Yes! – it’s long and was written in-between all those important things in life – so feel free to read and return rather than log-in for the duration.
NB: For all you *pedants* out-there feel free to let me know just how bad my broken English really is – if it matters to you that much.
The important thing is to do it – not just doubt it…
I’m going to walk on the water across to Sweden….
On the Beach at Marienlyst, Helsingør . Early Spring 2017.
After 18 months we finally took the decision to leave the North-Eastern frontier of Denmark and return to inner-city life in Copenhagen. Even though I’ve enjoyed living and working outside of the centre in a state of what some people might call “splendid isolation” and still believe – like the German Artist Joseph Beuys and the Scottish Artist/Hiroshima witness: George Wylie that the centre really is always where you’re active creatively – from the experience, I can only say that the reason the long Winter – and not so great Spring this year – were tolerable, was because for most of it I was in that “different place” that you find yourself in when working creatively.
Work in progress, Helsingør Winter 2016-17
Over the winter months, you can wander on the empty beaches in Helsingør and come across no-one except dog walkers, ghosts and lost Korean or Japanese tourists in search of a “Hamlet experience” only encountering the locals in smoky bars or in Kvickly – Denmark’s version of the Co-op for the uninitiated – Or catch glimpses of their shadows through the old town’s windows, which at night are lit-up by the light from large LED TV’s – including our own – that are mostly showing Game of Thrones and reheats of BBC lifestyle TV or their Danish re-bakes.
After returning from Iraq and Kurdistan last Autumn, I’ve been working in my cutting room aka: the spare room to deliver a series of Mine Awareness virals for Spirit of Soccer, as well as continuing work on Minefield – which has involved further filming close to the front-line; In the refugee camps of Dohuk on the road to Mosul, in the former Daesh held territories of Jalawala/Khaniqin province and in the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk which – although under Kurdish control is still regularly attacked by Daesh sleeper cells and snipers.
Working out what it’s all about: Minefield. Winter 2017.
I also delivered – later than I had intended – the development materials for Legacy of an Invisible bullet and am happy to say that both the actor Charlotte Munck and musician/poet Dane TS Hawk are still on-board and ready to move into some difficult and challenging territory in what comes next – of which I’ll write more about.
At another time and in a different place than here in Helsingør .
Which really is the “dark star” of this blog.
In the end the decision to move – after we finally found a flat in Copenhagen that we both liked – along with the added bonus of no longer putting cash every month into the pocket of a private landlord – was a no-brainer really.
And the truth is, that the only thing I’ll really miss about life in Helsingør – along with the solitude I’ve sought-out, in-between spending my working life filming people – is the sea.
The Øresund and Swedistan
By my nature – and even though I’m a Capricorn – I’m a “water person” and have spent a fair bit of my time in Helsingør either on/in/under or by the sea. And when I say “on” I really do mean walking “on” water on a SUP board which – as I’ve started suffering from the old surfer and run-and-gun filmmaker’s complaint of “sore shoulders” – has become along with swimming, walking and shopping trips to Kvickly – my main choice of regular exercise. Without going too far down the hippy-karma trail toward nirvana, SUP boarding too has become a soulful and spiritual thing for me rather than a competitive sport – which is rapidly becoming too hip-by-half in Copenhagen – and it’s great to stand, catch and ride waves, and feel the elements and power of the planet, rather than – as I did back in Scotland – catch short rides before “wiping-out” in the Atlantic ocean’s washing machine during a “hold-down”
And it’s SUP boarding too that’s helped me get through the toughest of times since 2013.
I’ve written variously over the past few years that I’m no fan of the “snake-oil charms of the feel-good business” and do believe strongly that it’s important in all that we do in our lives to “Just doubt it”; I do confess that SUP boarding – along with film-making and most importantly of all people – has played a significant positive role in my recovery during those dark days and long nights that I’ve lived through since 2013. Although I am aware – after I take my thyroxine everyday that helps me stay alive, as well as I’ve recently discovered helps stop me from going clinically insane – that I’ll never be “well” again in the way that I once was, before all this started. While one further side effect too of the removal of my entire thyroid, along with the cancerous tumour’s and the radioactive iodine treatment I’ve been through, is that I don’t feel the cold any more.
