Valentine’s Day • Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is the last new moon before Spring — did you know that? I didn’t. So since I am writing a haiku a day this February, here is one to celebrate The Year of the Pig. And there’a a porky story for you at the end too 🙂

travelers head home
this last new moon of winter
a feast of trotters

I don’t need flowers for Valentines. The best flowers are not picked or cut but enjoyed and left to thrive. And in The Conservatory at Wallington Hall there are beautiful blooms all year round! Even on a dull February day, it shines with colour and form. And of course there are snowdrops too — be it teensy little ones and 9ft tall basket ones. Already some crocuses and daffodils are pushing through. It might be cold but it’s bright. Take a walk somewhere you love, with someone you love.

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This is why I love February.
And we are now in the Year of the Pig — so I give you a story and wish you L O V E and a great Year of the Pig!

The Old Pig

Nobody truly recalls what the village pub was called before it became The Old Pig. Some say it was the Wheat Sheaf, some The Bargeman’s Rest and others The Horse and Dog which in itself shows the diversity of the Suffolk countryside.

A tiny piglet wandered in one night and the locals put it in a log basket by the fire and fed it buns in milk, and cider and although enquiries were made, none of the pig farmers around reckoned to have lost a piglet and since none kept Old Spots, his origins really were a mystery. Obvious he was an old spot with his lovely long, white ears and snout and he had just one great, perfect, black spot on his hind quarters, yet strangely nobody called him Spot or gave him a name of any kind. He was just The Pig. And what a handsome pig he was!

He was easily pub trained and the locals dribbled beer or cider into his dish, left part of their ploughman’s lunch or whatever fare was going, in his plate, and gradually started saying they were going ‘down The Pig’. He got to know the regulars and greeted them when they arrived. There was nothing he liked more than a tummy rub and chat and he got plenty of both. A lot of folk took their troubles to him and he listened attentively as they stroked his ears and they always felt better for it.
‘That ol’ pig could near as damn talk’ locals said.
The vicar observed that it was probably a good thing he couldn’t! But he reckoned the pig was doing half his job for him.

Visitors were much amused when greeted with a friendly grunt and a nuzzle though if he took a dislike to some stranger they were very likely to be shown the door. Of the three pubs in the village, The Pig soon began to be most popular.
When the pig got sick the vet treated him for free. Couldn’t have the pig being ill! And it wasn’t as if anybody owned him!

Every winter local knitters made him a colourful Christmas jumper which he’d wear to the service on Christmas Eve. In spring every farm within a radius of five miles had an Old Spot or ten. In Summer he took first prize at the county show and in Autumn he got the run of the orchards because he was so very fond of windfalls and everybody was fond of him.

A decade on, an artist was commissioned to paint him and the portrait was hung above the bar. There was a huge party. No pig ever had a better life. And it is fair to say too, that no pig ever had a longer life either. He lived just over 24 years, as near as anyone could judge it, and never uttered the secrets he’d been privy to. But weighing in at over 600 lbs, there was only one appropriate send-off – a hog roast! The entire village came, cider was drunk, baps were sliced. They toasted the old pig even as they ate him and never a tastier pig was known and the vicar assured them his squeak had gone straight to Heaven. A new sign was hung over the door and from that time on the pub was officially called ‘The Old Pig’ though it’s other name had long been forsaken. Some say it was The Keys, others The Bittern’s Boom – I dare say it doesn’t really matter.

By Oonah

Welcome February • I Love you

A recipe for February

Take the last dull dregs of January,
sprinkle with frost and a lengthening day.
Heat with the gentle flame of Candlemas.
Leaven with bulbs that grow amongst the grass.
Add rice and crackers for Chinese New Year,
rose petals for the one that you hold dear.
Sparkle with champagne, add a chocolate kiss.
St Valentine will surely do the rest.
Place in a bowl the citrus of the Med.
Look out for the first daffodil’s bright head,
the purple crocus, yellow aconite
and add them to your mix of hope and light.
Savour it’s brevity. Take it as a cure.
In Twenty eight days Febru’ry will mature.

