A few days ago, a very upbeat little chap was brought home.
Yes, we don’t have enough dogs. Even a kennel never has enough dogs. Though now we seem to have become The Kennel. Now we each have a dog, so no more jealousy; though there is a tad of envy between the dogs as we all fight over who gets to sit with the puppy. But when it comes to taking it out for a midnight pee-pee, then the puppy firmly belongs with his true owner, my son.
There was much discussion as to what kind of dog my son should get. We all had our views and reasons, forgetting about his needs and wishes. But he is strong and came through, and of course, after we visited the pup just to check, we were all sold. Clever of him, really, to take us all along for the ride, even my mother was invited – he could have shown us any little weird creature on half a leg and we have fallen in love. But the minuscule five week old Springer Spanielthat flopped around, stumbling upon overly long ears and overly big paws was too much for us; we were smitten and cooed the entire way home, all of us longing for the three weeks to whizz by until it would be old enough to join our family.
My son chose his dog – and its race and pedigree, with care – actually with the utmost simplicity: a happy dog, male, and that would be good with rough shooting. (And whose parents and breeder we knew and lived nearby.)
For that is my son’s passion: walking off with a tent and a pack on his back, carrying not much food but a compound bow. He lives off the land for days, somewhere by the forest that follows the fjord, picking the odd pheasant for a dinner that he prepares over a small fire. When he gets hungry, he returns home. Sometimes it is just to raid the kitchen before he leaves again.
I understand his need for a true companion.
And that is what he will get, as he is proving to be an excellent father, friend and teacher.
Both him and the puppy are desperately happy in each other’s company.
And I am the ecstatic puppy-sitter when he is at school, though I am looking forward to him returning to full time parenting duties when the holidays begin, thankfully soon.
Now there is an extra reason for us all to smile; not only because we think that he is the cutest critter ever, but because now there will be another tail wagging when we come down in the mornings, another always-happily-hungry snout sniffing around, and another gleeful, euphoric rollicking hound forever begging for a longer walk than the extensive, exhaustive one from only an hour ago. Not to mention the bounding, paw-pirouetting, tails a’swishing at the gate whenever we return home – even if it has just been three minutes away to the workshop.
Always happy to see one again, never angry or resentful or begrudging when one has been away.
This year, Denmark celebrates 75 years of liberation from the Second World War. The German Capitulation was declared on the evening of the 4th of May 1945. Candles are lit yearly to commemorate this, gracing the windowsills of every Danish home. Flags are then raised on the 5th of May to celebrate the end of German occupation.
This year’s 75th anniversary strangely coincides with the new-found freedom being felt by Danes from another affliction: the pandemic of the Coronavirus, Covid-19.
Every story has its sinners and saints, its devils and angels. Some are easy to detect- the Villainous Virus and the Heroic Health Workers.
This year the Danes celebrate a double victory of Liberation of oppression, as we can finally walk outdoors and enjoy the new-found freedom of life once more. The heroes we celebrate today, are once again those who put their lives in the line of fire for us, they simply wear a different uniform: the doctors and nurses. Yet we raise our flags, light our candles, and remember too, the heroes of yesterday.
At the end of the Second World War, for most, it was also easy to distinguish between the villains and heroes. Yet before the war, during, and even up until the end, there was, for many, a thick fog that continued to cloud rational judgement.
Some took a stand and fought against Germany, others stood back and preferred being neutral, while there were those who actually joined the German aggression, choosing to be a part of the force of Evil.
At the very beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, there was no straightforward understanding of the virus, and it was seen as just another strain of influenza. Yet when doctors began to acknowledge that it was a type of Coronavirus, and a deadly one, then alarms should have sounded for the world to hear and then act upon.
The same with 1930’s Europe.
Hitler had already been in power for three years when Berlin hosted the 1936 Olympics, the world’s then most fanatical propaganda parade. Though the US and some of Europe called for a boycott, only Spain followed through. (Along with the odd contester, such as a French fencer because he was Jewish; other Jewish athletes chose to compete. Two women fencers from Turkey, the first Muslim female athletes to ever partake in the Olympics, protested by refusing to be introduced to Hitler because he was anti-Jewish.)
The Olympics this year was cancelled, and rightly so. Yet, for a while, there was mulling, and discussions, and doubt- until eventually, Canada bravely pulled out and slowly the rest came to their senses and followed suit.
The US only needed three votes to swing the boycott of the 1936 Olympics and then Europe would have followed. Instead, the US sent the largest team of athletes to that date, to the largest show of Nazi propaganda, which was not only permitted to take place, but because it was well attended, lent an air of acceptance and acknowledgement of Nazi Germany. This likely also accelerated Nazi tyranny, culminating in the Second World War.
When Denmark was first invaded by the Germans in April 1940, there were some that laid flowers at the German soldiers’ feet. And, although Denmark had kept itself neutral, the Danish government chose not to fight the German invasion, deeming it a hopeless fight with too many casualties and no possible victory.
The patriotic Danes thought this a shameful and cowardly decision that placed Denmark in the wrong camp. They then defied this decision and went to fight, either with allied countries, such as Great Britain, or joined the internal resistance. They were regarded by their own government as terrorists, and to the Germans as the outright enemy.
One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.
There were also the non-partisan, whom to some, were simply the cowards. And then there were those who not only collaborated with the Germans, but created Germanic SS detachments, such as The Free Corps and the Schalburg Corps. Some were more than mere Nazi sympathisers, they actually went to fight for Germany.
King Christian X, who reigned during the Danish occupation, although King of the Kingdom of Denmark, had no political power, yet he had popular power with the people. Every day he rode his horse Jubilee, unaccompanied through the streets of Copenhagen, offering encouragement to the Danes, as well as displaying, to both Danes and Germans alike, that he had not, and would not, abandon his claim to national sovereignty.
As with 75 years ago, Denmark once again undergoes the peculiar and unique way of celebrating these liberation days. The Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, King Christian X’s granddaughter, walked alone with the Danish Prime Minister to lay a wreath at Mindelund, Remembrance Park, to the sound of a solitary bugle.
