One of the first things I did when we moved to Copenhagen was to buy an annual membership card to Tivoli Gardens. Yes at 1,200 Danish Kroner (£136) it’s pretty expensive. But for the number of visits to this very special amusement park – not to mention the enjoyment it’s given us, friends and family – it’s been worth it.
I’m not really one to celebrate witches and wizards, but a few days ago we took friends to experience Halloween at Tivoli. The entire theme park and gardens have been transformed into a pumpkin and light festival. There are live shows on the main stage, a scary maze for children and even pumpkin carving – as well as all the exhilarating rides. It really does look spectacular.
What always amazes me is how pleasant it is to be at Tivoli. There’s no litter – you even get a refund for recycling your plastic cups; the kiosks and restaurants always offer good quality food, even if they are expensive; and the staff are very friendly. There’s just none of that aggression I’ve experienced at theme parks and fairs in the UK – real or imaginary.
Sadly Tivoli closes again next week. But, thankfully, it reopens for the Christmas season in mid November. So if you’re already in Copenhagen or planning a visit, this must be one of the first places to see. Trust me!
The way to get votes?
While every Westminster political journalist wants to cover UK general elections, there’s not quite the same enthusiasm for local elections. In fact, trying to come up with compelling stories during election campaigns is at times tough. Turnout says it all – just 31.1% voted in England’s local elections in 2012.
But here in Denmark, things are different. The majority of people actually vote. I’ve even discovered that, I – a mere foreigner – can cast my ballot here in Copenhagen on 19th November. In the 2009 local elections, 65.8% of people who could vote did.
That sounds a pretty hefty figure to anyone who’s covered UK politics. In Denmark though, it’s apparently the lowest turnout in 35 years. Less than half of 19 to 29 year olds bothered to vote.
So politicians at all levels have come up with a plan to try to reach this tricky demographic – by appealing to their stomachs. McDonald’s restaurants are not only promoting the local elections by holding political debates across Denmark, but some have even turned into polling stations, allowing voters to cast early ballots. Sociologists would probably call it the ‘McDonaldization of politics’.
Do you want a vote with that?
There are those who oppose the idea. It’s been labelled ‘pathetic’ and ‘absurd’ by some, including several Danish politicians. I certainly can’t imagine it happening in the UK. But surely it will be considered a success in Denmark, if it encourages more people to vote.
I’ve been wanting to write this blog for ages but wasn’t quite sure how to – for fear of appearing to be prudish. Then my parents came to stay at the weekend and during a walk around the beach at Charlottenlund, they were taken aback by the number of people swimming – naked. Without any fuss, both men and women were very casually stripping off to go skinny dipping. It was 11am on Sunday morning.
I often find myself turning around when I realise there’s somebody in the nude swimming towards me. It’s silly really – they couldn’t care less who sees them, so why should I? And trying to change on the beach after a quick dip always results in an embarrassing muddle – mine. The Danes, of course, don’t bat an eye lid. They simply don’t have the same inhibitions most Britons or Americans have about being naked in public.
Swimming in October
There’s no room for prudishness in public swimming pools either. Take for example the preparations needed before you can even get into the pool. In the ladies’ shower rooms there are strict rules on display demanding that everyone uses soap to wash themselves all over – swimwear has to be removed. And you can forget about privacy – cubicles and curtains simply don’t exist.
They are also much more matter of fact about sex. I was pretty taken aback when my three year old picked up an illustrated book at his kindergarten about the facts of life. The front cover had a drawing of a naked man and woman in bed together. But when I handed it to a member of staff saying there must be some mistake, she was surprised at my reaction. If a child here – even as young as three – asks questions about babies or even sex, they’re answered.
Statue in Churchillparken, Copenhagen
I shouldn’t be surprised. There’s been a growing row here over what many Danes claim is censorship on Facebook. One offending item was a photo of a female breast with the nipple clearly visible. That, along with illustrations from a 1970’s sex education book, apparently violated Facebook’s nudity policy so they were removed. Danes think it’s ridiculous as you can read in the Copenhagen Post.
Even on the high streets here there’s plenty of flesh on show. There’s a full sized bus advert of a topless woman promoting a boob job, that’s currently doing the rounds. But nobody seems to take any notice. Except, that is, those of us who are used to a little more discretion when it comes to nudity in public.
British Ambassador to Denmark, Vivien Life
I was kindly invited to a lunch yesterday by the British Ambassador to Denmark, Vivien Life. (She’s standing in her garden in front of a Barbara Hepworth sculpture, which forms part of the UK Government’s art collection.) It was in aid of the breast cancer charity, Pink Tribute, which was set up 10 years ago. And of course it was to mark breast cancer awareness month.
There were some fascinating speakers including a woman who’s had cancer not once, but twice – ovarian and breast. Although she was very matter-of-fact about her ordeals, you could see the impact it’s had on both her and her family. She wore a beautiful dress that had been specifically designed for her one breast – having undergone a mastectomy.
Another speaker was Henrik Flyger, head of breast cancer surgery at Herlev Hopsital. He discussed a new radiotherapy ‘machine’ he can use in women with early breast cancer. It targets the malignant area, immediately after the tumour has been removed. I think the technique is called intra-operative radiotherapy. Mr Flyger claims subsequent radiotherapy treatment that can last several weeks and have terrible side effects, is then unnecessary.
He said clinical trials show the technique has very positive results – including the prevention of mastectomies. The research is due to be published in the medical journal The Lancet.
Many women in the room were asking why there was only one such ‘machine’ in Denmark. At 5 million krone, or £565,000, cost is obviously a factor. But the main reason, according to the surgeon, is opposition from within the Danish medical community. He claims it comes down to a fear of job losses.
Now I don’t know the ins and outs of radiotherapy or oncology and I’m certainly no medical expert. But it does seem a great pity if a scientific development to treat breast cancer is being hampered. Surely those with the disease deserve the very best treatment available. I think this is one issue the Pink Tribute charity will take up this year.