It’s a long climb out of Winter still but I love February for it’s brevity and it’s hope, it’s little celebrations of light, love and life and we’re still eating Turkish Delight here — nothing wrong with that. It’s dusted with icing sugar and the ground is dusted with snow. There are a few wee February treats to be had. Happy Candlemas/Groundhog Day, Happy Chinese New Year (of the Pig this time so maybe sweet n sour pork), Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Andalusia Day (28th)

Thirty Years ago 1989, I broke my wrist badly. I had just started a new job in January and now was off work until May (not impressive). A kind stranger helped me on that day. He took me to hospital, took my car keys to my husband and gave my husband a lift to the car and I don’t know his name. I needed surgery and constant pain killers and lots of physio, and my right wrist is not very mobile to this day.
In June of that year a close friend, Betty Caddy, died during what should have been a routine procedure.
In September my father-in-law died.
In November we moved house. We didn’t stay long in that house — 18 months later we moved 400 miles. 1989 was the precursor to big changes.

Things are settled now. I like settled! Looking back it seems like someone else’s life. I am happier now than I have ever been — thankful for all the little things these days, warm bed, good food, love, friendships. I know I don’t always seem happy but that’s just me…and thankfully people who know me just put up with that and my gallows humour. I love where I am and what I do at The Linnet’s Wings. And if I forget to tell you I appreciate your love and support, I do! Thank you.

Speaking of which, I have chosen two lovely groups of poems for the Linnet’s Wing’s next issue which Marie is now working on. There’s a set of Irish themed poems for St Patrick’s Day and poems about landscapes, places that are somehow ‘other’ in the mind, in the imagination, in the real world (but perhaps only in that instant) in the past or maybe just in the part of you that hurts. We all know these landscapes but sometimes only a poem can take us there.

I am still looking for Moon Poems and Marie is still looking for Moon photos and art. Submission time is however running…

Maybe this tree is an ant highway or a squirrel sky tether — who knows? Trees are wonderful worlds — even the skeletal trees of February.

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A Winter Walk at Bolam

I was very honoured when my piece Song of Everything was given a Moon Award by Beate Siddrigdaughter this January, not least because Woods are my favourite places to walk. They give shelter from Summer heat and provide soft pathways in Winter’s mossy coat. I spring they are alive with flowers and ferns and shoots, in Autumn die most gracefully and show us how it’s done. It feels to me as if nowhere else is on surrounded by such ancient lives, not on a beach or in a garden. There is depth and height to woods, and time’s dark secrets in the oldest and newest lives and always an untamed side. Woods are like walking the fairy tale. Where will this path lead and who is whispering? They are familiar and strange. They creak and communicate in branch and root, underground. And even when trees die the engender new life. They are purposed into the ground, into the air, they feed and nurture other growing things.

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I love woods
every tree and every fern,
every gully, every turn,
each and every shadowed bark,
ripples of light, stripes of dark,
mosses, lichens, branch and root,
leaves above and underfoot,
bird-song flitting though the air
scents of firs are everywhere
and most of all it does me good
to spend a few hours in a wood
watching trees do what trees do best
live quiet lives — and so to rest.

Maybe January hasn’t been such a bad old stick, after all.

I have such a lot of work in Writing in a Woman’s Voice now that I have made a PAGE LINK for it so just go to that page and follow the link and it’ll take you to all my work in that magazine.

2019 • Epiphany to Candle-mass

I confess, I didn’t ‘celebrate the coming of 2019. I watched an old Jack Lemmon/ Shirley Maclaine film, The Appartment, drank too much red wine, and went to bed on the stroke of midnight before I could turn into a great big pumpkin! I had my reasons — sad reasons I will not go into here, reasonable reasons to do with the general lack of hope I see all around me and a general dislike of New Year which has come about, I know not how or when, over time. Time can be a great healer but it calcifies too. And I had just written:
At the Year’s Turning (31 Dec 2018)

Sour on the stomach.
Bitter on the tongue.
This year took a dark
turn, as if the Sun

would never come back,
it’s retrograde somehow undone
by a simple lack
of political will – a wanton

lassitude, a slack
uncaring attitude, a foregone
conclusion. Another crack
at the poor from one

who doesn’t have to check
the price of the champagne
I suspect
he’ll open in celebration.

I look back.
No choice but to go on
into the unknown black
chasm of the brave new Brexit dawn.

