Gleðileg jól

Happy Christmas from the land of the midday gloom! It can be quite pretty sometimes. Still quite looking forward to the mad daylight in England when I go back tomorrow.

Reykjavíkurtjörn

Bjórskóli

Recently I went with Grétar and a lot of his friends to the "beer school" in Ölgerðin, in the big building where they actually do the brewing and that. For those of you not familiar with Icelandic beer culture, the two main breweries are Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson (who make Gull and Tuborg, two of the most popular lagers in Iceland) and Vífilfell (who make Víking, the other popular lager). Both companies also make a lot of other drinks, soft drinks and juices and so on, but who cares.

A subsidiary of Ölgerðin is the microbrewery Borg, which was also in the same building. There are various other microbreweries in Iceland (Kaldi and Ölvisholt come to mind... there are probably more?), but basically when you go to the pub, unless you go somewhere fancy like Microbar, the beers on tap are going to be Tuborg and/or Gull or Víking. Nowhere sells lagers from both breweries, it's like a Pepsi / Coke thing going on. Of course there are usually a few bottled Icelandic varieties available also.

Anyway, it was super fun and really interesting. The guy told us a bit about the general history of beer, loads of cool stuff about the history of beer in Iceland and how it came to be banned / re-legalised, about how beer is made, the main ingredients and their varieties, what effect that has on the taste and so on. We got to taste a few different sorts of beer (as well as unlimited-within-reason Gull) and also go to see the brewing equipment (in the microbrewery and the big brewery). A highly recommended evening's entertainment!

Lýsi

Icelanders tend to think that lýsi is some sort of miracle substance that will preserve your health forever. I always thought that it looked kind of gross, and that since I'd managed to survive so far without it, and pretty healthily as well, I'd just give it a miss. However, it has come to my attention that it is physically impossible to get enough vitamin D in an Icelandic winter without taking some sort of supplement. And that vitamin D deficiency can cause fatigue, which maybe isn't helping mine? So I thought maybe it would be worth it to get some lýsi after all. I was going to get the one you can take in pill form so you don't actually have to have cod liver oil in open contact with your tongue, but I couldn't find any in Melabúðin. Instead I went for the lemon flavoured version, because I thought it would be slightly less gross. Drinking a tablespoon of oil in the morning is actually not as bad as it seems like it would be (not saying I like it), and the lemon helps I think. Haven't really noticed much of an effect yet, but I only got the bottle a few days ago. It certainly can't be doing any harm. There's no way I'm drinking this stuff come the spring, though.

Helvítis útlendingar - Íslenska er lykillinn

I'm a foreigner. Or as the Icelanders would say, an útlendingur. Being an útlendingur is basically the only experience I have had in my life of being a minority. When you're living in southern England and ticking all the demographic boxes that I did, you're not exactly standing out from the crowd. It's a pretty comfortable place to be. Here I deviate from "normal" in that I'm not Icelandic, and sometimes it's not too comfortable. Occasionally it's fun to be different, most of the time I don't really think about it, but sometimes it can be pretty lonely or isolating.

I suppose there's a cultural element to this (although Iceland and Britain are really not so far apart culturally), and it's probably something that all immigrants go through even between countries where the same language is spoken. In Iceland, though, if you don't speak Icelandic you'll be able to live here easily enough but you will always be on the outside of society looking in. I wouldn't advise anyone to move here unless they are genuinely committed to attaining a good standard of Icelandic. The links between nation and language here are notoriously strong - an oft-quoted example of this is the signs at Keflavík airport. The English version says, "Welcome to Iceland". The Icelandic version says, "Velkomin heim" ("Welcome home"). If you speak Icelandic then Iceland is your home - if you don't, then you are a visitor. Think about it, it's not an assumption you could make, and largely be right about, in many other international airports.

