On my way to the tip last Saturday there was a discussion about the Danish concept of hygge on the radio. Hygge (pronounced hooge) is something that all Danes are proud of. It is the main reason why Denmark is often voted the happiest country on the planet, said the nice Danish man. It’s a kind of contentment and cosiness that makes you feel good about yourself. Every person has a different sense of hygge. You can find this on your own, or with others. With the Danes, hygge is associated with fires and light. I guess this is because Denmark is mostly dark for most of the year, so any form of light and warmth is greatly appreciated. Also, it’s where our word “hug” comes from.
One programme that probably is hygge to many people is The Great British Bake Off. Over recent years, this programme seems to have evolved into having a life of its own. There is Bake Off everything being marketed at us. If you don’t like, well what is wrong with you! It’s Bake Off! Everyone likes Bake Off!
I do like Bake Off. I like the fact that not everyone on it is perfect. The contestants are often portrayed as bumbling. The judges are often seen as being harsh, when they haven’t been at all. This whole niceness feels sincere and honest. This atmosphere or hyggeness, is down to Mel and Sue, the presenters. They subtly make sure that no one is too big for their boots by raising an eyebrow on any grand claims made by both the contestants or judges.
The problem I have with Bake Off is baking. I hate baking. There I’ve said it. The reason why I hate baking is that it is by far the most complicated of any cooking process. There is so much precision to it. You need to have exact quantities, the exact temperature and the exact timings. Failure to do so will bring ultimate disaster. How anyone can find the whole process relaxing is beyond me. Also what makes things worse is that everyone does the same thing, but in a slightly different way. You might add sultanas into something and be called a heathen for even thinking of such an idea. Baking to me, seems just as divisive as politics, religion and music.
Yet somehow, Bake Off manages to make light of these differences. I think it’s because they often focus on recipes on things that people never make (Jaffa Cakes? I ask you, would you really bother?) or the recipes are so grand, that it would have to be one hell of a social occasion to ever warrant such an elaborate baked item. This means that we somehow, become a bit like the contestants, wondering how on earth do you ever approach starting such a task.
What is lacking in the understanding of terminal illness is the hyggeness that Bake Off creates so well. Instead of feeling on the same level as those around you, you can’t help but feel inferior. Your genes or whatever have messed up. You’ve had to reduce your hours at work. You can’t do the things that you could do before. This is often made worse, though not intentionally, by doctors, nurses, porters, friends, colleagues, family etc who either try too hard or not enough, to accommodate your changing needs.
What needs to happen is what happens on Bake Off. You have an end to achieve, but there must be a flexibility in order to achieve that end. In Bake Off this is best seen in the Show Stopper at the end. Everyone must produce something that matches a certain brief, but it’s up to them how they do it. It might be a three tier cake, a gingerbread structure or a flavoured bread. It’s up to the bakers to interpret how best to achieve that aim.
This is true about life too, especially when you have or are recovering from illness. There needs to be a flexibility so that you can achieve you goals, but in a way that is good for you. Everyone is different and everyone recovers differently too. Being terminally ill doesn’t make you inferior, it makes you more aware of your abilities and what is important to you. When a Dane goes to a restaurant and finds that it’s too expensive, they will often go to a cheaper one as it’s more hygge. It’s not that the expensive restaurant is inferior in any way. For other Danes that restaurant will be hygge for them. It’s about finding what’s comfortable for you and then having the confidence to stick with it. Despite what Paul Hollywood might say…