End of a Year

Hasn’t it been a strange year? It has for me. Started at a low, but ended well. Lots of ups and downs along the way. In a broader perspective I don’t know what to think! Obama is totally unpopular because he’s turned out to be only human and to constantly work for the consensus he’s always said he’d work for. This should be really strange, but isn’t, at least not in politics. Here’s a clip where he ads his five cents to the It Gets Better campaign. In the UK we got out in the nick of time – Oh me, can’t believe how Nick Clegg can sleep at night? Am told from people who move in the upper echelons of the British society that the only people NOT suffering from this deep crisis are exactly them, the VERY rich. The middle class is also feeling the pain, but it’s the working poor and the undeserving (that’s people who don’t work, no matter why) who are really feeling the axe. In Harrods, it’s business as usual.

In Denmark we have a conservative/nationalist government, which is luckily worn very thin. An election next year will bring some form of change, but I will not try to guess what it’ll be like. Hard, however, to imagine anything worse than what we’re experiencing now. The concept of “undeserving” as mentioned above is also very prominent here in Denmark. A very clever and passionate charity worker calls Denmark a “post-solidary society“. He’s right, but isn’t it sad?   I work for the Danish Refugee Council occasionally and that’s just so depressing. To get into the country is almost impossible with the Dublin regulation firmly in place and rigorously enforced, even though for instance Greece is totally incapable of receiving all these refugees and process their applications. Many countries in Europe have stopped returning refugees to Greece, but not Denmark. Obviously. Then to have your application granted is even harder. It’s like the bl**dy camel in the bible.

At my dad’s nursing home I regularly hear the old people abuse the immigrants who work there. And the management says that they can only admonish the staff, not the inhabitants. Imagine going to work every day, at the lowest possible pay, wiping people’s bottoms and then ON TOP listening to abuse for your skin colour and/or your (perceived) religion. I want to slap some of them. But you can’t, can you?

And then there are the wars. Everywhere there’s a war and in many places people who actually work actively to start one. Here, in my little segment of the privileged world it is totally and utterly incomprehensible. People get killed for no apparent reason and the dead are either totally innocent civilians or soldiers, recruited from the lower rungs of their society, more often than not without a clue what they’re getting into. That is clear from the books and stories we hear from soldiers coming home with their bodies but not their minds in one piece.

Our civil rights are threatened everywhere. And most people seem not to worry or care at all! Read here how the democracy United States of America is treating the 22 year old private Bradley Manning (allegedly behind the latest batch of  Wikileaks leaks). He has not yet been convicted of or even charged with a crime – nevertheless he’s treated like a convicted serial killer.

In many European countries you can now have your phone tapped or other measures taken against you without a court order. A great thing, however, is that the Danish court recently said NO, you cannot detain people because you THINK they are going to behave violently at a demonstration. Several hundred people were “administratively detained” before the COP15 summit in Copenhagen last year. But this is perhaps the only cheerful story among all the sad ones about how the “war against terrorism” is undermining the very society it’s supposed to protect.

In the midst of all the misery, there are still people who come up with amazing ideas and who are incredibly creative. I went to the TedXCph, which was a great event and there I heard some great speakers. The one that sat with me the longest was the most crazy and unlikely of them all. Had I been a smoker I might have missed it because the blurb was like “we want to build a mountain in Copenhagen”. You WHAT? Seriously. But I’m not a smoker and I did hear it. I suggest you hear it too. You must hang on till the second guy starts talking. He’s the kind of person who could sell sand in Sahara!

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Christmas is the time of year where absent friends and family are most prominently on our minds. The ones I miss the most are the ones who are still alive, but who choose to not be around. On that account, I wish for a better 2011 and hope to understand my failings better.

I wish you all and our dear Earth a peaceful 2011.

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Tourist at Rosenborg Castle

Today I went with young son, my friend @belle_lulu and her daughters from the UK to Rosenborg Castle. Rosenborg is the little baby castle the Danish King Christian the 4th built for himself in the heart of Copenhagen and which is at the centre of Rose Tremain’s fantastic bestseller Music & Silence.

