Baby Cecelia is born in Denmark



Charlie and Cecelia. Photo: Fun Love Photography

Five weeks ago, our beautiful daughter, Cecelia, was born at Herlev Hospital, outside Copenhagen. Her arrival has been long awaited and we are delighted that our Danish adventure has also brought a new life into the world.


Charlie meets Cecelia for the first time

She is six years younger than her brother, Charlie. He has been wonderful – despite wanting a brother! It’s lovely watching them together – already she responds to his voice and presence.


Photo: Fun Love Photography

My experience of giving birth here in Denmark couldn’t be more different from back in London. This time I had a c-section, after a ‘traumatic’ natural birth at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, in 2010. I won’t go into the detail but suffice to say the whole experience was stressful and involved me going back into hospital six weeks later to have an operation under general anaesthetic, followed by countless procedures.

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Cecelia at 8 days old

This time round, there was no hesitation about me having a cesarean. It meant we knew the delivery date and were able to have family out here to look after our son. Once in hospital, my husband and I had our own room in the Patient Hotel, next door to our own bathroom and close to the canteen. We quickly realised that Nick had to stay with me because there simply aren’t enough staff to deal with patients who need help moving and walking. This may be a highly taxed country, but like elsewhere, resources are tight. Anyway, I was very grateful that he was with me throughout.

The delivery itself was extremely professional and very quick. The Danish staff all spoke perfect English and couldn’t have been more pleasant. I was particularly pleased that one of the doctors was called Cecelia. Despite the horrendous pain I suffered following the c-section, it was very straight forward.


Photo: Fun Love Photography

Like her brother, we quickly realised that Cecelia was tongue tied (which is very painful for breast feeding mothers). Unfortunately doctors at Herlev refuse to perform the simple procedure to snip the frenum that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. So when she was just 18 hours old, my husband bravely left hospital with her, drove to a clinic in another town where they performed the procedure. It was not an ideal situation.

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Cecelia in hospital

Our baby then lost weight and developed jaundice, both of which are very common in newborns. But the staff were worried and we were moved from our room, upstairs into what can only be described as a broom cupboard. We had no window or running water and had to walk through another family’s room to get to ours. My poor husband had to sleep on a padded bench and wasn’t allowed to leave me alone. It was a difficult 48 hours. But thankfully, five days after giving birth, we were finally allowed home.


On the beach at Kronborg Castle in Helsingør

Danish friends say the second half of our hospital experience is more common in Denmark than you might think. But overall, I found giving birth here much better than in South West London. We’ve also been extremely lucky to have a wonderful health visitor, Kirsten, from Gentofte kommune (our local council) who is always ready to help or offer advice via phone or text. Staff at our local doctors’ surgery have also been supportive.

So now our family of three has become a family of four, and things are noisier in our house (especially at night!). But boy, do we all love our little girl!


Photo: Fun Love Photography

With thanks to Heather Davidson-Meyn at Fun Love Photography for the great photos.


Copenhagen: The Pregnant Mermaid


If all goes to plan, two weeks today I will be having a baby here in Denmark. It’s our second child and, to put it mildly, has been a long time coming.

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I think the Bump enjoyed it.


Over the past eight months, I have kept up my swimming – averaging between one and two kilometres a week. As the bump has grown, this is the one sport I have felt able to do that hasn’t put too much strain on my body.

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Feeling weightless



Today, thanks to my Monday swimming group led by an inspirational woman called Sue, I became a mermaid. OK, so I’m not exactly Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, but a Pregnant Mermaid, yes.  The weightlessness of swimming under water with a tail is just magical. Obviously I didn’t try all the moves the other mermaids were perfecting but I gave it a damn good try!

So with just 14 days to go until delivery day, I intend to keep up the swimming. And I hope I will be able to return to the water as soon as I’m allowed. I took my son swimming from just a few weeks old and I hope I can do the same again.

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Charlie the Waterbaby!

** With thanks to Sarah-Jane Elsey and Elisabeth Godin for the photos and video taken today.**

Denmark: Not so happy now

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A few thoughts after being interviewed by RTE (Irish radio, which you can listen to here) about Denmark’s decision to confiscate jewellery and cash worth more than 10,000 Danish Kroner (£1,000) from refugees. Today the Migrant Bill passed through Danish Parliament, despite international opposition. It also means that asylum seekers have to wait three years before they can ask to be reunited with family members.

The Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, has described it as the “most misunderstood bill in Denmark’s history.”  The argument goes that if unemployed Danes aren’t allowed assets before they seek benefits, why should anyone else. Interestingly, it wasn’t just those on the right who voted yes – even many centre-left Social Democrats agree this is a fair policy. And with 70% of Danes putting immigration as a top concern, there is widespread public support towards efforts to curb immigration.

Outsiders seem shocked that ‘welcoming, liberal’ Denmark can be so tough. But the reality is, they don’t care what others think. Danes say they need to protect their borders and their small country of 5.6 million people. But it’s a far cry from the ‘Happiest Country in the World’ name tag that Denmark has enjoyed for so many years.

Denmark says ‘Nej’ to more EU

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The front page of Danish tabloid, Ekstra Bladet

The Danes have done it before and now they’ve done it again. Just when Brussels was counting on Denmark to vote ‘yes’ in an EU referendum, the country has said ‘no’. Or as one tabloid headline put it rather delicately this morning: “Løkke fik f***-fingeren”, which loosely translates as Denmark gave their prime minister the finger.

So what was at stake here? Well a cross-party group of politicians, lead by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, was hoping to persuade Danes to opt-in to EU Justice and Home Affairs rules. These included becoming an official member of the European police service, Europol, the law enforcement body that tackles crime and terrorism. (As you can read here in my previous blog, the UK signed up to some of these rules last December.)


Leader of the Danish People’s Party (DF) Kristian Thulesen Dahl

But the no campaign, led by the Eurosceptic Danish People’s Party (DF), turned the referendum into one about trust. Who do you really believe here – the parties wanting to give away more powers to Brussels, or those of us who want to keep our sovereignty in Denmark? To Brits, it sounds pretty familiar doesn’t it? Add to the mix, the refugee crisis plus mass confusion about what Danes were really being asked to vote about, and you get this result – 53.1% ‘Nej’ and 46.9% ‘Ja’.

So what happens now? Well to be honest, no-one seems quite sure. Fast forward a couple of years and if David Cameron loses the EU referendum in the UK he’ll surely resign. But that doesn’t seem to be the precedent here in Denmark. Lars Løkke Rasmussen may only preside over a right-of-centre minority government, but he had support on both the left and right.

And what about Denmark’s membership of Europol? The Danish People’s Party had always argued that the country could negotiate a separate agreement to stay in, but no-one is sure whether that will be possible. Prime Minister, Rasmussen, is due to meet EU ministers next week to try to strike a deal. So it looks like more talking and compromise lies ahead.

Ahead of the Brexit referendum, David Cameron and co must be feeling a little hotter under the collar today. Already the British Eurosceptic UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, has told Danish media “hopefully our British counterparts will suffer the same fate”.  Afterall if the Danes can do it, what’s to stop the Brits from being next?

Danish Referendum: Why the UK should be watching

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I originally wrote this opinion piece for the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, which they translated into Danish (you can read the Danish version here.)

‘More EU? No Thanks!’ shout the posters at me as I walk along the street. As a Briton, I’m quite used to this kind of anti-EU rhetoric. But this isn’t London – it’s Copenhagen.

While the battle over Thursday’s referendum intensifies, few outside Denmark will have any idea it’s even happening. After all, does anyone really care if Danes opt in or stay out of the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs rules? Even a large proportion of Danes themselves seem unsure what the referendum is really about, with around a quarter yet to decide whether they’ll vote yes or no.

But there’s one European country that should be watching this with interest and that’s the United Kingdom. Within the next two years, the UK will hold its own referendum. This won’t simply be about European policing or legal matters. The question British citizens will be asked could affect the whole stability of the European Union; do voters want to remain a part of the EU or do they want to leave altogether? No wonder Prime Minister, David Cameron, is keen to prove he’s doing all he can to secure a better deal for the UK. But, as Danish Statsminister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen is discovering, it isn’t easy.

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Yes and No posters


Back in 2013, the government at Westminster opted out of 130 EU criminal justice and law enforcement policies. It was an attempt by Mr Cameron to repatriate powers back from Brussels in order to appease the Eurosceptic wing of his own Conservative party and the UK Independence Party. But after 18 months of fractious argument, ministers finally secured parliamentary approval to opt back into 35 measures. These were considered essential for national security and included the controversial European Arrest Warrant.

That decision has been used by Mr Rasmussen as good reason why Denmark should follow a similar path. Opt in to the Justice and Home Affairs rules, including Europol, and Danes will have more control over policing and the country’s safety, he says. With terrorism on the rise, that has to be in the nation’s best interests, claims the ‘Yes’ campaign.

