Monthly Archives: February 2014

Some Goodbyes

Today we said some goodbye.

First to Ann-Eva Hanssen, our ‘administrative’ boss. She has been responsible for us since we came to Norway, and we will miss her greatly. She has a fantastic way of balancing both being boss and a team player, leading when necessary but keen to listen and ready to give room for the expertise of others. Rare talents and skills. And for us personally, she has also gone out of her way to help with  the small and large things which foreigners face moving to a new land. Thank you – we will miss you!

Many people have told us how good Ann-Eva is at her job, and how unusual it is to find a kirkeverger who is truly involved in parish life. This has really been brought home to the parish as we now search for a replacement which is turning out to not straight-forward, having already had one round of interviews and now re-advertising the position. So, if you know a flink (good/clever/skilled/adept) kirkeverger who would like to come and work in Finnsnes, do encourage them to apply!

The other goodbye was to Jørund Håkedal. Jørund has been in the deanery for the last three months of his training, before he begins work next week as a chaplain in the forces. It’s been a privilege to have him with us, getting to know him as a friend, and also working alongside him in many aspects of parish life. He has a deep love of the Lord, an excellent grounding in scripture, a fantastic voice and a willingness serve way beyond the limits of a Norwegian work week!

As always, as many staff as could come assembled to say farewell, drink coffee and eat too much cake:

Sorry for the absence . . .

Sorry we’ve been a bit quiet recently. We’ve had a combination of lots to do and not much to photograph.

Whilst much of Europe, our friends in South Carolina and a good chunk of the south of Norway have suffered unusual  snow falls, ice storms, flooding, power cuts, school closures, wind and tree damaged homes, etc., here in north Norway we’ve pretty much had no weather, with a progressive melt for the last couple of weeks (more like May than February). So, no skiing or skating, and not much to photograph. Next week is the school vinter ferie (winter half term holiday) and parents are already depressed that there wont be anything for the children to do. Case in point being ice skating on the pond which has a couple of inches of water on top of the thinning ice:


On the positive side, we are seeing God at work in many lives through Torsdagklubben (our thrusday evening open youth club), an excellent camp for some of the confirmands, a wonderful family service, an inspirational leadership weekend with Agenda 1 and a very engaging prayer and worship meeting.

Some big news soon (probably tomorrow).

Saturday In Pictures

Saturday was great, including two of my favourite things: food and music. It was also a busy day, but fun.

We started with International Cafe, which this time focused on Ethiopia (information, food and dance), with music from Finnsnes Senior Choir and our friends, the Moldsvor family:

Having safely dispatched 130 confirmands to Midtnatta (midnight) – the local confirmant festival, previously called Finnsnes Natta – we got set-up for the evening concert with my friend Christopher Briggs in Finnsnes church. The concert was well received, with a better than expected turnout, despite many other local activities and the Winter Olympics. We rounded off with coffee and cake in the våpenhus (entrance hall), the space which the church is currently doing up and to which the concert proceeds go. You can read Christopher’s account here. Here are some pictures – the black and white ones come from Christopher:

Organ Concerts

Been busy practicing for the organ and piano concert I’m playing with Christopher Briggs tonight, so if you’re in the area, do come. Finnsnes Kirke, kl. 19 (7 pm), followed by coffee and cake.

And if you’re not in the area, because you live in South Carolina, there’s a great opportunity tomorrow afternoon (Sunday 9th February, 3pm) to have Hors d’Oeuvres and hear a Member’s Recital with performances by many members of the Grand Strand Chapter of the AGO, at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Church in Pawleys Island.

A weekend of wonderful music and food!

Northern Lights Over Rossfjord

Last night there were some good northern lights over Rossfjord. Despite many excellent forecasts this winter, we’ve seen very little of them, so this was a welcome treat. Unfortunately the camera batteries went flat, so there aren’t many pictures . . .

South Senja – Beyond A to Z

On Saturday I took a driving tour of the south end of Senja along the 860 (the main road running mostly along the coast), taking advantage of some beautiful weather and a bit of free time.

