Meeting Gran and Naked Danes

So…middle of a Danish summer. For those of you in Tassie wiping your noses whilst huddled under a blanket sipping hot chocolate I repeat, Danish, summer, hot. I will unashamedly rub this little fact in because later in the year when you are all shedding the beanies to run gleefully into the sea and eating ice cream at the new Devonport Surf club I will be clawing my way up a scary, cold, muscular mountain somewhere in the Annapurna range. I will not be wiping my nose rather, chipping icicles off the end. Anyway so Friday night, way fun.

Jette and I had our first real date, with real Danish people. We decided it was high time to leave our little loved up cocoon and to venture into the city as a couple. The first people we met were Mette and Kenneth. Mette is one of Jette’s best mates, not only did they      lawyer-ize together for some time but their names are freakishly similar (especially after three Mojitos). We went to a Mackeys in town, a spot which not only serves great pizza but whose interior design somewhat resembles a confused pizza. The walls, ceilings and every free surface is crammed with music, sporting and random memorabilia. We were shown to a table presided over by a genuine replica of the very same guitar which was on display in a shop window when Elvis Presley’s cousin once walked past, sat and ordered. Mette and Jette, the two ette’s, immediately launched into a gleeful office news sharing epic leaving Kenneth and I to chat. Kenneth is a great guy, we both like walking around hills and taking photos of them, Kenneth likes American football, I like walking around hills and photographing them. The night flowed on and swept us into a very quiet bar where we worked on filling every spare centimeter of the table with empty, lime smeared Mojito glasses. Jette and I somewhat controlled our thirst as the next day I had another very important meeting, grandma.

Bravely pulling over Jette handed me the keys before getting into the passenger side. We spent the next hour dawdling along the highway being passed by caravans and pushbikes, the whole time my knuckles were white on the wheel and my bum clenched. It is incredibly unnerving to drive on the other side of the road, being a passenger no longer freaks me out, except when Jette removes both hands from the wheel to emphasize a point, but driving is a whole new game. My natural tendency is to forget that there is a whole rest of the car to my right and bump over gutters, scraping the right hand hubcaps and scaring pedestrians. We got there, not without me nearly introducing Jette to a car which had rudely been parked on the right hand side of the road. We left the car shakily and caught up with the family. We have discussed this moment and decided that Peter (Lotte’s boyfriend) and I should leave the girls to visit gran and say a quick hello when we pick them up. This is not to say I was uninterested in gran but we share no common language and Peter wanted to show me where he works, one of the biggest army barracks in Denmark, sorry Gran, you know, guns and tanks!

At the barracks Peter first showed me the mess hall which he manages. I cannot describe my glee that the two tables furthest from the bar had beer taps held up by large mortar shells in the middle. You pay at the bar and the bar man flicks a switch which delivers a set amount of beer to the tap of your choice, like a pre-paid petrol pump. Our next stop was a brief look at, not try of, the obstacle course, officers use this area to tenderize fresh recruits before they run off to blow up foreign lands. Peter then took me to his office where he let me try on his field kit. Despite being in the engineering squad Peter stills has to be able to hold his own in a shooting match. The kit composed of Kevlar shields front and back, a heavy kevlar helmet, radio, camo backpack and a utility belt that would make batman jealous. Standing in the office all kitted up I felt bullet proof, I don’t know if the tough feeling would translate to the field where similarly kitted people throw real bombs at each other, someone could get hurt. I will stick to the more mundane pursuit of walking around hills and photographing them. Speaking of, Peter gave me a ration pack to take to Nepal with me, it felt like christmas. I will have to thank the Danish military for the specialty tea and farmhouse pate when I get to the top. After showing me some tanks with thirty meter long bridges attached to their roofs it was time to meet gran.

