Saturday, July 04, 2020

Paintings for sale

My ex-husband has decided to be an artist instead of an IT guy, so if anyone fancies a weird and wonderful painting all the way from China, check this link out.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

A sinister look

Taking the parasol with the broken button back to Ikea... I was a wee bit worried a SWAT team might try to take us out on the way in. 😂


When schooling moved outside mid-April because of Covid, and May and June were amongst the sunniest we've ever lived through, it had a very cute effect on my wee specky!

Not only has she got no tan where the glasses usually sit, she's got no freckles in that bit either!

Friday, June 19, 2020

A compliment

I took Amaia to the optician the other day to pick up her new glasses. While she was fitting Amaia's glasses, I decided to chat to the assistant. 'Wow mum,' Amaia said afterwards, 'you can tell you've been in Denmark a while now. That woman understood everything you said, and you don't even sound like a drunken Swede any more!' 

I'm not sure it is great for the ego to have bilingual children, but I think that's a compliment, though I'm not entirely sure😂😂😂

Go girl!

Interesting conversation:

Amaia: When I grow up I'm going to be a fashion designer.
Me (surprised): Really? I didn't know you were interested in fashion.
Amaia: I'm not, I'm just SICK of the crap pockets they put on all girls' clothes!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Comparing schooling costs in Denmark and Scotland

I've been puzzling over this for a year now...

How can it be that this trip (350km/217 miles each way using a train, a coach and a ferry) and a week's stay in an outdoor centre can cost 400DKK (£48.30) for a 12 year old.

When this trip (57 miles/92km each way using a coach) and a week's stay in an outdoor centre last year cost me £240 (1988DKK) for the same 11 year old.

I suspect the answer is that Scottish parents are being done...

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Home at last

Yesterday morning in Glasgow there were four flights from the usually busy international airport.

We'd managed to get a ticket for Amsterdam on a little klm city hopper plane on a couple of days ago but were still dubious as to whether it would be running, or whether the Netherlands was letting UK passports in. I rang Schiphol and they sent me an email saying they would let her in. There was nothing for Denmark till today so it meant an enforced Amsterdam city break but as luck would have it, the city had opened for business on Monday, so things went to plan yesterday.

On arrival, she got into the Netherlands, no questions asked and enjoyed an afternoon of sightseeing at 27 degrees before returning to Schiphol to wait for today. 

This morning was more scary. Denmark's external borders are currently closed to UK passport holders because of Corona but the rules were updated a week ago to allow family reunions. Armed with a copy of my passport, my health card proving I'm a Danish resident and a letter from me in Danish proving she's my child, Charlotte was questioned first by the Dutch police before being allowed to embark (some boarding card holders were turned back at that point) and then again on arrival in Copenhagen. 

But it seems my letter did the trick as they decided they didn't need to see the rest of the proof before waving her through. So after three whole months alone in an almost empty student flat, my biggest girl baby is finally home. And maybe I'll finally get to sleep tonight, as I sure as hell didn't last night 🙄

Now I just need to see my big boy too. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Fashion trends

Maybe I'm just getting old, but can someone explain to me why these have suddenly become the must-have fashion item for teenagers around here?! 😂 Léon's pacing up and down because I won't drive him to ikea now!

He even sat checking current warehouse stock online and gave me a running commentary as the 60 in the Odense branch slowly went down to 3 over the course of the afternoon. Can you imagine the shame of it if he's the only one who doesn't turn up to school tomorrow wearing one? 😂

Friday, May 22, 2020

Yeast again

Denmark mostly doesn't feel like a very foreign place but just sometimes you some across a situation you would never encounter at home... I just walked into my kitchen to find Léon and his friend baking bread - the friend was discussing how much fresh yeast they needed. Fourteen year old boys in Scotland, for the most part, would struggle to pick yeast out of a police line-up, let alone know how to use it without a recipe and instructions!🤣

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A strange move from Lærdansk

I started my Lærdansk course on the 3rd of January. All foreigners who move to Denmark are eligible for a course in Danish to help them integrate in society. There seem to be many levels and you can do classes for many years as far as I am aware.

Here are the levels:

Because I had learnt a tiny bit of Swedish back in 1990, I had a fair overview of how Scandinavian grammar functioned - all those weird definite articles glued on to the ends of words yet possibly the easiest verb system on the planet... And because I had listened to my husband speaking to my kids back in Scotland for the last 14 years and had visits from Thomas's family, I was used to understanding spoken Danish. Spoken being the operative word here! I had never learnt to spell Danish (and it is about as close to the expected spelling as English😜) and having spent less than 7 weeks of my life in Denmark (as Thomas's parents had retired to Italy just after we got together), I could count the number of sentences I had actually produced orally on one hand.

