Tag Archives: North Norway

When I Almost Saw the Sun…

Sunrise/sunset: 10:22/13:37 Daylength: 3hr14min

This week, I have been working at the abattoir most days. I was working in the lairage where the live animals are kept in pens (and where I inspect them) when I looked out of the window and thought it looked remarkably bright. Glancing at my watch, I could see that it was between eleven and twelve, meaning technically the sun was up and it was daylight. Abandoning my work, I rushed outside and round the corner of the high building, only to find that the sun hadn’t quite heaved itself over the mountain pass and was still hidden. The scene was beautiful though, so I took the photo at the top of the page, to share with you the moment when I ALMOST saw the sun. There is snow forecast now, and clouds and warm (well relatively) weather, so it will probably be at least another week before I get another chance to see it, but it will come eventually. I’ll just have to be patient!

I am also having to be patient while waiting for word on my (still unpublished) book. My agent, Ger, has had quite a lot of positive feedback from publishers, but as yet, no definite offers. Just before Christmas, one of them asked whether I would be interested in making some edits, after which they would take another look. I completed the amendments just over a week ago, so now am back in waiting mode, though I am also trying to get going on book two again. Book two will be set in the lead up to Christmas and I would very much like to get some of it done while it’s still wintery. I admit that gives me a lot of leeway, living where I do, but from experience, it feels very odd to be writing about Christmassy things in May.

John and I paid a visit to Ann’s house a couple of weeks ago. Ann’s partner, Stejn, is doing up the house they’ve bought together and John was very interested in some of the practicalities of wood panelling. When I came to view our house, almost the first thing I saw was a horrible area in the hallway, where it appeared there had once been a cupboard, of which the only remaining structure was a piece of white boarding attached to the wall at one end. The previous owner had placed an ugly shelf and some industrial-looking storage baskets in the area, but neither they, nor the neutral paint that had been used to cover the wall, could hide the fact that this area had once been the back of a cupboard and was clad in various different types of textured wallpaper in odd shaped patches.

John took down that board last week and I wish I had taken before and after pictures. The hallway immediately felt twice as big and much brighter. I hadn’t realised how much light that board was blocking. Having seen the wood panelling Stejn has put up in various areas of their house, it struck me that, rather than trying to remove all the wallpaper from the entire hallway, in order to match the small area where the wallpaper is a mess, perhaps we could put up an area of wood panelling and make it a feature. The area that used to be a cupboard is wider than the rest of the hall, so it would be relatively easy to do and would look like quite a natural part of the hallway to pick out. There is another small mystery to solve however. In that area, there was a small, round plastic patch that was obviously covering something. John unscrewed it and we found some kind of electrical wiring point behind it. Whether it needs to have future access, or whether it was installed and the white plastic patch was just to cover the hole is a mystery to us, but obviously one we have to find out before we put any panelling in place.

John also disappeared out to the room next to the garage one evening this week, then came back in to ask for my help. He was building a workbench from the board he’d taken down from the hall and some old wood from the uneven decking that he and Andrew took up from the back garden before the snow came. I’m never sure where John picked up his carpentry skills. Neither I, nor his father, have any talent in that direction, though my dad is quite good. I did ask, but John couldn’t give me any clear answer, only that he’d just picked it up. Either way, I was impressed he’d built a sturdy workbench from scrap material.

Anyway, that’s probably a reasonable summary of my week. There are other people astir in the house. and Triar has just appeared, so I should probably get up and get him some breakfast! Have a good week all!

New Beginnings

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day

Is there anyone who doesn’t find themselves, at this time of year, reflecting on their life? As the new year comes in, it always feels like time to take stock of where I am, where I’m going and where I want to go.

There’s a lot happening at work at the moment. I am moving roles, from a focus on animal welfare out in the field, to animal welfare in the abattoir. They are advertising my old job for the second time now, without any notable success. I understand it is always harder to recruit people up here and perhaps working for Mattilsynet isn’t so attractive right now, partly as the wage is not competitive compared with other veterinary jobs, and perhaps because Mattilsynet is coming under a lot of flack at the moment. Still, I am thriving in my job. Though I can’t completely abandon my old role until I am replaced, there has been a significant change in focus.

