Thursday, October 30, 2008


I shall preface this by saying it’s my own fault, by publicly declaring I hadn’t had a cold or bug for more than a year. So from my semi-sick bed I’m writing this after leaving work early. I didn’t feel great but I was more worried about kaste op-ing in full view of my workmates.

But this piece isn’t about me (not everything is). It’s about creativity.

I work in advertising so it’s full of creative minds. We had the creative department’s annual seminar last week in Sweden. Set in an area not dissimilar to New England or Vermont in autumn (of fall if you’re a US-er). Unfortunately, we didn’t see much of it except from the bus because the seminar was very intense apart from the place we stayed at: a ‘four star’ spa-resort that, I have to say, reminded me much of the hotel in The Shining. Pics on that later.

In the middle of two full days of presentations of what everyone had been up to for the year, about half of us had to do a five minute presentation on something creative. The theme was ‘I like this because…’. For me, it was undoubtedly the most fascinating part of the seminar because I gained insight to people I work with every day but know not much about.

What it did show me was how many creative minds are about. One had taken a photograph everyday of somewhere in Copenhagen, for a year. Another, a keen surfer and skateboarder showed an amazing film of skateboarders in action. An art director picked apart a bit of old print advertising which was hysterical, someone read some clever prose, another displayed a sporting arena they had designed. That’s just some – but they were all amazing.

One person showed this piece. A talk by Sir Ken Robinson. It was not only funny but poignant. It’s a talk at a seminar called, ‘Do School’s today kill creativity’. What he says is so true. As we age, life can really suck the creativity out of us. We push people into boxes and for so many, in the end, daily life just becomes a goal of survival, rather than following dreams and talents.

Have a look and see what you think. There are some really funny bits around the 3.49 minute mark – but the whole video is worth watching.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Who turned out the lights?

1630hr/4.30pm today

We turned back the clocks on Saturday night and, while the mornings are suddenly a wee bit lighter (not for long) darkness has set in pretty quickly at night. This pic is 1630hr from my office window. And, it's decidedly chillier all of a sudden - like minus at night. Suddenly, I understand why everyone has autumn and winter coats. I'm about to ditch the autumn one soon if this keeps up! BTW. It's 6.30pm / 1830hr and it's gone from 10 to 2C :(

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hvor Små Vi Er

Well, I recognise Lina from Aqua, the guy from Flammon og Citronen and Rene. Dunno about the others...

Ugens danske - the week's Danish

Okay, I'm sure for those of you who don't speak Danish, listening to those of us who are learning it and complaining about the difficulty of it must lead you to think, 'Oh stop complaining, it can't be *that* hard!' Well, we went to friends for dinner last night and learned this gem. And yes, it does mean something:

Far, får får får?

Nej, får får ikke får, får får lam.


Dad, do sheep have sheep?

No, sheep don’t have sheep, sheep have lambs

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Money vs Humanity

The Worship of Mammon (the false god of greed) by Evelyn De Morgan

I received an interesting email from Australia yesterday. It was from someone talking about structure – or current restructuring – of the company they work for.

Recently, a new CEO was appointed who is based in the US. The new CEO has decided to implement what’s apparently called, ‘The American Model’, at the company. The effect of this new implementation has so far included:

• Several retrenchments
• Accepting a drop in pay or face the axe
• Accepting a drop in work hours or face the axe
• Swapping from full-time positions to consultancy or casual contracts

Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? It’s also important to keep in mind that the positions in question are pretty much all very highly skilled, as is the industry.

What it also means is that these staff members will now enjoy no real job security.

More than that, the Australian manager, who has always been regarded very favourably – indeed I thought so myself – has now become not only quite disliked for what he’s done but apparently changed markedly and embraced this ‘new regime’, espousing its merit to those who are, unfortunately for them, affected by it.

At first, I didn’t think much of him either but then I realised in this current climate, he’s a husband and a father with a family of his own to maintain. I guess he really doesn’t have a choice because he needs his job. But then from what I’ve discovered, he has used terms like, ‘now that we’re embracing “The American Model”’, which doesn’t make it sounds like he’s losing much sleep over it. Who knows? Maybe it has something to do with self-preservation.

