Spring

spring2

It feels a little cheeky, having entirely skipped the winter, but I am marvelling at spring all the same. The bulbs in the park in town are piercing through the earth, nothing can stop them.

spring

The buds of baby pine cones on our tree are barely visible, but they are there.

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Felix picked handfuls of the old pinecones yesterday as we picnicked in the garden.

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It was the first time we’ve got out there this year. Antonia slept.

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Whitby came to join the party.

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Felix was so pleased when Antonia woke up again, wearing his old red coat. I thought of all our other springs in this place. Baby Felix peering up at blossoms. Toddler Felix helping build the sandbox. Or playing with the pinecones. Three year old Felix cycling round the deck, thinking about the baby inside me, telling me he missed me before he was born. And now there is another spring, a new one, and I am glad.

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Good morning

whitby

Well, it’s evening here at the moment, but I like this snap of Whitby I took a few weeks back with the sunrise reflected in our windows. I have been busy teaching and preparing my course outlines for the autumn. Did I tell you that I have a very exciting temporary job for the autumn semester? I’ll be teaching full-time at the University College in my town – English Literature and Culture, and a second year subject in Postcolonial Literature. I’m very excited indeed.

I’m also happy to report that I passed my level two Norwegian tests that I took in January. I’m very pleased and relieved, and am already plotting when I can take the level three ones. They’re offered three times a year. October is probably the best bet but I’m allowing myself to consider May, in order to trick myself into progressing faster. I don’t need to decide till the first week of April.

Already I’m using every spare moment to feed words and grammar into my fuzzy brain. Learning a language is a funny thing. You can’t learn to speak a language without making a million mistakes, because everything hinges together and you can’t learn everything at once. At the moment it feels like I’m laboriously constructing a scaffolding in my brain, upon which I’ll be able to build a more elegant structure at some unspecified point in the future…

This afternoon I was wondering – just how exactly do you say ‘probably’ in Norwegian. I found it in the adverb section of my grammar book this evening: ‘sannsynligvis’. Very good, I thought. But then I read on, and discovered ‘modal adverbs’. ‘Ved’ and ‘nok’ also mean (approximately) ‘probably’, but they function a bit differently within the sentence. To complicate matters, these words mean completely different things in different contexts – I was more familiar with ‘nok’ as meaning ‘enough’. Suddenly a sentence I had been squinting at the day before became a lot clearer, if ‘nok’ could mean ‘probably’ instead of ‘enough’. A lot of the time I feel I’m peering hazily at one of those magic eye pictures, and just sometimes an image emerges out of nowhere.

Saturday morning

This past week or so Felix has been so happy. This morning was lovely. Here he is doing laps around me in the kitchen. He still loves pointing to our eyes, our noses, our mouths.

He loves drawers

and he loves the little plastic shot glasses left over from this party, such a long time ago.

Then I built him a duplo castle while he tipped the rest of the blocks all over the floor.

Felix chatted with Whitby

and helped me take some photos. It was pretty much perfect.

Fifteen months

Sometimes I am astonished at how quickly you change, but you are still you. You still calm down when I sing about the animals in the bus while we’re driving, exactly like you did when you were five months old. You have the same delight when you show us a new skill as you did in the beginning. You still want to nurse every couple of hours overnight, a trait that I am not quite so keen on. You learnt to walk this month, but you still prefer to crawl.

This month has been about songs. You have learnt some of the actions to the songs in the barnehage, and you love to clasp your hands and wave them about for the bumble bee song, and point your index fingers together to make a little diamond for twinkle twinkle little star. That’s my favourite one, I think, because it’s so careful and deliberate and quiet – you do it, and wait for us to notice. The other day we were driving and you pressed the button on your little elmo to make the ‘twinkle twinkle’ song, and then made the diamond with your fingers. You also do it when you hear any other music you like. It’s just adorable. You also sing little songs to yourself, and have a good go at saying ‘baby bumble bee’ – it comes out ‘baby bee’, which is pretty close.

You’re still using all the words I mentioned last month, and have added ‘switch’ (one of your favourite things), ‘cheek’, ‘toe’, and ‘hole’. I sometimes wonder about all the Norwegian whirling around in your head…It’s funny to think about how your erratically expanding vocabulary reflects your interests. We talk about toes a lot at the moment, partly when reading ‘Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes’, but mostly it’s when I want to wrangle you into your pyjamas without the tears. ‘Look’, I say, ‘I wonder if the toes are going to come out the end this time. No, there are no toes there, I can’t see any toes, I don’t think it’s going to work this time. Oh… there they are!’ You laugh and laugh.