Anyway, after an assessment at the end of last year and given my linguistic background, I was dropped in at the deep end on level M4 in the blue column. It was daunting. I had never written a word of Danish, had never seen inside a Danish grammar book and never spoken it and suddenly I was up to my eyeballs in hand-ins and grammar exercises. Still a bit tongue-tied as French, German and even Italian still fall more readily from my lips, I had definitely got the hang of writing things in a reasonably understandable manner when Corona hit and the school was shut down.

After less than a week our lessons went online and to my surprise, instead of learning less, I was actually learning much more. As we were now in groups of between five and eight students, the chances of being asked a question tripled and so did my attention to homework. In such small groups, I was forced to talk more, read more, write more and I really felt like I was getting somewhere. The online lessons were a godsend and though I moaned before each one, I always came away feeling that they had been incredibly worthwhile.

Then suddenly after about ten weeks online, without any consultation Lærdansk sent me a text last Thursday saying all online classes were being cancelled for the remainder of lockdown and teachers seem to have been put on garden leave. The teachers aren't happy as we found out in the one remaining lesson we had before we mothballed our grammar books, and neither are we. I expect, given there will be a max six of seven lessons between the end of lockdown and the beginning of the summer recess, this will probably kick most of us back a few months and all that hard work we put in over the first few weeks of lockdown will have been in vain. I'm lucky enough to live with a Dane but many in the class will have no contact with spoken Danish from now till July.

It is such a shame that decisions are taken on the basis of what makes best sense economically, rather than on what we were actually managing achieve.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Far gris!

Last night we went to Ikea to buy a bed for Lots, assuming the buggers on the border ever let her come home 😒

As we were walking towards the entrance, a small red-haired child coming towards us in a buggy started shaking with excitement, clapping and shrieking something I couldn't make out for the dummy in her mouth, her mother looked around puzzled but couldn't work out the source of her outburst. Thomas was a step ahead of me wearing an open jacket, so I didn't put two and two together till we were inside. Walking through the pots and pans section, another child about the same age, maybe a year older, this time on foot, broke free from her father's grip and launched herself at high speed through between the kitchen utensils shouting 'far gris, far gris' (daddy pig) and pointing at Thomas before trying her best to climb up his leg, only to be dragged off my a rather embarrassed looking daddy of her own!

We had a wee chuckle to ourselves as Thomas received this as a gift from Amaia and Anna a few years ago and had never been given the Justin Bieber style groupie treatment while out walking anywhere in Scotland. I guess Danish children feel a bit freer with their affection in public, or maybe this lockdown is making everyone a little crazy!

I guess the favourite programme amongst female Danish preschoolers must be Peppa Pig, or Gurli Gris as she is known here...

Monday, May 18, 2020

Schools back!

After a month at school alone, Amaia was finally joined this morning on the school bus by her older siblings. Léon is so excited he's going to explode, and I expect he might be sent home by school for being unable to contain himself from hugging all his friends who he's been missing so dreadfully! Anna didn't say an awful lot but she's usually an unwakeable sloth in the mornings and today she was dressed and ready to go, so that speaks for itself. Léon's class is to meet at the playing fields opposite the school for instruction on outdoor schooling, Anna has been told she's doing an all-day lesson in the local woods. It is funny because back home, the schools just couldn't begin to organise such a return as they'd need safety assessments and pre-signed consent forms galore. Here they are simply told that is on the agenda and the teachers (and parents) are ready and willing to go with it. Hats off to pragmatism!

The only downside, which I have been too scared to broach as yet, is informing Léon (who would happily have taken a sleeping bag and moved into school, he's missed it so much) that Thursday and Friday this week are actually scheduled school holidays. He's going to gammon so much when he finds out!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What an exciting week

It has been an exciting week in lockdown world. First on Wednesday I went to IKEA for the first time since it reopened and there were people in it! Hadn't seen any of them in a while, and I hadn't been down to the city more than three times in three months. Thursday we were having our electric fuse box rewired so got to spend the day in Thomas's office, which was empty of course but still... a real change of scenery. Amaia came up after school and played 'teachers' on the whiteboards which she loved. Thomas even bumped into one colleague so we bought pizza together - carry out and other humans - imagine! And on Sunday, we decided to go to visit the town where Thomas grew up so we actually left Funen, the little island where we live, for the first time since I came back from Scotland on Feb 17 and drove 130km into Jutland! We didn't see any humans that day, mind you!

