We’re into July now. Time seems to be passing almost too quickly. In a couple of weeks, the twenty-four hour daylight will be past. In August, I will have been here a full year. I only have one week of holiday booked this summer. Norwegian holiday laws are odd. For some reason, you are paid holiday pay in arrears, the year after you took the holiday. As I only worked from August last year, I’m only entitled to ten days of paid holiday this year. Last year, my only holiday was the ten days I spent driving up here, so it feels like a very long time since I’ve had a break. Anyway, given the continuing COVID restrictions, I thought it would be appropriate to use my week in August to travel up to Nordkapp, right up at the top of Norway. I will then have driven the full length of the country.
I had my COVID vaccination this week on Wednesday. Though Norway is a little behind the UK, everything seems to be moving along now. John had his on Thursday and Anna will have hers when she returns from Rogaland. I’m not sure what is happening with under 18s yet. I hope that Andrew will receive his in due course. The UK seems to be about to head into crazy territory. Allowing the virus to run rampant through the young people, knowing how easy it is for the virus to mutate, seems like a very strange pathway to choose, given that there’s a viable option to vaccinate.
I don’t have much else to report. I saw some moose on the drive to work and yesterday came across a gorgeous reindeer wandering about on Senja, but as usual, photographing wild animals proved more difficult than taking pictures of the scenery!
In the depths of the polar night, the light was bluish and very clear. Now in the height of summer, there’s a haze hanging in the air that lends the distant mountains a sense of magical unreality. And then there are the flowers. They are everywhere. I’ve taken a few photos as usual. Hope you enjoy them.
17th May is Norway’s national day. On this day in 1814, the Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll in Viken County. All round the country, and indeed round the world, Norwegians celebrate.
Outside of coronavirus times, the children march through town centres and teenagers in their last year at school don special «Russ» costumes of varying colours. After a month of pranks and dares, both inside and outside of school, they join the parades for their special day. There are various Russ outfits, the most common being dungarees with a Norwegian flag inside the front panel. The straps and flag are often left hanging and the trousers are decorated with slogans and pictures, as you can see with the green-dressed clarinet player standing at the front of the band. Red Russ is the most common, but some wear green, some blue, black or white, often depending on what course of study they are following.
Brass bands are very popular, and as well as the above band playing in the square, there was a marching band which came along the main street before the motor parade. The marching band includes school children who are provided with instruments and lessons after school in return for playing during celebrations.
Russ celebrations have been muted this year and other than the band, the children didn’t march here, but there was a parade of vehicles through the town centre. The emergency services turned out, as did many members of other industries. Ambulances, red cross, farmers and firemen drove through the streets along with motorcyclists and car enthusiasts.
And everywhere, the smart red, blue and white of the Norwegian flag.
Usually there’s a gathering afterwards, perhaps in a community hall, but this year we went home for our hotdogs.
Last week, I sent the manuscript of a new book I’ve written to a friend. It’s always a nerve wracking moment, showing something you’ve created to another person. Lara is very well read and I was optimistic that if there was any storyline or character that was completely off key, she would tell me.
It’s been a tough project. I started it a couple of years ago in a lull between the last two Hope Meadows books. It’s about a veterinary practice in Scotland: partly wish fulfilment, I think, but also an exploration the life of older women. In this modern world, where women are supposedly able to have everything, they often end up juggling job and family and find themselves trapped in situations rooted in decisions made years ago when their children were young. I was aiming for a cross between James Herriot and Sally Wainwright (the scriptwriter behind the TV series Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley) and I hope I’ve achieved it.
To my intense joy (and relief) Lara loved it. Practically minded and knowledgeable, she also pointed out one or two technical points about veterinary practice and rules and regulations. Once I’ve ironed those out, I will be faced with the search for an agent.
In the UK, it’s close to impossible to get a novel published without an agent. In this age of computers, so many people write that all the major publishers have inserted a buffer between them and the great writing public. They will only look at fiction sent to them by an author’s agent, so now I have to look for one. Those who have followed my progress for a very long time might know that I was with Peter Buckman at the Ampersand agency (he put me in contact with Victoria Holmes, who led me through all six Hope Meadows books) but he admitted before we set off that Womens’ Commercial Fiction (which is what I write) wasn’t really his thing, and so at the end of Hope Meadows, we parted. He has since contacted me when he got wind of another vet project, so we remain on good terms, but what I really need is someone I can bounce ideas off, so that is what I’m going to look for.
