Behind the Scenes

17 Feb

Living in Denmark is great, but I’m not going to lie to you – it’s flipping expensive! Being a student means living on a pretty limited budget, so an extravagant social life with matching wardrobe is on standby until my academic endeavours pay off in the form of a highly paid and very glamorous job.

To add to my financial woes, I started 2017 with a succession of unexpected and rather hefty bills. Added to the usual expense of Christmas, it means that for the foreseeable future I have put my bank card on lockdown, and I’m definitely NOT allowed to buy any more shoes…

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 16.39.16.pngHowever, I am a creative person who enjoys a challenge, so I’m viewing my current financial situation as an opportunity to have a bit of a lifestyle clearout and potentially enter a new dimension of minimalist zen. Well, that’s the plan anyway.

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So far, it’s been going pretty well. A lot of my hobbies are already free, and of course my studies keep me pretty busy. Nevertheless, from time to time I do need some kind of cultural stimulation and a little sparkle, which only a trip to the city can bring.

Brandts tree.jpgBrandts by night (sorry, wrong lens!)

Luckily for me, there is plenty going on in Odense, and, even better, some things are free of charge. Obviously, there are also a lot of exciting things to do that cost a fortune, but if you venture off the beaten track, it’s actually quite easy to satisfy any cultural cravings you might have.

Kunstbygningen Filosoffen.jpgArt Gallery Filosoffen

Last week, I took some time to visit a free exhibition at the Art Gallery Filosoffen. I suspect that the exhibition’s subject matter may be a little too much ‘making the private public’ for sensitive souls (for Sex and the City fans, think Charlotte in Season 1, Episode 5), but the Danes seem to be quite laid back about these things. There were even quite a few pensioner types in when I was there, and they didn’t appear to be in the least bit fazed, even if they had inadvertently wandered in from the knitting exhibition next door.

Brandts.jpgBrandts

The highlight of the week for me, though, was a behind the scenes guided tour of Brandts museum. Brandts is housed in a converted cloth factory building. The Brandts area has always been my favourite place in Odense, and although I am a regular visitor to the museum, I simply couldn’t resist the chance to see what lies behind all those ‘staff only’ doors.

As it turned out, a reporter and a photographer from the local newspaper were also on the tour, and as something of a grand finale to my week I ended up making it into the Saturday edition of Fyens Stiftstidende. I’m taking it as a sign; although the path I’m on right now might not exactly be the one I chose, it is already starting to open some very interesting doors.

FS.jpgNot trying to draw attention to myself or anything…

 

Bag kulisserne

Danmark er et fantastisk land at bo i, men jeg lyver ikke over for jer – det er møghamrende dyrt! Fordi jeg er studerende, skal jeg forholde mig til et stramt budget, og et ekstravagant socialt liv med den tilhørende garderobe er på pause, indtil mine akademiske bestræbelser betaler sig i form af et højtlønnet og glamourøst job.

Tilsat mine finansielle vanskeligheder startede jeg i 2017 med en række uventede og heftige regninger. Oven på de sædvanlige udgifter fra jul betyder det, at jeg i den nærmeste fremtid har sat mit dankort på lockdown. Og jeg må absolut IKKE købe flere sko…

Imidlertid er jeg et kreativt menneske, som nyder en udfordring, så jeg ser på min nuværende finansielle situation som muligheden for at rydde lidt op i min livsstil og skabe en ny dimension af minimalistisk zen. Det er altså planen.

Odense Å.jpg

Indtil videre går det ganske godt. De fleste af mine hobbyer er i forvejen gratis, og selvfølgelig holder mine studier mig travlt beskæftiget. Alligevel får jeg fra tid til anden brug for en eller anden form for kulturel stimulering og lidt glimmer, hvilket kun en rejse til byen kan bevirke.

Heldigvis for mig sker der meget i Odense, og – endnu bedre – er der nogle ting, der er gratis. Der er ganske vist mange spændende ting at lave, der koster en formue, men hvis man går lidt væk fra alfarvej, er det faktisk ret nemt at få tilfredsstillet sin kulturelle trang.