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The Danish People’s Party (DF) NO campaign

But just like his British counterpart, Mr Rasmussen is facing a tough time from Eurosceptics. Dansk Folkeparti (DF) is doing a pretty good job at turning the whole debate into one about sovereignty and national identity. Vote ‘yes’ in this referendum, claims DF, and you will be opening the door to European asylum and immigration policies next. Rasmussen may have ruled this out, but given the current refugee crisis, DF is successfully using this argument as a weapon of fear. And anyway, the party claims, whatever the other side argues, of course we can stick with the current parallel agreements so there’s no need for ‘more EU’.

No-one, though, can forget that Denmark has voted ‘Nej’ before – in the referendum on joining the euro. Eurosceptics across the continent will be delighted if voters in this small nation do so again, none more so than those in the UK. They may be very different votes, but if the Danes can do it twice, what’s to stop the Brits from doing it just once? So we watch, and wait.

Bond Premiere: Spectre comes to Copenhagen


Stars on stage before ‘Spectre’ began

Last night my husband and I were lucky enough to be at the Nordic premiere for the latest James Bond film, ‘Spectre’ which was held in Copenhagen. We were guests of the British Embassy, who put on a drinks reception at the Imperial Hotel, right next to the cinema.

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My husband and I pretending we own an Aston Martin, complete with 007 number plate!

Before we even entered the hotel lobby, we were able to grab a photo next to an Aston Martin, complete with 007 number plate.


The British Ambassador, Vivien Life

Once inside we mingled with the great and the good including actors and politicians, while the British Ambassador, Vivien Life, reminded us Bond fans just how Great Britain is (we already know!). It was fun to finally meet the US Ambassador, Rufus Gifford, who’s yet again taking Denmark by storm with his latest TV show.


Nick with the US Ambassador, Rufus Gifford

A short walk round the block and we were inside the cinema, watching as Scandinavian stars hit the red carpet (actually it was blue). I confess that I didn’t recognise many.


Bond Girl, Lea Seydoux


But we all knew when the latest Bond Girl arrived, Lea Seydoux, who thankfully places a strong and intelligent woman. She was with the Danish actor Jesper Christensen who takes up his role as Mr White in the film. And there was plenty of drink and entertainment.

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Pretending we are stars!

It was, though, the movie that we’d all come to see and after the audience was introduced to the stars on stage, we sat back and watched. Right from the start the film is gripping with stunning cinematography. I’m still not sure whether it’s better than ‘Skyfall’, but if you like action-packed Bond films, you can’t miss ‘Spectre’. It was a night I won’t forget.

Denmark: Why are we shocked that a lion is dissected in public?

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Being interviewed on Danish TV

This morning I was a guest on Danish TV News, TV2, where I was asked to discuss why Britons are so shocked that a Danish zoo is dissecting a dead lion. My live studio interview ran alongside pictures of a previous dissection – leaving nothing to the imagination. You can watch it here, but please be warned that there is graphic content. (No broadcaster in the UK could ever use images like this before the 9pm watershed.)

The nine-month-old, along with two others, was culled back in February because Odense Zoo had too many of the animals. Today just one – a male – was taken out of the freezer and, as I write, is being cut up in front of huge crowds, including children.

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TV2 footage of the dead lion before the dissection began

Only last year, Copenhagen Zoo walked into a media frenzy when it decided to kill a healthy giraffe named Marius, dissect him in front of crowds and then feed him to the lions. So have these Danish zoos learnt nothing? Well yes because this time round, Odense Zoo decided not to publicise the cub’s death at the time, and not to give him a name.

But zoologists and most Danes in general are adamant that dissections are important – they say they are for educational purposes and not entertainment. They’ve done it before and they’ll do it again.

Which goes to show how culturally different Danes are to Brits (as well as Americans and other nationalities). There is no way on earth that a British zoo would or could do this in public. Let’s not kid ourselves – hundreds of ‘big’ animals in zoos across Europe are culled every year for many reasons, including having the wrong gene pool. And whatever we may think, it happens in the UK too – but in secret. Remember the storm that followed after it was revealed by the Daily Mail that Longleat Safari Park had put down six lions, including four cubs, because there were simply too many? I am, though, still shocked that killing ‘healthy’ zoo animals needs to happens at all – in the US they use contraception.

I certainly wouldn’t allow my five-year-old son to watch a dissection, even if he wanted to. That prompted the TV presenter to ask me if I was playing into the ‘Disneyfication’ of animals? Perhaps I am. But even though I know that children of all ages regularly visit abattoirs and watch animal dissections here in Denmark, it just doesn’t sit well with me. Does that make me, a meat-eater, a hypocrite? Probably.