Tag Archives: Sun

The Light Fantastic

Sunrise/sunset: 09:02/ 15:02. Daylength: 6hr00min

I’ve had a peaceful week, working from home. Though the sun is still low in the sky, it is amazing how cheering it is to see its light ON things. It’s hard to describe, but during polar night, the shadows disappear, and though the air is clear and it can be very beautiful, the snow covered mountains lose their shape and everything looks flatter with less definition. I took some pictures of the sunlight from my garden while the house itself was still deep in shade. The camera on my phone doesn’t have a real zoom function, but hopefully you can get an idea. The effect is most distinctive on the mountains, but the bridge columns are golden, where they are normally grey concrete. The lift it gives me to see these things is quite visceral, even though I am not directly aware of missing the sun during the polar night itself.

I touched on the difficulties of writing official reports in Norwegian last week and this week, I came across another way the language barrier affects my performance. As a part of my job, I will eventually be expected to carry out audits. These are company audits to check for compliance with the law, but rather than an inspection, where I go out and look directly at animals and check they are being treated well, this will be an assessment at a higher level. For example, there are audits in the abattoir, not so much to assess how things are on the ground, but to check the management systems that are in place, whether they are appropriate and whether they are working as they should to ensure the law is upheld.

In order to start doing this, there’s an exam I need to pass. It’s a notoriously difficult exam, with exacting questions that require technically complex answers, and it’s limited to an hour, which means there is no thinking time. To give context, several people, including my boss, told me I wouldn’t pass it first time and I didn’t.

I’ve been so busy for several months that I hadn’t had time to think about having another bash at it, but this week, with my complicated case on the back-burner and another case that can wait a week or two, I thought I’d make a start. My brain doesn’t retain random information as well as it once did, so I will try to get through the entire course again and sit the exam as soon as possible afterwards.

Going through the course is exhausting. Though quite a lot of the language is becoming more familiar (writing those reports does actually help) there are still a lot of unfamiliar words in the revision texts, so it takes a while to look them up and understand what they mean in the context of an audit. So I have to flip backwards and forwards from the PowerPoint presentation to Google translate whenever there’s a word I don’t understand. It probably takes me twice as long to do that as it would if I was working in English, and possibly more.

I was quite pleased to have got through the first two (of ten) sections, particularly as the first contained all the basic words regarding the structure of the audit. So when I started section three, I was rather taken aback to find that I was having even more difficulty following the text. Bizarrely, it took me several minutes to realise that this was because the new presentation was written in Nynorsk and not Bokmål.

I’ve probably touched on this before, but there are two official types of written Norwegian: Bokmål and Nynorsk. For a long time, Norway belonged to Denmark and the official language was very much influenced by Danish. As Norway became independent from Denmark, efforts were made to document the way Norwegian was spoken and how that differed from Danish, and eventually those efforts became recognised as Nynorsk.

Both versions of Norwegian are taught in Norwegian schools, though when children start school, they will learn one or the other, and add the second in at a later date. Between 10 and 15 percent of Norwegians have Nynorsk as their official language form. Adult language schools also teach one or the other and I learned Bokmål. As an aside, this made it very difficult when Andrew started school as he learned Nynorsk, so helping him with homework was traumatic for both of us.

But back to the audits. As I read, I began to notice some of the basic words I had learned in section one were spelled differently. Other words I was familiar with in Bokmål had been changed to words I didn’t even recognise. So I found myself in the ridiculous situation of having to paste sections of Nynorsk into Google Translate, translate them into English, and then translate the English back into Norwegian so I could make notes. I will have to do the exam in Norwegian, so making notes in English wouldn’t help. Fortunately for me, Google Translate mostly gives the Bokmål version of things. Much as I approve of Norway’s attempts to preserve both forms of the language for reasons of fairness, there are times when it does make everything very complicated indeed.

Anyway, enough of that, and back to the topic of the returning light. On Tuesday morning, the sky was such a beautiful colour that I couldn’t resist going out and taking some photos.

Working from home has the advantage that I can see this wonderful view from my windows, and in my breaks I can take Triar out into the garden and play with him. Watching him enjoy the games is one of those small joys that makes the day much better. As you can see, the snow is really quite deep.

Triar loves his squeaky ball

And in that picture, up in the top corner, you just see the edge of the skrei cod my neighbours are drying. They very generously brought me down some fresh cod as well. The little hut isn’t an outside lav, by the way, it’s for smoking salmon in the summer.

Skrei cod hanging up to dry in the cold air

And on Thursday, I went out at lunchtime to discover that the sun had finally made it over the hill and was shining down on me. It was a wonderful feeling.

And now, with the sky clear, the aurora has become visible again. I will leave you with the glorious arc that greeted me on Thursday night when I took Triar out for his last evening stroll in the garden.

