Tag Archives: Tromsø

Lambs and a House

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

I am buying a house! I wanted to get that in there right away as it’s filling my mind. It seems odd that at 53 years old, I am back at the point of going through new and momentous experiences, but I guess that’s true of anyone who has left a long-term marriage and started again. This will be the first house I will have sole ownership of and this is also the first time I have gone through the buying process in Norway.

I went to the viewing last Monday. I guess all the details I am about to give might be boring for my Norwegian friends, so I apologise to them, but for me it was all new. When Charlie and I moved to Norway, he came six months earlier than me and the children, so by the time I moved over, he had gone through this whole process and I wasn’t involved at all.

In the UK, viewings tend to be individual. You call the estate agent, make an appointment, then go to look. Most often, it’s the house owner that shows you round. If you like the house and think you might want to buy it, you will probably get a thorough survey done before going any further. After that, the whole process is bound up with solicitors and takes an age.

Here in Norway, the survey is done by the seller. All the details about what is sound and what isn’t are provided in the listing. A viewing time is arranged with the seller and anybody who is interested in the house attends during that timeslot. The house owner goes out; it’s the estate agent who remains to direct proceedings and they don’t show you round. Rather, you have the freedom to wander through the house at your leisure in the same way you might if you were viewing a new build house in the UK.

It was a lonely experience. I had hoped that John or Andrew could come with me, but both had other commitments. I also considered asking a colleague, but I had put in my mortgage application late and I hadn’t heard back from the bank, so everything was still up in the air. In Norway the bidding process often happens the day after the viewing. You can’t bid unless you have finances in place and I didn’t want to see the house if I wasn’t sure I could afford it. The bank finally told me at quarter to three on Monday afternoon that I could have a mortgage big enough to cover the house, and the viewing was at five, so I headed out there, feeling underprepared.

I didn’t love it. You often hear about people falling in love with houses, but there were many small things which didn’t show up in the photographs or survey details. The bathroom looked smart and modern in the pictures, but when I walked in, the shower unit was obviously older than I had thought and it will never look sparkling clean again. In the bedrooms, hallway and living room, there are lots of little holes, badly filled ex-holes and lumps in the papered wall panels, which are made of wood and not plaster. There is wallpaper that’s been painted over, and in one random patch, the textured paper was different from that surrounding it. All-in-all the house had an unloved feeling. I can’t blame the person who did this. I did the same in the house I shared with Charlie as I am no expert and had no money to do anything better, but I know that when I get this house, I want gradually to erase all those flaws.

It’s not particularly big, but it has four bedrooms. Perhaps it seems odd to want to make sure John, Anna and Andrew can all still come home at the same time and have their own space, but that is what I want and I’m not going to fight it.

Anyway, having been to the viewing, where the only other people were a young man and (presumably) his father, I had to wait until 18th May for the next steps. As I said above, the bidding on a house often starts the day after the viewing, but the viewing was on 16th May and the day after is a special bank holiday here in Norway – Norway’s national celebration. I haven’t any pictures (the weather was awful this year) but the link above will take you to last year’s, (rather muted) celebrations.

I had an appointment in Tromsø on the 18th and I was staying there for the rest of the week, so Wednesday afternoon found me alone in a hotel room, trying to work, while wondering what I would do about the house. I still wasn’t certain I wanted to go ahead. It seemed too significant a decision to jump into blindly.

Bu then the estate agent sent me a link to sign into the bidding. Having come thus far, I thought I would sign in and see what the thing looked like. I was still kind of terrified. Once you bid, your offer is binding if the seller accepts it. It felt like a monumental decision to be taking on my own in an anonymous hotel room. But what was there to lose if I put in a low bid? If it was accepted, I would be getting a bargain I could easily afford. If it was rejected, or someone else outbid me, then I’d lost nothing. I typed in my bid and the time when then offer would run out. My fingers were shaking as I clicked “send”.

It was at this point it crossed my mind that I could contact Lara Wilson. Many years ago, back in the UK when I was a high flying executive (well technically the Operations Manager at Vets Now) Laura was the head vet in the Belfast clinic and we hit it off immediately. Our friendship has deepened over the years and it was Lara who basically chivvied me into completing my last book manuscript, despite the fact that she was in Glasgow while I was in Norway.

