Six weeks with my Mum

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Mum left yesterday. It is always sad to say goodbye. Felix says, paraphrasing one of his favourite books: ‘we are sad when the dawn comes and we have to part. But we can meet again.’ The book, which is about the friendship of a duck and a mushroom creature who lives deep within the earth, goes on to point out that even when we are far apart, sometimes just thinking of each other makes us happy. Thinking about my Mum makes me happy.

We had the most gorgeous six and a bit weeks together. Two weeks before Antonia was born of long evening walks, playing with Felix, visiting Stromstad and Fredriskstad, and frequenting of coffee shops. And then an whole month following Antonia’s birth, involving baby cuddles, more playing with Felix, picnics in the forest and by lakes, adventures at the fortress, clothes shopping for us and the children (how much fun it is to buy baby girl clothes!), returning to Stromstad and Fredrikstad with our babe, and many, many more coffee shops. Mum also helped with cooking. washing, waking up early with Felix nearly every day, and completely sorted out some very messy patches of our garden, taking away a dead bush, planting trees, shrubs, and spreading pine bark.

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A second baby does not enable the same quiet cocooning that I experienced with my first. Everyone told me a second baby is easier, and this is true and not true – yes I already knew how to look after a newborn, but looking after a newborn AND and an exhuberant, curious three year old at the same time is a new adventure. Adding to the excitement, Felix had not one but four medical emergencies during Antonia’s first month home! Two asthma incidents requiring ventolin inhalations at the emergency department in the middle of the night, one tick bite behind his ear which got infected and neede two weeks of strong antibiotics, and to top it all off, a pea getting stuck up his nose. The whole family (apart from Antonia and me, thankfully) also had terrible colds for the first two weeks of Antonia’s life, so energy levels suffered. The lowest point was two days after we returned from my hospital, just as my milk was coming in. I was exhausted, in pain (those who told me breastfeeding wouldn’t hurt a second time were wrong indeed), Mum and Michael were sick and Felix was coughing up a storm and getting more and more distressed. I sat on the toilet sobbing, while Michael took care of Felix. Mum asked if I was ok. ‘No!’ I said. ‘Everyone’s sick. I’m going to get sick, and Antonia’s going to get sick, and I’m going to get mastitis.’ ‘It will be ok,’ said Mum, ‘just remember it’s your hormones talking.’ I had a shower, and felt better. Antonia and I didn’t get sick, I didn’t get mastitis, and the cold going around was just a cold (despite Felix’s asthma), not some lethal virus which could hurt my baby.

Two nights before Mum’s departure Felix’s asthma saga reoccured (he gets it every time he has a cold). Michael was away for the week. We had two trips to the emergency department over night (first Mum, then me), then at 9 in the morning Felix was still in terrible form so I took him to his normal doctor who sent us on to the hospital. Luckily he stabilized on the way over, but we still spent the day there, having tests done and getting another inhalation for him. I was so, so pleased Mum was with me. As Felix sat in his bath after we got home that evening, he said – ‘but we didn’t have an adventure!’ ‘Oh’, said Mum and I, ‘I think we did.’

But the rest of the time was truly lovely. It was wonderful having Mum with us during the first weeks of Antonia’s life. Four weeks is long enough for a little personality to emerge. Rare smiles and long serious stares and little ‘hnnnnn hnnnn’s. Long enough for a baby to grow round and soft. Antonia squeaks with delight as she lies on her change mat and looks across at the picture of the baby on the pack of diapers. Over the past week, she has been genuinely pleased every time she sees my Mum – she smiles, and looks intently, purses her little lips, and coos.

In less than three months we’ll be in Australia for an extended holiday, so Felix is right when he says ‘we can meet again’. But I’ll always remember this special, special time of Mum being with us as we became a family of four. A time, after all, of quietness, love and adventures. As Mum’s stay drew to a close, we found ourselves consciously repeating things we’d done before, to close out the circle. On Tuesday, on Antonia’s one month birthday, we went back to the very same cafe in Gamlebyen where we had eaten lunch the day of my overdue control, just hours before Antonia’s birth. And yesterday, we took Felix back to the cafe in the harbour where we had taken Mum the day she had arrived, and then we all walked her across to the train station together. I cried. I feel so very looked after.

