Tag Archives: Polar night

Here Comes… More Snow

Sunrise/sunset: 11:03/ 12:51. Daylength: 1hr47min

So here we are, almost half way through January. In theory, the sun heaved its way over the horizon for the first time in a month and a half on Thursday. As there are mountains in the way, I knew it would take a few more days for it to appear, but it’s a moot point since it’s been sleeting and snowing for most of the week. The weather forecast says there will be more of the same for at least the next week. Keep on taking the vitamin D!

Difficult case update: the first of my reports is written and sent. I hoped to have the second done by the end of the week, but Hilde suggested before doing so, that I should write out a timeline of everything that’s happened. This turned out to be a very useful process. There are a couple of things hanging over what happens next and a few things we still need to find out. Writing out the timeline has revealed a couple of things that I had missed the first time round. I guess our memories put things together rather chaotically – at least mine does when I’m going through something stressful. Now I have a much clearer idea of what we are still lacking and a couple of new thoughts crossed my mind regarding what might have actually occurred. I still don’t know whether we’ll ever resolve it completely. Life isn’t like a detective novel with a perfect tidy ending and all the loose ends sorted. I do feel more ready to keep working on it though.

We did get to Nordkjosbotn for our meeting. I took the two pictures above on the way there on Monday morning. I was only there for one day as I was at the abattoir on Tuesday, but I did get my night in a hotel! Some people travel a lot for work, and I guess for them staying in hotels must become routine, but for me it’s always been special because it’s rare. I love Vollan Gjestestue with its clean, comfortable rooms. Norwegian hotel rooms are generally small, but I love them nonetheless.

Hotel rooms aside, the most important thing for me was seeing other people. My social circle remains tiny, but meeting up with colleagues from Storslett and Tromsø is always enjoyable. I left early on the Tuesday morning and Astrid got up to have a cup of coffee with me while I was having breakfast. It was a good end to a pleasant trip.

I had a lovely restful weekend last week. It was snowing for much of Saturday, but in the evening I took Triar out for a stroll around the harbour next to where I work. It’s a small, quiet place. I believe you can buy fresh prawns from one of the fishing boats, but at this time of year, there isn’t much coming and going.

If you want to, you can sit and have lunch overlooking the harbour, but I don’t think many people will be taking advantage for a few months yet.

I returned to a birthday cake Andrew had made for me. It had two layers of sponge cake, one with raisins and the other chocolate chips. It was topped off with chocolate icing and was easily as delicious as it looked.

When the sky is clear, I do try and get out during the brightest part of the day, so last Sunday, I took Triar out to one of our favourite haunts just outside Silsand. The snow was too deep to walk far (once it’s at mid-calf level, it becomes difficult for me to navigate) but we wandered around the areas where the snow had been cleared earlier, where it wasn’t too tough. It was minus fifteen and when Triar first got out, he very quickly looked apprehensive, standing with his back arched and holding up his paws. I scooped him back into the car, where he shivered as I put his little socks on. I wondered whether he would decide he didn’t want to get back out, but he did, then ran around quite happily, so despite not being very thick, the socks give enough protection to make a difference.

From Monday, I’m going to try to cut down on all the Christmas and birthday extravagance, but for now, with the snow outside, it’s still perfect hot chocolate weather. Mum sent me some chocolate balls, filled with marshmallows, for Christmas and I had the first one last night. January should definitely be a month for cosiness. Have a good week all!

Confidence

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

It’s been a mixed sort of week. As there wasn’t so much to do here on the 26th and 27th of December, we drove around a good deal during the brief periods when it was light. Though the days are very short, what light there is has a wonderful luminous quality. Coupled with the landscape of Senja, it becomes difficult to know when to stop taking photographs.

I took Anna to the airport and Charlie to the bus on Tuesday. Both arrived home safely. Always a relief, particularly when travelling to somewhere outside Norway, as Anna was doing.

My return to work was abrupt. Anja phoned me on the afternoon of the 29th December. A difficult case that I had dealt with before (and which I believed was under control) has flared up again. I am frustrated not to be able to discuss it more. It comes down to a dispute, as do so many of our cases. And if I judge it wrong, then animals will suffer.

Though I’m not in the UK, I saw a lot about the recently on social media about another child who had been beaten and killed by her mother and partner. The press always goes to town on those cases and reports unquestioningly from all those related people who made reports that were ignored. The subtext is always that the social workers were stupid to ignore such clear evidence.