Which I guess can only be an advantage when I realize an ambition I have to “walk on water” across the Øresund to Sweden on a SUP board…
On the Dog Beach
Our local beach in Helsingør at Marienlyst isn’t anything special really despite its blue flag and geographical location on the optimistically named “Nordic Riviera”
At its north-end is a spa-hotel of the same name – an architectural “dog’s dinner” rather than a fine example of cool and stylish Danish design – which seems to be populated mostly by rich OAP’s on week days who don’t like to go out much, and at the weekends by what look like the Nordic or Baltic Mafia and their “porn queen” looking girlfriends; along with a slightly more legit “Mafia” from the Media and Advertising world, who are mostly here on team building exercises, or attending what the Danes might call “Tink-tanks” which seems to involve hanging out in the bars and hotel casino. For the most part, the hotel’s residents don’t really use the beach, which provides them with a spectacular view out-over the Øresund to Sweden, lying just 6 kilometres or so away.
But then neither do many of the locals – or their newly promoted to the Superliga football team – who play close by, on what looks like a Scottish junior league pitch; While those locals who do use it – for leisure or pleasure – tend to use it as a place for drinking under-age alcohol and teenage sex adventures, or mainly as a dog toilet for most of the year; Before both they and their hounds are restricted to an area to the south end of the beach during the Summer months, that’s marked-off by a storm battered fence and badly painted sign which reads:
The Dog Beach.
But for me the Dog beach – with its teenage doggers and dog walkers alike has become something a bit special.
A place in winter to walk and witness storm’s, or see the supernatural plays on light and sea mist, that are known as: “Brocken spectres” and hear the ghostly fog horns of big but invisible ships out somewhere on the Øresund, all of which when taken together give the Dog Beach and the entire coastline here a supernatural feel.
And then when the spring and summer arrive, the Dog Beach becomes a place to swim and snorkel and cultivate – in-between working at a screen in a dark room most of the day – the best suntan that I’ve had since I was a teenager.
On the Beach, early Spring 2017. Helsingør. With Marie Olesen.
Helsingør itself seems like 2 very different towns in one…and if it were a human – and psychologically speaking – you probably could say that it was a bit “bi-polar”
Geographically, it’s made up of what an American visitor would probably describe as a “quaint” old town and harbour, that’s full of history, shadows and ghosts that date back to the early Middle Ages, the times of the Baltic League – and even a Scottish/Celtic connection and settlement – which perhaps accounts for some of the ginger-haired and firey-eyed locals that I’ve come across shopping in Kvickly or drinking and watching football in the town’s only Irish bar, which has a mural in its male toilet that seems to try to appease both Catholic and Protestant, Celtic and Ranger and Provo and Ulster Volunteer alike.
And then around the old town – and buffered by a semi-detached suburban “boring bit” – there’s a much newer town; A ring of concrete built during the 60’s and 70’s and that bares a striking resemblance to the new towns you’ll find in Scotland like: Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Bellshill and Glenrothes. And from what I can tell cycling around and getting lost in this place, it seems just as soulless in every respect as the new towns of Scotland, which have attracted unwanted nick-names such as “Spam Valley” because of the acute levels of poverty, or “Valium City” because of the high levels of depression among local bored housewives.
But unlike back in Scotland where such concrete jungle’s have produced some fantastic art, writing, films and music from out of frustrated, bored and angry teenage bedrooms over the decades, with bands like the Jesus and the Marychain, Teenage Fan club not to mention Sheena Easton as being just a few examples, Helsingør it seems hasn’t really produced anything even slightly that remarkable – especially musically at least that I’ve got to hear about. Because they seem to like 70’s Rock music in Helsingør and the kind of street-punk music that use to call itself Oi! back in the UK and which rightly and wrongly became associated with fascism and white noise..
But then…..I really hope that I’m wrong about Helsingør ….
Or even a Danish Sheena Easton…
So I guess in the end: What do I know…?
Not being as the locals say in a very certain way “Helsingør”
It’s in this concrete ring too you’ll find the only indoor swimming pool in town. It’s free and over used sauna and steam room filled with modestly covered middle-eastern males, butt-naked OAP’s and tattooed locals, who tolerate rather than welcome the presence of their new neighbours. Close to the pool too, you’ll find a skate-park, which my son Danny – a Glasgow street skater – rates, because it’s been designed for “goofy”riders and encounter the only hijabs that you’re likely to see in Helsingør worn by pram-pushing ladies who’ve found themselves and their families living their new lives on what would be called in the UK “a sink housing estate” or in Scotland a “housing scheme”
Only this one is out on the Northern extreme of Europe and in a place where Denmark runs out, with their dream destination: Sweden, visible so close yet so far away across the cold waters of the Øresund.
