Late Autumn Festivities

So, Halloween. I went to a fantastic party on the Friday night at Friddi and Paulina's house and got quite drunk on red wine and then gin, which was maybe not the best idea in the world. Gin and I have a complicated relationship. I know that I did sing a certain amount of Britpop very loudly, whilst dancing (anyone who's seen me dance will know to replace this word with "jumping") enthusiastically around the living room. I'm pretty sure everyone was really impressed.

In general, I much prefer Guy Fawkes' Night, which has all the fun of eating toffee apples and burning things and none of the hassle of dressing up. The one time I put quite a lot of effort into dressing up for a party (although actually it wasn't Halloween), nobody knew what I was. I was a sans-culottes revolutionary from 1789, but apparently that was not obvious, even though I made a phrygian cap especially. Maybe I could find some middle ground between obscure historical figure and basically-just-my-normal-clothes-but-look-a-funny-hat, but I don't think it's really worth the bother. Guy Fawkes' is no bother, and also has a more interesting historical back-story. I am going to make toffee apples on the 5th November and remember in my heart the torture and execution of a failed seventeenth-century Catholic terrorist, even though there will obviously be no bonfire, guy or fireworks.

For this year's Halloween, sadly deprived of the Soviet officer's hat that is usually my standby, I dressed as a Frenchman. Not a specific historical Frenchman, just an ordinary stereotype. I wore basically my normal clothes, plus a red beret belonging to the four-year-old. Yes, I have a tiny, tiny head. I drew a moustache on my face, strung four onions round my neck, took my bottle of red wine and I was ready to Halloween, minimum hassle. The onions were a problem. I think they looked good, but they did make me smell of raw onion. Some people commented. But whatever, the main thing with them was that they were heavier than I anticipated. The string was kind of digging into me and after a few hours I had a proper red line across the back of my neck. I was reluctant to take them off, but eventually I had to, and Árni took them away and put them in the fridge, I think? Seemed like the best place for them at the time. I hope that by now they have been made into a delicious stew or something.

Reykjavík and beyond

Here are some pictures that I took recently. It is still fairly autumnal here, although I would say we're on the verge of winter. I tend to only take pictures when it's sunny, so the images on this blog give a misleading impression of Iceland. Most of the time, it is cloudy. Just like England. I'm not really sure if the high proportion of overcast days infuses Icelanders with a sense of wistful melancholy, but at least they don't have to worry about badgers.

In news of my life, apparently only one other person wanted to do Icelandic 5, so it was cancelled. Rubbish.

Hallgrímskirkja and Hljómskálagarðurinn seen from across the Tjörn.
Snowy mountains seen down Kárastígur.
Next to Drekinn (The Dragon), looking down Frakkastígur.
Snow-capped peaks.
Some boring gulls standing on the first thin film of ice on the Tjörn, yesterday morning.
Icelandic horses near Mosfellsbær.
A causeway to some island; we didn't know what it was called.
Good clouds.

Lunch / Face-Mask

I just tried to spoon-feed a baby for the first time in my life. It is a lot harder than it looks! I've seen the mother doing it, and she somehow manages to get nearly all of it in his mouth, and he looks sort of clean at the end. I kept forgetting to hold his arms, so he was always grabbing the spoon or inserting his fist into his mouth just after I put some food in. I used quite a lot of kitchen paper trying to stop him getting completely coated in his own lunch.

Mind you, I'm not sure I would want that stuff to go in my mouth, either. I was feeding him a sort of porridge, powdered oats stirred into warm water. I tried a bit and you would think it would taste of something, but it really doesn't.

In other baby-related news, I am delighted to report that I have managed to instill in him an appreciation for La Marseillaise. Whenever I sing it to him now he smiles and waves his arms about. It is a great song, so he obviously has taste.

For those of you who are interested and have time on your hands

I've been writing this for a long time. Seriously, I started it months ago, and I don't think I can make it much better, although it remains ridiculously long and unfocused. I tried to answer the question of how I became interested in Iceland, and I'm going to put it on its own page where it will be out of the way. It is probably quite boring if you're not me, but who knows, perhaps some of you will enjoy the insight into my brain/past.

This is your chance to empathise with my room-mate in first year that time when I got a bit drunk and would not shut up about Iceland. Except you can stop reading, whereas as I recall she sat there and nodded politely until I talked myself to sleep.


The year is officially far enough advanced that I am getting up in the dark again. I can sleep in the light, no problem, but I find it very difficult to get up when it's still pitch black outside my window. It feels like waking up in the middle of the night. All my body wants to do is go back to sleep. I do usually feel like that when my alarm goes off at 7 am, but the darkness makes it much worse. If only I had Bernard's watch!

I can't remember who pointed this out to me, didn't think of it myself, but the dark Icelandic winter means that when I go home for Christmas I will be heading to Britain for some winter sun. The absurdities of living at 66° north.


