#Life Is Temporary, So Get On With It

IMG_1768Time and again, I am reminded how temporary and fragile life is. One moment, you are full of vitality with a whole life ahead of you, the next moment, you are gone, for good.

I am not talking about Hollywood action movies where bunches of people get killed with a bam bam, nor the recent shooting in Oregon where a gun man shot down 9 people at a Community College. I am talking about you and me, and people around us. Today you may share a meal or a joke, tomorrow they may no longer be in your life.

I first encountered death when I was just three years old, when my maternal grandpa passed away. Back then, life and death seemed incomprehensible. All I remembered was his pale, wrinkly face, against the white sheet that covered his body. Then he was no longer at the dinner table and the house no longer stank of that horrible cigarette smell.

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At 14, I witnessed my sister’s death. Before the Summer holiday when I was sent away to help the peasants in the fields, my sister Ping was fit and well, even cheerful. Then she was in hospital and gone within weeks.

As for me, I brushed with Death a couple of times before I reached adulthood, first with life-threatening meningitis when I was a few years old, then hit by a rusty hoe as a teenager. I could have been dead. ( Read The Same Moon about my early life).

Half a century or so later, I am still here, living life the way I want and doing things I enjoy doing: cooking, entertaining, reading, writing, travelling, helping those who need help.


Yes, I have helped a number of people who lost their loved ones, either to unexpected accidents, or fatal illnesses. No matter how hard we try, we are not prepared for the losses that befall upon us.

Today’s post is not going to all gloom and doom. I want us to look on the bright side of life. I want us to enjoy every moment, every day, no matter what we do and who we are with, or when we are alone.bertrandrussell383143 marcusaurelius386395

Life is a precious gift, and we are to treasure it, spending it wisely and with people we want to spend it. There is no time to waste or to squander.

Take risks and take the initiative, try something new, meet new people, go the extra mile (or yard) to help others. In corporate life we have become frightened of risk. If you think back to the Victorians of Great Britain, and many of our ancestors long ago, they had a confidence, a sense of adventure. No challenge was too extreme.

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Over the years “risk management” has become a profession – as we clammer more and more for certainty of the future and the avoidance of risk. Parents are the same with their children thinking they can plan their futures.

How often do those plans work out, and how often do the children end up doing something totally different, or being someone else rather than the one their parents have in mind? It is rather ironic when people drive their children to school to avoid them being run over, some of them die early from obesity later in life.IMG_1761 IMG_1763

Life is unpredictable and has its own course to run, be it long, medium or short, great, decent or bad, satisfying, uninspiring or completely miserable. We may not be able to dictate exactly how it will turn out, but surely we can get on with it.

Live your life, and remember that it is YOUR life, and you own it!

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#Øresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden, Turning Torso and Sunset in #Malmö

Watching the sun go down

Watching the sun go down

“We can go to Malmö when we visit Copenhagen,” John said to me, as he went online to book our flight. “It’s linked by a bridge and only 30 minutes by train.”

“Great!” I was delighted and my voice raised in excitement. “It’s the one featured in the TV series The Bridge, isn’t it?”

If you are a Scandic-Noir fan, and intelligentsia like us, who could forget the fabulous Scandinavian crime drama television series The Bridge (Danish: Broen; Swedish: Bron) which had gripped us when it was shown on BBC 4? The opening scene was a body of a politician being discovered in the middle of Øresund Bridge. In my view and many other viewers, the two main characters, the somewhat autistic Malmo police detective Saga Norén, and Martin Rohde, her Danish counterpart, are wonderful creations. No wonder the Nordic Noire has attracted phenomenal responses in recent years.


Obviously we did not expect to find any bodies when we crossed the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe on a sunny, early Autumn day. What we saw from the fast moving train was the shimmering of the sea and a row of shining wind turbines.

