Biological Age. At lunch time on Monday, a crew of fitness instructors file into a conference room at my office to measure the biological age of anyone who’s interested. I am. About to turn 30 chronologically, my body still feels 24, it turns out. How old does my mind feel? How do you measure that? Now, some would claim that it’s more complicated than standing on a fancy scale from a commercial fitness chain to find out how well your body is coping with the rigours of life… and I didn’t even consider asking those gym guys on which exact technology their device is based… but I still decide to take it as an indication that I am as physically healthy as I also feel.
Full of Luck Club. Best collectible: company that makes you feel warm, calm, energised and stimulated. My monday night date is one of those people. She’s Singaporean and has picked the place we’re eating, a Cantonese piece of heaven, with streamlined pastel-coloured decor, a huge kitsch fortune cat in one corner and fun murals breaking up the soothing minimalism, and with beautifully prepared and presented tangy, zingy, spicy dishes. My friend is a fashion designer (the top thing I dreamed of becoming as a kid, constantly sketching girls in fine dresses), and she was first encouraged to start her own brand when studying in the Danish city of Aarhus… her style is very Scandinavian, very minimalist, simple, casual-chic, with a focus on sustainable sourcing and timeless class… I very rarely shop, and because it’s so rare, I’ve now come to a point where I need to update my wardrobe with a few good, solid pieces. Because of that, and as I want to look smart on my upcoming Europe trip, I’ve asked her to bring a bag of perfect pieces in my size. I try it all out in the restaurant’s restroom after dinner, and as my fortune cookie incredibly aptly dictates, ‘New clothes open doors – go shopping’ (!!!!), I buy the whole bunch immediately. She drives me home – the only person I know in Singapore who’s got a car… well, she’s also the only local person I know.
Flow Chart. And speaking of the upcoming trip… Besides a few dinners with close friends, I haven’t planned anything, which is only starting to be very much like me – it never used to be that way. It’s not that I usually love planning – I just love not missing the good stuff. As time passes, though, I realise that ‘good stuff’ tends to happen around me – it’s less about mapping down venues, and more about enjoying the venues you’re in, which I, and my favourite people, are genuinely very good at. If you’re too busy thinking about the future (i.e. the next stop), you risk not enjoying the present, and if you only go somewhere because it looks nice in text, photos or memories, you might miss out on a genuinely good time in that random place where you’d naturally, organically, have gravitated towards by playing your trip by ear. That’s not to say I don’t schedule anything anymore when I travel – I like to have a draft in my head, an idea about what could/would be a great thing to experience, but I want to be mindful and let each moment decide… I aspire to live a life from which I don’t need a holiday, and by upholding that, I need to make as few plans as possible, because otherwise everything becomes a chore… Haha, the same old tune. It’s important to me to keep in mind.
Book Launch. On Thursday night, Anna of Lost Guides throws a launch party for her Singapore book, which I helped edit. Held at Kapok in the National Design Centre, the party embodies the chicness and modern Singaporean feel that the book also presents.. Decked out with jasmine garlands and big bouquets of palm leaves and lilies, the place is super festive and gets filled with a nice amount of people celebrating – friends, contributors, various media people. After a few glasses of prosecco, S and I have to hug Anna goodbye and head to the airport…
Holiday! Well, first we go home quickly to grab our luggage and have a quick meal from PS. THEN, we’re off… on holiday! Yay! On the plane, I watch La La Land, listen to this on repeat and read Gretchen Rubin’s heartwarming, smart and funny Happiness Project, feeling comfortable, with almost no pain in my knee, and so excited to get to Denmark – for myself and for S, who’s been to more than 50 different countries but never the small kingdom in the north where I was born and raised.
Coming Home. Landing in Copenhagen. Smell of fresh, sweet, clean air. Deep blue skies. 27 degrees. Summer. Train to Roskilde, where we meet my dad at the local private airport. In his Piper, AIK, we go for a neat soaring sightseeing tour over most of the country: pointing out sights in Copenhagen and up along the coast of North Zealand, going low over the impressive Storebæltsbro and down across all of the pretty little islands south of Funen, where we used to sail when I was a kid, and coming up over the strip of water between Funen and Jutland and seeing myriads of colourful spinnakers below us in the blue sea, before reaching the beach of Juelsminde, where my mum is waving enthusiastically from the balcony, and finally landing softly in the wavy green fields just north of the beach. Such idyll. Driving through the bright yellow rape fields to get to Juelsminde, where my dad drops us off at one of the only hotels in town. After a shower and a change of clothes, I take S to all of my favourite little nooks and crannies of the marina, wide white beaches and lush little summerhouse lanes, ending up at my parents’ place, where they both sit ready and glowing on the balcony with the best kind of Spanish red wine and marinated Spanish olives, all of us enjoying the treats and the company and the view across the sea – the sun doesn’t set until 11pm, and even then it doesn’t grow entirely dark. My dad and S keep talking as my mum and I step inside to prepare a fresh and healthy summer dinner. My mum’s food is the best – the fish and veggies for dinner, and the breakfast next morning, full of fresh fruits and other vegan treats, which we enjoy after a beautiful yoga session on the beach, S doing a headstand in the coarse sand while I take a small step out into the clear, chilly water for a bunch of refreshing salty sun salutations. Morning coffee on the balcony. Splendid weather.