Like most of our parent’s parents Gran is a short, wrinkly smiling woman who wanted to feed me and give me mustached kisses. At least that is what I think she was asking, I couldn’t understand a word. I had teased Jette before this visit, saying that I would say all kinds of inappropriate things and force her to think of a civilized translation. I wimped out. Gran checked my teeth and pinched my cheeks before releasing me back into the wild with a slap on the bum and a barely discernible nod. No, really she was lovely, I think, she could have been saying anything about me, I left promising to learn more Danish before my next visit  and we went out for tea.

I forgot to mention, the underlying reason for our little road trip was that Jette’s mum, Jytte was celebrating a birthday. Before I go on I would like to pose the question, why, when they have three extra letters in their alphabet, are all Danish names the same. Jette’s two sisters Gitte and Lotte, best friend Mette and mum Jytte. If I forget someones name all I have to do is mumble “glmj…tte” and they understand me. You can get away with a lot with a dumb Australian grin painted on your face over here. So, we gorged on steak, went for a walk along the waterfront to shake it all down and bid Jette’s family farewell. We hit the road for home but not before topping up on an impressive strawberry sponge cake at Jytte’s place. Did I mention it is summer here? The fresh strawberries are incredible!

I drive all the way home and through with city of Aarhus which, with a similar population to Hobart, is quite a decent sized city. I couldn’t manage to park the car though, that extra piece of car hanging to me right proved too confusing. On Sunday we passed up on legoland being too tired to scrape ourselves off the couch. Monday arrived too soon after our snackey, lazy Sunday. I could not get started. I would poke out a few sentences, proof them, delete them and start again. I spent some time on the Deakin University website panicking about Uni, did nothing useful about it and went climbing.

I originally joined the climbing gym for two reasons, to get fit and in the hope of meeting some like minded people. Despite being in a foul mood after a wasted day I plastered a smile on my face and started climbing. I just started having some fun and could feel my forearms dying a slow death when a group of rock-jocks came in. One of them climbed right towards where I was trying to work out a new move. He didn’t slow, so, not knowing the road rules I jumped off to let him pass. When he was done I said; “Wow, good job there mate” he looked at me like one does a used condom on the footpath and kept walking. The rest of my time there was spent in a very quiet corner avoiding these types and crossing my fingers that one day, maybe, someone will come in who does not have an allergy to people learning around their excellence. Arms totally dead I jumped on the city-girl and pedaled off. Something about riding this bike never fails to erupt a smile on my face, it might be the excellent posture afforded by the bent bell adorned handlebars. Looking to my right I crossed the intersection and heard an angry car horn and screeching brakes. A car passed at speed just behind my rear wheel with antilock brakes shuddering. I smiled the awkward I-just-farted-in -public-smile, waved and rode on. Carefully.

Tuesday started with a coma of strawberries with yoghurt, did I mention it is summer, and simply improved from there. I banged away at the keyboard gleefully filling pages with, I hope, readable chapters. Jette came home and we went directly to the outdoor pool, summer time. Currently I am swimming with Jette twice a week, besides other exercise, in a desperate bid to get fit enough to tackle Manaslu this post monsoon. I normally swim 1-2 kilometers but only managed a few laps this time. I was not tired or unmotivated but distracted. You see the outdoor pool has a diving facility and as I swum back and forth I saw kids bombing and diving from the blocks and having a great time. I could feel myself reverting twenty years or so.

I told Jette I was going to have a jump. She said go for it, I’ll watch, so I pulled my dripping self out of the pool and ran briskly clapping open handed to the blocks. There is something about running on wet tiles which makes a person look like an excited and slightly slow child.

Before climbing the stairs with anticipation I took off my goggles, sat them carefully on the tiles and said a happy Hi to the kids playing in the pool. They stopped talking and looked at me blankly as if I were from Mars.

I stood on the five meter block, waved at Jette and dived, then dived again, and again. That was it for my training I was having way too much fun. Even when Jette finished swimming I squeezed in a couple more dives before walking to the showers, promising myself that next time I go to the pool I will make more of an effort to control my childish impulses, maybe.

I walked in and, as always, was uncomfortable to find yet more casually naked Danish men comparing penis’s and chatting amiably in the change room.

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