There was no parade or large gathering: it was all cancelled for safety reasons. The celebration, once again, revered indoors; homage and honour being paid in the quiet of the home.
The Queen was dressed in the Danish national colour of red: symbolising love, strength, but especially as the mark of courage and sacrifice.
The 4th and 5th of May 1945 were not celebrated with huge euphoric parties and dancing in the street. For some it was still a sad, confused time. People had lost loved ones – not knowing if they were dead, or alive in hiding or in camps. The glorious sense of freedom from the many curfews placed by the Germans, as well as their lost sense of pride had to be, once again, rekindled.
For our family, those days were more than troubling.
My husband’s father, Carl-Johan, spent the entire night of the 4th of May, stripped and tied up in the barn, interrogated before inevitable execution by German soldiers- guns pointed to his head and chest. Then near dawn, a German officer, having been told that the allied forces had accepted the German capitulation, walked in and gave order for his release. The officer then turned and quietly told Carl-Johan that he was permitted to go as a liberated man and that he hoped that they would one day meet in a free and civilized Europe.
A few hours later, Carl-Johan Bernstorff stood with his fellow resistance fighters in the town square of Bogense, on the island of Fynen.
On the island of Zealand, in Copenhagen, my husband’s mother (who had yet to meet her future husband) sat quietly with her parents. Only a few weeks before their youngest son, Frants, returned from the German concentration camps, owing to him being a ‘British Officer Out of Uniform’, being Danish not British though he had served under Britain as a SOE officer.
Yet as these frail and emaciated men neared Copenhagen by train, they received word that the Gestapo were waiting for them. Frants jumped from the carriage, was met by the resistance, and he promptly joined them to continue the fight.
The family also waited for word from their eldest son, whom unbeknown to them had died only two weeks earlier; Anders Lassen was killed in northern Italy, by a German soldier who raised the white flag and then fired a shot instead of the agreed surrender.
On the other side of Denmark, on his family farm outside Lemvig in northern Jutland, my father was organizing with his fellow resistance members the finding and collecting of local traitors, both male and female, who would then be taken for questioning and trials.
For some the fog never lifts. The belief never shifted: even at the end of the war, there were Danes who went to fight with the Germans to defend the fall of Berlin.
The disdain of liberal democracy fogs into nationalism.
We have to be more willing to act when we see or feel the good sliding away into chaos. It can be anything from failing education to government corruption, from global environmental issues to family bonds. We have to hear, see, acknowledge and act. Otherwise what is the point of freedom?
The decisions made by Danish government of April 1940, were as difficult and delicate as those the government 75 years on, April 2020, had to make when they imposed isolation rules and shut the country down because of Covid-19. The decision this year considers lives over economy.
The decision in 1940 was lives over dignity.
Each event has its people on either side, some still in the middle, though it should not be a difficult judgement to make.
Allowing German occupation to save the lives of its people is one thing; but to join the Free Corps and fight alongside the Germans as their force spread across Europe, is another. Germany was then the tyrannical offence force of oppression.
Closing the country down in a virus outbreak to save the lives of its people, although at great economic cost is one thing; but defying this order and thus helping and ensuring that this virus spreads further, is another.
Why are there guns and Nazi salutes, swastikas and the flags of tyrannical terror proudly held high in both instances?
This is thought provoking to the point of utter horror.
As the world slowly opens up after this pandemic, our freedom must not be taken for granted or abused. Else the virus will return. And we must be careful and watchful for the new virus that will certainly attack us once more. Much like the freedom many of us have, thanks to those who bravely fought for it, it must be cherished and nurtured and protected. Never taken for granted. The flag of freedom to be raised as many times as possible and passed from one generation to the next, lest they forget.
And when the slight echoes of marching boots come stamping down our quiet, peaceful streets, they must be silenced and stopped with utmost speed, for by then, it is already rather late. Those boots should not have entered through our gates of freedom.
I sit with my children, sharing stories and pictures with them, invoking pride and victorious justice -though harsh and somber, of our families before us, and hope that it seeps in and stays deep so that there never will be an inkling of doubt as to what is right and wrong, and which path to take.
That, in my mind, is one of the most important duties of a parent: to share the morals of life and therefore bring the child up with respect, care, responsibility, justice, honesty, dignity, trustworthiness and citizenship.
Without those morals, we human beings, are worth nothing.
An excerpt from a letter written in May 1945 by my husband’s grandmother, Sophie, to her dear friend Karen Blixen, explaining the strange feelings during their days of Liberation. There had been a contingent of German soldiers living in the wing of their castle/home as well as in the barn where Carl-Johan, her son, had been held captive and interrogated, the last evening of war.
I am so very sorry to hear that you have been ill and therefore unable to enjoy all this happiness that one still has difficulty in comprehending. There have probably not been many dry eyes in Denmark the evening it (the German capitulation) was announced, and one did not know which leg to stand on for joy. That one could again speak freely, is almost something one has forgotten how to do. I have so much to tell you, I do not know where to begin.
Carl-Johan was the military leader for the Freedom-fighters of Northern Fynen. I knew that he was a part of it, but not that he held such a high position. You can imagine how afraid we often were when we knew that he had ventured out at night; though anxiety is a part of war and I have always been happy to know that he was doing his duty for Denmark.
Erich (her husband whom was German born) has been rather splendid under all this, and he took the right path all the way through without a second thought, and has felt like I, throughout, and it has been wonderful to share.
But you know, Tanne, one is but human; when I saw the Germans’ final roll call here on the morning that they finally left, where their officer decorated three of them, and held a speech and they almost all cried, well then the feelings of triumph gave way to a strange sense of pity for these people who would now walk home to Germany, having lost everything, without knowing where their families were, their homes destroyed, many of whom were probably decent country people.”