John has been home for the weekend for the past three weeks and as it was lovely weather yesterday morning, I took the afternoon off and we went out with the dog on Senja. Serious walking is out for the moment. The deep snow on the mountains is beginning to melt. Water begins to run underneath it, and so as well as being slushy and almost impossible to walk through, there’s also a risk of avalanches. So for now, we contented ourselves with a stroll near Vangsvik. We found a lovely little harbour where the water was so clear that both John and I thought it would be a lovely place for a scuba dive. Though we have some kit in the flat, it’s so long since I’ve been that I will need to contact a club for retraining if I decide I want to jump back in.
I also stopped on the way back to take some pictures and was delighted to find the start of a hike which I had never noticed before. At four hours (probably five or six at my pace – Norwegians walk everywhere much faster than I do) and with a well marked path, it sounds perfect.
If the view at the beginning is anything to go by, the outlook from the top must be stunning. In a few weeks time, we will have 24 hour daylight, and even though I’ve woken to snow again this morning, it can’t last forever. Though spring is still trying to hide, there are definitely leaf buds on the trees now. Maybe a midnight hike will be in order. Roll on summer!
Anyone else love hotels? For me there are few things more pleasurable than travelling somewhere and checking in to a hotel with a comfortable bed with clean white sheets. Better still is waking up in the morning to a lovely breakfast someone else has cooked. I will add that if you have spent a long day working out on farms in cold weather, then stepping under a powerful shower with sweet-scented soap to wash away the chill and the farmyard smells is blissful.
The only imperfection for me, was that I had forgotten to take my book. I am trying to cut down my internet time and take up reading again. There is something about escaping into the world of a book that can never be simulated by online conversation.
Things are, of course, slightly odd at the moment. I spent Thursday night at Vollan Gjestestua (pictured above) with five colleagues from the DyreGo Team, which covers animal health and welfare. Business travel in Norway is limited at the moment, but there is a certain amount of work we have to carry out over the course of the year. The area we cover between us is too large to do it easily and then drive home afterwards. In addition, lockdown and working from home is increasingly wearing, so although we had to all sit at separate tables in the restaurant and communicate by lip reading and sign language, it was good for my mental health to see my working colleagues in the flesh and not just on a screen. Yesterday we had a similarly distanced meeting.
I read a blog entry earlier in the week by Iceland Penny. It draws attention to some of the contradictions in life, things she came across that held both good and bad/beauty and ugliness. Both/And by Iceland Penny. I was reminded of the post by a discussion in the meeting we had about technology.
I have come to Mattilsynet at a time of upheaval. Some of it is driven by the drive to use less paper and more technology, but the process has been speeded up by coronavirus. If you hand over a pen and paper for a signature, you increase the risk of infection.
When we carry out a visit, whatever the reason for it, we summarise our observations on a Tilsynskvittering. This is an outline of the visit and what was checked, split into different sections related to Norwegian law, stating whether the things we saw fulfilled the legal requirements. This receipt, until very recently, was written on paper, which you then photographed before handing it over to the owner. But since December, we have moved over to using an App.
Astrid pointed out that the new technology could be rendered useless if, for example, you were in an area with no phone signal. I would add that with the small screen on a mobile phone, it is hard to do a lot of typing. In theory you could take along your laptop and connect it to the phone, but then you are still reliant on being connected and anyway, there comes a point when you have to remember to take so many things that the entire process becomes unwieldy. “There’s a lot to be said,” she commented, “for pencil and paper.”
I guess this might be partly influenced by age. I mentioned escaping into a book upthread, and said I never managed to escape into another world online, but I know there are immersive games where my children manage to do just that. But most of the DyreGo team, like me are upwards of fifty.
While I can see that all this new technology has benefits, I also see that it’s challenging when change is brought in so fast. There was an older farmer we visited last year who had been asked to make a number of improvements and Thomas had asked him to send photos once he had done so. Having not received any, Thomas arranged a revisit, assuming the work had not been carried out. When we arrived, Thomas was delighted to find out that it had. When he asked the elderly farmer why he hadn’t sent the proof along, the farmer told us he didn’t have a phone with a camera. I think when we are so connected ourselves, sometimes it’s easy to forget that others are not.
