Denmark

A Danish Christmas carol

grey A Danish Christmas carol

The last two weeks has vanished in a blur of hearty Danish christmas winter food, cosy reunions and gleeful re-visitings of favourite Danish restaurants. I arrived at the Copenhagen Airport still wearing my Aussie shorts and sandals ‘ensemble’. With barely time to pass immigration and grab my bags I dashed through a blizzard to just catch my train. On the train I received many a sideways look, similar to those reserved for crazy men who stagger around bus stations mumbling to themselves.

grey A Danish Christmas carolYou may wonder why I commuted to Denmark alone. To get the cheapest flights available Jette and I came here separately from Melbourne. Still wearing my shorts I went to leave the train at Vejle (as agreed) but was met by a shivering Jette who pushed me back onboard with a haunted look.

On our extra little ride Jette explained the situation to me, “I got stuck in Bangkok for eight hours, a crying baby kept me awake on the last flight and now dad can’t pick us up due to the blizzard…he hopes to meet us at the next station…why are you still wearing shorts you freak?”

I managed a weird half laugh with tired, bloodshot eyes and told her about my commute and subsequent dash for the train.

“So this is a proper blizzard then?” I asked peering out the window.

“Yup, I just hope dad can meet us at the next stop…” Jette said with an exhausted sigh.
grey A Danish Christmas carol
grey A Danish Christmas carol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day is Christmas Eve. I am almost over my Jetlag and have enjoyed many longs walks in the snow with my camera. Having only ever seen snow on mountains it is a huge novelty to see streets, houses and cars, but especially twinkling Christmas trees, covered in the stuff. It lends a magical Hans Christian Andersen mood to everything.

Unlike Australians, Danes celebrate Christmas the night of the 24th. I have been practicing a few Danish Christmas carols for one very important tradition. Denmark has been inhabited since 12,500 BC. This is plenty long enough to develop many awkward traditions and I am about to embark on the most awkward. One tradition that Jette warned me about two years ago when we had Christmas in Bolivia

Surrounded by my Danish family (and with Jette explaining the menu) I enjoy a hearty Christmas dinner of duck, pork, potatoes (three mouthwatering types) and pickled vegetables. Before the presents can be dispensed someone gets the Christmas tree and carol sheets ready.
It is time.

Mum, dad, sisters, teenage brothers and nephews and I all form a circle around the tree and soon the carols begin. Everyone dances around the tree whilst holding hands and singing merrily. Everyone, that is, except for a chuckling Jette who stands outside the circle photographing the spectacle for posterity. Jette is proud of my efforts. I am sure to sing the versus I know loudly while giving my best shot at the ones that I don’t. Jette is stoked, we have just ticked item number #9 off her bucket-list.

grey A Danish Christmas carolI am not sure what I was expecting of my first Danish Christmas. Surely being so far away from my native Australia, things should have been majorly different, alien somehow. I am relived to report that Christmas in Denmark is very similar to Christmas in Australia…family, friends, too much food and just enjoying special people’s company. The way it should be. However, next year I will nail Rudolph in Dansk…

Bye for now

Bye for now

So last year I spent 176 hours on a plane, that’s almost a full week breathing recycled farts and eating non-specific meat dishes.

Obviously I joined the Qantas frequent flyers program to reap the benefits of such expansive traveling. Recently I discovered that only a few hundred points showed on my statement so I sent and email to Qantas, then another, then called from Denmark (involving twenty minutes on hold to Australia which is not cheap). Anyway seven emails, three extended phone calls, three emails to LAN airlines and another phone call later, Qantas has coughed up 2520 points.  If I am lucky this should be enough for a taxi from Spurs to McDonalds in Devonport, it may even buy me a glass of water, no lemon or ice, when I go to Asia…Shucks thanks guys. I will definitely check the booking class next time I fly with them (nothing to do with business, first, economy etc apparently).

