Allow this Old Soul to introduce herself. I’m that kid in your class at school who was often found staring out of the window, lost in daydreams and marching to the tune of her own drummer. I was the one who was very good at art and lousy at maths. I was the life and soul of the party but actually preferred to spend time alone in remote places. I was quick and calm in an emergency, I was the odd bod, the quirky outcast who secretly wanted to be a Jack Russell dog.
It’s a Dog’s Life
These days I’m no longer a canine wannabe, and instead of being outside chasing rabbits or sleeping all day (which I’d love) I’m an author, a photographer, a public speaker, art teacher, and a historian. I spend my innumerable journeys with squinted eyes travelling back in time, just a little and stepping back from the modern age and into the past. I visited my homeland in May; contemplating the lovely Polish girls making coffee, and wondered what will become of them when the Brexit portcullis slams shut, and the drawbridge across the Channel to “continental” Europe is pulled up? What sad times, as the train sped faster past fields of sheep and horse chestnut trees in full bloom and my beloved Mum and Dad stood waiting for me in a crumbling railway station. I watch people and buildings, the curve of a hill, the outline of old lettering on a building, the names of streets which allude to their medieval past.
Stand-up Scandi Tours
It’s hard to make a living as a watcher and storyteller though, so in-between times I work as a tour guide and shepherd coachloads of jetlagged Asian tourists around. After getting over my fear of public speaking at my local Toastmasters International club, I find that I’m spookily at home and in charge of the microphone; firing facts to their ringing ears and trying hard to welcome them into the hostile Danish weather and chronic absence of service-mindedness. I’m a “stand-up” tour guide, and find that my tired companions warm to my stories and laugh at the right moments when I launch into my Hyacinth Bucket repartee as I point out when “Daisy” is at home at Amalienborg (her royal pennant will be flying), or why the Danes are so tall (lots of dairy products, but still not as tall as the Dutch), the significance of the humble herring (fishy gold in the middle ages) as it’s served on a slice of rye bread (Denmark was geographically too far north for the growth of earlier types of wheat than today). I offer them a saltefiske (salty fish) candy and watch their poor faces contort as the sourness hits their palate then, while they’re busy gasping I tell them about the Danes being mad about eating ice cream (as a lone Danish dad saunters out of an ice cream shop scoffing a six scoop, guf (sloppy marshmallow sauce) and cream vaffelis (Ice cream waffle). I then tell them how the Danes have the lowest life expectancy and highest risk of a heart attack in the Nordics, but they do love to cycle!
Time Travelling in Copenhagen (Part-time)
Being an Old Soul has been a passage to the past and an ideal skill to use in my other part-time job, as an Airbnb tour guide. I take unsuspecting tourists back through the centuries in my “Time Travelling” experiences in Copenhagen and Helsingør. I’m very approachable, (another Old Soul trait) and meet my tourists like on a blind date on frosty mornings outside Tivoli; guiding them through the cobbled streets, urging them to squint and drown out the sounds of cars and imagine instead the rattle of carriage wheels and horses snorting, the air heady with the aroma of refuse, woodsmoke and, erhm…poo. One of my favourite tricks is to gently give the doors to old hidden courtyards a nudge, then take my slightly confused guests into often amazing places that with a little sawdust, foliage and rags could easily pass as a great location for a historical film – the shriek of children in upstairs rooms, the chatter of magpies and the same bell tolling in the church tower as in the 17thcentury and we all travel back in time. My tourists love it and forgive me my fuzzy dates and frequent use of the confusing array of King Frederiks and King Christians that pepper Danish history. Back in the present, we take a river taxi up past the new Opera building and I feel a sense of pride in my adopted land as we survey the clean and confident vista, the water below us sparkling in the cold sunlight. But I know what lies beneath and around us, and never a slave for the over-blown hygge frenzy I feed my guests no cliches, just with well-honed snapshots of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Cooking The Books
These time-travelling abilities are also to be found in the two novels that I’ve written, “Rice Pudding In A Duvet” and “Middle Distance.” Both books dip into my bulging storehouse of quirky ideas, memories, and mystical events. My first book a sweet and light coming of age novel (well, what age? I’m a late developer, OK!) as I sat contentedly surveying the passing years, and the imminent departure from home of my oldest daughter. I love to cook (another part-time job), and every chapter is named after a favourite dish; perfected over the years and each time concocted would take me hurtling back to the first time it was encountered – just like how a song from long ago makes you sigh. The title for this first book comes from a dish taught to me by my Danish mother-in-law, a way to cook rice pudding to perfection – wrapped in a duvet. It sounds sexy, but just don’t leap on the bed while it’s cooking! The accompanying chapter takes a sidelong look at my early days in Denmark, I’ve been here for eighteen years to date. Of taking my three children on adventures to places like the Frilands museum in Sorgenfri, and most notably the Lejre Viking museum near Roskilde. Happy days rolling down reals hills, grinding grain with a quern and cooking little cakes on a griddle over an open fire. Our jolly adventure taking a sinister turn as we watch a goat being disemboweled – it’s sage green and beige entrails spilling into a wooden bucket as volunteer-Vikings-on-vacation sawed through skulls and, though civil, never invite us in to share the kinship of their woodsmoke.
