Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Different cultural encounters

When you move to a different country half way through your childhood, you become a different person to the one you would have become... No shit, Sherlock! Ok, so I'm stating the obvious, but this can be completely subtle and at other times it can be wholly obvious.

To give an example of the subtle ways you might change... In Scotland my kids went to a 'posh' school so not only was there a uniform, but it was the strictest of strict - everything was prescribed, right down to the shade of grey your socks were allowed to be. As kids they were told ad nauseam that it was a good thing because kids wouldn't be shamed for lacking the money for designer brands and it was safer as you could spot someone who didn't belong in the playground. They were told it was more practical to have an obvious outfit ready every morning. 

Now they live in a society where no one wears a uniform, but funnily enough there is no issue with designer brands, kids from other establishments infiltrating the playgrounds, and they can wear waterproof shoes and coats in the rain rather than the inadequate footwear and blazers they used to don. So, my kids haven't obviously changed in this regard, but were I to return them to their old school in August, after three years here, they would be more critical of the uniform rhetoric and less likely to swallow it wholesale, I expect. Never once on a snowy day has my child begged to go back to court shoes and a wool blazer, never once in the sunshine have they complained about being allowed to school in shorts and sandals. Never once have I had to rush to get specific clothes clean for the next day...

A less obvious example is the language and culture they are exposed to, and I don't mean Danish. When I lived back home, had I asked my kids what language do you think sounds nice, even if you don't understand it, they might have replied 'Spanish' or 'Italian' or something they were used to hearing but hadn't started learning yet. When I asked this question of Amaia the other week, I got an answer that I would never have got in Scotland. Of this I am 100% sure! She replied 'Greenlandic sounds cute - all those clicky hissy sounds are so sweet, not like Faroese, that just sounds like another version of all those other Scandinavian languages!' There is no way a Scottish child could pick Greenlandic out of a line-up (unless they have maybe been tuning in to Borgen Series 4, if that is out already in the UK), but here there are many Greenlandic people and kids including Uiloq in her class, who inspired this comment by speaking her own language in class one day to show her classmates how she sounds. And for anyone who wants to be able to pick it out a line-up going forward...

Sunday, March 27, 2022


I woke up late and tired this morning - no wonder - someone stole an hour in the middle of the night... I'm not fully complaining - I loathe wintertime and wander about moping constantly and bemoaning the darkness. But why have we developed a system that steals an hour from us in the middle of the night, in the middle of the weekend?

I can fully get on board with gaining an hour in October during the night, during the weekend, but it suddenly struck me this morning just how much nicer with would be to switch to summertime at say 1pm on a Tuesday? What do you reckon? Who's with me?

Thursday, March 24, 2022

A granny's legacy

Most grannies in cartoons and popular children's literature wear a skirt, round glasses, and have their hair swept up in a grey bun. They like knitting and sewing, gardening and baking with the grandchildren. I'm not sure my mum was a likely candidate for 90% of this. 

She always wore trousers, her hair was a dark, and latterly salt and pepper afro, untameable and unbrushable. My mother didn't actually own a hairbrush, only an afro comb. This was something I found odd in my teens as the only other woman in the house with almost straight hair. If I couldn't track my brush down in a rush, there was no one else's to borrow. 

And although she knitted, mainly baby items and only when Amanda or I were pregnant, she loathed and sucked at sewing in equal measures. Had we not had enough money for clothes, making them ourselves would never have been an option. 

Gardening and even house plants were a bit of a no no too. I don't think there's a single flower in her garden, just bushes and trees and most of them donated by me. I actually cannot remember her ever baking anything in my life, and definitely not with us, her kids, or any of her grandchildren. I baked with her mother growing up, but never with my own. And it wasn't that she lacked a sweet tooth, there were copious amounts of cake and squares of millionaire's shortbread or similar in her house, they just always came in an ASDA or Aldi box.

