Monthly Archives: May 2012


As I sat this evening watching yet another wave of snow head across the sea, I was trying to remember what it reminded me of. Then it came to me – HABOOB!

Haboob is not a Norwegian exclamation like ‘Eureka’, but rather an Arabic term for a desert sandstorm caused by strong winds (Arabic: هَبوب‎ “strong wind”). The only reason I know the word is that it came up in one of those ‘guess the definition’ games: it brings back memories of possibly the most laughter-filled evening I can remember, courtesy of good friends at Prince George.

I shall really miss those get-togethers, but it seems that the people there are now being sent to the ends of the earth. I am thankful for those times and for the teaching, prayer, ministry and worship at Prince George which have equipped us for where we are now.

It’s hard to appreciate from the pictures, but the slow swirling of the clouds of snow as they progress and envelope the landscape is beautiful. A true Arctic Haboob!

Finally, I really must remember to say Elk (Elg in Norwegian) and not Moose. I had almost the same problem as yesterday when one cross the road in front of us traveling back from a service today. ‘Oh look, a moose’ I said as the driver was slowing down for the elk. He then began looking for a small creature in the road.



Today I traveled to Fjordgård chapel for a funeral. It’s located over an hour drive from Finnsnes on the north of the island of Senja. It should have been a spectacular journey, with the possibility of a mountain walk after the service, but once again it snowed (in fact it’s still snowing now).  I did manage to get a few pictures and I’m returning there on Sunday afternoon for a service, so perhaps I will get some better shots.

The church has a modern(ish) harmonium. The manufacturer did make some with electric blowers, but this one is foot powered, so you pump air with your feet, control the volume using knee paddles, and play. This requires some coordination – you have to remember to pump (or the sound stops), play in time, and move your knees in and out to control the volume. If  you want to see if you are cut out for harmonium playing, try rubbing your tummy, patting you head and sticking your tongue smoothly and slowly in and out, all at different tempos. Unfortunately this instrument builder must have used someone with very short legs during the design process, so my knees banged on the underside of the keyboard as I played, which isn’t too bad during a hymn, but playing for 20 minutes before the service got quite uncomfortable.

I came part of the way back with the funeral director and had comic a language moment. She speaks excellent English, and we had been discussing the dangerous wildlife in South Carolina. Then I mentioned that this morning as I cycled to work a large moose had run across the road – which I had never seen before, and it was at least as tall as a man. I did not realize that here a moose is called an elk, and Norwegians tend to pronounce the English word mouse like moose. The end result was that for a while she thought I was ‘seeing’ a giant mouse roaming the streets of Finnsnes.  I can imagine the next headline – New Kantor facing drug tests!

Pictures below include a panorama from the chapel car park, a view from the head of the fjord, the view from the organ bench (not many organists get a view like that), inside the chapel, and the instrument of torture.

Breaking News . . .

Last week I made the local paper twice, and not in the crime section. The first time I had a cameo role in a picture for an article about the beach clean-up (see Dugnad 2).

Then on Friday a reporter came and did a double page spread about me! The interview was rather hurried as I was preparing to play for a funeral, but we got on well and he wants to meet again when Sarah and Susanna arrive.

Below is a Norwegian test for you. The picture version is not ‘editable’, so if you want to use Google translate, you will either need to type it in by hand, or open this  PDF version! There’s no prize, just the satisfaction of expanding your cultural horizons.

Sorry for the gap in posts, but it’s been a busy weekend – Pentecost (Pinse) is a big deal here and I will write more tomorrow.

Other news:

  • Sarah and Susanna left Georgetown today to begin their journey North. Thank you to everyone in Georgetown who has been looking out for them.
  • I’ve finished mixing the album and I hope it will be available at the end of this week!
  • It snowed again today! See below.

Battle For The Crown

Receiving mail in Norway is a little more complicated than in the UK or US. It’s only delivered to people who are registered with the post office and have a mail box with their name on it. I grateful to my landlord who set mine up for me (within a few minute4s of mentioning it to him, I could here him in his workshop, sanding, varnishing and painting my name!).