Thank you for your patience, I am now vented. Anyway, what has been happening? Quite a bit of Uni. I have been lazy and used my last few blogs to beta test my two Uni assignments, Arthur and I have finished all the climbing courses available and I have got my jollies playing with the bottle recycling machine at Bilka. Bilka is Denmark’s answer to Kmart.

Australian recycling involves leaving a plastic crate on the street overnight to collect flys and be picked over by possums and stray dogs. In the morning a man swinging ape-like from a fly blown truck grabs the crate, ensuring the whole street gets a good look at his sweaty hairy bum crack, and throws it into the back. The truck then takes the recycling to the municipal tip where it is dumped with all the other rubbish as recycling costs more than it pays. The citizens sleep easy knowing they are doing their bit for the, “Greenhouse, carbon warming” or whatever those mad scientists call it.

However, Danish recycling machines are a wonder of modern scientific creativity. I am surprised that Intrepid tours to Denmark don’t include a visit to use these amazing contraptions. My theme of Denmark being very clean and ordered extends to the recycling machines, they are glistening clean with blinking lights and a soft female robot voice telling you to “Insert bottles now, please” Even the machines here show good manners behind the soft electric hum of progress.

They look like a vending machine with one hole for 1.25L bottles and one for cans. Most drinks sold in Denmark have an extra tax added on the bottle plastic. This tax is redeemed at these awesome machines. You simply feed the bottle in and get you money back, while sticking your nose to the hole to see what happens if you are a curious geek. I inserted the bottle (as I did this I was kind of hoping the sultry voice would say something like “Yeah, give me that bottle baby”) and couldn’t resist a peek.

Peeking through the hole with eager anticipation as Jette casually tried to distance herself I saw three conveyor belts roll the bottle about to read the barcode. The machine took the bottle through to a back room via a small tunnel lit with red lasers, much like a CAT scan machine. You may not believe me but just as the bottle tumbled away out of view I spotted an Oompa-loompa working behind the scenes. He caught the bottle, while singing;

“Oompa-Loompa bottley-doo, I have a Danish refund for you”

He squashed the bottle and put it in a crate to be sent off for recycling. Once we had fed the machine with all our bottles the friendly robot said “One moment please, calculating refund” Then to my immense joy the machine spits out a ticket which we can exchange for either money or a discount at Bilka. I love machines, if this writing gig does not work out I may just join the bottle collectors in town, I will be working in the fresh air AND get to play with these machines. One of the bottle collectors is a smelly looking Chinese woman who wanders Aarhus with her trolley collecting bottles. I figure she has either substituted a gambling addiction with a bottle machine one or she is in love with the Oompa-loompa, which I can appreciate. Bottle-lady shows up at outdoor concerts and sunny parks, she tears bottles away from hapless vacationer’s as they take their last sip and scuttles away to these reverse pokie machine to collect her bounty. This women, amongst others, combined with the population’s general cleanliness leaves Aarhus spotlessly neat and free of detritus.

Anyway enough about bottles. I have only decided yesterday to raise the bar on my Nepal mission. Initially I planned to climb to camp four to watch my mate Mal fly off the summit with his speedflyer then go down. My training has progressed nicely so I have added an extra three bottles of Oxygen to my bag, just in case I feel good enough at camp four to try for a summit. This both excites and scares me more than I can describe. I have no idea how I will perform at such extreme altitudes and cold but having been to 6000 meters a few times I figure it would be a shame to pass the opportunity to at least try.

My training for the climb has involved swimming and indoor climbing. Arthur, my very agreeable climbing partner, and I have just progressed to lead climbing. This is where the rope follows you up and you clip it in as you climb. Before we had the rope already attached to an anchor at the top. The problem with lead climbing, and the fun, is that it is necessary to clip the rope into anchor points along the wall as you progress. This involves stopping at a point where almost two metres of rope is untethered, holding on with one hand and pulling and clipping the rope with the other. Basically we both try to push ourselves and have taken some ripper falls.

