Goodbye Dad

My beloved father passed away during the night between Thursday and Friday, at the end of April, and only 2 weeks after my baby girl was born.  He slept quietly in, leaving all his pain behind, so now he can finally be at peace.  We miss him very much.

My dad was a tough man in my eyes.  He was a true super hero and could withstand most pain.  I remember once when he “shot” a stable into his thumb nail.  He looked at the blood, simply removed it with a small screwdriver and wrapped his finger with some old cloth and tape.  He also managed to cut a wasp in half, in flight, with a pair of scissors.

Unfortunately he was diagnosed with prostata cancer 6 years ago, and fought a very brave battle, always aiming to win.  He hated to loose and always put on a brave face when the kids (and grandkids) were around.  During the six years, my dad only revealed to me a couple of times that he was finding it very hard to keep battling the cancer.  What worried him was leaving my mum behind.  They loved each other very much.

The illness and his pain simply became too much for him in the end.  I’m so sorry I wasn’t with him in the last few weeks and that I hadn’t been at his side much, but he knew deep inside that I was looking after him from a far.  We spoke often, 2-3 times a week, so he was fully up to speed on the kids, work, wife, holidays, etc.  Thankfully I got them an iMac, and we used Skype a lot over the years.

My mum kept me up-to-date all the time, even if it wasn’t nice to get bad news, it was still nice to be involved.  She told me that he had his mobile with him in hospital, so I could ring him whenever I wanted.  He had been given only 6 months to live, and that really bothered me.  How could I ring him, talk to him and pretend everything was ok.

Anyway, I rang him Thursday evening and had a typical father/son chat; “Are they treating you ok?”, “How are the kids?”, “We are fine”.  We never said “love you” to each other, but we didn’t have to either, it was implicit and clear.

We finished the phonecall by me saying, “I’ll see you next week” and him replying “Let’s have coffee together in the house”.  We never got a chance to have coffee, only at his funeral.

A few hours later my mum called to say he was gone.

My World crumbled and yet I had to stay calm so my kids wouldn’t get too upset.  Trying to go back to sleep was just not happening.  I was just lying in the bed starring at the ceiling, thinking about my dad and all the fun we had together.

One of the curses of living abroad is that you cannot be there when you have to.  I cannot change the fact that I live abroad and he would not want me to change it either.  He always told me that I had to look after my family.

He was and is my hero and he has always been there for him.  Now it was my turn to be there for him, when he passed over, helping my mum as much as possible.

Dad, I love and miss you.

Your son

PS: to all my friends.  No matter your religion, please pray for my dad that he had a safe passing and that I’ll meet him again.

Tribute to weekdays

A poem by the late Danish poet, Dan Turell.  I’ve tried to translate it, while still making sure it makes sense.  I’m sorry if it doesn’t.

I never really understood or appreciated Dan Turell’s poems when I was younger. It is something that changes as you get older as you begin to understand the meaning of his poems.

I like weekdays
Most of all, I like weekdays
Slowly waking up to familiar views
that are not entirely familiar
The family once trustworthy and sleepy and distant strange faces

The morning kisses
The mailman slamming the letterbox
The smell of coffee
The routine walk to the cornershop for milk, smokes, newspaper
I like weekdays
Even through all the irritations
The noisy bus that drives past the door
The phone that disturbs the most beautiful, clearest still moment in my aquarium
The birds squeaking in their cage
The old neighbor looking
The kid you have to pick up in the creche, just as you got started
The everlasting grocery list in the pocket
with the usual requirements for meat, potatoes, coffee and bisquits
A quick drink at the local
when everybody meets with their grocery bags and wipe sweat from their foreheads
I like weekdays
The daily agenda
even the biological agenda
The unavoidable routines in the bath and on the toilet
The mandatory shave
Letters you need to write
Rent payments
Balancing the accounts
The fact that you ran out of diapers or cello-tape
I like weekdays
Not in contrast to parties, smokes and dancing
That has to be done
even with all the leftovers
So much unsaid or approached
hanging in the air afterwards
Like a psychological hangover
that only weekday can fix with morning coffee
Great with parties!  Room for euphoria!
Let the thousand pearls bubble
But what happiness to afterwards lay down
the rest of the weekday’s bed
to the known and yet unknown forecast

I like weekdays
I love them
Completely and totally love weekdays
I love weekdays very much

My Svendborg

Like the rest of Denmark, Svendborg goes way back and was officially founded in 1229.  At least that’s when it was first mentioned in a document.  Sydfyn, which includes Svendborg, was actually given to Princess Eleonora, the wife of Valdemar the Younger, as a wedding gift.  It has changed names several times, depending who the ruler of Denmark was.

