Category Archives: Family

Slow news month

My absence from this hallowed platform has been merely because I have little to report on recently. Well, obviously, I have LOTS to say, but I’m not sure you’d be wildly interested in the fact that somehow, after weeks of rainlessness in the usually wild and wet West, my front door swelled to such a size that it was almost impossible to shut it… and once shut it was actually impossible to open without someone pushing it from the outside. Which is fine if there is someone trying to get in but not terribly handy if there is no one out there and I am trying to get out. Anyway, the carpenter has solved the problem and normal service has been resumed in that department. (That was the highlight of life on the domestic front…I’ve spared you the rest..)

On the work front it has been alarmingly quiet although (just in the nick of time before I disappeared through the cracks in the floorboards [the cracks in my floorboards are particularly wide…]) I do now have a project to work on. A fashion website… so if you want to know words for seam, dart, yoke etc, all written with gushing sycophancy,  just give me a shout. Actually, the project could be given a whole post of its own because there are various issues to moan about discuss.

I had a few days off to entertain Big Bruv, Big Lad and Northern Star who all came over from Vikingland to do a spot of invading and pillaging. Northern Star was hilarious. I was pointing out a statue of an English saint who was murdered  a thousand years ago by some Danes… I think she felt a little defensive of her forbears because her reaction was “Well, he probably deserved it!”

Other than that, life has been un-newsworthy. Perhaps something more exciting will happen next month…but don’t hold your breath… it will be August, after all, when the whole of Europe goes on holiday. If you don’t hear from me, do come round, step through my easy-to-open front door and check the cracks between the floorboards. I might be down there.

100 – not out

Today, dear reader is a remarkable day in the life of one elderly lady to whom I am related. My Great-Auntie Barbara is celebrating her centenary.

But perhaps more remarkable than living 100 years, astonishing though that is even in these days of increasing longevity, is the fact that Great-Auntie Barbara has lived every one of those 100 years in the same house.

This day in 1910, Barbara was born in in the house where she then lived with her parents and brother (two other brothers did not survive their infanthood).  When she married, WW2 had broken out and housing stock was being depleted by bombing in the area so she and her husband lived with her parents.  Shortly after the war, her mother died and so Barbara and her husband stayed to look after her father. After his death, the little family (she had by this time had a son) had the place to themselves. The son grew up, moved away and married, and ten or so years later, her husband died, so by this time, Barbara must have felt to be rattling around the house on her own after so much liveliness.  However, the house is not a large one (I sometimes wonder how at its peak the inhabitants did not trip over one another!) so I suppose she eventually got used to the extra space and continued to live there.

I once totted up how many places I had lived in over the years. My criteria were that I had to have lived there for longer than a month and I could not be classed as a visitor… it had to be the only place I could call home. At the same time, I totted up the number of people I had lived with. I cannot remember the exact results now but it was something like 45 addresses and over a hundred people.

To me, therefore, this aspect of Great-Auntie Barbara’s life is all the more astonishing.

Glædelig Jul

to all my readers!

The title should give you a clue as to where I am this festive season*.

Wishing you peace and joy, now and for the New Year.

*At least, where I hope to be! At the time of writing, I am still in the ARC which has caught up with the rest of the country. We had a fall of snow just after the Christmas carol service on Sunday and while friends were at a little soirée chez moi, sipping mulled wine.  If the weather here – and the weather in Denmark permit, I shall be ensconced with my Danish relatives, eating, um, rice pudding…. which is their festive fare. I haven’t mentioned that I don’t actually like rice pudding…I have an English Christmas pudding in my suitcase 🙂

4th Sunday in Lent – Mothering Sunday

Appropriately we are thinking about Women today.

Jesus shocked his contemporaries by showing that He considered women of equal worth to men. His readiness to break down gender barriers and invite women into His circle of followers often offended those around him.

2000 years later, women in some countries are still considered as second-class citizens. If she is a Christian where Christians are in the minority, her life can be very hard – some are kidnapped, raped and forced to marry men of the majority faith. It is difficult to get the authorities to intervene on their behalf.

I have sent my greetings to the Ma-rent for Mothering Sunday. The Pa-rent will be delivering them in person. She is unfortunately back in hospital following a repeat performance of the problem which occured last summer. We think she’s sort of OK but she will no doubt be itching to get back to her own domain.

Batting for a century

Today is Great-Auntie Barbara’s 99th birthday.

