A week with Health Man and Society at the University of Southern Denmark

There’s something about going away and working somewhere else for a while that makes you feel valued in a way you often don’t feel when at the office. The unit Health, Man and Society is a collection of anthropologists, psychologists, a theologian and others with a nice band of PhD students investigating aspects of health. They seem very liberal and open minded about disciplinary orientation which is a refreshing change considering the way that some members of disciplines view the outsiders. Here’s their website.
And here they are having a tea break where they talk with each other. That’s amazing in itself.

In the kitchen in Health Man and Society

Tomorrow after dropping in briefly, I pack everything up into my panniers and drive back the 120k to Esbjerg to catch the ferry back to Harwich and home.

Trip to Aarhus for a Confirmation

Today I rode the 180 mile round trip to Aarhus to join Niels in his 13 year old son’s Confirmation. This is a big family event involving a church ceremony followed by a lavish party with speeches and songs – about Albert, his son. It was a real insight into Danish family culture. People were hugely generous and went out of their way to speak English to me.

Niels reading out In the church

On the way back I tapped in the wrong address to my GPS. I put in the address I’d just come from instead of the hotel in Odense. As a result I got badly confused and in fact ended up turning into a junction going the wrong way in the traffic. It was a really ragged period of riding – but I made it back in once piece.

Journey detail: 180miles Average speed 55.3mph; max 92.9mph; moving time 3 hours 15 minutes.

A trip to Faaborg and Langeland

Faaborg is a pretty little town with a marina about 30k south of here on the coast and is lovely to cruise around in this beautiful Northern European sun that lights up the terracotta tiles on every roof here. An old south African man made conversation over my bike, saying that it looked Japanese. Some people want to know everything, so after I had told him, yes I had been a nurse, he told me how he had been operated on by Christian Bernard – well, it was actually his brother and he used to know his daughter too, his kidney was smashed and two men arrived in the hospital in dress suits having been called away from dinner, one of them being Christian Bernard’s brother – presumably. The town has a small cobbled market that sells plants and flowers and features a supposedly controversial statue of a giant drinking from a cow’s udder.

Faaborg 18th c merchant house museum in Faaborg

From there I rode along the coast toward Svendborg looking for the bridge over to a small long thin island called Langeland (I wonder why). Of course I got lost and ended up on a small island called – I cant find it in the guidebook. But thanks to my trusty GPs, I made my way across huge bridges to my goal.

Very rural but with a surprising amount of traffic. Ah, but getting back: what a gusty side wind, scary. Phew. No wonder I am having two glasses of wine before 5pm. Pics on my Flickr.

Arriving in Odense

Its a straight line

Phew. The sun is shining but I feel exhausted. When will I learn to work effectively with my GPS?

Where did I go on my route to find the easy-to-find E20? And I found myself pointing at the check in at Esbjerg all set to return 5 minutes after I arrived. But I am here at last and no one is impressed when I say it took 2 hours to get here (120k). 86miles; average speed 58mph The motorway ride here and the road into town was not that enjoyable. I’m not sure why. Perhaps the lack of sleep (I must have slept lightly from about 3.30 till 8am.

My host here at Angarhus is funny. He’s highly energetic and bodily enthusiastic, often adopting a particular pose to make a linguistic point. He says he is Basil to his wife’s (who just walked by) Sibyl. The room is unattractive and next to a slightly noisy junction but I have a lovely sunny balcony with a table equipped with terracotta ashtray. And there’s free wifi. And the sun is constantly shining.

my desk My bike outside the motel Me on my balcony

2009 Wednesday 22nd April: Off to Denmark via Harwich

Here’s a trip that I forgot that I made – on my blue Triumph to Denmark – to do a week’s work at the University of Southern Denmark or was it for a conference? and some small touring around Denmark. Most of my trips start with the 67.8 Miles from home in Cambridge to Harwich for the ferry, this time in 1.75 hours. And this time, unlike most trips which have been the short overnight sailing to Hook of Holland, this is a longer trip direct to Esbjerg in Denmark, a sailing that did not exist for many years after this journey.

heading off to Denmark
Fellow biking passenger riding to Helsinki on the Guzi he’s just bought in the UK
Suffolk or Essex coast waiting to leave

I am feeling euphoric as I lean on the rail on the sundeck of this ship sailing out of Harwich harbour. Its a beautiful sunny evening as we pass huge container ships on one side and a village church on the slightly more distant other shore. I think repeatedly that this beats flying, having just experienced two 24 hour flights through the US in the last week or so. Here, you just drive up to the kiosk, show your ticket and drive on, no passports, no worrying whether you have left your scissors or bottle of juice in your bag, no metal detectors, no frisking, no waiting in dry air-conditioned airports for hours, no close questioning from immigration officials. And we are on Danish time. Some announcements are only in Danish. My cabin has a tv and is on the same level as my motorbike, near the bottom of the ship, so I will know if we are sinking before most of my fellow passengers. While waiting to ride on, I chatted to the only other biker, a tall Finnish man who, he tells me, has just taken out a 5000 Euro loan to come to the UK and buy a 10 year old V-twin Moto Guzzi cruiser. He is very proud of it and ties it down on the deck with real care.

His journey home to Helsinki will involve another 500 miles of riding and two ferries – if I understood him rightly. The ride from Cambridge to Harwich was beautiful for the most part, through sunny Essex villages and twisty roads. I felt so competent on the bike for a change. The luggage is a treat, my expensive panniers, and my highly visible yellow Ortlieb bag on the rack, plus my loaded tank bag. Handling is fine though I ‘noticed’ it takes rather longer to slow down with this extra weight. Now for an hour or so preparation for the student workshop on Friday then I will venture upstairs to either the swanky looking restaurant or the down at heel bar which will probably be full of the slim Danish youth who are here in great numbers, calling out ‘Lars’ to eachother and spraying themselves with the scent testers in the duty free shop. The captain has just told us that we should have a perfect crossing and to get up on the deck around 9pm to watch what he is predicting will be a beautiful sunset.

Its 0120 Danish time and sleep refuses to take me into her soft embrace. Perhaps its the coffee I had after my hugely expensive meal (I will take my own food and wine on board for the return) or the constant movement and vibrating furniture or the vestiges of jet lag. I will do a bit of work…

Travelling can be hell. Why should it be?

I’ve just arrived in the beautiful Fairmont Empress hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, probably the most lavish room I have stayed in with its colonial style. The darkening sky tells me that evening is starting to settle in. But because I have not reset my watch as I have travelled Westwards across time zones, I can see that its exactly 24 hours since I climbed in a taxi in the darkness outside my mother’s house in Ruislip, Middlesex and had to put up with the driver’s spooky stories and inquiries all the way to Heathrow Airport – so, he asked after squeezing me for the information that I was an academic going to a conference, it’s the tax payer paying for your jollies is it then? The rest of the time has been in planes and, perhaps more tiring, sitting around in airports and being subject to huge amounts of questioning and x-raying. The constant security probes do start to feel personal and wearying. How I’m looking forward to next week’s (yikes!) ferry to Denmark, where you just turn up and drive on. Is it the tiredness, the air-conditioning, the anonymous space, or the body’s confusion over time that puts you into a dull trance? A kind of drugged alienation where you can’t really think or concentrate or be on edge, where you have to remind yourself five times to pick up your passport, where you forget things on the countless forms you have to fill in. A kind of passive mode.