This is a tough one; particularly as things start to break down. But respecting The Space, The Person and The Me, allows the good vibe of (human) decency to settle and be absorbed. From self-respect to respecting another’s privacy, this is definitely worth struggling for.
I want my children to get up, make their beds, tidy their rooms, and get dressed in neatly pressed clothes and clean shoes. But my husband does that and I think it’s weird.
Plus, if I were a teenager, I would love to go to school in bed.
Where does on draw the line? And, every time someone wants to wear something clean and neat, I have to make it just so; and I HATE laundry. Plus, eleven years ago we were under renovations for a new laundry room that never happened; the old laundry room was changed into something else. So the washing machine is still stuck in the coat cupboard by the dog’s bed, which is covered in the odd laundry piece that is better than their blanket, and fallen jackets (as the coat-hooks above are too full because the coat cupboard is now the washing machine cupboard). And it’s all beginning to resemble ABSOLUTE CHAOS!! Therefore I am actually relieved when the children’s clothes are a bit miffy… it means I can get on with anything else, except washing and ironing.
My teenage son, when he does venture out from beyond his walls, walks around naked save for boxers and the same socks as when Lockdown at his boarding school was announced. But I have to find this wonderful!
My daughter and her Labradoodle have to be dragged out for air and a pee – being as long haired, floppy and rancid as the other I end up hauling the dog to the bathroom and my daughter to the lawn.
And much to their father’s demise both children attempt their homeschooling from bed – and who am I to bemoan them, if I were a teenager…
Only my husband and mother keep going as if it were all normal.
He gets up early, does his exercise, showers, shaves, dresses neat and nice – “Who the hell are you going to see?” I yell from the pillows. He closes the bathroom door. I pick up another book. He goes downstairs, lets the dogs out, walks them, feeds them, feeds himself. Goes to the farm office or the fields.
I also have the (odd) video call, I just make sure my pj’s are not visible. Or that it’s at an hour where pj’s are appropriate. And it’s not particularly warm in Denmark, so a long coat fits over them quite well when I walk the dogs. I just have to remember to change the orange, furry slippers to gumboots. There are puddles and the game-keeper looks at me weirdly.
I, as usual, am torn between it all. So sometimes I go to my office in my pj’s, and other times I put on my proper, more respectable onesie. And I wear it all over and over again as I really don’t want to visit The Cupboard and who cares as I am not going to get any visits from anyone.
But then I shake my head and have to pull myself together and say to myself that if I allow myself to be this way, then my kids will too. (So why can they not be like their father? “Copy him!” I scream.)
It’s lonely. Loneliness makes one feel awful. Then one looks awful then no one gives a damn. (Even when no one is around is to give a dam – though in my case my family and the hounds).
Therefore I have to do something to un-suck-it.
Advice to self:
Don’t feel lonely. Don’t look awful. Give a damn. (If you don’t who will?)
Do not feel sorry for yourself – you are not alone, and even with everyone you know in isolation and bored, no one has the time for you. Everyone is too busy with themselves. You are on your own – that’s why it’s called Isolation.
You want to scream – well, do it.
But no one listens to Loud mouths, especially when they then start screaming. Believe me, I know.
When I first got married I screamed in the forest. Then the fields. Nothing. Then I moved it indoors and my husband moved out to the fields and forests.
No little wonder that I became more withdrawn into myself, choosing to write and paint in isolation. Which now, I cannot even do!
Respect others, and Respect the person:
I respect my husband and the way he carries on: Business as Usual. (But if he throws that shirt to wash too often, I will tell him).
Respect their/the Space:
The doors are shut to my children’s rooms and I am thus blind to their beyond. Hopefully, it will get so messy that they cannot find anything and will then clean up. (Or throw to wash instead of folding away).
Respect The Me:
Pfffttt (Blowing Rasperries)
Or just make my bed…
The Art of Isolation within Isolation:
Everyone needs just a few moments of Me-Only-Time. Yet how and where does one find that quiet corner of privacy when everyone is locked within the same space? I mean, how silently can one scream in family frustration?
Take a deep breath and just find that perfect quiet spot, even if it’s in a cupboard (without a washing machine) or a box (preferably, very empty).
And when someone sits desperately alone in their much needed quiet, empty spot: let them be. Respect their space.
The Art of Good Memories or else a Good Book:
Once that perfect, quiet spot is found, then find your good memories. If there is no solo, then gather the gang and play The Good Memories Game… you will be amazed at what others remember, and what you chose to forget. And all the while, creating amusing memories during this terribly testing time.
Remember, good is key here. And if you really are alone, or have no good memories whatsoever, then find that thick hardback and start turning pages… after pages… after pages.
Everything right now is not as it seems.
How to fight isolation while wanting one’s own space? How to keep the noise in the quiet and find quiet in the noise? How to keep contact without the contact? How to keep keeping busy with doing the same crap while still managing to find it funny? How to keep laughing in a very sorry situation? And, how to keep the love going when you hate being locked up?
Our family is in a rather strange situation. (Again).
I normally prefer to work (painting) in isolation, and now here I am in the ideal position yet unable to even get the colours mixed. My studio sits empty, the dust layers mounting.
Our children have internet home-schooling. Thank Whatever for that, as it keeps them busy and out of sight for part of the day and they have enthusiastically found that laptops work best under the bedcovers.
Yet for my husband, it’s business as usual. He does not have to wake up thinking, “What the *’#! am I going to do today?” while optimistically waiting by the window for a pigeon to maybe pass.
He gets up, usual routine of showering, exercising, feeding dogs and himself, and then check the office at the end of the corridor or the tractor at the end of the field. The farm meetings continue with the manager, the game-keeper, and the forest ranger – just with a bit more distance between them in the fields or woods or as a video call. (How much more distance does one need on a farm in the middle of nowhere?)
He does not feel frustrated.
He feels normal.
