Tag Archives: North Norway

Summer Days

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

I took Anna and Andrew to the airport on Monday morning. They will be away for another week and a half, staying with Charlie down in the more southern regions of Norway. John and I have spent more time together. As well as the visit to Roasters, we spent some time exploring the southern end of Senja and have also taken a couple of walks up around the local ski area, which looks very different without snow. I haven’t much by way of commentary. There must be bloggers who can tell you all the names of the flowers and the mountains, but I am happy for now just to gaze and wonder… and share the photographs with you in blissful ignorance.

I’ll start with the ski slope. It’s small, I believe: just one tow. Next winter, I hope that Andrew and I will get season tickets, but for now, it’s open for hiking. Triar was with us, of course. When is he not?

While Anna and Andrew are away, John and I are hoping to get a night or two away camping. Weather permitting, I still hope to take a midnight hike up one of the easier hills on Senja. We found a possible campsite as we were driving down to Roasters. It’s down by the edge of the fjord, by the side of a river. Wild camping is allowed in Norway, so we hope to make our base here.

John, Triar and I also went for a wander around Stonglandseidet and back to the beach where Thomas and I were taken on our reindeer hunt.

Stonglandseidet has a lovely church. It’s spread out around flower meadows, between two stony bays with a mountainous backdrop.

After a short stroll there, we went back to the beach, which is also surrounded by velvety meadows and grass verges, stippled with flowers.

And finally, this is possibly the happiest photograph of Triar I’ve taken. He really brings a huge amount of cheer into my life.

Well Met

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

In many ways, living here in the north of Norway, it’s easy to get complacent about coronavirus. The Norwegian government has stipulated that nobody should go to work or school with a cold, or any symptoms of a respiratory illness. Some people take this seriously. Quite a few ignore it. A colleague of John’s announced last week at work that he had a cold. John came over on Saturday to stay for the weekend, but by the evening, he had developed a sore throat. I took him for a test on Sunday, then very sadly took him home. Andrew is entering exam time and the last thing he needs is to have to stay at home because of the coronavirus rules.

It is frustrating when there are rules and people ignore them. And here in Norway, there isn’t anything like the pressure for presenteeism that exists in the UK. I was amazed years ago, when working at Tu Clinic, to find that if one of the vets had a cold, they would stay home and the receptionist would ring round the clients and rearrange the appointments for another day. Back in the UK, it was an unwritten rule in all the practices I worked in that unless you were actively vomiting or unable to get out of bed, you should drag yourself into work. If you did take a sick day, nobody would ring any clients. The other vets were expected to manage.

It wasn’t coronavirus, happily. It is easy to get complacent, living up here in isolation. I no longer feel the fear I did when I was further south and living in an area where many people travelled because of the oil industry. But there is currently a significant outbreak of British variant COVID in Hammerfest, which is about as out-of-the-way as it gets. It’s a reminder that nowhere is completely safe.

Having said all that, it was a pleasure to attend a real-life meeting in Tromsø on Tuesday this week. It was a training session for Dyrevernsnemnda, who are a group of lay people with an interest in and knowledge of animal husbandry. They work alongside the veterinary surgeons on welfare cases, providing a different perspective and improving balance in decision making. For me, it was a very useful meeting. Those working for Dyrevernsnemda come out on inspections with us and so the information was a whizz through of the laws and practices that govern us. It was very well presented.

It was also lovely to travel to Tromsø. Though it’s only two hours away, I have only been once before on an emergency mission to find a companion guinea pig. Another reminder that we are not living in normal times. I drove up with Thomas. Tromsø is on an island and we entered the city over this bridge.

I was glad that Thomas knew his way around. The city is on a hill and he pulled into a car park built into it. I was surprised to find a row of arches cut into the rock and lined with some kind of material. After the meeting, when we returned, I was even more amazed when I discovered the car-park was connected to the tunnel system that runs under the city. Norwegians are very skilled at building tunnels, but it still fascinates me when there are miles of roads underground, with junctions and roundabouts. I was also pleased to find a speed-bump sign in Norwegian. Obviously my sense of humour is very basic!

Wednesday was lovely. I travelled up to Laksvatn with Ammar to blood test some goats and we have arranged to do some more next week. I love going out to farms and doing practical work. There is none of the pressure that exists with the welfare side of the job and it is a lovely reminder of the time when I was working as a farm vet, which was what I always wanted to do. I gave it up after having children because the lifestyle doesn’t fit easily with family life when both parents are vets. I thought about returning to it last year, but didn’t feel certain I could manage calvings and some of the other more physical work now. Odd how life turns out.

