An update on #Edinburghlyf

So much has happened since Denmark! I’ve tried to summarise the high points below, though I will undoubtedly forget something. I’m loving Edinburgh. I’m loving its people and its places and its character, charming and rough-round-the-edges as it is.

I have a job! An actual paying job in a LIBRARY! It’s at Queen Margaret University and it’s wonderful. I started my career in an academic library that was far bigger than this one – working for a smaller university with a smaller team is a breath of fresh air. It’s very quiet at the moment because it’s summer holidays, but that gives me plenty of time to get used to how things run before the crazy September new year madness. We went on a work outing to the National Library of Scotland the other day to do a behind-the-scenes tour (a fascinating place!) and went for a cream tea afterwards. The team is lovely, and the job is two days a week, giving me plenty of time for sightseeing. Obviously I’ll need to find something else to supplement my income, and I am 99% sure I’ve obtained a casual job, but I have to wait a couple of weeks to find out, so we’ll see how that goes.

We are making some good friends over here, and have been catching up for dinners and gatherings and book clubs and Eurovision nights. (Walking home from Eurovision we saw an actual hedgehog, which is perhaps the highlight of my life). I’ve also been a bit lax with Skyping home due to starting so many new things and suddenly being (somewhat) busy again, but the other day I Skyped with my bosom chum Alfie and it made my day! There is a pub about a one-minute walk from our place and they run Harry Potter themed trivia nights. I went to the last one (Prisoner of Azkaban) and these quizzes are HARD. I have to reread Goblet of Fire properly before the next one (which is handy, as Stephen Fry has been rereading them to me over the last few weeks). They do a mean boozy milkshake as well.

I went to my first Jane Austen Society Scottish Branch event and met a whole lot of lovely people, including the speaker, a brilliant scholar named Nora Bartlett. We bonded over children’s literature and libraries and creative writing, and I want her to adopt me (no offence Mum and Dad, but she could give me UK citizenship that way). I’ve also finished the first draft of a new manuscript I’ve been working on. It’s nearly 76,000 words, and it the fifth novel-length manuscript I’ve finished in my life. One of these was the greatest masterpiece to ever grace an exercise book (80,000 words of piratical adventures I wrote with my bestie in high school), one of these came close to being represented by a literary agency last year, one of them is utter shite, and one of them was 50,000 words spewed out over Nanowrimo. This latest one is…not awful. It needs a good polish, but it’s not awful. Anyway, I am thoroughly sick to the back teeth of it and need to put it away and not look at it for a year. This week I’m planning to start work on one of the many half-finished things I have floating around my hard drive. Unemployment and having no friends is a great way to get stuck into those creative projects! Now I have gained a job and friends, so hopefully I can keep the practice up…

We’ve also been doing important things like watching Parks and Recreation. I’ve seen it before but Sean hasn’t and it is a joy to rewatch. Amy Poehler is a perfect human. We also experienced the absolute mania that overtakes people when their football team wins. We live not far from the stadium where there was some sort of important sporting event, and walking through Leith that night was like walking through the end of the world. People EVERYWHERE. Most of them very drunk and joyous and singing at the top of their lungs. They held up the traffic until the police arrived, and used the actual entire weekend to carry on celebrating. It was pretty amazing.

When Sean left his job in Australia, they gave him a ghost tour as a gift! We used the voucher last week and went on a tour of the historic vaults beneath the South Bridge. It was fun to be down there, but there was so much emphasis on ghosts (go figure) and not enough on the actual history of the vaults. They are fantastic, and I wanted to know more about why they were there! Speaking of Sean, he’s a good egg. I’ve had a couple of down days, anxiety being a heartless horror that strikes when I really don’t want or need it, and he has been patient and lovely as always, and I’m feeling much better now. So relearning a few keys aspects of self-care has been important as well!