Though obviously the main grief is for the child, I have a degree of sympathy for those professionals involved. So many of the cases I investigate involve a judgement regarding who is telling the truth. If those reporting were always good people, then it wouldn’t be complicated. But through my work here, I am learning that it is rarely straightforward. Obviously there are those who mistreat their animals. But there are also vindictive people who use the authorities to make lives difficult for others. There are even occasions when those people send in their flying monkeys if they see that they have not been successful themselves. It really isn’t cut and dried that lots of reports mean that there is something seriously wrong.

And so it comes down to a judgement about who is telling the truth, bearing in mind that sometimes it might be both or neither, and that there can also be misunderstandings. I am lucky to have a supportive team around me. I had advice from Torkjell, the regional big boss, and he chatted to Hilde, despite the fact that she was on holiday. I feel fortunate to have had help.

Regardless of difficult cases, family life goes on. The pond in the middle of the town is frozen and a couple of days ago, someone came and cleared away some of the snow, making tracks for ice skating. John and Andrew went and bought some skates, and for the past couple of evenings, they have been out on the ice doing circuits.

Tracks on the pond for ice skating

And of course Triar also needs to go out. John and I took him out for a walk up on the ski slope a few days back. There was fog over the fjord, but as we drove upwards it cleared. It was another of those days when it was hard for me to keep going as the temptation to stop and take pictures was overwhelming.

Triar is wearing his winter boots.

I posted a picture of our kransekake on social media. It’s one of my favourite Norwegian deserts, chewy rings of almond flavoured deliciousness.

Kransekake with crackers and Norwegian flags

Usually, people say how lovely the photo is, but this time someone asked whether it was meant to look like a dalek. And now I’ve seen it, it’s impossible to unsee. Of course, the only thing to do with that kind of information is to embrace it. Next time, the crackers should be placed to point straight out in front, and if I’m feeling really keen, I will create a plunger out of chocolate to give the full effect.

Anyway, I hope that 2022 is a better year than 2021, and that wherever we find ourselves, we can find some brightness in the road ahead. Happy new year to you.

Welfare

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

I’m on holiday from Friday next week, so there is a sense of keeping going until then. I’m very much looking forward to it. The past week has been both busy and interesting though, and has opened up my mind to thoughts of how I might make a difference. It started out with a meeting on Monday of a group of people who want to try to improve animal welfare in our area by improving the lives of those who keep them. There used to be many more small scale farms in Norway. Lots of people followed a traditional way of life where they had a few animals that were out in the summer and housed in a barn near the house in winter time. It became more difficult to make a living from small scale farming, so increasingly people had to work alongside their animal commitments.

But keeping animals is a tie. It will be hard enough to find someone responsible to look after Triar and the guinea pigs when I go on holiday. Harder still to find someone to look after fifty or a hundred sheep, or a few cows, especially if they need milking. So the networks that farmers used to have, where there were neighbours nearby who could help out in a crisis have, to an extent, disappeared.

And it’s not just about the work. By their nature, farms are physically isolated. You need land around you to allow you to feed your flock or herd. There isn’t a pub culture in Norway, like there is in the UK, and even if there was, here in the north of Norway, the distances between towns can be huge. And so the meeting was about trying to build new networks to support those who remain.

The social side of my job is something that I find very interesting. Obviously there are many things that can drive animal welfare up or down, but mental health is definitely there among them. Thomas has told me about his involvement in one such case, where he arrived on a farm to find the owner had almost given up hope, and he was instrumental in helping him find a way through. And Thomas is rightly proud of having done that. But to help more people, we need to reach more of them.

The meeting ended with a plan for more meetings, but I was due to go out on a welfare visit with Gry from Dyrevernsnemda later in the week. Remembering the potential bomtur debacle from two weeks ago, I compiled a list of all the sheep and goat farms in the surrounding area.

We ended up visiting two farmers on the list, in addition to the welfare investigation. We carried “Skrapesjuketilsyn” where we discuss the symptoms of Scrapie and the monitoring systems in place to track it. One of the farmers was obviously very happy to see us. He knew Gry already (Gry is a key member of another farming network) but when I introduced myself and said I was from Scotland, he said how wonderful it was to have someone who wanted to come to the north of Norway and was interested in working with sheep welfare. I confess, I am filled with inspiration. I would love, as a Mattilsynet vet, to be a part of a network helping the local sheep farming community. But I do have to bear in mind the constraints of budget. Next week, or in the new year, I will have to have a chat with Hilde about what I can achieve within the current economic climate.

