Tag Archives: cycling

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

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

Hail and High Water

7 Feb

Flooded path

On my cycle home yesterday I experienced many kinds of terrain varying from ice to mud to a carpet of hailstones. Most impressive of all, however, was the severe flooding of the river which runs parallel to the cycle path. The volume of melted snow was such that at times it was impossible to see that there was a path at all.

Flooded bench 2

I had a choice: I could turn back and find a different way home or I could try and cycle through the water – something I had never done before. Having been born with a stubborn streak, I chose the latter and successfully reached the other side without falling off.

Ducks

I’m quite convinced there has recently been some sort of clashing of energies out there in the cosmos, generating challenges both existential and physical. Winter and Spring are really battling it out here on my little corner of the planet, but everywhere there is evidence of new beginnings as the days are getting longer and the sun warmer.

Yellow flowers

It’s only a matter of time before the water goes down and I’m back on track again.

Path

Alle veje fører til Rom

På min cykeltur hjem i går oplevede jeg forskellige slags terræn, der gik fra is til mudder til et tæppe af hagl. Det mest imponerende var dog alligevel den enorme oversvømmelse af åen, der løber ved siden af cykelstien. Mængden af smeltet sne var så stor, at det nogle gange var umuligt at se, om der overhovedet var en sti. Jeg havde et valg: jeg kunne køre tilbage og finde en anden vej hjem, ellers kunne jeg prøve at cykle igennem vandet – noget jeg aldrig før havde prøvet. Da jeg er født med et stædigt karaktertræk, valgte jeg det sidstnævnte, og det lykkedes mig at nå den anden side uden at falde af.

Flooded bench

Jeg er helt overbevist om, at der for nylig har været en eller anden slags sammenstød af energi ude i kosmos, der skaber udfordringer af både eksistentiel og fysisk art. Vinteren og foråret slås virkelig her i mit lille hjørne af kloden, men overalt er der beviser på nye begyndelser som dage, der bliver længere, og solen, der bliver varmere.

Snowdrops 1

Det er kun et spørgsmål om tid, før vandet trækker sig tilbage, og jeg er på fast grund igen.

I want to ride my bicycle…

24 Nov

Since my relocation to Denmark, I’ve had to make a few adjustments to my lifestyle and not least my primary mode of transport. Four wheels have been reduced to two and baggage capacity has gone from what I lovingly referred to as “Narnia boot” to something more in the realms of “bedsit-in-London basket”. Yes folks, I have become a cyclist. After a fashion.

I love cycling but the problem is that I’m just not very good at it. I have all the elegance of a newborn calf and face ridicule on a regular basis, from Danes and foreigners alike. I am trying very hard but I don’t seem to have the natural grace Danes are blessed with, although to be fair I think they’re pretty much born on a bike whereas I have come to cycling at a slightly later stage in life.

We live 13km from the city centre of Odense in an area which Odensians have never heard of and therefore deem to be the sticks. Fortunately for me, though, there is a very scenic and peaceful cycle path which begins quite close to our house and runs all the way into the city centre. It’s a very beautiful journey and, free from the stress of manoeuvering amongst foreign drivers and road systems, I can concentrate instead on the loveliness of nature. This means I arrive at my destination in a pretty good mood, albeit a little sweaty.

You see, much as I love cycling and all the associated benefits to my health, my vanity has taken quite a hit. Whereas I formerly dressed in terms of outfits and coiffure, I now find myself instead choosing trousers based on their likelihood of catching in the chain, considerning whether my skirt is too tight to cycle in and, now that the weather is getting a bit more chilly, whether my down-filled coat is going to cause too much drag in a head-wind, cycling uphill.

When I first arrived in Denmark I was rather derisive of the fashion choices among Danish ladies, but now I realise: they dress for cycling. Simple as that. For instance I now understand the true glory of leggings. It only took a couple of attempts at cycling in skinny jeans for this revelation to occur. And as for the ubiquitous messy-up-do, what a godsend! I have curly hair, and the combination of a helmet and a well-warmed scalp is a guaranteed frisorial disaster. But in Denmark this is a problem which is very easily solved: I just chuck it up in a hairband any old way and nobody even bats an eyelid. Brilliant!

My way of life here is much more laid back and practical than my former high-stress lifestyle in Scotland and I am glad for that, but from time to time I do miss wearing my lovely, impractical high heels and crazy coats. I just have to save them for the rare opportunities when I can get my husband to give me a lift in the car.

Jeg er så glad for min cykel

Efter jeg flyttede til Danmark, blev jeg nødt til at vurdere min livsstil og ikke mindst mit hovedtransportmiddel. Fire hjul blev til to, og bagagerumspladsen blev fra en, som jeg med kærlighed kaldte for “Narnia bagagerum” til noget, der er lidt mere “etværelses-lejlighed-i-London-agtig”. Ja, jeg er blevet cyklist på en eller anden måde.

Jeg er helt vild med at cykle, men problemet er, at jeg ikke er så dygtig til det. Jeg er lige så elegant som en ny-født kalv og bliver tit latterliggjort af danskere såvel som udlændinge. Jeg prøver rigtig meget, men det viser sig at være, at jeg ikke har den naturlige ynde, som danskerne er velsignet med. Skønt, til min forsvar, er de næsten født på cykel, hvorimod jeg blev cyklist lidt senere i livet.

Vi bor 13 km fra Odense centrum på et område, som odenseanere aldrig har hørt om og derfor betragter som at være langt ude på landet. Heldigvis er der dog en naturskøn og stille cykelsti, der begynder tæt på vores hus og løber hele vejen ind i centrum. Den er en smuk rejse og uden belastningen fra at cykle i trafikken kan jeg i stedet koncentrere mig om det henrivende landskab. Det betyder, at jeg ankommer til min destination i rigtig godt humør, endskønt lidt svedig.

Ser du, så meget som jeg elsker at cykle og trods alle fordelene for helbredet, har min forfængelighed fået en nedtur. Hvorimod jeg tidligere klædte mig udtrykt i tøj og frisure, udvælger jeg nu bukser for deres sandsynlighed for ikke at blive fanget i cykelkæden, jeg overvejer, om min nederdel er for stram at cykle i og, fordi vejret bliver råkoldt, om min dun-fyldte jakke skal være årsag til for meget modstand i modvind, når jeg cykler op ad bakken.

Da jeg først ankom til Danmark, var jeg lidt hånlig over modevalget blandt de danske damer, men det gik pludselig op for mig: de klæder sig for at cykle. Det er så enkelt som det. Nu forstår jeg, hvor pragtfuld leggings er. Det tog kun et par forsøg på at cykle klædt i tætsiddende cowboybukser for denne åbenbaring at ske. Hvad angår den allestedsnærverende ‛messy up-do′ – det kom som sendt fra himlen! Jeg har krøllet hår, og kombinationen af et hjelm og et dejlig varmt hoved er en garanteret frisure- katastrofe. Men i Danmark er det et problem, der er nemt at løse: jeg sætter bare håret op med et bånd, på en hvilken som helst måde, og der er ikke nogen, der så meget som blinker. Fantastisk!

Her er min levevis meget mere afslappet og praktisk end min tidligere høj-stress levevis i Skotland, og det er jeg glad for, men fra tid til anden savner jeg at have mine smukke, upratkiske høj-hælede sko og mine vanvittige jakker på. Jeg bliver bare nødt til at gemme dem for de sjældnere oplevelser, når jeg får et lift i bilen med min mand.

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