Header photo
Mountains, seen from the lounge window (complete picture here)

2 April - As so often happens at the beginning of April (see previous Aprils), it's snowing hard outside, while further inland there are now record amounts of snow. Take a look at our old friend the E6 road — the main route that runs from the southern border with Sweden, past Oslo and all the way up to the top of Norway. As you can see from the photo, it is so blocked today that the newspapers are proclaiming that "Norway has been cut into two". It's all right, though, because the north of Norway has instituted a fortnight's quarantene anyway on anyone arriving from the south, so the snow was probably put there deliberately just to help keep the southerners out.

If you're completely bored of being inside, come and stand on the lakeside beach at Ørsdalen and watch the waves for a few minutes. Nothing whatever happens, but it's very relaxing.

3 April - Thomas Andrew points out this newspaper article describing how the Oslo University Hospital has - very reasonably - just carried out a staff training course on how to avoid catching Corona. It was a practical course; presumably rather more hands-on than intended. The 70 participants are now all in quarantine as it turned out that the instructors in fact had the virus.

Back in Neustrelitz (to whose warm sunshine we were supposed to be heading today), Corona does feature in the regional news, albeit tangentially. An elderly couple who officially live in Berlin, but in practice spend nearly all their time in the little village of Prälank (just next to one of our absolute favourite little lakeside swimming beaches, from which we took this photo of the village last Autumn) had to go to Berlin for a medical appointment the other day and have been refused permission to come back again. Having once left their safe, virus-free surroundings, they are not allowed to return. They would never have gone if they'd realised. In the meantime, the other stories relate that the planet Venus is looking particularly beautiful in the night sky over the lakes, and more than 1000 bulbs for colourful flowers have been planted in the Neustrelitz palace gardens, so they will look beautiful later in the year.

Since our Easter plans also have had to change, we have decided to do something silly each day. That, you will probably say, is not really all that unusual, but at least we're trying to be a little creative with it. Katie, who has been home this week, has gone back to Sandnes for a couple of days (amongst other things to help Matt and Lilly decorate their new flat), leaving us in charge of a hamster. We had the idea of calling her on Skype to read her a bedtime story (a fold-out book about a bear who took his friends sledging on a mountain, but never mind). Things didn't really go quite according to plan. Katie, convinced that we were calling her to break bad news about her hamster, went back to her flat from Matt and Lilly's, which meant that she was less than appreciative of her parents trying to read her a sweet bedtime story. And then, after only a page, the doorbell rang. Just stop for a moment and contemplate quite how improbable that is, in far-off Ørsdalen, at 10 o'clock at night in deep snow. In 11 years our doorbell has rung unexpectedly roughly twice. This is a place that nobody comes to unexpectedly. Nor does anyone come selling encyclopaedias or pegs (or whatever it is that they sell door-to-door these days) - even people who are supposed to be coming to deliver things won't do so. Friends always get in touch first to make sure we're in (you don't want to waste a trip here) and in Corona times even such visits are not on the menu. So you can imagine our surprise. In the event it was someone from Tracy's church, bringing an Easter present "no, we can't come in - got to get home again - gosh, we'd no idea it was such a long way". But by that time the bear had sort of lost his way up the mountain and Katie was anxious to get back to what was left of her evening plans, which now probably include a phone call to the emergency psychiatric service for parental committals. Ah well, perhaps we'll do better tomorrow.

4 April - Every morning we wake up to the patterings of a pair of squirrels playing tig on the roof. They've taken up residence and we often see them chasing around the pond or practicing acrobatics in the trees during the day. This morning, when we came down to breakfast, we found that the pair of them had beaten us to it. Not to the weetabix and marmelade, but to the wild rose bush right outside the kitchen window. So we had live entertainment a couple of feet away as we drank our tea — click picture, left, for photos (the squirrels ask me to point out that the white flecks are snow, not dandruff).

The interview - The news last night interviewed a nice old couple sitting out in their garden, about the Corona crisis. You can see a bit of it here. The question — especially for our British readers — is, can you guess who they are?

The text messages - Once more, Thomas Andrew has supplied a Norwegian news story. This time it's nothing to do with Corona, but with the ferry service to one of the islands in Northern Norway — an issue that still has resonance for us after our time living on the island of Lurøy. The county council apparently decided to cut the last ferry of the evening, which would be a problem for the islanders. So a protest group was formed. People all over the north were encouraged to each send a text message saying "STOP THE CUT" to a top politician. Unfortunately, the organisers managed to copy his phone number wrong, which meant that some sweet old lady near Ålesund was suddenly innundated with text messages: thousands of them, all telling her to stop the cut. "I wondered what on earth they meant", she says. The dyslexic protest organiser was very penitent. "I sent her a text message to apologise", he said. I would have thought the old lady would have stopped looking at her phone by then.

