Iceland

Icelandic “summer” is the same as Perth winter: overcast, occasionally rainy and windy.  I managed to persuade Daniel that we didn’t need to drive literally around the entire country, especially as we only had 4 days, so he only drove us across the bottom half of the country and back.  We revisited places we’d seen in the middle of winter as well as some new sites.  Highlights were having dinner with recent travel friends from Israel trip, Ollie and Rey, who welcomed us to their home with fermented shark and Icelandic alcoholic throat-burning liquid.  We watched the World Cup game from a town square in Reykjavik: when Iceland scored the first goal there were cheers and singing and rhythmic war-like grunts.  Then they quickly lost the game and the mood flattened.  A giant brown bird shat on my back as we hiked to see puffins. I didn’t vomit on the amphibious iceberg lagoon boat ride at the melting end of a glacier.  I’d forgot how sulphurous the hot water in Reykjavik was, but since that’s normally how Daniel and I smell it was tolerable. I got a head cold and my iPhone bricked itself.  All up, a pretty good trip.

 

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NZ7 SFO to AKL

After five weeks of travelling, mostly by aircraft, we’ve reached a state of emotionless delirium, minds permanently in limbo in the liminal spaces that are airports and aeroplanes.  Like that point in V For Vendetta where Portman’s character has a shaved head, no longer fears, and just exists, I’ve finally lost nearly all anxiety about boarding times and whether the turbulence is the plane about to crash.  I’ve also lost all compassion for other travellers.  You’re upset that the queue landing in Aukland to go through additional security is half an hour long?  Well, so is everybody else.  Go cry elsewhere. You dropped something?  Pick it up. You spent half an hour in a long queue for security and didn’t already take out your laptop, iPad or the metal buckle of your belt off and made the security scanner alarm?  Step aside, you had your chance. You failed.  I should be more forgiving since every single whole-body-scanner we passed in the U.S. picked up another tissue in another pocket of my zip-offs that I didn’t know I had, causing the eye-rolling attendant to pat me down. In SFO they took issue with my zip-off lower legs that I’d shoved into my socks, to save me having to pack and unpack them later.  “What are they!?” the attendant demanded. “I’ll have to PAT THEM DOWN!” Nobody has ever been so interested in my ankles. Lucky I was wearing fresh socks.

Interestingly, my pupils dilated with schadenfreude, when we boarded our 13-hour flight from San Francisco to Aukland, and a toddler was sat opposite me, literally face-planted onto his mother and happily gurgling but crying out with sporadic ear-piercing shrieks.  It wasn’t the regular cyclic bursts of Geysir, in Iceland.  This was unpredictable and timing was random.  The slow exhale through gritted teeth of the entire Business Class cabin was a palpable suppressed rage.  The flight was scheduled to leave at 21:40. Everybody was looking to some lie-flat sleep.  The roulette wheel was already spinning.  Would the tiny human time bomb keep us awake all night? Would we have to listen to the futile “SHHH! SHHH! SHHHHH!” of the mum (the dad sat in the seat in front watching a movie, a real hands-on father), that vacillated between gently comforting to I’m-loudly-shushing-to-show-I’m-trying (which was more irritating than any noise the toddler made).

In transit. HNL – SFO – AKL. One more leg to go.

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I think we woke up at 4 am on Friday, in Hawaii.  We had a long layover in San Francisco and caught the BART to town for a few hours before flying directly to Aukland. It’s now 2 days later due to time zone differences and I don’t know if I feel sick or if I’m hungry.  I’m so glad that we forked out for the business class flights, which come with lounge access, which means we’ve showered twice, first in the not-so-bad lounge (United Polaris) in SFO, and again in the Air New Zealand lounge in Aukland.  I packed changes of shirts and have 5 pairs of socks somehow, but have run out of underwear. At least I’m not icky any more.  Plus my hair is perfectly blow-dried and gelled!

The toddler from our SFO flight is in the Air New Zealand lounge now, the family is heading home to Melbourne.  There were at least 3 other toddlers, ambling about when we landed in Aukland.  I had to take care not to bowl them over with my carry-on, or step back onto one, that had crept up behind, under the elastic lane barriers that everybody over 1 m tall was respecting.  A 100 metre long queue for additional security screening is an entertaining forest of adults for the curious toddlers to wander through but it is literally letting your kid go play in traffic. Maybe their parents are delirious too. I wonder how many toddlers I’ll find in the overhead bins on our flight to Perth, or perhaps neatly stowed under the seat in front.

Hawai’i

Hawai’i

We added four days in Hawai’I as a penultimate destination on our return to Australia, with the intent to tick off another bucket list destination but also to “relax”. This was never going to happen; as soon as Daniel sees an archipelago he’s already found something to do on each island, connecting flights and booked a different hotel for each of our four nights. Consequently, we’ve travelled every day: firstly, Toronto to San Francisco to Honolulu – an entire day of travel, then flight to Hilo on a different island, then driving around the big island to Kona on its West coast, before flying back to Honolulu for a night before our flights home to Australia. I feel like flotsam and jetsam. We’re currently in the outdoor gates of Kona airport, having run the gauntlet of self-service check-in, assisted bag tag and bag drop, TSA security check (shoes off!) where I left yet another tissue in another pocket I didn’t know I had. I’ve had three days of listening to lethargic droning of Hawaiian tourist lobby muzak; almost as grating as the clanging in Bali of that traditional instrument that is played on repeat to audibly waterboard guests.

Honolulu
We saw nothing of Honolulu our first night. We landed in darkness, caught a cab 20 minutes from the airport (I think Dan had realised he’d booked the wrong hotel before we’d left Australia but by then we just didn’t care anymore, and the cost of a cab was less than the emotional costs of cancelling and re booking). We ate surprisingly edible Thai food around the corner from the tiny hotel (thank goodness for TripAdvisor maps or else I’d have had to order room service microwaved pizza) and slept. The options for atmosphere were warm humid air from outside through the glass louvres or icy cold humid air from the wall-mounted air conditioner.

Hilo
Hilo is not pronounced “high-low” and has nothing to do with low-fat milk in a 1L green carton sold in Western Australia. We arrived just after noon and checked in, the mature lady at the counter, with a flower in her hair, joking that it would cost an additional US$100. She had to quickly back-peddle and explain that she was only joking when I wearily agreed, and I pulled out a credit card. Hilo is where we took our first helicopter ride, over the active lava flow from Fissure 8. My face is still tingling from the wind in the doors-off aircraft. Or perhaps it was from the HCl and glass shards in the clouds above the fissure. The fiddle leaf fig trees were huge. Standing paddle boarders floated in the bay early morning. Close to our hotel was a fast food store called Verna’s, which had the following confusing slogan plastered across the front: “If no can, no can. If can… Verna’s!” and on the back, “Verna’s. She go!” We have spent the week speculating about the meanings of these phrases. Unquestionably, Verna’s is the answer.