You love the bath and never want to get out. One night I let you stay in for ages and ages, and I could tell you were tired of it. ‘Do you want to get out now?’ ‘No!’ ‘Well, do you want to stay in?’ You looked very confused.

You dramatically say ‘fffff’ and hold out your hand as to say ‘stop’, to mean something is hot. You do this to the oven, to lights, to food in bowls. You are very earnest about this and seem quite pleased with yourself. You’re excited when you get to eat hot food. Just the past few days you’ve decided that you are interested in eating a variety of food after all and the anticipation when you’re about to tuck into dinner with your spoon is just priceless. The other week when we were having a picnic in the garden, Whitby came up and tried to eat our falafels. You looked straight at him with great concern and warned: ‘ffff! ffff!’

Whitby is your best friend. It is just delightful to see the two of you together, patting and head-butting each other. I am so grateful we have a cat like that for you to hang out with. He’s very selective and is afraid of strangers, especially other children, but he adores you and always comes to visit if you’re in the sandbox. You look out for him too and tell me if you see him outside, waiting to come in.

Moments

Tonight I am loving these long spring evenings. It is 9.15, and I have just made it up to my desk after tidying up a bit downstairs. The sun has set but it is still light. The sky lazily changes its pastel hues. The huge tree in our garden towers above me, bristling with new green needles. The magpies have fortified their nest near the top. If I stand up I can look down and see the swing hanging from its lowest branch, the sandbox, the white garden chair. This gives me a bit of a thrill. It is still a novelty, this new little family, this home.

Living with a small child intensifies your experience of time. In case you haven’t noticed (hah), I am prone to nostalgia and have an insatiable need for reflection – to stand back, to stand still, to breathe, to write, to record. But my small child makes my desire to reflect even stronger (while at the same time dramatically reducing the time available to do so). Right now, this is who we are: there are three of us, and one of us is one year and two months old. Next year, next month, this will be different. It is strange to look at older children and realize they were once tiny bumblers like our own.

The days and nights tumble into each other. Last night the boy kept us awake for hours, and when we had to get up at seven on a Saturday morning, it was with great reluctance. Felix is still not well and is high-maintenance – going quickly from cheeky laughter to tears and back again. He crawls away and then cries for me to come to him. He needs to sit on my lap. He is hungry but won’t eat that. He wants a sip of water but only one. In the back of the car, he does all his tricks for us: clasps his hands, claps them, makes a pointy diamond with his index fingers, laughs like crazy. Then complains.

After I put him to bed we flop onto the sofas. ‘It was a good day, all in all’, says Michael, and it was. We were together. A hundred tiny moments made it a good day. And something in me strains to catch them all, to pin them down, to somehow keep this day, this boy, this feeling. The light has mostly gone now from the sky and the tree is dark. I am here now and that is enough. But it doesn’t stop me trying.

Wednesday

I was going to write a post entitled ‘slog’, and it was going to be about how hard we have been working. Clearing out the spare room in the evenings once Felix has gone to sleep (after we have worked all day) has been tough. There is still more to do, but we have cleared out enough now to get him in there. And then of course the poor fellow starts teething again, so settling him into the new sleeping arrangements has been more difficult than it otherwise would have been, and we are still not getting nearly enough sleep. So we are tired. But I have changed my day off from Friday to Wednesday, and that is better, much better. This afternoon the sun shone and Felix and I had a picnic on the lawn.

Lying for half an hour in the sun with my favourite boy and my favourite creatures was more than enough to restore my spirits.

Also I’m very proud of myself because I knitted the little vest Felix is wearing, all on my own. The pattern is here. I started it a few weeks back, when I had my ear infection, at which point I knitted all night because I was in too much pain to sleep. It took me a while because I had to undo bits when I did them wrong – if I do another one I’ll be much faster. But isn’t it great! I’ll try to show you some pictures sans bib another time.

Felix chased the cats around for a bit, bounced on the trampoline with me, then made some calls. It was a very nice afternoon indeed.

Thirteen months

Well, it’s been a challenging month for all of us, little guy, but you seem to have come through it with your cheeky grin intact. You’ve made great friends with the kitties. Whitby, who was very suspicious of you to begin with, has nominated himself as your special friend, and often comes up for snuggles. For a while there you were being very sweet indeed and saying nawwwwwww as you buried your head in their fur. Now you are a little more confident however, your displays of affection are more animated, and I am not sure how long the cats will put up with you.

The weather has been unseasonably nice for this time of year, and we are spending more and more time outside. You were pretty impressed with the trampoline.

You like zooming around on your walker. You love cars now – both toy and real varieties. In the playground the other day, you pointed at a car going past, and said ‘brrrmm!’ You’ve started holding telephones up to your ear. You love chatting with my parents on skype – you are so excited when I start the call that you clap your hands with anticipation. It is very sweet to see.

