Friday, July 05, 2019


When Thomas and I bought our first house with a garden (12 years ago), the first thing he wanted to plant was hollyhocks. I'd had a garden before and knew the word hollyhock but to be honest I couldn't have picked one out at an identity parade had my life depended on it. I think I vaguely thought they were probably some berry-based plants that looked like holly bushes!

I first noticed them here in 2016 on a wander round Aarhus. They were in the more built up residential areas sticking out of pavements. Now I'm on Funen, I realise they are everywhere. Danes love these tall, straggly beasts standing guard over their city houses and farm courtyards.

I had better pick a lot of seeds from my garden in Scotland to take out on my final farewell when I empty the house there so I can plant them all round my future home.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Den fynske Landsby

Everything on Funen is Hans Christian Andersen. He was born in Odense, so he's everywhere. I use the statues of him to navigate my way home from Odense - I already know which one to turn right or left at...

So, yesterday I discovered they had preserved a whole village within the city boundary of Odense(!) from HCA's time! This isn't a small place - it is a full-sized village. I thought it might make a nice wee day out. There are farm houses, smokeries, a manse, a fully-working windmill, a watermill, and much more. Even the pigsty is thatched! OMG - it is the cutest place I have ever been in Denmark! After a few hours inside, I marched up to the reception and asked for an annual membership. I fully intend to take every single person who visits me here on a day trip there! 😁

How to make kids attend on the last day of term

For the seven years the kids were at primary school, getting them in on the last day of term was never an issue, though it did seem fairly pointless. They'd watch a Disney movie or play a board game, then return home early, cheering loudly as they left the building. The biggies attended a high school with over 1200 kids. As soon as they started there, it became clear that attending on the last day of term was not the cool thing to do, by any stretch of the imagination. Already by the last week you needed thumb screws to get them out of bed as they claimed they were doing nothing of any use and instead of the usual huge traffic jam up Waterfoot road, there would be fewer than 20 cars on the hill. The last day often took a serious amount of blackmail. I made them go in, much to their disgust, and they would be corralled into a class with the other four or five kids from their 250+ year with parents as evil as me, once again to watch the first 50 minutes of a movie in each class before the bell rang! I never fully worked out whether the teachers and council would prefer us just to throw in the towel and give up altogether, or persevere. I was also often amazed that if I did manage to get them in (as one of about 10% of the kids who showed up), the school office would phone angrily if they dared to leave just twenty minutes before the end of the day, even if it was during the lunch break. All in all, the last day of the high school term was a complete washout and best forgotten.

Last week was the last day of the summer term here. I fully expected at least Léon's school class to have no interest in attending but I was very wrong. The last few days of term were spent intently beavering away on some communal secret plans. It turned out they were coming up with a menu - last time I saw it, it listed bacon, chicken bacon, hamburgers, pancakes, digestives, fruit juice, freshly-baked rolls, jam, grapes, watermelon, chocolate milk, eggs, etc and a list of activities. They turned up at 8am as usual - the entire class(!), each with an item or two from the list and spent the entire morning having a banquet with their main class. At lunchtime, they weren't hungry any more so the kids and their teachers walked over to the outdoor swimming pool (5 minutes from school), with the swimming costumes they'd agreed to bring along and spent the afternoon in the pool, finally drying off, lying in the park listening to music on a large speaker one of the kids had borrowed from his older brother. Finally around 2pm, the summer holidays were ready to begin.

Now Léon can't wait for the last day of every term in Danish school - he's already imagining Gløgg, Xmas cakes and cookies in December.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

How our Danish schools do birthdays

Back at our Scottish school, I used to find birthdays a bit of a burden. I had five kids (granted I only ever had three at primary at the one time, so let's work on that premise...) Each of the kids had between 30 and 33 kids in their class so when Léon was in primary 7, the classes were made up of 33+33+30 kids minus my 3 own kids which gave me a calculation of 93 kids a year who could potentially have parties. In p1 and 2 the whole class was generally invited, by the later years we were probably down to one gender, so half the class. So I was averaging somewhere in the region of 45 parties a year. The standard outlay was between £10 and £20 per present. I tried to stay at the £10 end except for besties but could see that the average was closer to the other end. So attending other kids' parties cost a minimum of £450 a year, and was probably nearer to £600. With this outlay for others, ironically, I was left without enough to throw parties for my own kids as that would have set me back a minimum £200 a head too. They had at most two or three close friends home for dinner every other year and felt distinctly like second-class citizens.

On Amaia's very first day at Veflinge primary an invite was ominously waiting on her desk addressed simply 'New girl'. We opened it to find she'd been invited bowling with the girls in her class for someone's birthday today - a fairly standard party we would have at home too. Here we go again... or not as the case may be!

Having joined the class Facebook group this week, we messaged the group admin to find out what kind of gift of what value was expected so as not to make our kids seem even odder than they must already seem. The format was then explained to us. Each child in the class is assigned another child in the class - the one whose birthday is closest to their own. A month before their birthday, you ask that child for a wish list and choose something to a value of max £22 to give that child from the class as a whole. That is the only gift the child receives from the class, while the kids still get the nice bowling trip, chips and ice cream and cake at school on the day. This system makes it affordable for all and means every kid gets a present from the class to the same value. I often found back home that the kids with the most invited the most kids and got even more while those with the least had to forego parties and presents of their own. And another positive is that when you come home you don't have 30+ gifts to have to fit into your kid's bedroom and an overwhelmed child in a meltdown!

Maybe this way I'll even be able to afford to throw my kids a class party at last!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Things... #3 don't see on the school run in Newton Mearns.

A garden with a traditional windmill on the driveway up to their house!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Things... #2 don't see on the school run in Newton Mearns.

A wee 'gingerbread' cottage by a lake. (Appearances are deceptive - it may be in a village but it's 20 minutes from Odense city and 8 minutes from the main Danish east west and north south motorway!)

This one is even more interesting as it is for sale at the moment. See this link. Unlike in Scotland where we sell at 'offers over' a specific price, Danish houses around here seem to be listed at a fixed price and you are meant to bid under but close to it! This is a three bedroom with a living surface area 15% bigger than my mum's roughcast 70s house in Newton Mearns (which retails around £230K). It is on the market in a country where salaries are much higher than at home for a fixed price of about £88K! And my goodness, isn't is cute as hell?!