We have yet to eat the pork I bought for Christmas… It’s still in the freezer. Epiphany will therefore be a special meal and I think I will enjoy it all the more for that. We have always celebrated Epiphany in any case. I might well make it my alternate Christmas and the more meaningful feast. I dislike January. (I might have mentioned this before.) It would be good to bypass all the razzmatazz and look forward to a civilised feast — and we are retired, We can do what we want!!!  The evenings are already drawing out — noticeably! That is cause for celebration. And when things get back to normal maybe our walks will too. I hate this week of Sundays feeling! And I look forward to lesser celebrations — things like Burns Night and especially to February with Candle-mass and Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day, to snowdrops and the promise of Spring.

Now I am reading the poetry of Welsh poet, Vernon Watkins (a Christmas present from my husband). Immensely enjoyable and worthy of your attention. I have poems to pick for The Linnet’s Wings Spring Issue and that’s always a pleasure. I am delighted with how our Canzonet turned out. You will be too!

BUY HERE.

No exact resolutions not to court failure, but I am going to try to concentrate on the light, poetry and positive things in my life and cut out some of the negative influences and people that are frankly depressing me! So do me a favour, if you really don’t give a fig about me or my poetry, or don’t even like me — Unfriend me and save us both the bother!

Let’s just see how it goes for the next 5 weeks. And let’s hope this year doesn’t live up to my grim expectations.

Christmas 2018 • Robins and Ravens, Ghosts and Gifts

First of all The Linnet’s Wings Canzonet is now available to read HERE and I do hope you will enjoy all the brilliant Christmassy stuff inside. Just click the link and read FREE online. Of course it will also be available as a gorgeous paperback.

I am in The Narrow Road too with what has to be one of my favourite stories, Closer to the Truth. https://www.scribd.com/document/396002803/Narrow-Road-Vol-6-Dec-18 (Downloadable)

And on Christmas Day I am privileged to have a story in Writing in a Woman’s Voice which Beattie Siddrigdaughter asked for specially 🙂 Do go along and read it.

I am not sure whether it’s 2018 in this country or 1820! The Tory government is dismantling everything we think of as our modern welfare society and creating a Brexit crisis in confidence and people are dying on our streets — and still they expect people to go all-out in spending for Christmas. I haven’t! I know lots of people haven’t and yet by this action we drive the high street farther into dust.

And yes charity/giving is part of the real meaning of Christmas but charity is also a tyranny of the wealthy over the poor when it becomes something that is relied on totally and can be withdrawn at a whim or used as a threat and make no mistake — this is our government’s game! Fear is their chief tool!

At Christmas we remember people and Christmasses past. Those little rainbow coloured cocktail cigarettes with gold and silver tips fascinated me as a child. My sister used to buy them. But we all know how bad smoking is! And now they blame the people who smoked… a habit which brought in so much revenue in the past… for their illnesses. Never does blame lie with the governments of the past or the advertising agencies or the companies that made all that money! They pile sugar into food and blame parents for child obesity and tooth decay. Little changes.

But as I write this we return to the light. It is the Solstice. I am glad for that. I suffer from midwinter depression S.A.D. and I really think this year all the “News” has compounded that. So I have decided I will remember good people this Christmas and the intangible gifts of love and warmth and laughter they gave me, and pass a bit of that on. You can’t wrap it up. You can’t taste it. It has no calories and it lasts forever!

Ghosts of Christmas

In the present, I listen in vain for the magic
of Santa’s sleigh swishing it’s way through the snow.
The past seems long gone and the present so tragic.
This wasn’t my Christmas dream of long ago.

Here in the future the laughter rings falser
than I ever heard it when I was a girl.
I remember the smell of hot lights and cold glitter,
and pastel cocktail cigarette-smoke swirls.

Yet there in the past are the gifts you all gave me.
Prayers and carols replay in my brain;
all part of the person that all of you made me
in shades that revisit again and again.

Oonah V Joslin

H a p p y  C h r i s t m a s

November • Writing with a woman’s voice and a subtle palette

It’s an interesting thing — where a poem comes from. It’s a thing only the writer knows. And sometimes the poems that attract the most attention have unexpected beginnings because you can write about just about anything! One of my poems this week in Writing in a Woman’s Voice, is called

October’s End.

