Meet The Danish Parents

If any more proof was required about who the real parents are considered to be in Denmark, then meet skattefar.  Yes, Denmark actually calls the taxman the “tax daddy”.  The clues as to the cultural mentality of the nation are there in plain sight, especially when you think about how the 25% Sales tax is then called MOMs.

When it comes to the tax daddy, he is somehow seen as a benevolent figure when to me, he’s clearly the worst type of Dad there is.  People here believe they can turn to this Dad when they’re having a time of need and he’ll help out.  It doesn’t occur that this Dad sets a terrible example.  He just sits on the sofa all day watching TV, tapping up his more productive offspring for a bit of money to help out, then maybe an hour later, redistributing a portion of it to the weaker children, who are then conditioned to believe he’s a generous, caring Dad.  Those weaker children are never once thinking or realising where the money really came from.  Worse still, he’s mortgaged the house to the hilt, has a load of debts you know nothing about and through the magic of inter-generational government debt has managed to pass on the bill to you, his children and your children too.

It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  If you don’t believe me, then have a laugh at this article here (with accompanying photo), where after a recent tax scandal they are keen to point out Denmark are world champions in fairness, egalitarianism and trust in their institutions.  With good reason, so they claim and we are so much better than Germany, so there!  Actually, the one thing they probably did get right is the size of Skattefar, as he feasts off his children while sitting on aforementioned sofa.

Tegning: Ib Kjeldsmark

How about MOMs then?  She’s a fairly new entry into local life, having begun as a the gross sales tax to pay for membership of the EU, or EEC as they then called it, under a pretence of being a European Economic Community only.  I have no idea how they even managed to sell this to the people – “Hey, we are joining this free trade association and it’s going to be so wonderful that you need to pay 10-15% extra on everything you consume.  Including food and heating”.  Really, you went for it?  Obviously over the years they put it up to 25%.  The EU must be wonderful for economics that it costs more than not being in it.  MOM, if anything is best represented by Jean-Claude Drunker Juncker.  Permanently off her head on gin and living the good life while her household falls apart.

I’ve actually had my own run-in with MOM.  In 2008, after being ripped off by the agent, I ceased trading and left the country.  The story related to me is that 2 MOMs officers came knocking at the door demanding to know why I hadn’t paid the last VAT return.  Simply, there was nothing to pay.  Actually, about 6 months later I got a small refund of the final business costs I’d paid, but it certainly shows how ruthless MOM and Far can be if any of their productive children aren’t handing over some cash for them to enjoy their luxuries.

I revisited an old site I built years ago recently.  I let the domain names themselves go, but the blogger site still remains.   It never made much money at all, even if the resident expert believed I was making secret millions.  It was fascinating to see how cemented my views on all this were even 11-12 years ago.  Also I felt proud of myself for working out so many ways to minimise the ways these two vile parents, skattefar and MOMs can stay alive.  I am glad I worked it out, but at the same time I am wondering why I returned.  I know why, I tried to make sure I was a real Dad with what I considered the right influences for my children, rather than have them grow up believing in skattefar.  I shouldn’t have bothered trying – skattefar is happily dishing out the credits to them on time every month now, while simultaneously tapping me up to help out his lifestyle every month.  Worse still, he does it against my will.  That’s not fair or egalitarian, it’s extortion.

The Truman Show

We worked our way through the next two instalments of Atlas Shrugged and while there were good bits, it fell apart, losing the whole original purpose of the story.  I’m sure Ayn Rand would not have been pleased as it declined into a mix between Dynasty and a John Cusack-style love story.  Not that there’s much wrong with John Cusack – in fact, I often pity his character for the type of women he’s expected to pretend to love in these films, just that..well, the moment when John Galt was sanding a boat…yes, sanding a boat, the classic scene to help an audience know a man is sincere, thoughtful and caring.  It didn’t fit in this film at all.

It reminds me though of another film Hollywood has proffered upon us.  It’s actually one of those ones that you are left wondering how did that even get made? It’s the Truman show.

In this excellent film, Jim Carrey leads a seemingly average life in a seemingly average town, with seemingly average people.  One or two things occur though which begin to make him wonder whether all is what it seems.  Seemingly solid, reassuring and trustworthy structures – both physical and mental are exposed for what they really are – hollow facades, frauds and well, again if you haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin it.  Watch it.

After watching you will fall into two camps.  You’ll either think it was all a fantasy story and get on with your own familiar life and never think of it again.  Probably a familiar average life in a seemingly average town, with seemingly average people.  Just like Jim there.  Alternatively, you may begin to wonder about those seemingly solid, reassuring and trustworthy structures that exist in your life and begin to ask questions.