Personally I am on the fence. There is increasing connectedness that I feel ought make us more free, but instead sometimes ties us down. In the meeting, I found myself thinking about the issue of traceability in farming and food production. When an outbreak of food-borne illness breaks out, it’s an advantage that we can find out more easily where it came from. But there is an enormous amount of work in ensuring all the information is put into the system within a very short timeframe. To me that seems like a lot of pressure on farmers who grew up in a time when most of the connections were with family, local farmers and the vet, and the only technology was your machinery and the weather forecast on the radio.
There are periods when I find myself hankering after pre-internet, pre-mobile phone times. It was way easier to go “off-grid”. Anyone else remember those announcements on the wireless (BBC Radio 4) appealing to people on holiday to get in touch as their relative was seriously ill?
I worked in large animal practice, and once you were out on your calls, there was a kind of freedom, though of course that could be inconvenient if you went all the way back and then found there was another visit in the same direction. I think there was less pressure in practice to be right all the time and to know everything. You built up knowledge through experience, through speaking to colleagues, through reading books that were probably already out of date as they had been sitting on the shelf in the practice for several years.
Nowadays, if you know where to look online, there are answers to be found and groups you can join. Anaesthetists discuss the intricacies of different protocols, breed and species differences and how to achieve perfect pain relief. There’s good and bad in that. Better specialisation, increased cost. Some things are lost as well, in this new world. A safe path can be equally well achieved with long familiarity with drugs and techniques, built up over a lifetime of experience. Sometimes I feel everything is now moving too fast.
That said, I can’t put aside the positives. I wrote six books while living in Norway with a co-author in Somerset for a company based in London. Victoria Holmes and I batted ideas across the ether in e-mails in a way that allowed thinking time without excessive delays. We couldn’t have done that over a traditional telephone line or in letters. I am also connected to friends I went to school with and teachers who would otherwise only be a pleasant memory (hello Mr Gorski!). I would never have heard from them again without it.
Even so, despite the positives, I find myself wishing that we could insert a grandfather clause into modern life. A grandfather clause, for those who don’t know, is an exemption from following new laws if doing so would be too costly or difficult. The most obvious example would be with building regulations that require new business premises to follow certain rules with regards to toilet provision, but don’t require that older buildings are brought up to the same standard.
I can’t help feeling that if staff who have worked adequately for years with a pen and paper are retiring within the next ten years or so, they could be allowed to continue without it doing a great deal of harm. It would save them a lot of grief. There is an aspiration that wherever you are in Norway and whatever your business, Mattilsynet will assess and deal with your case in the same way. I can see the value in that when it comes to assessing whether legal requirements are fulfilled.
But whether the report is sent online or on paper? When it really comes down to it, that doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, in the grand scheme of things.
If you were raised in the United Kingdom, as I was, you might occasionally have found yourself wondering why all the barns in picture books and on those alphabet pictures on the wall of your classroom were painted red. Barns in the UK tend to fall into two types. Traditional farmhouses often have a yard surrounded by byres or a steading where the animals were kept before farming was industrialised. They are often constructed of brick or stone, depending on the area.
Those traditional buildings are often now used for stock which require a lot of close attention, for example calves that need to be fed twice a day, cows that are about to calve, or which have recently done so, and animals which are sick.
The newer barns, which have been built to house the main herd or flock, tend to be huge affairs, built high, with solid walls at the base to reduce draughts and open spaces or slats higher up to allow good air circulation. Red paint doesn’t feature in either the old or the new.
I had concluded, when I thought about it, that the red barn picture-book phenomenon was probably a US import. But why were so many barns painted red? They certainly look attractive, but how did the tradition begin?
When I moved to Norway, one of the very obvious differences from the UK was the way houses are built. Here, most houses are made of wood. Nowadays, they are painted many different colours, but in contrast with that, most barns are painted red. One of my neighbours in south-west Norway explained to me that traditionally houses had also been painted mostly in two different colours: red and white.
A white house was a sign of wealth. White paint was more expensive, red was cheaper, both because the paint was less expensive and also because it was less obvious if it became dirty or discoloured. Quite often, the houses of well-to-do farmers would be painted white, but the barn continued to be decorated with the cheaper red paint.