That is when It was written — more or less. I was deep in the final stages of the Autumn issue of The Linnet’s Wings: The Sorrow, steeped as it were in death. Our usual walks are getting a bit dead this time of year, which I always find sad but I was looking forward to our break in Copenhagen and to Hallowe’en. I was at my local writing group which is sometimes just tea and a chat and sometimes — writing. Anyway we had a list of words to work with that day: dark house, silver, sunflowers, plums, xylophone, the latter being a bit of a joke in the group because you can’t really put xylophone sensibly into anything! I don’t think anyone else actually wrote it down!

Anyhow this is what happened next:

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As you can see, in the first draft I just worked my way through the words and xylophone became ‘wood notes’. Draft 2 is on pg 3 and draft 3 on pg 2. You can see how I picked out my first line with that encircled 1.

Interesting that my book has Hallowe’en colours. I wonder whether anyone has done a study on how the choice of stationery affects writing?

The final draft was done on the computer later on. This is where I mostly final-draft because you can cut and paste and generally mess about with line lengths and breaks. So this turned into 3 line stanzas really because it had taken on a Hallowe’en feel and 3 is a magic number. It is sometimes useful to experiment with structures. Also it gives a more considered pace to the poem, gives the reader time to pause and hear and see the poem gradually turn from those low, mellow brown notes, to sunset, through purple, to dark; and then the chill (a much softer word than cold — cold is way too stark) and silver of frost, the dead, the silhouettes and silence. It’s a quiet poem that gets quieter and colder — like Autumn to Winter, insidious changes hardly noticed but cumulative. It is a soft poem that speaks of the harsh reality and inevitability of death.

This house, long dead is punctuated for a pause. There are only 2 out of 15  lines in the poem punctuated in the middle, and they are punctuated to pivot on the weight of their sadness. The words in the list have taken on metaphorical meaning.
The house has become not just dark but ‘long dead’ in true Hallow’s Eve style and it has worked its way to the end of the poem so that it can represent, as it does in dreaming, the corporeal.
The plums which are indeed ‘soft and sweet’ have become the tender bruises of a dying summer echoed in the sadness of all those ‘S’s.

October’s End

wood notes
scaling down toward sleep
lengthen in sunset mist

it’s time for plums,
the soft, sweet bruises
of summer

across the lawn neglected
sunflower heads droop
and blacken

and silver birch leaves
overturned curl up
against the chill

this house, long-dead
celebrates past silhouettes
in silence

I think if you didn’t know the title of this poem, you would still get the season right, don’t you? I have some more pieces coming up in Writing in a Woman’s Voice which you can follow online or on FB — one I think on Christmas Eve. Thanks to Beate Siddrigdaughter for publishing this and other of my work.

Copenhagen • Final Tips and thoughts

Copenhagen Card is expensive — make sure you’re going to use it.

It gets you around free on buses, which are frequent. A map of the buses shows that they operate in zones and that looks easy enough to use but I would say unless you are staying for more than 4 days and self catering, you are much more likely to use the Tourist bus. C Card only gets you discount on that so you can end up paying for both…. We did use the bus once however and it swiftly got us back to where we wanted to be. The trouble is knowing where to get off! C Card also gives you train transport and we did use that to get from the airport to the city centre. But then we got a taxi from the central station (because we didn’t have a clue where we were going and it was dark) which set us back £10 extra. A taxi to the airport is the easiest solution and that was a 15 min trip costing £35 and saves a lot of hassle!

Copenhagen Card also gets you into all tourist attractions. It’s worth it if you are intending to visit lots of palaces, museums etc It got us into Tivoli Gdns, Planetarium + film, 1 bus, 1 train, discount on Greyline Mermaid Tour ( NB: there are 2 hop-on/hop-off buses – a 48 and a 72 hr and they don’t let you on the other one!) Did we get our money’s-worth? Don’t think so.

Bikes

Copenhagen is full of cycle paths (I said CYCLE PATHS!). If you are a confident city cyclist, you can download an app that lets you unlock,  hop on and off them. I never learned to ride but I would have felt nervous among this throng of cyclists. Noel said he wouldn’t have fancied it either.