How amazing. I think she may be the only member of our family who has achieved this milestone. (I’ve done a bit of family tree research over the years and there are a few ladies who have lived into their nineties but I think Great-Auntie B has topped the lot by a few years!)

And just while we’re marvelling about numbers I feel compelled to tell you that the other day I was faddling around on Amazon. I decided to see if a book the Pa-rent wrote about 30 years ago was listed. This book is out of print and much of the wisdom imparted is now historical fact as the procedures it explained are no longer used – indeed the industry is as good as defunct – in this fair country at least.

Anyway, I found it. There are four second-hand copies for sale ranging in condition from “good” to “very good”. All have an extra charge of US$3.99 for postage.  The cheapest is available for US$0.01 – I’m sure the Pa-rent would be flattered! The next is valued at $17.81, then $125 and the “very good” one at $999. What is THAT all about??

Pity the Pa-rent doesn’t get royalties on second-hand sales….

Language Acquisition

Auntie Kerensa is very proud of her twin niece and nephew, Northern Star and Big Lad. As regular readers will know, the children are almost entirely bi-lingual as they have a Danish mother and an English father.  As they are only 10 years old (the twins, not their parents), they are still learning both languages. I find the whole process quite fascinating.

In Denmark, children go to school and start the formal learning process a lot later than in England (at about age 7 rather than 4 or 5 as in the UK) and yet they seem to whizz along and be almost at the same stage as their English counterparts within a much shorter space of time.

For example, their English cousin, Bex, who is only 6 months older, was once reading them a bedtime story when they were all 7 years old. She felt very grown up and important as the twins had not yet started to learn to read. She read the words very fluently and we all enjoyed listening. [As an aside: She came to a word she didn’t recognise and said “Mum, what’s this word?” Before Mum could move, Big Lad said “scissors”. Our eyes popped out of our heads – until we realised that he had heard the story several times and knew what was coming next!]

Now, three years later, the twins are able to read and write almost as fluently in Danish and English as Bex does in just English – which I find amazing as they haven’t had any formal training in English – and given that our spelling is not exactly straightforward, this is quite an achievement.

However, their English is not yet quite perfect as I discovered when I sent a text message to Northern Star the other day.  I told her that the weather was quite mild. What was it like in Denmark? She replied:

“Its sunning in denmark love me xxx”

She had taken the form “it’s raining, it’s snowing” and applied it to the sun. Logical, really. I think I’m going to use this from now on.

And just in case you’re interested: it’s sunning in the Ancient Roman City this afternoon – although it’s clouding over a bit now.

Et danske bryllup – postcard no. 7

I think that’s probably how you say “A Danish wedding” in Danish. And it was to attend such an event which was my main reason for my trip. And not just any old nuptials, gentle reader, but a family wedding – for BigBruv was tying the knot for a second time.

The day before was spent running around the town with BigBruv getting last minute things ready. In among hiring disco lights, setting them up, helping lay tables, purchasing the bride’s choice of kitchenware as a wedding gift (for her kitchen – not the venue’s), I was also required to make a “sangskole”. (I have no idea if this is the correct spelling so I shall describe it later in this account.)**

When the Big Day dawned, we all got ready for the celebrations. LilSis, three of her four girls, Northern Star, Big Lad, BigBruv and I were all managing to ablute and dress without too much stress in BigBruv’s one-bedroom flat. I thought BigBruv’s nerves coped amazingly with 6 women all flying around!

In all the activity of the previous day, I had completely forgotten that BigBruv had asked me to be one of the official witnesses at the wedding ceremony. We entered the room in the Town Hall and I was just looking round for somewhere to sit when I was shown to the front of the room to a grand wooden chair facing the rest of the guests. The registrar asked me something in Danish – which I didn’t understand – and to which BigBruv answered on my behalf – Nej. She handed me a piece of paper in English which was allegedly the order of service. It may have been a version of what was going on (and was pretty much as one would expect) but it wasn’t a word-for-word translation. How could I tell? Well, it seemed from the piece of paper that the Bridal Couple would say their names but in fact the only word in the whole ceremony that they were required to say was “Ja”. With one paw mark from me and one from the Bride’s father and the whole thing was done! I was a bit surprised that I was allowed to witness the ceremony given that I hadn’t understood a word and they could have been discussing the price of bacon in Copenhagen for all I knew!