Only by late afternoon does he feel the change. He wants a family walk or talk but we are too busy – singing or dancing away while cooking or creating outfits. He either joins the madness or goes off to knock golf balls in the garden (often with more charging around after the hounds as they chase his drives and swallow his swings.) Then it’s his dress up time. We have all been ready for ages. My mother is usually already sitting in the lounge, all outrageously outfitted and sipping on something strong.
I try to advise our children, after their home-school-day is over and before exasperation followed by cruelty sets in, how to keep busy. And we have been pretty good at it. Well, we’ve tried.
Here are a few of our best ideas:
Cook a whacky, quirky meal or a weird, wonderful cake. Everyone on Facebook seems to be wanting to try this – if I see another Instagram post of a meal… … Cook it, don’t post it.
Together = Chaos = Fun…
Jump up and down or run around in circles screaming: it’s way more fun than kitchen gym sessions, and it really gets the frustration out. (Holding heavy pots or pans in each hand helps the biceps too). It can even end up being quite ridiculously droll.
Play lots of them (and not the computer ones. Don’t be lazy, now is not the time – plus you have the time.) And it is so much fun!
Games Alone :
Solitaire is a good one.
Games with the Family:
Those really long Board games that are never played due to lack of time– find them and dust them off.
Monopoly: (the Danish edition is exceptionally thrilling for us as are all desperate to buy the road with the same name as we have).
Poker: it’s good to teach children how to keep the cheating face while learning about luck, skill and strategy.
Let’s Pretend: like it’s still Easter and the children have 10 minutes to find the old eggs that were not used last year – (even though you desperately ate some of them, so many “eggs” are actually small stones wrapped in pretty paper – well it IS called Let’s Pretend). And it gets them out of the house in a hurry.
Games with the Dogs:
Throw the Stick (perfect in the lounge), Kitchen Catch, Tag, Follow the Tail, Find the Evil Smelling Bone (hidden for a long while somewhere in the house, though could be an old mouse), Sit Still, Play Dead.
It’s creative, takes a lot of imagination and takes up a lot of time and best of all, it’s really entertaining and funny. Hilarious even.
Put all your imaginative skills into a fun evening: Cook, create, dress, play, games, dance… and make a Theme Night.
Start a Blog
people are in Lockdown, they are bored, frustrated – someone might just read it.
And there is meditation:
I really envy those that can sit down, cross-legged and still be comfortable, no pins-and needles or numbness, close their eyes and think of nothing, just letting their world fly on by.
And it seems that – from all the posts being posted – that Isolation is really boosting meditation practise.
I hope that it’s taken off across the globe and that when the world opens up again it will be like a giant flower blossoming with only good things… except sadly, I wish that I could be a part of it all, but if I close my eyes I either fall asleep (even standing up), have a panic attack because I cannot sleep or too scared to sleep, or I keep thinking about that costume I should be creating for the night’s dress-up party.
Though I have heard that there is a Laughter/Yoga thing and that seems more up my street – (or country path).
Music is the greatest tension soother, best barrier breaker, finest feel-good tool that man has ever created (some prefer a ball, but have you ever listened to a ball bouncing for hours on end?) Music includes singing, playing (an instrument as well), listening, learning and remembering but best of all DANCING! Just plonk away on that dusty, rotting piano, or drum those dirty kitchen pots while cleaning, sing anything everywhere – no one cares right now how bad you are (save the dog, who might join in), or just play some good music and wiggle your way to bliss. Get the groove going, no one is watching and again, no one cares. Need to learn? There’s tiktok, disco videos, rap tutorials- or if you aren’t that good, there are online courses (“Popular instructors have over 266 000 students!!…huh???)
Just enjoy the loud music and get on down! There is nothing like dancing and singing at the top of your voice. You’re in isolation and the Police have better things to do than answer to annoyed neighbours complaining of loud music.
And for a prime performance – get the family to join in… Inspiration: this Family Lockdown Boogie.
It’s not that difficult in our age of technology. Pick up the phone, send a text, email, a good joke, a photograph of your day, especially to those who really are alone.
As my mother-in-law always says: “There is always someone worse off than yourself.”
Me: Where? I live so isolated I never get to see “someone”.
Write That Email:
That email that has been nagging you for years; I wrote (and sent!) the thank you letters I owed guests for my birthday bash two years ago. (They hardly remembered the party, let alone the gift, so I filled the emails with photos from the night. It took ages combing through the photos, but I had fun reliving the party.) Don’t give an excuse (though I did, it was most of the letter – besides all the pictures) – Just do it.
Call Someone Who Is Alone:
Find old Aunt Mildred’s telephone number and just call her (of course she will still be annoying – people don’t change just because there is a pandemic), but you will feel good and she will be happy – so it’s a win-win.
You might end up feeling terribly bad- not because she is still the World’s Most Annoying Aunt- but because she still manages to annoy you so much. And, even though you have been an adult for many years now, hopefully she will be happy that she still manages to annoy you and that means that you have done a good thing.
If it makes her feel bad, guilty, whatever, well, at least it’s given you both something to do for five minutes, and you can both use the rest of the day fuming in/over Life’s Little Annoyances.
Otherwise, if you really are a coward, and she has a cellphone, can use it, and she can still read, then Send a Text. Just show her that you are thinking of her – you don’t have to wish her well – but she will be happy, and you don’t even have to read her reply. Immediate Delete or tap Spam if you fear more are on their way.
With all the technology available to us to talk and see each other online, there really is no excuse not to use it. And you don’t even need their numbers! So video chat someone you have not seen in years. “Surprise!”
Remember: you are on video – get out of the pj’s and brush your hair. (But the really fun bit is “surprising” them in their Isolation Outfits.)
It does have the odd down-side though- they may not reply at first, because they are getting out of their now-ragged “Isolation Outfits”. Or, maybe they’re just ignoring your sudden appearance on their screen, but they cannot keep playing the “Let’s Pretend I’m Not at Home game”, so don’t be put-off! Keep trying! Or, just move on to the next unsuspecting person.