Within minutes we were in conversation on Facebook messenger, and her enthusiasm for life (and buying houses) was seeping in and bypassing my wibblingness. I had set the offer timer for only half an hour. How to do the whole thing, and what the norms were, were outside my range of experience. The form had told me a minimum of thirty minutes and I had followed that as the time had popped up automatically. I watched as the clock ticked down, wondering if there was something else I should be doing. Though I’ve never bought a house in Norway, Charlie and I had recently gone through this process from the other side. If I tell you I missed the actual bidding process that time because I was on a flight from Tromsø to Oslo, you can probably get an idea of how fast the whole thing usually goes.

Would my bid be accepted? Might another come in? If it wasn’t enough, the seller might make a counter offer. Presumably the longer it went, the more likely it was that I’d get it?

I was on tenterhooks as the final minutes ticked down. Then the time came and went, and a sign popped up to say my bid had expired.

What on earth? I admit I felt baffled. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Picking up my phone, I called the estate agent’s number. The woman from the viewing answered and I asked her what had happened. She took a look, then explained that the estate agent was in a meeting. He hadn’t even seen my offer before it expired. I asked her what happened next? Should I bid again? Should I give a longer time? How long was normal? She couldn’t possibly say. Not allowed to advise me. I confess I was a bit frustrated with her. I wasn’t asking for advice, I was asking what was normal. She said she’d get the estate agent to call me when he came out. He probably wouldn’t be long.

I whiled away the time by putting in another bid, this time with a longer expiry. This time, the estate agent saw it and I received a message that it was now live. Yet again, I watched the clock tick down, and yet again there was no response. I was pretty much at the stage of giving up by now. I wasn’t sure how it should go, but this definitely wasn’t it. And then some action came. The owner, I learned, had made a late counter suggestion and from there on in, it was no longer an auction, but a bartering process. It dribbled on a bit. I get the impression that the seller was reluctant because she wasn’t getting as much as she’d hoped for. But by two o’clock the following day, we had agreed on a price and I was committed to buying.

Since then, there has been a parade of links and tasks and forms to fill in. Most of them are in Norwegian obviously, which adds a little piquancy to the whole process. I still feel I’m stumbling through thick woodland undergrowth wearing a pair of steamed up sunglasses, but presumably at some point I’ll come out on the other side. Hopefully it will be sunny.

Anyway, in other news, we visited the farm where John is lambing last weekend. It was a wonderful day. John’s employers were very welcoming and seem very pleased with him. I felt very proud as I saw him handling the animals with assurance. And of course, lambs are very, very cute!

On Thursday and Friday I was working in Tromsø. Amongst other things, Line had arranged for me to blood sample two cows. There was some pressure, given that I had been brought up from Finnsnes and had been touted as an expert, but thankfully it went off without a hitch. The cows were fairly quiet and I took the samples from their tails, as I had done thousands of times before, many years ago in Scotland. Indeed, I think I could happily spend my life blood testing cows. If anyone knows of such a job, please do let me know!

Last but not least, we inspected a husky farm. Seeing the lovely, friendly dogs, the brightly coloured sledding gear and the hut, where the ceiling was blackened from woodfire smoke, really made me want to come back in the winter and take part. One day, hopefully I will.

Zoomies!

Sunrise/sunset: 06:38/ 20:06. Daylength: 13hr27min

I woke up to a thick new layer of snow this morning. Beautiful as it is, I confess that in my mind, there wasn’t unqualified enthusiasm going on, but rather a number of calculations about whether I’d be able to get the car out of the drive (yes) and whether I would be wise to remove it (not sure). I mean, in January, you might as well clear it, because the chances of it melting are tiny and the chances there will be more on the way are high, but now the melting odds are very much more in my favour. Triar had no such reservations. He pelted outside, buried his face in it, then rushed around, doing zoomies all over the garden.

My working time was punctuated this week with a trip to Tromsø. Andrew has been attending BUP, Norway’s version of the child and adolescent mental health services as there was a suspicion he might have some autistic traits. Up until now, the investigations have been done locally, in Senja, but to get an official diagnosis we had to go to the hospital in Tromsø. This involved two days of intensive interviews and tests.