Certainly, the American CEO couldn’t care less. He’s only interested in the bottom line, which is what life has seemed to be about up until now anyway.

What I do find remarkable is that it’s CEOs like this dickhead who, in my opinion, have helped bring the world to the state it’s in anyway. And not just American ones. They’re a global breed but you rarely see them suffering even if the company they run strikes difficulties. For some reason for which I don’t have the answer, they quite often end up resigning with enormous, actually obscene, handshakes. It’s criminal.

But that’s what our Western World is like. There’re great elements to it and there are also very ugly elements to it. We’ve become obsessed with materialism – and I’ve not been immune to this at times – and now the party’s well and truly over, especially for those who’ve over extended themselves.

I read this week where in Australia there is a glut of used Ferraris and Aston Martins for sale, selling for far under the price they were formerly worth. Suddenly, all these hotshot guys – and maybe gals – have crashed into a wall and the seams of their affluent (on paper) lives have become unstitched. It’s utterly humiliating and terrifying for them and I really do feel for them and their families if they have them.

The trouble is we place so much value on the material things we have in life. We’re wanters by nature maybe and, like sport, it’s very often a competition to see how much of it you can grab. I don’t know whether that is right or wrong but I know that when you read about fathers committing suicide because the money is gone it’s both tragic and ridiculous. I suspect they do it for a few or reasons: the personal humiliation, the failure and the desperation of not knowing how they’ll go on – not just for themselves but for their families.

While you can argue that the effect of losing everything material is worth ‘totalling’ yourself over, the ludicrous and frightening point is this particular act suggests, directly or indirectly, that we value money over humanity.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Something's not rotten in Denmark

The fathers of the Danish Constitution 1848 by Constantin Hansen

I check Melbourne’s online newspapers regularly and apart from Mary, there’s never news about Denmark. Therefore, I was surprised to find this article, touting the virtues of Denmark’s Welfare State that has, over time, become a Welfare State with a capitalistic slant.

It’s surprising because the journalist shares some of the views about the merits of the Danish system. (Because I am linking the article, I have to say I have no affiliation with The Age or the journalist). But, I have to say, it’s one of the parts of Denmark that I’ve really come to love.

The gist for non-Danish residents is that in Denmark you pay A LOT of tax. Not only is the average tax 50% but there’re taxes on just about everything else you do or buy. You don’t come to Denmark for its tax benefits – that much is sure – unless you’re on the Postive List, which means you do get taxed on a lower rate for a few years.

But, while the benefits to me don’t really mean much – I have no children etc. etc., a look around Denmark will show you that there is very little poverty, illiteracy or wanting compared to just about any other nation on Earth.

Denmark isn’t Utopia. They have their problems. They’re having a hard time reconciling how to deal with the offspring of immigrant workers who have trouble ‘assimilating’ into Danish society and ‘multiculturalism’ isn’t a term you hear – at all. And, I feel, some of these non-WASPS probably have a very hard time.

But, at the end of the day, everyone has a chance. You don’t have to live in Hellerup or to have gone to Bernadotte (or Le Rosey or others) to do something with your life. I like that. The crime rate is extremely low compared to most other countries, even taking into account the current gang warfare going on in Copenhagen and other parts of the country. I should add, however, that child care, from what I've seen, isn't completely free - although it's still very much cheaper than other Western countries.

So, all in all, maybe there are some lessons for we of the US/British backgrounds to learn.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A nice relaxing Sunday/night

After a walk and throw of the ball on Saturday, I let Hamish play with it in the house for a while. I thought he was particularly quiet and went to check. I found a 20 crown sized piece of the above ball on the floor but not the rest of it. He looked very sheepish and I immediately knew he’d devoured all but that piece.

Consequently, much of yesterday was spent examining ‘exiting material’ on our trips outside, which were many. At least it’s coming out because I was wondering if he’d suffer some sort of blockage. I suspect more is to come, judging by the surprise that met me on the floor this morning - something he never does.