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Sidste uge tilbragte jeg lidt tid på en gratis udstilling i Kunstbygningen Filosoffen. Jeg tror, at udstillingens emne måske er lidt for vovet for sarte sjæle (for jer, der ser Sex and the City, tænk på Charlotte i Sæson 1, Afsnit 5), men danskerne ser ud til at være ret afslappede ved disse ting. Der var endda nogle pensionist-agtige mennesker til udstillingen, mens jeg var der, og de så ikke ud til at være fornærmede – selv hvis de ved et uheld havde kom ind fra strikke-udstillingen ved siden af.

Ugens højdepunkt var dog for mig en rundvisning bag kulisserne på Brandts museet. Brandts har til huse i en ombygget klædefabrik. Museet og området deromkring har altid været mit absolutte yndlingssted i Odense, og selv om jeg kommer på faste besøg på Brandts, kunne jeg ikke stå for muligheden for at se, hvad der ligger bag ved alle de ‘kun personale’-døre.

Det viste sig, at der også var en journalist og en fotograf fra den lokale avis med på rundvisningen, og lige som en slags grand finale på min uge endte jeg med at komme i lørdagens udgave af Fyens Stiftstidende. Jeg tager det som et tegn på, at selv om vejen, jeg er på lige nu, måske ikke er lige den, jeg havde valgt, begynder der allerede nu at åbne sig nogle meget interessante døre.

 

New Look

9 Feb

The other day, I walked into a new class, ready to start my sixth and final semseter as a Bachelor student of English Studies at the University of Southern Denmark. As I entered the classroom, one of the students who had already arrived asked if I were the professor. Now, to my mind this could mean two things: vanity would have me believe that it’s because I look very intelligent and professorly, but in reality I think it’s because I have a good twenty years on most of my fellow students.

My age is not something I normally give much thought to. Granted, being a student on the wrong side of forty is perhaps not a run-of-the-mill occurrence, but the Danes have a pretty open attitude when it comes to midlife career changes (thanks, guys!). So, generally I go about feeling OK about myself: nothing has travelled too far south just yet, and my accumulated years don’t seem to have put off my fellow students from including me in their conversations.

Reconstruction.jpg(Reconstruction of how the classroom looked before new glasses)

However, I have recently been having problems seeing the blackboard – or smartboard, or whatever these modern contraptions are called. Aha! Time for glasses, you might say. Well, I actually do have a pair of glasses already, but I have been a wee bit remiss about staying on top of regular sight tests of late… OK, I confess: it’s been a good few years since I last had a checkup. So, a couple of weeks ago, off I trotted to the optician.

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I would describe my optician’s as being something resembling the product of an imaginary collaboration between Marks & Spencer and Carlsberg: Not just any optician…probably the best optician in the world. I mean, just look at it!

Ray Ban Room.jpg

I’m a sucker for style, and this place has me smitten. The outside of the shop boasts that Danish aesthetic where traditional seamlessly melts into modern. Once you get inside, the interior is a labyrinth of archways and secret rooms, all white and minimalist. They even have a Ray Ban room, for Pete’s sake! An entire room dedicated to Ray Ban – imagine! To me, it is a place of wonder, and I like to go there sometimes just to look at the Aviators.

Archways.jpg

Anyway, the helpful and professional staff very quickly managed to refocus my attention, and I was able to find just the right pair of glasses to accompany my new prescription (with no tutting about the length of time that had elapsed since my last one). The assistant also told me that my new frames make me look very intelligent. This opinion was further backed up when I got home, when my stepson said: “They make you look intelligent, like an architect.”

Glasses.jpg

Having pondered these observations for a bit, I must admit to feeling a little put out: do I need to be wearing glasses in order to look intelligent? And do you need to be an architect before you’re considered intelligent? But since I have reached that stage in life where I no longer have any choice about wearing glasses on a regular basis, I have decided that I’ll take looking intelligent over old, architect or not!