You eat grapes, strawberries, bananas, porridge, pasta with tomato sauce, bread with mackerel paste, plenty of breast-milk, and not much else. Sleep at night is still a challenge, and I have been working so hard to clear out the spare room so we can move you in there. Hopefully this weekend. Just today I noticed a new tooth coming through – your seventh, and your first for nearly four months. I was so relieved to see it because I had no idea why you had been screaming for hours.

As far as I’m concerned, you are pretty much the loveliest thing in the whole world.

Ready to go


I was going to write – it’s hard to leave Norway in May. It’s true, the country is now at its most beautiful – the brand new glittery birch leaves are a sight to behold, and it’s light forever. But the past couple of days it’s been raining. So it’s not that hard. I will miss our long evening walks into the forest: the slanty light, the cool, fragrant air, Felix cooing at the treetops. Last week I even saw a young deer standing staring at me on the path ahead. I didn’t get a picture of the deer, so here is dear Whitby instead:

Things are finally coming together. Our passports with our visas arrived on Monday, much to our relief. We’ve renewed our residency permits and got one for Felix. Our cats have a home for the time we’re away (we left them cowering under the sofa on Saturday, but apparently already by Sunday they were much happier). We’ve arranged for some friends to stay in our house while we’re away. We even managed to sell our car! Talk about leaving everything to the last minute.

The place feels a bit bereft without the cats, to tell the truth. I hope they are having a good time exploring their new kingdom.

Felix has recovered from his vaccination grumpiness but it has mucked up his sleep patterns. I guess they’re about to get mucked up anyway. He is still being very adorable. He loves to say ‘agoo’. Michael was zooming him around like an aeroplane one evening, and every time he zoomed in to give me a kiss, he said ‘agoo!’ And last night I was giving him a bath, and he looked at me quietly, saying ‘oooooooo’. ‘Can you say agoo, Felix?’, I asked. ‘Aaaagoooo’, he said. He just melts my heart.

We just have to pack up the last bits, and tidy up a tad more. Someone’s coming to pick us up at 7am tomorrow morning. I’m so, so excited.

Three months

My dear, you are so adorable right at the moment that your father says you can stay this size forever. ‘He’ll be cute when he’s bigger too’, I say. ‘But look at him!’ He says. And you truly are pretty gorgeous – such a sweet, smily little guy.

You had your first lot of immunisations today and it was a bit horrible to hold you still while the nurse jabbed both your legs. Now you’re having a long long sleep to recover. They weighed and measured you today, and you’re 65 and a half cm long, and six and a half kilos, which means you’re tall and slim – just like me.

Yesterday we lugged you up to Oslo to apply for our American visas. You sat patiently in the car for nearly two and a half hours, even in the traffic jam, and you waited in line with me outside for half an hour very happily too. By the time we got inside though, you’d had enough and you screamed and screamed. (You were starving but couldn’t calm down enough to eat.) Afterwards I found a nice quiet doorstep (heh) and you had a long long feed and then were happy again during the drive home. Next week you have your first trans-atlantic flight, so i’m crossing my fingers that you find an aeroplane a little more relaxing than an embassy waiting room…

But we’re still finding time to sit under the birch trees in the garden, enjoying the sunshine of your very first spring.

Our other darlings

Michael took these gorgeous photos of our beautiful cats last night.

I remember when they were kittens, thinking how nice it would be when they were grown up cats and could just hang out on the deck with us. And it’s very nice indeed, especially when you add a baby or two, some friends and some Sunday afternoon scones and tea.

Mermos caught a bird on the weekend, though. I guess it was only a matter of time. Thankfully he didn’t try to bring it into the house. Here they are checking our their next catches:

Ps. If you live in Halden you don’t fancy adopting them for six months from the middle of May, do you? We will be away and they are such lovely, lovely animals… Also by then they’ll probably have shed their winter coats. Right now there is fur on everything.

Sibling rivalry

Today I was holding Felix and Mermos (our black cat) decided it was time for a cuddle. He purred and nudged Felix with his head until I put Felix on my shoulder. Mermos promptly curled up on my lap. I passed Felix to Michael. Mermos enjoyed pride of place for a while but then decided he needed to sit on Michael. When Michael passed Felix back to me, however, Mermos followed immediately.

A long week

Michael was away for most of this week. I was very impressed with myself for coping just fine, with the help of a some friends who came over a couple of evenings. It’s very nice to have him back though. Felix did some sleeping and some smiling and some playing and some crying.

