Saturday, December 21, 2019

Nice surprise

I noticed from day one there was a loft hatch in my garage but I hadn't bothered venturing up. I'm not sure why I didn't, probably because it was a garage so I figured it would be a bit of a pointless little place. Given my garage is about 80m2, so the same size as the upper floor of my house in Kinloch, why I hadn't considered it might be as useful as the loft there was, is beyond me.

Last week we had in the builders to look at converting it to a three bedroom, one public room annex, so I pulled on the hatch to see what was up there. My first surprise came when this built-in ladder unfolded to the floor, so it was already one up on Kinloch. I climbed up and found it was fully lit and partially floored, definitely as big as my old one so I was well pleased. On further inspection, I found the previous owner had left behind something that would be of no use to her now she is in a flat in the city...

The kids are going to be beyond excited when I introduce them to the contents this summer:

December 20 2019

For fun on the last day of school, given there are no uniforms, so you can't have a dress as you please day, Léon's class decided to have a 'come dressed as a...' day. The 20 odd kids in the class came up with things the others should dress as, and stuck them in a hat. His (male) friend got the 'come dressed as a girl' card, etc. Léon, of course, got the 'come dressed as a tourist to the Caribbean' card! Six degrees wasn't enough to discourage him wandering the streets all day like this, and he definitely got a funny look from the school bus driver. You can't say he's a party-pooper... I'm just hoping he doesn't come down with triple pneumonia before the holidays!

Friday, December 13, 2019


England has lost its mind, its heart and its soul. And although Scotland has voted against everything England has championed, I suspect once again we will be dragged to the depths by it, kicking and screaming. I'm so desperately sad for my kids, my family, my friends and all the good people back home. The place I called home for the best part of half a century is about to be wiped off the face of the earth.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

It's just not right!

I'm in Scandinavia now. Xmas should be all dark nights and cold and twinkly gardens with candles oozing that hygge all the magazines back home love to mention.

The kids have made little winter scenes with red candles and snowmen and Thomas has bought one of these advent candles (I swear you have to burn the bugger for about ten hours a day to get through it, it's so beefy - we're still playing catch-up!)

I think you are meant to do something with four candles too, but we never got round to that.

But I'm a Glasgow girl, one who grew up in the 70s and I know it is wrong but every night when we go to bed and Thomas blows out this monster candle, I am immediately transported not to Santa and Lapland but to 1975 and my parents' giving us the monthly treat of a Vesta chow mein (we sure knew how to live it up in the 70s!) The four of us would re-hydrate this delicacy, steep the soft noodles and fry the lurid yellow crispy noodles in the old chip lard and then keep it all warm on one of those very 70s plate warmers with the tealight candles underneath. At the end of our treat one of us kids got to blow out the tealights. So for me candles will always evoke boxes of Vesta. 😂

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Petrol pricing

At home, I found petrol prices would hover around a figure, shifting very little until there was some spurt or other, then they'd jump a couple of pence and stick again. Almost all garages in the one area are within a penny of each other, rural places are more expensive and motorway service stations are best avoided price-wise. That is how things have been since I first got behind a wheel in '85.

I'm starting to notice Denmark just isn't like that. At first, before I had a real handle on the currency, I didn't notice much so I decided to try to work out the cheapest garage between Bogense, where I was living at first, and Morud, where the school was (a 21km stretch). The first thing I noticed was that as I got closer to the big city - Odense - it often got dearer, not cheaper - odd. The next thing I noticed was that it was not overly predictable which would be cheapest on any given day and finally the price would fluctuate more than I was expecting.

So, over the last month I decided to observe it much more closely. There are three main garages near me - two supermarkets and one Shell. Not only does the price fluctuate wildly between around 10.19 and 11.39 a litre (approx £1.15 & £1.29), it can go from one to the other and back within the space of 24 hours. I'd go as far as to say the price changes every single day, sometimes twice a day. I have concluded that whenever the price goes above 11 Kroner, I simply should wait till the following day when it'll be back down nearer 10. It's really odd to watch. (I've also now worked out that the Netto supermarket is definitely always the cheapest near me, if anyone happens to be in my neighbourhood.)


