Tag Archives: Party

People and Parties, Blue and Gold Light

Sunrise/sunset: 09:11/ 13:52. Daylength: 4hr41min

At the end of last week’s blog, I touched on the subject of the RNIB and on the happiness I felt having been contacted by a number of women who were interested in talking to me about being blind or severely sight impaired (which one of my correspondents described as being “the new term for blind”). As I mentioned last week, one of the characters in my new novel (Gail) is blind. She has a guide dog (Beth). I think there is a common assumption that those with a guide dog have no sight at all, but that isn’t the case. I am also planning a second book in the same series, which will have a major storyline around the relationship between Gail and Beth. I am very touched by the enthusiasm for my book. And it’s been lovely, hearing from new people and learning about different perspectives. A couple of the women have also shared websites that give added insight into their lives and I wanted to share them with you.

The first is a fascinating insight into how Samantha Leftwich sees the world. She uses photography to try to replicate different aspects of her vision. Her artwork was showcased in an exhibition called Windows of the Soul:

https://www.windowsofthesoul.art/samantha-leftwich

The other is a blog by Lynne Nicholson about living with Charles Bonnet Syndrome which she describes as “my brain being deprived of visual stimuli […] inventing it’s own version of the world around me.” Lynne writes about making her way through the world and some of the technology that helps with that navigation. Here’s the latest post on her blog:

Was that a dinosaur?

The weather is incredibly changeable at the moment. There had been snow, but by last Sunday, it had disappeared again. Looking for somewhere new to walk, I drove up onto the Lenvik Peninsula. (The Norwegian word for peninsula is “halvøy”, which translated literally means half island, which pleased me when I looked it up.) Turning up a random road, I parked the car near a waterfall under a bridge and headed up on a pathway that wove uphill through woodland.

Waterfall as it emerges from an old arched stone bridge

Though the snow was gone, the ground was frosty and the colours muted, but with touches of the glorious autumn still visible.

Blue and pink sky behind bare trees on a frosty hillside
Frosted autumn leaf

Triar was very happy, of course. He loves exploring new places.

Triar at the top of the hill

There was a wonderful fall of snow on Monday night, so of course I took some photographs when I took Triar for his evening walk. As I’ve mentioned before, the light at this time of year has a bluish tinge, even when the sun is up. At night, I was struck by the beauty of the golden light which shone through the snow clad trees and reflected on the water.

Friday ended up being a bit of a wild day. There was an office party planned for the evening and I was taking sausage rolls. It had been a long week, so I asked Hilde on Thursday if I could work from home, and I was planning an early finish to give me time to bake. There were a couple of meetings to get through and then I didn’t have too much left to do.

So much for my carefully laid plans. The first meeting was at 08:30 and was about our ongoing list of farms where we know the welfare needs some work. I had done a lot of work on these cases a while back, checking through the paper trails, creating historic timelines so that it was easy to see what the long-term problems were in each case. In the meeting, I discovered that our team had a new deadline and new Excel sheets to fill in regarding those histories, as well as creating new timelines for how we are going to tackle the cases in the coming months.

It was quickly obvious that I was going to have to go into the office to tackle these new deadlines. Having done much of the legwork, I hoped it would be a case of simply copy and pasting the information, but experience has taught me it’s hard to do that with the limitations of a laptop screen. Anyway, regardless of that, I needed to meet with Thomas to plan the next steps.

So at the end of the first meeting, I grabbed everything and rushed down to the office. The second meeting of the day was about to start and I just had time to get myself a coffee before it began.

The second meeting was our departmental meeting and as I don’t play a leading role in anything yet, I was starting to relax again, when Hilde sent the second curve-ball of the day flying at my unprotected head. There are, apparently, two confirmed cases of coronavirus in the slaughterhouse. Anyone who had been there in the course of the week was to take a rapid test. There was a mask on my desk, put there a while back and discarded, so I slapped it on. I’d been to the abattoir on Tuesday, so that group included me.