Iit’s not how I planned to spend my Sunday.or morning before work today.

Why do they do it?

Kartofler ferie

Just about any excuse is a good enough one to call a holiday in Denmark and Kartofler Ferie is no exception. That’s what this week is all about, judging by the list of people at work who’ve taken off for their autumn break to sunnier climes.

Believe it or not, Kartofler Ferie means ‘Potato Holiday’. It comes from the days when kids were given time off school to help harvest the potato crop. Today it’s still a school holiday period but you won’t find many people pulling potatoes from the ground – unless of course they’re Majorcan or Santorinian potatoes ☺

And the speech

When this was live, I have to admit I was at a party and a bit..drunk so didn't really listen to what he said. Having watched it again now sober, it was a very good one - certainly not a 'Danish Tragedy'.

The Waltz

Not quite sure why these wouldn't play before. Hopefully will work this time. As I said, having done a lot of sightseeing lately, you realise the DRF are an integral part of life in Denmark. So here's one other Aussie expat's wedding waltz...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Travels with my aunt

The 'Seat' of Danish 'power'

Actually, the aunt featured in the book is not dissimilar to my own and while I had literally aged another year by the time she arrived, NQDII and I had to work hard at keeping up with the seemingly limitless energy of a woman in her sixties. We had lots of fun but by the time I dropped her back at the airport on Thursday morning for her to take the plane back to Singapore, I felt like I had jet lag myself!

She was the first family member we’ve had come to visit, so we were pretty excited about her arrival and keen to show her the highlights of this small but ancient island. I had worded her up not to expect the grandness of London or Paris because while Copenhagen has some very lovely buildings, they’re comparatively compact compared to those of the big cities of Europe.

Okay, so twelve guards and a local bus isn't quite London...

She didn’t seem perturbed and keenly embraced every bit of information about Copenhagen and Denmark she picked up on certain tours. By the end of the five days, she considered herself an expert, although I fear the phrase, ‘a little bit of knowledge is very dangerous,’ could be appropriate, as she coined her own expression, ‘It was a Danish Tragedy’, after listening to certain aspects of Denmark’s history.

There were quite a number of ‘Danish Tragedies’ to which my aunt was privy from various tours:

“Nelson almost levelled Copenhagen in an attack to disable and capture the Danish Navy”

Aunt: “Oh how awful, how tragic.”

“Christiansborg Palace burnt down three times”

Aunt: “What a shame, rather a Danish Tragedy.”

“Danish soldiers were rationed on 10 litres of beer, per soldier, per day”

Aunt: “Oh, well, tragic but they must have been the happiest army in Europe.”

“King Christian and Queen Louise manage to marry off their daughters to the heirs to the British and Russian thrones.”

Aunt: “Oh that was good.”

“But they could not afford to attend the wedding.”

Aunt: “Oh, what a Danish Tragedy.”

“During the German occupation in WWII, King Christian rode out on the streets of Copenhagen to boost the people’s morale”

Aunt: “Oh, how lovely.”

“…until he was one day thrown from his horse and ended up in a wheelchair.”

Aunt: “Oh how awful. What a Danish Tragedy.”

The lake at Fredensborg

And then we had our trip to Fredensborg. We left early one morning with NQDII as he made his way to work (he takes three trains and rides the bike he leaves at that end the rest of the way!). We arrived early at the palace, about 9.15am. So early, there was no one else around.

Out of nowhere, I heard a car coming so went to stand out of the way. I looked up, and there was a Rolls Royce coming towards us.

“Look, it’s the Queen.” I said.

Sure enough, it was.

My aunt was busy talking to a rubbish bin at the time (seriously) and only just looked up to catch the Queen exiting the palace gates at great speed. She was suitably impressed.

“Although, I’ve heard you do see the royal family all the time here.”

(Umm, yes, like everyday – not!).

Then we went for a walk around the park of Fredensborg.

It really is quite beautiful, lots of space and a fantastic lake.

