Thursday, 15 April 2021
Friday, 9 April 2021
Now here's a weird one... When you are brought up in Scotland, you are taught nothing about Greenland. You know it's a snowy place with the odd igloo, and possibly some seals, full stop. You have no idea what goes on there and you have almost certainly never met a Greelander or even someone who has been there. My old office mate, a keen climber and mountaineer, once went on a hiking tour of eastern Greenland. She came back with some of the most spectacular photos I have ever seen in my life, so I really felt I knew much more about it than your average middle-aged Scottish woman!
Greenland is currently an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, so here the topic of Greenland crops up all the time. For example, if you go on the local job page here, there are currently no fewer than 135 jobs on offer in Greenland! And the last week's evening news has been dominated by the general election and shift in power there, bet you didn't know about that!
You also meet a number of Greenlanders in your travels here. My new dentist is from Greenland - a lovely woman, married to an Irishman from Cork who runs the local Irish pub! Léon has Greenlandic classmates and a couple of years ago when we were looking to buy a house, we viewed at least one where the decor was entirely Greenlandic and all the photos dotted around the house included people in reindeer skins against snowy backdrops. It's quite fascinating!
Wednesday, 7 April 2021
After my experience with the ice lollies, I started to look out for liquorice. It is everywhere! Whereas in a UK shop maybe 3-5% of confectionery may be liquorice flavoured, here it is often more than 50% and sometimes as high as 75%. As a liquorice loather, I often wonder why they need so many types? Surely one sweet, one salty should cover all bases? These same supermarkets only stock one type of fresh chilli, when I want a choice of ten, but they have space for 47 different sweets that are all the same in my book! Supermarkets all stock tubs of liquorice ice cream, though you might struggle to find something like raspberry ripple or peach melba! And Haribo has a whole liquorice range! Who knew?! Small children are given liquorice from birth just so that they get used to that flavour from early on. Danes actively seem to try building up a liquorice tolerance in their kids in much the same way as I did with my kids with scotch bonnets! Just last week, my 7 year old (Danish) niece was munching on liquorice sweets and looked aghast when both my Danish daughters refused one. She had clearly never met a child who didn't like liquorice before, let alone two!
But the most spectacular encounter I have had so far was on a trip at the end of 2019 to the wonderful restaurant Fiskehuset in Bogense. My mother was visiting and we went for a fish buffet. Never in my life had I tasted such wonderful lobster soup and I was happily tasting my way through the fishy delicacies, when I noticed the next table were slightly further on in their meal. The kids were ordering some ice creams but the dad opted for a cheeseboard. I looked on in interest, given that cheese is probably my favourite thing in the whole world to eat... They brought out delicious-looking rustic crackers and a large selection of hard and soft cheeses, some blue, some creamy coloured. Suddenly in the centre of the board I noticed a jet black lump, cheddary in consistency but with a dark, matt sheen. As my brain questioned what it could possibly be, I heard the man's wife exclaim in glee - Oh look darling, they've got that yummy liquorice cheese, you love! Liquorice cheese? LIQUORICE CHEESE??? Seriously? What is wrong with these people?!
If I had been less in shock, I would have wandered over and asked to photograph it, but that'll need to wait till Covid is over with, I guess.
And just to prove they do make the stuff, though this isn't the same colour as the one I saw, here's a picture!
Thursday, 1 April 2021
Over the years that changed. Supermarkets mushroomed to the size of Silverburn Tesco (the Danish equivalent is probably Bilka Odense). Strangely though, the egg selection shrank till all you could get from battery, to barn, to free range were brown eggs. Occasionally Newton Mearns Waitrose had some pale duck-egg blue coloured ones if you had recently won the lotto, but otherwise all eggs were brown.
This made no difference all year round, except at Easter. If you want to colour brown eggs, you end up with shitty-coloured Easter eggs. For about five years we got round this by buying white eggs in our local Polish corner shop but that solution left with its owners when Brexit forced it into liquidation and its lovely staff onto the first plane home.