I was doing a bit of reading for some of my university work and I came upon this paragraph in a text outlining proposed language policy in Iceland (originally in Icelandic, but I have translated it with my skills):
There is a danger that foreigners here in Iceland do not receive sufficient encouragement to learn Icelandic. Unfortunately, the view is widespread amongst Icelanders that Icelandic is a "little language" because of how few speak it, and therefore it is perhaps not worth it for foreigners to learn it; also that Icelandic is an archaic and complicated language and therefore tremendously difficult for foreigners to learn. On top of this is the common opinion among Icelanders that they themselves are so proficient in English that it is easy to live and work in Iceland without learning Icelandic, English is universally viable in Iceland. Obviously it is undeniable that the number of people who speak Icelandic is not great in international terms. What is more important, however, is that Icelandic is the language of society as a whole; in Iceland, Icelandic is the principle language in all areas of society. Icelandic is therefore the most important language in Iceland by far. In order to be able to fully take part in Icelandic society and properly enjoy the complete quality of life on offer, it is necessary to have command of the language - Icelandic is the key to Icelandic society.1
It's true of course. I've heard a lot of foreigners here complaining most bitterly over closed-minded, unfriendly Icelanders - I've even heard the term "racist" thrown around pretty casually. There definitely is a lot of xenophobia within Icelandic society - as one might expect from such a small, homogeneous nation that for so long was pretty isolated from the rest of the world - and I'm not at all saying that there aren't problems that need to be addressed. I'm also aware that I have it easier here as a western European than someone from say, Asia. But I personally become irritated pretty quickly when a group gets into a complaining session about how Icelanders hate foreigners and how difficult it is to make friends with them. Without fail, the loudest voices here come from the ones who speak little or no Icelandic. In all fairness, should you really be able to expect groups of Icelanders to switch over to English based on the presence of one person who doesn't speak Icelandic? Sure, it's the polite thing to do if that one person is to feel included, but you can't demand that people keep on doing this for you, that they repeatedly put themselves at a linguistic disadvantage to suit you. You need to go some of that distance to bridge the gap yourself, and a big part of that is learning the language. Icelanders are generally friendly to visitors, but you'll never quite be an insider unless you speak the language - you'll still be a visitor in some sense.

This isn't a flip of the switch process, though. Language-learning is a curve, you're not going to get there overnight. I've achieved the "insider" status of someone who speaks Icelandic, but only to a certain extent. I don't ever expect (or really want) my Icelandic to be at a level where people don't notice I'm foreign. At the moment though, I'm still struggling for words in a lot of situations, I can say a lot of things and carry a conversation about most topics just fine, but without finesse - and I still make grammatical errors that immediately mark my speech as foreign. If we accept that the burden of bridging the gap between immigrant and native rightly falls mainly on the immigrant, that also means that all the linguistic disadvantage falls on you, the foreigner. 

In my experience as someone trying to speak Icelandic as a second language in Iceland, the vast majority of people you speak to will recognise that and try to help you feel confident through the way that they interact with you. I could count on one hand (one finger probably) the number of times I've received an overtly negative reaction to my Icelandic - most people are grateful for your efforts and respect you for what you've achieved, even though you're not perfect. The best thing is when you feel like you're actually communicating, that you're being listened to and responded to based on what you're saying, that your "foreignness" isn't the central point in the conversation. Unfortunately, "talking to foreigners" isn't a social skill that all Icelanders have perfected. I'm sure immigrants in the UK with English as a second language have to deal with a lot worse, so bear with me while I complain about what are probably quite trivial irritations, which basically fall into two camps: the overly positive and the overly critical.

There are some who treat you a little like a dog that has learnt to walk on its hind legs ("it is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all" - the supremely sexist comment from Samuel Johnson on female preachers). They certainly mean to pay you a compliment when they react with delighted surprise on hearing you speak Icelandic, but when you've heard this a few times it begins to wear a little thin. Don't get me wrong, practically nothing makes me happier than when people compliment my Icelandic, I've worked hard at it and it's good to hear it's going well - just that often it comes off as patronising. You sometimes get the impression that people would compliment you even if you'd only mastered "góðan daginn"... An exaggeration, but the point stands. Dear Icelanders: Icelandic is not the most difficult language on the planet, it is not a miracle that a non-Icelander can string a few sentences together. Please keep your compliments genuine and in perspective. 