Dishing The Dirt On Danes
I didn’t want it though, I was scared and we moved to a house with an enclosed courtyard where I barricaded myself in and lived through my children…and began to write, and dream and retreat into my creative landscape of solitude and watching. It’s only now, years later that I’ve emerged with a fine body of work which would never have been if I didn’t feel so suppressed by the general disinterest that I felt the locals gave me. There was indeed a silver lining, but from this painful place, I’ve now created my caring community for internationals feeling “a little out of sorts” with their reception in Denmark. I’ve called it K.I.N.D (Keep International Networks Denmark) I’ve found through experience how we all have such great things to offer Danish society and culture, we just would like to share our contributions and feel welcome. I create events and happenings who wish to share the kinship of community and home. Find me on Facebook at @KINDenmark. (Yes, another part-time job)
But I bounced back all on my own all those years ago, and after grieving for my identity over many a bowl of rice pudding – international school beckoned. My Danish husband groaned as I rejected the Danish schools available for free, but NGG International school in Hørsholm became our life raft, and I hoisted my kids aboard and clung to it, reveling in the village-like community and the ability of the children to simply love and care for each other whatever their nationality. From the moment I rejoined the international environment, I was home. (Yes, PTA chairman and then part-time art teacher). The whole family sighed in relief as I/we thrived and grew beyond all expectations on our sunny new windowsill under the Danish sun, and Rice Pudding In A Duvet was proudly served worldwide by Amazon.
Looking Into The Middle Distance
Life isn’t all about sunshine though, and just this past November 2018 I published my second book, “Middle Distance.” You can judge a book by a cover, and this one is bound in a black silhouette of a sinister tree. Inside the covers, my photographs illustrate the tale of a family trying to cope with the aftermaths of a near-fatal accident. Mainly rooted in personal experience, even the mystical parts are open for interpretation but lived through by this old weary soul who felt like she’d never claw her way out of that dark sulfurous place. But then the sun does shine, it was there all time just hidden by the clouds. Life teaches us the hard way how to grow wiser and rediscover that life is about love, learning, overcoming obstacles and discovering something new – empathy. Yoga entered the story, as did meditation and the luxuriant growth that comes from emerging from the mud like a lotus flower. You’ll find Middle Distance available at Amazon too, and in a little while (if I can somehow evade getting a full-time “proper” job) my third novel, “The Friendship Plant” will be born.
If you Google old soul there’s an awful lot of popular nonsense out there. My favourite is, “Old Souls – humans that keep coming back.” Apparently, I’ve got about 99 more times to go before I get it right!
9 Signs That You’re An Old Soul
1# You tend to be a lone wolf or Jack Russell.
2# You love knowledge, wisdom, and truth.
3# You’re spiritually inclined.
4# You understand the transience of life.
5# You’re thoughtful and introspective.
6# You see the bigger picture.
7# You aren’t materialistic.
8# You were a strange child.
9# You just “feel” old – let’s go on vacation!
You can read a version of this article in the June edition of The International Denmark here.