Rumor has it that it got its name from “Svine” (= pig in English) or “Svend” (= ruler of the area) and “Borg” (= castle).

There used to be a lot of pigs in Svendborg, but not too sure that it is the reason for the name.  “Svend” is more likely, as there actually was a ruler in that region back in the old days called “Svend”, and primitively enough, he had a castle – hence the name Svendborg!  It was so much simpler back then.

Svendborg’s privileges as a merchant town is first documented in a letter written by Christoffer I in 1253, to his fiance and celebrated its 750th anniversary in 2003.  What’s even more amazing is that it was voted town of the year in 2000, the year of the millennium.  Fantastic way to start a new millennium.

People where named based on their relations/families back in the old days.  My name would probably have been Judgebrix son of JudgeRoland and my sister would have been JudgeSis daughter of JudgeMum.  This is still seen in Iceland, where last names are still linked to their parents, e.g. Hamasdottir = Hamas daugther.

Anyway, I’m getting carried away with some boring details, sorry.

I’m from a small coastal town in Denmark called Svendborg.  Svendborg has less than approx. 30,000 inhabitants, but approx. 45,000 including the surrounding counties.  It is very small indeed, but we still have shops (even if they close at 12.30 on Saturdays), supermarkets, theatre, cinema, several schools and sport clubs, and of course harbors with plenty of opportunity for sailing.  It is actually very beautiful spot and a place that I want to retire to.  Unfortunately many young people leave the area to seek new adventures and fortune elsewhere, such as Copenhagen, Aarhus or abroad – I myself have moved to Ireland.

I was born on Wednesday the 7th of June 1972 in the local hospital, at 06.00ish in the morning.  My parents mentioned recently that it was a bright, sunny and warm summer morning when I was born, but that’s no surprise – I’m great.

It was a wonderful place to grow up, as it was very secure.  Not much violence, if any, and plenty of space for us kids to explore.  My parents bought their first house in 1965, the year they were married, on a street that was just being build in the outskirts of Svendborg.  It was right next to a giant forest – a forest with magical creatures, paths covered by tall pine trees, giant mythical animal stuck in a lake between the trees – a magnificent playground for us kids.  The coolest thing is that it had a tree, which had been hit by lighting and one can still see the tracks it had carved into the bark.  It was my special tree and I still go to see it as a grown up.

If you can, then you should visit Svendborg next time you go to Denmark.

We, the Great Danes

So, what are we Danes know for?  Well, the most obvious things are probably the most famous brands in the World, such as B&O, Carlsberg, Lego, the Little Mermaid, HC Andersen, Tivoli, furniture, pastry (which Obama Barrack loves) and tall blond girls – the last one is also associated with Sweden, so I think that’s more a Scandinavian thing.

There’s also dog breed that’s named after us, The Great Dane, which is a huge monster of a dog.  It’s slow, sociable and eats a lot of food = yep, that sounds like us Danes.

We are one of the last standing monarchies in Europe and our royals are related to the late Zsar of Russia – way back I know.  Most Danes, no matter age, are extremely proud of the royal family.  But, for some reason you have people in the community that want the royal traditions eliminated.  Why?  I have no idea!  Living abroad and having a great royal family (and history) makes me extremely proud of being Danish.

Danes are actually very traditional.  One of the things we really enjoy is spending time with family and friends.  My mother always said, show me your friends and I’ll know what you are like.  It might be a silly saying, but it’s actually true – just think about yourself.  Deep, right!

We are brought up in safe environments, where families and friends are core to most neighborhoods.  My family is still meeting up with our neighbors from our childhood street, celebrating day before Christmas and other fantastic events where we can eat and drink.

If you haven’t noticed, Danes have a very different idea in regards to e.g. sleeping the baby.  It is very common that babies sleep in their pram, but we Danes believe that fresh air is good for you, especially babies.  So, most babies sleep outside during the day, no matter time of year.  You will therefore often see buggies parked outside houses, restaurants, etc., even in the winter time.  This freaks out many people, especially in the US, where a Danish woman was arrested for leaving her baby in the pram outside a restaurant while she lunch.

During the early years, kids attends mainly public schools for 10 years.  Then they move into colleges and thereafter universities.  The norm is that you go to school to get a job to secure your future.  It is not normal to travel around the World for months or years, but instead settle down after college or university.  Get a good job, married, kids and house.