These people are a hundred times better than the other sort, though. There are people (thankfully few) who couldn't care less what you are actually saying, they are just delighted to have the opportunity to instruct you on the Icelandic language. Of course it's useful to get corrections and tips on how to speak the language better, but when the original topic of conversation is completely pushed to one side, your autonomy as a speaker is taken away. I have spoken to Icelanders who have simply denied me the power of communication because, although they understood me, I did not say it flawlessly - instead of answering me and giving a correction perhaps as a side-note (or correcting in a more subtle way using repetition plus rephrasing/correction), the correction is the answer. No, I don't want to keep on making the same mistakes because everyone's too polite to say anything, but this sort of approach is extremely disheartening and certainly discourages us foreigners from even trying to say anything in Icelandic.

1. Íslenska til alls, Tillögur íslenskrar málnefndar að íslenskri málstefnu (Reykjavík: Menntamálaráðuneyti, 2008), p. 79.

Ljóni kisi and other news

Last Sunday we realised we hadn't seen the cat for a while. Ahmad said that he'd been in on Saturday morning, but otherwise his whereabouts were unknown. Since he's a pretty sociable cat and is rarely out for more than a few hours at a time, this was a bit worrying. Ahmad went out to look for him, and put up adverts on Kattholt and Dyrahjalp. On Monday with still no sign of Ljóni, he printed out some flyers to hand round to the neighbours and stick up in the local shops. I felt that, sad as it was, the most likely explanation was that he'd been run over. He's young, and we live in a pretty quiet area so he might not be as wary of cars as some cats.
Then on Wednesday I came home from the library to be greeted by a wailing of meows. Apparently someone in the neighbourhood had found him locked inside their garage, and Ahmad's phone number and our address were on his collar so they got in touch. Instead of waiting for Ahmad to go and pick him up, they just brought him round and let him go in our garden, where apparently he ran straight inside. I gave him a whole can of tuna to eat (which he didn't manage to finish, but he seemed pretty hungry nonetheless) and was much relieved. Our stripy little bird-murderer back to spread feathers and blood all over the living room another day! He seems to have been slightly freaked out by his experiences and to be suffering from abandonment issues now, meowing his head off when you don't let him come with you into the bathroom for example. But I'm sure he'll get over it soon enough.
He's not living here much longer though. Along with Ahmad, he's moving to Garðabær to Ahmad's mother's house. So Thomas and I have been searching for a new flatmate. We put up some adverts and unsurprisingly got a fair amount of interest, because our flat is amazing and in a really good location. We had some of the promising applicants over and we've now chosen someone who, all going well, will move in in January. She has a cat as well, so we can get a replacement for Ljóni, who I will miss. I suppose I'll miss Ahmad a bit as well, but not really because I'm sure I will still see him really often.

The City of Dreadful Night

Although the brightness in the summer time doesn't stop me sleeping, the darkness in the winter really does stop me waking up. I feel like I'm in a constant state of semi-dozing, dragging myself out of bed in the mornings (not that I'm the greatest morning riser at the best of times), my unwillingness to participate in the world slowly reaching new lows in the afternoon as it gets dark again. And when I say mornings, I mean approaching midday. The level of light has convinced my brain that it is not a reasonable time to get up until at least 11 am. Sadly sometimes life commitments require me to get up before this. I do not enjoy this.

I usually manage to get into gear by 6 pm, but by that point there's not much of the day left. And it's not even December yet. It reminds me of the world's most depressing poem, 'The City of Dreadful Night' by James Thomson:

The City is of Night; perchance of Death
But certainly of Night; for never there
Can come the lucid morning's fragrant breath
After the dewy dawning's cold grey air:
The moon and stars may shine with scorn or pity
The sun has never visited that city,
For it dissolveth in the daylight fair.