How cute is Amaia in this shot from November 2010... with her wee cute lilac snowsuit and her rosy cheeks!? Babies and toddlers always look so happy and cosy in winter.

Back in Scotland, a big thing in primary schools is the 'wet weather activity book', mine often shortened it: 'Mum, did you put my wet weather in my bag?' - the mind boggles - what is that? A bag full of slush and rain water? Anyway, at my school when I was a child and at my children's primary school, you were meant to provide your child with something to do when they were kept in on rainy or snowy breaks and lunch times. We tried colouring books when they were wee, moving on to packs of cards and novels as they advanced through the years.

But here's an idea. In Denmark, there are no 'wet weathers'. There are just snowsuits for big kids! These aren't your expensive Val d'Isère numbers, these are standard issue, available in all supermarkets and expected to be owned by all primary-aged kids suits, that they wear/take to school so they can play outside all the time. And they are for real use - they aren't meant to look pristine, they often come home caked in mud or whatever. It isn't that the weather is different here. The summer was a wee bit better but so far the autumn and winter have been bog-standard Scottish, both in temperature and in volume of rain.

It's sweet, because Amaia associates these suits with babies, she's taken to calling it her 'cute suit' rather than 'flying suit' as the Danes refer to it, but I have to say since she bought it there's been no turning back - she's content to be out in all weather and I've even found her happy to walk the 3km home from school on occasion, if I've been busy!

Update on the voting front

I was having a good old rant last week about my voting papers. Having been in Scotland for 48 hours more than three weeks ago, my mother (in my constituency) already had her postal vote sitting ready to send, having applied when the election was called. Sensing the way things were going in the UK, I had applied to be on the voters' register in late summer and had filled out my postal voting request mid-October, but by the beginning of December there was still no sight of it. I emailed the electoral body and was told not to worry as the foreign postal votes were being sent out on December 2. Even without factoring in the inevitable delays caused by Xmas post, surely sending out ballot papers to foreign destinations nine working days before an election is cutting is a bit fine?

Inevitably, they turned up around 2pm on Monday - that is December 9, for an election in another country four days later. I was seething.

Had I not known mum had been sitting on her papers for at least three weeks when mine arrived, I'd have been annoyed, but this made me incandescent. I would love to know who exactly took the decision to send polling cards out to UK citizens living in EU countries, when there is little chance of them getting back on time, for an election being fought along pro- and anti-EU lines, with the government and local politician firmly in the anti-camp. I will, of course, be making a formal complaint, but that will be of little comfort if my family's entire future is changed by the result of this election.

Still, I decided on balance, I was at least better trying to return it.

Denmark is an annoying place when it comes to the post (think I might have been caught shouting 'Why is the Danish postal service so fucking stressful?' on Monday afternoon!). If you are foreign, or don't have the best Danish, you might as well throw in the towel... I can only just cope with it after many years listening to Danish. Denmark feels like it is ten years ahead of the UK on the phasing-out of the post office to me. There don't seem to be any actual post offices in Nordfyn (my council area), not even in the big towns, instead you have to google where post office counters are hidden - often in supermarkets, corner shops or in my case, the nearest one with an afternoon uplift is inside a gift shop, 6km away from my house. (My nearest one is actually in the Coop next to the girls' school but it only has morning uplifts). To do this you need to be good enough at Danish to know how to google it because you aren't looking for the word post office, you are looking for Postnord - the name of the service. You then have to google postal uplifts, because the post boxes in the street all only have one uplift and that is usually early morning. Finally, when you arrive at the supermarket/garage/gift shop, you have to be able to explain why you are there and what you are wanting, which obviously you don't in the UK. If you have no English and you walk into the post office, there's a high chance you're after a stamp of some sort, but here in a Coop or gift shop, a stamp is usually the least likely thing you are after! Furthermore, because post is being used less and less, it has become both more expensive and less able to be tailored to your needs, so I could send it tracked or normal, but neither got it there any faster. The woman explained she thought there was only a 50% chance of it arriving on time, and of course she is probably unaware of the UK obsession with Xmas cards that doesn't really exist elsewhere in Europe, and their knock-on effect on Xmas deliveries so I imagine I'm looking at a more than 50% chance of paying for a stamp to send it back and still be disenfranchised. When I showed her it was my postal vote she smiled and said in Danish - 'Ahhh, you have to vote to get rid of that man!' No mention of which man but when I nodded she did seem to stroke my letter kindly as she dropped it in the postal bag - I expect she'd put two and two together and worked out that if I was living abroad and at least attempting a conversation in a foreign language, chances are I wasn't a raging Brexiteer.

