Danish Firestarter

firestarterI love have visitors, especially my family.  I’m very close with my sister and her family, so it was an amazing experience when they came to visit us this summer.  Well, unless your brother-in-law attempts to burn by garden and house!!

Not intentionally of course, and he felt very very very bad about the incident.

He smokes the pipe, which is not so common in the US unless you live in Woodstock, is a hillbilly carpenter or simple organic creature that feed off the land … the latter would most likely live in Woodstock area, have long grey beard and sing Joe Cocker tunes.

I do have to add that Woodstock is a great little area to visit, and is not stock in the 60’s.  A few interesting characters does float around, but it’s fun for the family.

However, my brother-in-law is Danish, and smoking the pipe doesn’t make you weird.  I have absolutely no problem with tobacco smoking visitors, but they do have to smoke outside, and he totally obeyed that rule.

Ever so often he would step outside, with a cold beer, and take in the landscape we live in and ponder on life’s great mystery … how do we get a pool installed.

He would leave the pipe outside, in a secure holder, and tap out the old tobacco in the soil. Little did he (we) realise that this would be a terrible mistake.  We had been blessed with 85-92 Fahrenheit (32+ degrees Celcius) and little rain.

One morning, as my wonderful wife was going to get breakfast bagels, she returned to the house quickly as she had noticed smoke in the flowerbed.  I walk out with a cup of water, but quickly realised that I needed a hell of lot more water.

burning_flowerjpgA large patch (2 x 6 feet) of the flowerbed was literally smoking.  As I placed my hand on the soil, it was too warm and some bushes had started to collapse under the heat.

The scary thing is, my brother-in-law had been tapping out the left-over tobacco for about 2 days, and it had grown into a large pit.

We all noticed the smell of burned wood the night before, but assumed it was there neighbours who had been partying and enjoyed a BBQ.  Nope!!

My dear brother-in-law spent the next two hours with the garden hose and a small shovel, making sure the ‘fire’ had been put out.  He was so embarrassed and shocked at the same time.  No of us expected this.  It just shows how carefull we have to be with fiercest, BBQs and tobacco.  The smallest amber can devastate large areas.

The positive was that, due to his guilt, he cleaned the front area of weed, fixed the other flowerbeds, cut the grass, swept the porch and put up our outdoor clothes drying rack.

…and he made a safe ashtray for his pipe and tobacco, with sand and rocks.

Mother o’ Mother

Dear Mother,

Thanks for putting me into this World.  I can only say that I’m a gift to my generation, but some people might just say that I’m overly selfish and arrogant.

We’ve had many years of extreme happiness, family holidays and wonderful adventures.  Some I would prefer to forget, but through it all you’ve been very supportive and always given me the freedom to make my choice.  You mightn’t agree with them, but you respected my decision.

I admit, I’ve made some dumb-ass moves while growing up, and you mostly provided the moral backing … while probably laughing at some of these stupidities.  However, I do want to remind you that you encouraged some of the childhood stunts, even if you attempt to deny it 🙂

  • not stopping me picking up gloving red piece of iron from the beach fire place
  • laughing after I feel on top a huge pile of cow poo
  • taking picture as I was pooping in a bin in the middle of Greenlandic tundra
  • as I vomited having consumed rather large quantities of wiped cream
  • defrosting me after I slept in the shed, after a party, drunk of course

It was so different and much better growing up in the 70s and 80s.  Kids were kicked outside as soon as we had done out homework, despite the season or weather forecast, and had to entertain ourselves playing sports, rummaging in the forest and biking.  You always encouraged this were quick to drag us in to do our chores.

I wish you a wonderful mother’s day, my dear mother.

Walking through Copenhagen

OK, there many benefits from flying overnight to a far away country, but the shitty thing is that you land ridiculously early in the morning … so early that you might even wonder if the public services are open yet.