Initially I did not trust Arthur to stop me, it is nothing personal, just that he is lighter than me and tends to get airborne when I take a decent fall. This added element of technicality increases both the challenge and fun. Last night however we added a third element of fun to indoor climbing, that is the top belay. One person, say me, leads to the top of a route and clips a separate strap into the anchor. This holds me independent of the rope. I then belay Arthur (pull in rope and catch a fall) up, Arthur then clips in at the top next to me. Space is at a premium and a few times we have found ourselves inadvertently playing footsies or bumping each other around. Once both of us are anchored to the top we untie from the rope, which takes huge amounts of trust in the thin strap, and take turns abseiling down again. We collect the clips from the wall as we descend. It is marvelous stuff. “Just hanging out at the gym” as Arthur once put it. At the time we were dangling from our straps twelve metres off the ground, playing with our knots and shiny clippy things.

Well, sorry to end on a diary-type boring blog but that will be it for my Danish stories until mid-November. If you have made it this far, thanks and I will speak to you from Jakarta.

Ozzy Osbourne concert – Drugs ARE bad


At the Ozzy Osbourne concert He stands in the middle of a hotly lit stage looking confused. Three young ‘rockers’ nearby hold their instruments and watch with anticipation, he simply stares into the crowd rocking on his feet. It seems as though his black knee length boots are the only thing keeping him upright. With mouth slightly open he blinks, two pixellated clones on large flat screens which flank the stage blink shortly after he does. It is obvious that his brain is trying to catch up with his body, he is trying to figure out how he got on this stage and what he is meant to be doing now that he is here.

A large sweaty lady with muddy boots eyes me from in front and starts to back her substantial backside uphill toward my shrinking frame. I am trapped by a group of drunken students behind but fight to avoid this coquettish bump being slowly delivered. Thankfully the large rump stops its searching when its owner hears the figure on  stage yell; “I CAN’T FUCKING HEAR YOU DENMARK” Ozzie Osborne has come to life, unwittingly saving the day when he realises that he is standing on the centre stage at the Skanderborg festival. He is being paid a large sum to visit a forest in Denmark while 60, 000 eager fans both mock and cheer him on. He has to sing. I have to get out of here.

Lotte and Peter, Jette’s sister and brother in law have kindly invited us to spend a day at the Skanderborg festival with them. Jette’s work has kindly allowed her two days off to do just that. The three usually spend a whole five days camping together and watching music in this forest festival just out of town. This year however Jette is saving holidays for our Asia trip and has only allowed one day for festival activities. Lotte and Peter however, are spending the whole five days as per tradition. They are camped just out of the festival arena in a large paddock which after days of solid rain and footsteps is now a mud bath. On top of the mud and due to the rain the whole paddock smells like piss as drunken revellers simply urinate right outside their tents. Can’t say I blame them really, but I don’t want to slip in the mud that is for sure.

Jette and I arrive in the late afternoon and relax in Lotte and Peter’s tent before we brave the weather for a walk in the forest. A forest with 60, 000 people, three stages, countless restaurants hastily set up and toilet and beer stalls filling every spare spot. For the first two hours I follow Lotte and Peter, open mouthed and clutching Jette’s hand for security. The scene is amazing. Tall trees look down patiently on the festival as if waiting patiently to have their serenity returned. The mobile infrastructure set up here is something to behold. Lotte and Peter, fully acclimatised to the spectacle after four days, spend the afternoon showing Jette and I around. “There is the Pubmarine, there is the waterfall”. A one storey high, artificial waterfall has been set up, “oh, there’s the pink trojan unicorn” Of course. We sit on some stairs between the drinks robot and the full size wind turbine planted in the ground. I drink a beer and watch people clamber with rubber boots onto the five meter tall trojan horse. This whole thing flies in the face of my previous forest experience. I once spent four days Tasmanian forest without seeing a single person and now I am in one with jacuzzis set up  where you can unwind and drink champagne. The constant hum of people wafts through trees behind us as we watch the Olsen brothers sing about love. The earthy smell of mud contrasts with the smell of spilt drinks and alcohol on passing jeans.