It's funny how your horizons change during something like this. Before, even flying to Scotland most months seemed samey and fairly mundane!

Poor wee hands

One thing we have noticed here, now the under 11s have been back at school for three and a bit weeks, is the toll it's taking on their skin. Trying to be very careful and sensible, they are washing hands on arrival, at the end of every period, sanitising their laptops before and after use and washing every time they eat anything, blow their noses and when they leave in the afternoon etc. Amaia's are now red enough that you can see a line where her long sleeves usually stop and her hands start, and her skin is dry and rough. She's now taking her own bar of milder soap to school in a box and has that super-strength Norwegian hand cream in her bag and still this is the result, but many of the kids whose skin is more sensitive are having even more problems than she is. So, there are downsides too to being super-sensible. It's something to bear in mind when other countries start opening their schools. Buy the hand cream now and beat the stampede!

Tuesday, May 05, 2020


My orchard has burst into life in the last few weeks - we are going to have so many apples, pears, plums and cherries this year😋 and the bees are very happy!

Thomas's car

I'm never fully sure whether I love or hate Thomas's car - nicknamed 'the boge' (short for bogey) by the kids. It is true that finding it in a car park is never an issue, and it is unlikely to be the first one anyone would steal either - it stands out just a little too much. On a summer day it can look really nice and cheery but in the depths of a Scandinavian winter, it has a most definite snotty hue.

But when it looks good, it looks really good, such as today, as I drove up to school past a rapeseed field.

And it really lends itself to colorization too, so the jury is still out for now.


An unexpected consequence

I'm beginning to notice an unexpected consequence of the new way Denmark is schooling its under-11s. Amaia has been back at school for nearly three weeks now. They are in six hours a day but they are spending every second hour outside, so three hours a day they have outdoors classes, excursions, sport or walks...

So my wee Amaia is out soaking up more vitamin D than she's seen since her nursery days pre-2015 with the result that she's becoming a complete freckle monster! She is even beginning to rival her older sister's usual freckle count, and that's quite a feat!

Friday, May 01, 2020

What a find!

Like a tiny ray of sunshine in all this chaos, I went shopping in Aldi yesterday and discovered that this week's special in the 'exotic' aisle was nothing less than cans of irn bru! Imagine the kids' faces when we returned home! I did have to laugh though... Given it is not known here it was described as 'Scottish soda', but if you look closely at the small print underneath, it warns that it is not suitable for children! 😂 Try telling that to Scottish children! Anyway, we broke the rules - thought it might brighten up their day!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Too bighearted?

Well, this is going to be controversial but it does help sometimes to see ourselves as others see us...

I have lived in Denmark for nearly a year now. I have previously lived in Italy, France and Germany too and of course both my husbands have also been foreign nationals. One thing that surprises a Brit abroad or conversely a foreigner in the UK is that whole charity and fundraising culture back home. I'm not saying Europeans won't try to fund raise for a worthy cause; they might sell some plants or cakes they've baked to try to amass enough money to build something fun and extra but not for an essential service. That whole idea of if I sit in a bath of baked beans and everybody gives me a pound for doing so, I'll pass it on to a good cause is completely alien to every other country I have lived in. In other European countries people expect their government, using their taxes, to pay for essentials and if they don't, they vote that government out, or they strike or they protest. It sounds simple, but they just don't get all this sponsored this or sponsored that.

For example - in Scotland my kids went to Kirkhill primary. It is a wonderful school because the fundraising committee for the school is phenomenal. They raised tens of thousands for playground equipment, chrome books, library books and all sorts. Here the education budget provides the kids with their chrome books so you don't end up with that kind of system where those who have fund raise to get more, and those who don't fall behind. It leads to a much more equal starting point for all kids. When we went into lockdown, everyone could be educated online from day one as all the schools already had chrome books for all the kids.

I can see from social media what a lovely warm and fuzzy feeling Brits are getting at the moment from watching some 100 year old gentleman walking about his garden to raise money for the NHS, and that that feat is encouraging them to dig deep but seen with my already foreign but now even more foreign eyes... why? Why do you only give the money if he does the walk? Firstly, if you have the money in the first place, why only give it if someone does something for it? And more importantly, why do you put up with paying taxes, then having the government renege on its responsibilities while you pay up a second time? Especially when you know of all the tax loopholes those people and companies (and politicians) who can actually afford to help are jumping though! You live in a country where the general public raise millions every year for Children in Need, ex-servicemen (through poppies) and so on, while the government does not see it as anything to do with them.

