London Boy. Landing in Heathrow from Bangalore, I take an Uber home, with Sanoop messaging me frequently on the way. When I step out of the car, he’s already outside our front door, waiting to give me a big hug and a happy birthday greeting. We go upstairs, where his best friend and his girlfriend, both visiting from New York, are greeting us with big smiles, waving Danish flags (a birthday tradition in Denmark), and birthday song. On the table is a homemade birthday cake — fresh strawberries arranged in the shape of 🇩🇰 on a bed of coconut yoghurt. There’s an open champagne bottle as well, and as soon as I’ve given them all huge hugs, we sit down to clink our glasses. At one point, Sanoop’s friend gets up and puts on a song on the speaker — their birthday gift to me: a hilarious personal remake of Taylor Swift’s London Boy, renamed ‘London Joy,’ sung by Sanoop, written and edited by all three of them. So, so, so, so sweet and thoughtful and creative. I feel so thankful. In the evening, after hours of chatting, chatting, chatting, we walk in pouring rain through Soho and Fitzrovia to have dinner at Ottolenghi’s vegetarian Rovi.
Birthday gift from Sanoop. He’d snuck little treats into my suitcase, as my actual birthday was last week when I was in Bangalore. But the ‘real’ gift, he says, is a day spent together back in London. Early one morning we head out to roam around in the crisp air, soaking up lots of sunny spells, exploring old and new places almost aimlessly, hanging in Victoria Park and along the canal, indulging in a 90-minute massage at the Cowshed Spa in Shoreditch, enjoying delicious food and great coffee and wine — brunch at Ozone in Bethnal Green, coffee at Allpress in Redchurch Street and in the Victoria Park Pavillon, cocktails in the corner room of the Hackney Town Hall Hotel, dinner at El Pastor in Coal Drops Yard. Late at night, we head home to fall asleep to Queer Eye.
Concert. One evening, we go to a small jazz club in West Kensington for an indie-folksy gig with two Australian singer-songwriters, Garrett Kato and Riley Pearce. We fell in love with the mellow, heart-filled sound of the former when he was busking on a Byron Bay street corner 2.5 years ago, and we were roaming around town, enjoying our first night in Australia together, well, the second, if you count the sleepless hours we’d spent at a BP servo the previous night, stuck in the flooded aftermath of a cyclone. Immediately spellbound by Kato’s voice, we stopped and took in his entire set and picked up his cd. Over the following days, as we zigzagged through the hinterland, we’d listen to his album on loop. How fortunate that our rental car had a cd-player, and how fortunate that the rest of the world now gets to listen to his tunes as well! Back then, we’d never thought we’d one day be living in London, let alone listening to Garrett Kato here (which obviously takes us back to a winding road in the Australian bush, and I can’t stop crying, haha!). Oh, and Riley Pearce’s work is pretty dreamy too!
London snapshots. ❤️ Reading in the morning light, drinking Sanoop’s chai, running on the Heath. The foliage is still mostly green, but yellowing and flaming in places, so many people out, runners, yogis, dog walkers, swimmers. Yet, there’s a big area of solitude on the meadows between the lower forest and Kenwood House. I sprint from the majestic stately home and down to the Ladies’ Pond, where laughs and shrieks make me want to go swimming soon again. I come across various running groups, and a sunrise meet-up group on top of Parliament Hill: hippy happy people are dancing around with silent disco headphones and singing Edith Piaf tunes. ❤️ On one of many Heath walks, Sanoop and I come across the Pergola Garden in Hampstead Heath, full of rundown marble / lush natural splendour. The thrill of discovering something new … which is quite old … in our own neighbourhood. ❤️ Lunch, coffee, dinner, drinks with friends in Islington, Soho, Marylebone, Fitzrovia. ❤️ Cycling on my new blue Brompton bike along the canal to Coal Drops Yard for a blissful, upbeat start to the day at the spectacularly faceted, wavy Samsung space — flowy vinyasa with sweet Zoe, co-founder of The Refinery E9 … such an energising, stretchy, strengthening, fun class!
One Thursday night, we fly to Billund, where my dad picks us up at the airport and takes us home to my mum. After saying good night to my brother, who recently left his flat in Aarhus and has moved in next door to my parents in Juelsminde, we all go to bed, excited, happy. On Friday morning, I go for a run on my favourite beach in the world. Grey sky, foggy air, wet brown sand, cold waves. Fresh. Perfect. Rose hip bushes and summer houses along the beach glowing beautifully in a rainbow of bright colours. When I come back home, music is playing from the speaker in the kitchen, my mum is making tea, my dad is reading the paper, Sanoop is meditating. We do some yoga, and then have breakfast together, before driving to X-Yachts in Haderslev to experience the making of our new family boat, De gæ nok.