Once I find my feet, it takes about four hours, Lotte and Peter leave us to explore. Jette and I wander through the forest as a muffled roar comes between the dense leaf cover. Ozzie has hit the stage. We make our way to the main stage and peering over the crowd see a black lego figure bouncing around on the stage like a caffeinated toddler. Ozzie Osborne, famous singer from Black Sabbath, even more famous degenerate father from the reality series “The Osbornes”. One in four people we pass yell out “Sharon” mocking Ozzie’s famous call for help to his wife on the show. By the time we reach the relative calm of the Hippy Bar Jette and I are in stitches. Despite having an amazingly enthusiastic backup band Ozzie manages to kill his long popular hits with a confusing mumbling of lyrics. Between songs he stops to jump up and clap with a clear “I can’t fucking hear you Denmark” Seeing Ozzie enjoying himself so much while I hear the crowd jeering and laughing behind me makes me feel sorry for this fossil of rock. A lifetime of drug abuse has left him a target with a parkinsonian gait. I truly do not think he realises as he grins and murmurs his way through his set. However, I suppose it is a win/win situation. Ozzie gets paid to do what he clearly loves, we get to see a true rock legend, (the title legend is clearly forgiving of bad timing and fried grey matter), the festival organisers have a big name to add to the promotional flyers. I fight my way to the front of the very drunk crowd, of course people are polite to me as I bump my way past. This is where the large lady spots me and causes me to beat a hasty retreat.

A lifetime later I find Jette who reports being stared at by a lone stalker since I left her. Jette thinks he has taken drugs, I just think he must be an excellent judge of character. I am growing tired of the crowds and of watching this walking advertisement against drug use

We meet the others and we decide to wander to the Blues tent. This is an open entry tent where up and coming bands play for free. The atmosphere is more agreeable than the crowded main stage area.

A few more beers sees Jette driving (and me drunkenly rambling) in one very muddy little Fiat Punto. We were going to camp the night but, despite having endured worse tenting weather on other missions, we decide to drive the short hop home to Aarhus.

Jette and I plan to visit this forest in the still of winter, I want to apologise for all the people intruding on her peace and to see the area in its natural state.

Legoland Denmark! The best day of my life

Legoland Denmark, Billund

Prams majestically sail through a boiling mass of humanity. With bright yellow Legoland™ bags stowed on parental masts, squawking toddlers circle these crowd-fairing vessels like seagulls. Massive billboards entice young explorers and overwhelm their developing senses. Made entirely from small, primary coloured blocks, the signs scream out; ‘Atlantis!’, ‘Pirate Splash Battle!‘ and ‘Crabzilla!‘ each exclamation mark promising a more intense sensory high than the last. Smaller signs in Danish and English dot the park with interesting facts; ‘Mount Rushmore contains 1.5 million blocks’, ‘the model German town would have taken a lone lego engineer twelve years to complete.’ They have Lego engineers…no one told me that when I was mulling over career choices as a confused youth.

Many parents believe that Lego stands for Lethally Edged Gouging Object1, or “Ouch” when you stand on a stray block in the night. However, when naming his invention Godtfred Christiansen employed a contraction of the Danish; ‘Leg Godt’, literally meaning ‘Play well’2. ‘Play well’ also serves as the company’s motto3. The Lego group were later to discover that the word Lego appears in Latin, fortunately translating to ‘I put together’4 and not sibling warfare. Christiansen first arrived at the idea of Legoland when small Lego displays in his showroom drew more attention than his factory tours. This led to the building of the original Legoland Denmark in Billund, Denmark in the 1960’s5. Since 2005 Legoland theme parks worldwide have been operated by majority shareholder Merlin Entertainment6.

grey Legoland Denmark! The best day of my lifeLegolands in Germany, the UK, Holland and Denmark each entertain over 1.4 million guests a year7. Plans are underway for new parks in Florida and Malaysia8. The original 1950’s design is used in production of standard blocks, a block from 1958 will connect to one bought yesterday9. This toy box staple has not lost its appeal to either children or parents, on average every person on earth owns fifty-nine Lego blocks.

