Tag Archives: expatlife

No Rain in Spain

14 Aug

photo (13)The Danes and the British have in common the innate compunction to complain about the weather. When I first moved to Denmark, I was quite surprised to hear how negatively the Danes spoke about the Danish summer because I found it to be far superior to what I was used to in Scotland. I still think that overall the Danish summer is better than the Scottish summer, but over the years I’ve started to grumble along with the best of them.

Clouds

There are summer days in Denmark that are the stuff of dreams. Fantasies about brown legs and sandals, spending entire days outside and losing track of time really do come true, and I even had (yes, past tense!) a tan to prove it. On the other hand there are considerably more days where the sun goes into hiding, and leaden skies descend over little Denmark, disgorging sheets of driving rain that threaten to extinguish even the most resilient spark of summer optimism.

photo (12)

Then again, there are the days in-between that are neither one thing nor the other – days that the Danes would describe as being leverpostej (leverpostej corresponds roughly to the English ‘blah’). Despite the temperature lurking around the mid to high teens, it’s usually cloudy with recurrent rain showers and enough of a breeze to irritate even the most stoic of garden-dwellers.

Harvesting

The farmers, however, seem to have known all along that this summer would be rubbish and have been busy harvesting since July. Unfortunately, since the farmers tend to work when conditions are dry, their operations regularly collide with my own sorties into the garden. The stoor thrown up by their combines is fanned by the wind into towering clouds of dust and then transported directly into my rosé.

photo (10)

In short, the Danish summer weather is predictable only by its unpredictabliity. This, I think, explains the mass exodous of Danes to Spain or Greece, or anywhere, really, that has guaranteed sun for an extended period of time. For the rest of us who have either by chance or design remained in Denmark, this summer has been something of a damp squib and the early arrival of autumn is serving only to compound our despondency.

Thistles

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The good news is that according to Danes autumn is the optimal season for hygge, and we staycationers are getting a good head start with the cocoa and slippers. So if you happen to be one of the lucky ones who managed to get away for a bit of sun this summer, don’t be surprised to find that IKEA has sold out of candles and blankets by the time you return.

 

Brune ben og brok

Danskerne og briterne har det tilfælles, at de begge er født med, at de føler sig nødsaget til at beklage sig over vejret. Da jeg flyttede til Danmark, var jeg overrasket over, hvor negativt danskerne udtrykte sig om det danske sommervejr, fordi jeg syntes, det var overlegent i forhold til det, jeg var vant til i Skotland. Jeg synes stadigvæk, at det danske sommervejr i det hele taget er bedre end det skotske, men i årenes løb er jeg begyndt at brokke mig så godt som nogen.

Fishing nets

I Danmark findes der sommerdage, som drømme skabes af. Fantasierne om brune ben, bare fødder og det at tilbringe hele dagen udenfor bliver til virkelighed, og jeg havde endda en solbrændthed til at bevise det! På den anden side er der markant flere dage, når solen gemmer sig, og der sænker sig en grå himmel over lille Danmark. Hertil kommer så meget regn, at selve den mest modstandsdygtige gnist af sommer-optimismen bliver slukket.

photo (11)

Men igen er der de dage, der ligger imellem, som hverken er den ene eller den anden ting: Danskerne beskriver dem som ‘leverpostej’, og briterne kalder dem for blah. På trods af at temperaturen lurer omkring de 18 grader, plejer det at være gråvejr med tilbagevendende regnbyger og tilstrækkeligt blæsevejr til at genere selv den mest stoiske have-entusiast.

Det ser dog ud til, at landmændene hele tiden har vidst, at denne sommer ville være noget værre møg, og de har været i gang med at høste siden juli. Fordi de plejer at arbejde, når det er tørvejr, falder landmændenes aktiviteter desværre jævnligt sammen med min egne togter ud i haven, og en del af støvet fra mejetærskerne ender – til min forargelse – tit i min rosevin.

