Tag Archives: Norwegian

All Change

Things have changed since I last posted. So much so that this is the first time I have been able to sit down and record it. On the calendar downstairs, back on the 24th March, written in pink felt-tip pen, is the name of my nearest veterinary clinic. To distract my mind from my echoing e-mail box, I had wandered in off the street and asked (in my best Norwegian) whether I could come in and “see practice”, just for a week or two. The smiling receptionist, looking bemused promised to get the boss to call me, and I left, feeling, to be honest, like a bit of a tit. After all, I could have made that contact over the phone couldn’t I? Still, later that day, I received the call, and at 9a.m. on Monday morning, I presented myself.

I confess that the first question confused me somewhat. Peering into a cupboard filled with uniforms, Kari Anna (practice nurse) asked me whether I was a small or a medium. How to reply? I was obviously neither. Promising me that the medium was VERY stretchy round the waist (yes but what about the bum?) she handed over the medium overalls and commanded me to change. Shovelling me into a pair of green clogs (more on those later) she started to show me things on the computer. Obviously it was all written in Greek… or maybe Latin. Actually I might have understood those bits, but the rest was a mystery. Being me, I set out to solve it, and armed with a trusty pen and a post-it note, I gradually began over the course of a fortnight to decipher the runes.

I also made some new friends. So much for the much-fabled Norwegian stand-offishness; we spent the next two weeks laughing. And on the Thursday of the second week, I was offered a job. Dagny, the scary boss lady said I should talk to my husband… who of course said “What are you waiting for. Get signed up immediately!” So I did, setting out to work two days a week. The past fortnight has been a whirlwind of bank accounts and tax office visits ( yup, I didn’t have the former and have never paid the latter here) and getting the paperwork together to try to get myself authorised to carry out veterinary work in Norway. Currently I’m working as an assistant, which suits me down to the ground as I am helping out without having to consult (without knowing all those crucial anatomical words) and in the meantime, I am gradually picking up more Norwegian, though there is the terrible temptation to revert to English, especially as some of the clients immediately start to chat to me when they find out where I am from.

It’s a wonderful feeling, picking up the reins of something I used to be good at. Some things come back so quickly. Others are filled with fog. I suspect that when it comes to real knowledge, I have always been very reliant on books, and for the moment, I don’t have the right ones to hand. The BSAVA Manual of Emergency and Critical Care was my constant companion for all the years working in the emergency clinics. It’s at the top of my shopping list as even though there aren’t so many emergency cases during the day, I seem to recall it had a lot of fantastic tips on how to work cases up in the first instance. I’m slowly regaining knowledge, refilling the blanks, remembering the things I was never good at (I can take a mean x-ray, but I have never been on a course to learn to use ultrasound). I am learning new things as well. Who knew that it was illegal to castrate a dog or spay a bitch in Norway without good clinical reason? Apparently they have to be allowed freedom to explore their wild-side, though how that works when using drugs to prevent ovulation I have no idea. Bang goes the idea of opening a spay clinic in my nearest city!

This week started badly. I tried to anaesthetise a dog without having the machine fully switched on. Never a good idea. Worse still, it transpired that the green clogs actually belonged to the boss lady. Well I always did like to walk in shoes that were hard to fill. I’ve bought my own now. And Dagny has not yet used the whip on me that I took in for Irene (fabulous receptionist) to use on Jan-Arne (crazy vet).

Been out walking (the picture at the top is taken from south of our village, looking up the coast) and skiing, both downhill and cross-country. I would like to say that I didn’t fall over once, but sadly I can’t. Still things are looking up on all fronts. There might even be some movement on the book, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself so I’ll leave that for next time.

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Wussy Malone and the Mystery of the Missing Courage

It’s a strange thing, but one of my weirdest adult terrors has always been with taking my car to the garage to have work done. Obviously it’s ridiculous, a mature, well educated woman who turns into a cowering wreck when faced with a man whose job is changing oil and windscreen wipers for a living. Please don’t get me wrong, being a mechanic is a job requiring skill and dexterity and some mechanics really are wonderful, it’s just very sad that a few of these men seem to take great delight in their ability to patronise any woman who dares to set foot inside their realm. For five years now, we’ve used the same garage for all the work on our car, and they have mostly proved to be reliable and honest. There was the time when I arrived at eleven in the morning to book the car in, only to be told to come back in an hour when they had finished their sandwiches, and the patronising way the owner treated me when I first went in and he assumed that because I didn’t know the Norwegian for head-light, that I was generally an idiot, but on the whole they good has outweighed the bad, hence the reason we have continued to return.

The first inkling I had that I might have to go back in this time after the service was when one of the small light-bulb-covers over the number plate fell off when I closed the boot, just the day after the car had been returned. When I looked at it, it had obviously been broken at one end, and rather than order another, they presumably stuck it back in place and hoped that we would just never notice. I wondered whether I should go in and say something, but it seemed such a little thing that I shoved it back in place, and hoped that it would stay on.

