Tuesday, May 11, 2021

If you don't hear from me...

Our old house didn't have any decent window ledges, this one does, and loads of them. And Thomas still hasn't got himself a proper greenhouse so he's taken over my entire house. Given the season seems to be a couple of weeks behind a normal year into the bargain, I now have tomatoes blocking my dining room door to the garden, chillis in the kitchen and down in the turret, tomatoes galore at the bedroom window and finally cucumbers behind my headboard. The leaves are blocking the view and the little fruits are coming on leaps and bounds but it is the tendrils that are beginning to worry me most. First they decided to attach themselves to my bed, so they're going nowhere fast, and now they are creeping over towards us at night and I'm half expecting to waken up to Thomas lying strangled next to me one morning!

An old Saab

You know how, when you've loved someone, you never really lose them, not completely? For a moment in time, even just a split second, they are still alive and so close you can almost touch them.

Recently I was walking across a road in Kerteminde. When I stopped to look left and right, just as Tufty had taught me, what did I see at the next junction but a 1953 Saab, polished so shiny it could have be on its maiden trip, straight from the showroom. Taking my phone excitedly from my pocket, I turned to Thomas, and got as far as 'I can't wait...' before reality hit. I was going to complete my sentence with 'to show dad this picture'. Dad was a big Saab fanatic. For that fraction of a second, I almost forgot we lost him nine years ago today. It's been a lifetime, it's been a moment and yes, sometimes I almost forget I can't still show him a photo. 

I remember in the very early days saying to Thomas that I missed talking to him. Wise beyond her years Anna, who was 4 at the time, looked incredulous and said 'Just because he's not here, doesn't mean you need to stop talking to him. I still talk to him'. I always remember that as it seemed so profound from such a small child. So, I went ahead and took the pic anyway to show him, or tell him about, somehow... 

Thursday, May 06, 2021


While the restaurants were closed here because of the pandemic, one restaurant in the main square in Odense came up with the cutest idea which became a bit of a tourist attraction in the long run! They sat panda couples at their tables, enjoying the hospitality until such times as the real guests could return. I don't think I ever passed it at a time when someone wasn't photographing them, so they definitely get 10/10 for their marketing strategy too!


Monday, May 03, 2021

Education in Corona times

As an explanation of the following post, here is a brief outline of the Danish school system my three youngest are going through: Here in Nordfyn region, they go to nursery from the age of one, then kindergarten from three. After they turn six, they start in the village primary where they then continue for seven years till they are between 12 & 13. From 13 to 16 they move to a middle school in the next town for three years. At the end of those three years they apply to the three-year high school of their choice - this can be a grammar school, a business or technical school or even a vocational high school where you study to be a joiner, a carpenter, a healthcare assistant, a hairdresser or whatever floats your boat. They are given a conditional offer for entrance to these upper high schools and that offer is related to how they do in their middle school leaving exams which is set my the Danish ministry for Education, which is roughly equivalent to the Scottish Nat5 or the English GCSE. When we moved here Léon entered this system in the second year of the three year middle school course.

Last year's national exams were cancelled in Denmark, as they were in many countries because the kids were online-schooled from early March to mid-May, and the exams were due to take place early May. This year pupils were off January through March and now it's time for Léon to sit his leaving exams. On the one hand, sitting them would be a bit unfair as these kids are less prepared than previous years,  but on the other, if things get back to normal, going forward he'd then be expected to sit the proper uni entrance exams (studentereksamen) without ever having sat a proper ministry exam in his life. So the Danish government has come up with a compromise. Léon's year will sit half the normal exams at the end of this term to give the prospective grammar schools (gymnasiums) that they are all moving on to after the summer some kind of idea of what they are capable of, and as a fall-back their continuous assessment results from the last two terms will be used, should the underperform drastically compared to expectations. With that pressure lifted, Léon had his first Danish exam today - Danish essay writing (the written Danish Nat5 equivalent takes two days with a further oral paper in June!) Mr Laid-back has just bounced in the door grinning like a Cheshire cat, telling me it couldn't have gone any better! He got a topic he wanted to write about and one he had lots to say about. 

I swear nothing fazes that boy. He's missed all of year 7, 2 months of year 8 and 3 months of year 9. We dragged him out of the education system he knew at the end of s2 and asked him to learn to spell and read a language he only knows orally and mainly passively and sit grammar high school entrance exams in it less than two years later, and that in turn was blighted by a global pandemic and school lockdown and he actually claims to 'enjoy' the exams just weeks after going back to school! No matter what he gets, we already know his continuous assessment grade average is higher than his conditional offer at the local grammar school so fingers crossed next year will see him move up there and maybe get a whole year of in-person learning!

Sunday, May 02, 2021


We've all bought one in ASDA or the likes - a little 10cm tall basil plant that you get in a pot and after you've used a few leaves it is meant to grow back. I don't know if my family just eats too much basil or what but they never work for us and we end up with one spindly stem with a few pitiful leaves at the top. We've tried growing them from seed too, with no greater success. We've even tried various ways of propagating them from each other, which also seems to take longer than forever... One day back in winter Thomas and I were out at Vissenberg bageri (our local prize-winning bakery), for a change we dropped into the Coop in that town instead of any of our more local ones and they were selling slightly bigger basils than we were used to. Given they were going for 20kr (the equivalent of about £2.30), we thought we'd give one a go. What a difference! It grows back quicker than we can eat it and we have now been living off it for more than 3 months without making an obvious dent in it! Size really does matter after all. Result!