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By the way

Sorry for the long blog silence. We’ve been having a wonderful time with my parents. We even went to a Leonard Cohen concert at the Halden fortress. Last weekend we all went to Germany, and my parents went to the Documenta while we hung out with Michael’s parents and let Felix run around in some wonderful autumnal parks. But then Felix got pretty sick and had to spend three nights in hospital (bronchitis/croup), so we had to stay away longer than we thought and are still recovering… More soon…

And then we all got sick(er)

Being unwell with a baby is a bit like going on a long-haul flight with a baby. It was horrible even without the baby, but with the baby it just becomes exponentially more difficult and arduous, and yes, there really is no way off the plane, and no one to pass the baby to. (Save for each other, for small reprieves.) Only being sick is worse because you have no indication of when you will arrive.

We are starting to wonder if we will ever be well again. We all have colds. Felix keeps getting knocked about by successive bouts of fever. And to cap it all off I contracted a seriously painful and unpleasant ear infection last weekend.

Today while I waited till I could take Felix to the doctor (I was scared he’d caught the infection from me) I put some music on and rocked him in the ergo and he slept fitfully. And I thought – it is ok. I am here with my child. It is ok.

Naptime

This may be another of those ‘see how much I can write in half an hour‘ posts. But fifteen minutes has already passed – well, twenty, actually, if you count the five minutes I waited to ensure Felix was properly asleep before moving him to the crib – so it may actually be ‘see how much I can write in ten minutes’. Which I guess is not a great deal but you never know. In any case, he could surprise us all and sleep for an hour and a half, which would be lovely.

There are so many things I have been meaning to write. I want to write about children’s picture books, how the really lovely ones are just as good as poems, or better. And I want to write about the handful of ‘how to raise you baby’ books I have read, just in case anyone is interested. And I have half a post sitting in my draft box about stone and the elements in A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. And there are a few more photos I want to upload from my parents’ visit. (Yes more, at the risk of boring you all, but it was such a special time and I miss them.) And I doubt I will have time to do any of that right now.

I could also be reading now, and half wish that I was. I have started Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions. It is my first e-book. Michael has loaned me his ipad to see how I like it. I have decided I’m definitely going to get an e-reader. Just have to decide between a kindle and the more expensive but more versatile ipad. (I fell a bit in love with the new nook color at Barnes and Noble, but you can’t buy books on it when you are out of the US, which defeats the purpose for me.) With the ipad you can read in the dark because it’s backlit, but some people find the backlit screen annoying and straining for their eyes. Hence the test-run. Advice welcome…

It’s been a tiring week (see previous post). And yes the boy’s gorgeous laughs do make up for it but sometimes they don’t. This afternoon we sat for nearly an hour under a tree outside our apartment, and he was happy, and now he is resting. (Well, I sat. He rolled around and cooed at the wind in the leaves.)

And yes it appears I can write rather a lot in ten minutes because it’s only been eight so far.

I also wanted to write some more about what’s happening in Norway because I have been thinking about it. They’ve started releasing photos of the victims. I looked at them and ofcourse they are sweet young educated ordinary people, and it is terrible. The youngest was fourteen and five days. And there are some older people too, some my age, some my parent’s age. And really what can you write about it because it is unbearable.

When we were with my parents in Salt Lake City we went for a drive up the Big Cottonwood Canyon one evening. Felix was a bit fussy (he finds it distracting when there are people next to him in the back seat), so we decided to stop by the side of the road so I could give him a feed. When we got going again we found the road was blocked not far ahead of us. There had been an accident. We waited around for about an hour, and then got word it would be at least another three hours, because of a police investigation, so we did the two hour drive out through the back of the canyon. It turns out a drunk driver had slammed head on into a car with a couple in their sixties. The last I heard the drunk driver and the other driver were in critical conditions in hospital. We felt so terrible, and so spooked. Because there really isn’t a magic spell that ensures it’s not us who gets slammed into by drunk drivers.

One thing I was unprepared for when becoming a mother was how intolerable the thought of death would suddenly become. I was not only protective of my baby, death suddenly seemed unacceptable for anyone, anywhere. The disaster in Japan happened when Felix was a few weeks old, and I couldn’t read any of the broadcasts. One day Michael was talking to Felix, and Felix’s little mobile was whirling around above his change table, reminding Michael of the circle of life. ‘This is the circle of life’, he told Felix. ‘You are born, and you will die. One day your parents will die. One day you will die’. ‘Don’t tell him that!’ I said. Because it seemed utterly unacceptable. It made me afraid. If this beautiful creature would die, if I would die, what was the point?