The next setback came when we received the bill. Checking through it, I noticed sadly that they had charged me for new windscreen wiper blades. All very well, but the blades had been changed literally the day before I took the car in for service. Obviously that sounds stupid, but I was due to drive to the airport at night, and stormy weather was forecast, and they were really awful. So bad that driving with them was a nightmare. Again, I wondered about going in, but was put off by thinking that really it was my own fault for not telling them when I took the car in that the blades had been changed. I went to see my friend Lynne on Monday, and she said she would go in and at least ask… and again I toyed with the idea and procrastinated because of my fear, and the additional mental block I have because I know that if I go in, I would have to try to ask in Norwegian. There is definitely something about speaking a language not my own that makes me feel insecure when going in to discuss anything. I even use English when I go to see my GP because he patronises me a whole lot less when it’s him that’s struggling to find the words.

Anyway, several days later, and yesterday another midnight trip to the airport, and another dreadful drive because one of the dipped headlights wasn’t working, and that was the last straw. This morning I finally took a deep breath and marched into the garage with my list of woes. I managed it all in Norwegian, and I don’t know if that was what tipped the balance, but the garage owner couldn’t have been more helpful. He has ordered a new cover for the light, he changed the bulb in the headlight without charging me (he’s charged me twelve pounds before once for doing it) and best of all, he told me that as Charlie has already paid the bill, I should remind him next time I’m in, and he won’t charge me for the wiper blades. Given that they cost about fifty pounds, that’s a significant saving. I left the place with my heart singing. I’d like to think that the next time I have a problem, that I will sail through, but I suspect that my innate cowardice might reassert itself.

When I popped into the Co-Op afterwards I was delighted to find that they had both lobster and sashimi salmon going cheap, so there’ll be a good (and easy) dinner tonight.

In other news, Marion is too unwell today to go for our Vernal Equinox celebratory walk. I’d very much like to return to a place we went on one of the evening walks from Charlie’s work. It would be lovely to see it in daylight.
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Marion and I have done a few good walks lately, so here are some pictures.
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Hope you feel better next week Marion.

And now I have to go and bake. Due to my poor housewifery skills, I have somehow managed to let some milk go sour. I can feel some scones coming on. Anyone for afternoon tea?

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Bodies

Language is an odd thing. Now I am using Norwegian more often, I notice strange things occurring with greater frequency. For example, I sometimes have conversations with people and afterwards thinking back I can’t recall which language we used. More confusing still is the phenomenon which occasionally occurs when a sprinkling of “English” words are scattered amongst the Norsk. For example, I saw a headline in the newspaper the other day. “City løftet trofeet!” It said. Trofeet? I ran it through my mind. Not sure about that one. Something to do with three? Løftet meant lifted. I knew that. So something about a city being lifted? What could it mean? An earthquake? I was trying to work out how this incredible feat of tectonic activity had occurred without my being aware of it when I noticed the accompanying photograph of a bunch of football players and it suddenly crystallised in my mind. So much for earthquakes. I was halfway up the stairs before I registered that the Norwegian word for city is “by” Had I registered that City wasn’t even a Norsk word, I would have realised that this was all about the Norwegian obsession with English football. City had lifted the trophy.

So a day or two later, I should probably have been more alert to this phenomenon when I was looking for the soap. I found Irene and asked her where it was. “Det er I skapet der bodies holdes.” she told me. My mind worked that one out. It was in the cupboard where the bodies were stored. That much I registered. But really? The soap was in cold-storage with the bodies? It couldn’t be. Or did she just mean in the room? Was there another cupboard in there? I shook my head in confusion and she must have taken pity on me because instead of trying again, she led me into the prep-room, skirted round the piles of dog food that were sitting there and opened the cupboard where the clean laundry was stored. “There!” She pointed to the big container. I just stared at it. “What?” she asked, looking at me still. “But the bodies?” I asked her. She took out one of the “Bodies” a cute little item of clothing that we use on dogs when they’ve had an operation. It was again at that point that I realised that the Norwegian for body is “kropp”. When I told her, she just laughed.

I received my authorisation notice last Friday. So now I am allowed to do official vet things like operations. I love operating. The vets here are fascinated with the way I sterilise cats. I learned a really nifty method for castrating cats years ago that involves tying a knot in the blood vessel and vas deferens using only a pair of artery forceps. Once you’ve done it a few hundred times, it can be done in about ten seconds flat. And much to their interest, I have always spayed cats through a hole in the flank. Here they go in underneath through the midline. Guro, whose middle name is Moira because secretly she’s actually Scottish, decided to jump right in there and we spayed a cat together on Thursday. Apart from the classic first-time error we managed to make when we failed to go right through into the abdomen and found ourselves having one of those odd moments when it seems the cat had no abdominal organs, the whole thing went very well. I’m glad to work with such open minded people who are keen to try different things.

Another big event on Thursday, seeing my first patient alone. It was a dog with a broken claw. Not so much to go wrong I thought. But when I looked at the dog, it was hard to tell what I should do. Dim light from the window and a dog the colour of Yorkshire jet meant that I had only the faintest sight of the claw I was examining. Happily Magnificent Magne rode in to the rescue… and switched on the light. I felt just like a new graduate again: a mind so filled with uncertainty that common sense was as elusive as the light had been. The uncertainty was replaced by a booming knowledge, reflected in the client’s eyes… “Oh no. This one’s clueless.” Still, I managed to sedate the dog and the ring block around the claw worked perfectly. The patient never even twitched as Magne gouged away the outer layer of the claw using the dental instruments. The usual frustration entered my mind as I bandaged the foot without dressing or K-Band (how am I going to survive without K-Band????) but the finished product looked neat and tidy. And the next time could only be easier surely? And so I thought, that was my week over, but on Friday morning, as I sat in bed contemplating a lovely relaxing day, a message popped up on Facebook. “Are you there?” said Irene. Wondering whether she would be eaten alive by SBL for using Facebook at work, I replied that I was. “I didn’t have your telephone number,” she said. “Guro has rung to say she can’t come in. Could you come instead?”. I was tired from a midnight run to the airport, nevertheless I like working Fridays, so I wasn’t going to turn this down.