I’ve already mentioned the welfare state, but look at it again.  What is it but a state-managed layer that steals from one set of people to redistribute from another set of people, using the power of “law” to justify their actions, while taking a healthy cut for themselves along the way?   What kind of “law” is it anyway when they get to write the laws themselves to suit their purposes?  Think of it a bit like the TV producers in the Truman show, getting buttons pressed, actors to play roles so that the desired stimulus is fired within Truman himself to achieve the desired result.

How about money?  There’s a Truman-esque illusion if ever there was one.  We all think of a fistful of pound notes or those electronic on screen credits when viewing your bank account as money.  They aren’t.  It’s just currency and worse, it’s fiat currency -a one that derives it’s value from the mandate of the state, not one that people actually choose to use themselves.  The only true money is gold and silver and every now and then the illusion is exposed.  This too is right there in Atlas Shrugged, the moment Hank decides to shrug, to walk away from everything he once held dear, he quietly opens his drawer and removes the one possession he has decided to take to his new life at Galt’s Gulch – a solitary gold bar.

Of course, Truman can only believe in this world if everyone colludes to make him believe.  The woman who plays his wife is a major factor in this.  When he has doubts, it’s her job to persuade him otherwise, while simultaneously trying to sell what the advertisers want sold.  The whole show is brainwashing.  Poor Truman.

So many of us live in Truman shows without even realising it.  In fact, most of us do and while I like to believe I am an aware adult I bet there are even massive frauds being perpetrated against me that I know nothing about.  I realise now I was right to fear school as a 4 year-old, it is the very place where most of the brainwashing to condition us is done.

Children are the most susceptible of all.  As Oz said in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, with his views on dog control.  They are bound to believe that the influences close to them are telling them the truth and presenting the world as it really is.  It’s hard for a child to see that quite possibly they are not – whether their motives in doing so are accidental or malicious is another question altogether.  It’d be a shame for a child to then grow up into Truman and learn about the lies and untruths they had been told as youngsters.  There would be no way for them to recover those lost years.  I sense they’d also be very angry with those adults that had misled them or schemed against their best interests during that crucial time.

So consider some of the posts in this blog as the doorway to the truth, just like the moment Truman discovers the door in the film.  I hope it still opens for you, if you ever find it.

Square Pegs and Round Holes – Part 2

A while ago I wrote something about how being here made me feel like a square peg being hammered through a round hole and I suddenly feel the need to quantify that still further.

The trigger for this is something that happened yesterday, at around 6.30pm.  We had made a plan to go to the local supermarket and buy a loaf of bread.  Not just any old stuff, but the best quality one we could obtain, from Hobro’s finest baker.  It’s good stuff, especially when they reduce the price dramatically later in the day – helps it taste even better.  I drove in and parked up, then we realised the car parked next to us was familiar.  It was the exact Blue Chevrolet Aveo I had purchased 4 years earlier.  I believe it’s been in a road crash since, but I couldn’t see any lasting damage.  It’s strange how these coincidences happen and as we walked in, out walked 2 people I recognised, including my middle daughter, who turned red and proceeded to ignore me.  Yes, her own father.

It’s a real shame, since personality-wise, she always seemed to have inherited the same traits as I carry myself.  Traits that are misunderstood in this day and age, especially in a country that considers it important to conform.  One where if you don’t, then it means there must be something wrong with you, not us.

I’ve been worried about this for quite some time.  I once remember her anger on a bad hay fever day and that I went to talk to her, understanding that the hay fever was behind it and that it was OK, I knew it wasn’t the real her.  The resident modern childcare expert would not have handled that the same way and I felt I’d achieved something, that a bond of understanding had been made.  On the basis of yesterday evening, I was wrong.  Or does she still remember it somewhere deep inside?

What is this familial trait I’ve passed down that’s such a crime anyway?  Why it’s introversion, of course.  Especially in a country where everyone wants to be considered a pretty zany guy, wanting to be alone, with your own thoughts and to think things through carefully – on your own, is a major, major crime.  It really is.  In a world where instant decisions are the best ones and social – whether it be in person or via your mobile device – is a good word.  If you’re not social you are ill, needing to be psychologically or pharmaceutically cured of this major ailment.  I’d suffered it all my life and nowadays I think it’s considered even more of an affliction.  It really isn’t.   It’s a major ability to be able to sit back, absorb what’s important and consider it carefully are great skills that should not be lost to the human race.