Kona
We drove anticlockwise across the North side of the island, stopping at Rainbow Falls (a small waterfall with rainbows in the mist below), drove past a rodeo (4th July) and landscape that changed from lush green overgrowth to arid dry browns. Blackened volcanic rocks littered the landscape on the West coast. Areas of ocean were impossibly light blue. Daniel took a snorkelling tour with manta rays and I stayed in the hotel room (no more &**_@#_% boat trips), woken from an attempted nap at first by a screaming baby next door then by a parade and fire works for July 4 celebrations. I made friends with a student nurse after watching the fireworks and hung out with him for a bit before Daniel returned and we went for a late dinner across the road.

Honolulu
We caught the 09:15 Hawaiian Airlines flight from Kona to Honolulu. For some reason we hired a car. We were way too early to check into our fourth hotel in four days (I am so sick of travelling now I just want to go home) so we drove to a crater hike that is crawling with unfit and morbidly obese tourists and very slow children, Diamond Head. The views of Hawaii were better on a helicopter ride. It would have been more pleasurable to relax on the beach. Instead, like tourists climbing up narrow stairwells in Prague churches, we impatiently clambered up the crater rim, passing many breathless fat people and meandering toddlers. One woman called to her husband, “[husband’s name] Hug the side! We have a PASSER!” Daniel walked past him. I muttered, “Why not just walk up without taking the entire width of the pathway you rude fuck, instead of making out like we were inconveniencing your experience?” It was like trying to see Niagara Falls, the Taj Mahal, or the Mona Lisa: there’s a point where the presence of too many other tourists negatively impacts the experience and you question why you are there. At the top there were some shirtless muscle guys so that partially recompensed but it was hot, I was thirsty, and we had to walk back down listening to the awful R&B music played on speaker by some inconsiderate wanker below us.

At the hotel Dan went to the beach and I curled up on the bed, with a RIF stomach cramp that convinced me I had acute appendicitis, would have to have emergency surgery in the U.S. and would probably rather die that pay for any overpriced healthcare in a country that doesn’t care for its own. Thankfully the cramps passed and we flew out, back to San Francisco, after a restless night kept awake by a party in the next room. Dan banging angrily on the wall made no difference. I’m so glad to be flying home next.

Hawaii Big Island: Fissure 8 and Hilo

We survived our first helicopter ride, and flew directly over the lava fountain in Fissure 8 in Hawaii’s Big Island.  From the initial nose-down ascent through a few “bumps” over hot air and sharply angled turns to a gentle landing we were tightly strapped into our seats but buffeted by strong winds (Icelandic strong) as we chose a “doors off” helicopter.  My iPhone is still broken so I borrowed Daniel’s, the wind buffeting makes videos look like Dali got to it.

The minimum safety height afforded spectacular panoramic views but close enough to see detail in the lava fountain, fast-flowing lava and steam as it met the ocean.  Highlights were in briefing when we were advised we didn’t need to duck to run to the helicopter because the blades were ten feet off ground but we could if we wanted to pretend we were in Hawaii 5-O and if we felt nauseated to use a “lava bag”.  It was amazing to see the speed of the fast-flowing lava and the volume of lava in the fountain that has been spewing out for the past month. The canopy of non-burnt surrounding vegetation and aerial views of waterfalls were also special.

Toronto

We didn’t allow ourselves enough time in Toronto, extending a stopover to a weekend.  We only had time to catch up with a few friends and close our TD bank account.  I was apprehensive about returning as two years ago when we’d visited we’d made the decision to move back to Canada.  The first day as we went shopping at The Bay and walked around a little downtown I felt cocooned by nostalgia, recognising places, even smells, each a gentle stab in the chest.  Again, I worried that I’d made the wrong decision to settle home in Australia, most especially because we immediately felt relaxed enough to hold hands in public again. Then there was a heat wave.  The humidity on Sunday made mid-thirties feel like low forties.  When we made our way to the airport this morning I felt satisfied that we’d had the chance to re-experience a little of our time in Toronto but with limited time kept the mundane special.  Can’t believe the TTC have changed the announcement for Bloor-Yonge Station to either Bloor or Yonge.  It was my favourite part of the day listening to the station announcement on my way home.

 

Thursday morning, we flew from Keflavik to Toronto.  At check-in we were met with a sullen blond barely post adolescent male who sighed when checking my passport and flatly droned, “Do you have an eTA?”  “Yes,” I replied. Of course we have a fucking electronic visa. We’ve lived in Canada.  The bureaucracy of the Canadian Immigration Council is the 8thlevel of Hell.   “Well can I see it?” he asked almost sarcastically.  It’s electronic look on your computer.  I turned to Daniel. Daniel had processed this task in early May: eTA and ESTA – DONE. “Is the PDF in the Travel folder?” I asked, I thought a reasonable request.  I’ve made, in date order in Dropbox for the next two years, folders for all of our overseas and interstate travel where everything like visas, tickets, booking confirmations can be printed as PDF at time of booking, for exactly this purpose.  Daniel doesn’t share my obsession with documentation or compulsions to duplicate important documents with backups in email and Dropbox.  I expressed my frustration with a gritted teeth exhale. Daniel expressed his with a challenging pout.  The blonde boy stared back at us, slack-jawed.  I scrambled into my carryon and searched my emails on my laptop and thankfully found a confirmation email that gave an eTA number.  All we’d need to do now was print it out, get a JP to notarise it, and queue up at Service Ontario for two hours to submit the application, before writing a cheque and posting it three months in advance because Canada Post is slower than the Air Canada check-in desks at Keflavik airport.  Blonde guy leant back and enrolled the assistance of Black-Haired Woman, who then called Towering Supervisor, who then called a fourth employee (all for us!) who then had to call the Canadian government (it was 2 am in Canada) to fix a problem that was never explained to us but apparently all our fault.  The Supervisor had leant over the blonde guy who was pouting at the upper left corner of the screen and had declared, “That’s fine; it’s an honest mistake.”  I was furious.  What kind of “honest mistake” had been made?  Were we meant to have added eTA number to our ticket? No.  Did sullen blonde guy click the wrong button and blacklist me forever on Canadian Border Services!?  Daniel was exasperated and said I worry too much.  I worried that he was neither alert or at all appropriately alarmed at the potential for catastrophe.  Things were better after we ate breakfast. We were checked in.