Nyt Udseende

Forleden dag gik jeg ind i et nyt undervisningslokale, klar til at starte på mit sjette og sidste semester som bachelorstuderende på engelskstudier på Syddansk Universitet. Da jeg trådte ind i lokalet, blev jeg spurgt af en af mine medstuderende, om jeg var professoren. Nå! Efter min mening er der to muligheder for, hvad det kunne betyde: Hvis jeg var forfængelig, ville jeg sige, at det er fordi, jeg ser meget klog og professor-agtig ud, men i virkeligheden tror jeg, det er fordi, jeg er knap 20 år ældre end mine medstuderende.

Min alder plejer ikke at være noget, jeg tænker meget over. Det skal indrømmes, at dét at være studerende på den forkerte side af 40 ikke lige er helt almindeligt, men danskerne er temmelig frisindede, når det kommer til, at man skifter karriere i en moden alder (tak, gutter!). Så i det hele taget går jeg rundt og har det ganske OK med mig selv. Der er ikke nogen kropsdele, der har rejst for langt sydpå, og mine akkumulerede år til trods har ikke skræmt mine medstuderende fra at tale med mig.

Dog for nylig har jeg haft lidt svært ved at se tavlen – eller smartboard, eller hvad det nu hedder. Aha! Tid til nye briller, siger du måske. Ja, men jeg har faktisk et par briller i forvejen. Det er bare det, at jeg har været lidt forsømmelig med at være på forkant med regelmæssige synsprøver på det sidste… OK, jeg tilstår: Det har været nogle år siden, jeg sidst fik øjnene tjekket. Så for et par uger siden tog jeg endelig til optikeren.

Jeg vil beskrive min optikers butik som noget, der ligner et resultat, man kunne forestille sig fra et samarbejde mellem Marks and Spencer og Carlsberg: not just any optician…probably the best optician in the world. Jamen, bare kig på det!

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Jeg kan ikke stå for stilen, og det her sted har betaget mig. På forsiden af butikken smelter det traditionelle sammen med det moderne på den danske måde, jeg er vild med. Indenfor er det en labyrint med buegange og hemmelige rum – hvide og minimalistiske. De har endda et Ray Ban rum – forestil dig det! For mig er det et vidunderligt sted, og jeg kan godt lide at tage derind fra tid til anden bare for at se på Aviatorerne.

Nå, men de meget behjælpelige og professionelle medarbejdere formåede ganske hurtigt at få mig tilbage på sporet, og jeg fandt lige nøjagtig det rigtige par briller (uden at de skældte mig ud over, hvor lang tid det havde varet siden sidst). Assistenten syntes også, at mine nye briller fik mig til at se meget klog ud. Denne betragtning blev støttet af min papsøn, da jeg kom hjem. Han sagde: “De får dig til at se klog ud – som en arkitekt.”

Efter at jeg havde funderet over disse betragtninger i et stykke tid, må jeg indrømme, at jeg følte mig lidt fornærmet: Skal jeg have briller på, før jeg ser klog ud? Skal man være arkitekt for at blive betragtet som intelligent? Men fordi jeg nu har nået det tidspunkt i mit liv, da jeg ikke længere selv kan vælge at tage briller på regelmæssigt, har jeg truffet beslutningen om, at det er bedre at se klog ud end gammel – hvad enten man er arkitekt eller ej!

Seasonal Adjustment

9 Feb

Foyer sduMy second semester at the University of Southern Denmark is underway, and its beginning happened to coincide with the arrival and subsequent hasty departure of the Danish winter.

Frost treeAs something of a contrast to the otherwise idyllic lifestyle I enjoy in Denmark, my timetable begins on a Monday morning at 8am with six straight hours of lectures followed by a one hour cycle home. Most of my lectures take place in dingy classrooms with no windows, so I always feel a little bit mole-like when I emerge blinking into the daylight afterwards.

Grammar Although the long days leave me mentally drained, the cycle home always re-invigorates me, regardless of the weather. My journey home last Monday was particularly invigorating, as heavily falling snow lashed by a relentless north wind resulted in treacherous conditions, blotting out the frozen muddy ruts of the path underneath. It was anyone’s guess where the path actually was…Path4Fortunately, parts of the cycle path are on paved roads which, thanks to Danish tax-payers, are cleared regularly and efficiently.

Path2 My trusty bicycle and I are quite robust, though, and up to to coping with most types of terrain, although I did need to de-ice the old girl once I got home.