Speaking of goats, we received an interesting e-mail this week. A couple from Germany, or perhaps the Netherlands have been travelling in Sweden. They have been hillwalking, which would be all very well, except for the fact that they have taken their pet goat with them. They’ve been seen out and about with the goat on a lead and it is rumoured they might be heading to Norway. I’m not sure what the rules are in Sweden, but in Norway there are very strict rules attached to importing animals. It’s one thing taking your dog with its passport, but the idea of roaming around Europe with a tame goat is something I found amusing.

I’ll finish off with a few photographs I took while continuing my walking program this week. More spring flowers are pushing through the ground and this week, cowslips seem to have taken over from the coltsfoot. Now it’s summer, more people are flying flags. It’s quite common for Norwegians to have a flag pole of some sort. There are strict rules around flying the Norwegian flag. If you put it up, you are supposed to take it down again at nightfall. Perhaps the Norwegian flag doesn’t like to be darked on. Presumably up here, in summer, you could leave the flag up all day because it doesn’t actually get dark, but it still seems to be common to fly a wimple, which has the Norwegian colours, but isn’t technically a flag that needs to be taken up and down. And although it’s very spring like, as you can see in the picture at the top of the page, and the one below, there are still lots of places where the trees have no leaves. Have a lovely weekend everybody.

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.

Wild Rover

Sunrise/sunset: 03:29/ 22:04. Daylength: 18hr 35mins

I drove home from Storslett on Friday last week, but not before taking a photograph of fish hanging outside to dry. Birgit and I were inspecting a goat herd and another flock of sheep, and on the way I finally spotted some racks that were in use. Norwegian stockfish is dried cod, usually of the prime seasonal Arctic variety that is called skrei. It hangs outside between February and May and has been a traditional foodstuff and an export since Viking times. It is the main ingredient in the Italian dish Bacalao. John and I saw much bigger drying racks last summer as we drove through Lofoten, but as that was in August, there were no fish back then. So having spotted these on the way, I asked Birgit to stop on the way back and I ran along the road, hopped over the barrier and staggered down a grassy bank to get a picture.

I took a couple of photos of the mountains as well. It is such a beautiful area and the mountain tops were decked with fluffy white clouds.

By the time I got home, the false spring weather had disappeared. Anna and I went for a walk on Senja on Saturday. There were a couple of reindeer standing in a field and we stopped to take a rather distant photo. Though the grass isn’t growing vigorously yet, I have seen other reindeer taking advantage of the temporarily uncovered pastures this week while driving around.

One of our favourite walks starts beside a school and Anna spotted some skis standing in a rack on the side of the building, so I took some pictures of them and the bike rack that is currently not in use. Outdoor living and exercise is very much encouraged and embraced here, whatever the weather.

On Tuesday I worked the early shift at the abattoir. It’s much easier driving over at 5am now it’s light. It was a particularly beautiful sunrise on Tuesday and I paused on the empty road to take a picture.

On Wednesday, with Birgit’s (long distance) help, I finished the course work and the report for the inspections I mentioned in Across the Lyngen Fjord. On Thursday morning there was a summing up meeting. On Thursday afternoon, having finished my homework for the week, I was free to turn my attention to my e-mails. Most of my e-mails contain information about meetings or outbreaks of controlled diseases, but now and then I am sent fascinating updates on the complicated interplay between large predators and domesticated and semi-domesticated animals in Norway.

In the past fifty years, there has been a movement from culling to preservation of species such as bears, wolverine, lynx, wolves and golden eagles. Wonderful as that is, it does have an impact and the Norwegian government have to work with farmers and herders to try to ensure balance.

Most of the domesticated animals such as sheep and cattle, are kept on pastures near to a farm. If they are moved, they go in lorries. Though some sheep (and especially lambs) are taken by predators, in general it is possible to keep the protected predator wildlife areas and farming regions separate. But the situation is much more complicated when it comes to reindeer.

Reindeer herding in Norway is carried out by Sami people using a mixture of traditional and modern methods. The reindeer are semi-domesticated: they are not fenced in, but are moved around to different pastures, depending on the season, food availability and the weather. Unfortunately, some of the important grazing areas, that have been used for thousands of years, overlap with some of the priority areas where there are targets set for these predatory animals.