And so I found myself in a room examining my second patient. It was one of Guro’s and she has an interest in small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs and this one was a hamster with a lump on its bottom. I was amazed when I took it out of its cage to find the “lump” was actually the most enormous pair of testicles that I have ever seen. If a bull had an equivalent pair, they’d be dragging on the ground. Aside from their massive size, everything seemed to be normal but as Madam Self-Confidence had still not installed herself in my head, I scurried off to get a second opinion. I found Vivek first. She was probably trying to hide, but there was no escape. Scouring the books in the back-room, we couldn’t find a thing, but happily Google Images came to the rescue. Apparently these gigantic appendages were completely normal. Of course, with the client now in “Oh no. This one’s clueless” mode, I couldn’t saunter back in and casually tell her that everything was quite in order, so happily this time Vivek came in to reassure her. One day perhaps I will manage to see a patient on my own again.

Later on I found myself helping out Jan-Arne. He was going to see a few more of Guro’s clients and so I examined a dog with him that was in for a biopsy of a lump beside her bottom. Obviously a day for it. It felt to me a bit like a lipoma, albeit in an awkward position, so I asked for permission to remove the whole thing, rather than doing the biopsy, if on inspection it turned out to be just that. And it was. It came away beautifully. My satisfaction was complete when I saw the owner’s face when I told her that it had been a benign fatty lump. To me, it was a small, if very satisfying operation. To her, it meant so much more. It is those moments that make life as a vet worthwhile.

Not German(e)

A short week this week because Thursday was Ascension Day or as it is amusingly known in Norway, (assuming you have a mental age of six, as I do) Himmelfartsdag. I started out the morning anaesthetising a dog for a cruciate operation. For those who don’t know, the cruciate ligament is within the knee joint and it can rupture on occasion causing instability of the joint. The operation replaces the ligament, thus re-establishing normal movement. Kari Anna thought she would test me out by asking whether I had remembered to take the Gentamycin injection into theatre, and with a triumphant smile I was able to wave the box at her. Not quite so jubilantly, an hour and a half later I slunk towards the fridge with the drug opened and drawn up into a syringe, presumably to be wasted. When I had offered it to Dagny, she had said “No thanks!” with a radiant smile. I felt a little vindicated when I told Kari Anna I was placing the labelled syringe into the fridge. Like me, she had believed the official Spraying of the Gentamycin was a routine part of the operation.

Dagny has been talking on-and-off about the possibility that I might begin to consult on an official basis. The only spanner in the works (and admittedly it’s quite a hefty spanner) is that on the days I am working, there is no spare consulting room. Often they already have a vet in all three rooms as well as one taking up space in the prep-room. This time, for the first time, she mentioned something about the idea of building another room. Personally I think they should build it of brick and designate it the British Wing. Given the Norwegian love of DIY and my current observations of practice protocol, I expect Dagny will begin construction herself as Magne skulks around, unobtrusive but observing carefully, and he will smile to himself as she fails to line up the bricks correctly before stepping in and… getting me to fix it.

As well as the cruciate operation, I assisted with another two cherry-eyes. For some reason Magne has started to ask me for his surgical gloves in German, as if it wasn’t complicated enough working in Norwegian. “Do you speak German?” he asked me. “Just enough to know that you are asking for gloves,” I might have replied. Actually that wouldn’t be entirely true. I know three other very useful things in German (I won’t count the phrase, “That is a lamp” which was the very first thing I learned when I bought a German picture dictionary as a teenager). I know how to ask for beer of various kinds. And when I’ve had the beer, I know how to ask where the toilet is. But most importantly, I know the very useful word “scheiße” I always thing it is a very expressive word, and as my best friend when I was learning Norwegian was German, for me scheiße is a word that is screaming to be incorporated into the Norsk language. Anyway, back with the cherry-eyes, this time Magne encouraged me to sit at the end of the table instead of on the other side so that I could see better what he was doing. Perhaps having me sitting in the wrong place was a distraction however. He paused as he started to cut into the tissue and frowned. “What is it I have forgotten?” he asked, looking puzzled, but I couldn’t help. Then with a smile, he grabbed the head-piece with the magnifying lenses and placed them in front of his eyes. “I thought everything had suddenly got very small,” he said.

In all of this theatre work though, I feel I am seeing very little of Vivek, Guro and Jan-Arne which is sad. Perhaps if I begin to work sometimes on a Friday (the only day when there might be a room free) I will get to see them a bit more. In the meantime, I hope to spend some time with Jan-Arne at the weekend as he does some large animal work. Maybe if I’m really lucky, I may even get to bury my arm inside a cow. How about that for wallowing in nostalgia? Of course, at this time of year, with the cows just out on all that luscious new grass, nostalgia may not be the only thing I end up wallowing in. Only time will tell.