Helsingør you soon discover, is the end of the line in every respect because it’s also where the Øresund Express terminates.
End of the line, Helsingør.
On occasions there have been check-points at the railway station, mostly manned by Arabic, Turkish and Kurdish speaking private security guards – who are themselves the sons and daughters of an earlier generation of migrants to Denmark – whose job it now is to tell people from their own former homelands that Helsingør is as far as they’re going.
But the real problem with check-points in the end – as I’ve discovered on my journey’s around the planet – is that once installed even if only temporarily – as in Helsingør’s case – that they are designed to intimidate and create unnatural and permanent borders in people’s hearts and minds.
Apart from the Bridge to Malmo – which we’ve all heard about because of a certain over-rated “Nordic noir” detective series – the Helsingør to Helsingborg ferry is probably the shortest direct sea route across to “Swedistan” as some of my Kurdish friends once called it.
But the nearby railway station, is the closest that many refugees – who’ve already made a perilous journey across the Mediterranean – will get to their desired destination, only to discover cruelly that Sweden is now closed too them and their kind….and that the Øresund is a cold watery boarder preventing them from reaching their dream.
Although I can only imagine some have tried to get there in other ways.
And may have failed and disappeared in their last desperate attempts.
Outside the train station there’s another reminder of Helsingør’s relationship to what I’ll call “victims of geography”:
A monument that’s dedicated to the locals who helped Denmark’s Jews escape the Nazi occupation, across to the safety of neutral Sweden, and who often sacrificed their own – and their family’s – lives in the process. Although speaking over the past few years with several frustrated documentary Producer’s who’ve tried to tell the real story what happened here, this action on the part of the locals it appears wasn’t always a humanitarian gesture but a business deal.
Nor is it a story that involves “good Danish” and “bad Germans” in a heroic plot-line.
For the Swedes though – coming over in the opposite direction from Helsingborg and beyond – Helsingør represents a different kind of land of milk and honey…
And on most weekends and public holidays, the old-town centre is filled with drunks of all ages behaving badly, some dressed in the kind of tracksuits and sporting the kind of mullet haircuts and moustaches – along with the attitudes to go with them – that disappeared back in the 1970’s.
Like most seaports it’s fair to say that Helsingør has a drink problem as much as it has an alcohol business that keeps some locals gainfully employed. It’s town centre is filled with “old school” bars which don’t sell pints normally, but only bottles of beer and chaser shots of fire-water – that tastes a lot like the fisherman’s friends we sucked as kids; Along side them are discount off-sales, where the Swedish invasion stock-up with contraband booze, before heading back over the Øresund with a hang-over to their homeland, where there is still a kind of prohibition in place on the purchase of alcohol.
So in that respect – and not to do Helsingør down, as well as bring up the Celtic connection once again – Friday and Saturday night’s here are just like they would be in Argyle Street or Sauchiehall St in Glasgow. But then perhaps too, it’s a bit more like Trumpton with an alcohol problem and steam train that runs past our house at the week-ends, rather than a “Mean City”
There’s also a large number of Thai massage parlours around the old town too, and I can only guess that either the population of Helsingør have married a lot of Thai’s because they have serious back problems, or that the term “happy ending” means the same as it does in any language, anywhere in the world.
And along with Swedish booze cruisers out to satisfy basic instincts, there are also the kind of shops that more affluent country folk like, which sell the kind of conservative clothing – and not so conservative lingerie – that conservative voting country women – and most men – like everywhere.
There’s also what claims to be ” probably the best cheese shop in Denmark” – even if some of its staff could do with a bit of 21st century customer service training in international relations – having once been refused service last Christmas because I didn’t speak Danish and they were “too busy”.
And along with the nationalist cheese seller’s, cafes, pubs and restaurants, there’s also a bad curry house that’s thankfully recently shut-down, Chinese and Thai buffet’s offering “refuel” for drunken Swede’s, kebab, Pizza and one of the best sushi restaurants that you’ll find anywhere on the planet at Sushi Taro.