And so it seems likely that the reason barns in the United States are red is because the tradition (and the methods of making paint or stains) were taken over from Scandinavia. Presumably red barns in children’s picture books will remain that way, even if the tradition stops. They are, after all, much more distinctive and picturesque than modern barns in the UK.
Anyway, I have been meaning for a while to get photographs of some of the barns I see as I am driving around as I work and yesterday I took the afternoon off to do it. They are a very distinctive part of the landscape. Some of them are old, some look newer. Unlike most British barns, they are built on different levels and as you will see, many have a kind of bridge through which you can enter the upper levels. Building to fit the steep, mountainous landscape is definitely a feature.
I have been saddened to find that quite a number of these barns are no longer in use. I hope that they will not gradually disappear, although I confess I have seen a few which are falling down and in a state of decay, they still hold onto their romance and beauty. I didn’t get any photographs yesterday of those, but hopefully at some point, I will.
Anna was with me on my trip and she couldn’t resist taking a snap of this buried van with its tiny house and the wonderful backdrop.
And though today it is snowing again, this was the sunset behind the gathering clouds as we drove home from our trip yesterday. The mountains of Senja taken from Sørreisa.
One of the things I liked about living in Scotland was the good condition of the major roads and its relatively small size. Sure, if you drove from Jedburgh to Dunnet Head, it took about six and a half hours, but living in central Scotland, as we did for a while, it was easy to explore other cities on weekend trips. When the children were young, we may have spent more time running around castles than city centres, but the point remains; it was easy to find budget hotels in all kinds of different places within a three to four hour drive.
On the first weekend we arrived in Norway, our friendly landlord invited us to his cabin. He had a beautiful house in Stavanger, but had kept his mother’s house on an island in Flekkefjord after she had died. Though Flekkefjord was no city, the idea seemed similar, if not better. This was the chance to escape to a different area, weekend life on an island with a boat and as many crabs as you could eat. We learned that it was common in Norway to have a second home. Sometimes they were inherited, but not always. It offered the chance to escape to the sea or the mountains. Not that those were particularly lacking in or near the cities I’ve visited in Norway, but the idea of travelling to somewhere distant and different resonated with me. Cheap hotels like Premier Inn or Travel Lodge, where you can comfortably fit a family of four in a room are definitely not a feature in Norway.
But as I lived in Norway longer, I began to find out that it was quite common to have a cabin much closer to home. People would have a weekend home only half an hour from where they lived. I confess this seemed bizarre to me. Surely the idea of a weekend break is to explore somewhere different? Perhaps eat out in a restaurant you haven’t tried before or go to a museum you haven’t visited two or three times already? But with time, I began to understand it better. Eating out in Norway is becoming more common, but it’s still an expensive treat and not a weekly event. Your cabin is somewhere you go to relax, probably enjoy the outdoors, and simply to have a change of scene. Unless you specifically want it near a ski resort or in a particular area, why not have it only half an hour’s drive from home? Better still, if you have it fully stocked with clothes, there isn’t even a need to pack.
For now, having my own cabin is only a dream, but with coronavirus still at the forefront of every travel opportunity, we decided that a weekend away would be a change of scene. Andrew was away, so John, Anna and I made our preparations. Rather than choosing a city to explore, with a long drive, we decided that comfort was key. What could be better than spending some time in a cosy cabin with a wood stove, Norwegian curios on the walls and sheepskin rugs on deep cushioned sofas?
And so last weekend, we drove about an hour from home to spend the weekend in a log cabin on a husky farm.
Our arrival at the farm was wonderful. We stopped the car and climbed out into the silence of a Norwegian winter in the middle of nowhere. There were snow filled fields all around and the log cabin with its warm yellow wooden walls looked just as inviting as it had in the pictures on the website.
We had brought Triar along and so we rushed round to the boot of the car to let him out of his travel cage. Though the sight of a car and humans had been greeted with silence, on Triar’s appearance, the huskies began to raise their voices. And what a wonderful sound it was, howling and yodelling, a wonderful crescendo rising in the crisp still air.
We felt even more at home as we explored inside. The range in the kitchen had been lit and it was wonderfully cosy. There were pans on the walls and a huge table. The range was complemented by a modern cooker, coffee machine, toaster and kettle. John and Anna were with me and I couldn’t resist starting to cook on the range. It reminded me of a friends farms back in Scotland, where the kitchen was the heart of the home. There was always a huge kettle on the Aga on the edge of boiling so family and guests alike could grab a hot drink at any time of the day or night.