Blissful Ignorance

Sunday this week: a lovely day, and the day I had arranged to go out and “see practice” with Jan-Arne. I had been hoping to do this for a while, but it had proved difficult to arrange. In the event I ended up seeing only one patient, though Jan-Arne did all that he could to drum up some additional business, first by telephoning the previous days clients to see if they needed a follow-up call, and secondly by driving me around the entire district in a vain attempt to run over an animal (or cyclist).

The single call was to a cow with mastitis. I walked into the barn and as with the small animal clinic, had an immediate feeling of coming home. I miss farm work so much. I love the sense of peace that I experience when I am in the presence of dairy cows. These large animals are so docile; they allow us to stand so close and rarely object to being handled, except now and then when they need to protect their calves and even that is mostly done with a doe-eyed gentleness. But there is also a sense of community in farming that is so very different from city life. Years ago in Scotland, working in a dairy practice, I felt almost (only almost) as if I belonged. I wasn’t born to it, and yet as a vet there was a sense of integration. I was wanted and needed within their society, and it is that feeling of belonging that appealed to me, almost as much as the animals themselves.

There were some interesting differences. Norwegian farms are strict on biosecurity. I was fascinated to see the gigantic pair of wellington boots that the farmer’s wife brought out from a cupboard. They fitted right over Jan-Arne’s trainers and he clomped around with feet like those of a yellow elephant. I had to make do with special plastic wellington boot covers. I had the tremendous feeling that I could just walk back into that lifestyle. It all felt so similar to the old days that I could almost see myself there.

Any delusions about that were shattered later when we visited a farm where Jan-Arne was friendly with the family. We looked at a couple of their bottle-fed lambs and all the time the conversation was rattling on around me. I couldn’t follow a word and the farmer couldn’t speak any English. They had a lovely young daughter though, who kept grinning at me conspiratorially. She wanted to show us her pet lambs and tried various methods to capture them, including an attempt to entice them with some food. Afterwards, she raced around the field chasing them, a streak of pink in a pair of purple wellingtons, childish hair flying everywhere. Finally she managed to catch one, a sturdy black lamb of a traditional Norwegian breed. My biggest regret of the day was that in my haste to leave the house I managed to forget my camera. Jan-Arne very kindly offered to take some shots of the field and the child and the sheep and here they are…

Jan-Arne's Sheep 1

Jan-Arne's Sheep 2

Jan-Arne's Sheep 3

Always difficult to get a good action shot, but it was a beautiful setting on a wonderful day.

The biggest revelation occurred when we got back to the practice where I had left my car. Jan-Arne pointed to the house next door.

‘I wonder if Magne and Gerd are in there, enjoying their day off,’ he said. ‘Did you know they lived there?’

Did I know they lived there? My mind was screaming.’Magne and Gerd are married?’ I managed to croak it out at last.

‘Didn’t you know?’ He was laughing at me.

Amazing the things I fail to register. Everyone else knows presumably and maybe they just forgot to tell me, but more likely I missed it. Perhaps they stand and chat at the desk about what they are going to have for dinner. I have no idea because after so long in Norway, my brain just switches off when other people are chatting to one another. They could be talking about me, and I would remain in a happy state of oblivion.

I realised recently that this was, in many ways, a blessing. When I return to Scotland, it always comes as a shock to overhear conversations which my mind automatically processes. There are so many preconceptions based around accent and word use, instant frustration at the banalities of life. Here I escape all of that. I wouldn’t change it, even if it means that occasionally things pass me by. I wondered recently whether this must be like for a young child, having a mind that passes over incomprehensible things that don’t really matter.

When I discovered Magne and Gerd were married, it leaped into my head that I should be worried about whether I had ever said anything reprehensible about one to the other, but of course I was able to dismiss that in an instant. I just don’t have those kinds of conversations. I would love to say I have never said anything offensive about anyone, but of course, there is Scary Boss Lady. Apparently the other staff found “All Change” so amusing that they had to tell her and she read it. Since then, she has tried to convince me she isn’t scary. She even appeared one day in a poncho with the words “Love Me” woven into it. I left no doubt, she told me over a mammary tumour, that it was her I referred to. In case there was any confusion, I had clearly stated “Dagny, the scary boss lady”. She tells me that it will follow her now. Even at the Christmas party, she is in no doubt that her name-tag will read “Scary Boss Lady”. Still, she can’t have been too offended. Apparently she told her friends in the cycling club about me on a train journey. I can imagine their wide-eyed shock as they asked her, “Did she know you would read it?” Of course, I didn’t know. But I was aware it was possible, because I had already friended some of the others on Facebook. Ah well, it’s always a good idea when starting in a new job to begin on good terms with your boss!

All the Wrong Words

Back to my normal two day week this week, and Tuesday was a good day. Irene’s working times had changed so that she was starting first thing in the morning with me. It was great to know, as I prepared theatre and assisted with the anaesthetics, that she was there for back-up, assisting the other vets and generally carrying out the other million little tasks that sometimes get pushed aside. Whenever I escaped from theatre I found her clearing and re-organising everything. I haven’t been able to find the scissors since, however this seems a small price to pay when everything looks so beautiful. Actually there is another downside to tidying things away. After Irene and I so carefully piled all the toilet rolls into boxes and put them in the cleaning cupboard a couple of weeks ago, someone else couldn’t find them. Assuming we had run out, a whole new enormous batch was ordered and now the clinic is swimming in them. Still, at least all our bottoms will be clean and shiny at all times and that is always important.