 

Thursday afternoon we caught a taxi from Toronto Pearson to Bec & Al’s home not far from where we used to live. Our Sikh driver pulled out too sharply from the taxi queue, where he’d double parked, and his navigation tablet hurtled onto the passenger seat floor; on the Gardiner Expressway he hung up his iPhone from his fourth phone call, swerving out and back into the lane and barely breaking before hitting the car in front, and asked me to get it for him. I was in the back seat.  I considered the high possibility that unbuckling my seatbelt and crawling over the passenger seat to reach down to grab his tablet would result in a repeat of the car accident I survived at age four, where I flew unbuckled from the back seat head-first to the dashboard, the scar above my right eye now barely visible.  I had thought this trip that we’d die in Israel, then Jordan, and most definitely then in a hot air balloon accident in Turkey but we had survived the Middle East, so I felt brave that today was not the day.  I crawled over, reached down and handed the tablet back and he set it back in place.  Then he swerved, and it fell out again, but onto the chair this time.  One thing I cannot understand is how Uber and cab drivers see a pulsing BLUE DOT on the map on the screen in front of their face but will consistently drive at speed right past the destination and ask where to stop. Stop where the blue dot was flashing back there? It’s not a suggested destination.

 

Bec greeted us with strong hugs, as her baby is now about several months old she has the physique of Sarah Connor in Terminator. The infant was cute and giggly and wriggly but man, trying to hold her for more than five minutes was a biceps workout. I returned the bundle of happiness. Bec showed us around their home and I immediately got home envy.  The houses in their area are almost my dream homes: townhouses with upstairs and downstairs and basements and back yards with big leafy trees that you can imagine changing colours in fall and being blanketed with snow in winter and pretend spring and really-it-should-be-summer-by-now-WTF-Toronto.  I had to remind myself that at our house in Australia we never have to shovel snow or worry that pipes might freeze.  I was sullen in complementing Bec’s tomato plants that were taller than me; I can never grow a tomato above half a metre high, even when I remember to water them. Bec even had pumpkin vines growing vertically. And a lemon tree in a pot.  We still haven’t got that lemon tree from Mum’s house.

 

After we’d settled ourselves in I walked West towards Jarvis and our old condo to catch up with Louis and meet Gerardo. Two years ago, Louis had just bought a house as well, and had shown me around the empty building, explaining his plans for moving in.  Now it’s their home, with plants out front and a small courtyard out back.  There were at least three small garden gnomes which reminded me to buy Ben & Dion a replacement garden gnome. Dion hates gnomes, which is why we bought him two from Bunnings and left them at his front door, after dancing them in front of the security camera that sends live feeds to their cell phones.

 

Thursday evening Daniel ordered delivery Thai from a nearby restaurant and I had expected the same tasteless North American excuse for Asian food that we’d suffered two years of in 2013-2015 when we’d lived in Toronto.  This was unfortunately delicious.  One of the main factors pushing us to return to Perth was that I couldn’t imagine indefinitely eating sad tasteless food when it was so much better elsewhere.  The prospect was like eating camp food for life. Maybe Spring Rolls and Pizzaiolo aren’t the benchmarks of Torontonian cuisine.

 

On Friday I’d pencilled in an ambush into the hospitals that I did my fellowships in, and to surprise visit every single radiologist and sonographer that I needed to catch up with.  I realised that this was not going to happen after I queued up at the TD bank on Queen Street, opposite the Town Hall and Eaton Centre.  No, I did not think to bring my key card.  Yes, I want to close the account.  No, I do not have the driver’s licence that I’d had when I’d opened the account because we had to surrender it to Service Ontario and they destroyed it. Did I bring my Ontario driver’s license? Um, no.  Did I have the immigration paperwork I had when I opened the account in 2013?  It’s in my desk drawer on the other side of the planet.  I had to traipse back to Bec & Al’s, rummage around my luggage, find my current WA driver’s license (thankfully with same number) and stagger back to the bank. They withdraw all C$250 left in the account (we’d lost C$250 in account keeping fees and the TD VISA card fees over the past three years) before printing off a closure form.  The second trainee that processed my account closure hesitated when he saw it was a joint account.  Daniel had already been gone for half an hour on the 501 streetcar West on Queen Street; he had a haircut appointment with Steve Pella.  Maybe he’d thought we’d broken up.  After five weeks of overseas travel around the world by the time we return to Australia we might just do.  Can’t even print a PDF of an eTA into Dropbox.  He’d probably go on a snorkelling tour without a life jacket, life insurance and pre-medication.

New cuts.

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Our haircuts are fantastic.  If it wasn’t so far away and prohibitively expensive (and probably a bit bad for the environment) we’d fly back every month just to get our hair cut.  I can’t wait for teleporter technology. We bought some new tank tops at North Standard and walked around to where Wise Bakery was two years ago last time we’d got haircuts and bought tank tops.  It’s not there anymore.  We didn’t get to eat meat pies from New Zealand expats.

 

Friday evening, we had dinner at Cam & Vince’s house and met their son, Jacob.  Jacob is four, loves to ask, “Why?” about literally everything and had exhausted Cam & Vince so much that Vince promptly passed out on the couch when Jacob led us into the salle de manger to find a shark game.  I felt bad that we were intruding; I veto all social engagements (except RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing with Ben & Dion) on Friday nights because I’m tired by Friday, but I’ve yet to reach the level of Parent Tired.  When Dan started recounting to Vincent some story about being tired and Vincent’s eyes glazed over I tried to send telepathic red flashing lights to Dan: Don’t say the T-word to parents!

Vincent ordered a huge meat platter that was delivered by bicycle, on the back of a lanky guy in short shorts that cycled past the house, around the corner, back around before noticing the three guys on the balcony waving at him to stop.  Cam & Vince’s rainbow flag fluttered in the breeze, replacing the Arcardian flag that usually hangs there because it was Toronto Pride last weekend.

Vincent had conscripted Jacob to draw us a “Welcome – Bienvenue” card earlier in the afternoon.  The tightly focused repeated spiral motifs were, according to Jacob, “ka-ka” and I was “ka-ka face”.  Poo was a theme of the evening as we learnt a lot about what can be involved in toilet training toddlers.  In Toronto there are actual Potty-Training Consultants, and they even have a telephone support service.  We were invited to read Jacob some bedtime stories and in typical utterly brutal child honesty Jacob pulled the book right out of my hand and gave it to Daniel after the first page because my French was that bad.  Daniel is fearless and just launches into reading any language on the page, complete with sound effects, facial expression and the complete adoration of every bloody child we meet. In Germany he had read Monika’s eldest a German bedtime story by making up the narrative. Meanwhile I am always tossed aside because I overthought the portrayal of gender roles while reading Dr Seuss and always add questioning commentary challenging perception or illustrations and that was not entertaining like Uncle Dan.  It really pisses me off whenever we visit friends with kids because compared to Dan who is immediately rolling on the floor and has somehow convinced the small child that he should be showered with affectionate hugs I’m always given the verdict, “Don’t like kids, huh?” Um, what?  I want to have a welcome hug too! Just not covered with the drool or vomit. I was just wrapping myself with a protective triple barrier and checking my travel insurance covering before I approached the viral transmission vector.  A dislike of mucus or drool is not a dislike of the child. I just don’t like my shoulder to be wet for the next hour. Maybe four-year-olds don’t appreciate Daria.

