Back

We went to Australia. For Christmas. For Ages. It was great.

We got back nearly two weeks ago. It took a week to combat the jet-lag, and until today, really, for me to get used to the cold. It’s not even that cold – it’s been hovering around -4. Tonight the fire whirs and snowflakes drift in the streetlight outside. Today I took Felix to Gamlebyen to look at the model train museum, and it was, in his words, a lovely afternoon. The most difficult part was getting him to leave the place. The bribe of a hot-chocolate nearly didn’t cut it.

trainmuseum

trainmuseum2

trainmuseum3

trainmuseum4

hotchocolate

alittlewalk

alittlewalk2

 

Advertisements

December

winter roses

Winter roses, winter animals. Felix was with me when I bought the roses and I had to insist on the bunch of red and white roses – he only likes the red ones. When we brought them home he pointed to all the red ones and said they were his, but mine were pretty too.

winter animals

November

Each November since I defected to the northern hemisphere has been a struggle. Things seem to lift in December, strangely. But November is the drizzly tail-end of autumn and the beginning of the dark and you are tired. The unpleasantness of this particular November is amplified by the stacks of marking which have to be done on top of the already more than full time teaching prep. But each week passes. Tonight Michael was in Oslo for the evening so I took Felix out to our favourite cafe for dinner. I had a salmon burger; he had a bun.

‘It’s all dark here!’ He said as we walked back. ‘We can’t see very well! It’s all dark! And there are lights! This light and this light and this light!’ And I paused, and looked back at the little golden lights of the main street, glowing in the chilly air and on the cobblestones. And I thought – this is November’s gift – the new dark and the little lights.

Yesterday Felix boycotted Halloween. He’s very fussy about clothes and there was no way he was wearing a costume – not a black cat for me, nor a pumpkin for Michael. He was the only child in the barnehage who wasn’t dressed up. In the evening, we talked about Halloween, and he said – ‘I like Christmas. Shall we make a star for Christmas? Shall we do that now?’ So we did.

Exam day

I’m kicking myself for not packing my camera this morning, though I had two exams, so I guess I had other things on my mind. But my Norwegian exams were held in Gamlebyen, which is pretty at the worst of times, but a winter sunrise while the world is covered in fresh snow is something else altogether. It really is so lovely here. The clouds were dissolving as the sun came up, the sky a warm yellow behind the paper cut-out trees.

The tests went as well as they could have, I guess. The spoken test was fine and quite fun, really. The written test was split into listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and writing production. It’s the last section that I’m most unsure of – I guess it just depends how many little errors they let through. At this level they tell us it’s about communication more than perfection, so I should be ok. I’ll get the results in a month. These were level two tests, which are the end of the beginner’s level. I can’t wait till I’ve learnt enough to come back for the intermediate ones!

Looking at my schedule I thought – oh, good, I’ll have just enough time after the exam to go to a coffee shop and work on some teaching preparation before picking up Felix. And I may take out my books in a minute. But right now it’s so nice just to sit for a moment, amid the increasingly comprehensible conversations going on at tables around me.

You’ll learn a language just to be able to eavesdrop in cafes? A friend asked me while I was in Australia. There are other reasons, but, well, yes, actually. It’s very alienating not to understand the words spoken by strangers.

Teaching last week was wonderful, by the way. We spoke about sonnets, and my students were lovely, and it made me remember that there’s not too many things I would rather do than talk about poems.

The week you turned one

You fed yourself porridge, spoonful by heaped spoonful.

The sun shone on our little house and we were happy inside it.

The tracks I made pulling you on a little sled around the tree stayed there all week.

You watched schnappi with your father.

You patted the cat, and chased him around the house, and squealed with glee every time you saw him. (Sorry that Mermos just looks like a black blob – it’s really hard to get a picture of him. It’s even harder to get a picture of Felix and Whitby together because every time Whitby hears Felix make a sound, he’s out of there.)

You slept in your pram.

You walked up and down our living room, clutching your new walker. You stood by yourself with your hands in the air and a grin on your face. You had your first full days in barnehage, which just about broke my heart. You really liked it until you were smitten with a nasty cold. You held up your lion blanky and whispered ‘raaa!’ You pointed to the sheep in you books and said ‘baa!’ You pointed out the doors, and exclaiming ‘door!’ everywhere you went. The image of you crawling up to a new doorway and peering around the corner is one I never want to forget. You looked very sweet in your new winter wardrobe. (And yes, that’s the green jumper I knitted. I am so pleased with it.) You woke me up many times, every night. But I adore you.

One Year

things don’t recur precisely, on the sacred earth: they rhyme

Les Murray, ‘The Idyll Wheel’

There was snow today, but not as much as last year. It was cold, but not as cold. The sky that filled the bare trees was pink as the sun rose and orange as it set.

