as I did and that was the good part. Yet when it was removed, I found I missed the communication with the clients. The bond between owner and animal can be so strong that it can be difficult to fully know one without the other.

Change can be sad too. Jan-Arne lost his beloved dog Cara last week. How difficult it is to provide support to others when you are walking through devastation. And yet he held his head up bravely. He has always been dedicated.

On Thursday morning, Wivek greeted me with an unusual offer. Would I like to go into Sandnes in the evening she asked. The Sommerbåt was coming.

‘What is the Sommerbåt?’ I asked.

‘It’s a boat that travels round the coast of Norway in the Summer,’ she said. ‘They make a TV show in the places they land. There’ll be a concert,’ she added in a way that suggested that this, after all, was the main attraction.

‘What kind of concert?’ I asked, getting straight to the point, as usual.

‘Umm….. I don’t really know.’ Obviously she hadn’t considered this. It was just an occasion.

Pulling her phone out of her pocket, she pulled up a nugget of information. ‘Ole Aleksander Mæland is singing,’ she announced triumphantly.

It meant nothing to me. ‘Who is Ole Aleksander Mæland?’ I asked.

‘Oh,’ she said. ‘I don’t really know. Wait a minute.’ I giggled as she flicked through Google once more. ‘He was on The Voice,’ she said finally.

I stood there for a long moment weighing up my options. I don’t know whether it is a purely Norwegian phenomenon, or whether it is the same in the UK these days, but this was not the first time that the main attraction at an event was a singer whose main claim to fame is that they appeared at some point on a TV talent show. That said, it was an evening out. There might be food. And with Wivek there…

‘Okay then.’ I said. ‘I’m in.’ To my pleasure, she looked delighted. We agreed to go into Sandnes to eat and that we would meet up with some of the other staff later.

And so it was, that at about six o’clock, Wivek and I walked into the Indian Tandoori Restaurant in Sandnes Sentrum. Marita was to meet us there and Jaqueline, who was working till seven, would meet us afterwards. As we entered, one of the waiting staff approached us.

To my surprise, she spoke in English. ‘Is there something you’re looking for?’ she asked Wivek.

This seemed rather bizarre as an opening and I listened with interest to see how Wivek would respond. What did one look for in an Indian Restaurant after all? A naked Hungarian Flamenco Dancer perhaps? Or a pirate ship in full sail? Eventually she spoke.

‘Maybe a table?’ she asked, with what seemed to me to be eminent reasonableness. ‘We will be joined by another person, so a table for three please.’

After a couple of abortive attempts to seat us at tables with only two place settings, finally we found ourselves settled at a table for four. With stomachs that were growling (after all, we had not eaten since the one-o’clock lunchtime meeting) Wivek and I showed remarkable restraint as we were asked several times if we were ready to order. Each time we politely explained we would rather wait for the final member of our party, though we did weaken at one point and order mango lassi (which came almost immediately and was delicious) and an Indian chai tea (which was also good, but for some reason took twenty minutes to make). After half-an-hour or so, Marita arrived and we ordered. The food came in due course and was delicious, truly worth the wait. It was then, lulled into a false sense of security by the excellence of the food and the efficiency of the delivery, that we decided to risk ordering more drinks. By this time, it was just after seven-thirty. There should be just enough time before the eight o’clock deadline for the concert. Anyway, the TV programme itself didn’t start until nine thirty and we might as well wait here until Jacqueline arrived.

The waiter approached. Dispensing (rather rashly as it turned out) with the offer of a menu, I asked whether it was possible to have a café latte.

‘Café latte?’ he repeated back with a smile. ‘Oh yes.’

‘I’ll have that then,’ I said.

‘Me too,’ Wivek chimed in.

‘Was your Chai tea good?’ Marita asked WIvek.

‘Yes, it was nice.’ Wivek nodded decisively.

‘I’ll have one of those then. ‘ Marita smiled at the waiter, who smiled back and disappeared.