BikeHappily, the wintry conditions departed almost as soon as they had arrived, and over the weekend all the snow melted and today’s journey home was a different story altogether.

Path1 meltedHints of spring are suddenly in the air and the days somehow seem at once to be longer. It’s almost as if winter didn’t exist and I’m already counting down to summer…

crocus

Time Out

20 Jan

   Garden in snow sepiaThe above photo was taken this morning and is, I feel, a rather fitting extension of my own state of inner tranquility. My last blog post was written as I was about to embark on my educational journey and it is the tremendous challenge of that journey which has kept me from writing here. Finally, though, the first semester is over, exams completed and at last I have time to breathe.

pink flowerHaving been a musician for nearly twenty years, it has been a bit of a shock to the system to change career and immerse myself in student life again – and this time with classmates who are half my age! I won’t lie and say it has been easy, it has been challenging, but like most things that require a lot of effort it has also been incredibly rewarding. But as the first semester has drawn to a close, I finally found the groove and I reckon I’ll be on track for next semester.  Fortunately, the exam results which have come in thus far are confirmation that I am definitely doing the right thing. Thank goodness for that!

Office

I will write more in future posts about university life, but for now I am enjoying the first down time I have had since the first semester began back in September. I have two weeks before the next semester begins and I intend to spend them attending to the needs of my soul. For this purpose, I have made my office into a little corner of zen from where I shall immerse myself in books, finish knitting the jumper I started for my husband about six thousand years ago and enjoy some quality time to myself.

Viggo in snow

Of course, there must be balance in all things, and my relaxation will also incorporate plenty of outdoor activity walking my dog. Strangely enough, over the last few months my sanity has been saved by my crazy puppy! My university timetable thus far has worked out very well and fitted in with his needs, meaning that he isn’t on his own for long and I have been able to take him for his daily walks…although some of them have been at 5.30am! The chance to get out with him for fresh air and exercise has saved my brain from meltdown on many occasions.

cat n doog

Viggo is full of the joys of life and has grown into a happy albeit boisterous teenager, but in our house the kitties are definitely very much in charge! Luckily for Viggo, Knud is very tolerant and keeps his claws to himself, even when Viggo invades his personal space to a most unacceptable degree.

So, surrounded by my animals with the snow softly falling outside I will take some time out and prepare to face February with my batteries fully charged.

Tippi in the sun

The fruits of labour

1 Sep

Stubble fieldFor many nights the rumble of combine harvesters at work laid seige to our little enclave, casting up great clouds of dust that clung to the dewy evening air. The farmers worked day and night at the harvest, three weeks earlier than usual this year, but at last the rain came and broke the scorching deadlock.

Rain windowThe cooler temperatures have washed away summer’s hazy days, replacing them instead with ripening autumn.

Apple tree 2ApplesOur apple trees are groaning under a bountiful crop and I’ve been out every morning gathering up the windfall and using the apples to make æblekage (apple cake), a classic Danish treat, popular at this time of year.

Apple mushDespite what the name might suggest, æblekage is less of a cake and more like a trifle. The apples are peeled, cored then cooked down into a mush with a little water, sugar and vanilla.

MakronerThis is then layered with crushed up makroner, a sort of biscuity affair, then left to sit until the biscuits are soft. Before serving, the finishing touch is a topping of whipped cream and redcurrant jelly.

GrapesThere has also been action in the greenhouse and the vines are laden with heavy clusters of ripened grapes, soon to be made into jelly.

Johan and Viggo

Viggo is settling in well, and we’re finding our rhythm. My younger stepson has a real affinity with him, and Viggo is getting plenty of attention and play time as well as walks and training to occupy that ever-active brain of his.

Ploughed field Summer is over, but this year instead of being wistful and nostalgic I’m looking forward to autumn, full of energy for the journey that lies ahead.

