Tag Archives: summer

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

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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

The Hills of Home

14 Sep

Struie sunny dayI would imagine that for most people returning to their childhood home is like stepping back in time, and it’s certainly the case for me. I was privileged to have spent my childhood roaming the hills and forests of the Scottish Highlands, the memories of which I carry with me to this day, and this summer I came back to my childhood home for an extended stay. It’s been the longest I’ve been here since leaving home at the age of 17, and wherever I go it’s like lifting the lid on a Pandora’s box of memories and feelings from all those years ago.

Up the roadAside from my own history, the area is flecked with leftovers from all sorts of events from throughout time. The ravages of the Ice Age are still visible, as well as traces of life lived on a smaller scale by generations past, and I think you could spend a whole lifetime here and still feel that you are only passing through.

Glacier viewView from GimmeThe Tin HouseThe air here is unbelievably pure, a testament to which is the abundance and variety of lichens, which grow indiscriminately on anything that doesn’t move for any length of time.

LichenLichen1Even the most everyday of objects gain an air of bearded ancientness and grandeur when claimed by the gnarly spread.

Bird tableLichen2LandroverPerhaps it’s the plethora of relics from other times which lie scattered around, or maybe it’s the dizzying effect of the air, but there’s something about this place that distorts your sense of time, where past blurs with present, and a whole day can disappear in a heartbeat.

HarrowsTin house sunsetForget about clocks and calendars – here time is measured by Nature.

Blossom

As summer dwindles, blossom gives way to green seed-filled pods that blacken and rattle like dry bones in the early autumn chill.Rainy green podsBlack podsRed berries are now lush and ripe on the rowan trees, heralding the impending departure of the swallows, which have wheeled and dived in the skies the whole summer.

Rowan treeSwallowBy now the broom’s black pods are snapping open in the warmth of the few sunny days that remain, and the leaves on the trees are unmistakably beginning to turn to red and gold.

Black podsYellow leaves

I’m starting to think that perhaps that’s my signal to fly back to my home in sunnier climes.Biblical sky

The Art of Appreciation

11 Jul

RoseThroughout the day I’ve become accustomed to the smell of sun-warmed skin and suncream, and now and then an occasional puff of overripe strawberries and rose. But it’s at night time when the most tantalizing scent of them all is to be found: honeysuckle. After the burning heat of daytime there’s a still and dewy dusk when the honeysuckle blossoms release tendrils of ethereal perfume. It’s a narcotic for the soul, made all the more addictive due to it’s transience, and no matter how much I get I always want more.

Honeysuckle 2Summer in Denmark offers stimulation for all the senses, both natural and man-made. It’s always with a degree of reluctance I leave my little paradise of home and garden, but having read about an exhibition by Tara Donovan at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a jewel-in-the-crown of Danish galleries, my appetite for art was whetted and I just had to see it for myself. So, in the good company of my culturally like-minded friend, Simply Stylish Mom, I left the island of Funen and headed for the distant mirage of Louisiana, just north of Copenhagen.

Sculpture reflectionThe gallery building itself is rather beautiful and set in several acres of surrounding grounds, right on the coast of Denmark, overlooking the water to Sweden. Being wise ladies, we had had decided to allow ourselves the whole day to spend at Louisiana before catching the train home, so we had plenty of time to enjoy all Louisiana had to offer, inside and out. While I am no expert in art, I need it in my life and am particularly drawn to works from around 1900 up to the present day. I’m also a big fan of Danish design and when these two elements come together in such perfect alignment as they do at Louisiana, I’m completely in my element.

CorridorTara Donovan’s work was sensuous and fascinating, and even more fantastic than I had imagined it to be. Of course, photography is forbidden in the gallery, but you can see photos of the exhibition and other works by Donovan if you search on the internet. Suffice it to say, the pictures don’t do the works justice, and I would strongly recommend seeing them in real life if you get the chance.

Sculpture with boatsSSM and I are practical as well as cultural ladies, and we had brought a picnic of delicious fare to enoy in the tranquil and inspiring surroundings of the scultpure park housed within Louisiana’s grounds, and we whiled away the day appreciating, eating, drinking and being happy.

PondIt was a fantastic day and SSM and I have already planned our next cultural escape, but more on that another time. Until then I shall be content with pottering about in my olfactory oasis of rose, strawberries and honeysuckle blossom.

