Monday, 30 August 2004

London, Monday August 30th 2004: Summer report

Farewell Isobel Young (1913-2004)

Our summer break in Norway is over and I am on a slow journey back to our yacht in Trinidad, stopping over in London where I’m staying with Elisabeth & Hugh. Eli is staying behind in Norway this time, and Diana is not with me, either. - She had to fly from Kristiansand to Canada a few days ago as her mother, Isobel, became seriously ill. She got there just in time before Isobel became unconscious; she passed away quietly early this morning. Had she lived 8 more days she would have become 91 years old. The last few years she repeatedly said she was feeling her high age and was ready to go. Fortunately, she remained mentally alert and played a good hand of bridge until two weeks before she died. And I could not have asked for a more welcoming and easy-going mother-in-law. I have known her since 1967. The enclosed picture (see Pictures) was taken last year on her 90th birthday when a large crowd of family gathered to celebrate the event with her in Oakville.

Arrival of Johan Fredrik Hoff

While some go, others arrive. July 19th witnessed the birth of our second grandchild in Oslo; Johan Fredrik Hoff. So Isobel also got the happy news of her great grandchild while she was still quite well. Johan weighed in at 4,3 kg, was a bit blue around the edges due to a doubly knotted naval cord being wrapped around his neck (some maritime omen?), but was soon fine and ready for a world of milk, nappies, cuddles and care. I last saw Johan, his parents Camilla & Martin and “big” sister, Hedda (turned 2 in March aboard White Admiral) in Oslo yesterday. But the first time was when he was only 4 days old and they all came to show him off in Kristiansand.
One reason for me going to Oslo this last weekend in Norway was to give Camilla a wee break by looking after Hedda and at the same time assisting our sons Martin & Robert who competed in the Birkebeiner race. This gruelling mountain bike race attracted nearly 11.000 entrants, who left in large groups from Rena at 250 m altitude, wound their way across the mountains at a height of 900 m and finished in Lillehammer, 89 muddy km later. It was Martin’s 4th and Robert’s 1st. They both did very well, although Robert found he had too little clothes in the cold drizzle in the middle, and Martin had problems with grit in the gears and had to stand and peddle all the slopes. That gave him such a sore back. Both still claimed it was fun! Certainly we all thoroughly enjoyed the super shellfish meal Camilla had ready for us back home Saturday night…

Work and work-outs; a new challenge ahead.

Looking back on our 3 months’ interlude in Norway I better start with the beginning: Diana, Eli and I landed at Torp airport near Sandefjord 26th May. During the next week we had caught up with a number of family members and good friends, had helped Eli to settle at her summer cottage at the island of Veierland, bought a 10 year old Volvo and rented a small house in Kristiansand (our own house is being rented out until next year). 7th June I started work as a consultant locum at the Cardiology Dpt., Kristiansand Hospital (SSK). I kept that up for 11 weeks and thoroughly enjoyed it; even enjoyed the occasional all night duties I offered to do. Apart from the satisfaction of being part of a well-functioning, modern, medical team and being responsible for a number of hospital beds, it became a much needed revision of internal medicine. And I even learned some new skills! An old ambition has been to master (trans-thoracic) cardiac ultrasound examination. These machines being very expensive, I never did any cardiac echo all the years I was in private practice. After my 11 weeks at SSK I cannot claim to be either an expert or even very good at it, but given a couple more locums and I should become quite useful! (I’ll be back in the same job in late November for 2 months as we are keeping White Admiral in the Caribbean for another year, at least.)
Diana worked a total of 6 weeks doing ophthalmology locums in private practice, i.e. the same type of work she did the last several years. She did not enjoy it as much as I, but the good income she generated is certainly welcome. Maybe she will also look to the hospitals for future work. It means more team work, more shared responsibility, more varied and much more sociable work.
When we arrived in Norway in late May the trees were still in lighter shades of green, the weather was warm, and the long evenings were filled with lilac and jasmine fragrance. This inspired us to do a lot of walking, so why not some tempo-walking? (Kinder to aging knees after all those years of frequent jogging.) So we bought sticks and started tempo-walking more seriously. And with all that wonderful nature close by and long, mild evenings we found it an activity we really enjoyed. So we now have set our eyes on a new challenge, the Marathon des Sables.
It was John Peck, from New Horizons (participant in the Atlantic Rowing Regatta earlier this year), who convinced us that this super-marathon in the Moroccan Sahara desert is just the right challenge for Diana and I. So come 7th April 2005 we should be among the 600 starters. These slightly insane people not only volunteer, but actually pay a high entrance fee to cover 240 km of Sahara by foot in 6 races of 25 to 82 km in one week. The fittest ones will run the whole distance carrying all food, clothes and spares needed en route. The only facilities provided during the race are a daily nine litres of water per person and a tarpaulin for shelter at night. No beds. Stays at a five star hotel is provided at either end of the race, so the contrast to the tarpaulins and freeze-dried meals can hardly be greater… Readers interested in more details should go to

Swedish-Norwegian wedding

Before rounding up this 2004 report of the Scandinavian summer, two more trips deserve a special mentioning: Visiting Dagmar and Christian Platou’s new mountain cottage at Haglebu (near Gol). Here our good friends joined us in stick-walking trips to several of the nearby heights. Check out the enclosed pictures. And 20th August we found ourselves on the island of Blidø in the Stockholm archipelago celebrating the wedding of Eivind and Malin. Eivind is the oldest son of my cousin Geir Hoff and wife Sissel. (Geir and I are double cousins and grew up almost like brothers, had a lot of fun together both as boys and as we studied medicine and rowed together in Glasgow.) Most of the guests were there for the full three days - Diana and I had to restrict our visit to 36 memorable hours. The married couple are both political scientists and work with EU and EFTA affairs in Brussels, Belgium. So with all their international friends it was a truly cosmopolitan wedding with speeches switching between Swedish, Norwegian, English and French. And with Malin coming from an artistic family we also had lots of music and entertainment. The wedding ceremony itself was civil and held outside beside the sea and fortunately blessed with good weather.
But no such blessing during our rain-filled and rather boring drive back and forth the whole width of flattish South Sweden - 900 km each way from Kristiansand... (It’s going to be train or plane for us the next time!)
Finally, I hope you found my terrestrial, temperate summer review of some interest. But I promise that the next greeting will be from the maritime, tropical world of White Admiral; it will be posted either in Trinidad or Venezuela.
30 Aug 2004 by Stein & Diana

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