Back in the UK, I'm still astounded at current polling. That someone so obnoxious, deeply offensive and incompetent, with no policies or plans can be polling 40% of the vote is mind numbing. This isn't someone we can simply swap out in five years. Five years from now the NHS and the economy will be unrecognisable. The country that already has the largest gap between rich and poor in Europe will have even more inequality and that isn't what makes for the best, happiest or most successful places. And in my own constituency, if the Tory gets back in despite the 75% Remain vote in 2016, I guess that means people are ok with their MP making no attempt to represent their wishes, and on a more personal note, it will mean people I consider neighbours and even friends will have been ok with the way EU families like mine have been treated.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Made in Søndersø

It is interesting to compare places of a similar size. Near where I live is a town called Søndersø. It has a large crisp producer (as you can see from the image) selling through all the local shops and the Aldis, Coops etc. It has a primary school, the main high school for the whole area and the council's specialist music school. It has 4 Aldi sized supermarkets, a bank, a large chemist etc so I was surprised when I checked at home and found it is only the same size as Eaglesham, population-wise.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

The weirdest things

You come across the weirdest things sometimes - this looks more like the Loch Ness monster than any of the statues kicking about Drumnadrochit, and yet we're in Otterup - a wee holiday town on Funen. Further investigation has led me to conclude it is actually the Norse Midgårdsorm, but going forward, I'll definitely be selling it to any Scots tourists as Nessie on her holidays 😉

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

EX-pat voting rights

What an absolute joke the Westminster voting system is! Apart from the obvious fact that you can get a majority with 75%+ of the country voting against you, if you happen to have your very own unique brand of madness, not split with your close competitors, as we do on the right-hand wing of this election....  But for now, I'll forgo a rant about first past the post and simply get to the point I'm trying to make about people like me.

Obviously this vote is fairly close to my heart given I am living abroad, in Brexile if you like, exactly because of the current state of madness back home. But of course family and friends still are back home, so it is still central to my life... Whether I will ever live in my home country again at some point down the line will potentially be decided eight days from now. It'll influence whether my son and daughter might be best fleeing over the next few years (because they are lucky enough to own a second passport and therefore the ability to do so). It will determine whether my nephews and niece will still have access to first-class higher education at some point down the line or whether UK unis start to bomb imminently, it will impact upon healthcare for my mother who is in her mid-70s etc.

For this reason, I registered to vote back in September - call me psychic. For this reason, I also applied for a postal vote on October 26. Given it needs to get to me and I then need to fill it in and post it back, I emailed them on Monday to ask why it still hasn't arrived and was told I wasn't to worry because mine was being sent out that day. They sat on it from October and sent it out on 2/12, knowing it needed to get to Denmark and back by 12/12 - ie they gave it at very best nine working days? And guess what? It still hasn't bloody arrived and if it does turn up tomorrow and I manage to turn it round and get it back by next Thursday, it'll more be down to fluke than good planning. Given my mother was already sitting with her East Ren polling card back on 22/11 when I dropped by for a visit, I'd love to know why they think the foreign ones are best going out last? Could it be because those of us living in EU countries, directly affected by Brexit are least likely to vote for our current (useless) MP?