There were many searching questions about his childhood, a lot of which I found very difficult to answer. I have vague memories of him making solemn announcements in non-childlike language when he was very young, and one of their questions (about whether he’d ever held my wrist and indicated that he wanted me to switch things on and off) triggered a memory that he had done just that (I merely regarded it as cute at the time). I can’t remember the exact details of when he first spoke, though I guess if it had been significantly late, I would have done something about it at the time. Nor do I remember whether he played with toy cars, or studied them instead, but at the end of the two days, they concluded that he probably has some form of high functioning autism.

They haven’t given a definite diagnosis yet. They are being very thorough and want to interview Anna (who was five years older and acted as a kind of mini-mum to him when he started school) and his favourite teacher, before they reach their final conclusion. They did also ask why we were seeking a diagnosis and that has been Andrew’s choice. Though I’ve known for a long time that he thinks and reacts in different ways from his elder brother and sister, I’ve always felt he functioned well enough that I wasn’t worried about his future. I have also always been aware that there are some circumstances and careers where a diagnosis might hold you back, though I think those are getting rarer. However Andrew decided about a year and a half ago that he wanted to find out why he was different, and so we started the process.

I will be interested to see, once the diagnosis is finalised, where it will go from there. I would hope that there might be some focus over making it easier for Andrew to function in the world, though I feel he already functions pretty well. The doctor who spent a day investigating did, at one point, start trying to tell Andrew that if he didn’t feel comfortable looking into people’s eyes, that he could disguise that by looking instead at the part of their nose in between their eyes, and oddly, that was the only part of the day that jarred for me. I understand that it might make others a little uncomfortable when someone doesn’t navigate the world of body language in the same way as others, but I’m not sure faking it is exactly the right way forward, though I guess such techniques might be useful if Andrew was upset by how others treated him and wanted to fit in better. But as Andrew himself commented afterwards, looking at someone’s nose doesn’t help much, as his real problem is knowing how long to do it, and when to glance away.

He really has a great deal of insight and understanding of the way he navigates the world. He told me, for example, that he knows he spoke too loudly all the time when young, and has learned to moderate it and speak more quietly, so he has already made a lot of adjustments on his own. And he has a strong inner world, that he sometimes shares with me. He wants to write, and has created a new universe inside his head. He has crafted a story that takes in huge sweeping concepts of good and evil, light and dark, that I feel is way beyond anything I could imagine. If he can hone his writing skills to a point where he can share his vision with others, I think he will end up creating something astonishing.

Anyway, to go back to the real world, the centre where all the action took place was very pleasant. As Andrew and I were there for two days, we were provided with a private apartment to sit in between tests, with its own bathroom facilities and a living area with comfortable chairs and a kitchen area with a table. There were also bedrooms, though we didn’t stay there overnight. Presumably, those are used sometimes for inpatients and their families. The centre was in a small building in the hospital grounds, and we walked down at lunchtime to the main hospital building to buy sandwiches, passing these little huts along the way.

Though it was snowing a lot of the time, we drove out onto Kvaløya – the bigger island that lies beyond the small island that the main city of Tromsø occupies.

Map showing Kvaløya and Tromsø

Kvaløya was beautiful, though there were times when the snow was coming down so fast that visibility was reduced almost to zero, and even when you can see, all colour seems to drain from the landscape.

We went into the centre of Tromsø in the evening for a curry. That probably sounds like a routine possibility for anyone living in the UK, but I haven’t been to an Indian restaurant since I moved here, just over a year and a half ago.

We wandered around Tromsø for a while. There are some older buildings and features, interspersed with many newer ones.

One day, we will go back and explore more, and we will definitely be paying a visit to the little sweet shop. Its window was filled with Easter goodies – a reminder that the long Easter weekend, which stretches right through from Maundy Thursday until Easter Monday will shortly be upon us. I’ve managed to get tickets to fly over to the UK. My first time in over two years, and my first visit to Anna at university, during her last year – another odd reminder of the strange times we’re living through.

Thank you for reading, see you next week!

Logistics

Sunrise/sunset: 10:14/ 13:45. Daylength: 3hr30min

More than halfway through January and I still haven’t seen the sun. The snow is getting deep now, though it hasn’t quite reached the bottom of the windows in my living room, perhaps because there has been periodic rain in between the blizzards!

