Monday, March 31, 2008

You know your Danish lesson aren't going well...

...When you don't leave work till they're 20 minutes off finishing :(

National film festival, Denmark

Friends of ours from Melbourne have their film, The Home Song Stories screening at the National Film Festival this weekend. It's on Saturday and Sunday nights (5 & 6 April) at 2130 at Park Bio and Dagmar respectively. There's so many films screening, I'm not sure what else to see!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

By the way...

The last three left - Martin, Laura and Heidi were all extremely talented. But I have to say, I found myself wanting the runner up to Martin, Laura, to win.

Goodbye X Factor

Well, it's over and I missed the finale... I forgot and went out to dinner instead. Friends in Melbourne will laugh because I am renowned for loathing all these 'idol' shows BUT, I have to say, I really liked the three judges here and was particularly impressed by how they came on stage when eviction (?) night was held for one of the final three to support the two up for the big goodbye.

Gosh, what's got into to me? I'm worried I'll be watching Big Brother next...

Visual overview of some of this week

Okay here's a bit of the week. A quick flick of Hamish having a ball in the snow on Monday and the flowers I bought yesterday. I think I've only ever bought flowers for myself once before - when I was selling my first house and there was an "open for inspection" (I couldn't bake bread). But, seeing we have not one picture on the wall, I thought these tulips might brighten the place up. The woman at F'berg Centret who sold them to me spoke three words -
'Hej' and 'Hej, hej'. (She was busy on the telephone organising what she was going to do last night with a friend. From what I could understand, they were thinking about going to a restaurant but not sure which.) :)

Chapter 9

Yep, I’m up to Chapter 9 of the must-read Danish bestseller, “Tempo 1, Taleserier till danskuddannelse 3, Modul 1 begyndere” by Kirsten Gelbek. It’s a bit of a mouthful, I know, but it’s an imperative component to life for those of us intent on becoming the next Peter Høeg, (don’t ask me for the publication date, you will be immensely disappointed).

Oh g-d. I just wish I could just whack it under my Jysk, feather pillow (DKR 80 on special a couple of months ago) and have it seep into my head. Having been here in the 80’s and having also studied Swedish for three years at university back then, one would think I would have picked Danish up in a flash – but no. I laboriously write out every new group of words, slavishly copy and re-write them till they have somewhat stuck into my shrivelling grey matter. There they stay for 8 days and seventeen and a half hours.

I’m beginning to tire of the protagonist Jensen family. I want Per’s bus to breakdown, menopause to hit Anne, Jan to turn into a Norrebro delinquent and Lise to come out as a lesbian.

Arghhh. It’s Sunday. I just want to walk the dog and relax.

When’s the next public holiday? ☺

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Now you know why I'm so happy!!

It’s now official. I live in the happiest nation on Earth. Yippee! That’s right. Out of all the countries in the world, and after a ten-year global survey, Danes have been voted the happiest people on the planet. (Retrenchments and what seems to be a global economic down-turn aside).

I can say, after only a short time here, I can see why. Despite paying a tax level that would send the average Australia (or American) into an instant coma, I think it comes down to the fact Danes aren’t as wrapped up in materialism as most of the rest of us in the West.

But, here we have it. It’s official. Danes are the happiest people on Earth. Which, doesn’t really explain to me why every, and I mean every, Dane I meet says, “Why did you move to Denmark?”

Why I'm so obviously happy at the moment

Part II

Monday, March 24, 2008

God påske! Happy Easter

It's good to know it's not just me - even Danes are having trouble understanding each other as pronunciation gets shorter and shorter.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My ride home tonight

This is what I rode home in tonight. It was a very 'unusual' experience. I can count the times it snowed in Melbourne in my life.

Once I was at work and looked at it from the window and once as a really little boy staying at my grandparents. I thought it was Christmas but is was July.

This is what it looks like now.

I commented to a girl I share my office with. She said, when I said it's snowing, and I quote:
"I don't believe it! It's nearly f**king summer and now it's snowing. You don't know how annoying this is..."