Wind Turbines on Oresund

As the third largest Swedish city and in its post-industrial era, Malmö is a lovely city, especially on a crisp, warm and bright day, with beautiful blue sky and white puffy clouds. We located our hotel in the centre, minutes away from the train station, on a cobbled pedestrian street. There was no need to buy a pass as most sights are within walking distance.

The main train station and bus station in Malmo

The main train station and bus station in Malmo

Beautiful sculpture adoring the city

Beautiful sculpture adoring the city

A lovely walk around the castle park, we saw some fabulous modern art in both Malmö Castle and Moderna Museet . Of course, we had to pay a visit to the Turning Torso, a skyscraper with a twisting design. At 190 metres tall, the majority of which residential, it is Malmö’s landmark building, also the tallest in Northern Europe.

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To me, the best thing about Malmö is the sea and the sunset. I was determined that we would witness the sunset, following the near miss on our first evening. Thankfully we picked a perfect day and we were rewarded with the most amazing feast of Nature.

How can I describe the awesome display of a natural wonder? Pictures speak a thousand words so I shall leave you with the stunning visual aid. Aren’t they some of the best sunsets  over the beautiful Baltic?IMG_1012



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Exploring #Denmark’s Capital City #Copenhagen: Nyhaven, Little Mermaid and Tivoli Gardens

Me and Little Mermaid

Me and Little Mermaid

A little over a year ago after John’s business visit to Copenhagen, I bought  a guidebook. It was then strategically left in our little washroom basket, a little reminder of a possible choice for our next European trip.

It worked.

I have wanted to visit Denmark for years, not simply because I like to ‘collect’ postcards of foreign countries, in the view of my husband. The Northern European countries fascinate me, more so since we started watching TV series such as “The Killing”, “Borgen”, “The Bridge” “The Protectors” and so on and so forth, with a longer lists of Nordic Noire crime fiction, from Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell to Jo Nesbo and Jussi Adler-Olsen.

With Stockholm, Oslo and Reykjavic already under my belt, Copenhagen was an obvious and logical next choice. So there we were on the 4th of September 2015, boarding the little SAS jet, flying over the North Sea on a beautiful day.

Views from my window seat en-route

Views from my window seat en-route

Artworks from Modern Art Museum

Artworks from Modern Art Museum

A number of friends from our Facebook have been keen to pass on their tips. “Visit Nyhaven by the canal. Go for a meal and canal tour,” Julie Posner from New York said. “There are three palaces. All are worth seeing. Of course you must go to Tivoli Gardens,” her husband Matt added.

So on our first evening we headed out to Nyhaven, taking in the cheerful and energetic atmosphere, snapping away the colourful architecture and harbour views against the sun and blue sky, and of course, to sample some of the treats on offer, John a Danish hotdog, and I a Banana chocolate crepes. We were surrounded by jovial Danish football fans drinking ahead of their 0-0 draw with Albania. Photos as evidence below.

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For the next three days, we explored the city with great interest and enthusiasm, even though my energy reserve had been in short supply; my heart was willing and keen. From John’s blog post last week, you can see that we made full use of the extensive public transport, namely, trains, Metro and buses, and wandered around this exciting city. The only thing we did not use, ironically, was bicycle, although we were hugely impressed by how popular they were and how cyclist-friendly the city had been developed.

As Matt said, there are a number of  magnificent royal palaces dotted around the city. We walked through Amalienborg Palace to Christianborg Palace and tried to locate where Borgen was filmed. We had an extensive tour of the lovely Botanic Gardens followed by viewing the fabulous Danish Crown Jewels in  Rosenborg Castle. Another walk in the Kings Garden to feast our eyes and pack my iPhone memory.

In step with the guard of crown jewels

In step with the guard of crown jewels

Danish Crown Jewles

Danish Crown Jewles

Another two crown jewles

Another two crown jewels

The Little Mermaid (Danish: Den lille havfrue) took a little finding and it was a beautifully touching story, famous not just because of her creator, the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen about a young mermaid willing to give up her life and identity as a mermaid to gain a human soul for the love of a human prince. Naturally I had to pose with her.