Walking

It’s a very safe city! We saw people strolling and jogging through the park by the Planetarium after dark, alone. Once you get to know where you are you can take shortcuts because Vesterbrogade and Hans Christian Anderson Blvd form a wedge shape and Farinmagsgade where we were was at the top end of that wedge — but on the map it looked very different. I would advise you to draw that wedge shape on your map because once that’s in your mind, it’s a lot easier. The Planetarium and Restaurant Casseopeia 🙂 was one side, and H Table the other. 😉 I wear flat shoes anyway but I would not advise heels! I would have liked a stroll along Strogen (to see the shops) but we didn’t have time!

Eating

Lots of places serve Segafredo coffee around. Nuff said 🙂

Pubs at Nyhavn are great and some of them have a common price for everything on their lunch menu.

Stay off Vesterbrogade if you can for eating. Find some tucked away places or grab a sandwich from Nettos for lunch.

Best dinner finds:

H Table great Chinese food at reasonable cost and lovely welcome.

Casseopeia is a cordon Bleu experience in beautiful surroundings with good service at a good price for Copenhagen! Do it!

advisable to book on their websites if you are going at peak times especially.

The Danes love to provide heated outdoor spaces for eating and drinking, so never mind the time of year! Oct-November is quiet, it’s mild there, trees still in leaf. I would be inclined to go in Sept/Oct but we had a birthday date.

Self catering is a much cheaper option for Copenhagen, I mean you could still eat out once or twice and get the best of both worlds.

Would we go back? Probably couldn’t afford it — but maybe if we could find a suitable self catering place and a more direct route than Heathrow.

I hope you found my little guide useful.

Bye-bye Copenhagen and thanks for the memories.

 

 

 

 

Copenhagen • Never too old for this • Out of this world

By the last day. were already packed. I can be very organised in these matters. And I shan’t dwell on the horrendous queues and delays getting home, or the fact that our luggage didn’t get home at the same time as we did. All’s well that ends well. Let me just tell you about our final, wonderful day in Copenhagen, instead.

Because we weren’t here for long, I had a to make a choice between two childish pursuits: Planetarium or Aquarium? I know some people would do one in the morning and one in the afternoon (and both are open til 7pm-ish) but not us. When I go into a place I have to take my time and see everything. The Planetarium won.

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It is possibly the best looking building in the city centre. It’s like a big cake or a mad hat or a huge telescope or — a planetarium.  It is lit up at night red/pink/purple,blue/ green/yellow. I love anything that changes colour! Inside it’s full of space and stairs gantries such as astronauts might use but there is also a lift to IMax cinema level. There was a party of schoolchildren there in the morning. They were all on their phones and stocking up with sweets. I was so glad not to be the teacher wondering which of them would be sick on the bus…

You get in free with Copenhagen Card and a free film show too. These are £20 entry each. We went to 2 — one about the universe in general and one about Earth’s geological past. I learned quite a bit from that one — including that geologists are all mad people who abseil waterfalls for fun! Both films were interesting and it was good to feel immersed in space for an hour. or two We couldn’t get our earphones plugged in for the first one (the socket being under the armrest and difficult to access after the lights were out) but we worked it out for the second and to be honest it was interesting to listen to Danish commentary in such predictable circumstances and I made some progress, though I have to confess I made less of Danish than I do of most languages.

The planetarium display is mostly about how stars are created, what they are made of, what we are made of, how it all formed. You stand in front of a screen. There’s a loud explosion. Your infrared outline appears. Hydrogen, oxygen, all the elements are added to you in bursts of light. I had my stick with me. I was flailing it about like a demented Gandalf so, on the image atoms scattered about. It was FUN! There is also an homage to one of the founding fathers of Astronomy, Tycho Brahe after whom the place is named. And there are various other interactive displays for children my age, about space flight. (Luckily there was a lull in the day when all the children had to be back in school — except me.) My favourite game (see photo below) was walking on this big soft gel-type pad, making stars and binary systems appear wherever my feet fell 🙂 The displays around the walls were huge, interactive and informative too — all about supernovae and gravitation, black holes and dark matter. “Fascinating, Captain.” 