I’ve had two comments this week on my use of the Norwegian language and the first of them came on Tuesday. As I said, that day things were well under control. Free to pursue my aim of ensuring everything was perfect in the operating theatre, I felt I was entirely ready on Tuesday afternoon for the dog that was coming in for a major operation on its leg. The anaesthetic machine was on. I had investigated carefully and found the correct instruments, I had additional suture materials and extra swabs. I had pain-killers all worked out and drawn up, and I even had the gentamycin at the ready in case they wanted to use some antibiotics at the surgical site. Imagine my frustration then when Dagny looked through the window in the door and said, “Oh, there’s no cushion and pad.”

I confess I was annoyed at myself. All the complicated stuff complete and I had forgotten something utterly basic. I couldn’t help myself. ‘Unnskyld,’ I muttered as Dagny loaded herself up with the items and strode into theatre.

As she heard it, she turned round. ‘You shouldn’t say that,’ she said.

‘Um…. what?’

‘You don’t need to apologise. You’ve been busy all day.’ Ah! That old thing.

‘But I have to apologise all the time,’ I explained. ‘I’m British.’ She just laughed.

Thursday was an interesting day. For months there have been suggestions that I should start to consult, but frankly I’ve been putting it off. There’s something very freeing about not having ultimate responsibility for cases. I know when I became a vet, that was one of the hardest things to come to terms with. However Irene, in her new role as Scary Boss Lady Junior had decided that the appointments needed tidying up as well as the prep room, and so in order to allow for additional appointments, she made me my own list. Admittedly it had only two vaccinations on it but it’s a start.

And on Thursday afternoon, I had more feedback on my Norwegian usage, this time from Wivek. In my head, there is this enormous enthusiasm for helping people. And so when asked for assistance, instead of just saying ‘Yes,’ or ‘okay’, I often use the word ‘Sikker’. Now ‘Er du sikker?’ translates roughly as ‘Are you sure?’ and therefore, in my mind, when asked for help, I was enthusiastically agreeing. And so it was left to Wivek to very gently break it to me that when you say ‘Sikker’… it’s pretty much equivalent to rolling your eyes and saying ‘If I must.’ Obviously as I am beginning to see clients now, it is quite important that I don’t make such an error. But how excellent that for all this time I have been quite inadvertently rude to Dagny so often. And I wonder whether that is why Magne has so many little smiles when I agree to help him. I always thought it was just because he liked me. Still, from now on, at least I know the difference. And perhaps, so long as she doesn’t read this, I can go on saying it to Dagny for a while. And then I can have some little secret smiles of my own!

And finally, somehow or other, I managed to miss the fact that last week was Guro’s last before she went off on maternity leave. One of the sad things about not working on Fridays is that I don’t always realise when important things are happening. Anyway, I’ve missed you this week Guro, and I wish you all the best for the coming weeks and months.

Build

This week has been dominated by the construction of the new consulting room. The prep room has been unusable, partly due to dust, but more because of the noise. The crack of the nail gun causes immediate heart failure; I was only affected once or twice, but Jan-Arne died on several occasions. Marita also kicked the bucket in the dental room and I pointed out that in English this would be funny. For some reason, by the time I had explained that “kick the bucket” is an irreverent euphemism for dying, the hilarity was lost. Some things just don’t translate.

There has also been a rash of flank cat spays. Both Jan-Arne and Wivek had a go and the results looked very neat. As usual, the bubbling enthusiasm for trying new things is infectious. Scary Boss Lady’s cat, to my relief, was quite okay after last weeks operation, however Dagny, despite sharing the enthusiasm for new things, feels that except for nursing mothers, she will continue to use the traditional method as she can operate so quickly and cleanly already.

Somehow or other, I won the Smil again, partly because I had helped people with cat spays, but also for my anaesthetic skills on exotic pets and my apparent ability to hold onto cats that aren’t so very keen on being injected. I would love to feel I was an expert at cat-wrangling, however having seen British Veterinary nurses undertake this most dangerous of sports, I know that my skills are only a pale imitation of the real masters.

Irene spent Thursday defrosting the fridge in the kitchen. At some point, without me really noticing, an iceberg about the size of Mont Blanc had appeared in the left hand corner. So smooth and shiny was its surface that somehow I had believed it was an unusual curved part of the back wall, though what that says about my powers of fridge observation I’m not really sure. Still, armed only with a hairdryer and an enormous pile of incontinence pads, the intrepid Irene set forth to crush this enemy of refrigerator space. There was a moment of mystery half-way through when a small yellow Tupperware tub hove into view. After a few moments of frenzied hot-air, it was recovered but its content was sadly unidentifiable.

As I’ve said before, it’s never boring working at the clinic. Thursday afternoon was spent building some Ikea shelves. Dagny told me during lunch that she wanted my help. This sounded hilarious to me, because the Norwegian verb for assembling furniture is “skruer”. Again I tried some of my merry British wit by suggesting that after lunch I would be screwing with the boss, but nobody noticed. It actually fell to Leah and me to put the cabinet together and she is obviously very handy with a screwdriver. Sadly this is her last week for this summer, though she will be back at Christmas. Dagny commented during this process that I was always very quiet. I explained politely that while my brain was working, my mouth stood still, meaning that the translation process exacerbates my usual quietness, but someone else in the room (I think it was Jan-Arne, but I would be happy to be corrected) pointed out that the reason I was so quiet was because Dagny was always talking so much that I couldn’t get a word in. Of course the real reason, as I have probably said somewhere before, is that I like to live by the traditional maxim “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”. It’s definitely a good ploy when you are working in such a crazy environment.