Throughout childhood, and moving into the teens, we meet a lot of people who in turn becomes our friends.  Hence many Danes have a lot of friends, which they stick with for life.  An example, my dad still meets his old primary school buddies for guys nights.  Friends are a very important aspect of our lives and we would share a lot of personal items with each other.

Unfortunately, Denmark has also changed in the past decade, for the worse, which means that Copenhagen is becoming a lot less child-friendly.  A change that I do not appreciate.

Denmark – Quick and Dirty History Lesson

Denmark is the beautiful country between Skagerak and Kattegat, just below Norway and Sweden.  When you look at a World map, Denmark, is the little finger sticking up from Germany.  It looks a bit like a face with a huge runny nose – the various islands are the snot dripping.  Despite this unfortunate appearance on the World map, Denmark is extremely picturesque and postcard ready.

Scandinavia is also home of the old Nordic Gods Odin, Thor, Loke, Valhalla, Fenris and the famous Vikings that caused havoc in the North of Europe – and North of America and the Mediterranean.  Don’t get me wrong, I‘m not trying to claim that Denmark is the center of all the Nordic mythology or the vikings, but we were pretty cool back in those days.

The Vikings plundered, raped and burned lands far away from home.  Some areas across North Europe are named after old Scandinavian words, slightly modified through time to fit better in with the languages and pronunciations.  As an example Howth in Ireland comes from Hoved, which means head in Danish.  It might be far fetched, but it does actually make sense that the Scandinavian forefathers left their marks on the country they “visited”.  Similar to Solvang in California (US) or was this just settlers in 1880’s?

However, the vikings did sail into the Berings Strait, between the US and Russia.  Acient viking artifacts have been found around the Columbia river in the state of Washington – fascinating considering the ships they had, with very little protection from the elements.

According to legends, the Danish flag fell from the skies during a battle in the Baltic region and was brought back to Denmark, where it became the national symbol and flag.

The country was officially founded under one flag, meaning that all the tribe kings joined and fought for the flag.  Truthfully, Denmark ruled many parts of the Scandinavian countries, but many of these regions were given back to the respective countries, e.g. Sweden and Norway.

It is well known that the Danes and Swedes always have had some sort of of feud going on, which started back in the dark ages.  Back then, men were men, and fought bravely for their country.  Denmark captured parts of Sweden and held them for several decades, but then we lost them again.  In the end we called it a day and we gave them back Skåne – who wants Skåne anyway?

Today the feud still continues, but now it is more like a mud throwing feud.  If you see a drunken, long haired guy in Copenhagen, then you he’s a Swede.  Swedes have no sense of humor and are always depressed.

We have had many great kings in our time and today we have a great Queen.  The Queen’s father rode across the German border on a white house to proclaim the new region to belong to Denmark, and that’s not too long ago.  It is even said that he used to go into the kitchen in the evenings, in the palace, to have some food with his staff.  And, he had tattoos!

I’m sure the current Crown Prince will eventually become a fantastic king.  He has been through so many things and has inspired many people in- and outside Denmark.  His military records are amazing and he crossed the ice on Greenland with dog sleds – how cool is that.

In the mid / late 1930’s, a little ugly guy from Germany decided that he wanted World domination.  He was of course known as Adolf Hitler, or as some of supporters today calls him ”88”, which stands for Heil Hitler, H is the 8th letter in the alphabet.

Anyway, this little fecker captured Denmark on 5th of May 1940 and held it for 5 long years.  Even during the occupation, many young and old Danes fought an underground war, which I think was absolutely amazing.  They fought the occupier, with what they had, and made life difficult for Germans.  Railroads were sabotaged, supply depos blown up, ship sunk, weapons smuggled to the resistance army and Jews shipped to Sweden for protection.  Many of these brave people were killed in camps across Europe or shot during battles, but yet they continued.  Watch the movie “Drengene fra Sct. Petri”, then you will understand.

WWII ended and Denmark was freed on 9th of April 1945.  To this day, most Danes around the World celebrate the occupation by turning off lights, make the house dark so it couldn’t be seen from the skies (bombers) and the liberation by putting candles in the windows to show light again.  This tradition is passed down to the next generations.  This just shows how much it meant to the Danes to be occupied.

So, it is in our (the Danes’) genes to travel and explore the World – not necessarily causing damage to every country as the vikings did, but to explore.  However, most Danes return home to Denmark within 2 years, according to some surveys.  I’ve been away for 13 years so far, but think of it every day.

And, I still speak the language, just in case you wondered.