Regattas with friends from all across the country, family holidays to loved bays and islands, energising weekend trips, teaching sailing to generations of local seafarers … beloved staples on the local sailing scene, my grandparents set sails and navigated the Nordic seascapes together for over 50 years. They taught us to love everything about the sport, lifestyle, fresh salty air, waves, sail club/port communities … When I was 6 months old, my grandad built a small wooden box for me to sit in, safely fastened to a good vantage point in the cockpit. Some of my happiest childhood memories are from boat trips with those two seasoned mariners, who took my brother and me to wonderful destinations such as Ærøskøbing in the South Funen Archipelago and Schleswig in Germany. We’d watch the water for hours as my grandad, the calmest soul, taught us the tricks of manoeuvring, navigating, trimming the sails. We’d go swimming off the stern of the boat, my granny drying us up and stuffing us with sweets afterwards. We’d play card games, play with kids we met in the marina playgrounds, go ice cream hunting in the various villages we’d sailed to, listen to my grandparents’ stories from their childhoods during the war and my mum’s childhood in the ‘60s after dinner made in the small pantry.
The smell of morning coffee brewing to the rustling sound of waves kissing the side of the boat. The safe assurance of the grownups having all the time in the world to hang out. My favourite seat in the railing at the very front of the ship, walkman/discman/iPod in ears and spray under my feet. The glimpse of new shores and ports on the horizon. Race nights in all kinds of weather. Feeling to the bone that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only leaky wellies. Knowing deep mindful present happiness long before it became a thing.
For those 50+ years, my grandparents’ various dinghies and small keelboats were always called De gæ nok — a sort of ‘hakuna matata’ in their southern Jutland dialect. When they finally had to sell their last boat, a few years before my grandad died, we’d take them sailing in ours from time to time, until we had to sell that too, as everyone was suddenly too preoccupied with studies, work and other pursuits.
The love and memories never disappeared, though.
Excited to see the first glimpse of the new member of our family today — this new De gæ nok will, if all goes well, set sail in May 2020. We’re not less busy, but we’re ready to make space.
Back home in Juelsminde, we all have dinner at Linjepavillonen to celebrate. On Saturday, after yoga and breakfast, Sanoop and I drive through the glorious landscape to Horsens to pick up my grandmother and walk with her through the park across from her apartment building, the same park in which she’d take me to the playground as a tiny girl, and where I’d go with my friends in high school. Today’s destination is the art museum at the centre of the park, which is brimming with exciting modern paintings and sculptures. In my 18 years of living in Horsens, I only ever went here for summer drawing classes as a very young child, and never thought of checking out its changing exhibitions or just hanging out in the beautiful space. It wasn’t on my radar at all as a teenager, or even during holidays in town later on. What a positive surprise to go there today. If you’re ever in this part of the country, do check it out — especially on glorious autumn days, when the foliage in the surrounding park is glowing through all of the large glass panels in the white walls and ceilings and the sunlight floods the beautiful wooden floors. It’s a great size: not too overwhelmingly big, but still spacious enough to hold a lot of great expressions and impressions. And you’ll experience it all to the alluring smell of home-cooked treats in the cosy cafe. My brother meets the three of us for lunch at Gran in town, and then Sanoop drives home with him, while I stay with my grandmother, reading and helping her with her English homework in her living room, drinking lots of coffee and chatting lots about her positive life philosophy, which I admire so deeply. She’s 91 and has as much energy and zest for life as ever. My parents, Sanoop, and brother pick us up in the evening, where we all go to Gasfabrikken, a new newly-opened restaurant downtown, which feels like it could be in Aarhus or Copenhagen … i.e. it’s pretty damn amazing, from a food-quality as well as decor standpoint. Sunday — family lunch at Hopballe Mølle. Checking out the awesome, impressively interactive and engaging installations at the viking museum in Jelling. Dinner and red wine and lots of good, deep talk at home in Juelsminde.
Fly home on the first Monday morning flight, and go straight to work. Improv musical with my colleagues in the evening. Friends visiting from Copenhagen and Sunday on the weekend — lots of home time, talking, talking, talking while we make shakshuka and drink wine/tea/coffee/more wine, and long wonderfully autumnal walks. Glowing leaves. Crisp air. Dew. Frost.
Week in New York, without Sanoop this time around, but staying with his brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew in Hastings north of the city and commuting into the office every day, enjoying the awesome Halloween look in the streets and on people. On Wednesday night, the kids, their mum, and I each carve our pumpkin and place them in a scary cluster stuffed with fairy lights outside the front door. On Thursday, Halloween itself, I leave the office early, along with everyone else, and head home to go trick or treating with Sanoop’s 9-year-old nephew (at 11, his sister is too old for a chaperone). He’s a devil. He asked me to be an angel, so I of course spent my commute walk from Grand Central to Chelsea hunting down the best wings-and-halo-set, which I wear with pride walking around the model image of a suburban Halloween setting with the devil on one side and his friend, who is some sort of red-masked demon, on the other. One of the funnest nights in a while, as fun for me as for the kids, haha. When they retreat to the basement tv room with their big pots of sweets, I settle down on the porch with the grownups, wine, and our own sweet jar, which we graciously reach out to the by-passing kids. On Friday night, we go out for Mexican in Queens, with two margaritas for each of the grownups, and on Saturday morning, I head to California.