But if Helsingør were to stake its respectable reputation on one thing alone in a definitive tourist brochure for visitors from everywhere – other than Sweden it would seem – it would be as the home-town of Hamlet and a story which is both set and performed regularly around town and in the gothic Kronborg castle, which we always liked to say to people was “Just down the end of our street….”
Close to the end of the line.
Ghosts of a steam train echo down a track…
Cake and Coffee….
Victims of Geography
Goofy skate parks…
Fascist Cheese sellers….
Conservative clothing and risqué’ lingerie shops…
But now it’s time to stop sounding-off like some kind of existentialist tourist guide lost in Hamletland and get on to more serious psycho-geographic stuff…..
The darker things that make Helsingør a bit “Nordic noir” as well as Trumpton with an alcohol problem…
Explore the “Occulture” that lies hidden beneath the cobblestones of the old town….
Because Helsingør is also home to a large Masonic lodge flying a Templar flag, it’s “all-seeing eye” on top of a pyramid watching all of us here in the old town, and a higher power which I walk past regularly while en-route to nearby Kvickly….While hidden out in the boring suburbs – and probably on the same ley-line as the lodge where strange things happen – is a reinforced, steel plated and bomb-proof bunker…The local home franchise of the Bandidos – a biker gang who’ve been fighting a turf war with the Hell’s Angels for generations, and whose members as they’ve grown older – and I have to say I’ve only ever seen old geezers on Harley’s in Helsingør with Bandido leathers on – have probably found their ways into the temple of the illuminati
It’s a conspiracy theory you could say featuring former rebels without a cause, who’ve found their way into the other much darker and older lodge in town, where the real power and knowledge lies….
Which is as it has been here since the Middle Ages….
But despite all that I’ve said so far, I don’t really want to diss’ Helsingør.
But then too, our relationship was never a lover affair….
More an ambivalent tinder date without a happy ending….
And I have to confess that I liked living in Helsingør and only wish that the locals who say “Helsingør” in the same way a Glaswegian says “Glesga” would talk themselves up a bit more.
As well as learn to be nice to foreigners who might want to buy their cheese.
As an “in-comer” to Denmark I’ve been lucky – and privileged – to get to observe a different side to the land of milk and honey than one that’s all life-style “hygge bollocks” over-rated Nordic Noir, style over substance, over-rated design and Smørrebrød
And I’ve become acutely aware that if Copenhagener’s do genius and arrogance then “Helsingør’s” for their part are to get all Victorian values:
“A bit too humble by half….”
And I should know.
Because we British invented arrogance.
While also – coming as I do from a disenfranchised, council estate, white, underclass background – a concrete ring – I know all about “knowing my place” “doffing my cap to those better than me” and the need to be “ever so umble” in the Charles Dickensian sense.
Which is why I escaped the UK and now prefer Smørrebrød to eating “humble pie” any day – even if I have recently cultivated an aversion to sild, rye bread and hard-boiled eggs.
But then perhaps I ate too much of it living in Helsingør, where I always preferred the sushi anyhow…
Not being from “Helsingør”
It’s probably only a matter of time too before the hipsters and skint, displaced artists – like me – who can’t afford the rents of Copenhagen start moving into the neighbourhood as “the shock troops of gentrification” and probably the reason why plans for a “Copenhagen express” which would turn a 40 minute train journey into a 20 minute one, is something that many real “Helsingør’s” who’ve been here for generations dread. Although in passing I should mention that Helsingør already has an established hipster barbershop and a clothing-come DiY-come-household goods shop, that’s straight out of the “Ladybird book of Hipsters” and which is also happens to be a former documentary commissioner at the DFI’s favourite shop.
And then there’s the Celtic connection again.
Shipbuilding, Helsingør. Denmark.
Because just like back in Glasgow – and on the west coast of Scotland – they used to build ships in Helsingør. But unlike in Scotland – which doesn’t seem to want or know how – to celebrate its maritime heritage culture warts and all, Helsingør has become the home to the Danish museum of the sea or M/S Museet for Søfart built into the old shipyard dry dock, and a place where you could until recently see a Peter Greenaway installation called “Sex and the Sea”
So along with:
Coffee and Cake…
Conservative clothing and risqué’ lingerie…
Fascist cheese sellers…
Sex and the Sea and happy endings
…..there’s also Culture.
