Smoking, cannibalism and murder for children – a book review



I am about to commit blasphemy against my Danish cultural heritage. After publishing this post I may never be able to return to my country.

 Halfdans ABC, written by Halfdan Rasmussen, is a true classic.  Every respectable Danish home has it on their bookshelf, so ordering a new copy for my storytime-obsessed 2-year-old was pretty exciting; Amazon weren’t just delivering a book, they were delivering some happy childhood memories for me to pass on.  As you might expect from a book called Halfdans ABC, it’s about the letters of the alphabet and it has a wonderful little verse for each letter with delicious rhymes and alliteration, and it’s just… wonderful! That’s how I remember it, anyway.

 However, my childhood memories are clearly lying to me because “wonderful” was not at all what I thought when I flicked through the book for the first time in 25 years. What went through my head was more like “What the hell is this and how can I keep it away from my daughter?”


It started out ok. This is the first page with the letter A. “Ah, yes”, I thought. “I remember this one. This is lovely. Ane put anemones in the cannon at Trekroner. At the very first shot, all of Anes anemones bloomed”. Beautiful.


But then I turned the page and immediately started to feel a little uneasy. I do vaguely remember this one but as a child I just thought it was funny. But this is not funny. The boy’s trousers are on fire! He is going to get severely burned on the bottom and, if it isn’t put out quickly, he’ll probably get burned all over.  That bucket of water is nowhere near enough – he’s going to need immediate medical treatment.

Moving on to the letter C. In the Danish alphabet, the letter C follows the letter B, but I can’t explain what else was going through Halfdan’s mind here. He has already come up with great word beginning with C, which is “citron”. He could have just written a nice verse about lemons. But no, why not throw in another great word beginning with C, like …cigar! Yes, great idea! Those kids might as well learn about smoking now, they’ll all be doing it sooner or later.


For the letter E Halfdan has written a tragic little verse about an obese woman named Else. Else loves sausages and she loves fur coats. Even though she is too fat for this coat she continues to eat sausages until one day she bursts. Luckily the fur coat stays intact. Wonderful.


G is for “gris”, which means pig. The goose has invited her piggy friends over for a nice Christmas dinner. We don’t know whether the goose is playing a really mean practical joke of if she has just forgotten that pigs don’t really appreciate being served the traditional Danish Christmas dinner of roast pork. I wonder if I’m the only one who thinks it would have been nice if Halfdan could have come up with something about pigs in a children’s book that didn’t involve cannibalism.


For the letter I Halfdan has decided to write a little rhyme about Ireland and Irish people. For reasons beyond my comprehension, Irish people are being portrayed as dwarfs who play the harp, drink beer and sleep in thimbles. I have a feeling that Halfdan has never actually met an Irish person.


The picture for the letter K speaks for itself really. But just to assure you that this is exactly what it looks like, here is a translation of the rhyme: “The cannon king, Knold, who was mad as a troll, bought cannonballs and gunpowder for a crown. Put a mighty portion in his big cannon and shot the head and hat off his wife.”

The book is from 1967, so I should probably be a bit more forgiving. Times were different back then. Shooting your wife with a cannon was probably normal. Halfdan Rasmussen has won numerous literary awards AND he was a resistance fighter during the German Occupation (that’s WW2 to the rest of the world). But I’m sorry – Halfdans ABC is a dreadful book! The illustrations make me nauseous and apart from being completely inappropriate for children, none of it makes any sense. It’s rubbish, I hate it and I never want to read it to my daughter again.

There, I’ve said it. Great Britain, I’m here to stay.


Things My Toddler Says That Make Me Want To Scream

sing mummy

Our daughter is only two but she does have an impressive vocabulary. In two languages. And of course most of the things that come out of her mouth are extraordinarily cute. But some of them are not. Well, maybe they were cute the first time she said them but now they’re really really not. They just make the day seem twice as long as it actually is. And it was quite long to begin with. These are the things my 2-year-old says that make me count the hours until bedtime:

“I want slide”. This doesn’t mean a normal slide like the one at the park (the one that has other children on it). This means a human slide made out of my legs and it requires me to sit on a chair in a very painful position while she slides down my legs again and again. I have no idea why she likes it so much. It is very very slow and the ride ends with a bump to the floor when I spread my legs out in an attempt to discourage her from the game. Sadly this has only made her like it more.