Saturday morning Vincent and I walked down to Serano bakery and I bought some sugary Greek pastries, which we ate with the coffee that Cam had kindly made an entire thermos of, before Dan and I abandoned a suddenly hurt-looking Jacob to catch the TTC out towards the Etobicoke for lunch with Julian’s family.

We first met Julian’s Mum, Anna, when Julian drove us up to the Toronto Gay Ski Week.  Anna is Maltese and a typical European Mum: she feeds you.  Take some oranges!  Julian’s Dad insisted we take blankets, just in case.  Since then I tease Julian every time I visit and ask if he has enough oranges and blankets. In return Julian ensured that there was a bowl of oranges on the table.  When we arrived, there was a bowl of popcorn on the table. Then Anna bought out a cheese platter. And a finger food platter.  And a plate of pasticci.  Then another. We were served champagne, and water, and beer, and soda pop.  I’m always uncertain what is the polite response and try to eat everything.  When I was young and whined to my Mum, “I’m hungry!” (for the tenth time in the hour) I was told to “Chew on your tongue” (which I took literally and did but I was still hungry, just quieter with a sore tongue) or that we would be having “poop on a stick” for dinner, which always got rid of me.  Perhaps these are Australianisms.  I had thought that the “snacks” Anna was serving was lunch.  It was not.  We swam in the pool and Anna barbecued meat and bought out even more food, a bowl of fruit, a plate of watermelon, even a lemon pie.  I had to lie on the floor afterwards.  The World Cup was on the TV and the new Brasilian student staying with the Ellises looked at me cautiously.

Saturday afternoon we caught up with Ur & Israel and mutual friend gay Dads and all the kids for an early evening barbecue and pool swim.  It was hot. Jose and Israel didn’t join everybody in the pool because Jose was feeding the twins and Israel was barbecuing meat and getting a tower of towels out of a hidden cupboard.  I didn’t think to offer to help which would’ve been a welcome escape from the cacophony of the pool and getting hit in the head with the ball that Liad and Etye were throwing in and out of the pool (Liad sometimes into the garden requiring big brother yelling to coerce his younger brother to retrieve it) and Ur was telling them to throw at my head instead.  Jacob wore his Batman vest floatation device, complete with goggles, and was having a ball. Cam made waves. I think I was tired because I was happy to participate peripherally: be in the pool but hang off the edge to the side and watch everybody else.  I must have had resting angry face because Ur declared I didn’t look like I was enjoying myself. I had thought I was.  I was just feeling melancholic that their kids were growing up so fast and had forgot who we were – we’ve been gone for three years. Soon I’d just be like those people in family photos that you look at and wonder who the hell they were.  My iPhone is still broken so nobody took photos. I didn’t think to commandeer Daniel’s. I was a bit pensive because in catching up with Ur I realised that since we were in Toronto last two of the radiologists at UHN have died.  Who’s next? Would we even ever return?

Saturday night we had pencilled in to the planner to head out to Fly; Daniel has been keen for months to revisit the club that we barely went to the two years we lived in Toronto.  We didn’t go.  After having swam at two pools and eaten at two barbecues we decided we deserved a night in and watched the Season 10 finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Bit of a fizzer but Asia O’Hara’s disaster butterfly reveal was a train-wreck you couldn’t not watch.

Sunday in Toronto it was oppressively hot and humid.  Dan and I walked the few blocks to Church Street to meet Kyno and Chevo for brunch at Smith.  There was no air conditioning.  I fanned myself with a side plate in a futile attempt to stop the sweat that was pouring out from all my skin surfaces. Daniel kept elbowing me with his gangly elbow. Kyno had the bright idea to walk down to Baskin & Robins afterwards and the icy air-conditioning was a welcome respite. The blue shirt twink that had skipped past us earlier in the morning was still tweaking after we’d finished brunch and paced back and forth outside on the footpath.  You could see his attention focus on something, then get distracted by the urge to dance, then a brief disorientation before the cycle repeated again.  It was over 30°C and felt over 40°C. I was dehydrated, and I had been inside for an hour. I bought him a bottle of cold water, cracked it open, walked outside, showed him I was taking a sip (so it wasn’t spiked) and asked if he wanted some water.  He did and grabbed it thirstily.  When we left a short while later he’d thankfully sat himself down in the shade on the kerb, the bottle of water in front of him.

Sunday afternoon it was only 3 days since we’d arrived in Toronto, but it already felt like another lifetime.  I packed. We did a last load of washing.

Sunday evening, we caught up with Kevin & Adam at all-you-can-eat sushi at Fushimi on Church Street.  Turns out we couldn’t eat as much as we’d used to. After dinner we walked up to Charles Street and had coffee and cakes at 7 West, another trip down memory lane for us. Kevin didn’t want to say goodbye when it was time to go so walked home with us.  It was tough to leave because we don’t know when we’ll be back.

Church & Wellesley. 2018
Church & Wellesley. 2018

 

 

Geranium

It’s difficult being upper middle bogan and fine dining. Inasmuch as I appreciate being able to afford the privilege of tasting a billion courses of miniature food (seriously how are flowers even that small) while watching the Copenhagen sunset at the same time as Beyoncé finishes her noisy stadium-filled concert downstairs, if I order the matching wines I am always tempted to ask, “But can I get it without the wank-fest descriptions, please? Just tell me how the flavour matches the next course.” I want to enjoy the performance art of the edible installations that is the food but without having to participate in the mutual pretence of caring about the life history of a wine-maker whom I’ll never meet and had died anyway in an unfortunate plane crash (you can really taste the despair of his grieving widow). We unfortunately got caught up in the Beyoncé concert crowds, were unable to get a cab home, had to walk to a train station and witness irate yelling Danes while literally crushed into the full train by the platform mob. By some miracle the train we caught continued to the lufthavn, which is where our airport hotel was, right outside the stair exit. It was a good evening, even if Daniel chose the wine pairing that cost more than the tasting menu and I had to momentarily calculate if my credit card had sufficient credit to pay.

Geranium is weirdly located on the 8th floor of a sports stadium. Maybe it’s normally nice and quiet, with a pretty view of Copenhagen. Last night it was packed for a noisy Beyoncé concert and more security that a U.S. President. We almost walked past the heavily guarded entrance as it was barricaded by wire fences and security in fluorescent yellow vests and signs saying, “VIP only”. Matthieu, who looked like a Matthieu (European, handsome, with a clipped beard but looked a bit down his nose next to you without ever actually making eye contact) escorted us towards the lift and sent us up. The young man that greeted us and took our coats (weirdly from across the table and behind the computer – I was worried my fragile down jacket would get caught up in the macabre silver sculpture that had a replica of a human humerus and ulna but with the hand bones attached backwards, the thumb on the ulnar side) and showed us to our table. Or maybe somebody else showed us to our table.  There were so many staff.