Ice cream melts onto my wrist as I look around this pixellated world. A small gorilla sits quietly above a green ‘Safari World!’ sign. He peers at me thoughtfully through square eyes, exuding plastic contentment from his perch out of reach of sticky fingers. Small, uniformly grey badgers peer from under bushes at feet scuttling by. A Lego block roller coaster leaves a lingering scent of rail grease as it whooshes screaming passengers by. Feeling as though I have stepped into a 1980s cartoon I check my hands, they have not changed, still flesh, non-pixellated.

A group of denim clad university students walk past drinking beer and discussing their employment options. Drinking a bit too quickly and laughing a bit too loudly they seem to clutch at fading childhoods. Chased by looming responsibility they melt into the crowd, leading their respective alcohol buzzes to the next ride. A lone father leaves a pram moored to the care of his partner and frantically searches the prepubescent crowd for a wayward explorer. A background hum of adrenalised young voices is ever present, an untuned radio of feverish excitement. Tinny salsa music from an animatronic band wafts past a young costumed worker. The pirate, covered in pimples and foam, stands awkwardly, sweltering in the heat, desperately hoping to avoid detection by holidaying peers.

Walking to the canoe ride I am constantly checking my sneaker tread for chewing gum and small children. My girlfriend Jette, a Danish veteran of Legoland, wants to face her fear of fun park rides. We wait in a serpentine line which winds around play stops. Children break formation to toil at these lego stations without thought of parents, who hold line position in draining heat. I can practically hear young synapses connecting as I watch these civil engineers stacking their blocks higher, experimenting with novel designs. The children work together in a private world without regard for colour. Multicoloured towers reach for the sky as bricks are passed between little White, Black and Hispanic hands. I imagine Christiansen smiling and watching these children ‘playing well’ I can only hope that the adults who emerge from this innocent cocoon do not lose their admirable colourblindness.

Seven years as a pharmacist has me viewing children as carriers of illness, I try, but fail to avoid small dirty hands as we queue. I don’t want to catch anything from them. A shy child behind me patiently waits and watches her peers play, getting confused she grasps my hand. Looking up she sees a smiling bearded stranger instead of her babysitter, instantly her contented smile melts as hand and eyes dart to find safety. The mood is contagious as our line slithers toward the small gurgling river. Contracting the children’s excitement I barely resist using toddlers in front as stepping stones, to dash through this queue so I can experience this ride now. Happy babbling slowly morphs into silent nerves as the waiting ends.

Wet bench seats soak through our shorts as we clunk to a start. Behind me Jette is becoming increasingly anxious, I can sense her aura of nerves as a conveyor jerks our canoe skyward. Clunking off the conveyor our intrepid expedition begins by floating serenely through a plastic savannah. We see wolves frozen halfway through their plastic meal and small prairie dogs on poles, they poke square heads up inquisitively as our canoe drifts silently by. They seem almost curious to see who has invaded their perfect, unchanging Eden.

grey Legoland Denmark! The best day of my lifeWe enter a tunnel adorned with prehistoric Lego cave paintings. Jette does not appreciate the pixellated art as I do. Her stiff attention is focussed on the muffled booming of a waterfall, reverberating from nearby downstream. The rumbling spells impeding doom for our expedition.

Blinking in the sunlight we turn a corner and unexpectedly bump to a stop at the back of another canoe, a giggling Korean expedition to these mystic lands. Their canoe is abruptly snatched by a conveyor and rattles upwards, before snapping out of frame with a discordant scream. The conveyor grasps at our canoe as I swivel on my soggy tail to film Jette’s face.

The conveyor stops abruptly and a voice booms, seemingly from the clouds, making me jump. “Is this ancient landscape an old Indian burial ground?” I wonder. The omnipotent voice from above directs me; “In the blue shirt, please face forward…” I oblige sheepishly and we begin our climb. For a split second we falter on the crux, Jette’s silent anticipation is replaced by an ear splitting scream as we plummet. Her scream is cut short when our vessel carves a wave out of the pool at the bottom and the ride finishes without ceremony. Wet legs climb out of the canoe, a stern gaze follows my progress; “Hey, there goes that punk who risked everything by sitting backwards”.

