funny how

a bitten grin

a bitten grin
Written by Cathoel Jorss,

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen. I just love it here. Invited by some new friends, in fact someone I’d met once, to spend ten days roosting in the writing cabin in their garden. We got talking at the airport last time I was here. We liked each other so much. I was shy about coming to stay, off one meeting so many months ago. The plane got in late and we drove through the long unfamiliar softlit suburbs, speaking in English and my three words of Danish, lapsing into silence with a sense of relief. “This is my desk,” she said, “I’ve cleared it off, feel free.” Her husband is a drummer, with quiet, gentle eyes. At the top of a steep pine ladder in the little attic room I fell into a deep, long sleep. An advertising sign at the Schoenefeld airport said, To travel is everyone’s right, but to me, travel is exhausting, it’s a piercing privilege. It takes me days for my soul to arrive. Over breakfast our host sliced an onion into large rings, a raw onion, built a layer ~ a layer of raw onion ~ onto his dark bread and pickled fish and curried egg. He saw my expression. “Even by Danish standards,” he confessed, “this breakfast is rather…” “Rather punk?” Today we took the train and explored the old city, with all day that happy, blessed feeling this place always gives me. I just love being here so much, I love it, and always have a sense of wellbeing. It makes me feel I must indeed be Danish, in part. Our surname, which we pronounce jerz, comes from Lübeck but sounds to me more Danish than German, even if ineptly or creatively Anglicized. So floating on sunshine like two leaves on water we wandered about all the livelong day long today. The old town is a maze of quiet stories. People sat in cafes by the narrow canals and disported themselves on cobbled squares. Summer is short and wears a scarf. The temperature gauge on the side of a building goes up to 27, then stops. We came out under the church tower past the high prancing fountain. Under the low arched bridge a shadow moved. Slowly the nose of a broad canal boat came into view, low on the water and brimming with motionless tourist folk. They looked half asleep. The boat was about three feet narrower than the stone arch, being steered by a young skipper with immense concentration. Behind him people lounged, a few couples chatted, one lady stood up as she came free of the low bridge and began filming a long round sweep on her phone. We watched, awestruck. He had to nose the boat almost into the stones of the opposite wall before he cleared space behind him to start to turn. With inches to spare he cleared the curve. A beautiful piece of piloting, wonderful to watch. I could feel the warm railing against my ribs. When the boat finally started to turn cleanly past the narrow bend in this ancient, odd passage of water I began to clap. “Woohoo!” I said. People on the boat looked up, woke up, and amazingly a burst of twenty or thirty up front also bloomed into smatterling applause. The sense of joy spreading was almost palpable, you know that feeling. The skipper bit his grin. Two men also leaning over the railing gave me sideways, wry, prideful smiles. For a moment we were all alight with each other. In aircraft a difficult landing in rough conditions will be greeted by decorous applause from the cabin, like an audience in a concert hall encoring a solo. It feels like the habit of an earlier age. “That felt good,” I said to my darling friend. We walked away under the walls of the museum. “Maybe,” I said, hopefully, “next time those people see something wonderful they might think, how lovely this is.” How sweet that I am here to see it. How skilfully that person plays. How dear and rich. My friend gave me a tolerant, affectionate glance that flooded warm water through my heart. I feel lucky.

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