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.