I’ve done quite a lot of poetry about space in the past. Here are some space treats for you:

Link
           Link

The restaurant next to the Planetarium (which also has a lift from street level) is called Casseopeia, We went there for lunch and ended up booking for dinner! The reason you will see:

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For lunch I chose the tomato soup. It came with the most delicious homemade bread and was garnished with dill froth, seeds and black oil. It was superb! Noel had some cheese which came with delicate crispy black crackers. The passion fruit cheesecake we had for dessert was just scrumptious! Even the coffee was to die for.

Our Spanish waitress was very friendly and helpful. She thought it was a cold day but we explained that coming from windy Northumberland, we found it quite mild. Turns out the chef is Icelandic and has a sister called Una. We asked to see the dinner menu.

Now this place comes at a reasonable price (compared to The Guru or Il Grappo Blu) I had the grilled chicken with sweet potato puree and the teensiest mushrooms you’ve ever seen, plated so they reflect the structure of the building itself (like little rivets), and when you get tournedos of that quality cooked to perfection, finished with grated truffle, and when you’re eating baby potatoes roasted to burst in the mouth… Add to that a good Cotes du Rhone. Now follow it with icecreams that had thorny crown seaweed, a dark chocolate mousse with coffee icecream, chocolate soil and berries with I think maybe a blackcurrant liqueur, and you sort of get the picture! The waiter told us exactly what was on there when he brought the food. It was like being a guest on Masterchef, except everything was perfection. There were no ‘mistakes’ here! I was in hog heaven!! We finished with a port and a brandy. It would have been churlish not to.

I am not going to tell you the price. You can follow the link to the website, think what you’d like and extrapolate how much your choice would cost you but anyway we thought by this stage that we might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, cost-wise and were pleasantly surprised. In truth this utterly wonderful meal was worth every Danish krone and I will never ever forget that dessert!! Because of the time of year there were few diners — 4 to be precise. We like quiet dining so that didn’t bother us. The ambiance was provided by a soundtrack of easy listening classics. We watched joggers and dog-walkers and people strolling along the already dark lakeside as nonchalantly as it were midday and the Planetarium did its chameleon act, colouring the waters of the lake.
I would say if you wanted to go there any other time of year, book early! because

believe me — you DO want to go to Cassiopeia — it’s out of this world.

What a good place to end.

 

Copenhagen • We’re getting too old for this • Chapt 3

We got straight on the red tourist bus the next day, on a gloriously sunny, mild morning and headed for our chosen district Nyhavn. We were a bit disappointed that the street market we’d seen on the previous day was not there but all we’d really decided on was a wander along the cobbled quaysides and a leisurely lunch. Every building is a restaurant or cafe. They all looked welcoming.

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McJoys roastbeef sandwich, curly fries, beers and coffee cost Dk402.00 (and you divide by 8 roughly to get stirling). With beer running at over £7 a pint, you only drink one but it’s a good pub and I’d eat there anytime. We could have taken a boat trip but Noel doesn’t much like boats and they looked packed. This place struck us as a cross between Chesepeake Bay and the Liffy in Dublin. It was very pleasant.

Now I swear, I didn’t know the Amber Museum was at the end the of the quay!

Anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of amber. I wanted to go in of course but it was apparent that the museum itself was up some very steep stairs — Amsterdam-type stairs. So I asked my knees about it and having pounded the streets previous day, they said ‘Hey, we’re getting too old for this’. This place has every shade of amber known to man. I thought I knew all the shades of amber. I didn’t! It was honestly Noel’s suggestion that he buy me a piece and we chose a set of green amber beads at a price we could afford. There was plenty there, well beyond our pocket — a carved sailing ship was my favourite — exquisite. I don’t seem to have a photo of that, though I thought I’d taken one… anyway you can follow the link.

On the way back we looked for the Retour Steak House where we’d decided to eat that evening. It’s always best to know where you are going in the dark, even though the streets are safe. We found a whole new route — much shorter, to the Planetarium for the next day. Everything seems to connect back to Vesterbrogade. The Retour’s steak is decent. The chips are nice. They brought two small burgers for me!!! I ended up leaving the buns. It was okay but touristy again. Maybe the 2 bun thing saves on meat? (just a thought). My advice is to avoid the eateries on the main drag. There was a 25% service charge and I would not have left that, about £4 for ‘mineral’ water, one is paying on average £40 per btl of wine in these places (The same btl in a supermarket round the corner costs about £10!). It mounts up!

