Why Iceland? 12/04/2010
Well to be a Weird Girl for one.
I never in a million years thought I would end up in Iceland, I mean it really it is the land that my mind map of the world forgot. However I discovered it to be suitably exotic, interesting and off the beaten track enough to hold my interest. It is small enough to navigate through the museum getting a easy to comprehend timeline of history.
All my women friends know how to pick berries, make jam and what herbs to pick for their health. When abroad they miss the dried whale meat that I am only willing to imagine.
The language is medieval and when slightly more examined it is simply like the oldest English in the world, full of thou's and thy's. Initially it sounded incomprehensible, then when I was at the cinema I could not grasp any grammer when I read the subtitles. Nowadays I can see the grammer in the structure and am starting to make sense of it and even enjoy the challenge of learning.
A land decorated by the austerity of poverty in the first half of the 20th century and by Ikea in the second.
A nobel prize winning author, Haldor Laxness, who no doubt would have become one of the most widely studied and revered men in literature had he been translated sooner. Independent People and Iceland's Bell are two of his exceptional works.
A land where every farmer could turn his nose up at a rhyming couplet, preferring the complicated rhymes of poetry that make jazz look simple.
Where jokes abound about the conservatism of other Scandinavian countries.
If you give a Swede a million dollars he will put it in the bank. Give an Icelander a million dollars and he will go to the bank and ask for another million.If you want to go to the movies with a Dane then you must book in their diary two months ahead.
Where the Vikings managed to uproot every tree in the space of 100 years building longships and houses. If you are lost in a forest in Iceland, how do you get found? Stand up.
A land where creativity and economics are perceived as boundless and limitless in equal measure, causing the rise of Bjork, Sigur Ros and a plethora of incredible music and art in the first instance and it's own financial downfall in the second.
Sometimes common sense is not fully operational, over run by an enthusiasm that is infectious. Think of the dozens of Icelanders rescued when trying to make the five hour hike up the lava spewing volcano only to discover that it can get quite chilly in jeans and a t-shirt halfway up a mountain even if zillion degree heat is waiting for them at the top.
Geothermal energy makes for under street heating and all the hot water smells like sulphur. Greenhouses abound, in fact in the event of a disaster, (volcanic not-withstanding) they could feed themselves if they had enough greenhouses running from geothermal power. They even grow pineapples in them.
They also eat liquorice chocolate bars, which sounds a bit icky but are actually very nice. Um.... and puffins and horses. Those cute little horses, (don't call them ponies) that are delightfully explained in the tourism film on Iceland Air neatly leaving out the bit about how delicious they are.
Where it is dark half the year and all the drivers squint into the sun as it only lazily lifts off the horizon line for a while before dropping back down a few hours later. This time of the year I sit in the outdoor hot tub after my swim in the afternoon and the sky is pitch black. I can see the Reykjavik church spires and hear the old men talking about their day as they rejuvenate after a gentle swim and workout followed by a sauna and ending with a soak. I thought I would hate the long dark days, but it is kind of cosy. And I really appreciate the light and the sun. It is very still at the moment and blue sky.
Then there is the other half of the year where children play outside up to 10pm at might in broad daylight and parties go on for ever. Some Icelanders are like bears, they sleep long in the winter and little in the summer.
If you want to play in this life, Iceland is a playground, a creative conundrum, a magical moment. Unique in it's spirit, it is a magnet for some foreigners that have been captivated enough to come and make a whole new life here. It is infinitely fascinating.
Iceland's Weird Girls Project are part of the magic and I can't wait for April.