Singapore Goodies. Eating poke bowls in the leafy remains of an old nutmeg plantation on Ann Siang Hill. Going for hot and stretchy yoga classes with S in a studio dressed up for Halloween with ghosts hanging from the ceiling. Inviting friends over for dessert – ice cream and fresh fruit – and tea and a long, enriching conversation. Dempsey date night with S – we buy beautiful pots for our plants and eat at Dempsey Cookhouse, sitting at the bar counter in front of the most beautiful bar I know – with lush greenery hanging down from the top of it. Going for a brisk sunrise walk with a new sweet and lovely kindred spirit friend around the Marina Bay. Meeting S for a delicious breakfast at Populus on Friday – and again for our friend’s leaving party in the evening, at Kinki, after which we have dinner at Superloco downstairs, with the same beautiful signature view of the Bay.
Missing. He then comes with me to the airport late on Friday night, jumping into the taxi on a sudden (or maybe he’d intended to do so all along?) impulse when we’ve already said goodbye in front of our house and tears are running down my face because it suddenly hits me that I’m so used to having him around – and now I’ll have to do without for three weeks. For weeks, I’ve just ignored that thought and gone ahead with my planning because it does make sense to me to go… I’ll be working from Copenhagen for a week, then from London for a week, and finally from my parents’ home in Juelsminde and office in Horsens, Jutland for a week. He can’t just work from Europe for three weeks, in fact, he may have to spend some of the time in Australia, and he is not just going to take all that time off. I prefer being with him, but I know it’s also going to be great to be able to do my own thing – jump around between my favourite spots in the different towns at my own pace and have lots of long 1:1s with all of my lovely closest friends – and good for both of us to be reminded what our own personal priorities are. And we will of course be in each other’s hearts and phones the whole time. It’s just the few sleepy hours leading up to the departure that aren’t that great… we are so used to spending most of our time together; to always coming back to each other whenever we’ve been out and about for a few hours or a day. Home is where my heart is, but while he’s got a fair share of it, small bits of it are also in those places in Europe, especially with my family in Jutland, so there’s good reason to go and connect with them.
Business Class. A bit teary when I wave goodbye to S and walk through passport control, I find it very consoling to sink down into a comfortable chair with a cup of luxurious vanilla tea in the Singapore Airlines lounge – and fly business class for the first time ever on a long-haul flight. I enjoy a glass of champagne while watching a documentary on Amsterdam, and then the beautifully dressed air hostess makes my bed and I lay down, tucking myself in and sleeping all through the overnight flight, for the first time in my life. Pretty sweet! Especially when you’re feeling a bit emotional, it’s great to not have that feeling enhanced and drawn out by lack of sleep.
Breakfast Greeting. Landing in Copenhagen in my favourite season. Well, I love all seasons. I love seasonality. Maybe because I appreciate change in the weather, I love all kinds of weather. But I am one of those autumn aficionada clichés. The dry, crisp air; the bright light from the low-hanging sun; the foliage; the romantic excitement in knowing that Christmas is approaching. But more than that, it’s just lovely to land in Copenhagen. It smells, sounds and feels so familiar and comfortable right away. It’s still dark when I land early on Saturday morning. It smells like frost and baked bread. I walk straight through the most harmonious airport in the world and take the metro to Islands Brygge, where the station is right between the Faculty of the Humanities, where I went on most days for five years, and a couple of my friends’ backyard. I smile to my old school and take the lift up to my friend’s warm and welcoming home. After giving each of them a hug, I place my luggage in their neat and cosy guestroom, which will be my bedroom and office for the week, and hand them some chocolate from Changi. It’s not even 7am and they’re up to greet me with cosy talk and laughter and a lovely spread of soft-boiled eggs, homemade bread, coffee and juice. That sets the tone for most of the coming weeks… I have such wonderful friends, family members and places where I feel welcome, comfortable, inspired and stimulated.
Best Pal. After brekkie, I take the metro to Kongens Nytorv to meet up with one of my old flatmates from London; one of the people I love and admire so, so much. She lives in Stockholm, working at Spotify, but has been in Copenhagen all week and extended her trip with a day to see me. We have coffee at Emmery’s and walk over to Kunsthal Charlottenborg, actually to see an exhibition curated by Yoko Ono, but what we’re mainly attracted to is Ovartaci & the Art of Madness. We then have lunch at the gallery café, Apollo, flavoursome fish stew with tomatoes and parsley, and a glass of white wine, and then walk up through the small streets of København K, checking out a few boutiques, admiring the colourful facades and foliage, ending up at the central train station at 5pm, when her train leaves for Sweden. All day, it feels as though we still live together. The way we talk and generally interact, the mutual understanding and interest and engagement, the humour, the mannerisms, all so aligned. I miss her in my everyday life and often wish we could see each other more frequently – be there for each other physically through ups and downs. But I am happy that when we DO see each other, it is like this. Once again, that’s a feeling I keep getting over the following three weeks. I do communicate with my friends via social media and text message now and then – exchanging updates of all characters and discussing high and low topics – but it’s wonderful to see all of them in person, to do something with them, to have a long conversation that’s not challenged by such factors as time zones and geography and more or less fragile signals. With all of my friends, even in the cases where we don’t catch up frequently, it’s lovely to see them, even for just a few hours. But equally it’s frustrating and absurd to say goodbye after those two hours and a meal – see you … next summer. I want more. But I also want so many other things. You have to choose. With the choice I’m making now, to live in Singapore, I am just glad my friends are up for seeing me when I am in Europe – and for still regarding me a close friend.