Another thing that surprised me was that some of the guests were *very* casually dressed. I knew from previous experience (ahem – BigBruv’s first wedding!) that the Danes don’t do the hats and high heels in quite the same way as some British weddings but a few of the guests looked as if they were on their way to the beach in shorts and sandals and rather ancient T shirts….

The Bride had apparently always said that if she ever got married she wanted to drive round town in a rickshaw eating (a particular type of) sausage. Her parents arranged a rickshaw, to the back of which were tied old cans, and the newly-weds were driven along a red carpet – which happened to be out for a town festival taking place that weekend – to the photographic studio.

The Family was invited to the Bride’s parents’ house (a beautiful old building in the centre of town) for lunch. When the Couple arrived, more of the guests arrived too, and we had champagne and cake.

One of the guests was wearing a kilt. Mindful of my Munich phrasebook, I enquired after his clan, and discovered that the wearer was a Danish Scot (or a Scottish Dane, depending on which way you look at it). His name was Jens, which means “soldier” and he was well named for he was a soldier and had recently served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He kept us entertained with stories…one of which might take some believing but he said that the British Army had the best food of all the armies in the field!

The Bride’s mother had been an au-pair girl in Scotland many years ago and said she was finding our Midland/Southern accents hard to follow (everyone, but everyone, spoke perfect English). For a laugh, I put on my Scottish accent – I’ve been told it’s very Morningside – and to great hilarity, she said she could understand me better! But I couldn’t keep it up for ever nor did I want to…I didn’t want the Danish Scot to think I was mocking his family.

We then made our way to the evening reception.

One of the customs at a Danish wedding is to sing songs. These can be about the Happy Couple, various events etc. They are sung to a familiar tune and personalised for the event in question. Before I set off on my little adventure to Skagen and Læsø, BigBruv had asked me to compose a song in English for the guests to sing. This request gave me plenty to think about. He also mentioned that his Bride had said she didn’t want people to sing at her wedding! I felt a bit stuck between a rock and a hard place…

BigBruv assured me that it would be ok and that everyone would know the tune to “My Bonnie lies over the ocean”. Another problem was that I had only met his new Bride on one previous occasion which, although pleasant, hadn’t provided much in the way of material for witty lyrics as we had been at the stage of making polite conversation (I had also been in the process of losing my voice at the time which was also not conducive to long conversations…). True to form, I procrastinated about getting down to composing my nuptial oeuvre until I could put it off no longer. I got out my pencil while sitting on the ferry from Læsø back to the mainland. I suppose the sight of the briny waters provided a certain amount of inspiration – that – and my acquired ability to work to tight deadlines produced a reasonably good effort which included mention of the Bride and Groom and their ready-made family in the form of Northern Star, Big Lad and the Bride’s daughter (for whom I have yet to think up a name). The most impressive bit as far as I was concerned was that I managed to get the lines to scan and rhyme. I think the greatest coup was to include the word “Denmark” which was sung in the chorus at the point one would normally sing “Bring back [my bonnie to me]”.(For any who do not know the song, it gets repeated several times…) I think I probably managed to score a few Brownie points there – which made up for deficiencies in other areas.

At the reception, the MC, who was the Bride’s Brother, conducted proceedings and called upon me to present my song. I produced the sangskole (I wish I knew how to spell this word…)** which in this case was a cardboard Viking ship, complete with shields hanging over the sides, flying an English flag* – I think this was to symbolise the union of the two nations within this marriage… it was BigBruv’s idea, so it might have been his way of asserting his patriotism. I had to walk around the (thankfully) small reception room with the boat aloft so that everyone could have a good look at it. In the boat were two copies of my oeuvre for the bridal couple. Further copies were distributed by Northern Star and Bride’s Daughter to the rest of the guests. The pianist struck up and to my amazement everyone started singing in perfect English – even to the extent of pronouncing everyone’s names the English way. (Had they not, some of the lines wouldn’t have scanned or rhymed.)

Other customs are as follows:
If either of the bridal couple leaves the room for any reason, the members of the opposite sex take the opportunity to run up to Top Table to kiss the “abandoned” wife/husband. The sit-down eating part of the reception lasted five hours, so you can imagine, people were running up and down kissing one or other of the Happy Couple pretty frequently!

Occasionally, someone will tap their knife against a glass. Others join in and the Happy Couple has to stand on their chairs and kiss. (Not easy for the one wearing a long gown and high-heeled shoes!). This can happen more or less any number of times.

Speeches are given. The Groom (in this case a bi-lingual speech….That’s my Bruv!), the Bride’s Father, and then the floor is open to anyone. On this occasion, no one felt the need.