The political situation is particularly difficult as there continues to be a lot of tension between the Sami and the Norwegian government. Until relatively recently, strong attempts were made to enforce integration into the more modern Norwegian lifestyle, but the creation of a Sami parliament in 1989 and the recognition of the language and way of life has not removed all conflict. Traditional herding methods are not only affected by predators, but by roadbuilding, property development and even wind farms. The grazing areas are mostly in land that is considered to be “state owned” but if that is land that your people have been using for more than a thousand years, I feel it is unreasonable to expect a full acceptance of that claim of ownership.

Anyway, back to the report. Apparently, lynx, wolverine and golden eagles are the biggest predatory threat to reindeer in Norway. Information from NINA, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research shows that the wolverine diet is 95% reindeer and lynx 65%. Some of the herders report many of their calves are taken, sometimes up to 75% of the years progeny. And because of the nomadic lifestyle, it is not only direct predation that can be problematic.

In January this year, a herd of up to two hundred reindeer took fright when they were being moved and it was strongly suspected that this was triggered by predators. Instead of travelling safely to their winter pasture, they headed up into the mountains. The terrain was frozen and largely impassable, and of course there was no grazing. A small group of them returned, but without their calves. Eventually a helicopter was arranged so the herders could get an overview and the herd was recovered, but there’s no doubt that these predators, alongside climate change, have a huge impact on traditional ways of life.

Regular readers might also be interested to hear an update on the female bear with a taste for lamb and mutton that I mentioned in the very first blog post I wrote when I started work here (Piece of Cake). It was too late last year to move the mother bear to a different area where there were no sheep. Now they are waiting to see whether the bear is pregnant and/or whether she will emerge from hibernation with yearling cubs.

Though moving her might prove to be a long term (or even impossible) project, other solutions are also sought. One of the farmers who reported the greatest losses has been granted funds to restructure and he will change from farming sheep to beef cattle. The farmers who lose animals are compensated for their losses, but of course the picture isn’t simply one of monetary cost.

One of the focuses of the report was on the animal welfare issues caused by the hunting of domesticated animals by these predators. In general, domesticated animals are kept safe from that type of harm. The idea that living in nature is some kind of idyllic haven for animals is overly simplistic.

I will finish up with a couple of photographs taken yesterday. The days are now very long and light, but after a week or two of rapid melting, the snow has returned. In the middle of the day, when the sun is high, it is so bright as to be almost unbearable. I really must buy some sunglasses! These pictures were taken at seven fifteen in the morning and at eleven forty five in the evening. Twenty four hour sunlight (and hopefully summer) is just around the corner.

Across the Lyngen Fjord

Yesterday was another of those gorgeous days of endless blue skies. Birgit and I drove south in the morning sunshine and then took the ferry across Lyngen Fjord.

Our destination was Lyngseidet in Lyngen Kommune. Though it is possible to drive round, it would take several hours. The crossing took about forty minutes and as well as taking photographs, Birgit and I bought drinks from the small cafe on board. I had a slightly surreal moment when I approached the lady behind the counter and she spoke to me in English. Given that I was wearing a Mattilsynet jumper with a Mattilsynet badge hanging from a Mattilsynet lanyard, and was waving a Norwegian credit card, I was slightly taken aback. Perhaps my face looked British, but I didn’t ask so I guess I’ll never know.

Birgit had planned two visits to blood sample goats, but there were some last minute cancellations and so we visited some sheep farms to check ear tags instead. I am taking a course at the moment on inspections, and so Birgit let me lead both of them. Better still on the first farm, as well as the sheep, the owner had some Lyngshest/Nordlandshest. These wonderful little Norwegian horses are immensely strong and hardy. Most of them are between 12.3 and 13.3 hands (130-140 cm) but Birgit assured me they can easily carry an adult’s weight. She had told me before we arrived about the little horses – she has some herself – and so when we had checked the sheep, I asked the farmer whether we could see them. He led us outside, and to my delight, he called them and they began slowly to walk towards us.

Despite being a little shy at first (he told us they were suspicious that we were vets) very soon we were making friends. Considering the bizarre protective clothing we wear, I think they were surprisingly courageous!

