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.