Through the years, I’d been accused of being anti-social, a loner, too quiet.  It’s only when you’re an adult that you learn to realise you’re okay and these are good traits.  Your own traits.  No drugs or mind programming needed.  Admittedly, somewhere along the line with this confidence in myself came the ability to do things that would have terrified the young me, like standing up and talking in front of a room of people.  It doesn’t mean I’ve changed though.

Even now I browse the school facebook page whenever new photos are posted, looking for the clues as to her well-being and to be honest, I am bit worried.  There are some photos where I believe I know exactly what she’s thinking, as she stands in the background looking on.  What can I do though?  I am not considered a modern childcare expert worthy of consultation or involvement.

The same could be said of my elder daughter.  I remember that I was much less concerned about her seeming to enjoy her own company more than that of classmates than the resident expert, who insisted she must have play dates and expressed a wish that she was more outgoing.  I debated it, but next I knew a hanging out session (what else to call it?) at our house was arranged via the mothers with one particular girl of debatable parental quality.  While I may seem a bit of a snob, if I told you that they were later happily letting her spend the night with her boyfriend aged 13, do I have a point?  Actually, my first major clue was the time they borrowed the monopoly set I’d bought our children and proceeded to not return it for weeks then admit they’d accidentally destroyed it.  What was that about respect and the welfare state?   I still wonder to this day if the story I was told about them finally buying us a replacement one is true, or whether I paid for it without knowing so that I’d finally stop asking when we were getting it back.  Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

So, in summary, I am worried.  Children need to know that being an introvert is a good thing, it’s how you are and it brings many skills that an extrovert will never have.  I worry because I don’t see the influences that will say it’s fine to be like that and present the benefits – and the evidence of the past few years with the school photos and college failures suggests I may be right.  Just accept you’re a square peg and never let anyone try and hammer you through a round hole.  Enjoy life as a square.

Now, since you won’t be needing that hammer, can you give me it back?

 

Atlas Shrugged – the movie

One interesting side-effect of gazing upon Atlas holding up the world was to discover that in 2011 they actually made Atlas Shrugged as a film, or series of 3, actually.  No surprise considering the thickness of the book that it was hard to compact into the normal Hollywood window.  Despite having a low, low rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it has a high audience rating – a bizarre combination that I am told contradicts.  No matter, I knew I would like to see this film adaptation and despite being low budget, it’s to its credit that it remains true to the dialogue and spirit of the book.

Sadly, it was a commercial disaster.

It really shouldn’t be a surprise.  The world isn’t ready for it.  The truth of the message that nothing is free and everything is earnt.  No matter, watching the scenes I had semi-forgotten reading, I was stirred once more.  Especially by two moments :-

One, when Hank Reardon returns home after a day at work and is greeted by his mother, his wife and her brother, all of whom chastise him for working so much and wonder why he can’t be more like them.  Little thinking of course, that the whole lifestyle they have that allows them to leisurely do all this is supported by Hank himself.

Two, when his brother-in-law asks him for money, but further suggests that it must be a bank transfer as he cannot be seen to be cashing a cheque made out by Hank himself and the negative associations that would cause in the circles in which the brother-in-law moves.  It is indeed a funny thing, for a persons money to be good enough, yet at the same time, they are not considered good or worthy enough to be associated with.  I know how you feel, Hank, I really do.

I’m reminded now of the children’s statements – the section that said He worked really late.  Emotive words that say more than real evidence ever could, not that real evidence was ever needed anyway in the world of Familiehuset nee Statsforvaltning.  When you hear it, you’ll be thinking 8, 9 even 10pm – but no, it was normally between 5-6pm, always in time for dinner.  I doubt the children would even have noticed, unless the auto-suggestion of the people sitting, drinking coffee, judging had been there.

I’m also reminded of one of the darkest moments of realisation that resistance here was futile, back in early 2005, when I didn’t yet have a job and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.  The house was cold, I was told and the radiators must all be turned up to the max in every room, regardless of cost.  I was surely wrong anyway that doing so would mean using all the oil in a month.  I acquiesced and one month later was proved right – all the oil in the tank, all 2,500 litres of it at a local price of 25,000 krone was gone.  Drip…drip…drip…a bit like transferring money to someone without leaving a paper trail that they were ever associated with you in the first place.

The welfare state indeed brings a disrespect for possession.  heating is another of those free things that just exists, isn’t it?  In those Christmas dinners I will no longer have to endure, one of my first jobs after they had departed was to go and turn the entrance radiator back off.  It had always been turned on at some point in the evening, to the maximum setting, by the smokers so they had somewhere warm to lean against while enjoying a cigarette with the front door wide open.  Ah we can but hope Atlas Shrugs someday!