 

Finally, I’ve just come home from my third volunteer shift at the Scottish Poetry Library. This. Place. Is. Amazing. As a volunteer, I help out at events (setting up chairs, serving drinks and the like) and also take Saturday shifts to make up staff numbers so the library can be open. On Saturdays there is lots of shelving and working at the front desk and ad hoc jobs like labelling books. It’s a peaceful job in a beautiful building, and the events are always vibrant and fun to watch/take part in. I initially wanted to sign up as a volunteer to keep my foot in the library industry door, but I have found it to be such a welcoming and comfortable place as well as an interesting library. Last night I went to the retirement event for Robyn Marsack, who has been Director of the library for sixteen years. The place was full to bursting, crowded with brilliant and creative minds. Hearing about Robyn’s career was inspiring and had made me want to jump back into studying (alas, money). I’m looking forward to many more hours of work there.

Hopefully I’ll blog again soon! It’s one more thing that has fallen by the wayside now that my life is marginally busier, but I don’t plan to neglect it too much. xx

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Farewell to Denmark…and a rant.

Often, while traveling, I am so utterly enamoured with the experience that I don’t feel like anything can bring me down. Other times, I have my period, and I turn into CrankyPants McGee. Today is one of those days, which is a shame, as it’s our last day in Copenhagen! We’ve still seen some nice things though, which I will detail below. I have also received news from Australia which has made my blood boil, and I will also detail that below.

After a night punctuated by various inconsiderations from the dude in the bunk below me, we got up, checked out, did battle with the machine that was going to store our luggage for the day, won (with help from staff) and made our way to the Central Station where I had discovered the best chai lattes in the world a few days ago. They came through for me once more, and I had green tea chai and felt my blood pressure slowly return to normal. It was also insanely affordable – only 15 kroner for smørrebrød (delicious Danish sandwiches). Unfortunately, Paulina’s flight was delayed and she was unable to join us. I am sure we will catch up soon though! Then we went to print our boarding passes and went to the National Museum of Denmark. This museum was crazy huge. You could easily spend two full days there – and I fully intend to the next time we’re in Copenhagen. It was also completely free – handy for today, as we are rapidly running out of money. So much so that we decided not to do the walking tour of Christiania, and will save that for next time also. Instead, we found more delicious smørrebrød for lunch, and the extortionate price was made slightly easier to swallow by the fact that it was AMAZINGLY GOOD. I know I’ve said this about everything we’ve eaten here but UGH. Seriously mouth-watering. We found a little second hand bookshop and I blew too much money on a lovely old Danish copy of Peter Pan (yolo) and ate ice cream, spending pretty much everything I had left. We wandered through Christiansborg Palace (but didn’t pay to go inside), and I’m typing this at the hostel while we wait to catch our train to the airport. It’s a shame we’ve run out of money, but we’ve saved so much anyway by staying with Julie and her family – I shouldn’t complain!

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BUT SPEAKING OF MONEY. READ THIS. http://www.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/grants-and-funding/deborah-stone/62-arts-organisations-lose-funding-from-australia-council-251271

The list is being updated when more news becomes available. 65 arts organisations in Australia who previously received government funding from the Australia Council have had that support pulled out from under them. So that’s no more Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, no more Meanjin, no more Black Arm Band, no more of so many brilliant, innovative, creative, inspiring organisations that have supported and nurtured talent in a country that needs art. I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. No one has closed yet, but it is a steadily increasing threat for many of these organisations that simply can’t exist without financial support. Of course donations and subscriptions are useful, but I can’t help but feel that the vast majority of people who would love to throw their monetary support into all these organisations are the same people who just can’t afford it (mainly because they work in the arts themselves. Ironic.) One of the most tragic cuts (certainly the organisation closest to my heart) is Express Media. This organisation exists to support young people in writing and media and have countless opportunities for budding writers to get their work out there. I have been reading Voiceworks, their flagship publication, for years. I wrote reviews of Fringe shows in 2012 for Buzzcuts. I’ve been to events and entered prizes that the organisation runs and in 2013, I was published in Voiceworks and paid for it. This led to me being asked to read my work at The Wheeler Centre, an event which I was also paid for. Do you know how brilliant and validating that was, for a kid like me who never let anyone read their work? And the fact that Voiceworks contributors (who have to be below 25 years of age) are PAID is so rare and wonderful in a world that increasingly devalues the efforts of artists and the work they do.