The Cultureyard or Kulturværftet is the place where an old industry – shipbuilding – has been replaced by a new, 21st century one that involves culture and creativity in what call’s itself – although I’m still not sure exactly what they are – The Creative Industries.
All I know is that instead of shipyard workers there are now arts workers and “content providers” – just like me and probably you – who work for free for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter everyday, while we make our under-budgeted and often unseen and unloved films, in-between pitching and pimping our talents and ideas in the wind, and existing in what feels like a permanent state of “development hell”
And instead of Managers and Gaffers in this new industry there are “Consultants” who like to say that they don’t do “Art” they do “Cultural policy”
Although Denmark doesn’t have such a rigidly a defined class system as the one in which I was brought up in, resented and am still traumatized by in the UK, it still none the less exists, and is something that I’ve become acutely aware of living in Helsingør.
And that it’s probably the reason why the kind of “content” and “culture” associated with the Culture yard is viewed by many of the locals – our neighbours include who remembered Helsingør when it built ships – as being “Not for the likes of them….”
Philip Glass Performing in an old ship yard shed, Click Festival, Kulturværftet, Helsingør
But its been here in Helsingør in what was once an old shipyard at the end of our street, at the end of the line and on the north-eastern front of Denmark – just 6 kilometres or so from Sweden – a place so faraway and yet so close for many Asylum seekers, that we experienced Philip Glass performing his marathon “Music in Twelve Parts” which is now regarded as one of the classical masterpieces of the 20th Century and “a cornerstone in classical minimalism”
A different kind of music…Helsingør shipyard.
As we listened in an old engineering shed, you got the feeling that you were escaping from time itself, and as day turned to night escaping into another place.
That other place…..
A place that is and that isn’t Helsingør.
Conscious too that all around us, there was history and the ghosts of shipyard workers, listening – somewhere – up in the rafters and crane lofts.
…That other older Helsingør that’s still here….in the walls, in the rusting cranes and railway tracks…in the shadows as well as in the statues and murals of the old town….In the faces of real “Helsingør’s”
And it’s here too that we heard Laurie Anderson performing along with the ghost of her late husband Lou Reed….who she said was still on his way to the nirvana that he believed in as a Buddhist, but was stuck in some sort of transit lounge for souls on his journey to paradise.
Here too that I met for the first time a stalwart of Danish culture and film-making Jørgen Leth after a live show that he was doing, which I never attend because it was in Danish and so “not for the likes of me” because I don’t speak the language that the Danes live in. A show too about the frustrations of growing old and facing the end of life….
In this world at least….
If life really does have an end…or instead is just something we perpetually return to and re-live… If life really does have an end…or instead is just something we perpetually return to and re-live…
The Cultureyard or Kulturværftet in Helsingør
In the sea-town and military port where I grew up the Medway Towns conurbation of Gillingham, Chatham and Rochester, the old matlows or sailors and dockers would say the seagulls were the spirits of dead gaffers and managers, or the Officer-class watching over them, and making sure that they worked and were well behaved….Helsingør has its seagull spirits too, but it also has some seriously large, noisy black crows and magpies – huge ones in fact – that have been here ever since time began….and the ghosts and spirits of locals watching over the town new and old alike and listening to: Lou Reed, Jørgen Leth, Laurie Anderson and Philip Glass…
Even if it it wasn’t once-upon-a-time:
“For the likes of them….”
At the start of May and the start of the Summer we’ve also experienced for the past 2 years the wonderful Click festival a celebration of the weird, the wonderful and – call it what it is – at times pretentious cutting edge of contemporary art, cyber culture and music. But despite being a bit “up itself” – remember not everything from Japan is really always that cool and that sometimes porn is just what it says on the label – it is an event I’ll be returning to long after we’ve left Helsingør; Along with the Knejper festival – which is a glorified musical pub-crawl through the old town’s bars, and where old and new cultures clash and get pissed – and which I missed last year because I was away filming in Iraq.
Being a seaside town too means that – just like back in the UK – Helsingør has its fair-share of the kind of rock concerts that feature fading rock and pop legends whose star-status has faded and moved then from being stadium rockers to Helsingør harbour performers. Both Sting and more recently Bryan Adams have played here at well attended open air concerts, along with numerous Danish Rock and Pop dinosaurs who for some reason even my most progressive Danish friends and partner seem to be totally loyal to. Although I have to say when I listen I can’t help but be reminded of those British comedies featuring Rock bands like Spinal Tap, or of a Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse sketch about naive European rockers with the kind of mullet haircuts that you see walking drunk around Helsingør in search of a happy ending…
But then what do I know?