Summer Sun

8 Aug

CornfieldThe sweltering Danish summer has led to some lifestyle changes for me,  not least those of an aquatic nature. I grew up in the north of Scotland, which means that the sea-related activities of my youth took place in the North Sea. Although Scotland has many beautiful beaches the water is a tad on the cold side, and my childhood memories of going to the beach have left me with little enthusiasm for that particular activity. Until this summer, that is. I’ve always been predisposed to think that immersing oneself in the sea is deeply unpleasant, and getting wet only adds to the pre-existing coldness that normally accompanies a Scottish summer, however the blistering heat of the past few weeks here in Denmark has led me in desperation to seek any kind of relief.

Beach1Our local beach at Kerteminde has been measuring water temperatures of 22° and that, folks, is more than enough for me! Nothing can beat the feeling of having spent a day of heat-induced inertia, oozing sweat, to then plunge head first into the sea. Oh, the relief! The utter bliss of being cool again!

LifesaversIt’s all a bit Baywatch at Kerteminde beach…

My favoured form of summer relaxation – that of sitting under the apple tree, reading a good book – has by necessity become limited to a morning activity, because when the sun reaches a certain level it becomes unbearable to be outside. It seemed quite odd to me at first to actually go inside when the sun was out, but now I see it as the only sensible option and we’ve whole-heartedly come to embrace a more Spanish way of life.

Apple treeThe one exception to our daily pattern of sun-avoidance happened when the weather forecast mistakenly predicted grey skies and a temperature of around 20°. Taken in by the promise of cooler temperatures, I planned a cycling trip with my father-in-law and younger step-son, but it wasn’t long before it became apparent that the forecasters had got it completely wrong!

Trusty and windmillsBikesWater

Nevertheless, despite the opressive temperatures, it was a very pleasant outing in the Danish summer landscape, though the first thing the youngest member of our group did on getting home was to have a cold shower. Smart boy!

MunkeboJuly has since given way to August and there have been several changes in our household. The elder step-son has gone to efterskole, a type of boarding school which Danish children have access to in their final years of school before continuing on to other education options. I will also be embarking upon a new educational journey starting in September, after recently receiving the great news that I have a place to study English at the University of Southern Denmark. I’m hoping this will have a positive influence on my writing skills!

Undoubtedly most exciting event of this summer, however, was the arrival of our new puppy. For years I’ve dreamed of having my own dog and finally my dream has come true! Meet Viggo:

Viggo and TeddyHe’s a great wee guy and I’m looking foward to the adventures we’ll have together. At the moment routine is of paramount importance to  help him settle in, but already I can see I have a very smart dog on my hands who’s going to need a lot of activation. Luckily I have a lot of energy and am more than up for the challenge!

Viggo3

Sirens in the Garden

22 May

790987_300_1000_50_0_330_496Image from Fyens Stiftstidende

Every year on the first Wednesday in May, at 12pm across Denmark the piercing sound of wailing sirens crashes in on daily life. This is the annual test of the sirens which warn the citizens of Denmark to get inside, close all windows and doors and switch on the radio in the case of a serious incident or disaster. Even with advance warning the sound is chilling, to say the least. Check it out here!

DSC00142HedgeDenmark is a safe country, uneventful some might say to the point of perhaps being boring, and the sirens are a jarring, adrenalin-inducing reminder of the potential evils of the outside world. A world which I feel far-removed from as I go about my daily life, cycling along woodland paths and countryside roads lined with syrene (lilacs). The blossoming of the prolific syrene hedges, which both grow wild and are cultivated in every self-respecting Danish garden, are synonymous with the arrival of spring and for me are a vanguard of the summer ahead.

Syrene4BarnThe island of Funen where I live is sometimes referred to as Denmark’s garden. It puts me in mind of a romanticised English landscape captured in orchestral lushness by Ralph Vaughan Williams, or described in loving detail by Thomas Hardy in his classic works. Of course the Danes are also nostalgic for their own land, and one need look no further than the novels of Morten Korch, immortalised on the silver screen, to find a correspondingly innocent and idealized version of life in the country. The landscape is gentle, subtle, and at this time of year verdant and lush, and always accompanied by the singing of larks.

Purløg GrassAs mentioned in previous posts, I love to spend as much time as possible in my garden during the months of good weather, and with this in mind I decided to take my family on holiday to Scotland over the Easter period so as not to miss out on the summer sun.

