A fantastic morning’s walk with Marian. A very beautiful area and some great pepper-mackerel sandwiches!
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…
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!
Summer is drawing towards its end and the chillier nights are creeping in, but there is still warmth when the sun is high. Marian and I walked today on Ognaheia amidst overwhelming beauty: sparkling dew on tendrils of spider-silk, sunlight filtering into the dark places through the shivering silver birch, the red of the rowan and the woodland toadstools against the late-summer foliage, the blue intensity of the sky going on forever. As ever it seems impossible to catch these images on camera, but I have attempted to do so and will share the best with you.
I can’t write too much this week as on Thursday I was in hospital myself for an operation. This weeks featured photograph is of an incredibly laid-back and friendly cat called Loke after the Norwegian God (spelled Loki in English). Loke was Jan-Arne’s patient, but I spotted him through the doorway and couldn’t resist asking if I could take his picture. Typically enough, Jan-Arne found the time to tell me all about Loke’s history… as well as the cat’s.
I stopped on my way into work on Tuesday. I was early, and couldn’t resist taking some photographs of the beautiful sky.
Sadly I didn’t manage to get a view of the sea, which was a brilliant blue turquoise under that rose sky. I am lucky to live in such a beautiful place, though I confess that the drive might be more daunting in winter when the snow comes. Thank goodness for spiked tyres.
I have been waiting almost a year for my operation. It seems there are long waiting lists in Norway for non-urgent things. I finally received a telephone call last week from the hospital offering me a time at short notice… and Dagny very kindly agreed to allow me to accept. She even signed her get-well message “Scary Boss Lady”. She seemed impressed too with my Norglish gas-flow chart. It’s all good.
I arrived home on Tuesday to a favin (Favyn? feel free to correct me, oh kind Norwegians) of wood for the stove.
It’s all neatly stacked in the garage now, though I will have to call the chimney sweep before lighting up. The sweep comes around here automatically, but sadly I managed to miss him. Unlike British chimney sweeps, who use a big vacuum cleaner in your living room, Norwegian sweeps climb up on the roof and knock the soot down from the top. There’s normally a ladder on the roof of each house to aid this ascent. Then there’s a little door in the cellar where he can go in and scoop it all out. On Tuesday night, I received a text message from Charlie who was out for a cycle, to say that the aurora was good. I went out and jumped in my car to drive to the top of the hill, and found to my surprise that the snow poles had been set in place already. I guess they have to go up as soon as the temperature starts to drop, just in case. Sorry to any of my lovely Norwegian friends who are reading this. To me it still all seems quite novel and exciting. A bit like being permanently on holiday.
Anyway, I must go now. Thanks for reading.
Loch Lochy on a calm Wednesday morning: a beautiful place to drift as we ate breakfast, having passed down through Laggan Lock in the early light. It seemed less forbidding than the wide expanse of Loch Ness, though it is rumoured to host its own monster, Lizzie. Sadly she failed to make an appearance, so we had to be content with the scenery.
We could only spend a short time there, as we had to return the boat on Friday morning, so we turned Eriskay VI’s blunt nose back towards Inverness.
I wish I could share with you the way the sun glanced through the trees that grew right down to the water’s edge and the grace of the swallows skimming through the shadows, but I can only show some photos and you will have to imagine the sense of peace that comes with being close to nature.
Back in the delightful Loch Oich, the gentle ripples of our boat made wonderful patterns on the water.
Back through Cullochy Lock.
After a second peaceful night at Fort Augustus, we headed back across Loch Ness.
We stopped at Urqhuart Bay …
… and walked into Drumnadrochit, coming across some wildlife on the way.
By the time we returned, the weather was deteriorating. The last stretch of the loch was challenging as the boat, though comfortable and easy to steer on the calm canal, was not highly powered for ploughing through the waves.
Still, we made steady progress. As we approached the entrance to the final stretch of the canal, I was amused to see this boat that made me think of Captain Flint’s houseboat in Swallows and Amazons.
Of course, there is wildlife everywhere. I felt honoured to be visited by some ducks.
There were families of them on the grass beside Dochgarroch lock where we spent our last night. It had been a wonderful four nights aboard. Some moments of hard work amongst the glorious scenery, but what remains with me is the peace I find when life is slowed to a walking pace and the modern world is temporarily out of view.
We visited Venice in Spring 2013, I have recently been looking back at the photos and wanted to share some of them here.
Sorry I haven’t updated Always Vet in Norway this weekend. Charlie and I have been on a roadtrip to Bergen to watch James and Simple Minds at the Bergen Festival. Both bands were fantastic; both played a lot of new music. We stayed in a great hotel and found some wonderful restaurants. Saturday was our 18th Wedding anniversary so this was our present to ourselves.
First then some views from the Park Hotel. Charlie had asked for a room on the top floor and so there were a lot of stairs to climb, but it was worth it for the airiness and the clear skies above the beautiful city.
Once we had settled in, we set off for the festival. James were playing first. I only took a few photographs but they played a great set. I do have an apology for Jan-Arne… going by Tim Booth’s outfit it seems that pyjama trousers really are in!
Later in the evening, as dusk gradually fell, we watched Simple Minds – Charlie’s favourite band. I will just put in a few photos here. For those who would like to see a full set of images, click here.
After the concert, it was time to go back to the hotel. 1.30am and the sun was setting…
Next morning dawned another bright day so after breakfast and coffee, we headed off to Fløyen funicular railway. When we arrived at the bottom, we were fortunate enough to get to the front of the queue, so we had some fantastic views on the way up.
Then we emerged to wonderful views of the city.
Back down again, and we found a street that looked more Scandinavian than Central European…
And a delicious burger.
An old fire-station (which I had photographed earlier) was disgorging some amazing old fire-engines.
Finally as we made our way back to the bus station, we discovered there was a Thai festival taking place.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.