Continuing the plastic-world theme, we drown plastic hamburgers with generous squirts of ketchup in a futile effort to reanimate our long dead theme park staple. I give up and simply sip my sweating coke, contemplatively watching nearby tables.

A disabled girl in a wheelchair being lovingly fed by a gentle sibling, an elderly couple sharing a midday beer, twins fighting over a Jedi knight. I watch a large ‘mother hen’ gathering her perfectly presented brood away from a lonely child with grubby dark skin. Under her watchful eye they can no longer share their gift shop bounty. It is sad to see this Mecca of childhood innocence tainted so.

Giving up on rehydrating our ‘food’ we follow the Statue of Liberty’s beckoning wave. 1.4 million Lego blocks form this nine meter high centrepiece10. The island which she so solemnly guards is also home to a small White House peacefully coexisting with famous Arabic and Asian buildings. I wonder if the significance of their placement is accidental. We walk amongst 2.5 million lego blocks carefully arranged to form a perfect German town11, complete with working aqueduct, tiny busses driving and ships sailing. Combined, these busses travel an annual distance of three times around the equator on their plastic wheels, the ships sail from Copenhagen to Australia12. I wonder if their labour is fruitless.

We wander to the stuffy LegotopTM and silently ascend a bright, thirty-six meter tower.

The mood is that of a pilgrimage ending. I look down over 59 million Lego blocks13 comprising this joyous land and remember my first flight into Denmark. I also peered through a small window over a vast, model-perfect world. I too saw a new world full of possibility and excitement, brimming with the same twitchy excitement that has overcome the small pilgrim beside me.

Maybe the heat is affecting me but I start to wonder if all those years ago, Christiansen simply wanted to display the capabilities of his invention or, if maybe, he wanted to build a world where adults can learn from children. A world where little hands can pass building blocks without seeing imposed boundaries. Maybe the efforts of the sailing ships are not wasted, they give life to Christiansen’s world where children learn to play well.

Motivational Training

Aarhus is a lovely seaside city, strikingly similar to Hobart in size and mentality, perfect for my motivational training. It is a University town full of trendy cafes and bars where students haggle passionately over the bill and PHD student walk about thinking complicated thoughts behind their thick glasses. Aarhus is big enough to have late opening hours but not so big that people don’t randomly smile back at the strange bearded man talking to his iPod (Danish lessons). Our apartment is on the top floor, this means that we enjoy great views into a whole street full of lower apartment windows. It is a rare morning when I don’t catch the man with the beer belly having a cigarette on his balcony and scratching his ass through tight boxer shorts. This view is not free though, we pay, with seagulls. Every morning when they finishing annoying the fishermen they fly three blocks over from the harbour, land near our bedroom window and ensure we are awake. They sit there at 5:30am, gleefully squawking away, no doubt loudly bragging to eat other about the fish heads they just stole or the black Audi they crapped on.

Every-bloody-F#@N-morning at 5:30am he is back… “Squawk-bloody-squawk” Jette warned me about this bastard.

After luring me to Denmark with promises of Legoland and Prawns on toast for breakfast Jette came clean about the seagulls. She recounted a story from last summer when a particularly vocal gull would repeatedly visit early in the morning and squawk at her through the window. Even the early bird, not yet fully awake and chasing worms, was unimpressed. Mr Gull quickly claimed pole position among Jette’s list of nemeses (The American chap who sends Purchase Agreements for toilet paper and pens to check holds a close second). Totally frustrated Jette told me she would throw open the window and yell at Mr Gull, asking him to kindly leave, or similar, only for the smug bastard to stare uncaring at her and pretend not to understand with his evil, beady eyes.