Luckily it's not quite that bad (few things could possibly be as bad as that poem, in which the protagonist's only ray of comfort is that there's no god, so suicide is a legitimate option), but I'm certainly looking forward to the spring.

November

It is November, which in Iceland is very definitely winter. The mornings are drawing closer and closer to the midday point, the sun hanging low in the sky. We awoke to the first light snowfall a few days ago, snow which is now a thin layer of slick white ice coating the pavements, temperatures hovering just below freezing. Not a single leaf left on the trees, not a chance they could have clung on in the gales that whip through Reykjavík. The edges of the Tjörn are crusted with wind-frothed ice, although there's not a chance of walking on it yet. Christmas decorations have begun to appear already, as seems to be inevitable these days, although thank god I haven't heard any Christmas music yet. 

The bright point is the jólabjór in the warmth of the bars - the Kaldi is particularly good, the Gæðingur also well worth a try. Last Friday I went to Hemmi og Valdi with Siri, stumbled upon some poetry night, too late to relocate since we'd already bought a pint of the jóla-Víking. Some of them weren't bad, some of them seemed to go on rather too long. In general I prefer music to poetry in a pub setting. When it was over Grétar joined us, and then Ewelina and Kalli, and we headed down to the Microbar on Austurvöllur to sample the more upmarket jólabjórs. The only one I haven't tried now is the Tuborg, imported from Denmark, where I believe the tradition of Christmas beer comes from. 

The university semester is gearing up towards final projects and exams, so there's a lot to do on that front. I'll be finished on the 10th December, and then my flight back to England is on the 18th. I'm spending Christmas with the family of course, but then coming back to Iceland for New Year's Eve. I want to see what all the fuss is about, although odds are it will be anticlimactic. Apparently the fireworks are really incredible, and I missed Fireworks Night of course, so it would be nice to see some good ones.

Customers Hall of Fame

We were reminiscing the other day about particularly memorable customers we have had, and how astonishingly well-suited we are to the world of customer service. Here are a few anecdotes from the world of selling coffee to the general public in shopping malls.

Drunk-bin guy
This man was peacefully minding his own business, smashed out of his skull, drinking from a paper cup in a café in a shopping mall at 10.30 am. Matters took a turn for the worse, however, when he finished his drink and was unable to locate a bin to dispose of the cup. Understandably distressed, he was left with no option but to throw the cup at us and shout, "There's no fucking bin".

Briefcase guy
This guy was a complete twat, for serious. He used to march through the café talking on the phone with his stupid briefcase, bark an order for hot chocolate at us and keep going because he was so fucking busy and important he had no time to waste waiting for us to make it. Although what he can possibly have been doing is a mystery to me. He would return a few minutes later to take delivery of the hot chocolate, which he would not pay for until after he had finished even though that is not how the café works. He also always used to sit at the same table. I have it on authority from someone who used to work there that he once confided that he liked to sit at that table because it offered a good view for ogling the women working in the shoe shop next to us. Thankfully one time I think I managed to upset him so much that he hasn't been back since. It was very busy and had been so for hours, so that we had been rushing around without any sort of break for ages. My colleague was at the till working through a line of customers and I was going round clearing the tables. Briefcase guy stormed in in his usual style and ordered me to get him a hot chocolate and a slice of almond cake. I told him there was a queue and pointed to it. He denied that there was a queue and pointed out that I was "not doing anything anyway". Sigh. So I asked him whether he meant pecan cake, because we don't sell almond cake. He did not take this affront to his nut identification skills well and left, but I assumed that he would be coming back in a few minutes and got the stuff ready. But he never came back! And we haven't seen him since, which was an excellent result.