The little jacket is the first piece of clothing we bought for him, from a second-hand kids clothing shop in Berlin when I was about 19 weeks pregnant.

The cats wanted attention too, and one afternoon while I was breastfeeding, Mermos was incredibly sweet and sat on the back of the sofa behind me and rested his paws on my shoulder. Then he insisted on playing with Felix on his mat.

I went along to a baby group in town on Thursday. It was so funny seeing so many babies in the one room. And on Wednesday, as most of the ice has cleared from the roads, we walked to the edge of the forest.

The sun is shining and shining and it is lighter and brighter and warmer every day. Last year in early spring I ached and ached for green leaves and flowers, which we can’t really expect for another six weeks. But this year I will just rejoice in the bright austere beauty of an early Norwegian spring. It is winter no longer.

In other exciting news, the little guy’s passport arrived today! It is so funny to see his name written down in such an official document. He already looks so different from the passport photo taken several weeks ago.

And Michael is back now. Hurrah!

The end of February

Yesterday we took the little man for his first outdoor stroll in his pram. After feeds and naps (for him and me) it was 4.30 by the time we got out, but these days it is light till almost 6, hurrah! The light wasn’t great for taking photos but you get the idea. (You can’t see him but he’s wearing his cute little bobble hat again.) Also after two weeks of hovering around -8 it had heated up to around 0, so we felt less mean about taking him outside. I asked the nurse though, and she said as long as it’s above -10 it’s ok. So we’ll see. There will be a whole new problem once it all starts melting again, as I don’t like the idea of pushing a pram down a hill when the footpath resembles an ice-rink. One hurdle at a time I suppose. He didn’t mind the walk, and went to sleep. It muddled up his sleep and wake times though, as happened when we took him to the shops. I guess one gets the hang of this eventually!

Things we are learning:

  • He hates wet diapers.
  • He hates being too hot.
  • Simple cotton all-in-one suits are best, as his skin is very sensitive, and doesn’t like anything too tight or too synthetic, or with too many layers.
  • He looks most beautiful in cream.

He is getting a little more insistent with his demands and testing his lungs a bit further, but is still a pretty happy calm little chap on the whole. He also doesn’t like it when he gets over-tired, which seems to happen sometimes despite our best intentions. We love him dearly but gosh this is hard work! Oh and after a dream-run with breastfeeding I’ve developed a bit of mastitis, which I’m hoping I’ve nipped in the bud. Feels a bit better already but I still need to be careful.

Michael went back to work today which we both felt a bit sad about but I guess it’s the way it goes. I am very happy and blessed that my Mum is staying for another two weeks, which will make the transition into my new life as smooth as possible!

On the weekend I finally finished writing up the story of his birth, which felt like an important thing to do. (It takes so long to do anything at the moment!) It feels good to have that finished now, at the cusp of a new month, when the little man has had two whole weeks in the world.

We are still waiting on the documents we need to apply for his Norwegian birth certificate, which we need before we can even think about registering him as one of our various nationalities, which we also need to do before we can apply for his passport, which we need before we can apply for his US visa for later this year. So we might be leaving a couple of weeks later than planned, but I guess we’ll get there eventually.

It has been a most beautiful two weeks. Michael’s Mum was with us for five days, and left last Friday. She was very sad to go and we were sad to see her leave, but at least Germany isn’t as far away as Australia, and they’ll be able to come back to visit very soon. This is one of the hardest things, how far away our families are. But we will make it work. When she was leaving, Monica said she was especially sad to leave because it had been so very ‘harmonisch’. Which it had. But, little Felix, I am most excited to discover what March has in store for us, too.

A day in the life

Scratch scratch scratch. Mooowwww!

Open back door for kitten 1.

Kitten 1 pokes his nose out and sniffs. -15, ouch. Sits there looking.

Close door.

Scratch scratch scratch!

Open door again.

Still -15. Kitten 1 decides to sleep on the couch instead. Gets bored quickly as has been sleeping for the greater portion of the past two days.

Scratch scratch scratch!

Open hallway door for kitten 1 to go in hall. Brief pause.

Scratch scratch scratch!

Open hallway door for kitten 1 to come back into lounge. Kitten 2 goes into hallway. Brief pause.

Scratch scratch scratch!

Let kitten 2 back into lounge.

Scratch scratch scratch, Mooooowwww!

They sit forlornly and look at back door.

