They sleep. They snore. They mumble in their dreams. They rest in beds that are not big enough to contain their bodies. Colourful bed linen cannot cover their feet. They toss and turn as if they were being grilled on a devilish barbecue. They sight in the dark. They are human beings, animals, and strange combinations of the two worlds. They sleep with their mouths open. It’s impossible to understand what they say. The scariest one to me holds a magnifying lens in his hands: what does he need it for? Does he investigate nightmares? Some of them randomly open their eyes. You think: “That’s it. They are going to creep out of the screen to kill me”. Then, nothing happens. In the background, you hear tic-toc-tic-toc. An alarm clock. How far are we from the next horror? It keeps going like this every night. For at least 5,6 hours. Every single night. No exceptions. In the summertime, they sleep outside. In a indefinite garden. On a hammock. In a god-forgotten car, somewhere. Where do they come from? Who are these creatures?
If I say “Denmark”, what comes into your mind? The Little Mermaid. Babette’s lunch. Tall, proper, blonde people. Copenhagen. Kierkegaard. A fair, transparent, and fair society.
The Danes are wonderful. Well educated. Filled with liberal ideas. They travel everywhere by bike and for this reason only, the whole European community should worship them because they are trying not to destroy the environment. On top of that, since they pedal quite a lot, they also look quite fit and handsome, which is always a plus. They are great thinkers. They have composed eternal fables. Their architecture is functional and fascinating. On the road, bicycles have the right of way. C’mon. They are cool people.
They have invented a nightmare. Every time, no matter if it’s Christmas or a regular Monday, they transform one of the kids’ channels into an unfathomable mystery. From a certain time of the evening onwards, all the programs that are usually dedicated to children stop and all the characters that populate the TV channel during the day go to bed. Yes: they are filmed while they sleep for at least 6, 7 hours. As time goes by, a message appears telling the viewers how many hours and minutes they will have to wait before the programs start again.
I am not making this up. Every time I visit Denmark, I turn the TV and I check if this nightmare is still going on. I know it scares me. However, every time I check these strange beings up. Do they sleep and snore? It terrifies me. Still, I must check them out. The following actions then follow:
- The following day, I pester my Danish colleagues and friends with the same, resilient question: “Why?”. Why did they invent this thing?
- I video this program. I have no idea why I do it. Still, I do it. And I send the video to my non-Danish friends. They usually get shocked upon receipt of the message. Some of them laugh with terror. Others think I’m completely deranged as they assume I created this creepy video of sleeping creatures in the darkness. This is a sample of what I am talking about: Goodnight now – we’ll sleep (Godnat nu sover vi)
- I get scared and I cannot get to sleep. I open the window. I look outside. Peace will not come tonight.
You must wonder about my Danish colleagues’ and friends’ answers to my inquisition. Some, obviously, think I’m completely deranged. A lot of people think I am completely deranged. “If it scares you, why do we keep tuning in when you are here?”. Maybe, I am deranged. Others, who are way more diplomatic, try to explain to me that some parents might use this tool to convince their kids to get into bed. “You see, your favourite characters are sleeping now. Nothing is going on. You should get some rest too”. I feel sorry for all the Danish kids. Maybe I should adopt them all and rescue them from these awful night creatures. The most surprising answer, though, regularly comes from an expat colleague that has lived in Denmark for quite some time. She looks sane, balanced and healthy. “If I look at them sleeping, I fall asleep too”.
I’m sorry. How could you possibly fall asleep in the middle of a nightmare?
They sleep. They snore. They mumble in their dreams. Poor Danish children.