Kunsten at holde af

StrawberriesI løbet af dagen er jeg blevet vant til duften af sol-opvarmet hud og solcreme og fra tid til anden et sjældent pust af overmodne jordbær og roser. Men ved nattetide findes den allermest fristende duft: kaprifolien. Efter dagens brændende varme er der en stille og dugvåd skumring, når kaprifolieblomsterne slipper slyngtråde af æterisk parfume løs. For sjælen er den narkotikum, som er endnu mere afhængighedsskabende pga. dens forbigående virkning. Uanset hvor meget jeg får, ønsker jeg altid mere.

HoneysuckleSommeren i Danmark tilbyder stimulanser både naturlige og menneskeskabte til alle sanserne. Det er altid med lidt modvillighed, at jeg forlader mit lille paradis af hus og have. Imidlertid – efter jeg læste om en kunstudstilling lavet af Tara DonovanLouisiana Museum of Modern Art – blev min appetit på kunst vakt, og jeg blev nødt til at se den selv. Så i selskab med min ligesindede veninde, Simply Stylish Mom, forlod jeg øen Fyn mod den fjerne luftspejling, der er Louisiana.

Back entranceGalleribygningen selv er ganske flot og dækker flere kvadratkilometer jord, lige ved kysten af Danmark over for Sverige. Fordi vi er kloge damer, havde vi besluttet os for at tilbringe hele dagen på Louisiana, før vi skulle tage toget hjem. Af den grund havde vi masser af tid til at nyde alt, hvad Louisiana tilbød, både inde og ude. Selv om jeg ikke er ekspert i kunst, sætter jeg stor pris på den og er særlig tiltrukket af kunstværker fra omkring 1900 til og med i dag. Jeg er også en stor beundrer af Danish-design, og når de to elementer kommer sammen så perfekt placeret, som de er på Louisiana, er jeg fuldstændig i mit es.

Sculpture park viewKunstværkerne af Tara Donovan var sanselige og fascinerende, og de var endnu mere vidunderlige, end jeg havde forestillet mig. Selvfølgelig er fotografering forbudt i galleriet, men man kan se billeder af udstillingen og andre kunstværker af Donovan, hvis man søger på nettet. Lad det være nok at sige, at billederne ikke yder kunstværkerne fuld retfærdighed, og jeg vil varmt anbefale, at man ser dem i virkeligheden, hvis man får chancen.

Wish treeSSM og jeg er praktiske såvel som kulturelle damer, og vi havde medbragt mad, som vi kunne nyde i de fredelige og inspirerende omgivelser i skulpturparken, der står på Louisianas jord. Tiden gik, mens vi kiggede og beundrede, spiste, drak og var glade.

LouisianaDet var en fantastisk dag, og SSM og jeg har allerede planlagt vores næste kulturelle udflugt, men der kommer mere om det en anden gang. Indtil videre vil jeg være tilfreds med at nusse rundt i min lugt-oase blandt roserne, jorbærrene og kaprifolieblomsterne.

Moving out

14 Jun

ThermometerSummer is officially here. There are some obvious signs: I’ve heard the cuckoo, seen swallows, and the Danes have moved their garden furniture outside. My husband and I are not unique in that throughout the summer we literally move outside, and the garden becomes our living room. Having grown up in a country where this can only be a fantasy on 362 out of 365 days of the year, spending an entire summer living outside in the fresh air with the sun on your skin is utterly delicious. These long summer evenings of sitting in the garden with my favourite people, talking about everything and nothing as night gently falls in the background, are my definition of paradise.

Evening drinkIt’s particularly at this time of year that I have no regrets about ending the chapter of my former career as a classical musician. Instead of all those hours spent inside practising, rehearsing and performing, I can work outside in peace and quiet, disturbing nobody, with incidental music provided by the birds all day long.

Outside office 2

In Denmark the shift from indoor- to outdoor-living begins in May, and this time of year is peppered with one-day holidays. The original significance of these various holidays seems to have decreased over time, and these days they’re just a very good excuse to gather in parks, drink beer with friends and family, and generally enjoy the sunshine and good atmosphere.

People in Park

Also making an appearance at this time of year are all the baby animals. I particularly love the ducklings which are in abundance all along the river, and I often stop my bike just to sit and watch them for a while. I was brought up with Hans Christian Andersen stories, and it’s not difficult to see where he got the inspiration to write The Ugly Duckling.