Tuesday was also one of those rather unusual Mattilsynet days. As regular readers will know, Mattilsynet runs the OK program, where we check food producing animal breeds for various infectious diseases and for foreign or banned substances. Ammar had planned to go out and get a urine sample from a cow, but he was unable to attend himself, so he rang me on Monday afternoon and asked me to step in. And so on Tuesday morning, I drove out to a farm and spent an hour in a byre behind a row of cows, waiting for one of them to oblige.

Polar night, snowy mountain under a blue and pink sky – taken on the drive out on Tuesday

There were a few false starts involved. Even the tamest cows are wary creatures when strangers come into their space. And of course, I was a stranger wearing a very odd blue overall and huge white boot covers with bows on them, so they were wary to begin with. One or two of them lifted their tails and started to pee, but as soon as I moved towards them, they gave me a very offended look and stopped again. Fortunately, I eventually managed it, but not without some very amused thoughts about the sheer glamour of my job. Since then Konstantin has told me there is a way to get the cows to urinate, so next time, perhaps I will be quicker, but either way, spending time around cows is something I very much enjoy, whatever the task.

The road to Bardufoss

This week’s blog is a bit short as I have to go and collect John and bring him home, but I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of the decorations that have gone up in our office. I hope you’ll join me for more advent pictures tomorrow.

My Norwegian Christmas – Second Sunday in Advent

Christmas in Norway wouldn’t be complete without Nisser. There’s a programme on Netflix about them at the moment, and the name has been translated into English as “Elves”. But Nisser are nothing like the elves in British and American tradition, which assist Father Christmas or Santa at the North Pole. Nisser are definitely not helpful. Indeed if you forget to give them rice porridge on Christmas Eve, they can apparently become cantankerous. I should imagine they’re a bit like John when he’s expected to put up a Christmas tree with insufficient Pedro Ximenes. Anyway, I found one in the hotel up in Storslett. The poor critter has been given uncooked rice, which will probably give it a terrible stomach ache, but at least they tried.

I have a few more photos from Storslett. The candlelit lavvo we ate in was beside a beautifully decorated Sami shop. The log cabin at the top of the page (under a sky that was green with aurora) was nearby too.

We’re a few days into the polar night now and when the sky is clear, it is layered with pale blue and pink. The temperature has remained low all week and the snow creaks when you walk on it. Often you can smell wood smoke in the crisp air as you walk. This is the view from my garden at eleven o’clock in the morning.

Another snow picture for you, this time from a drive inland, where it’s generally colder. My car reminds me that its battery isn’t happy as soon as it drops below minus twenty, and here it was nine degrees below that, but fortunately, despite the objections, the car brought us safely home.

And just in case you were thinking that Christmas in Norway is all tasteful (Nisser aside) here’s a wonderfully over the top display I found, in the toy shop in our local shopping centre. I took a still photograph, but if I say there was plinky-plonky music playing and they were swaying their heads in time, you’ll be able to imagine the scene in full.

Have a great week and I’ll see you next weekend.

Mørketid

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

So here I am in my second Polar Night. Mørketid is the Norwegian name, which I love. A direct translation would be Darkness Time and the word “mørke” must have a common ancestry with the English word “murky” which seems appropriate. Not that it’s dark all day, of course. You can start to see twilight by half past eight in the morning, but by two in the afternoon, the light is fading again. In between, if it isn’t cloudy, there is this wonderful clear blue light that makes for very unusual photographs.

Icy road on the way home from Storslett

Coronavirus seems to be closing in again, with omicron making appearances all over Europe. Norway seems to be sticking to the plan of keeping everything as open as possible for those inside the country, though the rules for entry have been strengthened again. Our Mattilsynet Troms og Svalbard departmental gathering was this week on Thursday and Friday, and I was delighted when it went ahead. I guess when I say “department” most people might be thinking of a traditional business department, probably made up of lots of people who use the same building, but our “department” is diverse, and also very spread out.