I cannot recall ever having met such sour, dull, impolite and in some cases rude staff at any museum, castle or estate EVER. And it was ALL of them. Some of them even spoke very poor English. And this is not Romania, it’s Denmark, where everybody under 70 is supposed to speak excellent English! Furthermore, it’s a good while since I’ve been at a museum with such poor service towards its many international visitors. The measly few signs explaining what you’re seeing are in DANISH. If you want to understand bits of it you have to buy the guide book, which isn’t even that good. And if you want to take photographs you need to purchase a photo license!!!! (at 20 DKR, but why?).

It’s a lovely, lovely castle, with a terrific collection of gorgeous antiques. Really fantastic stuff, soaked in history. But you’re left with a feeling of embarrassment on behalf of the Danish state. I kept wanting to pass it over to the National Trust to ensure engaged, knowledgeable and friendly staff.

Go sort yourself Rosenborg. Get a new boss who can motivate her staff and bring some fresh air to the establishment.

Thank you.

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Back in the Native Land

Better known as Denmark. Denmark is the kind of country where one of the most publicised points in the new Plan to Save the Country from Economic Ruin is to cut child allowances for families with many children. As any idiot in this country knows, a Family with Many Children is a Brown or a Black family. To further alienate brown and black families, interpretation in hospitals and social services has now been cut to an absolute minimum. And, last but not least, Denmark’s development aid has also been cut.

I’m thinking that I have a copy of Dale Carnegie‘s How to Win Friends and Influence People in the original Danish translation. I could send it to the party leader of the Danish People’s Party (yes, that’s their name, directly translated. Yukk) in the hope she would understand that making friends is much better than getting enemies and alienating people. Or maybe not.

People ask me “What’s great about being back in Denmark?” and “What do you miss about the UK?”. Ah, well… I could say the weather:


But I would be lying. The weather hasn’t been better in the UK than here.

I could say the lovely people. That would be true for both coming back and leaving. I missed my friends a lot more than I’d thought I would – always imagining that we’d talk on FB, on the phone, on Skype and send lots of e-mails. This, however, hasn’t happened. Well, it has, with a few, but with the majority I’ve more or less lost contact except when I came to Copenhagen on visits. All rather strange in these modern times!

The lovely crowd of twitter-friends that I’m leaving behind will be much missed, as quite a few of them grew into so much more than “just” twitter-friends. Some of them are actually coming to visit me over the summer and I’m sooo thrilled! However, given the nature of how I met them, we’re in frequent contact – via FB, Skype and Twitter. I can’t say how much that pleases me!

I could say that I desperately miss British telly, radio and media and that would be absolutely true! If it weren’t for the brilliant phenomenon of podcasts (have I mentioned this before? Oh, I have? Really?), I think I would despair at the loss of R4, which has given me endless hours of pleasurable learning. Now I listen to DR’s (Danish public broadcaster) P1 which is not at all bad, but has recently been very severely hit by the government’s race for privatisation. You know how experience shows that privatisation leads to much better public service, entertainment, train services, hospitals, etc. You don’t know? Well, in all honestly, I can’t say I’ve noticed it either. But right wing governments seem to have this as a mantra. The small matter of missing data/research to support the claim is brushed under the ideological carpet.

On a lighter note, all the series that are my guilty pleasures, 24, Lost, The Good Wife, etc., are months behind here, so I’m not missing anything (and avoided Twitter when season finals were on). Which is good since I’ve had almost no time to watch telly in the month that I’ve been back.

Luck has had it that I’ve hit the ground running here as far as work is concerned. That has been a bit surprising, but surprising in such a nice way…

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Good bye old friend

Last night a very dear old friend of mine died in a traffic accident. Hilmer Hassig. To you English-speakers the name probably means nothing, but to all Danes with a love of music, the name is also a sound. The sound of a guitar, so completely its own. Before I met Hilmer, guitar solos to me were just the sound of musical bragging, only slightly less annoying than drum solos. But Hilmer’s solos were different. He didn’t show off. He showed us a little bit of his soul – the soul he otherwise liked to pretend he didn’t have. His guitar playing was melodious, but never honeyed, deeply original, but always respectful of the song and always, always innovative.