Facebook lady
This woman was one of the worst customers we have ever had, and managed to be a pain in the arse for almost the entire duration of her stay. First of all she was one of those who take ages to decide what they want and ask many, many questions to help them in this time of uncertainty. This was only a mild irritation; about forty percent of our customers are like this, so we are used to it. Then she complained that her cappuccino was too bitter and made us make another one with less coffee and more milk in it. At this point she was still only at the level of "tiresome" and if she'd left it there she wouldn't be in this post. But then she came up with the remaining third of a slice of chocolate cake and informed us, outraged, that it was a bad cake. "What's wrong with it?" we asked. What was wrong with it was that her child didn't like it, it was too bitter. "Yes," we said, "it's dark chocolate, it's not so sweet as a lot of chocolate." No, her child liked dark chocolate, this was just a bad cake. What's more, she had tasted it, and her mother had tasted it and they all agreed. We weren't quite sure what she wanted us to do about this, and invited her to call our boss if she wanted to talk to the person who'd made it. She ignored this, and we told her that there was nothing wrong with the cake and we couldn't help it if she didn't like it and then we left her alone because it was the world's most retarded discussion. She flounced back to her table. As she was leaving she came up to us to tell us that she was going to write about how poor the customer service was here on her facebook status. We waited until she had gone and then burst out laughing.

"Espresso" guy
This was one of the times when a customer was just so ridiculous that I wasn't even annoyed, it was just funny. This guy comes in, orders a single espresso. I take his payment and start making the coffee. He tells me to put two shots in. I'm like right, so you wanted a double espresso, whatever, I do it. Then he asks whether he can have just a bit of milk froth on top. This is a different coffee again. Then can I put it in a bigger cup, add a little hot milk and have the milk froth on top. The man ends up with what is essentially a cappuccino, which he has not paid for. I wonder if he was genuinely confused about what sort of coffee he wanted and what it might be called, or if he employs this scheme regularly to save a few krónur.

Ólafur
This is another one I don't even really resent. Ólafur is a róni who is sometimes seen in Kringlan with his sidekick, and they totally remind me of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar and Ginger. One time he didn't have any money, but came up to us and asked if he could "borrow" a cup of coffee and a bottle of appelsín. Unbelievably, the person I was working with said yes to this and that he could come back and pay some other time, and asked him to write his name and phone number on a piece of paper. This is something we sometimes do if the card machine stops working for example, but it is not something I would have done with Ólafur. He said he didn't have a phone, literally just wrote "Ólafur" on the paper and got a free coffee and appelsín. We are still waiting for him to come back and pay for this.

Banana cake lady
This woman came in with her friend and, whilst the friend sat down, ordered two coffees and one slice of banana cake. She told me to cut the banana cake in half and put it on two plates. This annoys me in itself - if you are going to share a piece of cake, why can't you just both eat off the same plate? This particular cake has a very soft base and tends to fall apart if you try and make one slice into two, but I did it. The woman paid for all this, at which point her friend realised what she had bought and said that she didn't like bananas. The woman said, "Oh, well I'll have a slice of the pecan cake instead. On two plates." "OK," I said, "that's 890 krónur more then." "What?" she said, "But I don't want the banana cake any more, just give me pecan cake instead." "Right. But you can see I've already cut the banana cake up for you. I can't put it back now, you have to pay for it." In the end she decided not to get the pecan cake, but she clearly felt that my attitude was unreasonable. After she had left I ate the half-slice that her friend didn't want and which she had left by the cash register. Why didn't she just eat both of them, seeing as she had paid for it? Who knows with these people, they are mental.

My camera does not have this power

The northern lights are really strong tonight, but my camera is not good enough to show you. This is the best that it can do:

Hmm. 

Missing Photos

My camera has returned safe and sound, so here are some photos from the weekend in the súmarbústaður.

