Sunday, 11 September 2011

Travel Report No 56




Click here to view the photo album no 56

Winter 2011 by Stein


Eli moves to Lier.

It is already September when this summary of last winter is finally compiled. Please forgive me. Life has not been so exciting that this belated news is shattering exactly, but life has been busy and evenings and week-ends are zooming past in a seemingly ever-faster pace…

The main change to our lives last winter was my mother Eli’s failing health. After being a remarkably fit 94 year old living in her own huge villa and driving her own car, getting her own shopping and even picking and preserving lots of wild mushrooms at her cottage last autumn, she has gradually slowed down physically and mentally and has been needing us more and more. For a while her good neighbours popped in and out and helped her with minor crises like mastering the TV’s double remote control; Diana and I were either with her or she was with us almost every week-end. Then came Christmas and a longer period with us in Lier. In January she caught pneumonia, I got her admitted to the Dept. of Medicine, Drammen, where I work (she liked that) , then she had a short stay in Nygaard’s nursing home in Sandefjord (which she hated), before moving to us in Lier permanently. It was tough for her to say good-bye to a house she had lived in for more than 60 years since 1950 and to her wonderful neighbours over the last 10 years; Irmeli the psychiatrist, Ingar the artist and their daughters Rebecca and Suzannah. One consolation was that we invited these good people to accompany us to Panama and sail with us in San Blas in March.

Diana and I were of course back at work from December; Diana as a much appreciated locum in the Eye Dept., Tønsberg Hospital. This was her last period of hospital work as she turned 67 in May and is now an official Norwegian retired person (although still a Scottish citizen, of course!) It was with a mixture of nostalgia and relief; the main thing she will not miss are nights and week-ends on call when she had to sleep at the hospital and get up to see patients with eye problems at all hours.

Winter activities.

Like last winter, I biked the 10 km back and forth to work no matter the conditions. Thanks to studded bike tires! With many snowy and cold days I perfected the art of dressing for the occasion. But all those extra layers of clothes and often difficult ground conditions meant that the time to work increased from about 25 min in summer to 40 minutes and more. Sometimes the snow would fall faster than the ploughs could clear the ground, and I would have to get off and either push or carry the bike.

In addition to the daily biking I also did a fair amount of skiing. Two great skiing areas near us are Kjekstadmarka and Drammensmarka, both have lit-up tracks for use at night, although with good head-torches one can now ski almost anywhere at odd hours. The annual evening “expedition” with collegues from the Dept. of Medicine was in Drammensmarka in the middle of February, and this year we were delighted to have two women joining us, well done Eivor and Guri!

Concerts and friends.

Concerts and operas are a good way of gathering friends for some socializing. Diana had spent a small fortune ordering extra tickets for a number of performances, and in that way we managed to have visits and dinners combined usually with an excellent show. Tchaikovsky’s Eugen Onegin, Glucks Orpheus in Oslo and two concerts in Drammen Teater were such memorable performances. Eli accompanied us once in Drammen to hear Norway’s no 1 soprano, Solveig Kringlebotten, singing Grieg and other classical favourites. Another entertaining show was provided by Eurovision winner of 2009; Alexander Rybak and his band. A not-so memorable night at the opera was when my old school mate Svein Rui joined us with his Eli to see Berg’s Lulu. It was a flamboyant performance, with a huge cast and colourful costumes and scenes, but the modern music did not grab us, the show lasted 5 hours… And I had a cold and was to be on call at the hospital the next day… But it was great to see Svein and Eli from Sandefjord again! They said they enjoyed it, but we just hope we didn’t kill their taste for opera forever!

Christmas 2010.

In early December Tonje and Martin invited us to a pre-Christmas party with her family. They had one such party the year before in their flat in Majorstuen, Oslo, now they have bought a semi-detatched villa in Stabekk in the west Oslo suburbs, lots of room and nice and easy to reach for us from Lier. Tonje’s mother Selle Marie and aunt Karin were there as were Karin’s daughter Vibeke with husband Øyvind and two children Julius and Pernille. Tonje’s brother had also arrived from Germany with his Maren and their daughter Stella. And Martin’s Hedda and Johan were there, of course, as were the two great - grandparents, Johan on Tonje’s side (known mainly as bestefar) and Eli ( my mother) on Martin’s side. Johan was 94 and nearly blind, but very humerous and with a grateful appreciation of life. Sadly, this would be the last time we saw Tonje’s dear bestefar Johan, he died quietly in March after a short illness. He said he was ready to go, but he will be missed.

With Hugh’s parents both gone in 2009, he and Elisabeth were happy to come to Norway for yet another Christmas. This time Tonje and Martin were the hosts in Stabek. The main menu on Christmas Eve was as usual lobster and other shell-fish. Hugh and Elisabeth added a culinary British touch preparing goodies like mince pies, plum pudding and served it with brandy cream. It was difficult to move after that meal!

In the days before and after Christmas Eve other traditional menus were offered: Cod; typical for south Norway and Tonje’s childhood, “ribbe” of swine, typical whole of Norway in older days, and stuffed turkey, a relatively new tradition inherited from the English-spoken part of the world.

Soren is born!

The most delightful event to be reported from winter 2011 is the birth of Soren Hoff Chambers. Elisabeth was the picture of health throughout the pregnancy, and the little boy was likewise when he first declared his presence on February 10th. His progress and development for the first 7 months of his life has gone as well as anyone could have hoped. And his big brother Finn, now 3 and a bundle of energy with a sense of humour added, not only accepts this new centre of family attention, but also appears truly fond of him. May this happy state of affair last forever and do come and see us often, Finn and Soren!

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