The only letter I’m really interested in receiving at the moment is from the only people who have my address: the government department that give out Social Security numbers. Until that arrives I can’t get a bank account, can’t be paid, can’t buy a car, etc, etc.

However, rather than my coveted ‘personnummer’, all I receive is literature competing for the crown. Sorry to those of you who thought this post might be about the monarchy debate – it’s not. It’s just a bit of a rant about the quantity of junk mail here: the crown (or Krone) is the unit of currency here. Maybe it’s because there is no shortage of trees, but it does seem that the advertisers have moved into top gear for the summer, offering everything you could possibly need or want to improve your home, garden, personal appearance and waistline.

Maybe it’s coincidental timing, but in a country where most people have everything they need and most of what they want too (as typified by the junk mail overload), yesterday someone was asking, why would anyone think they need Jesus?

Soloppgang Eller Solnedgang?

Sunrise or sunset? That is an interesting question here, because the vivid colours are continuous as the sun dips down and then begins to rise again – the only way to be sure is to checking the time!

We now have the sun for 24 hours, but because Finnsnes is surrounded by hills, we don’t see it for a short period because of the landscape. However, tonight / this morning I was treated to a wonderful view from the bridge linking the mainland to the island of Senja  (the water is part of the Norwegian Sea, and the vertical shaft of sunlight was real and not just camera-induced). The ‘pink mountains’ were pictures taken from where I live. The time was about 12:30 am, so technically these are sunrise pictures.

Maybe one day I will get bored looking out of the window, but not yet!

Arctic Elephant

Today the circus came to town and I was invited to go with a family. Merano’s apparently comes every year and it’s very popular, with a packed tent.

In the UK most circuses are almost or completely animal free. Not so in Norway, although there were less animals  than in previous years. The entertainment included juggling, various acrobatic acts (tumblers, a man who climbs a ladder, a man who does the apparently effortless flying thing with ribbons, comedy trampolining, etc) an excellent clown who held everything together, performing dogs, a man balancing on the back of a motor bike (he was immensely strong), performing camels, and . . . an arctic elephant.

I have to say, I’m not a fan of performing animals and I don’t know what kind of life it leads, but it must be very different here to it’s original home – where ever on earth that might have been. None the less it was a very enjoyable couple of hours, and an unexpected treat. The band who played all the way through also did an outstanding job.

I have a good friend in England who uses the rather colourful expression ‘Rarer than rocking horse poo’.  As we were leaving the circus, someone was ‘mucking out’ the elephant trailer. I did wonder whether to ask for a sample, because whilst I have no absolute proof, I suspect that arctic elephant poo must be almost as rare as the rocking horse’s. Maybe I could sell it on ebay!

Today was  also the last day there was snow in the garden outside my windows. When I went to work it was there was one small patch, but thanks to clear skies and sunshine, it was gone when I arrived home.

Sorry the circus pictures aren’t great.

Dugnad 2

This Sunday we have the 3F event in Finnsnes (Familie Friluftsliv Finnsnes = Family Outdoor Finnsnes). It’s run by the church as a way of building links to families in the community and is followed by family worship. This time there will be outdoor activities, including a treasure hunt at a local beach, which sounds great except for two things:

  • The weather forecast for high winds and rain
  • The Russ (final year school kids) had a party there on 16 May and left an enormous amount of litter, sadly including a lot of empty spirit bottles and beer cans.

For Norwegians the weather is not a problem – just wear the right clothes.

The rubbish issue was taken care of by volunteers (dugnad) – 4 men and 4 boys. We spent a couple of hours and from a relatively small area removed 6 big black sacks of paper, plastic, bottles, cans and broken glass. It looks much better, and despite cold rain and blustery wind, there was time for some fun too!

Last night was also the first night of 24 hour sunshine. Unfortunately clouds rather spoilt the view.

Lenvik Kirke

Today is probably a bit ‘geeky’, but I’ve added a page under the Organs menu for Lenvik Church where I played yesterday.

The instrument is not without its problems (apparently it has some weather dependent cyphers, and the changes made in the 70’s appear a bit ‘home made’). That said, the sound appears to fill the space quite nicely with enough power to lead at least a medium sized congregation. It also has the advantage that it will work without power, assuming the hand pump is still functional. On the other it is slightly concerning that there are left-over pipes on the floor behind the instrument, although I didn’t detect any ‘holes’ when I was playing!