There were loads of quirky features. As you can see, there is silver birch trunk holding up one of the beams in the kitchen. The little twisted staircase in the corner leads up to the living room where there is another wood stove and wonderful couches with animal themed cushions. Off that room there was a bedroom that Anna and I shared.
It truly was a wonderful place. It was minus ten outside and Espen, who runs the farm with his wife Delphine, had advised us to light the stove in the kitchen as soon as we rose each morning. The house was built upwards, so heat rose from the kitchen, up those rickety stairs to the living room and from there into a quirky loft bedroom under the rafters. Life somehow slows down when you have to feed a wood stove all day.
Our only trip was a visit to Bardufoss to buy John some warmer trousers. John and Anna humoured me as I stopped on the way back to take some photographs of a rural church with its snow-covered graveyard. You can see it was cold. The halo of light around the sun here, and in the pictures of the house, is formed by tiny ice crystals in the air.
It was good to have some time away. Easy in these winter months and lockdown times to stay at home more and more. Lovely though the view is from the windows of the apartment, it was great to have a change of scene. And perhaps in future, it might provide a wonderful backdrop for a new novel.
The weather changed over the weekend. The wind began to rise and the snow began to drift, but we stayed cosy and warm inside. As I lay in bed on Sunday morning, listening to the wind gusting against the thick wooden walls, I contemplated calling to see whether we could stay another night.
But I was due to work on Monday, and even if I didn’t have to put in an appearance in the office, it wouldn’t be possible to combine work with packing up and going home. And so reluctantly, I pulled myself out from under the covers and began to get ready to depart. But I hope to return in future. The farm runs dogsledding trips, traditional food in a Sami lavvo (similar to a wigwam) and tours to meet and make friends with the huskies. We will definitely be going back one day.
It’s getting lighter very fast now. We have an hour more daylight today than we had last Saturday. We took Triar for a run on the beach last week, and these pictures were taken at around four in the afternoon.
We finally have some snow. It’s been falling on and off throughout the week and it makes the world seem much brighter as well. Back in Scotland, growing up, it generally snowed a couple of times each winter. It was usually around zero when it happened and often the flakes were huge. They landed on the ground and stayed there.
Snow at minus ten is quite different. I have occasionally seen bigger flakes, but they’re mostly much smaller. If there’s any wind at all, it carries them effortlessly. Sometimes they move so fast horizontally that I wonder if they’ll ever hit the ground. Driving at night, the snow skitters and dances across the road in the headlights. When lorries pass, they create clouds of it that seem to go on for miles. Of course, if there’s a lot of snow and some wind, you can get dangerous drifts, but so far it isn’t deep and nor is it windy. It has, though, covered over all that ice, and to enough depth that it is no longer treacherously slippery.
There is, as yet, no obvious heat in the sun. It finally made it over the hill to hit the house on Tuesday. Odd how heartening it was to see it, though it was gone a moment later.
It was rather misty as well that day. I was fascinated to see the bridge to Senja had become a bridge to nowhere. I took two pictures. The first is at the top of the page, when the sun was turning the fog a wonderful pink colour. Moments later, the sun was diminished as the cloud thickened, and then it stopped looking warm and colourful, but was beautiful nonetheless.
And now it’s Saturday morning and John is home for the weekend and wants to take Triar out. It’s half past nine and already light, so who am I to say no! I will leave you with a picture of the cloudberry liqueur I picked up yesterday at the Vinmonopol. We tried it last night and it tastes of honey and late summer warmth. Cheers!
This week has seen the return of the sun. I had hoped to take a photograph, but with the surrounding mountains and varying cloud cover, I haven’t actually seen it. The increasing daylight is cheering though. Anna and I made the most of the light that we had last weekend, taking Triar out for some wonderful walks on Senja.
This was also the second week of working from home. While there are some advantages to it, there are also frustrations. A large part of my job will be carrying out visits to farms and animal holdings, but for now all non-essential trips are cancelled. The best way for me to learn a new job is getting out there and doing it. I have a jigsaw puzzle brain. Individual facts or pieces have little meaning and are hard to remember. Understand how they fit together and I can build a comprehensive picture. Much easier to remember laws when I can apply them to cases, rather than trying to learn about them in isolation.