I sent a long, chatty Whats-app to an ex who lives in Japan and sat excitedly waiting for the even-longer, chattier, wittier “OMG-it’s-You” reply. Instead: Fine. You seem too.
There was not even a question mark anywhere, so obviously no reply or answer wanted.
And remember the hour difference. I like to think of that being the reason for the many extremely short, small-worded replies, maybe I am disturbing people in the middle of something, like the night?
Desperate times desperate measures: Facebook.
Facebook has actually helped me in the worst of times. When Zimbabwe was crumbling, and everyone was leaving, Facebook kept me together with friends, neighbours even girls from boarding school whom I vowed I never wanted to ever-frikkin see again. I have followed their lives, gawked/giggled at whom they married, watched their children grow up and their pets grow old.
And when their posts get too desperate or political, too full of My Meal photos or grand/god children, there is the magic touch: ‘Unfriend’.
If you are not out to show how many followers YOU have, it is also great to follow friends on a different level (or whatever topic amuses you). I have two accounts: the one is my Art and is open to the world. The other, is strictly for Friends, and is closed, and very, very small.
Turns out the guy with the most jokes is my sister’s ex-fiance… Who would have thought that an ex-Detective Warrant Officer would be that funny? (– because he wasn’t when they dated.) Create a Joke Group: you are contacting people daily (or hourly depending on the humour of the individuals) and you are getting a laugh each time they contact the group. Remember, everyone’s humour is different and you will notice it changing as Lockdown wares on… Just be polite, you don’t have to pretend to laugh, no one is watching. But you can continue sharing your jokes, and we all know that it’s so boring to laugh alone. Laughter is for Sharing. Sharing is Caring.
Our group is on Messenger and is called Laughter in the Time of Corona.
But honestly, there are a group of very lonely people in Isolation, and whom will sadly be alone for a while because they dare not venture out, and we need to be there for them, to cheer them up, making sure that their every day is a good day.
We do not go anywhere that involves people as we have to safe for my mother, otherwise we cannot meet.
I forward the odd, slightly appropriate joke from The Joke Group to others living on their own and hope that it helped put a smile back into their loneliness/isolation. We have certain people we make the twice-weekly video chat with, we have a family get-together and call or video chat – my mother-in-law is stuck in her apartment in Copenhagen and dares not to venture beyond the lift, and I know that she appreciates the calls, the pictures, (even the jokes), but she loves seeing us the most. That’s all she has without the real contact. I wish we did it more often.
And that old Aunt, well I wish that I had the courage to even do it. A text will have to do.
We know the benefits. How it de-stresses the soul, strengthens the immune system, boosts mood and morale. Humour Helps Life. So, in Isolation humour is essential.
My dream has always been to be part of a small group of close friends who laughed together on a daily basis, in some absurd job that would suit being ridiculous because that’s what I seem to be best at. (As a child I fantasised being a part of The Monty Python Team, not just for the comical acting but mainly for thinking up the hilarious bits. I could squander my life laughing.)
I love the feeling. The tight tummy contractions, the desperate securing of the bladder muscles, the snorting of breakfast through nostrils, the actual falling to the floor and rolling around, tears in free flow – I really miss it. It’s been too long, because Real Life Got In The Way. I was forced to grow -up, follow the adult norm.
Why as children is it OK to roll around, playing and laughing and being silly – with parents actually admiring them (though in my case, often with a deep sigh.)
Except when kids have fart competitions then the grown-ups frown. Why? Farting is so funny! It has a grown-up name: Flatulence Humour. And why else would there still buy fart cushions? (The British called them Poo-poo Pillows, the Americans Whoopee Cushions (dictionary term for whoopee: boisterous convivial fun – really? The Americans put fart sounds and sex together? Ew.)
Anyway, now there are electronic fart machines with different sounds and speeds. (Yes, I do have a small collection and it has amused many-a boring dinner party – not my dinner party, obviously).
And they can be ordered online.
I love to laugh. But my whole life I have been told that One Cannot Laugh One’s Way Through Life.
Shit. I was so hoping.
But now there is a new world situation, and I am going to do just that: I am going to laugh my way through this isolation!
So, switch off computers, TVs, all those darn teenage game consoles, and let’s goof around! Play proper old-fashionedgames, joke more, put on nonsensical plays, get the creative, fun spirit going. They say that Play is crucial for a child’s development, well in Isolation, its crucial for everyone’s survival.
Play relieves stress, improves the brain, stimulates mind and creativity and improves relationships and hence boosts the love around.
But the world is in Lockdown and everything is nonsensical and outrageous, and I am NOT going down. I am going to try to actually enjoy being locked in with my family. And to be able to laugh about it too. I prefer to be laughable and wacky, deliriously daffy and farcical than stuck sad under the covers. That can come when things are back to normal. Right now, hare-brained is good. It’s finally acceptable
Here are a few of My Favourite Things
Dress up for dinner
Black-Tie only works if you are doing a James Bond theme, but I mean DRESS-UP WITH HUMOUR.
It all began because, obviously we like to dress-up, and I have a cupboard full of silly things, and a mother, who is in her 80’s, and lives in her house across the moat. To keep her safe, we cannot see anyone. To keep her sane, we like to give her something to think about, look forward to, create and be a party to.
Every family member chooses an evening and a theme. That person must do everything according to the theme – lay the table, make the food, create the entertainment afterwards – the rest of us have to simply appear at 19.00, all dressed up. Metamorphosised and ready to laugh!
It all began with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Picnic – my daughter and I were just about to come out of self-isolation (after returning home from living on some far-off island in the Indian ocean), so we were still feared- we needed serious distance but we were desperate to see the family together again. We wanted more than a wave from my mother from across the moat or to have a kiss blown to us by my son, or an aria from my husband from the lawn.
So, it was decided: a picnic on the edge of the forest with Mad Hats and Masks would be in order- if we all kept our distance. It was so good to be out, to be together as a family, to be laughing, to be “normal” (yeah that’s us).