Dagny preparing to spay a cat by the traditional Norwegian method.
Dagny preparing to spay a cat by the traditional Norwegian method.

Wivipedia

Nicknames are strange things. Sometimes when you meet people, something just clicks. Scary Boss Lady and Magnificent Magne have had their names almost from the time I started working at Tu. At some point, even though I have never mentioned it in this blog, Jan-Arne has become The Whipping Boy in my head. Obviously this has all to do with the fact that I took my whip into work for Irene to use when he wasn’t calling his prescriptions through to the pharmacists and nothing at all kinky. After all, that would be a little bit crudie, and we have already established that I am rarely that. However, Wivek has very kindly outed herself this week with a new name. Marita came into the dental room to ask Wivek a technical question, and I was already there asking Wivek a technical question. Following a short and hilarious discussion about how everyone was always asking Wivek technical questions, she announced that from now on, she would be known as Wivipedia. If Scary Boss Lady is the tag we are using at the Christmas Party, then Wivek has surely earned herself a new tag as well.

I also finally caved in to the pressure bit the bullet this week and told Dagny that I would begin to work on Fridays after the New Year. As a veterinary surgeon rather than as an assistant. Oddly enough, after being so keen, she suddenly seems to be panicking about whether I will manage or not. I don’t really have any qualms on that front. After all, I’ve done it before  for years and years and at some point it did stop scaring me, and that confidence seems to have returned. The language barrier might cause a few problems, but so far when I’ve been left to it, it’s not as difficult as it seems when I’m thinking about it.

As it’s been a bit quiet this week, I have spent some time in other people’s consulting rooms (thanks Wivek and Jan-Arne for putting up with me) mangling their computer systems and generally muddling things up. It is interesting (though I can’t say it surprises me) that Wivek plays the computer system as if it is a Stradivarius violin, whilst I’m still plucking away on an ancient school instrument with a chipped veneer. The system is not at all instinctual. There are random buttons for all sorts of things scattered all over the screen, so to perform any particular function, you have to know where the correct button is. Even if you manage that, there is normally a pop-up box which asks if you want some modification. They are all in Norwegian, which would be fine if they said “Save” or “Are you sure?” Unfortunately they say things like “Are you treating this in reception with a new appointment and ten prescriptions?” or “Will you add some fishcakes to the filing system?” ( I suspect I may have got that slightly wrong, but that’s about how much sense they make for me) and so even when I triumphantly click on the correct function button, I end up confused again. Still, there are a few weeks to go before I have to go it alone, and even Jan-Arne tells me that Irene had to keep correcting things for him in the first few weeks, so maybe she can do the same for me.

This weeks picture features Marita as she is cleaning Luke’s teeth. Luke is a gorgeous little Pomeranian… with lovely clean teeth. Smile for the camera Luke!

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Julebord

Saturday night was the Julebord (Christmas Party). It was held at GamleVærket in Sandnes, and happily Charlie and I were able to book a room to stay overnight, which made for a very relaxing evening.

Per Egil serves Karl with a second glass of sparkling wine. From left to right - Wivek, Jacqueline, Magne, Jenny and Karl.
Per Egil serves Karl with a second glass of sparkling wine. From left to right – Wivek, Jacqueline, Magne, Jenny and Karl.

For me this was a very special event as it was my first Norwegian Julebord and though there were some similarities to those I have been to in Scotland there were also some major differences. I have a suspicion that  J.R.R. Tolkien must have been to a Norwegian Julebord just before writing the dwarf party scene in the Hobbit. Very early on, it became apparent that throughout proceedings, people would randomly burst into song for no obvious reason, prompting everyone else to join in. Each of these rousing choruses culminated in a toast, which certainly got the event going.

Unlike the often uninspiring turkey dinner that is generally served in the UK, there was a huge buffet of traditional Norwegian Christmas delicacies, including ribbe, pinnekjøtt and lutefisk. I have  mentioned ribbe before because we usually have it on Christmas day and it is a roasted pork joint with delicious crackling. Pinnejøtt is a kind of dried, salted lamb. But for me, the lutefisk the most interesting offering. For the uninitiated, lutefisk is white fish which has been slowly dissolved in caustic sodium hydroxide until it becomes gelatinous. Yum! Actually, this was my first experience of lutefisk, and when combined with chunks of bacon, mushy peas, and a delicious cream and mustard flavoured sauce, it was quite delicious. I would definitely have it again.

Jan-Arne goes in for a romantic nibble on Steinar's ear.
Jan-Arne goes in for a romantic nibble on Steinar’s ear.

Dagny’s husband Sondre had brought his guitar, and he was mostly in charge of the entertainment. Per Egil (Irene’s husband) was first up. He shared a very baaaaad sheep joke with us. Charlie also had to talk. Happily, he is almost always prepared for public speaking and was quickly ready with a joke.

Sondre really enjoyed Per Egil's humour.
Sondre really enjoyed Per Egil’s humour.