Re: my post on heroin and drug addicts

Two odd things about this post. I was walking Hamish the on the weekend on my own, which I like because if we get ‘lost’ no one panics. In fact, I like getting lost because it makes me feel adventurous. And in this walk, I was.

We were ambling around and my idea was to cut across from where we live, walk down a bit and end up on Gammel Kongevej. Whatever I did, we ended up crossing Gammel Kongevej without me even realising it. I was day-dreaming.

We ended up in Vesterbro.

Now, when I was in Denmark in the 80’s, Vesterbro was nothing like it is today. It was very much ‘red light’, especially Istegade. And, being a good public school boy from the right side of the tracks (despite my looks now) I wondered where on Earth I was.

Today, Vesterbro is a mix of trendy and grunge. It’s a bit like St Kilda without the beach.

Anyway, Hamish and I approached a corner and on the steps of a building were a group of guys with beautiful black skin holding a bit of foil and swishing a cigarette lighter under it and sucking the smoke up through a straw.

I tried not to stare (I know I complain a lot but I do like my life – most of it) and I knew it was some kind of drug.

Strangely enough, on television that night (or the next) was a film with Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. I think it was called ‘Traffik’ (sp) and it was about drugs. From it, I learned that this is how some people use heroin. Personally, I think it’s a wasteful and probably not very economical procedure as I assume most of the smoke would be lost but, anyway, that’s how it works.

Thanks Michael!

Wow. In retrospect it was very freaky seeing it and then later being told via a movie what it was.

Hamish and skedaddled it quick-sticks back to Fredriksberg.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I ruuuuvs the snow!

Probably because of his built-in fur coat but Hamish loooves the snow. A couple of nights ago we had a few flurries and he couldn't wait to get outside and into it.

They breed 'em tough in Denmark

A fellow blogger here in Copenhagen recently posted on this Danish phenomenon – fresh air babes. I still get the giggles at it but it’s really part of childhood here.

While in Australia at the first sign of a grey cloud or dropping temperature sends people scurrying indoors – particularly those with newborns - here in Denmark, parents believe there’s nothing like a kip in the great outdoors, whatever the weather. Seriously. And it does get cold here, believe it or not.

Consequently, at any time of the day you can see prams in gardens or on balconies, in any weather. They breed ‘em tough here in the big DK.

So, when NQDII called me from another room yesterday saying, ‘Come and have a look at this’, I couldn’t resist taking a quick snap of a slumbering bub in the back yard.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Banking in Denmark

Without doubt in my experience so far, Denmark must have the most complex system of personalised banking in the world.

Take for instance banking online with Danske Bank.

With my bank in Australia, logging on is just a matter of having a User ID and a password.

Not so with Danske Bank.

While I’m impressed and rather honoured they feel getting into my account needs security measures as provided by the banking gnomes of Zurich to the rich and famous, it is at the same time immensely frustrating.

It’s not a simple case of key in your User ID and password. Nope. You have to have a special calculator. This comes with an interim password so you can use it the first time to get a more permanent password. Then you can log on to the bank.

For that, you used to have to key in your User ID, then switch on your calculator, enter the password for that and up would come a number you used as the password for that particular time you logged on to e-banking. Phew.

If you transferred money, you again had to go through the rigmarole of getting another password from the calculator to allow that transfer. And so on.

Now, ‘to make it easier’, they’ve made us choose a permanent password for when we first log on and then we need to key in a password from the calculator to make transfers and confirm that with the password we originally log on with to e-banking.

Confused? So was I. In fact, I was beside myself with a mixture of anger and frustration the first few times because I ended up being blocked out for keying in the ‘incorrect’ password three times in a row. Seriously, it’s like a quest for treasure, just to get your account balance. And my balance is never like finding treasure.

On top of that, I just tried to transfer money into NQDII’s account but, obviously because it’s a Saturday, it won’t go through till Monday!

I wonder if this is the same all over Europe or just Denmark? I’ve never come across it before.

Then, a month or two ago I received a letter from Danske Bank saying that to ensure my banking security, they were writing to tell me my employer had been depositing my pay into my account with an out of date code (or something like that) and, for my ‘banking security’, they may not let it go through in the future.