We cover the whole of Troms and Svalbard, although there are no permanent staff on Svalbard. Troms is a county that is round twenty percent larger than Wales (a bit bigger than New Jersey for anyone checking in from the US, or Nova Scotia if you’re in Canada). We cover everything from animal welfare to drinking water, from three separate offices in Finnsnes, Tromsø and Storslett and this year’s gathering was in Storslett, which is the furthest north.

There was some discussion a couple of weeks ago about cars. We have three lease-hire cars available, and Øivind and Ronny quickly signed up two of them. Marit, who works with fish health and welfare then signed up the third, with another colleague, Eva, and designated it the “kvinnebil” or women’s car. So that was the one I signed up for, and despite Thomas’ suggestion that he too should travel in the kvinnebil, Eva, Marit and I drove up together. It was lovely getting to know them better.

Marit and Eva on the journey home

I’m not all that fond of meetings, and meetings in Norwegian are even more of a challenge, especially when those from the upper echelons begin to introduce buzzwords, like “sustainability” (bærekraft). But one thing Norwegians do very well is social events, and this meeting was no exception. We had received a cryptic message a few days earlier, telling us to bring warm clothes for sitting outside: clothes that, in addition, could stand some wood smoke. Though this sounded appealing to me, I was slightly concerned. Such an instruction could mean anything from sitting round a campfire roasting hot dogs to a five kilometre hike in the snow. I could handle either of those things, but they do require slightly different outfits.

In the event, it was a five minute walk along the road to a Sami lavvo (a wigwam type tent) where there was locally produced gløg, along with traditional dried meats, cheeses and flatbread, all served in candle-light around a huge wood fire. I’m not sure how local the grapes and olives are, but it was really very tasty indeed.

I’ve already included a couple of pictures of the return journey. Marit drove, so I was able to take a few photographs along the way, before the darkness descended again.

We took a short detour onto the Spåkenes Peninsula, where we found a very chilly bench as well as some glass igloos with an amazing view, which you can stay in overnight. Obviously I immediately added doing so onto my “to do” list.

There will be another advent update tomorrow, with more pictures from the trip, so goodbye for now. I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Customs

Sunrise/sunset: 08:34/ 14:27. Daylength: 5hr52min

One of the UK customs I miss is the celebration of bonfire night on 5th November. It was an occasion I loved when young. My father always loved a good bonfire, and I have wonderful memories from when I was eight or nine, when we moved to a house with a large garden and there was a party with Parkin and treacle toffee, and my dad set off fireworks in the garden. It always felt like the start of winter and meant that Christmas was not far off. In Norway, bonfires are lit to celebrate midsummer, which is very different.

The Norwegian custom for lighting candles against the darkness of winter is something I have completely embraced though. For now, I have autumn coloured candles, but in three weeks time, they will be replaced with an advent crown. There are already purple candles available in the shops. When I first arrived in Norway and took Norwegian lessons for a year, they lit a candle in class at the beginning of each week and left it burning during the lessons that day. Advent will come at almost the same time as the Polar night arrives. I suppose it serves a similar purpose to the British bonfire night, bringing light at the darkest time of year.

More light in the darkness – aurora over the reflected streetlights on Senja
And here are John and Triar, posing in front of a heart made of lights down in town.

The British affinity for queuing is another custom that I have found it hard to shake. I have applied for Norwegian citizenship, as well as reapplying for permanent residency under the new Brexit rules. I hadn’t originally applied for the Brexit pass as I hoped that I might gain citizenship before the Brexit pass deadline, which is the end of December. I initially went to the police to show my documents for citizenship in August (having sent my application more than a year earlier, the offices being closed in the meantime due to Covid) and was told that they couldn’t process it as I didn’t have a valid residence permit. This seemed odd, given that the deadline for the Brexit pass was December. Anna had showed her papers a month earlier in a different office without any problems. Anna told after she’d applied that the waiting list for citizenship applications was eight months. Having handed in my papers last week, I checked the waiting time, which is now eleven months. So no wonder they were insisting I should get the Brexit pass as it’s obviously going to be a long time before I find out if I can get a Norwegian passport.

