An Englishman on Bornholm

Decking upgrades

Raw Wood

Last year we built ourselves a new decking area in the courtyard. It replaced an old plant bed that was largely taken up with a fig tree. That was far too close to the house and in danger of damaging the wall so it had to go. Instead, we constructed this seating area, as well as new steps up to the main door we use to enter the house you can see to the left there.

Painted Highlights

This year we, that is the royal we because I hate painting things, painted the inner crossbeams white to give them a little more pop. Not bad looking I’d say. Not that we get a chance to use it in the summer due to work, but it’s a nice to have and I’m sure my Dad and Sue will enjoy it when they can finally return post-COVID.

Reverse angle with replaced store room doors

Hero Worship

It’s natural as a young boy to bestow hero status on your father, provided of course you are lucky enough to have a good one. Be that biological or otherwise. They can do anything and know everything. My father worked, drove, did DIY, baked, took me and my brother to football games, loved science, helped with homework.. all the things one would expect.

Of course eventually we all grow up, become adults ourselves and realise that our parents are just people capable of making mistakes, people whose advice is only as good as their experiences. The negative side to this is looking back on certain situations and realising just how crappy you have been to your parents at certain points in your life.

An example of this with my father that still haunts me to this day was an occasion of a damp weekend morning in the 1980s. My brother and I both played in local football leagues, this being the 80s, England and even more importantly Liverpool where football is more religion than sport. Whoever was supposed to be the referee that day hadn’t shown so one of the fathers had to step up. This particular day my dad did. Being a child, perhaps 8 or 9, I saw this as a great thing as surely I would have him on my side. I even recall shouting at him at one point because he called an offside in the wrong half. (I highly doubt he did, my memory of it is not clear I can only assume I believed I could influence his decisions) Thinking back on that time now as an adult I can only imagine how nerve racking an event that must have been for my father, having to maintain control of 22 8 year olds running after a football whilst his fellow fathers and the handful of mothers (this was the 1980s) looked on. Sure we can all sit at home watching a match and call the ref out on all his mistakes from the comfort of our sofas, but to actually fully control a match and call decisions when all you had expected to do was watch your son play… so yes I cringe when I think back and find little refuge in the excuse of my age.

So yes we grow up and see our parents in the light of grown day and see how fallible we all are and that hero status fades somewhat into the memories of youth.

But sometimes things happen in life that allow you to again see a parent in that same shining light.

My mother for the past several years has suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s and we had all prepared ourselves for the inevitable outcomes of the disease. I’d expected the psychological aspects, the unreliable short term memory and confusion, expected the TV and movie instilled ‘time travel’ of her thinking it was perhaps 1978 again and wondering why I was a 40 year old man and not a 4 year old boy. These things we see played out and referenced over and over in various media. However little of these things really ever surfaced in my mother, at least not in ways I was expecting. What has been apparent though, what has caught me so off guard are the physical changes. It started quite quickly with her speech, perhaps more a lack of confidence at first reducing her willingness, but fairly quickly I could notice she wouldn’t join in conversations. In more recent years her fine control of her hands went making dressing and eating difficult tasks that my father had to assist with. More recently still she’s been unable to walk or even stand much.

All these things are devastating, but also on some level just how things are. However through all of this my father has been there, researching all the latest findings, making use of any natural products he could to help maintain my mothers health as best he could. He’s always been into vitamin supplements and alternative ideas and all I will say to that is it always seems to have served him well. But he has been, though all of this, fantastic. I hear in his voice sometimes that he’s sometimes of the opinion that he’s not done enough, or he should be coping better and it breaks my heart because he’s done more and survived longer than I fear I would. On some level I still can’t comprehend what is must be like for him, to see his wife suffering so, even when I am experiencing the same feelings of helplessness as her son.

So now, in my forties, I find myself once again looking on my father as my hero. A man to look up to as my brother and I always have. As a father and as a husband.

Dad you are amazing and I love you.

