One of my favourite Copenhagen days so far has been our visit to Frederiksberg, where we discovered the gardens –  Frederiksberg Have. Snow was on the ground and the sun shining on our faces. Instead of waffling on about it, I thought I’d just make a little video instead.

Enjoy!

P.S. Lydia was fighting a nap for quite a lot of this, while I kept holding us up trying to be arty with my iphone, Sony Cybershot and freezing hands! I used imovie (for the first time), to edit.

(Grab a cup of tea…long post alert!)

“I hope you’re settling in.”

“Good luck settling in.”

“We’ll come and visit once you’ve settled in.”

I’m not quite sure how you define ‘settling in’ but I think there must be levels to it. I felt pretty settled from day one, mostly thanks to the lovely house we’re in and being married to Mr Laidback. But then you’ve got the ‘getting-about settled’, ‘making new-friends-settled’, ‘enjoying-work settled’, ‘finding-a-good-nursery settled’ and finally, ‘mastering-the-language settled.’ That’s a lot of levels of ‘settle’ and it will take a while to get there. So it’s important to take the settling-in wins when you get them.

Win number one: Acclimatising to the weather

Oh it’s cold. The house is lovely and warm but once you head outside, the cold wind hits you. As I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t pack brilliantly for our first two months here…in winter. All our clothes are hanging in our open-style wardrobe and I find myself looking at Lydia’s in envy. However, I have now found an outfit where I can just about zip up my coat and not lose the feeling in any part of my body. Win! The next mission is adjusting this Michelin-man look to a ready-for-work professional one. The Danes seem to carry this off very well and not look at all cold. Note to self – must research how to tap into this Danish gene of cold resistance.

Shivering aside, I feel like we’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather. It just looks stunning and there’s nothing more pleasant than walking on crunchy snow with the sun shining down on your face (as posted in this video I put on Instagram). It actually feels like we’re on a skiing holiday (minus my lack of ski wear, sob –and skiing) but I did actually bump into a lady carrying her skis in central Copenhagen. When I say bumped, I was feeling curious and asked her where she had been with said skis. I didn’t really understand but I gather it’s a nearby field.

The outfit that keeps out the cold. Seven layers on top, a tights/jeans plus two pairs of socks combo on the bottom and two pairs of gloves, large scarf/wrap, an ear warmer band thing plus a woolly hat.
Here I am wearing all those layers.
Coming back from a spot of skiing in the city.

Win number 2: We’ve unpacked

It’s taken ten days but we have finally unpacked the last suitcase! For us, the first few days of settling in meant catching up on sleep after a real whirlwind farewell to our house, friends and family. When you have an active little person around, you can’t sustain late nights and not enough sleep. Rich and I made it a priority to tag-team Lydia entertainment with hiding away for a snooze. And then we just couldn’t face anything remotely linked to a form of packing/unpacking. Good job I didn’t pack much then hey!

Win number 3: A fridge full of food

Denmark isn’t cheap. We knew that. But it didn’t stop us being shocked after our four-bags-of-essentials-from-Netto shop coming in at over £70. If that’s Scandinavian for value, we’re in for some baked beans on toast.

To do our ‘proper big food shop’ we decided to use Nemlig – an online supermarket service. The site is great but we needed Google translate to work out what on earth we were clicking on and whether it was worth the money. Three hours later and Rich had meticulously gone through every category via translation and filled the basket. At check-out, the system wouldn’t accept his card, or mine, or any card. A phone call to the helpline sounded promising but oh….no…..that…did….not….just….happen. Basket emptied. You know that monkey emoji with the hands over the eyes….this is what that face was made for. As the day-trip plans had been thrown out anyway, Rich persevered and realised the system only worked if you kept the site in Danish. If there’s ever an incentive to learn the language. After another two hours, our food shop was complete. We needed to get out the house so went on a wander. Where do we end up….yep…a supermarket. We needed to keep warm, it’s all we could see and we realised we didn’t actually have any food in for tea. Can a Saturday get any better?! Actually it can…the supermarket didn’t sell wine. We stopped off at the local off-license where the wine lived on the back of a top shelf looking warm and dusty. I decided against it and ended up having my evening meal with a can of cider. This is not me. So when the online food shop was delivered the next day, at the right time, to the right address, you bet it was a win.

Win number 4: The house

The family letting it out to us have two young boys and have left everything for us to use, including bikes, car, cot and so many wonderful toys for Lydia to play with. We are so grateful to them as it has made our transition not just seamless but joyful. I am going to dedicate a whole post to the house later because it’s divine and so perfectly Danish.

