Tag Archives: Midnight Sun

Hot Dogs and Buckets of Snow

Sunrise/sunset: 01:04/00:24 Daylength: Up all day from today

There were two bank holidays this week, on Wednesday and Thursday. The first was 17th May, which is Norway’s national day. This was my first 17th May as a Norwegian citizen, so perhaps we should have celebrated in style and gone out to watch a parade, but it was raining heavily in the morning when we got up and so we decided to celebrate at home. There was a Norwegian flag in the house when we moved in, so we put it into the flag holder near the front door, then we had a relaxing day and ate Norway’s standard fare on 17th May of hotdogs and ice cream!

John’s girlfriend, Joana, came to stay overnight and celebrated with us and she and John made the hotdogs between them, including toasting the rolls, which I confess, we normally never do, but it did add an extra dimension of deliciousness.

On the evening of 17th May, I noticed a concerning change in the water pressure of the taps. I went to bed, hoping that it was a temporary blip and would all be okay in the morning, but it wasn’t. Instead, the pressure fell further, to the point where the toilet cistern didn’t fill and there was only a trickle coming from the taps. Given that it was still a bank holiday, we decided that we would probably be okay until Friday.

Though it was relatively easy to get some drinking water, I was in something of a dilemma about the toilet. I was trying to work out whether I should walk to get some buckets of water from a stream, when I remembered that there was still a source of water, right there in the back garden. Though most of the snow has melted, there was still a pile behind the garage. And so I went out with my bucket and spade, and for the last time this winter, I started digging snow.

Despite the heated bathroom floor, it took a surprising amount of time for the snow to melt, but when it did, we were able to flush the toilet again, thank goodness!

Friday dawned and then began the chase to try and find a plumber who was working. As you can imagine, with bank holidays on Wednesday and Thursday, a lot of people in all walks of life took the Friday off and the local plumbers were no exception. I messaged a few when I woke in the morning as some of them didn’t start until ten, even on a normal Friday, but I got no response and the ones I did phone didn’t answer, even though it was in their normal Friday working hours.

Fortunately, one kind plumber, Hugo Nordaas, actually rang me back. He was working all day in a shop, he told me, but would come out afterwards. I asked him whether I should continue trying to find someone else in the meantime, and he said yes, but to let him know if I still wanted him to come out. I had barely had time to start, when my phone rang again. Hugo had contacted someone else, who was on their way to me.

The young man who arrived didn’t seem very confident, but he assessed the situation and came up with a solution, which, I think, he checked with a colleague on the phone. I guess I’d better explain a bit more about our water system before going further, because I’m assuming the vast majority of you reading this have mains water, so if the supply dries up, workers magically appear and start trying to fix the issue. There is no mains water, out where I live, despite it being on a main road. Our water supply is private and comes from a “well” on someone else’s land. I hadn’t realised, until we went there, just how far away we were from the water source. I guess my house was built when there were very few other houses in the valley, so building a pipe from another house’s well was still probably cheaper than building a separate well.

You are probably wondering why I have put the word “well” in quotation marks the first time I used it. I don’t think there is really another translation for “brønn” than “well” but it isn’t a well in the way I would think of one. In the UK, a well is dug deep in the ground until the ground water is revealed. Usually it’s circular and very deep. Here in Norway, it’s common for water to be taken from an inlet in a stream or river, and that is what our “well” is.

And so, with thoughts that the long pipe bringing water from the well the house might be blocked, the plumber’s first action was to return to base to collect a pump and some water. He then pumped water back up the pipe in the hope that, if it was a frog or a mouse in the pipe, it would be pushed out of the top end and (hopefully) washed away. I thought, for a moment, as water gushed back out of the pipe, that he had been successful, but after a fairly short time, it slowed again to a trickle and we were back at square one.

The next step, he explained to me, was to go up to the well and check the inlet valve, to make sure it wasn’t blocked up with anything. That was a likely scenario, he said, as there has been so much meltwater in recent weeks. The snow certainly has melted fast this year and there was a lot of it. He was going to go away now, he said, and once I had checked, I should call him back if there was still a problem.

I got into the car and drove along to the house of the well owner. We had been there on Thursday and they had told us their water in their house was running as normal. They had also told us that the well might not be easy to access yet, as there could still be snow. It was also Friday now, and a working day, so I wasn’t sure there would be anybody in. Under these circumstances, which meant it could be several hours before we could get an answer, the plumber going away seemed not unreasonable. Quite unexpectedly though, the young man who opened the door told us that he had actually gone up and checked the well. Everything looked okay with it, he said, the entrance to our outlet pipe included.

I had expected it might be hours before we found out (I didn’t know where the well actually was, so we couldn’t have checked it ourselves) but in actual fact it was only a few minutes. Knowing that the plumber wouldn’t even be back in Finnsnes, I called him and told him the news, but instead of coming back, he told me he didn’t know what to do next and would have to consult with colleagues.