I talked to Mum about it while she was here. I said, ‘sometimes things are really not ok’. ‘That’s true’, she said. ‘But also they are ok.’ (In case you haven’t noticed, which I think you have, my Mum is very wise.) I think she is right. And when I think about things being ok, I think for some reason of the earth, of dirt and  rocks and stones and gravity, firm under my feet. The way I did in this poem. I do not know why. I do not like how frail and unpredictable life is sometimes. But I very much like being alive right now. Yes I do.

That, my friends, was twenty-five minutes, and it got a bit heavy didn’t it! And if he sleeps any longer, I’m going to read my ebook.

Norway

I am, of course, thinking about what happened in Norway two days ago. Not as much as I could be, because the mind and heart flail at such a thing, especially, perhaps, the mind and heart of a new mother. But I think of this dear, dear country, and the terror that was felt, and the lives that have been lost and shattered, and I do not understand.

 

A long night

It’s a good thing, my darling, that you give me the most disarming smiles upon waking. Last night you screamed for an hour and a half between one and two thirty, and you have an infected eye and a sore nose and I felt terrible for you. Michael is away. But I held you and I held you and eventually you relaxed. And then I woke this morning to realize I’m getting mastitis again for no apparent reason. It hurts. But then you smiled. And when I carried you downstairs, you cooed twice at your lion and promptly fell asleep. You were still tired. Well, yes, I would be too.

Settling in, or, everything is broken

We arrived back very late Wednesday night, or, more specifically, early Thursday morning, after discovering the car had flat batteries (brand new batteries, as it turns out, after the old ones died decisively during the relentless months of snow). Anyway, the car park attendant helped us out and the car seems fine now.

But the washing machine is broken. And the chest of drawers which I’ve been stuffing far too many clothes in for too long is broken. And the top shelf of the wardrobe into which all our paragliders almost fit is wobbly and unreliable. (These are the joys of the cheapest possible ikea furniture two years in.) So everything is very messy.

After feeling rather overwhelmed yesterday, we managed to restore some semblance of order. I found a temporary home for my clothes, I sorted and dusted and folded and threw things away. I collected a very tall pile of phd drafts to take to the recycling. It’s sort of sad to lose all my scribbled notes on the endless versions of chapters, but really there’s nothing I need them for now. Tonight we’re going to thread M’s paraglider back together (we had to disconnect some of the lines from the risers to get it out of the tree), and we’ll try to get a new washing machine on the weekend. Also there’s a huge pile of paperwork that we’re going to put into separate folders. Why does life involve such never-ending sorting and tidying?

I’m sitting at my reclaimed desk space and it’s rather nice. There is no way, however, that I can listen to any of the music that propelled me through the last stages of the phd. So for the moment it’s The Proclaimers.

There’s lots to be getting on with. Articles, book proposal, viva preparation, conference paper, job applications, German and Norwegian learning, getting my head around an Ethnography subject I’m taking by distance education (haha I can’t stop). I still have my ‘reasons to finish‘ smiling at me from my whiteboard. I’m going to leave them there a little longer, to remind me why it’s good to be where I’m at. Because I think it’s going to take a little getting used to. But the sun is shining today; the birch trees are shivering greenly in the wind and purple lilacs poke their faces over the top of our neighbours’ roof. I think I’ll go for a ride later. It’s all good.

Many wonderful things

I am in Austria. Very close to Switzerland. If you climb a mountain – or, with much less effort, take a chairlift – you can see into a lake that touches Austria, Germany, Switzerland. I am surrounded by improbable lushness: meadows peppered with dandelions, mountains swathed in patterned cloaks of dark and bright green, the pine trees interspersed with deciduous trees in the first flush of spring. White blossom still flowers in the valleys, but everything is in leaf. Here, May is the most beautiful of all months. Winter is gone and summer is yet to settle, but the air is warm and the green burgeons with promises.

It is strange to think that on Tuesday I was in Adelaide, on Thursday and Friday I was in London, and now I am here. A week of contrasts if ever there was one. It was very sad to leave. It was just so nice to hang out with my family and catch up with my old friends. My brother and my grandparents drove me to the airport, and after a coffee and a very chocolaty raspberry muffin and at least three hugs from each of them, I felt bereft as they walked away. On the plane, I thought – why am I leaving? What am I going back to?

Autumn in the Adelaide Hills.

But as soon as I arrived I knew. Apart from being with M again, which is just brilliant, there is so much to see here! So much to explore and think and dream. I really enjoyed the two days in London. I usually just transit through London, but this time M had organized a two day workshop and they were all staying in the rather lovely Goodenough College, so I got to piggyback. I just loved wandering around all the green squares between the London University buildings, pretending to be Virginia Woolf. I’ve been to that section of London before but never spent much time there. Spring is in full swing and the huge trees are raining down little umbrella-shaped pollen things.

