Denmark 1977

I raised my beer glass to the bearded stranger at midnight and pointed my gun at him not long after 5am this morning. He had arrived on his friend’s farm yesterday, driven in from Vejle, the nearest town. He was given a quick tour of the farmhouse and farm buildings, where he met all the animals, including a prize-size pig. It was a quick tour because there was a party to go to and the whole family was going.  

 

It is June, and last night was the summer solstice and St John’s Night, the night when we Danes burn bonfires in high places. There aren’t many hills in Denmark, but not far from that farm there is a smooth round bump, and here the local people congregate with a huge fire, and we sing. We say that the fire and singing is chasing the witches away, back to a place called Bloksberg in Germany. We sing, we drink, we beat the kids at tug-of-war and drink some more. And we eat of course: pork and bacon and heart-shaped waffles. Danes eat more pork per person than any other nation on earth: there’s lots of pigs on Danish farms.

And it’s because of pigs that we met again the next morning. Farmwork starts early and the stranger was woken by my lorry rolling into the farmyard at 5am. What really got him out of bed, he said, was the gunshot. He came into the kitchen and saw the family wrapping legs and freezing chops. I was in the lorry processing, into sausages, bacon and chops, the rest of the prize-size pig I had shot.