The traditional first waltz is taken by the Happy Couple. The guests stand in a circle around them clapping in time with the music and gradually they move closer to the dancers – and ever closer – until the couple is waltzing in the tiniest space possible.

The Groom is then grabbed by the other men and tipped upside down. His shoes are removed and the toes of his socks are cut off. I was given two explanations for this. One was that originally just a small hole was made and the bride was required to show her darning skills; the second was that it was to symbolise that the marriage might face hard times.

After dancing the small hours away, LilSis, her daughters and I made our way back to the flat to have a few hours’ beauty sleep before making our way to the airport the next morning and flying home after a very happy occasion.

*For my foreign readers: an English flag is a red cross on a white background. The Danish flag is the opposite – a white cross on a red background.

** Edit – sometime later – I have just looked through my tiny pocket Danish dictionary at all the words beginning with “sk”. I think perhaps the word I’m looking for is actually “sangskjuler” which is along the lines of “a cover” – which would sort of fit the context. I’ll report back if I discover more…..

Symmetry

Just before the calendar rolls round to another day, I should mark the date by wishing niece no. 2, who shall be referred to as Bella, a very happy 18th birthday.

18 on 18.08.08.

Happy Birthday!

A Danish invasion

I had barely had time to unpack my bag from Paris before the Ancient Roman City was invaded by the Danes. It was a relatively peaceful invasion compared to the battles fought over a thousand years ago. BigBruv and his twin children, Northern Star and Big Lad, came to visit the Humble Abode.

The twins (9 years old) have been brought up in both Danish and English. Danish is their stronger language at the moment on account of their mother being Danish, their schooling and life in general being conducted in that language. BigBruv tries to speak only English with them but sometimes it’s not possible. His Danish is very fluent and so the family switches naturally between the two languages barely noticing when which one they are using.

Northern Star and I made some of JtL’s hummus together. Northern Star was a bit confused for a while, however, because she misheard me and thought she was going to be making something with lobster. Lobster in Danish is “hummer”!

We had a whale of a time visiting several museums, playing in the park, playing crazy golf (I was amazed when Northern Star knew the phrase “a hole in one” – not an everyday phrase – and celebrated her brother’s success. Auntie Kerensa’s skill was somewhat less pronounced – and was particularly handicapped after she managed to whack her golfball into a pond…) and pig spotting. This seemed to be an appropriate activity for the grandchildren of a Danish pig farmer. The Ancient Roman City was ruled 3000 years ago by the legendary King Bladud who as a boy suffered from leprosy. He was banished from court and lived as a swineherd. The pigs also suffered from a skin disease and, one day, one of the pigs got stuck in the hot muddy boggy waters in the area. Bladud plunged into the bog to rescue the pig and when both returned to firm ground found that their respective skin diseases had been cured.

This summer the Ancient Roman City has a hundred model pigs sponsored by various organisations on public display in the streets. The pigs have been decorated in the most imaginative ways. Some are at street level, some on rooftops and others are suspended in trees. The twins loved spotting the pigs and chose their favourites. My favourite (so far) is the one that looks like a Roman soldier.

After a whirlwind 48 hours, the Danes left to stay with my LilSis and use her homestead as their camp from which to invade London.

A hairy time

On my return from my jaunt, life resumed its normal pattern – at least for a few days. Observant readers may have noticed that my posts have not been particularly regular recently. As I said to someone who was trying to give me a free Sunday newspaper, “I haven’t got time to read about life – I’m too busy living it!”.

Although I felt slightly under-rehearsed for the Verdi concert, it went down a storm. The choruses were buzzing round the noggin for the next two weeks by which time I felt about ready to sing them properly.

A client sent me a huge job on an unusual subject – male hair loss and hair replacement systems. With the usual tight deadline, I had little time for “normal” activities and was wondering if I might end up as a customer of the end-client as I felt I was about to lose most of my own hair with the stress!

Just as I was nearing the end of the job, I received news that the Ma-rent had been rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. There was little I could do but wait for further news. So I finished the job at midnight one Saturday evening. The next morning I phoned the hospital and was allowed to speak to my mum. Considering she had just had a fairly traumatic time, she sounded remarkably chipper. She was not going to be released from hospital for over a week and as she was being well looked after and my siblings were already en route to lend support to the Pa-rent, she suggested I didn’t cancel my plans but continue as arranged….