Instead of putting money back into these organisations, the government has decided to spend our money on a same-sex marriage plebiscite we DON’T NEED that could cost more than half a billion dollars. JUST CATCH UP WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD AND MAKE IT LEGAL FFS.

And don’t even get me started on the cuts to the health sector. Scott Morrison was an abysmal Immigration Minister and he’s not improved much as Treasurer. Bah.

So yes, Denmark good! Australian arts news bad.

I need to eat some chocolate now.

From one end of Denmark to the other!

I am writing this in Copenhagen, on the top bunk in our hostel dorm. It has been a long and lovely day, beginning with waking up in wonderful Skagen. We wandered into the town centre after breakfast and poked around in the shops. Like the Mornington Peninsula, there are plenty of little galleries and shops selling local handicrafts that are simply beautiful – stupid RyanAir and their baggage restrictions! I could have spent a fortune there. Afterwards, Torben made us rødspættefilet for lunch (delicious breaded plaice that the Danes do as their standard fish and chips, eaten as an open sandwich with the dark rye bread and some remoulade). I ate way too much, but it was impossible to resist!

We said farewell to Torben and took the train back to Aalborg where we picked up the rest of our luggage and said farewell to Julie! We have been so, so lucky to have Julie take us around. Her parents and grandfather and roommates were all lovely, opening their homes to us and cooking us delicious food, and all this because we met at a hostel in Tokyo! This is why travel is the best thing in the world. It’s only a temporary farewell though – we are sure to be back to Denmark, and we have insisted that Julie come to Edinburgh (and Melbourne when we are home!)

We bussed to Aalborg airport where we took the shortest flight of our lives (30 mins to Copenhagen), before we took the train back to Central Station. We grabbed a bite to eat at a place called Sunset Boulevard (I know, right?), and made our way to the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. It seems to be a nice enough place. If I had a touch more energy (and money) I’d go down to the bar for a drink. But it is time for sleep, and tomorrow we have one last day in Copenhagen before we fly back to Scotland. We have to be up to meet Paulina, our mate from Sweden! She lives in Melbourne now, but by pure coincidence, she is headed home temporarily and will be stopping in Copenhagen tomorrow! (We originally met Paulina on a tour in Sydney, once more proving that travel is the bomb). Nighty night xx

Skagen

I had a pleasant morning – woke up to find Julie and Sean had been shopping for delicious Danish bacon and eggs! Pålægchokolade (chocolate for bread!!) was served again and some strong Earl Grey tea. Then we headed to Aalborg station!

The journey to Skagen was a lot less eventful than the Copenhagen to Aalborg stretch – just two trains, and a sunny journey over Jutland. We arrived at Torben’s (Julie’s grandfather) house, and had another delicious lunch with the famous Danish rye bread with paté, meat, cheese, eggs, and vegetables. It’s such a fresh and light way to eat and I’m a bit in love with it, even when herring is involved.

Then Torben took us on a tour of Skagen! He has lived here for fifty years and knows everything there is to know about the history of Skagen. We went to Grenen, which is the topmost tip of Denmark. You can walk right out onto the beach and see where the two seas (the strait of Skagerrak and the Kattegat sea area) meet, clashing together at the top of the country. There is also a famous Danish poet, Holger Drachmann, buried in the sand dunes, as well as German bunkers left over from the war. It is obviously a very popular spot, with Danes as well as other Scandinavian tourists. There were heaps of people walking their dogs, and even with a cold wind, the sun was warm and relaxing.

Then we drove to an area known as Højen (Old Skagen) and wandered up to a lookout that gave us a beautiful view over the orange rooftops. The houses are mostly a warm yellow colour, and it’s quite strictly regulated if you want to alter their appearance. It creates a beautiful-looking town! We could also see the top of a church that is now buried completely in sand (Den Tilsandede kirke) and Torben told us that he and his wife had actually met Crown Prince Frederik when he was younger, as he used to holiday in Skagen a lot as he was growing up, and his uncle had a summer residence here. This was obviously before he married Mary, but maybe one day they’ll have their own summer house in Skagen too!