Lessons in Danish:The beginning of the end

Written Exam

I’ve not written all that much about my time learning Danish, which is odd given how huge a deal it’s been for me since moving to Denmark. I was never one for languages; given the chance to jump ship from French to Latin after three years in high school I took it, getting to start over and therefore have an easier ride. Perhaps not all would agree to Latin being easier than French but I certainly found it more enjoyable given it also focused on Roman culture and we had a teacher who would happily take us out to sit beneath the trees for our lessons in the summer time. Thanks Mr Redmond!

So the idea of starting up a new language at the age of 38 was a little daunting, and when Linda suggested I take the state organised free classes for us ‘new Danish’ I was rather resistant. Perhaps I found the idea of spending time with a bunch of strange foreigners a little off putting, despite the fact that I too was just as strange and foreign. It’s a curious thing this being a minority immigrant.

It’s a curious thing
being a minority immigrant
But I’ve never shied away from admitting when I’ve been a fool and that resistance was such a time. ┬á My years┬áat language school have been nothing but joyful from the start. I’ve met so many people from so many different places, from the more expected Germans, French and Polish, to the more far flung Nigerians, Kenyans, Burmese and even one guy from the Cook Islands! Oh and a fair few from that curious island that lies in the North Sea funnily enough.

And then there are the teachers, four of whom I’ve had the pleasure of their teachings on a fixed basis. All have been truly fantastic, not to mention incredible patient with me! Oh and I guess you could say we’ve had some fun along the way too, the British and Danish humours are not exactly opposites. And the fact they have all been women hasn’t hurt things one bit ­čśë In many ways language school has become my ‘happy place’ here in Denmark. Something to look forward to whilst I’m cleaning my umpteenth toilet during the working season, or the bright light shinning through the long dark nights of the Danish winters. I’m always counting the days.

But today things have started to enter their final phase. I’ve just come home from taking the first half of my final exam, in this case the written half also known as trial by fire! I have the oral exam next month, but that’s basically just talking to people so nowhere near the stress levels of this first half. Technically┬áI shouldn’t be stressed at all. I didn’t start this journey to obtain a qualification as such, it’s purpose was simply to become good enough in Danish that I can communicate with people, as anyone who chooses to live in another country should. And so the grade I get isn’t important to me. Or rather it wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the fact that I┬ácan’t help feeling it will reflect upon my┬áteachers, and on that score I can’t stand the idea of letting them down. Sadly I fear I have little chance of excelling, but if I can just nab a middling pass that shows even an old dog like me can be taught new tricks I’ll sleep easy. We’ll just have to wait and see on that score.

Exhausting

Not my usual lookTwenty plus degrees, little wind, clear skies, humidity often upwards of eighty percent. Perfect for a holiday island, unless of course you’re not here on holiday and in fact must clean, vacuum and mop houses and apartments all over said island. Then what you have is way too much warmth. I’ve spent most of the past few weeks pretty much soaked, so much so that I’ve had to purchase some bandannas just to keep the sweat from out of my eyes. I’m really not sure I’m the sort of guy that can pull off wearing one, but given the option of that or a head band I think it’s the saner choice! It’s also not a bad ploy to ensure people become used to me wearing one, so, should I ever go bald I can hide it whilst I lose enough to move onto the fully shaven head look ­čśë

There seems to be a lot more work this year than last. I guess people are starting to feel more confident about spending their savings on holidays again, but playing a little safe and sticking to local countries.

If ever we needed to hear
Winter is coming
it’s now

Thus we’ve been working seven days a week pretty much straight throughout the summer so far, and from what we can tell it will follow through right into September. Frankly we’re both starting to become rather exhausted. That slow creeping exhaustion that comes from working that little bit harder than you body is fit enough for, whilst lacking the sleep due to warm muggy nights. Even with a little help from the heat pump running on cool.

If ever we needed to hear ‘Winter is coming’ it’s about now.

On the plus side, we now get fortnightly visits from Hjem-Is (Home-IceCreams) and he’s making a pretty penny off of us! But damn are they worth it, even their Ben and Jerry’s knock off Cookie Dough is rather nice.

IceCreamTruck