The first port of call was Vangsvik, with it’s view over Solbergfjord to Dyrøy:

Next comes Vesterfjell, a village with a wonderful view over Tranøybotn:


A little further on is Solheim (literally sun home), again looking out over Tranøybotn. There is an expanse of tidal ‘mud’ here, which in summer looks like mud, but in winter is covered in a much more attractive layer of ice:

At Kampevoll I was treated to  a sea eagle, flying ‘out of the sun’:


At Gammelsæter a small river empties into the fjord (Tranøybotn). In winter the fresh water freezes, as does the brackish water where it mixes with the sea. However, where the water rises and falls with the tide, the ice is continually in motion and the creaking noise is amazing as great blocks of ice rub against each other:

Next came a detour to Rørsand, a small community on the north side of the southern most peninsula of Senja, noted locally for the fact that the sun rises there in the morning, but quickly disappears behind a large mountain, only reappearing briefly late in the day once it clears the mountain again.  To get there you drive down a cinder road (grisvei), which in the winter is pretty much pure ice, passing through a pretty little hamlet called Olaheim, overlooking a now frozen lake.

After Rørsand I came to the town with possibly the shortest name in Norway: Å (prounounced or) – you could even say the people there have the last word in names (it’s the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet).

I had thought that I would reach the end of the road (Sjursvika) at about sunset, and finally get to see the sun set over the sea. However, I miscalculated. Whilst the sun is only ‘visible’ in Finssnes a couple of hours a day because of the mountains, in reality its ‘up’ much longer, so I arrived rather early. It also turns out that most of the horizon to the south and west of Senja is occupied by many small unihabited islands, and then further away, the mountains of Lofoten, an archipelago of islands which, although lying within the Arctic Circle, experiences one of the world’s largest elevated temperature anomalies relative to its high latitude (according to Wikipedia). However, despite the lack of an unimpeded sunset, it was beautiful:

Turning round to return home, I had some more stops. First in Tømmervika, with salmon farms in the sea:

In Stongland I  encountered reindeer grazing on the village green (or should that be the village white?) – no pics though as I was in a stream of traffic, heading for the village shop before it closed. In the shop car park I encountered one of Norway’s more unusual drivers drivers!

On the way to Vassvik I stopped for views over Dyrøy and Iberstad to Lofoten, all the time the sun sinking:

Storjord has a tidal area of ice;

A little further on Vardneselva (a small river) reaches the sea, this time with clear ice creating beautiful reflections. Slightly weird was seeing the mountains on the horizon reflected in what appeared to be some kind of “mirage”: it definitely wasn’t the ice, because there is a large area of non-frozen fjord between the ice and the mountains!

Anybody guess what made this? Maybe an arctic three-toed sloth?

Finally the sun has gone – picture back at Solheim:

And to close, pictures from Bjørkhaug:

Another Way Home

We’re not so very long out of Epiphany, when we remember the visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus. After their visit they were told in a dream to go home by another route, to avoid re-visiting the jealous and murderous king, Herod. So, that gives me a really tenuous link to today’s blog with pictures from the ‘outer’ coast of Senja. I drove another way home after playing for a funeral in Fjordgård, not to avoid Herod (who I’m reliably informed is long dead), just for a change of scenery, especially on a sunny day!

The route takes in first Mefjord and Senjahop:

Then through a tunnel to Ersford:

Then round a peninsula to Steinfjord:

And finally through another tunnel to Bergsfjord, with the many small islands at the fjord mouth, and then classic ‘tourist’ view from the viewing platform at Bergsbotn before heading inland and home:

You can see pictures taken in the summer, going the other direction here and taken in the winter here and here.

The Art Of The Ice Maker

When we lived in the US, Americans were always amazed to find out that the majority of English freezers are not equipped with an ice maker, and that ice is not routinely put in drinks (including tea). Instead the English use those wonderful (or useless) ice cube trays which you fill with water, take to the freezer (spilling water on the floor), place in the freezer (usually on top of other things which aren’t level, so more water slops out), and come back a few hours later to remove from the freezer (which is difficult because the water you spilled has turned into ice ‘glue’), and then attempt to either hack the ice cubes out with a knife, or pour hot water over to melt them a bit (usually causing them to jump out into the washing up water).

In Norway they have a different approach to ice making, at least when it comes to getting a nice surface to skate on. On a cold, calm night, you call the fire brigade and have them send a fireman to stand in the middle of the skating rink and spray water everywhere, and hey presto, the next morning you have a great place to skate.