Win number 5: I don’t have to rock Lydia to sleep for every nap and bedtime

Lydia has never been great at going to sleep but for the first week here, she has snuggled tightly into me for comfort in order to drift off. This hasn’t happened since breastfeeding days and I felt a heart-wrenching guilt. But now she is managing to self-settle, a hit-and-miss routine of leaving the room/coming back in/lying next to the cot/singing/back-rubbing/giving in and rocking/pleading – what self-settle really means. As this is her norm, and she’s sleeping through (big win), I have lost the ‘I have traumatised my baby’ guilt. I’m saving that for when she starts Danish nursery. We’ll cross that bridge another time…

Win number 6: We’re happy

I was expecting to get that slightly sick, nervous, what-on-earth-have-we-done feeling in my stomach but it hasn’t happened yet. Rich feels the same. Lydia is in her element, in her new open-plan play area with lots of lovely new toys. There are hurdles to overcome, we know that. But right now, we’re taking our wins. I’ll drink my Danish can of cider to that. Skål!

Lydia stepping out in snow
Frederiskberg Gardens
Østerbro
Østerbro

It’s been just over a week since we boarded our one-way flight to Copenhagen. Here’s a little post about the journey.

We packed enough to get us through our first short-term rent of two months. After this, we will probably ship the rest of our stuff out, which is currently stored in every inch of spare space at our parents’ houses. The house we’re staying in is fully furnished, so we thought we didn’t need much. Oh how wrong we were! Once you take a 16-month old into account, there isn’t much space left for you. I also wanted to make sure Lydia had all her clothes and lots of familiar toys and books to help her settle.

We filled three large suitcases and three hand luggage bags and Lydia’s changing bag. When travelling with a little one, you usually get two free items to check-in, so we went with a travel cot and pushchair, which we put in a protective case. This turned into a life-saver, as it had space in it to pack extra clothes and coats. Perfect when winter packing takes up so much room, you find yourself turning up at the airport wearing three jumpers, two coats and a handbag inside a handbag. I still actually did this but somehow managed to pack some ridiculously Spring-inspired items, including one brogue. Yes one brogue. I think you can tell our bedroom was the last room we packed up. Time was running out and in a frenzied panic we were throwing stuff in the charity bag left right and centre, while working out what we needed now, what we needed by month three and what we needed longer-term. What I wasn’t thinking was minus temperatures.

They're not all mine they're Lydia's...

After getting dropped off at Manchester airport by Richie’s Dad, we checked in and headed straight for the children’s play area. Having a toddler in tow makes it very easy to strike up conversations – usually started with the phrase ‘how old is yours? Or ‘sorry, he/she’s not usually like this!’ This time, Lydia kept finding the snacks bag and making her loud food noises whenever she couldn’t get in there, while Rich was finding some lunch for us to eat in the glamour of the play area. So I started chatting to Danielle, who was travelling solo with her two boys, both under the age of four. (This is a massive achievement in the mum diaries.) It turns out she had moved from Bath to Copenhagen seven years ago with her British husband and they’ve never looked back. It’s like someone planted her there for us! We swapped numbers to meet up once we’ve settled in.

Lydia being entertained by a plane and plastic bottle
Goodbye England

The flight itself could not have gone any smoother. Lydia munched on carrot sticks during take-off, then fell asleep in my arms as it was her usual nap time, and only woke once we landed. This is the stuff that dreams are made of in parentland. We were so happy we fell asleep ourselves.

A child-friendly welcome at Copenhagen Airport.

All our luggage was easy to collect at Copenhagen Airport and I even found a handy buggy to push Lydia around in. My cousin’s husband was there to meet us on arrival and he drove Lyds and I to the house while Rich was relegated to a taxi with the extra luggage. We were in our new home, feeling hygge and eating tea by 6pm! Bedtime was more of a struggle but hey, you can’t have it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A photo I took from Endcliffe Park, Sheffield in 2011.

Soon after I wrote about resilience, Rich found out he got an interview in Copenhagen – on 27th December. Hurray! Time-out was put on hold while he swotted up, then flew there and back in a day to do three rounds of interview. The following day was Richie’s birthday and he found out he didn’t get the job. It was unfair timing and a bit of a blow. We celebrated anyway with a takeaway, Prosecco and watching a film. I know what you’re thinking…we know how to party.