When we were finally free from self-isolation, and could move back into the main house, the dress-up bug had already bitten. This led to countless Theme Evenings, from my husband’s 007 evening, with much shaken but not stirred, to teaching the children Poker, to Toga Party video calls with friends in severe lockdown beyond their home (they did have sheets though!)
We cannot dress-up every night, sadly, because otherwise we would. Therefore, we must find other funny, laughable things to do before or after dinner.
Group Laugh (group hugs are old news):
If it’s been a hard day at the field office for my husband: everyone gathers close, and on the count of three, we laugh. Simply stand around and “1, 2, 3- LAUGH”! Yes, of course it HAS to be forced, especially at the beginning. But then it is just so funny that laughter bubbles up and we are falling over, our sides splitting. Sounds crazy? It is! (That’s the point).
I did not invent it, there are actually Laughter Clubs all over Denmark. (Yup, that’s why we top the charts on the world’s Happiness Index).
Everyone brings at least three jokes with them to dinner: to make it more exciting, dice are involved. If you get six you can tell your joke. It’s so unnerving to see and feel the desperation of people desperate to tell their jokes (before they forget). If you do forget you forfeit your joke and give it to someone of your choice. If it’s taking too long adding up to six helps. Add 1s and 3s if it’s getting late and the elderly are remembering the glass of wine more than their jokes, let them just tell it: They are seeing doubles anyway.
And of course, doubles count as twice!
After Dinner Games:
Squashed Sardines (It’s not a kitchen/cooking game though many Facebook posts of attempted muffin baking while in Lockdown should probably be given this title).
One person goes to hide – while the others count before spreading out to find that person. The idea is NOT to tell when the person is found, but to join. And then try to keep quiet in hiding while the others search. Lots of stifled snorty giggles. Last person to join the group squash is IT.
Prop – translated from Danish: Cork. It’s our after-dinner-party staple when there are guests. But it’s still fun between family. Collect all those wine corks (you can cut them in half if necessary, or have three each) and tie string around each one. Holding tightly to your string, pile them into the middle. Only one person has the dice and the cup – when a 6 is thrown, the cup has to catch the corks that are pulled away too slowly. NB – clear the table and make sure it’s a low, stable one.
Then the more serious: Tickle Tournaments and Pillow Fights (make sure the kids are on friendly terms- once high pitch screaming begins it may lead to broken bones). “Costume-up” to make it all more authentic and lots of betting helps the hysteria.
Lest we forget all the wonderful, old-fashioned board games – not bored games, but the funny, noisy ones that make one laugh hysterically. Dust them off and bring them out. Reliving good memories is fun too.
You have to make the creature noises of the other players’ animal, while trying to remember everyone’s animal and call. Put different nationalities/cultures together and it’s ridiculously funny. I cannot explain – just play it.
Cards Against Humanity
For older teenagers and adults – The box says: “A Party game for horrible people”. It is totally politically and personally incorrect and therefore insanely funny. (They actually now have a Family Edition, but I haven’t played it).
We could not find our Snakes and Ladders so we re-created it in the chequer-tiled Hall. (And dressed up to match).
My Ultimate Weeknight Plan:
Monday Madness: Anything goes, but start the evening with a Group Laugh. It will be the funniest thing you have ever done before dinner.
Touched Tuesday: Very absurd Theme night. Dress it up!
Wicked Whimsical Wednesday: Joke Night
Theatrical Thursdays: Dress up, or just put on a smash-hit performance, but it’s Game Night – From Monopoly to Poker, Pillow Fights to Tickle Tournaments – with high stakes.
Funny Farcical Fridays: Wear a funny hat, wig, or glasses to dinner – though all three is best. (We do this for family Christmas lunches and along with all the booze, it makes the photographs a lot better to look at.)
Then play Charades.
Silly Slaphappy Saturday: Theme night and it is STILL SATURDAY NIGHT, even in Isolation. Make it happen! (You can even dim the lights or flash them, add music then Dance!)
Stupendously Stupid Sundays: Long good Lunch with lots of daffy stuff. Ending off with a few hours exhausted in front of the TV watching Friends, Big Bang Theory or Trevor Noah.
Happily knowing, that tomorrow, it starts all over again!
Absurd is the new normal.
How are we ever going to get back to weird being, well just weird?
Originally written by Ovid, Ars Amatoria, or The Art of Love, (click here for the FREE electronic book) is an elegy three-book series- a “how to” on how to find a partner, and keep him/her.
If you cannot master so many pages without pictures: you can read the synopsis.
It was written in 2 CE, although nothing has really changed. Except now we have isolation or social distancing.
I have no idea about online dating (I married before those became popular) so no advice there.
Yet I do know about love in isolation: I was a farmer’s daughter then married one. And I know, that in the darkest of times, Love is what is needed most (not the hoarding of toilet paper).
I live on a farm, far, far away, in deepest, darkest Jutland. I am still here; not because I love the farm, but because I love the Farmer. And there is space for lots of creatures – children, dogs, mother-in-laws.
Like all good stories, Love popped up and he had a farm too… Just in Denmark. My word, I thought our African bush farm was desolate, but rural Jutland? Even with (the) people, it is just so far, so way off the beaten track. And we aren’t just in rural Jutland, but rural east Jutland. In Danish we describe it as, “Where the crows turn back”. But this crow stayed.
“In the Middle of Nowhere” loses all meaning here; it’s beyond past the middle, it’s on the edge, just before one falls over the side of Nowhere… into Nothingness.
We were to live between the farm in Denmark, and the farm in Zimbabwe and this made me smile so hard that I thought my jaw would split. But then Mugabe had enough of the white farmers meddling in his politics, so he took the farms and gave them to his political allies/cronies. The farmers and the workers lost their jobs, their homes and everything else in between. And suddenly we were all displaced.
And I become isolated in a different place.