“Get up, mummy”. I hear these words at around 5am while two little hands pull at my arm. And I know that this relatively polite request will grow into hysterical screaming within about 30 seconds unless I force my tired body out of bed. And no, dear friend with no children, I cannot just put the TV on and go back to bed.


“I want aeroplane”. These words will also turn into an epic meltdown when I have to explain that we can’t pick the aeroplane out of the sky. Or the birds. Or the sun.


“Again!”. This is usually said after I have foolishly swung her around and/or simulated a rocket shooting her up towards the ceiling at a ridiculous speed. She will demand me to do this over and over until I collapse on the floor with a broken back and breathing difficulties. This reminds me, I should really start teaching her how to dial 999.


“Sing, Mummy!”. We’ve got this classic Danish song book which consist of 15 wonderful Danish children’s songs from my childhood and 119 other old songs which I have absolutely no idea how the melodies go. But that doesn’t stop her wanting me to sing them. So what I have to do is just make the melodies up as I go along. If I try to read them out as poems, she will promptly correct me with a stern “Sing, mummy!”. So I sing while trying not to let it show how much I want to kill myself.


“You’re heavy, mummy”. Give me a break! It’s only been two years since I gave birth. And after a whole day of swinging you around the front room and picking biscuit crumbs out of a fluffy rug, I deserve that box of Thorntons Delicious Dark Favourites!

I’d love to hear which of your children’s phrases you hate the most.

Two mysteries to be solved

Today there are two things playing on my mind.

The first one is this:

SAM_2259Why does my toddler keep pulling this particular book out of the bookshelf and telling me to read it? What’s wrong with The Gruffalo?


And the second one is this:

SAM_2260Am I the only one whose skinny jeans come out of the washer-dryer looking like this? And how did I ever fit into them? Will I ever fit into them again?

I guess that was technically four mysteries, sorry about that. But they all need to be solved, so please help me.

Thanks in advance.

Who knew this could be achieved with Play Dough?

When it’s half term and all the playgroups are off, what do you do? I mean, apart from watching Frozen? There’s the park, but it’s muddy and there are other children there; other children who also expect to use the slide and the swings. I don’t like mud and my two-year-old doesn’t like other children. At least not when they try to have go on what she believes to be her slide and her swings. And then there’s the cold, the excruciating cold. So we decided to stay in and, as much as I love Frozen, I knew that at some point I’d have to get up and see what the 2-year-old was doing in the other room. However, just as I was thinking that, she came running out of her room with a tub of Play Dough – the tub of Play Dough she got in a party bag; the only tub of Play Dough she owns. I had planned to hide it away until she reached an age where she could be trusted with Play Dough (sixteen), but it didn’t get hidden because she is now two and only about 5% of the things I plan to do actually get done.

Anyway, there was no way around it now. We were going to play with Play Dough. D’oh.

Bracing myself for a Play Dough vs fluffy rug disaster, I placed my daughter in a high chair with a lump of dough in front of her.  And it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. She only tried to eat it three or four times and, in the 15 minutes before she got bored with it, she managed to create some very interesting pieces. While I was messing around with conventional things like a snowman and pancakes, just look at what she achieved with 28 grams of Play Dough:

Some Rubbish

This work, provisionally titled “Some Rubbish,” is a remarkable piece of social realism, insightfully portraying the streets of the town we live in.

A Bed Where the Play Dough Goes to SLeep

Entitled “A Bed Where the Play Dough Goes to Sleep” this work explores the artists own feelings of boredom with the task before her and the viewer senses an implicit critique of Play Dough itself, which is becoming irrelevant as a medium.

10 valuable lessons (and many more to come)

This rug swallows raisins like a hungry toddler

Our “baby” has just turned two years old. Thank you, we’re very proud of having made it this far.  Two years of nappy changes. Two years of lukewarm coffees. Two years of deliberately watching rubbish films in the evening because we know we will fall asleep halfway through anyway.


This seems to be around the time when people start asking if you’re going to have another one. The answer is …are you out of your mind? You’re asking if now, that we are finally getting 9 hour stretches of sleep we are going to start all over again with the 3am mustardy nappy changes? No! Well, maybe in a few years when this one is old enough to change nappies. And by then we will be too old, so the answer is probably still no.