Crop

Kort sagt kan det danske sommervejr kun forudses til at være uforudseeligt. Den gode nyhed er dog, at ifølge danskerne er efteråret den hyggeligeste årstid, og det betyder, at vi ‘staycationers’ er langt foran, når det kommer til at drikke varm kakao og tage sutskoene på. Så hvis du er en af de heldige, der nåede at tage sydpå til solen denne sommer, så vær ikke overrasket over at finde ud af, at IKEA har solgt ud af stearinlys og tæpper på det tidspunkt, I kommer hjem.

Berries

Easter Time

26 Apr

Blossom1.jpgAh, the Easter holidays! How I longed for them! While most people make plans for all the things they’ll get done around the house and in the garden during their time off, my plan was simple: do nothing! Having now come out at the other end, I can safely say mission accomplished, pretty much.

During the holiday week, my neighbours could be seen industriously loading and unloading trailers with assorted garden-related items, passing my window on countless trips to and from the tip and, judging by the trailer contents, other gardening themed errands. I, on the other hand, observed all of this activity with my bottom planted firmly on the couch.

Here in Denmark, the holidays began with crisp blue skies, and the appearance of the sun brought with it the hope of relaxing time spent outdoors. The good weather only strengthened my vision of empty days stretching before me like a decadent mirage, but it didn’t take long before we were back to grey skies and torrential rain. My daffies were completely ruined.Daffies.jpgMy daffies at the beginning of the Easter holiday

The message was clear: get inside and stay there! Far be it from me to ignore signs from the cosmos, so I settled down and watched the entire first season of Arvingerne (The Legacy) and also mangaged to catch up on some geeky reading when noone was looking.

Although it was nice to sit and do nothing for a while, it wasn’t long before I started feeling antsy. To counteract this, I made some half-hearted attempts at keeping up my yoga practice (my midlife crisis is nothing if not a cliché), but fortunately Viggo was on hand to perform an intervention when activity levels looked to be spiking.Viggo yoga.jpgTowards the end of the holiday, I had a visit from my extremely motivated friend T, who insisted that after a walk in the pouring rain we do some yoga. Her bossiness is such that she even managed to inspire my stepson (who has never done yoga) to join us. He did well to follow the moves, particularly since he was using most of his concentration on trying not to break wind at an inopportune moment.

In honour of T’s visit, I felt inspired to bake a cake. I’m really not much of a baker, but I had been intrigued by images of the magic 3 layer custard cake that are all over Pinterest at the moment. Sadly, however, once again social media and reality were proven to be worlds apart. Never mind, a wee dash of icing sugar on top and cutting the cake into dainty slices improved its aesthetic qualities sufficiently for it to be deemed fit for consumption.Baking fail 1.jpgCake – pre-cosmetic surgery

The holiday was rounded off with our traditional family lunch at my in-laws’. I’m constantly in awe of my mother-in-law’s ability to effortlessly serve up a veritable banquet for 15 on a beautifully dressed table.Feast 2.jpgA week is not a long time, and the holiday passed in a flash. I’ve now been back at uni for more than a week, and Easter already feels like a long time ago. But the rest did me good, and I’m now raring to go, ready for the final stretch of my BA and whatever else the future may bring.Sunset1.jpg

Påsketid

Ah, påskeferie! Hvor jeg længtes efter den! Mens de fleste planlægger alle de ting, der skal ordnes i hus og have, var min plan ganske enkel: at lave ingenting! Nu, da vi er nået om på den anden side af ferien, kan jeg sige, at det for det meste er lykkedes.

I løbet af ferieugen kunne jeg se mine naboer godt i gang med at læsse og losse deres trailere med adskillige havemæssige ting, da de kørte forbi mit vindue på deres utallige ture frem og tilbage til lossepladsen. Jeg – derimod – betragtede al denne aktivitet fra sofaen.

Her i Danmark begyndte påskeferien med blå himmel, og solens fremkomst bragte med det håbet om, at det vil være muligt at slappe af udenfor. Det gode vejr støttede min vision om tomme dage, der lå foran mig som et dekadent fatamorgana. Men det varede ikke længe, før vi fik grå himmel og kraftig regn. Mine påskeliljer var helt ødelagt.

