Friday 30 December 2016

Hygge ...

I have to 'fess up to never having been to Denmark, and to have a knowledge of that country, its language and its people that has largely come to me as a by-product of my enthusiasm for crime fiction. So far, so good. These days however there is one aspect of Danish culture that I find myself drawn to, and that is this thing called hygge. Everyone seems to be talking about all over social media.

Now I certainly don't pretend to totally understand what it's all about. For one thing the internet tells me that hygge is a concept incapable of direct translation into English, which is a bit daunting. Apparently we simply haven't got any words to express it.

The Danish word, hygge (pronounced “HUE-gah”) is translated by Babylon as cosiness, which is, I suspect, an over-simplification. Other sources elaborate on it being the art of enjoying life's simple pleasures, such as family, friends and warm homes in cold weather. It could, for example, be the pleasure of taking off your unwieldy ski boots, massaging your cold feet and slipping them into the furry embrace of a comfortable pair of Ugg boots. Do you ever feel elated when you finally get those cumbersome ski boots off? Me too! Well, I'm pretty confident that what we're recognising here is a warm, happy moment of hygge.

Whatever the sense of it I'm probably not doing hygge in a way that many Danes would recognise, but out here on the Costa Brava I'm making a valiant attempt to nail it. These sleepy down-days between Christmas and New Year, when the holiday mentality carries on regardless of whether there are bank holidays or not, seems to present the perfect opportunity to achieve moments of hygge.

Maybe the simple, but very essential, ritual of taking the WonderDog for his daily walks - poo-patrols in our family vernacular - qualifies. Poo patrol is a major, and very enjoyable part of my day. Walking is meditation in my book. I love the combination of movement, having a nosey around to see what's happening and the quiet pocket of time it creates in my otherwise very noisy day. For a brief interlude I'm alone with my thoughts. 

I can, for example, admire the sparkle of the sunshine on the waves. 

I often take a moment to sit in this rocky cove and listen to the sound of the waves as my head empties of all the other nonsense that I think about every day. I've never really tried meditation, but maybe I've been doing it for years as I've sat quietly and let the sound of the sea fill my consciousness ... .

I love the majestic sweep of the Costa Brava pines. They have a drama to them, especially when they catch the sun, and throw long, slightly sinister shadows over the grass. Their shapes and the resulting play of light and shade beneath their boughs totally captivates me. These are the pine trees in our garden. There's a bench below them that's a wonderful place to sit of a morning when you've got nothing very pressing to do. It's on a slight elevation, which allows you to see beyond the garden hedge and enjoy the daily drama of neighbours going about their daily business. You can just sit there and b-r-e-a-t-h-e ... bliss. 

As the night draws in I enjoy the drama of twilight spreading out over the water, and then there's the magic of the lights twinkling on the waves as the village gets absorbed in the inky blackness of the night. These things happen absolutely every night without fail, but still their charm endures and I never tire of trying to photograph them. 

At this time of the year we have coldish nights. The absence of clouds means that the heat of the sun is lost as soon as it sets. We have a little ritual of lighting the fire, snuggling together and feeling grateful for its warmth and cosiness. Emi begs to have it lit. He enjoys the logistics of how we set the kindling in place, with a fire-lighter at the centre, and then build a little teepee around it with logs, ensuring that there's enough space so that the flames aren't suffocated.

And there's something very therapeutic and satisfying about settling into your favourite armchair and toasting your toes whilst you do a spot of knitting. I'm all into multitasking so I'm more than happy to throw some Christmas television into the mix at this point as well. 

It's also nice to see Emi playing with proper toys in front of the fire - rather than computer games. He's always been a huge Lego fan, and we've got holiday creations all over the house at the moment. He's especially proud of this recent addition to his Lego Town. 

And, staying with the Lego theme, Emi found this sweet video the other day explaining the history of this other great Danish innovation. If you'd like to cosy down for a moment of hygge of your own, pour yourself a fresh coffee and click here: The History of Lego.

And then there's the best ritual of all: sitting down with the family to enjoy a lovely paella with a good glass of vino. I'm sure it doesn't get any more hygge than that - even back in Denmark where they invented the whole idea. 

All the best for now,

Bonny xox 

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