Sacrifice

Sunrise/sunset: 09:36/ 14:26. Daylength: 4hr49min

Triar woke me up at six o’clock this morning. He was barking at something in the living room and I rushed through so I could stop him before he woke the neighbours. And what was it, you ask, that was so threatening at six in the morning? I was expecting it would be something outside the window. Maybe a bird in the garden or some snow falling off the roof, but no. Andrew and I had a carry out last night. This is a rare occurrence for us, because eating out is prohibitively expensive here. But Andrew had left the empty paper bag standing on the electronic keyboard and Triar had apparently just seen it and registered it as a threat to household safety.

This was easily resolved. I moved it onto the kitchen table and all was well, so I headed back to bed. Unfortunately, I hadn’t turned on the light in the hallway and I had left my bedroom door open. It opens into the hallway, and as I headed back into my bedroom, I walked into it. Doors are really quite solid things, especially first thing in the morning. Fortunately, I don’t have a black eye, so I’m not going to have to spend next week telling people I walked into a door and have them disbelieve me.

We started our working week with an emergency readiness exercise. Regular readers will know that we do this twice a year, putting on and taking off the protective clothing that we would have to use if faced with an outbreak of a highly infectious animal disease like foot and mouth, or worse, a highly infectious disease that can spread between animals and people, like bird flu. This time round, I was acutely aware that my colleagues down in Rogaland had been doing this for real this year. This time though, it wasn’t me who had to don all the gear. Konstantin was the sacrificial victim. Here he is with Thomas.

Konstantin and Thomas – emergency PPT

I took a photograph on the way home. There’s nowhere to safely stop the car, and so I took advantage of the fact that Thomas was driving. It’s a curved section of road, where there are deciduous trees on one side and fir trees on the other, and I love the way the fir trees stand out against the skyline. I’ve been wanting to photograph it for ages. It’s not perfect because it was taken through the car windscreen and I couldn’t choose the day, but here it is: one of my favourite places on the road to Finnsnes.

My favourite road curve with an even line of fir trees reaching into the sky.

On Wednesday, the sky finally cleared after weeks of clouds and snow and rain. We live in the lee of a hill, which is very useful when it’s stormy, but it does mean it takes a long time for the sun to reach the house in winter. And so at twelve o’clock, when the sun was reaching its high point for the day, Triar and I walked up to the top of the hill and saw it for the first time since the end of November. It was somewhat obscured by a line of cloud, but no less beautiful for that.

On Thursday, I finished what I hope will be my final report in my difficult case. There are tail ends to finish up, but I hope those will go smoothly. It did have one last sting in the tail however. One of Mattilsynet’s aims is that all the reports we send out are well constructed and consistent, and so they undergo several checks before they are sent out. For me, this usually includes sending it to a Norwegian member of our team (despite all my efforts, there are usually some grammatical errors in my writing) and then after I’ve cleared mistakes, it gets sent to a control team, one of whom rechecks it and points out any errors in construction, or other sundry things that might be a little awry.

Because this was such a complicated case, I had asked Thomas for help before I began, to make sure I used the right template. There are several different forms, depending on whether there are actions we feel the animal owner must take to comply with the law. Once I had written it, I sent it to Astrid and discussed the case with her, including a couple of things that concerned me about how I was handling it. Astrid is a member of the control team, so I felt it was particularly useful to get her help. She told me the people to ask to clear up a couple of outstanding points, and I did what she suggested.

Then, because Hilde is now involved and helping, I sent it to her to check whether she agreed with the approach taken. She added a couple of items in and then sent it back to me. Both Astrid and Hilde had told me that my report was good and I felt proud of the way I was managing the case, even though it’s been difficult and I have been quite troubled by it along the way.

Therefore I assumed, when I sent it to the control team for checking, that it would be a slam dunk: that it would pass muster and that any required changes would be very minor indeed.

I got it back after lunch, and found there was a note attached. It didn’t relate to the format or any grammar, but instead it was a comment on the tone.

After toiling so much with this case, and having felt satisfied with what I had written, this felt like the final straw. I don’t think I have ever written a ranty e-mail to my boss before, but I did this time, sending it to both Hilde and Astrid. Not least, I had it in my head that both Astrid and Hilde had seen it, and neither of them had noticed any problem.

On occasions like this, I often think that the person making the criticism or suggestion has no thought of how they might feel if they had to write something similar in a language that wasn’t their mother tongue, and that the suggestion they made, that probably seemed minor to them, might feel insurmountable to someone else. It can be the same with other tasks. “Just do a little checking round it” might seem like a small request. I know it would be if I was working in English. Just a little extra task that I would be able to follow up easily if I knew the landscape and reading was effortless. Instead, such suggestions can seem huge. I know it will get easier and it already is, but I often think that life would be very different if those obstacles were not in the way.