We met almost 30 years ago through a mutual friend. We came from totally different worlds, but had music as a common denominator. Over the next decade we “made music together”. I.e. he made the music and I/we (the record company) did all the easy bits – like trying to stretch the hardly existing funds, getting an acceptable album cover together, trying to plead with him about his infamous 8 hour snare drum sound checks etc. etc. On a night which should have been triumphant, Loveshop (Hilmer & Jens) were angry with me (it was always money) and I didn’t get to share their moment, when they got a Danish Grammy Award for that year’s best pop album. But a few weeks later they did something that has only happened to me that one time in all my years in the music bizz. They came and apologised. And gave me their Grammy. It has had pride of place wherever I’ve lived and still has. Not because it’s a Grammy, but because of the unique circumstances under which it was given to me.

Hilmer taught me lots and humbly I believe I taught him a bit too. Just not about the same things…

Not very long ago we became Facebook friends and Hilmer sweetly asked me if I’d share a cup of coffee one day – it had been more than a year, maybe two since we last met. He hadn’t heard that I don’t live in the country any more. I’m sorry that we never got to share that cup of coffee.

It’s unbearable that he’s not here any longer. But as a friend wrote on Facebook, the all stars band up there in Heaven just keeps getting better and better.

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American television

 I’m often a bit behind in reading The Sunday Times. It is not always that you can devote an entire Sunday to the devouring of The Times. So this morning while I was having breakfast, I read the Culture section. After an interesting article about Baz Luhrmann‘s new film Australia (see trailer here), I got to the previously mentioned AA Gill commenting on British and American television. If you’re interested, you can read the bit about British television yourself here, but I’ll quote his bit about American television. I really wish I could have written it that way myself – we often thought and discussed along those lines while we were there:

 

I have spent the past fortnight in America, immersed, or submerged, in rolling news. There is something numbly comforting about the repetitious lapping of CNN. They say that, after the initial gagging and panic, drowning is quite a pleasant way to go, and that’s rather like watching Fox News — as you drift into unconsciousness, other people’s lives flash before your eyes. The rolling news channels give you the impression of being constantly informed while actually telling you very little. The world sidles past like a great river, and you never have to get wet. Disasters and basketball matches, comic animals and those strangely misshapen commentators all float away with equal inconsequence.

I was reminded again of two strange truths about American broadcasting. One is the astonishing number and variety of snake-oil medicinal commercials, not just advertising patent medicines but whole new diseases. Medical care is one of the main broken bones of contention in the coming American election, but nobody has actually pointed out that getting the halt, the flatulent, the palsied, the breathless and the hypochondriacs to pay for television is a very weird way of financing the entertainment and gaiety of a nation.

 

Brilliant powers of observation!

In a couple of hours I fly with boring Sterling to Copenhagen. Btw. if you’re NOT in Denmark, but want to fly there, Lastminute.com is always, ALWAYS, cheaper with the Sterling tickets than Sterling themselves. This particular ticket (out Thursday and back Sunday) I got for £100, whereas Sterling wanted £300. Don’t even mention SAS

Am going to participate in a 90th birthday celebration in the family. It really is something, isn’t it, to reach 90 and still have all your faculties?

So, see you on Monday…

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Ms. Palin revisited and other odds and ends

A friend of mine sent me this very funny episode of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. You won’t be surprised to hear that his subject is Sarah Palin.

Inspired by the renewed debate about abortion, Slate has a really good article about the statistics surrounding this. And the history of the debate. The Republicans are talking about challenging Roe vs. Wade, the historical Supreme Court case about the right to abortion. I’m sad to see though, that the far right has succeeded in planting the term Pro-Life (like they also planted the term Political Correctness), so that even liberal Slate uses it. They are NOT Pro-Life. They are Anti-Abortion. It is NOT the same thing in my opinion.

In yesterday’s Guardian there was a good, although sad article about how the number of women in the highest positions in society is dwindling fast. There are good insights and some stabs at an explanation. The super famous and wildly successful businessman Sir Alan Sugar is quoted:

“he said that as an employer he would like to be able to ask women at interview “Are you planning to get married and have any children?”, adding that the fact that this was legally prohibited gave businesses an easy option: “Just don’t employ them.” “

Is this sad or what?

I wrote recently about intellectual property and copyright. The record industry always claims that it’s doing for the artists. That’s such a joke! And I feel sorry for the artists who believe it. Here’s a story from Boing Boing about how prolonged copyright in Europe benefits – yeah well, who do you think. Clue: it’s not the artists.

On happiness, this time the Danes’. Again. The article is written by a Brit living in Denmark. And so, why are Danes the happiest people on the planet? Because we have such low expectations to life! Take that. Link found on New York Times’ Idea blog.