Beskeden var klar: Gå indenfor og bliv der! Det er langtfra mig at ignorere tegn fra kosmos, så jeg slog mig ned og så den komplete første sæson af Arvingerne og nåede at indhente lidt nørdet læsning, da ingen kiggede.

Selv om det var rart at sidde og lave ingenting i et stykke tid, varede det ikke længe, før jeg blev lidt rastløs. For at modvirke dette lavede jeg nogle halvhjertede forsøg på at fortsætte med min yoga (ja, min midtvejskrise er en kliché), men heldigvis greb Viggo ind og fik mig til at ‘klappe hesten’.

Mod slutningen af ferien fik jeg besøg af min meget motiverede veninde T, som insisterede på, at – efter en gåtur i regnvejret – vi lavede lidt yoga. Hun er så overbevisende, at hun endda overtalte min papsøn til at deltage. Han var dygtig til at følge stillingerne, ikke mindst fordi han brugte den største del af sin koncentration på ikke at prutte i et ubelejligt øjeblik.

Til ære for T’s besøg blev jeg inspireret til at bage en kage. Jeg er ikke nogen bager, men jeg havde været fascineret af billederne af den magiske 3-lags custard-kage, der er på Pinterest lige nu. Desværre viste sociale medier og realiteten sig imidlertid at være langt fra hinanden. Pyt med det! Efter et pift med lidt flormelis på toppen og ved at skære kagen i små nydelige stykker blev kagens udseende dømt egnet til forbrug.

Baking fail 2 crop.jpgKagen – uden flormelis…

Ferien sluttede med vores traditionelle familiefrokost hos mine svigerforældre. Jeg er konstant fyldt med ærefrygt for min svigermors evne til ubesværet at varte op med en virkelig banket på et smukt dækket bord.Feast.jpgEn uge er ikke lang tid, og ferien passerede lynhurtigt. Jeg har været tilbage på uni i mere end en uge, og påsken virker allerede, som om det var for længe siden. Men jeg fik gavn af at slappe af, og jeg er nu ivrig efter at komme i gang – klar til det sidste tidsrum af min BA, og hvad ellers fremtiden kan bringe.Sunset 2.jpg

Alternative Routes

10 Apr

The good people of Odense would be forgiven for thinking that they have woken up in some kind of dystopic nightmare in which they are condemned to live out their days in an eternal hell of construction-site chaos. Due to an extensive and ongoing redevelopment project, the centre of Odense is, to put it bluntly, a mess. Adhering closely to the principles of stealth warfare it would seem, Odense’s traffic planners are busy implementing new and often surprising traffic routes on a daily basis. Bad enough that the traffic bedlam had extended to include the cyclists of Odense (of which there are many), but we have now reached a point where even pedestrians are doomed.

Overgade.jpgIn light of all this, I refuse point blank to drive in the city centre. Instead, I prefer to park well away from the mayhem in a quiet, tree-lined street and use the walk into town as a chance to practise a bit of mindfulness. Odense has a number of parks that are set out like a protective arm round the city centre, so it’s quite easy to get right into the city without having to set foot on a single pavement. Munke Mose is my favourite park at this time of year, when the spring flowers begin to bloom and transform the grass into a shimmering carpet of blue. It’s a spectacular sight, transfigured to an otherworldly vision by the late afternoon sun, and Odensians of all ages stop in their tracks to marvel at the scene.

Blue flowers 1.jpg Blossom has just started to appear on the trees here in Denmark – quite a bit later than in the UK, from what I can gather. Facebook has been sporting a number of photos and articles about the blossom in Copenhagen, but I reckon Odense can also hold its own when it comes to fairytalesque backdrops of blossom.

Blossom 1.jpg Speaking of fairytales (do you see what I did there?), the next park along from Munke Mose is called Eventyrhaven (the fairytale garden). It’s named after the king of fairytales himself, Hans Christian Andersen, who was born in Odense, and in celebration of the great man’s birthday, every year wreaths are laid at the foot of his statue.