He would squark as if to say, “What are you going to do about it?”, safe in the knowledge that Jette can’t fly over to the ledge and bash him. The other week I came up with an ingenious plan to fix this issue. We originally were shopping clothes for our upcoming Asia trip when we walked past a toy shop, looking into the window a light globe went on above my head. Thinking about the 90 in 100 Americans who sleep with a gun under their bed I went in and bought the biggest, most badass water pistol I could find, unfortunately they did not have real guns or slingshots. Back at home Mr Gull must have spotted my pump action ‘Super-squirt 2000’ When I hear him in the wee hours I spring out of bed, invariably stubbing my toe, grab my rifle and fling open the window yelling “Say hello to my little friend”

Before I finish my groggy war cry he is gone, only a lone white feather fluttering down betrays a hasty departure. The slippery bugger, ‘I will get you one day” I think, feeling like the Coyote watching the roadrunner’s dust settle. I’m normally something of a tree hugger but am toying with the idea of filling the gun with lemon juice or dog piss in the off-chance I can get him in the eye with a clear shot.

grey Motivational TrainingThe other thing about our location which makes slumber difficult are the churches. Now on principle I don’t have anything against Christians but I don’t see the need for the each of the three churches surrounding us to toll the hour right through the night. Midnight is a personal favorite. The church next door thankfully just gives a single hearty “dong” on the hour. The church four blocks away however chimes twelve times then stills for half a minute. I lie in bed half awake, knowing what follows. The insomniac bell ringer then goes on to display his bell ringing skills by playing a song. Last Saturday night he ambitiously attempted “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen but, thankfully, tangled the ropes on the second chorus and stopped mid; “Bismillah! We will not let…”

Nocturnal frustrations aside things are ticking alone nicely here in sunny Denmark. I am continuing to swim vast distances at the local pool to get myself in Nepal shape for an upcoming climb. The other day my lane was blocked by a particularly large woman doing the breast stroke. I was head down doing freestyle when I felt distinctive turbulence indicating someone ahead. I looked up ahead under the water and saw what bore a striking resemblance to underwater footage of a polar bear swimming, it was amazingly hypnotic, like watching a bubble of lava lamp wax doing laps. Anyway, the result was that I had a few slow laps to think about the mountain. I realized that, despite doing much physical training, I had done almost no mental training. This, I figured, is best remedied by going all to out scare myself.

First stop was the diving platform. I can dive off the 5 meter ledge no worries and had been thinking about trying the seven. Jette came with me to either laugh or cheer me on, the jury is still out. As I left to climb the stairs Jette told me that failure to dive off the seven would result in a whole weekend of merciless teasing, and this from the girl who is scared of roller coasters. This saw me standing on the edge of the seven meter ledge, looking down and realizing that a whole swimming class were outside doing theory while watching me, there was no backing out. Now seven is only two more than five but the difference felt huge, ripples on the pool surface seemed so much further away. I blew out my considerable nerves, bent at the waist and did a kind of My Bean tumble from my perch.

Somehow as I plummeted I managed to get my arms out in front of my face such that when I hit the water only my forehead was unprotected. I smacked into the water with a reverberating crack, all my wrist bands which have survived over twelve months of abuse were stripped from my body. I eventually found the surface, shorts blessedly intact, with a big grin, a bright red forehead and liters of chlorinated water filling my sinuses. The class were looking on with interest as the crack of flesh hitting water faded. “That wasn’t so bad, I might try the ten” I thought. When I climbed the ladder out of the pool, my legs nearly buckled under me and water flooded from my nose, so I added; “Next week”

I was going to ramble on about my lead climbing lesson at the gym last night. Lead climbing is where the rope is below you, as you climb you click the rope into anchor points on the route. However, I had better get back to my studies. I only have one and a half more weeks to finish my Uni work, as I will be on the move again. The other thing which has kept me busy is product testing. Since visiting Legoland last Saturday and buying a lifetime supply of Lego for my Niece and Nephew I have taken it upon myself to check my purchases for quality and the ‘fun factor’ This is seriously cutting into my study time, but I think my solemn duty as an Uncle.

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This business partnership has expired.” Ben has no idea what adventures are in store when he sets out to discover what lies over that next mountain.

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