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What does my musical taste say about me?

Low self esteem, not very hard-working, kind or generous. However, creative. Indie.

High self-esteem, very creative, hard-working and at ease with myself, but not very kind or generous. Rock’n’roll.

High self-esteem, creative and at ease with myself, but not outgoing. Classical.

High self-esteem, creative, gentle. Opera.

I actually found this on DR’s homepage (Danish National Television), but here’s links to the Independent and BBC, who’ve both run the story. A team of psychologists at the Heriot-Watt University in Scotland are behind a study linking people’s personality and their taste in music. I can’t really tell what I like most of the above four categories of music, though I guess opera is my favourite.

From the above I can deduce that I’m certainly not hardworking. Hm. Giggle. Creative. Not really, you know! Not very kind? Oh my, and I thought I was such a kind person… Not outgoing. Hm, I know people who’d dispute that. And so on and so forth. Also, I can think of a couple of people, mad about indie music and really, really hardworking!

Another news story from Denmark can probably not be found in any British media, because it tells of a sentence passed by a Danish court.  Two women were accused of pirating – copying music files via the Internet. And they were aquitted, because the prosecution couldn’t prove that it was these two particular women, who’d done it – could have been anybody in their household, or even somebody hacking into their network.

Great, great, great!

I totally agree with Lawrence Lessig (law professor at Stanford and Internet evangelist) that the music industry must find itself another leg to stand on, because the sharing of music on the Internet is the future and not even an army of lawyers will be able to stop it.

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Copenhagen in spring

is just absolutely lovely!

With one friend I went for a walk here:

Kastellet

With another here:

Landbohøjskolens Have, Frederiksberg

and I visited more cafés and restaurants in one week than ever before in my home town.

I’d like to tell you about my wonderful friends, but they are generally not as exhibitionistic as I am and would probably rather stay off-camera, so to speak. So I’ll just tell you that I’ve probably got the best friends in the world and that it was a marvellous experience to spend intense time with them all, in the span of little more than a week.

The cafés and restaurants I can talk about, and I will:

Brunch at Dan Turèll in St. Regnegade. You can always count on café Dan Turèll! Actually, when Uncle Danny was alive you could count on him too. He might have seemed rather flippant, but he always kept an appointment and was well prepared and on time. At least when I dealt with him (in the prehistoric times when I was in the music biz).

Dinner with Emil at Sticks’n’Sushi, Gl. Kongevej. The decor was some of the most original and beautiful I’ve seen in a restaurant.

Sticks’n’Sushi back room. Picture taken from their homepage.

The food was excellent and matched the price.

Brunch at Emmery’s in Hellerup. The food is top quality, but the service isn’t. When I pay more than 40 dkr for a cup of coffee, I expect the service to be friendly and impeccable, which it wasn’t. And I expect the toilets to be spotlessly clean and have both hand towels and toilet paper. I was there three times in one week and each time one or more of the toilets lacked one or two of these things.

Dinner at Wagamama. The food was good as it generally is at Wagamama (tried one in London, one in Brisbane, one in Sydney and one in Sydney airport), but the service rather helter skelter. Generally, it’s problematic when several waiters serve the same table. The same problem seemed to occur at above mentioned Emmery’s.

Morning coffee at Kafferiet on Esplanaden. Has been one of my all time favourite coffee shops since Dane was a baby and I walked the pram on Kastellet every day. Still lovely and very recommendable.

Picture borrowed from Kafferiet’s homepage. Check that out by the way. Very original!

Tea & cake at Tante T in Victoriagade on Vesterbro. Very nice but very crowded place. Would like to come there when there are fewer people. Wonder when that is?

Lunch on the noisy but wonderfully sunny sidewalk outside Björg’s on Vester Voldgade. Not all that interesting, but fair enough at the price.

Breakfast at Dag H on Østerbro. Nice coffee…

Lunch at Sommersko. Rather like Dan Turèll, dependable. The potatoe wedges were great.

Coffee at another Emmery’s. Jægersborg Allé, Gentofte. Nicer atmosphere, smaller place.

