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.

Monday, April 13, 2020


Léon has taken to eating quite a lot of marmalade since we moved here. He just loves Danish marmalade, which has even more peel in it than the UK equivalent!

Over lunch the other week, he joked we should start calling him Paddington. Thomas, then happened to mention, that when he was a child, he had read many Paddington books, translated into Danish of course, because he couldn't speak English back then. They'd been badly translated though, as many books are, and had translated marmalade simply by 'marmelade', which is just any kind of jam in Danish. I was less aware of this as the standard word for jam that I know in Danish is 'syltetøj'. He sheepishly admitted that until he'd seen the English originals, when he had had kids of his own, he'd always pictured Paddington eating strawberry jam!


Saturday, April 11, 2020

They will never all be happy

This is the dining room side of Amaia's bedroom door. She's decided she wants a bunny and she's decided that emotional blackmail is the way to go. I can't really be bothered with a bunny. I'm not cleaning hutches, I'm not putting it in every night, clipping nails, getting bitten or any of the rest.

Léon wants chickens, because he likes to watch the neighbour's chickens. This seems slightly more useful, but again, I can't be bothered cleaning anything out and I'm sure, after the hamster years, that I will become the hen house cleaner.

Moreover, we know no one on Funen, and intend, under normal circumstances, to leave on holiday several times a year, so pet sitting could become an issue.

Now, Léon has started bombarding me with videos of cute little fuzzy puppies, claiming to have solved the problem as puppies don't need cages. Give me strength! He claims it is crazy to have 9000m2 of garden and no pet to play with on it. Anna has added to the mix with kitten photos. Having had cats in the past, I find them the most tempting but Charlotte categorically wants no pets, especially nothing furry, and intends (on more normal years) to spend many months here. Amaia only wants something that can be caged and says she will not accept cats or dogs. So, no matter which route I go down, half of my kids won't talk to me again!

Maybe if I just play them off against each other long enough, they'll all go off to uni and I can breathe a sigh of relief.

Bread art

Now my boy has got into bread making, his sister in Scotland is suggesting he perfects focaccia before she gets over here.

She sent him this link to inspire him. I'm looking forward to playing the guinea pig.

Lovely surprises

When we bought Kinloch back in September of 2007, it had no garden, or rather it had a very bare and boring one. The first spring brought no surprises. It was awful, and it stayed awful till we slowly transformed it over the years with flowers, trees and berries.

This house has a lovely, established front garden as well as the orchard, so every week brings us lovely new surprises. Having bought ourselves a little forsythia to remind us of home, we felt rather silly when spring came and showed us we already have four forsythias! 

And this week's lovely surprise is not only a pretty magnolia but also a rarer star magnolia. It's going to be fun to watch through the seasons.

Washing or Easter

Even after nearly 23 years as a parent, one of the kids can still occasionally come out with something so wholly inappropriate, you just have to laugh out loud.

When we moved in here last September, there was no drying line. There was a tumble drier (back in Scotland I had both), so we used that all winter, but the last month has been glorious and that seemed a bit of a waste of cash, so we ordered some drying poles from a local plant nursery and they were delivered last week. All that remained was to buy some fence post concrete and we were in business.

Thomas dug them in, beside our big blue tool room, then left them to dry, tethered down, for a couple of days before adding the drying ropes. I even joked to him that our orchard was looking a bit like Golgotha on my way to the car one morning...

 I'm not sure if Amaia hadn't realised it was a washing line or what, but I nearly choked when she asked what 'that Easter thing' we were building on the hill was and added, before I could reply 'if we have an old teddy or something like that we could nail it on!'

Not very pc, but definitely made my day!

We have since pointed out it is not an Easter decoration!

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Lockdown update - Denmark

So, last night we spent an hour watching a long press conference with the PM... Given Denmark, so far, has things under control, the government has decided to do a gradual reopening, starting in phase one with allowing all under 11s to go back to school (as they have been shown to be least affected) from April 15th. Given my kids here are 14,12 & 10, all hell then broke loose in my house! Amaia doesn't see why she should be the only one going out every day, taking the bus alone and working hard. Anna doesn't want to be forced to get up early for breakfast with Amaia, she'd rather Amaia just got up and went out alone. We pointed out it is the least the rest of us can do, resulting in much harrumphing. And poor Léon is just falling apart. He's such a social animal. There had been so many rumours over the last week that the big ones would go back first as they are at a more critical point of education, but unfortunately for him, the figures show the little ones are much less likely to catch, transmit, hang out with friends etc so they're a much safer group to be phase one...  Thomas and I are still going to be working from home for at least a month too 🙄

And finally, the borders are still closed too so I can't get to my other kids so I'm devastated. Marcel is with his girlfriend and her family so seems ok, but Lots is completely alone and has basically no human contact other than my daily call. She's stuck in a flat so can't even sit in the sun. I'm not sure how much longer she'll cope with the loneliness. And I'm sitting here wondering when I'll be able to get her home.