 

Atlas Shrugged

Moving to Denmark back in 2005 had one major side-effect that I and others did not imagine, one that transformed my life and way of seeing things.

When you move to a foreign country where you cannot speak the language you are instantly cut off from all media sources.  Imagine, no TV news, no newspapers, no radio beyond listening to the music itself.  At first, it’s strange and you realise there is a gap to be filled.  I filled this gap by reading many books and online sources.  Except instead of being gently guided by the mainstream media, as I now realise we all are, I chose books related to my own interests in history and finance.  This took me down a very different path to the TV and allowed me to grow in a completely new direction.

It’s a trait that I can see now is very common.  Two of my most interesting media sources – James Corbett and Richie Allen had the same experience.  It’s a kind of awakening to see the world as it really is and that much of what we are told to be believe is important and makes a difference does not.  Take “democracy”, for example – the concept of being allowed to tick a box with a pencil every now and then to decide on one of a few pre-approved candidates who are going to somehow magically improve your life sounds ludicrous – and indeed is, when looked at as a foreigner, unable to vote in another country.  The genie is out of the bottle and it’s very hard to get it back in.

One such book on my literary travels in the period was Atlas Shrugged.  This weighty tome of about 1,000 pages is probably never going to appear on any school reading list, but it hooked me instantly.  In this book, a functioning USA of the 1950s descends into chaos and self-destruction as people demand more and more from the producers, to give to those on other other side of the equation.  From each of his ability, to each of his need is the cry.  Ironically, this sounds exactly like the much used Danish mantra those with the strongest shoulders must bear the heaviest burden – it’s even in their official tax leaflet for new arrivals to the country and unbelievably their new Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen used the phrase in the 2019 election.  What’s that about Turkeys and Christmas?

Obviously, as the country demands more and more, the productive people eventually decide to give up and get out.  Even to the extent that they have to throw away their once-productive former lives and start all over again in a new community of like-minded independent people called Galt’s Gulch.  This then causes a massive crisis as the people who got used to receiving everything and doing nothing can no longer maintain those lifestyles.  The government continues to pull levers, resulting in massive inflation, shortages and extreme proposals like killing all children under 7 to stave off famine.  Oh dear.  Mere velfærd, anyone?

One of the first things I did in late-2016, after refinancing to survive, was treat myself to a globe drinks bar I had always fancied having ever since I was a young child.  Very profligate of me, I know, but the house was extremely empty and bare after the crack removals team had been in (Where’s my hammer and my Romertopf?).  Plus, trust me, it was not so expensive as you might think!  Oh and not for the alcohol either, I think it was another influence from my grandmothers large house, as my sister has also always wanted one.  It now stands proudly and while to many, it’s just a globe drinks bar, to me it’s also Atlas – holding up the weight of the world on his shoulders, just as I single-handedly held up the weight of my world for so many years.  Not that I’ve stopped holding it up, mind.  People just think I have.  It’s taken for granted.

Actually, it does raise a question.  How many people even think of Atlas holding up their world?  Behind everyone on welfare, every child, every student – there is an Atlas, even if they are not aware of it, and if they push him too far well, is there not a chance he might shrug too?

The Biggest Gift

I’ve had a day or two to reflect on The Present.  Now I know what the biggest gift is that I ever gave my children.

It’s not ipads, iphones, mopeds, wads of confirmation cash or anything consumerist.  Although all those things add up.  The price for this item was much, much higher and is still being paid.

In 1998-99, I made a promise.  A promise that the children would be brought up in their mothers’ home country.  In 2004, just before the eldest would’ve started school, I made that promise come true.  The initial price, as you know if you read the earlier posts, was to be in a country where I didn’t have a job, couldn’t speak the language and was supporting a whole family.  Including non-working partner.  All while paying for two houses.  It was a major, major risk.

In 2019, I’m still here.  I have a job.  A fairly good one actually.  I can speak the language to a standard good enough for citizenship, even if I rarely show it and I still support a whole family, one way or another, if you have a basic understanding of the welfare state.  I’m only paying for one house now.

On the face of it, it doesn’t sound too bad.   Consider the previous posts as the ultimate balancing of the accounts though.  I would never have chosen this place, this life if it had been just me.  I delivered what everyone else wanted and now I’m alone at the dining table, left with the bill.

The Present

The Present is a gift, or so it’s said.  The reason for thinking about this is simple, yesterday I chanced upon an email I received in July 2017, accusing me of not lavishing sufficient gifts upon certain people.

So what is a gift, anyway?

Is choosing to spend time with someone a gift?  It can be and it should be, like when a grandparent comes a long way to visit and you don’t know if or when you’ll see them again.  Or a Dad, shut out of his children’s lives, who keeps his life on hold in the vain hope that they might choose to involve him in theirs again.  Time must be one of the greatest gifts of all.