This struck me as a tad odd. Do many people complain about money going into their account? I certainly don’t, in fact, the more the better I say! And if Danske Bank don’t put my pay in to my account they most certainly then will have one very cranky customer.

Art at its most unusual

There’ve been two major art awards in Australia lately. The first and most prestigious being the Archibald Prize, won by Del Kathryn Barton. She painted a self-portrait of herself and her children she called, ‘You Are What Is Most Beautiful About Me’.

I admit I know nothing about art but the painting reminds me of an illustrated children’s book I gave my niece a few years ago. While I think the painting is colourful and pleasant to look at, I would like to know what gave it the important award. I have no eye for good art. I’ve been looking and looking at it but can’t see ‘it’. Is it the fine line work or that funny squiggle thing at the bottom?

I was once told by a self-professed art expert / snob that anyone who says they like the ‘old masters’ or ‘water colours’ or, god forbid, ‘china painting!’ really knows nothing about art. When I said I loved the old masters, she didn’t bat an eyelid and just said, ‘I know’. Well, I do. It’s interesting to hear people’s opinion and what they see in a painting and when they tell me, I look and look and look and…don’t see what they’re talking about. Consequently, I’m always apprehensive telling an artist I like their work because I’m sure if I like it, it must actually be bad and if they know about my bad taste, they’ll be mortified.

The other winning painting, is from the antithesis of the Archibald called, not surprisingly, the Bald Archy Prize. A chap called James Brennan won this year for his portrait of the Danish crown princely family called, 'The Official Portrait of the Danish Royal Family' - leaning heavily on the influence of the average yobbo Oz family headed by Craig and Sharon. Apparently the idea popped into Mr Brennan's head while he was vacuuming. I'm just glad he wasn't cleaning out the bathroom grease trap like I was a couple of weekends ago. Goodness knows what the young RF may have looked like then :(

I hope being an Aussie in Denmark doesn’t carry the same dangers as a Dane in Afghanistan.

Copenhagen - city of fine food

I’m a big (‘literally’, unfortunately) food lover.

In Australia, Melbourne is renowned for its restaurants. Melbournians can eat great food very cheaply, especially by Copenhagen standards. In fact, it’s so cheap you can really eat out every night of the week, should you want, without worrying too much about your wallet. Of course, there are lots of expensive restaurants too but because the country is so big, we don’t have seasonal produce, as just about anything can be grown somewhere at any time of the year.

I was interested to see what Copenhagen’s restaurants were like when I arrived. Overall, despite possible some of the slowest service this side of a morgue, the food is pretty good. While it’s not as cheap as Melbourne, you can still find reasonably priced places around. My favourite so far is this one: Kate's Joint in Norrebro (or Norrebronx as some call it here because of its ‘riotous’ reputation).

What I was rather proud to read in the paper this week was the addition of more Michelin stars to some restaurants in this compact city. Michelin stars are that easy to get and the city now has 11 restaurants in that standard. That’s pretty cool for a city of this size, don’t you think?

I’ve been to none!

It’s a contentious issue in this household because I love the odd splurge but NQDII says it’s wasteful and an indulgence, especially when you ‘say goodbye to it the next morning’.

In any case, they all sound exciting and I am working on getting to at least one. We have friends coming over from London at Easter, so I’m hoping we can take a vote then and democracy will reign for a change. Failing that, I have a friend in Houston, Texas who is a tremendous gourmande and I’m banking on her coming over because I know we’d go through the list!

Here are the latest Michelin starred restaurants:

Kiin Kiin
Bo Bech at Paustian
Restaurant Ensemble
Kong Hans
Formel B
Era Ora
The Paul
Restaurant MR
Søllerød Kro

The following were also mentioned in the Michelin guide

Le Sommelier

Phew. I'm hungry after all that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Behold! The Kiwi nightingale - Wing

Okay, so I’m finding it hard to relate this post to Denmark, except to say given Wing’s worldwide blitzing of the entertainment world, she may hit these Happy Isles sometime soon.