This happen for me when going to Denmark on business, again, and I flew out Saturday evening to combat the jet-lag before heading to the office Monday morning.  I’m not great for sleeping on a plane that travels 700mph at 20000ft.  I need as much time as possible to recover when arriving.  The notion of doing the red-eye doesn’t work for me.  I’ll end up being shut-eye.

copenhagenbynightAnyway, the flight to Copenhagen was 30-40 minutes ahead of schedule when landing.  It was pretty clear from looking out the window that The Little Mermaid (and the rest of Denmark) were snoring in their warm beds.  Thankfully I had actually managed to sleep on the plane, some achievement, so I wasn’t as tired as last time.

As the passengers embarked the plane and rushed towards the passport control, some of the airport shops were only just opening up and several people were waiting for their flights out of Denmark to the warmer parts of the World.

Being an old Dane, I knew it would be cheaper to catch the local train to the center of Copenhagen and then stroll the 5-7 minutes to the hotel.

I was greeted by a strong odor of bleach as I stepped on the train, which clearly indicated that it was the first trip for the little Thomas the Train, and not many passengers joined me on the 12 minute journey to Copenhagen.

The train arrived, on time of course, and as I jumped out on the empty platform and made my way through the station, I noticed some strange people staggering around the place and feared for a moment that World War Z had become a real story, and buddies were stacked in corners making strange sounds.

It wasn’t as cold as In the US, but it was still dark and chilly as I walked the streets through Copenhagen on a Sunday morning.  The only cars were taxis and some city buses had started to go.  Sidewalks were deserted.

As I walked towards the hotel I couldn’t help but notice more of the staggering creatures, who had a strong odor of alcohol.  Some were still giggling.  Some were practicing french-kissing under the shelter of the nearest shop and some just looked utterly confused walking in all directions at once.

Even Tivoli was closed!

Thankfully the hotel wasn’t too far and I quickly checked in and crashed on my under-sized bed.  The Danes have taken the notion minimalism to a new level, by introducing pigeon-hole sized hotel rooms, where you have to reverse your arse into the toilet and limited floor space.

A few days back in the homeland, before I head back to my lovely family.

Homeland

NyhavnMy boss had kindly asked me to attend a meeting in Copenhagen, so given the distance and time since last visit, I was pretty excited to go.

It had been over three years since I visited my homeland.  The last time was under less glamorous and joyful moods, so I was a little apprehensive as to how it would be to go home.  It would either be a great reunion with my mother or it would end up being a little more Misery-esque scenario.  I was obviously rooting for the first possible outcome, as I had no intention on being strapped to a bed with my ankles firmly snapped.

Again, because of the distance from A to B, I was permitted to travel by business class, which by the way is totally awesome.  Imagine, you sit in a seat for 8 hours while being wined and dinned, and having free bar + a nice movie library.  Not only that, you get access to the business lounge before the flight, which again gives unlimited use of both food and alcohol.

Not that I indulge with gluttony, but I do need to sample items from the menu.  Furthermore, over the past few years I have developed a silly nervousness for flying so I need to calm my nerves ahead of a long haul flight.  It may even aid my efforts in getting some sleep.

hotdogAfter an 8 hour flight, with no sleep, I arrived in Copenhagen airport at 7am.  While waiting for my luggage, I was debating with myself if I should buy a Danish hotdog (ristet), but decided that it was too early for such a feast.  And, I had just finished my breakfast on the flight, which the rest of the flight missed due to some minor turbulence.

The great thing about Denmark is that most people know people who live in Copenhagen, so I met up with some very old friends – no by age, but years I’ve known them – and we spent the next 12 hours catching up, while I was being a tourist in my own country.

I spent a few days working full-time from the office in Copenhagen and then travelled to my mother’s place mid-week, from where I worked a few hours per day.

Spending time with my mum was great, but yet strange.  The last time we met in person, our ways parted in less glamorous ways.  No need to dwell over this and it stays in the past.  My mother was enjoying having her son home, I helped her with a few things and we spent some quality time while repairing her iMac and showing her how to use some of the cool features.

Funnily enough, my sister also wanted me to visit her place and interestingly they had some urgent needs to get their iMac updated too.  Another 5 hours was spent cleaning it up, updating it and ensuring all their files were working.

Thursday evening was spent among good friends from my home town.  We met at the local drinking hole and spent several hours reminiscing over the past, where we were in our careers and of course all the gossip.

inflightThe journey home was exciting as I was heading home to the midgets.  It’s great being home home, but nothing beats being with your own family.  Spending a week away from home is a long time.