While waiting for David and Dane to arrive from England, I went to the Grand cinema and saw an absolutely wonderful Swedish film by Simon Staho: Himlens Hjärta. If you’re in a relationship or if you ever intend to commit yourself to one, go see this film. It’s like a lighter, updated version of Ingmar Bergmann’s Scener fra et Ægteskab. Since I first saw him in a film, I’ve been a fan of Mikael Persbrandt. He’s one of those actors who always burns through the screen. Although he denies it, he seems to have had some sort of problems (very likely involving alcohol) for a period of time, because now he looks slim and fit and a good deal better than last time I saw him in a film. I snatched the picture at salongk.se.

Breakfast at Kenya Kaffesalon on Strandvejen in Hellerup. Nice little place with free wi-fi. We always appreciate that!

Family lunch at Brede Gamle Spisehus. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side, so we couldn’t go for a walk in the beautiful surroundings. Brede Gamle Spisehus was always nice, but seems to be living a little too much off their reputation. Neither this time nor the last time we were there, did the food quite live up to former standards. At first we had a very nice and  very attentive waiter, but then he was replaced by two women of which the eldest apparently was the owner’s wife. She wasn’t very nice and they both kept forgetting our orders. Rather irritating!

Coffee at Hacienda in Ørstedsparken. When the sun is shining, this is the ultimate place for advanced people watching. We spent hours there and among many characters met this charming fellow, who promoted himself and Save the Children at the same time.

Dinner at Don Don’s. OK – but no more than that. I strongly disapprove of having my dinner served on plastic when I’m actually eating in a restaurant. I would guess that all that plastic leaves more of a carbon footprint than the washing up of plates does?

Now we’re back in England and Dane has started school. So far, he likes it!

PS: Just discovered that somebody has immortalized me by making an entry about me on Wikipedia. Beat that! Wouldn’t it be nice though, if it weren’t for past achievements but for something I’d done/written lately? Anyway, it’s funny and not entirely correct! 

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A school for Dane

Ever since we got a fixed address, we’ve been busy checking schools on the Internet and phoning good schools in the area (and outside the area). We’ve based out search on the so-called Ofsted Reports and on word-of-mouth. A member of the family is a school teacher herself, which has helped an awful lot.

But – it’s difficult to get a place at any of the good schools, some of them even have long waiting lists. In the end we were lucky. It’s called Ripley Church of England Infant School, a tiny school, only ten minutes away. Until now it’s been a so-called Infant School, taking children from 4 – 7. But from next year they’ll become what’s called a Primary School and will take the children up till they are 11. Dane will be starting in year 2, so will join what is at the moment the oldest class in the school.

He’ll have a tough time to begin with, not reading or writing. But the lovely headmistress was complete untroubled by this. She’s certain he’ll have caught of with the rest of the class by the beginning of the next school year. Great comfort!

So we’ve been out buying school uniform for Dane today. He’s been wearing it ever since and can’t wait to start.

However, it’ll be another week and a half, since we’re coming to Denmark. I’m coming tomorrow, Saturday, and Dane and David will follow next week.

More pictures of Dane in uniform on Flickr.

So expect very little activity on the blog – if any. I’m not bringing my computer, but instead my new toy, my Iphone

Iphone picture plucked from MrKab.

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Vote!

Warning: This post is bordering on a lecture…

Tomorrow is election day in Denmark. We’ve had the right to vote for more than 150 years and too many Danes take that right for granted. However – it seems to me that even more Americans take it for granted. So granted that they don’t even bother to vote. Here you have to register to vote – but compared to how difficult it was for a black voter to register in the deep south of the fifties for instance, it’s not that difficult. But I guess, that when you don’t read a newspaper -and I’ve heard and read several times that many Americans have a good reason not to read a paper, the reason being that they are almost illiterate – and only watch the news, or what passes for news, on the local Fox channels, then you may easily lose any interest in voting.

And that’s so, so sad. Because it’s such a core right in a Democracy – think China, Burma, Iran etc. – and I’ve heard many people say: “Oh, I can’t be bothered, they are all corrupt anyway” or “It doesn’t make any difference to me, they are just thinking of themselves, all of them”. And both statements may have more than a little truth to them. But does not voting change that? NO NO NO!

So go and do you democratic duty: Vote!

And to my Danish friends, family and readers who happen to live in Copenhagen. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, then vote for my good friend Charlotte Fischer. She’s honest, hard working and most certainly not corrupt. So there…

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