While we were waiting, Marita’s phone rang. She answered and spoke for a few minutes, before turning and handing her phone to me with a photo of an x-ray picture.

‘It’s Jan-Arne,’ she said. ‘He’s dealing with an emergency. He wants to know what we think of this dog?’ Turning my head from side-to-side, I tried to address the image. A partial view of a dog’s abdomen, with obvious pockets of gas underneath the skin, it was very difficult to read exactly what was going on because of the angle it had been taken at. It can be very difficult to get a clear photo in a dog  that isn’t sedated. Gradually, handing the phone from person to person, we tried to talk Jan-Arne through the possibilities and how to approach the case.

Whilst the phone was back with Marita, the coffee arrived for me and Wivek. Somewhat to my surprise having asked for a latte, the cups arrived complete with tiny cartons of cream. A quick inspection under the foam revealed what I had suspected: a cup of strong black coffee. This is so much the norm in Norway that I wasn’t really surprised, or rather the presence of the cream was the only unexpected occurrence, because most Norwegians seem to shun the wussy addition of anything that would ameliorate the bitter blackness. Carefully adding all of the cream available, I tasted the cup. After all, it was coffee. It wasn’t worth making a fuss, so long as it was drinkable. The only problem being that it wasn’t. Even with the cream, it was still turbid and unpalatable.

The waiter seemed to be maintaining a careful distance. When he did approach to serve another table, he averted his eyes, perhaps because even though twenty minutes had passed, Marita’s tea was still conspicuous by its absence. Eventually he came over, carefully proffering Marita’s tea and I looked up at him.

‘I actually asked for a latte,’ I pronounced apologetically. It is still necessary for me to be apologetic over everything; even things that are not my fault.  I am British after all and anyway, it is the waiters’ prerogative to spit in the coffee of any person who complains too vigorously. ‘Do you actually do latte?’ This, because I realised the whole thing might just have been a misunderstanding.

‘Oh yes,’ he assured me. ‘We do lattes.’

‘Well in that case,’ Wivek said, ‘can you swap mine as well please?’

He assured us that he would and hurried away bearing the two cups.

Several minutes passed. Jan-Arne, having talked to me, was now discussing the situation with Wivek. It transpired that as well as the very sick dog which had been attacked, there were five more patients now sitting in the waiting room. For a moment, I thought that we should forgo the rest of the evening and rush back to help him, but Wivek had a better suggestion.

‘You should call Dagny,’ she said, having already gone through how to safely sedate a very ill dog. ‘And get back to us if you don’t get through.’ Of course, this made sense. Dagny was closer and could get there more quickly than we could and he needed help as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Kari-Gro had turned up. Kari-Gro used to work at Tu and has now moved to work in Stavanger. Our coffees turned up at around the same time. Despite having a layer of foam on them now, both cups and coffee looked remarkably similar. I tasted it. Wivek tasted hers at the same time as I did and grimaced.

‘Do you think this is actually different coffee,’ I said, ‘or did they just add a layer of foam to the old one?’ She looked down thoughtfully at her cup, then back up at me.

‘Really not sure,’ she said and tasted it again at the same moment I tried mine.

Unhesitatingly, we both reached for the sugar sachets in the middle of the table. Needs must, and to me it seemed unsafe to be seen to be quibbling any further. With three teaspoons of sugar added, the cup did become more-or-less drinkable.

The bill paid, and with Jacqueline now added to our party, we proceeded down to the docks. We had been held up so long, what with the coffee and the phone discussion that it was actually nine-thirty by the time we arrived. The eight o’clock concert was presumably past, but the TV programme was still to be broadcast, and this was show business. The after-party would surely continue for a time. With a feeling of anticipation, we joined the back of the large crowd gathered before the famous Sommerbåt.