One ‘cool’ feature of the church is that you can collect a cushion with your hymn book.

Today I enjoyed organ practice in Finnsnes, followed by the international Bible study.

The Big Day

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. So goes an old saying I learnt in my youth.  At almost 11:30 pm last night the signs therefore looked good for The Big Day. When I went into Finnsnes this morning, the sun was shining and there was not a breath of wind. And to make the day more special, many people had put out flags – what a wonderful way to mark Ascension Day! Wow, these people must really love Jesus, the risen and ascended King of kings.

OK, the reality is that the King of kings faced stiff competition today because it is also 17 Mai – Norwegian Constitution Day.

I had a quick trip into the centre of Finnsnes to watch the parade (known as a train). I’m told it wasn’t as big as it used to be, but there were still 4 brass bands, many school children and their parents, the passengers from Hurtigruten (the coastal ferry / cruise ship which visits Finnsnes at about 11am) and anyone else, including non-Norwegians, who wanted to march. In fact, with an open invitation to join the parade, I think more people were in it than watching it. I was made to feel very welcome, given a Norwegian rosette to wear, invited to march and introduced to various people.

Although there was still some ice on the town lake, the sunshine brought out some legs, but most people wore their best clothes, including bunad (tradition Norwegian attire – article about bunad, and professional photos. Also note the Russ; young people in the red dungarees who are about to leave high school.

The church has traditionally played an important role in 17 Mai, so there were services in our churches across the area. I left the parade early to go to Lenvik church in Bjorelvness, about 15km north of Finnsnes, for my first service. A congregation of 70 gathered in the old wooden church, which has survived 3 fires. The pastor for the worship told me that I would be like the captain steering the ship, when he described the positioning of the organ console, on a gallery at the back of the church, but facing forward, and when I got there I could see what he meant. Worship mostly went well, and people were good humoured when the pastor forgot the words at the end of one of his sung chants (he got it the second time), and I lost count of the number of verses for the final hymn, going for a ‘victory lap’  (Gud signe vårt dyre fedreland is the National Hymn and only has 7 verses rather then the 8 I was about to play – oops). After the service the mayor laid a wreath at the war memorial outside, followed by a speech and the nation anthem. Unfortunately there no was no brass band available to lead the singing, so a very noisy generator was started, and the ‘porta-band’ on the back of a pickup truck supplied the music and off everyone marched!

Then it was back to Finnsnes for a family service. The congregation included people of all ages, and from many nations. It was a lovely time and seemed to engage most who were there.  We sang the Norwegian version of Kumbaya and I was joined by an 8 year old violinist, the daughter of an immigrant family, who played very confidently. After the service there were hotdogs, cake and coffee, and traditional Norwegian games for the children, including an egg and spoon race (using potatoes) and a sack race. Sorry no pictures. Overall, a very pleasant day!

I will writing something tomorrow about the Lenvik organ.

Dugnad: Volunteering – Norwegian Style

This week is turning out to be very busy, especially with preparations for 17 Mai – Constitution Day. All over Finnsnes people are working hard to ‘spruce’ the place up from the mess left behind with the melt. So, the fire department have been out hosing down public areas to clear the sand and dust left from winter road treatments, almost every house has a rake in the garden clearing debris (pun intended), and many houses now have at least one tub with flowers in.

Today the church had volunteers to clean up the grounds. As you will see from the pictures volunteering Norwegian style has its benefits. Having said that, people did work hard and the place looks a lot better for it.

Spring is perhaps a little late here this year. I have been told that by 17 Mai the ice on the pond / lake in the centre of town has usually melted, and the trees are in leaf. Well, there’s still 24 hours to go, but the signs are not hopeful. However, the sun was shining today and we worked in shirtsleeves.

I felt bad abandoning the clear-up early, but I had an invitation for Middag and Coffee and Cake. Just before I left my hosts at about 8pm, the thermometer on their veranda indicated 17C in the shade (63f) – not bad.