Anyway, watch this space. I am sure I'll be updating you on whether EU-dwelling Brits are being disenfranchised or not, in the very near future. Grrrrrr.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Xmas lights

We've been prettifying the house and garden with nice lights - there's much more scope here with a big house and garden. After we put up a few, we heard the previous owner traditionally wound lights round every single tree in the garden (well, that's not happening!) but I think we're holding our own as the village has its own Facebook group and the self-appointed mayoress has congratulated all the inhabitants this week on their festive hygge.

So far we've down the hedge and the house, and we've added a wee flowery tree too outside the turret.


The kids are still working on Thomas to acquire this for the flagpole - let's see who wins that one.

Tinka og Kongespillet

I think I have mentioned the concept of TV advent calendars more than once over the years. In Denmark the national TV channels put on a wee 'advent calendar' in the form of a kiddie Xmas soap opera for the 24 days of December. Twenty (approx) minute episodes of a Xmas-themed kiddie story, knee-deep in magical elf people all dressed in red pointy hats, kings, queens, snow, horses, thatched cottages etc etc. They aren't overly taxing on the brain (we're two episodes in and I can already tell how the whole story is going to play out, but Amaia is 9 and she can't so I guess that's the whole point).

They release old ones on DVD so our kids have always followed at least one every December as it was traditional and good for their Danish. But this is the first time we've spent December in Denmark so we're following the current year's one in real time. Now I can see how big it actually is - apparently it was the only topic of conversation today in Amaia's class, after last night's opening episode. Everyone has watched it - male, female, immigrant, ethnic Dane - doesn't matter - there's no get-out clause if you're in that age bracket and understand Danish.

And they're not missing out on the commercial opportunities either. Amaia saw the cardboard Tinka calendar in Coop over the weekend, so is opening windows to see what the current evening's episode is going to be about. She discovered today's was a picture of lanterns this morning but had to wait till 8pm to find out their significance. She also picked up the panini-style Tinka album over the weekend and now they are all taking in cards of the main characters to swap doubles with classmates. It's all very exciting apparently. I'm quite surprised the English-speaking world hasn't jumped on this money-spinning bandwagon. I guess that's what happens when you only have one language on your radar.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Room with a view

Sitting here having breakfast looking out over my next-door neighbour's lake when it suddenly struck me how odd that sounds. Imagine actually owning a lake...

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Undertakers and national driving differences

I've always driven abroad - already in 1987-88 I shared a car with my German flatmate and again in Germany the following year, so I have never really paid much attention to national differences when it came to driving habits (other than which side of the road I was meant to be driving on or which side of the car I was meant to be sitting in!)... Obviously driving in Germany was always a wee bit different, given they have speed-limitless roads, so I quickly learned to pay much more attention in my mirrors to the speed something was coming up the outside lane for overtaking purposes, but other than that I never really analysed it...

Now I'm mainly driving in Denmark, but have nipped back to Scotland two or three times for a week. I have now noticed one colossal difference between the two sets of drivers and that is undertaking on motorways. Unless traffic is more or less at a standstill, usually because of roadworks, because the roads are definitely less busy here, no one ever undertakes you here. Although I would obviously not recommend it, you could, to all intents and purposes, move from the middle lane of a motorway into the slow lane without looking. So, back in Glasgow last weekend I tested my theory that Scots were much more a breed of undertakers than Danes - my god - even between Crookfur and Glasgow centre (a less than 10km stretch) I lost count of the number of cars that shot up my left hand side (no I wasn't going under the speed limit like an annoying snail) - they were simply being chancers who could not be bothered popping out two lanes and back two. So, all in all driving in Scotland is harder and more stressful than here - you certainly need to be more alert.

It's actually interesting to look at national differences. I have many years of experience of driving in France, Italy, Germany and a bit in Spain, Switzerland and Luxembourg, but had very little experience of Scandinavia till this year. I've always found France and Italy similar to home so they have never fazed me. Nothing much stood out in Spain, Switzerland or Luxembourg either. The main German difference is that outer motorway lane when the speed limit goes altogether and the Audis and BMWs shoot past at 150kmph+ - you just stay out of that unless you've hired something much more powerful than I tend to be able to afford to own!