How about when a Dad works hard and makes sacrifices to pay for you to go to private school, so you can avoid the horrific schooldays he himself experienced, is that a gift?

How about taking your 4 children out for a meal, does that count as a gift, or did the bill just magically get paid by itself?

According to this email I read again two years after first receiving it, apparently these things are not gifts.  Only cold, hard, shallow consumer goods are the accepted currency.  The kind of goods that look good on the day, but break a few months later or fall out of fashion, either way ending up in the bin.  If that is the case, then I am glad I stopped paying the price, although it took a while to unravel my role in the consumerist lifestyle I’d been sucked into since 1997.  What was I getting back anyway when they’d all decided I wasn’t worth spending any time with?  Did we not just establish that spending time with someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give?

Much to my self-disgust, I succumbed in desperation later and did trade gifts of the cold, hard, accepted local currency kind for birthdays in March, June and July 2017.  I felt like an Indian tribesman trying to make his way, ingratiating the local elite best he can.  My offerings were accepted, but nothing was given in return of the kind I hoped for – time with my own children.  Instead, here, have some birthday cake and then just go.  No thanks.

Later in the year, October, another milestone birthday was looming.   I thankfully did not participate in the paying of tribute again.  However, my mother sent a present over for me to deliver.  This is where it got very strange as I was told I could not deliver it to her in person.  My own daughter.  After several humiliating mind games and demands, my mother and sister said to me “give up, we don’t want you humiliated like this over our gift”.  So I did as they requested.  My Aunt had also bought her a present of clothes and luckily we stopped her sending it in time and she got a refund (I hope).  The same aunt who hand-knitted them all babywear many years earlier, treated with the highest disrespect.

That present is still in my house, along with a christmas one I bought my son in 2017, in a moment of positivity when I wrongly thought he would miss his Dad.  They both just lie there – standing and waiting to be opened by a grateful child.  I just wish I knew one, but I don’t.  I wonder if I ever did.

 

Upcoming Visit

We took another of those walks tonight where the mobiles didn’t come along.  The sun finally made an appearance and the air was warm, but the town was deserted.  Sure, it’s the local holiday season and most people have migrated temporarily, but it showed how few people actually bother to visit this town as tourists.  The local council have done their best to kill it and the patient lies on a mortuary slab, just waiting for a passer-by to identify it before it’s consigned permanently.  Yes, that was Hobro, I feel like saying.  As if anyone would trust an udlændig here though.  They’ll want a Dansk second opinion to confirm it is Hobro.  None of it bodes well for the sale of this house I was tricked into sinking my life savings into.  It really doesn’t.

I realised during this walk that I was very unfair on my son in the last post, his running ability is still brilliant and I have definitive proof from my last few visits to Netto, where he now works – his ability to sprint to the back warehouse and hide the moment he sees me is excellent.  I suppose I should be glad I help him get some exercise sometimes.  Maybe that’s what #fakegrandad meant when he said I had to help from afar?

It was all so different 2 years ago, yet also kind of leading towards this.  I just didn’t realise it back then.  My mother, sister and nephew were coming to visit then too and I still hoped for happy times, when them and my children would get together for a couple of weeks.  It was all I wanted at that time.  I had been given a gift a previous Christmas – a book called Far Fortæller – in essence, Dad tells a story – blank pages with leading questions, in which I should relate my childhood and views on life.  I spent two weeks of solid nights answering those questions as thoroughly and honestly as I could, filling every page with my handwriting.  Some evenings my wrist hurt afterwards.  I hoped that if my children could read that, they could not do anything else but give in and see their Dad as a real person and want to be with him again.  It failed.  I heard the book got intercepted as unsuitable reading for the children – apparently being honest about things like not believing in school or homework is unacceptable to modern childcare methods.  My son told me later he’d read it and found it funny, which was something I suppose, but I knew from his responses it hadn’t made the inroads I hoped for, nor had the enclosed letter pleading with them to see their grandmother before it’s too late.  I wonder if they even kept the book, or whether it’s now in the bin?  I wish I could have it back.

