Thursday, 15 April 2021

Toasters

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 ever want a toaster? Of course, I secretly wanted a toaster because I thought they were ever so classy and exciting! But then someone invented extractor fans and the grills moved into the oven. After a few years of backache, most people gave in and bought a toaster, and it turned out they weren't half as exciting as I'd imagined. We still used the grill for toasted cheese or toasting a baguette, but the toaster became the norm for toasting bread.

When we moved to Denmark, we brought our Scottish toaster, but Thomas complained time and again that he missed having a toaster - something he'd never mentioned in 15 years together. I didn't get what the issue was till he finally bought what he, as a Dane, considers to be a real toaster! It is this weird two-bar heater thing that operates basically as an upside-down grill and that Danes use to toast their morning rolls. Now we have one, he uses it all the time, and I guess it is slowly becoming a kind of toaster in my head too. Who knew?




 

Friday, 9 April 2021

Greenland

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! LĂŠon 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

Liquorice revisited

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

Easter eggs

In Scotland, when I was a child there were very few supermarkets and the ones we did have were small, Aldi-sized. You could buy mainly white eggs and on a really exotic day brown were also available.

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

Happy 30th!

There's something weird going on in this country when it comes to people's 30th birthdays. It seems common to celebrate 30th birthdays with odd, large, metal, for want of a better word, sculptures or similar. I'm not sure who gifts these to the birthday boy or girl, or whether they come as a surprise or are actually built on request. They seem to be deposited at the end of people's driveways and left for weeks or even months. Examples of these, that I have come across so far are a 2m tall man holding a beer made of old metal drums, that was on the main road to Søndersø so I couldn't stop, and a wreckage of a car (with no wheels or engine) in various colours painted with rude slogans, this time on the main road to Odense. And then there were these two delightful specimens which I actually managed to snap from my car window in passing. The first was in our nearest village Veflinge and the second was in a tiny rural idyll of a village named Sønder Esterbølle... I mean wtaf?! The latter sat outside someone's house on the on the main road for the whole summer! 

I think I will make a conscious effort to snap these sculptures going forward and add them here, while investigating further what they are all about... But I have to say, I'm kinda glad I was over 30 when I moved here!




Going forward I will add any new birthday sculptures I find on my travels, below with the date and location:

Veflinge 12/04/21


 

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Danish bikes

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

An anecdote about Danish schools versus Scottish ones

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:




How nice, you might think... but no, the banking was out of bounds! No child was allowed to set foot on the banking unless it was school sports day and they were out with a teacher, or if they were taking part in an outdoor activity under the supervision of a teacher, or afterschool care worker. Children got in big trouble if they attempted to play on the grass, because it was deemed way too risky as there was no fence at the playground end. Children who dared to walk along the wall Thomas and the kids are sitting on in the photo above were also chastised for taking part in way too dangerous an activity! At several parent council meetings, using the banking was mooted but dropped as they could afford neither to have it flattened or fenced off, nor to insure kids to play on it in its current state, so year after year the more than 600 pupils played on the concrete playgrounds you can see on the satellite image, while the banking went unused. 

This is definitely a 21st century phenomenon. My own primary school had a similar grassy incline and we lived on it in the 70s, so this paranoia is new. Whether they are most worried about the kids hurting themselves, or whether they are scared of being sued by parents is not a question I can answer, though the suing culture that has crept in from the US over the past generation is very tangible. I didn't grow up with kettles being labelled 'Warning: hot water', but that is sadly the norm now.

So let's move on to the kids' Danish schools now. Amaia's is equivalent in age covering nursery up to year 6 (who are aged 12). They don't have any banking, but firstly they have a playground without a fence around it which is next to a road and secondly they have a forest to the back of the school with homemade treehouses and ropes and ladders for any kid who wants to climb the trees! And I don't mean expensive climbing frames, I mean a literal forest with homemade platforms up trees. Funnily enough you can't see the platforms on the satellite for the actual trees.


No one bats an eyelid when kids as young as six disappear off into the forest.

But the anecdote I started out on was this...

LĂŠon and Anna go to a Danish Folkeskole - it's neither a primary, nor a high school in the Scottish sense. It has one wing that contains a nursery and kids up to year 6 like Amaia's and over and above that, it has a wing at the back that contains years 7, 8, & 9 - a sort of middle school or junior high if you like, before they go off to gymnasium at 16. So the front part of the building is the younger kids' wing. One day before we moved here to our house, when I was still driving the kids every day from our rented summer house up at the coast, a boy of maybe nine kicked his football up onto the flat roof at the front of the school. I watched from the carpark with interest... The boy climbed the nearby drainpipe, retrieved his ball and threw it down. At that point I saw a teacher had clocked him and started to walk over. My still-Scottish mind thought 'you're in trouble mate!' ... I knew for sure that if this had been Scotland, the child would have been made to sit down and wait while the fire brigade or a rescue helicopter or similar had been called - although it would never have happened back at our Scottish school because not only were all flat roofs surrounded by spikes and barbed wire, the kids would have been told that climbing up would have led to death or at the very least paralysis, so they would never have dared!! I watched with interest, car windows open so I could hear the exchange. It went something like 'Hey you!' The boy turned to the teacher. 'Are you up there getting a ball?' 'Yes' he replied though I could detect no fear or sheepishness... 'See while you are up there, gonna throw down any other balls, shuttlecocks and anything else you see, save the janitor going up later, thanks son!' He then turned to his two mates and said 'Why don't you two shove that picnic bench over to the wall so it is easier for your mate to jump back down!' which they hurriedly did while the boy slowly climbed back down. 

There was no drama, no hysteria, no fear, no one died, no one got sued. I sat in my car and thought to myself - I think my parenting style is going to fit in better here than it did at home...

Toasters

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...