Ducklings

The long days and uninterrupted sunshine are a much anticipated contrast to the darkness of winter’s extended incarceration. I’ve finally emerged from my cocoon of down-filled coats and snow boots, and it’s warm enough once again go about in floaty summer dresses and sandals – I can even leave the house with no jacket! The weather forecast is promising many more days of high temperatures and no rain, so if anyone needs me I’ll be in the garden, somewhere between the butterflies and the stars.

Butterfly & Lavender

Udflytningen

Sommeren er officielt kommet. Der er nogle tydelige tegn: Jeg har hørt gøgen, set svalerne, og danskerne har flyttet deres havemøbler udenfor. Min mand og jeg står ikke alene med, hvordan vi i løbet af sommeren flytter ud, og haven bliver vores stue. Fordi jeg voksede op i et land, hvor det kun kan være en fantasi i 362 ud af 365 dage om året, at tilbringe en hel sommer udenfor i frisk luft med solskin på huden, er det aldeles lifligt. Disse lange sommeraftener, når man sidder i haven sammen med ens yndlingsmennesker og snakker om alt mellem himmel og jord, mens natten falder på i baggrunden, er min definition af paradis.

Det er især på denne tid af året, at jeg ikke fortryder, at jeg afsluttede kapitlet i mit liv som klassisk musiker. I stedet for alle de timer, jeg tilbragte indenfor på at øve mig, at prøve sammen med andre og at optræde, kan jeg nu arbejde udenfor i fred og ro uden at forstyrre nogen som helst. Der er også den ekstra fordel, at fuglene sørger for baggrundsmusik hele dagen.

Outside office 1

I Danmark begynder ændringen fra indendørs- til udendørslivet i maj måned, og omkring dette tidspunkt er der mange éndagsferier. Den oprindelige betydning af de forskellige feriedage er aftaget i tidens løb, og i dag er det bare en god undskyldning for at samles i parkene, drikke øl med venner og familie, og generelt at nyde solskinnet og den gode stemning.

Sleeping Man

Det er også på denne tid af året, at alle dyrbørnene dukker op. Jeg elsker især ællingerne, som er til overflod langs åen, og jeg stopper tit op for at sidde og betragte dem i et stykke tid. Jeg voksede op med H.C. Andersens eventyr, og det er ikke svært at se, hvorfra han fik inspirationen til at skrive Den grimme ælling.

Swans

De lange dage og det uforstyrrede solskin står i meget tydelig modsætning til vinterens lange indespærring. Jeg er endelig kommet til syne fra mit beskyttende dække af dunfyldte jakker og vinterstøvler, og der er igen varmt nok udenfor til at tage sommerkjolerne og sandalerne på. Jeg kan endda forlade huset uden jakke! Vejrudsigten lover mange flere dage med høje temperaturer og ingen regn, så hvis der er nogen, der har brug for mig, kan jeg findes i haven et eller andet sted mellem sommerfuglene og stjernerne.

Rødgrød med fløde, the ragged rascal ran…

28 Jul

If you were to ask a Dane, you would most likely be told that rødgrød med fløde is an old-fashioned summer dessert. They would probably add that they haven’t eaten it for years, or indeed ever.  These days rødgrød med fløde has evolved into something of an initiation test for foreigners to Denmark.

First, I’ll explain what rødgrød med fløde is since I don’t think there’s a British equivalent. If you’re being a purist, rødgrød med fløde is made with the juice from whatever red (rød) berries you have knocking about in the garden. You can also use the whole berry if you’re being a little less strict about it. The juice is then thickened with potato flour, sugar and water to make a sort of porridge (grød). The consistency of the rødgrød is crucial and one must at all costs avoid ‘long’ grød, so I’m told. The rødgrød is then served with cream (fløde). Voilà! A traditional Danish dessert, which I can confirm tastes very nice indeed.

As a visitor to Denmark you will most likely find the Danes to be friendly and helpful. When talking to a Dane, you will have a period of grace, maybe 10 minutes, maybe even as long as 20 minutes, but inevitably your friendly Dane will try to get you to say ‘rødgrød med fløde’ then fall about laughing as you fail miserably. This has happened to everyone I know who is a foreigner to Denmark – myself included.