When the visit time came, it was awful.  Yes, my son came to stay most of the days and played happily with his cousin, despite what I had been told by the mother, that they’d be going on summer holiday then or that he wasn’t allowed to come, but it had an air of inevitability and superficiality about it.  My sister and mother walked up to their house as a gesture of neutrality to pick up the two youngest children for the evening at my house.  It felt more like little spies were invading, checking every room, monitoring my alcohol intake (it was one 330ml beer the entire evening, if you must know), making mental notes as per orders.  Yes, there were glimpses, we played bingo, I called the numbers in English and Dansk and there was especially one moment where I said about going for an ice cream and the youngest excitedly put her hand up to say she’d be coming, then dropped it instantly as her elder sister glowered at her.  The evening ended and I took them home.  The moment I drove up and dropped them off, their faces went grey and tears appeared as their mother stood judgementally waiting at the door.

It hadn’t begun well anyway.  My mother and sister had apparently waited at the bottom of the flight of stairs while my eldest daughter refused to come down and see them.   I hope she doesn’t live to regret that some day.  I certainly feel some sadness when I think of the extra times I could have seen my grandparents when I was young, yet chose to spend time on lesser activities instead.  I know which I’d choose now if I could.  It takes a special kind of child to do that to a grandmother she hadn’t seen for 3 years and whose grandfather had just died a few months before.  It also takes a weak kind of mother to allow their child to do that.  I have the misfortune to have known both.

The following evening I somehow managed to persuade them to come again.  I wish I hadn’t bothered, it was one of the worst nights of my entire life.  Sitting with 2 brainwashed little zombies who couldn’t wait to escape.  If my mother and sister can’t get through to children, then no-one can and in this case even they were struggling.  When I dropped them off again, I felt relief mixed with intense anger that they were gone and drove home.   What the evening had done was make it clear that I was never going to win unless I tried something drastic, and so began my legal attempts to be part of my children’s lives again.  Ultimately doomed to failure, of course.  Just like the informal approaches and attempts I had made many times over the course of the previous year.  Back then even I was fairly naive to the extent to which a foreign man is discriminated against here and how a vengeful, embittered ex can use the system so well that she has grew up with.

We also talked about the upcoming visit of my mother, sister and nephew – how it’ll be great to have family in the house and familiar people to talk to about everything and go places together.  We have a nice trip overseas planned and plenty of other things to do besides.

I read an interesting statistic the other day that by the time you are 18, you have already used up 93% of the time you will ever spend with your parents.  Thinking about that, the visit and this walk, through a soulless town with no sense of history or community any more, where we have no friends or family, it becomes clearer what should happen soon.  We need to live somewhere where we can be happy and not have a massive pink panther-esque rain cloud permanently overhead.  I should also try and make the most of the 7% that is left, while my children can rest easy knowing that they’ve probably used up 100% of 50% of theirs.  It’ll be nice when that new life begins and the old is consigned to the dustbin of history, just how everyone has spent 3 years showing me they want it to be.  I apologise for not listening to you earlier and trying to still be your Dad.

On The Line

No, this isn’t a reference to the internet, or the film The Internship.  Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson are funny men though – The Wedding Crashers, The Break-up and Dodgeball are all hilarious.  It’s actually a reference to what I can see out of the window right now as I type – a clothes line loaded with freshly laundered washing, drying naturally in the breeze and emerging sunshine.  All for free.

This is one aspect of my life that I took for granted as a young child, that laundry must hang on the clothes line – I remember playing with the huge clothes prop my mother used to prop up the line when loaded with heavy sheets, pretending it was a lance or pike in some ancient military scene and of course every child knew the dangers of playing with a muddy football anywhere near those clean sheets.  There were consequences.  In my world, tumble dryers didn’t exist until I was about 10 and even then it was a free one my Dad had picked up that was broken.  He fixed it himself and guess what?  Even now in 2019, my mother still uses it in her kitchen when the weather fails to permit the use of more traditional drying methods.  Given that it’s a 1960s Parnell, this is an impressive feat and testament to his electrical skills and desire to always do a job so well it would never need fixing again.

When I got that first house in Brighton, one of the first things that impressed me was the huge 20 feet clothes line and pulley system they had implemented that stretched right across the garden.  Thinking back, I was probably the only person impressed by it, but I was.  I may even have mentioned it to the owners.  Another thing that made that house more affordable was the fact that there was no plumbing or space for a washing machine.  It didn’t put me off at all, coming from the background I had come from, I knew there’d be a solution somewhere, but I bet it put a lot of other people off.  It would probably seem incredible to my children today that even in 1995, there were people washing clothes by hand and putting it on a clothes line, especially in a T.O.T. like Brighton has become.

When I moved in, my Dad helped me out there too.  He spotted a table top portable washing machine in Argos.  I can even remember the price – £39.99.  What an amazing little item – you hooked the pipe up to a mixer tap, plugged it in, stood it in the bath or overhanging a kitchen sink and hey presto – an instant washing machine!  This nifty solution probably sounds primitive today, but I lived with it for 3 years, until 1998 and it always did me.  It’s an early lesson in the shallowness of others that they were probably put off a perfectly fine house by it’s failure to have what was considered an essential.  Even if the solution is close to hand and not expensive to achieve.