That said, I have spent each day this week reading around a different topic. The animal health day was probably the most interesting. I looked through the visits and checks we have been set for this year as part of the OK program and read around the different topics. As regular readers will know, the OK program is set up by Mattilsynet to monitor animal health and food safety in Norway and on my trawl through this years tasks, I discovered we have a few visits scheduled to herds of camelids (llama and alpacas) to check for mite infestations. I have never been to a llama farm before, so that is something to look forward to.
I will leave you with some aurora borealis pictures. We drove to Bardufoss on Monday evening to drop John off for work and on the way, we noticed that the sky was streaked with green. We pulled off the road and for the first time watched the northern lights from a place where there was very little light pollution. It was a show worth watching and we stood for a long time in the darkness, faces lifted to the sky, oblivious to the snow underfoot and the chill in the air.
We had a quiet start to 2021. Anna and Andrew flew off very early on the morning of the 31st to visit Charlie, so John and I saw in the new year with Triar and the guinea pigs. New year in Norway is celebrated with fireworks, so as midnight approached, John and I donned our hats and gloves and took our celebration outside. There was a satisfying throwback to summer and our trip to the north. We bought a folding gas ring back then: one of those neat purchases that are small enough to throw in the car. Now we found a new use for it as a table-top cooker to heat our gløg.
The fireworks over Senja were spectacular. Ten minutes of intense light and sound punctuating the winter darkness.
Other than the fireworks, the last week has been quiet. Though there is still no snow, there is plenty of ice. Though it has been above zero quite frequently, the pond in the middle of Finnsnes is frozen enough for the local children to use it as a skating rink.
Unfortunately, the same thing is true of some of our usual walks.
And so there has been a tendency to huddle indoors. I hope the snow returns soon. When it is so dark outside, having snow on the ground makes everything much brighter.
I will leave you with a couple of pictures of the moon over Senja. Though I haven’t been out much, my life is still filled with beauty.
Anna came home last week. In line with Norwegian quarantine rules, she has been avoiding areas where she would come into contact with people. She could however, go for walks, so on Wednesday I took a day off and she, Triar and I headed out to Ånderdalen National Park.
It has been overcast for most of the week and under the polar skies, the light is grey-blue, but has a rare clarity that I love. With the snow, it looks very different from my last trip, when everything was green. I was fascinated, as before, by the ghost trees – dead but still holding strong on the sturdy roots that have seen them through many arctic winters. These two trees, entwined in death, but giving protection to a few smaller fir trees growing in their shelter were perhaps the most beautiful.
Of course I was busy with my camera throughout.
Yesterday was another of those amazing work days that lift an enjoyable job into something even more special. Way back in September, if you’re a regular reader, you might recall the Finnsnes staff taking a trip out to cook hot dogs at Sørreisa. Back then, the season (the busiest time of year at the abattoir) was just getting started and between then and now, the Mattilsynet staff there have been working every day. But now, with the season past and Christmas fast approaching, there are days when there are no animals coming in and the line is still and silent.
Ann had invited me last week on a day out. I felt quite honoured. Most of the staff who would be hiking together have been working exclusively in the abattoir and for the past couple of weeks I have barely been there. In some ways it’s a rather sad time. While Ann is a permanent member of staff, Konstantin and Vaidotas came for the season and both of them are heading home for Christmas. Vaidotas is going first – driving home all the way to Lithuania this weekend. Konstantin will be there on Monday, but I will only see him for a short time as I will mostly be working at Hjerttind on my long delayed training day in the reindeer abattoir. He will be heading back to Latvia early next week. I feel that both of them have become friends. There’s no doubt I will miss them very much.
Anyway, back to yesterday. Ann and her boyfriend have begun an amazing project to build a smallholding where they will raise Norsk Villsau – an ancient breed of small but hardy Norwegian sheep – all wild eyes, wool and horns. They have bought a plot out in the wilds and the plan was to go out and have a hike around her land.
It truly was a beautiful place, though at the moment it’s too cold to do much work there. We tramped through fluffy snow down to the river, then headed back up to where they are going to build their house. The picture at the top of the page shows Ann in the centre as she explains where the rooms in their new house will be.
And after that, we lit a fire and had warm drinks to heat ourselves up before we drove back to the office to eat together one last time.