This different place was not mine, I simply married into it all. It was not just the place, the weather, and the culture that was different and not mine; but there were no childhood memories lingering in the corners, or forming part of the view. It was NOT AFRICA. The sounds, especially… The raucous of dawn and the shift into those deep, darkest of nights. The smells from the dawn dew on the dust, to the waft of evening firesides; the dust taste of winter, the feel of approaching thunder, the relief of the rains. And it was isolated in a different way. A Danish way, and since I was not really Danish, I didn’t know how to be isolated and happy in Jutland. It became a problematic isolation – one I really did not like. So I cried for years (and some more).
And then fast forward to isolation while being Isolated… But I’m skipping a few steps. When this Virus epidemic became a Pandemic, I was living with our daughter on the small island of Praslin, in the Seychelles. We were there for a three-month stint – I was painting for my upcoming June exhibition and our daughter was attending the local school. Ultimately we were there to escape the northern freeze. (Sub-Saharan Africans NEVER get used to the Nordic winter. Ever.)
It was paradise. A rented house with the sea in front, the neighbour’s banana grove to the side, and the tropical lushness of the hill behind us. I turned the enormous terrace into a studio.
Every morning we drank hurried banana-lime smoothies as we hurtled over the hills in the puny, shattered rental to make it to school in time. And, as we drove up the slim, twisting paths we would desperately hope, at each perilous corner, that we wouldn’t meet a bus- as there was no room for two speeding vehicles. When my mother visited, I returned to my daily routine of, swim before breakfast and the very long beach-chat under the palm tree, before the attempt to mix colours. After school my daughter and I would find another new beach to snorkel until the sun went down. Eventually we began finding walking and breathing on land almost difficult. My mother would join us in the sunset toast (always a decent bottle).
All of those beautiful fish turned us from attempted pescatarians, to full out vegans. This was rather easy because there were very few fresh organic egg options, and my daughter is also lactose intolerant. There was ample fresh fruit and vegetables, and rice was extremely cheap. It was so simple. And simple island living is good. And strangely satisfying.
But then that wonderful, strangely satisfying life came crashing to an abrupt standstill and we sat one evening having to make the decision: shall we go home to the farm in Denmark? Home was where our family was. But it was also early March and therefore home to grey skies and the cold. But there is Love at home. Big, bushy, beautiful, warm, wonderful Love. There is nothing like it.
But the sun, heat and warm sea…
We didn’t have time to contemplate. We had to buy new return tickets, and this had to be done within the next few hours. I didn’t want to make that decision so I sat looking out over the bay, listening for some advice from the waves. But they kept on crashing. And the blue kept on being blue, and the banana leaves kept rustling, and the tickets prices raced upwards.
My daughter’s school had shut only a few days before. Denmark was ordering its people home – “But I’m African dammit!” I was out-of-bounds and I wanted to keep hiding out. But then when would we get to go Home? It could be months in a place that was not Home. So I bought the tickets, tears streaming in frustration because we were going home a month too early. We couldn’t say goodbye to all our new wonderful friends, there was that beach we had not yet visited, and the night-dive we had yet to do. And, because we had just been living like locals we hadn’t done any touristy stuff.
Suddenly I was tearing wet, half-painted canvases off frames and rolling them into skew, home-sawn off drain-pipes. I was throwing clothes with wet snorkels into suitcases, while searching under beds and couches for wayward objects. There was the odd scream when a fat forest spider emerged, or when a dried-up mouse was pulled out instead of a crumpled sock. We went for our last swim, said goodbye to the fish that we had named, imagining that they were as sad as we were. And finally, all the shells we had collected from every beach from every day… we gave them back.
As the little eight-seater plane lifted off, the sun was setting. I sobbed. It was over. The adventure with my daughter had was cut short and I knew that this opportunity would never be possible again. And I, as a mother, could do nothing about it. I kept apologizing through the tears and builder’s mask (that was all I could find) as my daughter hugged me, reassuringly. It would be OK, it would all be fine.
And of course it would be OK. We were going home. To our loved ones. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
But it was not the wonderful welcome we were awaiting. Of course not. There was a Pandemic. And even though we came from an island with no Corona traces, we had been on a plane – through Dubai no less – and no amount of mask-wearing, Dettol smearing of our seats (and those in front and behind us) would ease our conscious. So when we got home we went into self-isolation in the small apartment at the end of the house.
It was bizarre being back home (all brown-skinned but in the very cold grey), living down there, away from the family. It was even stranger seeing my husband or son walk out the kitchen door across the courtyard, and have to do with a mere wave, or catch a kiss blown. And I’d have to rely on a short midday chat with my mother across the moat- luckily we both have loud voices! They were near, yet so very far away. They surprised and blessed us with little gifts that arrived on our doorstep: home baked Danish butter biscuits, fresh harvested honey, the first of the forest flowers. And yet, the ultimately unrivalled act of Love for us in Isolation, an aria from my husband from the lawn below the window– yes, he did actually sing in the mornings for us.
It broke my heart to not hug, hold, or be close to them –for two very long weeks. Freedom into their arms, never felt so sweetly euphoric. I never felt more loved. On Day 14 they brought early sprung daffodils, raised the flag in celebration, and waited in great anticipation.
That was my Love in Isolation.
But oh god, how I miss the warm days! The feel of heat on the skin, a warm swim in the sea. Spring is coming to Denmark, the first Beech leaves are pushing through. And every year the National News broadcasts which tree in which forest has just sprung forth. This is when I know that I am truly in Denmark, as no one waits for spring more than the Nordic folk. They LOVE spring above all else.
I guess this is why the government has allowed its citizens to judge safety standards for themselves. It’s not because the Danes are so well educated, such people of the world, so filled with common sense, so uncorrupt, such law abiding people who reach number one almost yearly on the Happiness Index… No, it’s because the Danish government know that they could NOT order Total Lockdown in Denmark during SPRINGTIME.
When the trees of the Danish woods Spring out in Spring so do the people.
I am proud of the way Denmark and the Danes have gripped this disaster and are steering the idea of slowly opening up, like a spring flower – a slow, careful blossoming.