View from Geranium

We were seated by the kitchen. It was not actually The Kitchen but a plating up open-plan watch the performance of the almost all incredibly handsome male chefs. There were a few women. One of the sous chefs was from Sydney, and the waitstaff pointed that out to us and him, and he waved hello, as we sat down. Instead of the usual two chairs opposite sides of a table we sat side-by-side on a crescentic couch and faced the restaurant and the evening sun. We were offered champagne. The first three options were served by the glass, at several hundred Danish Krone per glass (the third being a Dom Perignon) and the fourth was a small bottle of Bollinger for only DK800. I asked for a glass of the second choice (as it promised citrus flavours) and Daniel asked for a “Bottle of the Dom” then realised what he’d said, and floundered, “Um, a glass!”. I blanched and would’ve kicked him under the table but maybe that’s why they sit couples side-by-side. I think you meant to say “glass”, darling. I couldn’t hear a word the slightly scruffy champagne trolley man said, as the clanking of the kitchen behind me and the noise of the restaurant in front combined with my blocked Eustachian tubes muffled his voice. We were served our glasses of champagne and gaily sipped them while we opened our Welcome Letter, which was really a menu.

Geranium

When a sommelier launches into a lecture on the history not only of the winery in Germany that produced this fine example of some fancy pants wine but of wine-making in Germany for the past 800 years, my response is not the requisite, “Oh, how terribly fancy! French oak barrels and biodynamic natural yeasts you say? I can really taste BLUEBERRIES [why can’t a wine ever taste of actual grapes!?]” but, “Sorry, what? Will there be a test? What’s the standard error of your stated mean height of 500 metres above sea level? What evidence is there that an older grapevine produces better quality grapes?  Why hasn’t the soil run out of nutrients?  Did you know that your benchmark of quality for this wine is the opposite from the last wine? Stop explaining what botrytis is; everybody explains it, every time!”

As we’d already drunk a glass of champagne each to start I was tipsy and so I interrupted our professional but easy-going American sommelier to clarify, “Sorry, did you just say this Napa winery 500 metres above sea level is owned by two doctors who retired at age 75 but has been running for 20 years so now that would make them 95 and not dead – wow!”. Unlike the unbelievable lists of apparently random adjectives and nouns made into adjectives supplied at Koks two nights earlier, at Geranium last night, we were served with increasingly succinct explanations befitting our interest in who made the wine and how many random fruits we could hallucinate on our palates. The sommelier disclosed that she flatted with two Aussies, so I suggested that she ask them if they recognised the phrase, “It’s pronounced CAR-donay!” in response to her heartfelt description of Daniel’s glass of chardonnay from somewhere in France, and she walked off slightly amused and confused. Not a fan of Kath and Kim then. I just wanted to be effluent.

Dan’s monkfish

I actually enjoyed the food. This was a relief to poor Dion, who had apparently recommended the place, and had been sweating bullets since Thursday when I suppressed bile after eating various fermented meats and almost dead but slightly still alive shellfish encrusted with dying but definitely moving molluscs. We’d declared our preferences (yes I’m a picky eater; I don’t like truffles or half of the fruit from the genus, capsicum). The waitress forced a smile then walked behind us to loudly declare at the kitchen staff “No MEAT!” making me miss eating in Chinese restaurants where nobody would think my red-haired white Australian mother could understand the Cantonese they were yelling. Mum and her friend walked out once, after a particularly insulting yell to the kitchen. Just like the time the waitstaff whisked away the not-edible driftwood and lobster claw shell at Alinea, after like a toddler I started to play with it and try to eat everything I could grab, we were instructed in no uncertain words, “This dish you eat THAT bit and NOT THE FLOWERS”. Is that a challenge? I finally asked, when told not to eat some actual rocks. I bet I could swallow a small one. “They’d be crunchy!” the sous chef serving us warned. I really was tempted to try that beeswax granules that looked like candy. I was reminded by the time Mum had to get Wally’s Mum with Alzheimer’s to spit out a small bathroom tile that she mistook for a hard caramel. “It wasn’t very nice anyway!” Jean had declared, handing over the saliva-coated ceramic.

Anyway here are pictures of the food, the restaurant descriptions and what they might be labelled as if I were a gallery owner with a label maker drunk on champagne:

 

Crispy leaves, walnut oil & pickled walnut leaves
Crispy leaves, walnut oil & pickled walnut leaves

A BOWL WITHIN A BOWL CONTAINING FOUR LACE-LIKE CRUNCHY VEGETABLE MATTER SERVED ON FLOWERS (DON’T EAT THE FLOWERS)
Presentation: pretty
Taste: subtle (i.e. I have no idea what it was)
Difficulty: 3 of 5. The leaves are too big to shove in your mouth in one go, so one must delicately attempt to bite off a small mouthful but this shatters the structure, shattering fracture fragments over the tablecloth.

 

Cucumber juice, ham fat & lightly smoked snail eggs
Cucumber juice, ham fat & lightly smoked snail eggs

A TINY BOWL WITH A GELATINOUS DISC SURROUNDED BY SOME HOT MEAT FAT INTO WHICH YOU STIR A SPOON OF TINY WHITE SPHERES
Presentation: this was beautiful. The tiny white spheres (they were snail eggs, but I lied to myself that they were semolina because otherwise I was imagining tiny snails saying “Don’t EAT me!” and snail eyes withdrawing back once poked) were a small mound on a round spoon and floated about the mixture.
Taste & texture: thankfully snails eggs were not bursts of salt like roe and were not slimy, so I quite enjoyed pretending it was crunchy semolina in a ham soup.
Difficulty: 3 of 5 – the idea of eating eggs of snails required me to pretend I was eating something else and Daniel kept watching me eat, which increased the pressure to not retch. Especially as he’d been served some nice vegetarian option as mine had ham fat.

"Razor clams" with minerals & sour cream
“Razor clams” with minerals & sour cream

“RAZOR CLAMS” WITH CORRECT USE OF QUOTATATION MARKS!
Presentation: Two razor clam shaped edible sculptures of something vegetable filled with razor clam balanced on a folded white serviette. Bonus points for not serving them on a piece of driftwood with seaweed like Alinea did because I would only try to eat the seaweed.
Taste: Daniel really liked his. Maybe my blocked nose prevented me from enjoying what razor clam tastes like, but it was not unpleasant, so we were on a roll.
Difficulty: 2 of 5. I wanted to crack mine in half like an intern requesting a CT from an English consultant radiologist (with a look) but settled for holding it like a pencil and nibbling at the ends.