In 1998 I upgraded.  Or was that degraded, as this is where the self begins to erode slightly.  Some people decided that this tabletop solution was no longer adequate for a household of 2, perhaps true.  Anyway, a stroll past a second hand shop in Hove or Portslade brought forth a solution, as I saw a top-loading thin-line washing machine – another thing I never previously knew existed.  I believe it was about £60 – it’s interesting to recollect 20+ years later, that I was interested even then in browsing second-hand shops, given my rediscovered interest in the Fleamarkets now.  My Mam and Dad visited Brighton soon after, when my Dad installed a new socket for it, along with plumbing and it became part of the upstairs bathroom.  All for free, family connections are important.

During all this time the clothes remained line dried, whether outside or or a newly-installed line above the bath, but soon I was under pressure to get a tumble dryer.  I bought one and spent a whole afternoon drilling a hole in the wall for the air outflow.  So the decline began – tumble dryers are now my most detested household appliance, if it’s possible to have a most-hated household appliance -is it?  Oh and if I’m allowed a second most-hated, then I’ll go for microwave ovens.

So why are tumble dryers so hated?  Well, for starters, cost.  My Dad was absolutely correct in his statement that Tumble Driers are expensive to run – the electric bills ran up massively after using one.  Then there’s the drying quality – so many times have I seen clothes feeling burnt and stiff after drying, never fitting properly, or shrunk so much they no longer fit at all and have to be chucked out.  Next up, you’ve now lost the relaxing, mentally soothing act of hanging them on a clothes line -or at least that’s how it feels for me.  Finally, to me, tumble dryers are the appliance of the hypocrite, the person who believes in saving the environment or that global warming will soon kill us all, yet still happily blasts the dryer on instead of setting up a line outside, saving electricity and giving that water back to the ground.  I would imagine the same person also proselytises about saving the planet on Facebook using their smartphone, no thought of their own contributions.

I am reminded now of a couple of stories;

One, the time the Mrs White II was coming round to do the washing for us while we were on the summer well, everyone else does it pilgrimage.  When I came back, several of my shirts were shrunk into nothing and had to be thrown out.  From that date onwards I vowed that my shirts must only be washed by me and always line dried, even if the line was inside the house.  I have stuck to that ever since with no shirt casualties.  It may even have been the same trip that she promised to “tidy up the basement” – a statement that filled me with dread.  I was right to dread it, I had to rescue so many things from the bin on my return, including the carrier bag collection.  Every adult has a carrier bag collection, right?  If not, you should, especially in a country where they can cost up to 50p each.

Two, the time in Sittingbourne where it was a national emergency that the tumble dryer door hinge broke.  I had actually forgotten this one, but my own parents had not and reminded me recently.  Apparently, what stuck most in my mother’s mind was my apology for the fact that my mother had hung the washing outside on the clothes line in the height of summer for the clothes to dry naturally, while the tumble dryer was broken.   The fact that my Dad was luckily there to fix the tumble dryer properly and free of charge was not good enough – I should be hiring someone to do it that very day rather than wait 2 days for the part to be in stock at the shop down the road.  This whole incident culminated in someone insisting the tumble dryer must be used and jamming the door of it shut with a broom handle, something my Dad said was bound to either cause a fire or burn out the thermostat.  I never did tell him that not long after the dryer did die…of a broken thermostat.  I feel that drip…drip..drip again.

If I was to analyse it all carefully – and I will since it’s my prerogative here, I would say a tumble dryer is another example of an entitlement culture, the welfare state mindset.  Where I live now, we see few clothes lines and in those shared apartments popular here, there’s always a wash room in the basement with shared facilities, including a number of tumble dryers.  Given that this is included in your rental, a tumble dryer is “free”.  It’s not of course, but to that mindset it is – there is no point in the effort, someone else is ultimately paying for it.  For years, that someone else was me.

Fast forward to 2019 and here we are, a clothes line outside with clothes drying for free gently in the breeze.  What could feel better than that?

Confirmation

It’s interesting how writing about something clears the thoughtwaves to then bring forth fresh thoughts and that’s exactly what’s happened since the post on Peer Pressure.

I have been thinking a lot today about Confirmation, or konfirmation, depending on where you come from.  Confirmation is that time when you get confirmed as an adult member of the church, it usually happens about age 13.  At least it did for me in the church of England and it did for my two eldest children.  The other two come later.

