Over Christmas and the New Year, we were in other places. It cannot have been much more than two weeks, but it was still our longest absence from Denmark in a long while. Perhaps that is why something seemed to have changed when we returned to an Odense that seemed so very quiet and, in an indeterminate way, different – changed in me, as I listened to the language afresh and noticed again the contours in a cultural landscape to which I had slowly become accustomed. Such as the inimitable ability to make even the special brew in one of my regular café haunts into a design experience. In black, of course.
This sensation of discovering again has remained since; in fact, it had already begun many miles before the train pulled into Odense’s railway station. Here’s how I put it in my journal after we left Flensburg:
The station names, over the loudspeaker and then matched, alarmingly on occasion, to writing on the lit platform signs, carry something of the unknown with them too, the mystery of Denmark and its tongue, by virtue of my only having travelled this line once before. And I do feel they are different from Fyn on the Copenhagen run, or northern Jutland.
Doubtless this change in mentality, or way of perceiving one’s surroundings, was in part a consequence of the awareness that the Danish adventure is coming to an end. It is, as our landlord dropped by to make sure, ‘quite clear’ we are leaving in mid-February. But there is also something else going on.
Even after the formal end of the contract last year, I was still able to sit in cafés or on trains and use the time to write up a paper, or keep the Old Norse or Proto-Indo-European ticking over, or read further into some aspect of my research. That doesn’t work any more. It is as if the academic-professional outcome of the two Marie Curie years is being rolled back; and what is left, or apparent again, for these remaining weeks in Denmark, in Odense, on Funen, is the fascination that was part of the excitement with which it all began. It is the right time to leave.
(Photo by Isabel. We do not work for the chain in question!)