Flying home on business class is just as cool as it sounds – free food, free bar, great service and of course inflight movies.

As I finally entered the house I was greeted with hugs and kisses from everyone, including the family St Bernard.  Less charming getting drooled on, but I appreciated its efforts to welcome me home … or did she just need to go to the garden!

Home Sweet Home!

The Peak of Corniness

Corny = When someone or something tries to be cool,
but is ultimately very uncool and often even extremely
embarrassing (source; Internet urban dictionary).

eurovisionThat pretty much sums up an annual event that takes place within the continent of Europe also known as Eurovision.  Not many people outside Europe knows of its existence and most people within Europe (or with strong European roots and connections) often talk about it with great embarrassment.

The competition started back in 1956 with only 7 countries participating, and each participant had to sing a homegrown song in their native language.  It was a live broadcast on TV where each song was judged at the end of the show.

Over the next few decades the amount of participants tripled and the show spread like wildfire in Western Europe; Iceland to Israel and France to Greece.  It almost became a European championship in corny songs, interesting hair, more interesting dresses and multi-hour live broadcasts.

Since the late 90’s, when Eastern Europe opened up, many of these countries joined this awesome competition and devised their own corny songs … some take this to the next level of corniness and some attempt to dress as skimpy as possible.  Everything goes!

danesI remember growing up in rural Denmark and families huddling around the only television we had to see the entire Eurovision.  We even had friends coming over for Eurovision dinner and drinks, and then festivities followed in front of the TV.

My sister and I, and the other kids there, had a blast.  We kept score on homemade charts, ate sweets, drank soda and eventually fell asleep on the floor in front of the TV, of course missing the grand finale.

Back then, each country had to sing their song in their local language, which made it even funnier, but today (since 1999) a country can decide to sing in English if they want.  And, most chose to do so.  I guess they don’t realise how funny the lyrics sounds in English, after they just do a word-by-word translation.

These days most people I know are, when we talk about Eurovision, objecting to the fact that it should even exist and some even denounce the artists that participates or represents their country.  There’s almost a sense of embarrassment in even knowing much about Eurovision.

BUT, funnily enough, everybody seems to know when the Eurovision is on, who won last year and by how many points, give out about last year’s results, slagging of Eastern Europe for voting only for eastern European countries (keeping up the old political allies), only to ignore that Western Europe have the same voting system.

On the day and eve of the grand event, secret plans are being hatched in most houses across Europe, and people gather for lavish parties – all with the same theme –> EUROVISION has arrived.

We sit happily through 3-4 hours of horrific dances, strange songs, stranger hosts and prolonged voting.  To this day, the votes are still said in both English and French.  I guess the old colonial powers of Europe still rule Eurovision.  Each country votes and the country with the most votes obviously wins – simple!

Denmark, one of the smallest countries in Europe and not necessarily known for it’s fantastic music skills on the World stage, managed to win in 1963.  We had to wait 37 years for another win and we got our third win this year (2013).

  • In 2000 I witnessed Danish Eurovision history being made from a shitty apartment in Dublin city, the capital of Eurovision winners.
  • In 2013 I witnessed Danish Eurovision history being made again, this time from a nice house in New Jersey, and a country completely unaware of this bizarre music event.

Although I might not necessarily admit it publicly, there’s something special about winning the Eurovision.  The ability to beat 39 countries to the top, even if the song is corny and perhaps not achieving U2‘s levels, is phenomenal.

Why the innocent reader might ask?

Eurovision 2013To start with, this is a multi-million Euro industry and the country that hosts this event can expect to profit immensely most of the year.  That means Denmark should see an increase in tourism in 2014, again benefiting the local economy.

I guess it’s just part of being proud of the country you are from.  I left Denmark many years ago, but that doesn’t make me less Danish.  I super proud of my heritage.  On the World map we are small and insignificant, not much bigger than a finger nail, so when we achieve something amazing, then this becomes 10 times as fantastic for me.

If my friends ask, then I don’t watch Eurovision, just like they don’t watch it either 🙂