When I had mine I think we popped down to my grandparents house for a few sandwiches.  My sister was confirmed at the same time too.  Wish I could say I remember the event, but I really don’t, only that it now means I can go to church and partake of the bread and wine.  I even did this on Christmas eve 2018, when I attended the evening service at the church in Consett.  Regardless of your thoughts on religion, or mine, that church in Consett is a focal point of my family history and therefore worthy of a visit.  Christenings, weddings and funerals have all taken place there over a period of many years.  I can even stand on the same step outside that my parents stood on for some of their wedding photos.  This history should not be forgotten – and it never will be, at least not by my generation.  Why, I even sat and endured the Vicar likening the people who voted for Brexit to King Herod.  I say let’s follow that star out of the European Union, but let’s save that one for another post.

Konfirmation in Denmark is a huge industry.  Parents spend the equivalent of thousands of pounds and relatives lavish thousands upon the confirmees.  I’d liken it to US Prom, if not way beyond that, with expensive dresses, everyone else dressed up to the nines and the requirement for a big dinner.  Everyone congregates at the church.  This in itself is an interesting insight into the culture here, since to be able to get your child confirmed, you need to pay the 1% a year Church tax.  That Abba came up with the song money, money, money can be no coincidence.  The competitiveness begins at the church with parents outdoing each other in their fineries, the girls in white dresses that will only ever be worn once and boys in jackets and shirts.  In the case of my son, also worn only once..sigh.  Once the service is over, everyone files out – for 99.9% of them, these people will never attend church again unless a funeral, wedding or christening demands it.  It reeks of hypocrisy.

This is now where phase 2 begins – how to get from the church to the place where your big confirmation dinner is.  Of course, the aim is to outdo everyone else, so being picked up in a Lamborghini, vintage car or vintage horse and trap are potential winners.  You can already feel the drip..drip..drip again, can’t you?

Phase 3 – dinner.  As a parent you are expected to pay for a 3 course dinner with drinks ad libitum, for all guests.  Then something called “going away” food – another meal at the end of the event.  I should point out here that these dinners last for several hours.  Then comes phase 4, the gifts – and believe me, these gifts are expensive.  The minimum expectation is that guests will buy gifts to the value of the meal they received.  In fact, I hear it’s very common for some to be critical of the quality and value of gifts received if they are not up to the expected standard.  That’s what I heard anyway…

Given this backdrop, I was gradually manouevred into accepting that sandwiches at Montana for close family only was not going to be adequate and much to my shame now, I acquiesced.

Of course, this whole procedure is classic well everyone does it.  The ultimate peer pressure of parents feeling they are letting their children down if they don’t do it and then their desire to keep up with and overtake the Joneses – or should that be Jensens?   The desire to keep up is what probably comes first, not the child.  A rough calculation in my head suggests it cost about £3-4,000 per child and while the food was great, are you seriously saying it’s good value for money?   I can honestly say now that I did not enjoy either day.  The stress, tribulations and fakery are really not worth it.  It all feels like a gigantic sham.

As for helping your children learn the correct value of something, what could be more important than learning the value of family and the value of money?  Doesn’t confirmation help give children some of those values?

Sadly not.

My side of the family invested greatly in being present for their grandchildren and since 2016, they’ve been treated as subhuman by my children – ignored and considered irrelevant.  It comes to something when your own granddaughter can’t even be bothered to walk down a flight of stairs to say hello to a grandmother she hadn’t seen for ages and that after her grandfather had died.  I expect the grandmother will be ignored again this summer.  The people who think it’s okay to do that should be ashamed of themselves, as should the shallow people who consider it a victory to help it happen.

As to the money, no luck there either.   The 6,000 krone gift to my eldest daughter dissipated into nothing.  it doesn’t really help when a bank gives a 13 year old a debit card, does it?  However, you can’t really blame the casino when a gambler goes bust – I remember a period of her ordering things online and tried to intervene – after all, I sensed a financial black hole in the offing.  My attempts to broach the subject were rebuffed by all parties – the resident modern childcare expert told me to let her get on with it.  I remember my daughters tears some weeks later when she admitted the account was empty – that there was nothing left.  Looking at it through the lens of 2019, I can see though that here there never is nothing left, there’s always Dovendanskerbidrag or such form thereof.  A most dangerous lesson indeed.  Why, I could almost imagine the government inventing another bidrag related to the concept of konfirmation, so the parasites can stay fed.

So if anything, Konfirmation is another confirmation of being hammered into something I didn’t want to be and never could be, a square peg into a round hole.  I think I’ll just remain a square, thanks.  Oh and can I have that hammer back?