 You may have noticed that I′ve used the phrase rødgrød med fløde many times already in the course of this post, and I am doing this on purpose. For my non-Danish-speaking readers, I want you to see the words and maybe form an idea in your head of how they might sound – rødgrød med fløde. A couple of hints to help you: forget the letter ′d′ and to correctly pronounce the ′r′ it can be beneficial to invoke your gag reflex. Oh yes, also bear in mind that the ′ø′ in fløde is pronounced differently from those in ′rødgrød′. Got it now??

I found some examples here on YouTube.

So if you ever find yourself visiting Denmark, forget about learning how to say, “Which way to the hotel, please?” or, “How much does this cost?” No, if you want to earn some serious respect from a Dane, all you need is rødgrød med fløde.

Rødgrød som en prøve…

Hvis du spørger en dansker, vil han sandsynligvis sige, at rødgrød med fløde er en gammeldags sommer dessert. Han vil måske tilføje, at han ikke har spist det i lang tid eller faktisk aldrig nogensinde. I dag har rødgrød med fløde udviklet sig til en slags optagelsestest for udlændinge i Danmark.

Først skal jeg forklare, hvad rødgrød med fløde er, fordi jeg ikke tror, der er en tilsvarende britisk. Hvis man er purist, skal rødgrød med fløde laves, af saften fra lige meget hvilke røde bær, man har i haven – og kun saften. Hele bærret kan også bruges, hvis man er lidt mindre striks med det. Så jævnes saften med kartoffelmel, sukker og vand, og grøden er færdig. Konsistensen af rødgrøden er afgørende, og man må for enhver pris undgå ′lang′ grød, har jeg hørt. Så serveres rødgrøden med fløde. Voilà – en traditionel dansk dessert, som jeg kan bekræfte smager rigtig godt!

Som besøgende i Danmark, vil du sandsynligvis opdage, at danskerne er venlige og hjælpsomme. Når du taler med  en dansker, vil der gå måske 10 minutter, måske så meget som 20 minutter, men den venlige dansker vil garanteret prøve at få dig til at sige “rødgrød med fløde”. Bagefter, når du kvajer dig, vil de falde om af grin. Det er sket for alle, jeg kender, som er udlændinge i Danmark – deriblandt mig selv.

 Du har måske lagt mærke til, at jeg allerede har brugt frasen “rødgrød med fløde” mange gange i løbet af denne post. Det gør jeg med vilje. Jeg vil gerne have, at mine ikke-dansk-talende læsere ser ordene og prøver at få en idé om, hvordan de måske lyder – “rødgrød med fløde”. Et par råd til at hjælpe dig: Glem bogstavet ‘d’, og for at udtale ‘r’ kan det være gavnligt at bruge din opkastningsrefleks. Årh, du skulle også huske, at det ‘ø’ i ‘fløde’ udtales forskelligt fra det i ‘rødgrød’. Har du forstået det??

Jeg fandt nogle eksempler her på YouTube.

Så hvis du nogensinde er på besøg i Danmark, så glem alt om at lære, hvordan man siger: “Hvordan finder jeg mit hotel?” eller: “Hvad koster det?” Nej, hvis du gerne vil have respekt fra en dansker: Alt, hvad du har brug for, er “rødgrød med fløde”.

Summer Blues – and other colours!

20 Jul

I have  just returned  from a family holiday to Scotland where, after the first few days of rain (fortunately I had issued strict orders for all family members to pack their regntøj), the sun came out and was in fact extremely pleasant.

Since our return to Denmark on Tuesday, however, the weather has been somewhat ‘soupy’. Now, some people might complain about the rain showers/downpours and breezy intervals which have pervaded, but I find it rather appropriate as I am currently suffering from the summer sniffles/attack of the green gunk and, quite frankly, being ill when it’s brilliant sunshine outside is rubbish.

One of the good things about lying on the couch all day is that I get a really good view of the garden. At the moment everything is in full bloom and in between rain showers I nipped out with my camera so you could have a look, too.

Some parts of the garden are still a little bit  shall we say ‘nature reserve’-ish but this doesn’t appear to be a bad thing, judging by the quantity and variety of insects paying a visit.

I’m looking forward to being out and about again (and writing in Danish!), but in the meantime I’ll just enjoy looking at the flowers.

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