Over the October week, I took my car to the Netherlands for the first time. I've only ever used public transport there before. It is altogether different. It is such a small country but with a huge amount of traffic on the motorways, and once you get into the cities, bikes and trams are thrown into the mix. The roundabouts really should be taught to foreigners before they attempt them. I think more Dutch would be run over by the annual tourists if it wasn't for the sheer number of bikes that pass you like an impenetrable wall. I think I'd call it a high-concentration drive. The distances between cars is less than half what we're used to in Scotland, they drive at 130kmph (81mph) even when it is highly congested, jumping in and out smoothly in a hair-raising fashion. It almost looks like they are knitting some elaborate pattern with their cars in a fast and well-choreographed manner. It definitely isn't somewhere I would like to drive if I was overly tired or had less driving experience.

Finally, as I've mentioned before, living somewhere where there are very few potholes is nice. I feel like I can pay attention to driving rather than scanning the road surface, but the thing I miss most from home is cat's eyes. Living beyond where the Glasgow lampposts light the motorway, these wonderful little reflectors made driving clear and easy. Here, I often drive to Copenhagen, Billund or the German border at night in the dark and their absence is painful. In driving rain and mist it is significantly harder to see the boundary between lanes. They really don't know what they are missing. It is as different as driving a country lane in the dark and driving down an airport runway. Come on, Europe, order in some cat's eyes, please!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Amsterdam flower market

I'm going to have a wee rant - more at myself for being gullible and stupid, in fact, than at the crooks and deceivers, really.

Two autumns ago, I was at a linguistics and lexicography conference in Leiden, in the Netherlands. Noticing it finished at midday, I booked my return flight for about 10pm, so I could have a day wandering around Amsterdam. I found myself, like many tourists, in the flower bulb market, given it was that season. Laden with blue tulips, I headed home, planted them and waited for spring. Spring came and my garden filled with boring, bog-standard red tulips. As the first few opened I was puzzled and then I suddenly realised, with a wry little smile... I had been well and truly hoodwinked. I assumed the business model was: buy in the cheapest, most boring bulbs, package them up as something exotic and expensive, palm it off on the foreign tourists, who won't realise they've been sold a pig in a poke till many months later and many miles away. Part angry, part in awe of their balls, I laughed it off and carried on. Red tulips are better than no tulips, after all.

Last month I was in Amsterdam, and of course it was tulip planting season again. Ok, I thought, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was just an honest error... This time, I bought only one packet of the blue bulbs, and from a different vendor. I have planted them in a specific spot in the garden, away from all the others, so I know where to look in the spring. I won't fully be holding my breath however. To test my theory sooner, they were selling amaryllis bulbs too. Blue or red, they were the same price, so at least I was only being done on description, rather than price, this time! I picked one up. Here is its tag:

And as we run down to Xmas it has been getting taller by the day. Today, it looks like this:

Any bets whether it is going to be red or blue when it opens? 😡

So, in warning, I am likely to conclude in March or April, that Amsterdam flower market is there for the sole purpose of doing the tourists, don't let them get you!

Update: Bastards😕

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Sausage girls

Over the weekend I went to Scotland for two days to see Charlotte, Marcel and mum. I asked the kids if they wanted me to bring anything back and Amaia came out with square sausage, while Anna requested (very specifically) Asda cocktail sausages - I mean - seriously? Firstly, you couldn't pay me enough to eat a cocktail sausage, and square I can take or leave... They're fine as part of my annual fry-up, but truthfully I wouldn't miss them if I never encountered one again. I'm sure their meatiness must be in their German genes!

Anyway, I made this for dinner tonight and Amaia got rather creative with it!😂

You can take the girl out of Scotland, but you'll never take Scotland out of the girl.😂

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Winter illuminations

At first, just after the clocks changed, I thought Danes were all a wee bit over-eager with Xmas. Almost immediately people started filling their gardens with strings of fairy lights wrapped around bushes and up their flag poles. Brightly-lit shapes appeared too - stars, triangles and similar, but there were no Santas, reindeer or snowmen. Their houses on the inside, however, were the same as ever. My next door neighbour, who owns a Xmas tree plantation at the end of our field, had only just started cutting and bagging the bigger ones, and they are still lying awaiting collection or distribution.