Hilde phoned me immediately, and we talked it through. If I was writing the report in English, might I have done it a little differently, she asked, and I agreed I might possibly have done so, though it’s not certain. Most of the sentences would actually have been quite difficult to construct differently, even in English, though there was one I picked out that I could have changed.

Still, she said, I should think on the fact that any incident like this counts as a learning experience: something I could bear in mind if I had to write something similar in future. In the end, she overruled the member of the control team and sent it as I had written it. I had, through the course of the case, spent a lot of time building up a polite relationship with the animal owner and any report I sent would seen through the lens of the rapport we had built, she said.

Despite the frustrating ending, I am glad that the report has now been sent. As I said, there are some tail ends that need to be followed up, but I hope that all will be resolved without me having to intervene further.

I will finish with some photographs. The sky finally cleared on Wednesday, and I have already shown a picture of the sun, but even where the sun is not visible, even if it’s lightly cloudy, there is still that wonderful light which reflects from the snow as the sky changes, minute by minute.

And here’s my trusty car, which so far hasn’t failed to make it out of the driveway, even though some days it has been so icy it was difficult to walk. I didn’t choose it because of its all wheel drive. I bought it because it looked sturdy for the harsh conditions I knew we would meet up here, and because though it was quite old, it didn’t have too many miles on the clock. German engineering. No regrets.

And finally to finish the week, I went out in the garden last night with Triar and was greeted by the wonderful slow dance of the aurora. As ever, it grounded me, a reminder that mankind has been looking up at the sky in awe and wonder for millennia, and that everything that happens in my life is really very small. Goodbye for now, my friends. Hope you too can find some peace in the night sky.

Sunlight

Sunrise/sunset: 08:56/ 15:09. Daylength: 6hr 12min

It’s getting lighter very fast now. We have an hour more daylight today than we had last Saturday. We took Triar for a run on the beach last week, and these pictures were taken at around four in the afternoon.

We finally have some snow. It’s been falling on and off throughout the week and it makes the world seem much brighter as well. Back in Scotland, growing up, it generally snowed a couple of times each winter. It was usually around zero when it happened and often the flakes were huge. They landed on the ground and stayed there.

Snow at minus ten is quite different. I have occasionally seen bigger flakes, but they’re mostly much smaller. If there’s any wind at all, it carries them effortlessly. Sometimes they move so fast horizontally that I wonder if they’ll ever hit the ground. Driving at night, the snow skitters and dances across the road in the headlights. When lorries pass, they create clouds of it that seem to go on for miles. Of course, if there’s a lot of snow and some wind, you can get dangerous drifts, but so far it isn’t deep and nor is it windy. It has, though, covered over all that ice, and to enough depth that it is no longer treacherously slippery.

There is, as yet, no obvious heat in the sun. It finally made it over the hill to hit the house on Tuesday. Odd how heartening it was to see it, though it was gone a moment later.

It was rather misty as well that day. I was fascinated to see the bridge to Senja had become a bridge to nowhere. I took two pictures. The first is at the top of the page, when the sun was turning the fog a wonderful pink colour. Moments later, the sun was diminished as the cloud thickened, and then it stopped looking warm and colourful, but was beautiful nonetheless.

And now it’s Saturday morning and John is home for the weekend and wants to take Triar out. It’s half past nine and already light, so who am I to say no! I will leave you with a picture of the cloudberry liqueur I picked up yesterday at the Vinmonopol. We tried it last night and it tastes of honey and late summer warmth. Cheers!

Kongeveien Jæren

This is one of my favourite short walks along a section of the old King’s Road, or Post Road that runs along the coast. There are many such roads around Norway and until relatively recently, these were the main roads around the country.

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My first view of the sea, through an avenue of trees between two farmsteads.

I’m not actually on Kongeveien yet. The first thing that comes into view is the tiny church at Varhaug.

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Varhaug gamle kirkegård

It hasn’t been cold for long. The river is still flowing, albeit with some ice around the stones.

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From the bridge

It’s such a wonderfully clear day.

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Looking north

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Looking south

If you look at the two photos above, you can see the snow has melted on the south side of the stones and not the north, a reflection of the sun’s low winter path across the sky.

I saw a number of other people out enjoying the sunshine. Below is a typical grouping, two young women, two dogs, one pushchair. When the sun is shining, it’s time to be outside.

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Not alone

It can be difficult to photograph all the things I love to look at. I am always fascinated with the rugged outlines of the stone walls, so different from those in the UK. I also love the clean lines of the branches against that vast sky, but it can be difficult to capture.

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A typical Jærsk wall.

The sea is almost completely smooth, so different from last week’s storms.

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Clear and calm

And now I’m heading back.

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I stop on the bridge to admire ice that has formed around the stones in the river.

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Patterns in the water

And then I’m back at the church and it’s time to go home.

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