I Am An Immigrant

Last night the leader of the British National Party was part of the panel on a BBC politics programme. I was glad he got the chance to be on the panel. Last time I checked Britain was a democracy with free speech and I thought it just that the leader of the BNP got a chance to speak his mind. I am an immigrant. I have been thinking of getting a t-shirt going "This Is What an Immigrant Looks Like". Maybe if I start wearing it, people will tell me why I’m wrong to be in the UK, why my presence is destroying Britain, just how I'm shattering social cohesion and in what way I'm inciting hatred. Also, I'd like to know why people want me to leave the man I love and thus ruin the life we have built together. If I wear my t-shirt, maybe the leader of the British National Party could tell me how my genetic make-up differs from his and why this alleged genetic difference makes me unwelcome in Britain in his eyes.

Earlier this month I was speaking with Anna about immigration and British politics. Our conversation made me wonder about the people who choose to become immigrants - that is, people like me - and whether we share a certain mentality or set of characteristics?

It takes a lot to uproot yourself from where you grew up and go live another country. It is not easy; it is not something you 'just do'. Once you are in that other country, you have to learn everything a-new. When do the banks open? Where do you go to buy electric bulbs? How do you get a library card? What is the difference between the various supermarkets? What's my clothes size? All this assumes that you are already fluent in the local language - if not, then you have to start learning that language or, in my case, get to grips with a particular local dialect.

I love living in Britain but it has been a long, labourious process getting to this stage. I love the beautiful landscapes with mountains and glens. I love being able to buy the books and records I want straight off the shelves rather than having to order them from abroad. I love tiny, unexpected things like bunting, rich tea biscuits, finding Roman coins, and Christmas stockings. But I still miss aspects of Denmark and I suspect I always will.

Ah, that reminds me of something which caused a kerfluffle among Danes yesterday (most people did not know whether to laugh or cry): Oprah Tours a Typical Danish Home. Because ALL Danes live like that. Uh huh. Absolutely. Yup.

Now I'm off to make myself some milky tea and some toast (how utterly radical of me!). I hope you have a lovely day no matter who you are and where you live. And be nice to your fellow human beings.

Is It Only Tuesday?

You know what I abhor? The phrase "one of them". I was told Saturday that all foreigners should leave Scotland and when the speaker learned I was foreign, he qualified his words with a "but you're not one of them" excuse. If I had a penny for every time I have heard people use that phrase, I'd be knitting cashmere sweaters. It's a lousy, cheap way of trying to seem less xenophobic and more inclusive, but the phrase only makes the speaker appear more racist and exclusive. Anyway. Sorry for that mini-rant. It has been a long week even if it is only Tuesday. My head is pounding and I still haven't had dinner (because cake does not count). Let's go for some delightful links.

+ Viktor & Rolf's Barbican Exhibition. Side-by-side comparisons of runway models and quite creepy dolls. Interestingly, it took longer to recreate V&R's clothes in doll-size than it took to create the original runway look. + Interesting Bookcases and Bookcase Designs. I used to know someone who lived in a 17thC Copenhagen townhouse and who'd use the rafters as her bookshelves. It was awesome. I really like the children's bookcase-bedroom, actually. Wonder if it would be possible to recreate that in an adult size? + The Word Clock. What it says on the tin. + Czech uranium glass buttons. Uranium?! I came across these listings on eBay and I still don't know what to make of them. + I'm not a huge fan of cupcakes but this shark attack cupcake mountain is fantastic.

Finally, Charles Bernstein on the current global crisis:

Let there be no mistake: the fundamentals of our poetry are sound. The problem is not poetry but poems. The crisis has been precipitated by the escalation of poetry debt—poems that circulate in the market at an economic loss due to their difficulty, incompetence, or irrelevance. Illiquid poetry assets are choking off the flow of imagination that is so vital to our literature.

Yesterday We Had Lemon Chicken Risotto

Let's talk about food. This weekend I was interviewed by the proprietor of Fur-Lined Teacup on my attitude towards food, what I cook and how food fits into today's society. It was really, really interesting and the questions made me think about my cultural background, the place food holds in my life and how we all relate to food in various ways.

Mostly we talked about the Slow Food movement which is "a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded (..) to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world." Admittedly that sounds a bit wishy-washy and über-liberal, but it applies to all of us, if you think about it. Why do we so easily succumb to the ready-made lasagna that just pops in the oven, when we could have roasted vegetables with pork chops for the same amount of money and time?

I grew up in the countryside in a family who pretty much lived off the land. I learned which plants were edible and how I could prepare them. Later my palette was shaped by friends who can only be described as "citizens of the world". They introduced me to authentic Mexican cuisine, Middle-Eastern spices and Mediterranean vegetables. Another friend taught me to use ingredients in unusual ways and how to think outside the box. And so on.

Today I live in a country which has a strange, almost schizophrenic attitude towards food: do you like your chocolate bar to be deep-fried or to be fair-traded? I find myself becoming reliant upon food items that I would not have used in Denmark (ready-made custard, anyone?) and the selection of fresh ingredients restricted compared to my local Copenhagen supermarket (I haven't seen any Jerusalem artichokes except in one very expensive deli). Here in Scotland you have a greater selection of brands rather than types of ingredients. It is all very intriguing and I still view my grocery shopping as an adventure. I celebrate finding foods I thought were no longer available to me and I like trying out traditional Scottish foods like bannocks, stovies, bridies, the ubiquitous haggis (which is really nice, by the way), various types of seafood and desserts that seem to involve massive amounts of cream. It's a wonder I haven't gained more than two dress sizes(!) while I have lived here.

What role does food play in your life, what types of food would you describe as central to you (either by association or because you enjoy it so much) and how do you do your grocery shopping? And how would you respond to the Slow Food movement?

Holyrood Letter

And so my brief liaison with Scottish politics continues today with a letter asking me for my vote in the Scottish Labour Party leadership face-off. Seeing as I am not a member of Scottish Labour, receiving an actual, real ballot is slightly .. surprising.

It reminds me that I am an expat. I know my Danish Parliament/Folketing. I know exactly who I will be voting for come election time (for, lo, I retain my general election voting rights in Denmark). Scotland? I'm not able to vote in the British general elections, but I will be voting come next Scottish parliamentary election. The Scots have fewer parties than the Danes, but that does not make it any easier to decide. Au contraire. Thankfully it seems as though I will have some time to figure things out as the next election is about three years away. I have adjusted to the fact that I am now living "elsewhere".

And, no, I don't think I'll be casting my vote in the Scottish Labour leadership face-off. I can't think of any good reasons to do so.