It sounds like a fairy tale – not just because Kirsten Sand is from Odense, birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. It begins with two young people who knew each other, and each other’s families, but were never more than friends. Now, Kirsten and Torben Lundmark (who moved to Odense in 1956) share a two-bedroom apartment in Puerto Portals, with exhilarating views of the Mediterranean. They both had full lives in the intervening years. “I’m no longer 82,” says Torben; Kirsten is in her seventies. They look younger.
As a teenager, spending holidays with her family at their summer house on the North Sea, Kirsten knew Torben, whose family lived nearby. “There was a big hotel next door and all the young people – including Torben – went dancing there on Saturday evenings.” “But at that time I was a bit afraid of girls!” Torben adds, with a hearty laugh.
Aged 21, Kirsten wanted to learn English and, thanks to a letter of introduction from Torben, became an au pair with a family in London. The world had opened up for the elegant young Danish woman, who entered the beauty business.
Kirsten spent three years in Singapore (1962-65) with Elizabeth Arden. “I just waved goodbye to my parents and didn’t think anything about it. My parents must have been beside themselves!”
After that “fantastic experience” she returned to England, until her father’s illness took her home to Odense. Serendipity led to her spending two years at the nearby new Hotel Hesselet for two years, as housekeeper and beauty therapist in the Elizabeth Arden salon she opened there. “In the mornings I made sure the toilets were clean, and in the afternoon I cleaned faces!”
Joining Estée Lauder, she worked at Harrods in London, then in Bermuda for seven years.
The sun-and-island-loving lady eventually had her own beauty salon on Jersey for 20 years. She then moved to Mallorca and has lived here happily for 12 years. “And, in the meantime, Torben came into the picture,” Kirsten says with a giggle.
In his intervening years, Torben had married, become the proud father of two daughters and a son, and a grandfather. A successful business career took him all over the world: “But I always tried to be back in Denmark on Friday evenings.” After many happy years, he lost his wife five years ago.
A couple of years later, Kirsten’s sister Lis (who lives in England) was still in touch with Torben and knew he needed cheering up. She rang Kirsten to ask if she could suggest to their old friend that he phone her sister in Mallorca. “And that’s what I did,” he says.
When he invited her to Denmark, Kirsten told her girlfriends she was going to a party. “When I came back they asked how the party was, and I said ‘I didn’t go, I went to see a man!’” They’ve since often visited each other and been on holidays, including a cruise from Palma. “We’ve always had separate rooms,” says Torben, “but, the last time, I got rooms next to each other and when I opened my window I could pop my head out and say good morning to Kirsten.”
He eventually tired of staying in hotels on Mallorca and, in May this year, bought the apartment that became their shared home in mid-September, after they spent the summer together in Denmark. Torben still has property there, where they’ll celebrate a family Christmas.
Their relationship has grown organically over the past three years, from nothing more than that rekindled teenage friendship. They share the same sense of humour, laugh a lot, and are affectionate.
“I would never have tried to find a new lady,” says Torben, “but we have a wonderful time together, with mutual respect and warm companionship. In Denmark we have a phrase ‘the late summer’ and I said to Kirsten, ‘I think it would be marvellous to spend our late summer together.”
They’ve both brought furniture and possessions to their cosy Mallorca home, including a charming statuette of a mother and child, by a Danish artist. It was a gift from Kirsten’s mother to Torben and his wife when their third child was born.
“My mother would be thrilled,” says Kirsten. “I’ve met other men, but there’s never before been anyone who had my fancy.”
Her sister has suggested that Kirsten should write her autobiography; Torben could help her, having already written a 500-page, two-volume book about his life and family history. Her story would certainly have a fairy tale ending . . .