Bond Premiere: Spectre comes to Copenhagen

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Royal Affair: Danish Queen welcomes Mandela’s daughter

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Members of the Guard Hussar Regiment Mounted Squadron

This morning at Fredensborg Slot, five new ambassadors to Denmark were officially welcomed by Her Majesty the Queen, Margrethe II.  Among them was South Africa’s Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of Nelson and Winnie, who arrived in Denmark in the summer.

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Zindzi Mandela, South Africa’s Ambassador to Denmark

Each ambassador was driven by horse-drawn carriage from Fredensborg station to the palace where they were received by HM the Queen.  Members of the Guard Hussar Regiment Mounted Squadron escorted the dignitaries on their short journey and it looked spectacular.  I was particularly pleased to see that women made up the majority of the squadron.

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A horse-drawn carriage leaves Fredensborg Slot

Despite the pomp and circumstance, this was a very Danish affair.  Few Danes gathered to watch this tradition – it was mostly tourists.  But we were able to get up very close to the procession, with no barriers in place.

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The procession accompanying Zindzi Mandela

I can’t tell you what was discussed inside the palace, but from each ambassador’s smiling face as he/she left, it was clearly a happy experience.  The Danes love their monarch and I expect these ambassadors were equally impressed.

Danish TV Drama 1864 coming soon to the BBC

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Selfie with Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen

Last year I was lucky enough to go to the Danish premiere of ‘1864’ a new historical drama that was about to air in Denmark. When I say ‘premiere’ this was as far removed from a red carpet event as you can get. Think low key and relaxed – so relaxed that the film broke down several times as we watched episodes 1 and 2. Anyway, this coming weekend it airs in the UK on BBC 4.

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Some of the cast. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Scanpix

‘1864’ is based around the nineteenth century Schleswig-Holstein war that re-wrote Danish history. It resulted in the loss of 5,000 Danish lives and more than a third of the country’s territory.  But don’t think this is just a boring old history lesson – it’s a powerful, human drama.

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Lars Mikkelsen with two young male stars

This series has some of Denmark’s biggest stars of TV and film. I did rather embarrass myself by asking Sidse Babette Knudsen, who played Prime Minister, Birgitte Nyborg, in Borgen, for a selfie. But hey, you only live once. Then there’s Lars Mikkelsen from the Killing and House of Cards, Søren Malling from both The Killing and Borgen plus many more.

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Sidse Babett Knudsen with two young female stars

You can read much more about ‘1864’ in the articles I wrote for the Danish news site ‘The Local’ including an interview with my hero Sidse. But suffice to say that despite being the most expensive Danish drama ever made, it didn’t prove very popular here in Denmark. Let’s hope the Brits like it a little more.

http://www.thelocal.dk/20141002/denmarks-new-tv-drama-will-entertain-and-educate

http://www.thelocal.dk/20141012/tv-drama-1864-fights-to-win-over-the-danes

UPDATE: I was on BBC Radio Four’s ‘Front Row’ on Wednesday evening discussing 1864. You can listen to the show here and I am five minutes from the end.

Copenhagen unites after terror attacks

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Thousands attend Copenhagen memorial

I’ve just returned from a very moving public memorial to those killed and injured in the terror attacks in Copenhagen at the weekend. Thousands of people gathered in Østerbro near the Krudttonden cafe, where the first shooting took place, to hear speeches and music. Despite the crowds this was typically Danish – calm, respectful, united.

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Flowers laid near the seen of the first shooting

Among the speakers was Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt. She spoke mostly in Danish but also offered her thanks in both English and French to those supporting Denmark in its time of need. “We feel we are not alone,” she said to big cheers. Also on stage was the French ambassador to Denmark, François Zimeray, who was caught up in the first attack. He talked about this being a ‘before and after’ life event and thanked the Danish police, acknowledging that without them “I wouldn’t be standing here”.

And everywhere I looked you couldn’t fail to see the increased police presence. Of course, that’s what you’d expect in a city that’s been under attack. But having lived in Copenhagen for almost two years, it’s not what I’m used to. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have seen a police officer, yet alone one armed. In this capital, everything seems safe: young children cycle alone to school; parents leave sleeping babies in prams outside restaurants; children still play on the streets.

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Some of the crowd

There is a danger that this freedom and openness will now be lost. The country has a lot to deal with, not least the very public debate it’s been having for some time about immigration and integration. Tonight I felt hope that Denmark will do all it can to stay united. But with an election later this year, I just hope that won’t be exploited.