There was no obvious Xmas decorating going on on that front. Curious! Danes, on the whole, use real Xmas trees and their houses are warmer and better insulated than Scottish ones, so the real tree doesn't go up till a week to ten days before Xmas (which is Dec 24 here), otherwise it would dry out. Then I realised, it was some sort of informal Scandinavian 'festival of lights' they use from the onset of winter to alleviate the darkness of the short Nordic days. I guess that might be why we have three sockets on the outer walls of our house - so it would be rude to not join in, wouldn't it? So, Thomas has been tasked with hunting down a fairy-light covering for the flag pole while I'm away this weekend 😁

Monday, November 11, 2019

Votes for the under 10s

Conversation with Amaia:

Amaia: I think I should be allowed to vote in the general election! 

Me: Really, why? You're only 9! 

Amaia: Well, because of stupid adults voting for stupid Boris and his nasty friends, I now live in Denmark, so I think I know a bit more than most people what happens when you vote for the wrong people!

Well, you sure can't argue with that logic 😐

Friday, November 08, 2019

Checking it out at ground level

A few months ago on one of my many flights into Denmark, I came in to Billund over Blåvand.

I thought its shape, and obviously very long beach needed further investigation and given it is only 80 minutes drive we took a wander over last week to investigate. It is definitely going to be on our summer 2020 list of places to visit as it is really pretty up close.



I've been here for many many months now and a strange thing happened to me yesterday...

I had to use money! (Amaia had to take a 100Kr note to school for something). It is odd to be somewhere more than six months and not actually even know what the currency looks like. Apparently it looks like this - very fancy and pretty! Cash is so hard to come by, I actually had to google where the nearest ATM was (fully 5km away!)

One of the things I liked about the UK in comparison with many places I've lived is how little we use cash (I hate handbags and purses with a passion so it suits me well to live somewhere where having only a fiver on me at any given time usually sufficed) but Denmark takes it to a whole new level - even small kids use plastic here - Amaia (9) already has a Visa Debit card, they needed to be 11 in Scotland for those. In shops everything is contactless, like at home but for everything else, everyone uses mobile pay here. You owe money to a friend or want to donate to the school class kitty for something or other, you simply dial in the number - even if it's only 50p. It's great for splitting the cost of a meal out with some mates (or will be at least once I've met some!). That's what everyone uses at car boot sales and roadside stalls too - in rural areas most people have a wee stall at the end of their driveway to sell their surplus potatoes, eggs or apples and it's simply a table with a phone number on it. Some of the more rustic or smaller shops, like the local antique shop here, don't even have a till, they just take mobile pay.

I had to laugh a couple of months ago when Léon and Amaia's string orchestra was performing in a church and they passed round the church's collection plate for donations to the music school afterwards - it was simply a silver tray with a phone number stuck on it!😂 I know I'm not a church-goer but I always imagined a collection plate might actually have some coins or notes on it!

I guess it has its downsides - I expect it would be harder (or at least weirder) to pay someone cash in hand for some gardening or similar and if the country is ever invaded, running some kind of underground resistance might not be all that simple! But, for the handbag haters amongst us, it certainly hits the spot.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Strange alphabet

Cute conversation with Amaia:

I really like the new light you got me for my room, mum. Can we get a second one next time we're in Ikea, for the other side of my room?

Sure. Can you remember what it's called?

Yeah, I've still got the box. It's called a... a..., emmm, I don't know how you pronounce it. It's written in Swedish. It is spelt S, J, surprised face, P, E, N, N, A!


Friday, November 01, 2019

Nowhere people

A couple of weeks ago I asked Thomas if Danes did Halloween. Remember, he hasn't lived here since 2001, and his answer was a definite no...

After a shopping trip to Odense last Saturday, I had a sneaking suspicion things had moved on in his home country since he last called it home.  Here are Anna and Amaia in the big supermarket, Bilka!

