It takes a long time to get there with public transportation, especially if you have not checked the bus schedule in advance. A long time, but we are reasonably patient little k – my niece and I. We are on a tour to the harbor, the farthest point of Refshaleoen, also called Teateroen (Theater Island). To begin with our mission was really to take some pictures my sister could use for a text she is working on. But the idea was something about shadows and twilight, and when we arrive it is full sunshine and wind and harbor. I guess I did not check the timetable for sunset either. The pictures will not be taken today then, but so lovely here, with frost and wind bite in the air, and the sun is warm in some places, almost as if it was near spring.
We are not supposed to do anything in particular, so we drift towards the water. I am attracted to this part of the harbor. Sometimes I walk here from home just to spend some time in the place, and I know very well why. I like the concrete, I like the decay, the broken windows, the grass that breaks through the asphalt. I like that there are all sorts of weird associations and people out here, houseboats and workshops and then of course it is also the place where I celebrated midsummer with some friends last year. The city council being very expedient have placed the noisiest concerts remote from sensitive ears. It reminds me of Amsterdam in the late eighties, where I lived on the KNSM-eiland in the East harbor for a while. Teateroen is placed the same way as the last in a row of artificial islands. It is much more tidy, but it still has this raw and extremely attractive feeling of disorganized clutter.
We have brought sparklers for the photo-series in the twilight at the edge of the quayside, but there is no reason not to play with them, even if it is bright, little k says, they are pretty anyway. And this is a good argument, so we light up the first one and continue to drift alongside the warehouses, while we look at the stars. Little k leads, a little disgruntled that there is no place where you can buy an ice cream, but interested. I have turned on the camera and both of us are having fun with the sparklers, and when we turn the first corner k suddenly thinks, that we should stay here and build something. Like a small magpie she looks greedily at the shards, the plastic, the cans, the broken beams with rusty tetanus causing nails pointing through, the downspouts thrown aside. It is as if she senses that the area is halfway abandoned and therefore exactly the place where she can build HER CAVE. Secret and undisturbed NO.1. I am an adult and a little more cynical, but I cannot help but smile, I recognize her enthusiasm. Here are all the things which would give the grownups in her life a heart attack, if they knew she played with them. Here are real possibilities!
I am one of the before mentioned adults, so I have to put my foot down halfway up a slick rain wet staircase leading to a roof. Not this time, the roof is for a day when the staircase is dry and the camera in its bag. Instead we take a jelly break at the edge of the quayside, and I have promised both Katrine from the kindergarten and sis, that I will fish her out in an instant should she overbalance. She actually does like sitting at the edge. And then we move on in a strange kind of rhythm, where I tug along behind her and she discovers interesting objects which she picks up to play with, examine and then bring along to the next place, where she leaves them again. She works her way through an old caravan and looks into every drawer and cabinet, she makes a boat in a puddle, there are lots of large and deep puddles. Suddenly there is a branch, which needs to be brought along, some metal ribbons, then the gigantic tubes and even more puddles with plastic islands in them. There is a U-boat, it is being repaired by some men. Does the heir want to see it, they ask, and we are allowed to peek inside. It is named Nautilus after the U-boat in Jules Verne’s novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, and it is going back into the water in spring. It is not as big as its namesake, but we like the idea very much that you can build your own submarine if you really want to. We also have a space laboratory, they tell us. You should come, when we launch rockets.
We are not participating in the exact same game; I do not know what it is k is playing at. I move slowly through the area on a path, and when I point at something or move closer, it has something to do with the camera most of the time, contrary to that k flicks from side to side. I think she has walked twice my distance. We talk about what we see and what we are doing, so in some way we are almost a part of each other’s perspective. I do not think k pays it any attention. She is high and wild in her dream game and completely absorbed in gathering strange objects. Playgrounds are not boring, but they make a framework for playing, they channel the energy into an expected outcome, into safe games. They are easily recognizable, to a point almost identical in their structure, in the same way the suburbs are identical wherever you are. Universal, I guess. WHAT is she doing, when she picks up a thing, immediately loves it and drags it for the next 100 yards and then puts it down again to gather up a new object which is also shiny. Does she plant them again? Sowing more chaos in chaos? Changing the world, a little bit? I do not want to go home.
“Hi wolf. See how fast I run. 1-2-3. Here I come!”, said little k.
We are placed at the best seats at the backend of the bus, when the sun is setting, we are chilled, with every garment and bone penetrated by the evening wind, but luckily we can reheat for a quarter of an hour before the bus leaves for town. Little k is puffing on her licorice pipe and looking out the window. A skipper pipe, when you have been to the harbor, I tell the two old men, who laughs and nod at k. One has a real skipper beard. They place themselves on the seats just in front of us and open a bag. We are enjoying life too, they say, and make a toast with two canned beers just beneath the edge of the backrest, not to let the bus driver see the forbidden goods. They are going to the general assembly in the boat association. k looks at me and says that we really have to find an ice cream on our way home. I can see that. We also have to get some dinner and make an appointment with her mom and dad. The sun tumbles blankets of dark golden light over a blackblue harbor and the concrete sucks up all the light. The camera is packed away. The bus begins to move. Oh, it was a good adventour!