Copenhagen hands European Green Capital to Bristol

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Copenhagen. Photo: Ursula Bach

It’s wonderful living in a green city. From cycling to even swimming in the city’s canals, Copenhagen prides itself on its green credentials. By 2025, it hopes to be the world’s first carbon neutral capital city.

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Copenhagen. Photo: Ursula Bach

Copenhagen has been the 2014 European Green Capital – and quite frankly, no wonder. Whether or not you believe in climate change, I can’t tell you how pleasant it is living in a city that takes green growth seriously.

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Copenhagen. Photo: Ursula Bach

Now that title has been handed over to another city that I love – Bristol in the South West of England. I haven’t lived there since my university days, but it will always be close to my heart.

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Bristol Suspension Bridge. Image: placesonline.com

I’m told that almost a fifth of its residents walk to work (and there are many hills!). It also has one of the first elected mayors and although I haven’t interviewed him for many years, George Ferguson, an architect,  strikes me as someone who is taking this title very seriously.

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Bristol. Photo: Sarah Charlesworth

We won’t stay in Copenhagen forever, so how nice to think that there are cities in the UK that are thinking differently – cycling paths, water slides through the city centre (yes Bristol really did this) and a focus on sustainable living.

So good luck Bristol and please show the rest of the UK how things can be done. As Copenhagen proves, all you need is a little bit of vision.

A Year in Copenhagen

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I can’t really believe it’s been twelve months since we left London for Copenhagen. But in June last year we started our new Danish life. On the whole it’s been a fantastic adventure and I personally feel it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made as a family. That’s not to say things have all been perfect – they certainly haven’t. But here are some of the highlights:

Family living

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Monocle magazine has yet again voted Copenhagen as the world’s most liveable city in 2014. You can read a previous blog here about why life in Denmark is not perfect, but on the whole it is a very easy city. The working hours are generally shorter than in the UK. That means we can actually see Charlie in the evenings, which wasn’t the case in London. The child care system doesn’t break us financially, which is the way it was going in the UK. Sadly for us the Danish education system didn’t work out (see my previous blog here). But Copenhagen City Council still pays for half of Charlie’s international pre-school fees which is pretty generous (one of the reasons why tax is so high here). Transport is also good, including cycling (see later). And living less than a 10 minute walk from the beach is just great.

Making new friends

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I miss my family and friends but I have met some wonderful people here in Copenhagen from all over the world. Some of them have befriended me through my swimming class, some through Charlie’s kindergartens and others via friends.

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Inga and her granddaughter Emma with Charlie and me

We’ve also been lucky enough to meet a distant relative, Inga Peetz, who has been so kind to us – even offering us her home to live in when we first arrived. I’ve also been pretty pro-active at befriending people in the various playgrounds dotted around this city. When you move abroad you have to be brave and talk to people – I’m quite good at talking!

Learning how to ride a bike again

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Copenhagen is a cycling city and I can’t tell you how great it is being able to bike safely – whether it’s taking Charlie to pre-school or cycling to work or swimming lessons. I blogged last August about learning to ride a bike again which you can read here. You’ll be pleased to hear I’ve got a little faster.

Triathlon training
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Which leads me on to exercise. What’s happened to me? I’ve never been one for being particularly active, but not only have I started cycling, I’ve also found myself running.

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With our medals – Charlie photo bombing the photo!

And having rekindled my love of swimming, this month I completed my first mini-triathlon (read all about it here!) My next aim is to take part in a 2 km swim around Copenhagen, along with my ex-pat swimming group, starting from ‘Borgen’, the Danish Parliament.

Learning to freelance

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Reporting from Eurovision for Al Jazeera English

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Working at Saxo TV with former ITN employees Angus Walker and Owen Thomas

Until I moved here, I’d worked for ITV News for fourteen years. Some of that was in regional news and the final few years were for national ITN, based in the House of Commons in Westminster. It was obviously a big deal walking away from a prestigious job. But since August I have been a freelance reporter for Al Jazeera English TV; I’ve been reporting for the business channel Saxo TV (with some former ITN employees – small world!); written articles including one for a UK magazine on Danish politics in which I found myself interviewing PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt; interviewed the Oscar-winning director Susanne Bier; and to top it all I’ve found myself editing the newsletter for LINK, a women’s expat group based here.

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Interviewing Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt

Learning Danish

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A quiet drink after passing our Danish exam

From my previous blogs, you’ll see that I’ve struggled with learning Danish. I’m no pro but I was so pleased to pass my Module One exam. And at least I can ask for bread in Danish, even if the reply is always in English.
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So would I recommend this adventure to anyone else?  The first few months were tough but one year on, the answer is undoubtedly yes.