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Real Borgen in ‘Total Politics’

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YOU CAN NOW READ THIS ARTICLE IN FULL, BUT WITH FEWER PICTURES, ON THE ‘TOTAL POLITICS’ WEBSITE – http://www.totalpolitics.com/articles/444402/the-real-borgen.thtml

I can honestly tell you that from what I’ve seen, life in real Borgen is often more exciting than the TV version.  As I write this, the Danish government seems to be in very serious trouble.   The leader of the Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF), one of the parties that makes up the coalition, has just walked out of government.  Several other ministers have also quit.  It’s over plans to partially sell state-owned Dong energy to Goldman Sachs.  Many are asking whether the government can even last.

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Because Danish politics really is exciting, I’ve written an article about it in February’s edition of ‘Total Politics’ magazine.  I’ve interviewed some of the top names, including: the Deputy Prime Minister and Economics Minister, Margrethe Vestager; the former diplomat, author and editor-in-chief of the newspaper Politiken, Bo Lidegaard; and the British Ambassador to Denmark, Vivien Life.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

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Little Denmark’s BIG taste for wine!

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It’s been a pretty dry month for me.  Like many others at this time of year, I’ve been trying to resist drinking, partly to prove to myself that I am not alcohol dependent!

Since we moved to Denmark last summer, I’ve noticed that my husband and I have been drinking rather a lot of wine.  But it seems we’re not alone.

According to a report carried out by ‘Wine Intelligence’, Denmark’s  “per-capita intake is frankly staggering”.  We drink more here than the UK, USA, Germany and Australia.  The report says only 5 countries in the world drink more wine per head of population.

I find that really interesting.   It may be cheaper for Swedes to nip over the border into Denmark to buy their booze, but alcohol prices here are still very expensive.  It is a luxury to enjoy a decent bottle of wine.  And if Denmark really is the happiest place on earth, why are so many turning to the bottle?

The report does note a slight decline in wine consumption over the past couple of years.  But even so, for such a small country, it appears Denmark has a big taste for wine.

KAJAKI – Why this British War Film should be made

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This time next year, British troops should have withdrawn from Afghanistan.  Prime Minister, David Cameron, has already announced it’s ‘mission accomplished’ there.  But anyone who’s followed this long war will be all too aware at what cost.  The number of UK military deaths in Afghanistan is fast approaching 500.  The numbers injured is much higher.

It’s against this backdrop that a film script, KAJAKI, has been written by an old friend of mine, Tom Williams.  It tells the true story of a British soldier accidentally detonating a landmine and the rescue mission that follows.  For 3 Para it’s a harrowing day, but also one of heroism, bravery and self-sacrifice.

That’s why it should be made into a movie – and why I am writing this blog.  Because along with hundreds of others, I have given a small donation (through a crowd-funding campaign) to try to make sure it is produced.  And if you’d like to see a modern British war film made, you have until the end of this week to donate.

If the film isn’t produced, the money raised goes to military charities including Help for Heroes, Walking with the Wounded and the Royal British Legion.   Surely it’s worth a punt!

Read more about the story, the film and how to donate here: www.kajakimovie.com

Copenhagen named ‘Smartest City’ in Europe

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Copenhagen has yet again come top of another survey – this time for being Europe’s ‘smartest city’.

It’s been awarded the title, for the second year in a row, by ‘Fastcoexist’, a New York-based group that appears to be a melting pot for ideas – and concerned about climate change.

Denmark’s capital has won the title partly because of its green credentials.  As well as named ‘European Green Capital 2014’, it’s also working hard to hit its target of being carbon neutral by 2025.  (Perhaps that’s why our heating bill for just three months came in at more than £600 – ouch!)

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I’ve already written about Copenhagen’s impressive cycling ‘super highways’ (see here), but the wide use of bikes also helped the city to the number one spot.

For those interested, Amsterdam came second and London seventh.  You can read more here.

Why we are Leaving the Forest School

'Baking' bread at the Christmas party

‘Baking’ bread at the forest school

This has been the hardest blog to write.  But after much thought, my husband and I have decided to pull our son out of his Danish forest school.

The decision was really made for us – after three senior members of staff decided to quit.  We didn’t find this out from the management, but through the parent grapevine.  At the same time another ‘pedagogue’ (teacher) who has also been a great support to us went off sick – the rumour was with stress.

Still having fun at the Christmas party

Still having fun at the Christmas party

For most of December, parents were being asked to accompany children out to the forest, just to ensure there were enough adults to keep it operating.  What became hardest for us was that Charlie just didn’t want to go anymore.  Every day it became a battle to get him out the door.

The parents have formed an action group to try to force the management, run by Copenhagen municipality, to change tack.  But we just didn’t feel we had time to wait.

I’ve since learnt that the problems started two years ago when the ‘kommune’ (council) decided to force børnehave (kindergartens) into cluster groups in order to save money.  In so doing, they removed independent heads and replaced them with one overall leader.  In our case that leader is trying to run four kindergartens, leaving staff on the ground to sort out the ensuing mess.  It’s an impossible task – as our staff have demonstrated, by voting with their feet.

Charlie developed important skills at the forest school

Charlie developed important skills at the forest school

Forest schools are an expensive business.  But for many years, they have been a unique feature of Scandinavian education.  Look at the number of UK schools now trying to copy the idea.

For the record I am still very much in favour of forest schools but I would want more structure and better senior leadership.  We’re grateful for the three months we’ve had and are very sad to leave.

But from tomorrow we are joining the international schools’ system.  We’ve opted for a kindergarten with a pretty large garden – the closest we thought we could get to a forest school!

You can read my previous posts about our forest school experience below:

If you Go Down to the Woods Today

A Forrest in the Forest

What Age should School Start?

Cleaning Party at the Forest School