I waited for an hour and a half, but hadn’t heard anything. Given that it was now Friday afternoon and the weekend was coming up, with the thought in my head of having no flushing toilet and only a trickle of cold water all weekend, I sent him a message, asking whether he thought we perhaps needed to contact someone with a camera to check the pipe or even just that he could perhaps come back with someone more experienced, but despite the fact that my phone said the message had been delivered, after another hour and a half, I hadn’t heard anything back.

Had he been older, I might have waited longer, but I can remember being a young vet with not much experience, trying out my limited skills and, on not finding a solution, sending the clients home with something to try, and then booking them back for another evening when I wasn’t on duty, so that someone else would (hopefully) deal with it. I understand that feeling of being out of your depth and hoping the problem will resolve itself, and also the lack of client skills that make it easier not to call with updates, even if you are trying to organise something. I didn’t know which it was, but I thought that if I left it, I might well find myself stuck. It had been almost impossible to find someone earlier, and time was getting short. And so I rang the one number that I knew would result in action, which was the emergency number for the insurance company.

Last time I discussed Norwegian insurance, I raved about how good they were and how much better they were at paying out than UK insurance companies. My faith was slightly shaken after the last time, as they decided the problem with my drainage pipes had happened before I bought the house, and therefore they decided that they weren’t liable, however experience said that they would certainly get things moving and indeed they did.

They provide an advisor, who will get in touch with the relevant people for you. They know all the numbers to call and probably warrant more attention from busy workers than an unknown number. In no time at all, the young plumber was back and this time he had someone from another company with him. Now they had lots of water, which I understood they were going to try to pump through again, which I think they did, to no avail. But having not resolved the problem, this time they set up a temporary solution. We now have an 800L water tank in the garden and a pump outside my bedroom window to pump it into the house. It isn’t drinking water, but at least we have enough now so that we can flush the toilet and have showers over the weekend.

Working through the weekend was probably out of the question. I think most British people will probably be raising their eyebrows at that, but in Norway, lots of things have to wait, and here in the north, the pace of life is much slower, even than in the south west of Norway, where I used to live. They did give me a future outline this time, which is something a client should never be left without. On Monday, the advisor will come out and will hopefully explain more about what’s going to happen. It seems that the likeliest scenario is that there has been some shifting of the earth, which has resulted in the pipe becoming kinked or possibly broken. The plumbers seemed to think it might be necessary to dig up the entire length of the pipe, but I am hoping that there will be a better solution. There must be means for finding where pipes run, other than digging all the way from one end or the other. Hopefully on Monday, I will find out.

But for now, as I said before, there is a pump outside my bedroom window, with a plug leading through the window. I have to switch it off at night, but while it’s on, the window has to be open. I’m hoping that they find a better solution before the first big wave of man-eating mosquitoes arrives.

I guess that living up here, with the extremes of the weather, there will always be more wear and tear on property than in more temperate climes. There’s always a risk, buying a house, but it would be a near impossible situation if I end up with a bill running into tens of thousands of kroner, or worse. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the insurance will cover it. I also go on holiday next Friday and John is going away to do some lambing for the weekend, so I hope that I won’t have to leave Andrew on his own without everything being under control. I will keep you updated as things unfold, but for now, I wish you a happy weekend.

Small Things

Sunrise/sunset: 01:52/ 23:45. Daylength: 21hr 52mins

Only another three days and we will reach the point where the sun officially doesn’t drop below the horizon until 24th July. I know now that there will be a delay due to the height of the surrounding mountains. For a few days, it will continue to sink behind them, but after that, on sunny days, we should be able to see the midnight sun.

John told me yesterday about a conversation with a friend. John was trying to express how it felt to see the sun again after the polar night. Although it never reached the point of being dark 24/7 there was an ethereal quality to the light and for a month and a half, there were no shadows, even when the sky was clear. The return of the sun felt like a catharsis. John tells me his friend commented that you have to appreciate the small things, but up here, it didn’t feel small at all.

I feel a bit the same now we are waiting for spring. It’s a long time coming. I’m not sure what I was expecting. After all, I lived in a more southern part of Norway for ten years and spring didn’t arrive until May even there, but with the long daylight hours, it feels strange that things are not further forward. I find myself searching for signs and they are appearing.

All around I hear water running where in winter there was frozen silence. Where there is a rise in the forest floor or a slope that faces the sun, there is a noticeable green tinge. Yellow flowers that look like a cross between daisies and dandelions are pushing through the dirt that has been deposited on the roadsides from five months of snow clearing.

Two days ago, one of the small trees behind the house sprung new leaf buds. I trust that the others will not be far behind. There are a lot of deciduous trees here. The lower slopes of the mountains are swathed in forests and many of them still look black. Surely the change must come soon. I find myself hoping that the lower slopes will be green while the upper slopes are still swathed in snow.