HCA.jpgMy route into the centre through the parks follows the path of the river, and I usually don’t need to go any further than Eventyrhaven to get where I need to go. However, due to the latest pedestrian deterrent, I recently had the ‘opportunity’ to extend my walk and ended up at a part of the river I had never been to before. Luckily, I was in the company of my father-in-law at the time, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I doubt if there’s anyone alive who knows more about Odense than he does! Not only was he able to show me a very pretty smutvej (shortcut), but he also told me a little about the oldest cast iron road bridge in Odense, which we passed on the way. The man could earn a fortune as a tour guide, I tell you!

Iron bridge.jpgI’m not sure what kind of impact the construction work is going to have on tourism to Odense, but I’m looking on it as a reminder from the cosmos that my life this year is all about finding alternative routes. Yes, it seems like nuisance at the time, but being forced to rethink your journey can often lead you to experience something new that you didn’t even know was there.

Alternative Ruter

Jeg ville nemt kunne forstå det, hvis odenseanerne troede, at de var vågnet op midt i et dystopisk mareridt, hvor de skulle leve til deres dages ende i et evigt helvede af bygningskaos. På grund af et omfattende og løbende saneringsprojekt er Odenses centrum, kort sagt, en rodebutik. Ved tilsyneladende at overholde principperne om stealth krigsførelse har Odenses trafik-planlæggere travlt med at gennemføre nye og tit overraskende trafikruter på daglig basis. Som om det ikke var nok, at trafik-svikmøllen var udvidet til også at omfatte Odenses mange cyklister, har vi nu nået det punkt, hvor selv fodgængerne er dødsdømt.

I betragtning af det nægter jeg at køre bil i Odenses centrum. Jeg foretrækker i stedet at parkere langt væk fra kaosset i en stille gade og bruger gåturen ind til byen som en mulighed for at øve lidt mindfulness. Odense har en række parker, der er tilrettelagt som en beskyttende arm, der omfavner byens centrum. Munke Mose er min yndlingspark på denne tid af året, når forårsblomsterne begynder at blomstre og omdanner græsset til et changerende tæppe af blåt. Det er et spektakulært syn, der bliver forvandlet til en overjordisk vision af eftermiddagssolen, og odenseanere i alle aldre stopper op for at beundre scenen.

Blue flowers 2.jpg

Blomsterne er lige begyndt at titte frem på træerne her i Danmark – ganske senere end i Storbritannien, så vidt jeg kan forstå. På Facebook er der en hel masse billeder og artikler om kirsebærblomsterne i København, men jeg synes, at Odense også kan være med, når det kommer til fabelagtige blomster-baggrunde.

Blossom 2.jpg

Når vi nu snakker om fabler, hedder den næste park efter Munke Mose Eventyrhaven. Den er opkaldt efter eventyrkongen selv, H.C. Andersen, som blev født i Odense. For at mindes hans fødselsdag lægger man hvert år kranse ved foden af hans statue.

Min vej ind i centrum gennem parkerne er langs åen, og jeg plejer ikke at have brug for at gå videre end til Eventyrhaven for at nå min destination. Imidlertid havde jeg på grund af det seneste afskrækkende middel mod fodgængere fornylig ‘muligheden’ for at forlænge min gåtur og endte på et sted, hvor jeg aldrig har været. Heldigvis var jeg sammen med min svigerfar, og jeg overdriver ikke, når jeg siger, at der ikke er nogen, der ved mere om Odense, end han gør. Ikke kun var han i stand til at vise mig en smuk smutvej, men han fortalte lidt om Odenses ældste vejbro af støbejern, som vi gik forbi på vejen. Jeg siger dig, han kunne tjene en formue som rejseleder!

Iron bridge.jpg

Jeg ved ikke, hvordan bygningsarbejdet vil påvirke turismen i Odense, men jeg ser på det som en påmindelse fra kosmos, at mit liv i år handler om alternative ruter. Ja, det virker irriterende på det tidspunkt, når det sker, men når man bliver tvunget til at genoverveje rejsen, kan det ofte føre til, at man oplever noget nyt, som man ikke i forvejen vidste var der.

Overgade 2.jpg

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