One of the ‘highlights’ was the pier or jetty built for Prince Henrik, the Queen’s husband for his 70th birthday or something. Unfortunately, part of it had collapsed.

Aunt: “Oh dear, another Danish tragedy.”

Poor Henrik's recent 'tragedy'

A couple of days later, we had a three hour walk around Djurehaven - an enormous old hunting ground with herds of wild dear. It was spectacular. Including walking from the station, it only took us half an hour from Frederiksberg to get there.

3 hours of walking in the wild and only 15 mins from town

Monday, October 6, 2008

Det er min fødselsdag..

Well, yesterday actually. I'm not into birthdays actually but in 40 odd years, I have only ever had four rain-free birthdays. So just as well I don't expect much. Given Saturday was a glorious day, I kind of figured Sunday would not be so much different. Wrong. The wind howled all night (and I mean *howled*) and it poured torrentially, so I was not disappointed! I'm starting to feel even if I went to Dubai for the day, it would rain.

Nevertheless we had fun. A sodden trip to Rosenborg and dinner last night. Today, we're off to Malmo and the sun is shining.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Interesting comparisons

PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen

It is interesting.

In Australia, the near collapse of the US and thus global market has seen headlines in the past couple of weeks like: ‘Market Crashes!’ In Denmark, we get headlines like: ‘Unhappy morning on stock exchange.’

Hear the difference?

It is possibly just me and the fact that Australia is, these days, pretty much a new state of America, so when the US sneezes, Australia is rushed to casualty. On the other hand, I know, while things aren’t great in the big countries of Europe, they don’t historically act like there’s a coma coming on.

Today, the Prime Minister , Anders Fogh Rasmussen (born on Australia Day, oddly enough) told us all in Denmark we have to work more. I was well prepared to do this, yessir Mr FR, until I read further and he qualified this by saying, ‘to counteract the labour shortage in coming years’. This pleasantly stunned me because I was thinking more along the lines of, ‘to try and hold your jobs and not join the unemployment queue that is likely to grow, possibly in the coming few weeks’.

So if Mr FR is optimistically planning ahead like this, I think I will too ☺



My aunt Egg would be just about to board the plane in Singapore after visiting my brother, his wife and children. Very exciting. We've bought lots of wine and chocolate (her favourite things).

Funny Friday

Very cute

I am delighted to introduce Australia's former Treasurer (facing and in ecstasy) and former Prime Minister (looking busy) - obviously pay-back for some deal

Umm. Probably X rated but, really, who did think it up??

The way I am eating lately, I'd probably have to think hard too

I usually don't take much notice of these sorts of emails but a few of these pics were pretty funny - and after my doom and gloom post, I thought I better balance it out.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Doom and gloom

While Hamish carries on eating his dinner tonight totally unaware of the possible chaos that could befall us any moment...

And speaking of the demise of the world’s economic system, is it just me or is everyone else ‘over it’ already? For some reason, recessions seem to follow me around wherever I go and I’m totally sick of them.

To cheer myself up in bed last night, and after many complex monetary calculations, I came to the following conclusions:

• If I lose my job, we will have to rush to see NQDII’s visa is changed to the main visa holder
• If NQDII loses his job and I don’t, we will not eat much because my (almost equal salary) doesn’t seem to last as long for some odd reason
• If NQDII loses his job as well as me, we will have to leave pretty quickly
• This will be a headache because…
• It will cost us a fortune to go back to Australia
• Hamish is pretty much the cost of a first class ticket
• Our house is rented out and we will have to live in a government run shelter for the homeless (read St Vincent de Paul bin)

Possible solutions:

• Apply for refugee status but I am at a loss as to what we could apply as refugees from…
• Ask Mary if she needs a gardener or two

Grumpy Denmark

I dunno what it is but this week everyone seems rather grumpy, especially at work and including me and NQDII. Maybe it's the change in the weather - because the cold and dark has hit pretty quickly or maybe it's the seeming demise of the world economic system - I dunno, but I hope it ends soon. It doesn't inspire me to get up every day, that much is certain.