London by Musical

In autumn, Danish school children get a week’s holiday. Traditionally this was to assist with the potato harvest. We went to London.

First up, we did the bus tour, so the girls might get an appreciation of the key features and landmarks. Clearly, they took this very seriously.

It was ‘hop on, hop off’, so we visited the London Eye. In all the times I have been to London, I have never felt any inclination to dangle above it in a pod. With children on board, I found myself in the queue. The only way to describe the feeling, if you are afraid of heights, is somewhere between adrenalin rush and the sensation of having one too many glasses of red and getting those weird surges that tell you to stop. We had an American woman in ours, who wondered aloud whether it was run on nuclear power. I’m thinking probably not.

It was then on foot to Westminster Abbey. I tortured the children by insisting on going through listening to the audiotour. Maeve had a children’s quiz to fill out, which interrupted the listening pleasure. She was approached by no less than three Anglican priests floating about in frocks, who were insisting on helping her fill in the forms. “No dear, that’s a pelican carved into wood, not a swan”.

We then joined the hoi polloi milling outside Buckingham P. Although clearly we belong on the balcony, rather than beneath it, we took a selfie anyway.

The following day, we went to the Tower of London. This was the children’s favourite piece of armour, for obvious reasons. Check out the expression on Maeve’s face.

After seeing the gory details about torture, execution, missing princes and so forth, the girls needed a red velvet cupcake, complete with chocolate crown.

The Tower of London even provided an unanticipated entrant into the toilet tour of Europe. In the ladies, the walls were adorned with this kind of thing:

That night, it was the first of two musicals. We saw Les Miserables. I had the misfortune of sitting behind a young woman with a beehive, which meant I spent the evening ducking and weaving trying to catch a view. Maeve wondered why it was called Les Mis: “No one appeared that miserable”. The kids loved it so much that the next day they insisted on seeing another show. Half-tix in hand, we attended the matinee of Singing in the Rain. My how the blue-rinse set laughed when water descended from above during the eponymous tune. Imagine their surprise when the dancers splashed the audience with said water. Hilarity. Those in the front row came prepared, and up went the umbrellas. Still, the costumes, dancing and singing were all that you would expect of the West End.

My price for attending two musicals (a showbiz genre I struggle to love) was one more piece of culture. I thought the National Portrait Gallery was probably better than Greek amphoras for amusing the young uns. We limited ourselves to the contemporary gallery. M declared that Prince Harry is the dead spit of Jack Riewoldt.

There were no footballers in sight at our accommodation, which had some daunting previous occupants.

Needless to say, nothing like The Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century or Religion and the Rise of Capitalism  was completed during my stay. I did spend a lot of money and visited a few cathedrals. And no potatoes were harvested.



Yes, we are still here. We’ve just been busy with normal living – going to school, teaching the students about Australian history on film (that’s normal if you are an academic), having a few dinner parties on the weekend.

We survived having a blocked kitchen drain for 9 days, which is apparently the time it takes for a real estate agent to arrange a plumber in Copenhagen.

When the living is normal, people start to miss home. A few weekends ago I woke up to discover this on the kitchen noticeboard.

The small person is missing her Dad. As is the bigger person, but she keeps her cards close to her chest.

Despite the normal living, there are still photo opportunities. I have not lost my sense of humour, despite emptying the bucket from the sink into the toilet for over a week.

Imagine how confusing it is trying to buy orange juice, when the Danish word for orange is “appelsin”. Do you think anyone actually walks into that shop and says: “En libido booster, tak”?

Grace hair

Magnificent, even in a parker, on a fjord, when it is freezing

Danish hair

Plaits on top


Toilet Stop

I have a few more toilet-related images to the add to the file.

Are there hordes of Indonesians storming the fjords of Norway? The facilities on the fjord cruise ship had instructions to patrons in English and …. Indonesian.

English speakers are asked to throw the paper in the toilet, Indonesians have further instruction that they should not put it on the floor

It seems that in Norway people hang on a bit too long before they visit the loo. Male patrons at Bergen airport apparently look like this as they approach the bathroom

Women need two hands to hold it in


On Mum and Dad’s last weekend in Denmark, we went to Norway. We flew into Bergen on Friday afternoon and immediately dragged out the scarves and coats. It rains 275 days a year in Bergen and did not fail to deliver during our three days there.

Our hotel had a wall of fame, complete with the engraved signatures of famous guests. The line up included Diego Maradona, the Pet Shop Boys and Take That. To be fair, Rhianna and Jay Z had stayed there as well, but the wall seemed be to dominated by the celebs of the 80s. We were just excited that our room had a bath, a rare commodity in Copenhagen.

The harbour front was lined with stalls selling freshly picked crab, prawns and crayfish artfully arranged on white buns. Grace declared hers the best thing she had ever eaten. The Norwegians are terribly proud of their seafood.

They are also proud of their natural environment and rightly so. I had Norway described to me as ‘Denmark with scenery’ given that the closest thing to a hill in these parts is a speed bump. We took a day-long trip that included railway journeys, a bus trip with death-defying hairpin turns and a cruise on a fjord. We saw waterfalls large and small, towering peaks and verdant valleys. And all through about 70 layers of clothing. If this was autumn, I am glad that we
will not be visiting in winter.

We asked a Spanish gentleman to take a group portrait of our family on tour, which he did with great kindness but ultimately did not seem to have actually taken the shot. So we were reduced to a selfie on the iphone, the only group shot of Mum and Dad’s entire three week trip.

There were more Viking references and trolls in the souvenir shops than you could poke a stick at. Maeve passed on the opportunity to look like a troll, but did don the Viking gear again.