I guess Thomas has become one of those weird stateless people who are neither fully at home here nor in Scotland, and we will soon follow him down that path, of course.

I'm still not sure he was fully convinced, until the neighbour's lit pumpkin turned up on Monday night, followed by another two by the roadside the following day. Yesterday, Léon was invited to a mate's house for afternoon coffee, but he didn't show up home till three hours later, fully made-up with everything short of false eyelashes. He was less sure about the large bag of 50% liquorice sweeties he was clutching when I picked him up, but as I drove through the next village almost every house had pumpkin-lit paths and driveways. We, of course, gave in and stuck a neep at the end of our driveway, as well as one of those alien pumpkin things, which resulted in small children ringing our doorbell and threatening us with 'slik eller ballade' - (sweeties or trouble - I wonder what that could possibly mean!)


Léon did make me laugh... He fully admitted to being a chancer - having gone into the local Co-op, figuring nowhere he knew had more sweets than a corner shop, and trying trick or treat on the check-out operator, who laughed, congratulated him for having balls but told him, sadly her hands were tied! I guess you get nowhere in life, if you don't try! 

It is nice to see him having fun though, back home he hasn't been out guising for a couple of years as it was no longer the cool thing to do - here, cool seems to matter a wee bit less than having fun.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Denmark's great for the teeth

Since nursery, birthdays have followed a specific pattern: your child goes off to a softplay, a party hall or their friend's house, they dance or play for a couple of hours and return with a party bag - a few sweets, a balloon, some bubbles, a little gift or similar. Here in Denmark, health and safety hasn't gone in to overdrive yet so on the kids' birthdays they actually (shock, horror) take a cake in to the class and share it with their friends at school and then give the party bags out in class, rather than at the party.

Back in Scotland, the kids used to bring their bag home and take it off to their room. Léon would devour his in seconds, Anna would squirrel hers away and you'd find numerous sweetie bags around her room for months. Amaia was somewhere in the middle. At the side of our new kitchen is a little table - big enough for a family of three or four to have breakfast, but we rarely use it as the dining room is close by and there are more of us. Often I find piles of party bags abandoned on it after school. They lie unopened and untouched for weeks before making their way across to the bin. As far as I can see, they look the same as party bags in Scotland, but there is one difference, I am told... the dreaded Danish obsession with liquorice. All the kids know that the chances are high that at least a couple of the sweets are made of that strong, salty liquorice that Scandies love, but they will be in the bag, lurking, disguised as normal sweets and the risk of accidentally biting into one, is so great that they have all given up even attempting to bite into any sweets at all this side of the north sea - it's been amazing for their teeth.😂

On a similar note, I was in Aldi last weekend and came across this - I can't wait to show them it, just to see the look of horror on their faces!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Nowhere to shop

I know I am generally a little ray of sunshine in a grey world, trying always to see the positives whenever possible😂. I almost managed to believe that myself there for a minute. Ok, so I used to blog-rant a lot, but since moving abroad, because moving and starting afresh at my age is extremely hard, I have been trying to keep my spirits up by looking out for all things positive and ways of doing things we in Scotland could potentially learn from. But nothing is of course ever completely rosy and one thing I keep coming back to in my head is shopping. So it is time to get it off my chest...

I should probably have ranted this one last night when I came home from my shopping trip to give you the full force but it took all my effort to scrape my depressed self off the floor after shopping for my evening meal, so I had to wait till I calmed down or cheered up or whatever you want to call it... 😏

So, what's the problem? In a nutshell, Danish supermarkets are shit, no in fact, they are utter shit. I had almost managed to convince myself they were just bad but after a week in the Netherlands, I'm sorry to say they are diabolical, or even Diabolical with a capital D. And, this isn't just me saying so - even the Danish press agrees.

I am 15km from Denmark's 3rd biggest city, so this isn't a rural issue. In Newton Mearns I was also about this distance from the city centre. Between me and Odense there is actually no shortage of supermarkets. So, let's concentrate on a ten minute radius to contain my venom to a manageable size.