This day last year, I baked brownies, I waited, I walked through the snow, I visited friends, I waited, I went to bed. I would not have long to wait.

Today, I baked an orange and blueberry cake, I made a lentil shepherds pie to eat for dinner today and tomorrow, for I return to work tomorrow, I knitted, I finished writing a paper, I walked through the snow, a friend visited me, I tucked my very nearly one year old son into bed.

Returning to Norway this past week has felt like the right thing to do. It has been strange, overlaying last year with this year. Being suddenly back here, at just this time, I feel the memories in my body. My body feels narrow and strong, because last year it was stretched and heavy. Small things bring moments back – walking along the cobbled main street, bending over to blow-dry my hair (something only a Norwegian winter can induce me to do), the warm, woody smell of our bedroom.

Things do not recur precisely. But a world with a Felix in it is a better world indeed.

Back

Landing in Oslo and the beautiful snowy drive down here was awesome, and we were so very glad to be back. But after enthusiastically exploring all the corners we let him reach of our little house, Felix was not himself, and sat on the floor, screeching. We contemplated joining him. Arriving home to a cold house (not as cold as it could have been, as our neighbour turned the heaters up for us yesterday, but still…), with an almost one year old in tow, after being away for eight months, is not exactly easy. Especially when Norway arranges a cold snap for us and our winter clothes seem to have got lost in the post. But we’ve cranked up the heating even more, the baby is asleep, and it is slowly, slowly beginning to feel like home.

The house is the same, but we have changed. When we left, Felix was a little baby – we would perch him in his bouncer or lay him on the floor, and he took up no space at all. Now he is a little tractor, roaming everywhere, making his opinions known. We need to reshape the space for this new us. It is the heat, slowly taking hold in the air and the wooden walls, that lets me know we’ll be ok. It starts to smell like it did a year ago, when we kept the house oh so warm indeed. And I would wake in the night and carry tiny Felix out to the change table, and he would squirm and fuss as I maneuvered him out of his miniature sleeping suit. No, more precisely a year ago, I hadn’t met him yet, and it was just my taut, uncomfortable belly I was lugging around, as my due date arrived with nothing to show for it. February. Month of beginnings.

Our last trip to Salt Lake City

We couldn’t help but come down here one last time. We may come back one day, but it won’t be for a while. When we were here in May, the snow hadn’t yet melted on the tops of the mountains, and just now it’s begun falling again.

The mountains are covered lightly, so you can still see their textured skin, and the autumn leaves look like frosted glass.

Felix looks like a very big, very warm teddy bear.

Just in case you were wondering if no news was good news

It’s not. It’s just no news.

Still, we’re doing ok. And the week is flying past. The hospital is meant to ring me tomorrow to organize some sort of ‘overdue’ ultrasound, but it will drive me crazy waiting for a call all day so I think I will ring them. Yesterday I did all the vacuuming and made delicious apricot and marmalade flapjacks. They are all gone. Today it snowed all day. Mum and I braved the weather on an arctic expedition to buy milk.

In other news…

This is me a whole week ago when I was nearly 36 weeks. Now I’m nearly 37 weeks. And feeling pretty good really. I think bubs tried to engage about two weeks ago which was quite uncomfortable, but he jumped out again cos he likes wriggling around so much. At my GP appointment last week she said he was still really high up, and she would have liked to see him lower by now. Anyway. I feel him rumbling around and sticking little bits of fist and foot out at me and I can tell just by stroking him whether he’s lying on my left side or my right (he likes to swap around). At least he’s head down. My only real complaint is heartburn which seems to be exacerbated by his wriggling…

But it’s getting a bit boring just waiting and waiting. Today I did a couple of loads of washing, and the clothes horse is now full of little white suits and hats and socks all ready to go. Also my grandma knitted me the most gorgeous hat and jumper and booty set. The hat has a pompom! It is the sweetest thing in the world. I can’t wait to put it on him.

And yep the snow does make getting around a little difficult. Not too difficult, because Norway is used to such conditions, but reversing out of our driveway is a challenge. Actually last night it started to rain and we kept waking to the sound of great thuds of snow crashing down from the roof. Today our driveway resembled an ice-rink. We tried to go for a walk this afternoon but after teetering down the first little hill with our crampons on we gave up and tiptoed back. Can’t really afford to stack it on the ice at this point. The snow’s going to keep melting for a day or two and then it will all come back again.

New Years Day

Michael is surpassing himself with photos at the moment. And how much mileage are we getting out of our Christmas tree lights? This might evoke a slightly more festive atmosphere than was actually felt around here as we watched re-runs of The Lord of the Rings in order to stay awake.