Soup from dried ceps, pickled hops & dark beer
Soup from dried ceps, pickled hops & dark beer

SOUP OF CEP AND OTHER DRIED THINGS
Presentation: It’s soup. It was in a bowl.
Taste & Texture: if this was the dish with truffle the truffle taste was subtle enough not to remind me of the time I retched eating an amuse-bouche where the truffle aroma of unwashed feet burst up my nasopharynx, right through my ethmoid bone and burnt my inferior frontal lobes and both optic nerves. It tasted a lot like a Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, but obviously more expensive and inhomogeneous with crunchiness, as the vegetables were freshly chopped and not stale from 6 months on a supermarket shelf, then stuck in my pigeon hole at BreastScreen.
Difficulty: 2 of 5. It’s actually a little difficult to eat soup out of a tiny bowl with a narrow diameter foot. I almost knocked it over twice.

"Beetroot stone" scallop & horseradish
“Beetroot stone” scallop & horseradish

SCALLOPS ENCASED WITH BEETROOT TO LOOK LIKE ROCKS BUT AREN’T ROCKS BUT ARE SERVED ON ACTUAL ROCKS AND YOU MUSTN’T EAT THE ACTUAL ROCKS
Presentation: Well, these looked like cherries on chocolate, two rows of 3.
Taste:  pas mal but I wasn’t a fan of beetroot and scallops combined (especially as it recalled the beetroot juice I’d had two nights earlier) so I gave my third to Daniel.
Texture: slightly chewy.
Difficulty: 1 of 5.

Celeriac, dried mussels, Söl & juice from smoked yoghurt
Celeriac, dried mussels, Söl & juice from smoked yoghurt

CELERIAC SOUP WITH FLOATING GREEN AND PURPLE FLOWERS
Presentation: purple and green are always a good combination and who wouldn’t like flowers floating in soup? Probably Miss Marple because there’d be a narrow therapeutic zone with the amount of arsenic or something toxic in purple flowers.
Taste: salty but not too salty
Texture: crunchy but not too crunchy, a Goldilocks dish

Creamy & dried trout, smoked juniper butter & juice from grilled asparagus
Creamy & dried trout, smoked juniper butter & juice from grilled asparagus

TROUT FIBRE SERVED IN A CUPCAKE-SHAPED SHELL, ADORNED WITH TINY GREEN LEAVES AND WHITE FLOWERS
Presentation: delicate symmetry with the fibres catching the setting sunlight like mermaids stealing the hearts of sailors as the float past.
Taste: this was my second favourite dish so far.
Texture: crunchy.
Difficulty: 1 of 5. Anything you can fit into your mouth in one go is a winner.

Creamy & dried trout, smoked juniper butter & juice from grilled asparagus
Creamy & dried trout, smoked juniper butter & juice from grilled asparagus

TROUT CREAMY BLOB DROWNED IN A BUTTER-YELLOW SAUCE
Presentation: thankfully in a bowl. It would’ve spilled off of a plate, or piece of slate.
Taste: not unpleasant.
Texture: creamy. Unsurprisingly.

"Marbled" hake, caviar & buttermilk
“Marbled” hake, caviar & buttermilk

HAKE
Presentation: served in a glass bowel that was in itself an upside-down glass bowel. The caviar floated about the central pool of fluid like small bowel loops in ascites on a supine abdomen radiograph. I think there were more white flowers in the middle on top.
Taste: not fishy.
Texture: the caviar was crunchy and not salty so I imagine this was the experience that Niles and Frasier went crazy over in that episode where they start to purchase illegally imported caviar.

Crispy grains, bread with old grains & bread with seeds
Crispy grains, bread with old grains & bread with seeds

BREAD SOME WITHOUT GLUTEN
Presentation: turns out I have strong opinions about how to serve bread, and that does not include wrapping it in a napkin.
Taste & Texture: I preferred the bread with gluten.  The cheesy stick things were crunchy.
Difficulty: 0 of 5.  Get in my belly

Lightly smoked peas, pea sprouts, pea blossoms, egg yolk & melted "Versterhavs" cheese
Lightly smoked peas, pea sprouts, pea blossoms, egg yolk & melted “Versterhavs” cheese

FRESH PEAS WITH PURPLE FLOWERS YAAASSSS QUEEN
Presentation: bonus points for not putting peas on a plate because there’ll inevitably be an esca-pea!  We missed half the explanation because the sous chef that served the dish was incredibly handsome and we were unable to concentrate.
Taste & Texture: I love fresh peas; they’re crunchy.
Difficulty: 1 of 5.  Peas are always minimally problematic, at any age.

Grilled langoustine, beach plants in smoked cream cheese & juice from dried oyster
Grilled langoustine, beach plants in smoked cream cheese & juice from dried oyster

LANGOUSTINE WITH MOAR PEAS, IN A TINY TINY BOWL
Presentation: When I read that there was langoustine on the menu I irrationally expected the same dish as at Koks 48 hours earlier: a whole langoustine deliciously barbecued with a slightly smoky flavour.  This was not the same dish as it was not the same restaurant so I was initially disappointed.  Then I saw the peas.
Taste & Texture: I prefer barbecued shellfish but the peas were good.
Difficulty: 1 of 5

Venison, morels & pickled elderflowers
Venison, morels & pickled elderflowers

SOME SORT OF RED MEAT MADE BY A COMPLICATED PROCESS INVOLVING MANY STEPS AND CARPETED WITH MINIATURE FLOWERS, ACCOMPANIED BY TWO BLOBS OF LIQUID
Presentation: what’s not to like about tiny tiny flowers?
Taste & Texture: I had food envy and wanted Dan’s monkfish so I didn’t appreciate mine so much.
Difficulty: 2 of 5; the pieces were big enough to eat each in a mouthful but that wouldn’t be ladylike.

