Tag Archives: Water Resources

Strange Days

Sunrise/sunset: 02:31/ 23:11. Daylength: 20hr40min

It was on this day last year, that John and I set off to drive To The North. In a week’s time, I will have been here a year.

It’s been a strange time, all in all. Not that it hasn’t been wonderful in many ways; it has. But coronavirus has had an effect on all our lives that would have been difficult to imagine only a few years ago. In the past year, I have lost an uncle: a wonderful man, larger than life, of whom I have many wonderful and cheering memories, and also an aunt – not technically mine, but an aunt by marriage who was one of the kindest people I have ever met. I could never have imagined that I would be unable to attend their funerals. Nor that I would have been unable to visit my mum and dad for a year and a half, with no definite sign of an end to restrictions amid continuing reports from around the world that the virus is continuing to spread and mutate, despite (or perhaps even because of) the vaccine.

So here I am. Logically coming was the right decision. John has settled nearby and has a permanent job and friends with whom he goes climbing and walking. Andrew has settled into school and has taken up the piano. Anna has been with us since she came home for Christmas and wasn’t able to return to university in the UK. We have a lot of freedom to go out locally. The Norwegian government have done a sterling job in limiting the spread of the virus and we are so remote that often it’s hard to remember during everyday life that we are in the middle of a pandemic.

But it’s odd to think that I have been here a year, in an area I had never visited before I drove up here in a few chaotic days one year ago. I haven’t been home to Yorkshire or Scotland. I am hoping to see my parents at Christmas, but everything seems so unstable that it is impossible to make firm plans.

Still, life goes on. While on a grand scale, everything is filled with uncertainty, on a small scale, I am thriving. This week at work has been special. When I started work a year ago, I was given a list of tasks to complete. One of them was to engage with colleagues who worked in other sectors within Mattilsynet. We cover everything from drinking water to cosmetics as well as food safety on all levels between farm and plate. It had been discussed occasionally, but due to the strict coronavirus rules, where nobody was meant to go anywhere that wasn’t essential, it was always put on hold. But last Friday, alone in the office with Randi and Øivind, I decided it was time to seize the opportunity and I asked whether they had anything planned for this week.

The result was that I went out with Randi on Wednesday for some Smilefjes tilsyn and Friday with Øivind to inspect some waterworks.

Smilefjes is Mattilsynets system for inspection of restaurants and food outlets. When you enter an eatery, there’s generally a certificate on the door showing a happy Smiley. If the inspection didn’t go so well, the Smiley might be less cheerful, but the kitchen we inspected was well organised and clean. I was shown around the restaurant and communal areas of the guesthouse as well, while Randi wrote her report. It was a lovely place: an old building in an area where few old buildings exist. There was a huge fireplace in the restaurant and comfortable couches in front of a large television, which the owner proudly told me was the only one in the building. There were photographs too, black and white pictures of years gone by. I felt nostalgic for the times when staying in hotels was a casual weekend activity and I wanted so much to stay overnight. I took a photograph out of the window as Randi was finishing up her report. The book in the foreground is to record the weight of the fish you catch in the river outside.

On Thursday, quietly melded between the restaurant and water inspections, I carried out my first solo animal welfare inspection. I say solo as I had no other inspectors with me and the responsibility for the case lay with me, but I had support from a fabulous member of Dyervernsnemnda (a little about Dyrevernsnemnda here) called Berit. Berit drove down from Tromsø and she was wonderfully helpful and reassuring. Thanks must also go to Birgit, who made sure I followed the correct procedures beforehand.

Afterwards, I went out for some fish and chips with Ann to celebrate in the cafe that serves the ski slope at Fellandsby.

Yesterday, Øivind took me out to inspect some waterworks. If that word conjures up an image of a huge building with pipes and filtration, then like me, you will have to think again. We drove out onto Senja and headed south to a remote village, where we met the group of men who organise the water supply for the few houses in that area. We sat outside in the sun, as Øivind asked a series of questions about cubic metres of water per year and how many people are supplied. It was an interesting discussion, partly because of the logistics. In summer, there might be fifty people there, whereas there are only four permanent residents. But for me, it was a stark reminder of social changes and history. The four permanent residents are all over 80. The rest are a mix of tourists and very likely people whose parents used to live there, who have moved away, but return at weekends and for the summer. I found myself wondering about those still living there: all of them are in their eighties and nineties. It’s a very long way to the hospital if anything goes wrong.They likely still have families on Senja who look after them. But when they are gone, will the village only exist as a holiday place? There was an old schoolhouse, which is now used for social events. But once upon a time, there must have been families and people who worked the land and/or lived from the sea. Did the four people still living there attend the school, all those years ago? It was a reminder of how much things can change within a lifetime.