Jan-Arne got up at this point to take Steinar to work as he was due to work the night-shift. For some reason, their departure was marked with a song, to the tune of God Save the Queen, which roughly translated as “The old people are going home now”. I’m not sure her majesty would approve.

After a rousing rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, some musicians very kindly came in and gave us their Jærsk version of King of the Road. Quite appropriately, this was all about a farmer and his enormous tractor. I couldn’t follow all of it, but if it was completely accurate, I am sure there must have been a mention of slurry in there somewhere.

For some reason, at this point all the women whose dresses had been bought by their husbands had to stand up and give a fashion parade. Irene, Dagny, Marita and me all had to give our version of the catwalk strut. Irene was definitely the most assured.

Irene, effortlessly glamorous.
Irene, effortlessly beautiful.

Then it was the turn of the husbands who bought the dresses to talk about the occasion. When asked the theme he had considered when buying Irene’s outfit, Per Egil stated he had been going for the ‘F****** Sexy Look. I was a bit worried about Charlie at this point, because I had a suspicion that he very likely had no memory of buying my dress. It was a couple of years ago, and just after Christmas in the sales. Still, he managed to hide his amnesia well by saying he just felt it was important that I did not outdo him for glamour. He then stated that unfortunately, as it was me he had to contend with, he had failed in his objective. In Glasgow, I fear this might have raised a chorus of gagging noises, but happily for me, Norwegians are far more romantically inclined and instead everyone said ‘Awwww……’

 

Charlie McGurk, King of Glamour
Charlie McGurk, King of Glamour

Christmas is a time for the giving of gifts, and so now it was time for us all to play the klinikk version of pass the parcel. Instead of music, the package started with Magne, who had to pass it to “a lady beside him,” who then had to pass it to “the person who was sitting furthest away.” The first few directions were innocuous, but gradually the theme descended towards more personal things. The final few were decidedly risqué. I really want to know how Kari Anna knew that Dagny’s husband was “owner of the biggest dick,” though not perhaps so much as Dagny wondered…

Suspicious Boss Lady.
Suspicious Boss Lady.

Of course, no Christmas party would be complete without some dancing, and so at this point everyone had to dance around the mulberry bush, or as they would have it here, the enebærbusk. I suppose that given the fact that one of Norway’s most popular Christmas songs states that the celebrations can’t begin until the floor has been washed, that a dance involving ironing the clothes and cleaning the windows would also be still all the rage.

Per Egil showing off his moves.
Per Egil showing off his moves.

Happily Jan-Arne returned in time for dessert. I particularly enjoyed the multer (cloud berries) with cream. Jan-Arne managed to pull one of the tiny Christmas crackers that was attached to the kransekake, and to my surprise, there was actually a hat and a joke inside. Jan-Arne seemed to enjoy the rice porridge with raspberry sauce best. Fortunately he didn’t get called out to any calvings with his crown on.

Jan-Arne on call.
Jan-Arne on call.

The evening was drawing to a close now, and people started to depart, but a few stout-hearted and dedicated partygoers continued down into the main bar area downstairs where a band were playing.  Charlie, still swirling around in his kilt experienced some most enjoyable Norwegian sexism in action. Apparently not only was he accosted many times to be asked what he was wearing underneath, but he also had his bum felt a couple of times. I think it rounded off the evening well.

Anyway, for those who have reached this point, thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. And for anyone who is interested, I will attach a few more photos below. Maybe some of them will be a little more flattering…

Per Egil and Charlie.
Per Egil and Charlie.
Me and Charlie
Me and Charlie
Kari Anna
Kari Anna
Jenny and Karl
Jenny and Karl
Jan-Arne
Jan-Arne
Steinar
Steinar
Wivek
Wivek
Jacqueline
Jacqueline
Kari Anna, Jacqueline and Per Egil singing.
Kari Anna, Jacqueline and Per Egil singing.
Marita and Renso
Marita and Renso
Gerd and Magne
Gerd and Magne
Jan-Arne goes crackers.
Jan-Arne goes crackers.
Dagny handing out a final gift of chocolate before leaving.
Dagny handing out a final gift of chocolate before leaving.
Who knows what's under there?
Who knows what’s under there?

Salmagundi

I can recall, as a teenager, being rather sceptical when an adult friend claimed that they could not remember what o-levels they had taken. During my schooldays, those exams represented something so huge that I couldn’t begin to imagine a time when they would be unimportant enough that forgetting was even possible. It was the same with adults and age. How could anyone forget how old they were? Well now I am that person. It was my birthday on Monday, and on Tuesday morning, after wishing me well, Dagny asked that fatal question.

‘So how old are you now?’

I glanced up from the dog’s leg over which I was hovering, trying to find the vein. ‘Forty five,’ I said without hesitation.

She stared at me for a moment with her head on one side. ‘That can’t be right,’ she said with a frown. ‘I was born in 1970 and I’ll be forty-five this year.’

I confess I was quite disembarrassed. I really don’t care that much (though I note I have frozen time when I was younger, rather than making myself more mature).  I was amused though that she had asked me, when she must have known the answer on some level already. Fortunately, I managed at this point to puncture the dog’s vein and slid the catheter into place. After years of working for Vets Now, with their ECC nurses, who would raise the vein for me in my (usually conscious) patient, and then stem the bleeding until the bung was in place, I fear that with a sedated animal and a tourniquet I very often find some blood escapes onto the table, or more often, onto the animal’s leg. This was the second dog I had catheterised for Dagny that day, and the second time I had fumbled it.