Hopefully a moving image of snow blowing past outside my window
Picture of my garden from the living room window. The hedge has all but disappeared.

The snowfall was especially extreme last Sunday. I was out three times during the day to clear the car and driveway, which typically takes twenty minutes to half an hour.

The wall of snow on the left side of my driveway is getting quite high

I had been wondering about the logistics of snow clearing for a while. Last winter, there was relatively little snow, the year before that (before I moved here) masses. I have what is, in effect, a large spade with which I clear the driveway. There is other equipment I could possibly purchase. You can get much larger tools that are for pushing the snow around and also snow blowers, that have a motor, but for now I still rely on my spade. The only problem with that, is that I am gradually having to throw the snow higher and higher in order to get rid of it. There is a low hedge (now buried) on the right hand side of my driveway and I can push the snow off the top of that one, but the snow wall is getting wider and wider, so that has a limited timespan as well!

But last Sunday was complicated by the fact that Andrew and I had to go to Tromsø in the morning. I had a doctor’s appointment and he had an appointment to get his wisdom teeth taken out. We didn’t have to be there until eleven, but it’s more than two hours driving on a good day. It was worrying me that, if we awoke to a buried car then had to drive through a blizzard, we might be struggling to make it in time, especially as I don’t know my way round Tromsø yet.

So at about three in the afternoon, with heavy snow still whirling all around, I decided that as the driveway was still relatively clear, we should make our escape now and get part of the journey done on Sunday night. Rather than spend a sleepless night at home and getting up early, we could drive to Vollan (which is about half way to Tromsø).

It wasn’t an easy drive. It snowed most of the way, and there were times when the snow was blowing over the road, taking visibility down to a couple of metres.

I got Andrew to take a picture through the windscreen of the snow in the headlights

We stopped high up on the moors for a break. There is a Sami shop here in the summer, but now just a whole load of snow around the wooden strutts that are the bare bones of the lavvo tents that make up the shop.

We made it safely to Vollan. Had I stayed at home, I know I would barely have slept, but even with Triar in our room, I got a reasonable night’s rest and was able to have a relaxed hotel breakfast before setting out from a car park that someone else had mostly cleared!

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Andrew was naturally nervous getting his wisdom teeth removed, but the first side was done successfully. He slept for most of the drive home. It was still snowing intermittently, but wasn’t completely dark. At one point half of the sky cleared and to my amazement I saw what looked like a small area of cloud that was brightly lit up with rainbow colours. It looked a little like the rainbow created when there is oil in a film lying on top of water, only it was dazzlingly intense. I stopped as soon as there was a layby to take photos, (the picture at the top of the page was the best) but the picture doesn’t do it justice. It was properly stunning. A few minutes later, the sky opened up more and there was a huge area of indescribable waves of colour, but by then I was driving again, there was nowhere to stop, and given that Andrew had just had an operation, I didn’t want to wake him up.

I looked up the phenomenon when I got home and found out that these are nacreous clouds, which form when the air is very cold and the sun is just below the horizon. Another beautiful discovery about my adoptive home here in the north.

Thomas, Hilde and I had a meeting with the police yesterday, which was interesting. A new initiative was introduced a few years ago, where there are members of the police force who are dedicated to fighting animal crime. It was a useful experience, and one that made me think. Part of our job in Mattilsynet is to stop animal suffering by using various legal powers to push people into treating their animals better. There are various tools we can use, ranging from low level advice, up through setting them targets to reach by a certain date, escalating to fines if they don’t comply and ultimately banning them from having animals if they fail to improve over a period of time.

Most of what we do is designed to improve the situation for animals, but we can only use our powers when there is an active situation where the law is currently being broken. The police, however, can take on cases where the law has been broken before, even if the current situation the animals are in is not illegal. So having stronger links between the police and Mattilsynet is very helpful and (for me) reassuring.

Anyway, I will leave you with a screenshot of the weather forecast for this week. As you can see, there are avalanche warnings and all sorts, though luckily I live in a sheltered place, where the risks are low. I also have two pictures of a Jeep. I saw it last night and it was halfway buried, so I took a picture. Having taken it I discovered on my phone, when I got home, that I had taken a photo of it the week before. What a difference a week makes!

