Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 18 Oct 2015, and is filled under Uncategorized.

Denmark is a world of foaming arse

Most love stories involve at least one of the protagonists finding the other so beguiling that they are blind to their faults. They spend time with them, are beguiled by them and find themselves making all manner of compromises to accommodate the one that they love. If the love endures, the other person feels the same and by a process of give and take, they grow around each other like an amorous vine. Well, that’s the idea.

When love goes awry, the other person can find themselves making vain bids to make the object of their affections love them. As those bids become more hopeless, the object of them recoils and, before you know where you are, they’re arguing over CDs and not returning each other’s calls. Before this metaphor collapses under the weight of its own paradoxes, I need to tell you that this is what happened with me. And my love for Denmark.

Oh, Denmark. How I loved you. I first visited Copenhagen in 1999 and it was love at first sight. Your cafes, restaurants, art museums and galleries all stole my heart, especially Louisiana, just north of the city. I visited when I could and during the long, lonely nights, gorged myself on books on Danish history and culture. Battles and political intrigue, monarchs and prime ministers were all grist to the enormous Danish mill I was building in my head.

In time, I branched out. I visited other Danish cities and worked hard to learn Danish ways and customs, going up to Skagen, the pointy bit on the end of the Danish peninsula that rises out of Germany and standing where two seas meet. Many was the hour that I walked around Aarhus and Aalborg and, in time, I came to ask the question: could I work here?

To put the issue to the test, I spent a hard week walking the streets of the capital, cold calling and following up leads, all to no avail. And then a long time later, a company contacted me, asking them to do some freelance work for them. Soon, freelance work became visits to Denmark itself and those visits became longer and longer. They offered me a job, which would see me being based in the UK, but regularly travelling to Denmark. Which is where things started to unravel.

If you read this blog, you’ll know that I’m mentally ill. That means I suffer from depression and, more times than I like, entertain thoughts that the world would be better without me in it. This meant that I dropped a few fairly major bollocks at work which meant that my contract wasn’t renewed, but they promised to employ me freelance. And after I was made redundant I was honest about my mental health. Then I stopped getting work.

Clearly, this could be the world’s biggest coincidence. Or clearly it could mean that the person in charge of contractors is one of the biggest, most heaving cockends it’s ever been my huge displeasure to work for. Were I ever to see him again, I’d probably want to do something of a crudely violent nature (but wouldn’t, clearly as I’m all about the non-violence) and I have to make it clear that I wouldn’t cross the street to urinate on the company he works for if they were to spontaneously combust.

It does, though, point out some fairly basic problems with my starry-eyed love of the place. Where I worked wasn’t in Copenhagen but three hours away by train. This was such a parochial small town that when people there said they viewed the occupants of Copenhagen as ‘devils,’ they weren’t joking. And that, incidentally, is a verbatim quote. Devils.

Added to the alarming small town mentality was the basic unfriendliness which seems to be characteristic of the Danes. They may be different with people they’ve known for years, but on first read, these are not warm people you can see yourself being surrounded with for the rest of your life. In fact, the person I was closest to during my time there was someone who had escaped from Yugoslavia as the war kicked off, spent two years locked up on an island (well done, Danish government) and was finally, grudgingly, allowed into the country.

She had gone through the school system, university and then completed a postgrad, all in her adoptive second language and, as a result of her time on the island, had a very barbed view of Danish hospitality. Denmark was starting to look as though it was unfriendly and bitterly divided along regional lines. The sense I had was that the half I was in was the idiotic half while Copenhagen was more vibrant, more multicultural and, not to put too fine a point on it, more fun.

Various incidents floated up to the top of my mind. Conversations with people who were also immigrants and who laughed ruefully when asked about Danish hospitality. An English woman in Copenhagen who had laughed out loud and then pointedly observed, “Oh, I forgot. This is Denmark and you shouldn’t laugh out loud. Or have fun”. The scales fell from my eyes and, when the recent election results confirmed that the racist party had taken more seats that was comfortable, this felt like the country I’d seen.

Like any love affair, some feelings linger. I still have my Danish football shirt and despite myself, vaguely want them to qualify for the European football championships next year. But I have to admit that the country I thought existed is, in reality, Copenhagen, while Denmark itself is a place that I can’t muster any enthusiasm for. Life as a spurned lover is hard, but it’s better than throwing myself at a place that doesn’t give a toss.

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