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Then, despite the wind and the fact that it was still much colder than we are used to in Australia, we stopped at a beach and went for a dip in the sea! I very nearly chickened out, wading around the shallows while Julie and Sean dunked themselves in the water and then got back on the sand. I exited the sea twice before working up the courage to put my head under, but I can see why people get addicted to it! It’s incredibly invigorating to submerge yourself in something that cold, just briefly. Standing on the sand in the sun to dry out afterwards was not nearly as freezing as I thought it would be. Torben dropped us off at the ice cream store afterwards so we could get some ice cream and walk home and I was nearly dry by then anyway. Denmark has the normal delicious ice cream flavours with waffle cones, but they add a light sort of sugary cream called guf as well as a flødebolle, the chocolate and marshmellow fluff confections we had back in Copenhagen. Utterly brilliant.

Back at Torben’s house, he cooked a lovely dinner with smoked ham, vegies and béarnaise sauce, before we drove back to Højen to see the sunset (with a large portion of Skagen’s population it seemed!). Then we sat eating Swedish and Danish sweets and drinking tea while we chatted. We have been so lucky to meet Julie’s family and have them show us around!

Aalborg

After a long day of travel, involving track work, replacement buses, and delayed trains, we reached Julie’s apartment in Aalborg. The trains were comfy and the wifi was free and I got lots of writing done, so it wasn’t so much of a difficult day, but my goodness was it a relief to arrive to a house full of old and new friends! Mads, Karina, and Rasmus, who we met with Julie in Japan, as well as Julie’s fella Henrik and her housemate Jakob were all present. The apartment is BEAUTIFUL, roomy and spacious, and they’ve been so kind in letting us stay. We ate tortillas and talked a LOT, late into the night until I was almost falling asleep where I sat. A brilliant evening to start our time in Aalborg!

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This morning we bought more of our new favourite breakfast food – Koldskål and kammerjunkere, a sort of sour, lemony milk with crushed biscuits that you drench in it like cereal. It tastes AWESOME. Then we headed off to the university where all our Aalborg friends met to study medialogy. All along the road to the uni were people of all types soaking up the crazy weather. Ice creams, bikinis, everything. Denmark barely ever sees weather like this at this time of year. We met more lovely people at the uni and saw this gorgeous new campus that sits along the river and has beautiful views and huge, open-plan group spaces for the students to create their awesome projects. Sean and I even tested a game for Mads and Rasmus that they have built for one of their assignments. We found a great sandwich shop for lunch, and then Julie, Sean, Karina, and I headed off on a mini pub crawl just to sample some of Aalborg’s venues. We ended up on Jomfru Ane Gade, Denmark’s biggest party street, but it was thankfully not busy, and we sat in the shade and drank ciders while we chatted. THEN we joined Julie’s mates for a grill (what we in Aus would call a charcoal BBQ) and sat in the warm evening air on a long picnic table with about twenty other people who were taking a night off in the midst of crunch time at university. By the time we headed home, we had just enough time to watch the new ep of Game of Thrones and for me to write this blog. And now, to bed. For tomorrow, we venture to Skagen!

Hillerød

We all slept in a lot this morning, which made our breakfast of Danish bacon and scrambled eggs even better. Then Julie, Sean and I headed into Hillerød for a walk around the town. Being Sunday, a lot of the shops were closed, but we still found plenty to browse. We bought a huge pile of Danish sweets to sample, including Turkish pepper (a boiled sweet that tastes of liquorice and chilli), chocolate with liquorice cream and chocolate with rum cream and caramel, a frozen cream Kinder chocolate dealio, and some weird drinks. We visited the library in Hillerød, which is a public library that allows access when it isn’t staffed through a keycard system. It’s a wonderful-looking library, with a colourful, fun kids section and animal shaped steps so they can see over the library counter!!! Then we walked all around the lake surrounding Frederiksborg Slot, which was utterly beautiful.

There was a friendly housecat, a bunch of ducks, ducklings, geese, and goslings, and plenty of people out enjoying the sunshine. We stopped at the supermarket on the way home and then joined Henriette for lunch with some delicious Danish rye bread and various toppings. I even tried (and enjoyed) herrings, though I did wash them down the traditional way with ice-cold schnapps. We finished up with flødebolle, a chocolate and marshmellow fluff confection, and then spent a few blissful hours digesting in the sun. A lazy, hygge night followed with past Eurovision highlights, Youtube videos of stupid politicians, lots of laughs and stories, and a delicious Danish meal of frikadeller (meatballs made from pork and veal) and potato salad. We have been so lucky to stay with Palle and Henriette, and will definitely be back to bother them someday!