Carry that Weight

Sunrise/sunset: 09:52/ 13:14. Daylength: 3hr21min

I love being a veterinary surgeon. I am in the privileged position of having a career that is built around helping animals and in addition, I get to spend some of my days driving round in wonderful scenery and meeting farmers and their animals, and that’s something I value highly.

But there is a flip side to being a vet, which I discovered very early in my career, and that is that there is a lot of responsibility and that sometimes we find ourselves dealing with very heavy events.

I qualified when I was twenty two and started working at twenty three, and still have a stark memory from that time when I had been sent out to euthanase an old lady’s dog. I had driven out to her house and was still green enough to be worried about the process itself. Even when you’ve done it a thousand times, there’s still a risk that something untoward will happen, but you learn to navigate around potential difficulties, explain the possible issues beforehand and cope on the odd occasions when something unexpected does occur. On that day however, I was still completely green and very nervous. The old lady grabbed my hand and looked up at me from her chair. “I don’t want her to go,” she said. “Can’t you take me with her as well?”

I had no idea how to respond then and I probably still wouldn’t. Fortunately I had a wonderful nurse with me that day who did manage to say something and even after all these years, I remember how wise she was in comparison to me. Nowadays, when things get tough, I have more experienced people like Hilde and Thomas I can call on. Good colleagues are incredibly valuable in a crisis.

This week has had a couple of those moments when I have been reminded of how fragile everything can be. The first was the discovery on Monday that there had been a horrible event on Sunday in which a number of animals had died. I can’t give details: the investigation is still underway. But the quiet Monday I had planned, where I caught up with some overdue paperwork, was disrupted completely as I ended up driving to Tromsø with some of the animals that had died so that post-mortems could be carried out. There’s an extent to which, when tragedy hits, you have to act first and deal with the situation before you start to think too deeply about it, and that’s what I did. It wasn’t until I came home at the end of a twelve hour day, that I had time to process what had happened and what the animals had gone through, and then I cried briefly and hugged Andrew and Triar and then posted on Twitter, asking people for pictures of their pets and what they loved about them, so that if I woke in the night, I’d have something lovely and positive to read.

Our events here however, have been rather overshadowed by the news that Norway is experiencing its first ever outbreak of bird flu in domestic hens. Periodically last winter, there would be reports of bird flu being found in wild birds and Norwegian hen keepers have strict rules about outdoor access for their birds. When migration is happening, they all have to have a roof over them at all times. It had struck me, when doing our twice yearly emergency readiness exercise that if there was an outbreak of a serious illness in our area, that we would be in the front line and would be part of the team who had to go out and deal with the consequences. What hadn’t really struck me was that before we attended, there would likely be another vet who had been called out and might have been exposed first and a farmer too, and that they would be even more at risk, because they wouldn’t know beforehand that layers and layers of PPE were necessary.

This only came home to me when I read where the outbreak had occurred. It was (is) in Rogaland, where I used to live and work. Before I got the job here, I had applied for a job working with chickens down there, and it struck me that I could potentially have been that vet. Then it struck me further that the vet in question might be someone I know. It turns out the vet is indeed someone I know and they are still dealing with the possible fall out. So now I am hoping that there is nothing more serious to come, but the weight on them must be very heavy indeed.

But there was some lightness this week too. I have a busy few days planned, with lots of farm visits to different types of animal and with lots of different colleagues. Yesterday morning, I headed down to the fast boat in the dim pre-dawn November light. I was going up to Tromsø, where I would meet Birgit and we would visit a pig farm in the area. It was a routine visit, taking samples and carrying out a welfare inspection as part of Mattilsynet’s campaign to improve pig welfare.

The boat trip was a wonderful start to the day. The waters between Finnsnes and Tromsø are sheltered by islands and peninsulas and so it was a very smooth journey. It was getting lighter as we travelled and we went from farmland backed by low hills to much more sheer mountainsides, their peaks shrouded in snow and clouds. I had brought a book, but in the event, I couldn’t stop looking out of the window. The sunrise (picture at the top of the page) came when we were only a few minutes outside Tromsø. This is definitely a trip I want to repeat in my spare time.