Near Húsafell
Pointing out the mountains.
Up near Surtshellir
Some sort of hole in the ground
Exploring the caves
In front of Hraunfossar
Hraunfossar
Barnafoss
Looking up river from Barnafoss
Down river
Anarchy

Best Icelandic Food

Luckily people in Icelandic do not really eat þorramatur so much, except at þorrablót parties or as an act of bravado. Also a lot of stuff described as "Icelandic food" I would just call "food" - for example, you often see "traditional Icelandic pancakes" advertised in cafés. These are just pancakes, almost exactly the same as the ones in Britain or France. Yes, they are different from what the Americans call pancakes, but I don't see anything specifically Icelandic about them. You would be familiar with about ninety percent of the contents of an Icelandic supermarket - most of the food is imported anyway, from the USA or mainland Europe. However, there are some things that do fall under the category of genuine Icelandic food, and some are really good and they should get them in other countries. Here are the best ones:

1. Lifrarpylsa 
The only slátur worth bothering with, in my opinion. This is a boiled liver sausage, sort of greyish brown in colour with dots of pure white fat. I know, sounds amazing, right? But it actually is. I would describe the taste as livery, but then again although I don't especially like liver I do find lifrarpylsa delicious, so there must be something else involved. Traditionally Icelanders eat this in rice pudding (with cinnamon sugar and raisins no less), but that's obviously mental so I don't do that. I keep it in the fridge as a cold meat for lunch and snacks. It is very cheap, which also appeals to me. 

2. Skyr
This is technically a sort of cheese, but it looks and is used like a yoghurt. It is made of skimmed milk and rennet and is very high in protein / low in fat. You can get all sorts of flavoured skyr but I tend to just get the plain one. It tastes somewhat similar to Greek yoghurt, sour and creamy, and I eat it with muesli for breakfast, although it is also a good snack with fruit or sugar. It's a bit much to eat it by itself I find, although the flavoured ones are obviously fine.

3. Flatkökur
These are amazing! I'm not even sure what they are made of, but they are a sort of stone-baked flat bread. They taste great with butter and are better than normal bread. I try to limit my consumption to two a day, but I could happily eat way more than that. They have somewhat replaced toast for me. Once I found two in my cupboard that I had forgotten about and they had literally turned to dust, which was weird. There are only four in a packet, though, so it is usually easy to finish them in a couple of days. Or like fifteen minutes.

4. Harðfiskur
Delicious dried fish, usually haddock but occasionally you see catfish as well. I have brought this to people in Britain that haven't enjoyed it, and I have no idea why because it is incredible. Especially spread with butter like a sort of fishy biscuit. It just tastes of fish, basically, but a more concentrated flavour - just like the difference between fresh and dried fruit. The texture is flaky and chewy and harðfiskur has a tendency to create a lot of fishy powder, which on no account should you allow to spread itself around a car, for example, because the smell is potent. I would eat this a lot more often, but it is quite expensive so I have it only occasionally.

Life continues as normal

Well, looks like I didn't write anything here for the whole of August. The fact is, living in Iceland no longer seems like something novel and worth writing about - it has just become my daily life. Therefore I find myself considering most of it quite unremarkable and of interest only to myself and those who are sharing it with me, plus close family back in England. Just like I never felt any urge to write about my pre-Iceland life on the internet, although it was eventful in its own quite ordinary way, I don't really feel like anything I'm doing now is internet-worthy. Although god knows you can find some bollocks on the internet.

I just remembered this site today because I am supposed to be doing work for university (oh hello internet procrastination, how I've missed you!), and also because I've been reading my cousin's blog about her recent relocation to the Netherlands. Which I highly recommend if you've enjoyed this blog because we have a similar sense of humour I'd say, and she writes very well. It made me think of a lot of funny things that I have experienced as an expat. Is that what I am now? I suppose so. So I decided that some sort of update was in order, although I have no expectations of writing that regularly on here any more, and neither should you. 

