It’s strange how different a holiday can make you feel. Even a quiet one, where nothing seemingly extraordinary happened except that for once you had the time to slow down, to take whatever time you needed to stay in bed after breakfast to read a book or having a conversation with someone you love without worrying about having to do the laundry or getting started with dinner.
It feels surreal sitting here now. With a cup of sweet peach mango tea I brought back with me and oven-warm butter croissants, sitting on the sofa under the duvet looking out the balcony door at the trees and the clouds. Yesterday at this time, I was still in the cabin after a big breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes and toast with the salty bacon cream cheese that the Swedish are so good at making. We were only there for a few days but I still forgot that all of this existed. My life here, back in England. That’s the effect that place has.
Monday: When the alarm on my phone goes off in the night, I think for a second it must be a mistake. It can’t be 4:30 already, I have just gone to sleep. Except it is and there is a flight to Denmark waiting for me at Gatwick that I will miss if I don’t get up. We drive in the car to the airport as the sun rises, navigate the maze of gates and checkpoints inside before settling into our seats on the plane, sitting next to each other, reading, as it flies over the North Sea. In the airport on the other side we are greeted by my dad, who drives us that last 20 minute journey home to the house in suburban Copenhagen where I grew up. The rest of the day, we take it easy. We drink tea. We cuddle with the cat, have a nap. We eat Danish pastries and for dinner spareribs, eaten at the dining table talking to my parents.
Tuesday: We are tired the next day but the sun is shining and it’s warmer than what we were told to expect, so after breakfast we get on a train and head to Roskilde, one of the oldest towns in Denmark. It’s warm as we walk through the pedestrianised High Street, past the old town square and the Gothic red-brick cathedral where the monarchs are put to rest and through a sunlit park down towards the Roskilde Fjord. We go to see the Viking Ship Museum lying at the edge of the water, to see the aged remains of the timber ships they found in the water and sandy mud below. The old planks in the big hall inside looks soft, weathered and dark, as if they would feel as soft as silk or would crumble under your hands if you were allowed to touch them. Afterwards we walk around the harbour outside where they used to sail from. They are building reproductions of the ships there and before we walk back to the station, we stand there and listen to the hollow sound of axes chopping into the wooden planks they are shaping for the ships.
Wednesday: We wake up exhausted, from the heat and the walking the day before, so we decide to have a day off even though it’s another sunny day and would have been lovely in Copenhagen. Instead we end up staying in the house, sleeping in, having a slow breakfast and cuddling some more with the cat. We have lunch in the garden, sandwiches, strawberries, grapes and cherries, and afterwards we sit out there reading before the sun makes us feel sleepy and we go inside for a nap. We end the day at my sister’s house after celebrating my niece’s 8th birthday at a Chinese restaurant. Filled up with rest and good food and company.
Thursday: The day before I get the idea to check up on a museum we went to on our last summer holiday here, in a former underground water reservoir known as Cisternerne. There is a new exhibition on. I suggest it to Daniel and even when we wake up the next day and it’s grey and raining, we still head off, excited to see how it will be different this time, yet still set in that same special subterranean space. The entrance to the museum lies in the middle of Søndermarken park and you have to go through it to reach it. We walk in the rain under the trees and everything is wet and gloomy and quiet. I instantly regret not bringing my film camera. On winding paths leading us further and further into the park we discover an 18th century cottage, a romantic spring and a red and yellow Chinese pavilion that stand open and empty in the rain. When we reach the museum we are told to be careful, as we descend into the dark below. We follow a path on a Japanese wooden platform suspended a few centimetres above the reservoir floor that has been flooded with water. The darkness is everywhere but slowly our eyes adjust and there are patches of overwhelming light in the dark; a small, impossibly green moss-covered island under a metal staircase leading up to a skylight window and a raised bridge with Japanese lanterns hanging underneath, their orange-yellow light reflected in the water. Every person’s step is a magnified echo thundering between the cavernous walls around us and the experience is so overwhelming, so sensual, that afterwards we head straight home instead of going in to Copenhagen like originally planned, so filled up are we by the experience that there is no room left for anything else.
Friday: I’m supposed to see a friend but she is sick, so I text her instead and we pack up our suitcases again, getting ready to leave the house and the cat for Sweden. We drive in the car with my parents and me and Daniel agree that it feels like when you were little and going off on a driving holiday. As we drive up the final, winding country lanes to my parents cabin in the forest I am so excited, pointing out things to Daniel, who is here for the first time, like the neighbour’s house and the lake with the little sandy beach. I’m nervous for him to like it all because this place is so special to me, a sanctuary. He seems to like our little red and white painted house and how quiet it is, and as soon as I have shown him the house, we head to the woods behind it. We take photographs and manage to see the sunset as it heads down behind the trees. We are so caught up in our own world that it’s not until my dad suddenly appears between the trees that I realise we are late for dinner, so we follow him back to the house to the pulled pork dinner my mum has prepared for us.
Saturday: We wake up to the smells of a big brunch being cooked up my parents, which is served to us in the cabin’s small, grey-painted living room. I read for a bit afterwards and then me and Daniel head to the woods behind the house to explore again. I have been here many times before but it feels different being here now showing it to Daniel and I am proud of the little bit of forest that isn’t ours but feels that way. I show him the signs of where the deer has been, the splintered bark where they have rubbed against the trees and the holes in the ground where they have raked up the roots. I’m hoping we might see one of them, like I did when I was walking on my own here through the snow in February and one of them surprised me by running past right in front of me. But we don’t see any or anything of the foxes except for their holes. We don’t even see the squirrels that normally come to the garden to eat the nuts we leave out for them, when they hear we are in the house. Afterwards we drive to the liquor store and the supermarket. We drink tea and read and then we go back to the woods again just before dusk to catch the last light of the day as it passes through the trees. Besides from that, we don’t do much, which is sort of the point in coming here.
Sunday: There’s pancakes for breakfast this time, too and afterwards we begin to pack our suitcases. It’s our last day here and in a few hours we will be driving to the airport. I always feel a bit funny on leaving day even though I have had many over the last 4 years I have lived in England, so I pack up as quickly as possible, so I can enjoy the last few hours in the garden where the sun has come out. I sit in the round pavilion with Daniel, writing a postcard to a friend back in England and a birthday card I’ll be leaving for my mum. There are so many butterflies out in the garden now and I try to keep a track of all the different kinds, as I watch them flutter around the flowers and herbs my mum has planted. Brimstone, Fritillary, Large White, and Peacock. There’s even a dragonfly. We try to photograph them, as their wings open and close. I carefully move a finger towards one, discovering that I can tempt them onto my finger and for a few short, joyful seconds carry them around with me. It seems so fitting when a few moments later the sky darkens and rain starts to fall, because we have to go anyway. So we drive to the airport, where the flight turns out to be delayed but it’s alright because we read and we talk about Sweden. I’m exhausted when we finally reach the long-stay car park and drive home to the flat.
The feel of the holiday lingers in me for two more days, then it flutters away like a shy butterfly, as I go back to work and the routines of everyday life starts up again. Hopefully it will stay with me a bit longer now that I have written it down and when I eventually see the photographs from the roll of film I shot.
Diary begun on Monday 7 August, the day after we came back and finished 16 August.
All photographs © Copyright Daniel Richards / BazookaKaboom