Not being “Helsingør”
Tucked away at the back of the Culture yard and Street/Fast food market, you can find the old clocking-in office for the shipyard’s workers along with a Manager’s observation point that in its day would have looked out over at the workers in the dry docks – just as the seagulls do today – and a museum filled with the 00 scale models of the many ships built here. On culture night last October – which is a yearly event through-out Denmark that marks the transition into Autumn and dark nights – and just before I went out on my most recent assignment to Iraq on Minefield I shared a beer and got talking to an old shipyard worker in the museum – translated through my partner and who is often the “we” in my writing Marie Olesen and our friend Lisbet Matz.
And it’s here too that I confess that my instinct as a hunter-gatherer of stories kicked into action…
Because I really do think that there is a film in what follows….somewhere.
2 of the final ships to be built in the Helsingør yard – which many locals blame for the yard’s bankruptcy – were commissioned prior to the start of the first Gulf War by Saddam Hussein who although viewed as a “sonofabitch was still at least America’s sonofabitch”
The story it seems has become part of the local folk-lore of the area, as well as a lesson in how Politicians and Business people who – being either greedy, corrupt or just plain stupid – were so eager to appease the demands of the Arab despot and his fickle and psychopathic family that they sacrificed not just their own business and political careers, but more importantly a centuries old way of life.
In fact it could be said that “the suits” in the yard – and some are probably still along at the local lodge in the pointy hats – might just as well have signed a contract with the devil himself – and believe me when I say “devil” many of my Arab and Kurdish friends would say that Saddam was “Shayṭān”
It was a contract too that included a confidentiality agreement signed by both Managers and workers alike that take us off into the realms of paranoia, secrecy and a James Bond plot-line….Because the larger of the 2 ships which was called in the true hubris of Shayṭān himself “Al Mansur”or “The Victor”and it included special 007 features like a submarine escape pod for the Dictator and his cronies as well as a hidden anti-aircraft missile system – which in the end proved useless, as the boat was eventually destroyed in a Top-Gun raid with Tomcat missiles by the American’s in 2003 down in Basra harbour, Iraq.
“Al Mansur”or “The Victor”
However the other ship that was commissioned still exists at sea
Although “The Qadisiyah Saddam” is really more of a luxury shallow bottom barge than it is a conventional ship and was designed mainly to navigate in Iraq or “the land of the 2 rivers” on the Tigres and Euphrates. It’s also since changed its name to escape its ties with the devil to the chilled-out “Ocean Breeze” and was last heard of down in Basra being used as a 5-star luxury marine biology research and survey vessel.
At the Helsingør end, the story goes that the ships were never paid for by Saddam, whose tab was eventually picked-up by the Saudi Royals, who in turn “gifted” the Ocean Breeze to the Jordanian Royal family, who have long since returned it back into Iraqi ownership, where it remains the subject of a legal dispute about who actually owns it and war reparation claims .
The Ocean Breeze with a devil in its name.
Although Saddam’s ships and the pact made with a devil may – or may not – have brought down the Helsingør shipyard in the end – the story also goes that many of the shipyard’s workers – and you can guarantee Managers who turned a blind eye – did extract some kind of compensation from it all.
Even if it did in then end happen to have “fallen out of the back of a shipyard” and into their private homes of the locals, in the form of quality pieces of furniture, fittings, hard-woods and other luxury materials such as gold-plated toilet-roll holders – which were deemed at the time of construction to be substandard by Saddam – probably because he was stalling and getting ready to “do a runner”
A runner which in the end was aided and abetted by the US military, who did what the US military do all over the world when someone who they thought was their sonofabitch falls out with them.
I promised then as a film-maker after hearing the shipbuilder’s story, that I would go in search of those ships and what’s left of them and its since become the basis for an I’m developing in my own filmmaker’s version of hell: It’s kind of heart of darkness/Apocalypse Now journey through the land of the 2 rivers: Iraq – down the Euphrates and Tigress – in search of the remaining ship which – even though I know where it can be found – shouldn’t stand in the way of telling a ripping yarn that’s connecting Iraq and Helsingør and what’s happened in the 2 very different places since.