The following day we went for a walk in the Peak District, to blow the cobwebs away and reflect on what we wanted to do. My parents swear by a good walk to sort through their thoughts – it’s what Prince Charles does apparently. So by the time we got to January, we were ready to go again. ‘The game is on!’ I scribbled down. I’d been watching Sherlock.

Plan B was to bite the bullet and just get to Denmark, where we could be proactive and get this adventure off the ground. We decided to put our house up for rent and give ourselves until the beginning of February to secure tenants, find somewhere short-term to rent in Copenhagen and for me to line up freelance work. This would give us enough of a starting block to settle in and for Rich to be in the right position to network and get a job. We decided if it all went horribly wrong, we’d come back once our short-term rent was up, a few pounds lighter but many stories richer. We know it involves a leap of faith and it also involves our savings, which is why it’s always been a Plan B. Believe me, it’s not been a decision we’ve taken lightly, especially when we have our little Lydia to protect. But after lots of restless nights, research and family discussions; things started to fall into place…rapidly.

We found a perfect house to rent for two months from the beginning of February. The family were going to Bali for the end of their maternity leave (like them already!) and leaving everything, including cot, highchair, bikes and car for us to use. A lovely family of four signed up to rent our house and even brought us a hamper to say good luck on our move. Rich and I both got work meetings lined up for our first week in Copenhagen. Before we knew it, we’d booked our flights and started saying our goodbyes.

When Rich and I got married, we set up a ‘honeyfund’ to spend three weeks travelling South America during our first year of married life. Our little miracle Lydia however came along and decided that would be a far greater adventure. She was right. But we have always kept that fund and we have always kept our spirit of adventure. Like in the film Up, our fund has gone down, to mend parts of the house, and then we’ve topped it back up. Now it’s time to grab some balloons and fly.

We are three days into our Copenhagen experience and we are so happy to be here. I’ll be writing a post soon about how we’re settling in but here’s another snippet on our journey to get here.

The decision to move abroad isn’t an easy one and even once you’ve decided to go for it and have the backing of those you love, there are still obstacles to overcome. This post about resilience was written in December. It’s strange to think that less than two months ago we were in a very different position….

 

Graphic by #ABeautifulMess

Written December 2016

I am reading a book about Danish parenting and one thing that keeps coming up is resilience.* I feel it’s what Rich and I need right now.

Resilience is something inherent in the Danish gene, apparently. According to the book I’m reading, Danes are realistic optimists; they turn negative situations into more positive ones and don’t get hung up on unnecessary negative information. This positive reframing is the key to being resilient and being resilient, is the key to success.** You follow?!

I know I have resilience, when I need it. In fact I’m sometimes a blind optimist and go for everything in the hope it will all work out. (Thinking a 3-4 hour round commute, to work a 10 or 12 hour shift, whilst breastfeeding/expressing and getting up 3 times a night with Lydia would be fiiinne!! I was wrong.)

But sometimes, just sometimes, I need a wallow. Rich doesn’t understand wallowing and has little patience for it, so a wallow will never stay around for long in our household. Tonight however, it’s lurking.

It’s one week until Christmas, we have all been run-down with colds/man flu, Lydia is fighting sleep like a furious fiend and Rich hasn’t had any openings for work in Denmark. We still want to move in February but we’re not sure how and it now feels like we’re in limbo. We decided that Rich getting a job was going to be the catalyst for moving, so for the past two months we’ve put all our energy (what’s left of it after Lydia), into searching, Google translating, applying and approaching companies for Richie to work for. Once Rich has the job it makes registration easier, we’ll know where we should live, what rent we can afford, whether I can freelance, work full-time or part-time. But maybe we need to change our mindset and make it happen another way. It’s unfair having all that pressure on an elusive job. Looking at this from my Danish realistic optimism, we have things going for us that still make this a possible move. I am at a natural point in my career to try something new, Rich has a job to come back to, we know we can rent our house out quickly and easily and it’s there for us to come back to. We also have our family and friends rooting for us, both in England and Denmark. And then there’s Lydia. Our happy, adaptable, clever little bean who is at that golden pre-school age and will lap up the new experience in bounds.

We’ve talked about Plan B and Plan C so I think it’s time to implement them. Except right now we’re tired, and it’s nearly Christmas.

Footnotes:

* Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl, The Danish Way of Parenting (Piatkus, 2016)

** Dean M, Becker, Harvard Business Review quoted in The Danish Way of Parenting (Piatkus, 2016)