December is better than November

The world has been very pretty around here lately. I’ve even got used to the cold. -7 feels positively mild after -16. And -1 feels almost tropical. During the day, especially, our house is lovely, with the windows filled with sparkly white trees. And quite cosy at night, too, when we light the fire. The kittens have adjusted to the weather too: their coats are fluffier than ever and their paws have gone all leathery, so they can walk on the snow without getting blisters. Mermos’s favourite spot, though, is here:

I’ve finally kicked the never-ending cold, and I feel so much better for it. There are still so many things to do, but we’re ticking them off one by one. Today we borrowed a car seat and a cot and some odds and ends from a friend. And thanks to an early Christmas package from Mum, we have more than enough clothes to get the little man through his first month or so. There are just a few little things we need to still get hold of, and then we need to wash everything and sort out the rooms upstairs, and Michael needs to finish off the insulation in the loft, and then we should be ok.

There’s still paperwork to send in, and expensive car repairs to orchestrate (at least I’ve booked it in now), and something special that we’re doing this Thursday, but we’re getting there. I also had a chat to the head of the department of languages at the University College here this week, and he’s very keen to get me on board there after my maternity leave, so that’s exciting. (They’re also looking to expand their English literature teaching and their research credentials, so it’s sounding very promising indeed.)

I’ve had a very busy weekend and eaten a lot of cake. We had the Christmas concert for the barnehage on Saturday morning, followed by our work Christmas lunch. More cake today from the friend who leant us the car seat, and then even more cake at a three year old’s birthday party. Now I’m tired. Goodnight!

The cats

Ok so I just made this my header, but that will change at some point and I wanted a record of this! I’ve been wanting to get a shot of them in the bright autumn leaves beside our driveway for ages. (Ok so Michael took the picture but I lured them in there…) It’s really hard to get photos of Mermos in focus – he’s so silky and dark and velvety that the camera has nothing to latch onto. This one is pretty good though:

If you ever take a picture when he has his mouth open he looks like a terrifying killer, but in reality he is emitting a pitiful squeak:

Mermos is a very emotional, very vocal cat. When he comes running in from outside he mews his little head off until you pick him up or he buries himself in your lap, making puddings and purring blissfully. For a long time he liked me best. We sometimes let them in to snuggle with us for half an hour or so before we go to sleep. If Michael was in bed and I was getting ready, he would pace disconsolately on the bed until I got into it, at which point he would leap on top of me and burrow into my neck. Thankfully he is starting to share his affections a little, because this was a bit mean. He sometimes gets into a funny mood and climbs right on top of the kitchen cupboards to watch the world from a safe distance, and to snooze in peace.  He is utterly obsessed with human food. He will even eat spinach. And your toast is never safe – he is getting faster and faster at swiping it out of your hand.

Whitby is the more even tempered of the two – he never makes quite as much fuss. He is happy to sleep beside you rather than practically inside you. He’s getting more and more snuggly, though, too. They both love to sleep on top of my bump. I think the little one will be very accustomed to the sound and the feel of cats purring! Whitby is more interested in going outside than Mermos, but he always comes back in when we call. It’s funny – they like to play in different places – Whitby is always out the back of the house, while Mermos is always out the front. Whitby loves the green chair.

And he loves Mermos. We adore them.

Night light

Playing with the camera settings, Michael got some pretty cool pictures of our house and garden on Saturday night. I love how you can see Mermos in the window.

Unfortunately there’s more and more of this these days. Night, I mean. Waking up in the dark is a pain. Today was grey and miserable and it still felt very dark at nine in the morning because of all the clouds. I guess one advantage of shorter days – at least the clear ones – is that you actually get to see all the sunrises and sunsets. The sunset in my header at the moment is from some photos we took from the bridge between Norway and Sweden on Friday, about six pm.

Anyway we are bugging down in our warm little house and watching the dvds we brought back from the UK. Just finished season two of Dexter and I am completely hooked.

The pregnancy is going well. Twenty-five weeks tomorrow. I’ve felt the little thing kicking and wriggling every day for just over two weeks now. It’s delightful and strange, and what’s even stranger is that I’m starting to get used to it. But it’s very hard to mentally connect the hidden thing wriggling inside me with the demanding little one and two year olds I run around after all day. It’s getting more difficult to pick things up off the floor. By no means impossible, but it takes about four times as much effort and time as it used to. Also I frequently think I’ll be able to squeeze past someone or between a chair and a bench and I’m shocked to discover I can’t…

We are loving and loving our kittens.

It was so cold last Friday morning that I could hear the frozen yellow leaves clattering down from the trees.

20 weeks

All’s well. Just starting to get a belly that doesn’t disappear in the mornings. The jeans I bought at ten weeks are still too loose though. I’m hopeless at buying jeans.

Last week we had an ultrasound. He (yep, he) is beautiful. We saw him stretch his arms above his head, and cross his legs, and hug his chest, and kick his legs like a swimmer and burrow into my side, and curl up like a kitten with his toes above his nose. We saw his sharp white bones and his startling face. We looked at him and we loved him.