However – just in case we might accidentally make a little brother or sister, you know, by accident or in a moment of madness – we have compiled a little list of some of the valuable lessons we have learned this time around.


Notes to self:

  1. Take advantage of the baby being small, non-verbal and completely immobile. They can be easily taken to restaurants, since they don’t really care where they are as long as you are there too. Once they start to walk you will find yourself attempting to restrain a kicking, screaming toddler headed for the kitchen at Ask, with a fork in her hand. And she will have eaten none of her own lunch and half of yours. Bringing a baby, peacefully breastfeeding while mummy eats her lunch with her free hand is a piece of cake. A nice piece of cake which you will have for pudding while the baby sleeps.
  2. Do not buy a nice, soft, thick and perfectly RAISIN COLOURED rug. Yes, it will be nice and soft to fall on in the couple of months when the baby is learning to sit. But after that she will be using it mainly for dropping raisins on. And those raisins will immediately disappear into the fluffy depths of the rug never to be seen again. It’s probably made up of about 30% raisin at this point.
  3. Never run out of kitchen roll.
  4. A breastfed baby does need to be burped. Don’t believe the NTC breastfeeding expert who tries to tell you that trapped wind and projectile vomiting is only for bottle feeding families. Remember the rivers of warm sick. In your hair. In your shoe. In your coffee. Burping is important.
  5. NEVER run out of kitchen roll.
  6. Don’t buy toys. The brightly coloured, noisy plastic things will simply accumulate around the house while the baby desperately tries to get to your phone, keys and remote control. And yes, the plastic pretend keys, phone and remote control will also be left untouched.
  7. Resist the temptation to encourage cute mispronounced  first words. For months you enjoyed the word “boom boom bee”. It meant bumblebee. It was so cute that you could not bring yourself to correct her when she called the ladybird a boom boom bee. And now look what you’ve done. She may have learned to say bumblebee but she will for the rest of her life be confused about the difference between ladybirds and bumblebees.
  8. Do not tell all your friends that you will do lots of baking and cooking things from scratch with your home grown vegetables. You know very well that none of that will happen.
  9. Don’t read baby books. Especially the ones that use the word “training” on every page. You are bringing up a small human, not a dog, and the small human will do none of the things the books tell you they should be doing.
  10. Before you buy your child a plastic Santa straw that says “Ho ho ho, have a very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!” every time juice is sucked through it, consider how much you will enjoy listening to this in July, when she will still want to use it.

This list is of course a work in progress. Watch this space for important updates.

Festive Toddler Photos

Christmas is getting dangerously close. So close, that the panic over the chore of present buying has been replaced by a sad resignation that no one will be getting anything very nice this year. For reasons I no longer remember, we have decided to travel to Denmark to have Christmas with my Danish family this year. This has significantly increased the amount of people and children we need to buy presents for while also significantly reducing the amount of time we have to buy presents in. We have actually gone as far as to make a spreadsheet with all their names and ages. One of them is a 15-year-old boy. What on Earth do you buy for a 15-year-old boy? They don’t like anything; there’s no point even trying.  We might as well buy him a One Direction duvet set just to enjoy the look of disgust on his face when he opens it.


To complicate things further, we have a total of four sets of grandparents we need to celebrate Christmas with. Luckily, for them at least, the gift situation isn’t as hard as it used to be. For the second year in a row we have a wonderful source of gift material in the form of a small child who can be photographed and stuck on to mugs, wall calendars, ties, whatever…stuff the grandparents will love even more than chocolate and scented candles.


There is just one tiny problem – this year our child acquired the ability to move around. Not only that, but she seems to have developed some very strong opinions about what she wants and what she does NOT want; and what she does NOT want is to sit still and be photographed. They call it the terrible twos but she reached this age the moment she learned to walk. So the idea of taking nice pictures of a happy toddler playing, smiling into the camera and wearing cute hats is nice. But it is just that. An idea. In reality, taking nice pictures of a toddler is completely impossible.

Just take a look at the highlights (lowlights?) of this year’s calendar – representing some of the very best pictures taken in 2014:



June - headed for the road.


March - this cow is looking in the camera.


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