Another odd thing was that it was possible to get appointments with the police for citizenship, but there were none available to show your papers for the Brexit pass, which is obviously more urgent. I am on a Facebook group for Brits living in Norway, and someone advised me that they had called the number provided for those with problems, and had been offered an appointment within a few days. It seems there are many times when there is little choice but to phone if you want to push your way to the front of the queue, though in fact I took a citizenship appointment and my Brexit pass was processed at the same time and has already arrived. But the need to phone, rather than wait (other than in dire circumstances that require a rapid response) still doesn’t come easily to me. I was reminded of when I was very sick in 2012 and losing weight at an astonishing rate while I waited to get my gall bladder removed. The six weeks they had told me I had to wait had come and gone and I was very perplexed that I hadn’t heard anything. When I asked my Norwegian friends, they told me I had to phone, which I did, and was taken in within a week or so.

It’s the same with job applications. In the UK, I always sent in my CV and whatever else was asked for, then waited patiently (or perhaps inpatiently, but still in silence) for a response. Someone in the Brits in Norway group asked for help as they were having no success with applying for jobs. I told them the advice that was given to me. There are instructions in the advertisements for how to apply, and I had always followed them to the letter, with little success. There was always a name and phone number to contact if you had questions, but as I rarely had questions, I had never called it.

Apparently, there is an unwritten rule that you must call that number for a casual chat, because if you don’t, they assume you’re not keen! This of course, seemed outrageous to my all-too-British, ready to queue soul! Then again, I have also been shouted at once by a doctor’s receptionist for not queuing enough. Doctor’s receptionists here are not behind a sliding screen off the waiting room, but behind a closed door. In my British ignorance, I once went through the door to queue politely behind someone else who was speaking to the receptionist. This was outrageous apparently, as discussions with the receptionist are private.

Customs are very odd things and some of them are invisible until you stumble over them. I love living in Norway, and hope to gain Norwegian citizenship, but I recognise that I am never going to be fully integrated. I will leave that (hopefully) to my children.

Not in any way related to the topic in hand, but here is Triar with his piggy toy.

I haven’t mentioned my other writing much. My agent hunt is continuing slowly. I have been told that so many people have written books during lockdown that many agents are swamped. I’m not in any particular hurry, fortunately. I have most of the storyline for a second book in place. It did cross my mind however, that I should perhaps do more research regarding one of my main characters who is blind. I therefore contacted the RNIB for help and they have shared my request with a Facebook group. A few people have got in touch with me, which was very cheering yesterday evening. Hearing about other people’s lives is always interesting and rewarding, so I have a pleasant weekend ahead of me.

I will leave you with a picture I took last weekend of Kistefjellet, which I still haven’t reached the summit of. It’s the peak on the left with the mast on it. One day I will get there and when I do, I’ll share it with you. Have a good week.

Night Life and Morning Coffee

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

I always start the morning with a coffee. I make it, then put on my coat and take Triar outside, warming my hands on the mug while Triar has his first sniff around the garden. Whatever the weather, it always feels like a good start to the day.

It’s not been the most cheerful of weeks. There are riots and insurrection in the US, and round the world COVID19 is on the rise. Looking at previous pandemics, it seems common that when winter returns and the second wave rises, it’s often worse than the first and this one is following that pattern. Cases here are relatively low, but we are locked down along with the rest of Norway and I have spent the past week (and will be spending next week) working from home.

The weather has turned colder again, though there’s still no snow. Locals tell me this is almost unheard of and I have been watching with bemusement as my social media feeds have filled up with lovely wintery pictures from the UK. I’ve found myself having a wry chuckle or two because back in October when I wrote about having a white Halloween, I had it in the back of my mind that I might eventually bore people with my snow pictures.

It was also my birthday this week, and knowing my love of coffee (and my enjoyment of Harry Potter) my children bought me a mug.

I also received a latte glass from Charlie from Steam, one of my favourite coffee shops down in the south of Norway. One of the things I miss most in these pandemic days is going out to cafés. They are still open here and the risk isn’t as high as it would be in the UK, but the easy life we had before, when going out was a straighforward pleasure, seem a long way away. So now, thanks to Charlie, I can have the echo of those days with a homemade latte.

Having started the day in the garden, I often end it there too. At the moment, it is dark at both ends of the day, but there are compensations. The picture at the top was from Thursday evening. Odd the things people see. I thought it looked a little like flames licking across the sky, but I posted it on Twitter and many people commented that there was a goddess looking down at me. The aurora last night was less spectacular, but still there, like searchlights across the sky.

And so, the polar night is ending. On Tuesday the sun will rise for the first time in 2021. I am hoping for clear skies and looking forward to longer days. And whatever happens, hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you.

Ann’s Place

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

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.