‘I think I’m going to call you Messy Lady from now on,’ she said.

Eleven o’clock arrived, and with it Jan-Arne. From him I received not only good wishes, but a birthday hug as well, but there was no time for chat as it was time to go back into theatre. Emerging a while later with a recovering patient to monitor, I was rather surprised to see Jan-Arne wandering around the practice with a fluffy white dog on a cushion. He walked out of the prep-room with it, and then reappeared and went and sat down in the computer chair, leaning back with the tiny animal rested on his stomach.

‘Vondt i magen,’ (pain in the stomach) he murmured, or at least I thought that was what he said.

‘Do you mean you have a pain, or is it your next patient you’re talking about?’ I asked idly and he looked up at me with a frown.

‘What are you talking about?’ he said.

‘Is it you that has a pain in the stomach, or your next patient?’ I asked again, indicating the computer-screen that he was examining.

He shook his head. ‘No, I just said my next patient was called Tommy,’ he said. Sometimes I wonder whether other people functioning in a second language experience quite so many mind-bending moments, but I suspect it’s just me.  Getting up, he walked back across the prep-room and out into the corridor that leads to the kennel-room and I assumed he was going to take the little dog there, but instead, he poked his head into the dental room, spoke for a moment and then reappeared, still clutching the small bundle of white fluff like Paris Hilton on anabolic steroids.

‘Now what should I do with this little chap,’ he said looking down.

‘You could always put it in a kennel,’ I said. His face brightened visibly.

‘So I could.’ he said

Thursday was a crazy day. First thing in the morning, when Marita checked the two cats that had been left for operations, she discovered that instead of being one male and one female, both were girls. Spaying a cat isn’t a big operation, but it takes a lot more time than castration. Happily, she managed both quite quickly, but even as I was preparing the second cat for its op, Wivek asked me if I could possibly take some stitches out of a dog, as three of her patients had arrived at once. I had to decline as I was in the midst of sedating and prepping Marita’s cat. Once that operation was safely underway, I found that the stitch-dog was still in the waiting room, so I took it in. Of course, some days nothing goes smoothly, so typically having taken most of the sutures out, I couldn’t manage the last one and had to fetch Wivek anyway as I was worried the owner might not be happy with this stranger prodding away at her dog with a pair of scissors. I finally managed to get back to Marita, who by now was finishing up her second spay, though her next patient had arrived half-an-hour early. It was one of those days. At eleven, Jan-Arne arrived again.

‘Good day, little British girl,’ was his greeting this time. I was just happily contemplating the word girl, when he enveloped me in another wonderful bear-hug.

‘Good day to you, big Norwegian man.’ I couldn’t help but smile as he disentangled himself and went to get changed. I was standing with Wivek and she looked after him with a smile and said something in Norwegian. I had been running around at this point, trying to catch up with the cleaning and I was wearing latex gloves and clutching a bucket of water and a cloth. I didn’t quite catch what she said and I asked her to repeat it. I still didn’t catch what she had said, partly because it didn’t seem to make any sense. She had definitely said something about Jan-Arne being smelly. Somehow in my demented brain there appeared a picture of me running along and swilling him down with the detergent and cleaning cloth. That couldn’t possibly be what she had said. I hadn’t noticed any bad smell.

‘Say it in English,’ I urged her.

‘If you want to know where Jan-Arne is, follow the smell,’ she said patiently and then corrected herself, ‘scent, might be better. If you want to know where Jan-Arne is, follow the scent.’ She had been commenting on his aftershave. I must confess I felt very relieved.

Despite the few spare catch-up moments, most of my day was spent tending to animals. Just before one, I noticed a lovely little dog, which Jan-Arne was preparing to x-ray. A few moments later, we were looking at an image of something that appeared to be in the dog’s stomach.

‘What on earth is that?’ Jan-Arne asked.

I however, knew only too well.  ‘It’s a dummy teat,’ I said.

‘What?’ He was looking up at me in some confusion.

‘You know, one of those things that babies suck. It’s quite a common foreign body.’ Poor little dog. There was nothing for it but to open him up. We put him on a drip first as he seemed a bit depressed and had been vomiting for a day or two. In the meantime, there was Jack, a gorgeously friendly Rottweiler with a cut on his foot. As I was working with Jan-Arne anyway, I began to help him with Jack, and was delighted to find that the owners were British. As I sutured the foot, Jan-Arne went to start preparing the little foreign-body dog for his operation. He came back, and we swapped over again, so that he could sort out a prescription and as I was in a hurry, I asked if he could please take a photo for my blog. Sadly, the photos don’t do him justice because he was a very handsome dog. Still, he has a lovely brightly coloured bandage which I hope my fellow-blogger icelandpenny can appreciate.

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My day ended with the successful removal of the rubber teat from the dog’s intestine. It’s a very fiddly job making sure that the gut is stitched back together securely enough to ensure there is no leakage, without narrowing the tube so much that nothing will get through. Finally I could massage fluids past the incision without anything bubbling out, and so after an inspection of the rest of the intestine, I gladly sewed up the muscle and skin. It’s always a bit nerve wracking after any such operation, as there is always a slight risk of complication. I can only hope that, like Linus, he goes on to make a full recovery.