A bite of beetroot, blackcurrant, yoghurt & tagetes
A bite of beetroot, blackcurrant, yoghurt & tagetes

“EAT THIS IN ONE MOUTHFUL” THEY SAID, BUT THE DIAMETER OF THE RADII IS THE SAME AS MY MOUTH AND DAN QUIPPED “YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TROUBLE WITH THAT” RIGHT AS I WENT TO EAT IT
Presentation: like a little nebula on a circular spoon this Christmas-coloured confection was a marvel to behold and a shame to have to eat
Taste & Texture: it tasted like beetroot, funnily enough.  Again, not a fan of beetroot unless it’s in a burger.  An Aussie burger.
Difficulty: 4 of 5, mostly because my husband almost made me laugh as I went to delicately dock it into my mouth

Herbs of the forest
Herbs of the forest

THE ANTLER OF A TINY MOOSE CAUGHT IN A CREVASSE, SUSPENDED OVER SOME MOSS, WITH A SOLITARY FRUIT
Presentation: The level of food sculpture was inversely proportional to the time remaining in the meal. I wondered if a sous chef had spent the entire afternoon constructing this.
Taste & Texture: I have no recollection of what this tasted like, or what it was.
Difficulty: 3 of 5, again because fracturing the delicate sculpture causes it to shatter and then you need to hoover up the remains

BEESWAX ICECREAM SERVED ON ROCKS THAT YOU MUST NOT EAT BUT LOOK ENTICINGLY LIKE POPROCKS, SERVED WITH MORE EDIBLE LACE AND A SMALL BOWL WITH LITMUS PAPER DISCS
Presentation: it’s cruel to serve food on things that look edible but aren’t. Beautiful.
Taste & Texture: the ice-cream was unexpectedly not too sweet or creamy.
Difficulty: 2 of 5, again my anxiety levels peaked attempting to eat my lace thing without shattering it all over my face.

 

I think we’ll return, but take at least 4 friends, so we can book the “experimental room”, the private dining room where there aren’t actually experiments but the minimum sample size is 6.

Faroe Islands

Our 72 hours in the Faroe Islands felt like a lifetime and no time at all. Even though we had wifi (faster than at home in Perth, Western Australia, though everywhere is faster than Australia) and I had my cell phone on (UWA fundraising woke me up at 04:30 this morning (but hung up before I had staggered out of our saggy bed) I’ve never felt more like we’d flown to the ends of the earth than yesterday and today, when Dan hurtled our hire car through the fog, blown fast by gusty winds. Sheep grazed everywhere, standing on the road, or nonchalant at passing vehicles. Yet, try to slowly approach on foot to take a photograph and they skitter away. We ate one very expensive dinner, flanked either night by home cooked chicken schnitzel with oven-baked broccoli. Last night we caught up on yesterday’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race (hooray for VPN) and Daniel churned through several more episodes of Designated Survivor. When our flight back to Copenhagen left the tarmac, I felt a little sad: we probably won’t return; next time we fly to a remote archipelago or tiny island in the middle of an ocean it will hopefully be the Azures or Easter Island.

Day 1

We landed on Wednesday, just after noon. The captain had warned that the landing may be rough as the Faroe runway is short; both types of breaks would be needed. Dan collected our hire car, but not the sat-nav, so I waited squirming in my seat as the airport attendant ignored our parked car in the 3-minute kiss-and-ride section Dan had parked in. The wind was gusty and cold and our ultralight down travel jackets felt thin.
When we settled in at our AirBnB I saw a picture of scones with jam and cream on Nikki’s Facebook and impulsively Googled a recipe and set off around the corner to the nearest grocery store to purchase ingredients. Daniel gently tried to talk me out of my mission, after I’d spent a good five minutes staring at a wall of types of flour, unable to find anything that could be “self-rising flour”. I had managed to find the Danish word for cream (crem) not by identifying a container that looked like cream, or something in a fridge with a picture of a cow (they were all yoghurts) but finding biscuits called “chocolate cream” in English then turning the packet over to the Danish text. Supermarket Rosetta stones are in the confectionary aisle. I conceded that my need for a single warm scone with strawberry jam and cream would cost about A$30 judging by my small basket of ingredients but that this was my choice of afternoon holiday activity and was cheaper than a boat tour. My scones were not only edible, but Dan ate some too.
We walked through Tørshavn, the Faroese parliament and to a lighthouse, with adjacent rock pools filled with molluscs.

Day 2
The forecast was for sunshine – turns out an unusually sunny day and the only sunny day we’d experience, so we set out to drive. In typical Daniel motivation he was not content to pick one destination, drive there and sit around. I buckled myself in. We spent the entire day driving literally around four the of the parallel finger-like islands. When we reached Vidareidi at the top of Vidoy to find no café or gift shop (the only two options were closed for the fortnight) I huffed that we’d spent the whole day driving on and on, further without pause other than to snap a few photos. I was mostly sore that we’d not found any café to buy a coffee and had really needed one. I took over the driving, as Dan had driven for six hours straight, and Daniel promptly fell asleep. He took umbrage to my grumble, announcing that I had ruined his day by claiming dissatisfaction when I’d had plenty of opportunity to assert my own thoughts of what we should’ve done. It was not the most sensible start to driving a left-hand drive manual vehicle on the right-hand side of the road, to head straight into a single-lane tunnel where you have to judge how fast the oncoming headlights are travelling and whether you can make it to the next tiny out-pouching reserved for westward vehicles to quickly pull out of the way. I immediately had two other cars up my arse, impatiently wanting me to hurtle myself to imminent death faster, so I pulled over and let them pass. This then meant that as I tried to follow the second car’s tail lights I couldn’t see the oncoming car and didn’t have enough space before it closed the space between us, and we both had to stop – in the middle of a tunnel in the middle of a mountain – and the other car had to kindly reverse the 10 metres it had passed what would’ve been my next pull-over spot had I floored it. I was shaking, trying not to literally piss myself, and had no choice but to keep driving through the rest of the tunnel, into the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Daniel slept.
Our booked taxi picked us up at 17:50 and drove us to Koks. The driver was chatty and stopped on the way to show us a good vantage point, just before the Faroe Islands Prison, pointing out the turn-off to the mountain we should hike the next day.


Day 3
I voted to enjoy being on vacation by staying inside all day, but Daniel looked miserable and restless, so we flicked through Things to Do on TripAdvisor and flagged the museum, the aquarium and that hike up a mountain. I made Daniel drive. The sunshine of Thursday was replaced by fast rolling fog, visibility only about 30 metres ahead. Daniel kept driving anyway. He managed to not kill us, driving up and then down the so narrow the car barely fit single lane road up and down the mountain. At the top we were treated to 360-degree views of no views. The museum was adequate; I confirmed that the islands were mostly volcanic rock and learned about different types of lava flow (hopefully we will see this in Hawaii). The displays of fishing village artefacts and boats were similar to Icelandic museums, so I walked past those. After driving back to what had quickly felt like “our carpark” around the corner from “our house” we walked to the harbour and ate lunch at Umami – I had nachos, so good. We spent the evening on the couch, much to my pleasure and Daniel’s dismay. Even though I’m meant to be on long service leave I cleared my emails again and did some online banking. It was a good day.