Within ten minutes drive of my house, off the top of my head I can think of three Dagli'Brugsen (that's your typical wee Coop like the one opposite my old house, to you and me - only with about 30% of the Scottish product range and overpriced). There is one SuperBrugsen (a triple-sized overpriced version of the usual Coops). There are two Aldis - we have Aldi Nord in Denmark not Aldi Süd as in the UK, Sourthern Germany or Italy (as I'm used to) - it is small, stale, hit and miss on the product front but at least has a better bakery than the Aldi Süd ones (see, I really am still trying positivity!) - again it is half the size of the Newton Mearns one. We have two Nettos - they are basically just about the same as the Aldis in Scotland for size, price and product type, but again the range is only about 50% of our Aldi in Newton Mearns. Then there is Rema 1000, which is more or less the same as Netto and Aldi - again there are two of those within a ten minute range. There is one Fakta. Fakta reminds me a bit of Shoppers' Paradise in the 80s - looks like it is about to go out of business and the sooner someone puts it out its misery the better. If I never set foot inside another Fakta as long as I live, I will be far from devastated. 😁Finally, we have two Menys - they are like wonderful high-class Norwegian delis... the closest thing from home would be Waitrose both for quality and pricing, but yes, they are lovely.

So let's count that up... I have 13 supermarkets within a 6km radius of my house. But, other than Meny, they are all the bloody same - they are all small Coop meets Home Bargains food aisle. There is no medium-sized ASDA/Sainsburys/Tesco equivalent. When my kid comes in from school and says they need wellies tomorrow for a trip, I can't begin to guess which, if any of the 13 will have them. You can't get basic non-food items that I'm used to picking up at ASDA and take for granted like a pack of pants or a woolly hat on a cold morning or a pair of kiddie trainers because someone has lost one at school. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether their current special is or isn't stationery, so if a kid needs a pencil or rubber for the next day, you have no idea where you might pick it up. Last night Léon was on cooking - he asked me to pick up burgers and mushrooms - even that was hard - I had to try three shops before I even found the simplest mushrooms. Aaaarg - seriously?

We do have one wonderful Bilka in Odense which has all these things (it's like a bigger version of Silverburn Tesco, so not for the faint-hearted or anyone over 70!), but it is in South East Odense (35 minutes from here) and I'm in North West Odense, of course! It is the only decent supermarket on the whole of Funen, where you know that whatever you want you can get on the spot - that's really is pretty poor for a population of 500 000 people.

Last week I was in Lidl in Alkmaar (there are three in Alkmaar alone). Even that felt like luxury after a few months here. The product range was so much better - loads of different types of mushrooms, chillis, you name it. And I could barely see one end from the other.

The bottom line is, I hate shopping. I've always hated shopping - whether that is for food, gifts, clothing, stationery, you name it - I want to rush in, pick it up and leave. I want to get it over with. I don't want, like last night, to have to visit three shops that were more or less the same because I need something as exotic as plain, ordinary mushies or some black pepper. It's the 21st century, ffs! I feel like I am back in the late 70s, grrrrr. 

This isn't some sort of Scotland is better rant, I'm quite an international shopper - Scotland is better than Denmark on the everyday shop front, but so is the Netherlands, and Germany and France and Italy, to name but a few places where I often find myself in a supermarket. I'm beginning to think Danes are actually all so well off because they can't find anything to spend their decent salaries on - they've all crawled into a depressed hole for want of a choice of a chestnut mushroom or a scotch bonnet!

Come on Danes - you earn enough to buy nice things, so could someone stock them? Please! And you really don't need 13 indistinguishable shops all stocking the same crap within a stone's throw of each other!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Conkers 2

For anyone who saw my conker post  two weeks ago... Looks like I spoke way too soon!

Tiled closes

One of the things I love most about Glasgow, from all my years living in the west end, is the tiled closes in the tenements. A quick google image search of Glasgow close tiles throws up these delights.

So, it was with great delight last week, that on a wander round the slightly more residential parts of inner Amsterdam, that I realised they too have a huge wally tile tradition. Here are just some of those I saw.😀