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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Powerless

At 9 o’clock this morning the power went. Not just in our flat, but in the entire neighbourhood. And it stayed off long enough (around 2 1/2 hours) to make itself felt. What was there left to do? Mobile phone still worked, so could talk, text and also browse web, post on Facebook and Twitter. But that’s not really what I want to do between 9-11, which is normally my most productive time of the day. So I went to the gym, which is far enough away so it wasn’t hit by the outage. On coming home, the power was back on – and so was the heating, brrr it got cold very, very quickly! We have central heating, but that too needs electricity!

A good chair, a warm shawl, something worthwhile to read and a nice cup of tea...
A good chair, a warm shawl, something worthwhile to read and a nice cup of tea...

Husband and I talked about what we REALLY need, how we would enjoy – or not – living in a more frugal society, if that indeed becomes the reality as predicted by James Lovelock.

In such a life we wouldn’t be entirely without electricity but would have to prioritise what we want to use the limited amount on. Main priorities:

Heating (incl. hot water), light, fridge, computer, Internet access, washing machine.

Picture from Agathyme.com
Picture from Agathyme.com

Although it would be quite a change, we believe we could live happily with a gas fired AGA, which would produce heat in addition to food (besides taking up half the space in the kitchen…). I already bake all bread myself, so would just have to get friendly with the AGA. Electric kettle, toaster, Kitchen Aid & hand mixer, microwave, clothes dryer, dishwasher, hair dryer, electric razor, TV, DVD-player, game consoles, stereo etc. we decided that we could live without. Some with more regret than others. The computers, the mobile phones and the digital cameras could all be charged via some of the better solar chargers out there.

If we had our own house and garden, we could have solar panels on the roof and probably generate enough power to heat the water we needed. Also, we could grow our own vegetables, we did that in our house in Denmark. Besides being enjoyable, the veg tastes better and it’s healthier. If we also had a greenhouse, we’d be able to prolong the season a lot.

Most houses and flats today come without a larder. For the younger readers I’ll explain that a larder is a smallish (or big, in a big house) cool and dry place where you store foodstuffs. If you had a larder, you’d only need a fridge half the size of the ones we have today, because lots of the things we put in the fridge, don’t need temperatures that low. It’s only really milk products, fish and meat that need such low temperatures.

Could go on like this, I guess, but what’s my point? My main point is probably that we’re so d… lucky to live in such affluence where everything we need comes out of sockets, taps, shops etc. All we need to do is pay… And as long as we have the money, we pay, but maybe we don’t think enough about the other kinds of currency we’re using when we gluttonously devour all the things on offer?

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A family holiday in pictures

We only had weather like this one whole day. Trust me that we enjoyed it from breakfast on the terrace till stargazing on the beach at night. This picture is taken from the front door of the family summer house, just to give you an idea. We’re in Pagham, Sussex.

 

David caught a mackerel and ate it!

Linda is showing off her wellies! Low tide and high winds.

 

Notice the “door steps”. When the tide is high, it really is. The road along the harbour is flooded on a daily basis! This is Bosham, Sussex.

Hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows is just the cure for a rainy day!

We went to Portsmouth and toured the Victory, Admiral Nelson’s ship at the battle of Trafalgar.

 

The plaque commemorating that Nelson fell here on this exact spot and a view heavenward, where you can get an idea of the weather conditions!  We can really recommend Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for a day or two out – also when the weather is good! We had a great time!

And here’s what we did when it just poured with rain (there wasn’t room for anything as prosaic as playing cards in this picture, but we did play a lot of Canasta and Estimation Whist):

(don’t bother burgling us – we always sleep with our Iphones and most of the gear isn’t ours anyway…)

 

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Settling in

I think I owe those of you who know me personally an update on our progress here in Surrey. We’re very happy in our converted convent and have many very nice and interesting neighbors. Last month saw the Oldfield Wood tennis tournament, which was a lovely social event with barbecue, wine, beer, Sunday papers, chat and lovely sunshine. And a lot of tennis. And would you believe that David won the tournament (with his partner, a very nice lady). Dane did not win the mini golf tournament and was very upset. He might be just as competitive as his Dad! I didn’t compete in anything and thus did not have to confront any personal shortcomings (that day…).

Dane has been to school six weeks now and loves every minute of it. We’re very, very happy with our choice of school – and only last week it got an outstanding Ofsted report. Every Friday after school there’s football and Dane’s improving every week. He loves that too. After a bumpy start where I thought he might never get the hang of it, he’s now doing really well with his reading and can read sentences like “It is my book” or “I can skip like you, said Dad”. We’re so proud of him, because to catch up with the other children, he has to do a lot of extra homework and he’s been quite graceful about it.

David has been away working for three weeks in Germany and Switzerland, but now he’s home again. It takes a bit of getting used to, the uncertainty and short notices of being freelance. But we’ll get there, I’m sure.

One of the things our trip through the US etc. has left us with is a great appetite for walking and experiencing nature. We’re also very fond of gardens, old houses, castles and the like. We’re members of the Royal Horticultural Society, so we can go to RHS Wisley, which is very close by and also of The National Trust, so we can visit numerous nature reserves, houses and castles throughout England. We’ve been to Polesden Lacey, a beautiful Edwardian mansion and we go for walks by the canal in Ripley, an area protected by the National Trust. The lock there is the oldest in England and right next to the ruins of the first of many monasteries and priories demolished by Henry VIII in his fury over the Catholic church’s refusal to grant him a divorce (from his first wife). It is an amazingly beautiful place!

Picture from Weyriver.co.uk

Finally, we’re members of Surrey Wildlife Trust and yesterday went to an event they were hosting at Ashtead Park. It was a lovely day – we had a picnic on our own and then went on a guided walk, where a ranger told us about the work they do to keep a forest with meadows, when you don’t have animals grazing and when you want to improve and increase the habitats for animals, insects and plants and at the same time have to keep it safe for human visitors. There’s a great deal of work involved!

 

Pictures from top: Our living room in the library of the former convent. Dane on scooter after school. Newark Priory, picture from a history of Pyrford (village between here and Ripley), Newark lock, picture from Wey river. Dane and Daddy on our picnic. More and larger-format pictures here.

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