Memory Lanes. Roadtrip to where I grew up. Small, neat, clean, well-maintained towns full of greenery and cyclists. Our first family home, a cookie cutter villa between dead straight green hedges in the safe and quaint village, Egebjerg. My kindergarten and average public primary school down the street from the house. The superb Catholic private school in the ‘big town’, Horsens, where I was finally moved for 8th and 9th grade, and my high school, one of the only two in town. Favourite provincial cafes, shops, street corners and green areas. Anecdotes and random facts. In Hansted north of Horsens, we stop in front of a wooden gate on the edge of the forest. Beyond the gate is a lawn leading up to a big cross-shaped white-painted house with large panorama windows and a red roof. A big cherry tree is greeting visitors just inside the gate. An orchard full of old knotty apple trees spread out to the right of the house. Behind it is a small hilly grass field, framed by mirabel trees. Our dreamhouse. With the help of a few friends, my parents built it on their own when I was 8 years old. It took them 3 years, during which we lived in a small flat in Horsens and drove out each afternoon and weekend, pretty much, to build and play and dream, that is, when my dad wasn’t travelling for work, which he did all the time too. We step out of the car, and as nostalgic tears start welling up in my eyes and we’re sharing happy memories with S, the guy to whom my parents sold the place, about 7 years ago, after a long and tearful decision-making process (it was getting way too big for them; they aren’t really farming and gardening people; they really wanted to live in a small place close to the water; they couldn’t just keep the house as a museum of happy memories for when my brother and I would come home on visits; etc; etc), comes walking down towards the gate and invites us in to have a look. My parents look at me. I’m crying. At first I shake my head, but then I start nodding ever so slightly. Home. So many homes will always be home, but this is where it all started. What if it has changed a lot – what if it hasn’t changed at all? So many emotions fly through my head as we walk up the drive, and most of all, when we walk back down half an hour later, I’m just so full of gratitude. It is lovely to see it again – with my parents – and with S, showing him something that’s so dear and central to me. It’s lovely to see that something we created is now the happy abode for another family, who indeed has continued to nurture and nourish and love it. They’ve made a few alterations, yes, but creatively and for the better, and with so much affection and interest, evidently. Pretty similar interior design as we had – and they’ve kept our curtains, haha. I show S around in the section of the house that used to belong to me and my brother, with a large ‘activity room’ in the middle and neat mezzanines above our individual rooms. My dad built secret treasure rooms in the floor of our mezzanines, covered by our beds. Such spacious and graceful rooms, with so much light coming in from the surrounding garden. My mum’s jasmine bushes surrounding the master bedroom and lavender bed in front of the kitchen are still thriving. The owners are avid garden people, and to be honest, the yard and orchard look as splendid as ever. Very generous of him to have us visit.
Aarhus. Continuing up through Jutland for another half hour or so, to the second largest city in the country, and the European Capital of Culture 2017, Aarhus, where we have lunch at Street Food Aarhus, show S around the charming latin quarter, find me an enchanted dress in Stine Goya, find S a pair of suede sneaks in Stoy Munkholm, drink coffee at another cool food market off the main pedestrian street, visit my brother in his flat in the iconic Iceberg, celebrating that he’s handing in his master’s thesis next week and soon will be Master of Science in Business Administration and Commercial Laws, with a bottle of chilled rosé champagne – and continue the celebration with tapas and wine at his favourite restaurant, CANblau, finally driving back home to the beach in the warm, light summernight, S asking us what keywords we’d use to describe Aarhus, and all of us agreeing on – music, art, kindness.
On the Water. On Sunday morning, we go sailing with my cousin, her husband and their two adorable little – super joyful, smart, fearless, curious and energetic – blonde sons, after sharing a traditional Danish breakfast – in the cabin of their yacht, which they took over from my cousin’s dad a few years ago. A place full of happy childhood memories. Of course it starts raining as soon as we’re about to set sail, so we end up just taking a small engine-driven loop around the bay, just so that S can get a feel of it. He seems to be enjoying it, and the rest of us are definitely enjoying it, haha.
Friends and Family. Back on land, we meet a couple of my friends and their son and dog for lunch on the marina. They live in a town just south of Juelsminde, and are some of the most grounded, funny, interesting and interested people I know. So happy that they and S get to meet. When I got to know them, we all lived in London, where the girl and I worked together, heading up a small team in a hectic start-up, always so busy, always having so much fun – at work and outside of work too. We and our group of (Danish expat) friends were like a small family in East London. Last time we saw each other was in November last year, when we stayed in an Airbnb in Seminyak for a week. So many good memories tying us together – but so many other things as well, keeping the friendship current, relevant and inclusive of S. I hope that’s how it’s gonna be all of the coming week in Denmark – I want him to meet a lot of my friends, but I don’t want the conversations to be forced or too repetitive. Less about catching up and more about connecting. Haha, that’s the ideal. After lunch, we stroll down the piers, chatting, letting the dog, or her nose, lead the way, in the now clear sunshine. When S and I get back to my parents’ place, my grandparents, uncle and aunt join us for tea, eventually dinner and familiar storytelling at various different levels of Dan-glish. Just as it should be.