I haven’t felt much movement yet, but they tell me I have an anterior placenta which means I probably won’t feel anything for a while.

Berlin was lovely. Sunshine and parks and long slow breakfasts. And it was so nice to see my aunt and my cousins.

Michael is now in Paris but the kittens are keeping me company. They are such social little things and are both snoozing on the desk as I type. (They would snooze on the keyboard if I let them.)

When I get home from work all I want to do is lie on the couch for hours. I really need to find a job that utilizes my skills more effectively. Still. It’s all part of the plan. And it is not a bad job really. (And I am getting lots of practice I suppose!)

Words seem quiet and elusive right now. But I will try to spend more time with them, to coax them back into my garden. (Funny sentence I know, but that’s sort of what it feels like when I try to write – like I’m sitting in an empty garden waiting for the birds to come back.)

It feels like it has taken forever to get to 20 weeks, and that it will take forever to get to 40. But it won’t, I know. This is the tipping point.

Home improvements

Dad cooking dinner.

Hummus! (And you can see our partially installed dishwasher in the background. It worked but tipped over if you weren’t careful, and we hadn’t taken off the bright blue protective plastic. Dad helped Michael to get this fixed – and propped up to the proper height – before they left.)

Yum! Veggie curry with hummus, coriander, and rather good South Australian white wine.

Mermos trying to help.

Mum patching holes after we removed the green kitchen door that the previous owners had decoratively hung on the wall.

Dad moving the power-point so we could put a bookshelf next to the sofa.

Mum painting our kitchen wall after patching the long narrow crack.

Dad installing the kitchen door back where it belongs. (Which means this winter the kitchen won’t resemble a freezer – hooray!)

When they left, Dad left behind two huge boxes of chocolates (which sadly didn’t last for long), and Mum left behind a gorgeous blue and white fruit bowl with two matching tea mugs, also buying two of the mugs for herself so that we can have matching cups of tea, hemispheres apart.

Now if only they lived a bit closer…

Many more things

Austria was gorgeous. It already feels like a distant dream. I had some beautiful flights, nosing about in the thermals and surfing the rising air above the ridge. My parents, Michael and I bought a five day cable car pass, which meant that we could go up each of the four cable cars in the region once a day. One of them you could paraglide down from. One of them had a toboggan thing on a monorail, which was awesome. And they all had beautiful views and walking opportunities.

We had amazing weather – it was warm and sunny nearly every day. The food was cheap and good, the accommodation was great, the landscape stunning. Too many adjectives, I know. But it really is the most relaxing place. Most afternoons we would head down to the local pool (entry was free with the guest card we got with our holiday apartment) and float around, looking up at the mountains and zooming down the waterslide. My parents were duly impressed. I have a feeling we’ll all be back. Mum had a tandem flight.

Michael’s Mum came along too, overcoming her fear of heights by coming with us on two cable cars all the way up to the base of the glacier, and talked about getting a tandem flight herself next time!

***

It’s a good thing we had a decent summer holiday this year because we have been back a week and the weather has been dreadful. As Michael puts it: Norwegian summer = a gap between rain showers, just enough to mow the lawn.

My folks have been here all week which has been so nice. I had this week off too. We have worked incredibly hard though!!! My suggestion to drive up to Ikea on Wednesday was met with enthusiasm, and resulting in four major (and several minor) purchases that then required assembly. Each job seemed to lead onto another one… Dad moved one of our powerpoints so we could put the new bookshelf where we wanted it. He then not only took down the door which the previous owners had ‘decoratively’ hung on the wall but also re-installed it in its proper place between the kitchen and the hall. This will be brilliant in winter because it will mean we can actually keep the kitchen warm. And we have been patching cracks and holes, painting walls and cupboards, installing light fittings, hanging curtains… Everything I thought to myself – oh we should do that sometime – is getting done. Michael reckons my parents deserve their own TV show.

My new sewing machine has been getting a workout. Michael made a pillow for the kittens and I made a mouse.

Lots to catch up on

1. Kittens being cute

2. The best house guests ever

Some very old family friends came to visit me in Halden. They pretty much feel like family, actually. I lived with them for a year and a half when I started University. It was so fun to see them! They turned up with Australian wine, Belgium chocolate, timtams and the most amazing flowers. They helped me empty out the basement for some work we need done there, and Loris even donated her mobile phone charger to me because my kittens wrecked my old one!