Elsewhere, it seems like winter still has a hold, albeit one that is weakening. Lakes are still frozen, the forests are still filled with snow.

I remember John commenting in August last year that winter never really leaves here. Instead it retreats up into the shadowy corners of the mountains. But that will do for me. Tomorrow is May 17th, which is Norway’s national day. We will be going down into the centre of town to see the children march. As is traditional here, we will be feasting on Norway’s national dish: hot dogs. I hope the sun will be shining for us all.

To The North!

“Pure ‘Northernness’ engulfed me: a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of Northern summer, remoteness, severity… and almost at the same moment I knew that I had met this before, long, long ago. …And with that plunge back into my own past, there arose at once, almost like heartbreak, the memory of Joy itself, the knowledge that I had once had what I had now lacked for years, that I was returning at last from exile and desert lands to my own country, and the distance of the Twilight of the Gods and the distance of my  own past Joy, both unattainable, flowed together in a single, unendurable sense of desire and loss….”  C.S.Lewis.


I wonder how life would have gone, were it not for COVID-19. I can recall the fascination I felt, back in late January or early February, searching on social media for information from Wuhan. I watched with interest: those alarming films of people dropping in the street, reading that China (of all places) had gone into a lockdown so tight that people were not allowed to leave their homes.

It filtered through to me, as I watched those posts unfold, that something big was happening, though back then I had little sense of impending doom. That came later, as the virus began to spread. One by one, day after day, new posters appeared at work, telling us how to cough, to wash our hands, to use gel as we entered, notices in Norwegian and English and several other languages I didn’t understand. The canteen shut and then the borders of the country: closed to anyone who didn’t live here.

And as I watched the figures fall in Norway, I watched them rise in the UK.

I miss my parents. That is undoubtedly the worst in all of this. I had been looking for a new job for a while with no success. But with spring, the realisation came that I was no longer tied to Rogaland for my son’s schooling. And in the midst of a wave of homesickness and fear for my parents, who by now were locked down themselves, with no obvious end in sight, the grand idea came to me that perhaps now was the time to return to the UK.

But it was not to be. Though I found a wonderful practice close to my parents, who wanted to employ me, they were unable to make me an offer. They had sold the practice a year earlier to one of the corporates, and the corporate had a moratorium on taking on new staff due to … coronavirus.

But by now anyway, the insanity of a move back to the UK was starting to hit me. With the increased border security, it was unlikely I would be able to get the dog into the UK, let alone the guinea pigs. Juggling quarantine requirements would mean I would have to find somewhere to stay when I returned to the UK. It would need to have furniture, as mine would take a while to arrive. Likely many shops were shut, and even if they weren’t, I probably wouldn’t be allowed to go. Quarantine with no bed and no TV…

In the midst of all this chaos, a job popped up in the North of Norway. Mattilsynet (the Norwegian equivalent of the UK Food Standards Agency) were looking for a vet. The duties were very wide ranging, as often happens in remote places. Lower population often results in less specialisation… and that has always suited me. Easily bored, I love doing different things. And so I applied.

The interview was tough. I’d had a few by then in Norwegian, but it didn’t get much easier. I’d applied for an old job that I’d done part time before, and had been turned down, I was told, on account of my language skills. This time round I was prepared for the type of question. I had even thought up some possible answers. But explaining the concept of working as part of the management team of a fast growing chain of emergency clinics, covering all the complaints without the expertise of the best (and only specialist) veterinary insurance company in the UK because my boss wanted to prove to them that we could manage without them, is not the easiest thing to translate, not least because veterinary emergency clinics are unheard of here.

Then there was a medical question about cattle. I was sent a text with a scenario and had to answer questions around it. Despite having ten minutes thinking time, I translated one of the words wrongly, and therefore gave a confusing as well as incorrect answer. I think it was at that point I considered just blurting out that there was no point in continuing, because it was obvious we were all wasting our time.

So I wasn’t particularly hopeful. Still, I had a job which was almost full time. We weren’t on the streets, or likely to be. And then, to my astonishment, a contract arrived. No explanation, no welcoming phone call: simply sign here if you want the job.

I signed it of course. It was so precious I didn’t want it to slip through my fingers. And then I contacted them about accommodation and about moving and about how I wouldn’t be able to start on the day that was written on the contract because, with the best will in the world, I couldn’t start there the same day I finished here, because there was 2000 km in between.

All that happened only three weeks ago. And in one week’s time, I will be driving north to take up my new post. It’s a thirty hour journey and I will be taking it with my son John, our dog Triar, and a pair of guinea pigs.

Triar – our wonderful Kooiker

We will be camping! I hope the weather holds. John is planning on walking and lake swimming. I’ve bought a new car to take us up there… well I say new. She’s seven years old, but my first BMW… all wheel drive. I wanted something that could tackle snow.

I am about to move up into the Arctic Circle: Land of midnight sun and interminable darkness.

And I hope to take you with me!