After that, I was impatient for the meeting to end so I could go and get the test. Obviously my urgent face-to-face meeting with Thomas was going to have to wait! We didn’t have any tests in the office, so after a brief discussion with Hilde, I headed off to the pharmacy to see if I could buy some. Having done so, I headed home to take the test. The fifteen minute wait before I could see the results felt very long, even though I knew the chances that it would be clear were good. I hadn’t been in close contact with many non-Mattilsynet staff, all of whom had already been tested and were clear. There was more hanging on it than my meeting with Thomas, of course. I have been waiting weeks for the office party and to miss it would have been awful.

Luckily the test was clear. I headed back to the office, calling in at the health centre, on the way, to book an MRSA test that I need to have before I can visit pig farms to check for it. No good me going out to check if the pigs have it, then contaminating the swabs or worse, giving it to them.

The party was fun! Lots of people brought food and so there was a wonderful spread. I wasn’t drinking, but some people were. There was an amazing feeling of a return to something I hadn’t realised how much I was missing. We sat close together at the tables, which in itself felt novel and not normal, as it used to be. Some people were drinking alcohol and unexpectedly, one of them began to get rather “tired and emotional” and that seemed nostalgically wonderful too. He talked at one point about how much he had missed this, and how we must do it more often and the whole room listened and then toasted him.

He really struck a chord when he said we have to create a new normal. The vast majority of people are vaccinated. It’s not perfect as the vaccine isn’t perfect, but likely this is as good as it’s going to get. There are no new developments left to wait for. There are still local lockdowns, where the risks are higher, but so long as the hospitals are not swamped, there’s an extent to which we now need to let it go.

I will leave you with a photograph of Thomas. As regular readers will know, Thomas is from South Sudan and his dazzling white Sudanese outfit was definitely one of the high points of the evening.

Thomas looking magnificent in clothes from his homeland, South Sudan

Parties and Preparation

Sunrise/sunset: 08:01/ 17:03. Daylength: 9hr02min

I had a pleasant day yesterday, and indeed an enjoyable week altogether. Friday is often the best day of the week anyway, but I had a good start to mine when Vaidotas told me he thought he, Konstantin and I make a great team. Yesterday was my only day at the abattoir this week. I’ve been there a good deal less this year than last, so it was very pleasant to hear I’m appreciated, even though I’m slightly bemused as to which part of my performance he thinks is most useful.

As a quick update, on any day in the season, there is a team of three on the sheep line. We work in a rota of one hour on, thirty minutes off, so when the line is running, there are two of us working at any time. Vaidotas and Konstantin are there daily, and different people make up the number on different days. You’d think it was all about teamwork. Beyond our smaller team, we’re also part of a much bigger team on the line, with perhaps a hundred people, each doing one or two small tasks. However, despite that teamwork, there’s also a feeling of being on your own. The line is noisy, so headphones (attached to a helmet) are the order of the day. There’s not much chance for chat and the work doesn’t require much thought, so there are times when I retreat into my own head, sometimes quite a distance.

Indeed yesterday, with Vaidotas’ happy praise in my head, I started thinking about what I would tell you about it. As I was wondering what he liked about my performance, it crossed my mind that I spend at least some of my time daydreaming, which can’t be all that helpful. I glanced out of the window for a moment as I considered how I would describe that, and thought perhaps I could say I must spend some time staring into the middle distance like some badly written heroine of romance. I was weaving through a mental maze about whether I could compare myself to Jane Eyre, or Eliza Bennet (not that either of those are badly written and neither are particularly prone to the middle distance gaze) when it struck me that even the worst romance writer would not set her (or his) story in an abattoir.

