Sunday, 30 May 2010


And so the sun is setting on our last day in the house on the rock by the sea. The view from here has changed with every minute of every day we have been here. You could live your whole life here and never grow tired of that view, never cease gazing at it, never be able to resist the temptation to lean out of the window and try to capture its mezmerising essence inside your camera. My efforts, and those of the TA, are hopeless compared to Nature herself, but we can’t resist trying.

You could become obsessed. It seems the sun, the same old sun, has never once looked the same, while the moon, the same old moon, has astonished us with its ever-changing variety of form. The sky startles and stuns, with every shift in mood a piece of theatre. All day long the look of the sea tells the story of the weather and the time of year....what is the wind doing, where is it coming from, how strong is it, how cold will it be?

You might think we would have grown accustomed to this continual drama, that after several years we might feel we had seen it all and experienced every kind of weather the elements could throw at us. It’s just sea and sky, after all.

But no. You would have to be insane not to marvel at the astonishing spectacles to which we have been treated. And then, there’s the man-made drama too. Ships come and go, trade continues, voyages are made, fish, lobster and prawns are caught, oilrig service vessels continue to supply the rigs, choppers batter about in the sky. Here the sea is a busy stage and yet it simply reflects the reality of living in a place which is a centre for the oil industry.

But at the moment the view is bitter-sweet...not because we are leaving, but because it is impossible to look at a coastal scene from an ‘oil-town’ and not be deeply saddened by current events in the Gulf of Mexico. Those connected to the oil industry are not exactly flavour of the month right now...more like ‘scum of the earth’, filthy polluters who care nothing for nature, the environment, the planet.

Once upon a time, an oil man was one of those Texans who arrived in Aberdeen in the early 60s and strode up and down Union Street in his Stetson and spurs. He was well-known for mocking the Scots, for telling us we were lazy, useless and ‘no darn good at extractin’ that black gold from any old place’...he was renowned for creating havoc in order to ‘get rich quick’. But over the years, he, along with the Scots, the Norwegians and many others, has learnt and grown with the industry, and now I reckon we know that Texan guy a whole lot better than we know say, a hedge-fund manager or a City trader in London.

The horrifying events in the Gulf of Mexico right now affect people in the industry all around the globe. Guys have been hauled out of projects all over the place to head off to the Gulf of Mexico to add their expertise to solving the problem. Meanwhile, others have stepped in to fill their shoes. It’s as though Nature is laughing at us, saying we humans are fools to interfere with things we do not understand. And perhaps we are, but it seems to be Man’s nature to do so, and while we continue to live in the Oil Age, we need to be honest about how oil is extracted, where from, and at what cost.

The disaster is every oilman’s nightmare, and so we are all watching and praying for a solution. That solution will have to be found...there is no choice. I know there are some great brains in this industry, some brilliant minds who thrive on the solving of problems...we have to hope they think of something pretty darn fast.

We have just been mere visitors here, to Norway, to this coast. But even if this was my own country, even if I owned the land myself, I still don’t believe I could feel anything other than a temporary caretaker. As I marvel once again at this view, and with the oil disaster weighing on my mind, I am reminded of a quote from the American James Audubon. I’m sure you will recall he was a painter of birds in the early 1800s, and to my mind, his extraordinarily acute understanding of nature sets his work way beyond the average. He said, ‘you don’t inherit the earth from your parents, you borrow it from your children.’

We have to hope this view will still be the same long, long, long after we are all gone.


  1. Jane, I've enjoyed these posts immensely, particularly those involving folding kayaks! You must be sad to leave, and particularly that stunning bit of coast. Hope the journey goes well and to see you all soon.

    Sophie xx

  2. Sophie...thanks so much. I can't imagine where the idea of the folding kayak came from, can you? Once moved, I'll keep going for a while at least, and wsee where we get to
    Many thanks, RS

  3. Jane, I really enjoyed reading your blog.

    I hope you have a safe return home, and I do hope you carry on for a while, as I am sure you will paint a colourful picture of your adventures back in Scotland.

    Happy (un-)packing!

  4. Johan, thanks so much for that. Yes, I will carry on for a wee while. I'm very interested to know what 'living abroad' does to one's perception of home.
    Many thanks og lykke til,