Craning my head, I strained to see what was going on. For a fleeting moment, I caught a glimpse of distant people, one of whom seemed to be touting a cello, or possibly a double bass. It really was that far away. Wherever we stood, there seemed to be tall people in front of us. There were screens up on the boat and within a few minutes, the musical diversion, which I hadn’t heard, ended and the stage emptied. People at the front of the audience were clapping and gradually the sound spread backwards and the folk around us clapped along, a few enthusiastically,  some more tentative, as if, like us, they had no real clue what was going on.

I craned my neck again. The two small screens were kind of visible. Now and then some random sound would drift back over the heads of the crowd, rather like the yellow balloons which periodically floated up, accidentally set adrift by inattentive children. There didn’t seem to be anyone on stage now, unless you counted a small boy in blue, who seemed to have climbed up and was jumping up and down. There came a sudden flow of people from the front of the crowd though and we made space for them to pass before Wivek darted forward to take up the space.

More of the programme was filtering through. The TV presenters seemed to be interviewing local people.

‘How does it feel to work in a mountain-bike factory,’ they asked.

‘It was very interesting,’ came the reply, though more detail was again lost as the sound came and went. The small boy on stage had been joined by a group of friends. It dawned on me that the TV programme was not being filmed there, but somewhere out of sight on the boat and we were watching it via what we could see of the TV screens.

Another yellow balloon fluttered upwards with a gust of wind as somewhere or other, a young choir launched into a barely audible version of The Happy Wanderer. There wasn’t much to see on the screen so my eyes took a stroll around the audience that surrounded us. Smiling, if somewhat bemused, they sported warm jackets and scarves for this summer folkfest. The children in the choir paused for a second in their Val-Deris and the hesitant clapping began, only to subside when it became apparent the song wasn’t finished. At the end, the washy tide of clapping and the trickle of home-goers surged. Once more, Wivek made a push towards the front.

And now we could hear everything clearly. As I listened to a woman talking about making clay lamps, I wasn’t sure whether this was really so much of an improvement. Still the people around seemed to be enjoying themselves. In particular the baby in the arms of the woman in front of us seemed utterly enraptured by the sight of the white bead on the string of Jacqueline’s jacket. A woman strolled past hugging a golden retriever puppy. I looked up at the sky as the darkening clouds scudded across the patchy blue and this time a whole tangle of balloons was making a break for freedom. Catching my eye, both Jacqueline and Kari-Gro started to laugh.

We hadn’t been there more than half-an-hour when the programme ended and most of the remaining audience drifted homewards along the dock. We, along with the crowd around us who still hadn’t quite caught up,  continued to push forward, just to see if anything else was going to happen. There was no shoving, no frustration expressed at the smallness of the screens or the paucity of the speakers.They were all so patient. All of a sudden, the situation seemed utterly surreal. ‘So here we are,’ I said to anybody who was listening or perhaps to nobody at all. ‘Here we are, living the Norwegian Dream.’

On the way home, mindful of Jan-Arne and his five sick patients, I took a diversion into the clinic. As I drew up, I counted four cars and with mounting concern , I climbed out and went inside, imagining continuing scenes of carnage. But as I entered the waiting room, there was just one young couple pacing nervously. As I walked into the consulting room, I saw a small dog lying peacefully sedated on the table with Dagny and Jan-Arne bending over  it with Marita (obviously she had the same idea as me) helping. I looked on for a few minutes, watching as Dagny skilfully investigated the dog’s wounds while Marita  disappeared to get the theatre ready. There were enough bodies there, I decided. More than enough skilled hands.

And as I left them there,  that peaceful moment stayed in my head. The quiet discussion under the bright yellow lamplight. Three diverse people, working together as a team. Three colleagues had left behind their evening pursuits to come and help their friend: help an animal in distress rather than leave them struggling alone. And now I knew for certain what I was seeing.Here it was. The real Norwegian Dream.

 

This weeks picture shows Stella and Nila, who came to see Jan-Arne for their first vaccinations.