We fell into bed before midnight but luckily all the crashes and bangs ensured we got up again to watch a 360 degree fireworks display from our windows. Very handy to have windows facing all directions. And there is something so satisfying about bursts of noise and colourful explosions.

New years day was a perfect day for the beginning of a year. I watched the crescent moon dissolve in a clear sky and the sun rise (at a very respectable hour, I might add) from my desk. In the afternoon we went for a long walk in the forest. The temperature had crept above zero, the sun shone and shone, and honestly it felt like spring.

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.

A wedding in the snow

Yep. Got married today.

I didn’t really mean to wear black to my own wedding, but it was the only maternity dress I could find. I like it. And at least it’s got lace on it, right? Michael insisted on buying me a proper bridal bouquet of red roses. I wore the sparkly green jewellery Michael bought me within two weeks of our first kiss, six and a half years ago. (I did think about wearing the little casket of uncut emeralds Mum wore to her own wedding, but I decided I needed the extra sparkle.)

We decided to tie the knot now rather than later not because of bubs (I really don’t think he’ll mind much either way), but more out of visa considerations for next year. All that aside, it felt like a good time to do it. It felt special. The script for the ceremony was perfect. Here’s a link to it in Norwegian. If you copy and paste it into google translate you’ll get an idea of it, allowing for some amusing translation errors. We alternated between listening seriously and glancing across at one another and smiling shyly.

Then there were the rings, and the signing, and it was done! We bought the rings in October, from Robert Feather, who has a workshop in a little town near York. That was special too, because we met in York, and lived together for two years there, and the gold of our rings was like the gold of the leaves on the trees.

The wedding was a more solemn and more joyful experience than I had expected. It was very small – just us and our two witnesses – and was over very very quickly. But we were so happy!

The courthouse was right on the harbour so we trundled out there to get a couple of shots in the snow (thanks to Michael’s best man who was our impromptu photographer).

Then we all had pizza at our favourite restaurant, Spisekroken. These guys make the best pizza I have ever tasted. Nowegians love pizza, but mostly it is barely edible. The owners know us, and were very happy for us, and brought out sparkling wine on the house.

We know our families would have loved to be there, and we would have loved that too. But I hope I can share the moment with you this way! And I hope we can eat cake together at a later date. After eating all that pizza, there was no room for cake anyway!

It was a perfect mini wedding. We even got presents. Kylie came back for a cup of tea and we cracked open the Swiss Glory chocolates my Mum had sent for Christmas while the snow filled the windows and the kittens snoozed.

As I write, there was a knock on the door and more roses arrived, from my parents! They are beautiful, but I will take a photo tomorrow because now I think it’s time for some snoozing of our own.

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!

Cold

It’s been around -6 all week. Today was -8. Highs of -10 are predicted for Monday and Tuesday. They said last winter was the coldest, snowiest winter in 50 years. They say this winter will be worse. Luckily there hasn’t been a lot of snow yet. A small amount fell about a week ago and has been tossed around like sand in the wind ever since. It’s a strange, dry cold, which makes sense of the way arctic climates can be described as deserts. It’s so cold that the windscreen doesn’t frost up. That’s also a blessing because scraping thick ice from the outside and the inside of the windscreen and praying that it will remain transparent enough to drive safely is a very unpleasant start to the morning.

Today I went into town to lodge some paperwork and get a haircut, and I made the executive decision that it’s the last time I venture out without thermal underwear. I’ve invested in wool socks, which make the winter boots come into their own. I bought a thick dressing-gown and warm pyjamas, and have been regularly using a hair dryer for the first time in my life. Wet hair is just not an option at the moment. Michael has started laying more insulation in our loft, and we are sleeping in the spare room because it’s much better insulated than our bedroom. (Though that’s next on the list.)

We don’t let the kittens out much because they come back with cracked and blistered paws.

The harbour is already frozen over and today the sun gleamed on its grey and shiny surface.

The Norwegians say there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

A most beautiful day

On Friday, after lunch, I looked out the window, and the snow was still tumbling down, ever so lightly. But the sun was shining! A sun-snow-shower! So I put on my coat and pulled up my hood.

Everything sparkled, even the air, laced as it was with floating crystals.

And snow everywhere! Snow on the steps, snow on the boats, snow on the train tracks and the lampposts, snow on the stone walls and crosses.

The seagulls sat on little nests of snow on top of the posts in the river. Picnic anyone?

And I am so tired now, and not doing this justice. But it felt like the most beautiful day in the world, ever.

The snow glittered below and above and the sun shone on everything, and the seagulls swarmed and flocked like snowflakes themselves.