DamIt’s kind of an upside-down feeling going back to my native land – my home has become my holiday destination and vice versa – but I relish the opportunity to play tour guide and have insider knowledge on exactly where we should go. On this trip I decided to take my family to the north-west of Scotland to show them how dramatic and varied the scenery is in my favourite part of the country. It’s about as far-removed from the gentle, well-kept landscape of Funen as you can get!

Loch HopeStrath NaverBeachNevertheless, by the end of our holiday I was very much looking forward to getting home to my garden, and more importantly to the kitties! It was the first time we’ve put them into a cattery, and I was constantly worrying about how they were getting on. When we went to pick them up, the lady described them as having been frække (naughty) and listed their activities as including breaking into the food store (Knud has the determination of a hungry Labrador when it comes to obtaining food), knocking over pot plants and throwing the cat litter all over the place. Well, at least they hadn’t been bored!

Knud jump TippiNow, a few weeks on, life is back to normal, peace has been restored and our pot plants have been relocated to the garden, where the kitties are more interested in chasing butterfiles.

Knud butterfly

Sirener i haven

Hvert år på den første onsdag i maj kl. 12 lyder Danmarks sirener over hele landet. De testes årligt og advarer befolkningen om at komme indenfor, lukke vinduerne og dørene, og at tænde for radioen for at høre om, hvad der er sket. Skønt man i forvejen ved, at sirenene bliver testet, er lyden stadigvæk frygtelig. Se det her!

signs Danmark er et meget trygt land, så trygt at det næsten kan betragtes som kedeligt. Sirenene er derfor en chokerende påmindelse om verdens tænkelige ondskab, som jeg slipper for, når jeg kommer cyklende på skovstier og landeveje, hvor syrenerne vokser frit. Syrenerne springer ud om foråret og findes både på landet og i byen. Jeg betragter syrenernes blomster som et signal om, at sommeren er på vej.

Syrene1DSC00142Fyn kaldes for Danmarks have og minder mig om det engelske landskab, som komponisten Ralph Vaughan Williams gav udtryk for i musik, og forfatteren Thomas Hardy skrev med kærlighed om i sine værker. Selvfølgelig er danskerne også forelskede i deres eget land, og man kan læse i Morten Korchs romaner (og se i film inspireret deraf) en blåøjet fortælling om livet på landet. Danmarks landskab er blidt, underdrevet og på denne årstid grønt og frodigt med lærkernes sang i baggrunden dagen lang.

CarSom nævnt i tidligere posts elsker jeg at tilbringe så megen tid som muligt i min have i de varme måneder. Med det i tankerne besluttede jeg at tage til Skotland med familien ved påsketid, så at jeg ikke gik glip af sommersolen.

Ben HopeDet er en lidt omvendt følelse at tage tilbage til mit hjemland – mit tidligere hjem er blevet til et feriemål, og mit tidligere feriemål er blevet til mit hjem. Ikke desto mindre nyder jeg muligheden for at være rejselederen og ved lige præcis, hvor vi skal tage hen. Denne gang besluttede jeg at vise familien Skotlands nordvestlige del. Det er den del af landet, jeg bedst kan lide, der har dramatiske udsigter og bjergrige horisonter. Det er så langt fra Fyns rolige landskab, som det kan være!

Quinag Road to Ullapool WavesVed afslutningen af ferien glædede jeg mig alligevel til at komme tilbage til mit hus og min have og, vigtigst af alt, til killingerne. Det var første gang, de havde været i en kattepension, og jeg kunne ikke lade være med at bekymre mig over, hvordan det gik med dem, mens vi var væk. Da vi hentede dem, beskrev pensionsejeren dem som ‘frække’. Deres aktiviteter havde inkluderet et indbrud til fødevarekassen (Knud er målrettet som en sulten labrador, når det drejer sig om at få mad), de havde væltet potteplanterne og havde smidt grus over det hele… De havde i hvert fald ikke kedet sig!

Knud butterflyNogle få uger senere er livet nu tilbage til det normale. Freden er genoprettet, og vores potteplanter er blevet flyttet ud i haven, hvor misserne er mere interesseret i at jage sommerfuglene.

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