In Denmark, however, we have no such problem. Here all standard supermarket eggs are white and if we were to need a brown one for anything, our neighbour's brood often leave us little brown ones around the garden!😁
Monday, 29 March 2021
Sunday, 28 March 2021
I had a bike back home, the same one I'd bought in my late 20s and on the few occasions I used it, it suited my purpose. Before I left, given it was a worthless dinosaur, I figured selling it rather than paying to ship it to Denmark was probably a better bet. I advertised it on Facebook at £30 and a rather wacky treehugger granny dressed in tie-dyed cheesecloth turned up on my doorstep all the way from the Ayrshire coast telling me she wanted to get back in touch with nature and cycle everywhere going forward. A very chatty type, she admitted eventually she had lost her job through illness as some kind of general do-gooder and didn't even have enough for her dinner, let alone petrol going forward, so by the end of the afternoon, I'd made her a cup of tea, given her biscuits, bagged up some rhubarb and berries from my garden, waived the £30 and helped her squeeze my old bike into the back of the smallest, oldest car you've ever seen handlebars out the window. As she hugged me in tears, telling me there were still good people in the world, I knew my bike would be loved, even if I suspected she was going to spend the rest of the week dancing round a bonfire in the forest chanting my name to some pagan gods of hers!
It made me feel good, but now I am beginning to regret it! You see, since I arrived in Denmark I have realised their bikes are quite different. For starters, they have that really odd cycle-backwards-braking system you find all over the Germanic world, except in the UK! So when I am on my new Danish bike, unless I concentrate, I accidentally brake and throw myself over my handlebars. But that isn't even the biggest difference!
The problem is the sizing of bikes. For some reason when you buy or hire a bike in the UK or France (the two places I am used to cycling), they give you a bike that when you sit on the saddle, you can touch the ground on both sides with the ball of your foot. The saddle comes up to the top of your leg plus maybe 5cm. In Denmark however, when they measure you up for a bike in a proper bike shop, they offer you something that when you stand beside it, the saddle is somewhere between waist height and your boobs! You can barely reach the pedals, let alone the ground and this isn't just because I am only 1m61, it is completely standard. After buying a bike here I have been observing Danish cyclists and they are all sitting waaaaaay up in the air, by UK standards. Every day I see wee grannies perched up on bikes that look like they'd fit a 1m90 man. When on my new bike, I feel like I should be asking for permission to land rather than just pulling in to the kerb, I'm so high up. And it isn't like I could just have bought the size down. Given my height, the size down is aimed at primary kids and comes with my little Pony stickers, purple ribbons and no gears, not to mention it probably doesn't cater for my non-ten-year-old weight! Thomas claims it is less tiring to be so much further from the ground and the pedals - that's as maybe, but it is bloody scary when you are just a wee woman like me! I almost feel like I need to learn to cycle from scratch because it feels so different way up there where the air is thin! If I survive, and overcome my newly-developed fear of heights, maybe I'll adapt to it eventually.
Oh, and finally, another thing that stands out here on the roads is helmet use, or rather the lack of it. I don't think I've seen anyone cycling on the road in the UK helmet-free since the 1990s, but here the only people in helmets are primary school kids, foreigners and people in sports gear. 90% of adult Danes, in Odense centre, and there are thousands of them, are helmetless... waaaaay up there!
Thursday, 25 March 2021
Funnily enough, I expect the Danes who read this to be as appalled about Scotland as the Scots who read it are about Denmark, so here goes:
Back in Scotland my kids went to Kirkhill primary. Kirkhill is (funnily enough) on a hill! Two thirds of the plot of land the school was on was taken up with concrete playgrounds, and the school itself, but one third was known as 'the banking', a grassy area on an incline, hence banking. Here are a couple of photos and a satellite picture:
I grew up without a toaster. In Scotland in the 70s, you just used the grill in your cooker. Often this was at eye-level so why would you ev...
I was listening to the radio programme Sara og Monopolet the other weekend. When I was on my Danish course last year, the teachers advised ...
Funnily enough, I expect the Danes who read this to be as appalled about Scotland as the Scots who read it are about Denmark, so here goes: ...
Since my piece the other day about risk aversion, I've been thinking about the differences between the Danish and Scottish (or British) ...