Trude, Ann, Vaidotas
Konstantin kindly modelled one of Ann’s all-terrain vehicles

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.

Goaty

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

Another interesting week at work. On Monday, Thomas and I made a visit in response to an anonymous “Concern Message”. I was nervous as we drove out. This was, in part, due to the nature of the visit. Obviously nobody wants to be reported and it’s quite possible that some of the recipients might be angry. But it was also because I was unsure whether Thomas would want me to lead the inspection and interview. He had shown me how to print out the point-by-point sheet which we use to guide us through and I went in clutching a clipboard. However, by the time I had struggled into my tissue-thin jumpsuit, huge white foot covers (tied with a bow) mask and gloves he had already begun and so I followed him round, listening carefully as he asked questions and noted down the replies.

I felt much more relaxed on the return journey. The presence of my clipboard was explained when he told me I should fill it in on our next time out as he pointed out having two separate records rather than one makes it less likely that anything will be missed. Next time out, I will also ask any questions that come into my head. There were some I thought of while we were out that I didn’t ask. With hindsight they were genuinely pertinent and could have been useful.

Back in the office, Thomas helped me through the next stage, which was writing a letter to the owner explaining the results of the inspection, and any actions considered necessary. This was another first for me, though I was aware of some of the rules we have to follow. These include all sorts of factors, such as ensuring that every action we ask the owner to take is backed up with the exact clause in Norwegian law that we are relying on, making sure the wording is simple to understand and perfectly clear, and ensuring the language we use is factual and not a value judgement. For example, we can note that an animal has been urinating and defaecating on the floor, but should never state that the house is disgustingly dirty.

I also discovered, as I worked through the response process, that there are many checks and balances in place to ensure we get things right. Once the letter was finished, we sent it to a Norwegian colleague to ensure the language was correct. After that it will be sent for official assessment by a dedicated group… and after that, it will be sent to Hilde, in whose name it will be sent out, assuming she also feels it passes muster. Though this sounds intimidating, I’m very glad that there will be plenty of help ensuring that I don’t make any errors due to the fact that Norwegian is not my mother tongue.

On Tuesday I drove out to meet Birgit, who works in the Storslett office. Our task was to blood sample forty goats to check for brucellosis as part of the annual OK Program. Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that can pass between animals and people and can cause long term fluctuations of fever, joint pain and various other nasty symptoms. As in Britain, there is currently no brucellosis in Norway and hopefully it will stay that way.

While I don’t think I have blood sampled many (any?) goats before, I spent several years in mixed practice in the UK. Back then, all mature cattle were tested for brucella every four years and I found myself quickly falling back into the rhythm of it. The test tubes we use come with a vacuum. If you push the needle through the rubber bung in the top and allow air to be sucked in instead of blood, then you waste the test tube. Brigit seemed very pleased with me as I managed to complete forty samples without losing a single one. On my part, I felt delighted that the skill I learned many years ago was finally being used again.

We are now almost at the end of the first week of the polar night. As you might have spotted in the windows in the picture above, it is not completely dark all day. Indeed for a short time between eleven and half-past one, it feels very much like full daylight. I stopped to take a photograph on the way back from the blood test to share here. This was taken at about 1pm, though a very short time afterwards it started to snow heavily, and the darkness drew back in.

On Thursday, we put up the Christmas decorations in the office and Andrew and I brought out a few of our decorations at home, though the tree will wait for Anna’s arrival on Monday. Most workplaces in Norway put up some decorations. Like the Danes, Norwegians take a lot of pride in encouraging comfort during the dark winter months.

I was struck afresh, when I looked at the photographs, that in some ways they are quite different from British decorations. Pigs play a big part here. A stocking is surely not complete without a marzipan pig. And the little hatted “nisse” are a regular feature. Nisse look a bit like garden gnomes and shouldn’t be confused with Santa. According to tradition, you have to feed the nisse creamed rice or other treats or they will play tricks on you.

On Friday I was on the early shift at the abattoir. We live close to the coast and even this far north, there is some warming effect from the gulf stream, but just a forty minute drive inland can mean a ten degree difference in temperature. I met John in the evening after work and we went out for a pizza, but as the restaurants didn’t open for an hour after we finished, I stopped to fill the car up with diesel and was struck by the beauty of the ice formations that the frost had etched onto the car. And so, being me, I grabbed my phone and took a photo to share with you. Have a lovely weekend.