Today's silly activity - You can see an extract here.

Wedding update - As borders are still closed and large gatherings forbidden, Matt and Lilly have had to make adjustments to the plans for the wedding. They will still be getting married on that date — but the service has to be restricted to them, parents and siblings. A wedding blessing and reception will happen on or around the same date in 2021, so any invitation you may have received is now moved by a year.

9 April - Passover meal - The annual Passover meal was obviously a much smaller event than usual — only Katie, Matt and Lilly were able to join us, though at just the point that Elijah is supposed to turn up and occupy the empty seat, Thomas arrived instead, which we rather preferred, given the choice. Click left for photos - Katie was the photographer, hence her absence from the pictures.

So we were again gathered as a family, which is always lovely (apart from Beth, of course, far away in Molde) — click right for photo.

Good Friday - Tracy has continued to post her daily talks (getting to be quite a few of them now); today's was so short that she did a duplicate version in English, which you can watch here. Tim's church did a more traditional set of Good Friday readings, along with a piece of Bach on the organ and a couple of solo songs sung by the vicar, all of which can be watched here (but the readings are all in Norwegian, of course).

Easter Saturday - So what do we do with our extra free time? Amongst other things, a bit of gardening, some logging, a walk round the valley, change the car wheels to summer tyres — and rejoice in Easter and in living healthily in a great place, with a family that enjoys visiting!

Easter Day - Happy Easter! - We had an early-morning trip to Sandnes to take part in an Easter celebration on the main street, followed by Easter hymns at Sandnes church (Tim) and a drive-in cinema service (Tracy). Easter day with a difference.

Norah, 12 April
Happy Easter to you all! Glorious weather here - better than summer, but we are still in isolation.
Tim, 12 April
Thank you Norah - and Happy Easter to you too!

16 April - Unlike at Norah's, the weather here is still thoroughly miserable — rain and a bit of snow, couple of degrees and strong winds — but from the weekend it is due to become glorious: warm, dry and sunny as far as the forecast can see. So we're intending to enjoy it! Isolation is still in force in Norway (not that we notice it in Ørsdalen, of course), but there has not been a single Corona case yet in our local-authority district (Bjerkreim, which has almost exactly the same area as Anglesey), no new cases in the county for the last couple of weeks (there are eleven counties in the country, of which ours is one of the most populated) and total deaths so far in the whole of Norway have only just this week crept up over the 100-mark. So Norway in reality is relatively little affected — and, of course, the country has huge financial reserves that mean it can afford just to shut down for a few months. But here, as with everywhere, it's hard to come to terms with the scope of what's going on around the world. But if it's any comfort, today's three main news stories from Neustrelitz tell us that a missing pensioner has turned up and the town's new tennis hall is nearly finished, while the Easter Bunny, unable to organise a children's egg hunt this year, is now photographed "exhausted but happy" after writing postcards "until his paws were smoking". So things are not too bad there, either.

18 April - The wonderful weather has arrived, so we've been outside all day, foresting, painting, planting — and some necessary time in the office, from where you can enjoy the sun glittering on the river below.

23 April - Click the tomato, left, for an example of Tracy's planting. After a few days of forestry, there's wood drying everywhere in the glorious sunshine (click woody photo, far right, if you're not fed up of logs).

Got away from logs and seedlings for a few minutes by taking a short walk up the "back garden" — a tenth of the way, at least — and took a few photos to prove it (click the other photo, near right, if you're not fed up of mountains).

There is, as Thomas points out, a disappointing lack of querky news stories this week. The Norwegian media, whose principal sport is to poke fun at the Swedes, jubilantly reported that the Swedish health minister had commented that the 6000 Corona cases in Stockholm was a vast under-reporting of the actual situation: only one in a thousand cases actually got into the statistics. This, as the Norwegian media was happy to point out, would suggest 6 million cases in Stockholm, which is quite an achievement for a city of 2 million people. In the meantime, Norway (as we reported on 16 April) seems to have got off very lightly indeed, with a few thousand cases and a hundred-and-odd deaths in all (see BBC chart). Various restrictions are now being lifted, but we're hoping things won't get back to normal just yet.

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