Recently I've been going through a bout of homesickness, although really it's more nostalgic timesickness. Living in a different country has a little bit to do with it, but I used to feel like this periodically in England as well. Although partly I miss being in a country where you will be offered a cup of tea within two minutes of stepping in the door, and you won't have to take your shoes off, and you can watch the BBC, what I really miss is being a student in Sheffield and living with my friends. I think as a person I am particularly given to wallowing in nostalgia. I get wistful about the littlest things. I want so hard to go round the boys' and have a cup of tea and watch Grand Designs, or to walk half-drunk down Crookes Valley Road on the way to Fuzz, or cycle to the old history department, or do a crossword in Interval, or buy some hangover fruit at Beanies. Sometimes I listen to emo music in secret (shhh, you look like an emu) because it reminds me of jumping around the Bleach room at Fuzz Club with all my favourite sweaty people and spilling snakebite on myself. Haven't had a snakebite in actually years. For those of you who don't know, the answer is half lager, half cider, with a tiny bit of ribena. It is not very nice, and it will stain. This feeling comes and goes, and it's silly really, because not very many people I know even live in Sheffield any more, and Fuzz Club finished in my third year. Time marches ever onwards and all that. And of course, it wasn't all fun and snakebite at the time; those are just the bits I enjoy dwelling on. 

I do genuinely miss my friends back in England quite hard. I don't really have many friends here in Reykjavík that I have that easy, comfortable sort of relationship with that comes from knowing someone for a long time. A friend where you always sort of know what they're going to say or how they'll behave, and you know their sense of humour and where it overlaps with yours, and with whom you have shared memories and jokes. You need people like that in your life, but it's not easy to find them. Most of my favourites are in London these days. London sucks everybody in. Sometimes I wish I lived there just so I would be near to them, but really London is not for me. It's too big, too busy, too much for my poor rural brain to handle. Reykjavík is nice in that way - it's got nearly all the things that a big city should have, without being an actual city. Which is one of the reasons I don't really want to leave, even though I sometimes feel homesick. I do feel at home here, and going back to Britain would not make me into an 18-year-old fresher again. Moving away would just give me a new set of things and people to miss. Besides, I know in a few years I'll be nostalgic about my time here with this family. Maybe even the ironing? No, definitely not that.


I was just brought breakfast in bed. A breakfast that contains egg, rice, tuna, smoked salmon and toast. This violates so many of my breakfast rules, and is also just sincerely bizarre. However, my rule of "if someone made you food, eat it" overrides my concerns about rice before midday, so I am eating this Frankenstein's monster of a plate of food. It's actually strangely nice, but I have no idea how it was conceived. I think it may just be all the leftovers out of the fridge cooked into some scrambled egg. Novel!

How to stop me singing show tunes

Me (starts singing the title song from Cabaret): What good is sitting alone in your room?

15-year-old: A lot of good, because then nobody would have to hear you singing that song.

Terrific retort. Almost as good as the time I told my brother he looked like an emo and he said, "You look like an emu." I couldn't think of a reply because I was laughing too much, but I am going to put this picture up on the internet. Which will have to do.

I have a much better singing voice than her. That's just a fact.

Clown Trousers

I was joking when I wrote it before, but today I did see a girl in Babalú wearing what appeared to be clown trousers. I tried to take a sneaky photo, and didn't do a great job. I am not the subtlest knife in the drawer.* But I think you can see the trousers OK.

This is also just a nice, if slightly out of focus, photo of Ahmad eating a biscuit.

How about that. Also visible in this photo are some people playing Scrabble with nine tiles on the rack. What?

Then we went for a walk round a drizzly, grey Reykjavík, ran into Friddi and Pálína briefly, bought some chocolate, laughed at some tights in a shop window that I laugh at every time I walk past. Standard Sunday afternoon. I am going to take a picture of those tights one day, because they are outstanding.

* Slightly nonsensical Pullman reference. I love those books with the fire of a thousand suns.

Learning Words

Aside from getting up embarrassingly late and watching a great deal of Black Books, today I have mostly been working on my Icelandic. The way I have been doing this is by reading through an Icelandic book, and making a point of looking up every word I don't know, and putting them all into a fun list that I can study. There are an awful lot of words that I don't know. I'm up to page 42 in the book, and the list is already 221 words long. So on average that would be 5 or so words per page. 

Some of these I sort of did know what they meant from their components (skyldurækinn - dutiful) or I could easily tell from the context (að gjóa - to glance), but either couldn't readily come up with an English translation for, or wouldn't have known if I saw them in isolation. Some of them are phrases made up of words that I do know individually, but which I don't understand in that combination (að standa einhvern að einhverju - to catch somebody at something). Some of them are words that I definitely did know, and when I looked them up I immediately remembered, but had forgotten because I don't use them or do this sort of thing often enough (að fórna - to sacrifice). 

I do usually start off reading Icelandic books like this, and then I get bored and just start ignoring words that I don't know unless they seem crucial to my understanding, because of course it is deeply frustrating to read so slowly. But I think it really is the best way of expanding vocabulary, especially if you see a word more than once. Here is a small selection of words that I didn't know yesterday, but do now.

atlot - caress
blys - torch, flare
að bogra - to stoop
að garga - to squawk
fagnandi - jubilant
furstadæmi - principality
kumbaldi - shack
kusk - fluff
mælaborð - dashboard
á reki - adrift
að ræskja sig - to clear one's throat
að samtvinna - to intertwine
snefill - trace
snitta - canapé
tág - wicker
að tifa - to tick (of a clock)
vandvirkni - meticulousness
vantrúaður - sceptical
þvingaður - strained, forced
að þysja - to bolt, to run away
æviskeið - lifespan

I am sure they will come in very useful, if only I can work wicker and fluff into more conversations.