Modern romance novels often take a particular form, so I began to wander through a few possible titles, Canteen Cakes in the Little Slaughter Kitchen maybe or Snowflakes in Nortura Skies, I found myself grinning, and indeed I did smile at everyone around me because I was feeling rather cheery. So perhaps the reason Vaidotas enjoys working with me is because I stand around all day giggling to myself at the silly thoughts in my head. After all, it is unlikely to be my other habit that he finds praiseworthy, as my other habit is peering quizzically at something unusual on a side of lamb that might be nasty (or maybe not) and pointing it out to him to see what he thinks, at which point he invariably reaches for his knife and cuts it off, while I watch and think that next time, I must remember to be decisive and do that myself. Anyway, regardless of the reasons why, I was very pleased.

The rest of the week has been enjoyable too. I didn’t have too much work pending and I had quite a lot of flexitime, so I’ve been working shorter days than usual. Though we don’t have to be back in the office, and can still work from home, it’s no longer the rule that we ought to do so. For most of the year I’ve been here, social events have largely been on hold. However, with the restrictions lifting, and a few people sitting around the table for coffee first thing in the morning, talk somehow turned to the idea of a party. So on November 12th, everyone is going to get together in the office after work. It might seem a little odd, just how exciting that seems to me, but as I said, I’ve mostly been here during lockdown and my contact with other adult human beings has been very minimal. I need to get out perhaps, and expand my network outside of work colleagues, but for now, getting to know them better sounds great.

There was, of course, discussion about food. I believe there may be some budget for socialising, but like everything in the pubic sector, it’s limited. So I piped up and said I would be happy to bring some traditional UK/Scottish food. Though it’s difficult to get some ingredients, I like making sausage rolls, for example, as you can’t buy them here. And pies and savoury pastries aren’t really a thing in the shops. There is frozen puff pastry, but I’ve no idea what they do with it as savoury pies really don’t seem to be a thing. So if I have time, I might make chicken and mushroom pasties. The recipe is here, and rather unexpectedly, that page is the most popular on my website, so I’m guessing it must be relatively reliable! I will probably also bake some shortbread biscuits. Funny that things that are basic in the UK are really quite exotic here, but I’m hoping other people will bring dishes local to them as well. I love trying different things.

I arrived at the office on Thursday morning to a very beautiful dawn. I had already taken a photo of Senja from the garden before I set out. Looking away from the sun, the blue, polar, pre-dawn light is already kicking in and it’s wonderfully clear. The photo at the top of the page shows a snow cloud over Senja from a few days earlier.

Snow covered mountains on Senja

But as I arrived at the office, the sun was just below the horizon. It was painting the clouds the most wonderful colours and then a group of crows seemed to be enjoying it too, as they performed acrobatics over the fjord. It was too intense to ignore, so I spent a few minutes outside taking photographs before I went in.

And lastly, my preparations for winter are well underway. Until recently, it was quite warm, but the temperatures have suddenly dropped, especially at night. It’s forecast to reach minus ten overnight on Wednesday. So I have thrown the extending shovel back in the car and I’ve bought an extra long implement for clearing snow off the roof of the car, which I didn’t get round to last year. The guinea pigs, after a few nights with a blanket over their outdoor cage, have now moved inside into their winter quarters. They seem very cheery about it all, and indeed have quickly remembered that the sound of the fridge opening sometimes leads to salad if you squeak loudly enough!

Susie and Brownie in their indoor quarters.

The only thing I have failed to do in time, is to change the winter wheels onto the car. They are stored in a local “Tyre hotel” as I don’t have a lot of storage space. When I went in on Monday, they told me I’d missed my slot. It transpired they had sent me an appointment for the change back in September, but as they had the wrong phone number, someone else must have received a random message that their wheel change was due. Anyway, I have a time slot on Monday, and in the meantime, I will just have to drive very carefully, if and when I go out.

Anyway, I will leave you with a photo of Triar, who seems to be enjoying the cosiness created by new blankets on the sofas, along with the return of the warmth from the heated floor. Thanks for reading and have a good week.

