Monday, 29 March 2010


I was innocently stacking the dishwasher, again, when I happened to glance out of the window to see a trailer rolling by with a stuffed elk’s head in it, complete with a pair of very impressive antlers.

‘Oh come on,’ I said to a plate. ‘Get real. This is getting ridiculous. Was that some kind of joke? Please. What kind of place is this?’

The plate just looked at me, blankly. The elk’s head was disappearing down the road while one or two people walked past without so much as blinking. Obviously it must be quite normal to drive elk heads around town.

Having established that I was not hallucinating, my imagination ran riot for a wee while as to why a bloke in a Volvo would drive around with an elk’s head in his trailer. We live in a perfectly normal suburban street, tidy and neat, complete with white picket fences and hanging baskets. It’s not as though he could have met an elk around here. Maybe he’d bought it from a nearby elk head dealer who specialised in elk heads, one for every occasion. Maybe he was rather pleased at having shot this one earlier, and was just showing off by driving around the streets of Stavanger. Maybe he didn’t even know it was in there.

Eventually I decided he’d inherited it from his Granny and he was transporting it in his trailer to his hytte where it would hang on a suitable wall specifically so that visitors could come in and ask, ‘Why the long face?’ Sure, it was an old chestnut, but the old ones are always the best and a merry time could be had by all, which, after all, is the point of going to a hytte.

There’s something about an elk that just makes me smile. They are magnificent and glorious beasts, but they are also serious.There is a road sign here that is unique to Norway...a triangle trimmed in red with an elk wandering across it. It’s a hot-seller around these parts. Elk,or moose, to use the North American name, are numerous in this country, and a real hazard to traffic. There were reported to be approximately 120,000 of them in Norway in 2008, and in addition to causing road traffic accidents, a newspaper estimated that between 2000 and 2008 around 13,000 elk had died in collisions with trains. They can cause ghastly problems, but they look so cool, I’m not in the least surprised people buy replicas of them for cuddly toys.

They are herbivores, so they’re not really after your flesh, but they are also extremely big and powerful, and so, if provoked, could spell danger. One octogenarian on a bike was recently cycling past a forest when an elk came out and stared at him. The cyclist, lost for words but clearly game for a laugh, said ‘BOO’. The elk didn’t reply, but charged instead. Luckily the octogenarian was a nifty cyclist and managed to pedal away at break-neck speed. It’s like something out of a comic strip, but somehow it’s also an image that seems peculiarly Norwegian.

I know these elk incidents can be really serious, and I’m glad I haven’t met one on a dark night. But when I read headlines like ‘Nursing home evacuated after elk burst through window,’ it’s extremely hard to keep a straight face, never mind a long one.


  1. Rob...who wrote about elk on the Grieg blog, but I'll reply here! Great story about you in Canada and elk/moose...I had no idea. The wonders of your varied career never cease to amaze, and certainly cannot be described as dull. Norway and many parallels, and yet so different too. Only been once...want to go again!

  2. my apologies ... it had been a long day and my visual dyslexia was self evidently operating at full tilt!! Tomorrow I have to return to our Organic farms in Perthshire as my brother has managed to sever the big toe off of his left foot in an accident! Wild cows and wintry weather await me on the land ...!! Keep bending that elbow Returning Scot I look forward to reading your essays at lunchtime as i thaw out beside the Aga!!

  3. Rob...your life seems full of incident, and as I've said before, no-one could claim it was dull. You'd better kiss your brother's foot, altho' I realise that on an organic farm with beasts, this may be beyond the call of duty. Hope he's OK !!!!

  4. A footnote to the "Elk through a window in a nursing home" story: The very same elk came back to the very same nursing home - as dinner! Somebody took the unfortunate (at that stage dead) elk away, skinned it and did the other things you do to pre-dinner animals, cooked an enormous meal on it and brought it back to the nursing home inhabitants. They had the dinner of their lifetime! Maybe a footnote worth adding to the recycling blog too...

  5. Anne...that's brilliant, and so practical it could only happen in Norway!