Self-catering in Copenhagen would seem a better option. I just hate taking the kitchen sink on holiday though 😦 don’t you?

These days we no longer go to late bars. We had dinner at 7:30 each evening (our usual time). We were fast asleep by 11pm. The city continued without us. Maybe we ARE getting a little old for city holidays.

Copenhagen • We’re getting too old for this • Chapt 2

Monday the 5th Nov. My husband’s 65th Birthday. There was a haar/ a fret/ a sea-mist over the city. That is to be expected and very familiar if you live in Northumberland near the coast. We were headed for the Danish Pipe Shop and decided, because our phones didn’t work, to get directions from Tourist Info on Vesterbrogade, just round the corner from our hotel. Noel had the post code and showed it to the young man at the desk who very unhelpfully sent us on a hour long wild goose chase in exactly the opposite direction! Now that should NOT HAPPEN! It made me very angry that someone getting paid to be the official face of Copenhagen should be so careless and off hand with visitors. We walked and walked until it became obvious we were in the wrong area. A very helpful young man (who was in fact doing his job delivering stuff) Kindly looked up the Pipe Shop on his phone and told us a bus to get back. We chatted to a man on the bus about Brexit etc… Now in the right location, The Pipe shop continued to prove very illusive until, several people later, we decided to have lunch before going on. The man in the cafe was most helpful. We were just round the corner really but by now we were damp and tired and a bit dispirited. Copenhagen is a wee bit confusing — or are we just getting too old for this? It’s maybe better if you are young, can hop on and off bikes and are technologically savvy.

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In the Pipe Shop: Choices, choices — so many pipes — so much baccy. The decline of pipe shops in the UK has been startling over the past decade — they are few and far flung now. In Denmark you can still buy tobaccos that are no longer available here in the UK, even if you can get to a pipe shop and buying online from abroad, you risk confiscation. I am not defending smoking as such but pipes are different. A pipe isn’t a smoke so much as a hobby. They take cleaning, reeving, packing, lighting, smoking-in. They take care and a bit of patience. I love them purely as objects as a well turned pipe is a thing of beauty, a work of art, and they have character, but a dedicated smoking space is a good thing too because even though you don’t inhale pipe smoke, it produces lots of secondary smoke. Anyway, I love the fact that my husband smokes a pipe. My grandfather used to smoke a pipe too, (a Peterson). I love the scent of good baccy, the room-note, and they are beautiful objects — this addition to the collection is very nice too. We were thinking of our friend James who would love this shop.

The afternoon was spent sitting down — on a sight-seeing bus. We had a 48 hour tour pass. We saw the harbours, opera house, palaces (not very impressive on the outside…) Churchill Park in spectacular autumn foliage, churches, the old stock exchange/market building. The history was good. For my money though, Dublin, Amsterdam and Baltimore (Maryland) far more beautiful as sea cities go. We didn’t get out to see The Little Mermaid because we were knackered and a bit slow and we’d have had to wait half an hour for the final tour bus to come through. I’ve been told it is unimpressive anyway. The tour bus was worthwhile in that it allowed us to see the whole city and we chose a place to go back and explore the following day.

In the evening we’d chosen to have an Indian meal at The Guru. Now I have to say the food was good but not any better than in our local restaurant and at about three times the price, not great value. The music was of that intrusive bump-bump type not really conducive to my digestion. The seating is quite close together — this may be a British complaint but our fellow diners unfortunately included two men who were being over-familiar with the waitress, hogging her time, generally loud and by turns contemptuous and apologetic (calling her over just to apologise for offending her) so that they got away with behaviour which, in our opinion, was well out of line and maybe the management (I believe she did complain to one of her male colleagues) shouldn’t have allowed. They were however spending, by the look of what they had, a huge sum of money. It rather spoiled what might have been a quiet evening. I wouldn’t really go back. I think in general, though we did it for convenience, I would try to find more secluded restaurants off the tourist trail. It’s hard to know when you’re searching, what you will get.

And so ended a rather tiring but ultimately successful, 65th Birthday bash.