Friday, 16 October 2009

In Bed and Happily Zombie Free

So, Halloween is coming...

The rather fantastic Nicola at micro-chasms wrote a post a while back about a game she played with her husband: Happy (and) in Bed?

The version that Aksel and I play is a bit more weird and has more elements of zombies, but essentially it is a similar idea. It started 12 years ago when we lived in Jutland. In the middle of nowhere. A little way down the road was a deserted (haunted), derelict (possessed) house.

On cold, stormy, very dark nights, while we lay all cosy in bed, we would ask each other: How much money would you need to.... and then the question would end with variations on the theme of getting up, (possibly) getting dressed, going to the creepy house and spending the night there (often in the basement), usually without a torch.

Although the question was obviously hypothetical, the rule is that you have to answer as though the money is on the table - yours for the taking.

Aksel is quite a lot cheaper than me and I definitely value my nightmare-free sleep more than him. He'd normally do it for 50,000 DKK whereas I would sometimes need that much just to get out of bed.

Years later, we moved to suburbia north of Copenhagen, in a cul-de-sac of tightly packed neighbours where everyone knew everyone else's business but pretended not to. The game changed a little.

There were no haunted houses in the vicinity. But if the Scandinavians actually used net curtains, they definitely would have been twitching. So the question was along the lines of How much money do you need to get out of bed right now, hop around naked to the neighbours and ask to borrow sugar? Extra money was awarded if you called upon the slightly freaky Ned Flanders-type family. Again, I valued my dignity and continued ability to live amongst these people slightly more than Aksel, who argued that they didn't speak to us anyway, so it wouldn't make much difference.

Since moving again this year, we are in the position to add the Zombie element to the question. There is a small building a little way down our street, full of nothing else but freezers, buzzing away. We think it is a left over from the days before folk had their own freezers, but a more plausible explanation is that it houses a dozen frozen zombies. All waiting to come and frighten us the day the power fails, eat our food (or us), and watch our telly.

Now Aksel, who has been known to read How to Survive a Zombie Attack guides, has got quite good at freaking himself out with this little story. And when the question comes up How much money do you need to go and spend the night in the zombie house... I am normally pretty willing to go for not so much, considering the inconvenience. Whereas on particularly dark nights Aksel can refuse all monetary compensation whatsoever.

Have you seen how fast those things can move? he asks.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Nativity

There is a funfair squished into the centre of Copenhagen called the Tivoli. A mixture of fancy fountains and gardens and lights and roller coasters and restaurants and stalls. It is, with the exception of Bakken just up the road, the oldest amusement park in the world.

I'm hoping to go with the children soon as they do a really good Halloween.

We obviously went there, back in the 1970's, when I was on holiday with my parents.
After the summer holidays, back at school in England , my class was asked to respond to the inevitable "What did you do in your summer holidays?" question that the teacher always asks.
All the usual answers came up including beaches, icecream, watching TV, riding ponies and visiting grandparents. Until it got to my turn and I proudly told the teacher that my parents had taken me to The Nativity.

I remember her giving me a funny look and asking if I was sure.

(In hindsight the sub-text is clear -Sure that my parents had taken me to an account of the birth of Jesus? In July? In Denmark?)

Yes, I was sure!

And, I said (as if that wasn't enough weird already) we had also been to a beach where people were naked.

This was all probably quite shocking for a British infant school teacher to hear at that time. I'm sure she thought I had been to some naked religious festival, which was definitely not the done thing in my small village.

Anyway, the thing that I'm actually admitting here is that it was a very long time before I realised that I had got the name wrong and that the amusement park was not actually called The Nativity. I'm talking years and years. Long after I should have known better.

Good job he was easily impressed with my geography skills and could overlook the odd desire to visit a funfair where kids dressed up as shepherds by putting tea-towels on their heads.

(oh, and I might have got the name wrong for Tivoli, but I was right about the naked people.)

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Aksel and I celebrated our Kobberbryllup yesterday -which in Denmark is a sneaky way of getting in another wedding anniversary.

It is a celebration of the fact that you have been married for 12 and a half years. And that you are half way to the big 25 years - Silver Wedding Anniversary.

(The cynic in me suspects that perhaps this tradition exists because people don't necessarily expect to be with each other the full 25 years?)

Anyway... 12 and a half years ago, Aksel and I said that "we would" in the church in the village where I grew up (by the way, only the Americans say "I do" - Brits agree to our nuptials with a more willing "I will").

To celebrate this funny half-year anniversary, we had had rather ambitious dreams of weekends in Rome or Paris. In the end, partly due to our lack of organizational skill but mainly due to the lack of gazillions of kroner in the bank, we managed a full 24 hours without children, playing tourist in the lovely chic (and nearby) Copenhagen.

We ate cake at La Glace (where our Danish wedding cake originated from and just about made it to England in time for the wedding) and then we wandered and shopped around the city with no particular agenda or timeline. It was perfect. We ate dinner at the restaurant d'jour, MASH, and it was very good. Particularly the novel part where we got to complete whole sentences without being interrupted.

The night was spent in 5***** Hotel D'Angleterre, where just about any celebrity who has ever visited DK has also chosen to stay (as evidenced by the rather naff little name plaques "discreetly" placed by the lift). It was also pretty perfect. And the breakfast buffet this morning, eaten at a very civilized 10 o'clock, kept us going until 6 this evening.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

All the homes I have lived in - No. 2

This was an all-girls halls of residence at university in London. I lived there in my first year. I was 18 and it was 1989.

I had a great room, with French doors opening out to the garden courtyard. My parents dropped me off, making sure I knew how to write a cheque so that I could pay the rent, before leaving me to it.

It was not my first choice of university or accommodation. But I grew to love being a student in London and found it easy to live there and make the city my home for the next three years. In terms of the halls, I was disappointed that I was going to be in an all-girls environment.... and although I made some good friends, I didn't really fit in with the girly cliques that quickly formed. I would have hated to go to an all-girls school!

But it proved not to be a problem in the end. We held great parties. The invitations went something like:

Party at halls of residence (the one where 117 women live). Plenty of alcohol. And vodka jelly.

Sounds classy eh?
At one of these parties, I met my future husband.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Sometimes I feel like I am being stretched so thin that I become see-through. And there is just not enough time in the day or enough of me to go around.

With my children it can feel like I am trying to pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time to meet their very different needs while trying to memorise the entire works of Shakespeare.

And this particular circus act has to sometimes cut corners. Doesn't everyone elses too? Apparently not.

Apparently homemade (organic, plucked from your own garden) food is better than stuff from a jar or a tin.

Yes, I know that. We all know that. Do you have to be so arrogant and superior about the fact that you never open a tin of soup for your children? Or make a quick spaghetti bolognese with sauce from a - shock, horror - jar?

Intentionally making other people feel like lesser parents or indeed people just because you have lots of time to stand in your kitchen stirring and chopping does not make me want to keep talking to you.