So I started my third degree and second MA in the beginning of September - Þýðingafræði (Translation Studies) at the University of Iceland. Things seem to be going pretty well so far, although I've yet to have a grade back so who knows. I'm currently working on a 6000 word translation of a chapter from Tvímæli by Ástráður Eysteinsson, which is an academic publication about translation theory. So that's kind of meta. Last week I was set the task of translating part of a motorbike instruction manual from English to Icelandic, for which I am hopelessly underqualified. I had a stab at it, but basically Grétar did it for me. This was somewhat disheartening, but I shouldn't really have been asked to translate out of my native language in the first place. I am hoping that for more extended pieces of writing, essays and such like, I will be able to get away with writing in English, since although I understand Icelandic I remain fairly poor at producing good, academic standard written Icelandic. 

Autumn is most definitely here - in fact it arrived in the closing week of August. It was as if someone had flipped a switch, suddenly the gales and the cold rain began, the temperature dropped and the leaves began to change. We've had some nice sunny autumnal days in recent weeks, but there's no possibility of going out without a coat these days. The falling leaves have been a source of amusement for Ljóni, who likes catching them and then bringing them inside to "kill" them on the floor. So our flat is full of little bits of torn-up leaf. He is a pest; he is just lucky that he is quite cute.

A few weekends ago I went to stay in a summer house with Grétar and some of his friends. I saw my first northern lights of the season, did some fun recreational drinking, relaxed in the hot pot, visited Surtshellir, Hraunfossar and Barnafoss and ate a lot of meat (both during and after the trip, because in Bónus before we went Grétar insisted on buying a few animals' worth). I would have pictures of some of these things but I seem to have misplaced my camera. I think maybe I left it in the summer house, which means I should be able to get it back because someone must have found it. Investigations on this front are ongoing.

In more distant news, the August trip to France with stopovers in London was a success, although a hot success beset by biting insects who seemed to be particularly partial to my boyfriend's blood. It was good to see the family again, nice that they got to meet Grétar and vice versa, which seemed to go pretty well. I always like going to the French house, it's a particularly beautiful area, although I think next time I'd like it not to be high summer. My poor Iceland-acclimatised body starts malfunctioning if the temperature goes much above twenty degrees. It was quite a relief to get back home after a hot, crowded, busy day in Olympics-ridden London with some old uni friends. Not that it wasn't a good day! Just London always takes it out of me, and the contrast between that and the cool temperatures and low population of Reykjavík makes me so glad I live here and not there. Anyway, here are some pictures from a hotter, sunnier, more wooded, less Icelandic time. If my camera is located, which I have every hope of, I will show you some pictures more in keeping with the general theme of this blog.

Grétar and me on a hay-bale near Château Bonaguil. Outfit coordination was unplanned.
Me up the top of the château.
Mes parents.
My brother and his girlfriend, Alison.
Grétar and the beer fridge!
Otto the dog collapsed in the heat.
Grétar, Otto and me swimming in the Lot river.

How to Behave in Cafés

If you, as it seems is the case with many members of the general public, enjoy the recreational baiting of those poor souls compelled to work in the service industry, here are a few tips for achieving maximum effect:

  • Place your order fifteen minutes before closing time. The more items you can get the staff to use that they already tidied/washed up, the better. Bonus points for insisting on eating your food there.
  • Take ten thousand paper napkins. Make all of them ever so slightly dirty.
  • Walk past the café and leave your rubbish on the tables.
  • Sit down at one of the tables to eat/drink something you bought elsewhere. Leave the rubbish behind when you have finished.
  • Address the staff in Norwegian or German. They are bound to understand, you're in Iceland after all.
  • Ask about the ingredients and price of every single thing on the menu. After much consideration, either buy the soup of the day or change your mind and leave. Bonus points for doing this while a long queue forms behind you.
  • Use plastic cutlery and put your hummus in the little plastic pots, even though you are eating there. Fuck the environment.
  • Come in, pour yourself a full glass of water, take two sips and then leave.
  • Demand your money back because you do not like your cake/meal, even though you have eaten two thirds of it just to make sure.
  • Allow your child to scatter cheerios all over the table and surrounding floor. Make no attempt to clean up after him. That's their job.
  • Interrogate the staff on the possible presence of flour in your food, even though you are not gluten intolerant and have no special dietary requirements at all. Flour is poison and if you eat it you will die.
  • Ask what the soup of the day is. When told, grimace and say "ugh!" Walk out in disgust.
  • Watch as your friend orders something which has to be heated up in the oven or requires preparation. Wait until the member of staff has tidied up after this, then order the same.
  • Wait until you see the member of staff start putting your food on a plate / in a bowl before you mention that you wanted to take away. 
  • Ask whether the food is nice.
  • Ask whether there is meat in the meat soup.
  • Ask whether you can have a half portion of everything on the menu.
  • Ask whether you can pay in Norwegian krone.
  • When the time comes to pay, make sure you are on the phone.