Mum and Dad have now exchanged the cold of Bergen for the heat of Dubai. They can presently be found enjoying a Bedouin feast during a desert tour.

This was the first holiday I have taken with my parents in about 25 years, and a great time was had by all.

Still Melbourne girls….

We are still Melbourne girls at heart. This morning we subscribed to AFL Live. So now, we are sitting in bed, watching the final between Adelaide and Hawthorn. The mullet on Adelaide’s number 13 is a sight for sore eyes. And we still love Richo. Maeve wants me to tell you that ‘he’s cute’, and could not possibly be gay.

Vikings Ahoy

Last weekend we went to Roskilde, the ancient capital of Denmark. We were allowed to take the camera. It is a half-hour train ride from Copenhagen.

Our first port of call was the Domkirke, a cathedral dating back to the twelfth century. It has been rebuilt many times, because this town has regularly burnt to the ground. Still, it is an architectural wonder, which houses the remains of many generations of the Danish Royal family. They are a crowd who take their sarcophogi seriously, with several wings of the cahedral devoted to burial tombs almost pagan in their intensity and scale. Here is one which dwarfed the girls. M wondered if those buried within were especially fat. G just thought the idea of being so close to dead bodies was weird. Clearly, she prefers her dead below ground.

Grace might, however, have a point. The current King and Queen – still alive – have already had their tomb designed, and there is a model of it on display in the cathedral. Nothing like being prepared. There is also nothing quite like a glass tomb, with the model bodies inside swathed in some kind of white cloth. It’s a bit snow white meets the mummy.

We raced through the Domkirke, having primarily travelled to Roskilde to see the Viking Museum. This is a place for people who are really into ships, and dredging things up from the sea floor.  We managed to persuade Dad to don a Viking outfit, and he appeared quite happy about it:

Maeve was less impressed at being told to put on the Viking gear in the museum shop

The dress ups were about as far as the Museum went in terms of social history. Getting into the spirit, we purchased tickets to go sailing on the replica Viking Ship. The wisdom of this was put into question when we learned that those on board would row the ship out of harbour.

Grace was appointed to steer, which I would have preferred to tangling myself up in oars and ropes and being out of time with everyone else, but she was a bit miffed. You can just see her at the top of the boat.

Mum was so bad at the rowing that she was given the sack on the return journey. Here she is sitting up the back. Unfortunately she has her eyes shut, but this is an old family tradition which has ruined many group shots, so we may as well replicate it here.


Our 2 km walk back to the train was made bearable by a bit more vanilla ice-cream, possibly the last of the season, as the cloudy skies might indicate.

I’ll leave you with a little detail from one of the painted walls inside that magnificent Domkirke.



Mum and Dad are in town. While they are here we are taking the opportunity to look at more attractions in Copenhagen and surrounds. First up was the Nationalmuseet. Here the stone and iron age finds were of more interest than the coming of Christianity.

A careful reading of the interpretive panels rewards the reader. It is easy to blow through galleries full of stones and bones and think: meh. The first revelation was the panel relating to reindeer and elk bones. Apparently the ribs I saw mounted on the wall were used as gynaecological instruments, which explained the relatively high fertility of these people. I took one look and considered that if that thing ever came near me, I would be unable to walk again, let alone bear three children.

PG warning on the next one. For centuries archaeologists confused stones with large rounded ends for some kind of weapon. Female (the panel was quite insistent on this) archaeologists set them straight: these were dildos given by mothers-in-law to brides on their wedding day, to indicate what they were letting themselves in for. The size of one’s wedding present indicated the manliness of the husband-to-be. As always in these matters, the bigger the better. Imagine explaining this to a 9 year old. Maeve concluded they looked more like lemon-juicers.

The next exhibit she could relate to more readily. Here was a special pot, devoted to grinding up snail dirt and seal oil. This delightful mixture was then smeared on the bodies of children up to twelve years old, to keep them safe from evil spirits. Whether this occurred on a daily basis or only on special occasions was not discussed.

Suitably enlightened, we caught the bus back home. Sorry, cameras were not allowed, so no pictures.

House of lights

Deliverance. We have moved from the hovel to heaven. Well, it wasn’t quite a hovel, but the view over the supermarket unloading bay, the sound of Danish pop music until 5 a.m. on Sunday morning and the hair in the cutlery draw were not exactly my idea of home beautiful. Then there was the added bonus of being able to access the small living room only by going through one of the bedrooms. The laundry was down four flights of stairs, and below ground in a room without windows. There was luggage in a cage nearby – it looked as if illegal immigrants might return there at night.

I bought an orchid to brighten things up, but it didn’t help much.

We are now happily ensconced in a beautiful, large apartment only minutes from the girls’ schools. There are large windows, pale floorboards and a view over the courtyard. The family who usually lives here have gone to Stanford for a few months and we are so grateful that they have sublet their home to us.

The owners of this apartment have amazing taste in lights. This one hangs in the kitchen, and is suspended just above the kitchen table.



The next one is in the dining room, similarly positioned, and is a classic of Danish design. You can see the orchid from the old place in the background.


This creation, which casts shadows like spider webs at night, is in Maeve’s bedroom:


The piece de resistance is the chandelier in the lounge room. It has electrical wiring, but can be used without. It is possible to light the candles, and the room is bathed in soft yellow light. I want one.


The interior decoration low light is one of the child’s bedrooms, which belongs to a 1o year old boy. Grace has taken down the large World of Warcraft poster that dominated one wall. We have also banished the following creature to a cupboard. When we arrived, it was sitting on the bed and just about scared the life out of me.


I am not kidding, that thing is life-sized.