After the conversation, we walked up to see the water source. No filtration in sight and the small pipe that carries the water to the village was underground. The water comes from a river. I found myself surprised that it doesn’t freeze in winter, but the water must continue to run underneath all the snow and ice.

This was where we walked to. It was perhaps a kilometer up a grassy track from the village.

Such a peaceful place. I could have passed a happy few hours, listening to the water rushing over the rocks.

And here is the “waterworks” we inspected!

So the village is supplied from the water that runs down from the mountain. It’s not filtered or cleaned and technically, it is a water supply and not a drinking water supply. Øivind made some recommendations. The water source cover should be locked with a padlock, just in case. And the quality should be checked at least once a year. Likely times for the check would be after heavy rain, or when the snow is melting, preferably at a time of year when more people are arriving.

But those who run the system assured us that nobody had ever been unwell from the water in the fifty years since the pipes were installed. It was another reminder of the differences in the lives people in Norway lead. The idea that everyone in Norway should be treated exactly the same (one of Mattilsynet’s aims) is challenging, to say the least. There has to be flexibility when dealing with a country where the ways of life are so very diverse.

And to finish up, here’s are some pictures from Tuesday, when we met one of Anna’s old teachers, who was up for a holiday in the north. We took Triar for a walk in Ånderdalen afterwards. It really has been a very good week.

Revelling in inefficiency – and a cause for celebration

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It’s not the driest of weather today. In fact, it’s been pouring all morning and as it’s only about three degrees above zero, it isn’t conducive to going out. I was meant to go for a walk today with my friend Marian, however when she called to suggest coming round for a coffee, and perhaps a trip to the Co-Op, I wasn’t in the mood to say no to the change of plan.

I’ve never really understood those who love to shop, and yet this morning, bathed in the brightness of the fluorescent lighting, and with parts of the store all set out for Christmas, it was infinitely more cheering than going to the beach. On the way home, she mentioned that she had to do the hoovering. It’s a hard job, she told me because they have two cats and a dog but, she added, it always helped nowadays that she could think about all the exercise she was doing as she manoeuvred back and forth.

Funnily enough, I too have been feeling the same about certain aspects of life here. Charlie (my husband) has set me up so that I can use the Striiv app on my i-Phone. It used to be, as I went outside and hauled the wood into the house (for the wood-burning stove) that I would thrust as much wood as I could into a bucket, and then stagger back into the house with it, making as few journeys as I possibly could. We didn’t light the fire so very often. This year however, I find myself happily wandering back and forth to the woodpile in the garage carrying three or four logs at a time and smugly thinking of all the steps I am taking, of the energy I am building up to buy new things in MyLand, and how many calories extra I will be able to eat as it transfers its step information over to MyFitnessPal. Obviously this is all very sad (it may be that there is going to be a recurring theme of me being sad in my blog), but somehow I seem to get pleasure these days from so many small things.

At this time of year here in south-west Norway, it seems that there is almost invariably a spell when there is just rain on rain on rain. It can come down for days on end, and the skies are grey and the days are short. It would be easy to get down. So it’s just as well for me, that every year, at this time, I have a wonderful cause for celebration. For three years in a row, 2009-2011, every year, at about this time as the rain came down, the ground water began to rise.

And in each of those years, as the waters rose, into our cellar came a delightful surge… of sewage from the septic tank. This would result in a sickening stench throughout the whole house and days of having to wade through diluted human faeces every time I wanted to get to the washing machine. Somehow, it invariably happened when Charlie was away on a trip.

The first time it happened, we thought it was just a septic-tank blockage. At great expense ( to the insurance company) a massive hole was dug in the driveway and the waste pipe from the tank was replaced. The man who came to help also told us that maybe the blockage was to do with the ground water. Thirty year floods, he said comfortingly, leaving us with the impression it would be a long time before there was likely to be any recurrence. So when it returned the next year, we were somewhat disappointed to say the least. And when it came back the year after that, we decided that whatever the cost, we had to do something about it. When you sell a house in Norway, you are obliged to buy insurance to cover for any problems the buyer might have and we had high hopes… however sadly you have to claim within three to five months of the original problem. The fact that we hadn’t known it was a problem until it recurred was not relevant apparently, so we had to cover the cost ourselves.

Nonetheless, we did so, and so, every year at about this time, as the heavens open and the deluge comes… at least I am able to celebrate in the happy knowledge that however high the water may rise… at least the contents of our toilets have travelled safely away into some unseen sewer. And I am enduringly glad that I won’t have to spend Christmas looking at them again.