I have gradually been taking on tasks related to meat inspection and now I have taken over the role of team coordinator for the team of vets and technicians who carry out Mattilsynet’s tasks in the abattoir. This role is partly administrative. I have to slot people into the rota and let them know what days they will be working sufficiently far ahead that they can work around it. There are currently only two staff who are full time in the abattoir and present: Trude and Konstantin. The rest of us work shifts there while based elsewhere, though it looks like I will be working there more than fifty percent of the time for the foreseeable future. I will need to get up to speed on what should be, rather than what is. Working permanently with a skeleton staff is harder on the permanent staff who are there than it should be, though for the past three years, we have been lucky enough to have enthusiastic and highly competent temporary staff, both in the season in autumn, and year round. Konstantin came for the season in 2021 and has been filling in for missing permanent staff now for almost a year and a half.

But as well as the admin side, I also represent the team, both in the wider department and on various committees, who work towards ensuring animal welfare and complying with the legal requirements we have to fulfil, and that is the role I am most looking forward to. Last week I wrote about Helene in Karasjok and Venche in Mo I Rana and I am excited to be working with them. I have masses to learn, and I love learning new things. I can also imagine a time, further into the future, when I will have learned enough “locally” (Mo I Rana and Karasjok are both about eight hours drive away from Andslimoen where I work) that it might be useful to travel further afield, to find out what abattoir workers in other parts of Norway do. For now though, that’s a long time away. I have my annual review next week though, so there is a lot to discuss with Hilde.

At home, things are reasonably stable, though I think we have messed up a bit with snow clearance. There was something of a thaw last week and all the snow slid off the garage roof. We hadn’t yet finished shifting the snow that had come off the house roof and the handle of the snow blower was broken. There wasn’t time to move it all by hand before the temperature dropped and it all froze again. So now we have huge piles of hard, icy snow around the house and the garage. Obviously it will melt eventually, but I think we probably ought to have cleared some of it to avoid the risk of too much build up through the rest of the winter and potential flooding when it does finally melt again. Only time will tell whether it will be problematic or not. Well, maybe some local people would be able to predict better than I can, but that’s the nature of living somewhere unfamiliar. Whatever comes, it will be dealt with when it arrives.

It continues to be very beautiful, though the tendency to hibernate is strong when it’s minus twenty outside. My pictures then, were taken around the house. The one at the top of the page, with the pink and blue sky, is from the veranda and here are two taken at night when Andrew and I went out on a duel mission to clear the pathway that allows him to get to the bus stop in the morning without walking on the main road and to give Triar some fresh air.

This is the house of our nearest neighbour. It looks very cosy with its mørketid lights.
The barn next door, with complementary aurora.

Anyway, I have to go now. In addition to everything else, I have some editing to do on my book. I told my agent I would have the changes to her by the beginning of next week, so I have to do it now. Deadlines are good for me when writing. Without them, the tendency for procrastination is way too strong.

Happy new year to everyone who has made it this far down the page, and I hope you have a good week!

A Network of Strong Women

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day

I found myself thinking, last night, as I often do on a Friday, about what I would write here today. It’s not been a bad week, in fact, in many ways it’s been positively pleasant. Christmas was very relaxing. Making Christmas dinner for three was very straightforward, though the lack of a table and chairs meant that we ended up eating it in different places around the house. Still, nobody seemed to mind, which is one of the best things about my little family. None of them are precious about things being done “the right way”. I was proud enough of the crackling on my pork ribbe to take a photo, so of course I will share it with you. It tasted wonderful.

Living with John and Andrew continues to bring me happiness. It’s not all sweetness and light. What family is? But there are moments when they fill me with love with their thoughtfulness. This is going back a couple of weeks, but on the day we put up the Christmas tree, I was very down. There were a lot of things weighing on me, Christmas was getting very close, and I wasn’t feeling it at all. On top of that, work had been so tough that the house was quite messy and putting up decorations seemed like a pointless waste of time. I’ve been having therapy for a few months now. I had a session booked for the same afternoon and I left the boys finishing up while I went through to chat. Jill talked me through a lot of things and I was feeling a bit more cheery when the session finished, but when I went through, I was amazed to discover that John and Andrew had spent the hour whizzing round and cleaning the kitchen and living areas. Knowing I was down and that the mess was bothering me, they had sorted everything out and now the room, for me, was properly filled with Christmas magic.

For those who read last week, the roof did get cleared in time for Christmas. Several shops were open on the morning of Christmas Eve and we managed to buy the extension to the roof rake – the last one in the shop, no less! Here’s a photo of John using it. The frame at the end of the rake cuts through the snow and, if positioned right, it slides off in huge chunks down the long strip of slippery material.

I only worked three days between Christmas and today, and it was those days that inspired today’s title – that along with a comment made by my agent, Ger Nichol a few months back. Ger was talking about my (as yet unpublished) book, The Good Friends’ Veterinary Clinic. One of the things she liked about it, she told me, was that Rachel, my main protagonist, who worked in a remote part of Scotland, seemed to have a strong network of women around her, including several old friends that she could phone when she was having difficulty with a case or was wondering about how to handle problems that were coming her way.