Upside-down Triar

Happy Birthday

Tomorrow is Jan-Arne’s birthday and at nine o’clock this morning, I received a message from Wivek to say that she and Marita were planning a special lunch for him at the clinic. I immediately wondered how I could contribute, and after some careful questioning, I managed to ascertain that whilst the savoury food was all planned, they were lacking a coherent cake strategy. Armed with only butter, eggs, flour sugar and cocoa powder, I began to throw something together. Luckily I also found some decorations hiding in my cupboard and so with only moments to spare, I made it in on time to join in. The other food was delicious. Marita had baked the most fantastic focaccia and aioli, and Wivek had provided a wonderful chicken salad. Somehow or other, I failed to take a decent photo of either, which is not like me at all. Like many food worshippers, usually I can’t resist taking photos of beautiful meals. Still Jan-Arne certainly looks happy.

IMG_4787

Last weekend, Tu Klinikk held its first CPD weekend on the subject of anaesthesia. CPD is vetspeak for Continuing Professional Development and in the UK, all vets are required under their agreement with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to do an average of thirty five hours each year. The requirement in Norway is not quite so stringent I understand. More a recommendation rather than a requirement, as it was in the UK until only a few years ago.

Anyway, the subject of the weekend was anaesthesia. I confess I was delighted by this as I have spent a good part of the year working as anaesthetist for Dagny and Magne. It is unusual outside of the universities for vet practices to have a dedicated anaesthetist who is a fully qualified vet. Generally the vet who is carrying out the surgery also technically oversees the anaesthetic as well, and the patient is monitored by a nurse (or more rarely, an assistant). I find it very rewarding to have a ‘specialisation’. The lectures were in Norwegian (the lecturer came from Oslo). In the morning this was fine. I found I could follow quite easily, though my one-cylinder brain stopped translating as soon as I tried to write anything down so I had to make do with listening very carefully and plucking at Wivek’s sleeve at the end of each section for the bits that I knew I should have noted down, but didn’t manage.

I also managed to answer some questions that the lecturer posed about anaesthetic circuits, though slightly to my chagrin, I had to answer in English. I still don’t actually know how to say “one-way valve” in Norwegian, though as Wivek already laughed at me for my translation of “gas-flow rate” on my poster in theatre, I should have remembered that I really didn’t have to translate that one, other than adding an extra “s” onto the word gas. Just to make it more Norwegian you understand.

On my return to the practice on Tuesday morning, I discovered that Dagny and Magne had invested in some lovely new kit in the form of a drip driver, an infusion pump and a new oxygenation unit, so we will be able to make some positive changes to our anaesthetic regime. Whilst I fumbled through the set-up on my first run-through, it was obvious that Tornado Tawse already had everything running as smoothly as a weir in high summer. I only wish I could make everything look so effortless.

Infusion pump and syringe driver.
Infusion pump and syringe driver.

Wivek, true to form, was the first to use the new anaesthetic kit, putting her first heart-murmur dog on a propofol infusion. Like Jacqueline, she too seemed perfectly calm and utterly self-contained. I must say I was relieved when she confessed to me later that she thought that her own heart was hammering away far more rapidly than the happily anaesthetised patient.

Feeling that I had to make some contribution to this wonderful new era, I managed to create two pages of flow rates for ordinary surgical patients and shock patients, but the final task I set myself on Thursday afternoon was the rather complicated calculation required to work out the flow rate for post-operative patients where we won’t be using the drip driver. To give a brief oversight, you first have to work out how much fluid the patient will need in an hour. From that, you have to calculate how many millilitres will have to pass through in a minute. Then you have to work out how many drops that will be… and finally you have to split the minute into that number of drops so you can give a “time between drops” specification. Given that there are also two types of giving sets: one that gives 20 drops per millilitre, and one that gives 60, it is perhaps unsurprising that my brain came unstuck somewhere in this process and exploded messily all over the computer screen. Fortunately Jacqueline was there to clean up the vetty mess before anyone noticed. Just as well she’s as patient as she is efficient.

Happy birthday Jan-Arne.

Cake worship.
All hail the chocolate cake..