The farmer was lovely. His pigs all looked in very good shape and he proudly showed us his sheep afterwards. Not all visits are like that, but it is great to see healthy animals being cared for well.

And it was fantastic to meet up with Birgit again. She had driven down from Storslett for a meeting the day before and had stayed overnight in Tromsø. She had her dogs with her and after the visit, we stopped briefly to give the dogs some fresh air. Kvaløya is beautiful. As I work in this area, I often look around me in wonder and think how lucky I am… as well as that I want to spend more leisure time exploring these different areas.

There was just time to stop for something to eat before I headed back on the boat. I ate a very tasty smoked salmon and cream cheese roll and was very pleased to see that the coffee shop were selling Senja Roasters‘ Christmas coffee. It was a good end to a very pleasant trip.

Linken and Tromsø

Sunrise/sunset: 03:50/ 21:51. Daylength: 18hr1min

Today we head north again. We will be spending tonight in Skibotn and the night after, who knows where? I made the mistake of looking up the coronavirus map yesterday and saw that the north of Norway is currently lit up like a viral Christmas tree, but hopefully that and the hairy-legged northern mosquitos won’t trouble us too much. Anyway, back to this week’s news.

On Monday, Ann, Ammar and I headed out for a walk after work. We climbed a hill called Linken. I’ve been very interested to see how rapidly we have left summer behind. We had just arrived this time last year and so I missed those wild and exuberant months, where the abundance of life thrust its way into every crevice. The change arrived almost as soon as the sun began to dip below the horizon again. At the start of the summer, there was a delay. In my head, those long, long days should have brought warmth and growth, but it took time for the land to recover from the long hard winter. Now we have plummeted into autumn. The trees are only just beginning to turn, but the forest floor, so recently dominated by lime green ferns and brightly coloured flowers, is now filled with berries and mushrooms.

Ammar made the most of the blueberries.

The view from the top of Linken was mostly obscured by trees, but I managed to take a couple of photographs.

On Thursday, Anna and I drove to Tromsø so I could sit my citizenship test. I spent last weekend and took most of a day off during the week to revise. I learned a few odd facts along the way. I hadn’t realised the Viking period lasted only about 250 years. Somehow, it has always felt like something timeless. And who knew that Norway’s highest mountain is Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 m (8,100 ft) above sea level? I told Anna and she pointed out that translated, it’s name means Crazily High Peak. One has to wonder whether the map maker asked one of the locals and received a rather tongue in cheek reply, which then was preserved for all time by officialdom!

The test is thirty six multiple-choice questions and I knew I was reasonably well prepared, but because of the deadline (an appointment with the police at the end of August) I needed to pass if I didn’t want to delay my application any further. The test was meant to take up to an hour, but in the event, I was finished after only eleven minutes. I wondered whether I ought to scroll back and check my answers, but the woman who was checking our proof of ID had just arrived at my desk. I wasn’t sure what the protocol for finishing was, so I asked her and then went ahead. Walking up the stairs to get my results, my heart was in my mouth, but as I walked back down, my heart was singing. I don’t know what my mark was, but I had passed and that was all that mattered.

Having driven all that way, Anna and I spent some time exploring Tromsø. First off was this wonderful book (and toy) shop that we found tucked away in a little yard down near the docks.

I’m a sucker for all things Harry Potter, and so I was delighted to see some fabulous memorabilia.

There was a reasonable sized English section (albeit sci-fi dominated) and I took the chance to buy four Terry Pratchett books. Only a few weeks ago, I was thinking that I almost never read anything new, but now I have plenty of reading to look forward to.

We wandered around the docklands area for a little while. I don’t know much about Tromsø’s history (a topic for another day perhaps) but it really did seem to be an eclectic mix of old and new and definitely had some quirky elements.

We also found a pub. I’m not sure I’ve actually been in a pub in Norway before. There isn’t a pub tradition here in the way there is in the UK. This one had a very British feel to it and Anna and I immediately felt at home.

Anyway, I’ll have to go now and get some breakfast. The car is packed already and I’m feeling in a holiday mood. Thanks for reading. See you all very soon!