Lake Walk. Walking from the train station, I meet a friend in quaint Værnedamsvej on the border of Vesterbro and Frederiksberg, and we pick up a cup of tea from Rist Kaffebar to take for a walk around the Lakes while catching up. The sun is shining brightly… and keeps doing so all week, haha.
Salon 39. My friend leaves me at a cocktail bar in Frederiksberg, where my friend from this morning, my hostess for the week, meets me for a couple of pink artisan cocktails and a proper catch-up.
Spaghetteria. We then cross the Lakes to go have dinner at a new hotspot in town. It seems that Italian cuisine is the newest food craze around here? Amazing food, ambiance and – organic – wine.
Coffee Collective. The next morning, I cycle through town to Jægersborggade in Nørrebro, one of the main hipster tourist attractions in town: a lovely vibrant street full of small boutiques, galleries and excellent cafes, bakeries, restaurants and bars. S loved it too when we were here together. I jump off the bike at one end of it and push it all the way down the street while filming my walk. When I reach the other end, I park the bike I’ve borrowed from a friend, send the video to S and enter my favourite coffee shop in town to meet a friend for a cup. I find her in a cosy window seat. We studied German together in college. She’s now a high school teacher and about to move to the small town on the west coast of Zealand where her school is. She and her husband has bought a house there. They are a bit terrified at the prospect of leaving the city, but the backyard in the new place is a haven for their small son. The house was also a lot cheaper than what you can get in the city. It’s good to see her – I didn’t get to see her last time I was here, nor the time before that, so it’s been more than a year since I last saw her. We lead very different lives these days – but we still have so much in common; it’s reassuring but also not something that surprises me.
My Parents Are Wonderful. Early this week, my dad messaged me, I think it’s a bit strange knowing you’ll be in Denmark for a whole week without us seeing each other. If we came to Copenhagen this week, would you have time for a coffee? Today, when my friend hugs me goodbye in front of Coffee Collective to go home and tuck her son in for his midday nap, I walk down through the beautiful Assistens Kirkegaard and cycle back through town to the central station to meet my parents who arrive on the train from Vejle, 2.5 hours from Copenhagen. They both look radiant. We hug for several seconds, I put on a few of my much-missed winter coats, a hat and a pair of boots they’ve brought with them, and then we wander down through the pedestrian zone in the nippy polar air below small white clouds ever so sharply drawn up against the bright blue sky to have a delicious lunch at The Market. A few hours and a lot of happy beams later, we’re back at the station saying goodbye – and they drive back to Jutland, where I will see them in two weeks. They were so right – they always, always, always are – that it would have been very strange not to have met. Now I can relax and spend a week here in Copenhagen, followed by one in London, with work and my friends – in warmer clothes and with my parents’ hugs fresh in mind before I see them again and get to spend a whole week with them.
Family Dinner. A few hundred metres from the station, the chain slides of my bike, and I can’t put it back on. It is an old bike that my friend lent me because she got a new one – her one warning was that the chain is quite loose. I love cycling in Copenhagen, where there are bike lanes everywhere and where I always used to cycle. But I’ve grown too comfortable to want to bother with this. I take a taxi to a couple of friends’ house on Amager, the bike soaring above the … of the taxi. Custom in Denmark. Once again, I’m greeted with warmth, lovely conversation and coffee. Before it grows dark, we take my friends’ toddler out into the backyard to push her on a swing. I’m standing there on the lawn in a layer of crunchy yellow leaves and smiling to the little girl and feeling so happy: what a lovely thing to be doing on a Sunday afternoon in November. When it gets too cold to be outside, we curl up on the couch with snacks and YouTube videos: she watches the same videos as millions of other toddlers from California to London to Melbourne. My friends cook a lovely dinner, which we eat with a nice bottle of wine my dad picked out for me before they boarded the train, and after singing our favourite nursery rhyme for the little girl and putting her to sleep, we make and eat a lovely dairy free chocolate mousse with more coffee.