3. Sunshine, skies and holidays (ongoing).

Rainy day

Perfect for exam marking. But of course I am procrastinating. When there are exams to be marked, what better time to write a blog post! The rain is quite lovely in fact. Mermos is purring in my lap, Whitby is curled at my feet (I have a lambskin rug under my desk). They are such funny, friendly kitties. They always follow you around (even to the toilet, one thing I could do without!). A load of washing is on, I’ve sorted out the kitchen, and hung some pictures on my office wall.

On my left is a lovely print of an early drawing of a wombat family, by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur in 1804. I bought it when there was an exhibition in Adelaide many years ago of early French drawings of Australian plants and animals. It was the most amazing thing! Because Australian creatures were still relatively odd to European eyes, the representations looked slightly odd because they hadn’t worked out how draw them yet. Anyway the print sat under my bed in Adelaide for about seven years, but I took it back with me in January and found a frame for it. There is a mother wombat with about four little baby wombats toddling out of her pouch (do they have that many babies?), and a father wombat looking on bemusedly.

On my right are two prints of pages from the Book of Kells. I bought them on a trip to Ireland with the University of York hiking club in early 2004. Michael had organized the trip, so he was there, but we weren’t together yet. (We did, however, always sit next each other and talk for hours…) I remember offering him one of the posters on the train home in a kind of clumsy courting gesture. He said no thank you, he wasn’t into putting pictures on walls, he wanted to wait until he had his own place and could do it properly. (I bet he’s forgotten the entire conversation!) Anyway, here they are, and here we are. One of them is extra special to me now, because it is the Q from the Quoniam page, which Les Murray has written a poem about, and which I devoted about two and a half pages of my thesis to… (I can tell you more about that if you’re interested…)

Michael has been in the south of France all week which I am insanely jealous about. He gets back tonight only to leave again for Texas on Wednesday… Anyway, I’m very glad not to be at work today. Fridays are now my own! But the exams are calling. Wish me luck!

Besotted

Meet Mermos. (Named after a French Human Reliability Assessment (HRA) method. We just thought it sounded nice.) He is reliably naughty, and clever, and bouncy, and, when he’s finished with all that, sleepy. And beautiful. His fur is incredibly soft, and absorbs light like velvet, and he resembles nothing so much as a warm, bright-eyed shadow.

Meet Whitby. (Named after the town.) He is very very sweet with his black and white nose and his four white feet. When we first met him we thought him the clumsier and the friendlier of the two, but it turns out he can more than hold his own in the kitten wars, and when they are not chasing and pouncing and pawing one another, they are both friendly souls. They like nothing better than sleeping next to us on the sofa.

We are besotted.

Kitties!!!

We just got back from a fab weekend in Berlin. More on that later. Meanwhile, here are the creatures who are tearing about and leaping and mewing and pouncing and bouncing and purring and sleeping and stretching and generally taking over the place.

Names, anyone?

We don’t have them yet (as we will be away this weekend), but I went to visit them this evening. Exhausted from playing, they slept and slept.

I am so looking forward to having them around. I love their little purrs and squeaks as they stretch in their sleep. Their quick paws and their warm, warm fur. And I reckon two little black cats in our little white house will be a very good thing indeed.

So we went to look at some kittens

Michael’s colleague who lives a couple of streets away has two kittens to give away. As soon as I heard this, I pestered him to arrange a visit. ‘We need to think about this,’ he said. ‘Before we go, we need to decide whether it’s sensible for us to get a kitten.’ ‘Let’s just go,’ I said. ‘We can think about it later.’

Heh. So of course we now badly want the kittens, but we are going on holiday for four weeks just five weeks after we would get them. Not sensible at all. And there will be other kittens, so even if we decide that we desperately need them (which indeed we do) we don’t desperately need them now. But kittens have faces and bodies and souls that say love me. And the only question now is whether it should be the sweet-faced black creature who curled in a basket and then did a madly impressive high-speed chase of a ball, or the scruffy, clumsy, friendly white-socked one, with a lopsided splodge on his nose. Or both.

(For what it’s worth, we’re leaning towards blacky. But of course that isn’t the only question.)

Neighbours

Here is a brand new pine cone on the tree in our garden. At least that’s what I think it is. I’ve never seen one before. I tried to get a photo of the old wooden ones too, but couldn’t coax the little camera into focussing twice…

Last weekend one of our neighbours wandered over as we were planting seeds in pots. Between our terrible Norwegian and her terrible English, we managed to work out that she is 75, she grew up in our house, and her mother lived here till she died. Her children knew our house as ‘the grandmother house’. Her father planted the big tree.

She told us what sort of tree is was and Michael understood because it’s also called that in German, but it didn’t mean anything to me. It’s a Siberian something-or-other.

I think she told us that the fruit trees in our garden are yellow plums.