I am utterly flabbergasted to see the likes of that old man, and Chris Evans on his Virgin radio morning show pulling out all the stops to try to provide front-line health workers with essentials so they don't die, while the government fiddles the figures and condescendingly pats you all on the head for your wartime spirit as you pull together. I think there are so many wonderful, bighearted people back home and the government is relying utterly and unashamedly on milking them for all it can get.

Are you aware that the rest of Europe is scratching its head (not for the first time since the beginning of you Brexit circus) in utter disbelief about how you put up with being shit on constantly from a great height!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Glasgow in lockdown

Lovely wee video of Glasgow in Corona lockdown. Hopefully once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the city empty.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Today's outdoor lesson

Today's outdoor art lesson was 'tree trolls'. Each kid was given a tree and some clay in the playground and made to make a troll looking out from the bark. The kids seem to have had great fun doing it. It is nice to see how much imagination this whole situation is bringing out in everyone - teachers and kids alike!
Here's Amaia's, I think it is more dopey than scary but cute all the same.

Jumping rope

Growing up in Glasgow in the 70s, there wasn't an awful lot of playground equipment - no climbing frames or pirate ships graced the school yards of my childhood. The boys played football, and as far as I remember, only football. The girls had three main sporty pastimes - skipping ropes, Chinese ropes and tennis balls. By skipping ropes, I don't mean your usual boxer's workout skipping, I mean a huge long rope, such as in this old video from Edinburgh in the 50s, with as many as three or four girls jumping together in the middle and a line of others waiting to jumping in while it turned, just as soon as someone else jumped out. Even the least sporty in the class (ie me!) could easily jump two ropes simultaneously, or double Dutch as it was called. To keep the jumping rhythm we sang old songs, no one knew where we knew them from - Scottish gems like Mhairi's wedding, or Ma maw's a millionaire. Chinese ropes involved a pack of elastic bands linked together, two class mates and jumping memorised patterns getting higher and higher with each successive and successful round, as you can see here. And the tennis balls were fairly self explanatory - you bounced two against a wall in set patterns - almost like juggling but with a wall to bounce off. Other than that we traded scraps - I adored my scraps and had countless ones, conned from my granny on weekend shopping trips.

In Scotland my kids never skipped in the playgrounds - occasionally single ropes were taken out in PE lessons but no one was allowed to bring in their own - health and safety I assume, though I was never told explicitly. 

Because many of the lessons are now outside, I turned up last week to pick up Amaia and found her turning the rope for her friends, with her teacher at other end. She was having to be on the task as she didn't know how to jump in and out of a moving rope or with others as she had never tried it. It was clear that the Danish kids all knew the timing well, so to save her from another day of sitting it out, we spent the Thursday night teaching her skipping on the patio. She was well pleased to get up to speed and the other two enjoyed it too!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Lockdown, the funny side.

Conversations you only hear under lockdown:

Anna: My German teacher had her clothes on for today's lesson! 
Me: What does she usually wear?
Anna: Well, up till today it's always been her pyjamas 😂


I've been doing the school pickup on foot, to try to combat any lockdown overeating tendencies!

Aren't the fields pretty at the moment?

New school rules

A number of friends who are teachers in other countries have been asking about the school reopening here, as their countries are yet to attempt any type of reopening, either because their local area has been worse hit than here, or because they locked down significantly later than us (or both of course, more than likely).

Obviously, I don't know many people here yet so I can only talk about my own kids' schools but in case any of what they are doing can be of use elsewhere, here's further elaboration on my post from Friday morning.

Over and above the measures I mentioned earlier, here is some of what Amaia's school is doing...

While her year and the other 'odd' year groups follow a timetable of one hour indoor lessons, one hour outdoor, and so on, the 'even' years are starting outside and doing the opposite, thus halving the number of kids coming in contact with each other at breaks.

