Living in a country where restaurants are expensive, Jensens Bøfhus is a godsend. The fare is simple and the offering could offend only vegans since it’s all about steak and chips. Or chicken if you fancy a change. I usually don’t. Danes have turned against this place in recent years and I really don’t get why. Actually, I think I do – it’s the Jantelov. A man who dared to set up a successful restaurant chain and make some money deserves to be brought back down to earth, ja? Seriously, one of the few things that can offend a Dane more than mixing up the wrong smørrebrød toppings is a self-made man (or woman). As the owner of Montana, I feel it myself often enough. I paid for that place out of my own productivity, no help needed or asked for. To a Dane, that’s very alien.
The weird thing is that Jensens is now more affordable than ever. I recently had a conversation with someone at work, when I said I’d been for my birthday and his response was “Oh, that’s expensive for what it is”. It seems few people have picked up on that one of their responses to the bad publicity has been to cut prices and right now you can get a steak with chips for 59kr, or about £7. Not only that, but chips ad libitum. Or should that be ad explodum. We’ve never managed more than seconds. It certainly compares well to others offering similar for twice or triple the price.
Oh and did I mention that if it’s your birthday, the desserts for everyone at the table are free? Review over, or almost, as here again there’s little variety in my mind about what to order. It has to be Queen’s Delight, but with jordbær instead of chocolate sauce.
Right, review over.
We went to Jensens in Randers yesterday. That’s the real point of this story. It’s a nice location, right in the centre of the town and gave us a chance to visit the flea markets in the morning, seeing if there were any bargains around. There were a few, but nothing compared to the huge art nouveau chandelier I got for the kitchen a few weeks ago. At the moment one of my little indulgences is to switch it on sometimes, for no reason, just to look at those 8 brass prongs and the art nouveau ceramic patterns it has. I can’t believe it remained intact, all the glass bowls and ceramic, lying on the bottom shelf of a stall there. I wonder what it’s past history is. Ah if only objects could talk.
Lighting aside, by some quirk of fate, we were given a table next to the table I sat at 2 and a half years ago, with all four of my children. At the time, I was buoyant. After some troubled times in which my father had died, I had almost lost the house and where my ex-partner had denied me access for 6 months, dinner with all 4 of them seemed like a wonderful opportunity to reopen the account book and get back to being together. Inviting them to dinner had seemed a great thing to do – their mother had crashed the Chevrolet Aveo I’d given her with all 4 of my children in it at the time. The story relayed to me was that she’d pulled into the path of an overtaking car and a collision at some speed had occurred, with the children screaming and distressed. I understand the repairs cost a lot. It certainly looked bad.
Even despite the awkwardness and outright hate I’d suffered the prior 6 months, I spent an entire work afternoon assisting her with the car insurance and ensuring my children (and her) were OK. It should have meant something and I wrongly thought it did – my dinner invitation for all 4 children was accepted that following Saturday.
Now, given the importance of this encounter, some agreed planned time and an opportunity to make amends, Jensens seemed the perfect choice. I even booked the table for peak time and, lest you wonder, there were no recent birthdays for free desserts. On the face of it, everyone had a good time. We laughed, we joked, I asked about their lives and got reasonable answers. Of course, some issues were skirted around and if I was to think about it objectively, my middle daughter (the most introverted one), was quiet and gave away little, always seeming to be staring to the side, thinking deeply. Or that whenever I tried to discuss the death of my father, their grandfather, they brushed it away and my attempts to talk about something deeper dissipated into nothing. The others seemed superficially happy and I drove them back home. I really felt great that night, the evening had gone well, I thought. Despite nagging doubts in the back of my mind, I was sure they’d missed me and that this was the beginning of healing the wound before it turned gangrenous, into something that could never be repaired. I was wrong. To this day, I’ve never seen my eldest daughter ever again, my son blocked me on facebook and gmail some months later and the two youngest, I last saw either at the supermarket or in momentary glimpses at the school while donating the many English books I had bought for my children over the years to it. In case you’re wondering why I did that, I was told by their mother that they didn’t want them cluttering up the house and I should throw them out. The school seemed happy enough to receive them. There were about 5 boxes of them in all and I’m glad if they are being read, even if not by the children they were intended for.
I digress at this point to describe a most peculiar incident a day before the planned dinner. The reason I recount it now is that it seems very relevant. Very relevant indeed if brainwashing, mental manipulation and hateful desire are your thing. At the time I passed it off as miscommunication. Misunderstanding during a time of trauma. The real trauma of course being the one inflicted on my own children, only I didn’t realise it then. The ex-partner called me and said, “The children are crying because I’m not coming”. This in itself was strange, we’d split up and my dinner invitation, relayed via her, was always for my 4 children. Why indeed would I invite someone who’d financially bled me dry and diverted my entire life onto a different stream, in another country? I made clear again that the invite was for my 4 children only, not her too. Looking back through the 3-year lens, I can see that that was the wrong answer, if my primary objective had been to rebuild the relationship with my children again at any cost. I repeated that the invite had always been and would always be for my 4 children only. Now I can only wonder what mind games played out during those days that I looked forward to this dinner. If I am to be honest, and as it’s my writing, I will be, I see no way that someone who ensured I never got to see my children for 6 solid months would be someone I invited to a dinner ever again. Not only that, but I had given them a chance to redeem themselves from prior anger and revert to being fair and reasonable, for the benefit of the children. They didn’t take it. I haven’t seen my children for 3 years now and I hold them responsible for it. I always will and don’t see anything will change that now.
I found the bill in my jacket pocket a while ago. About 900 krone (£110) I wasted that night. I chucked the receipt straight out. I don’t need that reminder of yet again being used and treated as a second-rate human being. If anything it was a most interesting insight into how people who claim to hate you and never want to see you again, can still be guaranteed to turn up when there’s a good freebie on offer.
I visited the Williamson Tunnels in Liverpool recently. If you’ve never heard of them, then the gist of it is that in the Victorian era, some true Victorian benefactor hired the unemployed to build tunnels for him, for little apparent reason other than to give them work. He was, it’s said, an eccentric in every way. One time, he held a dinner for all of the well-to-do of the area. Upon arrival, the guests were invited into a sparse basement room and offered peas and ham, nothing else. Many stood up and left in disgust. After he was satisfied all those had left that wished to, he stood up and said “Now I know who my true friends are!” and led them into a lavish dining room with fine fare on offer. Now, there’s a lesson in life. Only use your resources on those who appreciate you. From now on, I only will.