Well Met

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

In many ways, living here in the north of Norway, it’s easy to get complacent about coronavirus. The Norwegian government has stipulated that nobody should go to work or school with a cold, or any symptoms of a respiratory illness. Some people take this seriously. Quite a few ignore it. A colleague of John’s announced last week at work that he had a cold. John came over on Saturday to stay for the weekend, but by the evening, he had developed a sore throat. I took him for a test on Sunday, then very sadly took him home. Andrew is entering exam time and the last thing he needs is to have to stay at home because of the coronavirus rules.

It is frustrating when there are rules and people ignore them. And here in Norway, there isn’t anything like the pressure for presenteeism that exists in the UK. I was amazed years ago, when working at Tu Clinic, to find that if one of the vets had a cold, they would stay home and the receptionist would ring round the clients and rearrange the appointments for another day. Back in the UK, it was an unwritten rule in all the practices I worked in that unless you were actively vomiting or unable to get out of bed, you should drag yourself into work. If you did take a sick day, nobody would ring any clients. The other vets were expected to manage.

It wasn’t coronavirus, happily. It is easy to get complacent, living up here in isolation. I no longer feel the fear I did when I was further south and living in an area where many people travelled because of the oil industry. But there is currently a significant outbreak of British variant COVID in Hammerfest, which is about as out-of-the-way as it gets. It’s a reminder that nowhere is completely safe.

Having said all that, it was a pleasure to attend a real-life meeting in Tromsø on Tuesday this week. It was a training session for Dyrevernsnemnda, who are a group of lay people with an interest in and knowledge of animal husbandry. They work alongside the veterinary surgeons on welfare cases, providing a different perspective and improving balance in decision making. For me, it was a very useful meeting. Those working for Dyrevernsnemda come out on inspections with us and so the information was a whizz through of the laws and practices that govern us. It was very well presented.

It was also lovely to travel to Tromsø. Though it’s only two hours away, I have only been once before on an emergency mission to find a companion guinea pig. Another reminder that we are not living in normal times. I drove up with Thomas. Tromsø is on an island and we entered the city over this bridge.

I was glad that Thomas knew his way around. The city is on a hill and he pulled into a car park built into it. I was surprised to find a row of arches cut into the rock and lined with some kind of material. After the meeting, when we returned, I was even more amazed when I discovered the car-park was connected to the tunnel system that runs under the city. Norwegians are very skilled at building tunnels, but it still fascinates me when there are miles of roads underground, with junctions and roundabouts. I was also pleased to find a speed-bump sign in Norwegian. Obviously my sense of humour is very basic!

Wednesday was lovely. I travelled up to Laksvatn with Ammar to blood test some goats and we have arranged to do some more next week. I love going out to farms and doing practical work. There is none of the pressure that exists with the welfare side of the job and it is a lovely reminder of the time when I was working as a farm vet, which was what I always wanted to do. I gave it up after having children because the lifestyle doesn’t fit easily with family life when both parents are vets. I thought about returning to it last year, but didn’t feel certain I could manage calvings and some of the other more physical work now. Odd how life turns out.

Speaking of goats, we received an interesting e-mail this week. A couple from Germany, or perhaps the Netherlands have been travelling in Sweden. They have been hillwalking, which would be all very well, except for the fact that they have taken their pet goat with them. They’ve been seen out and about with the goat on a lead and it is rumoured they might be heading to Norway. I’m not sure what the rules are in Sweden, but in Norway there are very strict rules attached to importing animals. It’s one thing taking your dog with its passport, but the idea of roaming around Europe with a tame goat is something I found amusing.

I’ll finish off with a few photographs I took while continuing my walking program this week. More spring flowers are pushing through the ground and this week, cowslips seem to have taken over from the coltsfoot. Now it’s summer, more people are flying flags. It’s quite common for Norwegians to have a flag pole of some sort. There are strict rules around flying the Norwegian flag. If you put it up, you are supposed to take it down again at nightfall. Perhaps the Norwegian flag doesn’t like to be darked on. Presumably up here, in summer, you could leave the flag up all day because it doesn’t actually get dark, but it still seems to be common to fly a wimple, which has the Norwegian colours, but isn’t technically a flag that needs to be taken up and down. And although it’s very spring like, as you can see in the picture at the top of the page, and the one below, there are still lots of places where the trees have no leaves. Have a lovely weekend everybody.