The phrase came back to me as I was thinking about this week. As it’s the end of the year, there are letters that have to be sent out to the various places where we do meat inspection. These are some of the inner workings of the meat inspection role that were invisibly done by other people until now, which have now become part of my job. In short, Mattilsynet gets paid for carrying out various different tasks, and somebody has to do the calculations of how much time was spent and then send out the bills.

Living up here, some of these are quite different from anything I would ever have experienced in the UK, or even in southwest Norway where I used to live. As well as the standard “red meat” (beef, lamb, pork) abattoir where we work weekly, there is also a small reindeer abattoir, run by a Sami family, and then there are small outposts where hunters take moose that have been culled out in the field due to injuries from road traffic accidents. The charges for each of these separate entities come under different paragraphs of Norwegian law, so each has to be calculated and written in different formats. This is complicated by the fact that I am trying to work through these processes without much support from local colleagues, as the people who have done it in previous years are not available to show me.

And so, on Thursday morning, with no time left for error, I found myself on several lengthy phone calls to Venche, who works in Bjerka and Helene, who works in Karasjok, trying to iron out the problems that were (in part) a result of the absence of those experienced staff I mentioned above. Fantastically, both Venche and Helene were so patient that I managed to get all three of the invoices sent out, which is good because if they are sent out in January, the process is slightly different again, due to the financial year change.

But my network of strong women isn’t restricted to work (though I will throw in a shout out to Trude, Birgit, Astrid, Anja, Ann and Hilde here who, along with Thomas, make up my local network). This week I have been in contact with a friend I used to work with at Vets Now, when I was still in Scotland. Unlike me, with my Christmas dinner for three, Lara catered for seventeen people, cooking two geese, a turkey and a ham. Honestly, I can’t even begin to imagine how she managed, but Lara is a wonderful example of an inspiringly strong woman. I turned to her when I was quaking in a hotel room in Tromsø as I put in my bid on the house I am now sitting in, and it was Lara who kept me going when I was struggling to write Good Friends.

I have also been in contact with my sister, Helen, a good deal this week. We haven’t had much contact over the past few years, but she came up in the summer when I was staying with mum (another wonderful woman) and dad and we’ve been chatting a lot more on and off. I was pleased to find that she is reading Springtime at Wildacre, which I co-wrote with another of my strong women’s network, Vicky Holmes.

There are many other women I am in contact with now and then, friends from the different places I have lived, such as Wivek, Valerie and Ruth and family, such as my daughter Anna, my mum and my lovely aunts, some of whom I know will be reading this. Your support is appreciated. I am also happy to find that, after a long hiatus due to covid, I am starting to make new friends and not just at work. I was in the queue for the fast boat to Tromsø a few months back, when I heard some women behind me in the queue, speaking English. That was such an uncommon experience here that I turned round and spoke to them, assuming that they were perhaps here on holiday. And so I met my new friend Shirley, who wasn’t on holiday at all, but came here as a nurse for a year, many years ago. She met a Norwegian man and instead of going back at the end of the year, she married him and made her life in Norway. So far, she has been very thoughtful. She doesn’t drive much, so I’ve been to hers a couple of times now to drink tea and hot chocolate. She gave me a loaf she’d just cooked on the first visit. Having texted me about a shop in Tromsø that sells international food, I mentioned that I might try to buy suet there, as I hadn’t made Christmas pudding yet. The next thing I received was a text to say she had made one for me. We had it on Christmas day, and very tasty it was too.

I can’t mention all the women who give me support; there are simply too many of them, but they are an inspiration. Many years ago, I was the archetypal young woman, who fancied herself as being “as good as a man” and was scornful of all feminine things. But with age, I have come to value the different strengths that women carry. So I will carry that wonderful network into 2023.

I’ll finish with some photos of Triar opening his Christmas present. It’s a new version of the same present he had last year and the year before, and by the end of 2023, I expect this one will be sufficiently chewed as to need replacing. He seems just as pleased as ever with it, which is lucky.

And so I will leave you. It’s time to go shopping for food for Hogmanay and New Year’s day. Thank you for reading. It’s lovely to be in contact with so many friends, all round the world. Happy new year to you all!

You’re Doing It Wrong!