I spent an afternoon in the British Museum. It is all wonderful but I was especially amazed at collections of medieval and Roman rings – how strange to think of the hands that have worn them! And then on Friday evening we wandered around the Tate, which is possibly my favourite art gallery in the world. It’s all been re-hung since I was last there, and there are themed collections: ‘poetry and dream’, ‘energy and process’. I loved the way the words wove between the pictures, and the layout of the rooms made the paintings and sculptures talk to one another.

I started writing this in Austria but actually now I am in Switzerland. M is working here today and we are going back to Norway tonight. I haven’t been there in nearly two months! His parents joined us in Austria and we had a very relaxing couple of days. They made friends with the neighbours. Monica did a brilliant job of combating her fear of heights – she came with us as we drove over a high pass in the mountains (see above), and even went on two chairlifts!

Michael and I each had one beautiful paraglider flight – I was up for more than an hour and could have stayed up much longer if I wished. How strange to be able to work the air currents and drift above the mountain ridges and the trees.

We had a minor disaster yesterday when M tried to launch in a tail wind and didn’t take off in time and flew straight into a clump of trees. Luckily he wasn’t hurt but we spent nearly three hours extracting the glider from the trees! They were about four metres high, so not strong enough to climb but too tall to reach the top of. They were perched on a steep slope in a patch of snow, so there was a lot of sliding around. We even had to chop a couple of them down with a borrowed axe! Anyway, no harm done, and we are rethinking our safety policies…

But all in all, everything is beautiful. My viva is two weeks from today – I wonder if my examiners are reading my thesis yet.

Small things

  • This week I ate porridge for breakfast every day
  • There is thick snow outside and it’s still snowing
  • My three day plan became a five day plan
  • I went for a swim for the first time in years (not counting splashing around in lakes and beaches)
  • We found and lost the house of our dreams
  • I decided two warm jumpers are the way to go
  • When I walked out of the bathing hall at five pm, my hair still wet, it was dark. The ground was covered in a not insubstantial layer of whiteness that hadn’t been there when I went in. The clean blank footpath glinted like diamonds. Tiny, tiny flakes swarmed down. If you looked up beneath a streetlamp it seemed the air was made of glitter.

Chimneys and words and packages

Here’s another view of the Bingley chimneys. And the semi-frozen canal. The ducks promenade around here much as they do in Halden. The thesis chugs along. I reckon I’ll get it finished in early February, or possibly late January. I got my chapter one (extension of intro) nearly written. I felt like I was juggling so many balls so beautifully, and then I tripped and dropped them all, and couldn’t fathom the energy to pick them all up again. But it is nearly nearly there. I have sent it to my supervisors and will meet with them both individually this week – one tomorrow, and one on Thursday.

Over the past couple of days I’ve been getting back to the first chapter I wrote – the one that’s always caused me the most trouble. I still feel like I’m somewhat awkwardly hanging my argument on my textual analysis, rather than boldly using my textual analysis to advance my argument. The problem with this poet is that he says one thing and then he says the opposite – it’s really hard to pin him down. Anyway, pinning poetry down isn’t my ultimate aim, is it?

My technique this weekend has just been to write the paragraphs that need to be written, without wasting too much time about whether they fit on page eight or page twenty-eight. It’s been working, this close attention to detail, but I’m beginning to feel like printing it out and coming up for air. Tomorrow.

Vic has been a great encouragement. She keeps reminding me that I love this stuff, really.

And it is nearly Christmas which I am very very pleased about. Michael’s coming over to the UK on Wednesday, and we’ll have a few days here before heading across to Germany on Sunday. Good good good. (He’s had some horrible adventures in Norway this week – the valient snuggle-car does NOT like the cold. It got frozen, snowed under, and refused to get going in the Oslo airport carpark, but it’s ok now. I think in winter we’ll keep it to the temperate south from now on.) And oh – Mum and Grandma – all your parcels/cards have arrived in Germany safe and sound! Thank you thank you thank you! Apparently the postman was very excited to be delivering parcels from Australia.

The Wallet Fairy

I arrived back in Leeds this evening feeling slightly sheepish and very grateful. After lugging my heavy backpack and overstuffed shoulder bag all over the station, I finally got on my train. And left my wallet sitting on the bench outside. With my money and credit card and student card and train ticket. Some nice people found it, opened it, saw my drivers license, recognized me, and gave it back!!!