Things


It has just started getting dark again. It's odd to get this reminder that summer is on the wane - you don't really notice so much in Britain, because the difference between summer and winter daylight is not nearly so extreme. There is something a little melancholy about it. It also seems to shift the high point of the summer earlier in the year, the solstice seems more meaningful. I had always considered high summer to be July and August, but here it's more like June. Children are still going to school in June in the UK. I'm still not used to this mindset, and imagine that because it's mid July we still have most of the summer ahead of us, but realistically most of it is actually behind us.

Although I don't actually consider that I've had "my summer" yet, because I'm still waiting for my summer trip to France, in early August. I'm going to be briefly in London for a little on the way there and the way back, first time in the UK since I left in January, and I am super excited to see people and consume some things that you can't get here. Grétar is coming with me, and after I have introduced him to the cuisine of my people (English beer, proper bacon, fish and chips, etc), we are heading on to spend a week with my parents, brother, dog and my brother's girlfriend at the parental chateau (slash house) in South West France. A week in a country where temperatures of up to thirty degrees are quite likely - possibly I will melt. I was on the phone to my mother the other day and I told her that it was a bit rainy here, but really hot, by which I meant fifteen degrees, and she said it was very rainy and rather cold, by which she meant seventeen degrees.

I am a bit upset that we will be missing Gay Pride 2012, which was a really fun day last year, but at least we'll be back in time for Menningarnótt. I'm also having my actual birthday in France, so going to be having a birthday party here in Iceland next week. Then right at the end of August I have my friend visiting from England, which ought to be a lot of fun. Loads of things to look forward to!

Kisi!

Look! We've got a kitten! Well, Ahmad has got a kitten, but I live in the same house, so it's like we've all got a kitten. He is five months old, pretty stripy and really good at pouncing on things. Like your fingers when you're typing for example. His name is Ljóni, which basically means Liony. Undeniably an excellent cat name.

Oh my days, a kitten!

This is my first post in absolutely ages, I know. I have been doing interesting things, but I have not been motivated to share these things with the internet. I am hoping this kitten picture will make up for it. Here is a list also of some of the things that I have done since I last wrote on here, not necessarily in chronological order:



1. Climbed Keilir with Grétar and his friend Davíð, and Davíð's brother Guðni, got a lot of bits of mountain in my shoes.

2. Watched quite a lot of the football in the English Pub and Kex Hostel with various people, saw England knocked out on penalties again, was overcome with apathy.

3. Went downtown to celebrate the 17th June (Icelandic Independence Day, remember), ate too much sugar, felt headachey and unwell, went home to lie down.

4. Went to Nauthólsvík for the first time (where Icelanders go when they want to pretend they don't live in Iceland, they actually live in Spain) and had a picnic, did not swim in the sea because I knew that I was not in Spain.

5. Went round Stacey's house to celebrate the 4th July (I'm sure you know this one), ate too much meat, felt OK after a small rest but didn't want any cake.

6. Tried indoor rock-climbing with my friend Villimey, was not super good at it but didn't hurt my arm muscles, such as they are, as much as I thought I would.

7. Got a kitten!