Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Copenhagen cool

Isn't it nice when parents cut out articles from newspapers for you? Even underlining the important bits. Because they know you don't have time to read the newspaper. I appreciate it, anyway.

My parents recently sent me a nice article about cycling (from the Guardian, I think?). The British journalist in this article has fun cycling round Copenhagen and is a bit in awe of the super gorgeous Danes on their bikes, enjoying their bike lanes. What he doesn't seem to realise is that this is not a new phenomenon and it is not in response to green politics in the last few years (although, of course, that has helped). Bicycling has always been a good way to transport yourself around Copenhagen.

And the Danes manage to do it in a totally un-nerdy way. If you are in doubt what the beautiful Danes on bikes look like you should take a look at this great blog:

It helps, of course, that the bicycle lanes are wide, clearly marked with a big picture of a bike and separated from the cars with a proper curb. And drivers are usually well trained in looking out for the bikes. You don't feel like you are taking your life in your hands in quite the same way as cycling in London used to make me* feel.

In other Copenhagen-in-the-spotlight news - The United Nations Climate Change conference is being hosted here in December. And about half of Copenhagen is getting shut down tomorrow when Barack Obama comes to visit for about 10 hours when he tries to get the 2016 Olympics hosted in Chicago. Even Oprah Winfrey is coming.

Exciting stuff.

If I could just figure out how to do the cycle chic, I might even start to feel a little bit at home.

*ok, if I am really honest I have to admit that it was Aksel that did the cycling in London. But he used to come back and give me dramatic accounts of near-misses and crazy British drivers and Why aren't we moving to Denmark already? tirades, that I feel justified in writing "me". And it sounds better doesn't it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I blame my parents

When I first told my parents I had a Danish boyfriend, I think my mum was just relieved he wasn't Australian. Not that she has anything against Australian blokes. It is just that she didn't want me doing what she had done: moving half way around the world for love.

Denmark seemed pretty close in comparison to Australia. Unlike her own Australian family who very rarely could manage the long and expensive trip to England from Sydney, she knew she could hop on a plane and visit Copenhagen in a couple of hours.

And it wasn't as if my parents weren't familiar with the country. We went to Denmark a total of 3 (or maybe 4) times before I was 9 years old. It was the first experience for me of "going abroad". It was a bit of an unusual holiday destination for Brits in those days (maybe it still is?).

Here I am picking flowers with my sister at Kronborg (Hamlet's) castle in 1974.

And admiring the Little Mermaid. Look at those little legs!

Imagine what all those Scandinavian adventures did to my young impressionable self. I'm sure it had a big effect and is probably part of the reason I've ended up living here.

At least it is the reason that when I very first met Aksel in London, in my first year at university, and he said that he came from Copenhagen, I was able to reply,"Oooh, Denmark, I've been there!"

He was easily impressed. The girl he'd been chatting to before me had thought it was part of Stockholm.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Sleepovers part 2

We've been talking about it for a long time and Anna's first sleepover at our place this weekend was a big success. It contained all the essential ingredients: best little girl friend, lots of chocolate and sweets, dressing up, make-up "borrowed" from my make-up bag, films, Wii games, a very bubble-ly bath together that turned the bathroom into a water park, dancing around to the Hairspray soundtrack and staying up very late giggling.

I pretended not to notice the chocolates sneaked away to be eaten at "midnight". I was pretty easy going about the spilt chocolate milk. I kept my cool with the make-up incident. I happily mopped up the flood in the bathroom. And at 10 pm I said that they really should be going to sleep now. I left them whispering away, but when I checked 10 minutes later they were both asleep.

It brought back lots of memories of staying over at my friends' houses when I was Anna's age. I was always dreadful at going to sleep. And I really disliked being the only one left awake after everyone else succumbed to tiredness. I remember that hyped up and over-tired feeling and I still really dislike being the last one to bed.

Unfortunately, I was up in the night several times with Samuel, who has some virus that gave him 40 in fever. So I was less than pleased to be woken at 5.40 am on Sunday morning by loud giggling and banging coming from Anna's room. You'd think they would want to sleep late wouldn't you, like any other civilised person. We had to go in three times and threaten Anna with no sleepovers ever again (we are evil parents) unless they kept the noise down until 7 am.