She will be remembered for many things:

  • her colossal general knowledge, well other than geography... She spent endless hours watching quiz shows with the kids who were desperate to enter her as she always beat all the guests who actually appeared on them.
  • her surprising ability at Wii ski-jumping!
  • her jigsaw skills
  • her ability to match anything - wallpaper to furnishings, clothes to her car, her jewellery, towels - you name it, it matched
  • her surprisingly dirty mind when it came to Cards against Humanity - she always, always won that one
  • her sharp and cutting wit
  • her no-nonsense approach to grandparenting
and much more, but nothing culinary, or so I thought...

It is therefore strange that here on Funen, she is going to be remembered for her baking... her hot cross buns to be precise. I can safely say, hand on heart, my mother never ever made a hot cross bun in her life! So, how will she be remembered for that? It's all down to Léon... as these things often are! 

Last week in his English class, being the life and soul as always, he volunteered to bring in the British speciality of hot cross buns to educate his fellow classmates on UK culture. After a quick poll, that suggested 90% of his class hated raisins but loved chocolate, he decided to adapt the recipe, replacing one with the other. Having never made them himself, a quick google gave him a fail-safe recipe, thanks to BBC good food. He baked thirty and took them in the next day. So impressed was his teacher, that she took a photo of him dishing them out and asked him to translate and then write out the recipe... This then got back to management, who thought it would be a great story for the school's internet page, to advertise what a nice school it is. Léon, of course, thought sharing a BBC good food recipe, especially the week he'd missed Monday at school to attend his gran's funeral, was a bit impersonal so claimed this was his gran's family recipe. The school has now shared my mum's world famous hot cross bun recipe for anyone who wants to honour granny's memory by baking her buns. And given it isn't the BBC one, as the raisins have been swapped out for dark chocolate, and it is now written in Danish, no one can see the correlation! You couldn't make it up!

So, we now live on an island with 500 000 inhabitants who are now all potentially trying out my mum's hot cross bun recipe this Easter. If I had any religion in me, I'd like to think of her up there having a right old chuckle about the whole thing! It definitely isn't the legacy she'd have been counting on.

And for anyone who wants to try out her speciality (if you have google translate on hand anyway):

Monday, March 07, 2022

End of the blogging break? Another kick in the teeth.

I enthusiastically wrote on 11 January that I hoped my blogging this year might pick up a bit after the health hell that was 2021. I genuinely thought we might get a break this year - no health scares, no major operations, no Covid, no immigrating, no starting my life from scratch again, no redundancies, no divorces or any of the other joys we have been through over the last decade or two.

I should have known better.

Back on 19 January life was normal, till the morning mum rang us to say she couldn't seem to get out of bed. A day and a number of scans later, we got the news that what she thought was a chest infection was actually lung cancer, with an extra tumour pressing on her spine. I flew over alone the following day. 

A two week stay in hospital stabilised her but unfortunately found further tumours in her bones, liver, and brain and we were given a prognosis of 12 weeks. Derek and Amanda brought her home to their place and I flew the whole family over and Marcel and Milly came up from London. We spent a wonderful week all together as a family and I flew home again on the 21st with a ticket to return alone yesterday. 

But as you can see from the photos I've been uploading to Facebook and Instagram of Glasgow this week, that plan didn't quite work out either. I had to bring my trip forward to last Sunday as she died on Saturday Feb 26, only five weeks after diagnosis, four days before what would have been her 78th birthday, a birthday she shared with Amanda who was turning 50. 

Derek, Amanda, and I are dealing with the funeral, the house and all the paperwork and the funeral has now been arranged for next Friday at 3:45 at Maryhill crematorium. 

Marcel and Milly are coming up on Wednesday and Thomas will fly the rest of the grandchildren over on the early morning flight on Friday, fingers crossed there are no delays. 

So, it's been a shocker of a start to 2022, but if she had to go, I guess 5 weeks is the way she'd have wanted it, not months or years of treatment and suffering, like dad. 

I'm ok for now but I expect, it'll be a while before it all sinks in. In the meantime, please toast my wee mum with a glass of wine tonight with your dinner, if you get a chance. This is us together last October.

Ann Buchanan 2/3/44 - 26/2/22