Danish influences

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Hygge – that’s it!

An unusual moment of revelation – more penny dropping than Eureka: it’s not gesundheit, it’s hygge (pron. hooga).

It’s a balmy Saturday evening, 7ish and I am standing by our new, sleek pizza oven as Head of Outdoor Work (ODW), Andrew Martin, his outdoor worker colleague, Feline Charpentier and 6.2 housemistress Jo Alldridge are feeding the oven (slim and chalky) with a range of tasty pizzas; teacher-pizzaiolos, they are translating flour, water and ingredients into the most scrumptious little creations.  A touch of Naples in the soft underbelly of Hampshire. The setting is the Barnyard – the area at the heart of ODW – which is, well, the heart of school hygge. It is the weekend activity which has the theme of, yes, pizza. You can eat your pizza on a straw bale (i.e. you sitting on one, cradling your pizza) and even watch a film about, yes, pizza.  Encouragingly, people are more interested in talking to each other than watching the film.  Dogs and small children add to the scene.

Hygge, a concept probably as unknown as quinoa in England before that tongue twister became trendy, may still be unfamiliar to some readers, so, ever keen to promote European understanding and travel, here is a link to Visit Denmark to give you the authentic, Danish take on their word (well, the Norwegians had a hand it in it but that’s word-traffic, Scandinavian style for you, facilitated by very unhygge-like fighting).

Drawn to the magic of the pizza oven and its ever-hungry queue of students I find myself having an illuminating talk with Kirstine who is a proper Dane and she helps my understanding further – yes, this would qualify as hygge – indeed the atmosphere could be described as hyggehit, meaning full of hygge.  I tuck this one away, ready to trump (tricky word now) other wordy smart alecs…

In fact, this occasion, with fifty or so of the boarders who are in at the weekend, is the second instance of hygge in ODW on Saturday.  At lunchtime the Block 3 tutor groups had entertained their parents to a lunch, not only prepared by them but made using ingredients that they had created during the course of the their first year at Bedales, meaning grown (radishes, broad beans, French onions, cabbage) or raised (sausages, very tasty).  Although I only caught the end of the lunch, having been in a governors’ meeting all morning, I’d say that hygge might well have been at large then again.