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day

It’s been a gentler week than last week, thank goodness, though there are still challenges coming my way. The pipes under the house still need fixing, but I think they’ll need to wait until spring now as the hole that leads into the house foundations is now under a metre of snow. John managed to get the snow blower working, but having cleaned a fantastic area of snow, the handle broke yesterday. To be fair, it’s a sturdy snow blower that we bought for 5,000kr (about £400/500US$) and it’s twelve years old, so it’s only to be expected that there will be problems. John’s friend is welding it for now and we will be able to buy a replacement part in the new year.

It is typical that, in the year I bought a house, there has been an incredible amount of snow so early in the winter. I think it was last year that I was worrying that we wouldn’t get a white Christmas. No fear of that this year. I made a new friend a little while back and she commented that having been in her house for twenty years, she and her husband had a good handle on everything and we are in the opposite position. Right now, there are a huge number of unknowns. The drains are the perfect example. Even though we have a surveyor’s report that says they’re fine, they are not. Still, if that’s the only nasty surprise, we will be doing well.

And it is in my mind that this will probably be the worst time period. If we can get through this winter, next year, we will probably be better prepared. For now, it seems that just keeping the snow at bay might be a full time job over the next few days. There are yellow snow warnings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so we’ll probably be doing some work to keep everything working. I know, in Scotland, I would probably just let it lie and clear it another day, if I didn’t have to get the car out today, but as more snow falls, it weighs down the earlier snow, and you can end up with huge weights of heavy snow to move, if you leave it too long, especially if the temperature drops and it gets icy.

There’s also the rather vexed question of snow on the roof and when you have to remove it. Having read around the topic, it seems our house lies just on the edge of two different time periods of building controls. From 1950 – 1979 the regulations were much less stringent and rooves didn’t have to be quite so strong. The recommendation is that you should remove it if there is 40 – 50 cm. From 1980 onwards, it would be able to carry more than twice as much. There appears to be some uncertainty about when our house actually was built. The estate agent’s brochure said 1979 when I bought it. Having taken over the house, I found an older sales brochure that said it was completed in 1983. Anyway, to be on the safe side, we bought an Avalanche roof rake yesterday, so yesterday evening, having seen the forecast, John, Andrew and I spent several hours outside wielding it, or at least John and Andrew did the job, while I dug away some of the fallen snow from the sides of the house.

Having cleared quite a lot of it, but having been unable to get the last couple of metres cleared, right up toward the ridge, we came back in. It was then that I read up more thoroughly on something I had read earlier about clearing the roof in stages and not leaving it unbalanced. Apparently, leaving a layer along the centre is exactly the wrong thing to do. Unfortunately, the pole with the snow rake isn’t quite long enough. We might be able to get an extension, but of course it’s Christmas and finding things in the shops might be challenging. Some of them are open this morning, but not all. Still, having read an awful lot, there are none of the signs of impending doom listed on those advisory websites. The doors all still open normally and there has been no creaking or cracking. And having a bit more snow built up around the base of the house seems to have warmed up the “crawling cellar” as it’s called. For the first time in weeks, it was above freezing down there (there’s a thermometer in the kitchen). I have no idea whether the drains are likely to freeze in there, but it’s a certainty that they’re less likely to do so at 0.5° C than at -10° C.

As I said, so many unknowns. This is all new to me and perhaps there are things I ought to know but don’t. Still, yesterday, as John and Andrew cleared the roof, it was wonderful to watch them working as a team. Whatever else I’m getting wrong, I’m very proud of the wonderful young men they’re becoming.

I had a trip to Tromsø on Wednesday for an x-ray on my toe. The result came in startlingly fast and I got a message when I was on the boat on my way home. It’s not arthritis apparently, so goodness knows why it’s red and swollen, though it’s been like that for several months. My money is on it being gout. I’ll have to lay off the sherry over Christmas! It was quite nice in Tromsø though, so I took a few photos.

And I had a mince pie for breakfast on Thursday. I thought there was something hard in it, but had swallowed the mouthful before I had a chance to react. A couple of minutes later, my tongue discovered that part of one of my teeth had sheared off. It was one that had broken before on one corner and now a second one was gone. Still, I rushed into the dentist’s and he managed to fit me in there and then, so I now possibly have more filling than tooth, but it will do for now!

Anyway, it’s Christmas Eve. Today will be the last episode of The Julekalendar on Norwegian TV. I feel it could become a new Christmas habit. And the title of todays blog is inspired by a line said by Hermione in the first Harry Potter film. John and I have been watching them all in sequence over the past week. Hopefully, we will watch the final one tonight. Anyway, I have to go now. The shop which might have an extension for the roof rake seems to be open, so if we can get the drive cleared, we might be able to buy one.

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone. See you next week.