This is not the first time something like this has happened. When I first arrived in London four and a half years ago, groggy with travel and not really sure what I was doing, overladen with books and clothes and an old brick of a laptop, I dropped my wallet as I searched for my Youth Hostel. (Directions are not my strong point.) Someone came running up behind me and gave it back. My housemate says I must have very good karma. My boyfriend says I always carry too many books.

Soaring with seaguls at Seaford

has been one of the highlights of our time in Adelaide. There have also been some minor disasters, including gliders tangled in trees and drenched with sea water (not as bad as it sounds, but time-consuming). Oh, and bad storms hitting Queensland which meant we decided not to go there…

It’s always slightly strange coming home, knowing that I’m not the same person who left. Christmas was overwhelming but lovely. It’s been great catching up with some old friends but I no longer have the stamina to catch up with all of them. Every meeting is also a goodbye. In the past I have identified strongly with the place in which I live, so having homes in three different countries is confusing. But it’s been wonderful revisiting the South Australian landscape – we’ve spent a lot of time on the coast south of Adelaide – acres of sunlight, red cliffs beside a dazzling ocean. And sometimes we’ve seen it from the air.

Photos soon.

Of Disappearing Deposits

The company who rented us our problematic last house owes students over 200,000 pounds in unreturned deposits. Including ours. We plan to fight it.

While I was desperately and unsuccessfully looking for a copy of the contract among my, er, perfectly ordered important documents, I came across a copy of the letter informing me of my scholarships from the University of Leeds. I remember the strange and fierce joy when I first opened it, to find more than I dared hope for. It must have been a Saturday morning, and the lovie was vacuuming, and I ran up to him and said: stop, stop, look at this, look! And the house was spinning.

In the meantime, Meister Eckhart, a fourteenth century German mystic, says:

Now suppose a man has a hundred marks. He loses forty and keeps sixty. If this man thinks continually of the forty that he has lost, he will remain in despair and grief. How could he be comforted and free from sorrow if he turns to his loss and his pain and pictures it to himself and himself in it, and looks at it, and it looks at him again and talks to him? He speaks to his loss and the loss talks to him again, and they see each other face to face. But if he were to turn his attention to the sixty marks that he still has and if he turned his back on the forty that are lost, concentrating on the sixty and looking at them face to face and talking to them, he would certainly be comforted.

Sensible fellow.

And you say I’m absent minded?

me: Um, my library card isn’t working on the machines. It’s a temporary library card, cos I left my wallet in America. But they’re posting it back to me.

man at desk: Right. Ok. It’s probably overriding, but we’ll have a look. What’s your home address?

me: Um, Oatland road.

man: No, your home home.

me: Oh. Australia. Belair. But that’s not really home…

man: Yes, definitely overriding. Just wanted to make sure we had the right person. Did you get your Australian drivers licence back yet?

me: No – er – I left it all in America, they’re sending it to me.

He looks at me quizzically, and then at the computer screen. I realise there’s a record of when I left my Australian drivers license in a photocopier three months ago. I blush.

me: Oh, I mean, yes, I got it back that time.

Dragonfruit and other delicacies

Yep, you can eat dragonfruit in Norway. You can even buy it in the supermarket.

Can’t get a non-blurred picture, so you’ll have to believe me.

I’m getting rather fed up with the bland white diet I’m subjecting myself to in order to overcome (soon, I hope) this lingering stomach-lurgy. Toast, crackers, the odd banana. Someone suggested yoghurt but that did not help, rather the opposite. Spaghetti floating in instant vegetable stock seems to go down nicely, but not three nights in a row, so last night I boiled a potato instead. I’ve been hallucinating food: fresh whiting with salad and new potatoes, turkey wraps with cranberry and avocado, grandma’s roast dinners, blueberries and icecream. See, even meat, which I don’t eat anymore. What’s happening to me? Actually eating anything is a different matter altogether – it’s a huge effort. Must keep it up, don’t want to disappear entirely.