The second visit was great too. The farmer gave us a warm welcome and was very positive about having a visit from Mattilsynet. She seemed rightly proud of her mixed flock, half of them tiny Norsk Villsau (literally Norwegian wild sheep) the other half being the sturdier Norsk Kvit Sau, or White Sheep.

Once we were finished, we headed back to the village where we had landed. After stopping to take a photo of Lynseidet church with its friendly red roof and one of the irresistible mountain behind the Co-Op, we ate lunch outside on a scarlet-painted table beside the fjord. Birgit pointed out the curlews flitting over the water. The arrival of the curlews on their migration to the north means that spring has arrived, she told me. With the warm sun on my face, I could well believe it.

After that it was time for our return journey across the Fjord. As I looked back towards Lyngseidet, I was already making plans in my head to visit again in the summer. It will all look very different in a few weeks time when (most of) the snow has melted.

As we drove around, Birgit told me a bit about the local area. Norway has, of course, a great seafaring tradition. With its long coastline and sheltered fjords, it was the perfect place to create a trading hub. And here in the north, we are also very close to the Finnish, Swedish and Russian borders. She tells me that traders created their own language, which is a mixture of the various languages and dialects, so that they can all understand one another.

I had heard of the Sami before, but not of the Kven people. Descendants of Finns who moved to Norway in the 18th and 19th centuries, they too have their own language. So just as in Scotland, where many road sign have Gaelic alongside the English spelling and in Wales where Welsh names are shown, up here there are road signs with three different languages: Norwegian, Sami and Kvensk.

As we arrived back in Sørkjosen where I am staying, Birgit told me that the building opposite my hotel was one of the few in the area that was not burned down by the Germans as they retreated towards the end of the second world war. I had taken a picture of it in the morning as it was a beautiful old building.

And so, with all the new information whirling in my head, I stopped for a moment to look at the boats that were safely tide up in the harbour. Despite the desperate thought of past destruction, so far I have found nothing but peace and happiness here in Nordreisa.

The Road to Storslett

I know I usually update on Saturdays, but this week is special. My long awaited, coronavirus-postponed trip to Mattilsynet Troms and Svalbard’s most northerly outpost in Storslett is finally here. It was a wonderful drive up through glacier carved mountain ranges and along the steep edges of fjords.

The sun was shining on the snow-capped peaks, and waterfalls are beginning to appear, mostly at present as tiny droplets falling from mossy rocks, but soon there will be torrents as the ice melts and the world turns green.

As I neared Storslett, the land beside the fjord stretched out. Small boat sheds, cheerfully painted, stood beside ramshackle frames where cod would be hung to dry in winter. I didn’t manage to take a picture of the frames, but I will try to do so on the drive back, or when I’m out and about with Birgit, who is my mentor for this week.

By the time I got to my hotel I was tired and fell asleep for an hour, but I woke to the most wonderful evening sky. Goodnight all!

Dog in the Snow

Sunrise/sunset: 08:23/ 15:42. Daylength: 7hr 18min

I started the week in Bardufoss. John was here last weekend and I took him back on Monday night and stayed over until Wednesday. The temperature is much lower inland and it was -24°C when I parked the car.

You really find out how good your vehicle is in those conditions. After a few short journeys, my lovely BMW started to tell me that its battery was not very happy (it’s a very chatty car and likes to forewarn me before things get out of hand – though sometimes I wish it wasn’t quite so fussy about seatbelts when I want to shuffle the car on the driveway). A quick check on the internet told me there was probably no real problem, but for the last twenty four hours of my stay, I was worried that I might not make it back without complications. When I returned home (where it was a balmy -4°C) the warning light was still on, so I decided to get it checked out. It was snowing hard and the weather forecast was warning me that it wasn’t going to stop any time soon. The garage Hilde recommended was busy, but they kindly arranged for me to go to the petrol station next door. After a quick trip home to remove the dog cage from the boot (because that’s where the battery is apparently) the mechanic very kindly checked that the battery was indeed fully functional and then waved me on my way without charging anything. He’s definitely gained a new client!

When I’m not in the abattoir, I’m still working from home and for now, I’m concentrating hard on trying to qualify as the Norwegian equivalent of an Official Veterinary Surgeon. This will allow me to work in the abattoir without another (already qualified) vet. The course really does cover a lot of material, mostly to do with welfare, but some of it is very technical. On Friday I found myself learning about stunning chickens with electricity, which actually isn’t a method used here in Norway. Nonetheless, I found myself back at school learning all about Ohm’s Law, current, resistance and voltage, only this time it was all in Norwegian. Life here does sometimes throw up unexpected challenges!