And we are undoubtedly fortunate to be part of this country in times of crisis, as there is always a plan that gets carried out promptly and properly, and everyone trusts each other. We listen to those who know better, there are no secrets, we allow the government to lead and we do what is suggested. Therefore when it is recommended to Stay Home, we do. There is no Total Lockdown needed. With openness, there is trust; with trust there is safety; and therefore in Denmark there is Happiness. Even in Isolation. (Not the cheery merriment kind, we take things seriously). But knowing that even in the deepest of disasters, one is looked after. That is its very own special kind of Love. No wonder the Danes are always so proudly flying their flag!
Love in Isolation is not so bad here after all. And the greatest of all possible things during these difficult times, no matter how hard it is to be shut in together continuously, is this precious family time that has been gifted to us.
(Yes, I am fortunate I do not have three toddlers and an alcoholic husband, and we have, not just a garden, but a whole farm and that our work continues).
This time which I am now sharing with my family, between the longest of squeezing hugs, and the deepest of annoying sighs, is finer than a pleasurable dream. It’s more fulfilling than any deadline reached or stout bank account spilling; it is truly special. I awake in the mornings thanking my life for what I have, and no longer having that restless spirit- wondering where to I should be heading off next. I see my children home-schooling from in their beds- and instead of chastising them I bring them breakfast. I visit my mother just next door, and am grateful for all that she is and that she is well. I watch my husband move about his work and farm and wish for nowhere else.
I am so fortunate that I have Love in Isolation.
I dare not say it loud, so I shall whisper it: I almost do not want it to end.
I know. I have tested every possible kind. From hospital isolation as a baby, to detention in solitary at boarding school… From confinement during war, to the desolation of the African bush. I’ve also experienced big city solitude and the isolated remoteness on our farm in Jutland, Denmark.
I am truly certified in The Art of Isolation. With distinction.
Constantly ill as a newborn – suffering from who-knows-what, I was repeatedly rushed to hospital in the capital city, which was over an hour’s drive from the farm. I was left there alone. The illness worsened, became more frequent; today the diagnosis may be Severe Panic Attacks From Constantly Being Kept From My Mother. I think that fits.
It was all the more exacerbated when I went to boarding school- aged six and a half. Bye-bye mother once again. Hello neurosis.
So many screaming little girls (of which I was probably the loudest) would send me in search of a “Little Quiet Spot”, which always lay out-of-bounds. The nuns’ punishments would range from gating, to solitary confinement, which was without any sense of quiet because it was beside the common room.
I was at war with the school. The country was at war with itself. It was Rhodesia 1975. Curfews fell from sunset until sunrise. When my parents had been in town for the day, my mother grocery shopping, my father searching for spare-parts or at bank meetings, they would join the convoy of farm vehicles guarded by armoured military trucks. They would then have to snail the long roads back, out into the distance, towards the far blue hills and the thickening bush.
Their homecoming routine involved locking the farm gates, then the security fence around the house, the doors and windows. They’d check the dogs, the guns, the radio-alert-station, the thick sandbags across the windows. Isolation paired with remoteness was not safe. But they were farmers. Farmers that survived alone. Living in Lockdown.
Yet the farm-life was where I felt free, even though I was not allowed to run everywhere on the farm. There were out-of-bounds places where armed anti-government fighters lurked, and this is where I went to hide; but with my dog. Throughout the school holidays I walked, took the motorbike, or rode the horse. I picked flowers, mimicked bird calls and caught butterflies. I never felt alone. The days were idyllic. Though the nights were terrifying.
The war eventually ended, as did childhood, and I was pushed off to study in Europe – in attempt to get that grown-up grip of my life that one is supposed to grasp along the way. I had severe butter-fingers. I lived all over the place, trying to tackle as many countries and cultures (and studies) as possible. I was forever desperate to fit in, but I was always “new”, different, and therefore also lonely. Solitude followed me around like an obsequious shadow and I kept on moving. Roots simply did not grow out of my toes.
I withdrew into my self until seclusion drove me kooky and then I would burst out demented and desperate to party and socialise. I’m still painfully suffering from this syndrome.
Writing and painting therefore, seemed to suit me- narrative and art swirling within this crazed circle of isolation and the sudden frenzied social outbursts.
And then Love popped up and as is the case, Love was blinded to my whacky, idiosyncracy. Lucky me! For when the Love fog cleared, it was just too late. And he was titled to Saint Peter the Great (by everyone).
And he also has a farm, just in Denmark, rural Jutland to be precise. Isolation with a crown. Green and grey, fjords and fields, trees and tracks, wind and wind and (lots of) wind.
But, of course, there is magic and beauty in isolation, one just has to find it.
Hence when this pandemic began to spread isolation, I was suddenly being contacted by many frustrated individuals, all asking what to do and how to do it. Finally, people were actually querying me for my opinion, and even being attentive…
“So, what should we do?”
Actually, to tell the truth: I don’t know. I may be African but I’ve never been in a pandemic before.
“How do we not panic?”
No idea, I awake to panic attacks and lie awake at night panicking about trying to get to sleep.
“How will we not go mad? How do we stay normal?”
You’re asking ME?
“But Kyne, you live on a farm in the middle of Jutland’s Rural Nowhere.”
I fell in love with the Farmer, not the farm.
“But it’s the middle of Nowhere?”
No, it’s passed the middle. It’s on the edge, just before one falls over the side of Nowhere… into Nothingness.
The Danes say: Where the crows turn back. (Except this crow didn’t).
“Just answer! This Isolation! This Madness! You know both! So frikin’ tell us what to do!”
Oh, simple! If you cannot beat it, join it. (The Madness, not the virus). You cannot beat isolation, social distancing, quarantine, Lockdown. So just do it. And try to actually enjoy it. (With a touch of Quirky.)
Just try to make the best of Isolation. When it comes to solitary survival skills in Isolation – I have a mass of suggestions and of course, opinions.
After all I am truly certified… certified in the Art of Isolation.