An Englishman on Bornholm

50 Year Service Checkup

A graph showing a weight loss of 8.1kgs over April, May and half of June for the year 2024.
One quarter down, another to go.

I turned 50 this year. It was back in February now (I’m writing this in June 2024) so nothing too new, although I did feel this one more than 40. 40 felt just like another 30 really, another milestone but double that is still only 80 and there’s a decent chance I’ll make it to that unless a major incident turns up, my dad is 81 this year and still going strong. 50 though, double that is 100 and that’s a less likely outcome, meaning there’s a rather large chance I’ve already lived more than half my life. Okay, so the first few years are out of memory and 5-15 is getting a bit hazy, so in terms of what I can actually remember maybe not quite so close, but you can’t argue with numbers!

But thoughts of long term mortality aside this was also the year I got called in for the old 50,000-mile service check, which was brought up at my ‘yearly’ Asthma check up that I last had in 2018, ahem.
For the most part things were good, even the blood sugar which I had feared might be a problem was within the bounds. My cholesterol however was a different story. It was already high at the last blood test in 2018, and four years later things have only worsened, with my level being up to 4.9 on whatever scale that uses. The limit at which one should start on medication is 5.0, so I had a choice to make; start taking the pills to control it or get my weight and exercise regime in order. Now I’ve nothing against drugs when they are needed, but if one can avoid such an outcome it’s always preferable, and so I find myself with six months to ‘have a go’ before a new round of bloods.

To be fair my weight had gotten out of control since around Covid time maxing out at 125kgs, though the usual process of losing during the summer working months and reclaiming the fat over the winters was still in play. Apparently I should be closer to 80 according to most charts, although last time I hit 90, many years ago now, everyone started saying I shouldn’t lose more, but still that’s a long way from 125!

Cutting out the saturated fats was not so much of an issue. Most of what we eat was pretty lean anyway, so it’s mainly been the chocolate bars and biscuits that I’ve had to knock on the head, which has been a tough one for a grazer like me. Now it’s all nuts and protein snacks, and for the most part just eating a normal amount of calories as opposed to the 3000ish I guess I must have been eating to maintain that outlandish weight. Oh and oats, lots of oats, and peanut butter on apples slices, all quite tasty things as it turns out, so no real hardship there.

Exercise-wise things took a while to get going. The suggested heart rate zone is around 150bpm for a man of my age and on the first day this involved lightly jogging for a few minutes and then walking to get the rate down again, such was my level of (un)fitness. Thankfully though it appeared my heart’s ability to tone up outstripped my other muscles as within a couple of weeks I was struggling to get my legs to keep going long enough to keep the heart rate up. Eventually though things evened out, and I even managed to ‘run’ a 5K without pauses or slowdowns for,I believe, the first time in my life.

3 months in and I’m down over 8kgs. Whether or not that’s actually having an effect on my LDL score obviously remains to be seen, but the fact I can actually sustain a bpm of 150 for a good half hour now has to be a decent sign of heart health, which is what it’s all about at the end of the day.

A rather quiet year for Svaneke Shooting Clubs annual “Team Shooting Event”

This year’s “Gennemsnit” winners were “Aktiv Kvinder”

We only had 8 teams take part this year, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves. The atmosphere was still there and the awards ceremony pretty well attended compared to last year even with 5 fewer teams.

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. [callout title=It’s a curious thing]being a¬†minority immigrant[/callout]But I’ve never shied away from admitting when I’ve been a fool and that resistance was such a time. ¬† My years¬†at 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 ūüėČ 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¬†I 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¬†can’t help feeling it will reflect upon my¬†teachers, 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.