Sadly, the best little girlfriend had some news. Her family is unexpectedly moving country in four weeks, so Anna was very sad about that. She has a couple of other friends who are also moving soon. The high turnover rate is the big disadvantage of an international school. We talk about it a lot. It is tough, especially now she is getting older and friendships are becoming much more important. We'll have to see how it goes, but none of us are convinced that a move to the Danish system is the easy answer.

Needless to say, everyone was very tired yesterday but we managed to grump and cranky ourselves through the afternoon without resorting to violence. We even got Anna's homework out the way with only a few tears (mine).

And it was not the best time to have to get through a trip to the out-of-hours doctor with Samuel, but the verdict was optimistic: non-specific-virus-not-serious-not-pig-flu.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


With the number of words that Sam is saying gaining exponential speed, I have been taking another look at some of the resources out there for raising bilingual children. I recently found out that the way we communicate in our family has a name. It is called OPOL - or one parent, one language. Aksel and I both only speak our mother tongue to the children. And we expect them to use that language when they speak to us. This method works really well for us because we all speak and understand the "other" language. We don't need to use another method that involves a "round the dinner table language" that everyone understands. When we are all together, Anna simply switches from Danish to English, depending on who she is speaking to. It seems very natural for her to do this.

When she was little, I was quite concerned about her learning English properly. What if she doesn't talk to me in English? What if we never have that natural communication? What if my parents can't understand her? All my worries were totally unfounded and she was babbling away in both languages by 18 months. And by 2, she had pretty much sorted it out. Daddy spoke Danish, Mummy spoke English. That is just how her world is.

We are doing the same with Sam, this time without even really thinking about it. He already has lots of words in both languages and uses the Danish version (bil, tog, nøgle) with Daddy and the English version (car, train, keys) with me, already quite consistently.
It will be interesting to see what language Anna and Samuel use with each other as they get older. Right now, Anna mostly chats in English with him, but it is quite one-sided.
Sometimes Anna will say a few words in Danish to me to wind me up and to make fun. Lille mor she will say. Må jeg ikke nok, lille mor?* She knows this kind of expression makes my skin crawl ....and makes me laugh.

When Anna and I talk English to each other in Denmark, people sometimes assume that we can't understand Danish. We were in a lift together in a shopping centre the other day. Two boys got in with us. They were perhaps 11 or 12 years old. They noticed that we were speaking English and they giggled with each other about it. Then one of them suddenly said very loudly: Tissemand! It means a boy's willy. Not a really, really rude word. But probably also not something you would talk about in a lift with strangers. They obviously thought it was quite hilarious until they realised that we had understood exactly what it meant. He was quite embarrassed when I said in Danish something like: "Well, that's a rather strange thing to shout about in public!"

Afterwards, I was kicking myself for not coming up with a better line like: "Really? Where?" Or "What, is it not very big?" Although, the poor lad was probably traumatised enough by the situation, without any extra help from me.

*roughly translated it means in a very creepy and a little bit disturbing way "little mummy, please can I, little mummy?"

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Clever title

Oh, it has been roughly 6 years since I last posted, but a lot has been going on, ok.

Three more members of this family (bringing the total to 100% in case you are not counting) have since had the sickness mentioned in the last post. Enough said about that.

We've also been able to:
  • meet the teacher and get the new homework instructions, the swine flu instructions, the after-school activities sign up list, the school transportation permission slip, and a seemingly unending list of things we need to remember on any given school night
  • ride ponies at the nursery party
  • find the new gymnastics class (Anna took part in the class, my job was to get us all there, in one piece, without swearing too much). (I think I'd give myself a C minus, but A for effort.)
  • fix the freezer (ongoing)
  • do some work that actually pays (I had a meeting with a customer for a change; this required wardrobe overhaul and the work is also ongoing...)

And I've been rather stuck. Stuck with the same things on my To Do list. Stuck with the same concerns whirring round my head. Stuck with half-written blog posts. Stuck with all the repetitive things of everyday life that just have to be done.

None of it is very interesting. And it doesn't make for good writing.

I'm expecting that burst of energy and flash of inspiration any time now.