As homework is not a big thing here, as in many Scandy countries in the younger age groups, pencil cases and the likes are often left at school on the desk. Kids then constantly share stationery. The new rule is that pencil cases have to go home and kids need to make sure they bring sharpened pencils, rubbers etc with them as sharing has been temporarily banned. They have also been given a spray to wipe down their tablets every hour (all kids here have a tablet or laptop to work on in their classroom as most work is typed, not like in Scotland where our school had tablets but not enough for more than one year group at a time). That's also how they managed to start online lessons with teachers from day one of lockdown. They simply sent them all home with a computer.

It's interesting to compare two (or more) school systems. I can see this approach that our school here is taking would struggle to work at their old school. It had such big classes and because the Scottish primary system has one main teacher to a class rather than designated subject teachers (in a more Scottish high school style) for the majority of the work. Because the Danish primary teachers can teach most things in our school but move about generally teaching specific subjects - eg Maths, English, German etc there are many more teachers so kids can be split into smaller classes.

Also Denmark is so much less into health and safety assessments and consent forms than Scotland, so our teachers can take the kids out three hours a day, around the village, into the woods etc at a whim. The risk assessment nonsense in Scotland would make that a non starter so instead they'll be trapped at home much longer, I expect. We are managing around ten kids to a classroom so they can easily reach have two metres around them.

So a normal day seems to consist of:

Get the bus, where the bus driver is cordoned off.
Arrive at school, wash hands, go to your desk - no more group singing sessions to start the day.
After an hour, go outside for an hour's outdoor schooling.
Wash you hands at the end of each period.
Come home.

Outdoor play now consists more of nature things, less of bats, balls and other physical toys.

Interestingly, seeing each other during the day has led to an increase in them wanting to play Minecraft or similar online together after school. Normally, I'd be the first to be jumping up and down if they're on their computer in this beautiful weather, but given they've been out so much earlier and given how good socialising online is for Amaia's confidence in Danish, I'll refrain from my usual grumping for now.

I just wish the other two could go back too. This isolation isn't doing wonders for Anna's Danish as her life has more or less reverted to English other than schoolwork, and although Léon is actually on 24/7 to friends so speaking it all day, he is visibly wilting in his isolation. It just isn't a way for him to thrive at all.

Friday, April 17, 2020

First steps

So, this morning was the much-awaited day. For the first time in nearly six weeks, we had to set an alarm for 7am, make a lunch, fill a school bag etc After a last minute hiccup yesterday, when we realised Amaia had grown out of most of her shoes(!), all went well today.

We had been issued all sorts of instructions, beforehand. The first was for the school bus. Kids are no longer allowed to enter by the front door and chat to the driver. They are let in through the side door and scan their contactless (free) travel cards. They are then only allowed one child on each double seat. The bus that usually has a half dozen kids in it by our stop and that fills completely with middle school kids at the village when the lower school kids get out, contained just one lone little red-haired girl when Amaia got on this morning. All the other usual bus kids are over 11s so not back at school yet. Ours is the last stop before the village so only two went up the hill in it today.

It was a lovely morning so I walked her to the bus stop as she usually walks with her siblings and I thought it might seem a little odd alone.

On arrival she had had instructions for which door her year was to use. Each year was using a different door and a different playground - much like they do at Kirkhill usually but in this school they are normally allowed to enter by the door of their choice and play wherever and with whoever they like. They can even play in the woods behind school if they like as they've built ladders and tree houses in the woods.

On entering the building they were to queue up to wait to go to classrooms, rather than all meeting to sing together in the assembly hall which is their usual start to the day. Lines had been drawn everywhere, 2 metres apart, so they could each stand on a mark safely while waiting for their teacher. Every child had been given a new peg, two metres from its nearest neighbour.

Instead of a main/Danish teacher, a Maths teacher, a PE teacher, a music teacher and an English teacher, as she usually has, she was assigned her Danish teacher only, to minimise contact with adults. They had an hour of Danish, then went outside together for an hour, then they had an hour of Maths and again another hour outside, finally they had some art and design and another hour outside. Each child now has their own table with their name on it. It has 'a llama space' to the surrounding desks. They washed their hands every hour and generally had a really lovely time. They were allowed to stand two metres apart hugging the air to symbolise to friends they were giving them a hug.

All in all, she says it was a perfect day... seeing all her friends, having three hours of formal lessons and also having three hours of less formal outdoor-in-the-sunshine play learning! Maybe it's a little less academic than usual, but she's ten! In Denmark she still has nine more years of school as they don't finish till 19 here, so a summer term of sunshine to remember sounds perfect!

It's definitely the happiest I have seen her since all this began! We got one very happy little girl home today.

Hopefully this will be the first step on the road back to normality.