The sun hasn’t long gone down, and we have no idea where we are. There is a mist, or a fog, that seems to choose where it will lie down, like a cat – on this paddock, but not the next, and on the road in front of our headlights here, but not there. It pours itself over the newly shorn hay paddock like a liquid blanket, like a silk cover over a luxury car; rather than hanging in the air, it hangs on the ground. We arrived in Denmark a couple of hours ago to our small but beautifully IKEA decorated granny flat – toilet outside, but attached to the other house with a door; shower outside with just enough walls to make it not a public indecency – and found the key in the door. Not half an hour after we arrived, the Dagma half of Soren and Dagma pulled up in the car and invited us to dinner at their house. My hands were black from patting the Icelandic ponies in the paddock next to the flat. One red, one bay. I changed my shirt and we followed her to the house, a few kilometres down the road.
Leaving Enschede was difficult, and sad. Made easier, or harder, by Niels and Christina, and Oscar, coming come three days before we left. Oscar had learned more words in the month that he was away, and is now an expert mimic. We taught him kookaburra calls and how to do the fist explosion – you know, the one where you touch fists as a greeting and pull back while exploding your hand. He can do the ‘pchorrch’ sound. He did it once when Christina was breastfeeding, and it was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. Andrew took photos of the leaving of our neighbourhood.
It’s exciting to see the obvious differences between countries as you cross borders. I keep expecting things to not change much, but they do. We drove from Holland, through Germany to Denmark in a day, deciding to do the seven and a half hours at once and give ourselves more time in Skagen. The green, round leaved trees of Germany give way to the triangular firs and scrubby beach foliage of any seaside place – but it’s funny to see them together. But first, before the trees, are the fields – wheat, barley and oat fields covering each side of the road, making us homesick. Yellow and dry, like they might be huge paddocks of dry grass. On the first morning, I went for a run through the farms adjacent to ours. The paddocks have no cattle, and therefore no fences – the wheat doesn’t get very far. The lack of fences makes things easier to run through, but I wasn’t sure whether the dirt (and sometimes thick sand) I was running through was someone’s farm, or a public road. Fences and gates make that easier to determine. But running between two wheat fields, it felt like I was running through Australia, with even the click insects making their noises, like in one of those homesick dreams they have in the movies when you’re about to die. Like in Gladiator. But the Australian version, rather than Valhalla, or whatever. The houses are all roof. Unlike the French houses, of redder tile, whose rooves are pointier and on a sharper angle, and the German which are pointed but not as much, and the Dutch houses whose rooves have the top cut off the top of the roof, the Danish houses are all roof, and seemingly less wall. They are big and long, and their rooves seem to come down two thirds, wanting to hit the ground.
Soren is the town vet. Their house is on a farm in the outskirts, and I don’t think I saw a fence apart from a flimsy wire around the horse paddock. Because again, everyone here has horses. Soren is all smiles, and thinks everything we say is funny, I think. Dagma is lovely, but either seems concerned at everything we say, or struggles to understand us. She works in an electricity retailer in town, and they spend the week living in town, coming home on the weekends. They feed us squash Moussaka and it’s great. They have two children, Garion and the younger girl whose name I have forgotten. Garion has gone to ‘internationals’ twice for English, and speaks it like a pro. He interprets for his Grandfather, a German without any English (he says, but he speaks a little bit). He wears thin rimmed, modern glasses, a polo shirt and shoes that make him look like he owns a boat. He stands with us and Garion under the big willow with the rope swing and tells us what he learnt about Australia at school.
‘They don’t call you friend, they call you… mate?’ he says, turning his thin face up to us in question.
‘Yeah. G’day mate, if you want to be really Australian.’ We talk about deadly animals, and he’s pleased when we tell him that ticks in our country are deadly. We tell him that in Aus, he would be called ‘Gazza’, and that’s what we call him from then on. He fits the name. He’s full of words, and they come pouring out as soon as he has someone who speaks English to talk to. His is blonde, and with the kind of toothy mouth and freckles that remind you of a comic strip. And tall for his age.
After dinner, the kids drive us to the beach, with Granddad, for ice cream. The ice cream comes with optional ‘Puk’, I think it was, points out Una on the menu. It’s like making meringue, but spreading a giant serve of the uncooked meringue mixture on the ice cream before you serve it.
Best. Thing. Ever. Am I right, Linds?
We eat our ice cream on the beach after the sun has gone down, as the air gets colder in the dark. From here we can see the lights of Hitschels, and the ferry we will travel on at this time the day after the next, leaving the port.
We get home, through the fog, and for no reason at all I have dreams, nightmares really, that make me miss home and fear that I’ll never be there again, and that there’s someone under the bed. I pray for courage.