One of them was asleep on my front; the other one tugged at my hand, slouching her way down the wet, cobbled street. Both were deathly tired, but one of them could sleep while being carried along; her big sister had no such luck: the perils of growing up, I suppose. Within minutes we would be back in the apartment, tucked behind the ancient bakery, but that is not soon enough for a tired five-year-old. Not even Christmas lights and bright red hearts could lift her spirits: “I hate Copenhagen.”
She was astounded that I was laughing, that she’d finally found a place where she could make Dad chuckle. As the chairs flew outward and swooped first up, then down, I laughed a heartier, deeper, more joyous laugh, and she continued to be stunned. She had done so many silly things to try and raise a smile from my big furry face that the fact that a swing carousel, both of us barred in to one seat, could do the trick. We flew over the pleasure gardens again and again after she discovered that.
My partner and I had been to Copenhagen when she was still pregnant with our eldest child. In that maelstrom of fun and laughter we vowed to bring her back when she was old enough to enjoy it. What we hadn’t bargained on was the fact that she would have a tiny little sister to take with her when we finally did make it back. Bundled in to a rented push chair or strapped to a parent’s chest, the smallest one didn’t really get the most of Copenhagen, but we were all glad she was with us.
I have a new rule for holidays: winging it is out. We had a couple of vague plans in store for our last day in Copenhagen, and thought that we would decide on them on our way out of the flat. We were due out of there by eleven, all locked up and ready to be cleaned. But the doubt had kicked in, and our vague plans were for nought. We wandered around rain-lashed Nørrebro and Indre By, in the hope of finding inspiration, and only finding more reasons to bicker and argue. We were lost souls.
A few hours in and she was really starting to flag: she had been on her feet, on and off rides, in Tivoli for hours. Every utterance from her little mouth was negative: she wanted to go home; not just to the apartment, but back on a plane and home to her grandmothers. Her mother and I had wanted to bring her here for five years, and she was starting to break us. Her sister needed a feed and a nappy change; we holed up in the changing room for a while. Warm again, she found a strong second wind.
I needed a hot dog. I had been in Denmark for several hours, and I had not had a single pølse: my list of requirements for a Danish holiday include many hotdogs, of various kinds, and many Danish beers – travelling with a five-year-old and a three-month-old was not conducive to either activity. The head of the youngest one kept getting in my way whenever I put the heavily loaded “Roasted” Hot Dog to my lips. Her mother dropped most of her pickles on the cold wet floor. Big sister ate bread.
She cried her way through supermarket after supermarket, high on the infectious consumption of Christmas. She cried for crisps; she cried for ice cream. A woman passed us several times, listening to the plaintive howls of a desperate child, and the sharp hisses of her parents. She circled back to us and offered the child a toy: “I have already paid for it” she assured us. She’d assumed that the wails and howls were real, and that we were penniless: A kindness, but a deeply embarrassing one for us.
The Metro station ticket machines did not take cash, except for coins. I only had notes. As usual for Danish machines, they didn’t like my card much either. Our vague plan to head to a science museum was out of the window: we couldn’t buy tickets to get there, and the fifteen minute walk in the rain at the other end of the metro line was not appealing to any of us. Such situations lead to vacillation: we went up and down in lifts, trying to make things work, but nothing would. The museum was out.
At a certain point in the day Tivoli becomes an unbearable crush of people in every direction. We were trying to get from the lake down past Wagamama, and that took us through a tunnel. I had already eschewed a longed for rollercoaster over fears of losing my shoes, and caught back up with the other three. We were now stuck, and the panic was setting in quickly. We couldn’t get forward and we couldn’t get back. The fear of people tripping in to the push chair was crippling us both.
Don’t get me wrong, a day spent in Tivoli Gardens – especially with a child – is a day very well spent. We went on more rides than we perhaps should have; we marvelled at the sheer Christmassy-ness of it all, even on a cold Autumn day; we laughed, we cried, and we had a great time together. And that is what it excels at: getting people to have a good time together, whenever they happen upon the place. We just happen to have happened upon the place at the same time as a lot of others.
I lost sight of her for a moment, and I didn’t like it. Her mother was downstairs in the breastfeeding and changing room, warm and safe with the smallest one. I had never lost her before, even on an over-complicated climbing frame like this one. There were no shouts for help, no screams for me to follow, and that was odd. I kept looking for the hair and the coat. And in a flash I saw them: she was fine, bounding down a slide and along a rope bridge, having the very time of her tiny little life.
Her mother watched us from the gardens below as we soared through the air, naming the trees as we went. She whooped and cheered whenever she saw her mother and her sister. We flew through the air, and saw the whole of the park passing us by at speed. Each time, we promised each other “One more time”, and we rushed back to the beginning to do it all again, kissing a frightened Mum on the way past. The staff pretended to measure her height, and we were back, and climbing in.
In the end we did get to go on a rollercoaster, and one named after the All-Father himself, Odin. We queued nicely, waiting our turn. We passed through the gates, and ran to the first available car. We climbed in, me forcing my body in to too small a space, and waited to set off. After the giddiness of the other rides and the large dinner in us we should have gone for something more sedate. As we looped around and around she whispered to me “I don’t like it”. Nor did I, and that was the first lap.
We had seen the bakery on a TV programme, thought it looked superb, but never once thought that we would find ourselves living behind it for a weekend. It was the natural choice for breakfast: the only problem was that both of us were too shy to go in, and mobilising the four of us was a whole military operation. Luckily we plucked up the courage and took ourselves down there. We bought more and more as a queue formed behind us, and fed ourselves for days. Thank you St Peter’s.
As the day drew to an end, and we began to head back to the flat for some well-earned sleep, the older of the two muttered something to herself: “Goodbye Tivoli; goodbye fun.” Finally she had taken the magical place in to her heart, and seen why we had been so desperate to bring her to the place for so long. We promised her we would go back; I just hope we plan parts of it a little better next time. I cannot bare another day trudging around such a wonderful city in the pouring rain.