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On one of the days when we headed towards the Tivoli Gardens, the sudden downpour stopped us by the entrance. Instead we squelched through a deluge to locate a nice little restaurant, “The Carlton” near the Central Station and I treated myself with a fabulously fresh lobster. I watched the waiter trying to fish it out of the tank, taking him several attempts. The verdict of the outcome? Scrumptious! Another place  we found in the little gem of a guidebook.

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We did manage to visit Tivoli Gardens on our final day. It was still a little overcast but dry. Many snaps were taken, as we wandered around the lovely gardens, from music shows at the Peacock Theatre to the stunning Japanese/Chinese style pagoda surrounded by red lanterns and beautiful tropical flowers. We did not venture onto any of the thrilling rides, but it was wonderful to watch other people enjoying the heights and bouncing about, while screaming their heads off with excitement and ecstasy.

As the evening approached, neon lights shone and the Gardens gave a different feel, a magical touch.

I love Denmark, and I can see why it was voted the happiest nation on earth. I would be very happy living there, and for now, visiting it was enough to make my happiness complete!


Kings Garden, Rosenborg Castle

Kings Garden, Rosenborg Castle

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From #Birmingham to #Copenhagen: Route to #Happiness

By John Kirk

Hundreds of thousands of bicycles dotted around Copenhagen

Hundreds of thousands of bicycles dotted around Copenhagen

Copenhagen is built around the bicycle and Birmingham (UK and USA) is built around the car. It is that simple.

For the past 40 years the Danes have been investing in infrastructure to support and encourage the population to ride their bikes to work, school, the airport, the pub – anywhere in fact.

In Birmingham the city has only just got around to thinking how it might catch up, but is now four decades behind. Obesity rates in Birmingham are amongst the highest in the world and in Copenhagen amongst the lowest.

In Denmark very few people are “cyclists” and they tend not to wear helmets or special clothing. There are very few MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra.) In fact I would say that at least 50% of people travelling by bike were women and not a scrap on lycra to be seen.

Dad cycling his little girl to school, while many passengers took public transport to work or leisure

Dad cycling his little girl to school, while many Danes taking public transport to work or leisure

You can park many more bicycles than cars outside the Central Train Station

You can park many more bicycles than cars outside the Central Train Station

Trains are modified to take bikes. Even apartment buildings are being built with ramps so you can ride up them to your door and park. Consequently not only does Copenhagen have very low rates of obesity; it is also calm, quiet, uncongested and happy. Denmark is officially the happiest country in the world (United Nations World Happiness Report 2013 & 2014).

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I attribute this partly to cycling, but also to a forward looking outlook on the world. We know that oil based energy is running out and so the Danes can now deliver 100% + of their energy needs from wind power . They even sell excess electricity to neighbours Sweden and Norway who use it to pump water uphill and store as hydro-electric potential energy.

Colourful trains in Denmark brightened up the day

Colourful trains in Denmark brightened up the day

We happily travelled by train to explore Copenhagen and beyond

We happily travelled by train to explore Copenhagen and beyond

Trains are clean, spacious and always available seats

Trains are clean, spacious with available seats

Meanwhile back in Birmingham (UK and USA) we are still thinking about it. The car lobby in the UK is very strong, and car-making in Birmingham is big business.

The mad keen cyclist in lycra, ready for a ride

The mad keen cyclist in lycra, ready for a ride

The city has a lot of car lovers and many of them think a bicycle is for the peasants. What they want is a BMW or Mercedes to show their friends they have made it. Forty years ahead the Danes have moved on a long way. They have realised that cycling as a means of transport increases health and happiness; decreases noise, obesity, congestion, pollution and space taken up by parked cars.

In Denmark riding a bike is a means of transport not a hobby for the cranky few. In the UK people still think I’m “mad” to ride to work. They say they are “stuck in traffic” without fully realizing that they are traffic.

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