She warned us that deer would try to eat our flowers and our herbs. She said they especially like roses. You cannot plant roses here. But she said she has lots of flowers in her garden every year, not yet but soon.

I told her that I come from Australia and I work in a kindergarten.

I realized yet again that my handy stack of Norwegian sentences: ‘Would you like some more?’; ‘Are you finished?’; ‘Come here!’; ‘Don’t do that!’; ‘Mummy’s coming soon’; ‘Can I change your nappy?’; ‘Have you done a poo?’; are not really adequate for social encounters with people older than two years old. I so wanted to talk to her that I lapsed into my dodgy German, which didn’t help anyone.

So. Once the teaching is finished, the Norwegian books are coming out. Really they are.

Tonight another neighbour came to visit but she didn’t stay and chat.

Rainy Saturday

The blue room is so much nicer when there is a small creature curled up in the corner of it. I cycled home from town today in the rain, my knuckles red and aching with cold, the back of my coat soaked through where the water flicks up from the wheels. And who should I meet at the doorstep but a very wet kitty with a very clear idea of where she belonged…

I’ve had a typical and pleasant Saturday: yoga in the morning, a bike ride to town in the afternoon, braving the ghastly but cheap supermarket on the way back to pick up ingredients for sag paneer (I love my weekly dose of spinach), and an hour or so of inane but pleasant tv in the evening. Last week it was England’s attempt to choose a Eurovision song, this week the double triumph of a Doctor Who special issue of The Weakest Link. Who could ask for more? (Well, Doctor Who itself would have been more fun, but still…)

It’s back to work tomorrow to straighten out the ragged ends of my final chapter so I can send it to my supervisors before I go away. There’s just a few other loose ends to tie up and one more class to teach, and then I’m off to Norway via London. Good.

Poems and pancakes

Teaching went much better this week. In fact it was fun. I found a table in the corner of the room, moved it to the centre of the room, and we all squeezed round it. That was part of the problem last time – no table. It’s much easier to relax around a table (for the students as well as me). We discussed a very old poem based on a very old bible story, which included a feisty lady and some serious head-chopping action. So no surprise, really, that it held everyone’s attention!

I’ve been going Eastern this term in an attempt at a more active lifestyle. Bollywood dancing and yoga. Heh. I’m pretty uncoordinated at the dancing, and yoga has left me with seriously sore shoulders, but also energy and focus and confidence. It’s quite amazing. I’ll keep it up.

This little creature has been guarding our doorstep. Looking much happier today in the sunshine than she has for a while. I wish I could kidnap her. (In reference to a previous discussion, yes, she’s a she!)

I’ve been revising the first chapter I wrote for my thesis, on Francis Webb. His poems are pretty tough, so it’s not surprising that I had trouble with it to begin with. It’s so much easier now to see where I went wrong, and how I can transform the chapter into something quite exciting. So. That’s good too.

The worst thing about being so far from home is missing out on things. The first two members of a new generation of my family arrived the day after I left Adelaide. And an invitation to my cousin’s wedding arrived this week. I would have loved to be there.

My brain’s a bit funny tonight. Must be all the exercise. The only other thing of note this week is pancakes. Tuesday was pancake day. We ate pancakes with mushrooms and spinach and feta, pancakes with warm cherries and greek yoghurt and hot chocolate sauce, and, best of all, pancakes with lemon and sugar. No photos, we were too busy gobbling.

Kitty Watching

Today, between sentences, I watched our neighbourhood tortoiseshell patrol our street. He likes to keep an eye one things. He strolls in and out of the little yards, and sits on the low walls. Whenever anyone walks past, he trots along with them for a little way. When I came back from the library, he was waiting, and accompanied me to my door, purring like a tractor. He wouldn’t stay still, but I think he knew how dashing he looked among the leaves.

He snuck in as I maneuvered the bike through the door. He explored all the corners, but we barred him from the food cupboard and the basement. He didn’t get any tuna, because he is fat and glossy, unlike my old friend Mr Cat, who clearly needed it. He wouldn’t stop purring, and curled on the couch. We put him outside.

But we hope he comes back.

Kassel

I am in Germany, hooray!! And it actually feels like summer over here. We have a couple more days here before we head down south to try some paragliding (fingers crossed for the weather). Very excitingly, my new paraglider has arrived (I traded in my old Fides for an Atis, which has a better weight range for me and is a bit zippier). Can’t wait to try it out!

Here’s the lovie with his beloved Strolch, in a rare moment when Strolch is appearing to sit still. Unfortunatly his affection is not reciprocated. I think Strolch is probably still traumatised from all the attention he got at Christmas.