I was, as you can imagine, quite relieved to arrive home safely on Wednesday and I decided that having got there, going back out again should be kept to a minimum. Here’s a summary of the weather forecast from Thursday lunchtime.

By Thursday morning, it looked like this.

It soon clouded over again though. Wave after wave of snow has passed. They come in from the North, slipping in over Gisundet, the sound between the mainland and Senja.

There has been quite some digging of the driveway to be done, though happily my landlord keeps popping over with his snow blower to remove some of it. It’s getting harder to dig out though as the snow at the sides gets higher.

Though of course my driveway has nothing on the public car parks down in the town itself. For reference, the zebra-crossing sign is a good deal taller than me.

But one of the best things about the snow is watching Triar playing. He loves going outside and flolloping through the deep snow, burying his face and emerging cheerfully covered. He will happily play outside for ages and doesn’t seem to feel the cold.

And of course, after all that play, it’s time for Triar to go to bed. Sleep well Triar!

Not Going Out

Sunrise/sunset: 10:07/ 13:53. Daylength: 3hr 45min

Another week working from home. It was only to be expected as the coronavirus figures, though steady, hadn’t begun to drop. The Norwegian government announcement was made on Monday, but they have promised to review it again next week. Numbers are now falling, so I’m hoping that next week I will be able to join some of my colleagues in the office.

That said, working from home has its advantages. The drive to work is shorter and the coffee is better. Aside from that, for the past two days, Storm Frank has been battering the Norway coast and going out hasn’t been so appealing. Luckily our apartment was protected from the worst of the wind by the steep slope that rises up behind it, but minus ten gusting up to sixty miles an hour is really quite chilly!

The company at home is furrier, though the conversation is less varied. Triar looks wistfully out of the window as Frank’s chilly blast keeps us sitting inside for another day.

There is now ice on everything. There is ice on this football field on Senja.

Ice on the pitch. Football… or curling?

There is ice in the ditches and escaping from rocks.

Frozen waterfall.

Even the snow is covered in ice. It cracks as you step on it, the deep sound echoing through the air trapped in the underlying snow: very satisfying to jump into!

All this is treacherous of course, but going out is still sometimes necessary. As well as boots with spikes on the soles, we have a bucket of stones in the porch that we strew on the driveway. These are not like the mealy, red grit-mixed-with-salt that they use in the south. These are serious stones and at minus ten, salt has no benefits. With excellent foreplanning, Anna and I covered the driveway when there was something of a melt last week and now they are well embedded in the minus ten ice.

I had my five month assessment at work this week. It went well. In spite of coronavirus, Hilde is satisfied that I am picking things up quickly enough and working well. My ongoing aims are to start to take the lead when I go out on visits with colleagues and to put forward my opinions more in meetings. I am definitely guilty of not speaking up in meetings. This quotation from verse 27 of an old Norse poem, Hávamál, the Sayings of the High One is pertinent here:

Ósnotr maðr
er með aldir kømr
þat er bazt at hann þegi
engi þat veit
at hann ekki kann
name hann mæli til mart
veita maðr
hinn er vætki veit
þótt hann mæli til mart

Translation by Olive Bray

For the unwise man
who comes among men,
it is best that be he silent.
None know
that he knows nothing,
unless he should speak too much. *
The man does not know it,
he who knows nothing,
whether he speaks too much.

Not that I am especially unwise, of course, but until I have a full understanding of what is going on, I always tend to listen more than speak. Silence among crowds comes naturally to me. But given that a few days back, I heard in a meeting that Anja would be conducting the visits to hens and chickens, and rather than speaking up at the time to say I was interested in chickens, I stayed silent and e-mailed her afterwards to ask if I could accompany her, there are definitely some changes I can make that shouldn’t be too difficult.

And I will leave you with two more pictures I took in the tail end of the storm (the first being at the top of this post). Removing my gloves to take them was painful, but definitely worth it.

Uneasy water in the fjord as back-lit clouds race across the sky.
The bridge to Senja.

Waiting

Sunrise/sunset: 08:06/ 16:58. Daylength: 8hr 51min.

