They stayed at the Ishavshotel in Tromsø. She gave her name. The girl at reception keyed it in. The key card is slipped into its little sleeve and, with a gentle nudge, it glides towards her like a curling stone skimmed gracefully across the counter of blue pearl granite with one smooth, well-rehearsed sweep. The receptionist smiles.
‘Breakfast is served from seven o’clock,’ the receptionist says. ‘We have those energy shots. They’re good. Very refreshing. What are they called again? Those little shot glasses. Like smoothies, you know. Ginger and orange. Lime and kiwi. A real boost. Antioxidants, you know the ones.’
The hotel looks modern, but the lift seems outdated; lots of brass, mirrors at every angle. The carpets and wallpaper remind her of the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics.
The house she’d grown up in had the same aesthetic. Yellow ochre panelling. A new build at the edge of a plot where the back end of the property sloped down towards a hollow planted with pine trees. Coving where ceiling and wall met in the living room. Green walls. Yellow walls. A stable upbringing.
This will be her first ever voyage to the West Ice… Inexperienced. Alone…
Her mother had planned on redecorating the room. The kitchen, too, for that matter, but that was before her father’s heart attack. It had come on like infarction so often does: suddenly. Unexpectedly. Her mother decided not to change anything because it might confuse their father. Make him feel unsettled. Remove him from memory, and with that, remove him from them. Better to delay the redecorating until his rehabilitation took effect.
But his condition never did improve, and one day an estate agent would enter the house and describe it as well-maintained, if dated. Is that even a word?
When she says they, she means she and her supervisor Håvard, who accompanies her the evening before the hunting vessel is due to leave. This will be her first ever voyage to the West Ice.
It was Håvard who spoke on behalf of the Directorate of Fisheries after events. It was he who was questioned about whether the directorate felt it had been justifiable sending out a young, female inspector. Inexperienced. Alone. Six weeks on the periphery of Greenland with men she didn’t know. Her first ever voyage.
They had felt it had been.
The situation could not have been anticipated, not unless you assumed the worst of people, or allowed yourself to be influenced by prejudice.
And she thought herself better than that.
The drizzle leaves tiny droplets on their foreheads. Håvard has booked a table at a seafood restaurant by the harbour and all the way there he talks about a local seafood delicacy, mølje with cod liver and roe.
She asks him about the inspector’s report.
‘There’s not much to it,’ he replies. ‘Not as long as you keep notes throughout. Ammunition discharged. Number of animals killed. Number of animals injured. If you stick to the tick boxes on the form, you can keep it brief. You can add notes in the text boxes if there’s any need.’
What do ‘brief’ and ‘thorough’ mean in this instance? How are you supposed to know which to choose? What counts as detail here? What is unimportant?