Day 4

While Daniel packed I unhelpfully sat and watched a 20-minute YouTube cooking program with Miz Cracker making ravioli. We checked out of our AirBnB and drove West, to Múlafossur waterfall, before returning to the airport. There was no petrol station at the airport so we back-tracked to the town 2 km northwest and filled the tank. Diesel, about A$50. \

Koks – Faroe Island

Tonight we treated ourselves to an 18-course tasting menu at Koks, a Michelin star experience of local Faroese produce. I’m not sure why we keep “treating” ourselves with meals of food that we normally would not eat; I am easily squeamish at the sight of any animal part that I did not grow up eating (mostly everything), or if I can see or imagine it moving.  When I had agreed to the booking I had incorrectly assumed that the predominately “fermented” local produce would be similar to what we’ve tried before in Iceland: slabs of preserved meats or fish that you could chew on and quickly swallow.  I was wrong but I survived.  The service and experience were both excellent. You start in a drying hut by a lake, then get driven by jeep to the small building where another 17 courses are served up in quick succession.  I was glad that over half the menu were fish courses and I tried everything, even if I had to hide some of my air-dried lamb under my spoon.  Dan drank matching wines, I drank matching juices. The sun still is still up. It’s the summer solstice today.

 

  1. Føroyskur bordiskur (Faroese cured meat)
  2. Jákupsskeljar (scallops) – these had live barnacles on the shells.
  3. Rognkelsi (lumpfish)
  4. Kúfiskur (mahogany clam)
  5. Hummari (langoustine)
  6. Skerpikjøt (wind-dried mutton)
  7. Garnatálg (rolled sausage made from sheep’s fat and innards)
  8. Rabarbur (rhubarb)
  9. Kalvi og Vatnkarsi (halibut and watercress)
  10. Krabbi og Purra (crab and leek)
  11. Saltifkur og Kræklingur (bacalao and blue mussel)
  12. Toskur og Vársalat (cod and spring salad)
  13. Havtaska og Okse (monkfish and beef)
  14. Ræst Kjøt og Sellerí (not quite sure what this was but it came with variations of celeriac)
  15. Gras og Syra (grass and sorrel)
  16. Skaldabrobber og Krákuber (wild thyme and crowberry)
  17. Søl og Bláber (dulse and blueberry)
  18. Søt Aftervid

 

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

I am ambivalent about Copenhagen. I found many tins of butter cookies but didn’t buy any; they are cheaper in Coles Maylands at the end of the aisle. Unlike Paris, where everywhere you turn there is romance oozing from the buildings and people, Copenhagen just felt like another European city to me. I really wanted to like it, as much as Daniel (he instantly wanted to live there), but I couldn’t. The wide bicycle lanes were eye-opening; back home the ongoing media-fuelled dichotomy between “drivers” and “bloody cyclists” (what if, like me, some days you cycle and some you drive?) makes Aussies look like a bunch of whining snowflakes. At first, I thought Copenhagen was a socialist utopia; so many bicycles not locked, and not thrown up trees or rivers; a new McDonald’s installed a fragile sculpted golden arches at its entrance. Less than 48 hours later I noticed all the locks at the back wheels of the bikes and the arches in front of a McDonald’s not even open until next week has already been vandalised.

Highlights:
Sushi ‘n’ Sticks overlooking the Tivoli gardens (an amusement park, not really gardens) – even though I didn’t bother to calculate a DKK to AUD exchange rate before ordering my A$31 single wagyu tori stick.

The short canal Nyhavn looks just like a picture postcard. We just walked 17 km around town and my legs were too sore to quietly enjoy the sites.

There is a train to Malmö, which if we’d stayed a day longer I would’ve insisted that we take so we could say, “Oh, we caught a train over to Sweden for lunch!”

The Medicinsk Museion has a residual collection from the 18th and 19th centuries of human pathology bottle specimens that highlight advances in healthcare that we take for granted, the range of lethal pathologies different to today’s casen mix:

– Two fetuses in utero with placenta praevia. Their inclusion in the museum implies that both mother and baby died in childbirth. In Australia today few women would give birth without having had at least one antenatal ultrasound which hopefully would’ve diagnosed the potentially life-threatening placentation and directed towards a life-saving caesarean section. One of the bottles showed a failed attempted per vaginal tamponade, the instruments forming part of the specimen.
– Several variants of conjoined twins. The medical belief at the time of the collection acquisition was that the mother had been frightened and this caused the developmental anomaly. The collection purportedly disproved this theory.
– There were two or three examples of sirenomelia and a spina bifida with exencephaly. I have spina bifida occulta in my sacrum, otherwise I may have ended up in a pathology museum in Hong Kong 40 years ago.
– Two infants who had died with congenital diaphragmatic herniae. We detect this condition antenatally now and the babies undergo reparative surgery as neonates.
– Several examples of tertiary syphilis, tuberculosis, alkaptonuria.
– A megacolon from Hirschsprung’s in a 15-year-old girl. I hoped she had survived.
– Several skulls of infants who had hydrocephalus.

I was intrigued that the focus of the minimal interpretation accompanying the shelves of specimens; it harped on about the woeful lack of relevant clinical data, or background stories of the people who probably didn’t donate the tissue. I was lucky to be one of the last years of Medical School afforded the privilege of human dissection to learn anatomy; looking at photographs or prepared specimens is, in my opinion, inferior a learning experience to actually taking something apart and putting pieces back in place. I’d want a mechanic to fix my car who had manual experience on other motors, not one that looked at pictures of motors or gazed at motors in formalin jars in a museum.

My morbid curiosity aside it was educational for me to correlate the macroscopic pathology displays to my knowledge of 2D diagnostic images that we acquire with ultrasound and MRI. It’s like the first time you see a picture of the Earth from space: you knew the individual countries and the theory that they cover a sphere but it’s not the same as seeing them on the globe. The current social backlash against science and autopsy and tissue pathology museums has resulted in a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, keeps us ignorant and preserves nothing to teach a new generation. Both Daniel and I have donated our bodies to UWA Anatomy School. I just hope that I die in Western Australia and whoever is nearby knows to call the university.

 

Drawbacks
Copenhagen is expensive. Thankfully we can afford it. However, had I known that the price of postage for a single postcard to Australia was A$5, I would not have written six postcards.
We walked around the city instead of cycling. We really should’ve hired bikes and cycled. We walked 17 km yesterday. I came home and passed out on the bed.

What did we miss?
There is a LEGOLAND that I forgot all about wanting to go to.

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Flight review SK1777 CPH to FAE Business Class
A320
Seats: 3+3, same as economy and the rest of the small plane
Meals: an elegant cardboard box with a cold meat salad, served with warm bread and followed by gorgeous chocolate box selection.
Salt & pepper: sachet
Service: hit & miss; one cabin crew looked fed up and was borderline hostile, the other was super attentive
Flight: hilarious as the cabin manager waxed lyrical before take-off about the new in-flight wifi system and how fast it was (“You can even stream Netflix!”) then when we reached altitude nobody could log on because the wifi is not installed into the aircraft yet.

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