Wing is a Kiwi via, I guess, China. I’ve been listening to her all morning, in between stair-cleaning duty, a rather unusual Danish flat dweller’s tradition. We only have to do it once every ten weeks but goodness! That seems to come around all too quickly.

Just to entice you even more, apart from listening to her strangely haunting dulcet tones, you can read this article by New Zealand journalist, Robert Colbert, from The Listener on Wing’s extraordinary and astounding rise to fame. Here’s an excerpt:

““Wing is selling more CDs overseas than she is here. She thinks this could be because New Zealand music fans are more conservative.
““They are used to their singers – like Hayley Westenra – coming from proper procedures, but my procedure is more extraordinary,” she says.

“Wing’s web presence grows daily as she is added to weird and wonderful sites all over the world. Her fans are as devotional as you will find, thrilled by Wing’s musical journey, her elusive pursuit of melody, like chasing mercury across a glass table.”

Listener article

After much deliberation, she has finally released “Highway to Hell”, although she doesn’t find the title terribly positive…

It’s not everyday stardom happens to those who least expect it and, it’s nice to see someone who just loves singing, reach the stars.

Happy listening!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

'Aussie' in the news in Sweden

This is one of those weird immigration cases, where a guy called Stefan Nystrom was born in Sweden when his mother, an Australian resident, was back in Sweden visting her family.

Unfortunately for Stefan, neither his mother, nor later him, bothered to think about him becoming and Australian citizen. Consequently, he grew up in Australia feeling, I should think, very much Australian.

Even more unfortunate for everyone concerned, including Australian society by the sound of it, is Stefan became a very bad boy getting into all sorts of mischief including aggravated rape at the grand old age of ten and armed robbery at eleven. To be fair, most of his misdemeanours, of which there seems to be many, were committed prior to his turning 18.

Due to some tiny technicality – not ever acquiring Australian citizenship – he was not so long ago shipped back ‘home’ to Sweden.

He ain’t happy about it.

While I can’t imagine he’s the nicest sort of guy you could meet, maybe he’s changed his ways and I’ve no doubt his aging mother loves him and it must be awful for her. In any case, he’s stuck in Denmark’s northern neighbour (which he refers to as a ‘Hitler country’) for the time being och han pratar bara ‘engelsk’.

What I did have a laugh at, was his quotes in the article of The Local, Sweden’s online newspaper in English. I won’t quote his tirade in its entirety because The Local might sue me and I’ll be shipped back to Australia, but I do love this very Australian conclusion:

"My mum's an old woman. She's dying and I'm over here in a cold, piece of shit country. It's killing me. I don't want to be here. I'm over it."

You can read the whole article at:

The Local

Drugs in Denmark

I’ll have to preface this by saying my drug using experience is very limited – if you take into consideration my worst attempt at smoking pot and ending up parking my car with a girlfriend at the time on top of a fully-flowered roundabout. She didn’t realise either which goes to show how stoned we must have been.

My reason for not exploring the obvious wonders of drugs is quite simple. I have a very indulgent personality and if it felt good, it (whichever poison that may be) would have me for life. And, they must feel good because so many people use them.

In Denmark, they’ve been debating about whether or not to offer heroin legally to some drug addicts who are determined to be, “beyond the reach of other detox methods”. I’m not sure quite what that means – it must be either those who’ve tried to go clean a number of times and failed and maybe those who just can’t or don’t want to stop.

According to the article I read, the argument to or not to has been going on for fifteen years. It’s similar in Australia. I can understand those not wanting it to be available by prescription but, at the same time, I couldn’t help noticing the accompanying picture of some extremely dirty fingernails, a gnarly looking hand aiming a syringe into a just-boiled concoction in a pretty filthy looking spoon. That, to me, is one of the worst parts – that some, (not all) addicts become creatures of the streets, live in squalor and things like personal hygiene go right out the window.

If being able to get the drug means they no longer have to steal and spend so much of their lives worrying about where they’re going to get the next dose, they might actually have time to live a bit and do away with the sub-sub culture ‘lifestyle’.