I was hoping to share the first snow pictures of the winter with you today. The weather forecast was for sleet, and I know these things can be wrong in either direction. I am, at last, beginning to feel I might be prepared. Yesterday I bought snow scrapers for the car windscreen and the driveway as well as some bags of environmentally friendly, reusable grit. But for now, there is only rain outside my window, as there has been for days. The picture at the top of the page was taken on my drive to work on the last day before the rain began. It was so beautiful, I couldn’t resist stopping. I sometimes wonder whether people will see the Mattilsynet logo on the side of the car and wonder what I’m up to!

There isn’t much of interest to report at work. The seasonal meat inspection is still in full swing and I have been working there every day this week, though the drive over is often a pleasant experience. Yesterday, I glimpsed what I thought were some horses or cows in a field. I turned my head at the last minute, as something was hammering in my brain about them being the wrong shape. To my pleasure, I saw it was a moose with two almost grown calves. I still feel a frisson of delight in seeing wild animals. By the time I realised, it was too late to stop for a photograph, but hopefully it won’t be the last time.

The basement flat where we live is feeling more and more like home. Anna and Andrew bought me an Alexa for Christmas last year, and other than wrestling with her for a while as I tried to get her to play Tir n’a Noir I haven’t used her very much. But John, having researched a new lighting system that is voice activated, has set her up so that we can now ask her to turn on the lights and she does so. The bulbs are heinously expensive (I bought a new one last night which was reduced by 114kr or around around £10 [16 Canadian dollars for Iceland Penny!]) but they can be set on different brightness levels and also to warm or bright light. We also have strip lighting on a shelf beside the TV which can change colour. When it is properly dark, and especially if I work from home at some point, the lighting is going to be very important.

Anyway, John is home for the weekend, and he and Andrew need to go shopping for winter boots, so I will leave you with another photograph of misty mountains at dawn. Have a great week everybody.

Changes

Sunrise/sunset: 07:38/ 17:29. Daylength: 9hr 50min.

I have been adding the changing daylength at the top of each post for a while now. Those who have noticed might have calculated that over the course of each week, we are losing an hour of light and gaining an hour of darkness. The rate of change is not exactly disconcerting, but it is a little disorienting. I look at the clock expecting it to be late evening and find it is only seven o’clock.

Sometime last week, I noticed two of the trees beside the little pond in the town centre had been decorated with lights. In the UK and in the more southerly part of Norway where I used to live, there were tasteful lights draped in the branches of the trees around Christmas, but this was something different. The whole tree, trunk and branches, seemed to be swathed in lights, and it seemed odd that there were only two. I drove home yesterday and to my delight, saw that now there were lots more trees lit up. I don’t know whether they are finished, or whether there are more to come, but Andrew, Triar and I went for a wander around the pond and it was beautiful.

As well as the changing daylength, there has been another change this week. John has started to do seasonal work at the abattoir. He is working with the sheep shearing squad. There is a technique, of course, to sheep shearing. He tells me it’s important to remove the wool in a smooth manner, ensuring that the length doesn’t get disrupted. If they don’t get it right first time, they are encouraged not to take another cut as the shortness of those segments would degrade the quality and mean the price would be lower. For my part, I’m glad that the wool is used. I remember being told at university that wool was considered so worthless that it was often thrown away. If we breed animals for food, I can’t help feeling that we should do what we can to use every one of the products that creates. Anyway, for now, John has moved out and is living in a house with other members of the team and seems to be enjoying it, which is wonderful.

Andrew has also been away this week, visiting his dad and the orthodontist. He flew back yesterday evening, and as the airport is near to where I was working, I decided I would find something to do there instead of coming home and having to drive back. Rather than leaving Triar at home all day on his own, he came with me in the car. The airport is at Bardufoss, and as Foss is Norwegian for waterfall, I decided to go and look for it. It didn’t take too long to find. I’m sure it was beautiful once… but it was now empty. Norway is famous for its renewable energy. 98% of electricity production comes from renewable sources, and though the number of wind farms is increasing year on year, the majority still comes from hydroelectric.

But of course, where there are mountains, you are never too far from a waterfall. As I was driving, I noticed signs for Målselvfossen and so I followed them. It was well worth the effort. As Triar and I walked down into the valley, sunlight stippled the hills in the distance.

Down beside the river, the roar filled our ears. There was a salmon ladder, currently closed, but well worth a revisit next year as the summer comes round again. We’ll definitely be coming back!