Anyway, this mono-coloured diet reminds me of a client I had when I worked as a home care worker (the lovie says I have to stop telling these stories in social settings, they’re too depressing, so maybe this blog will become a final and happy home for them). This woman would only eat orange food. Orange and brown. She loved smoked mackerel, or whatever that bright orange fish is called. And sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were to be either sliced and roasted, or boiled with a couple of plain potatoes, and mashed up into a nice orange mash. Carrots and pumpkins were also popular. She’d eat cabbage too, but only if it was boiled to near disintegration. She ate oranges and kiwifruit (brown on the outside), and drank ginger tea. While I brewed her large jugs of ginger tea, I would make up canned salmon and mayonnaise sandwiches for the next day. It was an hour long shift, which was nowhere near long enough to cook dinner and make sandwiches and ginger tea and wash up and take the washing in and take her to the toilet and get her changed and rub vics vaporub and other concoctions on her various ailments. I got better at it, but she’d do anything she could to make you stay longer. She often started to cry, and asked if I had any nice men in my family who might be interested in her. No, I said, I don’t think so. But at least she had her orange fish.

Maeh!

I’m sick. I haven’t had a stomach bug this bad ever. I’ll spare you the details, suffice to say I’m sleeping on the couch day and night for easy access to the bathroom (approx every 45 min). And the cramps are nasty.

I was going to write a thrilling account of the snuggle-car’s one day trek through four countries to get us back to Norway – but I’ll give you an abridged version. We left Kassel at 8 in the morning, and encountered a ridiculous two and a half hour traffic jam in Denmark. The lovie pushed the poor snuggle-car upwards of 130km (not its preferred speed), and we made it to the ferry with about one minute to spare, stressing about the inadequate road signs. I started to feel sick on the ferry and the rest is history. The lovie heroically drove most of the way, and after crawling back 3 hours through Sweden, we arrived about 2:30 am, exhausted. Now I have to recover (surely, 2 days of this is already enough), then it’s on with my chapter.

Maeh!

Clunk clunk clunk

Well, it started well. We took the snuggle-car out for a spin. We decided to drive down to Ikea in Goteborg. That’s right, a real Swedish Ikea! Goteborg is about 180k south of here, so it’s about the same distance as Oslo but a much nicer drive. The plan was to get a futon and some bits and bobs to finish off the spare room. Which we did, plus some other bits and bobs, and some more, and ended up getting far more than we came for… All sorts of fun. Easy to get carried away when you have a huge van to stow it all in. We even drove down to the other Ikea in the south of Goteborg cos we’d got our hearts set on this beautiful mirror…

We were just over half way back, and I was thinking what a luxury it is to have a car. You can go where you want when you want, you can put things in it, you can zoom around like the kings of the road. And when it’s your car you can feel at home in it, it’s like a little house on wheels. I was making a shopping list so we could stop by for groceries at the big cheap Swedish supermarket on the way back. Suddenly there was a bang and a crunch and a shuddering. Great, we thought, pulling over, sure that we’d blown a tyre. All the tyres were fine. The car definitely wasn’t, however, so after a few minutes of stunned disbelief, we drove it (limped it, rather) up a side road to put ourselves at the mercy of the locals. It went clunk, clunk, clunk.

Luckily there was a man in his garden playing with his grandchildren, and he spoke English, and he called a mechanic for us. The mechanic happened to live quite close by, so he turned up quickly, though he was rather smelly. After a brief diagnosis, he decided to drive us, and the car, back to Halden (he had one of these big trucks you can put cars on). The problem was something inside the wheel – a ball-bearing, maybe? Anyway it was broken and grease was leaking out the middle of the wheel. I wish I had got a photo of our little red van being pulled up onto his big red truck. Though probably the funnier photo would have been the expressions on our faces.

And that wasn’t the end of it. The hour long ride back to Halden was an adventure in itself – the cabin of the truck was even smellier than its owner, and it only had two seats, so I had to perch cross-legged on a glorified armrest. The hairier moments included when swedish-mechanic decided to shuffle through some papers, look up a number on a business card, talk on his mobile and note something down all at once while he continued to steer with his elbows. As I crouched beside him with no seatbelt, no shoes, and nowhere to put my feet, I tried not to think about what would happen to me, and the little van, and its ikea loot (especially our lovely mirror), if he had an accident. Instead I considered how I would write this blog. A nice thought, because by the time I was telling the story, it would all be over, and I would be snuggling at home with a cup of tea and my laptop…

500 Nowegian kroners later, he dropped us off at the Ford dealer. It was 6:30 by then, so no one was there. The car dealers are a little way out of town, so it was an hour and a half walk back to our house. Of course the futon and the mirror couldn’t come with us. But we saw a couple of deer scampering into the pine forest. And the sun always looks incredible on the fortress in the late evening. And we even made it to the supermarket ten minutes before it closed, so we have bread and milk for tomorrow. We have to be lucky sometimes.