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Copenhagen!

After a…somewhat typical but not overly devastating experience with RyanAir, we landed in Copenhagen on a balmy Friday night, and the wonderful Julie and her dad, Palle, picked us up! We met Julie and a couple of her Danish mates in Japan in August, and she has been absolutely invaluable in planning our week in Denmark. Her and her family and friends are extending their hospitality and showing us around their country and it’s the most busy but exciting itinerary!

We arrived back at Julie’s parents house in Hillerød (about 30km north of Copenhagen) and met her mother, Henriette, and her cats, Eddie and Svend! We stayed up until the wee hours eating delicious raspberry tart and some Scottish chocolate we had bought, trying different Danish booze, and playing an incredibly stressful and fun Danish board game called Play Prop. And Palle and Henriette gave us our own version of it! Now I can perfect my skills, because I was woeful at it.

This morning we tried a smorgasboard of sweet Danish pastries for breakfast as well as a national delicacy – fresh bread with butter and thin slice of chocolate on it. SOOOOOO GOOD. Denmark has turned on her best weather for us, and Palle drove us the ‘scenic route’ to the station so we could see beautiful Hillerød. I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of this town tomorrow!

While not cheap, the train into Copenhagen was clean and comfortable, and we hopped out first to see the famous Little Mermaid sculpture! I’ve been told so many times not to get my hopes up – that she is a lot smaller than you expect. Well, my hopes must have been efficiently crushed, because she was bigger than I imagined! Bigger, utterly beautiful, and surrounded by people taking photographs.

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We walked along the water and through some beautiful parks, then took the metro to a popular shopping area, where we got delicious hot dogs for lunch. I’m not a hot dog fan, but a sausage wrapped in bacon and covered with ketchup, mustard, onion, and pickles was pretty delicious!13177677_10153455031801269_9050962137130200060_n

Then we headed to the Town Hall square for the trusty Sandemans free walking tour. Because of the brilliant weather, the tour was PACKED, but we did see some beautiful parts of the city including the canals (filled with boats full of shirtless picnickers), the Magasin du Nord (formerly the Hotel du Nord and residence of H C Andersen), Nyhavn (famous 17th century waterfront with its brightly coloured buildings and historical wooden ships), and finished up at Amalienborg (the four individual palaces of the Danish Royal Family, including our very own Princess Mary!). We also learned a very important Danish word – hygge. There is no English equivalent, but it basically means the Danish rituals of enjoying life. Friends and family, good company and good food, cozy times together – its no wonder Danes are thought to be the happiest people in the world.

After the tour, we stopped for the greatest chai latte I’ve ever consumed, and then headed to the Tivoli Gardens, world famous amusement park! This was AMAZING!! Once you get over the cost and enjoy yourself, it is like being a kid again. I am a massive wuss and can’t stand scary rides. Also, what I perceive to be scary is often quite tame to most thrill seekers. Julie and Sean went on the scary rides while I took photos and read my book, but I was proud of myself for going on the worlds oldest rollercoaster (Rutschebanen, twice!), and there were two other rides, the Monsoon and the Fatamorgana, that Julie and Sean took me on insisting they would be fine and I kept my eyes closed and silently freaked out for the whole thing (actually I swore loudly at Sean on the Fatamorgana but he took it well).

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But I also did good old bumper cars (twice!), The Flying Trunk (a HC Andersen fairy tales inspired ride!), Dragon Boats (easily the tamest of the bunch, but so sweet), Nautilus (giant, gently flying octopus tentacles) and The Mine (little boats with oddly pointless lasers). We had wagamama for dinner (just as delicious as every other country’s wagamama, and I discovered my impressive sunburn in the bathroom mirrors), before heading home around 10.30 with some beer and ciders for the train, cos that’s how the Danes roll. An utterly full and wonderful day!