A story too that’s about Hamlet, coffee, cake, drunken Swedes, unhappy Asylum seekers, bad curry, sex and the sea in conservative clothing and risqué lingerie….
Thai massage parlours…..
And happy endings.
Clocking in time again. Helsingør shipyard.
Heading back to Helsingør as newly installed residents of Copenhagen to hand-over our keys to our former landlord was a reminder too of how the Øresund Express has become a regular feature in our life up in the “ør”
Most of our journeys from the end of the line to Copenhagen and back again were uneventful, pleasant and peaceful enough, but on one occasion while travelling home alone, things turned ugly and I became involved with a group of young, drunk and stoned asylum seeker youths from Kokkedal who – having humiliated an elderly Danish man wearing a flu viral mask and his wife – decided to turn on me for stepping-in….before disappearing like a pack of jackals back into the concrete sink estate that they’ve ended up being dumped in.
All that I really want to say about the incident – apart from the fact that it ended up hurting me as well as it did some of them – is that I’ve never tolerated bullying of any kind….and that I really couldn’t careless – if you happen to read this someday any of you – where you may have come from or what you may have been through to end up where it is you are now….and that irrespective of whatever religion or tribe, or God you may happen to follow:
You don’t assault or humiliate the vulnerable, sick, poor or old…
And that perhaps you should show – if not respect – then some courtesy to people like the old Danish man who you humiliated and whose country has offered you, your family and friends a new life in Denmark.
A place where you can find a voice and a freedom you may have never experienced before…and a freedom which means you can speak out without fear of violence.
A freedom too which means that you can get drunk if you like.
But it’s freedom that comes with a price involving a bit of humility, accountability and self-discipline on your part to go along with all the sweat and machismo of your beautiful and angry youth.
But then if all you really want to do is be a “hard man” or “gangsta” like every other weak-minded and brain-dead nobody – out in a nowhere place like Kokkedal – and want to use the kind of mindless violence and fear that I witnessed you use to assert your power and get a laugh at the expense of others who are weaker than yourselves, then perhaps you too should have stayed in your homelands, and turned all that misguided anger and violence and frustration into violence for a reason – rather than just resort to the mindless violence of idiots.
In the end you are here because your Fathers and Mothers, brothers and sisters didn’t want or could stomach war any more….
I have only respect, admiration and love for the beautiful people I know in the Middle-East.
People who’ve welcomed me into their homes and protected me over the years….
People who’ve stayed and fought, or done something else that’s just as brave for their families, friends and homelands….
Men and women whom I’ve had the privilege to film in places where there is nothing but war….
Places too where they crucify people and bury or skin them alive if they speak out, or dare to be different….
But I have zero respect for thugs and bullies and the kind of gangsta-culture that you may aspire to…
And I’m not going to stand back, remain silent and allow or just ignore the kind of behaviour that I and sadly others who sat in silence and did nothing, witnessed on the Øresund express on that particular night.
As someone whose job it is to look at the world and film people’s stories I’d like to meet you again someday – not for some macho/Diehard act of a vengeance thing – or as a reality TV exercise in the humiliation of the disenfranchised that TV Executives all over the world seem to relish and get off on. Because in the end you’ve obviously got a problem with how and where life and the troubled times we all live in have taken you to in Kokkedal….
But then perhaps tolerance and respect for difference are beyond you now – sadly and coming as you do from a world where the bully rules, the “gangstar” shines and the fittest survive….
….While the weak and poor get crushed or are sent to fight in rich men’s wars against their will. A world that you may have come from and where there’s now not 1 but a 1,000 or more Saddam’s….
At the very least – if we ever did meet – we could talk.
Because a dialogue is always a start if you really want to bring about a change in your world…..
But then perhaps it really is too late for you after all….
Fragments from the Dog Beach, Copenhagen, Summer 2017.
There’s no beach where I live now.
Just a small kids sand pit, along with a few pieces of driftwood and pebbles – some jetsam from the Øresund that I picked-up from the Dog Beach – which has already been removed by one of my new and over-zealous neighbours.
But then: Beneath the cobblestones there’s always a beach.
If not a Dog Beach or a Hunde Strand – like in Helsingør – with all its stories, shadows and ghosts – living and dead, lost or never really alive – that are floating in the wind and watching over us….
Leaving their footprints in the sand on a beach that looks out over the Øresund to Sweden – which I’ll walk on water to….